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Biblical Archaeology Review 48:1, Spring 2022

Epistles: Text Arcana: Paul on the Resurrection

By Ben Witherington III

Biblical Archaeology Review

It was an uphill climb for Paul to be accepted by the Jerusalem church, not least because of two things: (1) As a representative of the Jewish authorities, he had persecuted the church; and (2) he had not seen the risen Lord during the 40-day period the early reports say that Jesus appeared not only to his disciples, but also to nondisciples, such as his brother James and apparently other family members (see Acts 1:14). Furthermore, his claim to have seen the risen Lord on his way to Damascus in some sort of vision, which completely changed his views on Jesus and his followers, could not be independently verified by the Jerusalem church. But perhaps Paul’s changed behavior and professions of faith were the proof.

For this and other reasons, there were and still are many questions as to what one should make of what Paul says about resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15, a passage that is chronologically the earliest discussion of Jesus’s resurrection in the New Testament. As such it is crucial to understanding how early Jewish Christians understood the matter.

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