Did The New Testament Doctrines Develop Over Time?

by Glenn Smith

There is no shortage of opinions about how the New Testament was put together and the sequence of events. I have just read one pundit who claims that Paul’s letters were written in the years 50 to 60, and while they included a “raised” Jesus, they did not speak of an empty tomb, which allegedly came much later. Paul’s letters teach one thing, while the documents written much later, the gospels, supposedly teach something else. The idea is that the teachings morphed and developed over time, a type of literary evolution or embellishing of the story as time went on. Such ideas are popular in liberal circles.

A careful reading of the New Testament tells a different story. First, as Gary Habermas has so often pointed out, 1 Corinthians 15 opens up with “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 . . .”(v.3-4). These verses indicate an important sequence. Paul is saying that on a previous trip, he taught the Corinthian church what he had previously been taught, namely, that Jesus died, was buried, and was raised. Since even the liberal scholars date 1 Corinthians at 55 to 57 AD, the previous trip had

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to be some time before this, and Paul’s being taught the message some time prior to that. With 55 to 57 AD being about 25 years after Jesus, the dating of Paul’s having received the message can be placed to less than a dozen years of Christ dying and being raised. So even using the liberal critic’s dating, we have an extremely early first-hand witness to the events of Jesus.

Second, 1 Corinthians 15 says Jesus was “buried, and was raised.” The Greek word translated ‘raised’ is hegeiro, which is defined by the lexicons (BDAG) as rouse from sleep, to cause to stand up, to move to a standing position, or to cause to return to life. Thus the earliest New Testament books, even by the liberals’ own admission, teach the resurrection of Jesus in the fullest sense. Third, 1 Corinthians 15 goes on to say 11 times directly and three times indirectly that the physical body dies, but is raised again. So the passage clearly repeats over and over the teaching of the physical resurrection of Jesus…

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