Lita Cosner – Christ as the last Adam: Paul’s use of the Creation narrative in 1 Corinthians 15

In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul gives a sustained argument for the physical resurrection of the dead. Throughout this argument, he alludes back to the Creation and Fall accounts. While the reference to Christ as the “Last Adam” is the most obvious reference to Genesis, the rest of the chapter is also saturated with images and allusions to Genesis 1–3. Paul’s use of the Creation and Fall narratives in this passage only works if they are interpreted as depicting historical events, as Paul undoubtedly understood them to do.

N.T. Wright argues that “The resurrection—that of Jesus, and that of Jesus’ people—dominates the Corinthian correspondence.” In one of the most sustained arguments in any of Paul’s letters, he takes on those in the Corinthian church who are claiming that there is no resurrection of the dead. Their denial does not stem from “scientifically”-minded skepticism that we might attribute to modern people, since most ancient people accepted some sort of disembodied spiritual existence after death. They probably regard resurrection from the dead as a perverse doctrine rather than an impossible one, since people with a Greek background would be more likely to regard a purely spiritual existence as superior to any existence involving a physical body.

Paul vehemently argues against this position, saying that if there is no resurrection, Jesus cannot have been raised, and if Christ is not raised, the Christian has no hope of salvation. “Paul’s point is a simple one: if their present position prevails, they have neither a past nor a future.” The logic of the argument in this passage forces the Christian to accept that indeed, there is resurrection of the dead, since Paul appeals to the Corinthians’ own former acceptance of the fact of Christ’s resurrection to prove his point.

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