In I Corinthians 15:3-4 Paul is reciting a creed from the early Church and it mentions Jesus Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead according to the Scriptures. At the time this creed was first written only the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) was in possession of the Church. Where in the Old Testament does it say Jesus would rise from the dead on the third day?

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Why did Paul claim the Scriptures (Old Testament) told about Jesus rising from the dead on the third day?

The article "Ransom–Christendom's Lost Doctrine" from the Watchtower February 15, 1991 issue answers the question "Is it possible that Paul invented this doctrine?":

No, for he explains at 1 Corinthians 15:3: “I handed on to you, among the first things, that which I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.” Clearly, long before Paul wrote his epistles, Christians already understood Jesus’ death to be sacrificial, a real price paid to redeem sinful mankind, a ransom. Furthermore, as Paul indicates, they understood Christ’s death to fulfill “the Scriptures,” that is, prophesies such as Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 in the Hebrew Scriptures, or “Old Testament.”

So Paul was referencing Psalms and Isaiah, but there is no reference to the "three days". The scripture at Jonah 1:17 has been seen as a Messianic prophecy:

  • Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary
    "Jonah, by this miraculous preservation, was made a type of Christ; as our blessed Lord himself declared, Mt 12:40."
  • Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
    "three days and three nights—probably, like the Antitype, Christ, Jonah was cast forth on the land on the third day (Mt 12:40);"
  • Matthew Poole's Commentary
    "Jonah was in the belly of the fish, in safe custody, three days and three nights, that he might rightly typify Christ’s burial in the grave."
  • Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
    "A comparison of 1 Corinthians 15:4 with Matthew 12:40 shows that the period of Jonah’s incarceration in the fish was divinely ordered to be a type of our Lord’s being “three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” This is the only passage in the O. T., if we except Hosea 6:2, in which there is any prophetical intimation of the length of time between our Lord’s burial and resurrection."
  • Pulpit Commentary
    "Also God ordained this transaction as a type of the resurrection of Christ. . . . The historical nature of this occurrence is substantiated by Christ's reference to it as a figure of his own burial and resurrection. The antitype confirms the truth of the type. It is not credible that Christ would use a mere legendary tale, with no historical basis, to confirm his most solemn statement concerning the momentous fact of his resurrection."

So Paul's faith in Jesus' resurrection was based on prophecies from the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament).

[Scripture quotations in the commentaries are from their respective sources. Other scripture quotations are from the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (Study Edition)]


There are multiple references to Jesus rising from the dead (Paalm. 16:10; Acts 13:34 ff.; Isa. 53:8–10 ff). For the Old Testament reference to three days, Jesus referred to Jonah (Matt. 12:40; 16:4).

’—according to the Scriptures:—The testimony here referred to bears primarily on the fact of His having risen (comp. Ps. 16:10; Acts 13:34 ff.; Isa. 53:8–10 ff.), including also the time of His rising which is hinted at in the type of Jonah (comp. Matt. 12:40; 16:4). But this type, as well as the prophecy in Isa. 53:9, allows also of a reference to the burial; but the repetition of ὃτι before ἐγήγερται forms an objection to this reference. Besides, it is only the two essential factors in the work of redemption, viz.: the death and the resurrection of Christ that are sustained upon Scripture testimony. So Meyer Ed. 3. [But how can this be, when Peter referred in his speech at Pentecost to the declaration of David, “thou wilt not leave my soul in hell neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption,” as a prophecy of Christ’s burial and resurrection?] -- Lange, J. P., Schaff, P., Kling, C. F., & Poor, D. W. (2008). A commentary on the Holy Scriptures: 1 Corinthians (p. 310). Logos Bible Software.


Why did Paul claim the Sciptures (Old Testament) told about Jesus rising from the dead on the third day?

Jesus answered this in Matthew 12:

40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

Jonah 1:

17 Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

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