Did Paul receive the First Corinthians 15 Creed on his first trip to Jerusalem?

The Conversion of Paul

Evangelical Christian:

(Gary said): What evidence do you have that “this (the bodily resurrection of Jesus) was taught right out of the gates”? We have zero Christian writings prior to Paul’s first epistle in the 50’s. Even if Paul wrote his first epistle in 50 AD, that is 20 years after the crucifixion. So the question is, could a legend develop within 20 years in the first century? You may say that it is highly unlikely for a legend to develop in that time period, but you cannot say that it is impossible.

Reply: Seriously? You must be out of the loop to not know about this. ! Cor. 15 contains in the first few verses an early Christian creed that Paul received after his call on his first visit to Jerusalem. This contains the information that Jesus died, was buried, and rose again and appeared to many. He lists numerous groups in that account and then says he appeared to him at the end as his own addendum. Since Paul received this, it must have pre-dated him. Scholars date it to at the latest five years afterwards. Many date it even earlier. Dunn places it to a few months after the Easter event.

Also, we have the evidence of scholars like Richard Bauckham and Larry Hurtado that show the earliest Christology is the highest Christology, which means something must have happened quite huge to get Jesus immediately placed in the divine identity worshiped as YHWH. 1 Cor. 8 contains a Christianized version of the Shema. 1 Cor. 16 contains an anathema, maranatha saying going back to Aramaic which makes it an early tradition ascribing Jesus as Lord. The baptismal formula in Romans 10 is also an early Christian creed identifying Jesus as Lord which Paul shows is equated to YHWH.



Paul fleeing Damascus

(Gary said): (I realize that some fundamentalists and evangelicals believe that the Gospels were written only a few years after the crucifixion, but the overwhelming majority of scholars reject this claim. They believe that the first Gospel was written circa 65-75 AD.)

Reply: That’s nice. It’s also unnecessary. I don’t use the Gospels for any of this information. (And I thought you said you didn’t need scholars. Interesting.)

Oh. As for the supernatural stuff, yeah. I find that problematic. You see, for one, I have not been convinced laws of nature exist. In fact, in many ways, I’m skeptical, and yet this would not change science one iota if I am right. Second, if you want to follow through consistently, then unless you believe you are a determined robot of sorts with no freewill, then your own acting on the universe in any way would have to be supernatural.

The natural/supernatural dichotomy is a false one that needs to be shredded.

Gary:

“I Cor. 15 contains in the first few verses an early Christian creed that Paul received after his call on his first visit to Jerusalem. ”

How do you know that Paul received this information on his first visit to Jerusalem? It is possible that he did, but you must admit you cannot be sure that this assertion of fact. You are making an assumption.

“For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters<sup class="footnote" data-fn="#fen-NRSV-28709c" data-link="[c]”>[c] at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died.<sup class="footnote" data-fn="#fen-NRSV-28709d" data-link="[d]”>[d] Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.”

Note also what is said in this Creed:

1. There is no mention of the women. This is odd since Christians make such a big deal of the fact that in the Gospels, it was women who first discovered the empty tomb, and since women were considered poor witnesses in court in first century Palestine, this fact lends credence to the story of the women being historical. But if the Creed were written within three years of the Resurrection as you and your experts assert, it is odd that the four writers of the Gospels would consider mention of the women so very important, but yet the Creed says not one word about them. Very strange.

We and scholars can all make assumptions as to why the Creed (and Paul) fail to mention the women in the witness list in I Corinthians but bottom line, we don’t know why the women are not mentioned in the Creed. Is it possible that the apostles found the statement of women at the tomb important, but the makers of the Creed did not? Yes. But wouldn’t you agree that it is also possible that the reason why the early Creed fails to mention the women is because that part of the legend had not developed yet??

I know you don’t believe that, but you must admit you cannot dismiss it as impossible.

2.  Another oddity in the Creed is the order of the witnesses. In none of the accounts in the four Gospels or in Acts is it said that Jesus first appeared to Cephas (Peter). Christian apologists have come up with all kinds of harmonizations for this apparent discrepancy, but I find them underwhelming.

I think that Paul was simply repeating a Creed that he had received from others (we don’t know from whom or when). We have no idea if Paul confirmed it to be correct. However, think about this: If Paul had received this information from Peter, Peter would have given him a correct order of appearances. He would NOT have said that he, Peter, was the first to see Jesus, unless Peter was lying again.



