John E. Remsberg
[HTML and editing by Cliff Walker, 2000]
The Resurrection of Christ
How long did Jesus say he would remain in the grave?
"For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth" (Matthew xii, 40).
How long did he remain in the grave?
Synoptics: Being buried on Friday evening, and having risen on or before Sunday morning, he was in the grave, at the most, but two nights and one day.
What occurred on the morning of the resurrection?
Matthew: "There was a great earthquake" (xxviii, 2)
The other Evangelists know nothing of this earthquake. They not only omit it, but their accounts of the resurrection preclude the possibility of its occurrence.
Who were the first to visit the tomb on the morning of the resurrection?
John: "Mary Magdalene" (xx, 1).
Matthew: "Mary Magdalene and the other Mary" (xxviii, 1).
Mark: "Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome" (xvi, 1, 2).
Luke: "Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women" (xxiv, 1-10).
Who was Salome?
"The wife of Zebedee, as appears from comparing Matt. xxvii, 56, with Mark xv, 40." -- Smith's Bible Dictionary.
Matthew says that the women who witnessed the crucifixion were "Mary Magdalene, and Mary the Mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee's children." Mark says the women were "Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the less and of Joses, and Salome." This is a discrepancy that can be reconciled only by supposing that the mother of Zebedee's children (James and John) was Salome. But the Gospel of the Egyptians, older than either Matthew or Mark, and accepted by early Christians as authentic, states that Salome was a single woman.
At what time in the morning did the women visit the tomb?
Mark: "At the rising of the sun" (xvi, 2).
John: "When it was yet dark" (xx, 1).
If they came "at the rising of the sun," or "when the sun was risen" (New Ver.), it was not yet dark.
When does Matthew say they came?
"In the end of the Sabbath as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week" (xxviii, 1).
If they came "in the end of the Sabbath," and Jesus had already risen, then his resurrection took place, not on the first day of the week, as claimed, but on the seventh day. Matthew was a Jew; yet the author of this Gospel was seemingly ignorant of the Jewish method of computing time, according to which the Sabbath began and ended at sunset. He evidently supposed that the night preceding their visit to the tomb belonged to the seventh day, whereas it belonged to the first day.
Was the tomb open, or closed, when they came?
Luke: "They found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre" (xxiv, 2).
Matthew: The tomb was closed. The stone was not rolled from the door until after they came (xxviii, 1, 2).
This, in the opinion of most critics, is the meaning of Matthew's language.
Whom did they meet at the tomb?
Matthew: "The angel" (xxviii, 2-5).
Mark: "A young man" (xvi, 5).
Luke: "Two men" (xxiv, 4).
John: "Two angels" (xx, 12).
Were these men or angels in the sepulchre or outside of it?
Matthew: Outside of it (xxviii, 2).
Mark, Luke and John: Inside of it (Mark xvi, 5; Luke xxiv, 3, 4; John xx, 11, 12).
Were they sitting or standing?
Luke: Standing (xxiv, 4).
Matthew, Mark and John: Sitting (Matt. xxviii, 2; Mark xvi, 1; John xx, 12).
What were the first words they spoke to the women?
Matthew and Mark: "Be not affrighted" (Mark xvi, 6; Matt. xxviii, 5).
Luke: "Why seek ye the living among the dead?" (xxiv, 5.)
John: "Woman, why weepest thou?" (xx, 13.)
Did Mary Magdalene observe the divine messengers when she first came to the tomb?
Synoptics: She did (Matt. xxviii, 1-5; Mark xvi, 1-5; Luke xxiv, 1-4).
John: She did not (xx, 1, 2, 11, 12).
Who became frightened at the messengers?
Matthew: "The keepers did shake, and became as dead men" (xxviii, 4).
Mark and Luke: "They [the women] were affrighted" (Mark xvi, 5; Luke xxiv, 5).
What did the women do when they became frightened?
Mark: "They went out quickly and fled" (xvi, 8).
Luke: "They bowed down their faces to the earth" (xxiv, 5).
Did the women see Jesus?
Matthew: They did. "As they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them" (xxviii, 9).
Luke: They did not see him (xxiv).
Did the women tell the disciples what they had seen?
Luke: They "returned from the sepulchre, and told all these things unto the eleven, and to all the rest" (xxiv, 9).
Mark: "Neither said they anything to any man; for they were afraid" (xvi, 8).
With these words the Gospel of Mark ends, the words that follow being an interpolation. In this appended passage Mary Magdalene is declared to have seen Jesus and informed them of it, but they "believed not."
How many disciples visited the tomb?
Luke: But one, Peter (xxiv, 12).
John: Two, Peter and John (xx, 3).
Who looked into the sepulchre and beheld the linen clothes?
Luke: "Then arose Peter, and ran into the sepulchre; and stooping down, he beheld the linen clothes" (xxiv, 12).
John: "So they ran both together and the other disciple [John] did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre. And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes" (xx, 4, 5).
Did Peter enter into the sepulchre?
John: He did. "Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre" (xx, 6).
Luke: He did not. He looked into the sepulchre "and departed" (xxiv, 12).
State all of the appearances of Jesus mentioned by the Evangelists.
