24 Elders the same Saints who were resurrected in Matthew 27:52-53?

Matthew 27:52-53

52 And the graves were opened: and many bodies of the saints that had slept arose,
53 And coming out of the tombs after his resurrection, came into the holy city, and appeared to many.

The 24 Elders in Heaven:

Apoc. 4:4
[4] And round about the throne were four and twenty seats; and upon the seats, four and twenty ancients sitting, clothed in white garments, and on their heads were crowns of gold.

Apoc. 4:10-11
[10] The four and twenty ancients fell down before him that sitteth on the throne, and adored him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying:

[11] Thou art worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory, and honour, and power: because thou hast created all things; and for thy will they were, and have been created.

Apoc. 5:5-10
[5] And one of the ancients said to me: Weep not; behold the lion of the tribe of Juda, the root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof.
[6] And I saw: and behold in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the ancients, a Lamb standing as it were slain, having seven horns and seven eyes: which are the seven Spirits of God, sent forth into all the earth. [7] And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat on the throne. [8] And when he had opened the book, the four living creatures, and the four and twenty ancients fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints: [9] And they sung a new canticle, saying: Thou art worthy, O Lord, to take the book, and to open the seals thereof; because thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God, in thy blood, out of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation. [10] And hast made us to our God a kingdom and priests, and we shall reign on the earth.

Apoc. 11:16-19
[16] And the four and twenty ancients, who sit on their seats in the sight of God, fell on their faces and adored God, saying: [17] We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, who art, and who wast, and who art to come: because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and thou hast reigned. [18] And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest render reward to thy servants the prophets and the saints, and to them that fear thy name, little and great, and shouldest destroy them who have corrupted the earth. [19] And the temple of God was opened in heaven: and the ark of his testament was seen in his temple, and there were lightnings, and voices, and an earthquake, and great hail.

Apoc. 19:4
[4] And the four and twenty ancients, and the four living creatures fell down and adored God that sitteth upon the throne, saying: Amen; Alleluia. [5] And a voice came out from the throne, saying: Give praise to our God, all ye his servants; and you that fear him, little and great.

Question: Are the 24 Elders the same Saints who were resurrected in Matthew ?

It’s not impossible, of course, but it is very unlikely as there is nothing in the passages you quoted from the Book of Revelation that directly or even indirectly ties the 24 Elders to the resuscitated saints in Matthew’s Gospel.

The Navarre Bible comments:

52-53. These events are undoubtedly difficult to understand. No explanation should say what the text does not say. Nor does any other part of sacred Scripture, or the Magisterium of the Church, help to clarify what actually happened.

The great Church writers have suggested three possible explanations. First: that it was not a matter of resurrections in the strict sense, but of apparitions of these dead people. Second: they would have been dead people who arose in the way Lazarus did, and then died again. Third: their resurrection would have been definitive, that is glorious, in this way anticipating the final universal resurrection of the dead.

The first explanation does not seem to be very faithful to the text, which does use the words “were raised” (“surrexenint”). The third is difficult to reconcile with the clear assertion of Scripture that Christ was the first-born from the dead (cf. 1 Cor 15:20; Col 1:18). St Augustine, St Jerome and St Thomas are inclined towards the second explanation because they feel it fits in best with the sacred text and does not present the theological difficulties which the third does (cf. “Summa Theologiae”, III,q. 53, a. 3). his also in keeping with the solution proposed by the “St Pius V Catechism”, I, 6, 9.

The Haydock Commentary notes:

St. Jerome takes notice, that these saints did not rise with their bodies till after Christ was risen; and so it follows, that going out of the graves, after the resurrection, they came into the holy city, (i.e. into Jerusalem) and appeared to many. (Witham) — This event was a prophecy of the fatal destruction that was shortly to fall upon the temple; and also, that it should henceforth give place to things more noble and sublime. It likewise shews that greatness of Christ’s power. (St. Chrysostom, hom. lxxxix.)

Other Church Fathers and early Ecclesiastical Writers have many other interesting things to say about this passage. You can find their comments here.

I had always assumed the 24 elders were the 12 apostles, with Matthias, not Judas and the 12 sons of Jacob.

I have always found it rather odd, and a large gap in the Tradition, that the dead rose suddenly, and then disappeared from the pages of history, with nary a trace not a mention thenceforth.

