Thursday, November 11, 2010

Assume Jesus Existed; Now What?

Larry, a/k/a The Barefoot Bum asked a fascinating question in a comment:
Let us hypothesize (for the sake of argument) that some specific account of Jesus, resurrection, miracles and all, were actually historically true. Assuming (for whatever reason) that only so few people were willing and able to write about the event that only four survive to this day.

What sorts of things would we expect to see?
This is compounded by my mulling over Vinny’s recent blog entry: Can Evidence Ever Prove a Miracle?

Let’s see if this illuminates areas for study. What WOULD we expect?

My first thought was to frame the account of Jesus: What are the basic facts we utilize in our hypothetical as accurate? I put together these:

1. He was a traveling philosopher/rabbi/teacher during Pontius Pilate’s prefect (26-36 CE) in Palestine (Galilee, Samaria & Judea.)
2. He gathered followers, both core and peripheral.
3. He performed miracles such as healing, feeding large crowds and raising people from the dead.
4. He talked to crowds regarding his particular philosophy.
5. He became accused of a crime.
6. He was crucified.
7. He was buried.
8. He miraculously resurrected from the dead.
9. He appeared post-resurrection to numerous individuals over a period of time.
10. He then ascended into heaven.

And already…I have a problem with number 3.

In putting together this conjecture we would agree Jesus did miracles—but how many? To what extent? Put yourself in First Century Palestine. First of all, other than the upper class, you are sustenance living—generating enough grain or food to provide for your family, your livestock and to plant for the coming year. You are being taxed to within an inch of starvation.

One bad season, one famine and you are wiped out. Only the hardiest will live.

Second, death is a firm reality. Infant mortality is large. There are no hospitals, sewage flowed freely in most cities. A flu or broken arm most likely meant death.

Now imagine you introduce an individual who can cure all disease in this society. All wounds. Who can literally bring people back to life. Further, this individual can turn a few loaves and fishes into a meal for 1,000’s.

Jesus would be inundated from dusk to dawn by crowds clamoring to be healed and fed. His reputation would be impossible to suppress. We see people today flocking to fake healers; what would happen if crippled legs really did straighten and grew strength? Amputees regrew body parts? Dead people came back to life?

Larry has (cruelly) limited us to four sources, yet wouldn’t such a person be in every source? Even the emperor would be interested in such a person. Imagine not having to carry food for the army, and being able to heal your wounded soldiers. Tiberius would be invincible!

I am unable to visualize a balance, in our made-up account, of how to have Jesus perform some miracles, but not enough to attract attention. Be that as it may, assume he did.

Given our 10 facts, what would we expect next in historical accounts?

However, first an admonition—is historical method the adequate means to determine what should or would possibly happen given certain factors? The study of history looks to events that have happened. It makes no judgment whether these events “should” or “should not” (I’m not talking about studying motivations, or bad judgments.)

Virtually ever historian agrees it was bad tactics on Hitler’s part to start a two-front war with Russia in 1941. We may use the vernacular, “He shouldn’t have done it,” but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. We do not discount a historical event simply because it seems improbable.

On September 10, 2001, if asked, most people would say the possibility the Twin Towers would be completely destroyed the following day was extremely unlikely. Yet 24 hours later, we all faced such a reality. Even looking at the course of human events, expecting humans to act as they have in the past, we see historical variances—unexpected happenings—where history would tell us not to expect it to happen in the future. Yet it does.

So we can project, based upon past expectations, yet understand something can veer and cause a completely different, unintended result, putting history on a completely new course.

A good example is the genre of fictional alternative history, like Turtledove’s Guns of the South where the South obtain machine guns during the US Civil War. Given that fact, we could reasonably project, they would utilize the weapons and (assuming adequate supplies) repel the North.

But would the South then attack the North, or would it be content to leave a border, forming a new country? Would it feasibly attack Mexico? What if it engaged in trade, utilizing the guns for material, and thus introducing the guns to other nations, such as England? Assuming they received the guns in the Winter of 1865, we can project what would happen in the next few months. What would the world look like in 1870? 1890? In 1900--only 35 years after the introduction of the machine gun--is it possible to even conjecture what would happen?

In the same way, we are dealing with writings made at least 35 years after the events. It would be difficult to develop a method of what these writings would probably look like, given the variables involved.

The only model I can utilize would be to view the historical development of other religions.

