Question of the “Appearance” to “over 500”

In reference to the article located at: What Happened to the Resurrected Saints? The “Christian Think Tank” Response

Glen K writes:
Hi Ed, 1 Corinthians 15:3-6 reads:
  1. “I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
  2. and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures,
  3. and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve.
  4. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once,
One can debate whether this report is accurate, or whether the appearance was physical or spiritual, or why it is not mentioned elsewhere, but there it is: a New Testament report that that Jesus appeared to more people than the apostles.
Glen K
Appearance to 500

“The appearance to over 500” (mentioned solely in 1 Cor.), according to Luke and Acts, the physically raised Jesusʼ ascension into heaven was seen by only the apostles. And the non-descript mention of an “appearance” to “over 500” appears as fabulous and unattested elsewhere in Scripture as the “raising of the many” and it deserves its own separate response. The major questions that easily come to mind concerning the story about the “appearance to over 500 brethren” are these:

When Paul states that Jesus “appeared” to “over 500 brethren at once” (1Cor. 15:6), that would have been to a greater number of “brethren” than were mentioned at the time of Jesusʼ ascension, i.e., Acts 1:9,14-15,22 mentions only “120 brethren” meeting together in Jerusalem at the time near Jesusʼ alleged ascension). So if the words of Acts are taken at face value, then whomever or whatever may have “appeared” to “over 500 brethren” could not have been a physically raised Jesus, since Acts claims that Jesusʼ body left the Earth at a time when only “120 brethren” are mentioned dwelling together in Jerusalem, implying at best a “non-bodily appearance” to the “over 500,” exactly as you suggested above.

But wait. Some inerrantists like J. P. Holding of “Tektonics” apologetics do not like that implication, and have continued to argue that perhaps 1) There were over 500 brethren who ate and drank with the physically raised Jesus at some unspecified time and place before his ascension. 2) Or, over 500 brethren actually saw Jesusʼ bodily ascension.

In reply to Holdingʼs two “inerrant possibilities,” Steve Locks of “Leaving Christianity” drove home the plain point of the explicit nature of what is said in Luke and Acts:

Locks: The number given in 1 Cor. of “over 500 brethren” seeing an appearance of Jesus also doesnʼt sit well with Acts 10:40-4: “But God raised him from the dead three days later and caused him to appear, not to everyone, but only to the witnesses that God had already chosen, that is, to us who ate and drank with him after he rose from death.” I have checked all the versions I can find on this at and it does not look like this verse refers to a huge banquet of “500 brethren.” It reads like it is referring solely to the apostles as various commentators agree. [See Note #1]

And concerning those present at the ascension, Luke/Acts mention only the apostles. (Luke 24:49-53 & Acts 1:2-9 ) Even if more than just the apostles were present at the ascension (which is to “add” to Scripture), the speech to the “120 brethren” happens immediately after the ascension, followed by explaining in Acts 1:12-15 they all went to the same place afterwards. In other words, there is nothing there about “over 500” being present at that time. Nor is there anything about “over 380” going back to Galilee.

And if you are going to argue that Acts 1:15 (“in those days…”) implies a break in time then remember they had been told (commanded) by Jesus (Acts 1:4) to “not depart” but wait for the Holy Spirit to come upon them, so why would “over 380” of them go back to Galilee? (Always assuming the NT is reliable.) So if “over 500” saw Jesus ascend then since they were also commanded to “stay in Jerusalem” by Jesus, why didnʼt those “380+” not do so?

Conversely, given that news of Jesusʼ resurrection appearances should have been circulating at that time, why were only the apostles present (per Luke/Acts) at the ascension? Surely many others would have been dying to catch a glimpse of the raised Jesus and follow him through Jerusalem out to Bethany to see him rise up into the sky? You yourself made the suggestion that “over 500” might have been having table fellowship at that time and that is how the “over 500” saw Jesus (big table), and you suggest that was before the ascension. So why would they have simply returned to their farms and not continued to seek out havnig more fellowship with the raised Jesus? Or why would they have disobeyed Jesus and not “remained in Jerusalem” and hence been there at the ascension? So why does Luke/Acts state only the apostles were at the ascension? The story raises questions from both angles. So few having seen the ascension raises questions of credibility, while trying to fit “over 500” there raises questions concerning the truth and accuracy of the verses in Luke/Acts.

