In I Corinthians 15, Paul lists six specific individuals or groups who are reported to have been eyewitnesses of the resurrected Jesus. But are these reports credible? A brief assessment of each account seems to provide good reasons to think that these reports are reliable.
Paul’s first eyewitness is the apostle Peter. Interestingly, the Gospels do not give a detailed account of Jesus’ appearance to Peter. In light of this fact, are there other reasons to trust its historicity? From the earlier examination of I Corinthians 15:3ff and Paul’s visit with Peter in Galatians 1:18, one can be assured that Paul received a first-hand account of Peter’s testimony, which he vouches for in I Corinthians 15. In addition, Luke confirms the appearance to Peter in Luke 24:33-34: “And they got up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found gathered together the eleven and those who were with them, saying, ‘The Lord has really risen and has appeared to Simon.’” Thus, as William Lane Craig observes, “even the most skeptical [New Testament] critics agree that Peter saw something that he called an appearance of Jesus alive from the dead.”
Secondly, Paul records that Jesus appeared to the Twelve. Considered the most reliable appearance account by scholars, it is confirmed in the Gospels by Luke 24:36-42 and John 20:19-20. The agreement in these independent records attests to their historical reliability. As a result, this event is well-attested to by early Christian tradition, Paul’s confirmation of the report after having spent time with the Twelve, and both Luke and John’s records in the Gospel material.
Thirdly, and quite remarkably, Paul records the fact that Jesus appeared to over 500 people at once. Nowhere else in the New Testament is this occurrence mentioned, but this fact casts no doubt upon its reliability. Indeed, it seems incomprehensible that Paul could have invented this material with the majority of eyewitnesses alive to confirm or deny the accuracy of his account. Immediately following his mention of the 500 eyewitnesses, Paul says that “most of [them] remain until now, but some have fallen asleep.” As C. H. Dodd comments, “There can hardly be any purpose in mentioning the fact that most of the 500 are still alive, unless Paul is saying, in effect, ‘the witnesses are there to be questioned.’”
The next eyewitness account on Paul’s list comes from James, the younger brother of Jesus. This appearance is notable for the fact that during the lifetime of Jesus, James and his brothers did not believe in Jesus (see Mark 3:21, 31-35; John 7:1-10). However, after the resurrection event they are found in the upper room in Acts 1:14. Later, one discovers that James has become a prominent leader in the early church (Acts 12:17) and then appears to be the primary leader of the Jerusalem church (Acts 21:18). Ultimately, James was martyred for his faith. Given the history of James, an important question arises: what was it that transformed James from being an unbeliever who did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah, to giving up his life because of his faith in Jesus as the Messiah? The most reasonable explanation is that James saw the risen Jesus.
The fifth appearance is to “all the apostles.” This group, although wider than the Twelve (otherwise, this is simply a duplication of Paul’s reference to the Twelve in verse 5), was probably a limited circle of individuals who had been with Jesus from the beginning of his ministry (see Acts 1:21-22; John 15:27). Craig states that “the facticity of this appearance is guaranteed by Paul’s personal contact with the apostles themselves.”
Lastly, Paul includes his own eyewitness account of the resurrected Jesus on the road to Damascus. As with the James account, one is confronted with the question of Paul’s transformation. What was it that changed Paul from a devout rabbi who persecuted Christians to their death, to a devout Christian who went to his death for his faith in Jesus? Paul gives us the only adequate explanation: “and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.”
The data found in I Corinthians 15 provides overwhelming eyewitness evidence of the post-mortem appearances of Jesus. Paul’s detailed account gives a “diversity of witnesses in a variety of places over a forty-day period,” suggesting that these “earliest accounts of the resurrection were not fictitious.” Robert Funk, co-founder of the Jesus Seminar, a group of radical liberal scholars, argues against a supernatural Jesus who rose from the dead. According to Funk, such a conclusion is mythical: “We want to liberate Jesus. The only Jesus most people know is the mythic one. They don’t want the real Jesus, they want the one they can worship. The cultic Jesus.” As the Jesus Seminar has concluded, real resurrections do not occur, and therefore, the “real” Jesus never rose bodily from the dead. However, after an examination of the eyewitness evidence, the best explanation is the historical fact of the resurrection. Indeed, the only Jesus that is “real” is a Jesus that was crucified as an ordinary criminal, died on a Roman cross, and three days later was resurrected bodily from the grave. Only this Jesus, the historical Jesus, is one worthy of being worshipped.
