Stories about Jesus

Our resident Christian implied recently that I disputed that stories about Jesus existed prior to the gospels being written. I don’t – this was another of Don’s straw man arguments – and told him that of course there were earlier stories about Jesus. But then I got to thinking: where exactly are those stories? How do we know they existed? How can we distinguish them from later embellishments?

Let’s take a look at the evidence*, starting with the earliest Christian writing that we have:


Paul doesn’t refer to a single event from Jesus’ life outside a barebone account of the crucifixion and resurrection. He doesn’t mention, for example, the nativity, the virgin birth, Jesus’ time in the wilderness, his chat with the devil, his baptism, John the Baptist, the miracles, the amazing things Jesus is reputed to have said, the parables, the Sermon on the Mount and Beatitudes, the I Am sayings, the healings, Lazarus, the arrival in Jerusalem, the cleansing of the Temple, the agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, the arrest, Judas, Pontius Pilate, Jesus’ trial, the mockery of the soldiers, Peter’s denial, the words Jesus spoke on the cross, Joseph of Arimathea, the rolled away stone, the empty tomb, Mary Magdalene, Doubting Thomas or the physical Ascension. Neither does he refer to any incidents or episodes from stories that didn’t eventually make it into the gospels. Not one of them. (He does create a narrative of his own that later finds its way there: the ritual of sharing bread and wine which Paul lifts from Pagan ceremonies. We’ll return to it in a later post.)

Apologists like to say that these serious omissions are no more than Paul’s assumption that his readers would already know the stories about Jesus.  He does not need to reiterate them. But no-one is suggesting he should or would have recounted them in full. What is odd and awkward is that Paul doesn’t even allude to them in his teaching. He could clinch many an argument by referring to a particular saying or miracle of Jesus’, but he never does.

When talking about obeying the (Roman) authorities, for example, in 1 Corinthians 15:12 &13, he could have said, ‘Recall that the Lord told us we should render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s,’ but he doesn’t. He could have alluded to Thomas when explaining the importance of having faith without evidence; talked about the empty tomb when discussing Jesus’ resurrection; mentioned the raising of Lazarus as an example of the dead being resurrected; commented on Jesus turning water into wine when arguing that the Law had been superseded by a new covenant. He might even have quoted something Jesus said from a story in circulation that didn’t later end up in one of the gospels.

He doesn’t. Ever.

Paul claims he received none of his information about Jesus from any human being. He insists he received all he knew through revelation – the Lord speaking to him from heaven. Apparently, the Lord neglected to convey any of the details of his life on Earth. The apostles kept equally schtum. Paul was no more knowledgeable about the life of Jesus once he’d he met them than he had been before. Was he not inquisitive? Did he not ask the right questions? Did they dislike him so much they withheld every detail of Jesus’ activities on Earth? Did they not in fact have that kind of information? Whichever it was, Paul seems not have known any of the stories about Jesus that predated the gospels or even that later appeared in them. It’s possible, I would say likely, he did not know of them because they had yet to be created. Many of the stories about Jesus were ten or more years away.

But we mustn’t jump to conclusions. Next time we’ll take a look at other possible sources of these elusive stories.


*I read Bart Ehrman’s Jesus Before The Gospels a few years back. I hope I’m not merely reiterating what he says there. While there were some points I found less persuasive than others, Ehrman nevertheless does a good job of showing how stories about Jesus changed and evolved over the years.

35 thoughts on “Stories about Jesus

  1. Don’s latest comment, with my responses italicised:

    Think like those to whom Paul was writing. Not like someone 2000 years later. (And how do you know how they thought? You dispute it when I say they thought the world was about to end and constructed their beliefs around that, so tell us, how did they think? Was it just like… well, like you, Don? Of course, that must be it.) Also, don’t limit the information we have to that which supports your thesis. Consider the whole. That includes Acts (Acts 9:20 and 20:25 and 28:31). (No, it doesn’t. There isn’t a serious scholar today who regards Acts as either historical or accurate. It doesn’t get Paul’s itinerary right, let alone his theology.)

