From Jesus to Us: A Look at P.O.W.E.R.
by Eric Chabot
The New Testament does not reveal Jesus as any ordinary prophet or religious teacher. Rather, it reveals Him as God incarnate (John 1:1; 8:58-59;10:29-31;14:8-9;20-28; Phil. 2:5-7; Col. 2:9; Titus 2:13; Heb. 1:8; 2 Pet. 1:1). Anyone who reads through the Gospels will see that Jesus made some very challenging statements that force us as humans to face our own autonomy before our Creator. Sometimes we may to be aware of the details behind the sources of what we can know about Jesus. We have to acknowledge that Jesus said and did things that are part of his messianic ministry.
These things are found in an acronym called P.O.W.E.R.
P: Paul’s Letters
The New Testament includes Paul’s Letters: Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians. 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus. Remember, written and oral sources are divided into two kinds: primary and secondary. A primary source is the testimony of an eyewitness. A secondary source is the testimony source is the testimony of anyone who is not an eyewitness-that is, of one who was not present at the events of which he tells. A primary source must thus have been produced by a contemporary of the events it narrates. Since Paul was a contemporary of Jesus, he can be considered as a primary source. He also claimed to have a personal encounter with Jesus (Acts 9:5-9).
You may ask, “Why does matter?” In response, it matters because we actually have people who think since Paul never knew the historical Jesus that this means we can’t trust his letters. So simply pointing out the role of primary and secondary sources can answer this objection. Not to mention, I always respond by asking if we should just throw away all the books on our shelves that are written by people who never officially met the person they are writing about. So this objection is just plain silly!
What else can we know about Paul?
Paul was a very competent rabbi who was trained at the rabbinic academy called House of Hillel. The House of Hillel was a school of Jewish law and thought that was very well known in first century Jerusalem. Hillel was known as the Academy of Hillel, founded by a Jewish sage called Hillel the Elder. We also know Paul studied under the famous teacher Gamaliel (Acts 22: 3). Paul also employs oral tradition terminology such as “delivering,” “receiving,” “passing on” “learning,” “guarding,” the traditional teaching within his letters. Since Jesus was crucified about 33 A.D., Paul became a follower of Jesus around 35 A.D. Paul’s letters are dated between AD 40 and 60. Hence, these are the earliest records we have for the life of Jesus. For example, 1 Cor 15: 3-8 is one of the earliest record to the death and resurrection of Jesus. Therefore, to jump to the Gospels as the earliest records for the life of Jesus is a tactical mistake.
But since we know Paul’s Letters were written to instruct local congregations, do they really reveal any significant information about the life of Jesus? The answer is yes…
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