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Robert Price Apocrypha

Note: This article was originally published in the Fall 1995 issue of The Journal of Higher Criticism (Vol. 2, No. 2) and is reproduced with the permission of Robert M. Price. Because HTML does not currently support the Greek alphabet, we have replaced the Greek letters in the original manuscript with the English transliteration. Any text enclosed in slashes (‘/’) contains the transliteration of Greek letters, letters are separated by periods. Thus, /omicron.tau.iota/ would represent the Greek connective, ‘that’, and so on. We apologize for the inconvenience, but felt this was the best way to ensure that the entire text could be read on all hardware platforms.

Apocryphal Apparitions

1 Corinthians 15:3-11 As a Post-Pauline Interpolation

Robert M. Price

Concerning the pericope 1 Cor 15:3-11, A.M. Hunter says, "Of all the survivals of pre-Pauline Christianity in the Pauline corpus this is unquestionably the most precious. It is our pearl of great price." [1] His sentiment is widely shared, not least by those who see the passage as crucial for Christian apologetics, but also by those who at least feel that here we have a window, opened a crack, into the earliest days of Christian belief. In the present article I will be arguing that this pericope presents us instead with a piece of later, post-Pauline Christianity. Whether it thus loses some of its pearly sheen will lie in the eye of the beholder (cf. Gos. Phil. 62:17-22).

The Legitimacy of the Suggestion

Recent articles have tried to establish ground rules for scholarly theorizing that would rule out arguments such as mine from the start. Two of these prescriptions against heretics are Frederik W. Wisse, "Textual Limits to Redactional Theory in the Pauline Corpus" and Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, "Interpolations in 1 Corinthians." [2] These scholars seem to speak for the majority when they maintain that, short of definitive manuscript evidence, no suggestion of an interpolation in the Pauline Epistles need to be taken seriously. The texts as they stand are to be judged "innocent until proven guilty," which in the nature of the case, can never happen. [3] Otherwise, if we had to take seriously interpolation or redaction theories based on internal evidence alone, "the result [would be] a state of uncertainty and diversity of scholarly opinion. Historians and interpreters [in such a case] can no longer be sure whether a text or parts of it represent the views of the author or someone else." [4] The game would be rendered very difficult to play.

I see in such warnings essentially a theological apologetic on behalf of a new textus receptus, an apologetic not unlike that offered by fundamentalists on behalf of the Byzantine text underlying the King James Version. Just as the dogmatic theology of the latter group was predicated on particular readings in the Byzantine/King James text and thus required its originality and integrity, so does the "Biblical Theology" of today’s Magisterium of consensus scholarship require the apostolic originality of today’s Nestle-Aland/UBS text. Herein, perhaps, lies the deeper reason for the tenacious unwillingness of such scholars to consider seriously the possibility of extensive or significant interpolations (or, indeed, any at all).

The issue resolves itself into theological canon-polemics. If the integrity of the "canonical" scholarly text proves dubious in the manner feared by Wisse, the whole text will be seen to slide from the Eusebian category of "acknowledged" texts to that of the "disputed." That is the danger, not that a few particular texts will pass all the way into the "spurious" category and be rendered off limits like the long ending of Mark, but that wherever he steps the New Testament theological exegete will find himself amid a marshy textual bog. The former would actually be preferable to Wisse, since whatever remained could still be considered terra firma. And thus the apologetical strategy is to disallow any argument that cannot fully prove the secondary character of a piece of text. Mere probability results in the dreaded anxiety of uncertainty, so mere probabilities are no good. If we cannot prove the text secondary, we are supposedly entitled to go on regarding it as certainly authentic, "innocent until proven guilty." God forbid the scholarly guild should end up with Winsome Munro’s seeming agnosticism:

Until such time as the entire epistolary corpus is examined, not merely for isolated interpolations, but to determine its redactional history, most historical, sociological, and theological constructions on the basis of the text as it stands should probably be accepted only tentatively and provisionally, if at all. [5]

William O. Walker Jr., has suggested that, contrary to those opinions just reviewed, "in dealing with any particular letter in the corpus, the burden of proof rests with any argument that the corpus or, indeed any particular letter within the corpus… contains no interpolations." [6] Among the reasons advanced by Walker is the fact that

the surviving text of the Pauline letters is the text promoted by the historical winners in the theological and ecclesiastical struggles of the second and third centuries… In short, it appears likely that the emerging Catholic leadership in the churches ‘standardized’ the text of the Pauline corpus in the light of ‘orthodox’ view and practices, suppressing and even destroying all deviant texts and manuscripts. Thus it is that we have no manuscripts dating from earlier than the third century; thus it is that all of the extant manuscripts are remarkably similar in most of their significant features; and thus it is that the manuscript evidence can tell us nothing about the state of the Pauline literature prior to the third century.[7]

Wisse seems to think it unremarkable that all textual evidence before the third century has mysteriously vanished. But according to Walker, the absence of the crucial textual evidence is no mystery at all. It was a silence created expressly to speak eloquently the apologetics of Wisse and his brethren. Today’s apologists for the new Textus Receptus are simply continuing the canon polemics of those who standardized / censored the texts in the first place. But, as Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza says in a different context, we must learn to read the silences and hear the echoes of the silenced voices.[8] And that is what Walker and previous interpolation theorists have learned to do. The only evidence remaining as to a possible earlier state of the text is internal evidence, namely aporias, contradictions, stylistic irregularities, anachronisms, redactional seams. And this is precisely the kind of thing our apologists scorn. As we might expect from an apologetical agenda, the tactic of harmonization of "apparent contradictions" is crucial to their enterprise. Consensus scholarship is no less enamored of the tool than the fundamentalist harmonists of whom their "maximal conservatism" is so reminiscent. [9] Wisse is forthright: the judicious exegete must make sense of the extant text at all costs. "Designating a passage in a text as a redactional interpolation can be at best only a last resort and an admission of one’s inability to account for the data in any other way." [10] In other words, any clever connect-the-dots solution is preferable to admitting that the text in question is an interpolation. If "saving the appearances" is the criterion for a good theory, then we will not be long in joining Harold Lindsell in ascribing six denials to Peter.[11]

One of the favorite harmonizations used by scholars is the convenient notion that when Paul sounds suddenly and suspiciously Gnostic, for example, it is still Paul, but he is using the terminology of his opponents against them.[12] This would seem to be an odd, muddying strategy. But it was no strategy of the apostle Paul, only of our apologists. It commends itself to many, including Murphy-O’Connor: "If Paul, with tongue in cheek, is merely appropriating the formulae of his adversaries, there are no contradictions in substance." [13] Note the talk, familiar from fundamentalist inerrancy apologetics, of merely apparent contradictions. It is implied when Murphy-O’Connor is satisfied with "no contradictions in substance," "no real contradiction." [14]

Wisse even repeats the circularity of apologist C.S. Lewis’s argument in the latter’s "Modern Theology and Biblical Criticism." Lewis dismisses historical-critical reconstructions, of the historical Jesus, for example, since they are merely a chain of weak links: "[I]f, in a complex reconstruction, you go on… super-inducting hypothesis on hypothesis, you will in the end get a complex, in which, though each hypothesis by itself has in a sense a high probability, the whole has almost none." [15] But, we must ask, how is the orthodox apologist’s edifice of apologetical bricks any more sturdy? The merely probabilistic character of the critics’ position is evident to him; that of his own is not.

And so with Wisse: "since the burden of proof rests on the arguments for redactional interference, the benefit of the doubt rightfully should go to the integrity of the text. If the case of the prosecution is not able to overcome serious doubts, then the text deserves to be acquitted." [16] Again, "This lack of certainty is sometimes obscured by scholars who wishfully refer to certain redactional theories as if they were facts." [17] And yet Wisse seems willing to consider harmonizations as facts, as if they themselves were not just as debatable as the interpolation hypotheses he despises. Because the critical argument is merely probabilistic and not certain, notwithstanding the similar vulnerability of his own preferred reconstructions (for that is what every harmonization is), Wisse feels as entitled as Lewis did simply to assume the case is closed."

The whole judicial verdict analogy is inappropriate to Wisse’s argument anyway. In the one case, we have two choices, to put a man in jail or not. In the other, we have three choices: certainty of an authentic text, certainty of an inauthentic text, and uncertainty. A suggestive argument that nonetheless remains inconclusive should cause us to return the third verdict, but Wisse will not consider it. The logical implication would seem to be textual agnosticism, but Wisse prefers textual fideism instead.