1. To the two Marys (xxviii, 9).
2. To the eleven in Galilee (17).
1. To Mary Magdalene (xvi, 9).
2. To two of his disciples (l2).
3. To the eleven at meat (14).
The appearances of Jesus mentioned in Mark are all in the apocryphal supplement. The Gospel of Mark proper does not record a single appearance of Jesus.
1. To Cleopas and his companion (xxiv, 13-31).
2. To Simon (Peter) (34).
3. To the eleven and others (36).
1. To Mary Magdalene (xx, 14-18).
2. To ten (?) disciples (19-24).
3. To the eleven (26-29).
4. To Peter, John and others (xxi).
The last chapter of this Gospel, which contains the account of his fourth appearance, and which ascribes the authorship of the Gospel to the "beloved disciple" (John), is a forgery.
No two of the Evangelists agree. No two of them are fully agreed in regard to a single appearance. Each not only omits the appearances mentioned by the others, but his narrative in nearly every instance excludes them. As Strauss says, "The designation of the locality in one excludes the appearances narrated by the rest; the determination of time in another leaves no space for the narratives of his fellow-evangelists; the enumeration of a third is given without any regard to the events reported by his predecessors; lastly, among several appearances recounted by various narrators, each claims to be the last, and yet has nothing in common with the others. Hence nothing but wilful blindness can prevent the perception that no one of the narrators knew and presupposed what another records."
Referring to the different accounts of the resurrection given by the Evangelists, Dr. Westcott says: "They contain difficulties which it is impossible to explain with certainty" (Introduction to Study of Gospels, p. 329).
Dr. Farrar makes the following admission: "Any one who will attentively read side by side the narratives of these appearances on the first day of the resurrection, will see that they have only been preserved for us in general, interblended, and scattered notices, which, in strict exactness, render it impossible, without many arbitrary suppositions, to produce from them a certain narrative of the order of events. The lacunae, the compressions, the variations, the actual differences, the subjectivity of the narrators as affected by spiritual revelations, render all harmonies at the best uncertain" (Life of Christ, Vol. II, p. 432, note).
State the appearances mentioned by Paul.
1. "He was seen of Cephas."
2. "Then of the twelve."
3. "After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once."
4. "After that he was seen of James."
5. "Then of all the apostles."
6. "And last of all he was seen of me also."
Paul says that his first appearance was to Peter. This contradicts all of the Evangelists. His next appearance, Paul declares, was to the twelve. But there were no twelve at this time; for Judas had deserted them and his successor had not been elected. Paul evidently knew nothing of the betrayal of Jesus by Judas. He says Jesus was seen by five hundred brethren at once. The Evangelists are all ignorant of this appearance, while the author of Acts states that there were but one hundred and twenty "brethren" in all, and even this number is considered too large by critics. He says that he appeared to James, an appearance of which the Evangelists know nothing. After this he states that he was seen of all the apostles. This is the only appearance mentioned by Paul which can be reconciled with any of the Evangelists, and this cannot be reconciled with all of them.
"Last of all He was seen of me also." Paul's belief in the resurrection was based solely upon Jesus's supposed appearance to him; for the other alleged appearances he had rejected. Not until he imagined that he had seen Jesus did he believe that the disciples had seen him, and the appearance of Jesus to him, which occurred several years after the resurrection and ascension, is represented as an occurrence of exactly the same character as his appearances to the disciples. Paul's vision was clearly a delusion, and if so the other appearances, measured by Paul's criterion, were delusions also. The Rev. John W. Chadwick truly says: "Paul's witness to the resurrection is the ruin of the argument."
To whom did Jesus first appear?
Matthew: To Mary Magdalene and the other Mary (xxviii, 1, 9).
Mark and John: To Mary Magdalene alone (Mark xvi, 9; John xx, 14-18).
Luke: To Cleopas and his companion (xxiv, 13-31).
Paul: To Cephas (Peter) (I Cor. xv, 5).
Where was Mary Magdalene when Jesus first appeared to her?
John: At the sepulchre (xx, 11-14).
Matthew: On her way home from the sepulchre (xxvii, 8,9).
Did Mary know Jesus when he first appeared to her?
Matthew: She did (xxviii, 9).
John: "She ... knew not that it was Jesus" (xx, 14).
Was she permitted to touch him?
Matthew: "They [Mary Magdalene and her companion] came and held him by the feet" (xxviii, 9).
John: "Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not" (xx, 17).
Where did he appear to his disciples?
Matthew: In Galilee.
Luke: In Jerusalem.
Matthew says that when Mary Magdalene and the other Mary visited the tomb an angel appeared to them and said: "Go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him" (xxviii, 7). As they ran to convey this intelligence, Jesus himself met them and repeated the command: "Go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me" (10). "Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him" (16, 17).
Luke (xxiv, 13-35) states that on the day of the resurrection Jesus journeyed to Emmaus, a village some distance from Jerusalem, with Cleopas and his companion. They did not recognize him until after their arrival there, when they returned at once to Jerusalem and informed the disciples. "As they thus spake Jesus himself stood in the midst of them" (36). He conversed with them for a time, after which "he led them out as far as to Bethany" where he took his final leave of them and ascended to heaven (38-51). Instead of bidding them go to Galilee, a three days journey from Jerusalem, as Matthew states, his command was "Tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high," which, according to Acts (ii, 1-13), was not until the day of Pentecost, seven weeks later.
