Posts Tagged Paul

A Response to Adam Lee at Patheos on Paul’s Resurrection Creed

In 1 Corinthians 15:3–8, we have what is perhaps the earliest, written claim for the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ:

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.

(1 Corinthians 15:3–8 ESV)

Below, I have included my response to an article posted by Patheos blogger Adam Lee’s article “Paul’s Resurrection Creed” from March 11, 2009. You can read it here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism/2009/03/pauls-resurrection-creed/. I have also included some video resources that may be helpful for you this Easter season. Christ is risen! Praise the Lord!

Thanks for the article. I have some objections to your points. Cards on the table, I am a Christian. I believe in the historical, bodily resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. You say,

First of all, the way Paul describes the disciples is strange.

I have to object to this. It is most likely that this creed is not originally Paul’s, but a creed that predates him and his writing of 1 Corinthians. If you notice in the Scripture quotation you’ve listed above, Paul states that he received this. The composition of 1 Corinthians dates back to 54 C.E., as Dr. Daniel B. Wallace (https://bible.org/gsearch?sear… and most NT scholars would acknowledge. Therefore, if the letter itself dates to 54 C.E. and if the creed of 1 Corinthians 15:3–8 precedes the Paul and his letter, then we are looking at an extremely early creed probably produced within the year of Jesus resurrection and ascension. This is not hard to imagine as it would have been sensical for the early Christians to formalize an oral creed concerning the bodily resurrection of Christ and pass it around as they met in the temple and from house to house. Some suggest Saul/Paul’s conversion took place as early as 33 C.E. I’ll concede that it could be that Paul received this as late as the mid-forties due to the record of his interaction with the apostles in Jerusalem.

Second, you seem to not understand the nature of a creed. A creed serves to summarize truth in a compact and memorable way so that they could be committed to memory and easily recited. They helped in a day when most people did not have a copy of the Scriptures and even if they did, they may not have been able to read it. A creed was accessible everyone.

Your assumption about Peter not being among them places emphasis wrongly. Peter is recognized as “a leader among the leaders” with regard to the apostles in the NT. It is isn’t at all odd that the creed mentions him separately. Besides, Luke 24:34 affirms an appearance to Simon Peter.

A word search in the Greek New Testament reveals that ο δωδεκα (“the twelve”) appears 36 times, almost always referring to “The Twelve” apostles. When referring to the apostles, this is a formal title. Even after Judas dies and is replaced by Matthias (Acts 1:26), “The Twelve” is still used in Acts 6:2 and Rev. 21:14. It is clear from context that Matthias meets the criteria employed to replace Judas,

Thus one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time the Lord Jesus associated with us, beginning from his baptism by John until the day he was taken up from us—one of these must become a witness of his resurrection together with us.” So they proposed two candidates: Joseph called Barsabbas (also called Justus) and Matthias (Acts 1:21–23 NET).

It is clear from this that Paul’s use of “The Twelve” in the creed that he had received is not inaccurate as you suggest. If anything, it suggests that perhaps the creed was created after Matthias was selected. It also is not inaccurate because “The Twelve” including Matthias were all eyewitnesses to the resurrected Christ.

I’ll concede that the mention of the apostles seems to be redundant, but redundancy does not an error make. There are optional, reasonable explanations without assuming error. For example, the word “apostle” means “sent one” in its informal meaning. Some readers of Scripture may apply this to someone like Barnabas, who doesn’t appear to be a Jerusalem Elder, but who also isn’t one of the formal apostolic group. Perhaps, the creed is simply being redundant or making reference to the multiple appearances to this group. Again, redundancy does not an error make.

Your comment about the women may be your weakest point. Much ink has been spilled on this, and I am surprised that you even bring it up. The historical Gospel record of women being the first eyewitnesses to the empty tomb and to the resurrected Jesus is a criteria of authenticity because of the embarrassing nature of such witnesses in the first century world. Luke points this out in 24:11. Women eyewitnesses were not considered trustworthy. If this is a false or made-up account in Luke 24 or John 20, there is no way such a made up story would list women as the first eyewitnesses. No one would take the story seriously. Yet, these weren’t the only appearances. There were multiple appearances as the creed records. The Gospel accounts are confirmed by the criteria of embarrassment, and the creed’s authenticity is confirmed by its emphasis on who would have been considered the major eyewitnesses at that time.

