1 Corinthians 15 versus the Gospels

The gospels say that a miracle healing man called Jesus Christ lived. They say he died by crucifixion and three days later he rose again. The tomb he was placed in was found wide open with the stone that had been across the entrance moved back and the tomb was mysteriously empty. His body was gone. Certain witnesses claimed that Jesus appeared to them as a resurrected being.
The first writer about the resurrection was St Paul. His writings have full apostolic authority for Christians. They are considered to be co-authored by God and therefore without error.


Paul wrote in his First Letter to the Corinthians that nobody can say Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit and nobody can say Jesus is accursed without the Holy Spirit.  To many this is saying that both sayings are inspired by a spiritual being - one by God and the other by an evil spirit.  The text is used to argue that all non-Christians are demon-possessed but it is better to say it might mean they are influenced by demons.  The Jews at the time may have cursed Jesus.  Some think the curse refers to the Gnostic Heresy which says that if Jesus had a body he was cursed for the body was evil.  Gnosticism was rife in Corinth.  The First Letter of John also says that whoever says Jesus didn't come in the flesh is antichrist. I prefer the view that Paul is not thinking of any group.  He is just saying what the opposite of saying Jesus is Lord is.  That interpretation is less pointed and more natural.

Paul devoted 1 Corinthians 15 to showing that Jesus really rose from the dead to refute the Christian heretics who were saying that resurrections don’t happen.
Paul tells us about those who saw the risen Jesus but he does not tell us how he knows they were right. So he is as reliable as the town gossip. He was unable to say anything like that Jesus was a good honest man and there were people who could vouch for that so God could have raised him from the dead and it wasn’t a trick. He was unable to say that Jesus would have been too decent to fake his death or resurrection. He was unable to say that Jesus did miracles when he was alive and that there are witnesses to these miracles therefore Jesus had the power to rise from the dead. Paul dished out the best arguments for the resurrection he had and they were terrible meaning that there is no doubt that Paul and the apostles were dependent on visions of Jesus to find out stuff about him. None of them knew Jesus before his death.
Paul wrote that the dead are lost forever if Jesus never rose from the dead - which is an illogical argument. It is like saying, “My wife will come back to me because I don’t want to be old and alone”. What you want or need isn’t going to make any difference. It is trying to blackmail his hearers to believe. You only use fear as a weapon in this way when you suspect your visions are hallucinations or when you are lying. The apostles in Jerusalem must have been as bad as him. They all pulled together when it came to defending the alleged resurrection.
What makes the argument worse is the fact that the saviour could have been unknown or there could have been another way to save or perhaps God accepts the sincere who think they are saved.  
At the start of the chapter, Paul’s detailing about the times that Jesus was seen after the resurrection is only a recap of what he had already told the people of Corinth. It is not an attempt to counter the heretics of Corinth who denied the resurrection because it is no good repeating a testimony to people who deny that testimony and indicate thereby that they should agree with it and Paul knew that. So his illogical arguments were his real reply to them. Notice how the arguments attempt to make them feel that it is a terrible thing if Jesus is still dead and the apostles are liars and that nothing worse can be imagined.
Paul says faith in the Lord Jesus is stupid and worthless if he has not returned from the dead. That implies that sincerity alone does not please God. It reminds us of how James 1:26-27 says that religion is in vain if you are a gossip. He says you incorrectly think you are religious. Thus a man-made religion or a religion based on a lie deserves no devotion. James and Paul will not stand for the argument that if religion is false it is useful enough and that is what matters.
Paul wants us to think that for he wants to bring us to the conviction that non-believers will be lost forever. He hopes we will find that so unbearable that we will delude ourselves that Jesus rose in order to avoid dealing with that hideous doctrine. That is emotional manipulation and emotional blackmail. He’s trying to scare them into believing and make them feel guilty and feel despair if they do not. This is a sure sign that neither Paul or the apostles were honest for when Paul the busiest evangelist and therefore the one who had to be on top as regards theology and evidence had to resort to such low and primitive tactics what else could they do either? Being the earliest and therefore the most authentic attempt to verify the resurrection the credulity and dishonesty it is riddled with, shows that the witnesses to the resurrection were anything but believable and there is no way the alleged resurrection appearances can be indications that Jesus was a real person or really rose. The visions of unreliable men are themselves unreliable.
Paul said that Jesus must have risen for Paul himself and the apostles could not be liars and would not misrepresent God – a sure indication that he thought they were lying and he should have known for he was one of them. If a salesman came to your door telling you that an amulet would solve all your problems for he says so you would see through him for saying that. And the honest give the best evidence they can to support their statements and don’t want you to just take their word for it.
Then he said that if Jesus is dead then we are still in our sins - another illogical argument for nobody can prove that God has forgiven them when millions think they are forgiven and are not according to the Christian gospel.