Matthew's narrative forbids the supposition of any meeting in Judea, while Luke's precludes the possibility of a meeting in Galilee.
Regarding this discrepancy Dean Alford says: "We must be content to walk by faith, and not by sight" (Greek Testament, p. 905).
How far from Jerusalem was Emmaus, where Jesus made his first appearance?
Luke: "Which was from Jerusalem about threescore furlongs" (xxiv, 13).
Threescore furlongs was seven and one-half Roman or about seven American miles. Emmaus of Judea was about twenty-five miles, or two hundred furlongs from Jerusalem. There was an Emmaus in Galilee, about seventy miles from Jerusalem. It is believed by some that the legend related to the latter place and was subsequently transferred by Luke to Judea.
How many disciples were present when he first appeared to them?
Matthew and Luke: Eleven (Matt. xxviii, 16, 17; Luke xxiv, 33-36).
John: But ten, Thomas being absent (xx, 19-24).
Paul: Twelve (I Cor. xv, 5).
What effect had his presence when he first appeared to them?
Luke: "They were terrified and affrighted" (xxiv, 36, 37).
John: "Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord" (xx, 20).
How many of the disciples doubted the reality of his appearance?
Matthew: "Some doubted" (xxviii, 17).
John: But one doubted -- Thomas (xx, 24, 25).
Were they all finally convinced of his resurrection?
John: They were.
Matthew: They were not.
When he appeared to them did they know that he must rise from the dead?
John: "For as yet they knew not that he must rise from the dead" (xx, 9).
This cannot be reconciled with the Synoptics, who state that during his ministry he had acquainted them with it. "From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day" (Matthew xvi, 21; Mark viii, 31; Luke ix, 22).
Paul says that the last appearance of Jesus was to him. What did his companions do when they saw the light which attended the appearance?.
Acts: "The men which journeyed with him stood speechless" (ix, 7).
Paul: "We were all fallen to the earth" (Acts xxvi, 14).
Did Paul's companions see Jesus?
Acts: They did not. "The men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man" (ix, 7).
This shows that Jesus' alleged appearance to Paul was an imaginary and not a real appearance.
The author of Acts says that his companions heard a voice. Is this true?
Paul: "They that were with me ... heard not the voice"(Acts xxii, 9).
Was Jesus seen by women after his resurrection?
Matthew, Mark and John: He was.
Luke and Paul: He was not.
According to Luke and Paul his most faithful followers were not honored by a visit from their Lord, but were neglected and ignored. The resurrection was not for woman. Nowhere is sex prejudice more conspicuous than in the accounts of the resurrection written by Paul and the Pauline Evangelist. To ignore the testimony of Mary Magdalene Is to ignore the testimony of the chief witness for the resurrection.
From where did Jesus rise?
All: From the dead. "He is risen from the dead" (Matt. xxviii, 7). "It behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead" (Luke xxiv, 46). "He was risen from the dead" (John xxi, 14).
According to the Evangelists Jesus rose, not from the grave -- not from the place where the bodies of the dead were deposited -- but from the lower world -- from the realm of the dead -- where the shades of the departed were supposed to repose. Regarding this Dr. Hooykaas says:
"Let us begin by considering what that word 'resurrection' really meant, whether applied to Jesus or to others. Later representations, down to our own times, have regarded it as equivalent to a rising from the grave; but the question is, what it meant in the faith and preaching of the Apostles, in the genuine original, primitive tradition that Jesus had risen. Now, 'resurrection' means elsewhere a return from the realm of shades to the human life on earth; and Jesus too had left the underworld, but not, in this case, to return at once to life upon the earth, but to be taken up provisionally into heaven. Originally the resurrection and ascension of Jesus were one. It was only later that the conception sprang up of his having paused upon earth, whether for a single day or for several weeks, on his journey from the abyss to the height.
"We may, therefore, safely assert that if the friends of Jesus had thought as we do of the lot of those that die, they would never have so much as dreamed of their Master's resurrection or ascension. For to the Christian belief of today it would be, so to speak, a matter of course that Jesus, like all good and noble souls -- and indeed above all others -- would go straight 'to a better world,' 'to heaven,' 'to God,' at the instant of his death; but in the conception of the Jews, including the Apostles, this was impossible. Heaven was the abode of the Lord and his angels only; and if an Enoch or an Elijah had been caught up there alive, to dwell there for a time, it was certain that all who died, without exception, ever, even the purest and most holy, must go down as shades into the realms of the dead in the bowels of the earth -- and thence, of course, they would not issue excepting by 'rising again'. And this is why we are never told that Jesus rose 'from death,' far less 'from the grave,' but always 'from the dead' " (Bible for Learners, Vol. III, p. 463).
Was he readily recognized by his friends?
Matthew, Luke and John: He was not.
Matthew says that when his disciples met him in Galilee, after having gone there for the express purpose of meeting him, "some doubted" (xxviii, 17). Luke says that two of his friends journeyed with him from Jerusalem to Emmaus, conversing with him on the way, and notwithstanding they had been informed of his resurrection, they did not recognize him until after they had reached the village. John says that when Mary Magdalene met him she "knew not that it was Jesus,...supposing him to be the gardener" (xx, 14, 15); and where he met his disciples at the Lake of Tiberius they "knew not that it was Jesus" (xxi, 4).
