Q & A with Dr. Craig: The Historical Paul
First, I would like to say God bless you for all that you do with reasonable faith and your many other endeavors. I have thoroughly enjoyed everything I have ever read that you have written and I enjoy the live stream of your defenders class. Recently I was witnessing to a friend of mine who is an atheist and he had a friend with him who is a religious studies major. As we got into the historicity of Jesus and His resurrection I argued for the origins of the church and the subsequent conversions of James the brother of Jesus and Saul of Tarsus. I was a little thrown off by the response of the religious studies major who stated “Hardly any scholar believes Paul actually existed. It is believed it was a pseudonym for a number of anonymous church members to get their beliefs into church doctrine.” I had never encountered this rebuttal before. I was able to move past it but it stuck with me. I have done some armchair research and discovered a whole following of people (including Christians) who take this view in some degree. I have learned there is extrabiblical evidence that Paul existed but it is not as plentiful as would be expected. Most of what I read asserts that a lot of what is known is believed to be legendary including the book of Acts. They claim only 5 epistles were truly written by the historical Paul the rest are forgeries. I was wondering if you have ever encountered this argument and if you have any rebuttals to this particular line of dialogue. Thank you so much for all you do Dr. Craig!
Your brother in Christ,
Dr. Craig Answers: Man, oh, man, oh, man! Nothing illustrates the truth of the aphorism “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing” better than your friend! When I first read your letter, I thought he was just one of the kooks out there—how else could you explain the palpable falsehood that “Hardly any scholar believes Paul actually existed,” when in fact every scholar agrees that he did? Even the Jesus mythicists, who fly in the face of scholarship by denying the existence of the historical Jesus, typically admit the existence of the historical Paul, as one way of explaining away the Jesus myth! How much kookier the claim that Paul never existed?
But as I contemplated your letter, it began to dawn on me that your friend is just terribly mixed up. He’s learned a few things in his religious studies classes which he misunderstood and mixed up into a mishmash of errors.
What’s correct is that seven of Paul’s letters are recognized today by scholars as “undisputed” letters written by Paul…
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