Monday, August 15, 2022

What Can We Learn about Jesus (and the Reliability of the Gospel of Mark) from the Apostle Paul?

Recently, I reviewed Stephen Davis' excellent book Rational Faith.  You can find that review here

In this work, Davis asserts that "[s]cholars sometimes say that the apostle Paul knew or cared little about the life of Jesus.  But that is not true...the life and teachings of the Lord were important to Paul."1 Davis goes on to demonstrate that using only the letters of Paul that most New Testament scholars accept, we can "piece together a credible 'life of Jesus.'"2 Davis further argues that Paul's writings actually serve to confirm "what we find in Mark, the earliest of the Gospels, and denies virtually nothing found there."3

According to Davis, here what we find in Paul's accepted letters about Jesus:

"His name was Jesus (1 Corinthians 1:1); he was a man (Romans 5:15 born of a woman (Galatians 4:4); he was Jewish, a descendant of Abraham (Galatians 3:16; 4:4) and David (Romans 1:3); he had brothers (1 Corinthians 9:5).  He was sent by God to take on human form (Romans 8:3; Philippians 2:6-11); he was poor (2 Corinthians 8:9) and humble (Philippians 2:6-11); he suffered (Romans 8:17); he was loving and compassionate (Philippians 1:8); and he lived an exemplary life (Romans 15:3, 8; 2 Corinthians 8:9; Philippians 2:6-8).

Jesus gathered disciples, including Cephas and John (Galatians 1:19; 2:9), and taught people on various religious topics (1 Thessalonians 4:2), including marriage and divorce (1 Corinthians 7:10), how those who preach the gospel should make their living (1 Corinthians 9:14), blessing those who persecute you (Romans 12:14), repaying no one evil for evil (Romans 12:17), accepting all foods as clean (Romans 14:14), and his own ultimate triumphal return (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17).  On the night Jesus was betrayed he took bread, broke it, gave thanks and said, 'This is my body that is for you.  Do this in remembrance of me.' Then he took a cup and said, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood.  Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me' (1 Corinthians 11:23-26).

Jesus was betrayed (1 Corinthians 11:23), was crucified by 'the Jews' (1 Corinthians 1:23; 2:2; 1 Thessalonians 2:14) and was buried (1 Corinthians 15:4).  On the third day (1 Corinthians 15:4) God raised him from the dead (Romans 1:4; 4:25; 6:4; 8:34; 1 Corinthians 15:4; 2 Corinthians 4:14; Galatians 1:1; 1 Thessalonians 4:14).  He appeared to Peter, to 'the twelve,' to more than five hundred people, to James and then to all the apostles (1 Corinthians 15:5-7)...Paul insisted that Jesus would return (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17) to be revealed (1 Corinthians 1:7) and to judge all people (Romans 2:16)."4

Davis concludes by explaining what Paul's writings about Jesus tell us about the reliability of the Gospel of Mark:

"...the authentically Pauline letters were all written well before Mark, and indeed within twenty to thirty years of the death of Jesus.  Accordingly, what Paul said about the life of Jesus is much more likely to be reliable on purely historical-critical grounds than something written much later.  And this reliability confirms the accuracy of later texts like Mark that largely agree with Paul on the life of Jesus.  Mark does not appear to be myth or fable or fiction.  What we have here, then, is an impressive reason for regarding Mark as reliable."5

Courage and Godspeed,

1. Stephen T. Davis, Rational Faith: A Philosopher's Defense of Christianity, p. 58.
2. Ibid; these letters, according to Davis, include Romans, 1-2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, Philemon.
3. Ibid.
4. Ibid.
5. Ibid. 

Related Posts

Nabeel Qureshi's Case for the Deity of Christ in the Gospel of Mark

Apologetics in the New Testament

Four Reasons the New Testament Gospels are Reliable by J. Warner Wallace

Was the Apostle Paul Anti-Semitic?

Did Paul Invent Christianity?

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