In my graduate seminar this semester we had an interesting and intense discussion about Paul and Jesus. In particular, we delved into the issue of what Paul knew about the historical Jesus and whether he knew more than he said and if so why he didn’t say more and if not how that could be.
In an earlier iteration of my undergraduate Introduction to the NT class, this was what I had my students debate. I never could figure out a good way to word the resolution, but most of the time I gave it as this: “Resolved: Paul Knew Next To Nothing About the Historical Jesus.” The problem with that resolution is that it asserts a negative, so that the affirmative team is arguing for a negative resolution. Not good. But I couldn’t come up with anything I liked better, and so went with it.
Most students are surprised to find that if they simply make a list of what Paul says about Jesus between the time of his birth and the time of his death, they don’t need much more than a 3×5 card.
I discussed this issue some years ago on the blog. It’s one I think about a lot, so here I will deal with the whole thing again. I’ll devote a couple of posts to what it is Paul says about the historical Jesus, and then a couple others to the question of why he doesn’t say more.
I have taken the following discussion from my book Did Jesus Exist. So, what does Paul tell us about the historical man Jesus?
First, Paul indicates unequivocally that
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