In the early Christian preaching, Jesus was given numerous titles: Son of God (Acts 13:33; Rom. 1:3–4), Lord (Luke 24:34; Acts 2:36; 10:36; Rom. 1:4; 10:9; Phil. 2:11), Christ or Messiah (Acts 2:36, 38; 3:18, 20; 4:10; 10:36; Rom. 1:4; Phil. 2:11; 2 Tim. 2:8), Savior (Acts 5:31; 13:23), Prince (Acts 5:31) and the Holy and Righteous One (Acts 3:14; cf. 2:27; 13:35). Concerning his essential nature, he was even called God (Phil. 2:6).

Most of these facts are reported in early Christian creeds and actually predate the writing of the New Testament. Others are virtually unanimously accepted by critical scholars, usually because of these creeds and other early historical data. It should be pointed out that these latter, critical facts were not accepted in this chapter simply because the critics also accept them, but because they are established by the facts, such as by the creeds that we investigated in this chapter and by the work of careful historical methodology.^87 Thus, critical scholars should not object to this data, since it is both validated by their methods and accepted by their cohorts.

Summary and Conclusion

This chapter has presented perhaps our strongest category of evidence, especially for the death and resurrection of Jesus. Admittedly, the amount of material concerning the life and ministry of Jesus before his death was not overwhelming. However, when we enter the “passion week” of Jesus’ life prior to his crucifixion and afterwards, the situation changes drastically.

The strength of the testimony for Jesus’ death and resurrection comes from several facets of the evidence. First, the material in this chapter was quite early. These early Christian traditions predate the writing of the New Testament and hence give us our earliest look at data dealing with the life of Jesus. In the case of 1 Corinthians 15:3ff. and the Acts creeds (along with a few other examples), this material dates within a few years of the actual events. This is not disputed by the critical community.