I wrote the article below for last Easter. I present it again because the message is for all time of course, although it has special significance at Easter, and when new scholarship becomes available which to me further illuminates the timeless message I am delighted to share it as widely as possible.
I came across an article in "Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry" LINK entitled;
"An Analysis of the Pre-Pauline Creed in 1 Corinthians 15:1-11" which considers the clear Christian creedal formula which shows itself in Paul's statement on the resurrection in 1 Corinthians. The depth of scholarship and analysis is such that it would be a disservice to pick and choose comments from the article and I happily refer the reader to it at the link above. I will point out however the, to me, key fact that if the premise of the creed statement is accepted then, as the author states, the creed itself would pre-date Paul's letter, which is very early and would date to within about 5 years of the life of Christ.
The witness it bears to the crucifixion and resurrection, and Paul's dedication to those events after spending two weeks with Peter is, as the historians say, the clearest indication of the absolute historical fact of the events in the life of Christ.
A reflection on faith and the central core of Christianity, the resurrection.
I explored what recent scholars have said on the matter-being open to views from all sides and sources. Being undeservingly blessed with the experience of Baptism in the Spirit, my faith is left untouched even by the most scholarly of attacks on the biblical record, whilst being appreciative of the depth of knowledge on display. It also blesses one with the propensity for an open mind in my opinion.
I believe that this is one of the reasons for Spirit baptism, that for those who would normally be waverers (sic) in faith it gives the gift of certainty. On the other hand it makes for a jealousy of those who have unwavering faith without such assistance!
A hugely rewarding aspect of this 'liberty of mind' is that, amongst all the various opinions, I find now and then a "light bulb going on over one's head" moment. One such for me is a new understanding of First Corinthians chapter 15.
As would probably be expected when one explores the resurrection, the natural place to look is in the Gospels. This then leads to all sorts of critiques which involve supposed interpolations, charges of the authors making up aspects to suit their audience, minority sect polemics, and various discussions on the apparent contradictions in the various Gospel accounts.
One of the criticisms most regularly seen, is the charge that they were written so long after the events they propose to detail, that they could not possibly be authored by anyone who was an eyewitness.
All of that is dealt with in utter straightforward simplicity by the Wikipedia entry below. As is commented on, the statement about Christ's resurrection was a "pre-Pauline credal statement from no later than five years after Jesus's death". Paul's epistle is dated in the mid-fifties a.d. and was written after his meetings with Peter and the other eye witnesses. I have to agree with the comment that it "meets every reasonable demand of historical reliability."
There follows in other discussion places, whether verses 1-11 are a later interpolation, whether the resurrection Paul is describing is a spiritual one, which then might come under the description of being an "internal" resurrection for all, or whether a bodily resurrection is meant. These matters, if one dismisses the interpolation concept which, in light of Paul and Peter having spent time together where all of Peter's past with Jesus and the resurrection would have been canvassed, surely is impossible, are of passing interest.
What Paul's "credal statement" shows is that, without question, within five years of Jesus's death and against all human logic, a miserable band of people who had forsaken their leader, were now willing to die for what they knew with such certainly was fact that they had made it a recitable article of faith.
He is risen indeed !
Resurrection of Jesus: 1-11
The chapter begins with a recitation of a statement of faith that Paul had himself received when he was baptised into the Christian faith. The account of the resurrection appearances of Jesus in verses 3-7 appears to be an early pre-Pauline credal statement:
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. 7 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."