IS 1 CORINTHIANS 15:3-7 AN EARLY CHRISTIAN CREED TESTIFYING TO THE TRUTH OF THE RESURRECTION? Another Example of the Failure of Evangelical Scholarship

IS 1 CORINTHIANS 15:3-7 AN EARLY CHRISTIAN CREED TESTIFYING TO THE TRUTH OF THE RESURRECTION? Another Example of the Failure of Evangelical Scholarship

© 2020, by John Tors. All Rights Reserved.

For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve.  After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep.  After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. (1 Corinthians 15:3-7)

παρέδωκα γὰρ ὑμῖν ἐν πρώτοις καὶ παρέλαβον ὅτι Χριστὸς ἀπέθανεν ὑπὲρ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ἡμῶν κατὰ τὰς γραφάς καὶ ὅτι ἐτάφη καὶ ὅτι ἐγήγερται τῇ τρίτῃ ἡμέρᾳ κατὰ τὰς γραφάς καὶ ὅτι ὤφθη Κηφᾷ εἶτα τοῖς δώδεκα · ἔπειτα ὤφθη ἐπάνω πεντακοσίοις ἀδελφοῖς ἐφάπαξ ἐξ ὧν οἱ πλείους μένουσιν ἕως ἄρτι τινὲς δὲ καὶ ἐκοιμήθησαν · ἔπειτα ὤφθη Ἰακώβῳ εἶτα τοῖς ἀποστόλοις πᾶσιν ·

Introduction

Evangelical scholars think they have found a shiny new toy for their apologetics arsenal.  It is actually not all that new, going back at least to the early 1960s[1], but it seems to have grown in popularity to the point that it is now all but unquestioned.  This shiny new toy is the claim that the text of 1 Corinthians 15:3-7[2] is a pre-Pauline creed that testifies to the historical truth of the resurrection of Jesus at a very early date.  If the claim is correct, this would indeed be powerful evidence for Christianity, and so we need to assess it.  That is what we will do.

The Claim

If 1 Corinthians 15:3-7 is indeed a very early creed, it would constitute such strong evidence for the resurrection that arguing about the publication dates of the Gospel books would seem to become unimportant, as we would have proof for the resurrection that predates the Gospel books.  Indeed, evangelical scholars glibly accept the late dating of the Gospel books, putting their publication after most of Paul’s letters, while proffering this shiny new toy.  Craig Blomberg, for example, puts it this way:

The gospels were written after almost all the letters of Paul, whose writing ministry probably began in the late 40s.  Most of his major letters appeared during the 50s.  To find the earliest information, one goes to Paul’s epistles and then asks, “Are there signs that even earlier sources were used in writing them?” … We find that Paul incorporated some creeds, confessions of faith, or hymns from the earliest Christian church.  They go way back to the dawning of the church soon after the resurrection … Perhaps the most important creed in terms of the historical Jesus is 1 Corinthians 15[3]

Where did Paul receive this creed?  Blomberg continues:

If the Crucifixion was as early as A.D. 30, Paul’s conversion was about 32.  Immediately Paul was ushered into Damascus, where he met with a Christian named Ananias and some other disciples.  His first meeting with the apostles in Jerusalem would have been about A.D. 35At some point along there, Paul was given this creed, which had already been formulated and was being used in the early church.[4]

This view seems to have been accepted uncritically by evangelical scholars:

  • “Many scholars believe Paul received this creed from Peter and James while visiting with them in Jerusalem three years after his conversion.” (Mike Licona)[5]

  • “[William Lane] Craig agreed with Blomberg that the creed undoubtedly goes back to within a few years of Jesus’ crucifixion, having been given to Paul, after his conversion, in Damascus or in his subsequent visit to Jerusalem, when he met with the apostles James and Peter.”[6]

  • “I would concur with the scholars who believe Paul received this material three years after his conversion, when he took a trip to Jerusalem and met with Peter and James.” (Gary Habermas)[7]

Furthermore, it is not only evangelical scholars who accept this, we are told

This is an assessment that is shared by a wide range of scholars from across a broad theological spectrum.[8]

Professor Justin Bass asserts that “This creedal tradition, according to virtually all scholars, dates to within five years of Jesus’ death[9], and Kirk R. MacGregor avows that

virtually all critical scholars agree that Paul received the tradition no later than five years after the crucifixion, with a majority holding that the material was passed on to him when he visited Jerusalem three years after his conversion.”[10]

Prima facie, then, it sounds wonderful; and we should certainly welcome such early testimony to the truth of the resurrection of Jesus.  However, we cannot accept the claims at face value.  Serious apologists should be careful to do due diligence, checking the evidentiary basis for such claims before accepting them and promulgating them.  Let us proceed to do that.

