Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

The Historicity of the Appearance to the 500 in 1 Corinthians 15:6

Keith Thompson

In 1 Corinthians 15:1-8 the Apostle Paul lays out the primitive Gospel message and lists various post-resurrection appearances to Jesus’ followers. In v. 6 mention is made of an appearance to 500 people. It states:

Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep (1 Corinthians 15:6).

In an article entitled Will the 500 Please Stand Up?, Ibn Anwar questions the historicity of this appearance and concludes by asserting that, “To rely on Paul’s solitary testimony in 1 Corinthians 15:6 is folly as he is clearly an untrustworthy witness.” He asserts that the mention of this post-resurrection appearance to 500 is, “clearly unhistorical.”

However, the arguments Ibn Anwar posits and the claims he makes which led him to this conclusion contain many difficulties as we shall see. Moreover, he failed to once again present the best of what the other side has to offer on this subject; a common problem in Ibn Anwar’s writings. After answering Ibn Anwar’s specious arguments and defending the historicity of this appearance of Christ it is our hope that he will be more careful with his opinions and make sure to cite and interact with the major scholars who disagree with him lest he leave his readers oblivious to the best of the other side.

Three main arguments Ibn Anwar gave to support his conclusion which we will address are: 1) This appearance story is allegedly only found in Paul and nowhere else in the first-century record; 2) because it is allegedly not multiply attested it’s not historically reliable; and 3) Paul was allegedly willing to engage in, and did in fact engage in, lying or dishonesty regarding this appearance story.

Ibn Anwar quotes some liberals, atheists, and anti-theists offering similar opinions and conclusions. Ibn Anwar failed to present the popular argument for 1 Corinthians 15:6’s historicity which we are going to present. We will also demonstrate that he doesn’t understand the historical method/the criteria for historicity which serious historians utilize and that his view falls apart once pitted against the criteria for weighing hypotheses.

Before beginning it should be noted that Ibn Anwar quotes an unbelieving writer named Kris Komarnitsky claiming this appearance is not attested by anyone else. Komarnitsky quotes atheist scholar Dr. Gerd Lüdemann stating, “[It] is improbable that such an event witnessed by more than five hundred people should otherwise have left no trace,” as though Lüdemann doesn’t believe this appearance is otherwise attested at all. However, it is well known Lüdemann believes the Pentecost event in Acts 2 to be the underlying tradition or event behind 1 Corinthians 15:6.(1) Although Lüdemann is wrong, as the ensuing case will show, it’s important accurately report a scholar’s entire position.

Very briefly, Pentecost involved the outpouring of the Spirit, not a physical appearance of Jesus and so can not be said to be an appearance of Christ. As Dr. N. T. Wright observes: “Experience of the Spirit and seeing the risen Jesus are never, in early Christian writings, assimilated to one another.”(2)

Was Paul the Only One to Mention this Appearance?

Ibn Anwar posits that this appearance to the 500 mentioned by Paul is “otherwise unknown” quoting one of his favourite scholars M. Eugene Boring(3), a member of the liberal and heretical “Disciples of Christ” denomination/sect which has women ministers and elders, engages in “unity discussions” with false sects, and has many members who deny the virgin birth, inerrancy, and support gay marriage etc. The fact is, however, serious Christian academicians who are not contaminated by liberalism and unwarranted doubt have rightly argued that this appearance in 1 Corinthians 15:6 is to be found in Matthew 28:9-10, 16-20 which state:

9And behold, Jesus met them and said, ‘Greetings!’ And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. 10Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me’. . . . 16Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age’ (Matthew 28:9-10, 16-20).

In vv. 9-10 Jesus meets the women after the empty tomb episode and exhorts them to tell His “brothers” to go to Galilee where Jesus would then appear on a mountain. I will argue that the eleven disciples as well as a large crowd of brothers numbering approximately 500 witnessed this mountain appearance based on the first-century data.

First, we can argue this is the appearance Paul had in mind since in 1 Corinthians 15:6 he says this appearance was in the midst of the adelphois (brothers/brethren), the same word used in Matthew 28:10 when Christ commanded the women to tell His brothers/brethren to go to Galilee for this appearance. This word was commonly used to refer to a large group of Christians or first-century believers in general (e.g. Matt. 7:3-5; 12:50; 18:15, 21, 35; 25:40; Jn 21:23; Acts 1:15-16; Acts 2:37 etc). Early on the word was used commonly of the inner circle of disciples. But by the time of Matthew 28 and later it was a word used commonly by Jesus and His followers to also refer generally to Christian believers as whole or a large group of believers.

This is why Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words notes that the word often refers to, “the disciples, and so, by implication, all believers, Matt 28:10…”(4) Notice, along with affirming that adelphois carries the meaning of all believers, this source also cites Matthew 28:10, the text I cited as reporting the tradition underlying 1 Corinthians 15:6, as an example of Jesus calling a large group of believers to His future appearance, and not merely His inner circle. This supports our contention that the Matthew 28:9-10, 16-20 appearance is the appearance to the 500 mentioned by Paul.

