Is There a Hidden Message in Paul’s Corinthian Letters That Was Not Written By Paul? #258 + Weet-Bix Cereal Review!
“Hey dad, does the Bible ever talk about the sky turning a weird color before Jesus comes back?” Is a question my son asked me to today. My initial instinct was to say no, but then I remembered Acts 2:
I will display wonders in the heaven above
and signs on the earth below:
blood and fire and a cloud of smoke.
20 The sun will be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood
before the great and glorious day of the Lord comes.
21 Then everyone who calls
on the name of the Lord will be saved.
So, there’s that. Today was a weird day out West. There are fires burning all over the West coast, and they are causing untold damage. The sun was…muted today. Not quite darkness, but around a tenth of its normal brightness and way different in color. I can’t describe it very well, so you need to come to the site and look at the picture. The sky was orange, the sun was some sort of weird pinkish color and it wasn’t bright at all to look like – I’ve literally seen many moons that were brighter than the sun today in our cloudless but smoky sky. Surreal and strange, and it prompted the above exchange between me and my son. Is Jesus returning soon? The church should always live like He is. Today’s Bible passages don’t discuss the blood moon or dark sun, nor smoky clouds very much, but we are going to set an all time record for most chapters read in one podcast with SEVEN. Yes – seven. We begin with 2nd Samuel 4 and 5, and you know somebody is going to get murdered, and other people are going to get executed. Psalms 52-54 are decidedly less violent, and we have Ezekiel 13 and 1st Corinthians 15, which is one of my top two favorite chapters in the Bible, so you know that’s where our focus is!
But first…I’d like to do a cereal review. I know that sounds strange, but – believe it or not, I used to be a panelist on a semi-popular podcast back in they day called ‘The Gospel Friends,’ and one of the things we did was cereal reviews. Yesterday, for the first time in my life, I ate an iconic cereal, and wanted to tell you about it. Weet-Bix is a huge cereal in many places that aren’t the United States. We have quite a few Australian and New Zealand listeners, and I know Weet-Bix is a big deal to them – likely the Aussie national cereal. I’ve been listening to an Australian podcast – The Unmade Podcast with Tim and Brady – and that inspired me to try cereal from Oz. I’ve never tried it before because it looks gross, and I prefer cereals like Oreo O’s, Booberries, Froot Loops, and other kids cereals. As I’ve gotten older, however, my tastes have broadened – not to the rejection of the kid’s sugary cereals, but to the greater and greater acceptance of more adult cereals like Raisin Bran and Frosted Mini Wheats. You can have your All-Bran, though – that stuff is scary. Anyway – Weet-Bix looks like a very, very, very crunchy cereal, and it comes in giant biscuits about 2 times as large as an ORIGINAL Frosted Mini-Wheat, which is itself about four times as large as a Frosted Mini-wheat of today. I figured these Weet-Bix biscuits would be like Adamantium laced Captain Crunch cereal – strong enough to split a Wallaby mouth in twain, and to make a Salty’s jaw ache, but, amazingly, Weet-Bix actually dissolves super-quickly in the milk and becomes very soft – almost mushy. That may sound unpleasant, but it was actually quite good – especially since I had drizzled a bit of honey on the biscuits – which is the proper way to eat the cereal. My daughter said it was quite good with blueberries too, so I’ll try that tomorrow. I give it 4.25 crunches out of 5 – I’ll be buying Weet-Bix again, mates.
Now – let’s read 1st Corinthians 15 and focus on the only thing in the world that is 100 times more important than cereal: The resurrection of Jesus.
WONDERFUL chapter. Verses 16-19 are a bold challenge to anybody who would seek to make faith in Jesus a personal choice, or belief in the resurrection anything other than faith in a historical event that literally and physically happened:
16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. 18 Those, then, who have fallen asleep in Christ have also perished. 19 If we have put our hope in Christ for this life only, we should be pitied more than anyone.
1st Corinthians 15:16-19
Now – let’s talk about verses 3-7, because they are some of the most important and interesting verses in the New Testament:
For I passed on to you as most important what I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve. 6 Then he appeared to over five hundred brothers and sisters at one time; most of them are still alive, but some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.
