Now I would remind you, brothers and sisters,<sup class="footnote" data-fn="#fen-NRSV-28704a" data-link="[a]”>[a] of the good news<sup class="footnote" data-fn="#fen-NRSV-28704b" data-link="[b]”>[b] that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, 2 through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you—unless you have come to believe in vain.
3 For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received:
that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures,
4 and that he was buried,
and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures,
5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.
6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters<sup class="footnote" data-fn="#fen-NRSV-28709c" data-link="[c]”>[c] at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died.<sup class="footnote" data-fn="#fen-NRSV-28709d" data-link="[d]”>[d]
7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.
Many Christian apologists believe that this Creed originated within five years of Jesus’ death. They believe that Paul most likely received this Creed when he visited Peter and James in Jerusalem for two weeks.
Skeptics have questioned Paul’s knowledge of the accuracy of this “witness list”. After all, this list is very different from the lists of witnesses given in the Gospels. For instance, the Gospels mention that women, in particular, Mary Magdalene, were the first witnesses to the Resurrection. Paul’s Creed does not mention any women witnesses. Christian apologists harmonize this apparent discrepancy by saying that the witness of women was not important in first century Palestine, so leaving women out of the Creed is understandable. Ok. Maybe true.
Another oddity is that the order of the appearances is at odds with the accounts in the Gospels. In none of the Gospels is Peter mentioned to have been the first of the male disciples to witness the resurrected Jesus. Christian apologists harmonize this apparent discrepancy by saying that the Creed was not meant to be chronological. Ok. Maybe true.
But there are a couple of other things that I find odd about this early Christian Creed, allegedly written within five years of Jesus’ death. Why is James mentioned in Paul’s Creed as a witness but never once mentioned in the lists of witnesses in the Gospels? James was the brother of Jesus. James was also the bishop of the Church of Jerusalem and became the de facto leader of the Christian Church after Jesus’ death; leader until his own death as one of the first Christian martyrs. But none of the Gospels, all four written sometime after 65-75 AD, mention James, the brother of Jesus and Bishop of Jerusalem, as a witness to the Resurrection. Isn’t that really odd?
And here is another thing I find odd. None of the Gospels say a word about “five hundred” people seeing the resurrected Jesus in one place at the same time. None. How many Resurrection Debates have you watched in which the Christian apologist fails to pull out the Five Hundred Witnesses “card” as dramatic evidence for the number of people who witnessed seeing the resurrected Jesus, “proving” that the Resurrection must have happened? Never, right?? The claim that five hundred people saw the resurrected Jesus in the same place, all at the same time, is one of the most important pieces of “evidence” that Christian apologists use in their attempts to prove that their supernatural claim was a real historical event. But no Gospel author bothered to include this little detail in his Resurrection story!
And then there is this: The author of Luke says in the first chapter of the Gospel of Luke that he has carefully reviewed the previous writings about Jesus and that he has confirmed the information included in his Gospel with “eyewitnesses”, so that his reader can be assured of an accurate account.
Most New Testament scholars date the Gospel of Luke to 80-90 AD. Most NT scholars date the writing of I Corinthians to approximately 55 AD. So Paul’s epistle of First Corinthians had been in circulation for at least 25 years! Therefore, Luke must have had First Corinthians as one of the texts he reviewed prior to writing his two volume work, the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts. However, Luke never mentions “five hundred witnesses” in either his gospel or in Acts!
Isn’t the most likely reason that “Luke” found the Creed included in First Corinthians 15 as unreliable/inaccurate by the testimony he was receiving from “eyewitnesses”? We have no statement from Paul that his Creed in First Corinthians was obtained from “eyewitnesses”. Paul only says that he had “received” it.
So, why else would Luke leave out such an important detail regarding the Resurrection? Christian apologists may say that the mention of the “five hundred” did not fit with Luke’s theme in his Gospel or that Luke ran out of parchment in writing the Book of Acts and had to economize his story, leaving out this detail, but I don’t buy it.
I believe that the most likely explanation of Luke’s omission of Paul’s “witness list”, listed in First Corinthians, in either his gospel or in the Book of Acts, is this:
The Creed quoted by Paul was either inaccurate to begin with, or, Paul incorrectly quoted it. By the time Luke sits down to write his Gospel and the Book of Acts in the 80’s or 90’s, eyewitnesses have pointed out to Luke that Paul’s “witness list” is inaccurate and embellished. There never were 500 believers who saw Jesus at the same time, in the same place. This embellishment was added to the list, and, James never claimed to have received an appearance from Jesus. This too is an embellishment. If James had received an appearance from Jesus, every Gospel writer, who would have known James as the brother of Jesus and bishop of the Church, would have said so in their gospels…but they didn’t…did they?
I believe that we should go with Luke’s eyewitness list and not Paul’s, as Luke assures us his information has been cross-checked with eye-witnesses. Paul gives us no such assurance.
So, we really only have approximately 20 uneducated, superstitious, depressed, grieving people who claimed to have seen their dead friend alive again shortly after his death: the handful of women, the Eleven, and the two disciples on the Emmaus Road. Is that really enough credible “eyewitness testimony” to believe that human tissue, that had been dead for 72 hours, was brought back to life, to walk, talk, eat broiled fish, and levitate into the clouds…twenty centuries ago??
|If twenty people told you today that their
best friend had come back from the dead, eaten lunch with them,
and then levitated into outer space, would you believe them?