Girish Mahajan (Editor)

1 Corinthians 15

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Bible part  New Testament
Category  Pauline epistles
Order in the Bible part  7
1 Corinthians 15

Book  First Epistle to the Corinthians

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). 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 creedal statement.

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. The creed has been deemed to be historically reliable and is claimed to preserve a unique and verifiable testimony of the time.

In dissent to the majority view, 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)

Moreover, even skeptical scholars agree that the creed in 1 Corinthians 15 is not an interpolation but was a creed formulated and taught at a very early date after Jesus' death. Gerd Lüdemann, a skeptic scholar, maintains that "the elements in the tradition are to be dated to the first two years after the crucifixion of Jesus... not later than three years..." Michael Goulder, another skeptic scholar, states that it "goes back at least to what Paul was taught when he was converted, a couple of years after the crucifixion".

Verse 5

And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:

Verse 9

For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.

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. Through those verses, Paul is stressing the importance of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and its relevance to the core of Christianity. Paul rebukes the Corinth Church by saying if Jesus did not resurrect after the crucifixion, then there is no point in the Christianity faith (1 Cor 15:12-19 ESV).

Verse 17

And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.

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).

Verse 26

The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.

Verse 29

In verse 29 Paul notes that at Corinth there existed a practice whereby a living person would be baptized instead of some convert that had recently died. Mormons interpret this passage to support their practice of Baptism for the dead. 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. This interpretation is flatly rejected by all other denominations of Christianity.

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?

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

The chapter concludes with an account of the nature of the resurrection. At the Last Judgement the dead will be raised and both the living and the dead transformed into "spiritual bodies" (44):

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.

Catechism of the Catholic Church

FATHER, . . . this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 1 God our Savior desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 2 There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved 3 than the name of JESUS.

Early Christian creed

Verses 3–5 (plus possible additional verses) may be one of the earliest creeds about Jesus' death and resurrection. The antiquity of the creed has been noted by most biblical scholars, probably originating from the Jerusalem apostolic community.

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve,...


1 Corinthians 15 Wikipedia