Assessing the Evidence

If we assume for the sake of argument that 1 Corinthians 15:3-7 is indeed a creed, we must ask what is its date of origination.  We have seen that the scholarly consensus places it within three to five years after Jesus’ crucifixion, but what we have not seen is evidence to support that claim.  “Scholarly consensus” is not evidence; we must see the basis on which this scholarly consensus stands,[11] and such evidence is conspicuously absent.  What we hear are naught but the bald assertion that Paul received this creed from the apostles when he visited Jerusalem three years after his conversion, but not a shred of proof that this was what happened.

The closest we find to evidence is an indirect inference.  Habermas puts it this way:

I would concur with the scholars who believe Paul received this material three years after his conversion, when he took a trip to Jerusalem and met with Peter and James.  Paul describes that trip in Galatians 1:18-19, where he uses a very interesting Greek word – historeo … This word indicates that he didn’t just casually shoot the breeze when he met with them.  It shows this was an investigative inquiry.  Paul was playing the role of an examiner, someone who was carefully checking this out.  So the fact that Paul personally confirmed matters with two eyewitnesses who are specifically mentioned in the creed – Peter and James – gives this extra weight. (Gary Habermas)[12]

Yet Paul’s description of the visit in Galatians 1:18-19 gives no hint that it was meant to be an investigative journey, let alone that Paul was “playing the role of an examiner.”  This is all that is said:

Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and remained with him fifteen days.  But I saw none of the other apostles except James, the Lord’s brother.

There is nothing there about any investigation.

And as far as that “interesting” Greek word goes, ἱστορέω (historeō) does not imply what Habermas claims. It means “visit (for the purpose of coming to know someone or someth.)”[13] and since the object of the word is “Peter,” the passage means “to make the acquaintance of [Peter].”[14]  It is difficult to see how Habermas could make such an egregious error.

So even if 1 Corinthians 15:3-7 were a creed, all efforts to link it with Paul’s early visit to Jerusalem remain without substance.  All we could say factually is that he received it some time before he wrote 1 Corinthians, ca. AD 54.  If the wording in 15:1 (“Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand”) can be taken to mean that Paul used this creed when preaching to the people of Corinth, it would mean that he received it before AD 51 – and there is no way to be more precise than that.  And, in view of the fact that Matthew, Mark, and Luke had already published their Gospel accounts by that time, we would do well to return to the Gospel books as our evidence for the resurrection of Jesus.

Now, is claim that 1 Corinthians 15:3-7 is a pre-Pauline creed sustainable?  Despite the alleged scholarly consensus, we must look at the evidence, and in this matter, the scholars do offer evidence.  In sum:[15]

  • “Paul introduces it with the words received and delivered … which are technical rabbinic terms indicating he’s passing along holy tradition.”

  • “The text’s parallelism and stylized content.”

  • “The original text uses Cephas for Peter, which is his Aramaic name. In fact, the Aramaic itself could indicate a very early origin.”

  • “Primitive phrases that Paul would not customarily use, like ‘The Twelve’, ‘the third day’, ‘he was raised,’ and others.”

  • “The use of certain words is similar to Aramaic and Mishnaic Hebrew means of narration.”

While this list may seem impressive at first glance, upon closer examination it crumbles to an extent that is truly embarrassing to those who actually accepted it.  Let us examine them one by one.

1)“The original text uses Cephas for Peter, which is his Aramaic name. In fact, the Aramaic itself could indicate a very early origin.”

 Really?  Paul mentions Peter a total of ten times in his epistles, divided between 1 Corinthians and Galatians, as shown:

REFERENCE NAME USED
1 Corinthians 1:12 Cephas
1 Corinthians 3:22 Cephas
1 Corinthians 9:5 Cephas
1 Corinthians 15:5 Cephas
Galatians 1:18 Peter (Nestle-Aland has Cephas)
Galatians 2:7 Peter
Galatians 2:8 Peter
Galatians 2:9 Cephas
Galatians 2:11 Peter (Nestle-Aland has Cephas)
Galatians 2:14 Peter

How interesting; Paul mentions Peter four times in 1 Corinthians, and every time he uses the name “Cephas.”  Should we then think that every passage is part of a creed?  Consider 1 Corinthians 1:11-12:

For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you.  Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.”

