Do Paul’s letters refer to Jesus's biographical details?

  • Clarifying the question

    an open scrol with text and a picture of jesus's head

    Do Paul’s epistles comment on, use, and/or in other ways allude to biographical details of the historical Jesus? Do his letters report on and betray a familiarity with Jesus’s background, teachings and the narrative of his life?

  • New Testament historians

    • James Dunn: “[there are] allusions to Jesus which could be appreciated by the recipients of Paul's letters only if they could fill out the allusions from their earlier instruction.” [Beginning from Jerusalem (Eerdmans, 2008), 103]
    • Richard Bauckham: “Allusions to Jesus traditions in Paul's writings are in fact much more numerous than an older stereotype of Paul allowed.” [Jesus and the Eyewitnesses (Eerdmans, 2017), .]
“Yes, after all…
  • See examples

    An instructor pointing a stick presumably at a blackboard.

    Examples abound where Paul refers to Jesus's biographical details.

    Like Jesus's…

    • …geneology/family/status.1
    • …ethical behavior.
    • …sayings (including teachings).
    • …death.
    • …[and more]. [Forthcoming]2
    1. • …“[Abraham’s] seed... Christ” (Gal 3:16)
      • …“born of a descendant of David” (Rom 1:3)
      • …“descended from David” (2 Tim 2:3)
      • …“born of a woman, born under the Law” (Gal 4:4)
      • …“James, the Lord’s brother” (Gal 1:19)
      • …“the [biological] brothers of the Lord” (1 Cor 9:5)
      • …“poor,” (2 Cor 8:9)
    2. David Wenham defends far more than this in his book, Paul: Follower of Jesus or Founder of Christianity? (Eerdmans 1995)] He argues that Paul alludes at various times to Jesus's…
      • …birth (Matt 1:18-25); Luke 2:1-20)
      • …baptism by John the Baptist (Mt 3:13-17 and parallels)
      • …temptation (Matt 4:1-11 and parallels)
      • …comissioning Peter (John 21:15-19)
      • …transfiguration (Matt 17:1-13 and paralells)
      • …statements, like his… > • …use of the “Son of Man” title (e.g., John 1:51)
      • …parable of the sower (Mat 13:1-9; 18-23 and parallels)
      • …parable of the prodical song (Luke 15:11-32)
      • …comments on paying taxes (Matt 22:15-22)
      • …sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7)
      • …teaching about peacemaking (e.g., Matt 5:9)
      • …teaching to cut off sin-causing body-parts (Matt 5:29-30).
      • …ransom saying (Matt 20:28//Mark 10:45)
      • …taking up the cross (Matt 16:24-26 and parallels)
      • …drinking his cup and sharing his baptism (Mark 10:38)

    • [Wenham also sees Paul acknowledging the account of James and John competing (Matt 20:20-24)]