Paul and Jesus: Strangers Passing in the Night?
by Tony Vance
Are there good reasons to believe that Paul, the most prolific writer (in the amount of separate ‘books’) of the New Testament, wrote of a historical Jesus? Here is a quote from a blog, “For being the founder of Christianity, Paul knew surprisingly little about Jesus.”[i] How true is this statement? Note one scholar’s assessment of Paul.
“Paul had no contact with the Jesus of history. He never met him and never heard him preach. Moreover, Paul stresses he had minimal contact with Jesus’ successors –the Jesus Movement in Jerusalem. From Paul’s letters we know he was shadowed throughout his missionary journeys by emissaries from Jerusalem who were convinced that Paul was spreading a deviant message. In addition, Paul rarely quotes or refers to Jesus’ teachings when formulating or defending his own point of view against adversaries. In light of these considerations the question is posed: if we only had Paul, what would we know of Jesus? More broadly, what is the connection between Paul’s religion and that of Jesus?”[ii]
This seems troubling, at least at first, as we see these statements-if they are true. Recently, I ran across this idea, belief if you will, that Paul was not speaking of a historical but mystical Jesus. I was quite taken aback as I realized that someone really believed Paul did not know who Jesus truly was. Let’s look thru Paul’s writings, and see if we can answer some basic questions: did Paul meet Jesus; is there evidence of Jesus as a ‘man’ in Paul’s writings; and/or does Paul reference any of Jesus’ teachings?…
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