Matthew 27: 51-53


The earth quaked, rocks were split, tombs were opened,
and the bodies of many saints who had fallen asleep were raised.
And coming forth from their tombs after his resurrection,
they entered the holy city and appeared to many.

Were the tombs opened, bodies of saints raised at Jesus’ death or after his resurrection?
What is the “holy city”?
Were the bodies of raised saints glorified?
How long did the bodies of the raised saints dwell in the city?


Bump, I am interested in these answers too


Notes following scripture:

  • [27:51–53] Veil of the sanctuary…bottom: cf. Mk 15:38; Lk 23:45. Luke puts this event immediately before the death of Jesus. There were two veils in the Mosaic tabernacle on the model of which the temple was constructed, the outer one before the entrance of the Holy Place and the inner one before the Holy of Holies (see Ex 26:31–36). Only the high priest could pass through the latter and that only on the Day of Atonement (see Lv 16:1–18). Probably the torn veil of the gospels is the inner one. The meaning of the scene may be that now, because of Jesus’ death, all people have access to the presence of God, or that the temple, its holiest part standing exposed, is now profaned and will soon be destroyed. The earth quaked…appeared to many: peculiar to Matthew. The earthquake, the splitting of the rocks, and especially the resurrection of the dead saints indicate the coming of the final age. In the Old Testament the coming of God is frequently portrayed with the imagery of an earthquake (see Ps 68:9; 77:19), and Jesus speaks of the earthquakes that will accompany the “labor pains” that signify the beginning of the dissolution of the old world (Mt 24:7–8). For the expectation of the resurrection of the dead at the coming of the new and final age, see Dn 12:1–3. Matthew knows that the end of the old age has not yet come (Mt 28:20), but the new age has broken in with the death (and resurrection; cf. the earthquake in Mt 28:2) of Jesus; see note on Mt 16:28. After his resurrection: this qualification seems to be due to Matthew’s wish to assert the primacy of Jesus’ resurrection even though he has placed the resurrection of the dead saints immediately after Jesus’ death.

Ah, I’m still confused with this passage … Same questions ring in my head. Actually new ones are added like:

Did the Jewish people hope for resurrection?
What’s with this new age/ old age reference?


When He died.


No idea but they had to be people the Jews knew were dead.

No idea maybe three days until Jesus returned or maybe they continued to live their lives.


Where is new age/old age in Matthew?


There can be much speculation on this matter…
They rose, after Jesus’ death…they went to Jerusalem…that is pretty clear.

In my opinion, the bodies would have been “glorified” since they “appeared” to many. This is similar to the way that Jesus is described as simply appearing in the locked room to the Apostles.
Also - if they were not “glorified” many would be nothing but bones…:shrug:

As for how long they stayed in the city…It’s hard to say.
My guess is only as long as they needed to complete whatever God wished them to do there. I don’t think more than 40 days, for I think that when Jesus ascended to heaven, these OT saints would have gone with Him. After all, that is what we all hope for…to God with Him.

Just my thoughts…



There was this belief/ideology/worldview prevalent among many Jews at the time called ‘apocalypticism’. The main tenets of apocalypticism was, that we are living in an age ruled by dark powers. There is a constant struggle between these evil forces and the forces of good, and evil generally seems to have the upper hand. In time, however, God will step in and bring about a cataclysmic change in the order of things by defeating the forces of evil and ushering in a new age in which He will rule. Some important figure (or figures) sent by God, say an anointed priest or prophet or king or warrior or all of the above, will in some scenarios play a key role in this final triumph. And yes, the resurrection of the dead at the end of the age is a key belief in Jewish apocalypticism. (If this all sounds familiar to you, you’re right: Christianity inherited Jewish apocalyptic ideas.)

As the commentary indicates, “the earthquake, the splitting of the rocks, and especially the resurrection of the dead saints indicate the coming of the final age.” Matthew portrays the whole universe - the “heavens” symbolized by the temple veil, the “earth” symbolized by the rocks, and “under the earth” symbolized by the tombs - cataclysmically breaking apart at the instant of Jesus’ death, signalling the end of the old order and the defeat of the powers that up to now had ruled this world (i.e. Satan). Jesus, the anointed one (= Messiah), played a key role in God’s triumph.