In his groundbreaking commentary on Matthew respected New Testament scholar Dr. D. A. Carson offers exegesis in support of our position:

Some have held that ‘my brothers’ raises the status of Jesus’ eleven surviving disciples. This ignores the use of the term in Matthew; for apart from the places where ‘brothers’ denotes a natural relationship, the term is employed of spiritual relationships – even before the passion – explicitly referring to the fellowship of those who acknowledge Jesus as Messiah (18:15; 23:8; cf. 5:22-24; 7:3-5; 18:21, 35). In the two other places where Jesus uses the full expression ‘my brothers’ (12:49-50; 25:40), it refers to all Jesus’ disciples and cannot possibly be limited to the apostles.

Therefore the natural way to interpret ‘my brothers’ in v. 10 is not as a reference to the Eleven but to all those attached to his cause who were in Jerusalem, most of whom had followed him from Galilee to Jerusalem as his ‘disciples’ (see on 5:1-2, and esp. 26:32; 28:7). There were many others in addition to the Twelve who had followed Jesus (e.g., 20:17; 21:8-9, 15; 27:55; cf. 20:29; 21:46; 23:1). Apart from the Galileans, Joseph of Arimathea was certainly not Jesus’ sole disciple from the Jerusalem region (19:13-15; 27:57-61)”(5)

Further evidence of our position is seen in v. 19-20 where Jesus commands those witnessing His appearance to make disciples of all nations baptizing the masses in distant lands and teaching them to obey Christian teaching. That Jesus would command a group of about 500 believers to carry this out makes sense given the fact that there was not yet access to motor vehicles and things of this nature. It is very unlikely Jesus would command eleven men alone to travel, convert, make disciples, baptize, and teach people from every nation on the earth. Given the fact that Jesus predicted and anticipated the disciples’ persecution and deaths (Matt. 10:1, 5, 16-23) it makes more sense to affirm this command was given to the 500 brethren.

With respect to academic support for the view that this Matthew 28:10, 16 appearance is identical to the one mentioned by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:6, Dr. Gleason L. Archer notes:

… the record of the Galilean retreat closes with a large assembly of Christ’s followers – quite possibly the gathering included more than five hundred at a time (cf. 1 Cor. 15:6) – on some mountain in Galilee (Matt. 28:16), which though unnamed may have been Tabor, the highest and most impressive hill in Galilee.(6)

We have quoted Carson providing evidence for this view, but, to be clear, in the same commentary he also indicates that this is in fact his view based on the evidence:

The view that interprets the ‘some’ of v. 17 as a reference to others than the apostles is supported, and the resurrection appearance of vv. 16-20 may well be equivalent to the appearance before the five hundred reported by Paul (1 Cor 15:6).(7)

French scholar Dr. Ernest Bernard Allo notes the following in his work Saint Paul: First Epistle to the Corinthians:

We identify, then, with moral certainty, 1 Cor 15:6 and Matt 18:16-20.(8)

In his commentary on 1 Corinthians, commenting on 15:6, Dr. W. Harold Mare notes:

This appearance of Christ to so many at once may have taken place at Galilee, where the eleven and possibly many more, went to meet the risen Lord (Matt 28:10, 16).(9)

Dr. Leon Morris notes that it is in fact probable we are looking at the Matthew 28:10, 16 appearance:

The appearance to more than five hundred of the brothers is mentioned here only (unless, as is probable, it is that referred to in Mt. 28:16ff.).(10)

Emeritus Professor of Systematic Theology at Knox Theological Seminary Dr. Robert L. Reymond concurs:

Then he appeared to the Eleven on a mountain of Galilee (Matt. 28:16-20), this occasion also quite possibly being the one when he appeared to more than five hundred disciples at one time, many of whom were still alive at the time Paul wrote 1 Corinthians (1 Cor. 15:6).(11)

Scholar of early Christianity and Judaism and formerly Lillian Claus Professor of New Testament at Yale University Dr. Bruce Chilton notes:

So 1 Corinthians 15:6, which – with many other scholars – I would associate with Matthew 28:16-20 (and not limit that appearance to the eleven apostles).(12)

Although some scholars feel that the reference to the appearance to the 500 is meant to be a summary of everyone whoever saw the risen Christ without exception, we feel the evidence coheres in suggesting the appearance in Matthew 28:10, 16 is in view. One would think that if Ibn Anwar, who certainly knows of our view, was honest then he would at least mention it and interact with it. But of course he didn’t.