You state,

We do not have five hundred separate, notarized accounts. What we have is one person, Paul, who says that five hundred anonymous people saw Jesus, giving no further details about their identities or the circumstances of the seeing. By itself, this is not strong evidence, just as it would not be strong evidence if I gave you a piece of paper that said, “One thousand people saw me do a miracle.”

We do have the account of Luke which states that the resurrected Jesus appeared for forty days following his suffering. This is plenty of time for the creed’s proposition to have been realistically accomplished. No, you do not have the written accounts of 500 people, but you have the written accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Paul, and really all of the NT authors are writing from the belief of a resurrected Christ because there is no Christianity without a bodily, resurrected Christ. Further, would you believe it if there were more accounts than already recorded in the NT? Would it really persuade you? If you gave me a piece of paper that said 1000 people saw me perform a miracle, I would simply ask for the names of some of these people. This isn’t that hard, especially if the creed, as is likely, dates back to the mid-thirties to mid-forties. Further, you are forgetting that the historical record of Jesus performing miracles during his life is thorough. His miracles are one of the contributing factors leading to his trial and death by crucifixion.

Finally, your handling of the term οραω is simplistic. Again, the creed is created to be memorable, so the repetition of the verb is expected for purposes of memory and recitation. Further, the physical act of seeing with the eyes is not outside the lexical range of this Greek verb. It is an exegetical fallacy to say that a term must mean such and such with no attention to context. The context for the creed are the experiences recorded in the Gospels and Acts of the Apostles. Take the two the disciples on the road to Emmaus for instance. To argue that these men did not physically see Jesus makes the story absurd. They are literally traveling to a town; they’re walking and talking.

To suggest that the resurrected Jesus was to the early church merely a mythical figure, a figment of their own imaginations and hopes, couldn’t be more foreign to the records we have. It is a misrepresentation of the earliest records of the believers of Jesus Christ. They really believed him to have physically and historically resurrected. Had he not and if they still continued to desire to follow him after his death, it makes much more sense that they would have continued to proclaim him as returning at some point in the future as the redeemer of Israel from Roman oppression. But they are devastated by his death as the disciples on the road to Emmaus detail in Luke 24. They are returning home after the Passover pilgrimage. Everything is over for them until Christ appears to them—bodily resurrected.

You can continue to choose not to believe in the resurrection of Christ, but it is a bit disrespectful to suggest that what Paul, The Twelve, and the early Christians were really trying to say was that they wanted Jesus to be alive so badly that they imagined visions of such a reality. When the clearer explanation and intention of these early Christians is that he really did raise from the dead, making multiple appearances for 40 days.

Find out more about Easter and Jesus’ Resurrection here: http://www.exploregod.com/resurrection.

Habermas on the creed: http://youtu.be/7QDCnYwJv6M.

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Luke’s Adam

I am about to dive into some interesting materials that have surfaced over the last couple of years regarding our understanding of creation and in particular our understanding of human origins and the historicity of Adam – the first man.

Peter Enns’ recent publication, The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say about Human Origins, is well circulated now and continuing to make waves. To Enns’ credit, he is forcing Christians to talk about tensions that have existed in the Church since Darwin’s publication of On the Origin of the Species. I have not yet read the book, so my comments will be minimal here in regard to critique. If you are interested in an audio/visual resource that will introduce you to some of Enns’ ideas, check out this video:

Westmont College — Erasmus Lecture — Peter Enns, Feb. 9, 2011

Enns’ proposal of Adam as the origin of Israel (as opposed to the origin of humanity) can certainly be biblically and theologically hypothesized; however, his position forces a complete overhaul of the Church’s historical doctrines of original sin, the image of God in humanity, the incarnation of Jesus Christ, and even forces a fresh look at the meaning of the atonement. Further, I have heard said (or read it said) more than once that we learn a lot about the end from the beginning; therefore, our eschatology may even need to be reevaluated in light of Enns’ proposals.

I also plan to investigate the articles that have been gathered and published in Do Historical Matters Matter to Faith? A Critical Appraisal of Modern and Postmodern Approaches to Scripture, which is edited by James K. Hoffmeier and Dennis R. Magary. Lastly, I want to watch a film that was recently released entitled From the Dust: Conversations in Creation.