1. People would expect a continuation of consistency. The reason they were drawn to Jesus in the first place was what he did and/or what he said. They would expect the same message to continue, and more importantly, expect the continuation of miracles.

Of course, this raised the question—in our account are we going to say the apostles can do miracles? I see three choices: 1) they could not, or 2) they could but to a lesser extent, or 3) they could the same as Jesus. If it was either (1) or (2), then we would expect some reason must be given as to why they could not perform the same amount.

In these four accounts, I would anticipate claims of what Jesus said and did, followed by claims of his disciples following that philosophy.

2. We would expect a veneration of Jesus’ activity, especially if fewer miracles were performed by the apostles. (People may not care if they are still getting fed and healed.) Where he was born, what house he grew up in. More importantly, where this or that miracle occurred. Certainly where the greatest miracle of all occurred—the tomb.

Included would be veneration of his statements. This creates instability in our method, in that people tend to make stuff up, especially about leaders. How many beds did George Washington sleep in? Did he chop down a cherry tree? Without an early system of verification, people could claim Jesus said anything, as long as it was within the general frame of the expected philosophy, and no one could (or would) question it.

We would expect descriptions of his miracles. Especially the Resurrection. Words and doctrines of Jesus, specifically words and events that conformed to the intended recipient’s beliefs.

3. There would be a succession of leadership. And typically an issue. What would qualify a person to be Jesus’ successor in leading this religion? Typically, that, too, is an issue. Would it be bloodline? Appointment by Jesus? Who saw him post-resurrection?

We would expect a disagreement over method of determining leadership. If Peter claimed to be the first to see Jesus post-resurrection, he would claim the method used is: “whoever sees Jesus post-resurrection.” If Paul claimed to receive direct revelation from God the Father, he would claim the method it is who God says is the leader.

Do you see the problem we now enter? Peter claims one way (which coincidently makes him leader); James claims another method (by sheer chance making James the leader); and Paul claims yet another way that….well…you get the idea.

At this point we would expect to see competing claims to leadership; disagreements over methods as to who is rightfully appointed.

4. Finally, we would anticipate the later the writings, the more they would mold to the changing requirements of the religion. If some new issue was introduced, we would anticipate the writings to include statements of Jesus added to address those issues.

Included in the mythology development would be injection of statements relevant to the present troubles.

Understanding this as a mind-experiment, I did draw conclusions—some unexpected:

a) I am a bit surprised how similar the writing we have would be, regardless whether Jesus actually did miracles or not. This may be my inherent utilization of what humans typically do, in reviewing other religions such as Judaism, Mormonism or Islam; the thought that whether Jesus really did these things or not, people are people and at some point will act on their humanity.

b) The silence of Paul becomes deafening. It makes little sense the first writings following Jesus’ existence do not refer to his miracles, do not refer to his sermons, do not refer to his doctrine, do not refer to any happenings in his life. Nothing about his baptism, interaction with Jewish leaders, or interaction with disciples.

You can’t have your cake and eat it too. How can we have a leader of a religion be so prominent as proclaimed in our account, yet so under-utilized in the first accounts referring to him? The recipients of Paul’s letters, written 15-25 years after Jesus lived, would want to know what Jesus said about their problem. What Jesus did. Not Paul’s particular problem with marriage.

c) Why is the Resurrection an afterthought? If this is the lynchpin of Christianity, as Paul proclaims, it seems odd the four accounts have better record-keeping on feeding people than on its occurrence. While Luke and John give greater length and detail—they are later accounts. Paul simply lists appearances with no time, place or historical background. The earliest account, Mark, doesn’t think it important enough to even list one appearance. Matthew barely mentions two.

I would think, given the account above, and the records we have, we would need to reassess the import of the Resurrection on these writers. They didn’t seem to find it terribly factually interesting.

d) I am not certain how one gets around some veneration. Would Mary be pressed to give anecdotes about Jesus’ childhood? Would his childhood home become revered, or places he walked become pilgrimage destinations? Certainly the empty tomb, simply by its connection to the Resurrection, would become a place to visit.

Yet we see nothing of that.

Any thoughts? What do you think we would see, given the 10 facts I listed above? Am I too rigidly following the pattern of other religions? Why would this one be different?

What would you expect to see written about Jesus, if this actually happened, in the first 35 years following his death?


