Online Bible Commentary
He Was Seen by Over Five Hundred
1 Corinthians 15:5 and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. 6 After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. 7 After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. 8 Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. 11 Therefore, whether it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed. (NKJV)
The Apostle Paul is writing this letter to the Christians in Corinth, Greece from Ephesus, Asia (present day Turkey) in A.D. 54-56, during his third missionary journey. These teachings while written to the first century church in Corinth are applicable to all Christians.
In this chapter, Paul is responding to some false teaching in the church in Corinth. The false teaching was that some teachers were denying the bodily resurrection of Christians. They claimed that our spirits would keep living after death, but in a disembodied state.
So Paul, in this chapter, is correcting this false teaching. Chapter fifteen is, perhaps, the most comprehensive study of bodily resurrection in the entire Bible.
In this passage, Paul gives evidence of the resurrection. The resurrected Christ was seen by many people after His resurrection, as evidence of His resurrection.
Paul identifies some of the Christians who saw the resurrected Christ, but it would have been impossible for others, non-Christians and Christians alike, also to have seen Him. So this list is not intended to be a comprehensive list of all who witnessed the resurrected Christ.
The resurrected Christ was seen by “Cephas”, the apostle Peter, one of the Twelve Apostles of Christ and the first leader of the early church (v. 5a). We remember Peter as the apostle that denied Jesus three times. What a wonderful display of grace it was for the Lord to allow Peter to see the resurrected Christ.
The resurrected Christ was “then (seen) by the twelve” (v. 5b). This is a reference to the Twelve Apostles of Christ. It does not necessarily mean that they all saw Him at the same time.
“After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once” (v. 6a). Over 500 Christians saw the resurrected Christ at one time. Most of them were still alive at the time of this writing, but some had passed away (v. 6b).
Paul is writing this letter some 25 years after the resurrection. Many of those who saw the resurrected Christ were still alive and could have disputed Paul’s account if it was not true. There is no record of any dispute of Paul’s account.
“After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles” (v. 7a). The “James” that Paul writes of is likely the half-brother of Christ. The “apostles” would have referred to the larger body of believers.
“Last of all”, Paul includes himself in those who have seen the resurrected Christ (v. 8a). Paul saw the resurrected Christ when he was converted from persecutor to apostle on the road to Damascus (Acts 9).
He also may have seen the resurrected Christ during his time in “Arabia”, east of the Jordan River (Gal. 1). After this writing, Paul also saw the resurrected Christ at least two more times (Acts 22 and 26).
Paul considers himself as “one born out of due time” (v. 8b). He was late to the party. He was not one of the Twelve Apostles. Paul was converted about AD 34-35, at least three to four years after the resurrection.
Paul considered himself to be “the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God” (v. 9). He seemed to never have gotten over his regrets for his persecution of the church prior to his Damascus Road conversion.
Only “by the grace of God” was Paul forgiven for persecuting the church (v. 10a). God’s “grace toward” Paul “was not in vain” (v. 10b). In addition to his missionary journeys, Paul wrote more books of the Bible than anyone else.
Paul “labored more abundantly than they all” (v. 10c). He worked harder than any other apostle. And “yet” he does not take the credit but gives all the credit to “the grace of God which was with me” (v. 10d).
In conclusion, whether it was him “or they”, the other apostles, they all preached and the believers in Corinth “believed” (v. 11). Here, again, Paul does not take the credit for the Corinthians becoming Christians but shares the credit with the other apostles who were involved.
So, the resurrection of Christ had over five hundred eyewitnesses. None of these eyewitnesses disputed this event. It is a fact that Jesus Christ was bodily resurrected from the dead.
To deny this fact is to deny reality. However, there are those who, incredibly, continue to deny this fact. It was not denied in real time, but there are always those who try to rewrite history. They are not to be believed.
Since Jesus Christ was bodily resurrected, so shall we Christians be bodily resurrected. Jesus said “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die” (John 11:25-26).