The following is an appendix found (pp.662–664) in Earl Doherty's impressive monograph — Jesus: Neither God Nor Man, which nicely highlights one of the problems with the Pauline corpus regarding the historicity of Jesus in a humorous way.
A Conversation between Paul and some New Converts
Scholarship has long suggested that Paul's silence on all things to do with Jesus' human life and career results from his "lack of interest" in the man, and his view that such things are "irrelevant" to his theology about Jesus. If we were to assume a steadfast refusal by Paul to gather or preach information on any aspect of Jesus' earthly life and teachings, we could envision something like the following scene. The setting is some rich Greek's house in one of the provinces, with a mix of converts and interested friends and bystanders gathered about Paul on a warm summer evening. Their conversation might go something like this:
DEMETRIOS (the host and owner of the house): So, Paul, tell us more about
Jesus the Savior. I have heard that he taught the people with great authority
about the coming kingdom of God, and how we should all love one another.
PAUL: Yes, I have heard rumors to that effect, but I consider such things to be
unimportant, and as it happens I am not familiar with any of his teachings.
DEMETRIOS: I see. But your mission is to gentiles like ourselves, is it not?
Surely Jesus himself included gentiles in his own ministry and directed his
apostles to go out and preach to them? I would certainly like to think that he did.
PAUL: I suppose that's possible. I don't have any first-hand information.
HERMES: You have performed signs and wonders for us, Paul. I understand
Jesus himself performed great feats over nature and once fed thousands with a
few loaves of bread. My friend Ampliatus heard about it when he was in the east.
PAUL (clearing his throat): Oh, I don't concern myself with such things, and
you shouldn't either. They're quite insignificant, and you don't need to know
about them to believe in the risen Son of God.
JUNIAS: When I heard you would be here, Paul, I told my sick mother that
perhaps you would come around to see her and expel the demon that is making
her ill. I, too, have heard from a relative in Galilee that Jesus expelled demons
and healed many people—
HERODIAN (interrupting in some agitation): Yes, the demons have been
especially active in my own household. My brother has contracted a fever, and
just last week the roof of my workshop collapsed for no reason—
PAUL (with a placating gesture): There is no doubt that evil spirits beset us on
all sides, my friends, and we must have faith that God will deliver us from them.
As to reports of healings by Jesus, perhaps he did, but then, every wonderworker
in the country makes such claims, so perhaps we should not place too
much importance on such things.
OLYMPAS: You have told us about the coming End, Paul, and I look forward
to our promised deliverance from this sorry world, but I am greatly frighted by
what may happen. Did Jesus reveal anything to his disciples about what things
would be like when he comes back from heaven?
PAUL (somewhat miffed): Who knows? Anyway, one can't rely on what those
so-called 'men of repute' in Jerusalem are spreading around. After all, they're
only fishermen. Besides, I have word on that directly from Christ himself—
AGRIPPA (a Jew): Some of my Jewish friends have heard of your preaching,
Paul, but when I invited them to join us at table, they said they could not break
their purity regulations and eat with gentiles. Did Jesus follow such strict rules
and refuse to eat with the unclean?
PAUL (exasperated): I have no idea.
CRISPUS (looking a little pained): I have a Jewish friend, too, who is a follower
of Christ. But he says that even the gentile has to be circumcised—(pained
expressions all around)—and follow every aspect of the Jewish Law if he wishes
to become a member of your faith in Christ. Is that so? Did Jesus teach that all
those Jewish practices must be followed by us gentiles?
PAUL: My friends, my friends, why all these foolish questions? What Jesus may
have said or done in the course of his life is completely immaterial. I have
information on those things directly from heaven. And I have already informed
you of the only thing that really matters, Christ's own suffering and death, and
his rising from the dead. It is these that have brought us salvation!
DEMETRIOS (hastily, sensing some perplexity and unease among his guests):
Yes, my friends, the Lord's passion is surely what we should be focusing on, and
what he went through in his terrible ordeal. Tell us about that, Paul. Was he
tortured and scourged before they crucified him?
PAUL (shrugging): I assume so. The Romans do that to everyone they crucify.
GAIUS (spitting in disgust): Yes, and they break the condemned man's legs to
make him die more quickly and painfully. I suppose they did that to Jesus?
PAUL: I don't know. I wasn't there.
ARCHIPPUS: Tell us what he said, Paul, when they put him up on the cross.
Even now the authorities are persecuting new believers in Christ and I wonder if
we'll suffer their hatred, too, just as Christ did. Did he speak? Did he stand fast?
Did he condemn them for what they did?
PAUL (curtly): I didn't ask. But let me tell you about what the Lord revealed to
JULIA: Oh, how I envy you, Paul! You who have been to Jerusalem and could
stand on the very spot where Jesus was crucified. That would give me the
shivers. You must have felt his presence. Is that when he spoke to you?
PAUL: My dear lady, I've never been to Calvary. I couldn't find the time when I
went to see James and Peter. It's only a little hill, after all.
PERSIS: But the tomb, Paul. Did you not see that? Are there still signs of the
Lord's resurrection? Do Jesus' followers pray there every Easter?
PAUL (throwing up his hands): As to that, I couldn't say. But one tomb is much
like another, don't you think? Why fill your heads with such paltry details? We
should better focus on the eternal significance of these events—
DEMETRIOS (noting nervously that a couple of his guests had quietly slipped
away): Well, I am sure we all agree that Paul has been very enlightening on the
subject of Christ Jesus. Perhaps we should retire to the atrium for aperitifs and he