[Xtalk] Re: Paul's cites of Christ apparitions 1Co 15.3-7
- Thank-you to Bernard, Jack and Steven C. for responding to my question on
Paul's apparition list (1Co 15.3-8).
Now, some reflections
1Co15.3-8 doesn't seem a likely interpolation. Although Paul's list of
sightings doesn't match the synoptic-Acts accounts, the discrepancies can be
read as evidence of authenticity rather than of forgery. Parallels with Acts
and Mark 16.7, Luke 24.34 show that all stem from one set of agreed-upon
reports. Paul's version is merely abbreviated -- appropriate for his
If Paul's witness-list was rotely consistent with others, we would suspect a
harmonizer. Instead Paul's citation comes in the form one would expect to
find 'in passing,' leading to a larger discourse on resurrection.
These were not oral histories arriving in the 50s. Paul received the info at
an early date, of, say, 35 CE, at his 1st meeting with Peter and James. Here
were eyewitness accounts reported by mutual acquaintances. We are just a few
years after the death and reappearances. The men clashed theologically but
agreed on having seen Jesus. The effect was powerfully energizing and made
them zealots (not uncommon for visionaries). James as a witness is also
significant and credible because his stature as "the Righteous" is
independently attested by Josephus.
Now, as for the discrepancies, I see no negative argument to be made from
them, rather, the contrary.
(1) "Peter first" problem
Paul's writing that Peter was the 1st witness (rather than recalling the
women) can be explained in several ways. Perhaps when Peter and James told
Paul their stories, they left a strong impression centered on themselves, at
the expense of the females who were forgotten or downgraded. Even more
likely, Paul mentioned Peter alone to the Corinthians due to his stature and
the likelihood that the Cors recognized and respected the name. Perhaps
Paul's memory was foggy (he was writing in 50s or so). Perhaps some of the
Gospel apparitions were apocryphal or allegorical and not told to Paul.
Regardless of the reasons, what is crucial and undeniable is that Lk24:34.
puts Peter as the first male. He's the first "name" figure of repute, and
one of the first witnesses -- hence, Paul's account jibes in that important
(2) Non-mention of Clopas and companion, and solo sightings:
The road-to-Emmaus story likewise would have no impact on Corinthians and so
Paul would not necessarily mention it because he would have to explain it
laboriously. Or, James/Peter didn't tell Paul about them.
(3) "More than 500 at once"
This is not real problem either. There's no discrepancy. Some people use
numbers in their descriptions, and some don't. Also, number amounts are
easily subject to errors in transmission. The essential point in both is,
"lotsa people saw him at the same time" after the selective sightings. This
is the key common element and it shows sufficient consistency.
(4) "the Twelve"
Paul says 'the 12' saw Jesus, while the gospels mention only 11 (lacking
Judas) or sometimes 10. Again, no problem. The 12 was an "institution." Paul
referred to them conveniently by this shorthand, for the sake of making his
point to an audience. Why confuse people with 'the 10; or 'the 11'? Also,
he could easily have forgotten that briefly 'the 12' were missing one man.
The important thing is that Paul invokes this august assembly as witnesses,
like the other texts do. He mentions them as coming in a sequence that is
not unlike the gospel versions.
The confirmation of James' apparition experience is omitted from the canon
and comes only (as Bernard noted) in GospHebrews and GospPhilip. Not a
problem either. There are many easily imaginable reasons for the canon's
Well, what about interpolation? The problem in arguing for it is that
1Co15.3-8 is essentially the primitive Gospel proclamation as it was
*initially* preached apostolically, and as Paul confirms he preached to the
Galatians. It's inherently implausible as the sort of material someone might
want to cook-up and add later for polemical reasons. On the other hand, Paul
would likely have referred to it in some way.
Finally, in terms of interpolation themes, these usually travel in flocks
don't they? And yet. this witness-list theme is omitted from the usual
places where you'd expect to find them, such as spurious 2nd cent. epistles.
If anyone's willing to give me a scenario or arguments on interpolation, I
will tackle it specifically.
Brevity does not show unimportance. On the contrary, this little 1Co15.3-8
formula refers to a huge event taking place "according to the scriptures,"
around which everyone is mobilized. This text capsulates the original
apostolic preaching of Paul, Peter and James recorded at an very early date.
Christ rose, he was witnessed, and this was in accord with the scriptures.
Paul says "I gave you Corinthians the very same message I myself got." (cf
Hence 1Co15.3-8 shows the original proclamation as Paul recalled it from his
first meeting with Peter / James. All of them were following the same script
thereafter. This text is strongly parallel in the gospels, as I've shown.
There is no radical disconnection between Paul and the Gospels, as some
critics assert. One can easily see how, decades after the proclamation in
this formula, written gospels followed in the same mold as a natural
progression. As the decades passed and the church grew, there came a need
for pastoral and doctrinal letters, and for the lead apostles to preserve
sayings and anecdotes. Epistles and gospels alike came from this:
For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that
Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was
buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:
And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen
of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto
this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James;
then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one
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