Gary Habermas on the Pre-Pauline Creed of 1 Cor. 15

Empty Tomb

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1 Corinthians 15:3-7 is widely recognized by New Testament scholars as a statement of belief (creed) that was systematized long before Paul quoted it.  If so, it represents the earliest historical account of Jesus’ resurrection, and goes back to the eyewitnesses themselves.  Gary Habermas comments on the very early date of this creed, which even skeptical scholars acknowledge.

Do critical scholars agree on the date of this pre-Pauline creed?  Even radical scholars like Gerd Lüdemann think that “the elements in the tradition are to be dated to the first two years after the crucifixion . . . no later than three years after the death of Jesus.”  Similarly, Michael Goulder contends that Paul’s testimony about the resurrection appearances “goes back at least to what Paul was taught when he was converted, a couple of years after the crucifixion.”

An increasing number of exceptionally influential scholars have very recently concluded that at least the teaching of the resurrection, and perhaps even the specific formulation of the pre-Pauline creedal tradition in 1 Corinthians 15:3-7, dates to AD 30!  In other words, there never was a time when the message of Jesus’ resurrection was not an integral part of the earliest apostolic proclamation.  No less a scholar than James D. G. Dunn even states regarding this crucial text: “This tradition, we can be entirely confident, was formulated as tradition within months of Jesus’ death.

— Gary Habermas, “Tracing Jesus’ Resurrection to Its Earliest Eyewitness Accounts,” God is Great, God is Good (InterVarsity Press, 2009), 212.

For the sources quoted by Habermas, see here at Google Books.  For more on the pre-Pauline creed, see here.

This early dating seriously damages claims of long periods of time when legends about Jesus supposedly developed and became part of Christian proclamation.  It also puts to rest unfounded speculations about the purported role pagan mythology played as source material for Jesus’ resurrection.  William Lane Craig soundly critiques that position here.

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