Ibn Anwar will most likely gather quotes from unbelieving, liberal and careful scholars who will take the position that this appearance is nowhere else attested. However, we have not only quoted scholars who take our view and support our case, but we have provided arguments for our position. So if Ibn Anwar wants to seriously interact with our position he must not only quote scholars who take a view (which both of us can do), or give their arguments/opinions, but he must directly deal with our arguments and/or quote people who directly do so. Failure to do that will demonstrate his incompetence once again.

Ibn Anwar’s Claims in Light of the Criteria for Historicity

Since we’ve provided a case for 1 Corinthians 15:6’s multiple attestation, that alone is enough to overlook Ibn Anwar’s assertion that since this story is allegedly never elsewhere mentioned it must be unreliable. However, even if one were to take the position that Paul was the only one to mention this event, would that mean we can not know it is reliable based on other historical criteria? That is, is it possible that this story be true based on other criteria of historicity? Can an account fail in one criterion for historicity and yet be deemed true by having met other criteria?

When studying the historical method at seminary level I discovered very quickly that certain episodes of history often do not meet one or more criteria of historicity while at the same time meeting others and therefore being accepted based on those considerations. For example, while the material we have detailing the life and many stories of Alexander the Great (B.C. 355-323) is all late(13) and based on purported traditions or lost works, thus failing the criteria of early accounts in many cases, much of the material instead meets other criteria. The later sources for Alexander the Great’s life are generally seen to be reliable and useful historically. Our high school and college history/text books rely on these rather late sources for most of our information on his life and the events surrounding him.

Hence, for the sake of argument, if we do hypothetically grant one criterion of historicity is not met with regard to 1 Corinthians 15:6 (multiple attestation), there are other criteria that this report does meet rendering it historical. And because of this fact one should not so easily dismiss the account like Ibn Anwar does. For example, it meets the criteria of an early account (1 Corinthians was written between A.D. 53-57 and this appearance tradition is extremely primitive; see more below).

It also meets the criteria of embarrassment in that in vv. 8-9, while in the context of recalling this appearance tradition, Paul says, “Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God” (1 Corinthians 15:8-9). In the context Paul reveals/highlights embarrassing information about himself when he didn’t need to thus showing genuineness of character and repentance. This helps to establish the validity of his comments in the context including the mention of the appearance to the 500 two verses earlier. This material is telling on many levels since it also helps to show later Christians did not forge this letter or invent the information contained in it. If that were the motive then it would not do well for their cause to include unnecessary embarrassing themes. What we have here is a repentant Christian man who turned from the Judaism he loved admitting his past errors and presenting to needy people things which he believed to be true.

Moreover, the criteria of discontinuity and dissimilarity are met since there is nothing in first-century paganism or Second Temple Judaism which suggests it was widely held or believed that Messiah or a saviour of the world would be doing massive post-resurrection appearances in front of his followers after having died at the hands of his enemies. Not only that but the pagans and Jews at the time of Christ and Paul were not anticipating a dying and rising Messiah or saviour. The Jews for example were expecting a conquering King Messiah, who upon His advent, would overthrow Rome and establish the physical kingdom of God.(14) If Paul were here merely presenting ideas which the Jews of his day were anticipating then one may be justified in being more cautious about 1 Corinthians 15:6. But since he is going against the grain so to speak, this demonstrates he wasn’t out to just tell people things they wanted to hear and gain credibility in their eyes in that way. Rather, since he was telling them things which went again their assumptions or anticipations, this is evidence for the validity or truthfulness of Paul’s teaching/report.

Paul’s 1 Corinthians 15:3-7 tradition here, as argued even by liberals admired by my opponent such as Dr. James D. G. Dunn, goes back to a very primitive tradition Paul received from Peter and James in Jerusalem.(15) In fact this 1 Corinthians 15 creed seems to be one of the earliest traditions of Christianity and so must be dated before A.D. 53-57 to about A.D. 30-32 strengthening our case for its reliability substantially.

Therefore, in light of the various criteria this story does meet, and in light of the fact that a story isn’t automatically not true just because it fails one test of historicity, Ibn Anwar is in error when he boldly asserts that, “If indeed 500 people witnessed it the story would be readily available across the board and not only in a single verse in the entire New Testament.” There are other problems with this kind of argument as well.

One needs to be consistent since things can be found to be true historically without the story being “readily available across the board.” For example Alexander the Great accomplished many great things seen by many people. These people may have even written about these things during their lifetime. But just because we don’t have access to multiple accounts from them 2300 years later (due to such writings being lost etc), that does not automatically mean there was nothing to write about or that they didn’t write about such things. This applies to any story of antiquity which we don’t have multiple contemporaneous accounts for.

Moreover, even if not a lot of contemporary people wrote about a particular event concerning Alexander the Great that doesn’t automatically render what we read about Alexander the Great erroneous either. We must fully consider the criteria of historicity before jumping to rash and hasty conclusions. Moreover, Ibn Anwar needs to keep the low literacy rates(16) of those days in mind too. To demand this account be “readily available across the board” in light of all of these various considerations is, quite frankly, absurd. And, as we will see, Ibn Anwar is being inconsistent since the Quran which he believes in contains stories which do not meet the test of multiple attestation.