Did his appearances indicate a corporeal, or merely a spiritual existence?
The Evangelists declare that he was not only seen by his disciples and others, but that he conversed with them. Matthew says the two Marys held him by the feet, Luke says he invited the disciples to handle him, and John says that Thomas examined his wounds; while both Luke and John state that he partook of nourishment.
On the other hand, Luke says that while he sat at meat with Cleopas and his companion at Emmaus "He vanished out of their sight" (xxiv, 31). John says that while the disciples were assembled in a room in Jerusalem, "when the doors were shut," Jesus came "and stood in the midst" (xx, 19). Eight days later the appearance was repeated: "Then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst" (26). Mark says that after he appeared to Mary Magdalene "he appeared in another form" to two of his disciples (xvi, 12).
While the first named appearances can be reconciled with so-called spiritual manifestations, the latter cannot be reconciled with a corporeal existence.
In the preceding chapter we have shown that the alleged crucifixion of Jesus is unworthy of belief. If he was not crucified the story of his resurrection is, of course, a fiction. But conceding, for the sake of argument, that he was crucified; does this make his resurrection probable, or even possible? The crucifixion of a man is a possible occurrence; but the corporeal resurrection of a man who has suffered death is impossible. These reputed appearances of Jesus, if they have a historical foundation, were evidently mere subjective impressions or apparitions. Although he is declared to have remained on earth forty days, he made, at the most, but two or three brief visits to his disciples, appearing and disappearing like a phantom. Instead of abiding with them, teaching them the doctrines of his religion -- of which they professed to be ignorant -- and preparing them for their coming ministry he is represented as keeping in seclusion, or roaming aimlessly along the country highways, like some demented creature. Referring to his appearance to his disciples, Jerome says: "The apostles supposed him to be a spirit, or according to the Gospel which the Nazarenes receive [the Hebrew Gospel of Matthew] an incorporeal demon."
The possibility, and even prevalency, of apparitions similar to those related of Jesus are recognized by every student of psychology. Sir Benjamin Brodie, in his Psychological Inquiries (p. 78), says: "There are abundant proofs that impressions may be made in the brain by other causes simulating those which are made on it by external objects through the medium of the organs of sense, thus producing false perceptions, which may, in the first instance, and before we have had time to reflect on the subject, be mistaken for realities."
The appearance of Jesus to Mary Magdalene was not believed even by the disciples. If the disciples believed that Mary was deluded, is it unreasonable to believe that they were deluded also? Illusions are contagious and may affect many minds as well as one. Dr. Carpenter, one of the highest English authorities on mental science, says: "If not only a single individual, but several persons should be 'possessed' by one and the same idea or feeling, the same misinterpretation may be made by all of them; and in such a case the concurrence of their testimony does not add the least strength to it" (Principles of Mental Physiology, p. 208). In confirmation of this is cited the following from a work on The Philosophy of Apparitions, by Dr. Hibbert, F.R.S.E.: "A whole ship's company was thrown into the utmost consternation by the apparition of a cook who had died a few days before. He was distinctly seen walking ahead of the ship, with a peculiar gait by which he was distinguished when alive, through having one of his legs shorter than the other. On steering the ship towards the object, it was found to be a piece of floating wreck."
These supposed appearances of Jesus were, at the most, only apparitions, and "Apparitions," to quote Dr. Hibbert again, "are nothing more than morbid symptoms, which are indicative of an intense excitement of the renovated feelings of the mind "(Philosophy of Apparitions, p. 375).
Lord Amberley advocates a psychological explanation of the reputed appearances of Jesus from which I quote the following "Whatever other qualities Jesus may have possessed or lacked, there can be no question that he had one -- that of inspiring in others a strong attachment to himself. He had in his brief career surrounded himself with devoted disciples; and he was taken from their midst in the full bloom of his powers by a violent and early death. Now there are some who have been taught by the bitter experience of their lives how difficult, nay, how impossible it is to realize in imagination the fact that a beloved companion is in truth gone from them forever.... We fondly conceive that in some way the dead must still exist; and if so, can one, who was so tender before, listen to our cry of pain and refuse to come? Can one, who soothed us in the lesser troubles of our lives, look on while we are suffering the greatest agony of all and fail to comfort? It cannot be. Imagination declines to picture the long future that lies before us. We cannot understand that we shall never again listen to the tones of the familiar voice; never feel the touch of the gentle hand; never be encouraged by the warm embrace that tells us we are loved, or find a refuge from miserable thoughts and the vexations of the world in the affectionate and ever-open heart. All this is too hard for us. We long for a resurrection; we should believe in it if we could; we do believe in it in sleep, when our feelings are free to roam at pleasure, unrestrained by the chilling presence of the material world. In dreams the old life is repeated again and again. Sometimes the lost one is beside us as of old and we are quite untroubled by the thought of parting. Sometimes there is a strange and confusing consciousness that the great calamity has happened, or has been thought to happen, but that now we are again together, and that a new life has succeeded upon death. Granting only a strong emotion and a lively phantasy, we may comprehend at once how, in many lands, to many mourners, the images of their dreams may also become the visions of their waking hours" (Analysis of Religious Belief; pp. 275, 276).
