Paul is the only alleged witness to the resurrection of Jesus whose writings we have.  With everybody else, it is just what others wrote about them.  His witness is too vague so he is really a "witness".


Paul does not explain what image he had in mind by the crucifixion of Jesus. Some look at the Roman Tropaeum display where you see a headless torso with no hands and feet positioned in the traditional Christian crucifix pattern. It si a funeral effigy where the dead body fo Cassar is shown and which is meant to be for the temple. I would encourage the moderate view that for Paul it may not have been a man nailed hands and feet to a cross. Jesus could have been impaled and the dying body nailed to something. Nailing or tying and something to fasten him to was all that was needed.


Paul wrote about the death of Jesus in a strange way.  In 1 Corinthians 15 he wrote, "For I give to you what I also received as being of first importance that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures." You don't even need the rest of it. This shows Paul is saying Jesus died and some revelation told him that. He says the resurrection was revealed in visions yet this revelation about the death of Jesus is made bigger!

1 Corinthians 15 is worded as if only Paul knew that Jesus had died. It looks like some man was appearing to James and Peter and so on but only Paul realised he was a risen man who had been dead. He says that he received from the Lord what he passed on that Jesus died for sins and rose on the third day and he appeared to Peter, James and so on.  And Paul was final in the list.


Later he discusses heretics who said the dead don't rise. He told them that if the dead don't rise then Jesus didn't rise and the apostles and himself are liars.  As that is unthinkable then Jesus rose. And if he didn't the faith is the saddest mistake ever and life means nothing.  That is clearly desperation and is emotional blackmail.  It shows he could show nothing at all about Jesus to be true.


Now why doesn't he say that if Jesus is dead then the apostles and himself made a honest mistake?  Freud would tell you it is because he knew it was lies.


Paul tells us that they said the idea of the dead rising was ridiculous for they could not imagine what kind of body they would have.  Thus the resurrection of Jesus was being implicitly denied.


Some think the heretics were not saying that Jesus was dead but that he survived death naturally and so he did not rise from the dead. Some of them by commonsense had to be saying just that.  Paul just dwells on the core issue for it is all he needs to do.  This is not true of the ones Paul had in mind because of the way he talks. He would have tried to prove Jesus died if they had been saying that. The heretics did not believe in any historical happening that could possibly be interpreted as a resurrection.


Logic says that it would have been better to challenge them for they would have been easier to revert to Christianity if the historical evidence that Jesus did not swoon or survive contradicted them. Perhaps Paul could not do that for his Jesus lived too long ago.

Paul suggests that it is unthinkable that he and the rest could be lying that Jesus rose.  Suppose if Jesus rose bodily from the tomb using the body that was nailed to the cross in its entirety.   Suppose that the disappearance of the body from the tomb and not by theft but by divine power could be verified satisfactorily.  Yet he bases it all on the apostles' word.  Maybe he had to.  If not then the arrogance is breathtaking. If that is the case then the resurrection witnesses were undoubtedly motivated by pride to tell their story which means we have to be wary because they were more worried about their own religious gratification and not at all about the truth.
Did the heretics think Jesus never rose and nothing odd happened, as in apparitions, after his death full stop?  The gospels say Jesus used the scriptures after his resurrection to show that resurrection was possible and he would rise.  This means he would have referred to the text in Daniel which says that the good will rise and the bad will rise too.  For the heretics to say that the dead will not rise means they are challenging that.  Either the visions were lies, or a demonic trick or the original story did not have Jesus mentioning those scriptures.


The Christian suggestion that if they thought nothing odd happened after Jesus’ death, then Paul would have verified why the apostles’ testimony was true is wrong. It wrongly assumes he could verify and it is obvious from the passage that he could not and had to clutch insanely at straws. He just said that there would be terrible consequences if the doctrine were false which suggests that the apostles were going around telling people to believe Jesus rose just because they said so. When Paul said that the apostles would be lying if there were no resurrection he was clearly indicating that the heretics were not saying the resurrection of Christ never happened for then the apostles could just have been wrong and not been liars.


