r m p
Robert M. Price
the pericope 1 Corinthians 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
The Legitimacy of the Suggestion
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 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
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
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, that the New Testament theological exegete will be stepping uncertainly amid a marshy textual bog, 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. This last 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 theo
logical constructions on the basis of the text as it stands
should probably be accepted only tentatively and provision
ally, 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
the surviving text of the Pauline letters is the text pro
moted by the historical winners in the theological and eccle
siastical struggles of the second and third centuries... In
short, it appears likely that the emerging Catholic leader
ship in the churches 'standardized' the text of the Pauline
corpus in the light of 'orthodox' views and practices, sup
pressing and even destroying all deviant texts and manu
scripts. 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 evi
dence can tell us nothing about the state of the Pauline lit
erature prior to the third century. 7
striking history-of-religions analogy to the process
seems to think it unremarkable that all textual evidence before the third
century has mysteriously vanished. But according to
One of the favorite harmonizations used by scholars is the convenient notion that when Paul sounds, e.g., suddenly and suspiciously Gnostic, it is still Paul, but he is "using the terminology of his opponents against them." This would seem to be an odd, muddying strategy. 13 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." 14 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." 15
repeats the circularity of apologist C.S. Lewis's argument in the latter's
"Modern Theology and Biblical Criticism." Lewis dismisses
historical-critical reconstructions, e.g., of the historical Jesus, since they
are merely a chain of weak links: "if, in a complex reconstruction, you go
on... superinducing 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." 16 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 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." 17 Again, "This lack of certainty is
sometimes obscured by scholars who wishfully refer to certain
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 19, they are not nearly so high as the walls erected by Wisse: one must show manuscript support from that period from which none of any kind survives. 20 And here we are reminded of another inerrantist apologist, Benjamin B. Warfield, who set up a gauntlet he dared any proposed biblical error to run. Any alleged error in scripture must be shown to have occurred in the original autographs, which, luckily, are no longer available. 21 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 erected a hedge around the Torah.
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.
Murphy-O'Connor rejoices at any exegesis "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.
phrase in 1 Cor. 15:1, the "terms in which I
preached to you the gospel," 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
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
The pair of words in verse 3a, "received / delivered" (paralambanein / paradidonai) is, as has often been pointed out 24, the technical language of the handing on of rabbinical tradition. 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 tradents 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 means of the suggestion that, though Paul was already engaged in
preaching his gospel for three years, it was on his visit to Cephas
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
Schütz expresses his
dissatisfaction with other previous attempts to harmonize the two passages. Cullmann had suggested 28 that there was no real conflict
between the two passages
One either does or does not recognize such reasoning as a 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: verse 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
conversion, 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
Schütz seeks another
alternative. For him, Paul's gospel is not so much the basic facts of the death
and resurrection of Jesus as 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
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
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." And 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.
In v. 3b, according to most scholars, begins an ancient creedal/liturgical list of the essential facts of Christian salvation. The connective hoti ("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 and of Paul himself 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
Wilckens believes that Paul had 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's 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 were competing credential formulas on behalf of the two rival 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's thesis is his partition of the creed of vv. 3-5
into four separate previous traditions. He takes the instance of kai hoti in verse 5 to denote that the series of hotis represent
not connectives between the articles of a creed, but rather Pauline connectives
between disparate citations of scripture or of brief traditional formulae. But,
against Wilckens, Kramer, followed by Conzelmann,
rejects such a usage as having no form-critical parallel. Instead, Kramer,
reasons, the otis
were injected by Paul as punctuators, emphasizing the various points in the
formula, as if to stress, "first..., second..., third..." Murphy-O'Connor shows
Stuhlmacher sees the parallelism in vv 3-5 and 5-7 as evidence of a careful stylization of the whole text, arguing that the unit formed by vv. 3b-7 had 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. 42
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) ..." 43
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 multi-membered 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 hoti-clauses, followed by a subsection in which individual appearances are listed with the connectives eita, epeita:
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
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," etc. 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
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. 45 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? 46 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. 47
The reference to the 500 unnamed witnesses certainly implies, as Sider argues 48, 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 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 offered should be passed over if it was known. Was it
then lost? 49
answer: "The Gospel narratives of the Resurrection are governed by another
set of needs and meet another situation than those of the first kerygma."
50 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
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." 52 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
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. 53 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?" 54 But despite the considerable expenditure of scholarly ink the suggestion has generated, including its recent espousal by Gerd Lüdemann 55, its epitaph must be the words of C.H. Dodd: "it remains a pure speculation." 56
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
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?
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 (, 31-35), followed by Matthew (-50), are clear that he was no friend of the ministry of Jesus. Luke, on the other hand (Luke -21; Acts ), 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 thou wilt go away from us. Who is it who shall be great over us? Jesus said to them: Wherever you have come, you will go to James the righteous, for whose sake heaven and earth came into being. (Trans. Guillaumont, Puech, Quispel, Till, 'abd al Masih) 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)
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 to James likened unto that of Paul: the apprehension of an enemy of
Christ to turn
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
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
passes along legendary tales of the exemplary piety of James Oblias, "the camel-kneed," whose callouses came from long vigils of prayer on behalf of
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 verse 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, 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. 65
James Versus Cephas
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 criticisms
of Conzelmann, von Campenhausen, Kloppenborg, Fuller,
and others are not decisive. Fuller points out that if the two independent formulae
Second, [argues Fuller,] on 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. 67
Then that is the way to explain it. It seems to me Fuller has answered his own objection.
