1 Corinthians Jewish New Testament and comments of David H. Stern

chapter 15
1. Now, brothers, I must remind you of the Good News which I proclaimed to you, and which you received, and on which you have taken your stand,
2. and by which you are being saved — provided you keep holding fast to the message I proclaimed to you. For if you don’t, your trust will have been in vain.
Now, brothers, I must remind you of the Good News. Sha'ul immediately places the question of resurrection in the context of the Gospel (last mentioned at 14:36) because belief in the resurrection is an indispensible component of it, not a side issue (vv. 3-34). Only after reminding the Corinthians how important resurrection is can he address the difficulty which prevented some from believing in it, namely, their inability to imagine how it could happen (vv. 35-58).

How does the Gospel save? Here is Sha'ul's brief anatomy of the process. First it is proclaimed, then received and through further teaching internalized, so that one can take a stand on it, making it the foundation of one's life. Thus, by continuing to trust in it one goes on being saved (as at Ro 10:9-10&N), given one condition, to keep holding fast to the message proclaimed and not be diverted to "some other so-called 'good news,' which in fact is not good news at all" (Ga 1:6-7), in which case one's trust will have been in vain (compare Lk 8:13). 

3. For among the first things I passed on to you was what I also received, namely this: the Messiah died for our sins, in accordance with what the Tanakh says;
4. and he was buried; and he was raised on the third day, in accordance with what the Tanakh says;
The essence of the Gospel is contained in these two verses, as we shall see, but the key point for Jewish people to grasp and for Messianic Jews to stress is that the Gospel is in accordance with what the Tanakh says (as Sha'ul himself emphasizes by saying it twice). That is, every major point of the Good News set forth in the New Covenant with Israel is spoken of or prophesied in the Hebrew Scriptures.

The Messiah died for our sins. First, because of our sins we are not right with God. "Your sins have made a separation between you and your God" (Isaiah 59:2). Second, the penalty for sin is the death of the sinner (Genesis 2:17; compare Ro 6:23). Third, only the death of something or someone sinless can atone for sin. Therefore there were animal deaths since Genesis 3:21 and animal sacrifices since Genesis 4:3-5, which later became institutionalized in the rituals of the Tabernacle and the Temple. Nevertheless, as explained in Messianic Jews 9-I0&NN, these animal sacrifices were of temporary effectiveness only. A human death was needed to atone for human sin. But the death of a sinner would be ineffective; this is a major reason why Abraham was told not to sacrifice his son Isaac (Genesis 22:11-14) — Isaac's death would not have done anyone any good, since he was a sinner like the rest of us. However, the death of a sinless Messiah for our sins was foretold in Isaiah 52:13-53:8,9b, 12b. The Messiah died for our sins, in accordance with what the Tanakh says — as Yeshua himself taught (Lk 24:25-27&N; see JNTIntroduction, Section VII. "for further Tanakh references).

And he was buried, as predicted in Isaiah 53:9a. Why is this an essential part of the Gospel? It shows that he was a human being who truly died and needed resurrection in order to live again, and that he was not some spiritual entity masquerading as human (a theory known as the docetic heresy, on which see Yn 19:34&N, 1 Yn 4:2&N).

And he was raised..., in accordance with what the Tanakh says in all three of its major sections — the Torah (Leviticus 23:9-15; see v. 20N), the Prophets (Isaiah 53:10-12a) and the Writings (Psalm 16:9-11, quoted at Ac 2:25-32 and 13:35-37): all are to be understood as referring to the Messiah's resurrection. But is general resurrection taught in the Tanakh'! Yes, possibly at Job 19:25-27; certainly at Isaiah 26:14, "Your dead [God's dead] will live, my dead body will rise"; and even more unmistakably at Daniel 12:2, "And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake, some to everlasting life," which corresponds to Isaiah 26:14, "and some to shame and everlasting contempt." This double resurrection is the same as that taught by Yeshua (Yn 5:29&N) and detailed in Rv 20:1-15&NN. Isaiah 66:24, quoted in this connection by Yeshua (Mk 9:44), is also generally understood to be speaking of resurrection.

On the third day. See 2 Kings 20:8 (in which King Hezekiah is raised up from terminal illness to go up to the Temple on the third day), Hosea 6:2 ("After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, and we will live in his sight," used in the Talmud in connection with the End Times at Rosh Hashanah 31 a and Sanhedrin 97a), and Jonah 1:17,2:10 (Yeshua called the prophet's stay for three days in the belly of the fish "the sign of Jonah"; Mt I2:38-42&N, 16:4; Lk I l:29-30&N).