If the resurrection of Jesus could not count with the heretics then they were saying it was not literally true but a parable or they were saying Jesus did not die or the visions were lies.  Paul does not tell us how they thought about such things except that they thought the apostles were lying.  To dispute all that amounts to questioning the reality of Jesus' death as well. It is saying the data is a mess.
There is no doubt that whatever the truth is that what Paul wrote on this subject indicates that Jesus Christ left no evidence of his death and therefore of his human life. Paul said that God cursed anybody hanged on a tree and Jesus became a curse for he was crucified. For God to raise Jesus from the dead would be accusing God of raising a cursed being from the dead to make him second in charge. The suggestion would be nothing short of blasphemous to the Jews yet they never found it as offensive as the circumcision issue.  The bickering in the early Church for the first few decades was all over circumcision.  Why did the Jews not take this death story seriously?  It looks like a myth that they did not want to give oxygen to.
Paul argued that the pagans knew the dead rise for they are baptised for the dead (v29). The pagans believed that if they got baptised by proxy for the dead the dead could be saved in the resurrection. He argues from this that the resurrection of the dead must be a reality! But what did the pagans know? Do pagans praying to many gods mean that there is more than one God? The desperation of Paul who knew the resurrection was sinking into the sand is unmistakeable.
When Paul said there that sceptical Christians should believe in the resurrection because some pagans are baptised for the dead he made it clear that there was no evidence for Jesus’ resurrection when he had to use that argument. If we should take the pagans who are baptised for the dead as evidence that there was a resurrection for Jesus then we should take it as evidence for the death of Jesus as well. Baptism pictured death and burial and resurrection (Romans 6). Now what Paul must mean is that the pagans sense that a mystical death and resurrection is necessary. That means that Jesus died and rose mystically but not in the sense of an earthly man dying and rising again. The metaphysics of it are incomprehensible.
Paul answered the heretics who were saying that the dead don’t rise for there is a problem with what kind of body they will have (v35). He calls them fools here not for asking a question but for seeing a problem in this. The heretics were obviously troubled by how a rotted body could rise again for clearly God could find it easy to restore a fresh corpse to life. He had to explain to them that the risen body is different from the body that dies in many ways though the old body provides the seed for it so they were wrong to think that the entire physical constitution would be renovated by God and he reminded them too that Adam was made from dust so the resurrection body could be made from an entire rotted body.
So he has two explanations.


One, the resurrection body is not like an ordinary body so it is easy to believe it can come from an ordinary body or even something else.


Two, Adam was made from dust so that is just basically saying that dust can be used for the resurrection body.
One tells us that the body of Jesus didn’t need or involve the revival of a corpse. The less of the corpse used in the resurrection body the easier it would be for the heretics to believe in the resurrection.
Two tells us that these people, these heretics were indeed professing Christians for they were reminded that Adam was made from dust. This was the account given in the Old Testament. So they were reminded in effect that they believed in the Old Testament and therefore had to believe that Adam was made from dust meaning resurrection from the dead is possible.
Bringing the two ideas together we see that the new body is made from part of the old.
His explanations prove then that they disputed the resurrection because bodies decayed and when Jesus’ resurrection was rejected as well that tells us that they believed that Jesus must have decayed too and lived centuries before he began to appear as a resurrected being. The heretics would have believed that bodies were too bad to be raised up which was why Paul stressed that they were right and the body has to be changed before God can admit a risen person into Heaven. Gnostics believed that the body was evil for it weakened the person and was subject to decay. Nobody believed in the existence of the Jesus we find in the gospels at all in those days. We are even given a clue in this that they did not believe the apostle when he wrote that Jesus died and rose three days later. The three days reference could be an interpolation. He doesn’t strive to defend it as if he didn’t care about history or the three days was something that there was no evidence for.
When an expert on religion cannot adequately answer those who say the death and resurrection of Jesus does not describe earthly events it is clear who has won the argument. Them! And even more so when the expert himself is confused about their doctrine and may agree with them unknowingly!
When Paul suggests that we must believe in the resurrection because of the witnesses of the visions of Jesus after the resurrection with the evidence of the empty tomb being ignored as if it was not true or known or relevant or whatever it most probably means it was not known for Jesus was buried too long ago.


Clearly the 15th Chapter of Corinthians, shows that a historical Jesus didn’t exist in the minds of Paul or his converts and his heretics never mind in the first century!

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