Christian Themes

(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

It is surprising that Paul mentions little about the life and teachings of the historical Jesus. Yet Paul himself notes that he never met him face to face. There is nothing about Jesus’ childhood or parents, no descriptions of a Galilee ministry, no Lord’s Prayer or Sermon on the Mount, no parables or miracles. Other than a short reference to the Last Supper, Paul’s focus is on the death and resurrection of Jesus.

As a Pharisee, Paul had already accepted the concept of the final resurrection. However, the Damascus road experience convinced Paul that the resurrection had already occurred in history in the person of Jesus, evidence that Jesus was the long-awaited Jewish Messiah. Thus he places himself as last in the list of those who witnessed appearances of the risen Jesus (1 Corinthians 15). This witness became the driving force for Paul’s missionary travels, his energy, passion, and urgency. In his first letter (1 Thessalonians), Paul expresses the belief that Jesus will return within his lifetime to complete the resurrection of the dead. Later he qualifies that view, accepting the inevitability of his own death (1 Corinthians 15, 2 Corinthians 5, and Philippians 1:21) and the continuation of the Church living in hope.

It is the death of Jesus that provides meaning. He tells the Corinthians that he decided to know nothing but Christ crucified, a concept that he identified as foolishness to the Greeks and a scandal to the Jews. Paul...

(The entire section is 517 words.)