 William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1994), 281.
 C.H. Dodd, More New Testament Studies (Manchester: University of Manchester Press, 1968), 128.
In I Corinthians 15:3-8, Paul records a list of witnesses to Jesus’ post-mortem appearances:
“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.”
In this passage, Paul provides a chronologically ordered, yet non-exhaustive, list of Jesus’ appearances. Other New Testament passages (Matt. 28:9-10; John 20:11-18) record eyewitness accounts of various women who saw Jesus. However, Paul most likely excludes them “because women were not qualified to be legal witnesses, and therefore their presence in the list would be worthless, or even counter-productive.” Nonetheless, the importance of this one biblical text cannot be overstated. This particular listing presents crucial eyewitness evidence of a risen Jesus that is historically reliable and corroborated in other non-Pauline sources.
Several significant conclusions can be drawn regarding Paul’s testimony that point to its authority and historical reliability. First, there is almost no question among scholars that Paul wrote I Corinthians. Even in the most skeptical scholarly circles, this conclusion is almost unquestioned.
Second, in I Corinthians 15:3ff, Paul records an early creed that pre-dates the writing of the epistle. According to Gary Habermas, an eminent scholar on the historicity of the resurrection, “numerous evidences indicate that this report is much earlier than the date of the book in which it appears.” One is justified in this conclusion on the basis of several reasons. First, “the technical terms delivered and received traditionally indicate the imparting of oral tradition (cf. I Cor. 11:2).” In this custom, also referred to as “traditioning,” the “Jewish teachers would pass on their teachings to their students, who would in turn pass them on to their own students.” Thus, Paul is recording material that he had previously received from others.
Furthermore, there is good reason to think that Paul received this material from Peter approximately three years after Paul’s conversion. In Galatians 1:18-20, Paul records his visit to Peter and James, both of whom are listed as eyewitnesses in I Corinthians 15. In this account, Paul uses the Greek word historeo, signifying that his visit was of an investigative nature. What was the primary subject of Paul’s inquiry? “The immediate context suggests that the chief topic of conversation concerned the nature of the gospel (Gal. 1:11-16), which included reference to Jesus’ resurrection (I Cor. 15:1-4).” For this reason, most scholars ascribe an early date to this creed and agree that Paul received the material from two to eight years after the crucifixion of Jesus, between A.D. 32-38.
This brief examination of I Corinthians 15:3ff is quite significant. Habermas summarizes the value of this data: “In the pre-Pauline formula of I Corinthians 15:3ff. alone we have an extraordinarily early tradition, arising within a very short time after the events themselves, reported by an apostle, who could very well have received it from other apostles who followed Jesus during his earthly ministry.”
Therefore, the majority of scholars conclude that the material contained in I Corinthians 15:3ff supports the historicity and authority of Paul’s testimony. As German historian Hans von Campenhausen states, “This account meets all the demands of historical reliability that could possibly be made of such a text.” Jewish scholar Pinchas Lapide adds that this creed “may be considered as a statement of eyewitnesses.” As a result, this passage is an invaluable report of early eyewitness testimony to the actual appearances of a physically resurrected Jesus.
 Richard Swinburne, The Resurrection of God Incarnate (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2003), 147.
 William Lane Craig, Knowing the Truth About the Resurrection (Ann Arbor: Servant Books, 1981), 88.
 Clarence Tucker Craig, “Introduction and Exegesis of I Corinthians,” Interpreter’s Bible, ed. George Arthur Buttrick (New York: Abingdon-Cokesbury, 1953), 10:13.
