The Risen Christ in 1 Cor 15:5-8 and ὤφθη in the Greek Old Testament

This morning I was reading the account of the LORD’s appearance to Abraham in Genesis 12 and was struck (again) by the passive nature of the event. I recalled how these appearances of divine persons, angelic messengers or divine glory iterate the Hebrew scriptures and wondered how ὤφθη was used in the NT. Did Jesus “appear” to His disciples or the crowds? How so? In what contexts? I was struck by how rarely Jesus is the subject of ὤφθη during His earthly ministry; in fact, never. The Emmaus disciples reported to the eleven that the risen Jesus had appeared to them (Luke 24:34). Preaching in Pisidian Antioch, Paul announced likewise that the the risen Jesus had appeared to those who had known Him before the crucifixion (Acts 13:31). And Paul used ὤφθη in a formulaic, hymnic fashion in 1 Corinthians 15:5-8, likely a point of fulfillment within the storyline. So Anthony Thiselton: “Christ’s risen presence serves as God’s eschatological self-manifestation” (Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians [NIGTC, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000], 1199). [References below are from Bibleworks Greek Text.]

The 28 Greek OT Cannonical Occurrences of ὤφθη (3rd/sg/aor/pass/ind/ὁράω, “to see”) (references to the divine personal, angelic or glorious appearences in bold font)

BGT Gen. 1:9 καὶ εἶπεν ὁ θεός συναχθήτω τὸ ὕδωρ τὸ ὑποκάτω τοῦ οὐρανοῦ εἰς συναγωγὴν μίαν καὶ ὀφθήτω ἡ ξηρά καὶ ἐγένετο οὕτως καὶ συνήχθη τὸ ὕδωρ τὸ ὑποκάτω τοῦ οὐρανοῦ εἰς τὰς συναγωγὰς αὐτῶν καὶ ὤφθη ἡ ξηρά [Then God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. (Gen. 1:9 CSB)]

BGT Gen. 12:7 καὶ ὤφθη κύριος τῷ Αβραμ καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ τῷ σπέρματί σου δώσω τὴν γῆν ταύτην καὶ ᾠκοδόμησεν ἐκεῖ Αβραμ θυσιαστήριον κυρίῳ τῷ ὀφθέντι αὐτῷ [Genesis 12:7 Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, “I will give this land to your offspring.” So he built an altar there to the LORD who had appeared to him. (Gen. 12:7 CSB)]

BGT Gen. 17:1 ἐγένετο δὲ Αβραμ ἐτῶν ἐνενήκοντα ἐννέα καὶ ὤφθη κύριος τῷ Αβραμ καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ θεός σου εὐαρέστει ἐναντίον ἐμοῦ καὶ γίνου ἄμεμπτος [When Abram was 99 years old, the LORD appeared to him, saying, “I am God Almighty. Live in My presence and be blameless. (Gen. 17:1 CSB)]

BGT Gen. 18:1 ὤφθη δὲ αὐτῷ ὁ θεὸς πρὸς τῇ δρυὶ τῇ Μαμβρη καθημένου αὐτοῦ ἐπὶ τῆς θύρας τῆς σκηνῆς αὐτοῦ μεσημβρίας [Then the LORD appeared to Abraham at the oaks of Mamre while he was sitting in the entrance of his tent during the heat of the day. (Gen. 18:1 CSB)]

BGT Gen. 22:14 καὶ ἐκάλεσεν Αβρααμ τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ τόπου ἐκείνου κύριος εἶδεν ἵνα εἴπωσιν σήμερον ἐν τῷ ὄρει κύριος ὤφθη [And Abraham named that place The LORD Will Provide, so today it is said: “It will be provided on the LORD’s mountain.” (Gen. 22:14 CSB)]

BGT Gen. 26:2 ὤφθη δὲ αὐτῷ κύριος καὶ εἶπεν μὴ καταβῇς εἰς Αἴγυπτον κατοίκησον δὲ ἐν τῇ γῇ ᾗ ἄν σοι εἴπω [The LORD appeared to him and said, “Do not go down to Egypt. Live in the land that I tell you about (Gen. 26:2 CSB)]

BGT Gen. 26:24 καὶ ὤφθη αὐτῷ κύριος ἐν τῇ νυκτὶ ἐκείνῃ καὶ εἶπεν ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ θεὸς Αβρααμ τοῦ πατρός σου μὴ φοβοῦ μετὰ σοῦ γάρ εἰμι καὶ ηὐλόγηκά σε καὶ πληθυνῶ τὸ σπέρμα σου διὰ Αβρααμ τὸν πατέρα σου [and the LORD appeared to him that night and said, “I am the God of your father Abraham. Do not be afraid, for I am with you. I will bless you and multiply your offspring because of My servant Abraham.” (Gen. 26:24 CSB)]

