‘The lack of reference to the historical Jesus [in Paul’s writings] has often been exaggerated.
- [he] shows himself aware of the birth of Jesus and his descent from both Abraham and David; (Rom 1:3; Gal 3:16; 4:4)
- he knows of the betrayal of Jesus on the night on which he also instituted a fellowship meal; (1 Cor 11:23-25)
- the crucifixion is frequently mentioned, a death in which the Jewish leaders were implicated; (1 Thess 2:15)
- he speaks of the burial of Jesus and of the eyewitnesses to his resurrection. (1 Cor 15:4-8)
- …there are numerous points of contact with the teaching of Jesus as depicted in the Gospels, if few verbatim quotations
This rules out the interpretation of 2 Cor 5:16 championed by W. Bousset and Bultmann, and followed by numerous continental scholars, which understands this verse as meaning that for Paul the historical Jesus was an irrelevance compared with the crucial significance of the exalted Christ of faith. Rather, Paul is contrasting his pre-conversion understanding of Jesus with the totally new outlook which has become his as a Christian.
Furthermore, Paul had no doubt as to the personal identity of the earthly Jesus and the heavenly Christ, an identity integral to the gospel he proclaimed. While clearly recognizing different modes of existence, (1 Cor 15:44-50) it is clear that for Paul the Jesus who was born, lived a human life and died on a cross, is the one who now sits at the right hand of God and who will return in glory, and this identity forms the basis of Paul’s understanding of the future transformation of the believer.’ (DPL, formatting added)
‘He was born as a human (Rom. 9.5) to a woman and under the law, that is, as a Jew (Gal. 4.4), that he was descended from David’s line (Rom. 1.3; 15.12); though he was not like Adam (Rom. 5.15), that he had brothers, including one named James (1 Cor. 9.15; Gal. 1.19), that he had a meal on the night he was betrayed (1 Cor. 11.23– 25), that he was crucified and died on a cross (Phil. 2.8; 1 Cor. 1.23; 8.11; 15.3; Rom. 4.25; 5.6, 8; 1 Thess. 2.15; 4.14, etc.), was buried (1 Cor. 15.40, and was raised three days later (1 Cor. 15.4; Rom. 4.25; 8.34; 1 Thess. 4.14, etc.), and that afterwards he was seen by Peter, the disciples and others (1 Cor. 15.5– 7).’
Blomberg (who quotes the above in The Historical Reliability of the New Testament) thinks that the list can be extended:
‘“Born of a woman” in Galatians 4:4 is just odd enough, if all Paul wants to say is that Jesus was truly human, that perhaps he is alluding to his virginal conception— that humanly he was related only to a mother. Paul’s language about Jesus’s rescuing us from God’s coming wrath (1 Thess 1:10) echoes John the Baptist’s command to flee the coming wrath (Matt 3:7 par.). Second Corinthians 5:21, with its affirmation of Christ’s sinlessness, shows Paul knew numerous dimensions of Jesus’s life, most likely including his resistance to the temptations by the devil (Matt 4:1– 11; Luke 4:1– 13). In 1 Corinthians 1:22, Paul talks about Jews’ demanding signs, even though they do so nowhere else in information included in his letters. But Mark 8: 11– 13; Matthew 12:38–39; Luke 23:8–9; and John 4:48 show them doing so during Jesus’s ministry and thus Paul may well have had one or more of those occasions in mind. The language of 2 Corinthians 3:18 is reminiscent of the transfiguration (Mark 9:2 pars.)—“ being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory.”’
With less certainty (Blomberg writes) the following might be added:
It may be that Romans 6: 3 and Colossians 2:12 assume knowledge of Jesus’s own baptism by John as a prototype for subsequent Christian baptism.
The “preaching of Jesus Christ” (KJV, RSV, NASB, ESV) in Romans 16:25…could be subjective and refer to the preaching ministry Jesus had.
Ephesians 2: 17 seems more secure as this kind of allusion with its reference to Jesus’s coming to preach peace to those both far and near— Gentile and Jew respectively.
In Romans 9: 30– 32 Paul references the “cornerstone” and “stumbling stone” imagery of Isaiah 28: 16 and 8: 14, that Jesus does by means of Psalm 118: 22 and Isaiah 8: 14 in the parable of the wicked tenants (Matt 21: 42 pars.).
Might the clause about Jesus’s being seen by angels in 1 Timothy 3: 16 refer to one or more of the incidents recorded in the Gospels in which angels appeared, especially at the beginning and end of his life? After all, 1 Timothy 1:15 already appeals to the same central mission of Jesus as Luke does in Luke 19: 10: Christ came into the world to save sinners/ he came to seek and to save the lost.
“Christ’s perseverance” (2 Thess 3:5), finally, recalls Luke 9:51 with Jesus’s resoluteness to go to Jerusalem.
‘We may note the numerous passages in Paul that commend the imitation of Christ. Sometimes the command is explicit (1 Cor 11:1; 1 Thess 1:6); often it is more implicit (Phil 1:21; 2 Cor 3:18; Rom 6:17; 8:15– 16; 13:14; 15:1– 6). But how can Paul tell people in the churches he founded to imitate Jesus across the board in every walk of life unless they had fairly thorough knowledge of how Jesus lived? And how could they have learned this information unless Paul communicated it to them because he had detailed access to information about Christ’s lifestyle? Whatever else this included, it certainly would have highlighted his servanthood, obedience, and willingness to suffer, as in the Philippian hymn’s first half (Phil 2: 6– 8). Indeed, in 1 Corinthians 11:1, Paul explicitly declares, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” So he acknowledges that he knows enough about the historical Jesus to emulate him on a day-to-day basis and to teach others how to do so, not least by telling them to watch him!’