All four Gospels report all three events — Yeshua's death, his burial and his resurrection. 

5. and he was seen by Kefa, then by the Twelve;
According to Lk 24:34 the resurrected Yeshua was first seen by Kefa (Peter), whom the Corinthians knew (1:12,9:5), so that his report would command respect. Then he was seen by the Twelve (Mt 28:16-20, Lk 24:33-51, Yn 20:19-29, Ac 1:3-9). The term, "the Twelve" means the inner circle ot'talmidim chosen by Yeshua (Mt 10:1-5. Mk 3:13-19. Lk 6:12-16); and it refers to the group as an entity, so that it applies when there were only eleven (after Y'hudah from K'riot hanged himself, Mt 27:5; also Ac 1:13, 23-26) and even when one of the group was absent (Yn 20:24). The report of the Twelve should carry more weight than Kefa's by itself. 

6. and afterwards he was seen by more than five hundred brothers at one time, the majority of whom are still alive, though some have died.
He was seen by more than five hundred brothers at one time, the majority of whom are still alive some 20-25 years after the event took place, though some have died. The evidence of v. 5 is weighty, but because one can imagine twelve people agreeing to propagate a lie (as indeed had already been imagined. Mt 28:12-15), Sha'ul next presents the single most compelling piece of evidence tor (he truth of the Gospel that can be found in the entire New Testament, evidence which even the Orthodox Jewish scholar Pinchas Lapide has declared in print that he believes. (That is, Lapide believes Yeshua was in fact resurrected but does not believe him to be the Messiah; see his The Resurrection of Jesus: A Jewish Perspective; also see Ac 10:4O-41&N.)

Some think this appearance of the resurrected Yeshua to five hundred refers lo Mt 28:16-20, while others believe Sha'ul is writing about an appearance not documented elsewhere in the New Testament. In any case, Sha'ul's challenge to the Corinthians is this: "If you still doubt, there are a minimum of 250 people still alive who actually saw the resurrected Yeshua and can give you a first-hand report; you can talk personally to as many of them as you need to in order to be convinced." It is utterly implausible that Sha'ul would offer this opportunity for personal verification had it not been actually possible. He would not write to a skeptical readership that there were hundreds of witnesses if there weren't. Likewise it is utterly implausible that 500 people could conspire to perpetuate a lie so contrary to normal experience or be deceived in a way that would not break down under a skeptic's careful questioning.

For these reasons, Yeshua's resurrection must be acknowledged as an objective fact of history, not a vagary of "faith." That is the best rational explanation, both then and now, of the existence in Sha'ul's day of hundreds of people who Sha'ul could be absolutely confident would witness that Yeshua was in fact resurrected from the dead. No great "leap of faith" is required to believe it. All that is needed is the tiny step of acknowledging that Yeshua's resurrection stamps him as the Messiah promised by the Tanakh, worthy of eternal gratitude as Savior and allegiance as Lord. And without this tiny step there can be no New Covenant faith whatever (vv. 12-19). 

7. Later he was seen by Ya‘akov, then by all the emissaries;
The appearance to Ya'akov (James), whose mother was also Yeshua's mother, Miryam (Mt 13:55-56, Mk6:3, Ga 1:19), is not mentioned elsewhere in the New Testament but is reported in one of the apocryphal books, the Gospel to the Hebrews (fragment 7). Ya'akov was not a follower of Yeshua before his execution (Mk 3:21, 31-35; Yn 7:5). but after coming to faith (Ac 1:14, 12:17&N) he became head of the Messianic community in Jerusalem (Ac 15:13; Ga 2:9, 12) and wrote one of the books of the New Testament (Ya 1:1).

All the emissaries. It is debated whether this phrase means that there were more than twelve, or that Ya'akov and Sha'ul are not to be counted as emissaries; see Ro 16:7N, Ep 4:11N. 

8. and last of all he was seen by me, even though I was born at the wrong time.
A rational person who is skeptical of Yeshua's resurrection needs compelling evidence that Yeshua actually fulfilled this aspect of the Tanakh'a prophetic description of the Messiah. In providing this evidence, Sha'ul speaks to one of the oldest philosophical questions about religion — can the content of faith be "proved"? His answer falls somewhere between a medieval theologian's "proof of the existence of God" and the existentialist's call for a "leap of faith." He does not assert that his data compel belief; but he does try to reduce the required "leap" to a tiny step which, instead of being in opposition to the rational and the objective, logically follows and builds upon them. In these four verses Sha'ul is implicitly challenging his readers to offer a better explanation for the observed phenomena than Yeshua's being the promised Messiah who rose from the dead. See Ac 26:8&N. 