We can speculate that they are the elders in heaven, but is that not only specularaion, after all 2000 years after the fact?

It was a miracle leading to nowhere.

I don’t speak with authority on this … but I will share with you what I thought of.

As there were 12 tribes of Israel and 12 apostles, these 24 elders were a nice symbolic number of saints representing the people of God through all time.

Though I didn’t mention them in this niumber, the faithful patriarchs and holy women who predated Judaism (e.g. Able, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac etc.) before there were 12 tribes are included symbolically somehow too.

You bring up an interesting point with that scripture though, since these “saints” were seen risen from the dead … but none of them named. Who were they? And are these same people later named anywhere?

The bigger message seemed to be that, though honored in heaven with crowns and a degree of glory, these saints counted all that as nothing compared with just being close to the throne of the lamb and being able to worship him.

The resurrections of Matt 27:52- 53 are just another reason Christianity took off in Judea after the feast of Pentecost and the coming of the spirit.

A lot of things happened in the Incarnation, Crucifixion and Resurrection that are unique events. But I’m not sure we can say that seeing departed loved ones is one of them considering how many reports we have of that happening.

Going back to what happened when Jesus passed: the Temple veil ripped in two. That veil separated the people from God. Time from Eternity, is another way to look at it. Jesus Christ came to tell us Eternal Truth, what was always True. But He also changed the fabric of reality. From then on, things worked differently.

And, we did see people who had passed before this in the persons of Elijah and Moses meeting on the mountain with Jesus. Jesus passing, His perfect sacrifice, rent the division of Time/Space and cause people to be able to see that Kingdom of God that Jesus always said was “among them.”

The Sacred writer recounted this event in historical context according to the understanding of his time: that the people who were trapped in Sheol, in the underworld, were brought out. But it’s easily just that this veil between physical reality and Eternity was “rent in two” briefly, just as the very earth was sent into earthquakes and the sky blackened, this enormous change took place and the Universe responded. And Eternity was visible for a few moments and people could see their loved ones.

That miracle leads to the single most important thing anyone can know: life is Eternal. It presaged the Resurrection: your loved ones are alive and you can see them. Jesus is alive even if you cannot see Him right now … and when He appears it is not because He was never Crucified or never died, but because life is Eternal.

Maybe it was a brief visitation then, or a vision, a glimpse through the rip in the space-time continuum, rather than a rising from the dead where they actually stayed on with the families here on earth.

They way I understood it was that these people were physically raised from the dead. I am unaware of any tradition which states either that they stayed on with their families as before, or whether they came, were briefly seen, and they passed on to the great hereafter as before.

There was the brief biblical mention, then no further comment, as to whether they ascended, or descended, lived for a time and then passed on, or maybe still live with us still as immortals.

We can speculate and theologize on our own for sure, and some are very adept at that too.

It just seems like a rather extraordinary event to have occurred with no further comment or explication in either theology or legend. That is what I find odd, not that it happened, as the Bible tells us that it did, but that there is so little follow up as to what came next.

And it’s unique to Matthew, which makes it rather singular. Matthew was a document specifically for evangelization. It wasn’t copied and handed out, it was read at meetings of Christians and interested persons and so there was an evangelist to explain what was read. It also developed over at least a century into it’s final form. Possibly after a couple hundred years, it was other parts that occupied the evangelists attention more and whatever explanation there was for this was lost, since it would have been an oral tradition.

Yes, that all rings true to anything I know about it.

It remains a miracle lost in the mists of time for sure.
Nary a trace to be found, outside of the mention in Matthew.

That is what I find so odd about it. Oral traditions could even remember or create a name for the woman at the well, but for this extraordinary even, all is lost.

Most biblical scholars have the final composition of Matthew around possibly AD 47, but no later than AD 70. Even this last date was well within the living memory of those who were around at the time.

Some modern (since the late 19th century) scholars who assign a later than this have done so almost entirely based on a denial of Jesus’ prophecies in Matthew, especially of later persecutions of the Church and the destruction of the Jewish temple in AD 70. I think this represents a rather cynical view based, in general, upon the denial of the miraculous.

(For more info, see the New Advent article on Gospel of St. Matthew.)

