The Author of Luke and Acts didn’t Believe the "Five Hundred Witnesses" Story

The Resurrected Jesus appears
to two disciples on the Emmaus Road
by Altobello Malone


“Overall I think the NT accounts stand up fairly well as consistent with the fact that a large amount of people believed something really did happen.”


When you say “a large amount of people” where are you getting this number? If we read the Gospels, Jesus appeared to a handful of women, to the Eleven, and to two disciples on the Emmaus Road. That is less than 20.

In I Corinthians chapter 15, Paul seems to be quoting an early Creed. His list of witnesses is oddly different. His list includes James and omits the women. He also lists Peter as the first person Jesus appeared to, a claim not made in any of the Gospels or in Acts. I know that Christians have many explanations for these discrepancies. But then Paul says that five hundred people at once saw Jesus and that most of these people were still alive at the time that Paul was writing the letter.

It is very odd to me that none of the authors of the Gospels and Acts mention this “five hundred at once” statement. It is odd to me that the author of Luke, who tells us in Luke chapter one that he thoroughly investigated all previous writings about Jesus (wouldn’t this include Paul’s writings??), and says he verified the accuracy of the information by speaking to “eyewitnesses”, says nothing about “five hundred at once”.

We have no idea where Paul obtained the Creed in I Corinthians. Sure, maybe he got it from Peter and James on his trip to Jerusalem, but maybe he didn’t. Maybe he received this information from second, third, fourth, etc.-hand sources. If Luke is telling us the truth, that his information comes straight from eyewitnesses, and that he is only going to give us details that he had verified as true, with these eyewitnesses, but he leaves out this “five hundred at once” claim, I have to go with Luke, and believe that the “five hundred at once” claim is an embellishment that Luke didn’t believe.

So if Luke is accurate in his details in Luke and Acts, the number of “witnesses” does not include “500 at once”. So even if we throw in a few dozen more “eyewitnesses”, we are now up to maybe fifty people.

So, Christians, do you believe that just because approximately 20-50 uneducated, desperate, depressed, grieving first century Galilean peasants believed that their dead leader had appeared to them in the flesh shortly after his death, that this is strong evidence that educated people living in the 21st century today should buy this ancient tale as historical fact?


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