Celebrating our Resurrection with Jesus!
Before we started this morning I felt like playing a song from Michael Card which captures the necessary tradgeties of Jesus’ betrayal and crucifixion. It is called ‘Why‘ and it is from his album, “Known by the Scars“.
If Christians had an official, biblically sanctioned holiday without question the day representing Jesus’ resurrection from the dead would be on the top. Probably followed by Pentecost and the issuing of the time of the Gentiles.
As it is though, the early church was not led to and did not see fit to establish any Christian holidays. Now that was very likely because it was God’s plan in the New Covenant for all believers to know Him from the least to the greatest. As such there was little need for symbolisms of Christ if you lived in constant communion with the very person of Jesus Himself.
In essence this was the proclamation of the Apostles who knew, walked with and were trained by Jesus Himself – the Apostles of the Lamb if you will.
John tells us in 1Jn. 1:1-3,
“(1) This is what we proclaim to you: what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and our hands have touched (concerning the word of life – (2) and the life was revealed, and we have seen and testify and announce to you the eternal life that was with the Fatherand was revealed to us). (3) What we have seen and heard we announce to you too, SO THAT you may have fellowship with us (and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ).”
So the message was Eternal Life and so was the ‘New Life’ we were to live in Christ.
It is recorded of Jesus in Jn. 17:3 that Eternal Life is to know the Father and the Son in intimacy or as John said it, to have perpetual fellowship with them.
As such, the observance of holidays which pointed to Christ would have been counter intuitive.
Besides this, the first believers were Jews and they had just come out of a lifetime of feasts and festivals, of observances and convocations pointing to Messiah so now that they actually KNEW Christ, they were probably not eager to establish a litany of new festivals ABOUT Him.
I am reminded of an example Brent Curtis offered in Chapter 11 of his collaboration with John Eldrige in the book Sacred Romance, entitled, ‘Desert Communion: Learning to Live on Heaven’s Shores’. The example was of a young couple about to be married. The young woman was speaking to her finance about looking forward to their lives together. About wanting to get to know each other more intimately, to live together to explore the intimacies of sexual union together.
To each of these coy and intimately endearing advances, her fiance replied that he had a book he would like her to read about that subject, because it would be of great help to her in their relationship.
You can imagine the disheartening effect such responses might have garnered.
What a stiff – does this guy not realize that the beauty and wonder of a relationship is found in the experience not in the academic knowledge ABOUT it?
I think that illustrates the heart of the early church as the young Bride of Christ. They would rather have spent time with Jesus personally and intimately, than in rituals ABOUT Him.
In fact, after baptism the only recognized observance of the early church was communion and even that was not regulated.
It was to be celebrated often, but not at prescribed intervals.
The early church also fasted 3 times a week, but this too was not an obligation but something nearly everyone participated in freely, which united them together and kept their lives with Jesus and the Kingdom center focus.
However, one of the things the early church almost certainly did with regularity is recite creeds. And central to these creeds was the death and resurrection of Jesus.
So, while Easter was not Celebrated annually, it coyote be argued that it WAS CELEBRATED weekly.
As, such it made sense to me to begin our Celebration of Jesus’ resurrection of and ours with one of the credos of the early church which is given us in 1 Cor. 15.
Let’s read the first 5 verses together.
“(1)Now I want to make clear for you, brothers and sisters, the gospel that I preached to you, that you received and on which you stand, (2) and by which you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message I preached to you – unless you believed in vain. (3) For I passed on to you as of first importance what I also received – that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, (4) and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the scriptures, (5) and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.”
I don’t know if you noticed it, but Paul repeats the expressions “and that…” and “according to the Scriptures…” several times here. He did so with a stanza-like structure to the passage which indicates this was a creed. It was a way to capture and remember the basic and essential truths of the gospel which the early church all held in common.
It was written down in a form of parallelism which oscillates between short and long but concise statements in order to create a type of rhythmic flow to the words making it easier to memorize and memorization was something of an art in the early world. They were a great deal more adept at it than we.