This is clearly referring to a contemporary situation and so cannot be part of a creed, yet the “text uses Cephas for Peter, which is his Aramaic name.”  The same thing obtains for 1 Corinthians 3:22 and 1 Corinthians 9:5 (“Do we have no right to take along a believing wife, as do also the other apostles, the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas?”).  Now, if the use of “Cephas” does not indicate a creed in these three passages, then neither can it do so in 1 Corinthians 15:5.  Rather, since, Paul uses “Cephas” and only “Cephas” throughout the epistle, it seems obvious that that is the name by which the Corinthians knew Peter, and that is why Paul used it.  Nor does “Cephas” appear in any passage in Galatians that could remotely be considered to be a creed.  Thus, this line of evidence for 1 Corinthians 15:3-7 being a creed is an obvious non-starter.

2) “Primitive phrases that Paul would not customarily use, like ‘The Twelve’, ‘the third day’, ‘he was raised,’ and others.”

It is surprising that scholars would raise such a claim, for they know that every author uses some words and expressions only once in his writings, so that all of them have phrases they “would not customarily use.”  This is so well known that it seems strange the argument would even be advanced, and when it is combined with the claim that these are “primitive” phrases, the warning bells should surely be going off, first, because there does not seem to be any objective way to classify a phrase as “primitive,” and second, because the “primitive phrases” adduced are by no means “primitive”!

  • “The Twelve” is found in Matthew 26:14,20,47; Mark 4:10, 6:7, 9:35, 10:32, 11:11, 14:10,17,20,43; Luke 8:1, 9:12, 18:31, 22:3,47; John 6:67,70,71, 20:24; in Acts 6:2.  None of these constitute part of a creed; they are used by people writing narratives into the AD 60s, so they cannot be considered “primitive.
  • “The third day” is found in Matthew 16:21, 17:23, 20:19, 27:64; Mark 9:31, 10:34; Luke 9:22, 18:33, 24:7,21,46; John 2:1; and Acts 10:40.  Here, too, none of these constitute part of a creed; they are used by people writing narratives into the AD 60s, so they cannot be considered “primitive.
  • “He was raised” – “raised” in the third-person singular is found more than fifty times in the New Testament.  The particular tense/voice/mood in 1 Corinthians 15:4 is also found in 15:12, which is not part of the supposed creed.  At any rate, the tense/voice/mood of the Greek word is irrelevant inasmuch as the creed is supposed to have been in Aramaic.

So none of these “primitive phrases” are at all primitive.  As to the claim that Paul did not “customarily” use these, it is nonsense.  As we have pointed out, every New Testament writer uses expressions that he does not “customarily” use, so attempting to draw any conclusions about authorship from a sample of text a mere fifty-two words in length is absurd (a sample of at least 10,000 words in length is needed).[16]  Clearly, then, this line of argument is also a non-starter, and one wonders why it was even raised.

3) “The use of certain words is similar to Aramaic and Mishnaic Hebrew means of narration.”

Other than the use of “Cephas,” with which we have already dealt, what are these “certain words” that are used in a way similar to Aramaic and Mishnaic Hebrew?  Pinchas Lapide offers the following:[17]

  • “The threefold ‘and that’ characterizes the Aramaic and Mishnaic Hebrew way of narration

  • The ‘divine passive’ of ‘being raised’ paraphrases God’s action of salvation in order not to mention God, in accordance with the Jewish fear of the name.

  • The double reference ‘in accordance with the scriptures’ supports twice in three lines both the death and resurrection – as it probably corresponds with the faithfulness of the early church to the Hebrew Bible.”

Yet none of these actually supports the claim that 1 Corinthians 15:3-7 is a creed.  No evidence is adduced, for example, that “the threefold ‘and that’ characterizes the Aramaic and Mishnaic Hebrew way of narration.”  Certainly, we do not find such a characteristic in the Old Testament.  There is only one such construction in the entire OT[18], along with five “and that” couplets[19], only one of which is from the thousand years of writing between the close of the Pentateuch and the close of the last book of the OT.  Furthermore, they are all used for purpose and intention; none of them is a list of facts, as in 1 Corinthians 15:3-7.

Regarding the so-called “‘divine passive’ of ‘being raised’,” Paul uses it five times in his Epistle to Romans[20], so it can hardly be considered an indication of a non-Pauline insertion.  In fact, Jesus uses it three times in the Gospel of Matthew alone[21]; should we think He had a “fear of the name”?

Finally, the claim that “the double reference ‘in accordance with the scriptures’ … probably corresponds with the faithfulness of the early church to the Hebrew Bible” is problematic.  First, the entire New Testament is faithful to the Hebrew Bible, as evidenced by the copious OT quotes and proclamations of their fulfillment show.  Second, at least one of the points described as “according to the Scriptures” is not in the Hebrew Bible at all[22], so the statement cannot be with reference to “faithfulness … to the Hebrew Bible.”  The appeal, then, to “the use of certain words is similar to Aramaic and Mishnaic Hebrew means of narration” is vain in the attempt to justify viewing 1 Corinthians 15:3-7 as an early church creed.

