John says that Jesus appeared to ten disciples, since Judas was dead and Thomas was not there (John 20:24). However, Mark 16:14 says He appeared to “the eleven,” as well as in the gospel of Luke (Luke 24:33-37). And I Corinthians 15:5 says He appeared to “the twelve.”
So was Jesus’ first resurrection appearance to ten, eleven, or twelve apostles?
“The twelve” and “the eleven” could be figures of speech. True, technically only ten were present, but the group was collectively referred to as “the twelve,” or alternatively, after Judas died, as “the eleven.”
- It is possible that Matthias (Judas’s replacement) was actually present with the other ten apostles. Although he was not numbered among the apostles at the time, he was numbered with them when the gospels were written—and so the writer may have referred to eleven apostles because Matthias was there.
- I Corinthians 15:5 never says that Jesus appeared to all twelve apostles at the same time the first time. It merely says he appeared to all twelve. Again, Matthias was numbered as an apostle by the time Paul wrote I Corinthians, though not at the time of the events. Thus, it was acceptable for Paul to say that Jesus appeared to all twelve apostles.
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