You see back then only about 10% of the population could read and less than half of those could both read and write. So life itself trained these people to be very good at remembering what they heard. This would be all the more true if it was in the form of a creed which was recited often as is the case here.
The doctrinal content of verses 3-5 are believed by both Christian and secular scholars to be written within 3 years of the resurrection – thus debunking the idea that Jesus’ resurrection was a myth or legend which developed decades later.
Paul mentions in verse 6 that Jesus was witnessed by over 500 brothers and sisters, the greatest number of which were still alive as this letter was being written.
Meaning these Corinthians could, with relative ease, find and speak to some of these people to confirm Paul’s claims. As such this credo was FAR too early for any myth to slip in.1 [See footnote]
Now I told you that this was a type of creed the early church used to recite and it was, but it was more than that – it was doctrine.
Pharisees, which Paul was one of, would teach making reference to the fact that the doctrines they were teaching were passed down through the ages, thus offering them credence.
It is significant therefore that Paul, having been trained as a pharisee, used the words “delivered” and “received” here to communicate these fundamental truths. Meaning that Paul was saying that he was delivering to these Corinthians what he himself received both directly from Christ and the apostles who walked with Him and were trained by Him.
Can you see how that makes this an oral tradition of church doctrine which is rooted in very early, eye-witness testimony?
The passage goes on to say things very relevant to the resurrection, it says…
“(6) Then He appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.
(7) Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles.
(8) Last of all, as though to one born at the wrong time, He appeared to me also. (9) For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
(10) But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace to me has not been in vain. In fact, I worked harder than all of them – yet not I, but the grace of God with me.
(11) Whether then it was I or they, this is the way we preach and this is the way you believed.
(12) Now if Christ is being preached as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead?
(13) But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. (14) And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is futile and your faith is empty.
(15) Also, we are found to be false witnesses about God, because we have testified against God that he raised Christ from the dead, when in reality he did not raise him, if indeed the dead are not raised.
(16) For if the dead are not raised, then not even Christ has been raised. (17) And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is useless; you are still in your sins.
(18) Furthermore, those who have fallen asleep in Christ have also perished.
(19) For if only in this life we have hope in Christ, we should be pitied more than anyone.
(20) But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. (21) For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead also came through a man.
(21) For just as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.”
Do you see the pivotal nature and the supreme importance the resurrection has to us?
Without it our faith is empty – meaningless – utterly useless.
Without it we would still be dead in our sins, with NO HOPE since when we die we would all perish!
So the resurrection is not only central to the gospel it is foundational!
So today as we observe the resurrection of our Lord we do so not out of some prescribed and ordained requirement, nor out of a sense of obligation, but only because in our culture – 2,000 years removed from the events these early Christians were privileged to be privy to, it helps us span the years between us. It helps us to be closer to those events which time has separated us from, but of which we are still a living and vital part.
For all who have come to Jesus have been crucified with Him. We’ve crucified the dominance of our flesh with its passions and desires.
We still have bodies, but they do not rule us – we have but one Lord and today we celebrate Him and join Him not only in His death but in the power of His resurrection!
What does the resurrection of Jesus mean to me, a 21st century believer?
Well, part of the beauty of the gospel is that it is timeless. It means the same to us as it did to those who first shared in its power.
The Good News of Life in Christ Jesus teaches us that if He died for us, then we died with Him, and more than that – if we died with Him we will rise with Him.
Now this resurrection has at least two manifestations in the New Testament.
1st There is the literal – which speaks of our physical resurrection where our mortal bodies are glorified and made eternal.
“(35) But someone will say, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” …there are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies. The glory of the heavenly body is one sort and the earthly another. (41) There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon and another glory of the stars, for star differs from star in glory.
(42) It is the same with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable.
(43) It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; (44) it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body…(49) And just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, let us also bear the image of the man of heaven.