In his 2010 tome on the resurrection Dr. Michael R. Licona rightly notes that, “the plausibility or probability … may be increased in those cases when multiple criteria are present.”(17) Therefore, since 1 Corinthians 15:6 meets multiple criteria of historicity one is not justified in discounting it just because one believes/argues it doesn’t meet one of the criterion of historicity (multiple attestation).

At the same time it must also be said, however, that when you are dealing with two contradictory sources concerning an event or issue, that is when not having multiple attestation can be a major determining factor in your historical judgement. If one source is multiply attested and says one thing, but another non-multiply attested source says something else about the same event or issue, then one may be correct in siding with the multiply attested event or issue.

An example would be the non-multiply attested claims and views of the Ebionites against the Apostle Paul vs. the broad array of early testimony vouching for his reliability. For more information on that issue see my article The Historical Case for Paul’s Apostleship: And a Critique of Muslim Arguments. However, this dilemma does not fit with the 1 Corinthians 15:6 appearance to the 500 since there is not a contradictory multiply attested source/tradition undermining 1 Corinthians 15:6. Thus, in this case, not having multiple attestation would not be as damaging as it could otherwise be (though I hold that it does have multiple attestation e.g. Matt. 28:10, 16).

Did Paul Sanction Lying and Engage in Lying Concerning this Appearance Story?

In order to try to undermine Paul’s credibility and hence his account of the appearance to the 500, Ibn Anwar argues that Philippians 1:18 and Romans 3:7 support his ad hoc conspiratorial view that Paul was supportive of and willing to engage in deception and lying. However, Ibn Anwar’s reading requires that one discards even the most elementary principles of exegesis and logic. I submit that the passages he cites do nothing to support his argument when understood properly in context. The texts in question state:

What then? Only that in every way, whether in honest or dishonest motives, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice (Philippians 1:18).

But if through my lie God's truth abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? (Romans 3:7).

Ibn Anwar quotes anti-theist M. Anton Mikicic’s self-published book God is Redundant p. 98:

Paul also defends himself against accusations he’s a liar, which suggests to me that someone called him one.

Paul’s own words suggest he felt if the end result was saving souls for the next world, it didn’t matter what you did in this world to accomplish it, including lying.

Ibn Anwar concludes that Paul “is clearly an untrustworthy witness.” That Ibn Anwar and the anti-theist writer he quotes are guilty of eisegesis is evident upon a close and responsible analysis of these texts. With respect to Philippians 1:18 the context is that while in prison (Phil. 1:7, 13, 16) for the sake of the Gospel Paul exhorts the Christians of Philippi to holiness and advances the Christian teaching on perseverance (v. 6). Paul displays his affection for these Philippians and encourages them to press on in the faith (vv. 7-14).

Vv. 15-19 then follow and, contra Ibn Anwar, this text concerns Paul rejoicing in the midst of trouble and trying to find good and positivity in a bad situation, rather than Paul advocating the bad which was present in the situation:

15Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. 16The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17The former proclaim Christ out of rivalry, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. 18What then? Only that in every way, whether in honest or dishonest motives, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice, 19for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance (Philippians 1:15-19).

What is the positive or good which Paul takes from this negative situation of deception? The name of Christ was still being spread in an ungodly and unbelieving world. In no way does this mean Paul positively advocates deception as a method to spread Christ’s name, in any kind of universal sense, however. What he does is express that even when these dishonest people who rejoice in Paul’s imprisonment (v. 17) engage in such behaviour, one can still nevertheless find consolation in the fact that Jesus’ name was being spread – and for that reason alone Paul can still rejoice in the midst of negativity and wrong.

That Paul does not support the method of the people who he is speaking about is evident by the fact he contrasts their method of “dishonest motives” (v. 18), with the method of those who preach from “good will” (v. 15). Hence, Paul does not believe those who use deception to be of good will and so for Ibn Anwar to attribute to Paul the belief that it is good to practice dishonesty, he is engaging in the very thing he accuses Paul of: dishonesty and bearing false witness.

Paul is very clear in his writings insofar as avoiding deception, lying and dishonesty is concerned. For example, in Colossians 3:9 Paul says, “Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices” (Colossians 3:9). Moreover, in Ephesians 4:25 Paul states, “Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another” (Ephesians 4:25). In Romans 3:13 Paul condemns using one’s tongue to deceive. In 2 Thessalonians 2:9-10 Paul speaks against the “wicked deception” of the coming lawless one (the antichrist).