 See Gary R. Habermas, The Historical Jesus (Joplin, MO: College Press, 1996); with Antony G.N. Flew, Did Jesus Rise from the Dead? The Resurrection Debate, ed. Terry Miethe (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987).
 Gary R. Habermas, “The Resurrection Appearances of Jesus,” In Defense of Miracles, ed. R. Douglas Geivett & Gary R. Habermas (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1997), 264.
 J.P. Moreland and Gary R. Habermas, Immortality: The Other Side of Death (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1992), 67.
 Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 1993), 484.
BACKGROUND & CONTEXT: Philippi was a prosperous Roman colony and the Philippians were Roman citizens, a fact in which they took pride (Acts 16:21). Most likely, there weren’t very many Jews, which would account for the absence of Old Testament citations. With such heavy Roman influence, the Philippian church would have to battle the influences of power and prestige and a hierarchical approach to leadership.
Paul’s reason for writing this letter is to thank the Philippian church for their partnership in the gospel (1:3-11), particularly for their gift to him (1:5; 4:10-19), and to update them on his current circumstances (1:12-26). This epistle can almost be viewed as a missionary support and update newsletter. In addition, Paul uses the letter to encourage them to further partnership in the cause of the gospel.
Just prior to chapter two, Paul says that when he receives an update on their progress he is looking forward to hearing how they are “standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” (1:27). Chapter 2 consists of Paul unpacking this idea of “standing firm in one spirit” or unity. Unity is achieved through humility (2:1-4) of which Christ is our model (2:5-11). In addition, unity is achieved through their work in the cause of the gospel, as they “appear as lights in the world” by holding out “the word of life” (2:15-16). Thus Paul is sending Timothy and Epaphroditus to partner with them.
REFLECTIONS: There were two insights, particularly regarding leadership and community, that arose in this passage. First, we see Paul’s continued emphasis on unity within the body. In this particular passage, Paul points us to Jesus as our example. Jesus was not concerned with status, power, or prestige, as he “did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped” (v. 6). Rather, he “emptied Himself” and “humbled Himself to the point of death” (v. 7-8). For the Roman-influenced Philippians, this message was absolutely radical. It was also necessary for them to understand in order to achieve unity.
Secondly, we discover that there is nothing that unifies the body like partnership in the gospel cause. In Philippians, the word gospel is used 9 different times. Paul informs the church that they are a light in this world (2:15) because they hold out the “word of life” (2:16), the gospel. Paul has poured out his life for this cause (2:17) and wants them to share in his joy (2:18). Fellowship events, potlucks, small groups, and other avenues are helpful things for building unity in the body, but nothing brings unity like partnering in the cause of the gospel. Even as a youth pastor, I saw how true this was. Fellowship events were helpful in building unity in the group, but nothing brought unity like a mission trip where we were immersed in the work of the gospel cause.
Two years ago, I had the chance to debate an atheist professor at Weber State University in Utah on the best explanation for the existence of objective moral values. The writings of Bill Craig and Paul Copan have shaped a lot of my thinking in this area, as I'm sure you'll see below. In my opening argument, I made the case for God as the ontological foundation for objective morality. Then I raised five problems for an evolutionary view of ethics that make it an implausible alternative. Here are the problems I outlined in the debate:
(1) Evolution cannot account for moral values: Moral values do not fit in the ontology of naturalism. On a naturalistic view, our moral values are the result of biological evolution, purely for the purpose of survival and reproduction. But how would such a herd morality be binding and true?
Atheists recognize the unnatural fit. Philosopher of science Michael Ruse writes:
The position of the modern evolutionist...is that humans have an awareness of morality...because such an awareness is of biological worth. Morality is a biological adaptation no less than are hands and feet and teeth.... Considered as a rationally justifiable set of claims about an objective something, ethics is illusory. I appreciate that when somebody says “Love thy neighbor as thyself,” they think they are referring above and beyond themselves.... Nevertheless...such reference is truly without foundation. Morality is just an aid to survival and reproduction...and any deeper meaning is illusory…. 
