Thursday, November 11, 2010

NT Pod 44: What did Paul know about Jesus?

NT Pod 44 asks "What did Paul know about Jesus?" It is thirteen and a half minutes long.

NT Pod 44: What did Paul know about Jesus? (mp3)
NT Pod 44: What did Paul know about Jesus? (mp3) (Alternative location)

Key texts: 1 Cor. 7.10-11, 1 Cor. 9.3-6, 1 Cor. 9.14, 1 Cor. 11.23-26, 1 Cor. 15.5, 1 Thess. 4.15-17.

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Thanks to Ram2000, Me and You, for the opening theme, released under a Creative Commons agreement.


  1. Thanks, Mark. Very well done. I would wish only to question your hunch that Paul was more reluctant to use Jesus tradition after a supposed conflict with Jerusalem.

    Firstly, I would place Philippians, Philemon, and probably Galatians before 1 Corinthians. Your previous arguments for placing Galatians after 1 Cor are based on the unexamined assumption that the collection from Galatia was still happening at the time that Paul wrote 1 Cor 16:1-3. However, it seems to me that Paul refers to the Galatian collection here simply to assure the Corinthians that his recommendations for the administration of the collection were tried and tested. The collection from Galatia could therefore have been completed many years before the writing of 1 Corinthians. You really need to address this point, as your whole argument hangs on your reading of 1 Cor 16:1-3, doesn't it?

    Secondly, the most commonly cited evidence for a conflict between Paul and Jerusalem comes from Gal 2:11-14, but this event, on any chronology, occurred BEFORE 1 Corinthians was written. In any case, it is only a doubtful mirror reading of Galatians that leads one to think that Paul had any conflict at all with Jerusalem.

    Am I right to assume that you now agree that there is little evidence in 1 Corinthians itself of conflict between Paul and Jerusalem?

    The rest of your pod cast makes very good sense, though. 2 Cor 8:9 is interesting too, isn't it?

  2. Brilliant as usual, Mark. Thanks so much for these PodCasts.

    This podcast got me thinking about Jesus' parables that we find in the Gospels. Luke has a whole slew of parables that are not found in the other synoptics and John's teachings are pretty much unique to him. So either the authors were composing some parables themselves as needed or each community possessed different circulating material from which they taught. If the later is the case, then Paul's knowledge of the life of Jesus could be very different from what we think we know from the surviving literature. The teachings he was most exposed to - especially in those crucial first three years - may not have been as rich in parables such that Paul did not grow to think of Jesus as primarily a teacher of parables.

    I don't know how this fits with your teaching schedule, etc, but in the future I would love to see an NT Pod or lecture on the Jerusalem Church as exposed through the epistles, Acts and possibly even the Ebionites. This has been somewhat of a stumbling block for me through the years, how James and the other so-called Pillars could hold a seemingly different view of Jesus' message. Perhaps others have questions about this, too.

    Keep up the great work.

  3. Thanks for your encouraging and useful comments, Richard. Yes, if I had a little longer, I would have mentioned 2 Cor. 8.9 too, which is fascinating. I think Galatians post-dates 1 Corinthians for a range of reasons previously articulated on my blog. Yes, one of them is the fact that Galatia is still involved in the collection in 1 Cor. 16, but there are several other factors. On Paul and Jerusalem, I think the Antioch incident does begin a degree of conflict between Paul, Peter and others, and that generates some caution on Paul's part. I don't know if the "you now agree" implies that I once held a different view. Thanks again.

  4. Thanks, Scott, for the encouragement and for the interesting suggestions. I really should podcast about the parables in the Gospels, especially as this is a research interest of mine. I am teaching Historical Jesus next semester so that might be a useful time to talk about them.

  5. Thanks, Mark. Sorry, yes, I seem to have had a false memory of your understanding of 1 Corinthians.

    All we can really say is that, of the 4 letters of uncontested sequence (1 Thess, 1 Cor, 2 Cor, and Rom), the first two have more Jesus tradition than the last two). This could easily be chance, but if an explanation is needed, how about the suggestion that Paul gave more Jesus tradition to the newer churches (because they did not know it all yet)? This would fit with the lack of Jesus tradition in Phil and Gal on any reasonable chronology.

