Christianity asserts that Jesus is a unique savior whose
resurrection from the dead cannot be called into question. An
often used claim by Christians as proof that the resurrection of
Jesus was a historical fact is based the writings of Paul.
[Specifically 1 Cor 15:6, in Paul's letter to the Corinthians.].
Christians will assert to Skeptics that over 500 people at one time saw the resurrected Jesus based on a line of scripture which was supposed to have been written by Paul. By claiming that over 500 people saw the resurrected Jesus at one time, Christians attempt to convince others that the Bible and the Bible's version of what Jesus was must be true. The following is an actual exchange with a Christian where this type of tactic is used.
On 12 separate occasions various individuals and groups in various locations and circumstances saw Jesus alive after his death.
The Gospels can't agree on who saw Jesus first or where he first appeared to his apostles as a group. For that matter the Gospels can't even agree on who the 12 apostles were. As the 12 separate occasions involve internal contradictions, there is no reason to assign a large amount of credibility to them.
Note: For a chart outlining the many internal inconsistencies regarding the resurrection, the following link provides a comprehensive graphic: Resurrection Chart
1 Cor 15:3-4
For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:
Writing about 55 A.D., Paul quotes an old Christian creed saying that Jesus died, was buried, and rose from the dead on the third day.
An "old Christian creed" is useless as positive evidence of anything. The very fact that Paul had to rely on second hand information indicates he has no firsthand knowledge of this event.
The author of Luke has Jesus himself stating that it was written:
And(Jesus) said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day:
What "old Christian creed" is Jesus referring to here?? There was no old Christian creed at that time.
Furthermore, where is it written in the Old Testament that the Christ would rise from the dead on the third day?
There is no such thing written anywhere in the Old Testament.
Paul would have learned it in his first two years as a convert, or at least no later than AD36 when he visited Peter and James in Jerusalem. This formula is no later than 5 or 6 years after the resurrection. Not enough time for legend to dominate.
It was Paul who claimed that he learned his gospel directly from Jesus in a "revelation". Paul clearly stated that he didn't learn his gospel from any human.
But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man.
For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Your "formula" means very little anyway. If Paul is quoting a story he heard from believers, then he is only passing on second hand rumor.
As Paul never once met Jesus while he was alive or even after the resurrection, his story is not an eyewitness account.
The only "Jesus" Paul ever saw was a vision which he assumed was Jesus.
Then Paul goes on to say:
1 Cor. 15:5-6
and that he(Jesus) appeared to Cephas; then to the twelve; then he(Jesus) appeared to above five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain until now, but some are fallen asleep;
Where is this event and the figure of over 500 people confirmed by any other writers in the New Testament?
Paul gives no geographic location of this mass crowd Jesus that was supposed to have appeared to, nor does he give the names of anyone involved.
Paul himself wasn't among any of these people and again is relying on second hand information.
Paul makes no mention of any women seeing Jesus prior to Jesus being seen by men. Yet, the Gospel writers state that it was a woman(or women) who first saw the resurrected Jesus.
If Paul is attempting to establish a series of chronological events, as he appears to be trying to do, then he contradicts the gospels.
1 Cor 15:7-8
After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.
And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.
Since Paul (aka: Saul of Tarsus) only saw what he assumed was Jesus in a vision, Jesus didn't appear to him in any tangible form. Paul is simply writing about appearances by Jesus to others based on what he has heard from others. In the book of Acts, Paul's experience was with a faceless shining light.
And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven:
And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?
And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.
And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.
And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man.
It's ironic that Paul would simply accept the faceless shining light as Jesus and ironic that he would accept it as representing God. Paul, after his conversion to Christianity, preached that God canceled(Col 2:13-14, Rom 10:4, Gal 5:18) the perfect(Psa 19:7) and eternal(Psa 119:152,160) laws he gave to the Jews and replaced them with "faith" in a human sacrifice called Jesus.
These ideas and teachings directly contradict the Old Testament teachings which are supposed to be the word of God.
If Paul was determined to preach his gospel in order to secure a position of favor with God then he made a huge assumption about the faceless shining light actually being from God.
2 Cor 11:12-14
But what I do, that I will do, that I may cut off occasion from them which desire occasion; that wherein they glory, they may be found even as we.
For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.
And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.
Paul claims that Satan himself can assume the form of an angel of light to deceive people.
How could Paul be sure the faceless shining light and voice he experienced was actually Jesus?
Paul also had no problem thinking that he was privy to special knowledge from God himself.
Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God;
Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints:
Since this "vision" episode was the first and only experience Paul had with "Jesus", it could just have easily been Satan pretending to be Jesus and deceiving the vain minded Paul.
Thus, the point is that unless there is substantial eyewitness account to the resurrection event, Christians making such claims about Jesus would be absurd.
