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How Can Paul Say that Jesus Appeared to The Twelve?

Why did Paul say Jesus appeared to the twelve? Here is an interesting question from my Readers’ Mailbag connected to the tradition that Judas Iscariot killed himself soon after Jesus’ death, leaving only eleven disciples. Did Paul know about this tradition? Why does he seem to think there were still twelve disciples after the resurrection? QUESTION: What do you think about Paul saying that Jesus appeared to the "twelve" (Apostles) after his resurrection? (1 Cor. 15:5) I find this to be a big mistake; given the multiple gospel stories about Judas's betrayal and subsequent suicide. Wouldn't Paul have known that there were only eleven Apostles at that time? How Can Paul Say that Jesus Appeared to The Twelve? RESPONSE: Ah, an interesting question, and answering it involves a number of rather unexpected complexities. The basic question: does Paul know that Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus and afterward committed suicide? The first issue to address: who among the authors of the New Testament does know about the suicide of Judas? Here’s an interesting point. It is not [...]

2024-02-22T17:03:23-05:00April 12th, 2022|Paul and His Letters, Public Forum, Reader’s Questions|

Did Judas Really Betray Jesus? Readers’ Mailbag

My post a few days ago about whether Paul knew that Jesus had been betrayed by Judas Iscariot -- in which I concluded there really was no solid evidence one way or the other -- generated several follow-up questions.  Many of them simply asked: well, did it really happen?   Here is an example, and my response. QUESTION: I may be showing my ignorance here but could it be that Paul doesn’t know/write about Judas’ betrayal because it never happened? Yes, it is in all four gospels but as you’ve pointed out the four gospels do not agree on who showed up at the empty tomb, what they saw, and what they did next so…. If they get that wrong could it be that the Judas betrayal is also a fabrication/legend?   RESPONSE: It's a great question, and I'm completely sympathetic to it.   But I have to say that I think Jesus really was betrayed by one of his own, Judas Iscariot.   In my judgment, that's just where the evidence points. As many of you know [...]

Does Paul Know that Judas Betrayed Jesus?

  QUESTION: In your list of the things Paul tells us about the historical Jesus (he was born of a woman, he was a Jew, he had brothers, he had twelve disciples, etc.) one thing you seem to have left out was the fact that he was “betrayed” on the night he had the last supper.  1 Corinthians 11:23 says “For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread,24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you…” Why haven’t you included the betrayal as part of the tradition about Jesus that Paul knows?   RESPONSE: Ah, good question.  Many years ago when I was first teaching I did include that datum as rather important.  I don’t do so any longer any more for one particular (and, in my books, very good) reason: I think the word “betrayed” is a mistranslation of the Greek of the [...]

The Death of Judas in the NT

In this and the next couple of posts I will be talking about what we know was in Papias’s five-volume book, now lost, Exposition of the Sayings of the Lord.  As I previously indicated, the only reason we have any clue about the matter is that later church fathers quoted a few passages from the book.  Would they had quoted more!  But what they give us is very tantalizing. The first passage I want to discuss involves the death of Judas Iscariot.  To make sense of what Papias has to say, I need to provide some context. Many people don’t realize that Judas’s death, after he betrayed Jesus, is not mentioned in three of our Gospels:  Mark, Luke, and John.   It is mentioned in the Gospel of Matthew, however, and just as important, in the book of Acts, written by the same author who produced the Gospel of Luke (so, well, let’s call him Luke).   What is striking is that the descriptions of Judas’s death in these two accounts are at odds with one, even [...]

2020-04-17T13:32:44-04:00June 2nd, 2015|Acts of the Apostles, Canonical Gospels|

What Judas Betrayed

In my last post I indicated that I would write, next, on what it was, in my opinion, that Judas betrayed.   It is commonly thought, based on the NT evidence, that he indicated to the authorities where Jesus could be found apart from the crowds.   Maybe that’s right, even though, as I indicated, I do have some doubts about it.  Even if it is right, there may be more to it than that.   I think the following data are worth bearing in mind, leading to the resolution of the question that I prefer.  (At first these data may not seem relevant: but hang in there for a minute!) There is nothing to indicate that Jesus publically proclaimed himself the messiah or, more specifically, that he ever publicly announced that he was the King of the Jews during his lifetime.     You find Jesus accepting the title messiah in the later Gospels, but the first time it becomes a public issue, in our earliest account, Mark, is at Jesus’ trial in 14:61-62.   And never is the King [...]

More on Judas

Several people misunderstood what I was trying to say in my post yesterday about Paul’s knowledge of Judas Iscariot.  It was probably my fault for not being clear enough.  I was *not*, decidedly *not*, trying to argue that the tradition that Judas betrayed Jesus was unhistorical.  Quite the contrary, for reasons I’ll explain in a second, I think this is a completely historical tradition.  I was simply asking whether Paul himself knew about it.  He may well have known about it.  But he gives no indication in his surviving writings that he did – either because he was in fact ignorant about it, or because he assumed his readers already knew all they needed to know about it, or because he had no occasion to bring it up in his surviving letters, or for some other reason. But I do indeed think that – whatever Paul did or did not know about the matter – that Jesus was betrayed by one of his own, Judas Iscariot.  In my judgment, this tradition passes all of our [...]

Paul on Judas

Several people have asked me to comment on whether Paul shows any evidence of knowing about the tradition that Jesus was betrayed by Judas Iscariot. As a first step, it’s necessary to point out that Paul says very little indeed – surprisingly little – about the historical Jesus -- that is, about what Jesus said, did, and experienced between the time of his birth and his death. (Paul obviously says a *lot* about Jesus’ death and resurrection, just not much about his life.) The following are about the only things he tells us: Jesus was born of a woman (Gal 4:4) He was born a Jew (Gal 4:4) He had brothers (1 Cor. 9:5); one of whom was James (Gal 1-2) He ministered to Jews (Rom 15:8) He had twelve disciples (1 Cor. 15:6) He held a last supper the last night of his life (1 Cor. 11:22-24) Paul indicates what Jesus said at that meal. Paul indicates two other teachings of Jesus: that Christian ministers should be paid for their work and that Christians [...]

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