Monday, August 12, 2013

How Much Did Paul Really Know About Jesus?

It is popular to say today that Paul knew very little about Jesus Christ of Nazareth. According to an article on, Paul knew only about eight things.  According to the Bible, however, Paul knew quite a lot about Jesus. Paul Barnett, in his book Paul Missionary of Jesus, comes up with a more biblically thoughtful and extensive list. This is the list from his book and can be found on pages 18-20.

Paul Knew:

1.  Jesus was a descendent of Abraham the patriarch (Gal. 3:16).

2. Jesus was a direct descendent of King David. This is critical to the belief that he was the     Christ, the Messiah of Israel (Rom. 1:3; 9:5; 15:8; cf. 1 Cor 15:3).

3. The mention of Jesus being “born of a woman” (Gal 4:4-5) suggests that Paul knew of and confirmed the virginal conception of Jesus… Jesus was born of a woman, Mary, not of her husband Joseph.

4. Jesus was born and liven in “poverty” (2 Cor 8:9).

5. Jesus was “born under” the and lived under Jewish law (Gal 4:4).

6. Jesus had a brother named James and other brothers, unnamed (Gal 1:19; cf. 1 Cor. 9:5).

7. Jesus had twelve disciples, to whom the risen Lord “appeared” (1 Cor 15:5; cf. Mark 3:14 pars.).

8. Peter was the spokesmen of the Twelve… a role that developed, postresurrection, into his leadership of the mission to the circumcised in Israel (Gal 2:7-8).

9. Jesus’ manner was one of humility and weakness, agreeing with his words recorded in the Gospel, “I am gentle and lowly in heart” (2 Cor 10:1; Matt 11:29).

10. He was externally “transfigured” on a mountain (Mark 9:2; Matt 17:2), as Paul expects to be “transformed” inwardly (2 Cor 3:18; cf. Rom 12:2).

11. Jesus called God “abba” (Gal 4:6; cf. Rom 8:15).

12. He ministered primarily to Israel/Jews (Rom 15:8).

13. He instituted a memorial meal on the night he was betrayed (1 Cor 11:23-25).

14. He was cruelly treated at that time (Rom 15:3).

15. He was killed by the Jews in Judea (1 Thess 2:14-15).

16. He testified before Pontius Pilate (1 Tim 6:13).

17. His “death on a cross” (Phil 2:8) implies execution at Roman hands for treason (cf. Gal 3:1; 6:17).

18. He was buried (1 Cor 15:4).

19. He was raised on the third day and was seen alive on a number of occasions by many witnesses, most of whom were still alive, able to confirm this (1 Cor 15:5-7).

So Paul knew a lot about Jesus. We’re in safe hands. Paul met the risen Lord on the way to Damascus and had a basic knowledge of Christ’s life and mission. Of course, he wasn’t one of the Twelve and never claimed to be, so we can’t expect that Paul necessarily knew all of Jesus parables and events of life that the disciples knew. At the same time, because of Paul’s acquaintances with such Apostles as Peter and James, there shouldn’t be doubt that he was filled in on much of it. 

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