“(53) For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. (54) Now when this perishable puts on the imperishable, and this mortal puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will happen, “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” (55) “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”
But before this physical resurrection there is a more immediate and tangible resurrection which is actually far more important. It refers to our taking on the nature, character and likeness of Christ in our hearts and actions. It is the process of maturity in Christ or into Christ’s likeness.
Paul uses it this way in his most beloved statement in Philippians 3:10-12,
“(10) My aim is to know Him, to experience the power of His resurrection, to share in His sufferings, and to be like Him in His death, (11) and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.”
Now get this…
“(12) Not that I have already attained this – that is, I have not already been perfected – but I strive to lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus also laid hold of me”.
Now the resurrection is mentioned as pertaining to us as much as to Christ throughout the New Testament.
Colossians 2 & 3 talk about us being “buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, Who raised Him from the dead.” So, “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.”
2 Corinthians says, “knowing that He Who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus, and will present us together with you.”
And to the Ephesians, Paul writes in chapters 1 & 2,
“(17) I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, will give you spiritual wisdom and revelation in your growing knowledge of Him,”
Sound familiar? – that word is epignosis!
“(18) – since the eyes of your heart have been enlightened – so that you can know what is the hope of His calling, what is the wealth of His glorious inheritance in the saints, (19) and what is the incomparable greatness of His power toward us who believe, as displayed in the exercise of His immense strength. (20) This power He exercised in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms.
2:4-10“(4) But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, (5) even though we were dead in offenses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you are saved! – (6) and He raised us up together with Him and seated us together with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, (7) to demonstrate in the coming ages the surpassing wealth of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
(8) For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; (9) it is not from works, so that no one can boast. (10) For we are His creative work, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand so we can do them.”
The importance of Jesus’ resurrection and it’s immediate tie to us is found to be ROOTED in the New Birth itself. Consider how Paul, by the Spirit connects our acknowledgement of Jesus’ physical, bodily resurrection to our conversion in salvation in Romans 10:8-13,
“(8) But what does law say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we preach), (9) that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
(10) For with the heart one believes and thus has righteousness and with the mouth one confesses and thus has salvation.
(11) For the scripture says, “Everyone who believes in Him will not be put to shame.” (12) For there is no distinction between the Jew and the Greek, for the same Lord is Lord of all, Who richly blesses all who call on Him. (13) For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
But again, what does the resurrection itself mean to us?
Well Paul tells the Romans that while our sin itself was dealt with on the cross, our justification still hung in the balance because our justification comes through Jesus’ physical and literal resurrection from the dead.
So turn with me to Rom. 4:18-25 and we will read this account of our need for justification being specifically tethered to Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, then we will deal with what that means by working through the definition of the word Justification which is only used 2 times in the entire New Testament.
“(18) Against hope Abraham believed in hope with the result that he became the father of many nations according to the pronouncement, “so will your descendants be.”
(19) Without being weak in faith, he considered his own body as dead (because he was about one hundred years old) and the deadness of Sarah’s womb.
(20) He did not waver in unbelief about the promise of God but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God.
(21) He was fully convinced that what God promised He was also able to do.”
And that is part of the gospel which you have to be involved in. You have to actively place your trust in God Who began this good work in you, to complete it. Actively believe in Him, that He is able and currently working in you to honor His promise to bring about our complete conformity to Christ Jesus our Lord!
The resurrection where we receive our new bodies is simply the END or culmination of a lifetime spent in the pursuit of becoming like Christ and that pursuit is accomplished by God by faith.
“(22) So indeed it was credited to Abraham as righteousness. (23) But the statement it was credited to him was not written only for Abraham’s sake, (24) but also for our sake, to whom it will be credited, those who believe in the One Who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.
(25) He was given over because of our transgressions and was raised for the sake of our justification.”
This doctrine of justification by resurrection is SO vital that I am going to quote from Spiros Zodhiates‘ on this word here in Romans 4.
