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Old 02-05-2001, 09:28 AM   #1
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Post The Earliest References to Jesus?

Paul and the Human Jesus

In this post I want to discuss another historical source of information about Jesus and his teachings, the letters of Paul. Many people overlook the Pauline Epistles as sources for information about the life of
Jesus because our Red Letter Edition Bibles do not highlight the teachings of Paul. However, it was never Paul's intention to set forth the life of Jesus, per se.

Unlike the writers of the gospels, commonly known as evangelist, Paul was writing to people who had already expressed faith in Jesus. Paul wrote to churches which he himself had founded (like the church in Corinthians).

Significantly, however, Paul also wrote to churches that he had not founded or even visited (like the church in Romans). Why is it significant that Paul wrote to different churches, some of which he had not founded
or visited? Because it demonstrates that he was addressing creedal traditions and beliefs already in place among the early church. It is doubly significant because Paul's epistles were written between 15-40 years before the gospels.

Some of what we can glean about the life and teachings of Jesus from Paul's epistles:

1. Jesus was divine and pre-existent
-Col. 1:15-16 (see John 1:1)
2. Jesus was born in human fashion, as a Jew, and had a ministry to the Jews
-Galations 4:4, Romans 15:8
3. Jesus was referred to as "Son of God"
-1 Cor. 1:9 (see Mark 1:1)
4. Jesus was a direct descendent of King David
-Romans 1:3
5. Jesus prayed to God using the term "abba"
-Galations 4:6; Romans 8:15-16 (see Mark 14:36)
6. Jesus expressly forbid divorce
-1 Cor. 7:10 (see Mark 10:6-10)
7. Jesus taught that "preachers" should be paid for their preaching
-1 Cor. 7:11; 9:14 (see Luke 10:10)
8. Jesus taught about the end-time
-1 Thess. 4:15
9. Refers to Peter by the name Cephas (rock), which was the name Jesus gave to him
-1 Cor. 3:22 (see Matth. 16:18)
10. Jesus had a brother named James
-Galations 1:19, 1 Cor. 15:6-7
11. Jesus initiated the Lord's supper and referred to the bread and the cup
-1 Cor. 11:23-25 (see Matth. 26:26-29)
12. Jesus was betrayed by one of his followers on the night of the Lord's Supper
-1 Cor. 11:23-25 (see Matth. 26:25)
13. Jesus' death was related to the Passover Celebration
-1 Cor. 5:7
14. The death of Jesus was at the hands of earthly (secular?) rulers
-1 Cor. 2:8
15. Jesus underwent abuse and humiliation
-Romans 15:3, referring to Psalm 69:9
16. Jewish authorities were involved with Jesus' death
-1 Thess. 2:14-16
17. Jesus died by crucifixion.
-1 Cor. 1:23; 2 Cor. 13:4; Galations 3:1
18. Jesus was physically buried
-1 Cor. 15:4; Rom. 6:4
19. Jesus was resurrected from the dead on the third day
-Romans 1:4; 1 Cor. 15:4-7
20. Jesus appeared to his followers following his resurrection
-1 Cor. 15:4-7
21. The death and resurrection of Jesus was an atoning death for the sins of the world
-Romans 3:23-24

I have rearranged the order of these statements from that contained in the Pauline Epistles and have attempted to largely place them as they are laid out in the gospels. Because Paul's epistles were not written in a
narrative framework we should not expect them to be in chronological order. Nevertheless, they are powerful witnesses to the early church's beliefs. In short, "the outline of the gospel story as we can trace it in the
writings of Paul agrees with the outline which we find elsewhere in the New Testament, and in the four Gospels in particular." F.F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents, at 79.

However, not only do Paul's epistles demonstrate that many of the events (and teachings) of Jesus' life portrayed in the gospel were already well known in the early church (or rather, it would be more accurate to say that they were known among the various early churches).

Paul was not starting from scratch, he was writing to communities with which he had no previous contact (such as the church in Rome). As stated by Dr. Luke Timothy Johnson, Robert W. Woodruff Professor of New Testament and Christian Origins at the Candler School of Theology, Emory University, the Pauline epistles "provide valuable external verification for points in the Narratives we do possess.... [T]hat Paul assumed the readers of his letters, written within twenty to thirty years of Jesus' death, had already been taught that these things had happened. These bits of information in Paul do not prove the historicity of the events (necessarily), but they confirm the antiquity and ubiquity of the traditions concerning the events in a period as much as two decades earlier than our earliest written Gospel.... Paul can assume, in other words, that the Roman church, which he had never met, had as
firm a possession of these basic aspects of the Jesus story as did his own Corinthian community." Dr. Luke Timothy Johnson , The Real Jesus, at 120.

Any thoughts?
 
Old 02-05-2001, 10:36 AM   #2
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Thanks for the post Layman.

I rarely get into debates over whether or not Jesus was historical, since the arguments against the historicity of Jesus almost always end up in fantasitical cases of special pleading, arguments from silence, and a uniform unwillingness to address the evidence that counters their own arguments.

