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Monday, April 13, 2015

What do the writings of Paul tell us about Jesus?

Dr. Barrie Wilson made a presentation to the International Conference on the Arts and Humanities in 2008 entitled "If We Only Had Paul, What Would We Know of Jesus?" (http://www.barriewilson.com/pdf/If-We-Only-Had-Paul.pdf) He wrote: "It is concluded that there is only a slim connection between the teachings of Paul and those of the Jesus of history. Either the life and teachings and teachings of the historical Jesus were not of interest to Paul or else they were simply not known." Likewise, a post by Bob Seidensticker appeared on the blog Patheos in December of 2012 entitled "What Did Paul Know About Jesus? Not Much." (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/2012/12/what-did-paul-know-about-jesus-not-much/) Both men point out that the epistles of Paul are the earliest Christian writings that we have (written before the Gospel narratives). However, both men conclude that Paul revealed very little about the person and/or life of Jesus.

The purpose of this post is to underscore some of the things that Paul's writings reveal about Jesus and allow my readers to reach their own conclusions in this regard. For the purposes of this post, we will confine ourselves to the undisputed (by Biblical scholars) epistles of Romans, I and II Corinthians, Galatians and I Thessalonians. In doing so, we will avoid subjecting ourselves to any charges of mining questionable sources to discredit the conclusions referenced above. Once again, the reader is left to reach his/her own conclusions about the extent of the information that Paul's writings provide about Jesus and his life and teachings.

According to Paul, Jesus was:

1) born of a woman and had brothers. (Galatians 4:4 and I Corinthians 9:5)
2) an Israelite and a descendant of King David. (Romans 1:3 and 9:5)
3) sent to this earth from heaven by God. (I Corinthians 15:47 and Galatians 4:4)
4) the Son of God. (Romans 1:4 and Galatians 2:20)
5) righteous, and his righteousness is what reconciles us to God. (Romans 5:18-19)
6) surrounded by twelve apostles, one named Cephas (Peter) and another named James. (I Corinthians 15:5, 7)
7) the "anointed one" or Messiah. (as evidenced by Paul's repeated use of the Greek word Christos)
8) the one who instituted the symbols of the bread and the wine on the evening prior to his death. (I Corinthians 11:23-25)
9) betrayed. (I Corinthians 11:23)
10) crucified on a cross. (Romans 6:6; I Corinthians 1:17-18 and 23, 2:2 and 8; II Corinthians 13:4; Galatians 2:20, 3:1, 6:12, 14)
11) killed for us. (Romans 5:6-11 and I Corinthians 15:3)
12) the Passover lamb who was sacrificed for us and our sins (Romans 3:25, I Corinthians 5:7)
13) buried after his death. (Romans 6:4, I Corinthians 15:4)
14) dead for three days. (I Corinthians 15:4)
15) resurrected from the dead. (Romans 1:4, 7:4, 8:11; I Corinthians 15:20)
16) appeared to his apostles and disciples after he was resurrected. (I Corinthians 15:5-7)
17) is now immortal and seated at the right hand of God. (Romans 6:9, 8:34, 14:9)
18) will return to this earth from heaven and meet his followers in the air. (I Thessalonians 4:14-17)

In addition to these points, I believe that most folks would agree that it is reasonable to state that Paul's teachings about love (Romans 12, 13 and I Corinthians 13) are in harmony with Christ's teachings on the subject (John 13 and 15). Likewise, Paul's insistence that "miracles" are part of the Christian experience of his day (I Corinthians 12:10, 28-29 and Galatians 3:5) is highly suggestive of the fact that they were part of the ministry of their religion's founder. It also appears to this writer that the entire focus of Paul's ministry (as outlined in these writings) was to suggest that Jesus Christ was the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6). That seems like a pretty substantial amount of information to me. What do you think?


  1. You are being very generous to the once popular wacky holy book of our culture.
    How much of the more recent holy book, the Book of Mormon, do you accept?

  2. How am I being "very generous" to the Bible? What have I exaggerated or misrepresented in this post? As for the Book of Mormon, it is apparent to me that it should not be regarded as an historically accurate account of the Israelites (I don't regard the Bible as an historically accurate account of the Israelites either). The Book of Mormon is a fairly well-written story, but I haven't really formed any opinion about whether or not any or all of it is inspired. However, unlike many Fundamentalists/Evangelicals, I have personally known many Mormons whom I regard as Christians.