BGT Gen. 35:9 ὤφθη δὲ ὁ θεὸς Ιακωβ ἔτι ἐν Λουζα ὅτε παρεγένετο ἐκ Μεσοποταμίας τῆς Συρίας καὶ ηὐλόγησεν αὐτὸν ὁ θεός [God appeared to Jacob again after he returned from Paddan-aram, and He blessed him. (Gen. 35:9 CSB)]

BGT Gen. 48:3 καὶ εἶπεν Ιακωβ τῷ Ιωσηφ ὁ θεός μου ὤφθη μοι ἐν Λουζα ἐν γῇ Χανααν καὶ εὐλόγησέν με [Jacob said to Joseph, ” God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan and blessed me. (Gen. 48:3 CSB)]

BGT Exod. 3:2 ὤφθη δὲ αὐτῷ ἄγγελος κυρίου ἐν φλογὶ πυρὸς ἐκ τοῦ βάτου καὶ ὁρᾷ ὅτι ὁ βάτος καίεται πυρί ὁ δὲ βάτος οὐ κατεκαίετο [Then the Angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire within a bush. As Moses looked, he saw that the bush was on fire but was not consumed. (Exod. 3:2 CSB)]

BGT Exod. 16:10 ἡνίκα δὲ ἐλάλει Ααρων πάσῃ συναγωγῇ υἱῶν Ισραηλ καὶ ἐπεστράφησαν εἰς τὴν ἔρημον καὶ ἡ δόξα κυρίου ὤφθη ἐν νεφέλῃ [As Aaron was speaking to the entire Israelite community, they turned toward the wilderness, and there in a cloud the LORD’s glory appeared. (Exod. 16:10 CSB)]

BGT Lev. 9:23 καὶ εἰσῆλθεν Μωυσῆς καὶ Ααρων εἰς τὴν σκηνὴν τοῦ μαρτυρίου καὶ ἐξελθόντες εὐλόγησαν πάντα τὸν λαόν καὶ ὤφθη ἡ δόξα κυρίου παντὶ τῷ λαῷ [Moses and Aaron then entered the tent of meeting. When they came out, they blessed the people, and the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people. (Lev. 9:23 CSB)]

BGT Num. 14:10 καὶ εἶπεν πᾶσα ἡ συναγωγὴ καταλιθοβολῆσαι αὐτοὺς ἐν λίθοις καὶ ἡ δόξα κυρίου ὤφθη ἐν νεφέλῃ ἐπὶ τῆς σκηνῆς τοῦ μαρτυρίου ἐν πᾶσι τοῖς υἱοῖς Ισραηλ [While the whole community threatened to stone them, the glory of the LORD appeared to all the Israelites at the tent of meeting. (Num. 14:10 CSB)]

BGT Num. 16:19 καὶ ἐπισυνέστησεν ἐπ᾽ αὐτοὺς Κορε τὴν πᾶσαν αὐτοῦ συναγωγὴν παρὰ τὴν θύραν τῆς σκηνῆς τοῦ μαρτυρίου καὶ ὤφθη ἡ δόξα κυρίου πάσῃ τῇ συναγωγῇ [After Korah assembled the whole community against them at the entrance to the tent of meeting, the glory of the LORD appeared to the whole community. (Num. 16:19 CSB)]

BGT Num. 17:7 καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῷ ἐπισυστρέφεσθαι τὴν συναγωγὴν ἐπὶ Μωυσῆν καὶ Ααρων καὶ ὥρμησαν ἐπὶ τὴν σκηνὴν τοῦ μαρτυρίου καὶ τήνδε ἐκάλυψεν αὐτὴν ἡ νεφέλη καὶ ὤφθη ἡ δόξα κυρίου [When the community assembled against them, Moses and Aaron turned toward the tent of meeting, and suddenly the cloud covered it, and the LORD’s glory appeared. (Num. 16:42 CSB)]

BGT Num. 20:6 καὶ ἦλθεν Μωυσῆς καὶ Ααρων ἀπὸ προσώπου τῆς συναγωγῆς ἐπὶ τὴν θύραν τῆς σκηνῆς τοῦ μαρτυρίου καὶ ἔπεσαν ἐπὶ πρόσωπον καὶ ὤφθη ἡ δόξα κυρίου πρὸς αὐτούς [Then Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly to the doorway of the tent of meeting. They fell down with their faces to the ground, and the glory of the LORD appeared to them. (Num. 20:6 CSB)]

