Only in the Weird and Whacky World of Christian Apologetics Part 1: Paul and the 500 Witnesses

I’m going to run an occasional (i.e. it will appear at random, probably when I can’t think of much else to talk about) series on some of what I consider to be the odder arguments that apologists advance. These aren’t fringe arguments. These are all mainstream arguments that will crop up repeatedly in apologetics. 

Here is one that caused a sharp intake of breath when I first heard it. I mean, it’s so obviously wrong (isn’t it?) Still, for many Christians it is an absolute clincher. 

In defending the historical reliability of the resurrection Christians will often refer to this verse:

After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep;

1 Corinthians 15:6

“‘Most of whom remain until now!’ Wow!” says the apologist, “I mean, that’s as good as an invitation to go and check it out for yourself!  So Paul knew his claims were rock-solid irrefutable. He had (most of) 500 witnesses all ready to back them up.”

This might be more persuasive if Paul had named at least two out of the 500.  Or if he’d specified the exact location of this appearance.  But even then, unless the appearance had been at some place near Corinth (let’s say, less than one day’s travel by donkey) that extra information was still not going be of any help to anyone wanting to conduct a bit of research in an age before the advent of the telephone and the Internet. 

I see this as an extremely vague claim made in circumstances where it was not realistically possible to refute it.  Christian apologists see it as a confident appeal to verify a story which Paul knew to be true. I wonder which of us is right?