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Paul argues:

1 Cor 15:13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, Christ has not been raised either. [LEB]

I take this to mean Christ could not have been raised if no one can be raised. So far this is logically sound. In the next few verses however, Paul seems to make the reciprocal argument, that if Christ has not been raised, no one can be raised. Verses implying this are:

1 Cor 15:13-14 But if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain, and your faith is in vain. And also we are found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if after all, then, the dead are not raised. [LEB]

1 Cor 15:16 And as a further result, those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. [LEB]

This seems surprising because:

  1. There is no logical contradiction between a resurrection of the dead and Christ not having been raised.
  2. Pharisees already believed in resurrection of the dead without believing in Christ's resurrection.

Is Paul arguing that there is no resurrection if Christ was not raised, and if so, why?

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  • If Jesus does not rise within each of us...then our faith/belief is in vain; we die in our sins. We are to Know, through experience, the Holy Spirit of God. "Forgiveness is Divine; It comes from Withiin."
    – tblue
    Oct 19 '19 at 4:31
  • The Pharisees deduced the resurrection of the dead from various scriptural passages concerning God's justice (on one hand) when compared to the overwhelming reality of injustice present within other scriptural passages. But they were unaware of the exact mechanism by which this will be accomplished.
    – Lucian
    Oct 24 '19 at 1:45
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In the aforementioned passage, the apostle Paul is not referring to just any resurrection of the dead, but a resurrection of the dead where the body is:

  • “raised in incorruption”1
  • “raised in glory”2
  • “raised in power”3
  • “raised a spiritual body”4

This is also known of the “resurrection of life”5 and “the first resurrection.”6

Before the Lord Jesus Christ died, many people were resurrected from the dead, including Jairus’ daughter7 and Lazarus.8 However, none of them were resurrected in a spiritual, incorruptible, immortal body. Rather, they were resurrected in that same condition they were previously in, possessing a soulish, corruptible, and mortal body. Hence, they were destined to die again.

Is Paul arguing that there is no resurrection if Christ was not raised, and if so, why?

He is arguing that there is no resurrection of the dead unto eternal life if Christ was not raised. First, Christ must have died in order to atone for the sins of humanity. Then, the Holy Spirit had to be given to those who believe in him in order for believers to be spiritually united with Christ.9 In order for the Holy Spirit to be given to all those who believe in him, Christ had to be glorified (by dying and being raised in a glorified body).10

39 But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. NKJV, ©1982

By being united with Christ, believers “die with” Christ.11 Then, upon the resurrection of the dead unto eternal life, which occurs upon Christ’s return, those Christians still alive can be changed, and those who have died can be resurrected, all unto eternal life, in a spiritual, immortal, and incorruptible body. Only by being “in Christ”—being spiritually united with Christ by means of the indwelling Holy Spirit—is the believer righteous in the eyes of God, and no longer deserving of His wrath.12

21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. NKJV, ©1982

Addendum

The distinction between an ordinary resurrection and a resurrection to eternal life helps, however I wonder whether the Pharisees (and by extension Paul) would have believed in resurrection to eternal life anyway, whether or not this specific person Jesus was raised.

I’d answer affirmatively on account of Daniel 12:2–3.

Perhaps Paul came to realise that Christ's work was a necessary condition for resurrection to eternal life?

The Tanakh is so very limited on details on how one could possibly attain eternal life, especially by means of the resurrection of (from) the dead. What life the Torah offers for absolute perfect obedience to the commandments is merely prolonged life upon earth during one’s first life (so to speak). What the apostle Paul propounded in his epistles, I surmise that such intricate knowledge must have come from God, as it is difficult to fathom how it could be derived literally (by a gross reading) from the Tanakh.

Before knowing Christ might he have believed in resurrection to eternal life but not known about Christ as a necessary condition?

Again, since Daniel speaks of a resurrection to eternal life, the apostle Paul would certainly have believed in it. But, the mechanics and the process of attaining that eternal life via the resurrection was a mystery.


Footnotes

1 1 Cor. 15:42
2 1 Cor. 15:43
3 id.
4 1 Cor. 15:44
5 John 5:29 cf. Dan. 12:2
6 Rev. 20:4–6
7 Mar. 5:22–43
8 John 11:44
9 1 Cor. 6:17 cf. 1 Cor. 12:13
10 John 7:39
11 Rom. 6:8 cf. 2 Tim. 2:11; Rom. 6:3, 7:4
12 2 Cor. 5:21

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  • The distinction between an ordinary resurrection and a resurrection to eternal life helps, however I wonder whether the Pharisees (and by extension Paul) would have believed in resurrection to eternal life anyway, whether or not this specific person Jesus was raised. Perhaps Paul came to realise that Christ's work was a necessary condition for resurrection to eternal life? Before knowing Christ might he have believed in resurrection to eternal life but not known about Christ as a necessary condition?
    – matt2048
    Oct 19 '19 at 2:36
  • Some commentaries see a distinction in the first resurrection, ἐξανάστασιν, exanastasin, out resurrection, but place its appearance in Phi 3:11, and link it to not just having the Spirit, but by overcoming, drinking the cup Christ drank. Heb 11:35NASB Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection; 36and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment.
    – Seeker
    Oct 19 '19 at 5:22
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Paul, great man of faith and preacher, poor logician

Unlike others who have given their answers before me (over 1 year ago, and 4 hours ago, respectively) I will limit myself to the logical analysis of the quoted verses of 1 Corinthians from a logical POV.

1 Cor 15:13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, Christ has not been raised either.

The above statement is what logicians would refer to as an enthymeme, that is "a syllogistic argument that is incompletely stated" (britannica.com). Unpacking the unstated premise in 1 Cor 15:13, we have:

  • PM: Dead [humans] are not raised
  • Pm: Jesus was a human
  • C: Jesus has not been raised

A quick look tells us that the the syllogism is predicated on the validity of the argument (which its has), but also on the soundness of the premises (IEP > Validity and Soundness). PM would be objected to, in general, even by the Pharisees (who believed in the resurrection). Pm does not consider that Jesus is not merely human, and therefore he may be a special case. Which is, most likely, what the Corinthians believed. Very much like the Romans believed in the apotheosis of their emperor.

So, Paul's argument at 1 Cor 15:13 is logically valid but unsound.

1 Cor 15:14 But if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain, and your faith is in vain.

If the "preaching" and the "faith" are only in the resurrection of Jesus, then v. 14 is obviously correct.

If the "preaching" and the "faith" are in the resurrection of Jesus as being the criterion of truth/error of the belief in the general resurrection, then Paul's argument is invalied, similar to the one at 1 Cor 15:13

1 Cor 15:15 And also we are found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if after all, then, the dead are not raised.

Paul confuses and conflates the testimony to the resurrection of Jesus as fact (which can only be true or false depending on the reliability of the witness) with the (presumed) logical implications of the resurrection/non resurrection of Jesus. Verse 15 has got logical weakness very similar to verse 14.

1 Cor 15:16 And as a further result, those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.

The expression "fallen asleep in Christ" is short for "died, trusting the resurrected Christ for their own resurrection to life everlasting".

Again, the statement, when unpacked, is logically unsound.

So, did Paul get it all wrong? No, he got the central importance of the Resurrection of Jesus right. Jesus' Resurrection is indeed God's pledge for our resurrection.

Paul was wrong only in that he tried to make preaching and faith depend on the validity and soundness of unsound logical arguments.

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