Hence your options are

  1. There were only 120 brethren in Jerusalem around the time of the ascension - hence no “appearance to over 500 brethren” was known by the author of Luke/Acts, or perhaps the story may be an interpolation [See Note #2]


  2. 380 brethren disobeyed Jesus command to “remain in Jerusalem.”

    It appears that in fact, no one back then considered the obvious questions that would arise when you tried to reconcile Luke/Acts and 1 Cor. But then, those were the pre-canonical days when lots of stories were arising among Christians.

    Lastly, letʼs consider a third option:

  3. Was the story of the “bodily ascension” perhaps a myth or pious legend? It is found only in Luke/Acts, not in the earliest Gospel, Mark, nor is it found in Matthew. Is the story in Luke/Acts modeled on other ascension stories that were popular at that time? The story of the “Ascension of Moses” was repeated by Josephus, a Jewish historian, which means the popularity of the “Moses ascension myth” preceded the writing of the Gospels and Acts. J. R. Porterʼs general work, Jesus Christ: The Jesus Of History, The Christ Of Faith (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1999), in his very brief section on the Ascension (p. 133), adds: “The special object of the Ascension narrative in Acts is to make clear that the post-Resurrection appearances have come to an end. [See Note #3] Jesus leaves the earth, not to be seen again until his second coming at some unknown date. His presence will be replaced by that of the Holy Spirit which will empower and inspire the Church (Acts 1:8). Lukeʼs account appears to be modeled on the ascension of Elijah as described in the Hebrew Scriptures (2 Kings 1:9-12). For example, the forty-day period between the Resurrection and the Ascension on the Mount of Olives recalls Elijahʼs forty dayʼs journey to Mount Horeb (1 Kings 19:8); and the gift of the Holy Spirit is paralleled by the gift to Elisha of the spirit of Elijah.”


  1. agrees it was an exclusive eating group of just the apostles according to the commentaries on Acts 10:40-41 which refer me back to Acts 1:8 which refers to the “witnesses” who are identified at Acts 1:2 as “the apostles” (e.g. Indeed at Bible.Crosswalk it explicitly states that this was just “the apostles.”, i.e. ,even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead; namely, to the apostles, with whom he familiarly conversed by times, for the space of forty days after his resurrection

    Wesley Notes Not now to all the people - As before his death; to us who did eat and drink with him - That is, conversed familiarly and continually with him, in the time of his ministry.

    Who was conversing familiarly and continually with Jesus in the time of his ministry - the apostles of course.

  2. #2 Apocryphal Apparitions: 1 Corinthians 15:3-11 as a Post-Pauline Interpolation

    For added discussion see Miracles by Robert M. Price.

  3. #3 The “appearance” to Paul was well after Jesusʼ bodily ascension into heaven. Yet Paul ranks the Jesus “appearance” he had as being equal to what was originally seen by the “twelve.” Hmmm.


  1. Though I am not a believer in inerrancy (at least as it has been historically defined) I think there may be some misunderstanding here. Yes, Acts 1 says there were 120 people hanging around after the ascension, and yes Paul says that Jesus appeared to 500 or so folks after the resurrection. But Paul does not say that these appearances happened on the day of resurrection. I do find it interesting that only this passage mentions the 500, but I don't think that these two passages necessarily contradict each other.

    1. Hi Sam, The full discussion is over at Steve Locks' site, Leaving Christianity, a fascinating site, especially his discussion of assymetry of conversion:

      And if you read the Gospel of Luke it only mentions Jesus appearing for the first time in or near Jerusalem, and then walking out of Jerusalem at night(implied because he was "not a spirit" and ate fish and "led them to Bethany" near Jerusalem) with the apostles, and ascended into heaven on the same night of his appearance. But Acts says Jesus appeared in Jerusalem, then ate and preached for weeks with the apostles before ascending in the site of the apostles (not in the sight of a huge crowd). Also, Acts doesn't say Jesus dined and preached to 500, nor that anyone other that the apostles saw him ascend.

      So when did Jesus appear to over 500 brethren? Luke and Acts only mention Jesus appearing in or around Jerusalem and only to the apostles, not to crowds. Then Jesus ascended bodily into heaven.

      The discrepancy might be cleared up if you consider that all of the earliest appearance stories might be like the appearance to Paul, who spoke as if all the appearance stories were like his own. And when you try to harmonize the late bodily ascension story in Luke-Acts with 1 Cor. that would mean that whatever appeared to Paul was post-ascension Jesus. And we do not really know what that was.

