Paul's imaginary Jesus

To make a contented slave, it is necessary to make a thoughtless one.
It is necessary to darken his moral and mental vision, and,
as far as possible, to annihilate the power of reason.
-Frederick Douglass

While Christians refuse to believe that Jesus' did not exist, there is no argument about Paul's historicity. We have his epistles from Romans to Philemon to confirm that fact. By searching through the epistles to find out what Paul knew about Jesus, we find that he knew hardly anything.

He didn't know about: (1) virgin birth (2) place of birth (3) time of birth (4) parents names (5) childhood (6) John the Baptist (7) Jesus' baptism (8) the devil's temptation (9) moral teachings (10) miracles (11) apocalyptic views (12) transfiguration (13) Judas (14) Peter's denial (15) his arrest and trial (16) twelve disciples (17) the women who came to his tomb (18) Son of Man (19) travels (20) parables. I may have left something out, but that covers most of the gospels.

Some apologists argue that Paul had no need to go into the details of Jesus' life because they were commonly understood. No so! Paul positively renounced any knowledge of Jesus through human sources.

11For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not man's gospel.
12For I did not receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ. (Gal. 1:11-12)

He felt unique in having been set apart through grace to have Christ revealed to him.

15But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and had called me through his grace,
16was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not confer with flesh and blood,
17nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia; and again I returned to Damascus. (Gal. 1:15-17)

He was placing his bets on the unseen because, to him, they are eternal. Things that can be seen are transient. -It is fair to say that if there had been a walking talking Jesus, Paul would not have accepted him.

24For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?
25But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (Rom. 8:24-25)

18because we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Cor. 4:18)

So when he says he saw Jesus, he means in his mind, not with his eyes.

1Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are not you my workmanship in the Lord? (1 Cor. 9:1)

The Galatians, to whom he says they saw Christ publicly portrayed as crucified, he does not mean they witnessed an historical event. It was either a reenactment or a commonly shared vision.

1O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? (Gal. 3:1)

He even says that they began with the Spirit.

3Are you so foolish? Having begun with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh? (Gal. 3:3)

This is where we get into the definition of faith as the conviction of things not seen. If there had actually been a real Jesus, his physical existence would have annulled the definition of faith.

1Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Heb. 11:1)

So as Paul proclaims, it is only through faith in Christ that one can become a son of God. The whole idea of faith in Christ negates actual knowledge. It means as much then as it does today.

26for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. (Gal. 3:26)

This brings us to the matter of the original disciples. Though Paul did not claim to know Jesus personally, he did know the people who were supposed to have known Jesus personally: James, Peter and John.

9and when they perceived the grace that was given to me, James and Cephas [Simon Peter] and John, who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised; (Gal. 2:9)

The letters of James, Peter and John tell us even less about Jesus. That there was a Jesus cult before Paul came into the fold could lead to the presumption of an actual Jesus. All this proves is that the Messianic Prophecies had an earlier following. It was on matters of interpretation where they parted company. (See Paul's Schism) If it had not been for Paul, the Jesus cult would have been snuffed out by the Roman Empire or fizzled out on its own. (See Paul's Mythology) If it did survive, Christians would have been practicing within the Jewish tradition.

For these reasons and because of Paul's prominence in defining Christianity, we are forced to ask, how can he claim to know the nature of Jesus' mission, when his letters show he knew so little?

Give the man credit for his zeal. He learned about Jesus from his job of persecuting Christians. The rest he got from revelation and Scripture, and he denies learning anything from Jesus' apostles. What else is left to think, except that Jesus was a phantom?

6And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!" (Gal. 4:6)

15He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation; (Col. 1:15)

Dating Paul and the Gospels

I'm going to state what appears to be a general consensus among scholars, that Paul's epistles were written approximately between the years 55-60 CE. Readers who have the New International Version can find those dates on the first page of 1 Corinthians and Ephesians. These dates are approximations. The official reasoning is as follows:

His encounter with Herod fixes his birth at the end of Herod's career at 4 BCE. According to Luke, his ministry began when he was thirty years of age. They figure his ministry lasted a few years which brings the end of his life to about 30 CE.

23Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age, (Luke 3:23)

The Arabian King Aretas tried to arrest Paul shortly after his conversion. Aretas IV was known to rule Damascus from 9 BCE to 40 CE as a subject of Rome. So Paul would have had to start his ministry sometime around 35 CE.

32At Damascus, the governor under King Aretas guarded the city of Damascus in order to seize me, (2 Cor. 11:32)

From the time of his conversion, he spent seventeen years incommunicado. Within that time he waited three years before going back to Jerusalem to meet Peter for fifteen days. Then fourteen years later he went back to Jerusalem again to meet with Barnabas. Besides telling us how little contact he had with the apostles, this seventeen year period takes us to about 55 CE.