Though Walker and Munro are both willing to set some high hurdles for a proposed interpolation-exegesis to jump, [18] they are not nearly so high as the walls erected by Wisse: one must show manuscript support from that period which none of any kind survives. [19] And here we are reminded of another inerrantist apologist, Benjamin B. Warfield, who set up a gauntlet he dared any proposed biblical error to have run. Any alleged error in scripture must be shown to have occurred in the original autographs, which, luckily, are no longer available. [20] Warfield sought to safeguard the factual inerrancy of the text, while today’s consensus scholars want to safeguard the integrity of the text, but the basic strategy is the same: like Warfield, Wisse and Murphy-O’Connor have receted a hedge around the Torah. [21]

Murphy-O’Connor rejoices at any egesis "liberating us from speculative interpretations, some with far reaching consequences regarding the authority of Scripture." [22] Here is the heart of the apologetical agenda, but with genuine criticism it has nothing in common. And thus we proceed with our inquiry.

Versus Galatians

The phrase "in which terms we preached to you the gospel" in 1 Cor. 15:1 must be remembered in what follows. The list of appearances is not simply some interesting or important lore Paul passed down somewhere along the line during his association with the Corinthians. This is ostensibly the Pauline gospel itself, the Pauline preaching in Corinth. "Behind the word ‘gospel’ in St. Paul we cannot assume a formula, but only the very preaching of salvation" (Dibelius). [23]

Again, v. 2 makes clear that what follows is not just a helpful piece of apologetics but rather the saving message itself. The phrases "if you hold it fast" and "unless you believed in vain" are not antithetical parallels. Rather, the latter means "unless this gospel is false," as the subsequent argument (vv. 14, 17) shows.

The pair of words in verse 3a, "received / delivered" ( / ) is, as has often been pointed out, technical language for the handing on of rabbinical tradition. [24] That Paul should have delivered the following tradition poses little problem; but that he had first been the recipient of it from earlier tradents creates, I judge, a problem insurmountable for Pauline authorship. Let us not seek to avoid facing the force of the contradiction between the notion of Paul’s receiving the gospel he preached from earlier tradens and the protestation in Gal. 1:1, 11-12 that "I did not receive it from man." [25] If the historical Paul is speaking in either passage, he is not speaking in both.

Some might attempt to reconcile the two traditions by the suggestion that, thought Paul was already engaged in preaching his gospel for three years, it was on the visit to Cepha in Jerusalem that he received the particular piece of tradition reproduced in verses 3ff. But this will not do. These verses are presented as the very terms in which he preaches the gospel. The writer of 1 Cor. 15:1-2ff never had a thought of a period of Pauline gospel preaching prior to instruction by his predecessors. Gordon Fee claims there is no real difficulty here, as all Paul intends in his Galatian "declaration of independence" is that he received his commission to preach freedom from the Torah among the Gentiles directly from Christ, not from men, [26] but is this all "the gospel which was preached by me" (Gal. 1:11) denotes? The question remains: if Paul had to wait some three years to receive the bare essentials of the death and resurrection of Jesus from the Jerusalem leaders, what had he been preaching in the meantime?

Here it is well to recall the cogent question aimed by John Howard Schütz at Gerhardsson’s attempt at harmonization. Gerhardsson had proposed that Paul might have received the bare bones of the kerygma directly from the Risen Lord, as in Gal. 1:11, and had later received supplementary didache, such as that in 1 Cor 15:3, from his elder colleagues. But given the Spartan yet fundamental character of the items in the 1 Cor 15 list, "one cannot help but wonder what would be the content of any kerygma which Paul might receive more directly from the risen Lord." [27]

Schütz expresses his dissatisfaction with other previous attempts to harmonize the two passages. Cullmann had suggested that there was no real conflict between the two passages since the Risen Christ both was the ultimate origin of the traditional material and remained active within it as it was transmitted. [28] Thus Paul merely denies in Gal. 1:11 that his gospel is a fleshly, non-divine origin, while in 1 Cor 15:3 he makes no bones of the fact that there were intermediate tradents between the originating Lord and Paul as one of the receivers of the divinely created and transmitted gospel tradition. One either does or does not recognize such reasoning as harmonization, the erection of an elaborate theoretical superstructure, itself never outlined in the texts, in order that we may have a single framework in which both texts may be made somehow to fit. Not only so, but on Cullmann’s reading it becomes impossible to see the point of Paul’s argument in Galatians: Gal 1:12 makes it clear, surely, that Paul means to deny precisely his dependence on any human instruction.

Roloff’s harmonization is of a different character, but no more helpful. He draws a distinction between the gospel of the resurrected Christ received by Paul at the time of his conversation, and hence taught by no apostolic predecessor, and the traditional statements of 1 Cor. 15, which he had used to clothe, to flesh out, the preaching of the gospel to the Corinthians in former days. When he refers simply to the gospel in 1 Cor. 15:1 he merely does not scruple to differentiate between form and content, husk and kernel. [29] Yet are we justified in reading such a distinction into the text in the first place? Certainly the author of this passage does not draw it. Rather, for him, these are the very logia that will save if adhered to. 1 Cor. 15:ff means to offer a formulaic "faith once for all delivered to the saints." And we seem to be in the presence of a post-Pauline Paulinism, not too dissimilar to that of the Pastorals.

Schütz himself seeks another alternative. For him, Paul’s gospel is not so much the basic facts of the death and resurrection of Jesus as it is the implications of those facts for Christian life and apostolic ministry.Because of the saving events, human sufficiency is negated, pure reliance on the Spirit is mandated. In Galatians, Paul must deal with those who would return to fleshy self-reliance by means of a beguiling gospel of works. In 1 Corinthians he is dealing with those who believe that Christ’s resurrection has brought a realized eschatological newness of life which in fact is only another disguise for the exaltation of the flesh in religious enthusiasm. In opposing the Galatian error, Paul declares the heavenly origin of his gospel — i.e., the heavenly origin of his message and the incarnation of it in his own apostolic experience. His gospel, so defined, is not from men. That is, Christian and apostolic sufficiency is not from men. In 1 Corinthians, he says the same thing when he notes in 15:10 what he has already said in 4:8-13, that in himself he is unworthy and impotent, but thanks to Christ, he is an effective apostle. In all this, according to Schütz, there is no need to deny that he may have inherited the saving facts of Christ from predecessors. Such facts, in and of themselves, are not quite the same as the gospel. [30] Schütz canvasses various passages in Paul where the phrases "my gospel" or "our gospel" occur, seeking to demonstrate in them the usage he has described, [31] but his application of this usage to 1 Cor 15 seems to me tortuous, inferring the outlines of a grand Paulinist polemic not actually visible in the text. Is not Schütz’s harmonization victim to the same weakness as Cullmann’s? Is there anything in either Gal 1 or 1 Cor 15 to support such a superexegetical trellis?

The stubborn fact remains: in Galatians Paul tells his readers that what he preached to them when he founded their church was not taught him by human predecessors. In 1 Cor 15 he is depicted as telling his readers that what he preached to them when he founded their church was taught him by human predecessors. In other words, the same process they underwent at his hands, instruction in the gospel fundamentals, he himself had previously undergone: "I delivered to you … what I also received." In fact what we see in 1 Corinthians is a picture of Paul that corresponds to that in Acts, the very version of his call and apostolate he sought to refute with an oath before God in Gal 1:20.

The Formula

According to most scholars, in v. 3b begins an ancient creedal / liturgical list of the essential facts of Christian salvation. The connective /omicron.tau.iota/ ("that") introduces each article of the confession: ("I believe…")

That Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;That he was buried;That he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures;That he appeared….

Here scholarly unanimity vanishes. Most seem to feel that the credo extended at least this far, [32] some extending the original tradition to include the Twelve, [33] though Weiss excised the reference to the Twelve as a scribal gloss to harmonize the list with the Gospels. [34] Still others leave room for the reference to James and all the apostles. [35] Almost all would bracket the mentions of the 500 brethren (v. 6) and of Paul himself (vv. 8-10) as Pauline additions to the formula.

Before the Second World War, as Murphy-O’Connor notes, [36] most scholars took the whole complex down through v. 7 to form part of the same confessional formula. Since then, the tide has turned. However, many scholars, while severing all or part of the list of appearances from the creed concerning the death, burial and resurrection, would nonetheless understand the list of materials which now appear as part of a structured whole, i.e., as a subsequent addition to the original formula, but still already part of the formulaic tradition delivered to the Corinthians.