  1. Fascinating. It's completely different from what I expected. I was expecting something along the lines of patterns of consistency and inconsistency in both eyewitness accounts of real events as well as known fabricated testimony. Your actual response is vastly more interesting.

  2. One of my hang ups has been the general lack of documentation about Jesus and his death and resurrection. I keep asking myself why God would leave such scant evidence for an event designed to save all of humanity.

    Do you think part of the reason there was so little documented by Christians is that they were expectin Jesus to return within their lifetime, giving them little reason to document for posterity? Their focus would be preparing for his return.

  3. Larry,

    It was different than I expected too, going into it. The two largest factors:

    1) It is extremely difficult to align Paul’s writings with such a Jesus. Vinny periodically mentions Paul’s writings as problematic for a Historical Jesus, and this study highlighted that fact for me. It is almost inconceivable the Jesus of the Gospels existed as indicated, and Paul would write the way he does.

    2) It was harder to come up with a realistic account than I thought. Although I only mentioned the biggest problem—with Jesus’ miracles—there were other sub-topics I wondered how people would react. For example, which Jewish leadership would want to kill Jesus? The Sadducees would laugh when Jesus beat up the Pharisees. The Essenes would support Jesus against both. The Qumran community might have supported him; might not.

    So which do we use? And given any of them, we start to see problems in what was written. Yet Crucifixion is a distinctly Roman punishment—not utilized by the Jews. How did Jesus run afoul of the Romans? I left it simplistic, but we could spend days delving into each of these.

    The problem is twofold; 1) they did not write history as we do know. They would add stories, acts, speeches as fit their necessity, so Jesus could be real or could not, and the tales do not tell us either way. 2) It tends to read as a story. People pop in at convenient times, and disappear as needed.

    Think about your average movie. A scene where people are talking about Aunt Betty and then the camera draws back and there is Aunt Betty who happens to overhear the conversation. We don’t ask, “Why was Aunt Betty there?” We understand it compels the story along. Or when our heroine needs to get from New York to Paris the next day…she just….does. We don’t see the issues of travel, or time problems; it just happens.

    The Pharisees “just happen” to appear in a field in Galilee on Sabbath. Crippled dudes keep pestering Jesus…on Sabbath. The Pharisees are dumbfounded when Jesus uses bad arguments. Jesus needs to be across the lake? Hops in a boat (whose boat?) and off he goes. Needs a house, a fish, a donkey, a room? They….appear.

    Reads too much like a story to start digging for “real” details.

  4. DoOrDoNot,

    You ask a great question about the parousia. Yes, they would have less desire to document, if Jesus was coming back in 10-20 years, oral tradition would be considered satisfactory.

    But then we run into Paul…

    Paul was writing letters for good reason—namely to correct errant practices and doctrine. While everybody may have been waiting for Jesus to return—they would want to make sure they were doing the right thing to be on the winning side when he does!

    And we would think Jesus’ words would be the best demonstration of correct dogma. Yet Paul ends up arguing, rather than relaying.

    Worse, Paul indicates Jesus’ resurrection is necessary, or Christian’s faith is empty. 1 Cor. 15:12-19. Oddly, in a letter where the people (allegedly informed of Jesus’ resurrection at Paul’s visit according to vs. 1-8) didn’t seem to understand bodies coming back from the dead.

    How could Paul have communicated all these appearances of Jesus post-mortem, and the people walk away saying, “Yeah, but what happens after we die?”

    Curiously (cultural change!) “resurrection of the dead” is a non-issue in Christian churches. They believe EVERYBODY is resurrected; what’s the big deal? The only problem is that some get heaven; the rest get hell. And the thing making the difference is Jesus’ death…not his resurrection.

    If a Christian wrote 1 Cor. 15 today, they would talk about how without Jesus’ death (and atonement) faith would be useless. They are more interested in a dead Jesus than a resurrected one. ‘Cause everybody resurrects…

    Chew on that!

  5. DagoodS,
    So, what is the implication about what Paul actually taught when he visted the churches? What information do you think he actually had? How do you think Paul fits into the development of Christianity? He's fascinating in that he appears on the scene so unexpectedly, wasn't one of the 12, and winds up writing a bulk of what becomes the NT.

    Could the confusion over the resurrection be partly that Gentiles didn't have a general belief in resurrection, so their world view didn't easily accommodate what they were hearing from Paul?

  6. DoOrDoNot,

    Good questions, per usual. I’ll address the last question: gentiles’ thoughts regarding resurrection.

