Matthew 27:52-53


#1

“…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.”
How do you guys feel about these verses? I’m having a lot of trouble believing that this actually happened because this would have been something so significant and notable and yet the other writers of the New Testament don’t mention it at all and someone like Josephus doesn’t mention it either. But to interpret this allegorically makes me question the historical reliability of the gospels. If this didn’t literally happen, how am I supposed to know which parts of the gospels to trust and which parts I should think didn’t actually happen. Maybe I’m just missing something. Thanks ahead of time.


#2

Me, that they negate all of Paul’s teaching.


#3

It was acceptable for Matthew to mention this as it would have suggested to the Jews that Jesus did indeed come to fulfill the law; not to abolish it, as the passage specifies that it is holy men and women who are revived, meaning the efforts of their ancestors had not “been for nothing”, so to speak. My pet theory is that while this was palatable for the Jews, the other Evangelists chose to omit this passage due to the hardened opposition they were facing from the pagans regarding the resurrection of Jesus. If making them believe that God rose from the dead was already difficult, adding the resurrections of other people probably wouldn’t help. There is also the possibility that the passage is allegorical. The “holy city” would refer to the New Jerusalem, implying that these holy men and women had waited in Limbo for the opening of Heaven, and “appeared to many” would suggest that they were now able to intercede to us as we know the Saints do today. And, of course, there’s the old Catholic solution of both being the case. There could have been holy men and women who rose from their tombs, and it could also hint at the prophets and patriarchs being admitted to Heaven. That’s just my (no doubt overly simplistic) take on it, anyway.


#4

It is really odd that the event is not mentioned anywhere else…and it is equally strange that an author of what he obviously considered an important historical document detailing the public ministry and teachings of Jesus would 1.write this fiction and 2.put it into a document detailing events less than 75 years old (prolly less than 50) when people would obviously say “I never heard of that before”.

Both alternatives seem equally (and substantially) unlikely, yet one must be true.


#5

But, do forget that the saints raised from the dead would still be alive today. And, as no one knows who they are it tends to tell me that this event never happened,


#6

I tend to think many of the miraculous events in the Bible were a lot more subtle than the traditional “angels with trumpets” Biblical and pictorial renderings often suggest. Remember that Jesus did something as grand as multiply the loaves and the Apostles didn’t even seem to notice it (later Jesus did the same thing and it’s like they had forgotten). You can’t get much more low-key than being born in a Bethlehem cave-stable, yet renderings of the birth of Christ make it look like it was Ceasar’s Palace Las Vegas (for a reason obviously). This goes for the Old Testament as well and perhaps even more so, as retellings may embellish certain elements of what actually happened in order to teach us various truths. Remember, all scripture is lead by the Holy Spirit, and sometimes the Holy Spirit is more interested in us getting the point of something than in telling the factual chronology.

Having said all that, I believe this event really did happen. Not everything that is mentioned in scripture happened in wide-screen, Hollywood-style (this time featuring hordes Night of the Living Dead-style corpses marching through the streets). Instead, what Matthew may be referring to is a purposeful exaggeration of isolated events where certain Jews witnessed the patriarchs and other ancient Saints appearing in their glorified form here and there, “there one minute, gone the next” kind of experiences, and Matthew is simply reporting the events. Notice how so much in the gospels is written in a journalistic style of “just the facts.” Even the the grand crucifixion of Christ that has been rendered in thousands of pieces of art all down the ages was little more than a couple words in the gospel account “and there he was crucified.” …etc.

Matthew doesn’t want to distract people from the main-event, which was the resurrection of Christ, but also wants to report what happened in the aftermath of Christ’s death, albeit a little poetically. I find it similar to many eyebrow-raising but “glossed over” references scattered throughout scripture… like the whole thing with Enoch being “taken” and the Nephelim being born to the daughters of men. These are things the writers want to include, but don’t want to focus on.

I’m sure this event happened, but sometimes the human imagination exceeds the understated reality of the way things actually happened.


