Monday, January 10, 2011

What did Paul know about Jesus

James McGrath has good post on how much Paul may or may not have known about the historical Jesus. He questions the assumption that the Apostle had no direct contact with or direct knowledge of the historical Jesus.
It is worth pointing out, however, that that is an argument from silence. What we know about Paul is that he opposed the Christian movement. We don't know how early he began to do so, nor precisely where, from Paul's own writings. But we do know that Paul had knowledge of the Christian movement prior to becoming a Christian himself. Not only did he persecute it, which requires awareness, but he mentions relatives who were Christians before he was.

You can read the rest of the post here.


  1. Be aware of Authur Drews, summary essay work that deals with questions of both Jesus and Paul as mythical characters. In addition, both Tubingen school and dutch radicals as far back as the 1800s argued quite convincingly that pauline texts are 2nd century works. So questions about "what paul knew about Jesus" rest on assumptions that have not been demonstrated. That there existed a Jesus and/or Paul characters should probably be demonstrated before we start on any Paul/Jesus relationship.

    Cheers! RichGriese.NET

  2. Rich,

    Very few NT scholars accept the premise that the Pauline texts are second century works. Many of the assumption of the Tubingen school have been found wanting. I will have a post tomorrow with a pod cast that you may find relevant.

  3. One of the things that I learned last year (or, rather, in 2009) while participating in the Gezer dig, was that we should be very humble in how we interpret the information we have, whether textual or archaeological, because of how little information we actually possess. Let's think about it, for example, Gezer is quite a large Tel, and although there have been three extensive excavations, only a very small portion of the area has been explored. From this very small amount of information, large proposals and hypotheses about the past are generated. The same thing can be said, particularly, about Paul. We have, what, twelve epistles (forgive me if I'm errant, I don't have a Bible in front of me and am counting on my fingers), and that is if we take them ALL as Paul's. We have less if we discount the disputed letters. Each of these letters deals with specific situations (except, perhaps, for Romans), situations which were not an historic defense or presentation of Jesus. Some of the comments that are on McGrath's blog do not take into consideration the fact that Paul is not writing for us, or to answer our questions. It is quite unreasonable to assume that his knowledge of Jesus, as a historical person, is somehow deficient or ill-informed simply because the writings we do possess from him for some reason or another do not address the only issues or make statements that would convince certain people that he did know about the historical Jesus.
    In response to Rich, I am more than a little skeptical when people cite particular schools of thought in defense of a position. It seems that in cases like this, e.g., the Tubingen school's convincing demonstration of the lateness of Paul's letters, is more of a case of academic inbreeding than of really demonstrating a case. This has happened recently with both Christian apologists and the new atheists, where they most often end up quoting themselves and working from a large amount of unsupported, but accepted, assumptions.

  4. Learn more about Prophet Jesus (A.S) and his arrival to earth in the near future.