    I have argued on my blog that there was no conflict between Paul and Jerusalem. Even if there was such a conflict, I'm not convinced that it would cause Paul to talk less about Jesus. Wouldn't the interpretation of Jesus's words become hotly contested by Paul and Jerusalem? Wouldn't Paul then, plausibly, talk about Jesus MORE in order to promote HIS interpretation of Jesus words?

  6. Thanks, Richard. Good points and definitely worth some thought. Appreciated.

  7. There is another possible explanation for why Paul writes so little about the life of Jesus. Paul had to be careful what he wrote, in case his letters fell into the hands of the Roman authorities. Letters could be seized in house searches or handed over by "false brothers". The authorities would have looked at the faith with suspicion if they had found letters that betrayed an intense interest in the teachings of a man whom the Romans had had to execute. Paul's relative silence on the life and teachings of Jesus could then be a protective silence.

  8. As a late follow up to Richard's remarks, I had thought it evident that Paul would wish to say very little about Jesus before his post-crucifixion appearances because Paul had probably been highly favorably disposed towards his arrest and crucifixion. Otherwise it is difficult to explain why Paul was the arch persecutor of the disciples before his conversion. After his reversal in attitude, I suspect Paul would wish to think back as little as possible upon the man he must have once hated, while extolling the risen Lord.

    In this vein it is likely that Paul had heard Jesus preach some, in Jerusalem, and must not have liked some of what he heard; otherwise, why would he have become the arch persecutor? This then raises the alternative interpretation found in 1 Cor 9:1 and Gal 1:12. Hence it is understandable that Paul would know a few bits about what Jesus had taught.

  9. I'd also like to make a brief comment about Mark's mention of 1 Cor 15:5, where Paul says that Christ appeared to "the twelve." There were supposedly only eleven disciples then, as Matthew was careful to mention in 28:16. If my previous comment is germane, Paul (Saul) would certainly have known if Judas was no longer one of the twelve. His failure to use "eleven" then suggests to me that he did not believe that Judas had been the betrayer or had committed suicide. Perhaps Matthew and others had latched onto a false rumour that became tradition.

  10. 'Paul had to be careful what he wrote, in case his letters fell into the hands of the Roman authorities.'

    Is this why Paul writes in Romans 13 that the authorities 'do not bear the sword for nothing', implying that people crucified by the Roman authorities basically had it coming to them as rebelling against the authorities that God had instituted?

  11. I know I'm a bit late in joining this discussion, but two things stood out to me while reading through the comments.

    The first was the comment by Fellows:

    'Paul had to be careful what he wrote, in case his letters fell into the hands of the Roman authorities.'

    At first glance, this sounds appealing. Of course one wouldn't want to be suspected by Roman officials of supporting an executed criminal. However, Jesus' execution seems to be quite a common event in first century Palestine, as many were crucified in order to keep the peace. And this occurred in one corner of the empire. I somewhat doubt that in Paul's time a Roman authority would have known who Paul was referring to when he mentioned Jesus in his letters to Rome and Corinth (granted the Christian communities there hadn't run into previous trouble with the authorities).

    I also wanted to thank Deardorff for his comment where he notes in 1 Cor 15.5 Paul claims that Christ appeared to the twelve and not the eleven. Paul has knowledge of the tradition that Jesus was betrayed (1 Cor 11.23), so this is very interesting when we compare that to what Matt tells us. This is something I never noticed before, and will have to spend some time thinking about.

    - CJ

  12. 'Paul has knowledge of the tradition that Jesus was betrayed...'

    Paul uses the same word to mean that God 'betrayed' Jesus.

    Or perhaps Paul is consistent in using 'paradidomi' to mean 'handed over'.

    And perhaps Jesus did not have the amazing timing to institute a meal of remembrance just hours before he was betrayed.

    I always wondered why Jesus thought people needed something to remember him by, so that his followers would not start saying 'Jesus who?'

    Assuming, naturally, that Jesus expected his followers not also to be strung up and the movement fall to pieces.

    Of course, the idea of a ritual cult meal where the body and blood of the founder are conjured up is as far from mythicism as you can get. Real people are always telling their followers how to eat their body and drink their blood.

  13. I agree Paul has enough Jesus material to show he is not docetic. But he insists he got all his info from the resurrected Jesus, denying he got anything useful from his rivals, the disciples. Do you think Paul is lying about his sources?

    I'm basing this on all the "Jesus in Paul" material I could think of.