    In Acts alone we can derive that Paul reasoned from the Hebrew scriptures that Jesus was the Christ (Messiah) (Yes, as I’ll cover in this series of posts. There’s no contradiction here.) and that [he] preached the kingdom of God, which also Jesus preached. Paul quoted Jesus in Acts 20:35. (Luke’s fictionalised Paul does. The real Paul doesn’t.)

    From 1 Corinthians we know that he taught the Lord’d Supper. (Paul taught it because he invented it. He says himself he didn’t get the idea from any other human; it came to him from the Lord. That is, he made it up in his head.)

    Paul was commissioned by the Christians in Antioch. They were believers in Jesus before Paul. Many of the leaders were from Jerusalem. Would they have commissioned Paul if he did not agree with the gospel and the facts of Jesus’ life that were the foundation of their faith? (Again you’re relying on the unreliable Acts. The real Paul doesn’t mention any ‘facts of Jesus’ life’, apart from his death and resurrection. I don’t dispute this. It’s all the other details he doesn’t appear to know. You did read the post, didn’t you?)

    Paul spoke to the Apostles in Jerusalem about his gospel, and they approved of what he was preaching. (Paul’s account doesn’t actually say this.)

    Since the author of Acts and Luke travelled with Paul over several years’ time, we can assume (ah, so you admit you’re relying on assumptions) that the Gospel of Luke is very close to the gospel Paul preached. (Again, no serious scholar thinks Acts was written by a sometime companion of Paul’s. It was written 30-40 years after the events it purports to relate and is heavily overlaid with supernatural events and miracles. It is not history and was not written by someone who knew Paul’s theology.)

    Finally, consider what those who were his opponents were saying about what he was preaching. A hostile witness is often the best kind. (What were they saying and how does this refute what I say in the post?)

    You have to ignore all this evidence (you haven’t presented any evidence; assumptions, supposition and appeals to accounts that frequently contradict Paul’s own writing are not evidence. The evidence is the letters: point to where they mention any details about Jesus’ life and teaching. The Last Supper doesn’t count as Paul admits that that is not historical) and focus only on what you do NOT find in Paul’s letters to support your thesis. Does that make sense? (Yes.) Is that good historical research? (It’s a better analysis of the evidence than you’re capable of, that’s for sure.) If Ehrman does that, I’d ask him the same. (Because you know better than him too? Go for it, Don.)


    • Don:
      Finally, consider what those who were his [Paul’s] opponents were saying about what he was preaching. A hostile witness is often the best kind.

      According to Paul, his biggest opponents were the other apostles. Including those at Jerusalem.

      Oddly, nothing survives of their teachings or writings. Odd that.


      • To imagine that the church is Paul’s creation and was primarily western is wrong and as ethnocentric as painting Jesus as white skinned. If you dig deeply enough, you’ll find that there were Syrian churches in places like Aleppo and Edessa and an Egyptian church in Alexandria and churches scattered across Persia and east to the border of China and across southern India with no connection to Paul.

        Notice the Ancient Syriac Documents in the Ante-Nicene, Christian Library, Vol XX,

        What do you mean nothing survives. The book of James survives. The book of Peter survives. Ther book of John survives. As do many other writings. See

        Kos, you like Neil isolate Paul from all the other Apostles and from the whole history of the church in the first century. That seems incredibly uninformed to me. Even the idea that the Apostles were Paul’s opponents is uninformed. According to Paul they approved of the gospel he had been preaching.

        Galatians 2:7 On the contrary, they [the Apostles] recognized that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised 8 For God, who was at work in Peter as an apostle to the circumcised, was also at work in me as an apostle to the Gentiles. 9 James, Cephas and John, those esteemed as pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcised.

