So Just How Dumb Have been Jesus’ Disciples? The Resurrection, Portion VII.


By Robert Conner ~

The initially mention of Jesus’ resurrection comes from a letter written by Paul of Tarsus. Paul seems to have had no interest whatsoever in the “historical” Jesus: “even although we have identified Christ according to the flesh, we know him so no longer.” (two Corinthians five:16) Paul’s surviving letters under no circumstances as soon as mention any of Jesus’ lots of exorcisms and healings, the raising of Lazarus, or Jesus’ virgin birth, and barely allude to Jesus’ teaching. For Paul, Jesus only gets intriguing just after he’s dead, but even right here Paul’s consideration to detail is sketchy at most effective. For instance, Paul says Jesus “was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:four), but there are no scriptures that foretell the Jewish Messiah would at lengthy final seem only to die at the hands of Gentiles, a lot much less that the Messiah would then be raised from the dead just after 3 days.

Soon after his miraculous conversion on the road to Damascus—an occasion Paul under no circumstances mentions in his letters—Paul didn’t right away hie himself to Jerusalem to meet with Jesus’ loved ones, or retrace Jesus’ methods, or sit at the feet of Jesus’ apostles. Au contraire, “I did not go up to Jerusalem to see these who had been apostles just before I was, but I went into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus.” (Galatians 1:17) And when, just after a quantity of years, Paul all of a sudden decided he’d been born to preach Jesus, he says in no uncertain terms, “ I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. I did not acquire it from any man, nor was I taught it rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.” (Galatians 1:11-12, NIV) In quick, like other early Christian writers, Paul seems to have had casual connection at most effective with historical particulars.

Right here is Paul on the resurrection:

“I passed on to you as of key significance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas [Peter], then to the Twelve, then he appeared to far more than 5 hundred brothers at 1 time, the higher quantity of whom stay till now, but some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Final of all he appeared even to me, as to 1 born just before his time.” (1 Corinthians 15:three-eight)

In Paul’s account there is no mention of an empty tomb, no ladies witnesses, and no Males in White. Alternatively, “more than 5 hundred brothers”—not described in the gospels—see Jesus “at 1 time.” Apologists have cranked out a veritable mountain of verbiage attempting to paper more than the many cracks in this narrative, but the opinion of George Riley summarizes the basic conclusion of mainstream scholars: “a very simple comparison of the Gospels and 1 Corinthians 15 shows that the two traditions can not be reconciled.” (Resurrection Reconsidered, 89.) Even apologetic writers are forced to admit, “Paul’s list of appearances in 1 Corinthians and the resurrection narratives in the gospels are remarkably—and puzzlingly—ill-matched.” (Richard Bauckham, The Laing Lecture at London Bible College, two.)

The core of the 1 Corinthians passage—“that Christ died…that he was buried…that he was raised…that he appeared”—almost definitely derives from early Christian liturgy like a comparable passage in 1 Timothy three:16, falsely attributed to Paul: “Who was manifest in the flesh, vindicated by the spirit, noticed by angels, preached amongst the nations, believed on by the planet, taken up in glory.”The phrasing of the text of 1 Corinthians 15:three-eight raises many concerns. Very first, did Paul even create it?

There is no way to know if the texts in our copies of the New Testament are reputable representations of what the authors—whoever they were—originally wroteCiting “tensions” amongst the passage and its context, Hans Conzelmann concluded, the “language is not Paul’s.” (Interpretation: A Journal of Bible and Theology 20 (1966), 22.) The inconclusive debate more than what, if any, portion of the 5 hundred-witness story could be traced back to Paul raises the possibility that none of it was written by Paul and that it is alternatively an interpolation, a pious forgery inserted into a genuine letter to bolster belief in the resurrection. As Peter Kearney observes, the mention that “some have died” marks the letter as addressed to “a neighborhood moving toward an expectation of fulfillment, but currently marked by death.” (Novum Testamentum 22 (1980), 282.) Certainly, 1 Corinthians 15 addresses what seems to be acute anxiousness provoked by the death of believers who anticipated an imminent Parousia as a comparison with 1 Thessalonians four:15-17 suggests.

Scholars have proposed as lots of as seven situations of interpolated text in 1 Corinthians—a forged passage inserted into a genuine letter or a marginal note integrated in the text due to careless copying. (Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, Catholic Biblical Quarterly 43 (1981), 582-589.) Robert Price tag has identified a quantity of motives for concerning the 1 Corinthians passage as suspicious: Paul’s dependence on “revelation” rather than “historical” sources, the absence of the 5 hundred witnesses in the gospels, and the speculative and unconvincing efforts by apologists to harmonize Paul’s account with the gospel material. (The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave, 69-104.)

In quick, there is no way to know if the texts in our copies of the New Testament are reputable representations of what the authors—whoever they were—originally wrote. Eldon Epp, a respected textual scholar, calls the surviving kind of the New Testament text the “interpretive text-kind,” noting that “it was utilised in the life, worship, and teaching of the church” and consequently topic to “reformulations motivated by theological, liturgical, ideological, historical, stylistic, or other things.” (Harvard Theological Evaluation 92 (1999), 277.) Any person who doubts this was the case can take a gospel parallel in hand and evaluate how Matthew and Luke alter Mark, adding, subtracting, and editing Mark’s text to suit their whim, even when preserving a lot of Mark’s original wording and timeline.

Textual scholars think Paul wrote 1 Corinthians about 55 CE. Our initially continuous-text manuscript that consists of the passage in query is P46, tentatively dated from the late 2nd to early 3rd century (175-225 CE)—there is no identified original of any New Testament document or, for that matter, of any book of comparable antiquity. So we have, at the really least, a century amongst the composition of 1 Corinthians and our initially surviving copy of true significance. To claim, as apologists typically do, that the text in query is genuine and that it reliably reflects “what happened” is a easy assumption, nothing at all far more.

And that raises a second query: assuming Paul wrote 1 Corinthians 15:three-eight, was he mostly generating a historical claim or a theological claim? Samuel Brandon, in an short article entitled “The Historical Element in Primitive Christianity,” concluded, “the Eucharist, as set forth by Paul, in impact lifts the historical occasion of the death of Jesus absolutely out of its setting in time and space and confers upon it that transcendent significance that characterizes…the several mystery cults.” (Numen two (1955), 167.) That Paul was writing theology, not history, is clear and the verdict of historian Robert Grant remains safe: “No word in this account [1 Corinthians 15:3-8] suggests that the appearances of Jesus had been other than ‘spiritual’: it was not the ‘flesh and blood’ of Jesus which the witnesses saw…what [Paul] saw, and what he believes other Christians saw was the ‘spiritual body’ of Jesus.” (Journal of Religion 28 (1948), 125.)

Inconsistent and internally contradictory, the resurrection accounts are by turns hallucinatory and comically improbable, bearing all the marks of folklore and ad hoc invention. The original “witness” of the ladies at the tomb is by turns disbelieved and dismissed. An angel rolls away the stone blocking the entrance to the tomb, but Jesus walks by means of locked doors. Jesus is palpable to the touch, but all of a sudden seems and disappears. The disciples see Jesus, but error him for a person else, or see him and but continue to doubt or react with worry. Jesus repeatedly foretells his resurrection, but the disciples have to be reminded of his prediction and when confronted with proof, do not know what to make of it. If this potpourri of contradiction is definitely the sine qua non of Christian faith, we ought to ask, just how dumb are Jesus’ existing disciples?

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