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Why did St Paul evince so little interest in the ministry and teaching of Jesus?

by
19 March 2021

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Why, in his extant letters, did St Paul evince so little interest in the ministry, teaching, and deeds of Jesus of Nazareth?

Your answer: He wasn’t there during the ministry of Jesus, and the Gospels hadn’t been written yet. It is agreed among all responsible scholars that Paul had only occasional contact with Peter and James (the description of these encounters in his own writings and that of Luke do not exactly tally). This seems to have told him little about Jesus’s life and ministry. He was also a Greek-speaker, which Jesus was not.

Paul does seem to have had an awareness of the words spoken at the Last Supper, presumably now incorporated into a semi-formal liturgy. His focus — rather misleadingly, in my view — was only on what he believed to be the significance of the cross and his own “conversion” experience. What appears to have been the much wider focus of Jesus on the coming of the Kingdom is, therefore, missing: a deficit, thankfully, addressed by the Gospel-writers later.

Ben Whitney
Wolverhampton

 

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