        Does that sound like the Apostles were the opponents of Paul?


      • Among other things, Don sez:
        What do you mean nothing survives. The book of James survives. The book of Peter survives. Ther book of John survives.

        The book of Peter survives.

        Which book of Peter, Don?

        The First Epistle of Peter — According to the experts, not written by Peter.

        The Second Epistle of Peter — According to the experts, written by someone different than 1st Peter who also wasn’t Peter.

        The Acts of Peter — According to the experts, not written by Peter.

        The Gospel of Peter — According to the experts, not written by Peter.

        Or, are you referring to a different “book of Peter,” Don? But all these, as pseudepigrapha, can’t be said to reflect the views of the early Jerusalem church. We don’t know whose views they represent.

        The book of John survives.

        Again, which book of John, Don?

        The First, Second, and Third Epistles of John — Surprisingly, according to the experts all three of these letter share the same author. But that author was not John the Apostle.

        The Book of Revelation (The Apocalypse of John) — Not written by the same author as the epistles or the gospel, but author was not John the Apostle.

        The Gospel of John — Experts agree that the gospel is anonymous and not written by John. Personally, I think if you remove the last bits that the experts say are later additions, you’ll see the original author wanted to imply that this gospel was written by Lazarus. ‘So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”’ John 11:3, NIV

        Or, are you referring to a different “book of John,” Don? But all these, as pseudepigrapha, can’t be said to reflect the views of the early Jerusalem church. We don’t know whose views they represent.

        The book of James survives.

        Again, which book of James, Don?

        The Gospel of James — Not even a question here, not written by any James in the New Testament.

        The First Apocalypse of James — Not even a question here, not written by any James in the New Testament.

        The Second Apocalypse of James — Not even a question here, not written by any James in the New Testament.

        Apocryphon of James — Not even a question here, not written by any James in the New Testament.

        Epistle of James — Origen attributed this to James the brother of the Lord. Eusebius said that claim was disputed. Jerome said it was written by someone else under James’ name. Experts seem split, some favoring Origen’s view others favoring pseudonymity. The fact that the epistle teaches Torah observance and a gospel of good works, tells me the author is at odds with Paul and may well be glimpse into a sect of Christianity different than Paul’s, perhaps even the Jerusalem church. But there is no way to know for certain.

        Congratulations, Don! The Epistle of James may be the one you got right. Maybe. But it places the author at odds with Paul – making my point for me, that little to nothing of the Jerusalem church survives in modern Christianity which is the creation of Paul rather than any of the disciples.

        I will read up on your other points when I get the time. I do like learning new things. But your past recommendations have been less than persuasive, so I’m afraid I won’t be moving them to the top of my to read list. But I will get to them eventually.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Be serious, Kos. When I mean a book other than the canonical books, I indicate that.

        Kos: “According to the experts”

        Which experts are those? You quote none., You don’t cite anyone, even Wikipedia. Cite or quote someone and I can consider their opinions. Otherwise, you refer to nameless people and very brief ideas with no reasoning or support.

        Kos, I mean no personal criticism here, but I did not let a student writer in high school get away with that kind of nebulous reference.

        kos The Gospel of John — Experts agree that the gospel is anonymous and not written by John.

        “Experts agree.” Maybe someone who stumbles across your comment will be impressed by this. I am not.

        The anonymity of the Gospel writers is a smokescreen to hide the fact that though they did not sign their names they were well known by their readers. They did not need to sign their names.

        These were handwritten and presented to a church who knew either firsthand the author (as was the case the Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of Matthew). When additional copies were made and circulated personally to other churches the person who carried the document knew who the author was and there is no reason to think that he did not attest to that when he presented the document to the church.