Therefore, to attribute to Paul the idea that he supported the deceptive method of those he was speaking against in Philippians 1, when in reality he taught they’re not of good will, condemns lying and deception over and over, and merely says he rejoiced in the fact that Jesus’ name was still being spread in this negative situation, is a big stretch to say the least.

Now, with respect to Romans 3:7 which says, “But if through my lie God's truth abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner?,” the context is vital and it refutes Ibn Anwar. In Romans 3:1-8 Paul is posing hypothetical questions to himself from an anticipatory unbelieving Jewish interlocutor’s/objectors perspective.(18) And Paul then answers as a Christian. This is to help the Roman Christians better understand his teaching. Hypothetical Jewish objections to his teaching are found in vv. 1, 3, 5, 7-8a. Paul’s Christian answers are found in vv. 2, 4, 6, 8b and in the ensuing discussion in the rest of the chapter/book.

Thus Ibn Anwar has confused v. 7 as Paul’s position or a statement from him indicating his mindset, when in reality it is a verse which is meant to be read as a Jewish interlocutor’s/objector’s objection to Paul. The reason Paul, as a hypothetical unbelieving Jew, asks if though through his lie God is still glorified since God judges the liar and receives glory, why is the Jew or sinner is still punished?, is because Paul just got finished teaching unfaithfulness or sin ends up revealing the righteousness of God through judgement (vv. 3-5). Thus the argument to Paul is: why shouldn’t I just lie or sin then since everything just ends up glorifying God in the end (i.e., since sin leads to God’s judgement which brings glory to God and shows God’s righteousness)? Paul’s answer in v. 8 is, “some people slanderously charge us with saying [this]. Their condemnation is just.” Thus, some falsely take this fatalistic approach as a logical conclusion of Paul’s teaching.  However, Paul reveals that’s not his position and says those who attribute such a teaching to Paul and other Christians (as Ibn Anwar does) will be justly condemned (see v. 8 again). Thus, the conclusion is that it is not okay to sin or lie even though doing so results in God’s judgement (i.e., God’s glory and righteousness being revealed). How one can then turn things around and make it as though Paul were a liar is inexcusable.

In summary, Romans 3:7’s mention of “my lie,” when understood in context, in no way whatsoever, has Paul admitting to being a liar. That is a hypothetical unbelieving Jew’s objection to Paul, not his own admission. As we noted earlier, Paul’s letters are filled with admonitions to avoid lying and deception.

We have answered this false accusation over and over again on Answering-Islam. For Ibn Anwar to use it yet again after it has been explained many times is hardly a sign of his intellectual honesty. For example: 1, 2, 3.

Ibn Anwar’s own inconsistency and deception is, however, truly evident here since Muhammad on the other-hand actually did sanction lying and deception to further Islam unlike Paul and Christianity. The two texts Ibn Anwar cited do not support his case on this subject. But when we turn to Bukhari for example we read:

Narrated Jabir bin 'Abdullah:

Allah's Apostle said, "Who is willing to kill Ka'b bin Al-Ashraf who has hurt Allah and His Apostle?" Thereupon Muhammad bin Maslama got up saying, "O Allah's Apostle! Would you like that I kill him?" The Prophet said, "Yes," Muhammad bin Maslama said, "Then allow me to say a (false) thing (i.e. to deceive Kab). "The Prophet said, "You may say it." ... (19)

For more on this see here.

Ibn Anwar’s Method Applied to Islamic Stories Shows his Inconsistency

We have argued that 1 Corinthians 15:6 is multiply attested and that it meets other criteria of historicity. But what makes Ibn Anwar even more inconsistent is that there are many stories in the Quran which are not multiply attested. Therefore, if 1 Corinthians 15:6 isn’t historical due to allegedly not being multiply attested as Ibn Anwar has argued (even though it is), then many stories in the Quran can’t be historical since they are not multiply attested or attested by any contemporaneous sources at all!

Consider for example the Quranic teaching that Jesus spoke and gave theological discourses as a baby in his cradle which Surah 3:46 and 19:28-34 mentions:

He shall preach to men in his cradle and in the prime of manhood, and shall lead a righteous life (Surah 3:46).

O sister of Aaron! Thy father was not a wicked man nor was thy mother a harlot. Then she pointed to him. They said: How can we talk to one who is a child in the cradle? He said: "I am indeed a servant of Allah. He has given me the Book and has made me a prophet. And has made me blessed wheresoever I may be, and has enjoined upon me prayer and almsgiving so long as I remain alive, And (has made me) dutiful toward her who bore me, and hath not made me arrogant, unblest. Peace on me the day I was born, and the day I die, and the day I shall be raised alive! Such was Jesus, son of Mary: (this is) a statement of the truth concerning which they doubt (Surah 19:28-34).

