1 Corinthians 15
1 Corinthians: 15 is the fifteenth chapter of the First Epistle to the Corinthians by Paul the Apostle. The first eleven verses are the earliest account of the Resurrection appearances of Jesus in the New Testament. The rest of the chapter stresses the primacy of the resurrection for Christianity. Readings from the text are given at Easter Sunday services and funerals - where mourners are assured of the "sure and certain expectation of the resurrection to a better life".
Resurrection of Jesus: 1-11
The chapter begins with the statement of the Good News, received by Paul from Jesus Christ. Paul was chosen as the only apostle of the Gentiles and conversed with the ascended Lord Jesus Christ,(Acts 9). Verses 1-4 are known as the Gospel of Grace or Paul's gospel. Paul reveals the significance of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and that if we believe this message that we are saved. Christ's death, burial, and resurrection are documented in the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The account of the resurrection appearances of Jesus in verses 3-7 appears to be an early pre-Pauline credal statement:
1 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;
2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.
3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:
5 And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:
6 After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. (King James Version)
The antiquity of the creed has been located by most biblical scholars to no more than five years after Jesus' death, probably originating from the Jerusalem apostolic community. Based on linguistic analysis, the version received by Paul seems to have included verses 3b-6a and 7. Concerning this creed, Campenhausen wrote, "This account meets all the demands of historical reliability that could possibly be made of such a text," whilst A. M. Hunter said, "The passage therefore preserves uniquely early and verifiable testimony. It meets every reasonable demand of historical reliability." Robert M. Price and Hermann Detering, writing in the Journal of Higher Criticism (edited by Price) argued that 1 Corinthians 15:3-7 was not an early Christian creed written within five years of Jesus' death. Price and Detering denied that Paul wrote the verses and believed they were an interpolation possibly dating to as far back as the beginning of the 2nd century. Price said that "The pair of words in verse 3a, "received / delivered" (paralambanein / paradidonai) is, as has often been pointed out, technical language for the handing on of rabbinical tradition". According to Price this (supposedly interpolated) text contradicts Paul's tale of conversion described in Galatians 1:13-24 which explicitly denies that Paul had been taught the gospel of Christ by any man, but rather by Jesus himself. However, many commentators have the view that Paul "received" this from Jesus. They point to 1 Cor. 11:23 as evidence of this idea. "For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread..." (1 Corinthians 11:23, (KJV) ) The Greek words for "received / delivered" are the same here as in 1 Corinthians 15:3. But against these scholars, Geza Vermes defends the majority view in The Resurrection. Vermes says that the words of Paul are "a tradition he has inherited from his seniors in the faith concerning the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus". According to Paul's Epistle to the Galatians he had previously met two of the people mentioned in these verses as witnesses of the resurrection: James the Just and Cephas/Peter:
Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days. I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord's brother. I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie. (Galatians 1:18-20)
Resurrection of the dead: 12-58
Jesus and the believers 12-19
In verses 12-19, St Paul, in response to some expressed doubts of the Corinthian congregation, whom he is addressing in the letter, adduces the fundamental importance of the resurrection as a Christian doctrine. Paul presents a catalog of witnesses of the resurrected Christ as evidence of the resurrection, citing the resurrection of Jesus as the test case.
12 Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?
13 But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen:
14 And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.
15 Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not.
16 For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised:
17 And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.
18 Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.
19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. (King James Version)
Last enemy: 20-28
In verses 20-28, Paul states that Christ will return in power and put his "enemies under his feet" (25) and even death, "the last enemy" shall be destroyed (26).
Baptism for the dead: 29
In verse 29 Paul cites the practice of Baptism for the dead as testimony for the doctrine of the resurrection. This principle of vicarious work for the dead is an important work of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the dispensation of the fulness of times. (See D&C 128.)
