Do 500 brethern establish a reliable claim to the resurrection?

Paul claims that Jesus appeared to "more than five hundred brethren at one time." Does this present a reliable witness to the Christian claim that Jesus was resurrected?


Some Christians maintain that hallucinations or visions cannot explain the supposed post-resurrection appearances of Jesus. They claim that some five hundred people, at one time, cannot be deluded with the same vision.

It is true that it is unlikely that two or more people would have the same hallucination, not to mention eleven or even five hundred. The

Question is, however, if the claims made are true to begin with.

Paul, writing about twenty-five years after the crucifixion contends, without giving a geographic location, that "upwards of five hundred brethren" had simultaneously seen the resurrected Jesus and that many of them were still alive at the time of his writing (1Corinthians 15:6). No information is provided to indicate whether this experience was a visionary revelation or an actual appearance in the flesh. Moreover, Paul does not tell us whether he was among the five hundred, or whether he had heard the story from one of them, or whether it was merely a story that was circulating among certain Christians. This alleged postresurrection appearance is conspicuously omitted in both the Gospels and the Book of Acts.

Had the Corinthians wanted to verify Paul's statement, it would have been, as Paul must have known, virtually impossible for them to do so, considering the primitive means of communication available in those days. Neither did he mention by name any of the five hundred for possible contact by the Corinthians, had they wanted to seek verification. Who experienced this alleged postresurrection appearance, and when and where this supposedly took place is not stated. The whole incident was either an unverifiable rumor utilized by Paul or simply the result of his overzealous missionary activity.

© Gerald Sigal