Since no first-century source says that Jesus gave theological discourses as a baby, that means this story is not attested by any early material (and thus certainly not multiply attested). How could this be? Based on Ibn Anwar’s method this story should be “readily available across the board.” If the Messiah spoke as a baby in his cradle to people then surely such a monumental miracle would have been reported by at least one source in the time of Jesus and His followers. Since it wasn’t it can’t be true according to Ibn Anwar. He has thus falsified Islam with his own criteria.

It should be clear that Ibn Anwar quotes and sides with radical liberals and atheists who deny the supernatural. He will accept the lenses through which they read the Holy Bible and critique it. But if those same standards are applied to the Quran then Islam is disproved. Yet this doesn’t stop the Muslims from using inconsistent methods and siding with the liberals and anti-supernaturalists. This common inconsistency of Muslims where they appeal to and heavily rely on liberals and atheists is quite revealing since it demonstrates they can’t argue against Christianity and at the same time be a consistent Muslim. That says a lot about the strength of their arguments.

Ibn Anwar’s Take on 1 Corinthians 15:6 vs. the Criteria for Weighing Hypotheses

We have covered the issue of criteria for historicity. Now we must cover four criteria for weighing hypotheses.(20) Ibn Anwar has given his hypothesis concerning 1 Corinthians 15:6. He argued that Paul was lying about this appearance to the 500 because he allegedly supported deception and thus it’s ahistorical. I am arguing Paul was correct about this tradition which we see in Matthew 28:10, 16 and he reported it in order to advance truth and the Gospel. When we examine our positions against the four criteria for weighing hypotheses which we will use, it becomes evident that Ibn Anwar’s view falls short and must therefore be rejected by the serious person inquiring about truth.

Criteria #1: Explanatory Scope

Whose hypothesis can account for the largest quantity of known facts of the case? The hypothesis which does will be the true hypothesis. The one which can’t will be in error.

Ibn Anwar’s hypothesis can not account for the fact that the 1 Corinthians 15:3-7 creed which v. 6 is contained in was created no more than 2 or 3 years after Jesus’ crucifixion (Ibn Anwar’s hero Dunn even argues months!) and transmitted to Paul by Peter and James around A.D. 35 in Jerusalem.(21) My hypothesis can account for this fact. Amazingly Ibn Anwar didn’t even interact with this crucial point in his paper.

Moreover his view can’t adequately account for the fact that in v. 9 Paul reveals embarrassing information about himself in the context of recalling this appearance tradition thus showing genuineness and honesty (unless it’s an ad hoc reason).

It’s a fact that we have no writings or traditions challenging this appearance to the 500. My view that the appearance is historical and had witnesses who could vouch for Paul explains why we have no evidence of anyone arguing: “we checked and no one is vouching for your appearance story, Paul.” If there were no 500 brothers who saw Christ one may expect at least a later tradition of a rejoinder against Paul from a critic(s) (or sect of critics) even if contemporary information is not readily available to us. Ibn Anwar’s view can’t account for the probable view that no tradition ever existed which is based on the fact that there is no evidence of such writings or even a later tradition. If there were in fact an early known tradition (written or oral) from objectors who argued there were no witnesses who would come forward to vouch for Paul then Paul’s Ebionite detractors (or others) would certainly pick up on it and use it in their second/third-century polemics against him.

Though it must be noted in fairness that the fact there are no survived writings or even traditions is not an absolutely conclusive proof for our case since such writings/traditions, had they even existed, could have been lost. But if it is true that there never were any, and it is probable that there weren’t since it’s a fact there is no evidence of them when there should be given Paul’s later heretical and ruthless detractors, then we have more evidence of Ibn Anwar’s view having less explanatory scope. I believe the evidence to be on my side here based on the fact that there are no survived objections against Paul of this sort when if there were we would expect groups like the Ebionites to exploit them.

Ibn Anwar attempted to provide facts which my view can’t account for such as this report not being multiply attested, and this report allegedly needing to be readily available in many early sources in order to be deemed true, but we have disproved those two non-facts.

Criteria #2: Explanatory Power

Whose hypothesis requires the least amount of pushing/straining relevant facts? Whose hypothesis requires the least amount of effort, vagueness, and ambiguity? That will be the hypothesis with explanatory power.

Ibn Anwar has to strain the fact that Paul used an early source/tradition. In order to make this fact fit his case, Ibn Anwar has to discount this earlier source/tradition. He does so without proper warrant (see more below). Moreover, Ibn Anwar has to push or strain the idea that this report isn’t multiply attested by quoting the opinions of doubtful sceptics and liberals even though there is a powerful case for this appearance being attested in Matthew 28:10, 16.

Ibn Anwar’s hypothesis requires a lot of vagueness since he offered no sufficient reasons as to why Paul would even report this tradition if it were not in fact true or if he didn’t believe it were true. To argue it was merely for the sake of spreading lies is vague and requires that he bends the fact of Paul’s genuineness to fit his hypothesis and replace it with a deceptive motive. My view that he wished to deliver truth and teachings he firmly believed for the sake of providing the Corinthian Church with facts about their beloved Messiah doesn’t require any strain or vagueness concerning Paul’s character or the information surrounding this case.

