More Second-Century Evidence Against 1 Cor. 15:3-11 Being an Interpolation

In his critical review of The Empty Tomb, Stephen Davis points – as I did – to the second-century literary evidence of the apostolic fathers as evidence against Dr. Price's argument that 1 Cor. 15:3-11 is an interpolation. "The Counterattack of the Resurrection Skeptics," Philosophia Christi, Vol. 8:1, page 41. Davis and I both find Ignatius’ reference to the allegedly interpolated passage in the early second century to be powerful evidence against Dr. Price’s theory. It simply leaves no time for an interpolation to arise and spread to all of the manuscript evidence.

Although I also found Marcion’s use of the same passages to be conclusive, Davis does not mention it. Davis does mention two second-century Christian writings that I did not: the Shepard of Hermas and Against Heresies.

According to Davis, the Shepard of Hermas (dated from 140-155 AD) “clearly alludes (in a different context) to 1 Corinthians 15:6.” 15:6 states, “After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep.” Shepard of Hermas 13:1 refers to “apostles, bishops, teachers, and deacons” about which the author says “some of these have fallen asleep, but others are still living.” Paul Barnett, in Paul Becomes a Literary Influence, describes the Hermas passage as a “possible literary reminiscence.” Page 201. Other sources discussing literary contacts between Paul’s letters and the apostolic fathers tend to ignore this connection. Standing alone, this allusion would not merit anything more than the “possible” label. But given that Hermas contains stronger allusions to 1 Corinthians, such as to 1 Cor. 7 (given a “high degree of probability” by the Oxford Society of Historical Theology), I would elevate the possibility of a literary contact here as somewhat likely. Given its mid-second century date, this adds some weight – though more is not needed – against Dr. Price’s interpolation argument.

On the other hand, the reference to 1 Cor. 15:8 by Irenaeus – though later in the second century – is on certain ground. In Against Heresies, Irenaeus explicitly refers to Paul being born out of time “as he declared in his Epistle to the Corinthians.” AG, 8:2. Though later than the references in Ignatius and Marcion, Ignatius’ reference to the challenged passage is not without significance. In addition to being another early witness to the passage's existence, Irenaeus's biblical references tend to be similar to the Western text-type, whereas the earliest manuscript evidence attesting to the challenged passage are Alexandrian. Thus, Irenaeus’ reference attests to earlier and additional diversity in the manuscript traditions affirming the existence of 1 Cor. 15:3-11. Accordingly, Davis is right to see it as important evidence against Dr. Price’s interpolation argument.


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