The first meeting of Peter and Paul

3.  And lastly, Paul says that Jesus died, was buried, and rose again. Paul says nothing about an empty tomb. I know that many Christians will respond with, “Well how could Paul know that Jesus had risen if there were not an empty tomb?”

Here is one scenario: Jesus is crucified. His body is left on the cross for days for the birds and other carrion to pick the flesh off the bones (this was the typical custom of the Romans). Days later his body is tossed, along with the remains of any other criminals executed that week, into an unmarked, common grave. No one but a few soldiers knew the site. However, a few days, few weeks, few months, or few years later, a group of women see a man in the distance who looks like Jesus but he suddenly vanishes from sight. “He is risen!” the women report to the disciples. And before long, everyone is having visions and sighting of Jesus…and the legend begins.

You don’t believe this is what happened, but you cannot rule it out. And this scenario is much, much more statistically probable than that an ancient Hebrew god reanimated the dead human tissue of an apocalyptic Galilean peasant preacher.

“Also, we have the evidence of scholars like Richard Bauckham and Larry Hurtado that show the earliest Christology is the highest Christology, which means something must have happened quite huge to get Jesus immediately placed in the divine identity worshiped as YHWH. 1 Cor. 8 contains a Christianized version of the Shema. 1 Cor. 16 contains an anathema, maranatha saying going back to Aramaic which makes it an early tradition ascribing Jesus as Lord. The baptismal formula in Romans 10 is also an early Christian creed identifying Jesus as Lord which Paul shows is equated to YHWH.”



Even if some early Christians had a very high christology this does not in any way confirm that an ancient Hebrew god reanimated the decomposing flesh of a dead first century prophet. It only infers that early Christians BELIEVED that he had been resurrected. That’s it.

There are many possible scenarios that could explain how early Christians could have come to this conclusion, including false sightings as I mentioned above. Another possible scenario for the resurrection story is this:

Jesus really was buried in Joseph of Aramathea’s tomb, but only until the end of Passover. As soon as sun set on Saturday, Aramathea went to the tomb (in the dark), with Pilate’s permission, and removed the corpse of Jesus and reburied him in an unmarked hole in the ground in the criminal section of the local cemetery.

The women showed up the next morning to find an empty tomb, and voila! A resurrection legend is born!

Joseph of Aramathea with the body of Jesus


Again, I know you don’t believe this happened, but my point is this: You cannot prove that this is not what happened, and, this scenario is much, much more probable, statistically speaking, than the reanimation of dead human tissue. And I could give you many more possible explanations for the Resurrection story, all of them naturalistic explanations, that based on collective human experience, are much more likely to be the cause of this story than your supernatural-based belief.

“Oh. As for the supernatural stuff, yeah. I find that problematic. You see, for one, I have not been convinced laws of nature exist. In fact, in many ways, I’m skeptical, and yet this would not change science one iota if I am right. Second, if you want to follow through consistently, then unless you believe you are a determined robot of sorts with no freewill, then your own acting on the universe in any way would have to be supernatural. The natural/supernatural dichotomy is a false one that needs to be shredded.”

Our culture, western civilization, has collectively chosen to use the scientific method and reason as the basis of establishing fact in our world. Wrong or right, that is how our society operates. If you choose to determine facts outside of this paradigm, you are certainly free to do so, but you are engaging outside the norm. By doing so, you leave us (you and me) no foundational basis upon which to determine truth. If I determine reality by the scientific method and you determine reality by what your emotions and intuition tell you to be truth (faith), how can we ever arrive at a consensus? One of us must adopt the other’s world view in order for us to have an intelligent conversation.

If I adopt your worldview that there are no natural laws; that the supernatural is just as real as the natural world we see with our eyes and touch with our hands, then why should I accept YOUR supernatural claims over those of any other person or belief system?? 

So if you choose to believe in the supernatural just because you want to, who am I to tell you are wrong? However, if you tell me that your supernatural belief system is fact, and, that it can be proven as fact using the same standards of evidence used to establish the historicity of any other historical claim, then you are obligated to use the scientific method consistently and not appeal to the supernatural when you are caught in a corner with a lack of good evidence.

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One thought on “Did Paul receive the First Corinthians 15 Creed on his first trip to Jerusalem?

  1. What is this now? The 300th or 400th time you've posted this same exact stuff? I don't understand why you're so infatuated with something that did not ever happen. Get over it, get on with life as a free thinking scientifically enlightened young urban professional who relies upon reason and logic and not some fictitious idiotic supernatural mumbo-jumbo. Get with it man.

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