RESURRECTION NEWS FLASH!
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. 1 Corinthians 15:3–4
It was once fashionable to say that the Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—were written too late to give an accurate account of what really happened in the life of Jesus, including the events surrounding his resurrection. Some even said they weren’t written until the mid to late second century, more than a hundred years after the events surrounding Jesus’ ministry. This discredited the idea that the Gospels were based on eyewitness accounts, and eroded confidence in what they said about Jesus.
However, it is now known that the Gospels were written in the first century—within the lifespan of Jesus’ followers.
Also, before the Gospels were recorded, Paul penned his epistles. These letters affirm many details about Jesus’ life, including his resurrection. In addition, Paul’s epistles relay several earlier creeds, attesting to the beliefs of Jesus’ first followers. One of the most interesting is in 1 Corinthians 15:3–7.
Historian Gary Habermas developed a helpful timeline related to this creed. It starts with understanding that Jesus was crucified in either AD 30 or 33. Paul wrote 1 Corinthians in AD 54–55, which puts it within approximately twenty-one and twenty-five years of the crucifixion. But Paul said he had previously passed on the creed to the people of Corinth, so the creed itself dates even earlier.
But there’s more. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:3: “What I received I passed on to you.” When did he receive this creed? He became a Christian one to three years after Jesus’ execution. He immediately went to Damascus to meet the disciples. He might have received it then, but it was more likely three years later when he went to Jerusalem and met with Peter and James, both of whom are named in the creed. Paul described this meeting in Galatians 1:18–19, using the Greek term historesai, which suggests it was a personal inquiry or investigation.
Either way, this means Paul was given the creed within one to six years of the crucifixion—and it had already been put into creedal form, which tells us these beliefs went back even further.
“This tradition,” concluded historian James D. G. Dunn, “we can be entirely confident, was formulated as tradition within months of Jesus’ death.”
Months! The news of Jesus’ resurrection was a news flash in the ancient world—and it affirmed that the risen Jesus had appeared to many witnesses.
Truth for Today
Many still believe the false rumor that generations had passed before the first Christian accounts were written. Whom should you tell about this exciting early Christian creed?