Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth! I want to thank everyone for their kind support first off in the passing of my grandmother. Some of you might be first time readers and hopefully regular readers who heard me speak at the funeral. We welcome your prayers and donations.
I spoke at the funeral about the resurrection for my grandmother and so I’d like to start looking at that topic here. As I begin it, it occurs to me that the first place we go to to learn about resurrection is not ourselves but rather God. God who is life in Himself can grant life to anyone he desires to, even if that person has already lost it. We also look to Jesus to see what his resurrection tells us about ours.
At the funeral, the first item of business when I spoke on this was to establish a basic defense of the resurrection. I only had a few minutes so there was an emphasis on basis. Here, I no longer have just a few minutes so I’d like to expound on some of the points that I made.
1 Corinthians 15 was the text I used. Let’s look at the first two verses.
1 Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
Note what the fact Paul wants them to keep in mind here is the gospel. This is central. If you do not hold to the gospel, then you are not saved. Your faith is in vain. It is no accident that Paul opens up the chapter on the resurrection with talking about the gospel. No resurrection means no gospel.
Now we come to a most important verse.
3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
Some of you might be thinking “There are several verses that say Christ died for our sins.” If that’s the case, you’re looking at the wrong part of the verse. I don’t deny that that is important, but for a textual critic and a NT historian, the words “What I received I passed on” are immensely valuable.
The following verses are seen to be part of an early Christian creed. While the letter of 1 Corinthians was written between 54-57 A.D., this material comes earlier. (It is amazing how many atheists I have dialogued with on this topic who when hearing that the material dates early think that seeing sources that say 1 Corinthians was written at the above date disproves my point.)
The letter is at that date as stated, but the letter contains this creedal statement that pre-dates it. The position I take on this is consistent across the board. Talk to atheists. Talk to Christians. Talk to Jews. Talk to conservatives. Talk to liberals. Scholars in the field of NT studies date this material early. The earliest I’ve seen is within five years of the “resurrection event.” (By resurrection event, I mean the event under question and at this time not stating it as a historical event but rather the time that is argued about as historical. That there was a claim of resurrection is historical certainly.) The earliest is within a few months.
How do we know? Receiving and passing on is what is used to speak of oral tradition. Greek scholars will also point to the rhythm of the text and how Paul uses terms he doesn’t normally use. Good commentaries on 1 Corinthians can explain more of these. You can also find relevant information in the works of Habermas and Licona.
Why date it early? Paul says he received it and thus, the material would pre-date him. Receiving would come from Jerusalem, the mother church, and that would mean receiving teaching from the apostles. We note the times that Paul went to Jerusalem and each time, he was checking on the gospel already. He was not receiving it.
Again, if you’re skeptical, don’t just check conservative Christians. Check others. The material is early. In ancient history, a time of five years at the most would be a blip. Most historians of ancient history would love to have accounts five years after the events.
What about content? Well we can start looking at the content tomorrow.