Paul’s Allusions to Jesus

In Kostenberger, Kellum, and Quarles’ NT Introduction The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown, they provide yet another table of Highly Probable Allusions to Jesus in Paul’s Letters. Identifying intentional allusions to Jesus’ teaching can be quite difficult, but there are three ways to discover when an allusions was likely intended:

  1. Paul used an explicit tradition indicator (“the Lord commanded” or “word from the Lord”).
  2. The suspected allusion contains linguistic or thematic echoes from the Gospels.
  3. A series of several possible allusions appear in a particular context.

In his book on Paul David Wenham concluded that “there is massive evidence of Pauline knowledge of Jesus-traditions” (Kostenberger, 373; Wenham, 381). The chart below summarizes the most important of Wenham’s findings.

Sayings and Acts of Jesus

Allusions by Paul

Last Supper
(Mt 26.26-30; Mk 14.22-26; Lk 22.14-23)

1 Cor 11.23-26

Resurrection
(Lk 24.36-49; Jn 20.19-21.14)

1 Cor 15.3-5,35-57; Phil 3.21

Divorce
(Mk 10.1-12; Mt 19.1-12)

1 Cor 7.10-11

Support of Preachers
(Mt 10.10; Lk 10.7)

1 Cor 9.14; 1 Tim 5.18

Eschatological Teaching
(Mt 24; Mk 13; esp. Lk 21)

2 Thess 2.1-12

Eschatological Parables

  • Thief in the Night (Mt 24.43-44)
  • Watchman (Lk 12.36-38)
  • Stewards (Mt 24.45-51; Lk 12.42-48)
  • Wise and Foolish Virgins (Mt 25.1-13)

1 Thess 4.1-5.11

Mountain-Moving Faith
(Mt 17.20)

1 Cor 13.2

Nonretaliation
(Mt 5.38-42; Lk 6.29-30)

Rom 12.14

Love and the Law
(Mt 22.37-40)

Rom 13.8-10; Gal 5.14

Nothing Unclean
(Mt 15.10-20; Mk 7.17-23)

Rom 14.14

Abba
(Mk 14.36)

Rom 8.15; Gal 4.6


Paul did not present and form a Christianity different than what Jesus presented. His teachings were a reflection of Jesus, His life and teachings, along with Paul’s study of the OT and his personal experience on the Damascus road. While Jesus’ ministry was primarily to a Jewish audience, Paul’s ministry was mainly for the Gentiles.

“Paul had to look beyond Jesus back to the OT to understand the implications of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection for his audience” (337).

Jesus’ teachings were the seed (Mk 4.26-32), Paul’s the growing plant. Jesus was the foundation with Paul building upon it (1 Cor 3.5-17; Eph 2.19-22).

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Filed under Biblical Studies, Jesus and the Gospels, Paul

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