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Peter Jennings, Jesus and Paul

by Robert M. Bowman, Jr., Center for Biblical Apologetics, Inc.

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In This Entry

» Introduction
» 1. Jesus Grows Up
» 2. Jesus' Ministry
» 3. Jesus Goes to Jerusalem
» 4. Jesus is Crucified
» 5. Jesus' Resurrection and Paul's         Emergence
» 6. Paul's Conversion
» 7. Paul Goes to the Gentiles
» 8. Paul and Jesus, Peter and Paul
» 9. Paul on the Death of Jesus
» 10. No Normative Christianity
» 11. Paul, Caesar, and Sex
» 12. Was Paul Anti-Semitic?
» 13. The Death of Paul and the           End of the World

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» Peter Jennings Reporting: Jesus and Paul, the Word and the Witness

Segment 5: Jesus' Resurrection and Paul's Emergence
Jennings makes a real effort in this segment to present a spectrum of scholarly opinion on the resurrection of Jesus. Witherington strongly affirms it as the best explanation for the change in the apostles from cowards hiding in the Upper Room to courageous witnesses risking their lives for the gospel. Crossan rejects the story, seeking (as he is notorious for doing) to attack it at its root by denying that Jesus was even buried. Crucifixion victims, he points out, usually were not buried, adding to the indignity of that form of execution. Regarding the resurrection narratives, he says, "I hear hope there, not history." (What that means is not explained.) Paula Fredriksen offers a mediating assessment: As an historian, she says, she recognizes that the disciples sincerely thought they had seen the risen Jesus and therefore that they must have had some experience that they sincerely understood that way, but she cannot say whether or not it was really Jesus. Wright, another believer, is given the last word: the very fact that the disciples neither abandoned their messianic hope nor went looking for another political messiah makes this particular story very different-and very difficult to explain away. Jennings then introduces the human figure who dominates early Christianity after Jesus: Paul. Call him the co-founder with Jesus of Christianity, or even the founder, his importance for Christianity is great.

In my opinion, Jennings handles the resurrection in a surprisingly even-handed manner. I can't really fault Jennings for reporting on the diversity of views regarding Jesus' resurrection. My only complaint is that I would like to have seen a counterpoint to Crossan's objection that Jesus probably wasn't buried. I agree that crucifixion victims typically were not buried, but the time was not typical (it was the Passover and the Sabbath was coming), and of course neither was the executed man typical. Again, one must resist the temptation to straitjacket history. There is nothing implausible about one of the seventy or so men on the Jewish council quietly asking Pilate for permission to give Jesus a decent burial. The characterization of Paul as the real founder (or even "co-founder") of Christianity is, of course, problematic. Arguably this is the overarching issue of the entire documentary. After giving the first hour over to recapping his "Search for Jesus" (with a bit more sensitivity shown to conservative views than the first time around), Jennings goes on to devote the remaining two hours to Paul.

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About This Page:

• Subject: Peter Jennings, Jesus and Paul
• First posted: Apr. 12, 2004
• Author: Robert M. Bowman, Jr.
• Copyright: Robert M. Bowman, Jr.
• Used by Permission

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Home / A-Z Index / "J" / Peter Jennings, Jesus and Paul

Paul: follower of Jesus or Founder of Christianity?
Paul: Follower of Jesus
or Founder of Christianity?