Wilckens believes that Paul added the references to the 500 and himself to a traditional, though composite, formula of six members: he died for our sins, he was buried, he rose on the third day, he was seen, he was seen by Peter and the Twelve, he was seen by James and all the apostles. [37] Wilckens’ dissection of the formula may be viewed in part as a modification of an earlier suggestion by Harnack that the core of the appearance list was the conflation of two independent, rival statements of appearances — to Peter and his followers, and to James and his. These leaders of Jewish Christianity. [38] I will have occasion to return to this question, but for the present, it is sufficient to note that Wilckens has taken over Harnack’s observation that the two membra found in vv. 5 and 7 with their parallel EITA…EPEITA structure most likely represent independent parallel formulae in their own right, later conflated, though Wilckens rejects Harnack’s suggestion of a Sitz-im-Leben of church politics. [39]

The real point of originality in Wilckens’ thesis is his partition of the creed of vv. 3-5 into four separate traditions. He takes the instance of /kappa.alpha.iota omicron.tau.iota/ in verse 5 to denote that the series of /omicron.tau.iota.sigma/ represents not connectives between the articles of a creed, but rather Pauline connectives between disparate citations of scripture or of brief traditional formulae. Against Wilckens, Kramer, followed by Conzelmann, rejects such a usage as having no form-critical parallel. [40] Instead, Kramer reasons, the /omicron.tau.iota.sigma/ were in the formula, as if to stress, "first…, second…, third…" Murphy-O’Connor shows that elsewhere in 1 Corinthians itself /omicron.tau.iota…kappa.alpha.iota omicron.tau.iota/ is used to introduce quotations of phrases that followed one another immediately in the quoted source (the supposed letter to Paul from Corinth quoted in 1 Cor. 8:4). [41] This means that even though Wilckens may be right in denying that the uses of the /omicron.tau.iota/connector formed part of the original creed, it is still quite likely a creed that is being formed. The /omicron.tau.iota.sigma/ were never the principal reason for thinking the material to be a creed anyway.

Kearney thinks he sees behind vv. 6-7 a pre-Pauline doxology formula stemming from the early Hellenistic community before the martyrdom of Stephen: "He appeared above to 500 brothers / Once for all to the apostles." [42] Though his alternative translations of /epsilon.pi.alpha.upsilon.omega/ and /epsilon.sigma.alpha.pi.alpha.xi/seem not unreasonable, I find the reconstruction of the implied redaction history arbitrary. But at least Kearny does detect the formulaic flavor of the verses. Stuhlmacher sees the parallelism in vv 3-5 and 5-7 as evidence of a careful stylization of the whole text, arguing that the text formed by vv. 3b-7 has already been joined in the pre-Pauline tradition. He believes that the formula developed from a bipartite proclamation of the atoning death and resurrection to include, initially, the scriptural proof, then the burial and the appearance to Peter, then those to the other witnesses, and finally Paul’s reference to himself. Only the final stage is to be attributed to Paul. [43] Dodd, too, takes the appearance list to be part of the traditional material, regardless of its prior composition history: "This list of Christophanies Paul declares to form part of the kerygma, as it was set forth by all Christian missionaries of whatever rank or tendency (XV. 11), part of the ‘tradition’ which he received (XV.3) …" [44]

The formulaic character of the repeated "thens" in vv. 6-7 can no more be ignored than that of the repeated "thats" of vv. 3-5. By the time they reached 1 Cor 15, the two multimembered pieces of tradition had been fused. Thus I intend to treat verses 3-7 as a unit of formulaic tradition, beginning with the section of four /omicron.tau.iota/-clauses, followed by a subsection in which individual appearances are listed with the connectives /epsilon.iota.tau.alpha/, /epsilon.pi.epsilon.iota.tau.alpha/:

to Cephas,

then [he appeared] to the Twelve,

then he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep,

then he appeared to James,

then [he appeared] to all the apostles.

As already anticipated, at least the clauses modifying the appearances to the 500 and to Paul himself ("most of whom are still alive…" and "as to one untimely born") are additions by a later hand (whether Paul’s or someone else’s — see below), since they break the formal structure. We can see the same sort of later embellishment in both the Decalogues of Exod 20 and 34. In the latter case, the embellishments threaten to obscure the barely-discernible outline altogether.

Besides this there is the question whether a tradition delivered to Paul would include an account of Paul’s own resurrection vision, especially if, on the assumption of most, the list/creed was formulated in Jerusalem, where Paul was not so well venerated, at least not unanimously enough to permit his inclusion in a creed. [43] Scholars universally conclude that Paul must have added the note on his own experience. I will leave that question for later attention.

Since the focus of the tradition seems to be on notable leaders of the community, the sudden mention of the 500 anonymous brethren seems to be an intrusion. [46] Beyond this, though, the reference to the 500, most still available for questioning, raises another major problem: what was the intended function of the list? Was it, as Bultmann holds, a piece of apologetics trying to prove the resurrection? [47] Or is Wilckens right, in which case the list is a list of credentials? One who claimed an apostolate had better have seen the Lord (cf. 1 Cor. 9:1). These had. [48] The reference to the 500 unnamed witnesses certainly implies, as Sider argues, [49] that the list is an apologetical device, especially with the note of most of the crowd still being available for corroboration. But the focus on community leaders seems to me to demand Wilckens’s view. It is therefore not unlikely that the list began as a list of credentials for Cephas, the Twelve, James, and the other apostles, but that subsequently someone, reading the list as evidence for the resurrection, inserted the reference to the 500 brethren. I will return below to the question of apologetics vs. credentials. It will appear in a new light following a discussion of various details of the list.

The Five Hundred Brethren

I judge the very notion of a resurrection appearance to 500 at one time to be a late piece of apocrypha, reminiscent of the extravagances of the Acts of Pilate. If the claim of 500 witnesses were early tradition, can anyone explain its total absence from the gospel tradition? E.L. Allen sees the problem here:


Why did not the evangelists include the appearances of 1 Cor. XV? It is difficult to understand why the tradition behind 1 Cor. XV should be passed over if it was known. Was it then lost? [50]

His answer is, "The Gospel narratives of the Resurrection are governed by another set of needs and meet another situation than those of the first kerygma." [51] But this is unsatisfactory on his own accounting, since all the apologetical and liturgical motives Allen sees at play in the gospels may be paralleled in the various functions suggested by scholars for the 1 Corinthians 15 list itself. Again, "If we suppose, as we well may, that this incident [the appearance to the 500] is to be located in Galilee, it is not difficult to imagine why it was not taken up into the mainstream of tradition." [52] But clearly the whole point of 1 Cor 15:11, and at least the clear implication of verses 5-7, is that the quoted creed is the mainstream of the tradition.

Barrett, on the other hand, counsels that "it may be better to recognize that the Pauline list and the gospel narratives of resurrection appearances cannot be harmonized into a neat chronological sequence." [53] But Barrett’s agnosticism itself functions as a harmonization. It implies there is a great cloud of unknown circumstance: if we knew more we might be able to see where it all fits in. But in fact we know enough. It must at least be clear that if such an overwhelmingly potent proof of the resurrection had ever occurred it would have been widely repeated from the first. Surely no selection of resurrection appearances would have left it out. The story of the apparition to the 500 can only stem from a time posterior to the composition of the gospel tradition, and this latter, in comparison with Paul, is very late.

True, ever since Christian Hermann Weisse some scholars have tried to see the episode of the 500 dimly reflected in the Pentecost story of Acts 2. [54] Fuller, representing this position, asks, "Could it not be that, at an earlier stage of the tradition, the [Pentecost] pericope narrated an appearance of the Risen One in which he imparted the Spirit to the +500, as in the appearance to the disciples in John 20:19-23?" [55] But despite the considerable expenditure of scholarly ink the suggestion has generated, including its recent espousal by Gerd Lüdemann, [56] its epitaph must be the words of C.H. Dodd: "it remains a pure speculation." [57]

In fact, would it not be far more natural to suppose that if any connection existed between the two passages, the relation must be just the opposite? That, rather, an originally subjective pneumatic ecstasy on the part of a smaller number at Pentecost has been concretized into the appearance of the Risen lord to a larger group at Easter? But then we are simply underscoring more heavily the apocryphal character of the result. Lüdemann unwittingly confirms this: "The number ‘more than 500 brethren’ is to be understood as ‘an enormous number,’ i.e., not taken literally. (Who could have counted?)" [58] It is just this sort of detail that denotes the fictive character of a narrative. It is like asking how the narrator knew the inner thoughts of a character: he knows them because he made them up! [59] No more successful is the suggestion that the appearance to the 500 be identified with Luke 24:36ff. The same question presents itself: if there were as many as 500 present on that occasion, how can the evangelist have thought this "detail" unworthy of mention? And if we suppose he did include it, what copyist in his right mind would have omitted it?