Here is a condensed version of the great Cornelius a Lapide

Ver. 52. And the graves were opened, and many bodies of the saints which slept arose. This was immediately on Christ’s death (as S. Matthew implies), to signify that it was wrought by the power of His Passion, and consequently that by the same power death was overcome, and life restored to mankind. So Bede, Theophylact, and S. Jerome, who says, “The graves were opened in token of the future resurrection.” So, too, S. Ambrose (cap. x. on Luke). And S. Hilary says, “Illumining the darkness of death, and lighting up the gloom of the pit, He robbed death of its spoils, in order to [mark? word missing] the resurrection of the dead who are now asleep.” But yet they came not forth from their graves till after Christ’s resurrection (see ver. 53). For S. Paul terms Christ “the first-born from the dead” (Col. i. 18), and “the first-fruits of them that rise again” (1 Cor. xv. 20). For Christ by His death procured resurrection both for Himself and for us. It was therefore but right that, when He had overcome death, He should be the first to rise as its conqueror, and others after Him. (So Origen, S. Jerome, and Bede.)

They rose, then, that Christ might confirm the truth of His resurrection, by those His companions who announced it; and, again, that in and through them Christ might manifest the power of His Passion; that just as the souls of the Patriarchs were freed by it from the pit, so, mystically, would men’s souls, which were dead in sin, be now quickened by His grace, and themselves rise gloriously at last to a blessed and eternal life.

Did, then, these saints die again after their resurrection, or continue in life and glory? Some think they did die, and are to rise again at the last day, and this from S. Paul’s words, “That they without us should not be made perfect.” (See S. Augustine, Epist. xcix. ad Evodium.) Others suppose, and more correctly, that they died no more, but were raised up to life immortal. Because it was but fitting that Christ should manifest at once in their resurrection the power of His own. It was also meet that happy souls like these should be united only to glorious and immortal bodies. But their happiness would have been but brief, and their misery greater, if they had died again so speedily. It would have been better, indeed, if they had not risen at all. It was also but fitting that they should adorn Christ’s triumphant ascension, as captives redeemed by Him, and the spoils He had won from death; and, lastly, that He should have them with Him in Heaven, and that His human nature, enjoying their presence and society, might never be solitary and void of human consolation. So Origen, S. Jerome, S. Clemens Alex. (Strom. lib. vi.), and others. The words “without us” do not refer to the day of judgment, but to the resurrection of Christ and Christians. (See notes on Heb. xi. 40.)

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.

**Verse 53- **Went into the Holy City. Jerusalem, so called because of the temple worship, of the many saints who had been there, and of the institution of the Church therein by Christ the King of Saints.

And appeared unto many. To the Apostles, and disciples, and also to the Jews, to persuade them to believe in the resurrection. “That by their resurrection,” says Euthymius, “others might be the more assured, by considering that He who had raised them had much more surely raised Himself.”


Fr. William Most says this…

Matthew 27:51-53 says that when the veil of the temple split, there was an earthquake, and tombs of some just men were opened, and after the resurrection of Jesus they came out and appeared to many. We do not know if the tombs were opened at the very moment of the death of Jesus, or only at His resurrection. Was it a definitive and final resurrection, or would they die a second time? Since they appeared to many, following, it seems, the same pattern as Jesus did after His resurrection, we think it must have been a final resurrection, so that they would ascend to heaven with Jesus. St. Ignatius of Antioch, who was eaten by the beasts in Rome c 107 A.D., says in his Letter to Magnesia 9 that these who rose were or included the Old Testament prophets.


Wel,l would it make sense to let them wait for days in the grave? :shrug: That is how it is written, nevertheless. Then we have a big problem, Jesus is not the first resurrected.


(Sorry i wanted to edit but didn’t have the edit button)

That is why I would say they didn’t have glorious bodies, but then another problem is that they stay for days in the tomb, probably starving , and probably very afraid. I would stick to this last.


Is there a source outside of Matthew which notes the dead rising from their graves? I can’t imagine this passage being literal, because if it was surely someone else must have thought it important and written it down.


No convincing quote is to be found…; I can alhough imagine that that happened and people didn’t believe either the risen or their families, as we do with crazy people.

Returning to the chronology of what happened, I thought of something: could it be that Matthew says what happen as a consequence, but not chronologically? I mean, BECAUSE OF HIS (Christ’s) DEATH, the veil, the rocks and the deads, but only the two first happened immediately, then the deads rose and came out only after Jesus. Is this a possile understanding of the chronology for you all?


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