That said, aside from the testimony from Paul in his epistles, we must also remember that Peter himself wrote about the historical Jesus that he knew (see 1 Peter 1:3, 3:21, 4:1), as did John (1 John 2:6, 2 John 1:7), and the author of Hebrews (Hebrews 3:3 5:7, 13:12). We have further evidence in the historicity of Jesus found in the life of his own brother, James (also mentioned by Josephus, and this reference is not disputed by anyone I am aware of), and finally the Churches themselves.

All of this evidence for the existence of a real, physical and historical Jesus appears within the 1st Cenutury AD, and must be ignored or explained away in some form of rationalization to argue against the historical Jesus. Of course, doing this, is simply stubborn hyper-scepticism, and would require us to disbelieve (or at best, remain agnostic) in virtually all of history.

Theological and fantastical claims about the life of an historical person does not invalidate his existence. From my point of view, this merely puts the cart before the horse. It is possible to examine the natural and ordinary claims about a person separate from the supernatural claims, and this should always be done, especially if we are going to engage in good historical inquiry.

Peace,

Nomad
 
Old 02-05-2001, 06:27 PM   #3
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Nomad,

I agree with you that the discussion of the actual existence of Jesus is a silly one. I find it hard to believe that there are, purportedly, educated skeptics out there who don't realize that Josephus really did refer to Jesus, even though a Christian interpolated some flowery language in the first reference.

However, I was hoping that my post would also make the point that the knowledge of the human Jesus and his teachings were widespread prior to the authorship of the Four Gospels. That is, the gospel writers were setting existing tradition to paper, not inventing myths out of wholeclothe.

I also believe it makes the point that Paul was spreading traditions and teachings about the human teaching which had been passed on to him, rather than created by him.

Thank you for your response.
 
Old 02-05-2001, 06:32 PM   #4
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[QUOTE]Originally posted by Nomad:
Thanks for the post Layman.

I rarely get into debates over whether or not Jesus was historical, since the arguments against the historicity of Jesus almost always end up in fantasitical cases of special pleading, arguments from silence, and a uniform unwillingness to address the evidence that counters their own arguments.


Here, unprovoked, Nomad attacks all who disagree with him.

Nomad: That said, aside from the testimony from Paul in his epistles, we must also remember that Peter himself wrote about the historical Jesus that he knew (see 1 Peter 1:3, 3:21, 4:1)

What makes Nomad so certain that a lower-class, illiterate Galilean fisherman could have written the letters attributed to him? Numerous scholars argue AGAINST Simon Peter's authorship. See Ehrman, Enslin, Guignebert, Loisy, Mack, Kummel, Conybeare, Funk, Kee, Crossan, etc.

Nomad: as did John (1 John 2:6, 2 John 1:7), and the author of Hebrews (Hebrews 3:3 5:7, 13:12).

The writer of the letters attributed to John remains unknown. No critical scholar that I am aware of thinks an original disciple wrote the letters.

Nomad: We have further evidence in the historicity of Jesus found in the life of his own brother, James (also mentioned by Josephus, and this reference is not disputed by anyone I am aware of), and finally the Churches themselves.

On another thread, Nomad argued that Jesus had no brothers, that he had "cousins" or "brethren," in the "Christian brethren" sense. Now he says that Jesus had a brother named "James." What will he argue next?

In my view, Jesus had several natural siblings, as attested by the writer of "Mark."

Nomad: All of this evidence for the existence of a real, physical and historical Jesus appears within the 1st Cenutury AD, and must be ignored or explained away in some form of rationalization to argue against the historical Jesus.

I think a self-styled, prophet/magician Galilean Jew named Jesus actually existed.

Nomad: It is possible to examine the natural and ordinary claims about a person separate from the supernatural claims, and this should always be done, especially if we are going to engage in good historical inquiry.

It would be so refreshing if Nomad were to begin to examine the historical evidence without the theological baggage he carries into every discussion.



[This message has been edited by penatis (edited February 05, 2001).]
 
Old 02-05-2001, 06:52 PM   #5
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I certainly do not believe that I was "attacked" by Nomad.

Regardless, I happen to think that of all the non-Pauline epistles, 1 Peter is most likely to be of genuine authorship.

I am curious as to how you know Peter was illiterate? Or, that he remained illiterate his entire life?

That being said, 1 Peter is known for having some of the roughest greek in the New Testament. It obviously was NOT written by an early Christian, such as the author of Hebrews, who was well educated in the greek language. It was written by someone who knew only unpolished Greek. Someone, perhaps, who had developed a working vocabulary, but was not educated in the language.

Nevertheless, you overlook the important point that even if Peter was entirely illiterate, he could have dictated the letter. And, in fact, the author of 1 Peter explicitly states that he relies on a secretary to actually write the letter (5:12). In other words, even if he had NO idea how to write a word of Greek, he could have dictated the letter; because it is very probable that he could speek Greek.

