"[I]t is of great importance to correct the enormous confusion Luther caused by inverting the relation and actually criticizing Christ by means of Paul, the Master by means of a follower." (Kierkegaard, 1855.)


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The Famous Bultmann's Exalting Paul Leads To A Complete Invalidation of Paul



Beginning in the Reformation, Paul's epistles often supplanted any need to focus on the words of Christ. "Zwingli's copy of the NT was confined to Paul's Epistles and Hebrews." (Schaff, Creeds of Christendom Vol. 1 sec. 51.)

Luther too emphasized Paul's words over the gospels. Luther quashed the co-founder of the Reformation - Carlstadt - when in 1520 Carlstadt wrote a book on canon which insisted Jesus's words had a priority over Paul's words. (See Carlstadt Research.)

The young Luther, however, triumphed and Carlstadt was banished.

Eventually, a rationale was needed to justify the continued maginalizing of Jesus' doctrines. For unlike Paul, Jesus taught justification is by repentance, not faith (Parable of the Publican and the Tax Collector, Luke 18:9-14). And unlike Paul, Jesus taught a necessary means to heaven by a believer is "heaven maimed" (by repentance) or you can go to hell "whole" (with no repentance). (Mark 9:42-47.) A faith that was alone could not save -- if you based your doctrine solely upon Jesus' words.

To keep Paul's faith alone doctrine, Jesus' words had to be somehow marginalized. By 1929, a means was found that was explicitly based upon Paul's own direction to us in 2 Cor. 5:16 to ignore Jesus's words "in the flesh."

It was Bultmann who established first this modern notion that Paul correctly viewed Jesus' teachings in the flesh as irrelevant and we must realize the only way to follow Christ is to follow Paul.

Although living in Germany, Bultmann professed Protestant Christianity and became the "dominant theological figure of his day." (D'Elia.) Bultmann is now regarded as one of the four most influential Christian theologians of the 20th Century. (Tilich bio.)

In 1929, Bultmann quashed the "From Paul to Jesus" movement led by William Wrede with the argument you are about to hear. Bultmann believed "From Back to Jesus" was dubious: "All one can do is go to Jesus through Paul, i.e., one is asked to understand God's act in Christ as the event that has decided and now decides with respect to both to the wold and to us." (1936, quoted in Gerald Hawthorne et al., Paul and His Letters (Intervarsity Press, 2020) at link.) Bultmann made is all about an act of sacrifice and resurrection -- believe these facts, and you ae saved. See Romans 9:3. This is what explains the modern trend to explicitly acknowledge that Paul's Gospel differs from Jesus's Gospel but trumps Jesus anyway. (For examples, see this link.)


Synopsis of Bultmann's Thesis That Marginalizes Jesus's Words To 12 Apostles Prior to Paul

Bultmann admitted the lack of importance to Paul of Jesus's teachings when Jesus was in the flesh. That is, Paul did not consider important the teachings Jesus gave the 12 which are recorded in the Gospels. For Paul never quotes Jesus except the liturgy which is taken from Luke's Gospel anyway.

However, Bultmann claims this was deliberate, and perfectly explains Paul's meaning in 2 Cor. 5:16. Bultmann says we must obey this passage from Paul which tells us to reject any further obedience/adherence to Jesus's words while "in the flesh" i.e., the period when Jesus taught the 12 apostles prior to Jesus' Ascension.

Paul says in 2 Cor. 5:16 that "even though we once knew Christ by means of the flesh [ kata sarka], we know him thus no longer."

Bultmann interprets this to mean that Paul tells us that we once knew Jesus by means of doctrines delivered when in the flesh to the twelve, but now we know Jesus through messages delivered to Paul when Jesus was in his resurrected 'spiritual' body.

Bultmann ignores thereby that the same resurrected Jesus told the apostles to remember to teach everything he had previously "commanded" them. (Matt. 28:20.) How could this command entirely change if Jesus was taken up into heaven?

Ironically, Bultman gives Paul's Jesus this unique authority over the pre-ascended Jesus even though Paul never even quotes the Ascended Jesus to support any teaching of Paul.  

How can Bultman justify that Paul met a Jesus who had no flesh, and then could use Paul's words to exclude any attention of the Jesus who taught the 12?