My hypothesis doesn’t require that one strain the fact that Paul is a trustworthy witness (that’s evidenced as I will argue below). Nor do I have to strain the fact that this story is multiply attested since there are good arguments for that position which many scholars agree with. Nor do I need to strain the fact that v. 6 is part of an early tradition. A broad strand of scholarship agrees and lots of evidence is in support of this fact. Ibn Anwar’s view requires a strain on all of these facts in order for them to fit his hypothesis.

Criteria #3: Plausibility

Whose hypothesis is consistent with other known facts in other areas? That is, whose view is consistent with other background knowledge in our area of focus? The more plausible hypothesis in this regard will be correct.

My hypothesis is in accord with the fact that we know there were post-resurrection appearances happening at the time.(22) Thus it is not a big stretch to agree with the evidence and affirm this appearance to the 500 took place. Ibn Anwar’s view that there was no appearance to the 500 is out of step with the fact that we know others were taking place contemporaneously. 

Ibn Anwar’s hypothesis can’t account for the fact that Paul was, for the sake of his Christian beliefs, willing to leave Pharisaic Judaism which was his way of life and which he was a respected scholar of, and that Paul was willing to be imprisoned, persecuted, and martyred(23) for such beliefs as Jesus’ resurrection and these appearances. My view of 1 Corinthians 15:6 being historical can account for these set of facts. Ibn Anwar’s lie/deception hypothesis can’t.

Ibn Anwar’s view can’t account for the fact that Paul was not willing to lie in the form of denying he believed in Christ to save himself.(24) If he wouldn’t engage in that kind of lie or deception when it came to saving his life, why assume he would in regards to reporting appearances?

Ibn Anwar attempted to argue that Paul was allegedly a liar who supported deception. But since we refuted that claim it does not count as a known fact with which my hypothesis is not in accord with.

Criteria #4: Less ad hoc

Whose hypothesis consists of non-evidenced assumptions? The one which is guilty of that is less likely to be true.

Ibn Anwar’s hypothesis is ad hoc since he claims that, “Whatever the source of Paul’s 1 Corinthians 15:6 may be using it to prove the historicity of the resurrection is untenable...” However, this is a non-evidenced assumption since he admits he doesn’t even know what the source is. And his reasons for rejecting the tradition were disproved. So he has no grounds to say the tradition is untenable. Also, we know the source is a creed/tradition which is extremely primitive and apostolic so his non-evidenced assumption about Paul’s source is incorrect.

Ibn Anwar’s view that Paul was a deceiver and liar is a non-evidenced assumption common among Muslims as we have shown. This is strange since there are early Muslim traditions teaching Paul’s reliability.(25) My view that Paul was not a deceiver or liar is evidenced by many considerations which we discussed.

Ibn Anwar’s view also requires that one assume the apostles and their students (who abandoned their sacred religion of Judaism for Christianity and even willingly suffered persecution and martyrdom) would not call Paul out if he were going around reporting fabricated stories. They did not do so, however. In fact, as I argued in the article the Historical Case for Paul’s Apostleship the evidence is clear that they supported Paul and worked with him. Thus, this assumption Ibn Anwar is required to make is erroneous.

I haven’t argued anything which requires one to accept non-evidenced assumptions on the other-hand. I based all of my arguments and views on sound evidenced arguments.


In summary, we have provided an historical case for the appearance to the 500 reported by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:6. We have addressed Ibn Anwar’s central arguments and exposed his overall position as faulty. It has been seen that when pitted against the criteria of weighing hypotheses which historians employ, Ibn Anwar’s hypothesis is seen to be problematic and erroneous. It is my hope that the Muslims will turn from their rash scepticism, faulty arguments, and reliance on unbelievers and liberals and instead view the evidence consistently and with an open heart. And, Lord willing, the Muslims will put their faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ before it is too late.


Christ has risen, He is Lord!



1.) Gerd Lüdemann, The Resurrection of Jesus: History, Experience, Theology, [Fortress Press, 1994], pp. 100-109.

2.) N. T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God, [Fortress Press, 2003], p. 325.

3.) Although Boring’s The People’s New Testament Commentary does say this event is “otherwise unknown,” Ibn Anwar omitted part of this author’s position since on the same page we also read that this appearance, “may refer to something like the Pentecost event of Acts 2:1-42” and that Paul affirmed, “the resurrection is not some twilight zone, never-never-land event in the mythical past, but an event in recent history to which many of his own generation could testify” M. Eugene Boring, Fred B. Craddock, The People's New Testament Commentary, [Westminster John Knox Press, 2010], p. 543.