"Third, 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." As if uneasy about this absolute statement Fuller immediately adds, "Galatians shows that there were for a time differences between Peter and James on the interpretation of the 'gentlemen's agreement' (Gal 2.9-10), but to speak of a rivalry goes beyond the facts." 68 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 these facts. He seeks to forestall a critical 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) 69, followed by the denial narratives of all the gospels; contrast the milder Johannine shadowing of Peter in favor of the Beloved Disciple 70. A James-versus-Peter conflict is as plausible a Sitz-im-Leben for such materials as any.
Fourth, Fuller points out 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. 71 This calls for two
responses. First, there is no question that the eita, epeita structure of the list as
it now stands implies temporal sequence, but this may simply be the gratuitous
assumption of the redactor of the list. Second, Fuller's own assumption (shared
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 74. But
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, e.g., including Andronicus and Junia, but including the narrower circle of the Twelve. 75 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. 76 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. 77 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, too, 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
In his commentary on 1 Corinthians Gordon Fee
rejects the Harnack theory simply by reference to Schmithals's
"refutation" of Harnack. 79
But here is all Schmithals has to say on the
I do not consider correct the thesis ... about the two primi
tive communities, nor am I able to persuade myself that Peter
and James were rivals in
not believe that one could have attempted in the earliest
times to set James up as the first witness of the resurrec
tion 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. 80
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 Schmithals'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 the 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 the Gospel according to the Hebrews, where it is clear 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.
81 He could hold
consistently to Schmithals's excellent schema if he
would only recognize the late character of
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
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.
But do we not in fact have Paul's own testimony
in verse 8, which all scholars think he added to the traditional material? As
an ostensible Pauline addition, verse 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
The problem becomes particularly acute with Vielhauer's discussion of the passage. According to his interpretation
of the whole epistle, particularly -4:7; 9, Paul is
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 Corinthian 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. 89 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, v. 8, seeing that the whole is post-Pauline, 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
A Context for the List: Vv. 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. 90
In v. 8, the kamoi 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. -16). The
Originally 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 de 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 the gospel as I preached it is a gospel of a Risen Christ, and you are saying it was a mistake since you are denying the resurrection!
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 periscope vv. 3-11 and the rest of the chapter:
I can understand the text only as an attempt to make the
resurrection of Christ 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) 91
[Vv. 3-5 are] a formula which seems to have little influence
on the rest of the chapter. (C.F. Evans) 92
[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) 93
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 solution is simply that vv. 3-11
constitute an interpolation. 94 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 the right to appeal to the apostles as a whole. He and the
hated 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
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 had equally 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.
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. 95
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
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
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 differences, 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 taken 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 interpolated. In her own Authority in Peter and Paul she connects
the Pastoral Strata with the Pastoral Epistles. 98 I have argued, not for direct dependence, but
for relatedness of themes and concerns with later
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
The eighth criterion is that of indirect textual evidence, minor variations between different texts all containing the body of the disputed passage. 99 Fee observes that a notes that a few textual witnesses (Marcion, b, and Ambrosiaster) lack "what I also received" in v. 3. 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 interpolator, both of the list into the
apologetic fragment, and of the fragment into 1 Cor.
Though, as Munro says, the weighing of the evidence and of the various criteria must be left to the judgment of each scholar (by mine and those of my readers), 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.
A.M. Hunter, Paul and his Predecessors.
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.
Winsome Munro, "Interpolation in the Epistles: Weighing Probability,"
New Testament Studies 36, 1990,
6. William O. Walker, Jr., "The Burden of Proof in Identifying Interpolations in the Pauline Letters," New Testament Studies 33, 1987, 615.
Ibid., 614; cf. Bart D. Ehrman, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture: The Effect of Early Christological
Controversies on the Text of the New Testament.
W. Montgomery Watt (editor and revisor),
Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza,
In Memory of Her: A Feminist Theological
Reconstruction of Christian Origins.
James Barr, Fundamentalism.
Harold Lindsell, The
Gordon Fee, The First Epistle to the
Murphy-O'Connor, "Interpolations in 1 Corinthians," 83.
C.S. Lewis, "Modern Theology and Biblical Criticism," in Walter
Hooper (ed.), Christian Reflections.
19. William O. Walker, Jr., "Text-Critical
Evidence for Interpolations in the Letters of Paul," Catholic Biblical Quarterly 50, 1988, 625; Munro,
"Interpolation in the Epistles," 432-439.
Wisse, 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."
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 intended 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
Murphy-O'Connor, "Interpolations in 1 Corinthians," 85.