First, Bultman's application of 2 Cor. 5:16 assumes Paul encountered a voice and light version of Jesus without flesh on the Road to Damascus. (See Acts 9:7-11.) This is not clear that Jesus no longer had human flesh after ascending. Luke's accounts do not say. This is a crucial gap in Bultman's reasoning.

Another problem is that Paul's only quote of the Ascended Jesus in Paul's epistles is in 2 Cor. 12:8-9. Yet, this is so highly problematical of a quote that no one can believe the true Jesus actually uttered it. It contains a denial by the "Lord" to release Paul from the dominion of an "Angel of Satan" for this "Lord" says he showed enough grace to Paul already. Most scholars agree our Lord Jesus could not have refused to release Paul from a dominion of Satan in Paul's flesh. They excuse this passage as somehow being garbled, and it should be ignored.


Here is a summary of that account. Paul asked his Jesus that the "skolops" -- a sharp prod in his flesh which Paul says came from an Angel of Satan -- to be removed. In response, the "Lord" (presumably Jesus) told Paul no, explaining "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." (2 Cor. 12:8-9.) 


Next, in light of that failure, Bultman's thesis, to have any legs, has to show us a verse that truly potentially qualifies as from the true Jesus being quoted by Paul.

The only other event that Paul records that constitutes a post-Ascended statement by Jesus is in Acts 22:17.

Here, in Acts Paul testifies about an encounter with "Jesus" in a trance while Paul was praying at the Jersusalem in which that Damascus-Road Jesus told Paul not to go see the 12 apostles for the first time. At that point,  the 12 apostles were 25 yards away, as it was their daily practice to meet at the Temple's portico. In this quote, Paul's Jesus explained to Paul that the disciples -- the apostles in context)  -- would not believe Paul had met the true Jesus.  Rather than appear to the 12 and all disciples meeting on the portico to convince them, Paul's Jesus urged Paul to flee Jerusalem immediately and go to the Gentiles. See our articles: Paul's Trance and Who Did Paul Meet Outside Damascus? 

Who can believe the true Jesus could appear in the wilderness to Paul -- a blasphemer by his own admission -- but could not take a couple of minutes to appear to the 12 just 25 yards away from the spot Paul had this Jesus appear in a trance? 

Hence, using Bultman's criteria of how to read 2 Cor. 5:16, we have no quote anyone can imagine was truly uttered by the true Lord Jesus.


Thus, how can Bultman think we must still listen to Paul when the Ascended Jesus' words that Paul quotes after Damascus only twice -- once in an epistle and once in Acts -- is someone to rely upon?

Bultmann necessarily must be implying that everything Paul wrote in his letters are as if Jesus was writing constantly through Paul even though Paul never says this is the case. And that Paul was telling us, impliedly, in 2 Cor. 5:16, to only listen to the Jesus revealed "in me" (Paul) even though no attribution is given by Paul to Jesus for what Paul is writing except 2 Cor 12:7. Again, that passsage is where Paul’s Jesus leaves Paul subject to control and influence of a demon -- an "angel of Satan."  Bultmann ignores that fact — a passage that is so embarrassing to Paul fans that they reject this passage nowadays as authentic. That is how deep is the chagrin of Paul-leaning scholars about the only unique quote of Jesus by Paul in all of his epistles. (The modern Paul defenders claim this passage could not be how Paul intended it to read.) 

Thus, based on such a reading of 2 Cor. 5:16, Bultmann exalts Paul's words as if 100% inspired and from the Ascended Jesus although never actually quoting the Ascended Jesus in support. We are supposed to treat the words exclusively from Paul as superior to the pre-Ascended Jesus by some presumed constant inspiration of Paul in every word. And this is thus supposedly why  Paul says in 2 Cor. 5:16 that we are "no longer" to know Jesus from the time Jesus taught while in the "flesh."

However, the one epistle that attributes words to Paul’s Ascended Jesus  — 2 Cor. 12, Bultmann ignores, leaving later Paul supporters to likewise ignore this. Or they reject this passage as truly from Jesus as this Jesus expressly left Paul under demonic influence, refusing Paul’s repeated prayers for release from an “angel of Satan.” We clearly have a problem: the words of the Ascended Jesus quoted by Paul are rejected or ignored by all modern Christianity but the words of Paul that never quote the Ascended Jesus except once are given a priority over the pre-Ascended Jesus.