      In fact we don't know anything about the circumstances of any of the appearance stories in 1 Cor., which include no descriptions of what was seen or heard, nor where such appearances took place, nor the mental and physical states of those to whom Jesus appearad. And interpreting these early mentions of appearances by tales written decades later in Matthew Luke and John is to interpret a sketchy list by elaborations added decades later, which is doing history backwards. If we had the fully fleshed out tales from Matthew Luke and John and they were as early as 1 Cor. then we had 1 Cor composed decades after such tales, we would have a less questionable historical progression. But what we have are sketchy tales followed by later elaborations.


      ON THE BARE LIST OF PEOPLE'S NAMES TO WHOM JESUS ALLEGEDLY "APPEARED" IN 1 CORINTHIANS -- Concerning the alleged "appearances" of Jesus to various people named in 1 Corinthians I would like to have an early written first hand description with some details, time, place, state of body and mind of the person(s) claiming to have had such experiences. But there are no such details given in 1 Cor. No first hand data. (All we have in the way of "details" were composed by unknown or disputable Gospel authors who lived decades after 1 Cor. was composed.) For instance in 1 Cor. the only first hand info we have is from Paul who wrote, "he appeared to me too." But where did Jesus appear according to the appearances listed in 1 Cor.? Galilee? Jerusalem? Some other city? On a road? Indoors? Outdoors? Was it cloudy, rainy, foggy? Near water? On a mountaintop? In the wilderness? In a field? When did such appearances take place? Early morning? (Were the people to whom Jesus appeared half awake?) Late at night (or half asleep?) Was the appearance, visual, aural, both? Was a sense of touch involved or not? What did Jesus look like? What was he wearing? A burial shroud? Naked? A robe that covered his body and obscured his face? (I won't ask where he got the robe.) By what means could they tell it was Jesus? (Paul never says he saw Jesus when Jesus was still alive before being executed.) Did such appearances include words being heard? One, or many? A conversation? What was the word or words? Did they just "know" it was "Jesus" without any particular sights or sounds coming into play? What did this "appearance of Jesus" do, if anything? How near or far were they from what appeared? What kind of physical and emotional shape were they in when these appearances took place? Were they mourning greatly? Kicking themselves for their lack of bravery or understanding during Jesus' arrest? Wanting to set things right? Getting drunk? Or working themselves into a frenzy by convincing themselves that the master's work MUST continue, regardless of the consequences, Jesus MUST be vindicated, and planning on ways to try and make that vindication happen (even without appearances having literally taken place)? Or were they frightened for their lives, severely worried? Out of work and starving themselves in a lengthy fast till they were extremely weak? (Sadhu Sundar Singh was a famed Christian convert in the 1920s who fasted greatly and claimed to have many visions during such fasts. Oddly enough he was also a UNIVERSALIST Evangelical Christian.) If we could question each person today, would they all wind up describing the same thing or different things that "appeared" to them? Taking into consideration the effect known as "group-think," if a leader or leaders in a group claim with certainty that they "saw" something, others are likely to also agree.

      BUT INSTEAD OF THE ABOVE INFORMATION, 1 COR. GIVES US VERY LITTLE TO GO ON. INSTEAD, WE HAVE TO RELY ON STORIES WRITTEN DECADES AFTER 1 CORINTHIANS, STORIES WRITTEN BY OTHERS, "ABOUT" SUCH "APPEARANCES." Neither do the names of the people and order of appearances in 1 Cor. agree with later tales found in the Gospels and book of Acts. The Gospel post-resurrection stories don't even agree between Gospels.

    3. I'm writing as a seeker and not one with a made up mind. However, to imply or state that the group of 500 Jesus "appeared to" at some time during the 40 day span would have had to have stayed together in one place for the remainder of the 40 days and witnessed the ascension confuses me. I see no necessary correlation in these two sets of numbers whatsoever and the "proofs" offered in the article to show such a correlation appear very threadbare.

  2. I understand the issue fairly well. My comment was merely an attempt to state that I don't feel that these two passages are necessarily contradictory. If Jesus was resurrected in the morning and left Jerusalem in the evening, then there could have been an appearance to around 500 at some point. I agree, the fact that only 1 Corinthians mentions this in the entire NT does make it suspect, but I don't feel that it should be seen as contradicting Luke-Acts, or having Luke-Acts contradict it. I'll write some more when I'm not at work, but I do appreciate your having a conversation rather than an argument. I must admit, it's nice to have a discussion about things rather than an, "I'm right, you're wrong" pissing match.

