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[Xtalk] Re: Paul's cites of Christ apparitions 1Co 15.3-7

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  • Jon Peter
    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
    Message 1 of 7 , Jun 1, 1999
      Thank-you to Bernard, Jack and Steven C. for responding to my question on
      Paul's apparition list (1Co 15.3-8).

      Now, some reflectionsÂ…

      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.

      (5) "James"

      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
      also Gal)
      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
      untimely born.



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