    First, we have to understand this was a polytheistic society; not like our current monotheistic paradigm. We live in a world where God-belief of one sort necessarily precludes God-belief of another. If one believes in YHWH they are excluded from believing in Allah. One must be Catholic or Protestant. Mormon or creedal. Our narrow view means if someone presents a different God, or a God with a different characteristic, we absolutely MUST change our belief of God, because there is only ONE God, and it can therefore only have ONE of this characteristic or type.

    They were in a polytheistic society without such limitations.

    Allow me a sports analogy. I like soccer, both to play and watch. If someone says, “I like to watch basketball,” I do not start screaming and proselytizing they MUST watch soccer, and not basketball. We understand, and think nothing of someone who watches another sport. Or maybe they watch our sport AND their sport.

    I became introduced to golf, and found I like to play and (occasionally) watch golf. I didn’t have to give up soccer. I could do both. No one finds this odd or unusual. We live in a poly-sports society.

    First Century Mediterranean had numerous religions, and many people simply incorporated newly discovered gods, as yet another god. (This is why an Emperor could deify himself.) They were used to hearing new theistic claims, and these claims would not necessarily impact their own belief.

    Yes, Christianity (sorta) and Judaism were monotheistic, but people in a polytheistic society would be far more receptive to listen to their concepts. Their world-view would more easily accommodate new theistic claims as compared to our own.

    Further, they had a notion regarding continuation of some essence with humans. Souls in Hades. Some Jewish beliefs (not all) had everyone being resurrected. Obviously, with such varied beliefs, confusion is almost inevitable.

    What did Paul teach? The best source (in my opinion) as to what Paul the Missionary—as compared to Paul the Church Leader—taught would be to look at his earliest writing. 1 Thessalonians. Read through it, keeping in mind the word “faith” (pistis) is better translated “loyal.” Similar to our idea of someone being “faithful to a cause” or “faithful to their king.”

    Notice how much works emphasis there is. Not as much regarding correct beliefs, as correct actions. He does mention the resurrection, and giving hope, but at that time they were focused on the parousia more than death.

    Finally, I am extremely agnostic about what information Paul had regarding Jesus. Any theory I put together—historical, mythical, close in time, far in time—seems to develop hiccups when applying it to Paul’s writing. I lean to a historical, near in time but I think that is my default up-bringing kicking in.

  7. Wow -- fascinating. This is quite similar to exactly what led me to doubt in the first place. Never seeing it coming... I simply wondered one day whether anyone other than the gospel writers wrote about Jesus so I googled it. I was not impressed. Prior to looking, I think I expected that there would be many confirming sources.

    I guess I don't have too much to say other than that two things troubled me quite a bit when I dug into this area:

    | Lack of non-gospel writings
    I don't know why I was "struck" by this so much. Since my doubt, when I bring it up many throw out the fact that we have little information on so many from that time. I'm torn about accepting that, yet on the other hand I read lines like John's closer (along the lines of Jesus' works being more than all the books in the world could contain had they been documented), the people trying to make him king (which must mean there was at least some pretty far reaching knowledge of him throughout the kingdom), and little things like, "...and his fame spread throughout the land."

    I guess I just have a difficult time knowing that Josephus would write about Herod in such detail but only mention Jesus when the two were contemporaries. Seems odd to me.

    | Paul
    I am definitely troubled by Paul's silence. This is another area where as soon as it's brought up I'm met with a snarling, "But Paul never even met Jesus so why would you expect him to write about him?" from apologists. But, like you, I can't undergo the thought experiment of trying to relive Paul teaching "Christianity" without doing it with the teachings of "Christ." What the heck would his authority have been? How could he be fact checked or validated as authentically teaching what Jesus wanted to be taught?

    I just don't get it. On the other hand, some Christians rebut that Paul was writing to formed Churches that already would have known Jesus' life in detail. Perhaps, I think, but it still doesn't make any sense to leave out quotes, especially when they would have been crazily helpful/useful...

    Great post and close to home. Much of this doesn't make sense and I'm pissed no one has invented a time machine so we can just settle it rather than leaving a such a massive unanswered question. Ironically, I find that this uncertainty makes me doubt myself about my non-belief while making apologists and believers even more confident that they have it right after all.

  8. DagoodS,
    Would you mind backing up a bit? What is this distinction you're making between Paul the Missionary and Paul the Church Leader?