    1. Hi Sam, If Jesus appeared to over 500 people the day he was raised, then we sure lack a lot of stories. Anything is "possible," but proving ancient history is difficult, especially when the stories don't match. The choices range from extreme harmonization (such as Peter denied Jesus up to 12 times!) to extreme mythologization (there was no historical Jesus at all).

      Let's also look at the Pauline letters themselves. Scholars doubt that every letter attributed to Paul in the Bible was written by him, and also argue that passages were changed and some interpolations also occurred in the letters that most scholars DO believe Paul wrote. See this fascinating discussion and link to a slide show: , along with William O. Walker's arguments concerning additional interpolations in Paul's letters:

      The passage we are discussing could also be an interpolation, whether by Paul or another later hand. It reads:

      After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.

      Such a passage could have been inserted between the doublets (or doubled presentation) in which Jesus appears to a single individual (Cephas/James) and then to a small group (the Twelve/apostles). The doublets are divided by the above passage.

      Also note the line, "most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep," which implies either that such a passage may be later than the rest. Or perhaps it is excusing the fact that you're going to have trouble if you try to go out here and find these people, which implies it could be a tale that grew in the telling.

      I think that 1 Cor 15 is interesting because it's one of only two places where we have a first hand, first person statement concerning a resurrection appearance, because in it Paul says "he appeared to me." That's all Paul says unfortunately, and it is repeated in Galatians. 1 Peter is of doubtful authenticity, so one cannot make a strong case that it too contains a first hand first person statement, so Paul's is the only such statement found anywhere. The rest of the NT is of doubtful authorship and second hand stories composed after 1 Cor 15, some say decades after.

      Note also that Paul says Jesus was "raised" and then "appeared," without making any distinction between pre or post ascension appearances. It's only after 1 Cor., Mark, and Matthew that a bodily ascension is mentioned, in Luke-Acts, and it is stressed that Jesus' body is gone for good from the earth until some future date. So whatever appeared to Paul was not exactly what appeared to the rest, or is our earliest source, 1 Cor, telling us that Paul did not know of any such bodily ascension and that the appearance stories he knew early on did not include a Jesus who was "not a spirit" and who "ate fish" and walked out of Jerusalem to Bethany and ascended bodily into heaven?

    2. In fact, the words in 1 Cor 15, "he was raised on the third day" might mean that Paul interpreted Jesus' resurrection as taking Jesus straight to heaven after which Jesus began "appearing" on earth to some of his followers, including in the end, Paul.

  3. There's no contradiction here. Jesus rose from the dead and firs appeared to the apostles and other chosen few. Than they went out and preached. This drew a crowd. Than Jesus ascended into heaven and 500 people saw Him at once. How else could 500 people be looking at Him at the same time unless He was floating in the sky. Than 380 of them returned to galilee leaving the 120 to pray.

    1. No. Read Luke and Acts. Only the eleven apostles walked out with Jesus to a mountain where he allegedly ascended bodily into the sky. Only the eleven.

      Also, no writers in the NT mentions a bodily ascension earlier than Luke-Acts. 1 Cor. says Jesus kept appearing to people right up till Paul. It does not mention a bodily ascension. Neither does Mark or Matthew. The bodily ascension tale begins with Luke and Acts, and both of them agree that only the eleven went out with Jesus to the place where he ascended bodily into the sky.

  4. Be careful about thinking your human philosophical ability is greater than the accuracy of The Word of God.Many have tried this before, the track is littered with unregenerate sad souls.

    Apparent logic is only that, and there are many things the Bible has not given for a purpose.People would be the first to complain; too much info, had God put any more into it.
    God has told us what happened, and has his reasons for telling it as such, his ways are so much higher than ours, human wisdom is foolishness to an eternal all knowing being.
    like Edward said, he would like some more info about what Paul said, concerning these events.
    But the info given is not confilcting given all other parameters and events at that time.We don't know the half of it.