Most simply put, the word justification means – When a person who IS right or just is declared as such.
It can be likened to a court case, where a person who was tried for a crime they did not commit is pronounced innocent.
Only in the case of salvation, the righteousness which belonged to Jesus’ is attributed to us by faith. So we literally receive His righteousness and once that is received, the court of heaven, the judge… I deour Father, slams the gavel and declares us innocent – or right or just.
We have been justified or thoroughly acquitted of all accusations.
Now this is incredibly important because as you can remember… how many times as we’ve been going through the Bible does God’s arbitration over man begin and end with declarations he makes from his throne. “Thus saith the LORD” carries infinite and final POWER!
This is what Spiros says,
“The resurrection of Jesus Christ must not be thought of simply as evidence of His death. The stress here is that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is necessary to justification, not merely because of the difference it makes to us as certifying the atoning efficacy of His death and thus evoking our faith in Him, but also because of the difference it makes for Christ Himself.
It marks the point at which His sovereign power as Lord is made effective. 1
Our justification, the basis of which has been laid in the death, becomes an accomplished fact and effective reality only through Christ’s rising again.2
By faith we are united to a living Christ Whose death was essential for our redemption. That which redeems is not Christ’s atoning death apart from His living person into whose union we are brought by faith.3
We cannot separate the pro-pit-ia-tory work of Christ from Christ Himself. 4
We are saved, not by believing the fact that Christ died for our sins, but by union with the crucified and risen, exalted Savior. 5
Only through union with a living Savior Who has in Him the virtue of His atoning death does justification, forgiveness, and all the blessings of redemption become ours:
As Ephesians 1:7 and Colossians 1:14 say, “In Whom we have redemption through His blood”. We are accepted “in the Beloved” (Eph. 1:6). “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1).
Justification is ours as we are “in Christ” in such living union with Him that His life becomes identified with ours and ours with His. Because of this identification or incorporation, Christ’s acts are repeated in us so that in His death we die to sin, “crucified with Christ” (Gal. 2:20), and in His life we live to righteousness.”
All of this should sound amazingly familiar since we have been talking about union with Jesus and believing INTO Him, being baptized INTO Him, and existing by faith in a state of grace through intimate union with Him. And that such grace in which we stand, grows as we pursue knowing Him more and more.
It is THESE timeless truths which make our faith a relationship most intimate!
Consider how the NewTestament enumerates all we just read about justification in these passages…
1 – Jesus Himself says in John 10:17-18,“(17)This is why the Father loves Me – because I lay down My life, so that I may take it back again. (18) No one takes it away from Me, but I lay it down of My Own free will. I have the authority to lay it down, and I have the authority to take it back again. This commandment I received from My Father.”
2 – Romans 4:25, “He was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.”
3 – Romans 6:5, “For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be united together in the likeness of His resurrection,”
4 – 1Jn. 2:2, “And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.”
5 – 1Cor. 6:17, “But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.”
See side-by-side comparison – HERE.
“(1) So you, my child, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. (2) And what you heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful people who will be competent to teach others as well.
(3) Take your share of suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.
(4) No one in military service gets entangled in matters of everyday life; otherwise he will not please the One Who recruited him.
(5) Also, if anyone competes as an athlete, he will not be crowned as the winner unless he competes according to the rules.
(6) The farmer who works hard ought to have the first share of the crops.
(7) Think about what I am saying and the Lord will give you understanding of all this.
(8) Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David; such is my gospel, (9) for which I suffer hardship to the point of imprisonment as a criminal, but God’s message is not imprisoned!
(10) So I endure all things for the sake of those chosen by God, that they too may obtain salvation in Christ Jesus and its eternal glory.
(11) This saying is trustworthy:
If we died with Him, we will also live with Him.
(12) If we endure, we will also reign with Him.
If we deny Him, He will also deny us.