 
Old 02-05-2001, 06:54 PM   #6
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Dear penatis

While you are an amusing fellow, unless you are actually going to contribute something worthwhile to a thread aside from mere attacks and appeals to authority, then please try and refrain yourself. I understand your agitation, really I do (after all, being thrashed regularly is hard on the old ego), but it is hardly demonstrating that you have achieved much beyond identifying yourself as a troll on this thread.

As for the authorship of the various books of the Bible, there is a thread going on this very topic on this very board right now. You are free to contribute anything you wish there. I do hope it will be on topic and pertinent.

Nomad
 
Old 02-05-2001, 08:08 PM   #7
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[QUOTE]Originally posted by Layman:
I certainly do not believe that I was "attacked" by Nomad.

Granted, but do you disagree with Nomad?

Layman: Regardless, I happen to think that of all the non-Pauline epistles, 1 Peter is most likely to be of genuine authorship.

I think the arguments against its being written by Simon Peter are more convincing than those for it.

Layman: I am curious as to how you know Peter was illiterate? Or, that he remained illiterate his entire life?

I don't know any more than anyone else about Peter, but according to the anonymous writer of ACTS we find out the following information: "Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated (illiterate), common men..." (4:13)
In the narrative written by "Mark," we read: "And passing along by the Sea of Galilee, [Jesus] saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net in the sea for they were fishermen." (1:13)

Layman: That being said, 1 Peter is known for having some of the roughest greek in the New Testament. It obviously was NOT written by an early Christian, such as the author of Hebrews, who was well educated in the greek language. It was written by someone who knew only unpolished Greek. Someone, perhaps, who had developed a working vocabulary, but was not educated in the language.

Not everyone agrees with your assessment of the Greek. Bart G. Ehrman states, "This letter [I Peter]...is written by a highly literate Greek-speaking Christian who is intimately familiar with the Old Testament in its Greek translation and with a range of Greek rhetorical constructions. It is possible of course, that Peter went back to school after Jesus' resurrection, learned Greek, became an accomplished writer, mastered the Greek Old Testament, and moved to Rome before writing this letter, but to most scholars,this seems unlikely." The New Testament, P. 373. I find Ehrman's argument persuasive.

Layman: Nevertheless, you overlook the important point that even if Peter was entirely illiterate, he could have dictated the letter. And, in fact, the author of 1 Peter explicitly states that he relies on a secretary to actually write the letter (5:12). In other words, even if he had NO idea how to write a word of Greek, he could have dictated the letter; because it is very probable that he could speek Greek.

There is no evidence that Simon Peter could speak Greek. Living in Galilee his native language would have been Aramaic. With respect to the possibility that Peter dictated the letter to someone else, Morton Enslin has this to say: "...the diction of the epistle [I Peter]--it is excellent and idomatic Greek, evidencing even fewer Hebraisms than do the letters of Paul--and the fact that for the author the Septuagint is the Bible discourage the notion that it was the composition of the Galilean fisherman who needed an interpreter on Greek soil. Nor is this difficulty to be side-stepped by assuming that this is a translation--perhaps by Silvanus--of Peter's Aramaic. It will indeed be a lusty translation enthusiast who will be able to detect the phenomenon here. Aware of these difficulties but reluctant to give up the traditional authorship, several critics have adopted a mediating position. Although Peter was the source of the writing, another--Silvanus, Barnabus, both names have been suggested--more skilled in writing was responsible for the actual composition. Not only does this conjecture--it is no more than this--leave unanswered Peter's readiness to appear in Pauline garb--presumably he would have had the letter read to him before it was sent!--but is is shivered by the manifestly late date of the writing. If any tradition about Peter is to be trusted, it is the one of his martyrdom in the days of Nero...Thus the epistle's claim--in any form--to be Petrine must be denied." Christian Beginnings, P. 324


 
Old 02-05-2001, 08:16 PM   #8
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Nomad:
Dear penatis

While you are an amusing fellow, unless you are actually going to contribute something worthwhile to a thread aside from mere attacks and appeals to authority, then please try and refrain yourself. I understand your agitation, really I do (after all, being thrashed regularly is hard on the old ego), but it is hardly demonstrating that you have achieved much beyond identifying yourself as a troll on this thread.

As for the authorship of the various books of the Bible, there is a thread going on this very topic on this very board right now. You are free to contribute anything you wish there. I do hope it will be on topic and pertinent.

Nomad
</font>
1. No one has been "thrashing" me, least of all Nomad. And no one is "agitated."

2. Nomad used the obviously biased NET Bible and its related commentary as an authority. It seems that the only support for his claims comes from Christian websites. He would do well to read a book or two.

 
Old 02-05-2001, 09:14 PM   #9
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Nomad to penatis-- I understand your agitation, really I do (after all, being thrashed regularly is hard on the old ego)

Yep, like the thrashing he took last time, eh? I wished your confidence matched your ability. The Higher Critics have always considered Jesus' historical nature a serious question.

John
 
Old 02-06-2001, 10:27 AM   #10
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Apology:

I was completely off base about the quality of the greek in 1 Peter. I was thinking of 2 Peter. I hope to respond to your other points tommorrow.

Again, I am sorry for the error.
 
 

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