We surely are in a mess listening to Paul.  As Moses made clear, prophets who do not quote God or "the Prophet" of Deuteronomy 18:15-19 who God speaks over and tells us to "listen to him" (i.e.., Jesus at his transfiguration) are to be ignored. 


Bultmann Concedes Jesus Pre-Cross Is Irrelevant To Paul

William Wrede (1859-1906) in his book Paul (1904) had argued Paul's writings show little knowledge of the teachings of Jesus reflected in the Gospels. This led to the "back from Paul to Jesus movement" which is now largely forgotten due to Bultmann's influential reply. (Andreas J. Köstenberger, L. Scott Kellum, The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown: An Introduction to the New Testament (B&H Publishing Group, 2009) at 370.)

Rudolf Bultmann, a famous theologian, conceded the point of Wrede's in Bultmann's Significance of the Historical Jesus for the Theology of Paul (1929) -- also republished in Faith and Understanding (New York: Harper & Row, 1969) Vol. I at 220. However, Bultmann turned it around as a proof that we should only be following Paul because of Paul's direction in 2 Cor. 5:16.

Bultmann thus starts by admitting that Jesus's teachings (pre-resurrection) were indeed irrelevant to Paul:

"It is most obvious that Paul does not appeal to the words of the Lord in support of his. . . . views. When the essentially Pauline conceptions are considered, it is clear that Paul is not dependent on Jesus. Jesus' teaching is -- to all intents and purposes -- irrelevant for Paul." Id., at 223.

As others summarize Bultmann's initial point, they state:

Bultmann noted that Paul rarely alluded to or quoted from the teachings of Jesus, and that these quotations and allusions were related to ethical rather than theological matters. (Andreas J. Köstenberger, L. Scott Kellum, The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown: An Introduction to the New Testament (B&H Publishing Group, 2009) at 369.)


Bultmann Interprets Paul As Saying To Ignore The Pre-Cross Jesus

Bultmann next turned around this admission as a point in favor of Paul because Paul supposedly deliberately ignored Jesus's teachings while "in the flesh." Bultmann says Paul gives us a pattern that we should imitate rather than be revulsed by, as William Wrede had portrayed its consequence.

For proof, Bultmann relied upon Paul's remarks in 2 Corinthians 5:16. Bultmann said this verse meant we no longer know Christ in the flesh, i.e., we can dispense with Jesus's teachings when He was in the flesh. Bultmann said that only the messages Paul received from the resurrected Christ - who supposedly no longer had flesh -- is the means to know Christ any longer. This reading of "in the flesh" is compatible with how Origen and Clement read 2 Cor. 5:16 in the early church, although they did not deduce this meant we are now free to ignore Jesus's earthly teachings. (See our discussion at this link.)

Bultmann's view was first put forth by Christian theologian and physician Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965). In Schweitzer's view of 2 Cor. 5:16 in his book of 1911 Geschichte Der Paulinischen Forschung (J. C. B. Mohr) at 191 (and in English translation, Paul and His Interpreters (1911) - archive.org / PDF-Part 1   PDF-Part 2 / Cleaned Text at page 36), Schweitzer explained: "since the death and resurrection of the Lord [Paul believed] conditions were present that were so wholly new that they made his [i.e., Jesus's] teaching inapplicable." (Id.) Thus, Albert Schweitzer says this is what explains Paul's failure to mention any significant teachings of Jesus: "If we had only St Paul to guide us, we should not know that Jesus spoke in parables, that He spoke the Sermon on the Mount and taught His people the Lord's Prayer." This was stated by Schweitzer to prove Paul intended us to similarly ignore such lessons from Jesus.

Schweitzer concluded we know Christ no longer in His historical teachings but through the spiritual Jesus of Paul's visions. Schweitzer wrote:

The truth is, it is not Jesus as historically known, but as spiritually risen within, who is significant for our time and can help it. Not the historical Jesus, but the spirit which goes forth from Him...which overcomes the world. (Quoted in Mark Powell, Jesus as a figure in history: how modern historians view the man from Galilee (Westminster John Knox Press, 1998) at 19, quoting Schweitzer.)