BGT Jdg. 6:12 καὶ ὤφθη αὐτῷ ὁ ἄγγελος κυρίου καὶ εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτόν κύριος μετὰ σοῦ ἰσχυρὸς τῶν δυνάμεων [Then the Angel of the LORD appeared to him and said: “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.” (Jdg. 6:12 CSB)]

BGT Jdg. 13:3 καὶ ὤφθη ἄγγελος κυρίου πρὸς τὴν γυναῖκα καὶ εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτήν ἰδοὺ σὺ στεῖρα καὶ οὐ τέτοκας καὶ συλλήμψῃ υἱόν [The Angel of the LORD appeared to the woman and said to her, “It is true that you are unable to conceive and have no children, but you will conceive and give birth to a son. (Jdg. 13:3 CSB)]

BGT 2 Sam. 22:11 καὶ ἐπεκάθισεν ἐπὶ Χερουβιν καὶ ἐπετάσθη καὶ ὤφθη ἐπὶ πτερύγων ἀνέμου [He rode on a cherub and flew, soaring on the wings of the wind. (2 Sam. 22:11 CSB)]

BGT 1 Ki. 3:5 καὶ ὤφθη κύριος τῷ Σαλωμων ἐν ὕπνῳ τὴν νύκτα καὶ εἶπεν κύριος πρὸς Σαλωμων αἴτησαί τι αἴτημα σαυτῷ [At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream at night. God said, “Ask. What should I give you?” (1 Ki. 3:5 CSB)]

BGT 1 Ki. 9:2 καὶ ὤφθη κύριος τῷ Σαλωμων δεύτερον καθὼς ὤφθη ἐν Γαβαων [the LORD appeared to Solomon a second time just as He had appeared to him at Gibeon. (1 Ki. 9:2 CSB)]

BGT 2 Chr. 1:7 ἐν τῇ νυκτὶ ἐκείνῃ ὤφθη ὁ θεὸς τῷ Σαλωμων καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ αἴτησαι τί σοι δῶ [That night God appeared to Solomon and said to him: “Ask. What should I give you?” (2 Chr. 1:7 CSB)]

BGT 2 Chr. 3:1 καὶ ἤρξατο Σαλωμων τοῦ οἰκοδομεῖν τὸν οἶκον κυρίου ἐν Ιερουσαλημ ἐν ὄρει τοῦ Αμορια οὗ ὤφθη κύριος τῷ Δαυιδ πατρὶ αὐτοῦ ἐν τῷ τόπῳ ᾧ ἡτοίμασεν Δαυιδ ἐν ἅλῳ Ορνα τοῦ Ιεβουσαίου [Then Solomon began to build the LORD’s temple in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah where the LORD had appeared to his father David, at the site David had prepared on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite. (2 Chr. 3:1 CSB)]

BGT 2 Chr. 7:12 καὶ ὤφθη ὁ θεὸς τῷ Σαλωμων τὴν νύκτα καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ ἤκουσα τῆς προσευχῆς σου καὶ ἐξελεξάμην ἐν τῷ τόπῳ τούτῳ ἐμαυτῷ εἰς οἶκον θυσίας [Then the LORD appeared to Solomon at night and said to him: I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for Myself as a temple of sacrifice. (2 Chr. 7:12 CSB)]

BGT Song of Sol 2:12 τὰ ἄνθη ὤφθη ἐν τῇ γῇ καιρὸς τῆς τομῆς ἔφθακεν φωνὴ τοῦ τρυγόνος ἠκούσθη ἐν τῇ γῇ ἡμῶν [The blossoms appear in the countryside. The time of singing has come, and the turtledove’s cooing is heard in our land. (Cant. 2:12 CSB)]

BGT Jer. 38:3 κύριος πόρρωθεν ὤφθη αὐτῷ ἀγάπησιν αἰωνίαν ἠγάπησά σε διὰ τοῦτο εἵλκυσά σε εἰς οἰκτίρημα [the LORD appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, I have continued to extend faithful love to you. (Jer. 31:3 CSB)]

