What Did the Earliest Church Believe About the Resurrection?

by Eric Hernandez

Skeptics would probably find it surprising that one of the most accurate, well-recorded pieces of history can be found in the New Testament. Today, historians refer to it as the 1 Corinthians creed, which includes 1 Corinthians verses three through seven. In his letter, circa AD 53-54[1], Paul writes to the church in Corinth:

“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.” [2]

Paul includes this text in his defense of the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, which would have taken place about twenty years prior to his letter to the Corinthians. There were apparently already murmurs circulating in the Corinthian church, a dispute as to the reality of the resurrection.

Why is this text considered a creed, and why is that important? What constitutes a creed? A creed is a formal belief statement. The passage above, 1 Corinthians 15:3-7, is a pre- Pauline belief statement of the first century church. How do we know? First of all…

What Did the Earliest Church Believe About the Resurrection?