Of course there were written documents that later were incorporated into the Gospels, that must have been circulating in Palestine for decades before the actual Gospels were written. Much of the Bible was written using earlier existing writings as a kind of foundation- in Judaism this is called Midrash. Here's one theory from Wikipedia that explains what probably happened: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Q_source
did the apostle paul really know jesus ?
Not all of Pauls letters are authenticate, in fact only half are considered genuine. This shows a high level of out right fraud in earlier Christianity.
The letters on which modern scholars are about evenly divided are: 
An anonymous text that nearly all modern scholars agree was probably not written by Paul  is:
The author of First Timothy has been traditionally identified as the Apostle Paul . He is named as the author of the letter in the text (1:1). In modern times, scholars have become divided over the issue of authenticity, with many suggesting that First Timothy , along with Second Timothy and Titus , are not original to Paul, but rather an unknown Christian writing some time in the late-first-to-mid-2nd century
I t doesn't matter if every "scholar" on the planet believes the Gospels were written after Paul's letter, they have absolutely no evidence to back up their claim.
Which letter are we talking about ? Some of Pauls so called letters are thought not to be his, and from a much later period.
When people make a claim that goes against logic and common sense, they need to present evidence to proove why there theory is right and the most likey scenario is wrong. The fact that Paul quotes Jesus and alludes to many of his teachings and the fact that there was 10s many even 100s of thousands of believers in Christ by the time Paul started writing his letters is more than sufficient proof for me to conclude that prior to Paul writing his letter there were documents containing Jesus' words and details about his life. If you have any real evidence to suggest that the Gospels were written after Paul's letters other than "the 'scholars' told me so", I would be more than happy to hear them.
Where did Paul quote Jesus in any of his letters ?
What proof do you have there were thousands of hundreds of thousands of xians ? Most archeologists cannot find the churches that 100,000s would have necessitated.
Are we to also belive there were 100,000 xians by the time of Paul, 10-30 years after Christ died and none of them thoiught about writing a gospel ?
Surely they werent all illiterate!
Decree of Theodosius, destruction of the Serapeum in 391
Paganism was made illegal by an edict of the Emperor Theodosius I in 391. The holdings of the Great Library (both at the Mouseion and at the Serapeum) were on the precincts of pagan temples. While this had previously lent them a measure of protection, in the days of the Christian Roman Empire, whatever protection this had previously afforded them had ceased.  The temples of Alexandria were closed by Patriarch Theophilus of Alexandria in AD 391. 
Socrates of Constantinople provides the following account of the destruction of the temples in Alexandria, in the fifth book of his Historia Ecclesiastica, written around 440:
At the solicitation of Theophilus, Bishop of Alexandria, the emperor issued an order at this time for the demolition of the heathen temples in that city; commanding also that it should be put in execution under the direction of Theophilus. Seizing this opportunity, Theophilus exerted himself to the utmost to expose the pagan mysteries to contempt. And to begin with, he caused the Mithreum to be cleaned out, and exhibited to public view the tokens of its bloody mysteries. Then he destroyed the Serapeum, and the bloody rites of the Mithreum he publicly caricatured; the Serapeum also he showed full of extravagant superstitions, and he had the phalli of Priapus carried through the midst of the forum. ... Thus this disturbance having been terminated, the governor of Alexandria, and the commander-in-chief of the troops in Egypt, assisted Theophilus in demolishing the heathen temples. — Socrates; Roberts, Alexander; Donaldson, James (1885), "Socrates: Book V: Chapter 16", in Philip Schaff et al., Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, II, II Thats right those honest xians burnt the greatest library in history as part of an effort to hide the true history of xianity. If you do your research you will see the same thing occured of many other religious writings particularly if they challenged the image and legacy of the church.
Most modern scholars conclude that the apostle John wrote none of these works  although others, notably J.A.T. Robinson , F. F. Bruce , and Leon Morris , hold the apostle to be behind at least some, in particular the gospel.           There may have been a single author for the gospel and the three epistles.  Some scholars conclude the author of the epistles was different from that of the gospel, although all four works probably originated from the same community.  The gospel and epistles traditionally and plausibly came from Ephesus , c. 90-110, although some scholars argue for an origin in Syria.  In the case of Revelation, many modern scholars agree that it was written by a separate author, John of Patmos , c. 95 with some parts possibly dating to Nero 's reign in the early 60s.  
Do a little independent research and you will realise that the WT and other Bible believers are plain lying about the cohecision and connection to the apostles. The NT is full of frauds and fakes. Dont assume there was only John who wrote a book about religion.
Paul quoting sayings of Jesus is only "proof" of literary dependence on our gospels if these were the only possible sources of these sayings potentially available to Paul. But it should be plainly obvious that before the gospels were written down, whenever that occurred, there would have already been a body of material shared orally by the apostles and disciples in their preaching. The preaching described in Acts is entirely oral; there is no use of written gospels mentioned. Peter would have simply related his experiences and reminisceses of Jesus' teaching. The earliest comment about the writing of the gospels, written by Papias in the early second century AD, explicitly states that the gospel of Mark consists of what John Mark remembered after the fact about what Peter had taught orally:
"Mark having become the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately whatsoever he remembered. It was not, however, in exact order that he related the sayings or deeds of Christ. For he neither heard the Lord nor accompanied Him. But afterwards, as I said, he accompanied Peter, who accommodated his instructions to the necessities [of his hearers], but with no intention of giving a regular narrative of the Lord's sayings. Wherefore Mark made no mistake in thus writing some things as he remembered them".