4) “The text’s parallelism and stylized content.”

This is the only passage in Paul’s letters where he enumerates the first elements of the Gospel, doing so because he wants his readers to remember them.  Not surprisingly, then, he puts these elements in the form of “bullet points”; how else should he do this?  If the resulting text is somewhat stylized[23], it is because of the format Paul used.  There is no a priori reason to think that a creed composer could use that format but Paul could not.  Therefore, there is no argument here for seeing the passage as a pre-Pauline creed.

Now, having disposed of these bootless also-ran arguments, let us turn our attention to the linchpin argument, the sine qua non for the claim that 1 Corinthians 15:3-7 is a pre-Pauline creed:

5) “Paul introduces it with the words received and delivered … which are technical rabbinic terms indicating he’s passing along holy tradition.”

It is difficult to imagine that the claim that 1 Corinthians 15:3-7 is an early pre-Pauline creed would ever have been made without this argument.  It is always first in the list of supposed evidences that this passage is a creed; for example:

  • First, Paul introduces it with the worlds received and delivered [or passed on in the NIV], which are technical rabbinic terms indicating he’s passing along holy tradition.” (Gary Habermas)[24]

  • “Paul uses technical language to indicate that he was passing along this oral tradition in relatively fixed form.” (Craig Blomberg)[25]

  • “First, Paul uses the words ‘delivered’ and ‘received’, which are technical rabbinic terms indicating that he is passing along a holy tradition.” (Daniel Anderson on the Creation Ministries International website)[26]

What exactly are these “technical rabbinic terms”?  “Delivered” is παραδίδωμι (paradidōmi) and “received” is παραλαμβάνω (paralambanō).  Richard Bauckham gives a detailed defence of the claim that Paul’s use of these words indicate that he is passing on a pre-Pauline creed:

The evidence is found in Paul’s use of the technical terms for handing on a tradition (ρaradidō, 1 Cor 11:2, 23, corresponding to Hebrew māsar) and receiving a tradition (ρaralambanō, 1 Cor 15:1, 3; Gal 1:9; Col 2:6; 1 Thess 2:13; 4:1,2 Thess 3:6, corresponding to Hebrew qibbēl).2  These Greek words were used for formal transmission of tradition in the Hellenistic schools and so would have been familiar in this sense to Paul’s Gentile readers. They also appeared in Jewish Greek usage (Josephus, Ant. 13.297; C. Αρ. 1.60; Mark 7:4, 13; Acts 6:14), corresponding to what we find in Hebrew in later rabbinic literature (e.g., m. ‘Avot 1.1). Paul also speaks of faithfully retaining or observing a tradition (katechō, 1 Cor 11:2; 15:2; krateō, 2 Thess 2:15, which is used of Jewish tradition in Mark 7:3, 4, 8, corresponding to the Hebrew āḥaz) and uses, of course, the term “tradition” itself (paradosis, 1 Cor 11:2; 2 Thess 2:15; 3:6, used of Jewish tradition in Matt 15:2; Mark 7:5; Gal 1:14; Josephus, Ant. 13.297). 2 For this terminology, see M. S. Jaffee, Torah in the Mouth: Writing and Oral Tradition in Palestinian Judaism 200 BCE-400 CE (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001) 73-75, 80.[27]

At first glance, this may seem impressive, but it really is not.  First, these are nottechnical terms” indicating the passing on of “holy tradition.”  In fact, BDAG lists some twelve separate definitions for the word παραδίδωμι and some six different definitions for παραλαμβάνω.  These are common Greek words that by no means necessarily mean passing on and receiving “holy tradition.

Bauckham gives us only seventeen examples, more than half (eight) of which refer to Jewish tradition, and in seven of those it is spoken of negatively, so it is hardly an indication that Paul would use it positively.  Once the reference is to receiving Christ, so it is irrelevant here.  Of the other eight, five are clearly used in a way that precludes the idea of Paul passing on a tradition from others; such a thing is possible, but no means certain, in only three of the references.  Yet παραδίδωμι appears more than one hundred times in the New Testament and παραλαμβάνω appears about fifty times.  It should be obvious that, inasmuch as these wrongly alleged “technical terms” may (or may not) refer to passing on earlier material handed down from earlier teachers only three times out of more than one hundred and fifty usages, appealing to them to prove that 1 Corinthians 15:3-7 is a creed is beyond absurd.