Bultmann saw things the same way, but took it further. Bultmann said the post-resurrection Jesus of Paul now held exclusive importance because Paul said so. As one commentator on Bultmann summarized his influential view of 2 Corinthians 5:16:

Bultmann...regards the historical Jesus as irrelevant as to the kerygma [i.e., preaching] of the risen Lord whom Paul proclaimed. Bultmann understood 2 Corinthians 5:16 ("even though we once knew Christ kata sarka [through/by means of the flesh], we know him thus no longer") to mean that Paul chose not to employ his knowledge of Jesus kerygmatically, a view with which Bultmann agreed [with Paul.]. Accordingly, the influential scholar of Marburg [i.e., Bultmann] declared Paul the "founder of Christian theology." (Paul Barnett, Paul: Missionary of Jesus (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2008) at 13.)

Thus, Bultmann was blunt: Paul in 2 Cor. 5:16 meant the pre-cross messages from Jesus were irrelevant because Jesus was then in the flesh. Jesus now had a resurrected body, and Paul says we now no longer know Jesus from the time He was in the flesh. Bultmann said that on the road to Damascus, Paul met the resurrected Christ, and Paul was passing those post-resurrection messages to us. The pre-cross Christ represented Jesus in the flesh whose doctrines, Paul wishes us to understand (per Bultmann), were now supposedly irrelevant for the NT church.

As a consequence of this view of 2 Cor. 5:16, Bultmann said it was nonsense to imagine we would abandon Paul and find Jesus as Wrede claimed. Bultmann insisted rather that "one could only find Jesus through Paul," as the authors of The Cradle, the Cross, etc., summarized Bultmann's interpretation of Paul. Id., at 370. Hence, Bultmann ridiculed as nonsense the notion of "the back from Paul to Jesus" movement. Id.

Bultmann's view has become a key justification today for modern dispensationalism that disposes of Jesus' words as entirely intended for a prior dispensation under the Law. See our collection of dispensational quotes in our article on Paulinism.

This view has filtered into popular opinion. In one post quoting 2 Cor. 5:16, the writer was blunt that Jesus in the Synoptics is dead and gone and now we only look to the Resurrected Jesus (whom Paul it is claimed presented):

"The story that is chronicled in the Gospels and has been trumpeted by the church systems for two thousand years is one about the Jesus that is forever gone, never to walk the paths of earth again." (Elmer 6/30/2010.)

Incidentally, in this analysis by Bultmann, he is guilty of an obvious logical fallacy of circular reasoning. While Wrede doubted Paul's authority because Paul treated Jesus' teachings as irrelevant, Bultmann affirmed Paul's own words as proving why Paul ignored Jesus's teachings as proof of Paul's authority. But that means Paul's authority to eradicate the historical Jesus's importance rests on no proof but the assumption of Paul's authority. This is circular logic. It assumes as a premise -- Paul has authority -- its own conclusion which is that Paul has authority over the historical Jesus'words in the flesh. Bultmann clearly engaged in the bootstrap fallacy but no one has ever pointed out this obvious defect in his reasoning.


How This Aligns With Paul's Teaching That Flesh Cannot Inherit Eternal Life

Regardless, Bultmann's view of 2 Cor. 5:16 appears a correct interpretation of Paul. (But a terribly wrong path for those following Jesus.)  Bultmann's interpretation lines up with Paul's view that "flesh cannot inherit eternal life" (1 Cor. 15:50-54). That verse confirms Paul's experience with a post-ascension "Jesus" was with a being who did not have flesh. For 1 Cor. 15:50-54 with 2 Cor. 5:16 support believing Paul admits he never met a Jesus who had flesh. Thus, Paul must have encountered someone on the Road to Damascus who said he was Jesus and did not have flesh, but had a "spiritual body" without flesh. The blinding "light" and "voice" version of Jesus in the three appearance accounts, we are left to understand, was a "spiritual body" without flesh. For more on the distinction between a body of flesh and a spiritual body, see "Bodies After Ascension


How 2 Cor. 5:16 Aligns Further With Barnabas' Statement in Hebrews 6:1

Tertullian ca. 200 AD said Barnabas wrote Hebrews. (See our link.) Barnabas' ideas in Hebrews have many cross-mixtures with Paul's ideas, especially in its Christology. Plus Paul and Barnabas were missionary allies at one point. The Epistle to the Hebrews has a similar statement about leaving behind Jesus' doctrine, including repentance from sin / works (now denigrated as 'dead works), and instead building salvation doctrine upon faith alone, as Bultmann found in 2 Cor. 5:16. We read in Hebrews 6:1:

“Therefore let us abandon (or leave behind)(Gk. aphentes) the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to more maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works but of faith toward God.”

