Does “appeared” (ophthe) indicate that there was something to see (i.e. be it a visionary or physical object)?

  • Question

    A painter paints a painting, with the greek letters spelling out the Greek word ophthe.

    The passive form of ὁράω is ώφθη (ôphthë), and is translated “he appeared” or “was seen by.” Wilhelm Michaelis1 and Willi Marxsen2 famously argued that it always indicates a non-visionary reality. Are they right? Or, alternatively, does it imply that there was a visual component to the experience—something to be seen.

    1. Welhelm Michaelis, ‘horaö', Theological Dictionary of the New Testament 5.355-61
    2. Willi Marxsen, The Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth (ET, 1970), 98–111.
  • Scholars say “YES”

    • Daniel Kendall & Gerald O'Collins: “Wilhelm Michaelis remains the most significant exponent of the view… The weight of evidence, however, tells agents Michaelis’ line of interpretation.” [“The Uniqueness of the Easter Appearances,” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 54:2 (1992): 293.]
    • Seyoon Kim: “[But W.Marxen’s] attempt to explain away Paul’s language in 1Cor 9.1; 15:8 is plainly arbitrary for any unbiased exegete that we do not have to repudiate it in detailed here. … In his investigation of the use of the word ώφθη in the LXX, Judaism, and the NT, K.H. Rengstorff stresses, against Michaelis, that the ώφθη in the report of the resurrection appearances should be understood ‘in the specific sense of becoming visible, therefore in the sense of perception with the eyes’ (Die Auferstehung Jesu (4.1940), pp.48-62, 117-127, quotation from p. 119). J. Lindblom Geschte und Offenbarungen (1968), pp.88ff. emphasizes that the word ώφθη always implies, even when not clearly indicated, a seeing, whether in a dream, in vision, or with the physical eyes.” [The Origin of Paul’s Gospel (Wipf & Stock, 1981), 55.]
    • James Dunn: “The very early formulation, ‘he appeared (ōphthē)', indicates by its passive form the assumption/impression that there was something to be seen. {Fn211 “The passive is used in an active sense ‘became visible, appear’ (BDAG, horaō 1d). Pace the famous attempt by W. Michaelis,…”}” [Jesus Remembered (Eerdman’s, 2003), 872.]
    • Samuel Bryskog: “One should not conclude therefore, with for instance Wilhelm Michaelis and Willi Marxsen that there is no indication of sensual or mental perception. The term ώφθη suggests a different understanding. implies always a seeing, whether in a dream, in a vision or with the physical eyes.” [Story as History—History as Story (Brill, 2002), 226.]
    • Stephen T. Davis: “It is true that the use of ōphthē does not require that the sense be that of normal vision, but normal vision is not ruled out either. Indeed, the word covers a whole range of visual phenomena. When Paul says that the risen Jesus ‘appeared to me,’ the notion of normal vision of a material object is neither required nor ruled out.” [“‘Seeing’ the Risen Jesus” in eds. Kendall & O.’Collins. The Resurrection (Oxford,1997), 135.]
    • Daniel A. Smith: “Outside the biblical writings, passive forms of the verb horaō (such as ōphthē) can denote appearances of ordinary people or things, or of supernatural people or things, sometimes with the implication in the context that the sight would be visible to any observer. In the Septuagint, the ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, ōphthē denotes the appearance sometimes of ordinary phenomena and sometimes of supernatural phenomena...As we have seen, the term ōphthē, as used by Paul and by the tradition he cites in 1 Corinthians 15, does not specify how the appearances were experienced/perceived, whether in a dream or visionary state, or in normal perception' [Revisiting the Empty Tomb: The Early History of Easter (Fortress, 2010) 15, 18]