Of course, I want to also study the Scriptures as I try to wrap my finite mind around what God is doing with what he has said in his general and specific revelation to us.  My first stop is indicated by the title of this blog – Luke’s Adam. In his book, Enns spends most of his time discussing Paul’s Adam. He briefly comments on Luke 3:38 in the above lecture as well as in an endnote (#10) on page 150 of his book,

After Gen. 5:3, Adam us mentioned by name elsewhere in the Old Testament only as the first name in the genealogy in 1 Chron. 1:1 (see discussion in chap. 5). In the New Testament, Adam appears in two genealogies (Luke 3:38 and Jude 14), which will not be considered here, since our New Testament focus is Paul, and the issues raised by these genealogies add little to the conversation. Only Paul deals with Adam in detail, specifically in Rom. 5:12-21 and 1 Cor. 15:20-58 . . . The importance that Paul places on Adam relative to the apparent lack of emphasis elsewhere, especially in the Old Testament, seems a matter worth considering seriously, which we will do in part 2.

In one sense, Enns may be right. Luke’s mention of Adam or “the one man” may not contribute anything new to Paul’s articulation of Adam. However, I think Luke may have something to add to the conversation. As Enns mentions above, Luke 3:38 includes Adam as the starting point for the genealogy of Jesus Christ. It could be – as Enns highlights in the above video – that those mentioned from Adam to Abraham make up a consistent, Old Testament, theological genealogy for the nation of Israel. However, it could be that Luke is demonstrating that all people – both Jews and Gentiles – have a common ancestral origin. Therefore, Adam through Abraham is not merely the theological genealogy of Israel, but for the whole of humanity. This seems more consistent with Luke, who is extremely interested in all of humanity seeing the salvation of the Lord in Jesus Christ.

This particular notion is also expressed in Acts 17:26-27 where Luke has recorded Paul’s sermon at/to the Areopagus in Athens. Luke writes,

From one man he made every nation of the human race to inhabit the entire earth, determining their set times and the fixed limits of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope around for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.

Paul as recorded by Luke here is much more physical and earthy in his description of the first man than Paul’s more spiritual expression in Romans 5:12. Neither Paul nor Luke’s focus here is to paint Adam as a metaphorical expression of the origin of the nation of Israel. The first man Acts 17:26-27 is the origin of all humans and every nation. The passage is so physically focused that we learn of God’s sovereign exertion something as earthy as divinely sanctioned territorial boundaries.

Thus, I think Luke’s record of Paul’s preaching in Athens needs some consideration in the discussion. I think all of us want to be better equipped to synthesize what we see in the general revelation of the creation and in the written revelation of the Scripture. So, my prayer is that we may proceed carefully,honestly, and humbly as the Church of God into our inquiries for the truth.

In Christ,

Rex

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A Brief Look at Matthew and Paul on Justification

Intro

Did Matthew and Paul have opposing views on justification by faith? It is no secret that the Christian community has wrestled with “reconciling” Paul’s doctrine of “justification by faith” (particularly in Romans 3:20-5:21) with other writers in the New Testament (e.g., Matthew, James).  In an article examining Christian salvation in the Synoptic Gospels, Neufeld writes,

“The First Gospel has generated the most scholarly discussion, because, of the Synoptics, Matthew most overtly affirms Moses’ Law and bases kingdom entrance on obedience. Neither of these fit easily into the traditional Protestant gospel.”[1]

However, is there an actual difference or only a perceived difference between Matthew and Paul arising from varying factors such as literary genre and style, specific audiences and occasions for writing, etc? It is my conviction (as well as the general Christian conviction) that the NT authors are united in their understanding of the roles of faith and obedience in the doctrine of justification.

