“An account is told of Jesus’s sorrowful face appearing on the wall in sight of an entire congregation shortly before the Great War began, with many witnesses and many conversions. Nothing was unusual about the lighting.”
“On one occasion, it is reported that many persons who venerated the sun were converted through the Indonesian preaching team when a vision of Jesus appeared just above the sun, seen by everyone present.”
—Craig Keener, author “Miracles”, p. 879
One of the strongest pieces of evidence that most Christians believe supports the bodily Resurrection of Jesus are the claims in the Early Creed quoted by Paul in First Corinthians chapter 15 that groups of people saw the resurrected Jesus. It is important to note, however, that this Creed gives little if any details about these alleged appearances by Jesus to groups of believers. What exactly did these people see? What did Jesus look like? What if anything did he say? Did he move? Did he allow them to touch him? Did he touch them? Did he eat with them? Did he spend a significant amount of time with them? Answer: We do not know because the Early Creed does not say!
Many Christians assume that the appearances in the Early Creed are the same appearances we read in the four Gospels in which Jesus talks, moves, eats, and comes into physical contact with his disciples. But this is an assumption. We have no proof from Paul or from anyone else that the appearance claims in the Early Creed are the same appearances described in the Gospels. Due to the fact that most scholars believe that the Gospels were written as Greco-Roman biographies, it is very possible that the detailed appearance stories of the Gospels are simply literary embellishments, meant to put “flesh” on the historical, bare-bones appearance stories of the Early Creed, by authors writing many decades after the alleged event. In other words, claims of appearances by the resurrected Jesus really did occur among his disciples shortly after his death, but they were not the elaborate stories we find in the four Gospels. The exact details of the original appearance stories are quite possibly lost to history.
The question is, however, were these perceived first century appearances to groups similar in character to the perceived appearances to groups described by Charismatic Christians in the Third World today who report seeing static images of Jesus on church walls or hovering above the sun?
Answer: We don’t know, but probability tells us, they most probably were!