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Q. In 1 Corinthians 15:5-8, why does Paul not mention the appearance to Stephen in Acts 7:55-56?

[1Co 15:5-8 NASB95] [5] and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. [6] After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; [7] then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; [8] and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.

[Act 7:55-56 NASB95] [55] But being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; [56] and he said, "Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God."

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  • As mentioned in my previous answer - Paul was not being exhaustive - Jesus appeared to others not on Paul's list.
    – Dottard
    Dec 14, 2023 at 3:48
  • I'm leaning toward the idea that it was intended as a complete list. Otherwise, there would be no reason for the repeated entities. hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/89491/…
    – Ruminator
    Dec 15, 2023 at 2:43
  • However, as shown in my answer, "The 12" is different from "all the apostles". And, the NT records other appearances not in Paul's list.
    – Dottard
    Dec 15, 2023 at 3:12
  • In what way do you understand the 12 to be different from all the apostles? I'm not saying you're wrong, just trying to follow your thought.
    – Ruminator
    Dec 15, 2023 at 3:18
  • As explained in my other answer, "The 12" are the original apostles, but there were many more apostles such as James, Barnabas, Paul, Silas, Apollos, etc.
    – Dottard
    Dec 15, 2023 at 4:28

3 Answers 3

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He said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” ...The witnesses laid down their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 As they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he fell to his knees and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them”; and when he said this, he fell asleep.

Why didn't Paul mention Stephen's vision? I think Paul relied only on first-hand testimonies. Eye-witnesses could report what Stephen said, but what he actually saw does not come from Stephen himself. It comes from the Luke's narration, and Luke was not there even to hear what Stephen said let alone know what he actually saw. Paul could get first-hand accounts from Peter, James, the apostles, and many of the 500. But he could not hear directly from Stephen.

In addition we do not know how widely Stephen's story had circulated by the time Paul wrote 1 Corinthians. Perhaps people didn't bring it up because it reminded Paul of a serious sin that he had committed, and for which God had already forgiven him.

Basic answer: Paul probably relied only on first-hand accounts.

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  • That is the popular work-around. However, the AI GPTChatBot "Poe" had to apologize to me for that answer, because I pointed out that James was already dead, which "he" somehow overlooked!: poe.com/s/…
    – Ruminator
    Dec 13, 2023 at 23:56
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    James was already dead when? Paul says that James gave him the right hand of fellowship, so he surely had a chance to talk with him. Dec 14, 2023 at 0:00
  • "James" is the English anti-Semitic rendering of "Jakobus," the same name as the patriarch. Jakobus was a very popular Jewish name. Paul is ostensibly writing around 55 AD/CE, while THE James was the first martyr in Acts, around the later 30s? See Acts 12.
    – Ruminator
    Dec 14, 2023 at 0:05
  • @Ruminator The point is that he talked with him before he died, and so can report what he said while alive.
    – Mary
    Dec 14, 2023 at 1:21
  • So why doesn't he mention Stephen, from Acts?
    – Ruminator
    Dec 14, 2023 at 1:25
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Paul may have been hesitant to draw attention to one of the less flattering moments of his own life, as Dan Fefferman has already pointed out (see Acts 7:58), but additionally I believe there is an even simpler answer: Paul is challenging the audience to fact check him.

Paul's purpose in this chapter is to argue for the reality of the resurrection, and the creed he is citing at the beginning of the chapter names credible witnesses who can attest to the bodily resurrection of Jesus for themselves.

Paul is specifically appealing to witnesses whom the audience can question directly--hence the point he makes in verse 6 that although some of the 500 have passed away, most are still around.

Stephen is not mentioned because Stephen is deceased and unavailable for questioning.

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Because, in 1 Cor 15:5-8, Paul is talking about the actual physical re-appearance of the dead Person Jesus of Nazareth whereas what Stephen saw was a vision.

Explanation

In 1 Cor 15:5-8, Paul is laying the groundwork for introducing the resurrection of the dead. Some believers in Corinth believed in a sort of “figurative” resurrection but not in the actual resurrection.

So Paul’s argument is to show them that they are wrong. In order to prove the real resurrection, Paul gives the example of Jesus’ actual physical Resurrection.

This appearance of Jesus was much before the giving of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. Jesus ascended into heaven about 10 days before the Pentecost. During those 40 days He appeared to most of His followers who had not yet received the Holy Spirit. Even Paul had a real appearance of Jesus before Paul received the Holy Spirit!

So, all the people mentioned in 1 Cor 15:5-8 had no aid of the Holy Spirit in seeing the dead Person living!

In Acts 7:55-56, Stephen “being full of the Holy Spirit, looking “intently” into the heaven” saw God and Jesus. This was a vision and so Paul didn’t include that in his description.

If this was not a vision, we need to think, unless in a vision, which mortal human can see the spiritual heaven and the beings in it.

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