Justification in Matthew

The OT proposes faith to not only encompass belief, but also faithfulness, loyalty, and allegiance. This is observable in Matthew’s gospel. Matthew 1:20-23 records Joseph’s angelic vision regarding the supernatural conception of Mary’s child. The angel commands Joseph to the name the child “Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” In Matthew 1:24, Joseph’s belief in the words of the angel resulted in righteous behaviour. Not only do we see an early example of a man who demonstrates faith working in obedience, but Matthew also makes us aware of who Jesus is and what he came to do – “saving his people from their sins” is not an altogether divorced concept from Paul’s teaching on imputation[2] in justification based upon the work of Christ (Romans 4:1-8). Further, John the Baptist preached repentance and fruit in keeping with repentance (Matthew 3:2, 7-10). Repentance should not be thought of something separate from faith – it is trust that leads to a change of heart. This hand-in-hand relationship between faith and obedience can be observed throughout Matthew’s gospel (e.g., 4:20, 22; 13:44). Two remaining matters must be noted: 1) nature of narrative and 2) Matthew’s emphasis on a righteousness that exceeds that of the Pharisees. First, one should not expect a doctrinal excursus in Matthew on justification. It isn’t his purpose nor the purpose of narrative genre to examine doctrine in the way that an epistle does. Rather, Matthew seeks to offer his readers with a record of the person, life, ministry, and redemptive acts of Christ with narrative emphases on Christ’s teaching (see 5:1-7:29; 10:1-11:1; 13:1-53; 18:1-19:1; 24:1-26:1) and on eschatological judgment and salvation based upon faithfulness and obedience (25:31-46). On this latter note, we move into the second point, conclude and transition by stating that Matthew’s emphasis on obedience for salvation in the eschaton does not deny that a person must believe in Jesus as the one who has come to “save his people from their sins” and has come to “give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28), but rather faith and repentance are necessary precursors to this obedience. The people who follow Messiah must be distinguished by a better righteousness than that of the religious leaders of the day.

Justification in Paul (Romans)

A similar example may be observed in Hebrews 11. There, we read that “by faith” many people recorded in the book of Genesis (Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph) followed God in obedience and righteousness. However, in Genesis, only Abraham’s belief is highlighted (Genesis 15:6)! It shouldn’t be assumed that faith was not beneath and upholding the obedience of these people. One can deduce from the narrative that all of these people trusted YHWH, and their trust resulted in obedience.

It is this one example of “mentioned-faith” in Genesis that Paul picks up on in his discussion of justification in Romans 4. Abraham, who is the father of those who believe whether circumcised or uncircumcised, served as the perfect OT example/illustration to help instruct a Jewish-Gentile Christian congregation on what it means to be credited with righteousness following the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The death and resurrection provided God “the judicial means” to remain just while justifying sinners (Romans 3:26). By faith in the gospel, a positional shift takes place in which God looks upon the individual’s faith and credits it as righteousness (rewardable behaviour even?) because even though the sinner can do nothing to earn such a judicial decree, satisfaction of wrath and provision of righteousness has occurred in the work of Christ. Yet, one must not think that Paul avoids obedience (Romans 1:5; 5:19; 6:16; 15:18; 16:19; 16:26) and its relationship to faith and righteousness. Indeed, he views the goal of his apostleship to speak of what Christ had accomplished through him “in order to bring about the obedience of the Gentiles, by word and deed” (Romans 15:18).

Relationship between Faith and Obedience in Justification

Therefore, do Matthew and Paul speak as one? Can Paul’s emphasis on the positional, judicial, and immediate nature of his doctrine of justification by faith be reconciled to Matthew’s narrative emphasis on the nature of one’s righteousness and its ability to stand at the eschaton?  I believe so. James is helpful here. In chapter 2 of his epistle, we are again given the example of Abraham whose faith was tested,

“Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?  You see that his faith was working together with his works and his faith was perfected by works.  And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Now Abraham believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone” (James 2:21-24).

True, justifying faith is a faith that results in obedience, faithfullness in righteousness, which is a faith that will stand before the Judge in the eschaton. Paul and Matthew would agree.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Demarest, Bruce. The Cross and Salvation Foundations of Evangelical Theology, ed. John S. Feinberg. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1997.

Neufeld, Edmund K. “The Gospel in the Gospels: Answering the Question “What Must I Do to Be Saved?” From the Synoptics.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 51, no. 2 (2008): 267-96.

Ortlund, Dane C. “Justified by Faith, Judged According to Works: Another Look at a Pauline Paradox.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 52, no. 2 (2009): 323-339.


[1] Edmund K. Neufeld, “The Gospel in the Gospels: Answering the Question “What Must I Do to Be Saved?” From the Synoptics,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 51, no. 2 (2008): 268.

[2] Imputation is that necessary action of justification in which our sins are no longer counted against us, and righteousness has been credited to us in Christ.

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Some Worthy Reading for Trinitarians

If you are looking for some good discussion on Trinitarianism, check out Mike Whitenton’s blog over at Ecce Homo: http://mwhitenton.wordpress.com/. The specific article with which you should begin is entitled, “1 Cor 3.23: Our Subordination to Christ; Christ’s to God (Monotheism in 1 Corinthians, 1).”

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