“So did Paul get it wrong?” After reading I Corinthians 15, you might be asking the question, “If Avraham (Abraham), the promise to the fathers, and even the hope of the promise that the nation and people of Israel “work to attain” is such an important part of “the gospel,” then why doesn’t Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) mention any of them in I Corinthians 15?” This is a good question considering that most Christians have traditionally based their definition of what constitutes “the gospel” on I Corinthians 15:1-4,
Now I make known to you, brothers and sisters, the Good News which I proclaimed to you. You also received it, and took your stand on it, and by it you are being saved if you hold firm to the word I proclaimed to you – unless you believed without proper consideration. For I also passed on to you first of all what I also received – that Messiah died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,…. (I Corinthians 15: 1- 4, TLV)
Here we can see that Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) outlines for us the message that he had proclaimed to the people at Corinth, and he encourages them to keep it in memory, “unless,” he says, “you believed without proper consideration.” And what is this message? It focuses on the death, burial, and resurrection of Messiah. So doesn’t this prove that the traditional Good News that has been taught and preached by Christianity is, in fact, “the Good News”? I agree that this is PART of “the Good News,” but not all of it, for before mentioning the death, burial, and resurrection of Messiah, he says, “For I also passed on to you FIRST OF ALL what I also received….” The death, burial, and resurrection of Messiah was not ALL that he received, but it was THE FIRST of what he received; therefore, this implies that there was more to what he was taught. Also, when we look further on into I Corinthians 15, we discover that this statement is part of a larger argument; in fact, Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) is using this to provide a foundation for his counter-argument against those who were arguing that there is no resurrection from the dead.
After laying out this basic introduction, he then gives a listing of those who had been witnesses of Yeshua’s (Jesus’) resurrection:
and that He appeared to Kefa, then to the Twelve. Then He appeared to over five hundred brothers and sisters at one time – most of them are still alive, though some have died. Then He appeared to Jacob, then to all the emissaries, and last of all, as to one untimely born, He also appeared to me. (I Corinthians 15: 5-8, TLV)
The purpose of the list is to provide the eye-witness verification to the resurrection. At the time of the first century, eye-witness testimony was the highest form of evidence available, so he is giving us the best form of evidence that was available at the time.
Therefore, Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) is encouraging the Corinthians to base their faith in Messiah (Christ) on the available evidence, rather than “believing in something when there’s no reason to believe in it,” which is how I’ve heard Christian students in college define “faith.” Obviously, their definition and Sha’ul Paulus‘ (Paul’s) are completely contradictory to one another.
I CORINTHIANS 15 ANALYSIS
What I found interesting about Sha’ul Paulus’ (Paul’s) list of eyewitnesses is that Miryam from Magdala (Mary Magdalene) is not on it. All four Gospels agree that she was one of the first to see Yeshua (Jesus) alive after His resurrection, and yet she is not on the list. Another one who is not on the list is Cleopas, who is named as one of the two disciples who was walking on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:18). Perhaps, Cephas was the name of the other disciple. According to Eusebius, one of the earliest church historians, he tells us something interesting about Cephas in his Book of Ecclesiastical History. Most people have heard of the Twelve, but most do not know that there was also another group of disciples, the Seventy:
After these things the Lord appointed other SEVENTY also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither He himself would come. (Luke 10:1)
Obviously, Yeshua (Jesus) could not have sent out SEVENTY, if He had not spent time teaching and training these SEVENTY. Therefore, He did not travel around with just the Twelve, but at least EIGHTY-TWO disciples. Also, consider that Yeshua (Jesus) prayed all night before selecting the Twelve, but why would He need to do that if there were only Twelve disciples; He would be selecting everyone who is there. However, if there were more than Twelve, like eighty-two disciples, than obviously, He would need to pray to know which ones from the eighty-two He should select to constitute the Twelve. But according to Clement, whom Eusebius quotes, one of the Seventy was Cephas:
Clement, in the fifth of his Hypotyposes or Institutions in which he also mentions CEPHAS, of whom Paul also said that he came to Antioch and “that he withstood him to his face” (Gal. 2:11) said that one who had the same name with Peter the apostle was one of the seventy…Moreover, if anyone observes with attention, he will find more disciples of our Savior than the seventy on the testimony of Paul, who said that “he appeared after his resurrection, first to CEPHAS, then to the twelve, and after these to five hundred brethren at once.” Of whom, he said, “some are fallen asleep” (I Cor. 15:5-6), but the great part were living at the time he wrote. (Book 1, Chapter 12, lines 2, 4)
Clement was one of the disciples who worked with Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) in the early church. Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) mentions him by name in Philippians 4,
And I entreat you also, true yokefellow, help those women which labored with me in the gospel, with CLEMENT also, and with other my fellow-laborers, whose names are in the book of life. (Philippians 4:3)
After Shi’mon Petros (Peter) and Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) are martyred, Clement becomes the bishop of Rome. And it is from his writings and history of the early church that Eusebius pulls this material about CEPHAS. It was this CEPHAS, who was also called Petros (Peter), that Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) lists as the first in his list to see the risen Savior, and that according to Clement, he was the Cephas that Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) opposed in the book of Galatians, rather than the ‘Emissary Shi’mon Petros (Peter), as is often taught by ministers and Bible teachers.
