One of the things that I get frustrated with is the claim that the Apostle Paul never spoke of the historical Jesus. If this is true, it leaves wide open the claim that the early Christians saw Jesus not as a literal person but as a symbol for our own spiritual journey.
Now it is true that Paul does spend most of his time speaking of Jesus in His glorified state and His role in Heaven. Paul’s Jesus is one who is not just locked in history but is ever present through the power of the Spirit. But that does not mean that Paul denied a historical Jesus. A couple of years ago, I wrote an article on this topic for the McMaster Journal of Theology and Ministry. In the article I focused on 1 Corinthians and discovered a number of types of evidence for Paul’s knowledge of the historical Jesus. You can read the article here. Aside from what we find in 1 Corinthians, there are other examples in the rest of Paul’s letters. Romans 1:3 and 2 Timothy 2:8 describe Jesus as a descendant of David, Philippians 2:8, Romans 4:25, 5:6, 8, 1 Thessalonians 2:15, 4:14 indicate that Jesus was crucified, 1 Timothy 6:13 indicates that Jesus testified before Pontius Pilate and there are other examples (See Unmasking the Pagan Christ pp. 121-24).
The question is: why does Paul write comparatively little about the historical Jesus, if as the evidence demonstrates, he did know the story? When we read Galatians 2, we can see that there is some tension between Paul and the Jerusalem apostles, especially Peter and James. That does not mean that they were bitter enemies or that they rejected each others ministries. But Paul’s style was much different than Peter and James. Paul was an innovator who was willing to do whatever it took to get the Gospel to as many people as possible. Peter and James were trying to hold the brand new Christian church together, and Paul’s enthusiasm did not always make that job easy. So there was mutual respect and agreement but there was also some tension because of their different roles. One of the things that Peter and James had was their personal knowledge of Jesus during His earthly life. James was His half-brother and Peter was one of His closest disciples. Paul could not compete with that (although we can assume that in Galatians 2 that Peter and James shared some of their stories with Paul), so Paul focused on what he knew: the risen Christ who paid for our sins on the cross. Paul quoted Jesus only on specific issues but he believed that he was representing the spirit of Jesus in all that he did and taught.