Renan says: "For the historian, the life of Jesus finishes with his last sigh. But such was the impression he had left in the heart of his disciples, and of a few devoted women, that during some weeks more it was as if he were living and consoling them. Had his body been taken away or did enthusiasm, always credulous, create afterwards the group of narratives by which it was sought to establish faith in the resurrection? In the absence of opposing documents this can never be ascertained. Let us say, however, that the strong imagination of Mary Magdalene played an important part in the circumstance. Divine power of love! Sacred moments in which the passion of one possessed gave to the world a resuscitated God" (Life of Jesus, p. 296).
If Jesus appeared in a material body, was he naked, or clothed?
This is not a vital, but it is a pertinent question. It is stated that he appeared to Mary Magdalene immediately after the resurrection. Did he appear to her naked, or was he clothed? As she mistook him for the gardener, and as the gardener undoubtedly went clad, it may be presumed that Jesus was clad also. If so, where did he procure his clothes? His own garments were divided among the soldiers, and his grave clothes were left in the sepulchre. If it be assumed that he was taken from the tomb by his friends, as some critics believe, the difficulty vanishes.
What is said of the saints who arose on the day of the crucifixion?
Matthew: They "came out of the graves after the resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many" (xxvii, 53).
Before Matthew's wholesale resurrection of the saints the resurrection of Jesus pales into insignificance. In the opinion of many supernaturalists Matthew has mixed too large a dose of the miraculous for even Christian credulity to swallow, and they would gladly omit this portion of it. Regarding this story Dr. Farrar says: "An earthquake shook the earth and split the rocks, and as it rolled away from their places the great stones which closed and covered the cavern sepulchres of the Jews, so it seemed to the imaginations of many to have disimprisoned the spirits of the dead, and to have filled the air with ghostly visitants, who after Christ had risen appeared to linger in the Holy City" (Life of Christ, Vol. II, p. 419) Dean Milman dismisses it in much the same way. Referring to the earthquake, he says: "The same convulsion would displace the stones which covered the ancient tombs and lay open many of the innumerable rock-hewn sepulchres which perforated the hills on every side of the city, and expose the dead to public view. To the awe-struck and depressed minds of the followers of Jesus, no doubt, were confined these visionary appearances of the spirits of their deceased brethren" (History of Christianity, Vol. I, p. 336).
If the minds of the disciples were so greatly affected that they imagined they beheld the resurrected bodies of strangers whom they had never met and of whom they had probably never heard -- for they were nearly a hundred miles from the graves of their own kindred -- is it strange that they should imagine they saw the resurrected Master with whom they had daily associated for months and perhaps years? To characterize these resurrected saints as "ghostly visitants" and "visionary appearances," and the resurrected Christ as a real being, is a distinction without a scintilla of evidence to support it. Both appearances, if they be historical, belong to the same class of mental phenomena; and are, indeed, the offspring of the same minds.
When did the resurrection take place?
All: In the night.
Who witnessed it?
All: No one.
The author of Supernatural Religion says: "The remarkable fact is, therefore, absolutely undeniable, that there was not, and that it is not even pretended that there was, a single eye-witness to the actual Resurrection. The empty grave, coupled with the supposed subsequent appearances of Jesus, is the only evidence of the Resurrection" (p. 1004).
It is said that a guard was stationed at the tomb. Why was this done?
Matthew: "The chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate, saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. Command, therefore, that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead" (xxvii, 62 64).
Is it not strange that his enemies should he cognizant of this when his disciples "knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead?" (John xx, 9.)
Regarding this the Bible for Learners says: "Was such a foolish report really circulated among the Jews? In any case this story, which is worked out elaborately in the Gospel of Nicodemus, is quite absurd. Is it likely that the enemies of Jesus would have heard a prophecy of his rising again when his very friends never dreamed of it for a moment, and when he had never once spoken of his 'resurrection' in public?" (Vol. III, p. 480.)
On what day did the Sanhedrim visit Pilate for the purpose of obtaining a guard?
Matthew: On the Sabbath (xxvii, 62).
Matthew, after describing the death and burial of Jesus, says: "Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate." It is generally conceded by Christian commentators that by "the next day" Matthew refers to the Sabbath, for if Jesus was crucified and buried on Friday, no other day can be meant. To avoid the disagreeable consequences of such an admission a few have contended that by "the day of preparation" is meant the Preparation of the Passover. But this renders the passage unintelligible. By "preparation" Matthew means, not the Preparation of the Passover, but the preparation of the Sabbath. This is made clear by the other Synoptics. After relating the events of the crucifixion, Mark begins his account of the burial with these words: "And now when the even was come, because it was the preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath" (xv, 42). Luke, after giving an account of the crucifixion and burial, says: "And that day was the preparation and the Sabbath drew on" (xxiii, 54).
It is claimed by the Evangelists that the Jewish priests of that period were such rigid observers of the Sabbath that they sought to put Jesus to death for simply healing the sick on that day. That the Sanhedrim desecrated the Sabbath, and especially the Passover Sabbath, by visiting and transacting business with a heathen ruler cannot be accepted as possible.
When was the guard placed at the tomb?
Matthew: Not until the second night.