The same verb aphentes is properly translated in Mark 1:18 as "threw aside." (Donahue & Harrington, The Gospel of Mark (2005) at  74.) Some translate as "forsook." (Mark 1:18, KJV.)

Barnabas draws a parallel between "elementary doctrine of Christ" and "a foundation of repentance from dead works...," thereby speaking derogatorily about a beginner's version of Christ's doctrine -- a foundation of repentance from dead works. Barnabas says this is now supplanted by a superior doctrine of "faith toward God" instead.

Hebrews 6:1 thus can be viewed just like 2 Cor. 5:16. If so, it represents a brazen attack by Barnabas upon the Christianity taught by Jesus. In this verse, Barnabas arguably implied that Jesus’ teaching was immature, while Barnabas was able to take Christianity to the next level. Hence, if Hebrews 6:1 is speaking just like 2 Cor. 5:16, Barnabas saw the message of Jesus in the same way that Bultmann read Paul in 2 Cor. 5:16. Barnabas would be seeing Jesus's doctrine as irrelevant, superseded by the new teaching brought by Paul about faith. This possible reading of Hebrews 6:1 thus lends credence that Bultmann is properly reading 2 Cor. 5:16 to make a similar point.


Bultmann's Argument Implodes Unwittingly Any Validity for Paul

No one has seen how Paul has invalidated himself if Bultmann's influential interpretation of 2 Cor. 5:16 were examined carefully.

From what Bultmann just said, Paul is claiming the message of the flesh-bound Jesus no longer applies once Jesus resurrected, right? Then this means the resurrected Jesus whom Paul met did not have flesh? Right? In fact, didn't Paul simply describe Jesus as a "light" and a "voice" when He returned to visit Paul? Indeed, because Paul teaches "flesh" cannot inherit eternal life (1 Cor. 15:50-54), Paul must have met a Jesus (so he assumed) who only had a "spiritual body," and not flesh.

And from what Bultmann says, it follows that the person communicating to Paul taught the commands Jesus gave in His earthly ministry no longer applied after the resurrection, right?

Each of these consequences of Bultmann's reading of 2 Cor. 5:16 separately destroy Paul's validity.


Paul Did Not Meet The Resurrected Jesus If Bultmann Has Read 2 Cor. 5:16 Correctly

First of all, didn't Thomas discover something unusual when Thomas met the resurrected Jesus? Jesus had flesh. But Paul seems to think that the resurrected Jesus has no flesh, right? For we are now no longer to know Jesus that way -- "through the flesh" -- the time Jesus had flesh, so Paul teaches. Paul encountered solely a Jesus without flesh - at least Paul thought it was Jesus. However, Thomas saw the nail holes in Jesus' hands and the scar on His side. That sounds like flesh to me. Doesn't it to you? Jesus even said to Thomas to handle him to prove He was "flesh and bone." (Luke 24:39.)

Thus, the person Paul claims to have encountered in the wilderness outside Damascus as Jesus in a post-resurrection period must not really have been Jesus. If it were the true Jesus, Paul should have seen Jesus' nail-holes and scars, and realized Jesus still had flesh. (See also our discussion of Matt 24:24-27 that Jesus said not to believe someone who says "I am Jesus" in the wilderness.)

But Paul in 2 Cor. 5:16, as Bultmann reads the passage, did not believe the resurrected Jesus whom Paul met in the wilderness had flesh, right? And the Paul who wrote 1 Cor. 15:50 did not believe "flesh" could inherit eternal life, but that is precisely what Jesus enjoys "in the flesh" that He took into heaven. Both passages confirm Paul met in the wilderness only a spiritual body, and one lacking flesh -- a body wholly unlike what Thomas encountered when Thomas met the resurrected Christ.

This is further confirmed by the 3 appearance accounts of Acts 9, 22, and 26 where Paul's account says Jesus merely appeared in the wilderness outside Damascus as a blinding "light" and a "voice." This apparently was a spiritual body.