    " And there are so many other things which Jesus did,the which, if they were written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.Amen" John21;25

    In the case of the missing 500 or more souls that Jesus appeared to at once, just one possible scenario could be; a risen, Glorified and all powerful Jesus, who incidentally made the world, universe man and all that is therein, could easily appear to one million people at the same time if he so wanted to, and in his Glorified form, and for as long a time as he decided to.
    These events are definitely not mutually exclusive, I dare say the Lord Jesus could easily have done this and many other events and appointments ie adjusting ten or twenty million human hearts, straightening up a few planet axis and existing in the future events on earth at the same time,no problem.
    As for his bodily ascension, with the Holy Spirit of God directing the writers of the scripture, there doesn't have to have exactly the same events recoded in all the accounts this is called the harmony of the word of God. To think Jesus could not perform what is written is to disbelieve God's ability and power, this leaves only one option; decide what is right in our own eyes, according to our limited understanding and flawed abilities. not a good option.
    The scripture recorded in God's word, logically fits within the nature of the Son of God, the Word in the flesh, Creator of everything from nothing kind of God, and all his claims of who he is and what he can do.
    There are many other subjects, that would be far more valuable to meditate on and study, we could be seeking his mandate for us and exploring as many ways we can to full fill his will, not ours.

    In Jesus.

  5. Jesus appeared to his "apostles" during the 40 Days.

    What is the requirement to be an "apostle" of Jesus Christ.

    ACTS 21-22 (Living Bible) “So now we must choose someone else to take Judas’ place and to join us as witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection. Let us select someone who has been with us constantly from our first association with the Lord—from the time he was baptized by John until the day he was taken from us into heaven.”

    Only three(3) men in all the earth have ever met those criteria.
    Judas was dead, so that left just 2 candidates.

    You can't be an apostle without meeting all these criteria.
    How else could you be a witness to Jesus Christ's entire Ministry?
    Matthias and Joseph Justus (also called Barsabbas) were the ONLY 2 candidates and Matthias was selected by casting Lots and by Prayer.
    ACTS chapter 1.

    Jesus warned "Beware the yeast of the (Benjamite) Pharisees" in Mark chapter 8 verse 15,19-21. The feeding of the 4000 + 5000 is a prophecy formula that points to the 40 Days of ACTS 1:3. It also points to the 40,000 Israeli warriors killed fighting evil Benjamin Judges chapters 19-21. Jesus was warning us to beware of Saul/Paul (Benjamite Pharisee) infiltrating the WAY to spy on our freedom and to make us slaves. Saul is the yeast (false teaching) that works its way through the entire batch of dough of God's Word i.e. New Testament. Tares sown with the Wheat. Saul/Paul is the savage Benjamite Wolf Jacob warned would devour and divide followers of the WAY (Paul's enemy) causing them to devour one another with SIN accusations and divide into countless denominations due to doctrinal conflicts. Saul is a wolf in sheep's clothing who snatches and scatters the Sheep.

    5 loaves + 5 [000] fed yields 12 baskets fragments 22 or 22 [000]
    7 loaves + 4 [000] fed yields 7 baskets fragments = 18 or 18 [000]
    (12 + 9) =21 + 19 = 40 or 40,000
    Days or Warriors

    Israel (11 Tribes) tithed 10% of 400,000 warriors to avenge the concubine's death and rid the House of Israel of evil (tribe of Benjamin).
    Jesus(the concubine) gave 100% of himself for Israel.

    And not only Israel, but for all scattered Jews and Gentiles.
    The baskets of fragments collected represent the Gentile Dogs allowed to eat the fragments that fall from the table. Jesus was not being thrifty collecting the fragments, but demonstrating that it is the will of the Father that all men be saved.

    Jesus is the concubine locked out of heaven by God the Levite husband, to be ravaged to death by evil men. That is why the the Levite husband appears indifferent to Jesus's death, because it was God's plan (Isaiah 53). The parts/branches of the concubine represent the Disciples cutoff from Jesus upon his death, each scattered to his own home/tribe.
    Benjamin represents Judas the traitor, and the 600 man remnant of Benjamin ALLOWED to kidnap virgin wives to perpetuate the evil clan represents King Saul and Saul/Paul the Pharisee. It was not God's will for Israel to have a king, but God ALLOWED them to have the Benjamite Saul as King, and later (after Jesus) as a Religious Icon Man in the form of the pseudo-apostle Saul/Paul.

    For those who must have a MAN to worship and follow and be in control of their minds and hearts and way of living, God offers them Saul/Paul.
    That is the chose on the side of cursing.

    For those who want an eternal heavenly King and Savior and Lord and Shepherd of their Souls, he offers Jesus The Christ, for all who will come to him and receive him. This is the Blessing side of things.

    Jesus or Saul/Paul.

    A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty (spiritual poverty from false teaching) will creep in (into the Body of Christ) like a bandit (pseudo-apostle Saul/Paul).