J.L. Mackie, one of the most prominent atheist philosophers of the 20th century, said this: “Moral properties constitute so odd a cluster of qualities and relations that they are most unlikely to have arisen in the ordinary course of events, without an all-powerful god to create them.” 
(2) Evolution cannot account for moral obligations: If humans are simply more developed animals, why think there are moral duties to which they are obligated? Male great white sharks are under no obligation to refrain from forcibly copulating with female great whites. Male lions are under no obligation to refrain from killing all the young lion cubs in a pride they have just taken over. Notice, we do NOT use moral terms to describe such behavior. We do not call the shark’s behavior “rape” and we do not call the lion’s behavior “infanticide.”
Natural science is a descriptive enterprise, only telling us what is the case, not what ought to be the case. For example, nature can describe what it is to be healthy, but it cannot generate a moral obligation to be healthy.
Prominent American philosopher Richard Taylor recognizes this problem for naturalism:
The idea of political or legal obligation is clear enough…. Similarly, the idea of an obligation higher than this, referred to as moral obligation, is clear enough, provided reference to some lawgiver higher…than those of the state is understood. In other words, our moral obligations can…be understood as those that are imposed by God…. But what if this higher-than-human lawgiver is no longer taken into account? Does the concept of moral obligation…still make sense? … The concept of moral obligation [is] unintelligible apart from the idea of God. 
On a naturalistic view, there is nothing to issue moral commands and there is no one to serve as the appropriate authority standing behind our moral obligations. As Taylor states, in the absence of God, the concept of moral obligations is incoherent.
(3) Evolution cannot adequately explain human value: On a naturalistic evolutionary scenario, human beings are nothing special. The universe comes into existence through the Big Bang and, through a blind process of chance and necessity, evolves all the way through to us. The same process that coughed up humans also coughed up bacteria. Thus, there is nothing intrinsically valuable about being human. Indeed, on this view, to think humans beings are special is to be guilty of speciesism, the view that one’s own species is somehow superior to other species.
Atheist Richard Dawkins offers a bleak assessment of human worth on an atheistic worldview:
In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, or any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference…. DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is. 
But what other result should we expect from valueless, cause-and-effect physical processes? There is no reason to think that an impersonal, valueless process could produce valuable, rights-bearing persons.
(4) Evolution cannot adequately explain moral accountability: If God does not exist, there is no basis for moral accountability. On naturalism, who or what imposes moral obligations upon us? And who or what would hold us to those obligations? In a purely material universe, there is no moral accountability. What difference would it make to disregard your moral obligations to whomever? In an atheistic universe, why would you ever set aside self-interest for self-sacrifice?
(5) Evolution cannot adequately explain human freedom: If we are the products of evolutionary forces, how did moral freedom and responsibility emerge? There is no reason to think, given our supposed materialistic and deterministic origins, that we have free will. Atheist philosopher Thomas Nagel states that there is “no room for agency in a world of neural impulses, chemical reactions, and bone and muscle movements”; naturalism strongly suggests that we are “helpless” and “not responsible” for our actions. 
Of course, if there is no free will, then no one is morally responsible for anything. Determinism puts an end to objective moral duties because on this worldview, we have no control over what we do. We are nothing more than puppets in a cause-and-effect universe.
 Michael Ruse, “Evolutionary Theory and Christian Ethics,” in The Darwinian Paradigm (London: Routledge, 1989), pp. 262, 268-9.
 J. L. Mackie, The Miracle of Theism (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1982), 115-116.
 Richard Taylor, Ethics, Faith, and Reason (Englewood Cliffs, N. J.: Prentice-Hall, 1985), p. 83-84
 Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life (New York: Basic Books, 1995), 132-133
 Thomas Nagel, The View from Nowhere (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986), 111, 113.