    I reviewed I Thessalonians a bit and see what you mean about the emphasis being on right living and being loyal to Christ as opposed to having the correct doctrine. However, what do you make of the fact that Paul repeatedly refers to preaching the "gospel" to them
    (1:5, 2:2, 2:4, 2:8, 2:9, 3:2). Doesn't the gospel typically refer to the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, such as in I Cor 15? It seems that hearing and accepting that basic doctrine was the basis for them becoming believers (2:13).

    The Thessalonians seemed to have trouble grasping some aspect of the resurrection (4:13-4:18), just as the Corinthians did. Do you take that to mean that it is unlikely that Paul actually preached the resurrection of Jesus to the Thessalonians? You seemed to be making that argument in the case of the Corinthians.

    Please forgive all these questions. I'm relatively new to this topic of study.

    I'm with you on the time machine. Maybe you can put that on your things to do list. You're a techie sort of person, right? :)

    The ambiguity and uncertainty drives me nuts and makes me question myself as well.

    Good to see you around.

  9. DoOrDoNot,

    Absolutely no problem whatsoever regarding questions…the problem comes when you start expecting answers! *wink* I wish I had something more definitive. Hendy used a good word—“uncertainty”—that I embrace in biblical discussions. We each have to work out how comfortable we will be within that uncertainty.

    An analogy. Imagine 100 years from now, the only information we had about 9-11 consisted of three (3) editorials written 10 years after the event. Three articles giving opinion, utilizing the 9-11 events. No newspaper articles, no encyclopedia entries…nothing but these three editorials.

    What would we know? That would certainly depend on the editorials, right? We may not know anything about the planes in Pennsylvania or the Pentagon, if not mentioned. If one editorial focused on 9-11 Truthers, we may be led to believe a large segment of the populace believed it to be a governmental conspiracy. If another editorial focused on subsequent events, we may think Iraq had some instigation regarding 9-11. We may not even read the name “Osama bin Laden”!

    That is akin to what we have here.

    In the first half of the First Century, Paul traveled throughout the Mediterranean, establishing churches in various cities. To do so, he said….something. What that something is, we can only speculate given subsequent writings. We don’t know attendance in these churches (2? 20? 200?), we don’t even know if there were more than one per city.

    Around the middle of the First Century, Paul writes a number of letters. We have a portion of those letters. He writes to address problems, to provide encouragement, and to give instruction. What he doesn’t do is tell us what he told them previously (except a few remarks), nor what particular facts he bases his teaching upon.

    From his letters, we are left guessing as to what he may have said previously, and why a concern developed. The problem, regarding resurrection, that I see in 1 Thessalonians, is that people expected the parousia to be so quick, no one had time to die! And now that it was taking so long [would they ever guess it would take at least another 2000 years?], some people were dying, and there was consternation this meant the dead wouldn’t be part of the new kingdom.

    If Paul had stated they would be “living in heaven” upon death (like current Christian statements at funerals), one would think he wouldn’t have to explain what happens in his letter. At the least, he was not clear.

    In 1 Corinthians, we see a similar problem. Why are the people all worried about what happens to their body when they die, if Paul had explained the resurrection when with them? What did Paul say, so that after he left, they ended up veering off into this doctrinal problem, to the point Paul has to write a letter to clarify?

    In my opinion, Paul did teach the resurrection of Christ, (he refers to it in a familiar way; not as if he is teaching something new in his letters), but it was not the key focus. His focus was on correct living to enter the kingdom of God. The resurrection was an example—a demonstration—of what one received if one lived correctly and then died before Jesus came back and established the new order.

  10. DoOrDoNot: Doesn't the gospel typically refer to the death, burial and resurrection of Christ,…
    Mmm…does it? One radical difference between my Christian biblical study and my atheist biblical study is my chronological approach. I’m not saying this is what everyone must do—it is simply how I have changed.

    As an orthodox Christian, I believed certain things were true. And I looked back through the course of history, following the orthodox path, measuring when and who adhered to it, noting the extent of heresy from those who strayed from it. I would take a word like “faith” and assume how Martin Luther meant it, was the same as Augustine, and Paul and John and James, etc.

    Or because we focus on the resurrection, that must mean the (correct) church fathers, and Scripture authors, and Apostles did as well.

    Now I look forward--I start with what the first author says, see how it fits in their world, what they meant by it, regardless how subsequent authors interpreted it, or molded it to their needs.

