- Jesus’ birth ("out of a woman", he says, with no mention of a human father - Paul does not give names of parents – neither his own nor, unsurprisingly therefore, Jesus’ parents)
- Jesus’ location (Judea)
- Jesus’ childhood included having brothers and being in a family of observant Jews
- era in which Jesus lived (first half of first century - see timeline)
- Paul also references moral teachings in a way consistent with someone who knew they were Jesus’ teachings
- he also references Jesus’ apocalyptic views in a similar way
- he mentions Jesus being handed over (although he does not care to name who handed him over to whom, just as he mentions ‘the twelve’ without bothering to name most of them)
Jesus’ genealogy and birth
- Indeed: "To them [the Jews] belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Messiah" (Romans 9:5)
In summary, Paul says Jesus is of the Jewish race, of their flesh, of David's flesh, born "out of a woman", making them a Jewish mother and son, obviously.
Family and upbringing
- By way of contrast, note how in Galatians Paul addresses the church as "brothers", unlike how he speaks in passing of James categorically as "the Lord's brother" whom he met (1:19), perhaps so that this James not be confused with another James. (Not crucial to mention here, but elsewhere we are told that the John whom Paul met in Jerusalem had a sibling who was also called James, was one of the twelve, and was killed in Jerusalem, but that's another story. What Paul says here makes it clear which James he met.)
- And again for contrast, note how in 1 Corinthians Paul speaks of the church as "my brothers" (1 Cor 1:11; 11:33; 14:39; 15:58), unlike how he categorically speaks of "the Lord's brothers" who could travel with a believing wife (1 Cor 9:5).
- In a broader contrast, Paul speaks of "my brother Titus" (2 Cor 2:13), "my brother Epaphroditus" (Phil 2:25), and "our brother Timothy" (1 Thess 3:2), whereas James is not called Paul's brother but "the Lord's brother".
- It's quite clear that there is a difference in the way that Paul speaks of the Lord's brother James and the Lord's brothers who had wives, for which the simplest explanation is the natural reading that these were members of Jesus' family.
- In referring to James, Paul actually speaks of himself and Peter and James, but only James gets called "the Lord's brother", an honour which Paul couldn't claim for himself or Peter. It becomes all the more clear with each piece of evidence that the simplest explanation is the natural reading that James was a member of Jesus' family.
- That is, Paul was writing in the 50s of the first century (the date is calculated from dating information in Paul's letters), and Jesus' brothers were adults with wives and clearly still alive in the 50s: this means Jesus' life can be dated to the first half of the first century.
• Jesus' death was associated with Passover, which is a specific time in the Jewish calendar each year when lamb was killed (1 Cor 5:7).
You may have noticed that 1 Corinthians is the most informative of Paul's letters about Jesus' death - so, to pick these out from it:
• Jesus' death was associated with a time in the Jewish calendar when a lamb was killed - Passover
• Jesus was handed over at night-time, the night of a gathering which extended from before supper till after supper, at which Jesus handled some of the food and a cup
• Jesus’ death was by crucifixion
• Jesus died and was buried
Of course, all of those details are also found in the gospels, but that's a subject for other posts. You'll notice elsewhere in this post that it is also in 1 Corinthians that quite a bit of the other material here is found too.
- servant – and this was towards circumcised people (that is to say, Jews) (Romans 15:3, 8)
- Jesus chose a life of poverty, and Paul describes Jesus as meek and gentle (2 Corinthians 8:9; 10:1
- 'the twelve' (1 Cor 15:5). Paul just assumes that the reader knows what he means by 'the twelve'.
- 1 Thess 4:15-16 = Matthew 24:31 (note the mention of the trumpet)
- 1 Thess 4:17 = Matthew 25:5-7 (note the mention of meeting Jesus)
- 1 Thess 5:3-7 = Matthew 24:42-43 (note the mention of the thief in the night)
- 1 Cor 7:10-11 = Mark 10:9-12 (on marriage and divorce)
- 1 Cor 9:14 = Luke 10:7 (on labourers for the Lord being paid)
- There is a general alignment too with a good deal of Jesus' ethical teaching, and it is striking that out of all the alternatives in Paul's world, this finds its way into his letters. So in Romans:
- Romans 12:14 = Matthew 5:44
- Romans 12:17 = Matthew 5:38-48
- Romans 13:7 = Mark 12:17
- Romans 13:8 = Mark 12:31
- Romans 14:13 = Mark 9:42
- Romans 14:14 = Mark 7:15
- Romans 14:20 = Mark 7:19
The important thing shown by this is that, whether you think this is a connection between Paul and the words of the pre-resurrection Jesus or post-resurrection Jesus, you can't say that teachings associated with the pre-resurrection Jesus are completely missing, as they are not.
Glen Miller provides more example here.
Prior to his interrogating church members, Paul's knowledge of Jesus may have been limited to what he heard through the grapevine from his fellow Pharisees. (As for that being part of his background, he describes himself as "in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church" Phil 3:6.) It is doubtful whether he would have regarded anything as reliable that he heard through that grapevine, once he had converted to following Jesus. As for his sources, I discuss that in another post.
Did Jesus Really Exist? 1. A little introduction
Did Jesus Exist? 3a. What did St Paul know about the life story of Jesus?
Did Jesus Exist? 3b. Why didn’t St Paul say more about Jesus?
Did Jesus Exist? 3c. Did Peter and Paul talk about Jesus?
So when did St Paul persecute the church? (And when did Jesus die?)
Did Jesus Exist? 5. Did Paul invent Jesus?