        Over a rather short period of years (read 30 to 40 years) the names of the authors were well known to the churches. That is why Papias who was writing only 40 or 50 years after the Gospels were first written knew who had written at least the three: Matthew, Mark, and John. Before long a notation was attached reading “According to Matthew” etc. (No other names were ever attached, btw) So, the argument that they were anonymous is simply bogus. It come from the modern critical scholars who are thinking that ‘in the modern world’ where nameless books or pamphlets are published in mass printings and distrusted by people or stores who do not know the author the contents are less than reliable.

        That is not what happened in the first century with the Gospels. These documents were not written or published originally for mass distribution. They were written for specific groups of people and often hand delivered by the author. The author was known. The first recipients could talk to him and ask questions if they wished. And the author was well respected being either an Apostle or the transcriber of an Apostle’s words.

        James, the epistle. Reading James along with Paul, there are definitely different perspectives. But it is really two sides to the same coin. It does not mean James and Paul were opponents or that their perspectives cannot be reconciled. The early church who included both James and Paul as inspired evidently didn’t think they were irreconcilable or at odds.

        BTW, where does James advocate Torah law? Where are any commands to keep the rituals or the festivals? There are no references to kosher food. No references to Sabbath keeping. No references to circumcision. He really advocates the kind of law keeping Jesus taught. With that Paul had no quarrel.


    • Serious scholars? Those are the critical scholars, right?

      Luke’s fictionalized Paul? Maybe some evidence or reasoning is in order here. An assertion from someone already convinced is not sufficient. Except for the choir.

      Paul made up the Lord’s supper. Wow. That is news. Where do you get this? Paul says he received it from the Lord. Does that mean he received it by revelation? Or does it mean the Lord’s supper was initiated by the Lord and that his disciples continued to observe it? In any event, it certainly caught on.

      In the Didache, written some time around the turn of the century, it sounds as if the Lord’s supper had become pretty universal among Christians, and among churches that were not Pauline, I would remind you. I would think that fact alone would cause you some pause.

      Yes, I read the post. But does the fact that Paul doesn’t mention the virgin birth, mention Lazarus, et al. really mean he knew nothing about them? Isn’t it just as possible that his focus was on other things in the letters? (Actually, many of the things you claim Paul did not know or teach are implied by what he did say in the letters.)

      The hostile witnesses were saying that Paul was not an Apostle. That he was preaching an aberrant gospel when he taught that the Gentiles did not need to obey the law. (All refuted by the other Apostles.) What the hostile witness affirmed by their opposition was that Paul was preaching a gospel of salvation by faith, which also the other Apostles preached. That would have included the Lord’s supper since it is a symbolized declaration of the sufficiency of the death of Christ for salvation.

      Do I know better than Ehrman? I do not know all that Ehrman know, for sure, but that does not mean that I am not able to make an educated objection to one of his positions. Do you accept everything the critical scholars say without doing any critical thinking of your own and examining the evidence yourself? I hope not, though I have not seen evidence of it.

      Neil, you would like to put Paul in a box isolated from the rest of the church that was planted and informed by the other Apostles. You would like to make Paul the primary if not the only architect of the church and the theology the church was built upon. That is simply not true. The church was founded on a gospel that predated Paul’s teaching by at least twenty years. It was already by the time Paul began to preach found in many places outside Judea – Syria and Persia, for example – and was flourishing in those places. These churches were built on a theology that was not taught them by Paul. It was founded on the narratives of Jesus’ life, teaching, and deeds and upon his death as a substitutionary sacrifice for sinners and that he rose from the grave giving evidence that God was behind it all. If Paul had never come along, those churches would still have existed and would have looked very much like the church of the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd centuries. Paul simply extended the church to the west. You can read the history of the church in Syria, Persia, India, and Egypt for examples of non-Pauline churches.

      That was the world. The church did not owe Paul as its creator nor was Paul its chief theologian.


