Did Paul receive the “1 Corinthians 15 creed” within 3 years of converting?

“Yes, after all…
  • Gal 1:18 says “After three years, [Paul] went to visit [Peter]”

    Paul says in Gal 1:18 -- “Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and get information from him, and I stayed with him fifteen days. This is relevant because, at the end of this visit, Paul would inevitably be able to answer whether or not Peter and James believed Jesus appeared to them alive from the dead.1

    But wait, couldn't Paul mean “three years” after his return to Damascus? [See response]2

    1. There are a few reasons to think Paul would know the truth of the matter.
      First, Paul would have wanted to know things like that, and there is no reason Peter and James would not have answered.

      Jerome Murphy-O'Connor (NT professor at Ecole Biblique in Jerusalem since 1967): “It takes neither imagination nor intelligence to recognize how Paul must have reacted… the natural curiosity engendered by the hints he picked up during his three years in the Christian community at Damascus make it extremely improbable that he did not avail himself to the utmost of Peter's knowledge of the historical Jesus” [Paul: A Critical Life (Oxford), 91.]

      C.H. Dodd (NT studies lecturer at Oxford, professor at Cambridge): [Famous quote:] “His first visit to Jerusalem was three years after this (possibly just over two years on our exclusive reckoning); at the utmost, therefore, not more than seven years after the crucifixion. At that time he stayed with Peter for a fortnight, and we may presume they did not spend all the time talking about the weather.” [The Apostolic Preaching and its Developments (Willet, Clark & Company, Chicago, 1937), 16-17.]

      C.H. Dodd: “After that he had no direct contact with the primitive church for fourteen years, that is to say, almost down to the period to which our epistles belong, and it is difficult to see how he could during this time have had any opportunity of further instruction in the apostolic traditions. The date, therefore, at which Paul received the fundamentals of the gospel cannot well be later than some seven years after the death of Jesus Christ. It may be earlier, and indeed we must assume some knowledge of the tenets of Christianity in Paul even before his conversion. Thus Paul's preaching represents a special stream of Christian tradition which was derived from the main stream at a point very near to its source. No doubt his own idiosyncrasy counted for much in his presentation of the gospel, but anyone who should maintain that the primitive Christian gospel was fundamentally different from that which we have found in Paul must bear the burden of proof.” [The Apostolic Preaching and its Developments (Willet, Clark & Company, Chicago, 1937), 17.]

      Second, Paul indicates that he did seek this kind of information. After all, he says he went “to inquire” (historesai). This is an historical inquiry for facts (See Esther 8:12 (LXX); Esdras 1:33, 40; 2 Macc. 2:24, 30, 32; 4 Macc. 3:19; 17:7), or more loosely to tell a story (which Paul and Peter were exchanging, accomplishing the same end). Historeo can also mean "get aquainted with" (see Josephus, J.W. 6.81; Plutarch, Theseus 30, Pompey 40, Lucullus 2, De Curiositate 2; Epictetus, Diss. 2.14.28; 3.7.1). Context suggests Paul was inquiring about the Gospel (1 Corinthians 15:3-4, 14, 17; Galatians 1:11, 16).

      Third, Paul was with Peter for fifteen days. This is relevant because whether or not Paul wanted to know if Peter affirmed an appearance, he inevitably would've found out.

    2. It is unlikely that Paul is referring to three years after his return from Damasacus.

      Richard Longnecker: “ἔπειτα μετὰ τρία ἔτη, “then after three years.” The adverb ἔπειτα, “then,” appears frequently in Koine Greek (at times with its cognate εἰτα) in enumerations to denote chronological sequence or the logical succession of ideas (cf. 4 Macc 6:3; Josephus, Ant.12.92; 1 Cor 15:5b–7) and is often contrasted with πρῶτον, “first” (cf. 1 Cor 15:46; 1 Thess 4:16b–17; Heb 7:2; Jas 3:17; see also the ἀπαρχή … ἔπειτα … ἐ͂ιτα series of 1 Cor 15:23–24). Here it is contrasted with εὐθέως, “immediately thereafter,” of v 16b. Therefore, just as “immediately thereafter” refers back to Paul’s Damascus-road experience, so “after three years” has as its referent that same experience—i.e., the three years are not to be counted from the immediate antecedent, Paul’s return to Damascus after residence in Arabia, but from the earlier antecedent of vv 15–16a, the crisis in Paul’s life that occurred on his way to Damascus.” [Word Biblical Commentary]

      A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Galatians vol. 36: “The phrase “after three years” is argumentative in purpose, not merely chronological. The mention of the period subsequent to his conversion during which he voluntarily abstained from contact with the apostles at Jerusalem tends to show his entire independence of them. The three years are therefore doubtless to be reckoned not from his return to Damascus, but from the crisis of his life which preceded his departure from Damascus. [Ernest De Witt Burton, p. 59.]