Now we realize something that did not cross our mind earlier when studying the appearance accounts of Paul in Acts. Nowhere in Paul's encounters do we know how Paul identified Jesus as Jesus. It appears Paul simply relied upon a spiritual body (lacking flesh) to tell Paul "I am Jesus." What did that prove? Paul never realized he could not just trust the voice in his appearance accounts to say "I am Jesus." Paul should have realized he needed to see the nail-holes to validate whom Paul saw truly was Jesus. That's what Apostle Thomas saw. Yet, in none of Paul's three appearance accounts in Acts 9, 22 and 26 does Paul ever validate, like Thomas did visually, that this indeed was Jesus. Now we know why: Paul met a spiritual body who only was simply a blinding light and voice.  "The journey is interrupted when Paul sees a blinding light, and communicates directly with a divine voice." ("Conversion of Paul," Wikipedia.) Paul did not meet a flesh-and-blood being--although a glorified one--who was Jesus Christ.


Devil-in-Disguise Principle Eluded Paul

Paul describes Jesus in Acts as a disembodied light. In the first account, Jesus is a light; in the next a great light, and in the third a light brighter than the Sun. (See Acts 9:1-9; 22:3-11; 26:9-20.)

"Apparently all it took to convince Paul that he was hearing the voice of Jesus was for the voice to say so."  (Delos B. McKown, Behold the Antichrist: Bentham on Religion (Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus, 2004) at 122.)

McKown, a professor on religion, acknowledges that "taken at face value, this reveals credulity (or gullibility) of a high order." Id. at 122.

But Paul knows that the devil can disguise himself as an angel of light. See 2 Cor. 11:14. Yet the Devil-in-Disguise Principle was not applied by Paul on this occasion. Luke gives us no sign of any effort by Paul to verify the light and voice was truly from Jesus.

Delos B. McKown while critically summarizing Bentham's Not Paul But Jesus realizes the validity of some points of Bentham. So McKown recounts his exchange with a student on this point when a student claims Jesus told him to do something outrageous, and then McKown applies this to Paul for our benefit on how to interpret Paul's experience on the Road to Damascus:

To this I said, But how can you be sure it was Jesus and not the Devil disguised as Jesus who told you to do as you are doing (see 2 Cor. 11:14 for Paul's description of the prowess of the Devil as a deceiver)? The waif, clearly shaken by the application of what I call the Devil-in-Disguise (DID) Principle, fell silent for a time. Then confidently, serenly he assured me saying, 'Oh, it was Jesus all right.' Having done my best to 'test the spirit' in question, I bade my visitors farewell. Even if we grant that Paul heard an extramental voice addressing him on the Damascus road, why did he not apply the DID principle? Why did the [author of Acts] not make inquiries about this and tell us how Paul verified the genuiness of the voice?  (Delos B. McKown, Behold the Antichrist: Bentham on Religion (Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus, 2004) at 155.)

Indeed, in light of what Bultmann says, we have a serious factual flaw in Paul's encounter with a disembodied voice. Jesus could not be recognized in that manner, even if the voice said he was Jesus. In fact, our Lord warned that "many will come in my Name," but are false. They will point to terrestial appearances of Jesus with great "signs and wonders" (blinding light?) and many will be deceived. (Matt. 24.)  Jesus says in Matthew 24:5 (NIV) in particular that very soon some will come in 'my name" and say "I am the Messiah"-- several verses prior to Jesus warning about the false Christs that will come:

For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many.

Paul did not care much for Jesus' words in the flesh, but these words among them would have warned him that a 'blinding light' whose 'voice' says "I am Jesus" (Acts 9:5) is precisely the kind of statement Jesus warned about in Matthew 24:5. It is someone coming in Jesus' name claiming 'I am the Messiah,' i.e., I am Jesus. But Jesus said this kind of statement could lead astray even the elect to follow a false Jesus.

But Paul credulously, nay gullibly, believed this voice was from Jesus. It could not be because the post-resurrection Jesus had flesh, and 2 Cor. 5:16 proves Paul did not meet a flesh-and-blood Jesus.


Had Jesus Come Back To Paul In A Different Manner Than When He Left?

Another incongruity is that if Jesus returned as a "voice" and "light" to Paul, it contradicts the angel's message in Acts 1:11 that "Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven." Jesus left as a body of flesh. If He returned to visit Paul, He should still have had a body of flesh. This is what the angel prophesied.


