The Resurrection and the New Creation

“Theologically speaking, 1 Cor 15 is critically important because it is the earliest apologetic argumentation in the whole of the New Testament for the physical resurrection of Jesus. Writing in the middle fifties, Paul explicitly states what he himself had taught the Corinthians about the resurrection when he first evangelized them around 51 A.D. This would date Paul’s own testimony just twenty-one years after the resurrection. But there is more. Paul reminds his readers that what he had handed on to them in the year 51 was the ‘tradition’ he himself had received (15:3). The ‘tradition’, therefore, was even earlier and in all probability went back to the testimony of those like Peter and others mentioned in vv 6-7 who had seen Jesus in the flesh after his resurrection. This tradition, apologetically speaking, is the strongest possible argument for the physical resurrection of Jesus,  because at the time Paul preached it, and even at the time when he wrote 1 Corinthians, many of the original witnesses of the resurrected Christ were still alive. […]

No summary can do justice to Paul’s sweeping resurrection theology in 1 Cor 15, but two texts indicate the general direction of his thought: (1) ‘For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ, the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ’ (vv 22-23); and (2) ‘If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body. Thus it is written, ‘The first man Adam became a living being’;  the last Adam became a life-giving spirit’ (vv 44-45). In Paul’s mind, the resurrection of Jesus hails the beginning of a new humanity, just as the creation of Adam hailed the beginning of the old humanity. As ‘first fruits’ of the new humanity, Christ already has a new spiritual (pneumatikon) body (soma). The faithful, who are the fullness of the harvest of which Christ is the ‘first fruits’, live now with the ‘life-giving spirit’ of Christ (‘the last Adam became a life-giving spirit’). This life-giving spirit affects their inner selves now, conforming them to Christ; at the resurrection, it will affect their bodies as well. As Paul says in v 44: ‘It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body.’” (Peter F. Ellis, Seven Pauline Letters, pp 103, 111-112)