#7

St. Catherine Emmerich described this event in her visions.
jesus-passion.com/DOLOROUS_PASSION_OF_OUR_LORD_JESUS_CHRIST.htm


#8

Chapter 46


#9

[quote=Mark86;12420709Having said all that, I believe this event really did happen. Not everything that is mentioned in scripture happened in wide-screen, Hollywood-style (this time featuring hordes Night of the Living Dead-style corpses marching through the streets). Instead, what Matthew may be referring to is a purposeful exaggeration of isolated events where certain Jews witnessed[COLOR=“Blue”] the patriarchs and other ancient Saints appearing in their glorified form here and there, “there one minute, gone the next”
[/quote]

kind of experiences, and Matthew is simply reporting the events.

This is not the resurrection of the dead. resurrection of the dead would be in their normal bodies.

I find it similar to many eyebrow-raising but “glossed over” references scattered throughout scripture… like the whole thing with Enoch being “taken” and the Nephelim being born to the daughters of men. These are things the writers want to include, but don’t want to focus on.

What is a nephelim ?


#10

But, do forget that the saints raised from the dead would still be alive today. And, as no one knows who they are it tends to tell me that this event never happened,

That’s an awful stretch.

St. Catherine Emmerich described this event in her visions.

Not a point in their favor, IMO.

What is a nephelim ?

That’s a good question.

Wiki - The Nephilim /ˈnɛfɨˌlɪm/ (Hebrew: נפילים‎) were offspring of the “sons of God” and the “daughters of men” before the Deluge according to Genesis 6:4; the name is also used in reference to giants who inhabited Canaan at the time of the Israelite conquest of Canaan according to Numbers 13:33.


#11

It only says that the tombs were opened and the dead were raised, and they came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection.

That’s three days after the resurrection and it does not give a time frame for when this event ended. It could have been over a long period of time.

-Tim-


#12

Here’s a suggestion…expand the passage to include verses 50-51 and 54…

50 But Jesus cried out again in a loud voice, and gave up his spirit. 51 And behold, the veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth quaked, rocks were split, 52 tombs were opened, and the bodies of many saints who had fallen asleep were raised. 53 And coming forth from their tombs after his resurrection, they entered the holy city and appeared to many. 54 The centurion and the men with him who were keeping watch over Jesus feared greatly when they saw the earthquake and all that was happening, and they said, “Truly, this was the Son of God!”

Verses 51-53 are things to come, not things that were happening immediately (with the exception of the earth quaking at his death), but things that would come to pass as a result of Jesus’ death (“he gave up his spirit”)…

He would die, he would rise again, and the “veil of the sanctuary” is death, which was defeated (destroyed) by his resurrection…And, as a result of the end of death, the saints would be (at the end of the age) emerge from tombs, entering the “holy city” (the New Jerusalem…see Revelation 21).

Therefore, in verse 54, the “centurion and the men with him” did not “fear greatly” over seeing a bunch of resurrected corpses, but simply were fearful because immediately after “Jesus cried out in a loud voice and gave up his spirit” there was a great earthquake (verse 51), which they saw as an obvious sign that “truly this was the Son of God”.