A PART OF A COUNTER-ARGUMENT?
However, when we read further on in I Corinthians 15, we discover that Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) was not just giving a full description of what constitutes “the gospel” here in these first eight verses, but he’s using this in order to lay the foundation for a counter-argument against those who were arguing against the resurrection. After providing the foundation for his position, Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) then presents the problems with the opposing argument:
Now if Messiah is proclaimed – that He has been raised from the dead – how can some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Messiah has been raised! And if Messiah has not been raised, then our proclaiming is meaningless and your faith also is meaningless. Moreover, we are found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified about God that He raised up Messiah – whom He did not raise up, if in fact the dead are not raised.
For if the dead are not raised, not even Messiah has not been raised. And if Messiah has not been raised, your faith is futile – you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Messiah have perished. If we have hoped in Messiah in this life alone, we are to be pitied more than all people. (I Corinthians 15: 12-19, TLV)
In this presentation, Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) draws the following logical conclusions to their argument:
- If there is no resurrection from the dead, then not even Messiah (aka, Christ) has been raised;
- If Messiah (aka, Christ) has not been raised, then our proclaiming about His resurrection is
meaningless, and your faith also is meaningless; and
- Moreover, we are all false witnesses.
In pointing out the logical conclusions that they would have to draw by accepting this position, Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) is demonstrating not only the fallacy of their argument, but he’s also demonstrating his own use of critical thinking. There are many people today who have been erroneously taught that critical thinking is the enemy of biblical faith, but Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) here demonstrates that the direct opposite is, in fact, the case. Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) here is using critical thinking and logic to support the gospel and to disprove the opposing position.
Therefore, Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) reasons, if there’s no resurrection from the dead, then the “whole gospel” message is nothing more than an elaborate deception and scam. But Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) doesn’t stop there. He revisits the original claim, and then takes it even further,
- If the dead are not raised, not even Messiah (aka, Christ) has been raised;
- If Messiah (aka, Christ) has not been raised, your faith is futile, and you are still in your sins;
- Then those also who have “fallen asleep” (died) in Messiah (aka, Christ) have perished; and
- Therefore, if we have hoped in Moshiach (aka, Christ) in this life alone, we are to be pitied more
than all people.
If all we have is “hope in Messiah (aka, Christ)” in this life, and that’s all there is, then according to Sha’ul Paulus (Paul), we are the “most miserable” human beings on the planet. Since, if there’s no resurrection from the dead, then we’re not forgiven of our sins, and we are still on our way to hell. And as Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) argues further on, if we are persecuted and tormented for our faith, and “the dead rise not,” then he says, we might as well “eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” (I Corinthians 15:32). And in the case of those who have already died as martyrs, if Messiah (aka, Christ) has not been raised bodily from the dead, then they have “perished” for no reason at all and are not in heaven. Clearly, for Sha’ul Paulus (Paul), the resurrection of Yeshua (Jesus) was either a true historical event, or if not, then, everything Christianity teaches is just a waste of time.
In consideration of the context of the whole chapter, then, my question is a rather simple one: If this is part of a larger argument, rather than just a discussion of what clearly constitutes “the gospel,” then is it valid to base our sole definition and understanding of “the gospel” on these four verses, while ignoring the teachings of Yeshua (Jesus), His disciples, and the rest of Sha’ul Paulus’ (Paul’s) writings, which indicate that there’s more to the story than what’s here in these four verses? In other words, there’s more to the gospel than the death and resurrection of Yeshua (Jesus).
To begin to look at this in greater detail, we need to understand what is the primary focus of “the gospel” preached by Yochanan (John) the Immerser (“Baptist”) and by Yeshua (Jesus) Himself? I want to address this question in the next chapter.