(13) If we are unfaithful, He remains faithful, since He cannot deny Himself.
(14) Remind people of these things and solemnly charge them before the Lord not to wrangle over words. This is of no benefit; it just brings ruin on those who listen.
(15) Make every effort to present yourself before God as a proven worker who does not need to be ashamed, teaching the message of truth accurately.
(16) But avoid profane chatter, because those occupied with it will stray further and further into ungodliness, (17) and their message will spread its infection like gangrene.
Hymenaeus and Philetus are in this group. (18) They have strayed from the truth by saying that the resurrection has already occurred, and they are undermining some people’s faith.
(19) However, God’s solid foundation remains standing, bearing this seal:
“The Lord knows those who are His,”
“Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord MUST turn away from evil.”
(20) Now in a wealthy home there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also ones made of wood and of clay, and some are for honorable use, but others for ignoble use.
(21) So if someone cleanses himself of such behavior, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart, useful for the Master, prepared for every good work.
(22) But keep away from youthful passions, and pursue righteousness, faithfulness, love, and peace, in company with others who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
(23) But reject foolish and ignorant controversies, because you know they breed infighting. (24) And the Lord’s slave must not engage in heated disputes but be kind toward all, an apt teacher, patient, (25) correcting opponents with gentleness.
Perhaps God will grant them repentance and then knowledge of the truth (26) and they will come to their senses and escape the devil’s trap where they are held captive to do his will.”
Such is our participation in the cross of Christ. We die with Him – not only initially as a past and settled reality, but as Paul said, “I affirm, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. ”. – 1Cor. 15:31.
Not only do we die, but we rise! And we rise not just in the end, at the resurrection of our bodies, but daily as we behold Him and are changed into the glory of the image we see! As Paul also said, “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” – 2Cor. 3:18
So in closing today, let’s worship the Lord by uniting together with Him in both His death AND His resurrection through communion.
Paul tells us that,
“(27) Whoever, in an unworthy manner, eats the bread or drinks from the cup of the Lord sins against the body and blood of the Lord.
(28) But let a man examine himself, and, having done that, then let him eat the bread and drink from the cup.
(29) For any one who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself, if he fails to estimate the body aright.
(30) That is why many among you are sickly and out of health, and why not a few die.
(31) If, however, we estimated ourselves aright, we should not be judged.
(32) But when we are judged by the Lord, chastisement follows, to save us from being condemned along with the world.
(33) Therefore, brethren, when you come together for this meal, wait for one another. (34) If any one is hungry, let him eat at home; so that your coming together may not lead to judgment.”
So take a few moments here to invite the Spirit of God to examine you, even as David prayed,
“(23) Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. (24) See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”– Psalm 139:23-24
If He reveals anything to you, simply bring it to Him and declare your renouncing of it. See that sin, as it clings to you through the demands of the body as nailed to the cross with Him. Die to sin once for all, and decide to live unto God.
You might say, a decision alone won’t do it. Well, it depends on how you make that decision. Paul conveyed the same procedure to the Romans in Romans 6 by saying,
“(8) Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, (9) knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. (10) For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. (11) Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (12) Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. (13) And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. (14) For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.” – Romans 6:8-14
Notice the progression, Jesus died once for all thus destroying sin’s ability to tempt and dissuade Him, and so He now lives forever unto God. IN THE SAME WAY consider yourself as having died to sin – ONCE for all. Death has NO MORE claims on you, and now, by grace through trust in God’s power, we are freed from sin to live unto God. This is not a call to nobley attempt to no longer sin – this is a dying together with you Lord and Savior and believing in the Power of God to enable you to live your life unto Him and in communion with Him.
Take this time now to approach it this way.
Now, as seems to be the theme today we begin with Paul passing on an oral tradition given to him by Jesus Himself, as recorded in 1Cor. 11:23-34.
“(23) For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you:
that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; (24) and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said,
“Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”
(25) In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying,
“This cup IS the new covenant IN My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”
(26) For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.”