Some might challenge my ascription of the 500 brethren note to a later period in view of the challenge to the reader to confirm the testimony of the 500 for himself. But the whole point is that the interpolation is Paulinist pseudepigraphy; the actual author (the anonymous interpolator) did not intend for the actual reader to interview the 500 in his own day. His invitation is issued by the narrator (Paul) to the narratees, the fictive readers, the first-century Corinthians. His point is that had the actual readers been lucky enough to live in Paul’s day, we might have checked for ourselves. [60]

James the Just

The appearance to James carries its own problems. As is well known, the gospel evidence differs strikingly over the question of whether James the Just was a disciple of his famous brother before the latter’s resurrection. John (7:5) and Mark (3:21, 31-35), followed by Matthew (12:46-50), are clear that he was no friend of the ministry of Jesus. Luke, on the other hand (Luke 8:19-21; Acts 1:14), rejects this earlier tradition and instead strongly implies that the whole Holy Family were doers of Jesus’ word from the beginning. Luke holds this implied portrayal of James in common with certain other late pro-James traditions such as we find in the Gospel of Thomas, logion 12:


The disciples said to Jesus: We know that you will depart from us. Who is to be our leader? Jesus said to them: Wherever you are, you are to go to James the righteous, for whose sake heaven and earth came into being. (Trans. T.O. Lambdin, NHL, 127)

and the Gospel according to the Hebrews:


And when the Lord had given the cloth to the servant of the priest, he went to James and appeared to him. For James had sworn that he would not eat bread from that hour in which he had drunk the cup of the Lord until he should see him risen from among them that sleep. And … the Lord said: Bring a table and bread! And … he took the bread, blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to James the Just and said to him: My brother, eat thy bread, for the Son of man is risen from among them that sleep. (Trans. M. R. James) [61]

For this tradition there is no thought of any conversion of James from unbeliever to believer. The resurrection appearance vouchsafed him is simply of a piece with the others: an appearance granted to a disciple. Indeed nowhere in the tradition of early Christianity do we find the appearance of an enemy of Christ to turn him into a friend. This notion, which serves the agenda of modern apologists [62] seeking to disarm the suspicions of those who point out that Jesus appeared only to believers, is quite common among critical scholars as well. [63] Nevertheless, it is an exegetical phantom. Nowhere is this connection made in the texts. True, we have an unbelieving James, a believing James, and an apparition of the Risen Christ to James, but the relationship between these textual phenomena is other than is usually surmised.

If James were not "turned around" by an appearance of the Risen Jesus, how else can we account for his assumption of an early leadership role in the Church? The answer is not far to seek. He was the eldest brother of King Messiah. Once honored for this accident of birth, he did not see fit to decline it. One might well remain aloof to a movement in which one’s brother was the leader yet soon warm to it once the leadership role were offered to oneself.

The sheer fact of James’ blood relation to Jesus is by itself so powerful, so sufficient a credential that when we find another, a resurrection appearance, placed alongside it in the tradition, we must immediately suspect a secondary layer of tradition. And understand that Tendenz at work in such embellishment. James’ claim was precisely parallel to that of Ali, the son-in-law and nephew of the Prophet Muhammad. Ali’s "partisans" (Arabic: Shi’ites) advanced his claim to the Caliphate upon the death of Muhammad on the theory that the prophetic succession should follow the line of physical descent. [64] Later legend claims that Ali was entitled to the position on the strength of his piety and charisma, [65] a tacit concession that blood relation was no longer deemed adequate for spiritual leadership (cf Mark 3:31-35). Finally he is made, in retrospect, the recipient of new angelic revelations like those of the Prophet himself, taking down the dictation of the Mushaf Fatima, one of the Shi’ite holy books. [66]

Similarly, Hegesippus passes along legendary tales of the exemplary piety of "James the brother of the Lord," who "was called ‘the Just’ by all men, from the Lord’s time until our own," since "he was holy from his mother’s womb," who had callouses on his knees from long vigils of prayer on behalf of unrepentant Israel, and whose testimony to Jesus as the Saviour convinced many, who had previously rejected the resurrection, to believe. [67] The final stage in the beatification of James the Just was to assimilate him to the pattern of the Twelve, late traditions making him a faithful disciple already before the Cross (present even at the Last Supper!) and the recipient of a special resurrection appearance. It is here that I think 1 Cor 15:7 joins the historical stream. The note of James’ resurrection vision carries no hint of anything exceptional, as might be expected if the appearance had turned an enemy into a friend, the like of which is noted in the case of Paul in v. 8. The implication, of course, is that the tradition at this point, as in the case of the 500 brethren, is apocryphal and post-Pauline. To be clear, however, let me note that on my reading the appearance to James the Just was an original part of the list, marking the whole list as post-Pauline, while the note about the 500 is later still, an interpolation redolent of much later legendary extravagance.

James Versus Cephas

I will now return to the much-disputed question of whether the appearances to Cephas and the Twelve and to James and all the apostles represent rival traditions. I believe Harnack was essentially correct and that the criticism of Conzelmann, von Campenhausen, Kloppenborg, Fuller, and others are not decisive.

Fuller, for example, first points out that if the two independent formulae suggested by Harnack had been added onto the death and resurrection kerygma of vv. 3-5b, then we would have to leave that kerygma in its original form ending, implausibly, with "appeared." [68] But some scholars have suggested we do this on independent grounds anyway, e.g., for the symmetry that would then exist between the short membra "that he was buried" and "that he appeared."

Second, Fuller argues, "[O]n Harnack’s analysis, the appearance to the five hundred is left in isolation, belonging neither to the Cephas formula nor to the James formula. In either position it would destroy the parallelism between the two formulae and can only be explained as an independent tradition or as a Pauline insertion." [69] Then that is the way to explain it; Fuller has answered his own objection.

Third, Fuller maintains that "the theory of an outright rivalry between a Peter- and a James-party is speculative. There is no real evidence for this in the New Testament." And as if uneasy about this absolute statement Fuller immediately adds, "Galatians 2:11 shows that there were for a time differences between Peter and James on the interpretation of the ‘gentleman’s agreement’ (Gal 2.9-10), but to speak of a rivalry goes beyond the facts." [70] But is not Fuller’s reading of the Galatians passage itself a going beyond the facts, setting them into a harmonizing, catholicizing model? At question is precisely the interpretation of the facts with an apologetical reading of his own. And besides, there is certainly material in the New Testament that is polemically aimed at James and the heirs (John 7:5; Mark 3:21, 31-35) as well as pro-Peter polemic (Matt 16:18-19) and anti-Peter polemic (Mark’s story of his denials of Christ, hardly neutral material), [71] followed by the denial narratives of all the gospels; contrast the milder Johannine shadowing of Peter in favor of the Beloved Disciple. [72] A James versus Peter conflict is as plausible a Sitz-im-Leben for such materials as any.

Fourth, Fuller observes that for the compiler of the 1 Cor 15 list (whom he thinks to be Paul himself) the relation between these various appearances was a strictly chronological one, the order of which was verifiable. [73] This calls for two responses. To begin with, there is no question that the /epsilon.iota.tau.alpha…epsilon.pi.epsilon.iota.tau.alpha/structure of the list as it now stands implies temporal sequence; but this may simply be the gratuitous assumption of the reader of the list. Second, Fuller’s own assumption (shared by O’Collins, Von Campenhausen, and others) [74] that Paul himself compiled the list on the basis of extensive interviewing of the principal layers is a fanciful piece of historicization. To realize just how fanciful it is, one need only read Bishop’s "The Risen Christ and the Five Hundred Brethren," [75] which makes explicit the dubious scenario implicit in all such suggestions: Paul taking the role, usually assigned Luke, as a pilgrim to the Holy Land seeking out various living saints willing to reminisce about the great days of old when angels whispered in one’s ear and dead men tapped one on the shoulder.

Conzelmann and Kümmel add the argument against Harnack’s view that there seems to be no polemical edge or tone discernible in either of the supposed rival credential-formulae. [76] But this is far from certain, as I hope to show.

Many scholars exercise themselves over the meaning of the "all" in "all the apostles" (verse 7). Many think the reference is to the larger group of missionaries, including, for example, such persons as Andronicus and Junia, as well as the narrower circle of the Twelve. [77] Schmithals thinks "all the apostles" excludes the Twelve, since the latter were not regarded as apostles until the second century when Luke melded the two categories together. [78] In all this there would indeed be no polemic. But what if, as Winter suggests, "all the apostles" means to exclude James but to include Peter and the rest of the Twelve? Then the sense would plausibly be construed as a polemical counter to the "Cephas, then to the Twelve" formula. The point would be that the Risen Christ appeared first to James, and only then to the apostles, including Peter. Not Peter first, followed by his colleagues, but rather James first, followed by Peter and the rest. [79] Seen this way, it becomes obvious that the James formula is the later of the two, since its very wording presupposes the Cephas formula.