Martin Dibelius, From
Tradition to Gospel. NY: Scribners, n.d., 18
Joachim Jeremias, The Eucharistic Words
26. Fee, 718.
John Howard Schütz, Paul and the Anatomy of Apostolic Authority. SNTSMS 26,
Oscar Cullmann, "The Tradition: The Exegetical,
Historical and Theological Problem," in Cullmann,
The Early Church.
29. J. Roloff, Apostolät-Verkündigung-Kirche. Guterslöh, 1965, 92.
Schütz, chapter 3, "The Gospel, the Kerygma and the Apostle" 35-83.
Conzelmann, 251; Fee, 723; Lüdemann, The Resurrection of Jesus: History,
Johannes Weiss, Der
erste Korintherbrief. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht, 1910, 330; ibid, The History of Primitive Christianity.
Reginald H. Fuller, The Formation of the
Resurrection Narratives. NY: Macmillan, 1971, 11.
Jerome Murphy-O'Connor, "Tradition and Redaction in 1 Cor
15:3-7," Catholic Biblical
Quarterly 43, 1981, 584.
Wilckens's view, neatly summarized in Fuller, 13ff,
was set forth first in Ulrich Wilckens, Die Missionsreden
Neukirchen: Neukirchner Verlag, 1960; ibid., "Der Ursprung der šberlieferung
der Erscheinungen des Auferstandenen" in
Adolf von 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,
Wilckens, "Tradition-history," 60. Gerd Lüdemann, Opposition to Paul in Jewish Christianity.
Werner Kramer, Christ, Lord, Son of God.
Trans. Brian Hardy. Studies in Biblical Theology No. 56.
P.J. Kearney, "He Appeared to 500 Brothers (
Peter Stuhlmacher, Das paulinische Evangelium:
C.H. Dodd, "The Appearances of the Risen Lord," in More New Testament Studies.
"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
Rudolf Bultmann, "Karl Barth, The Resurrection of the Dead," Faith and Understanding, I.
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, though put slightly differently, seems to
amount to about the same thing: The intention of the list of appearances
"is to trace back the
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).
Ronald J. Sider, "
E.L. Allen, "The Lost Kerygma," New Testament Studies 3, 1956-57, 350.
C.K. Barrett, The First Epistle to the
S.M. Gilmour, "The Christophany to More Than
Five Hundred Brethren," Journal of
Biblical Literature 80, 1961, traces the history of the theory and shows
that it was Weisse who originated
of Jesus, 103, 106; Gilmour, "Easter and Pentecost," Journal of Biblical Literature 81,
1962, tries to rehabilitate the theory, but despite a few interesting insights,
of Jesus, 103.
See Käte Hamburger, The Logic of Literature, 2nd ed. Trans. Marilynn J. Rose,
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.
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.
Abdulaziz Abdulhussein Sachedina, Islamic
Messianism, The Idea of the Mahdi in Twelver Shi'ism.
Ignaz Goldziher, Introduction to Islamic Theology and Law.
Quoted in Eusebius, Ecclesiastical
History 2, 23: "This apostle was consecrated from his mother's womb.
He drank neither wine nor strong drink, and abstained from animal food. A razor
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
66. Fuller, 12.
This, of course, is the reading of Theodore J. Weeden,
Mark: Traditions in Conflict.
Raymond E. Brown, The Community of the
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. Trans. A.V. Littledale.
E.F.F. Bishop, "The Risen Christ and the Five Hundred Brethren (1 Cor 15, 6)" Catholic
Biblical Quarterly 18, 1956, 341-344.
Fee (729), Wilckens, Lietzmann,
Conzelmann (258) and others.
Walter Schmithals makes a case for this view in The Office of Apostle in the Early Church.
NY: Abingdon, 1969, 67-87.
Paul Winter, "I Corinthians XV: 3b-7," Novum Testamentum
2, 1957, 148-149.
to Paul, 49; cf. also Lüdemann, Resurrection of Jesus, 37.
Schmithals, 74, emphasis mine.
to Paul, 50.
Winter, 148-149; Lüdemann, Opposition to Paul, 50.
Ethelbert Stauffer, Jesus and His Story.
Karl Barth, The Resurrection of the Dead.
Hans Grass, Ostergeschehen
und Osterberichte. Göttingen:
Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht,
1956, 97, translated in
W.C. van Manen, "Paul," in Encyclopaedia Biblica.
Schillebeeckx, 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 [Burton L. Mack, Rhetoric and the New Testament.
Though she does not elaborate on her reasons, it is worth noting that Winsome
Munro, Authority in Paul and Peter, The
Identification of a Pastoral Stratum in the Pauline Corpus and 1
Winsome Munro, "Interpolation in the Epistles: Weighing Probability,"
New Testament Studies 36, 1990,
William O. Walker Jr., "The Burden of Proof in Identifying Interpolations
in Pauline Letters," New Testament
Studies 33, 1987, 615.
Munro, "Interpolations" 432.
Winsome Munro, Authority in Peter and
99. Walker, "Text-Critical Evidence for Interpolations in the Letters of Paul," Catholic Biblical Quarterly. 50, 1988, 627.
Robert M Price
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