You must sing the title, as in Fiddler on the Roof! Go back and try it if you did not; this blog post will improve greatly with the sound of the song ringing in your ears. Paul's beautiful demonstration of the reality of Christ’s resurrection is based on the tradition of the early Church, of which Paul himself is certainly a part, and this tradition is based on the experience of the first followers. The language of tradition, of "handing on" - "I handed on to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures" (1 Corinthians 15:3-4) - is significant because the experience of the Christians is a proof of the reality of the resurrection. I recall at a conference having a disagreement with a fellow theologian who argued that there was no "proof" of the resurrection, that faith was the only reason Christians could proclaim it. I agree that faith is essential to grasping and accepting the resurrection, but Paul’s claim is that there are witnesses. Is not the testimony of these witnesses "proof" of the resurrection? I think it is. Think of a court case: sometimes there is physical evidence - especially now it is available since forensic science is so advanced - but sometimes there is only testimony of witnesses. Why should we believe or disbelieve the testimony of witnesses?
Here is what Paul says of these witnesses and of the events they witnessed regarding Jesus Christ:
that he was buried;
that he was raised on the third day
in accordance with the Scriptures;
that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve.
After that, Christ appeared to more
than five hundred brothers at once,
most of whom are still living,
though some have fallen asleep.
After that he appeared to James,
then to all the apostles. (1 Corinthians 15:4-8)
Witnesses proclaimed him dead and then they proclaimed, strangely and shockingly, that he was alive! What is so wonderful about the resurrection, apart from gaining life for the Corinthians and for us, is that it is attested by our brothers and sisters in Christ, who stated that they had witnessed it. I trust them.
We should be attentive to the reality of tradition - it is the experiences of our brothers and sisters in Christ - not something distant and far from us. It is the lived life of the community of followers of Jesus. Some of us, naturally, struggle in this life, such as Paul - "For I am the least of the apostles, not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been ineffective. Indeed, I have toiled harder than all of them; not I, however, but the grace of God that is with me. Therefore, whether it be I or they, so we preach and so you believed" (1 Corinthians 15:9-13). By the grace of God, we are what we are, we testify to our life in Christ, and so we believe. This is the tradition which we maintain and continue.