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Did Paul think he saw Jesus physically appear to him (i.e. not as just a vision or epiphany)?

  • Question

    Does Paul deny that Jesus appeared to him non-physically (i.e. intra-mentally), insisting instead that what appeared to him was quite physical and extra-mental?

    Paul reportedly experienced literal visions somewhat frequently, visions whose content was not localized in space-time, essentially meaning their contents were not perceptual relations to objects in space-time reality. Was Paul’s alleged experience of Jesus appearing to him just one of these visions or experiences located entirely within his mind (Divinely caused or not), rather than Jesus’s actually physically appearing to him in the flesh?

“Yes, after all…
  • 1 Cor 9:1 (“I've seen”) means normal sight

    An eyeball symbol.

    In 1 Cor 9:1 (“have I not seen”) Paul is saying the the saw appear before his physical eyes in the normal way.

    This full page analyzes 1 evidence...

    This is relevant because in order for Paul to think he physically saw Jesus with his eyes, he will have also had to think Jesus physically appeared to him.

  • 1 Cor 15 (“buried-appeared”) = physical appear

    The image is divided in half; on the left is an upside down stick man, and on the right is a stick man with his arms up and beams of light coming out.

    When Paul writes (and recites) a formula saying Jesus was “buried, raised, and appeared,” the implication is that what appeared is what was buried and raised.

    A full page will discusses at least these 2 arguments:

    This is relevant because Paul definitely believes Jesus was physically resurrected, and obviously Jesus’ burial could only be physical.

  • 1 Cor 15:6 (“most remain”) meant witnesses

    In writing 1 Corinthians 15:6 (“[he appeared to] five hundred brethren… most of whom remain until now”) Paul implied that witnesses to a large group-appearance of Jesus remained and could be questioned.

    A full page will cover at least these 2 arguments:

    • The comment is gratuitous otherwise.
    • It matches similar appeals to public knowledge.

    This is relevant because Paul’s encouraging others to question these “witnesses” about their merely personal vision/epiphany would have been counter-productive, communicating to critics that the resurrection is psychological or non-physical after all.

    • N. T. Wright: “As we saw earlier, those who have wished to say that the risen Christ was not that kind of being, that the resurrection was not that sort of event, that it did not have that kind of evidence, and that any witnesses would simply be speaking of their own inner conviction and experience rather than the evidence of their eyes, have had to say that Paul has here undermined the point he really should have been making. [The Resurrection of the Son of God (Fortress, 2003), 383.]
  • Paul: “Jesus resurrected physically”

    Paul maintained that Jesus’ resurrection from the dead was a physical rising (i.e. leaving behind an empty grave).

    A full page will analyze at least these 8 arguments:

    • 1 Cor 15:2-11 (“died,… buried,… rose”) says so.
    • Col 2:9 (“bodily form”) says so.
    • Grk. “anastasis” = physical resurrection (by default).
    • Grk. “egeiro” = physical resurrection (by default).
    • Paul taught a personal return of Christ.
    • Jesus overthrows death; he doesn’t flee it.
    • Jesus’s resurrection matches how ours will be.
    • Rom 8: 11 (“give life, mortal bodies”).

    This is relevant because it would likely dictate how Paul interpreted what appeared to him, since Paul believed that what he saw was the very thing that was raised—Jesus Christ himself.

    But no...

  • An overtly immaterial visit'd not persuade

    An overtly hallucination-like vision of Jesus (e.g. with an ethereal figure) would not persuade Paul that Jesus was God incarnate etc.

    A full page will analyze at least these 3 arguments:

    • Paul knew of hallucinations.
    • Paul’s conversion would be radical.
    • Few hallucinations are persuasive.

    This is relevant because Paul did believe Jesus was God incarnate etc. as a result of this event, so Paul therefore did at least believe it was a physical appearance.

    But no…

    • Paul couldn't tell the difference. (cf. 2 Cor 12:1-4) [Forthcoming]
“No, after all…
  • Paul: “Jesus resurrected non-physically”

    Paul maintained that Jesus’ resurrection from the dead was a non-physical rising (i.e. leaving the body behind).

    • Paul says we are raised non-physically.
    • Paul doesn’t know of an empty tomb.
    • 1 Cor 15:45 (“life-giving spirit”) says its non-physical.
    • Paul says Jesus fills all (Eph 1:23).
    • 1 Pet 3:18 (made alive in the spirit).
    • Paul is critical of physical bodies.

    This is relevant because Paul would assume that Jesus appeared in the same form/body in which he resurrected.

    But no…

    So what? Plausibly…

    • Paul thought Jesus rose non-physically, but appeared physically.