Thursday, December 17, 2009

Ehrman on Paul's Historical Jesus

As I noted, I am not persuaded by conservative scholars attempts to read the historical Jesus of the gospels into Paul's epistles. However, I haven't run across any liberal scholars tackling the issue as thoroughly as I would like. I heard Bart Ehrman say that he sometimes assigns his new students the task of listing everything Paul says that Jesus said and did, and that they are always surprised by how little there is. On the other hand, I haven't heard Ehrman address the implications of that for the question of the historicity of Jesus himself.

I was intrigued to run across the following comment from Ehrman about the dispute that Paul describes having with Peter in his letter to the Galatians:
One can imagine Peter himself saying such a thing to Paul in their controversy in Antioch: "You think you're right because you saw Jesus for a few moments on the road to Damascus? I spent years with him."
I can imagine that very well. What I find much harder to imagine is how no hint of that found its way into any of the epistles.

I occurs to me, however, that the historical Jesus might have had a much shorter ministry than the gospels give him credit for. Perhaps he was a disciple of John the Baptist who started proclaiming John's message after John was beheaded only to be snatched up and executed by the Romans within days of starting out. Perhaps there are no disputes in the epistles about the meaning of what he said because he did not have a chance to say much besides "Repent. The end is near."

1 comment: