Since Easter is near, it’s a good time to remind people that the belief in Jesus’s resurrection dates very early. How can we say this. 1 Corinthians 15:3- 8 contains a creed that reads as follows:
3For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, 4and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, 5and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. 7Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.
Now, there are very good arguments for vs..3-5 as being a creed. And 1 Corinthians was written sometime in the early 50s. So that gives us a mere 20 years between the time of Jesus’s crucifixion and this document.
But we can push it back much further. Notice that Paul writes, “I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received.” So this was not the first time Paul passed on this creed to the believers in Corinth. We can push the date back. But then note that Paul had received this creed from other believers. So we can push it back even further to the time of this reception. Yet for Paul to receive a creed, a consensus among early Christians must have come together to be expressed as the creed.
When you take these three steps into account, there is absolutely nothing unreasonable in thinking that this creed arose as a consensus belief among early Christians weeks or months after the crucifixion. We can’t prove this is the case. Nevertheless, this position is quite reasonable.