BGT Dan. 4:22 τὸ δὲ ἀνυψωθῆναι τὸ δένδρον ἐκεῖνο καὶ ἐγγίσαι τῷ οὐρανῷ καὶ τὸ κύτος αὐτοῦ ἅψασθαι τῶν νεφελῶν σύ βασιλεῦ ὑψώθης ὑπὲρ πάντας τοὺς ἀνθρώπους τοὺς ὄντας ἐπὶ προσώπου πάσης τῆς γῆς ὑψώθη σου ἡ καρδία ὑπερηφανίᾳ καὶ ἰσχύι τὰ πρὸς τὸν ἅγιον καὶ τοὺς ἀγγέλους αὐτοῦ τὰ ἔργα σου ὤφθη καθότι ἐξερήμωσας τὸν οἶκον τοῦ θεοῦ τοῦ ζῶντος ἐπὶ ταῖς ἁμαρτίαις τοῦ λαοῦ τοῦ ἡγιασμένου [Furthermore, the fact that that tree was exalted and neared heaven and that its span touched the clouds is: You, O king, have been exalted above all humans who are upon the face of the whole earth. Your heart was exalted with pride and power vis-à-vis the holy one and his angels. Your works were seen, how you ravaged the house of the living God pertaining to the sins of the sanctified people. (Dan. 4:19 NETS)]

The 18 NT Occurrences of ὤφθη (3rd/sg/aor/pass/ind/ὁράω, “to see”) (references to Christ’s post-resurrection appearnces described in 1 Cor 15:5-8 in bold font)

BGT Matt. 17:3 καὶ ἰδοὺ ὤφθη αὐτοῖς Μωϋσῆς καὶ Ἠλίας συλλαλοῦντες μετ᾽ αὐτοῦ. [Suddenly, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. (Matt. 17:3 CSB)]//BGT Mk. 9:4 καὶ ὤφθη αὐτοῖς Ἠλίας σὺν Μωϋσεῖ καὶ ἦσαν συλλαλοῦντες τῷ Ἰησοῦ. [Elijah appeared to them with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. (Mk. 9:4 CSB)]

BGT Lk. 1:11 ὤφθη δὲ αὐτῷ ἄγγελος κυρίου ἑστὼς ἐκ δεξιῶν τοῦ θυσιαστηρίου τοῦ θυμιάματος. [An angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. (Lk. 1:11 CSB)]

BGT Lk. 22:43 [[ὤφθη δὲ αὐτῷ ἄγγελος ἀπ᾽ οὐρανοῦ ἐνισχύων αὐτόν. [[Then an angel from heaven appeared to Him, strengthening Him. (Lk. 22:43 CSB)]

BGT Lk. 24:34 λέγοντας ὅτι ὄντως ἠγέρθη ὁ κύριος καὶ ὤφθη Σίμωνι. [who said, “The Lord has certainly been raised, and has appeared to Simon!” (Lk. 24:34 CSB)]

BGT Acts 7:2 ὁ δὲ ἔφη· Ἄνδρες ἀδελφοὶ καὶ πατέρες, ἀκούσατε. Ὁ θεὸς τῆς δόξης ὤφθη τῷ πατρὶ ἡμῶν Ἀβραὰμ ὄντι ἐν τῇ Μεσοποταμίᾳ πρὶν ἢ κατοικῆσαι αὐτὸν ἐν Χαρρὰν [“Brothers and fathers,” he said, “listen: The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he settled in Haran, (Acts 7:2 CSB)]

BGT Acts 7:26 τῇ τε ἐπιούσῃ ἡμέρᾳ ὤφθη αὐτοῖς μαχομένοις καὶ συνήλλασσεν αὐτοὺς εἰς εἰρήνην εἰπών· ἄνδρες, ἀδελφοί ἐστε· ἱνατί ἀδικεῖτε ἀλλήλους; [The next day he showed up while they were fighting and tried to reconcile them peacefully, saying, ‘Men, you are brothers. Why are you mistreating each other? ‘ (Acts 7:26 CSB)]

BGT Acts 7:30 Καὶ πληρωθέντων ἐτῶν τεσσεράκοντα ὤφθη αὐτῷ ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ τοῦ ὄρους Σινᾶ ἄγγελος ἐν φλογὶ πυρὸς βάτου. [After 40 years had passed, an angel appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, in the flame of a burning bush. (Acts 7:30 CSB)]

BGT Acts 13:31 ὃς ὤφθη ἐπὶ ἡμέρας πλείους τοῖς συναναβᾶσιν αὐτῷ ἀπὸ τῆς Γαλιλαίας εἰς Ἰερουσαλήμ, οἵτινες [νῦν] εἰσιν μάρτυρες αὐτοῦ πρὸς τὸν λαόν. [and He appeared for many days to those who came with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are now His witnesses to the people. (Acts 13:31 CSB)]

BGT Acts 16:9 Καὶ ὅραμα διὰ [τῆς] νυκτὸς τῷ Παύλῳ ὤφθη, ἀνὴρ Μακεδών τις ἦν ἑστὼς καὶ παρακαλῶν αὐτὸν καὶ λέγων· διαβὰς εἰς Μακεδονίαν βοήθησον ἡμῖν. [During the night a vision appeared to Paul: A Macedonian man was standing and pleading with him, “Cross over to Macedonia and help us!” (Acts 16:9 CSB)]