Amusingly, he even went as far as to indicate that the resurrection must have happened for it is too much to think of poor Jesus being dead! I mean if Jesus being dead means our dead are lost and this is terrible then it means Jesus is lost too! Paul was desperate to silence the heretical Christians of Corinth who denied the resurrection which was such a serious rejection of the Pauline gospel. The way Paul handles his predicament gives us a vital insight into what he really knew about Jesus and what the generation that spawned the gospel knew.
Liars like the apostles and Paul cannot be trusted when they say that Jesus lived. If you would lie about Jesus living after his death then why not lie about Jesus living as an ordinary man as well?
Paul argued that if the dead will not rise then Christ could not have been raised (v 16). This is obviously wrong for God could have a reason to raise Jesus physically without needing or intending to raise the whole human race. Or God could give Jesus the right to be raised and not raise him but raise people instead. Paul here denies the doctrine that God has mysterious ways which is a foundation stone of Christianity. Paul knew fine well he was talking nonsense but was trying to take his readers for fools for then as now you get loads of Christians who say they think Jesus rose from the dead but who do not expect anybody else to rise from the dead.
The actual act of resurrection shouldn’t affect our salvation. What should matter is the right of Jesus to be raised. Even the act of resurrection cannot save us unless Jesus first had the right from God to be raised. If Jesus had the right to be raised but wasn’t that should be enough to save us. It takes care of the legalities. The contract was that Jesus pay for our sins in our place and deserve the right to be raised from the dead so that we could deserve to be raised too through his grace. Jesus was meant to take the right and give it to us so that we could be raised. Paul would exaggeratedly stress the act of resurrection only if resurrection appearances were the only way to know of Jesus.
Reason says that if Jesus saved us by his death we do not need his resurrection to save us but Paul says we do and that is a mystery. Why did he not say that Jesus himself said that his own resurrection would be a foreshadowing of ours? Because contrary to the gospels Jesus never said that. He does not argue that Jesus did miracles when alive so it would be natural and possible for him to come back from the dead which would have been a big boost to his arguments if it had been true. His Jesus was no wonder-worker. He does not use the argument that Jesus’ body disappeared and appeared risen though it was crucial to his argument against the heretics suggesting that they all believed that Jesus lived long long ago when nobody could remember what happened to the body or that the body was not used or only a few cells used in the creation of the new body with its spiritual powers. When a man needs to argue that Jesus is risen for it is too terrible to think of him being dead and not use the vanishing body if that is what happened to Jesus’ body then it tells us a great deal.
In verse 30 he argues that Jesus rose from the dead because he and his friends continually risk their lives for spreading the good news of the resurrection. This was very dishonest for Paul knew many people who risked their lives for lies or for what they suspected was fraud. Ad hominum arguments like this are worthless and are based on a fallacy. Scripture is not without error. It shows he couldn’t focus on less dubious evidence for Jesus for there was none.
Paul wrote that Christ was the first fruit of the dead in that he rose from the dead before everybody else would and that this was the proper order. Christians see that in the gospels it is said that Jesus raised people from the dead long before he rose. They say that these resurrections were only reviving dead bodies while Jesus' was just rising in a transformed supernatural state. For that reason he can be described as the first to rise in that way. But Paul simply speaks of rising and is not distinguishing between different types of resurrection. He meant that Jesus rose as the first fruits before anybody else did. He rose before the resurrection miracles reported in the Old Testament. You will never be able to tell if anything is a contradiction or not if you start pretending that words mean different things from what they appear to mean. Paul believed that if anybody said Jesus did resurrection miracles before Jesus rose then the miracles were a hoax or a lie and that Jesus didn't do them at all. The anonymous gospels then challenge the writings of an apostle! They challenge the only eyewitness who wrote in the New Testament. They have other resurrections to contend against the truth about Jesus'.
The blunders in this most important chapter of the New Testament show that Paul’s testimony about Christ was not protected against error by the power of God and to depend on it is not to depend on God but on a man we know little about. Yet it is the first attempt to prove the sanity of belief in the resurrection of Jesus and shows how the apostles dealt with apologetics which was terribly. The gospels never try to prove the resurrection but just give their interpretation of supposed events which is no good when one needs concrete and reinforced evidence for such an outrageous claim. It is blasphemous to depend on what Paul said for the word of God has to be sure. When the Church was able to trick people into believing in a resurrection that never happened there is no reason why Jesus could not have been a lie himself too. He was probably made up for the resurrection was made up and it was as important as him – no it was more important for he was nothing without it. Remember, if Jesus died and did not rise then the Jesus that supposedly appeared to the apostles was made up for Jesus doesn’t exist anymore. So when they could do that and get away with it why could the pre-crucifixion life of Jesus not be a myth as well?
For Paul belief in the resurrection in general was more important than specific belief in the resurrection of Jesus. He believes Jesus rose primarily because he believes the dead can rise and will.  Paul's treatment of the case for the resurrection of Jesus shows he was on thin ice theologically and historically. There are alleged miracles outside of Christianity that have better evidence than that.


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