    The word euaggelion means “good news.” (It is where we get the word “evangelize.”) Paul was preaching the good news that these people had correct doctrine and were pleasing God, through loyalty to Christ. That they would be part of God’s kingdom.

    Paul doesn’t lay out specific doctrines, creeds or facts consisting of a titled “gospel”—he uses the word as intended in the Greek. Good news. Read 1 Cor. 15, substituting “good news” for “gospel” and you can see Paul is not specifically proclaiming this gospel consists of the following data points.

    Further, if the Gospel did consist of these data points, other uses by Paul do not make sense. How does one “hinder” these data points? (1 Cr. 9:12). Or what are the different data points in 2 Cor. 11:4 & Gal 1:6-9? What are Paul’s data points in Rom. 2:16 & 16:25? Are they different than Christ’s? Or look at Rom. 10:15 where “good news” makes sense, but a series of historical events do not.

    So what happened? Why do we consider the word “gospel” to consist of specific historical elements in the life of Jesus?

    Simple, because Mark starts his book with, “The beginning of the euaggelion (“good news”) of Jesus Christ, the son of God.” The early church fathers by the second century (Note, 1 Clement does not in 95 CE, but Papias refers to a “Gospel of the Hebrews” by 110-140 CE) began to associate this word--euaggelion or “good news”—with written tales about Jesus. By Irenaeus (175–185 CE) it was established practice to call Matthew, Mark, Luke and John the “Gospels.” And 2000 years later, most people believe the word “Gospel” refers to four (4) specific books, not even realizing how many tales of Jesus are out there!

    If we look back, using what we now think of when referring to “Gospel”—it would appear to be the historical data points concerning Jesus. But looking forward, we can see how the word developed to mean that, and it is not what Paul meant at all.

  11. Paul, as I said, established some churches. What he said to convert polytheistic pagans, or Jews to Christianity…I do not know specifically. He certainly focused on correct living. After establishing these Churches, he was prevented (for various reasons) from re-visiting, and wrote letters.

    Curiously, we see him continually having to re-establish his bona fides. I won’t go through all the arguments, but we see him using Jesus’ appearance to him, to show Paul is just as good as the other apostles. 1 Cor. 15:8. Or claiming he got his gospel direct from God, which qualifies him to contest with other church leaders. Gal 1&2. Or arguing he is not inferior to the other apostles (2 Cor. 11:5) by arguing how much suffering he went through.

    Eventually Paul writes a letter to Romans—a church he has not established. A church he has never visited. Yet he feels himself qualified to give instruction on the anticipation of his coming. (And that they would financially support him!)

    This is what I meant by the transforming of Paul the Missionary to Paul the Church Leader. It seems…curious…he was so readily able to establish these churches through effective proselytizing, yet must continue to argue as to his worthiness when it comes to comparing other apostles. See 1 Cor. 1:12

    He spends so much time on it, and I wonder whether he would have needed to as a missionary.

    Interesting stuff to ponder, eh?

  12. DagoodS,
    Thanks for your thorough response. I can see I have several more topics to add to my "to be studied list." Currently, I'm reading books on both Jesus's identity and the resurrection.

    It's interesting that you mentioned the shift in your biblical study. I think your chronological approach is a more objective way to view scripture. I don't know if I have a label for the shift in my approach to study other than that I no longer need scripture to be interpreted in a particular way. I think this at least increases the chance that I will understand what it might mean. Clearly, though, as in the case of the word "gospel," I continue to operate with many assumptions that have not yet been examined.

  13. The thing that I always come back to when it comes to Paul's silence is the apparent silence of his enemies. Paul thought that he had a direct revelation from God and he didn't know Jesus personally so maybe that explains why he never felt the need to cite the things that Jesus said or did during his earthly ministry. But what about all those false teachers and false gospels that Paul had to deal with? If it was generally believed that Jesus had recently been an earthly teacher, some of those false teachers would surely have claimed that things that Jesus said or did supported their positions and they would no doubt have invented sayings and deeds to support their positions against Paul.

    I would expect that questions about the authenticity of stories that were told about Jesus and sayings that were attributed to him, as well as the meaning of those stories and sayings, would have shown up in the earliest letters written by church leaders. I have never seen a plausible explanation for the fact that such issues don't seem to arise until sometime in the 2nd century A.D.