In sum, then, all of the supposed evidences that prove that 1 Corinthians 15:3-7 is an early, pre-Pauline creed fail to do so.  Taken together, they are completely vacuous.  One wonders whether any of the evangelical scholars who uncritically claim that it is a creed and even list these lines of evidence have bothered to examine them with any sort of critical thought.  The smart money says they have done nothing of the kind.

Yet they continue to make the claim; despite the complete lack of actual evidence, evangelical scholars blithely tell us based on the use of παραδίδωμι and παραλαμβάνω that 1 Corinthians 15:3-7 is an early church creed that Paul received about three years after the crucifixion of Jesus from Peter and James in Jerusalem and then passed on to the Corinthian church.  And, they tell us, most liberal scholars agree.  That should have been their first warning.  But they were asleep at the switch – again.  Let us go on to the real problem.

The Trap Is Sprung

As we have seen, evangelical scholars crow that even liberal scholars accept the claim that 1 Corinthians 15:3-7 is a pre-Pauline creed Paul received from others within five years of Jesus’ death.  They say that it is accepted by “a wide range of scholars from across a broad theological spectrum,[28]virtually all scholars,[29] and “virtually all critical scholars.[30]

Is this true?  Evangelicals cite well known liberal scholars Gerd Lüdemann, Robert Funk, and Michael Goulder,[31] as well as Ulrich Wilckens, Joachim Jeremias, and Thomas Sheehan.[32]  Yet this does not mean that these scholars think that such an early creed proves the historicity of the resurrection; by no means do they think so.  Lüdemann and Goulder, for example, believe that the post-resurrection appearances were mere hallucinations.[33]

Regardless of whether we think such alternative explanations are viable[34], the fact remains that merely accepting that 1 Corinthians 15:3-7 is an early creed does not constrain liberal scholars to admit that Jesus rose from the dead, so they lose nothing by accepting the claim.  Indeed, it should be obvious to evangelicals that liberal scholars would not accept any claim that required them to admit the truth of the resurrection.  So why accept it at all?

Here is what our evangelical scholars tell us:

MIKE LICONA: “Many scholars believe Paul received this creed from Peter and James while visiting with them in Jerusalem three years after his conversion.”[35]

WILLIAM LANE CRAIG: “Craig agreed with Blomberg that the creed undoubtedly goes back to within a few years of Jesus’ crucifixion, having been given to Paul, after his conversion, in Damascus or in his subsequent visit to Jerusalem, when he met with the apostles James and Peter.”[36]

GARY HABERMAS: “I would concur with the scholars who believe Paul received this material three years after his conversion, when he took a trip to Jerusalem and met with Peter and James.”[37]

SHAUN DOYLE (CREATION MINISTRIES INTERNATIONAL): “We have a church tradition for the resurrection that dates to about three years after Jesus’ death: 1 Corinthians 15:3–8. It testifies of multiple appearances of Jesus to individuals and groups in a variety of settings. Paul wrote it about 25 years after Jesus’ death, and said of it: “I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received”. He must have received this message from he apostles he equates his message with in verse 11. And he first met these apostles about 3 years after his conversion (Galatians 1:19–20), which was about 3 or so years after Jesus’ death.”[38]

So there we have it, unanimous agreement among evangelical scholars that Paul received this creed from the apostles, most notably Peter and James.  But perhaps we should see what Paul himself says, as no one is better positioned to know where Paul received the contents of 1 Corinthians 15:3-7.  And he does, in fact, tell us.

How does he describe the contents of 1 Corinthians 15:3-7?  He prefaces it thus:

Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:1-2)

So Paul calls it “the gospel,” and qualifies it as the gospel “which I preached to you” (τὸ εὐαγγέλιον ὃ εὐηγγελισάμην ὑμῖν ).  This is identical in substance to “the gospel which was preached by me”  (τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τὸ εὐαγγελισθὲν ὑπ᾽ ἐμοῦ) in Galatians 1:11.  What does Paul say about it here?

But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man.  For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ. (Galatians 1:11-12)

Incredible!  Paul himself explicitly tells us that he did not receive “the gospel which I preached to you” from men nor was he taught it.  So why are evangelical scholars falling all over themselves to tell us that Paul did receive it from men and was taught it?  They are clearly contradicting what Scripture says, and creating a contradiction where there is none.  What possible justification can there be for this?

