The Resurrection of Jesus Christ – 1 Corinthians 15:1-11

We will only briefly look at some of the historic-cultural aspects in these verses (i.e., vv. 5-11) and will go into a bit more detail concerning the “Roman Imperial Eschatology” in vv. 12-34. Of interest in the given passage (and ch. 15 in general) is the remark that “Greco-Roman paganism did not place much stress on a blessed afterlife” because religion practiced was “for its present benefits, such as health and safety” (Ben Witherington, Conflict And Community In Corinth: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary On 1 And 2 Corinthians [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995], 293). Along with such understanding cremation was a common practice.
Another observation by Witherington is the absence of women in the account of vv. 5-8 where witnesses are named and counted. The reason for such might have been “due to the general attitude to testimony from women throughout the Mediterranean, including among Jews in Palestine” (300). 
In vv. 1-2 Paul tells the Corinthian believers about the critical importance of the gospel. This is the gospel Paul proclaimed in Corinth, which they received, on which they stand, and by which they are being saved. In these brief verses we see both divine sovereignty and human responsibility (see especially v.2b; chart from David E. Garland,  1 Corinthians. BECNT [Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003], 682):
The Announcement of God’s Act in Christ
The Believers’ Response
the gospel I preached
which you received (past)
in which you stand (present)
through which you are saved (present/future)
with what word I preached
if you hold fast
unless you believed to no avail
Paul then reminds them of the apostolic tradition of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus (vv. 3-7). All these things (except the burial which might indicate the definiteness of Jesus’ death) happened “according to the Scriptures.” There was and is Jewish expectation that in the last days (i.e., the Messianic kingdom) dead bones will return to life (Isa 40; 52-53; Jer 31; Ezek 36-37; Dan 9; Psalm 10; 22; 41; 42; 68); but Paul might just generally talk about OT fulfillment.
Paul’s record or usage of a creedal form narrates the appearance of Jesus to Cephas (Peter) and the twelve. Despite some scholarly debate of a Petrine and Pauline Christianity, the words here show Paul’s appreciation of Simon as Peter (“the rock”). In vv. 6-7 he then cites further witnesses (500 in total “most of whom are still alive”) as some kind of proof of the resurrection (eye-witnesses).
In v. 8 Paul starts to talk about his own encounter with the risen Christ. “Still born” (ektrōma) is the phrase Paul is using for himself. This might refer to the fact that Paul’s life until the encounter with Jesus was dead (“before Christ I was still birth [i.e., dead]”). In the following verses (9-10) Paul writes about the consequences of this encounter. He then finished this paragraph in noting that there is agreement between the gospel proclaimed by Paul with that of the other apostles.

What can we learn from this passage; especially in this season of the church calendar? We need to be careful in our proclamation of the gospel that it is in tune with the apostolic teaching of the New Testament! Further care should be taken to nurture and firming the faith of the believer – the gospel is not a one-night stand but good news everyday and all days!

The Christian life and the acceptance of the gospel is not solely an one-time event, but a process by which we live and stand (we need to hold fast to the apostolic teaching). Tradition is valuable if it furthers our understanding of Christ and the church. It is by God’s grace that we are called to be co-workers of His and we should give all effort and strength to our God given call!  

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