      • Don, you’re a believer so you are going to disagree with almost everything I write here. I’m posting your latest comment, which is more of an essay, but it has to be last time. You have your own blog for proselytising. If you want to comment further here, be succinct and avoid assuming I and others are claiming what we are not. I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt here, that you’re not deliberately setting up straw man arguments, even though I suspect you are.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I didn’t expect to be published. But to be succinct, STILL NO REASONING OR EIDENCE, So, why do scholars think Luke fictionalized Paul?


      • There’s a ton of evidence that Paul is fictionalised in Acts, as is the history of the early church. If you read more widely, you’d know this. Here are some sources to get you started:
        Bart D. Ehrman: Jesus, Interrupted (later chapters).

        You’re clutching at straws, demanding evidence for a minor response to one of your comments. If I were to provide evidence for every response I made, my comments would be far too long (like yours for different reasons.) Whenever I do provide evidence, however, you dismiss it as being from scholars who are ‘just trying to make a name for themselves’ or are ‘critical’ or don’t know as much as you (apparently.)
        Yet you dispute my ability to reason! Beams and motes, Don.

        Liked by 2 people

      • I’m not sure engaging one of the sources I mentioned in dialogue constitutes ‘research’. It looks more like you declaring that your views are more valid than TOM’s and the scholars he cites. And what about the other sources I linked to? What about the conflict between Paul’s theology in his letters and that in Acts? Acts muddling his itinerary? Paul’s insistence in his letters that following his conversion he spoke with no believer for several years whereas in Acts the Lord sends the believer, Ananias, to him? The number of times he visits the church in Jerusalem? etc.

        I don’t think anyone here is arguing here that Paul didn’t exist. We’re reflecting the consensus that Acts is largely fiction.


      • TOM or Carrier does hint that maybe Paul did not exist. I am responding to that position in my blog.

        I’ll get to your observations in time.


      • I am really not declaring ‘MY’ views. These are pretty much the views of conservative scholars and the church through history. But yes, I consider them more valid than TOM”s (Carrier’s) views. Even mainstream scholars consider Carrier wonky.

        I don’t think Acts muddles Paul’s tindery. I think Paul abbreviates his itinerary in Galatians. You can read my harmonization of Acts and Paul in the second blog post.


      • Of course, you misrepresent Carrier. He says gospel Jesus doesn’t exist. He thinks there’s a 33% chance there was a real Jesus but asks the pertinent question, ‘if the historical Jesus was so remarkable, why did so much have to be invented about him?’ But then I doubt you’ve actually read any Carrier.

        If you bury someone under legendary accretions, it’s no surprise their existence is called into question. See Romulus and Remus, Robin Hood, King Arthur etc etc.


      • Neil: Paul’s insistence in his letters that following his conversion he spoke with no believer for several years whereas in Acts the Lord sends the believer, Ananias, to him?

        Don: your reading is almost laughable. Do you really mean he spoke to absolutely no one. Did he use sign language? How did he order his cup of coffee in the morning?

        The whole point of the first chapter or so of his letter was that he did not confer with anyone about the gospel. “Cconfer” is actually a good word here. Even in English confer means to talk about something or to check in with what others thought. There is no indication in Acts 9 that Paul conferred with Ananias or with any other believer about the gospel. He didn’t need to; he had heard the gospel a lot of times from those whom he persecuted. He heard it from Stephen in Acts 7. In fact, it sounds like what Paul first preached in Damascus was very similar to Stephen’s message in Acts 7.

        There is no contradiction between Galatians and Acts at this point. Nor is there a difference in Paul’s itinerary in Galatians and Acts. Galatians is simply a briefer version and related to the subject of the chapter which is whether the law must be observed and whether the Apostles in Jerusalem insisted on that. Paul was not writing an account of all his travels.

        Their answer to the question of the law as you read on in chapter 2 was that they approved of Paul’s gospel and gave him the right hand of fellowship. They also approved of Paul mission to the Gentiles.

        In your focus on words, isolated from the flow of the passage, are you missing the point being made?