#13

I too have struggled with this passage. It implies a mass resurrection that would have definitely been recorded at length by the apostles, Josephus, and other Jewish and secular historians. But in rereading it, I find comfort in the key phrases “after his resurrection” and " entered the “Holy City”. This implies to me that after the resurrection of Christ, all of the saints rose spiritually from the dead and entered Heaven, or the new Jerusalem, what Saint Augustine and other Church fathers referred to as the " City of God". This would mean that they did not literally resurrect in the physical sense the way Christ did, but that their spirits rose from the dead to enter heaven and await the bodily resurrection at the end of time. Of course, there is still an issue with the reference to the tombs being opened and their appearances to others in Judea. The apostles never mentioned or at least left any record that survived of spiritual appearances by these saints. Perhaps Mathew meant this as a theological parallel between the holiness of these saints and Christ. By applying to them the same kind of resurrection, he is linking them to the holiness of Christ and emphasizing their closeness to Christ and the Holy City. Saint Augustine said that when reading the Holy scriptures, any interpretation is correct if it corresponds to the truth of Christ and his teaching, and once this truth is established, the reader can determine if the verse they study is meant to be taken literally or figuratively, and how it fits in the timeline of the scriptures as a whole.
Keeping in mind this advice from Saint Augustine, we can read this passage in the context of the truth of the Saints’ holiness in relation to Christ, and then consider its placement in the timeline of the scriptures. This verse is said immediately after Christ dies on the cross, and yet it is clear this event happens later because of the phrase " after His resurrection." The question then becomes, why did Mathew chose to refer to this seemingly future event earlier than it is said to have happened? My guess is that its placement at this time in the scriptures is to make the theological point I referred to earlier. Christ has died, now He can enter the netherworld, open the gates of heaven, and all the saints are now free to enter the Holy City and be with Him in eternity, from where they can intercede for us.
I am not a Bible scholar, this is all speculation. Maybe a bible scholar can offer a better answer.


#14

Yeah this is more of what I meant, at least in regards to them not “coming out” in the physical sense but in some spiritual manifestation in anticipation of the actual resurrection. I kind of lazily called that the “glorified form” but I guess that’s not what I meant.

I’ve been reading 2nd Samuel lately and many events are intentionally told out of order to make a grander point (the book of Judges is like this as well), where things are clumped together by topic and similarity. So yeah, I do think what Matthew’s talking about happened over the course of some period of time. He talks about it, and then gets back in the moment. I agree with you. And obviously the reason he’s talking about it is because it includes all the dead in Christ up to the present. Perhaps the early Church needed a more visible sense of the new economy of salvation. In other words, this was happening in the Church and Matthew reminds everyone of its significance by tying it to death and resurrection of Christ.

We know from Paul that one of the main worries people had in the early Church was that people were dying “before the return of Christ.” Such accounts like this probably reassured them.


#15

This is a good point. Historical understanding also helps make the verse more clear.


#16

Also, Matthew is the most Jewish gospel. It is a Jew writing to Jews. And so it makes sense that this event would be included only in his gospel. Because the author is Jewish, he probably draws a lot more on how the inspired authors of the Old Testament wrote their books, namely that they weren’t concerned 100% with being historical in our sense of the word but had no problem with embellishing some portions of the story and omitting others. Just think of how different Matthew’s birth story is from Luke’s and how so many events seem like they’re straight out of the Old Testament. It’s the same thing here. Matthew wrote this to convince the Jews that Jesus is the Messiah because at his death and resurrection the Old Testament saints were raised from the dead. Personally, I think that the appearances here were nothing like the appearances of the Resurrected Jesus. I think these were just visions that people had of how Christ has conquered sin and death and freed the Old Testament saints from Abraham’s Bosom.


#17

#18

“51 And behold, the veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom.”

Another event that never happened, for if it had happened it surely would have been mentioned in the Talmud or other rabbinic writing. For the veil was a necessity, and could not been rewoven by anyone of the day, as they were no longer on the level of holiness to weave it or repair it.

Verses 51-53 are things to come, not things that were happening immediately (with the exception of the earth quaking at his death), but things that would come to pass as a result of Jesus’ death (“he gave up his spirit”)…

I’m always amassed how people can decide that things that are sequencal are really centuries apart.


#19

But we do have other places where this is mentioned, and by multiple authors. The account of the transfiguration describes two old testament saints being physically present with Jesus. So physical, that the apostles wanted to build a house for them.

So we can assume that the same way that Moses and Elijah were raised to be with Jesus at the transfiguration is the same way that Mathew describes for others too.

So we do have a witness to seeing the saints raised from the dead just as Mathew describes, and this witness is recorded by multiple Gospels.


#20

The transfiguration is more of a visitation from heaven (as i see it) than any raising from the dead.


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