Did they somehow not notice what Paul said in Galatians 1:11-12?  If so, that is inexcusable.  Or did they just ignore it?  Sadly, it seems the latter is more likely.  We have already seen how evangelical scholars went from “treating the Bible like any other book to show that it is not like any other book” to “treating the Bible like any other book” to “treating the Bible like any other book because it is like any other book.”[39]  Any sort of meaningful definition of inerrancy has been abandoned[40], and evangelical scholars seem to have no objection to viewing the Bible as having errors of fact embedded in the original text.[41]

So, while lip service is given by evangelical scholars to “inspiration” and “inerrancy,” these play no role in the study of the origins and nature of the books of the Bible.  Appealing to passages such as John 14:26, 2 Timothy 3:16-17, and 2 Peter 1:20-21 is just so gauche; it is simply not done if one wants to be seen as respectable by the academic world.

It is perhaps not surprising, then, that evangelical scholars are willing to contradict the words of Scripture itself.  Again:

Mike Licona: Paul received this creed from Peter and James.

Paul: I did not receive this from man, nor was I taught it.  I got it by revelation of Jesus.

William Lane Craig: This creed was given to Paul when he met with the apostles James and Peter.

The word of God through Paul: I did not receive this from man, nor was I taught it.  I got it by revelation of Jesus.

Gary Habermas: Paul received this material when he met with Peter and James.

God-breathed Scripture: Paul did not receive this from man, nor was he taught it.

Shaun Doyle: “He must have received this message from the apostles he equates his message with in verse 11.”

The Bible: Paul did not receive this from man, nor was he taught it.

One wonders indeed how professing evangelicals can so glibly contradict the plain word of God.

Now, some do try to explain this away.  Ryan Turner, writing for Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry (CARM), argues that

In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul received a creed (formulaic statement of belief) and passed it on to the Corinthians. This creed was probably composed shortly after Jesus’ crucifixion by various Christians. Many scholars argue that Paul likely received this creed from the Jerusalem apostles … First, while Paul is passing on a particular formulaic statement of belief in 1 Corinthians 15, the source of that statement of belief is Jesus Christ. Jesus was the ultimate giver and authenticator of the creed. Likewise, Jesus is the ultimate source of Paul’s knowledge of the Gospel as in Galatians 1. Therefore, there is no contradiction between the two passages.[42]

This is not even a good attempt.  The question is not about the “ultimate source” of the alleged creed; it is about the fact that Paul states categorically that he did not receive this from men while Turner facilely says that he did.  The contradiction remains – but only if 1 Corinthians 15:3-7 is a creed.

Simon Kistemaker in his commentary offers the following:

The gospel that Paul received from Jesus and the apostles appears to be formulated here as a primitive creed used in the confession of faith of the early Christians.[43]

Kistemaker seems to want to have his cake and eat it, too, claiming that Paul got the creed from both Jesus and the apostles, but this remains a contradiction to Paul’s statement that he did not receive it from men.

Carson, Moo, and Morris try this:

What Paul seems to be asserting is that elements of his gospel teaching, such as the truth of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection (1 Cor. 15:3-5), were handed down to him by other people.

Some have found a contradiction in these claims of Paul, but a resolution is not hard to find.  We need to distinguish between essence and form.  The essence of the gospel, that Jesus of Nazareth was truly the Son of God, was revealed to Paul in one life-changing moment on the Damascus road … The form of the gospel, however, including the historical undergirding of the gospel events, certain phraseology used to express the new truth, and doubtless many other things, were passed on to Paul by those before him.[44]

Whom do they think they are kidding?  This is not a “resolution [that] is not hard to find”; it is a bluff that goes nowhere.  Paul, as we have seen, identifies the content of 1 Corinthians 15:3-7 as “the gospel he preached,” which is the very thing that he tells us in Galatians 1:11-12 he received through the revelation of Jesus and did not receive from men.  There is no hint of a bifurcation of “the gospel he preached” into essence and form nor that what Paul said in Galatians 1:11-12 applies only to “essence” and not “form.”  This gambit, therefore, can only be described as intellectually dishonest.

It is no surprise, though, that the authors are driven to this desperate gambit, since they have been fooled into believing that what “Paul seems to be asserting is that elements of his gospel teaching, such as the truth of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection (1 Cor. 15:3-5), were handed down to him by other people”; had they done their due diligence, they would have discovered that Paul explicitly denies that these “were handed down to him by other people, and they would not have thus embarrassed themselves.  They, too, appeal to the use of “passed on” (παραδίδωμι) and “received” (παραλαμβάνω) as “language that the rabbis used to describe their transmission of traditions,[45] but, as we have already shown, it is nonsense.

