I return today to Scot McKnight’s The King Jesus Gospel. Tony Jones is blogging on the book each day this week, and while I’m taking breaks to think about The Hunger Games and other matters, I’m trying to stay involved in the conversation there.
**DISCLAIMER: I am not a New Testament scholar.**
McKnight builds his whole argument around the idea that modern evangelicals have truncated the breadth of the true gospel. What was meant to be the “good news” about the fulfillment of the story of Israel, an elevation of Jesus as Messiah and Lord, the resurrection, and the final culmination of all things in the eschaton has become simply about Jesus as MY personal Saviour. The result is a sad emaciated gospel devoid of much of its power.
His is an interesting approach. But while an important reminder, after reading the book I can’t help but feel that he promises a more radical insight than he actually delivers. Yes, the gospel is about more than us individually. It concerns the story of God and God’s Creation. I get that. Tell me more.
McKnight builds his case first from 1 Corinthians 15 before defining his perspective on this broader gospel. He then turns to ask whether Jesus preached the gospel (uh, yea…) and how the early apostles proclaimed this news. His investigation asserts marked similarity and agreement between these approaches.
Theoblogy asked a great question yesterday regarding McKnight’s starting point: “one has to wonder why Scot is using Paul as his entrée into the gospel. Why not start with Jesus?”
Why start with Paul? To be sure, Paul’s words (especially 1 Corinthians) are widely considered to be the some of the earliest canonical Christian writings. 1 Corinthians certainly predate the gospels and Acts. So there is an argument to be made there. I’m more than a little uncomfortable with this, though, because my longstanding policy has been that everything else needs to be read through the lens of Christ (not vice versa).
While the gospel accounts are certainly four different perspectives on the gospel and the life of Christ, they point directly to him and his sayings and agree frequently on a lot of this. Since I’m a Christ-ian and not a Paul-ian, it makes sense for me to listen to Christ first, and then read what Paul is saying in light of that.
If McKnight had begun with Jesus’ announcement of the kingdom of God arriving in Luke 4 or the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5 as the hallmark of “gospel,” his perspective may have changed somewhat. If historical precedence is important, then he could just as well have turned to Mark’s gospel. Widely considered to be the first gospel written, it begins as follows: “The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God” before explaining throughout the book exactly what that means.
It is quite possible that one will draw the same conclusions as McKnight by starting this way. But even if you didn’t, you would be drawing them from the words of Christ. So I ask, then, what’s to lose?
My question of the day: Jesus or Paul? Which is a better starting point? Poll away: