Originally posted by me as a comment on http://paulspassingthoughts.com/2013/12/18/john-calvins-anti-love-trilogy/

It seems to me the root of the whole problem [i.e. with Protestantism, especially Calvinism]  is the downplaying of the gospels and the elevation of Paul above Jesus. I’m not arguing at all for the rejection of Paul like that nut James Jordan. But in the Protestant camp, I sometimes wonder if the rhetorical question “Was Paul crucified for you?” were actually put to some of the pewbies, would they actually answer “No”?

In David Trobisch’s book The First Edition of the New Testament he has a chart on page 27 showing the number of Greek manuscripts per collection unit of the New Testament. Remember, in ancient times the Bible was not bound as one book. That wasn’t technically possible. Technical restrictions required it be published as a multi-volume set. Originally, the NT was four volumes. As book-making technology improved, they got it down to 3, then 2 volumes, but the parts of the New Testament remained as 4 “collection units” (as David Trobisch calls them). This enables textual critics to describe the contents of all manuscripts by 4 letters. E (Gospels), A (Acts/General epistles), P (Paul and Hebrews), R (Revelation). If the general epistles were not always with Acts, or Hebrews was not always with Paul, or the 4 gospels were not always together, Trobisch explains, this system of classification would not work.

The basic jist of the chart, number of manuscripts with the collection units found in them. We’re just talking about Greek here, not any translations in Latin etc.:

2,123 E
273 AP
222 P
130 R
87 A
76 APR
59 EAPR
11 ER
11 EA
6 PR
5 EP
3 AR
2 EAR

Notice manuscripts of the gospels alone (only E) are massively in the majority!!!! There are only 59 full NT manuscripts (EAPR) but 2,123 of the gospels alone (E).

This shows to my thinking that in ancient times the gospels were much more prized than the rest of the New Testament. There is in my thinking a theological point here. The gospels were more important to the ancient church. But to Protestants, Paul is more important. There is the beginning of the problem. Philosophy and argument about the significance of Jesus and how that squares with a particular ‘anthropology’ has taken the place of the life of Jesus as the focus of the Christian religion. This is the disaster that keeps the churches Calvinist, and this is the disaster that is driving the young out of the churches.

Carlstadt is said to have put his finger on this problem somewhat in his treatise De Canonicis Scripturis. Its no wonder the powers that be have never seen fit to translate it into English.

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