Lüdemann sees this: "The formula in 1 Cor. 15:7 grew out of the fact that disciples of James claimed for their leader the primacy that Peter enjoyed by virtue of having received the initial resurrection appearance. To support his claim they constructed the formula of 15:7, patterned after that of 15:5." [80] But, as we will see, Lüdemann explains "all the apostles" in a different and, I think, unsatisfying way.

In his commentary on 1 Corinthians, Gordon Fee rejects the Harnack theory simply by reference to Schmithals’s "refutation" of Harnack. [81] But here is all Schmithals has to say on the subject:


I do not consider correct the thesis … about the two primitive communities, nor am I able to persuade myself that Peter and James were rivals in Jerusalem. In the first place, I do not believe that one could have attempted in the earliest times to set James up as the first witness of the resurrection in place of Peter. In I Cor. 15:6-7 itself, however, there appears no clue for the assertion that here a rival tradition to vs. 5 is employed. These verses rather exclude any such assumption. [82]

While it is evident that Schmithals, like Fee, disdains Harnack’s theory, his words just quoted can hardly be called refutation, being merely sentiments of distaste and incredulity. One suspects that Scmithals’s antipathy toward the Harnack hypothesis is occasioned by Harnack’s equation of "the Twelve" in verse 5 and "the apostles" in verse 7. Schmithals, of course, has argued persuasively that these two groups are not connected/ conflated until the late Luke-Acts. One pillar of his theory is that this connection is made nowhere in earlier New Testament material, including Paul, who always keeps the Twelve and the apostles separate. To accept Harnack’s argument here would seem to force Schmithals to admit that Paul (or whoever framed the list) had already equated the Twelve and the apostles.

But the solution to Schmithals’s plight is a simple one: the list with its equation of the Twelve and the apostles is ipso facto shown to be not only post-Pauline, but even post-Lukan, since the list takes the conflation for granted. Could there still have been sectarian strife between the Peter and James factions this late? Indeed there was, as is shown by late apocrypha like the Letter of Peter to James, which subordinates the former to the latter, as well as by the preferential treatment given to James the Just over Peter in Gos. Heb., where we read that, unlike Peter, the stalwart James maintained his faith without wavering until Easter morning.

Lüdemann, too, is plunged into confusion by his early dating of the list. While he accepts Schmithals’s disentangling of the Twelve and the apostles, he yet maintains that already for Paul the phrase "all the apostles" included the Twelve within a larger group. [83] He could hold consistently to Schmithals’s excellent schema if he would only recognize the late character of the list. Dodd, while apparently innocent of such wrangling, admits that Harnack’s suggestion has "some plausibility," [84] while Winter and Lüdemann accept it wholeheartedly, [85] as does Stauffer, [86] showing how Harnack’s proposed Sitz-im-Leven fits in well with what else can be surmised about factional polemics within Jewish Christianity of the first and second centuries. Again Dodd: "But in that case we must certainly take it that the two lists had been combined before the formula was transmitted to Paul," [87] i.e., before it reached the form in which it appears in 1 Cor 15.

The trouble is, can we really allow the presumably long process of sectarian evolution, factional polemics, and tradition-formation that must lie behind the rival formulas — already by the time of Paul? As Patterson observes, "[T]he 50’s CE is a little early for apostolic authority to have exercised an overwhelming power in shaping the tradition." [88] And since the conflation of the two formulas must be a catholicizing measure, [89] it must have come significantly later than the now-cooling sectarian infighting it presupposes. Grass is on the right track here: The harmonization of competing traditions is the affair of a later generation. "A writer who stands far distant from the events does such a thing, but not a person who, like Paul, has an intermediate relationship with the persons and events." [90] What he does not see, however, is that the harmonizing conflation was not Paul’s idea. On the assumption that Paul wrote it, there wouldn’t have been enough time, so Grass is sent searching for some other exegesis. But if this bit of tradition post-dates Paul then there would seem to be plenty of the time required for it to serve the catholicizing purpose Glass rejects. Whereas Grass dismisses the notion of a catholicizing harmonization because of its incompatibility with Pauline authorship, I regard the opposite course to be the better: since the harmonization of the two lists is apparent, why not rather concede that its redactor was an "early catholic" like Luke, not a man of the age of Paul? And scarcely Paul himself.


The Recollections of an Eyewitness?

I submit that even if the post-apostolic character of the James material were not apparent, we would still be able to recognize the spurious character of the whole tradition from one simple but neglected fact. If the author of this passage were himself an eyewitness of the resurrection, why would he seek to buttress his claims by appeal to a third-hand list of appearances formulated by others and delivered to him? Had he forgotten the appearance he himself had seen?

We are faced by a similar problem in the case of the old claim for the apostolic authorship of the (so-called) Gospel of Matthew. All scholars now admit that the author of this gospel simply cannot have been an eyewitness of the ministry of Jesus, since he employs secondary sources (Mark and Q), themselves patchworks of well-worn fragments. It is just inconceivable that an eyewitness apostle would not have depended upon his own recollections. This gospel was not penned by the disciple Matthew.

As an ostensible Pauline addition, v. 8 is even more embarrassing to the notion of Pauline authorship, and for the same reason. For all we have in it is the bare assertion that there was an appearance to Paul. Would not a genuine eyewitness of the resurrection of Jesus Christ have had more to say about it once the subject had come up? Luke certainly thought so, as he does not tire of having Paul describe in impressive detail what the Risen Christ said to him (Acts 22.6-11; 26.12-18). While these accounts are in fact Lukan creations, my point is that they illustrate the naturalness of the assumption that an actual eyewitness of the Risen Christ would hardly be as tight-lipped on the subject as "Paul" is in 1 Cor 15:8. In 2 Cor 12:1-10 Paul describes himself reticent to share his heavenly revelations — but this very statement is found in the middle of a miniature apocalypse that is hardly unspectacular in itself!

The problem becomes particularly acute with Vielhauer’s discussion of the passage. [91] According to his interpretation of the whole epistle, particularly 1:10-4:7; 9, Paul is fighting against claims for Petrine primacy being circulated in Corinth by the Cephas party. He aims everywhere to assert his own equality (and that of Apollos) with Cephas. If this is the case, however, when he turns to the topic of the resurrection in chapter 15, why would he risk losing all he has thus far built by introducing a formula which draws special attention to the primacy of Cephas as the first witness of the resurrection? Surely it would have been much more natural for Paul to pass over this inconvenient fact in silence. If he had wanted to begin his discussion by reaffirming the resurrection of Jesus, why would he not rather appeal to his own recollections, which certainly must have been more vivid, not to mention safer?

One might reply that Paul needed to cite the formula in order to underscore the ecumenical character of the resurrection preaching since he was attempting to reason with all the Christian factions, including the Cephas party, and he dared not leave anyone out. But as Vielhauer himself admits, there is no reason to assign the specific Corinthian problems to any of the various apostle-boosting parties in particular. [92] Paul would need to call Cephas as a witness (by citing the formula) only if the Cephas party denied the resurrection, and there is no reason to think they did.

Verse 8, like the whole passage, is no more the work of the Apostle Paul, eyewitness to the Risen One, than the Gospel of Matthew is the work of one of Jesus’ disciples. On the other hand, seeing that the whole is post-Pauline, v. 8 might originally have formed part of the formula if it mentioned Paul in the third person: "Last of all he appeared to Paul." The "last of all" does fit well as the conclusion of a series of clauses beginning with "Then…, then…, then…" Scholars have omitted verse 8 from the list only because it was naturally hard to imagine that Paul’s own Christophany formed part of a list repeated to Paul by his predecessors. But if the list is a late, catholicizing fragment it might well have mentioned Paul.

A Context for the List: Verses 3, 9-11

The third-person reference would have been changed to the first person by a Paulinist who set it into the context of verses 3, 9-11. These verses are themselves an interpolation into the argument which once flowed smoothly between vv. 2 and 12. They are part of an apologia for Paul made by a spirit kindred to the writer of the Pastorals. The writer wished to vindicate Paul’s controversial heresy-tinged apostolate in the eyes of his fellow "early catholics" by doing what Luke did at about the same time: assimilating Paul to the Twelve and James. As Van Manen noted, v. 10b clearly looks back in history from a distant perspective from which one is able to estimate the sum of the labors of all the apostles, a time when their labors are long past. [93]

In v. 8, the KAUOI means not "also me," but rather "even me," because the point is that Christ in his grace condescended to appear even to the chief of sinners (cf. 1 Tim 1:15-16). The Pauline apologist altered the PAVLO of the original text of the list to KAUOI when he changed the third-person reference to a first-person one, in order to tie it in more securely.

Originally 15:12 followed immediately on vv. 1-2. It read, "Now I would remind you, brethren, in what terms I preached to you the gospel, which you received, in which you stand, by which you are saved, if you hold it fast — unless you believed in vain. But if Christ is preached as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead?"