29 Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead? (King James Version)
Be not deceived: 33-4
Verse 33 has a quotation from classical Greek literature. According to the church historian Socrates of Constantinople it is from a Greek tragedy of Euripides, but modern scholarship, following Jerome attributes it to the comedy Thaĩs by Menander, or Menander quoting Euripides. It might not have been a direct quote by Paul: "This saying was widely known as a familiar quotation."
33 Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.
34 Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame.
Resurrection of the body: 35-58
51 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
Through the power of Christ "Death is swallowed up in victory" (54). Referencing a verse in Hosea, Paul asks: "O death where is thy sting? O grave where is thy victory?" (55), equating sin with death and the Judaic Law which have now been conquered and superseded by the victory of Christ.
- Neufeld, The Earliest Christian Confessions (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964) p. 47; Reginald Fuller, The Formation of the Resurrection Narratives (New York: Macmillan, 1971) p. 10 (ISBN 0281024758); Wolfhart Pannenberg, Jesus—God and Man translated Lewis Wilkins and Duane Pribe (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1968) p. 90 (ISBN 0664208185); Oscar Cullmann, The Early Church: Studies in Early Christian History and Theology, ed. A. J. B. Higgins (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1966) p. 64; Hans Conzelmann, 1 Corinthians, translated James W. Leitch (Philadelphia: Fortress 1975) p. 251 (ISBN 0800660056); Bultmann, Theology of the New Testament vol. 1 pp. 45, 80–82, 293; R. E. Brown, The Virginal Conception and Bodily Resurrection of Jesus (New York: Paulist Press, 1973) pp. 81, 92 (ISBN 0809117681)
- see Wolfhart Pannenberg, Jesus—God and Man translated Lewis Wilkins and Duane Pribe (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1968) p. 90 (ISBN 0664208185); Oscar Cullmann, The Early church: Studies in Early Christian History and Theology, ed. A. J. B. Higgins (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1966) p. 66–66; R. E. Brown, The Virginal Conception and Bodily Resurrection of Jesus (New York: Paulist Press, 1973) pp. 81 (ISBN 0809117681); Thomas Sheehan, First Coming: How the Kingdom of God Became Christianity (New York: Random House, 1986) pp. 110, 118 (ISBN 0394511980); Ulrich Wilckens, Resurrection translated A. M. Stewart (Edinburgh: Saint Andrew, 1977) p. 2 (ISBN 071520257X); Hans Grass, Ostergeschen und Osterberichte, Second Edition (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht, 1962) p. 96; Grass favors the origin in Damascus.
- MacGregor, Kirk R. (2006). "1 Corinthians 15:3b-6a, 7 and the Bodily Resurrection of Jesus". Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 49 (2): 225–34.
- Hans von Campenhausen, "The Events of Easter and the Empty Tomb," in Tradition and Life in the Church (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1968) p. 44
- Archibald Hunter, Works and Words of Jesus (1973) p. 100 (ISBN 0334018064)
- Price, Robert M (1995). "Apocryphal Apparitions: 1 Corinthians 15:3-11 as a Post-Pauline Interpolation". Journal of Higher Criticism 2 (2): 69–99.
- Herman Detering. The Falsified Paul. p. 3.
- Robert Jamieson; A.R. Fausset, and David Brown (1871). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible.
- Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (1871), commentary on 1 Corinthians 15:3.
- Geza Vermes (2008) The Resurrection. London, Penguin: 121-2 (ISBN 0739499696; ISBN 978-0141030050; ASIN 0141030054)
- The Ecclesiastical History of Socrates ... , London: George Bell, 1897. book III, chapter 16, verse 114, page 194. See also the introductory essay to Samson Agonistes by John Milton, Of that sort of Dramatic Poem which is call'd Tragedy.
- Commentarium ad Titum 100.1
- Hans Conzelmann (1975). 1 Corinthians: A Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians. James W. Leach (translator). Philadelphia: Fortress Press. pp. 278–279 fn 132. ISBN 0-8006-6005-6.
- E.P. Sanders (1991) Paul. Oxford University Press: 29-30 (ISBN 0192876791). For a homiletic application, see "When I Get to the End of the Way" (References).