April 13, 2009

Believing Coherently

            Believed to be the earliest testimony to the risen Christ, 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 offers Paul’s testimony to his own encounter.  “Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.”  Thus could Paul attest to the authenticity of his apostolic calling. His epistle to the congregation in Corinth reminds them that he preached to them what was of first importance:

  • Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures,
  • He was buried
  • He was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures
  • He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve
  • He appeared to more than five hundred sisters and brothers, most of whom are still alive (if you want to check it out!)
  • Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles… (and then Paul adds his name to the apostles).

            In spite of all these witnesses, Paul is concerned that the Corinthians “have come to believe in vain” (v. 2).  It is not that they have believed something false; it is that they do not yet link the resurrection of Christ with the resurrection of the dead.  They have, from Paul’s perspective, believed “incoherently”—another plausible translation.  So most of this lengthy chapter is a rhetorically charged argument for the veracity of believing not only that Christ has been raised, but that they, too, would be sown as physical bodies, yet raised as spiritual bodies (v. 44).  Here was the rub; bodies were not much valued in the Greco-Roman world.  Death was viewed as escape from embodiment. The Word become flesh, crucified, buried, and raised is God’s own testament to the value of incarnation.  The story of the risen Jesus is our story, too. He is risen, indeed.

            Molly T. Marshall



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