To translate /delta.epsilon/ in v. 12 as "Now" is to imply a taking stock after the exposition of vv. 3-11. But we may just as easily translate it "But," implying a direct contrast with v. 2. Then the idea would be This gospel as I preached it is your salvation — unless of course it was all a big mistake! But you are saying it was a mistake since you are denying the resurrection of Christ!

The Fragment Interpolated

I have already suggested that the original list was set into the context of an apologetic for Paul, resulting in the fragment we find in vv. 3-11. Presumably there was more to this document than now appears, but what remains was preserved by being set into the larger context of chapter 15, where it does not really fit. Several scholars have noted an odd lack of continuity between the pericope vv. 3-11 and the rest of the chapter:

I can understand the text only as an attempt to make the resurrection credible as an objective historical fact. And I see only that Paul is betrayed by his apologetic into contradicting himself. For what Paul says in vv. 20-22 of the death and resurrection of Christ cannot be said of an objective historical fact. (Bultmann) [94]

[Vv. 3-5 are] a formula which seems to have little influence on the rest of the chapter. (C. F. Evans) [95]

Chap. 15 is a self-contained treatise on the resurrection of the dead, [although] it is only from v 12 onward that this topic becomes plain to the reader… Up to this point one is rather inclined to expect an exposition on the tradition of the apostolate. (Conzelmann) [96]

[The interpretation of the formula as apostolic credentials, otherwise plausible, is to be rejected because:] It nowhere appears from the context that Paul is seeking to legitimize his apostolic status, as is often argued. The context shows Paul reacting to a false idea of resurrection among the Corinthians. (Schillebeeckx) [97]

In all these cases the exegete is surprised at the apparent lack of congruity between the formula and the argument of the rest of the chapter. The most probable solution, however, is simply that vv. 3-11 constitute an interpolation. [98]

Why would anyone have made such an interpolation? A scribe felt he could strengthen the argument of the chapter as a whole by prefacing it with a list of "evidences for the resurrection." In short, he was no longer interested in (or even aware of) the original function of the list as apostolic credentials. That was all a dead issue. No one any longer disputed the authority of any of the great apostolic names, who were all regarded only as sainted figures of the past. He could take the authority of the lot for granted. In his day, by contrast, debates concerned who had Gnostics alike claimed the whole apostolic college. So instead he saw the value of the list solely as a piece of apologetics for the historical resurrection. And it was this scribe, I suggest, who also interpolated the reference to the 500 brethren, a clearly apologetic intrusion, as we have seen. Why did he not trim the now-extraneous vv. 9-10? He simply overshot the mark, as when the Fourth Evangelist drew John 13:16 from a list of mission instructions much like Matthew chapter 10, where the same saying occurs (Matt. 10:24), and retained the now-pointless John 13:20 along with it (cf. Matt. 10:40).

On my view, then, Wilckens correctly discerned the intent of the original list and of its use by an advocate of Paul’s apostolate, while Bultmann just as correctly detected the intention of the scribal interpolator of vv. 3-11 into chapter 15 and of v. 6 into the list. Wilckens and Bultmann were both right. The trouble lay in their assumption that the whole text was a Pauline unity.

Recent Criteria

By way of conclusion, though I have sought to argue my case in terms of its own logic, I would like to measure my results against a set of criteria for pinpointing interpolations compiled by Winsome Munro from her own work as well as that of P.N. Harrison, William O. Walker Jr., Robert T. Fortna and others. [99]

First, I freely admit the lack of direct textual evidence. There are no extant copies of 1 Corinthians which lack my passage. While the presence of such texts would greatly strengthen my argument, the lack of them does not stultify it. There simply are no texts at all for the period in which I suggest the interpolation occurred. With Walker, however, I believe the prima facie likelihood is that many interpolations occurred in those early days, [100] on analogy with the subsequent, traceable textual tradition, as well as with the cases of other interpolated, expanded, and redacted canonical and non-canonical texts. [101]

Second, as for perceived disparities between the ideologies of the supposed interpolation and its context, I have already sought to demonstrate that the tendencies of the passage, both the catholicizing apologetic and the Jacobean-Petrine polemics, are either alien to Paul or anachronistic for him.

Third, though stylistic and linguistic difference, often a sign of interpolation, appear in the text, they are not pivotal for my argument, since they could just as easily denote pre-Pauline tradition over by the apostle.

Fourth, as I have indicated, it is not rare to find scholars remarking on the ill-fit of the passage in its present context, as Munro suggests we ought to expect in the case of an interpolation. I have suggested that the argument flows better without this piece of text.

Fifth, Munro notes that the case for an interpolation is strengthened if we can show its dependence on an allied body of literature otherwise known to be later in time than the text we believe to have been interpreted. In her own work, Authority in Paul and Peter, she connects the Pastoral Strata with the Pastoral Epistles. I have argued not for direct dependence but for relatedness of themes and concerns with later polemics and tradition on display in works like the Gospel of the Hebrews, the Epistle of Peter to James, and Luke-Acts. These factors would also seem to satisfy Munro’s sixth criterion, that of literary or historical coherence with a later period than that of the host document.

Seventh, as to external attestation, though snippets of my passage (including few if any of the "appearance" statements, interestingly) appear here and there in Patristic sources, these citations are indecisive, since writers like Tertulllian and Irenaeus are too late to make any difference, while in my view the date and genuineness of 1 Clement and the Ignatian corpus are open questions.

The eighth criterion is that of indirect textual evidence, minor variations between different texts all containing the body of the disputed passage. [102] Fee notes that a few textual witnesses (Marcion, b, and Ambrosiaster) lack "what I also received" in v. 3. [103] Perhaps a few scribes sought to harmonize 1 Corinthians with Galatians by omitting the words; or else most scribes sought by adding them to subordinate Paul to the Twelve.

Ninth and last, I have provided a plausible explanation for the motivation of the interpolations, both of the list into the apologetic fragment, and of the fragment into 1 Cor 15. The first sought to homogenize Paul and the other apostolic worthies, while the second sought to buttress the argument for the resurrection by adding a passage listing eyewitnesses to it.

Though, as Munro says, the weighing of the evidence and of the various criteria must be left to the judgment of each scholar, I venture to say that the emergent hypothesis, while it can in the nature of the case never be more than an unverifiable speculation, can claim a significant degree of plausibility as one among many options for making sense of the passage.


[1] A.M. Hunter, Paul and his Predecessors (London: SCM, 1961), 15.

[2] Frederik W. Wisse, "Textual Limits to Redactional Theory in the Pauline Corpus," in J.E. Goehring et. Al., eds., Gospel Origins and Christian Beginnings: In Honor of James M. Robinson (Forum Fascicles, 1; Sonoma: Polebridge, 1990), 167-178; Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, "Interpolations in 1 Corinthians," CBQ 48 (1986), 81-94.

[3] Wisse, "Textual Limits," 170.

[4] Ibid., 168.

[5] Winsome Munro, "Interpolation in the Epistles: Weighing Probability," NTS 36 (1990), 431-443:443.

[6] William O. Walker, Jr., "The Burden of Proof in Identifying Interpolations in the Pauline Letters," NTS 33 (1987), 610-618:615.

[7] Ibid., 614; cf. Bart D. Ehrman, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture: The Effect of Early Christological Controversies on the Text of the New Testament (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 277: "this study has reinforced the notion that theologically motivated changes of the text are to be anticipated particularly during the early centuries of transmission, when both the texts and the theology of early Christianity were in a state of flux, prior to the development of a recognized creed and an authoritative and (theoretically) inviolable canon of Scripture." See also pages 55 and 97.

[8] Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, In Memory of Her: A Feminist Theological Reconstruction of Christian Origins (New York: Crossroad, 1984), 41: "Rather than understand the text as an adequate reflection of the reality about which it speaks, we must search for clues and allusions that indicate the reality about which the text is silent."

[9] See James Barr, Fundamentalism (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1978), 85-87.

[10] Wisse, "Textual Limits," 170.

[11] Harold Lindsell, The Battle for the Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1976), 174-176.

[12] See, for example, Gordon Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), 102; Ralph P. Martin, Colossians: The Church’s Lord and the Christian’s Liberty (Exeter: Paternoster, 1972), 75; Stephen Neill, Paul to the Colossians (World Christian Books, Third Series, no. 50; New York: Association Press, 1964), 11 ("It is probable that Paul picks up some of the phrases used by the false teachers, and himself uses them sarcastically."); Oscar Cullmann, The New Testament: An Introduction for the General Reader (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1968), 81.

[13] Murphy-O’Connor, "Interpolations in 1 Corinthians," 83.

[14] Ibid.

[15] C.S. Lewis, "Modern Theology and Biblical Criticism," in Walter Hooper, ed., Christian Reflections (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1967), 163.