I would surmise that a possible reason more information about this remarkable event isn’t expanded upon by Matthew is that the original hearers were to some extent familiar with this event and were only being reminded of it in passing. It is widely acknowledged that Matthew’s Gospel was primarily directed at Jewish Christians in the early Church: perhaps some of these (or their parents) were present in Jerusalem when these things happened.

Cornelius a Lapide says concerning Matt 27

But it is not clear who these saints were. Probably those, in the first place, who were specially connected with Christ, either by kindred, or promise, or type and figure, or by faith and hope, or else by chastity and holiness; as Adam, Abraham, Isaac, Melchisedek, David, who wished to be buried in the promised land, and thus be partakers of Christ’s resurrection. Job, also, and Jonah, as types of the resurrection; Moses, Joshua, Samuel, Isaiah, and the other Prophets. Daniel, also, and his three companions (though their bodies are at Rome). Eve, also (some suppose), as well as Adam, though Lorinus considers that the Blessed Virgin was the first woman raised from the grave, as Christ Himself was the first-fruits among men. Those, also, who died but recently; as Zacharias, Simeon, S. John the Baptist (though his head is shown at Rome and Amiens, his finger at Florence). Raymundus also (lib. de Bono Latrone, cap. xiii.) mentions the penitent thief, though S. Augustine (contr. Felician cap. xv.) says, but only by the way, that he was reserved for the future resurrection. There were also many more (especially those mentioned in Heb. xi.) outside Judæa, for “many bodies of the saints arose.” For it was indeed quite in harmony with the profuse magnificence of Christ that a crowded procession of the saints who then arose should dignify His resurrection and ascension.

Cornelius a Lapide comments on Revelation 4:4

The Cardinals represent these twenty-four elders, and consequently their thrones; the throne and the whole apparatus mentioned in this chapter beautifully represents the chapel of the Pope, in which is seen an image of the heavenly Jerusalem; the one seeming to be aptly taken from the other. For the Pope, being as it were the Vicar of God, represents God; and the seven primitive deacons, the seven spirits standing before God; the cardinals, the twenty-four elders. The Lamb, Christ who is offered in the mass; the sealed book, the book of the Gospels. Lastly, the patriarchs and mitered bishops robed in their pontificals, the penitentiaries, canons, the whole array and magnificence of prelates, priests, and ministers: as also the celestial music; represent the innumerable glorious multitude of angels and saints who are perpetually jubilating and hymning before God. In like manner the seven bishops of Asia, subject to St. John, represent the seven cardinal bishops subject to the Pontiff. The seven churches of Asia are adumbrated in the seven churches of Rome, which are celebrated for their architecture, for indulgences, and for pilgrimages thither by the whole world; pilgrimages which both Romans and foreigners frequently make, and there suppliantly implore the assistance of the martyrs and saints who lie buried there in innumerable multitudes. Many more such illustrations might be quoted; so that the ceremonies and magnificence of the Church of Rome appear to be taken from and to be expressed by, the Apocalypse. Whence St. Fulgentius, beholding and admiring it, worthily exclaimed, ‘If the earthly Rome be so resplendent, how resplendent must be the heavenly Jerusalem!’"

Here are some comments from the Aquinas Study Bible of various interpretations from the ancients

4:4 Oecumenius understood that St. John saw these elders at that moment in time, which means he did not see himself as one of the elders, therefore John mostly saw Old Testament saints and three New Testament saints. Some commentators believed it was twelve OT patriarchs and the 12 Apostles. (Apringius, Tyconius, St. Andrew of Caesarea) Others understood them to be angels. (Bulus al-Bushi) Nicholas of Lyra understood them to be bishops of the Church. Now Tychonius, Bede, Primasius, Arias Montanus, are of opinion that the twenty-four elders signify the whole of the church which had already received its crown from God; that is, the Church triumphant; and according to Chrysostom, these thrones represent the highest order of angels.

I don’t believe that is the consensus of most scholars at all, I believe that late 1st to early 2nd century would be the most common dating. Certainly parts of Matthew derived from other sources, like Mark, do fall within that range. Yet, this incident is unique to Matthew, so when it was included is problematic to determine. It seems reasonable to posit it formed part of an account as old as Mark.

Fidelis is technically right because if we consider most scholars from the last 2000 years, not most scholars living today, then it is overwhelmingly NOT what the non-traditional modernist scholars say today that a slew of authors copy-catting off Mark.