(The following is a modified version of a chapter in my book Easter: Fact or Fiction) Many scholars see in these verses an early Christian creed, Most scholars agree – even critical scholars – that this statement predates the writing of 1 Corinthians by several years; perhaps going as far back as the mid-30s A.D, within a very short time after the resurrection of Jesus. Eminent scholar James D.G. Dunn here lists several technical reasons that 1 Corinthians 15:3-7 was not originally Pauline, but likely formulated by the Jerusalem church in the 30s A.D.:
“The two relative clauses in antithetic parallelism” (τοῦ γενομένου ἐκ σπέρματος Δαυὶδ / τοῦ ὁρισθέντος υἱοῦ θεοῦ ἐν δυνάμει)
“the parallel verbs as aorist participles” (τοῦ γενομένου / τοῦ ὁρισθέντος)
“two sets of parallel phrases attached” (ἐκ σπέρματος Δαυὶδ / υἱοῦ θεοῦ ἐν δυνάμει and κατὰ σάρκα / κατὰ πνεῦμα ἁγιωσύνης)
“the untypical Pauline term” (ὁρίζω) “the Semitism” (πνεῦμα ἁγιωσύνης).
Käsemann adds the typically Semitic placing of the verb (a participle in this case: τοῦ γενομένου / τοῦ ὁρισθέντος) first (e.g., 1 Tim 3:16).
This is significant since Paul is mostly writing to Gentile readers in Rome. Semitic components tend to point to an origin in the Jerusalem Church, where it is likely to have been formed or approved by the leadership there: Peter, James and John.
I realize that is some highly technical information there, but the meaning is quite critically important. What Dunn and many other scholars are indicating is that the grammar and structure of 1 Corinthians 15:3-7 are quite different from the rest of the book. The best explanation for that is that this section is something Paul is quoting, and therefore it is an older tradition than that which is found in 1 Corinthians 15. Similarly, if a person from 202- were to write a book with the lyrics to Shakespeare contained within, and that book were to be found 2,000 years from now, it would likely be possible to tell, by analyzing Shakespeare’s English vs. common 2020 English, and discern that a slightly different dialect was being written. The same goes for a 2020 book that might quote from an ‘80s song. Why is this significant? Because, 1 Corinthians 15:3-7 is a confession that Jesus died for people’s sins AND that He arose on the third day and literally appeared to over 512 people. If this passage is what it seems, and it was written in the 30s A.D., that leaves very, very little time for the disciples or anybody else to organize a resurrection conspiracy, and even less time for there to be mythical rumors rising up about Jesus. The bottom line is that it was apparently the confession of the Jerusalem church, less than five years after the death of Jesus, that He rose from the dead and obviously appeared to hundreds of people. Therefore the earliest members of the fellowship of Jesus believed that He rose from the dead, and confessed to each other that He rose from the dead. No scholar, critical or otherwise, has ever produced evidence pointing to an early time when the church was not united in the belief that Jesus Christ bodily rose from the dead after His crucifixion.
Why is this likely early creed so important? Because it indicates, since 1st Corinthians was likely written around 51-57 A.D., that the belief in the resurrection of Jesus was widespread, accepted, and earlier than this letter. This is concrete and textual evidence that the early church did not mythologize Jesus, did not at some point consider Him to be only a great teacher, and then only much later begin to view Him as the resurrected son of God. No, because 1st Corinthians is almost universally accepted as a very early letter, genuinely written by the apostle Paul – even by critical scholars – the presence of an even earlier creedal statement in that early letter is a strong demonstration that the earliest church was built on belief in the resurrection of Jesus. Some critical scholars, and even popular authors like Dan Brown might contend otherwise, but the textual evidence gives no evidence in support of an early church who simply followed Jesus as a teacher, and gives volumes of support for an early church that was united in the belief that Jesus, the son of God, was raised from the dead and appeared to hundreds of witnesses. He’s alive, and I’m forgiven, Heaven’s gates are open wide!