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The Jesus Legend 5: The “Silence” of Paul?


The authors are arguing against a view that Paul did not think of Jesus as a literal historic figure, due to a lack of citations of Jesus, and a lack of referring to Jesus in his letters. A lot of this is interesting, yet I wonder how necessary these points are to a synoptic view of Jesus. Do legendary Jesus theorists need to believe that Paul did not see a literal Jesus?

At any rate, I have no way of arguing against the thesis. It makes sense for the most part to me. Paul seemed to have believed that Jesus was a real man, not just a mystical mental figure.

Kindle Notes:

Paul is virtually silent about, and largely uninterested in, the (supposed) Jesus of history. In this view, Paul’s silence indicates that he did not view Jesus as a recent historical figure. Rather, these scholars argue that Paul viewed Jesus as a mythic deity who performed his saving work in the distant past and/or in the heavenly realm (3478).

we will argue more specifically that, in fact, Paul’s writings reflect an awareness of, and concern for, the Jesus of history. We will follow this by arguing that Paul’s writings also reflect a significant awareness of Jesus’s teachings, as evidenced by what are likely conscious citations of the Jesus tradition, as well as a good number of possible “allusions” to, and “echoes” of, the Jesus tradition (3487).

According to the most radical legendary-Jesus theorists, all of this is evidence that the portrait(s) of Jesus as a recent miracle-working teacher given in the Gospels is a legend that had not yet been invented at the time of Paul’s writing. It is evidence that it is not Paul who is echoing the words of Jesus, but the authors of the Gospels who are echoing Paul (and other sources) as they put them into the mouth of their newly historicized, fictional Jesus (3547).

for the legendary-Jesus theory to be true, the Synoptic Gospel tradition must be judged to be altogether historically unreliable. However, as we shall later argue over several chapters (chaps. 6–10), these works give us good reason to conclude that they are as generally reliable as we could hope any ancient document could be (3558).

Second, since the typical Christ myth thesis understands Paul’s view of Jesus as patterned after the savior figures of the ancient mystery religions, this would require that knowledge of these mystery religions be both available and attractive to a first-century Jew—a Pharisee, no less (Phil. 3:5)—like Paul (3564).

Note: Paul was pretty well educated. A spiritual experience may have taken his thoughts and shaped hem into new theology. More likely than magic?

An even more significant obstacle to those versions of the legendary-Jesus thesis that deny Jesus existed is that Paul explicitly refers to James as “the Lord’s brother” (3570).

first-century Jews were psychologically to project and/or hallucinate about the resurrection of Jesus, we can only suppose they would have done so in categories that made sense in their cultural context (3623).

Note: Totally different hallucinations are unlikely, but are they as unlikely as magic?

According to many legendary-Jesus theorists, however, Paul’s theology and mission was informed and fueled almost exclusively by his own “personal revelations.” These scholars argue that Paul’s citations of instructions “from the Lord” are to be understood in this light, not as allusions to teachings given by the Jesus of history and passed on in the church tradition (3760).

Thus far we have seen that Paul reflects knowledge of the teachings of Jesus, knew him to be a person who lived in the recent past, and assumed that his audiences also knew a good deal about him—enough to model their lives after his (3990).

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