A listener from Georgia asked: Why didn’t Paul mention Mary as a witness of the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15:5-8?
Thanks for your question. There was great significance in Jesus choosing to first appear to Mary after the resurrection. For example, we see yet another instance of God esteeming women, which was not seen in the Greco-Roman culture of the time.
As to the specifics of Paul’s list, while mentioning the appearance to five hundred (of whom Mary was likely one), he primarily centered on Jesus’ appearance to those who would later become apostles. He mentioned Cephas or Peter, the twelve (not counting Judas Iscariot, but Matthias), James, the half brother of Jesus, and himself.
Why was Paul’s focus on the appearances to the apostles? Well, those fourteen men had been chosen by God to be eyewitnesses of the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah. They were then tasked with His authority as they traveled and established churches. The apostles spoke with a special kind of authority that no one had. Many of them became the authors of Scripture.
All fourteen of these men were recognized throughout the whole church as apostles on behalf of Jesus Christ. Therefore, when Paul was refuting the heresy that there is no physical resurrection, he appealed to the testimony of these representatives of Jesus.
Granted, Paul did add that Jesus appeared to five hundred people at once. I believe that he included this detail to prove that the apostles were not merely hallucinating because of grief or making up a lie to deceive the churches. The testimony of the five hundred was meant to confirm the testimony of the fourteen.
Paul would have known that Jesus appeared to Mary and he was not trying to snub her. Paul was trying to accomplish a specific goal in this passage. He was giving an authoritative rebuttal to a spiritually deadly heresy. He did that by countering the claims of so-called teachers and authorities with the declaration and teaching of Jesus’ own select representatives that speak with His authority and also happen to be eyewitnesses to the resurrection. Therefore, the reason Mary was not mentioned is that she was not an apostle.
Thanks for your question,