4.) W. E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger, William White Jr., Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, [Thomas Nelson, 1996], p. 82 italics mine.

5.) D. A. Carson, Matthew, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary with the New International Version, Vol. 8, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, [Zondervan, 1984], p. 589.

6.) Gleason L. Archer, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, [Regency Reference Library, 1982], p. 355.

7.) D. A. Carson, Matthew, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary with the New International Version, Vol. 8, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, [Zondervan, 1984], p. 589.

8.) Ernest Bernard Allo, Saint Paul: First Epistle to the Corinthians, [Gabalda, 1956], p. 396.

9.) W. Harold Mare, 1 Corinthians, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary with the New International Version, Vol. 10, [Zondervan 1976], p. 282.

10.) Leon Morris, The First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians: An Introduction and Commentary, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, Vol. 7, [Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1985], pp. 202-203.

11.) Robert Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith: 2nd Edition - Revised and Updated, [Thomas Nelson Inc, 1998], eBook.

12.) Bruce Chilton, Rabbi Jesus: An Intimate Biography, [Random House Digital, Inc., 2002], p. 282 n. 3.

13.) For Alexander the Great’s life and the stories involved we rely primarily on later sources such as Plutarch, Diodorus, Curtius, Justin, and Arrian etc.

14.) The Jews of Christ’s time looked to Old Testament texts concerning the Davidic conquering King Messiah and anticipated He would overthrow Rome and restore rule under YHWH (Isaiah 9:7; Daniel 7:14; Psalms 2:7-9; 2 Samuel 22:44-51; Jeremiah 23:5-6; Amos 9:11-12; Ezekiel 34:23-24; 37:25 etc). Acts 1:6 among other texts shows Jesus’ followers still retained this type of thinking for a while and then understood correctly later on. There were events in the first-century bearing this King Messiah expectation out. For example during the great revolt the Judeans exalted Simon Bar Giora as king who would drive Rome out of their land. He amassed an army to fight the Romans but was captured and executed during his efforts by Vespasian and his son Titus (account can be found in Josephus’s Jewish Wars). The Testament of Levi (2nd c. B. C.) states the Messiah’s, “star shall rise in heaven as the star of a king. . . . And there shall be peace in all the earth” (The Testament of Levi, 18); thus affirming this mindset.

15.) Keith Thompson, Historical Case for Paul’s Apostleship

16.) “The literacy rate in antiquity was nowhere close to what it is in most countries today. Even a liberal estimate would suggest that no more than 20 percent of the general populace in Paul’s day could read and write” Ben Witherington III, New Testament History: A Narrative Account, [Baker Academic, 2003], p. 238.

17.) Michael R. Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach, [InterVarsity Press, 2010], p. 295.

18.) Douglas J. Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, [Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1996], pp. 180-181; Leslie C. Allen, Romans, New International Bible Commentary Based on the NIV Translation, ed. F. F. Bruce, [Zondervan, 1979], p. 1322; Everett F. Harrison, Romans, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary with the New International Version, ed. Frank E. Gaebelen, [Zondervan, 1976], p. 36.

19.) Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 52, Number 271.

20.) An explanation of each criterion can be found in Michael R. Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach, [InterVarsity Press, 2010], p. 109-111.

21.) Keith Thompson, Historical Case for Paul’s Apostleship

22.) Without giving all of the arguments Drs. Licona and Habermas note, “(1) the disciples themselves claimed that the risen Jesus had appeared to them, and (2) subsequent to Jesus’ death by crucifixion, his disciples were radically transformed from fearful, cowering individuals who denied and abandoned him at his arrest and execution into bold proclaimers of the gospel of the risen Lord. They remained steadfast in the face of imprisonment, torture, and martyrdom. It is very clear they sincerely believed that Jesus rose from the dead. There is almost unanimous consensus among scholars to this belief on the part of the disciples” Gary R. Habermas, Michael R. Licona, The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus, [Kregel Publications, 2004], p. 50.

23.) The evidence shows that before becoming a Pharisee, in “A. D. 15-20 ... Saul begins his studies in Jerusalem with Rabbi Gamaliel, grandson of Rabbi Gamaliel the elder” Ben Witherington III, The Paul Quest: The Renewed Search for the Jew of Tarsus, [InterVarsity Press, 2001], p. 307 cf. Acts 22:3; Gal. 1:14. That Paul was imprisoned, persecuted and martyred see The First Epistle of Clement, Ch. 5 cf. Paul’s trials in Acts.

24.) “…and come to the extreme limit of the west, and suffered martyrdom under the prefects. Thus was he removed from the world, and went into the holy place, having proved himself a striking example of patience” Clement, The First Epistle of Clement, Ch. 5 cf. 2 Tim. 2:12; Rom. 8:35-39.

25.) Keith Thompson, Historical Case for Paul’s Apostleship