In Galatians 1:11-12 the apostle Paul writes,
For I make known to you, brothers, that the gospel preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught (it), but (I received it) through a revelation of Jesus Christ.
Notice that Paul seems to be implying that a gospel received “from man,” at second-hand, is inferior to a direct revelation from Jesus Christ. And that idea seems to be consistent with Galatians 1:15-20, in which Paul goes on to write,
But when it pleased God—the one who separated me from my mother’s womb and who called me through his grace—to reveal his Son in me so that I might announce the good news about him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to the apostles (who became apostles) before me, but I went off into Arabia, and again returned to Damascus. Then, after three years [!], I went up to Jerusalem to become personally acquainted with Cephas [i.e., Peter; see John 1:42], and I stayed with him for fifteen days. But I saw none of the other apostles except James, the brother of the Lord. And take heed, (in) the things I write to you, (I swear) before God, I do not lie.
Notice that Paul is saying all this as if it gave added credibility to his claim of having received a revelation from Jesus Christ, and to the content of that revelation. He apparently didn’t want people to think that he was just passing along “revelation stories” that he had heard from others. Moreover, it seems that Paul didn’t feel that he had much to learn from the other apostles, since anything he learned from them would have been merely “according to man.” He had already had his own personal, direct revelation—just as the other apostles had had theirs. (In fact, I think it’s reasonable to surmise that having had a personal, direct revelation from “Jesus Christ” is what was considered to make an “apostle” an apostle.)
As far as I am concerned, this passage provides virtually irrefutable proof that Paul did not regard “Jesus Christ” as an actual, historical, flesh-and-blood individual. Note that Paul makes a point of saying that after Jesus was revealed to him, he did not go to see the other apostles in Jerusalem. Instead, he waited three years before going to see them. If Paul understood Jesus to be an historical individual, one whom Paul now understood to be the one and only Son of God, wouldn’t he have made it his absolute top priority in life to go to the apostles who actually knew him and spent time with him so that he could learn from them everything that he possibly could about the life of Jesus and his teachings? Wasn’t Paul concerned that some of them might die or forget some things during that long period of time? Not all that much, it seems.
A Christian may be inclined to suggest that Paul, as a result of his personal revelation from Jesus Christ, must have already learned everything about Jesus Christ and his teachings that were possibly worth knowing. But how could he have known that to be true without first having spoken with the other apostles to find out what Jesus had taught them, and what they had personally witnessed of his life, death, and resurrection? I would also ask that same Christian why, according to the traditional Christian account, God chose to reveal himself in the flesh at all—if that is indeed an inferior and unnecessary way of going about revealing himself to human beings. Why didn’t God just reveal himself directly to all of the apostles in the form of “visions”? Well, I’m arguing that—at least according to how Paul saw things—that’s exactly what God did.
Galatians 1:15-20 shows that whatever exactly Paul understood “Jesus Christ” to mean, it’s not even conceivable to the mind of a reasonable person that he understood him to be an historical, flesh-and-blood individual.