These last words of Paul mean that as we often eat His flesh and drink the symbol of His blood we Laud and Celebrate His death until He returns for us!
Celebrate His death? I thought this was about resurrection? It is, but the doorway into new life is death. You cannot rise from death, what has not died! So we celebrate. Not because of the death alone, but because it is in the weakness of death that we are united with Him and His strength.
“(8)…I count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for Whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ (9) and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; (10) that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, (11) if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” – Php. 3:8-11 & 2Cor. 12:9, 10
1. An early date to the doctrine of the resurrection is critical since it silences thousands of objections which claim that this was a later development and is therefore, not traceable to eye-witness testimony. This does not speak to whether the resurrection actually happened, only that the testimony of Jesus’ physical resurrection was part of the original statement of beliefs of the early church from its inception! This is of indispensable value to the Christian faith since eye-witness testimony is incredibly powerful and that is what we have!
Less than a dozen bonafide historians who believe Jesus never existed
Any and all noteworthy scholars agree that the testimony to the resurrection of Jesus is early… VERY early – meaning that the disciples themselves claimed it happened! Only fringe scholars question an early date. When I say this I mean out of the 10’s of thousands of bonafide historians there are only less than a dozen who claim Jesus never existed or that the testimony of His resurrection was not believed and endorsed by His closest followers.
Regarding our passage in 1 Cor. 15, even skeptical scholars date this passage incredibly early around 51BC but the Creed contained in the passage was even earlier since Paul’s words clarify that he received it from those who saw these things, because Paul states that he was conveying to them what he first received, making the statement itself as early as the very resurrection itself.
Gerd Lüdemann (atheistic professor of NT at Göttingen) says, “The testimony of Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 is the earliest text in the New Testament to make concrete mention of the death, resurrection, and appearances of the risen Christ. Here Paul uses traditions which he knows from an earlier period. As 1 Corinthians is usually dated around 50 A.D., we may note, first, that the traditions which he mentions must be even older… It is hard to say what the relationship is between the event itself and the development and description of it. Because of the extraordinary nature of the event in question we may suppose that it was also reported immediately after the appearance of Jesus. How could it be conceivable that an event took place and was only related, shall we say, ten years later?” – Gerd Lüdemann and Alf Özen, What Really Happened to Jesus: a Historical Approach to the Resurrection (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 1995), 9, 15.
He also states, “The elements in the tradition are to be dated to the first two years after the crucifixion of Jesus…not later than three years… the formation of the appearance traditions mentioned in I Cor. 15.3-8 falls into the time between 30 and 33 CE.” – Gerd Lüdemann, The Resurrection of Jesus (Fortress Press, 1994), 171-72.
Michael Goulder (atheistic NT scholar at the University of Birmingham) said, “[1 Corinthians 15:3ff] goes back at least to what Paul was taught when he was converted, a couple of years after the crucifixion.” – Michael Goulder, “The Baseless Fabric of a Vision” Resurrection Reconsidered. Oxford. 1996. 48.
Roy W. Hoover (founder of the Jesus Seminar) said, “The conviction that Jesus had risen from the dead had already taken root by the time Paul was converted about 33 C.E. On the assumption that Jesus died about 30 C.E., the time for development was thus two or three years at most.” – Roy W. Hoover, The Acts of Jesus, (Santa Rosa, CA: Polebridge Press, 1998), 466.
John Dominic Crossan (atheistic NT scholar): “Paul wrote to the Corinthians from Ephesus in the early 50s C.E. But he says in 1 Corinthians 15:3 that ‘I handed on to you as of first importance which I in turn received.’ The most likely source and time for his reception of that tradition would have been Jerusalem in the early 30s when, according to Galatians 1:18, he ‘went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas [Peter] and stayed with him fifteen days.’” – John Dominic Crossan, Excavating Jesus: Beneath the Stones, Behind the Texts (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2001), 254.