BGT 1 Cor. 15:5 καὶ ὅτι ὤφθη Κηφᾷ εἶτα τοῖς δώδεκα· [and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve. (1 Cor. 15:5 CSB)]

BGT 1 Cor. 15:6 ἔπειτα ὤφθη ἐπάνω πεντακοσίοις ἀδελφοῖς ἐφάπαξ, ἐξ ὧν οἱ πλείονες μένουσιν ἕως ἄρτι, τινὲς δὲ ἐκοιμήθησαν· [Then He appeared to over 500 brothers at one time; most of them are still alive, but some have fallen asleep. (1 Cor. 15:6 CSB)]

BGT 1 Cor. 15:7 ἔπειτα ὤφθη Ἰακώβῳ εἶτα τοῖς ἀποστόλοις πᾶσιν· [Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles. (1 Cor. 15:7 CSB)]

BGT 1 Cor. 15:8 ἔσχατον δὲ πάντων ὡσπερεὶ τῷ ἐκτρώματι ὤφθη κἀμοί. [Last of all, as to one abnormally born, He also appeared to me. (1 Cor. 15:8 CSB)]

BGT 1 Tim. 3:16 καὶ ὁμολογουμένως μέγα ἐστὶν τὸ τῆς εὐσεβείας μυστήριον· ὃς ἐφανερώθη ἐν σαρκί, ἐδικαιώθη ἐν πνεύματι, ὤφθη ἀγγέλοις, ἐκηρύχθη ἐν ἔθνεσιν, ἐπιστεύθη ἐν κόσμῳ, ἀνελήμφθη ἐν δόξῃ. [And most certainly, the mystery of godliness is great: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory. (1 Tim. 3:16 CSB)]

BGT Rev. 11:19 Καὶ ἠνοίγη ὁ ναὸς τοῦ θεοῦ ὁ ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ καὶ ὤφθη ἡ κιβωτὸς τῆς διαθήκης αὐτοῦ ἐν τῷ ναῷ αὐτοῦ, καὶ ἐγένοντο ἀστραπαὶ καὶ φωναὶ καὶ βρονταὶ καὶ σεισμὸς καὶ χάλαζα μεγάλη. [God’s sanctuary in heaven was opened, and the ark of His covenant appeared in His sanctuary. There were flashes of lightning, rumblings of thunder, an earthquake, and severe hail. (Rev. 11:19 CSB)]

BGT Rev. 12:1 Καὶ σημεῖον μέγα ὤφθη ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ, γυνὴ περιβεβλημένη τὸν ἥλιον, καὶ ἡ σελήνη ὑποκάτω τῶν ποδῶν αὐτῆς καὶ ἐπὶ τῆς κεφαλῆς αὐτῆς στέφανος ἀστέρων δώδεκα, [A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of 12 stars on her head. (Rev. 12:1 CSB)]

BGT Rev. 12:3 καὶ ὤφθη ἄλλο σημεῖον ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ, καὶ ἰδοὺ δράκων μέγας πυρρὸς ἔχων κεφαλὰς ἑπτὰ καὶ κέρατα δέκα καὶ ἐπὶ τὰς κεφαλὰς αὐτοῦ ἑπτὰ διαδήματα [Then another sign appeared in heaven: There was a great fiery red dragon having seven heads and 10 horns, and on his heads were seven diadems. (Rev. 12:3 CSB)]

What might be made of comparing the references to the LORD’s presence, angelic messengers or divine glory and ὤφθη in the OT with references of ὤφθη and Jesus in the NT? One similar theme and one NT distinction.

  1. Across the Bible, ὤφθη used in this way synthesizes divine activity in the flow of redemptive history. God’s presence (whether the LORD or Jesus), angels or divine glory answers questions looming in the mind of the one receiving the appearance, shaping their understanding of the present situation and prompting their next steps.
  2. And these ‘next steps’ provide a framework for distinguishing the NT uses of ὤφθη considered here. In the NT, those to whom the resurrected Jesus appeared were implicitly  witnesses of Jesus resurrection–those who would actively participating in testifying the (good) news of fulfillment and victory in Him. The OT recipients were primarily just that, recipients; the NT recipients were messengers of Christ’s supremacy over sin and death–willing themselves to die for it as Paul noted in 1 Cor 15:31-32: “I affirm by the pride in you that I have in Christ Jesus our Lord: I die every day! If I fought wild animals in Ephesus with only human hope, what good did that do me? If the dead are not raised, Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”