It is argued that Jesus must have risen because a guard was placed at his tomb so that it was impossible for his disciples to "come by night, and steal him away." But had his body really been left in the tomb, as claimed, they would have taken it the first night had they desired it. The passage cited from Matthew in the preceding criticism declares that a guard was not requested of Pilate until the day following the crucifixion, so that the tomb was without a guard the first night. The sepulchre was not opened and examined when the guard was placed there on the following day. "So they went and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch" (Matt. xxvii, 66). Had the seal been found unbroken at the end of three days it would not have proved that Jesus' body still remained in the tomb. It would merely have proved that the body had not been removed after the seal was placed on it.
It may be urged that Jesus had prophesied that he would not rise until the third day, and that an earlier disappearance of the body could not be harmonized with a strict fulfillment of the prophecy. But of this prophecy the disciples, we have seen, were ignorant.
What is said in regard to the opening of the tomb?
Matthew: "In the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. And behold there was a great earthquake; for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it.... And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay" (xxviii, 1-6).
Matthew's story of the guard was evidently inserted for the express purpose of establishing a belief in the resurrection by making it appear impossible for his friends to have removed the body from the sepulchre. Yet this story suggests, if it does not prove, the very thing that he attempts to prove impossible. The sepulchre was opened in the presence of witnesses -- the guards and the women. Jesus did not emerge from it, nor did it contain his body. It was empty when opened. This renders probable, if not certain, one of two things: either his body was not deposited there, or it was removed before the watch was set.
Commenting on the empty tomb L. K. Washburn says: "If Jesus got out of the grave alive, he was put into it alive. If he was put into it dead, he was taken out dead. A depopulated sepulchre is not proof that its former tenant has moved to heaven. It is merely proof that somebody has stolen a dead body."
What did the guards do when they left the tomb?
Matthew: "Some of the watch came into the city, and showed unto the chief priests all the things that were done" (xxviii, 11).
To one acquainted with the discipline of the Roman army this story of the soldiers leaving their post thirty-six hours before the expiration of the watch assigned and going into the city and telling the Jews what had transpired is incredible.
What did the chief priests do?
Matthew: "They gave large sums of money unto the soldiers, saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept" (12, 13).
The penalty for sleeping while on duty was death, and no bribe could have induced them to declare that they were guilty of this offense even if the priests had promised to intercede for them. Again, had this transaction really occurred it would have been known only by the parties concerned in it, and when disclosure meant the direst punishment to both the bribe-givers and the bribe-takers, neither would have divulged the crime.
Strauss, criticizing the alleged action of the Jewish priests, says: "Their conduct, where the guards returning from the grave apprised them of the resurrection of Jesus, is truly impossible. They believe the assertion of the soldiers that Jesus had arisen out of his grave in a miraculous manner. How could the council many of whose members were Sadducees, receive this as credible? Even the Pharisees in the Sanhedrim, though they held in theory the possibility of a resurrection, would not, with the mean opinion they entertained of Jesus, be inclined to believe in his resurrection, especially as the assertion in the mouth of the guards sounded just like a falsehood invented to screen a failure in duty. The real Sanhedrists, on hearing such an assertion from the soldiers would have replied with exasperation: You lie! you have slept and allowed him to be stolen; but you will have to pay dearly for this when it comes to be investigated by the procurator. But instead of this, the Sanhedrists in our gospel speak them fair, and entreat them thus; Tell a lie, say that you have slept and allowed him to be stolen; moreover they pay them richly for the falsehood, and promise to exculpate them to the procurator. This is evidently spoken entirely on the Christian presupposition of the reality of the resurrection of Jesus; a presupposition, however, which is quite incorrectly attributed to the Sanhedrim" (Leben Jesu, pp. 806, 807).
What is said of the resurrection by Peter?
"Him God raised up the third day, and showed him openly; not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead" (Acts x, 40, 41)
If God really wished to convince all the people, why did he not show him to all the people? It is said that more than two millions of Jews attended the Passover. Had he desired to prove to them that Jesus was the Christ he would have assembled this multitude at midday and in their presence raised his crucified and buried Son. Yet not a single human being witnessed the resurrection, and not a single disinterested witness is said to have seen him after his death. Like a thief he escapes from his prison in the night and avoids publicity. This story of the resurrection is clearly a priestly invention and the composer of the speech ascribed to Peter was conscious of the fact.
What did Paul teach regarding the resurrection of Christ?
"That Christ should suffer and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead" (Acts xxvi, 23).
If Christ was the first to rise from the dead what becomes of the miracles of Lazarus, of the widow of Nain's son, and of the daughter of Jairus? What becomes of Matthew's saints who rose from the dead on the day of the crucifixion, two days before Christ rose?
What did Paul teach regarding the resurrection of the dead in general?
"If the dead rise not, then is Christ not raised" (I Corinthians xv, 16).
"He that goeth down to the grave shall come up no more" (Job vii, 9).
When did the disciples receive the Holy Ghost?
John: "And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost" (xx, 22).
This was on the evening of the resurrection. Forty days after this he said to them "Ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence" (Acts i, 5).
Acts: "And when the day of Pentecost was fully come ... they were all filled with the Holy Ghost" (ii, 1-4).
This was seven weeks after the resurrection.
On what day of the week did it occur?
John: "The first day of the week" (xx, 19).
John, like the author of the first Gospel, is evidently ignorant of the Jewish method of reckoning time. He makes the evening (it was night) following the first day a part of that day instead of the next day to which it belonged.