      • That’s it, Don: harmonise, iron out the discrepancies, deny there are inconsistencies, use the ‘taken out of context’ cliché, misrepresent and dismiss those who point out the problems. Your magic book was written by God through his human agents and that’s all there is to it. End of story.

        Your other long-winded essay is no more than evangelising so won’t be appearing here.


      • That’s lovely for you, Don. If only there were some evidence life worked like this. If only we could ask the hundreds who died of hunger and preventable diseases while you were typing your comment if it worked for them.

        Liked by 1 person

      • We reap what we sow. That is true personally, but it is also true on the level of nations and cultures. The policies of the nations or the values of the cultures that value comfort or wealth or power over life sowed the seeds that produced death for the many. They could have done differently. We could do differently. None of these hundreds who die of hunger need to die. It is not by random fate that they die. There is enough food, if we are willing to act.

        But they too, those men, nations, and cultures and we who make up those cultures, will reap what we sow. Our selfishness will destroy us and we will stand in the dock to account for their failures and evil before the court of history.

        Over all this is God who wrote the playbook and determined that we will reap what we sow. He did not determine our failure and evil, but he did determine that it would have consequences and those would return upon us. We cause the deaths of the many, and their deaths will kill us.

        If you wish evidence, read history. Where is Rome? Where is Hitler or Mao? And where will we be who ignore history only to repeat it?


      • That’s no consolation for those who die of starvation and preventable disease: God saying to them, ‘Tough, shit. You’re dying horrible premature deaths because I want to teach your government/society/culture a lesson. Of course, I’m not going to deal with the people who’ve created the problems, oh no. I’m going to allow you to be collateral damage. But don’t forget, I love you lots.’

        Is it any wonder increasing numbers are abandoning belief in your jerk of a God?

        You do talk crap, Don.

        Liked by 1 person

      • You are right. It is no consolation. It is no consolation for the Ukrainians trapped in a war they did not seek. It is no consolation for the Pakistanis who have lost everything in a flood of biblical proportions. I could go on. Consolation is not what is needed, however. A solution is what is needed. The solution is not to blame God. That is an excuse to ignore our responsibility and avoid action that would be a solution. IT IS TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.

        There are a great many ways any one of us can do that. I give to provide aid to starving children through World Vision International.

        Or through my church’s humanitarian aid organization. Or directly to those who are on the ground helping. Millions of believers do the same.

        But there are plenty of secular organizations doing the same work. Doctors Without Borders, the Red Cross, UNESCO, and so one.

        God placed in our hands responsibility for the created world and for our brothers and sisters in need. That social responsibility is the center piece of the Old Testament and the second of the two greatest commandments Jesus highlighted. He gave us the resources to accomplish that task. NO CHILD NEEDS TO DIE OF STARVATION. But they will because we fail in our responsibility.


      • You are either a part of the solution or a part of the problem.

        Being a part of the solution will require a radical reordering of our lives and our societies. We can do it. Will we?


      • Where in the Bible does it say God has given you and me responsibility for everyone else in the world? He hasn’t, of course, because he doesn’t exist, but even if he did and has indeed passed the buck, what an abdication of responsibility that would be on his part. Such behaviour would be inexcusable.


      • Is a manager of a manufacturing business passing the buck when he has his employees do the actual work of assembly?

        Where do we find that God has given us responsibility? Virtually everywhere. I’ve already given you the second of the great commandments. But read Acts and 2nd Corinthians where the believers were enjoined to supply the needs of the people in Jerusalem who were suffering from famine.

        Or Galatians 6:9-11

        “Let’s not be weary in doing good, for we will reap in due season, if we don’t give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let’s do what is good toward all men, and especially toward those who are of the household of the faith.”

        Or the unspoken but obvious reply of God to Cain’s question when asked where his brother was: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” God’s answer was deafening. YES.

