What Did Paul Know About Jesus?

It is often remarked that Paul does not know much about Jesus. It
must be admitted that the Gospels give us more detail and information
about Jesus' ministry, death, and resurrection (and in the case of
Matthew and Luke, his birth) than do Paul's letters. Of course,
this is largely due to the fact that Paul was writing letters, not
narratives. And his letters, for the most part, were
"occasional." By "occasional" I mean that Paul wrote in response
to specific issues of which he had become aware. Nevertheless, in
addition to echoing many of Jesus' teachings as preserved in the
canonical Gospels, Paul's occasional letters demonstrate a familiarity
with many aspects of Jesus' life and ministry. I list many of
these references here:

1. Jesus was divine and pre-existent
• Col. 1:15-16 (John 1:1)

2. Jesus was born in human fashion, as a Jew, and had a ministry to the Jews
• Gal. 4:4, Romans 15:8

3. Jesus was referred to as “Son of God”
• 1 Cor. 1:9 (Mark 1:1)

4. Jesus was a direct descendent of King David
• Romans 1:3 (Matt. 1:1; Luke 1:27)

5. Jesus was a direct descendent of Abraham
• Gal. 3:16 (Matt. 1:1; Luke 1:27)

6. Jesus' upbringing was under the Jewish Law
• Gal. 4:4 (Luke 2:21-52)

7. Jesus prayed to God using the term “abba”
• Gal. 4:6; Romans 8:15-16 (Mark 14:36)

8. Jesus expressly forbid divorce
• 1 Cor. 7:10 (Mark 10:6-10)

9. Jesus taught that “preachers” should be paid for their preaching
• 1 Cor. 7:11; 9:14 (Luke 10:10)

10. Jesus taught about the end-time/eschatology
• 1 Thess. 4:15 (Matt. 24:6-31)

11. Paul refers to Peter by the name Cephas (rock), as did Jesus
• 1 Cor. 3:22 (Matt. 16:18)

12. Jesus had a brother named James
• Gal. 1:19, 1 Cor. 15:6-7 (Matt. 13:55; Mark 6:3)

13. Jesus initiated the Lord’s Supper
• 1 Cor. 11:23-25 (see Matt. 26:26-29)

14. Jesus was betrayed on the night of the Lord’s Supper
• 1 Cor. 11:23-25 (see Matt. 26:25)

15. The death of Jesus was at the hands of earthly rulers
• 1 Cor. 2:8 (Matt. 27:1-50; Mark 15:1-47)

16. Jewish authorities were involved with Jesus’ death
• 1 Thess. 2:14-16 (Matt. 27:1-3; Mark 15:1)

17. Jesus died by crucifixion
• 1 Cor. 1:23; 2 Cor. 13:4; Galatians 3:1 (Matt. 27:1-50; Mark 15:1-47)

18. Jesus was physically buried
• 1 Cor. 15:4; Rom. 6:4 (Mark 15:43-47; Matt. 27:58-66);

19. Jesus was resurrected from the dead
• Romans 1:4; 1 Cor. 15:4-7 (Luke 24:1-53; Mark 16:1-20; Matt. 28:1-20; John 20:1-21:25))

20. The resurrection occurred on the third day
• 1 Cor. 15:4 (Luke 24:7, 21, 46)

21. Jesus appeared to his followers on distinct occasions following his resurrection
• 1 Cor. 15:4-7 (Luke 24:1-53; Mark 16:1-20; Matt. 28:1-20; John 20:1-21:25)

I have rearranged the order of these statements in that described in
the written gospels and have attempted to largely place them as they
are laid out in the gospels. Because Paul’s epistles were not
written in a narrative framework we should not expect them to be in
chronological order. Nevertheless, they are powerful
witnesses to the early church’s beliefs. In short, “the outline
of the gospel story as we can trace it in the writings of Paul agrees
with the outline which we find elsewhere in the New Testament, and in
the four Gospels in particular.” F.F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents,
page 79. Thus, the idea that Paul did not know any facts about a
human Jesus -- often used to support the Jesus Myth fantasy -- is
itself a myth.


Anonymous said…
Galatians 4:6 Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father."

What is the 'Spirit of the Son'? Is it the Holy Spirit? Is it identical to the Spirit of the Father?

Is it Jesus himself?

Is Paul claiming that the earthly Jesus prayed to God using the word 'Father'?

Romans 8:15 For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father."

What is the Spirit of sonship? Is it correct to say that Paul is claiming here that Jesus prayed to God using the word 'Abba', during his earthly life?
Layman said…
I think that is a fair criticism of that one point. If it belongs in the connections between Paul and Jesus, it probably should be in the category of allusions to his teachings.
Layman said…
Upon further review, I'm inclined to leave this on my list. I intend to explain my reasoning in another blog.

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