It is important to note that the earliest, extended treatment of the Resurrection of Jesus in the New Testament (NT) is in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (cf. Chapter 15). Paul’s earlier letters to the Thessalonians and Galatians presuppose and affirm it but say nothing more about it. Paul devotes the entire fifteenth chapter of his letter to the Corinthians to the subject of the resurrection.
Paul actually reports a list of people to whom the risen Christ appeared. He uses the word appeared. The list includes, Peter, the 12 Disciples, more than 500 brothers and sisters, James and the rest of the apostles. He includes himself in the list: Last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared also to me. The risen Christ had appeared to Paul in a vision, and his inclusion of himself in the list and his repeated use of appeared suggest that Paul saw his experience as very similar to the experiences of others.
Paul also emphasizes the centrality of the resurrection of Jesus. Indeed, as Paul sees it, the resurrection of Jesus IS the one event which proved that what He taught was true and of God. He states, If Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile. Paul’s language could not be stronger. The fact that God raised Jesus from the dead IS the proof that Jesus is God and that His teachings are directly from God.
These verses are often quoted by Christians who insist upon the physical, bodily resurrection of Jesus as the factual foundation of Christianity. For them, if His physical body wasn’t raised, if the tomb wasn’t really empty, Christianity is not true. In the context of Paul’s words in his first letter to the Corinthians, this is not what these words actually mean.
This is clear in part from Paul’s list early in the chapter of those to whom the risen Christ appeared. Did Paul’s vision and the experience of others actually involve an encounter with a physical, bodily Jesus? Paul’s certainly didn’t! Those traveling with Paul in the three accounts presented in ACTS did not experience what Paul did.
It is also clear from the last part of the chapter where Paul addresses the question of exactly what kind of body the resurrected body is. His images affirm continuity even as they emphasize radical discontinuity between the earthly body and the resurrection body. It is like the difference between a seed and a full-grown plant.
I would encourage you to take the time to read the fifteenth Chapter of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. Paul speaks of a spiritual body. What does it mean? What is not denied is that Paul and the others had an actual, real experience of Jesus being alive. This is what is of the greatest importance. Χριστός Ανέστη!