And, finally, if these people in their desperation claim that when these two words are used together, it must refer to traditions handed down by men to be transmitted to other men and cannot refer to material handed down by Jesus via revelation, let us point out that there is only one other place in the New Testament where these two words are used together, and that is in 1 Corinthians 11:23:

For I received (παραλαμβάνω) from the Lord that which I also delivered (παραδίδωμι) to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread;

From whom did Paul receive what he passed on to the Corinthians?  From men?  No, from the Lord.  So does the use of παραλαμβάνω and παραδίδωμι together mean that the former must refer to receiving material from human teachers?  We can see with our own eyes that that is most assuredly not so.  Case closed.

Conclusions

And now we see the full results of the trap set here by liberal scholars.  By agreeing that 1 Corinthians 15:3-7 is an early, pre-Pauline creed, the liberal scholars lost nothing; they are not compelled thereby to admit that Jesus rose from the dead.  What they got in exchange for this is not only that evangelical scholars have ceased defending the early dates of the Gospel books, which are our actual historical evidence, but they have gotten our evangelical scholars to say – not to put too fine a point on it – that the Bible contradicts itself on the source of Paul’s Gospel, and that Paul is either mistaken or lying about where he got it.  Bogus attempts to reconcile the two claims are seen as just that, bogus.  So the trustworthiness of the Bible takes another serious body blow.  Once again, liberal scholars have played the evangelical scholars like a master angler playing a group of dimwitted trout.

In sum, in this Faustian bargain, evangelical scholars put the dates of the Gospel books (the real evidence for Jesus and His resurrection) on the shelf and cast the Bible as untrustworthy.  As always, they are showing up with knives to a gunfight.  With “apologists” like these, who needs skeptics?  The liberal scholars can sit back and enjoy the spectacle of evangelical scholars leading the way in undermining the reliability of the Bible.

What explains this abandonment of inerrancy and betrayal of the Bible by evangelicals?  Is it due to confusing supposed knowledge with understanding?  Is it a lack of critical thinking?  Or is it a lust for respectability in the eyes of the mainstream academic community?  Whatever the reason, it seems clear that evangelical scholars, like old-Earth creationists, have chosen for themselves an epistemological master other than the word of God.  Just as old-Earth creationists set the proclamations of atheistic scientists over the words of Scripture[46], so to do evangelical scholars set the shiny toy of so-called academic scholarship over the words of Scripture.  It is inevitable, then, – and not surprising – that they have come to “despise” the Bible, that is, to treat it with contempt in deed, even if they do not do so in word.  Those who want to be part of the faithful church had better think long and hard about how much uncritical credence they should be giving to the pontifications of evangelical scholars.


Endnotes

[1] Neufeld, Vernon H. The Earliest Christian Creeds. (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1963) p. 47

[2] The earlier proponents include only 1 Corinthians 15:3-5 (cf. ibid.)

[3] From an interview with Lee Strobel, in Strobel, Lee. The Case for Christ. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1998, pp. 34-35 (Bolding added)

[4] ibid, p. 35 (Bolding added)

[5] From an interview with Mike Licona, in Strobel, Lee. The Case for the Real Jesus. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2007, p. 115

[6] Strobel, The Case for Christ, op.cit., p. 280

[7] Gary Habermas, from an interview with Lee Strobel, in Strobel, Lee. The Case for Christ. op.cit., p. 230

[8] ibid.

[9] Bass, Justin. “What Skeptical Scholars Admit about the Resurrection Appearances of Jesus.” Christianity Today.  Post on April 13, 2020.  At https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/april-web-only/justin-bass-bedrock-christianity-resurrection-appearances.html.

[10] MacGregor, Kirk R. “1 Corinthians 15:3b–6a, 7 and the Bodily Resurrection of Jesus.” JETS 49(2), 2008, p. 226

[11] Apropos to this, see my opening statement in my debate with Muslim apologist Dr. Shabir Ally, posted at https://truthinmydays.com/a-christian-muslim-debate-live-stream/ and on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tG8xlzVMQuc.

[12] Gary Habermas, from an interview with Lee Strobel, in Strobel, Lee. The Case for Christ. op.cit., p. 230

[13] Bauer, Walter, William F. Arndt, F. Wilbur Gingrich, and Frederick W. Danker. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. 3nd ed. (BDAG) Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000, p. 483

[14] ibid.

[15] From Habermas in The Case for Christ, op.cit., p. 229

[16] For a detailed discussion of this, see Tors, John. “Examining the Claim that the Words and Expressions of John 7:53-8:11 are More Lukan Than Johannine.”  Posted at https://truthinmydays.com/examining-the-claim-that-the-words-and-expressions-of-john-753-811-are-more-lukan-than-johannine/.