16was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not confer with flesh and blood,
18Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas [Peter], and remained with him fifteen days.
1Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me. (Gal. 1:16, 18, 2:1)

As to the Gospels, scholars estimate they were written about 70-110 CE, with Mark being the first and John the last. Readers who have the New International Version can find the date of 70 CE on the first page in the Gospel of Matthew.

The sequence in the New Testament gives the impression that the gospels were written first and the epistles last. If that was true, Paul would have had the gospel writers or the gospels themselves to work from. No one even knows who the gospel writers were.

So while Luke tells us he wrote his gospel based on eyewitness and ministers, none of it came from anybody Paul knew.

1Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things which have been accomplished among us,
2just as they were delivered to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word, (Luke 1:1-2)

A catastrophic event helps explain these dates. In the year 66 CE, the Jews revolted against Roman rule. The city lay in siege until it was captured and destroyed in 70 CE. Paul's writings show that they were written before the revolt, because Jerusalem was still a thriving city. Because Paul shows no awareness of the Gospels, they had to be written after Paul after the revolt.

It is for this reason that the Jesus character says and does things with no explanation behind them. Because of Paul's influence, the Gospels are best understood through Paul. As a case in point, Jesus talked about not judging lest you be judged measure for measure.

1"Judge not, that you be not judged.
2For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. (Matt. 7:1-2)

Paul wrote about not judging outsiders for they will be judged by God.

12For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?
13God judges those outside. "Drive out the wicked person from among you." (1 Cor. 5:12-13)

In real history, the most reliable information and detail comes from the actors themselves and witnesses closest to the time of events. In Bible history, the further away from the supposed time of events, the more embellished the story gets. The Book of Mark treats Jesus as a man. In Matthew and Luke, he is half man half God. By the time of John, he was God at creation. It took the Catholic Church 300 years to graft Jesus onto the Old Testament God at the Council of Nicea.

How Paul came to know Jesus

While Christians continue to defend Jesus as a person who actually walked the earth, Paul says his knowledge of Jesus came exclusively from visions, revelation and OT Scripture. Considering his brief ties with the Jesus cult, it is equivalent to saying them ignored them entirely.

What the below passages show is that Paul did not claim to be authorized by Jesus. He claimed to be graced by God to preach of Jesus. This severely opposes what Jesus supposedly told his disciples.

18And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. (Matt. 28:18)

The mystery was made known to him by revelation. -Or shall we say, by intuition.

3how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. (Eph. 3:3)

His knowledge did not come through other men, but through revelation. -The gospel he refers to was not the written gospel. "gospel" means "good news."

11For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not man's gospel.
12For I did not receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ. (Gal. 1:11-12)

He appeared to Paul in a vision. -Paul's untimely birth implies it was after the alleged time of Jesus.

8Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. (1 Cor. 15:8)

He relies on visions and revelations.

1I must boast; there is nothing to be gained by it, but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord.
(2 Cor. 12:1)

What he knows, he learned through the Spirit.

8To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit,
9to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit,
10to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.
11All these are inspired by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. (1 Cor. 12:8-11)

According to Scripture, Christ died for our sins, and was buried and raised on the third day.

3For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures,
4that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, (1 Cor. 15:3-4)

The scriptures were written for our instruction.

4For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope. (Rom. 15:4; 1 Cor. 10:11)

As it is written, God calls into existence the things that do not exist.

17as it is written, "I have made you the father of many nations"-in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. (Rom. 4:17)

It was written that the first Adam became a living being and the last Adam became a life giving spirit.

45Thus it is written, "The first man Adam became a living being"; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. (1 Cor. 15:45)

Paul's scriptural source

To make my point that whatever Paul knew about Jesus came artificially from Hebrew Scripture, I've compiled a list of anything that suggests Jesus was a real person. I'm ignoring the Book of Acts because it was not written by Paul.

The scriptural sources come from either Bible footnotes or a table of Messianic Prophecies from Holman's Bible Dictionary. The report on Messianic Prophecies shows that passages were taken out of context and have no bearing on Jesus. Their method of interpretation is explained in Paul's Mythology. So if the OT references don't make sense, this is the fault of the interpreters and the point of this exercise. If they do make sense, then I recommend the two above links for clarification. It still doesn't take away my point about Paul's artificial knowledge of Jesus.

He was a descendant of David according to the flesh. -Rom. 1:3/Ref. 2 Sam. 7:12-13

3the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh (Romans 1:3)

12When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom.
13He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever. (2 Sam. 7:12-13)

He became the Son of God at the time of his resurrection. -Rom. 1:4/Ref. Jeremiah 23:5-6

4and designated Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord,(Romans 1:4)

5"Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.
6In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: 'The LORD is our righteousness.' (Jer. 23:5-6)

He was promised to Abraham. -Gal. 3:16/Ref. Gen. 3:3; 12:7

16Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, "And to offsprings," referring to many; but, referring to one, "And to your offspring," which is Christ. (Gal. 3:16)

3I will bless those who bless you, and him who curses you I will curse; and by you all the families of the earth shall bless themselves." (Gen. 3:3)

7Then the LORD appeared to Abram, and said, "To your descendants I will give this land." So he built there an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him. (Gen. 12:7)

He was born of a woman. -Gal. 4:4/Ref. Isaiah 7:14 and Gen. 3:15

4But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law (Gal. 4:4)

14Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, a young woman shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14)

15I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel." (Gen. 3:15)

He was meek and gentle. -2 Cor. 10:1/Ref. Isaiah 42:1-16

1I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ. (2 Cor. 10:1)

1Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him, he will bring forth justice to the nations.
He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street;
a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. (Isaiah 42:1-3)

He had apostles, one whose name was Peter. He had a brother named James. -That Paul knew some apostles is not in dispute. The term "brother" implies brotherhood, not blood brother.

