Sunday, 7 January 2007

ff bruce 'message of the nt' quotes

Mark is probably indebted to Paul [Romans 10:15 has just been referenced] for his distinctive use of the term 'gospel'. While Mark and Matthew use the word to refer to the message which Jesus preached, Mark is the only one of the four evangelists who describes the story of Jesus itself as 'the gospel'.
- p15

The tradition as Mark received it did not consist only of isolated units - incidents from Jesus' life and teaching. Some of them had already been arranged in some order. The main outlines of the passion narrative, in particular, had been fixed for quite a long time. The narrative was related time and again in public preaching: Paul, for example, says that 'Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified' before the eyes of the Galatians (Gal 3:1). It was repeated in every communion service: 'as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup', Paul writes to the church in Corinth, 'you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes' (1 Cor 11:26) - and he probably means that the taking of the bread and the cup was accompanied by a spoken passion narrative, not just that it constituted in itself an acted proclamation of the passion.
- p16-17

[Paul's] surviving letters come from the second half of his apostolic ministry: he had been a Christian for at least fifteen years when the earliest of them was penned. Thirteen letters in the New Testament are superscribed with his name, but their conventional arrangement bears but little relation to their chronological sequence. In the conventional sequence, letters addressed to churches precede letters addressed to individuals, and within each of these two categories the letters are arranged (with one minor exception - Galatians, although slightly shorter than Ephesians, precedes it) in descending order of length.
- p23

Paul's letters are all 'occasional' documents in the sense that each of them was addressed to a particular situation. None of them was written primarily as a systematic exposition of doctrine - not even that to the Romans, although it approaches more nearly to such an exposition than any of the others. This means that each letter emphasizes those elements in Paul's teaching that were specially relevant to its particular occasion; sometimes, indeed, this or that phase of his teaching may have acquired its form under the influence of the situation addressed.
- p24

When we speak of Paul as mediating the message of Jesus to the Gentile world, the question is immediately raised whether Paul's teaching is a faithful representation of that message or a perversion of it. There is a superstition, widely held and fondly cherished, that the original teaching of Jesus, a message of sweetness and light, was transformed by Paul into a dark, rigid creed, imposed on his converts with fearful sanctions. It is a superstition, because it is maintained in the teeth of the evidence of Paul's own writings, which points to a very different conclusion.
There are, of course differences between Jesus and Paul. Paul was not the Messiah, the Son of God, the Saviour of the world. On the plane of human experience Jesus and Paul, while both Jews, differed in birth and upbringing, in education, in environment, in temperament, in idiom. As for temperament, Paul may beseech his Corinthian friends 'by the meekness and gentleness of Christ' (2 Cor 10:1), but these were not qualities which came to Paul naturally. As for idiom, we have only to compare the luminosity of Jesus' parabolic teaching with Paul's parable of the olive tree (Rom 11:17-24) or his allegory of Sarah and Hagar (Gal 4:21-31) to realize that Paul's strength lay in straight, unmetaphorical argument.
- p24-25

- FF Bruce, The Message of the New Testament; Paternoster, 1972

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