[17] Lapide, Pinchas. The Resurrection of Jesus. Translated by Wilhelm C. Linns. Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1983, p. 98

[18] Numbers 15:39-40

[19] Deuteronomy 6:2, 6:3, 26:17, 26:19, and Isaiah 58:6-7.

[20] Romans 4:24, 25; 6:4, 9 and 7:4

[21] Matthew 16:21, 17:23, 26:32

[22] While Isaiah 53 speaks of the death and burial of the Messiah, nowhere in the OT is it foretold that He would rise again on the third day.  To see where it does come from, see Tors, John. “According to What Scriptures? Examining Paul’s References in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4.  Posted at “https://truthinmydays.com/according-to-what-scriptures-examining-pauls-references-in-1-corinthians-153-4/.

[23] There is nothing here that could properly be called parallelism, certainly not the sort we see in Hebrew poetry in the Old Testament.

[24] Habermas in The Case for Christ, op.cit., p. 229

[25] Blomberg in ibid., p. 35

[26] Anderson, Daniel. “Easter’s earliest creed.”  Posted on April 8, 2007.  At https://creation.com/easters-earliest-creed.

[27] Bauckham, Richard. Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2017, pp. 264-265

[28] Habermas in The Case for Christ, op.cit, p. 230

[29] Bass, op.cit.

[30] MacGregor, op.cit.

[31] Anonymous, “Does the ‘1 Corinthians 15 creed’ date to about AD 30?”  Posted at https://beliefmap.org/bible/1-corinthians/15-creed/date.

[32] Anderson, op.cit.  Former evangelical turned liberal scholar Bart Ehrman, on the other hand, asserts that “Most scholars doubt the early creed was written within 3-6 years of Jesus’ death”, though the only basis he cites for this claim is that “among scholars I personally know, except for evangelicals, I don’t now anyone who thinks this at all.” (“Bart Ehrman: Most Scholars Doubt the Early Creed Was Written Within 3-6 Years of Jesus’ Death.”  Posted at https://lutherwasnotbornagaincom.wordpress.com/2019/12/19/bart-ehrman-most-scholars-doubt-the-early-creed-was-written-within-3-6-years-of-jesus-death/.)

[33] Chia, Dr. Roland, “Resurrection or Hallucination?”  Posted at https://ethosinstitute.sg/resurrection-or-hallucination/.

[34] Regarding hallucinations as an explanation, see Tors, John. “Do Apparitions of Mary Undermine the Case for Jesus’ Resurrection? Debunking Hector Avalos’ ‘Living Laboratory’.”  Posted at https://truthinmydays.com/do-apparitions-of-mary-undermine-the-case-for-jesus-resurrection/.

[35] In The Case for Christ, op.cit., p. 115

[36] ibid., p. 280 (Bolding added)

[37] ibid., p. 230 (Bolding added)

[38] Doyle, Shaun. “Philosophical arguments for God,” posted at https://creation.com/arguments-for-god. (Bolding added)

[39] See Tors, John. “The Three-Headed Monster and the Evangelical Betrayal of the Bible: Exposing the Major Weapons Levied Against the Trustworthiness of the Bible.“  Posted at https://truthinmydays.com/the-three-headed-monster-and-the-evangelical-betrayal-of-the-bible-exposing-the-major-weapons-levied-against-the-trustworthiness-of-the-bible/

[40] See, for example, Tors John. “The Assault On Inerrancy and What is at Stake: A Final Word to Nick Peters.”  Posted at https://truthinmydays.com/the-assault-on-inerrancy-and-what-is-at-stake-a-final-word-to-nick-peters/

[41] See, for example, Mike Licona’s book Why are There Differences in the Gospels? What We can Learn from Ancient Biography. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017), in which Licona explains that the differences are due to the authors of the Gospel books making mistakes, forgetting things, and including pure fiction.

[42] Turner, Ryan. “Did Paul receive the Gospel from man or not?” Posted at https://carm.org/gospel-from-man-or-not

[43] Kistemaker, Simon J. New Testament Commentary: Exposition of the First Epistle to the Corinthians. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1993, p. 528.  (Bolding and underlining added)

[44] Carson, D.A., Douglas J. Moo, and Leon Morris.  An Introduction to the New Testament.  Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1992, p. 220

[45] ibid.

[46] See Tors, John. “Choosing Your Epistemological Master: What Hugh Ross’ Latest Attack on Young-Earth Creationism Reveals about Old-Earth Creationists.” Posted at https://truthinmydays.com/choosing-your-epistemological-master-what-hugh-ross-latest-attack-on-young-earth-creationism-reveals-about-old-earth-creationists/#Introduction

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