In 1 Corinthians 15:6, when Paul says of the 500 witnesses that “most remain,” was he implying they were available for being questioned?

  • Question

    Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:6 — “[Jesus] appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep.” In saying that “most.. remain until now,” is Paul intending to communicate that witnesses are not inaccessible, but rather plenty remain ready and able to be questioned if any of his audience (or delegates) desired?

  • Historians unanimously say “Yes”

    • Rudolf Bultmann: “I can only understand the text as an attempt to make the resurrection of Christ believable as an objective historical (historisches) fact” [St. Paul’s Understanding of the Nature and Significance of the Resurrection in I Corinthians XV 1-19, Novum Testamentum © 1977]
    • Richard Hays: [Regarding 1 Cor 15 and saying some of the 500 are still alive] This shows that Paul did not think of the resurrection of Jesus as some sort of ineffable truth beyond history; rather, it was an event that had occurred in the immediate past, and an event for which historical eyewitnesses testimony was readily available. [First Corinthians: Interpretation (Westminster 1997) 257.]
    • Joseph Fitzmyer: “[t]he implication is that they could still provide the testimony themselves,” [Anchor Yale Bible Commentary: 1 Corinthians (Yale, 2008), 32.550-551.]
    • Eduard Schweizer: “For years he had worked together with men from Jerusalem (Barnabas, Mark), and of the more than five hundred brethren, he must have known quite a number, because he knows that ‘most of them are still alive, though some have fallen asleep’ (1 Cor 15:6). Thus, I think, there is no doubt that the convictions of these witnesses to have seen the risen Lord is a historic fact. Some scholars have tried to reduce the statement of… [“Resurrection: Fact or Illusion?” The Historical Jesus, Vol 3 (ed. Evans), 340.]
    • C.H. Dodd: “In the formula of I Cor. 15, on the contrary, there seems to be an attempt to meet a possible objector to some extent by defining more precisely the source of information, so as to put him (in theory at least) in a position to question the witness. There can hardly be any purpose in mentioning the fact that most of the 500 are still alive, unless Paul is saying, in effect, ‘the witnesses are there to be questioned’. [“The Appearances of the Risen Christ”, The Historical Jesus, Vol 3 (ed. Evans), 310.]
    • James Dunn: “Paul seems to imply as much when he notes that most of the 500-plus were still alive (1 Cor. 15.6), with the implied invitation that his auditors could ask them for themselves.” [Jesus Remembered (Eerdmans, 2003), 863-4.]
    • Richard Bauckham: “This explicitness of this detail - which looks like one that Paul has added to the traditional form - shows that he intends it to be a kind of authentication: if anyone wishes to check this tradition, a very large number of the eyewitnesses are still alive and can be seen and heard.” [Jesus and the Eyewitnesses (Eerdmans, 2006), 308.]
    • N. T. Wright: “…it is noteworthy that 15.1-11 as a whole clearly speaks of a public event for which there is evidence in the form of witnesses who saw something and can be interrogated. [The Resurrection of the Son of God (Fortress, 2003), 383.]
    • Gerd Lüdemann: “The purpose of this is probably on the one hand to provide ‘historical’ support for the resurrection of Jesus: more than 500 witnesses all at once (v.6a) cannot be wrong, and if anyone was still sceptical about what they had heard they could ask them directly, since most of them were still alive (v.6b). of Jesus: no further detailed information was necessary.” [What really happened to Jesus, Trans. by Bowden (Westminster, 1995), .]
    • Ronald J. Sider: “Moffatt admits somewhat grudgingly that verse 6b implies that ‘you can verify the vision [sic]… for the majority of still alive’ (James Moffatt, The first Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians (Hodder and Stoughton, 1938), 238.]
    • Edwin Yamauchi: “As William Lillie, head of the Department of Biblical Study at the University of Aberdeen, notes: What gives a special authority to the list as historical evidence is the reference to most of the five hundred brethren being still alive. St. Paul says in effect, “If you do not believe me, you can ask them.” (“The Empty Tomb and the Resurrection,” in D. E. Nineham et al. Historicity and Chronology in the New Testament, 1965, p. 125).” [Easter: Myth, Hallucination, or History?, as published on]
    • Craig Keener: “The claim that many of the over five hundred on one occasion remained alive probably constituted an invitation to consult them if one wished (and had funds for travel). (For appeals to public knowledge, cf., e.g., Josephus Ag. Ap. 1.50–52; Life 359–62; Cicero Verr. 1.5.15;” [New Cambridge Bible Commentary, 1-2 Corinthians (Cambridge, 2005), 124.]