To this point I have enumerated everything that Paul explicitly says about what Jesus said, did, and experienced during his earthly life.  The driving question is the one that I turn to now and in the next post.  Why didn’t Paul tell us *more*?  I’ve long been fascinated by this question, and even though I’ve thought about it for well over thirty years, I’ve never decided on what I really think. There are just too many counter-arguments for every perspective that I’ve heard or thought of!  In these two posts I want to lay out three of the main options. If you think of others that need to be aired, feel free to make a comment.

I have taken the following from my textbook The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings.


Paul of course has a lot to say about the importance of Jesus, especially the importance of his death and resurrection and his imminent return from heaven. But in terms of historical information, what I’ve listed above [i.e., in the previous posts] is about all that we can glean from his letters. Imagine what we wouldn’t know about Jesus if these letters were our only sources of information. We hear nothing here of the details of Jesus’ birth or parents or early life, nothing of his baptism or temptation in the wilderness, nothing of his teaching about the coming Kingdom of God; we have no indication that he ever told a parable, that he ever healed anyone, cast out a demon, or raised the dead; we learn nothing of his transfiguration or triumphal entry, nothing of his cleansing of the Temple, nothing of his interrogation by the Sanhedrin or trial before Pilate, nothing of his being rejected in favor of Barabbas, of his being mocked, of his being flogged, etc. etc. etc. The historian who wants to know about the traditions concerning Jesus — or indeed, about the historical Jesus himself — will not be much helped by the surviving letters of Paul.

But what are we to make of this? Why does Paul not remind his congregations of what Jesus said and did? Does he think that these things are unimportant? Does he think that they are irrelevant? Does he assume that his readers already know them? Does he know them? How could he not know?  Regrettably, the questions are easier to ask than to answer.  Let me explore three of the options that scholars have pursued over the years, simply as a way to stimulate your own thinking.


Option One: Paul knew a large number of traditions about Jesus but never spoke of them in his surviving letters because he had no occasion to do so.  This is perhaps the easiest way to explain why Paul scarcely ever mentions the events of Jesus’ life.  Someone who takes this line could point out that Paul evidently knew other apostles (cf. Gal 1-2) who must have told him stories about Jesus; moreover, it would make sense that when he founded his churches he must have told them something about the man whom he proclaimed as the Son of God who died and was raised from the dead.  Who exactly was he?  What did he do?  What did he teach?  How did he die?  Surely questions such as these must have occurred to Paul’s converts, and surely he must have answered them.  If so, then we might conclude that Paul never mentioned these traditions in his letters because he knew that his converts already knew them.

You may, however, detect a flaw in this reasoning.  Paul spends a good amount of time in his letters

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