[16] Wisse, "Textual Limits," 172.

[17] Ibid.

[18] William O. Walker, Jr., "Text-Critical Evidence for Interpolations in the Letters of Paul," CBQ 50 (1988), 625; Munro, "Interpolation," 432-439.

[19] Wisse, "Textual Limits," 173: "Indeed, in view of the heavy burden of proof, it would appear that in practice it is virtually impossible to make a convincing case for any interpolation that lacks manuscript support."

[20] The family resemblance of Wisse’s and Warfield’s approaches is evident: "Let (1) it be proved that each alleged statement occurred certainly in the original autographa of the sacred book in which it is said to be found. (2) Let it be proved that the interpretation which occasions the apparent discrepancy is the one which the passage was evidently to bear. It is not sufficient to show a difficulty, which may spring out of our defective knowledge of the circumstances. The true meaning must be definitely and certainly ascertained, and then shown to be irreconcilable with other known truth. (3) Let it be proved that the true sense of some part of the original autographa is directly and necessarily inconsistent with some certainly known fact of history, or truth of science, or some other statement of Scripture certainly ascertained and interpreted. We believe that it can be shown that this has never yet been successfully done in the case of one single alleged instance of error in the Word of God." (A.A. Hodge and B.B. Warfield, "Inspiration," Presbyterian Review, April 1881, 242.)

[21] It is worth noting that the arguments of Wisse and his congeners would seem to mirror precisely those of fundamentalists who dismiss source criticism as groundless and speculative. After all, we don’t have any actual manuscripts of J, E, P, or Q, do we? Walker and Munro, it seems to me, are simply extending the analytical tools of the classical source critics into textual criticism. Would Wisse and the others argue, as the Old Princeton apologists once did, that we must uphold Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch or the unitary authorship of Isaiah until these traditional views are "proven guilty"? I doubt it.

[22] Murphy-O’Connor, "Interpolations in 1 Corinthians," 85.

[23] Martin Dibelius, From Tradition to Gospel (New York: Scribners, n.d.), 18.

[24] See Joachim Jeremias, The Eucharistic Words of Jesus (Oxford: Blackwell, 1955), 129.

[25] Fee, Corinthians, 717.

[26] Ibid., 718.

[27] John Howard Schütz, Paul and the Anatomy of Apostolic Authority (SNTSMS 26; New York: Cambridge, 1975), 81.

[28] Oscar Cullmann, "The Tradition: The Exegetical, Historical and Theological Problem," in idem, The Early Church (New York: Scribners, 1956), 68-69.

[29] J. Roloff, Apostolat-Verkündigung-Kirche (Gütersloh, 1965), 92.

[30] Schütz, Apostolic Authority, 35-83 (= ch. 3, "The Gospel, the Kerygma and the Apostle").

[31] Ibid., 71-78.

[32] E.g., Michaelis. TDNT, 5, 358f.

[33] Hans Conzelmann, 1 Corinthians. A Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1976), 251; Fee, Corinthians, 723; Lüdemann, The Resurrection of Jesus: History, Experience, Theology (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1994), 35.

[34] Johannes Weiss, Der erste Korintherbrief (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht, 1910), 330; cf. Idem, The History of Primitive Christianity (New York: Wilson-Erickson, 1937), 24.

[35] Reginald H. Fuller, The Formation of the Resurrection Narratives (New York: Macmillan, 1971), 11.

[36] Jerome Murphy O’Connor, "Tradition and Redaction in 1 Cor 15:3-7," CBQ 43 (1981), 584.

[37] Wilckens’s view (neatly summarized in Fuller, Formation, 13ff) was set forth first in his work Die Missionsreden der Apostelgeschichte (Nuekirchen: Neukirchen Verlag, 1960); cf. idem, "Der Ursprung der überlieferung der Erscheinungen des Auferstandenen," in W. Joest and W. Pannenberg, eds., Dogma und Denkstruktüren Göttingen:

[38] Adolf van Harnack, "Die Verklärungsgeschichte Jesu, der Bericht des Paulus I Kor 15, 3 ff. und die beiden Christusvision des Petrus" (Sitzungsberichte der Berliner Akademie der Wissenschaften, Phil.-hist. Klasse, 1922), 62-80.

[39] Wilckens, "Tradition-history," 60. Gerd Lüdemann (Opposition to Paul in Jewish Christianity [Minneapolis: Fortress, 1989], 47), accepts Wilckens’s partitioning of the formula but returns to Harnack’s proposal of a James-Cephas rivalry as the Sitz-im-Leben of vv. 5 and 7.

[40] Werner Kramer, Christ, Lord, Son of God (SBT, 56; Naperville: Alec R. Allenson, 1966), 19, n. 9; Conzelmann, Commentary, 254-255.

[41] Murphy-O’Connor, "Tradition and Redaction," 589.

[42] P.J. Kearney, "He Appeared to 500 Brothers (I. Cor. XV 6)," NovTest, 22 (1980), 264-284.

[43] Peter Stuhlmacher, Das paulinische Evangelium: I. Vargeschichte (FRLANT 95: Göttingen: Vanderhoeck und Ruprecht, 1968), 274 — as summarized by John S. Kloppenborg, "An Analysis of the Pre-Pauline Formula in 1 Cor 15:3b-5 in Light of Some Recent Literature," CBQ 40 (1978), 359.

[44] C.H. Dodd, "The Appearances of the Risen Lord," in More New Testament Studies (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1968), 125.

[45] C.F. Evans (Resurrection and the New Testament [Naperville: Alex R. Allenson, 1970], 43) observes, "The suggestion of B. Gerhardsson, Memory and Manuscript (1961), p. 299, that since the other apostles had accepted Paul, his name could have stood in the traditional formula, is scarcely feasible."

[46] Evans, Resurrection, 50-51.

[47] Rudolf Bultmann, "Karl Barth, The Resurrection of the Dead," in idem., Faith and Understanding, I. (New York: Harper & Row, 1969), 83.

[48] Wilckens, Resurrection, 13: "These are ‘legitimation formulae,’ that is, the appearances are kept embodied in the tradition because they are seen as demonstrating that the leaders of primitive Christianity received their legitimation, their mandate, their vocation and calling, and their position of full power and authority, from Heaven." Marxsen’s view, thought put slightly differently, seems to amount to about the same thing: The intention of the list of appearances "is to trace back the later functions and the later faith of the church, as well as the later leadership of James, to the one single root: the appearance of Jesus… Paul wants to include himself in the group. He wants to say that he too belongs to the very same circle…" (The Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth [Philadelphia: Fortress, 1979], 95). Lüdemann’s view is still a variation on Wilckens’s at this point. Lüdemann thinks that in reproducing the list Paul is trying to vindicate his apostolic authority in rebuttal to his detractors in the Cephas party by demonstrating that he holds the same credentials as Cephas, just as he does in 9:1 (Opposition to Paul, 72). However, there seems to be some ambiguity in Lüdemann’s opinion as to Paul’s intentions in using the list of appearances. He can say on the one hand that "the object of Paul’s proof by means of the witnesses was Paul’s apostleship, and not the resurrection of Jesus" (ibid., 72), and on the other that "The formulae in vv. 5 and 7… are now used by Paul to testify precisely to the fact of the appearances…" (ibid., 51).

[49] Ronald J. Sider, "St. Paul’s Understanding of the Nature and Significance of the Resurrection in I Corinthians XV," NovTest 19 (1977), 129.

[50] E. L. Allen, "The Lost Kerygma," NTS 3 (1956-57), 350.

[51] Ibid.

[52] Ibid., 353.

[53] C.K. Barrett, The First Epistle to the Corinthians (New York: Harper & Row, 1968), 342.

[54] S.M. Gilmour traces the history of the theory and shows that it was Weisse who originated it, not E. von Dobschütz, as one often hears ("The Christophany to More Than Five Hundred Brethren," JBL 80 [1961]).

[55] Fuller, Formation, 36.

[56] Lüdemann, Resurrection of Jesus, 103, 106. Gilmour ("Easter and Pentecost," JBL 81 [1962]) tries to rehabilitate the theory; but despite a few interesting insights, he really fails to make a convincing case–as C. Freeman Sleeper shows ("Pentecost and Resurrection," JBL 84 [1965]). Stephen J. Patterson ("1 Cor 15:3-11 and the Origin of the Resurrection and Appearance Tradition," [Westar Institute Seminar Papers, March 1-5, 1995], 22-23) puts forth a softer version of the argument, suggesting that the reference to the 500 indirectly reflects mob glossalalic ecstasy like that stylized in Acts 2. In this case, to have "seen" the Risen Lord would, for the 500 brethren, have meant seeing his power active among them in the form of tongue-speaking and prophecy. This is not much of a resurrection appearance in my opinion, or rather perhaps a demythologization of one.