Did Thomas receive the Holy Ghost?
John: He did not. He was absent when the disciples received it (xx, 19-25).
Who had Jesus said would send the Holy Ghost to his disciples?
"The Comforter which is the Holy Ghost whom the Father will send" (John xiv, 26).
"I [Jesus] will send him unto you" (xvi, 7).
What effect had the Holy Ghost upon them?
Acts: They "began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance" (ii, 4).
Concerning this "gift" Greg says: "Ignorance and folly too often became the arbiters of wisdom -- and the ravings of delirium were listened to as the words of inspiration, and of God. If Jesus could have returned to earth thirty years after his death, and sat in the midst of an assembly of his followers, who were listening in hushed and wondering prostration of mind to a speaker in the 'unknown tongue,' how would he have wept over the humiliating and disappointing spectacle! how would he have grieved to think that the incoherent jargon of delirium or hysteria should be mistaken for the promptings of his Father's spirit!" (Creed of Christendom, p. 250.)
Who heard them speak in new tongues?
Acts: "Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians" (ii, 9-11).
Did representatives of all these nations really assemble to hear the disciples, or was this merely an imaginary gathering of the writer? Evidently the latter.
To the charge of drunkenness what reply did Peter make?
"These are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day" (Acts ii, 15).
A profane mind, unacquainted with Jewish customs, might infer from this that the disciples were not in the habit of becoming intoxicated before nine o'clock in the morning.
What inquiry did Paul make of John's disciples?
"Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?"
What did they say in reply?
"We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost" (Acts xix, 2).
This was many years after the death of Jesus. Either this colloquy is false, or the story of John the Baptist is false. If John was the forerunner of Christ, as claimed, his disciples became followers of Christ; and if they became followers of Christ, they were acquainted with the doctrine of the Holy Ghost -- if it existed at this time.
When did Jesus' disciples begin to baptize?
Matthew and Mark: Not until after his resurrection (Matt. xxviii, 18, 19; Mark xvi, 15, 16).
John: At the beginning of his ministry. "After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judea; and there he tarried with them, and baptized" (iii, 22). "The Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John. (Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples.)" (iv, 1, 2)
What form of baptism is Jesus said to have prescribed for the use of his apostles?
"In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost" (Matthew xxviii, 19).
The apostles did not baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, but in the name of Christ alone.
"Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ" (Acts ii, 38).
"They were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus" (viii, 16).
"He commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord" (x, 48).
"They were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus" (xix, 5).
Concerning this Greg says: "That this definite form of baptism proceeded from Jesus, is opposed by the fact that such an allocation of the Father, Son, and Spirit, does not elsewhere appear, except as a form of salutation in the epistles; while as a definite form of baptism it is nowhere met with throughout the New Testament. Moreover, it was not the form used, and could scarcely, therefore, have been the form commanded; for in the apostolic epistles, and even in the Acts, the form always is 'baptizing into Christ Jesus,' or, 'into the name of the Lord Jesus' " (Creed of Christendom, p. 191).
This ecclesiastical formula was not adopted by the church until late in the second century, and then, not for baptism, but for admission into the church. In regard to this the Rev. Dr. Hooykaas says: "Baptism into the name of God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son of God, and the Holy spirit, means baptism into the confession of or faith in these three, and is a short epitome of Christian doctrine of which Jesus certainly never dreamed; nay, it is obvious from all accounts that, even in the apostolic age, it was as yet quite unknown; and the still later age which drew up the words by no means intended them as a baptismal formula, but rather as a statement of the conditions of admission into the community. In making the utterance of these words, instead of the imposition of these conditions, the first act of admission into the community of Christ, the Church has confounded words with things" (Bible for Learners, Vol. III, pp. 472, 473).
What was his final command to the apostles?
"Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature" (Mark xvi, 15).
This is utterly irreconcilable with Acts (xi, 1-18). Eight years after the death of Jesus, Peter is condemned for preaching to the Gentiles. "And the apostles and brethren that were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God. And when Peter was come to Jerusalem, they that were of the circumcision contended with him" (1, 2). How does he meet the accusation and justify his conduct? By reminding them that it was the express will of their Master? No; he tells them that while in a trance at Joppa he had a vision instructing him to carry the gospel to the Gentiles. "When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life" (18)
How long did Jesus remain on earth?
Luke: One day (xxiv).
John: At least ten days (xx, xxi).
Acts: He was "seen of them forty days" (i, 3)
The greatest discrepancy is between Luke and Acts, two books which it is claimed were written by the same author.
Where did the ascension take place?
Mark: In Jerusalem (xvi, 14, com. Luke xxiv, 33).
Luke: At Bethany (xxiv, 50, 51).
Acts: At Mount Olivet (i, 9-12).
Describe the ascension.
Luke: "And it came to pass while he blessed them he was parted from them and carried up into heaven" (xxiv, 5l).
The ascension of Romulus doubtless suggested the story of the ascension of Jesus.
What occurred at the ascension?
Acts: "While they looked steadfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven" (i, 10, 11).
It is remarkable that the Evangelists who find space to record the sayings of lunatics and devils, leave not room to record the words of angels, or even note their presence.
For what purpose did Jesus ascend to heaven?
"I go to prepare a place for you" (John xiv, 2).