Recap on Bultmann's Point #1

In sum on point #1, Bultmann's reading of 2 Cor. 5:16 (combined with 1 Cor. 15:50-54) reveals Paul had a misapprehension that Jesus no longer had human flesh after the resurrection. Paul is utterly and completely invalidated unwittingly by Bultmann. Hence, a pro-Paul reader of 2 Cor. 5:16 -- Bultmann -- actually found an interpretation that unwittingly destroyed Paul's validity.


Paul's Command To No Longer Know Christ According To The Flesh Contradicts Christ

Second, Jesus' final words on earth as He ascended into heaven were that the Apostles (the ones he taught during His ministry; Paul was not there) should teach "everything that I commanded you...." Matt. 28:20.

If Paul is correct in 2 Cor. 5:16 as Bultmann construes him, then the Jesus of Matt. 28:20 is in total conflict with the "Jesus" who inspired 2 Cor. 5:16. Jesus is still in the flesh post-resurrection, as proven to Thomas. He wants teachings while still in the flesh taught to all the world. But Paul in reliance on the "Jesus" he met says NO! This proves the message of 2 Cor. 5:16 is not a message from the true Jesus. Paul's "Jesus" contradicts completely the final words on Earth of the true Jesus. The true Jesus could only have meant that post-Ascension the apostles were to teach the pre-Cross teachings of the true Jesus when our Divine Lord was clearly "in the flesh."

Hence, Paul taught we are "no longer" to know Christ through the teachings of Jesus while in the flesh (2 Cor. 5:16), when the true Jesus says the opposite to His true Apostles in Matt. 28:20.

And the true Jesus gives us an ominous warning if we follow Paul's command to no longer know Jesus according to Jesus' teachings while in the flesh: "He who rejects me and does not receive my sayings has a judge; the word that I have spoken will be his judge on the last day." (John 12:48.)



While very weak efforts have been attempted by scholars to refute Bultmann -- Voulgaris, for example, argues that knowing Jesus "according to the flesh" in 5:16 means knowing Jesus "as a Jew" -- these efforts only strengthen one's confidence that Bultmann's reading is the correct one. Bultmann's view is also consistent with the reading in the early church of 2 Cor. 5:16, although the early church did not extrapolate that we should disregard Jesus in His earthly ministry. See our discussion of the various readings of 2 Cor. 5:16 at this link.

This means, if Bultmann is correct, that Paul in 2 Cor. 5:16 deliberately sought to displace the commands that Jesus gave to his true apostles with a set of commands Paul got from a stranger who lacked flesh -- who could not have had the verifying evidence of scars and flesh-wounds that Thomas saw -- and who gave a direction to dispense with the words of Jesus's earthly ministry contrary to Christ's command in Matt. 28:20.

Thus, if Bultmann is correct in his scholarly interpretation of 2 Cor. 5:16, and we have little reason to doubt it is correct, Paul was a total dupe of some strange figure who did not reveal any flesh, and this is why Paul assumed Jesus had solely a spiritual body. This figure intended Paul not to see that he lacked the scars and nail-holes that would verify whether the blinding light and voice were from the true Jesus Himself. The true Jesus would have no reason to conceal these wounds from Paul if Paul had met the true Jesus. Someone other than Jesus, however, would have motive to conceal his true identity from Paul, and thus only appear as a "voice" and "light," leading Paul to think Jesus no longer had a body of flesh in His resurrected state. We need not speculate on who that figure was of blinding light at this juncture. It is more important that we can say that we confidently know who it was NOT. If Bultmann is correct in interpreting Paul, it could not be the true Jesus.

Further Study

On the Bible identifying Satan as Lucifer, an angel of blinding light -- in Hebrew helel -- from Helios -- the name of the "Sun-God" of paganism, see this link.

Bultmann has had a long acceptance among evangelicals. However, he was loose in terms of our NT text. He concluded any "I sayings" of Jesus in the Gospels were not actually uttered by Jesus. He says they came from the Palestinian or Hellenistic church. See Daniel S. Dapaah, The relationship between John the Baptist and Jesus of Nazareth (University Press of America, 2005) at 14-15. Professor Martin Hengel was the one evangelical scholar who tried to debunk Bultmann's pessimism about the authenticity of these portions of our NT. See this Christianity Today discussion.