9. For I am the least of all the emissaries, unfit to be called an emissary, because I persecuted the Messianic Community of God.
He was seen by me, Sha'ul (9:1), not at his first encounter (Ac 9:4,22:7,26:14), but later (Ac 22:18 and 23:11, fulfilling Ac 22:14). Even though I was born at the wrong time, that is, too late — after Yeshua had already lived, died, been resurrected and gone up to heaven. The fact that Sha'ul persecuted the Messianic Community (Ac 8:3, 9:1-2. Ga 1:13, 23; Pp 3:6; 1 Ti 1:12-15) still affects his self-image. Could anything less than truly meeting the risen Lord have turned the leading opponent of Yeshua into his foremost advocate? 

10. But by God’s grace I am what I am, and his grace towards me was not in vain; on the contrary, I have worked harder than all of them, although it was not I but the grace of God with me.
11. Anyhow, whether I or they, this is what we proclaim, and this is what you believed.
12. But if it has been proclaimed that the Messiah has been raised from the dead, how is it that some of you are saying there is no such thing as a resurrection of the dead?
13. If there is no resurrection of the dead, then the Messiah has not been raised;
14. and if the Messiah has not been raised, then what we have proclaimed is in vain; also your trust is in vain;
15. furthermore, we are shown up as false witnesses for God in having testified that God raised up the Messiah, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised.
16. For if the dead are not raised, then the Messiah has not been raised either;
17. and if the Messiah has not been raised, your trust is useless, and you are still in your sins.
18. Also, if this is the case, those who died in union with the Messiah are lost.
Хотя Евангелие сейчас имеет преимущества (Map. 10:30, 1 Тим. 4:8), было бы глупо отказываться от всего, что есть в мире, чтобы приобрести Мессию (Лук. 9:23-25, Фил. 3:8) и получить вознаграждение в олам габа (4:4, 9:25; Map. 10:30), если бы не было воскресения. 

19. If it is only for this life that we have put our hope in the Messiah, we are more pitiable than anyone.
Although the Gospel does have benefits now (Mk 10:30a, 1 Ti 4:8), giving up everything in this world in order to gain the Messiah (Lk 9:23-25, Pp 3:8) and receive rewards in the 'olam haba (4:4, 9:25; Mk 10:30b) would be foolish if there were no resurrection.

There are spokesmen within Christendom— Rudolf Bultmann comes to mind, with whom the term "demythologizing" is associated — who attempt to formulate a New Testament faith that does not acknowledge the resurrection of Yeshua as historical fact but consider it "true subjectively," whatever that means — perhaps, "true in terms of my own faith, so that I can act on it as if it were true, even though the event did not happen." This approach is an effort to meet the criticism of nineteenth- and twentieth-century naive empiricism (or, rather, graciously to accept defeat at its hands while salvaging something of the Gospel), but it is hard to see how such efforts at self-delusion can stand up to the crystal-clear claims and logic of these verses. For a refutation of the idea that Sha'ul's "Damascus road experience" was merely a concatenation of coincidences and misapprehensions see Ac 26:13—18N. 

20. But the fact is that the Messiah has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have died.
Sha'ul probably wrote this letter between Pesach (5:6-8) and Shavu'ot (16:8), during the season for presenting the firstfruits of the harvest at the Temple (Leviticus 23:9-15). Since we know that Sha'ul sees in the events and prescriptions of the Tanakh prefigura-tive events, examples and warnings pointing to God's later workings in history (9:9-10; 10:1-11; Ga 4:21-5:1), it is not surprising that he sees Yeshua's resurrection as the firstfruits of the larger harvest to come (v. 23; Yn 14:3,19b-20; Ro 8:29). 

21. For since death came through a man, also the resurrection of the dead has come through a man.
22. For just as in connection with Adam all die, so in connection with the Messiah all will be made alive.
A similar comparison between Adam and Yeshua is made at Romans 5:12-21 &N. The comparison is continued in this chapter at vv. 45-49. 

23. But each in his own order: the Messiah is the firstfruits; then those who belong to the Messiah, at the time of his coming;
24. then the culmination, when he hands over the Kingdom to God the Father, after having put an end to every rulership, yes, to every authority and power.
Then the culmination (Greek telos see Ro 10:4N), which, because the word "then" is repeated, must come after Yeshua's return. Every rukrship,... authority and power in the spiritual realm which is not of God; compare 2C 10:3-4, Ep 6:12. 

25. For he has to rule until he puts all his enemies under his feet.
Until he puts all his enemies under his feet. This is a conflation of Psalm 110:1 ("until I make your enemies your footstool") and Psalm 8:7(6) (quoted in v. 27 and expounded on in MJ 2:5-18). 