And even Papias himself placed greater value on oral tradition than the written gospels:
"If, then, any one who had attended on the elders came, I asked minutely after their sayings,--what Andrew or Peter said, or what was said by Philip, or by Thomas, or by James, or by John, or by Matthew, or by any other of the Lord's disciples: which things Aristion and the presbyter John, the disciples of the Lord, say. For I imagined that what was to be got from books was not so profitable to me as what came from the living and abiding voice".
It could also be added that Irenaeus and the Anti-Marcionite Prologues both state that Mark wrote his gospel after Peter's death (hence, after the time Paul wrote his letters). Matthew in its present form is later than Mark since it copies about 90% of it (it is essentially an expanded version of Mark); this doesn't rule out the possibility that the extra material came from an earlier written source (such as the "sayings" written by the apostle Matthew mentioned by Papias, or the Q of two-source synopticists). Luke is dependent on earlier gospels because the author acknowledges the existence of earlier accounts in its preface; there are good reasons for thinking that he knew Matthew.
As for 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, Paul does not say he was quoting a gospel but was passing on something he "received from the Lord". The similarity between this passage and the Last Supper institution passage in the synoptic gospels is very striking; the wording is particularly close with Luke 22. That could potentially mean that Paul was dependent on Luke. But this does not explain why Luke departs from Mark in just the places where Paul copies Luke. And as we know from the preface, Luke was itself dependent on both earlier written sources ("many have undertaken to compile an account of the things", "I have investigated everything from the beginning") and oral materials ("the things accomplished among us were handed down to us by those who were from the beginning eyewitnesses"), Paul may have instead been dependent on the same (liturgical) source that the author of Luke was. Moreover the deviation from Mark in Luke 22:17 which is absent in Paul is stylistically similar to v. 19 (also a deviation from Mark), which is paralleled in Paul. Or the author of Luke may have used Paul, specifically 1 Corinthians, as a source. This makes sense too because the author of Luke-Acts took a special interest in Paul and there are other parallels between Luke-Acts and 1 Corinthians. Or the Lukan text was originally closer to Mark and then was secondarily assimilated to the wording in 1 Corinthians. The Western Text of the Lukan passage is shorter (omitting v. 20 and part of v. 19), so it is possible that the parallels are due at least in part to textual modification.
Citing a verse here and there won’t really prove much- that way lies madness. The question should be; why are there four Gospels? Because if there was only one, it could easily be lost among the letters written by the New Testament writers who didn’t need a real Jesus to hang their theology on. They had a mystic Christ in mind- one that they would have had to invent after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E, and the end of the dream of a Messiah who would make Judah & Israel an independent nation again. So maybe there was no Jesus- or maybe there was- what does it matter?
So maybe there was no Jesus- or maybe there was- what does it matter?
The way I see it, (as an agnostic and practically faithless), any better understanding of how and why religious beliefs and myths develop can give us insight into the human psyche. Hopefully we can use that knowledge, not simply to destroy religious institutions, (although I wouldn't be upset to see a certain Brooklyn based group disappear), but to address the fears, hopes etc of most people in the here and now in a way that fits with our current world. Maybe there'd be a little more peace in this world. Then there's just the part of me that's obsessed with "origins".
I heartily agree with your post. Sadly, there is something in JW culture that can't grasp nuance and alternative possibilities. Some people retain this behavior even after leaving. I see myself doing it. My whole church focus is proving that they are wrong. I want to focus on what is helpful to me. Jesus must not care about intellectual purity but good spirituality and treating people with kindess in the present.
I see no more proof for Jesus than the Buddha or Krishna. My church attendance is b/c I am a Western person.
Paul's only "claim" to have met JC was when JC "appeared" to him and screwed up Paul's eyes. Paul never met JC. Sure he knew of the movement and was very against it....held the coats of Jew's who stoned Stephen to death. Paul was very legalistic and hijacked the JC thread. If you look closely at his crap and JC words they are very opposed. Paul wrecked a good thing and because of his Jewish education and his forcefullness he overshadowed the remaining apostles (unlettered and ordinary).
PS Paul was an asshole.
Paul quoting sayings of Jesus is only "proof" of literary dependence on our gospels if these were the only possible sources of these sayings potentially available to Paul.
While your observation is very true, Paul fails to quote in his writings any event, person or location of Jesus ministry. If we record all the details that Paul gives, the only thing we learn is that Jesus is our savior and died for our sins. It really doesnt matter if Paul knew the gospels that are available to us today. Given Paul supposedly travelled to Jerusalem only years after jesus ministry there, he should have at the very least run into a few eye witnesses and repeated their stories to impress his readers. However he never attempts this in any way.
Most of your other quotations are many centuries old and at best can be considered traditions.
The similarity between this passage and the Last Supper institution passage in the synoptic gospels is very striking; the wording is particularly close with Luke 22 .
Many religious traditions in the ancient world had a last supper tradition. Even the Jews themselves had something similar in the passover. In the passover we have a saviour lamb and a cross or tau during easter in Exodus 12. The lamb of the passover saved the jews from the angel that passed over and killed the first born of the land of egypt. The followers of Mithra etc also have similar stories.
How do we really know Paul was not talking about another celebration such as the Mithra one ?
Im not sure why you start your commentary on the gospels i cant quite see the relation to understanding Paul. The book of Acts is broken, it tells us contradictory facts about many things on Paul, such as the story of his trip to Damacus and his revelation with Jesus.