What was the need of this when the place had already been "prepared ... from the foundation of the world" (Matthew xxv, 34)?
Did Jesus ascend bodily into heaven?
Luke: He ascended to heaven in a body of flesh and blood (xxiv, 36-43, 50, 51).
Paul: "But some man will say, How are the dead raised up and with what body do they come? Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened except it die; and that which thou sowest thou sowest not that body that shall be" (I Corinthians xv, 35-37).
"It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body" (44)
"Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God" (50).
The whole theology of Paul is opposed to the bodily resurrection and ascension of Jesus. The Bible for Learners says: "In speaking of the resurrection, he [Paul] does not mean the reanimation of the body of Jesus; and indeed he expressly excludes such a thought by ascribing to the Christ a glorified and spiritual body not made of flesh and blood. It is equally certain that he thinks of the Christ as having appeared from heaven; and his ranking the appearance to himself -- unquestionably the product of his own fervid imagination -- as parallel with those which preceded it [his appearances to the disciples] seems to indicate that they were all visions alike" (Vol. III, p. 467).
Do all the Evangelists record the ascension?
Matthew and John, both of whom are declared to have been apostles, and the only Evangelists who are supposed to have witnessed the ascension, know nothing of it. The last twelve verses of Mark, it is admitted, are spurious; while the words, "carried up into heaven," of Luke do not appear in the Sinaitic version, the oldest version of the New Testament extant. With this forged appendix to Mark and this interpolated passage in Luke eliminated, the Four Gospels contain no mention of the ascension.
Had any man ever ascended to heaven before Jesus?
Jesus: "No man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven" (John iii, 13).
Then that story about Elijah is a fiction, is it?
In regard to the resurrection and ascension, Thomas Paine says: "As to the account given of his resurrection and ascension, it was the necessary counterpart of his birth. His historians having brought him into the world in a supernatural manner, were obliged to take him out again in the same manner, or the first part of the story must have fallen to the ground. The wretched contrivance with which this latter part is told exceeds every thing that went before it. The first part, that of the miraculous conception, was not a thing that admitted of publicity, and therefore the tellers of this part of the story had this advantage, that though they might not be credited, they could not be detected.... But the resurrection of a dead person from the grave, and his ascension through the air, is a thing very different as to the evidence it admits of, to the invisible conception of a child in the womb. The resurrection and ascension, supposing them to have taken place, admitted of public and ocular demonstration, like that of the ascension of a balloon, or the sun at noon-day, to all Jerusalem at least. A thing which everybody is required to believe, requires that the proof and evidence of it should be equal to all, and universal; and as the public visibility of this last related act was the only evidence that could give sanction to the former part, the whole of it falls to the ground, because that evidence never was given.... It is in vain to attempt to palliate or disguise this matter. The story, so far as relates to the supernatural part, has every mark of fraud and imposition stamped upon the face of it. Who were the authors of it is as impossible for us now to know, as it is for us to be assured that the books in which the account is related were written by the persons whose names they bear, the best surviving evidence we now have respecting this affair is the Jews. They are regularly descended from the people who lived in the times this resurrection and ascension is said to have happened, and they say, it is not true. It has long appeared to me a strange inconsistency to cite the Jews as a proof of the truth of the story. It is just the same as if a man were to say, I will prove the truth of what I have told you by producing the people who say it is false" (Age of Reason, pp. 10, 11).
"The story of Jesus Christ appearing after he was dead is the story of an apparition, such as timid imaginations can always create in vision, and credulity believe" (ibid., p. 161).
Supernatural Religion says: "The whole of the evidence for the Resurrection reduces itself to an undefined belief on the part of a few persons, in a notoriously superstitious age, that after Jesus had died and been buried they had seen him alive. These visions, it is admitted, occurred at a time of the most intense religious excitement, and under circumstances of wholly exceptional mental agitation and distress. The wildest alternations of fear, doubt, hope and indefinite expectation, added their effects to oriental imaginations already excited by indignation at the fate of their Master, and sorrow or despair at such a dissipation of their Messianic dreams. There was present every element of intellectual and moral disturbance. Now must we seriously ask again whether this bare and wholly unjustified belief can be accepted as satisfactory evidence for so astounding a miracle as the Resurrection? Can the belief of such men, in such an age, establish the reality of a phenomenon which is contradicted by universal experience? We have no evidence as to what actually occurred. We do not even know the facts upon which they based their inferences. We only know that they thought they had seen Jesus and that they, therefore, concluded that he had risen from the dead. It comes to us as bare belief from the Age of Miracles, unsupported by facts, uncorroborated by evidence, unaccompanied by proof of investigation, and unprovided with material for examination. What is such belief worth? We have no hesitation in saying that it is absolutely worth nothing" (pp. 1048, 1049).
The Rev. Dr. Phillip Schaff, one of the most eminent evangelical Christian scholars of this country, in his History of the Christian Church, makes this candid admission regarding the resurrection and ascension of Christ: "Truth compels us to admit that there are serious difficulties in harmonizing the accounts of the Evangelists, and in forming a consistent conception of Christ's resurrection body hovering as it were between heaven and earth, and a supernatural state, of a body clothed with flesh and blood and bearing the wound prints, and yet so spiritual as to appear and disappear through closed doors and to ascend visibly to heaven."