26. The last enemy to be done away with will be death,
On death as the last enemy, see vv. 50-57. 

27. for "He put everything in subjection under his feet (Psalm 8:7(6)). But when it says that "everything" has been subjected, obviously the word does not include God, who is himself the one subjecting everything to the Messiah.
28. Now when everything has been subjected to the Son, then he will subject himself to God, who subjected everything to him; so that God may be everything in everyone.
These verses give specifics of the period spoken of in the Tanakh at Zechariah 14:9 ("Adonai will be king over all the earth; on that day Adonai will be One and his name One") and Daniel 7:14, referring to the Messiah ("His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away"). In his various books the conservative Christian scholar George Ladd contrasted the inbreaking of the Kingdom of God at Yeshua's first coming two thousand years ago with the fullness or consummation to come, when God will be everything in everyone (KJV: "all in all"). Using different terminology and making a different emphasis to say somewhat the same thing, the Orthodox Jew Pinchas Lapide and the Christian scholar Juergen Moltmann speak of the present era as a preparatio messianica (Jewish Monotheism and Christian Trinitarian Doctrine, Philadelphia: Fortress, 1981, pp. 80-81). At the end of history the Messiah's eternal rulership, in which the Messianic Community participates, is to merge with that of God the Father. Thus does Sha'ul sum up the final outworking of resurrection. 

29. Were it otherwise, what would the people accomplish who are immersed on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not actually raised, why are people immersed for them?
A controversial verse with uncertain significance; this is the only reference in the New Testament to such a practice. 

30. For that matter, we ourselves — why do we keep facing danger hour by hour?
31. Brothers, by the right to be proud which the Messiah Yeshua our Lord gives me, I solemnly tell you that I die every day.
32. If my fighting with “wild beasts” in Ephesus was done merely on a human basis, what do I gain by it? If dead people are not raised, we might as well live by the saying, Let’s eat and drink, for tomorrow we die! (Isaiah 22:13, 56:12)
"Wild beasts," figuratively, for difficult opponents, as at Ac 19:23-41, or possibly literally, as reported in the New Testament apocryphal "Acts of Paul," written around the middle of the 2nd century. 

33. Don’t be fooled. “Bad company ruins good character.”
34. Come to your senses! Live righteously and stop sinning! There are some people who lack knowledge of God — I say this to your shame.
Several practical arguments for the reality of resurrection, following up on the theme ofv. 19.

The quotation is from Menander's comedy, Thais, and was probably a common Greek proverb in Sha'ul's day. Apparently the libertines (6:12) and gnostics (8:1) were also the ones who disbelieved the resurrection. Though the gnostics pursue knowledge, what they lack is knowledge of God. 

35. But someone will ask, “In what manner are the dead raised? What sort of body do they have?”
36. Stupid! When you sow a seed, it doesn’t come alive unless it first dies.
An imaginary someone can safely be called stupid; this is part of the style of Greek diatribes. Yeshua at Yn 12:24 used the same seed-sowing analogy. And the Talmud contains this passage:

"The Samaritan Patriarch asked Rabbi Me'ir, 'I know that the dead will come back to life,... but when they do arise, will they be naked orclothed?' He replied, 'You may deduce the answer from a kai v'chomer argument [Ml 6:30N] based on a wheat grain — if a grain of wheat, which is buried naked, sprouts forth in many robes, then how much more so the righteous, who are buried in their clothing!'"(Sanhedrin 90b)

The "clothing" refers to righteous deeds (Isaiah 61:10, Rv 19:8). 

37. Also, what you sow is not the body that will be, but a bare seed of, say, wheat or something else;
38. but God gives it the body he intended for it; and to each kind of seed he gives its own body.
39. Not all living matter is the same living matter; on the contrary, there is one kind for human beings, another kind of living matter for animals, another for birds and another for fish.
40. Further, there are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies; but the beauty of heavenly bodies is one thing, while the beauty of earthly bodies is something else.
41. The sun has one kind of beauty, the moon another, the stars yet another; indeed, each star has its own individual kind of beauty.
42. So it is with the resurrection of the dead. When the body is “sown,” it decays; when it is raised, it cannot decay.
43. When sown, it is without dignity; when raised, it will be beautiful. When sown, it is weak; when raised, it will be strong.
44. When sown, it is an ordinary human body; when raised, it will be a body controlled by the Spirit. If there is an ordinary human body, there is also a body controlled by the Spirit.
45. In fact, the Tanakh says so: Adam, the first man, became a living human being (Genesis 2:7) but the last “Adam” has become a life-giving Spirit.
Adam "became a living human being" (or: "a living soul") after God "breathed into his nostrils the breath of life"; the word for "breath," Hebrew ruach, can also be translated "spirit" or even "Spirit." Thus his life depended on God, which is why God could make death a penalty for sin (Genesis 2:17); whereas the last "Adam" (see vv. 21-22 above) is a life-giving spirit — he has life in himself (Yn 1:4,5:26, 10:17-18). 

