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Historical Jesus, History, Mythicism

Responding to Mythicism: Does Paul tell us anything about Jesus?

It has been claimed by mythicists that Paul (some even claim Paul himself didn’t exist) didn’t know much about Jesus, and it has been suggested that Paul didn’t really understand Jesus to have been an actual historical person and therefore hadn’t in fact been crucified under Pontius Pilate. Contrary to such claims Paul does in fact tell us a lot about the historical Jesus considering this was not the purpose of his writings.

High Context Culture

Paul’s epistles are not intended to share details about the life of Jesus, that was the purpose of the four Gospels which are a form of Hellenistic biography. Paul’s epistles are addressed most commonly to churches and he is usually responding to some practical problem that the local church may be having. For this reason it is no surprise that Paul felt no need to keep repeating information about Jesus that was already well known. First century Judea was what anthropologists call a high context culture, this meant that there was no need to repeat information, because, there was a presumed well-understood knowledge of the context being discussed or written about. So there was no need for Paul to keep repeating basic facts about Jesus’ life which the churches were already quite aware of. Mythicists are therefore guilty of making too much of Paul’s limited writings on Jesus and too little of what Paul does in fact record. We must remember that Paul isn’t writing to establish a church but to established churches!

What doe Paul tell us about Jesus?

Jesus spoke before Pontius Pilate in 1 Timothy 6:13
Jesus was a physical descendant of David in Romans 1:3
Jesus came into the world in 1 Timothy 1:15
Jesus had a physical brother called James who Paul had met in Jerusalem in Galatians 1:19
Jesus had died, was buried and rose from the dead on the third day and was seen by many people in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8
Jesus rose from the dead and implicitly actually died in Romans 1:4, 1 Corinthians 6:14, Galatians 1:1 and 1 Thessalonians 4:14
Jesus was crucified in Philippians 2:8, Galatians 3:1
Jesus died in Romans 5:6, 8, 10, 14:9, 2 Corinthians 5:14-15, Colossians 1:22
Jesus was killed and certain Jewish leaders played a part in it in 1 Thessalonians 2:14-15
Jesus was born to a woman and lived as a Jew in Galatians 4:4
Jesus’ words and actions recorded at his last supper/passover meal with his closest disciples in 1 Corinthians 11:24-25
Jesus was betrayed before his death in 1 Corinthians 11:23

So considering the context of Paul’s letters and contrary to mythicist claims, what we do have is actually quite substantial and more than enough to dispel the ignorant claims made by internet atheists and wannabee historians. What sayeth Bart Ehrman?


About @Nicodemus

I'm a Holmesian Christian, a former atheist, university lecturer and a husband of one wife.


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