Thursday, April 09, 2015

1 Corinthians 15 Suggests Paul Had A Lot Of Evidence

Here's something I just added to the comments section of my thread on the Miller/Cavin resurrection debate:

In the debate (1:27-30), Cavin makes much of the fact that we don't know where Paul got the information he discusses in the opening verses of 1 Corinthians 15. But, like so many of Cavin's other arguments, his evaluation of 1 Corinthians 15 is focused in the wrong place. The origin of Paul's information is less significant than his maintaining it. Cavin briefly refers to Galatians 1-2 and speculates that Paul might not have made much of an effort to look into the information he had on the resurrection, even though he met with individuals like Peter and James. But most of Cavin's attention is focused on the origins of Paul's material in 1 Corinthians. What about how that information was maintained after it originated?

For roughly two decades leading up to the writing of 1 Corinthians, Paul believed what he outlines in the opening of 1 Corinthians 15. During that time, he repeatedly, and in a wide variety of circumstances, interacted with individuals like Peter and James and churches like those in Jerusalem, Antioch, and Rome. He kept up with developments enough to know that most of the more than five hundred resurrection witnesses were still alive, though some had died (15:6). He knew enough about the other apostles' backgrounds to contrast his history to theirs (15:9). He knew enough about the other apostles' labors to comment on how his efforts compared to theirs (15:10). He knew enough about the other apostles' teachings to affirm that all of them were in agreement about the gospel message Paul had just summarized (15:11). Not only were Paul and the other apostles maintaining the information described in 1 Corinthians 15, but so were Christian communities like the one Paul was writing to in Corinth.

The idea that Paul and these other people would have gone through these experiences I've just described for so many years, but without any significant reason for believing that the information in 1 Corinthians 15 was true, doesn't make sense. You can't write a passage like 1 Corinthians 15 without having a lot of knowledge about a lot of highly significant evidential issues pertaining to the resurrection. To suggest that the appearance to more than five hundred was just a rumor Paul heard one time, that he'd never had any discussions with Peter about the resurrection, or that those discussions always just happened to avoid all significant evidential issues, for example, is implausible. Why would Paul follow the lives of the more than five hundred resurrection witnesses enough to know approximately how many were still alive, at a particular point in time about twenty years after Paul's conversion, if he was unconcerned about the details or hadn't looked into these matters in a long time, for example? Or how would Paul have known that the other apostles were teaching the same message he was if he'd never heard from them about these subjects? These are the kinds of issues critics like Cavin ought to be addressing. To focus, instead, on issues like where the information in 1 Corinthians 15 originated, while ignoring matters like the ones mentioned above, is an exercise in misdirection.

1 comment:

  1. Good thoughts, Jason. As a corpus Paul's epistles form an impenetrable bulwark against deniers of the historicity of the resurrection of Christ. Here's a man, who formerly persecuted the church with unmatched zeal and ferocity literally arrested and turned on his heels, and who lost everything - gladly - that he had built his life upon for the sake of gaining a crucified and risen Messiah as his Lord and King.

    2 Cor. chronicles either the clear-eyed thoughts of a man who believed with every fiber of his being that Christ was risen, and worthy to be praised in the midst of some of the most terrifying and life threatening situations imaginable, or else it chronicles the wild-eyed, fevered high-noon fantasies of a madman who'd spent the last 20 years of his life living a lie, and would spend the next 10 years doing the same until his shoulders were relieved from the burden of supporting his head by a Roman executioner.