46. Note, however, that the body from the Spirit did not come first, but the ordinary human one; the one from the Spirit comes afterwards.
47. The first man is from the earth, made of dust; the second man is from heaven.
48. People born of dust are like the man of dust, and people born from heaven are like the man from heaven;
49. and just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, so also we will bear the image of the man from heaven.
We will bear the image of the man from heaven. Compare 2C 3:17-18.
Having proved the necessity of resurrection, Sha'ul can discuss his readers' concern about the practical details. 

50. Let me say this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot share in the Kingdom of God, nor can something that decays share in what does not decay.
51. Look, I will tell you a secret — not all of us will die! But we will all be changed!
A secret, Greek musterion, "a previously concealed truth now revealed" (see Ro 11:25N). Compare 1 Th 4:13-18 with vv. 51-57.
Not all of us will die. But we will all be changed. For a believer, death is no terror, but is "gain," because one goes to be with the Messiah (Pp 1:21, 23). Nevertheless, believers alive at the lime Yeshua returns will not have the experience of dying at all. 

52. It will take but a moment, the blink of an eye, at the final shofar. For the shofar will sound, and the dead will be raised to live forever, and we too will be changed.
The shofar, Hebrew for "ram's horn," is sounded one hundred times on Rosh-HaShanah, the Jewish New Year. Within Judaism the shofar has multiple symbolism, including God's creation and kingship, his revelation at Sinai, prophetic warning, repentance, alertness, battle, Abraham's offering of Isaac (and its connection with God's mercy), the ingathering of God's people in exile, final judgment and resurrection (see Mt 24:31N). Also see 1 Th 4:16&N, Rv 8:2&N. According to the Alphabet Midrash of Rabbi Akiva, seven shofars announce suc-cessive steps of the resurrection process, with Zechariah 9:14 quoted as a proof text: "And Adonai the Lord will blow the shofar."

In 4 Ezra, a Jewish work completed around 120 C.E., one finds this picture of the End Times (compare Mattityahu 24): "When the age about to pass away is sealed, then the books will be opened before the firmament, and all will see it together... and the shofar will sound, at which all men, when they hear it, will be struck with sudden fear. At that time triends will war against friends like enemies, the earth and those living on it will be stricken with fear, and the springs of the fountains will stand still so that for three hours they will not flow. Whoever survives all these things I have foretold to you will be saved and will see my salvation and the end of my world. And the men who have been taken up, who from their birth have not tasted death, will appear. Then will the heart of the inhabitants of the world be changed and converted to a different spirit." (4 Ezra 6:20, 23-26) 

53. For this material which can decay must be clothed with imperishability, this which is mortal must be clothed with immortality.
54. When what decays puts on imperishability and what is mortal puts on immortality, then this passage in the Tanakh will be fulfilled: Death is swallowed up in victory (Isaiah 25:8)
55. "Death, where is your victory? Death, where is your sting?" (Hosea 13:14)
56. The sting of death is sin; and sin draws its power from the Torah;
This verse sums up what is taught at length in the book of Romans, especially at Ro 3:19-31, 5:12-21, 7:1-25. 

57. but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Yeshua the Messiah!
Compare Ro 7:24-25. 

58. So, my dear brothers, stand firm and immovable, always doing the Lord’s work as vigorously as you can, knowing that united with the Lord your efforts are not in vain.
v. 1-58 If Chapter 13 is the great "love chapter" of the New Testament, this is its great "resurrection chapter." Its raison d'etre is that some Corinthians were saying that there is no such thing as bodily resurrection of the dead (v. 12). In this they were simply expressing a common Greek opinion — the Athenians too had mocked Slut"ul when he spoke of Yeshua's resurrection (Ac 17:31-32), just before his first visit to Corinth. Influenced by eastern philosophy, many regarded the body as evil or inferior, unworthy of eternal life (Ro 7:5N). Immortality of the soul, yes; but resurrection of the body, no — and this view is widely held today (on reincarnation see MJ 9:27&N). (The Jewish sect of the Sadducees also denied resurrection; see Ml 3:7&N, 22:23; Ac 23:8.) 

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