5as the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas [Simon Peter]? (1 Cor. 9:5)

17nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me ..(Gal. 1:17)

19But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord's brother. (Gal 1:19)

He came into the world to save sinners. -1 Tim. 1:15/Ref. Mal. 3:3 (Timothy was written pseudonymously.)

15The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. And I am the foremost of sinners; (1 Tim. 1:15)

3he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, till they present right offerings to the LORD. (Malachi 3:3)

He became a servant to Jews according to promises given to the patriarchs. -Rom. 15:8/Ref. Psalm 18:49

8For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God's truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, (Romans 15:8)

49For this I will extol thee, O LORD, among the nations, and sing praises to thy name. (Psalm 18:49)

He was betrayed. - 1 Cor. 11:23/Ref. Psalm 55:12-14

23For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, (1 Cor 11:23)

12It is not an enemy who taunts me- then I could bear it; it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me- then I could hide from him.
But it is you, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend.
We used to hold sweet converse together; within God's house we walked in fellowship. (Psalm 55:12-14)

He said "This is my body for you. Do this in remembrance of me." -1 Cor. 11:24/Ref. Lev. 17:11

24and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, "This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me." (1 Cor 11:24)

11For the life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it for you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement, by reason of the life. (Lev. 17:11)

He made a new covenant. -1 Cor. 11:23-25/Ref. Jer. 31:31-34.

25In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me." (1 Cor 11:23-25)

31"Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah,
32not like the covenant which I made with their fathers when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant which they broke, though I was their husband, says the LORD.
33But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
34And no longer shall each man teach his neighbor and each his (Jer. 31:31-34)

He testified before Pontius Pilate. -This is the only passage with an historical name. By the writing style, scholars are certain Timothy was written pseudonymously.

13In the presence of God who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, (1 Tim. 6:13)

He was reproached. -Romans 15:3/Ref. Psalm 69:9

3For Christ did not please himself; but, as it is written, "The reproaches of those who reproached thee fell on me." (Rom. 15:3)

9For zeal for thy house has consumed me, and the insults of those who insult thee have fallen on me. (Psalm 69:9)

He was obedient to the time of his death. -Phil. 2:8/Ref. Isaiah 42:1-16

8And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. (Phil. 2:8)

1Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him, he will bring forth justice to the nations.
He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street;
a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. (Isaiah 42:1-3)

He died by being crucified. -1 Cor. 2.2; Gal. 2.20/Ref. Isaiah 53:12

2For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. (1 Cor. 2:2)

20I have been crucified with Christ. (Gal. 2:20)

12Therefore I will divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he poured out his soul to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53:12)

He was cursed on a tree. -Gal. 3:13/Ref. Deut. 21:23

13Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us-for it is written, "Cursed be every one who hangs on a tree" (Gal. 3:13)

23his body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is accursed by God; you shall not defile your land which the LORD your God gives you for an inheritance. (Deut. 21:23)

He was buried and raised on the third day. -1 Cor. 15:4/Ref. Psalm 16:8-10

4that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, (1 Cor. 15:4)

8I keep the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.
Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices; my body also dwells secure.
For thou dost not give me up to Sheol, or let thy godly one see the Pit. (Psalm 16:8-10)

He appeared to Peter and the twelve apostles. -Peter was one of the eleven. (Matt. 28:16; Mark 16:14; Luke 24:9)

5and that he appeared to Cephas [Peter], then to the twelve.
6Then he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. (1 Cor. 15:5-6)

Then he appeared to James and all the apostles. -In the Gospels and Acts, James is not mentioned by name at Jesus' reappearance.

7Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. (1 Cor. 15:7)

He was raised from the dead and sits at the right had of God. -Rom. 8:34/Ref. Psalm 110:1, 5

34who is to condemn? Is it Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us? (Rom. 8:34)

1The LORD says to my lord: "Sit at my right hand, till I make your enemies your footstool."
The Lord is at your right hand; he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath. (Psalm 110:1, 5)

Final thought

Paul put a lot of faith in things unseen and it shows.

Related Articles

Any other article under "Paul the Mythmaker"

To get a real picture of the timing of Jesus' birth, see When was Jesus Born
For the length of his ministry, see Gospel Zodiac