"St. Paul ... substituted another doctrine for ...the plain and profoundly revolutionary teachings of Jesus." (H.G. Wells, Outline of History 1921.)

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Jeffrey J. Bütz, in The Brother of Jesus (2005)

Another critic of Paulinism is Jeffrey J. Bütz, in his work The Brother of Jesus (2005). This is a book about James, the first bishop of Jerusalem in the era of the 12 apostles.

This Lutheran Pastor, Jeffrey J. Bütz, comments on Matthew 5:17-19

A more stirring defense of [keeping the Law of Moses] would be hard to find! Clearly if one can remove the blinders of ... centuries of Pauline influence, and some five centuries of Lutheran influence, the difference between Jesus and [those who taught keeping the Law] are few. (Jeffrey J. Bütz, The Brother of Jesus (Vermont: Inner Traditions, 2005) at 99.)

In light of this and other similar passages, Lutheran Pastor Bütz continues in The Brother of Jesus (2005) to explain:

My research into James’ understanding of the Jewish law has impelled me, as a Lutheran pastor, to come to grips with the question of where Jesus would have stood in the debate over the Law in the early church. Frankly, I have been swayed by the evidence to believe that Jesus was much more Law-oriented than most Protestants (and Lutherans especially) have ever realized. I have come to harbor a strong suspicion that Protestantism may have carried the doctrine of sola fide to an extreme that Jesus himself would not have advocated. (Jeffrey J. Bütz, The Brother of Jesus (Vermont: Inner Traditions, 2005) at 18.)

Pastor Bütz is correct. Jesus emphasized repeatedly keeping the letter of the Law, while not exaggerating it. Law-keeping was a constant theme of His teachings. Besides Matthew 5:18-19, Jesus taught that traditions of men should not be accepted which supplant the Law. (Matt. 15:3.) He emphasized keeping the Ten Commandments as part of His gospel of salvation. (Matt. 19:17.) In Revelation 2:14, Jesus is upset with those teaching contrary to Exodus that you are permitted to eat meat sacrificed to idols. Bütz’ conclusion is inescapable. The list goes on and on.

Never does Jesus once condemn keeping any principle of the Law or suggest any principle from the Mosaic Law has been or will be abrogated. If you read with care Jesus’ correction of the Pharisees, it is always about their exaggerated or misguided interpretations of the Law. Jesus never faults their desire to obey the Law. They set aside the “weightier” matters of the Law to follow the less “weighty” matters of the Law. (Matt. 23:23.)

Those who glibly have tried to make Jesus out to attack keeping the Law have failed to weigh the consequences of their argument. While they shield Paul, they end up making Jesus a false messiah. For any prophet who would seduce Israel from keeping the Law would be, even if he had miracles and signs, a false prophet. (Deut. 13:5.)


Pastor Bütz is one of the first Lutheran voices to see the consequence of Jesus’ teachings about the Law and their impact upon the validity of Pauline doctrine. As he adds:

[In the Lutheran view, it] is the ‘enlightened’ Paul who takes up the new gospel of freedom from the Law that Jesus directly entrusted to him and proclaims the ‘true gospel.’ It is based on this...understanding that Paul’s letters to the Galatians has sometimes been referred to as the ‘Magna Carta’ of Christian liberty.


The only other possibility is that Jesus may have been more Law conformant than the Pauline tradition has led most Christians (and Protestants especially) to believe. The conclusion would, obviously, have revolutionary implications for the church’s traditional understanding of Jesus, but is also where the evidence is inexorably leading us. (Bütz, supra, at 94.)

The revolutionary implication is that Jesus’ warning of the false prophet to come who would negate the Law means He was warning us about Paul.