        May I say that God replies the same to your question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

        That unspoken but obvious YES is what motivates Christians to care for others and create works like the Salvation Army and World Vision Internation and to run homes for orphans and build hospitals or go, as my friend did, to serve as doctors or nurses in places where there was no medical care. Or simply to give a cup of cold water to the thirsty. These are things Jesus did, and he called us to do the same as we follow him.

        My goodness, if you missed this in your sojourn among Christians, what else did you miss?


      • You missed all those references to ‘brother’? The Bible admonishes God-botherers to look after one another, be they fellow Jews or members of the off-shoot cult. As far as the Bible is concerned, the rest of the ‘world’ can go hang.

        Let’s say you’re right though and ‘brother’ is meant generically. Where, after 2000 years of Christianity, is the fair and just world you claim the Bible demands believers bring about?

        Either way, Don, you and your magic book lose.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I am constantly amazed at the design for life God gives us, how good it is. And I am equally amazed by how often we choose to go a different direction.


      • *sigh* … “You would like to make Paul the primary if not the only architect of the church and the theology the church was built upon. “

        No, Neil doesn’t want to “make” Paul the only architect … he IS the only architect of Christianity. I’m sure you know (but resist accepting) that EVERYTHING that was written in the gospels came AFTER Paul. He set the course and the rest followed, each one adding their own embellishments.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Key phrase, Nan: Everything that WAS WRITTEN. Virtually every scholar agrees that the gospel has been preached and the deeds and words of Jesus had been passed around orally before Paul got on board. He did not invent it. He was the first to preach it. In fact, it was the preaching of the good news and the success that followed as more and more converts were added to the Jesus movement that was the reason for Paul’s virulent opposition to the Way and what took him on his fateful journey to Damascus.

        That oral gospel, not Paul’s preaching of the gospel and certainly not his invention of the gospel, was the basis of the written Gospels.

        One of the primary complaints here about Paul is that he wrote virtually nothing about Jesus’ life. So, how on earth could you say that he invented the gospel? How could you even say that he “set the course?” How could Paul’s theology and instruction in Christian living have had any basis apart from the gospel previously preached? He followed the course set for him in the teaching of the Apostles.


      • Of course you miss the point. But putting that aside, there simply is NO argument that Paul was, as you put it, the “inventor” of Christianity. Prior to his writings and visions, yes, there were some Jews who apparently looked up to Jesus and formed some sort of “Jesus Movement,” but they were NOT the ones who created Christianity as the religion that is in evidence today.

        Had Paul never entered the picture, there would simply be the division among the Jews that we see today … those who accept Jesus as the Messiah and those who don’t. The Gentiles would still be following their separate and chosen gods.


  2. As I was banging out my latest reply to Don I was thinking about learning about the authorship of the books in the New Testament.

    I started leaning about the modern scholarship while I was still a fundamentalist. It trickled in over the years as I studied other topics. Revelation wasn’t written by the apostle. The epistles of Timothy not written by Paul. The gospels were anonymous.

    They were just data points at the time. “Liberal” scholars think thus and so. But we knew, I knew, the truth.

    Imagine my surprise when I learned that Bart Ehrman wasn’t some crazed liberal scholar but rather conservative in his scholarship. Ehrman doesn’t present radical theories. He popularizes established consensus scholarship. The thought would have blown my fundamentalist brain.

    Anyway, I realized I had never considered the authorship of the New Testament books as a whole, only ever piecemeal. So, I spent a little time and compiled the latest consensus information.

    Only the seven authentic letters of Paul have a known author. Seven of 26 books. That’s a pitiful basis for any church.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am wondering, Kos, what it is in the undisputed writings of Paul that identify them as truly Paul? Neil, in a recent post linked me to The Open Mind, a blogger who follows Richard Carrier more or less and doesn’t believe Paul was a real person. Why do you? Why do you include any of the letters others identify as Pauline as truly Pau? Now, please don’t say “consensus.” Explain why there is a consensus.


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