1 Corinthians 15:5–8—Did Jesus only appear to believers?

Problem: Some critics have attempted to cast doubt on the validity of Christ’s resurrection by insisting that He appeared only to believers, but never to unbelievers. Is this so?

Solution: It is incorrect to claim that Jesus did not appear to unbelievers. This is clear for several reasons. First, He appeared to the most hostile unbeliever of all, Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9:1ff). The Bible devotes much of several chapters to relate this story (Acts 9; 22; 26).

Second, even Jesus’ disciples were unbelievers in the resurrection when He first appeared to them. When Mary Magdalene and others reported that Jesus was resurrected “their words seemed to them like idle tales, and they did not believe them” (Luke 24:11). Later, Jesus had to chide the two disciples on the road to Emmaus about disbelief in His resurrection, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!” (Luke 24:25) Even after Jesus had appeared to the women, to Peter, to the two disciples, and to the ten apostles, still Thomas said, “Unless I see the nail marks in His hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe it” (John 20:25, niv). He was hardly a believer in the resurrection.

Finally, in addition to appearing to His unbelieving disciples, Jesus also appeared to some who were not His disciples at all. He appeared to His brother James (1 Cor. 15:7), who, with his other brothers, was not a believer before the Resurrection (John 7:5). So, it is simply false to claim that Jesus did not appear to unbelievers.

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This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.