Saturday, April 11, 2009


In a previous post (FORFEIT AND GAIN) I mentioned that I had been looking for parallels between what Jesus said and what other New Testament writers have said. I’m still looking, though sometimes not consciously.

Then I read a post on a blog I follow: Been Thinking About, 3/20/2009, “Why Doesn’t Paul Quote Jesus?” asking the question of why Paul doesn’t quote Jesus, at least more often. The post referred to two quotes: Acts 20:35 and 1 Corinthians 11:24, 25, as well as to the fact that Paul did quote the words of the resurrected Christ. This made me search a bit more in earnest.

1 Corinthians 11:24, 25 is Paul’s account of the inauguration of what is known as the Lord’s Supper or Communion. It is similar to the accounts in Matthew and Mark, but it is especially similar to Luke’s account (Luke 22:19, 20), though slightly abbreviated. Paul says, however, that he “received it from the Lord” (1 Corinthians 11:23). I don’t believe that this necessarily implies direct revelation. Luke and Paul were traveling partners and may have used the same sources or traditions. (Luke’s gospel had probably not been written at the time Paul wrote 1 Corinthians.)

In Acts 20:35, Paul quotes Jesus’ words to the Ephesian elders: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” This is found nowhere else, not in the canonical gospels, or as far as I know, in any other early writings. We can only assume from this that Paul was familiar with other sources which were not incorporated in our gospels.

There is at least one more quote, which Paul doesn’t directly attribute to Jesus, but which he refers to as Scripture: “For the Scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing … ’ and ‘The worker is worthy of his wages’“ (1 Timothy 5:18). Though the first quote is from the Law (Deuteronomy 25:4), the second is word-for-word from Luke 10:7. Luke’s gospel had probably been completed only a few years earlier.

But there’s more!

In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul is giving instructions on marriage and divorce. He says in verse 10: “To the married I give instructions, not I, but the Lord” and then tells us: “ … the wife is not to divorce her husband … ” and continues in verse 11: “ … but if she does divorce, she should remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband; and the husband is not to divorce his wife.” However, in verse 12, Paul says: “But to the rest I say, not the Lord …” and continues with his instruction. The instructions attributed to the Lord in verses 10 and 11 are similar to Jesus’ instructions in Matthew 19 and Mark 10:10-12, but have some notable differences. Paul omits equating by Jesus of remarriage and adultery and Jesus in our gospels says nothing about reconciliation. We can only assume that Paul either was paraphrasing or drawing conclusions from Jesus’ sayings, or more likely, that Paul had other sources.

Paul and James both quoted the Law of Love, found in Leviticus 19:18, “ … you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Romans 13:9; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8) and had much to say about it and its application. But so did Jesus (Matthew 5:43, 44; 19:19; 22:39 = Mark 12:39)! Though both Paul and James would have known this passage from their studies of the Old Testament, it seems probable that the prominence they gave to this Law is because of Jesus’ frequent use of it and of his referring to it as the second great commandment, right after: “You shall love the LORD your God…” (Deuteronomy 6:5).

There are many more places where Paul alludes to or paraphrases sayings of Jesus. I’m still digging them out. But might we not also conclude that there are other places in Paul’s writings that were not original with Paul, but were taken from sayings of Jesus which were not recorded in our four Gospels?

More later.

Bill Ball


Anonymous said...

Hi Bill. Yes, I agree that 1 Thessalonians 5:10 refers to the spiritual state of believers. I've noticed when I bring up the passage and the gregoreo/katheudo contrast with non-Grace people, they tend to ignore it. Anyway, great post!

Bill Ball said...

Thanx Danny