[57] Dodd, "Appearances," 127.

[58] Lüdemann, Resurrection of Jesus, 103.

[59] See Käte Hamburger, The Logic of Literature, 2nd ed. (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1993), 136.

[60] We find a striking parallel, which serves to demonstrate the point of an apocryphal appeal to eye-witnesses who are in reality no longer available to the doubter, in the late Syriac hagiography The History of John the Son of Zebedee, where that worthy is preaching to the Ephesians the miracles of his Lord: he "raised the daughter of Jairus, the chief of the synagogue, after she was dead, and, lo, she abideth, with her father in Decapolis, and if thou chooset to go, thou mayest learn (it) from her" (W. Wright, Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles, Edited from Syriac Manuscripts in the British Museum and Other Libraries, Vol. II, The English Translation [London: Williams and Norgate, 1981], 15). Perhaps she may have remained until the time of John’s ministry, but she must have been long dead by the time The History of John the Son of Zebedee was composed. Even so, all the post-Pauline scribe meant by contributing the appearance to the five hundred was that, had you lived in Paul’s day (as he knew quite well that his own readers did not), then you could have verified the matter. (Cf. John 20:26-31.)

[61] The Apocryphal New Testament (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1924; reprint 1972), 3-4.

[62] George Eldon Ladd, I Believe in the Resurrection of Jesus (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975), 105: "It is highly probable that it is this experience which made James a believer." Clark H. Pinnock, Set Forth Your Case (Chicago: Moody, 1978), 98: "James had formerly been skeptical (Jn 7:5) but after a resurrection appearance (1 Co 15:7) took the helm of the mother church in Jerusalem (Ac 15:13; Ga 1:19)." Frank Morison, Who Moved the Stone? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1978), Chapter 11, "The Evidence of the Prisoner’s Brother."

[63] J. Weiss (History of Primitive Christianity, I, 25): "But it is a fact of importance, historically, that James had such an experience, uniquely and individually. For it was no doubt a distinction which was used to support his later position as head of the community." Raymond E. Brown (The Virginal Conception and Bodily Resurrection of Jesus [Paramus, NJ: Paulist, 1973, 95): "One must probably postulate an appearance to James to account for the fact that a disbelieving brother of the Lord became a leading Christian." Gerd Lüdemann (The Resurrection of Jesus, 109): "… this individual vision… represents a kind of conversion of James."

[64] Abdulaziz Abdulhussein Sachedina, Islamic Messianism, The Idea of the Mahdi in Twelver Shi’ism (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1981), 6-7; Farhad Daftary, The Isma’ilis: Their History and Doctrines (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 39.

[65] Ignaz Goldhizer, Introduction to Islamic Theology and Law (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1981), 175: Sachedina, Messianism, 6; but see W.M. Watt, Islamic Philosophy and Theology (Edinburgh: The University press, 1979), 23.

[66] Sachedina, Messianism, 22.

[67] Cited by Eusebius, EH 2. 23:4-9. Some of this material, however, may be Eusebius’s own interpretation: see R.M. Grant, Eusebius as Church Historian, 67-70; and W. Pratschr, Der Herrenbruder Jakobus und die Jakobustradition, 107-121; 191-193.

[68] Fuller, Formation, 12.

[69] Ibid.

[70] Ibid.

[71] This, of course, is the reading of Theodore J. Weeden (Mark: Traditions in Conflict [Philadelphia: Fortress, 1971], already anticipated, as I read it, in Robert M. Grant, The Earliest Lives of Jesus (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1961), 7-8.

[72] Raymond E. Brown, The Virginal Conception of the Beloved Disciple (New York: Paulist, 1979), 84-87. Vielhauer, 352, compares the Peter-Beloved Disciple rivalry in John to that existing at Corinth between Cephas and Paul.

[73] Fuller, Formation, 12-13.

[74] Ibid., 28; Hans von Campenhausen, "The Events of Easter and the Empty Tomb," in Tradition and Life in the Church, Essays and Lectures in Church History (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1969), 44; Gerald O’Collins, The Resurrection of Jesus Christ (Valley Forge, PA: Judson, 1973), 5.

[75] E. F. F. Bishop, "The Risen Christ and Five Hundred Brethren (1 Cor 15,6)," CBQ 18 (1956), 341-344.

[76] Conzelmann, Commentary, 252.

[77] Fee (Corinthians, 729), Wilckens, Lietzmann, Conzelmann (Commentary, 258) and others.

[78] Walter Schmithals makes a case for this view in The Office of Apostle in the Early Church (New York: Abingdon, 1969), 67-87.

[79] Paul Winter, "I Corinthians XV: 3b-7," Nov.Test.2 (1957), 148-149.

[80] Lüdemann, Opposition to Paul, 49; cf. also idem, Resurrection of Jesus, 37.

[81] Corinthians, 729.

[82] Schmithals, Office of the Apostle, 74 (emphasis mine).

[83] Lüdemann, Opposition to Paul, 50.

[84] Dodd, "Appearances," 125.

[85] Winter, "I Corinthians XV," 148-149; Lüdemann, Opposition to Paul, 50.

[86] Ethelbert Stauffer, Jesus and His Story (New York: Knopf, 1974), 148-149.

[87] "Appearances," 125.

[88] Patterson, "1 Cor 15:3-11," 7.

[89] See Karl Barth, The Resurrection of the Dead (New York: Revell, 1933), 132; Marxsen, Resurrection of Jesus, 95; Philipp Vielhauer, "Paul and the Cephas Party in Corinth," JHC 1 (Fall 1994), 129-142; 140 (German original = "Paulus und die Cephaspartei in Korinth," NTS 21 [1975], 341-352: 351). Edward Schillebeeckx, Jesus, An Experiment in Christology (New York: Seabury, 1979), 348-349: "He is providing a list of authorities who all say the same thing." In light of v. 1ll, the catholicizing intent is plain if Paul wrote it; but even if v. 11 represents an early interpretation by someone else, the catholicizing dimension seems implicit in the wide range of witnesses cited.

[90] Hans Grass, Ostergeschehen und Osterberichte (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 1956), 97.

[91] Philipp Vielhauer, "Cephas Party."

[92] Ibid., 131.

[93] W.C. van Manen, "Paul," in Encyclopaedia Biblica (London: Adam and Charles Black, 1914), col. 3629.

[94] Bultmann, "Karl Barth," 83-84.

[95] Evans, Resurrection, 46.

[96] Conzelmann, Commentary, 249 and n. 11. Conzelmann then offers the traditional explanation: "Looking back, we can then see how vv 12ff were prepared for by vv 1-11: the foundation is the traditional confession of faith…" (249). But we saw above that the material in vv 3-11 can hardly be understood as a traditional "confession of faith."

[97] Schillebeeckx, Experiment in Christology, 348. Lüdemann (Resurrection of Jesus, 34) attempts a harmonization at this point, trying to make the complex argument of vv. 13ff the natural continuation of the appearance list. He suggests that Paul placed the list before the ensuing argument so as to prove his authority for the rather controversial notions he is about to propose. But this belies the tenor of the argument through the rest of the chapter, which is a diatribe seeking to win over its reader by reason and rhetoric (cf. Burton L. Mack, Rhetoric and the New Testament [Minneapolis: Fortress, 1990], 56-59), not by pulling apostolic rank in an apodictic fashion. The argument of chapter 15 stands by itself as a "Treatise on the Resurrection," reminiscent of similar writing by Philo and the Writer to Rheginos. Lüdemann’s proposed linkage is so artificial as to make the unnaturalness of the juxtaposition all the more stark.

[98] Though she does not elaborate on her reasons, it is worth noting that Winsome Munro "suspects" 1 Cor. 15:1-11 of belonging to a subsequent, post-Pauline stratum of the epistle (Authority in Paul and Peter, The Identification of a Pastoral Stratum in the Pauline Corpus and 1 Peter [SNTSMS 45; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1983], 204). J.C. O’Neill also deems it most probable that "1 Cor. 15.1-11 is a later credal summary not written by Paul" (The Recovery of Paul’s Letter to the Galatians [London: SPCK, 1972], 27).

[99] Munro, "Interpolation" 432-439.

[100] Walker, "Burden of Proof," 615.

[101] Munro, "Interpolation" 432.

[102] Walker, "Text-critical Evidence," 627.

[103] Corinthians, 717, n. 16.

"Apocryphal Apparitions: 1 Corinthians 15:3-11 As a Post-Pauline Interpolation" is copyright © 1995 by Robert M. Price. All rights reserved. The electronic version is copyright © 1997 by Internet Infidels with the written permission of Robert M. Price.

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