In other words, Christianity wouldn't make the claim Jesus rose from the dead unless it was factual. And in other words, Christians wouldn't make absurd claims so there must have been many eyewitnesses. This is an example of circular logic.
The real absurdity is that you attempt to claim as factual that which Paul is writing from his second hand information years after the event was supposed to have taken place. There is little way the people at Corinth would have been able to prove his assertions right or wrong 20+ years after the event was supposed to have happened.
Paul even admitted he operated from expediency. He changed himself into whatever form helped him sell a story to potential converts, and in selling his story, Paul expected to receive a big prize for all his efforts.
As Paul writes:
1 Cor 9:20-27
And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law;
To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law.
To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.
And this I do for the gospel's sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you.
Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.
And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.
I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air:
But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.
Another example of Paul expecting a reward:
2 Tim 4:8
Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.
Clearly, Paul had no problem assuming any form which would help gain converts to his cause, and gaining converts meant Paul would receive a prize.
If what Paul's writing was lying it would have been common knowledge and Christianity would have never gotten off the ground.
This rationalization falls flat on its face before it even gets off the ground. If your logic is valid, you shouldn't have any trouble accepting the Book of Mormon as the word of God.
The Book of Mormon published in 1830, was written based on gold plates that were given to Joseph Smith by the Angel Moroni during a private revelation. The gold plates were then taken back by the Angel.
Eleven witnesses were said to have testified that they saw the plates. A private revelation where information is given to a human is exactly what Paul claimed to have had with Jesus.
Joseph Smith received his information from a divine being and if what he wrote was a lie, it would have been common knowledge and Mormonism would never have gotten off the ground.
This is a insurmountable problem that God haters have never been able to explain adequately.
I love the way you define a God hater. A God hater is anyone who doesn't believe in your personal favorite deity.
But that revealing display of self-serving hubris aside, in a society with such limited news availability, there would have been almost no way to verify or confirm 20+ years after the fact if what Paul was writing was really true or false.
Considering the time period involved and conditions under which he wrote, Paul had little to fear if his exaggerated statements were challenged. Those who denied Paul's claims would simply be accused of being wicked false teachers by Paul.
Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them(false teachers) which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.
For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.
Paul instructs people to avoid anyone who teaches anything different from the gospel that Paul taught. As the years went by it became a case of Paul's "divine" word against theirs. Paul also had no trouble trashing and vilifying anyone who told a different story that competed with his story. Threats directed at competitors were part of Paul's "gospel".
As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.
It's not surprising that Paul would use threats since Christianity is primarily based on the use of fear and threats to influence how people think.
Footnote: When Christians advertise as factual that "over
500 people at one time saw the resurrected Jesus", a
rational person must consider that this claim comes from Paul, a
New Testament writer who had no firsthand experience that
this was true. It's a story unconfirmed by any other writer in
the New Testament. As this is a story Paul has passed along, the
fact that it is not an eyewitness account of anything must
be considered before accepting it as factual.
Christians have little trouble using verses like this to "prove" Jesus rose from the dead. Probing beneath the surface reveals that this claim cannot be confirmed. Far from being a fact, it's yet another aspect of Christianity that can't be taken as "gospel" at all.
It should also be noted that according to the author of the Gospel of Matthew, one of the most amazing events in world history occurred the moment Jesus died.
And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose,
And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.
Paul makes no mention of this huge event ever taking place. Paul frequented Jerusalem, went around to many places preaching about Jesus and he never says one word about it.
If dead people were raised to life, milled about for three days and then strolled into Jerusalem and appeared to many people, this was at least as big an event as over 500 people supposedly seeing a resurrected Jesus at one time.
This particular event can only be found in the Gospel of Matthew despite it's monumental significance. Nor is there any mention of it anywhere in written accounts of that time period.
If Paul had heard of this event (and how could he not have heard), you can be sure he would have preached it. This calls into question the Gospel of Matthew which is also supposed to be God's infallible word.
The author of Matthew, who was always eager to manufacture a prophecy fulfillment, attempted to show that Jesus was the expected Messiah who was to usher in God's new age for the Jews. In the Messianic age the dead would be raised to life.
Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead.
If this event ever actually happened, no other New Testament writer makes any mention of it just as no other New Testament writer mentions Paul's claim that a resurrected Jesus appeared to over 500 people at one time.
Matthew 27:52-53 is most likely a manufactured event to give Jesus credibility as the expected king Messiah. If at least one Gospel writer was prone to manufacture evidence, what does this say about the type of tactics early Christian writers (including Paul) would employ to reinforce their religion on the minds of people?
The idea that an all-holy, all-just God would condemn people to hell for their failure to accept these types of writings as "fact" is an injustice in itself and would be the action of a mentally unbalanced deity.
-- BACK --