I do believe that the earlier dating is the consensus of most scholars–maybe not not the consensus of those who lean heavily toward critical scholarship, but of Scripture scholars as a whole. There is also the historical witness of the early Church that cannot be discounted, the consensus of which holds an earlier composition date (as well as Matthean priority). In recent years, in fact, the recognition of Matthean priority and thus an early dating for Matthew, is making a resurgence in biblical scholarship across the board. A lot of scholarship on this topic that was held as definitive up until the late 1990’s is quickly becoming outdated.

A lot of scholarship on this topic that was held as definitive up until the late 1990’s is quickly becoming outdated.

I sure hope so!

Too bad we can’t post a poll and get them all to come to CAF and vote, isn’t it? :smiley: Anyway, from the NABRE:

The position of the Gospel according to Matthew as the first of the four gospels in the New Testament reflects both the view that it was the first to be written, a view that goes back to the late second century A.D., and the esteem in which it was held by the church; no other was so frequently quoted in the noncanonical literature of earliest Christianity. Although the majority of scholars now reject the opinion about the time of its composition, the high estimation of this work remains.


Yup, some of that outdated scholarship I was referring to. The USCCB is notoriously slow to keep up with modern trends in biblical studies. I’d point to the footnotes in the NABRE as Exhibit A. They reflect trends in scholarship that were starting to crack apart in the 1980’s.

That would be instructive–although a flat opinion poll among scholars might be more helpful than an actual vote. We wouldn’t want it to become like one of those “Jesus Seminar” fiascoes. :slight_smile:

Consider that the text does not say the holy ones were seen by
all, but by a certain number of Jerusalem inhabitants, whom attested to
it, and thus it was transcribed. Envision this event as ocurring in the same
fashion as the risen Christ’s appearance was not always immediately
recognized by the disciples on the road to Emmaus or by Mary Magdalene.
Those in Jerusalem who did not see the risen saints had their ability to see
them restrained by God. (1) Only those who believed or were chosen
by God to see actually did see them.
Being that their earthly bodies had been all dust and bones, having died centuries earlier,
with the only possible exception being John the Baptist, and their exact
burial spots long forgotten, or unkown, nobody expected to see these holy
patriarchs again. Yet, they were seen by believers in Christ and those chosen by
God, in the same way that only three Apostles were chosen to see the
Transfiguration. So, they were seen by some, but not all, according to the
Will of God in each moment.
They were seen by enough people in Jerusalem for it to be transcribed in
Matthew as having happened. God would not show them unto all, in the
same manner also that he refused the sacrifices of the Jews in the temple
after Christ’s crucifixion, for 40 years until the Destruction of Jerusalem. The
miracles concerning attempted sacrifices in the temple after the Crucifixion
are recorded in both Talmuds.(2) This is one of the most hidden truths in
Christianity, and a major historical evidence recorded by anti-Christian
Jewish rabbis which is rarely mentioned by Christians, who are largely ignorant of it, sadly.
Considering that at least some of the risen holy ones likely number
among the 24 Elders, they ascended into one of the heavens.
Because John’s Apocalypse describes events in the future, all that is necessary
is that they be present before the Very Throne by the time of the Second Coming.

ref. links:
(1) apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=6&article=673
(2) hissheep.org/special/hebrew/ancient_temple_signs_and_the_last_days.html

In the ancient world, it’s very common to have people report all kinds of amazing things that happened around the time of other amazing events. Nobody ever reports what happened afterwards as a result of these amazing things. Nobody is all that interested, frankly. Miracles and tabloid bizarrenesses are cool; aftermaths not so much.

Likewise, we never get any info on what St. Lazarus did after getting raised from the dead, other than that he was apparently okay and well-known as an example.

Now, if you had gone to talk to the Apostles or the disciples who’d been around then, they might have been able to tell you what happened to Jochanan son of Jochanan son of Simon, who walked out of his tomb, wandered around Jerusalem, and showed up at his family’s house in time to sit in Elijah’s chair at Passover dinner, and then had a second career as a Torah scholar before dying again. But that’s not nearly as interesting as God making a new covenant with Jews and Gentiles, or God coming to earth as a son of David.

So since nobody thought it was all that exciting to tell us about the later lives of either these raised saints or Lazarus, we just don’t know.

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