One thing is for sure. The Bible is a book of stories that force those who see only a literal truth in them to suspend all critical thinking. When I was a kid, Sunday School seemed to be the place where the supernatural events of both the Old and New Testaments were poured into our heads and simply taken for granted that these things really could and did happen.Snakes really did chat with Eve about God's hiding truth from them. Boats held all animal life on the planet for a year while the whole world of humans drown. God spoke through flaming bushes that did not burn up.
Axe heads floated. The right man could raise his hands and stop the sun and the moon dead in their tracks, which meant he could stop the rotation of the earth, without consequences. And of course, the dead were raised to life on a lot of occasions, depending on the need.It was this raising of the dead that always both fascinated and creeped me out as a kid.
Did these kids and adults become famous after this? Did the raisee start to go to heaven and get recalled and get really mad at the raiser for bringing him back to herd sheep again? And how about this:."Now Elisha was fallen sick of his sickness whereof he died . And Elisha died, and they buried him. And the bands of the Moabites invaded the land at the coming in of the year.
And it came to pass, as they were burying a man, that, behold, they spied a band of men; and they cast the man into the sepulchre of Elisha: and when the man was let down, and touched the bones of Elisha, he revived, and stood up on his feet" (2 Kings 13:14,20-21 KJV).Here a dead man is lowered into the tomb of Elijah, touches his bones and revives! Well, even as a kid I did wonder if the man was dead to begin with and that hitting the bones might wake anyone up, or if he was dead and revived, what a creepy story! I imagined him standing up and yelling back up at the guys who threw him in the hole, "Hey, haul me back up, I ain't dead anymore." Of course they simply hauled him back up and said, "Oh sorry." Kids have great immaginations when it comes to stories like this.The dead were always getting raised back to life in the Bible.
It was as common as getting stoned, which was the standard punishment for Bible offenses. I watched the stoning of a woman in Iran on the internet once. Big mistake. Makes you wonder if there really is a God, or why one would feel the one in the Old Testament is "Our Loving Heavenly Father.
" Nuther topic I guess.But, aside from Jesus resurrection, there is a story in the Book of Matthew, and only in the Book of Matthew that always made me wonder."Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?? And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many." (Matthew 27:45-53).Now this was a story! Never mind that no one ever mentions this event again.
The Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, writing during the second half of the first century AD, produced two major works: History of the Jewish War and Antiquities of the Jews. He says nothing about this most extraordinary occurrence. This one missed his attention big time so he reports nothing of this, and does not interview any of the "many" who must have been around for years after just itching to be asked about how it felt to be back.
Peter never mentions it in all his attempts to convince the masses that Jesus did rise, in fact, from the dead. Paul never mentions this event as proof of Jesus resurrection either. The fact that these risen saints must still be alive and now members in good standing of the early Church never seems to come up. You'd think they at least would get to be deacons and elders! I would hope they did not rise then die again real fast when they were no longer needed as a type of the general resurrection of the saints! One death is scary enough and the few who were not part of the many resurrected might be the lucky ones after all.Everything in the Bible is so dramatic! The sun goes out and the earth shakes, renting rocks. As I kid I remember thinking , "why does God have to 'rent' the curtain of the temple when Jesus died? Why not just ask them to "please take it down now.
The Holy of Holys is now open to all. If you don't, then I shall rent thee too." And if the rocks rent, why did not most of Jerusalem, including the Temple fall down? I mean, high roof, pillars, big basins?all good candidates for renting and falling over.
But, of this, no one records a thing, save for this one observation by Matthew. But back to the account."And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many." (Matthew 27:45-53).
So here we have Jesus on the cross, still alive and distressed that God has forsaken him. At this time it appears, or perhaps by implication, at the moment of his death, the graves of many of the "saints" open and they rise from the dead. Well not quite yet because it appears someone spotted a problem with this verse and added just a bit to make it doctrinally acceptable for future reads.
But first, what's with these people being "saints?" Aren't saints members in good standing of the Church and converted Christians? Jesus is not even dead yet, or just died! There is no church and certainly no saints unless just following Jesus around as a curious follower the past one or three years depending on which Gospel you read qualified one as a "saint." Hmmm, seems like something you would ad to the story when the church was up and running decades later.Secondly, it says that it was a resurrection of "many bodies of the saints." Many? What happened to "all." There could not have been too many to leave some behind! Can you imagine the conversations that must have followed in the weeks following this event?."Hey, Shlomo is back! So, where is your Benjamin? Oh, really? Not one of the many huh? Sorry.
" Or."Hey Mary, my Sol, who you remember, died last year, says hi. So wasn't your husband one of the blind that Jesus healed, and died about the same time. What's he up to today?".
Anyway, it seems that only the many but not the all got raised. Next we have the problem of the graves being opened, but no one being allowed to come out of them until after Jesus personal resurrection. This is where being doctrinally correct comes in.Matthew, or the editor who spotted this problem, could not have Jesus being preceded in resurrection, by any, much less, many of the "saints." This would be putting the cart before the horse. Jesus could not be the "first born of many brethren," if many of the brethren had already been up and running from the dead while Jesus was either on the cross wondering why God had forsaken him, or newly dead and not yet resurrected himself.
So the phrase, "after his resurrection" was inserted to make this a doctrinally correct event. Had that phrase, "after his resurrection," not been added, the story would be an unending source of doctrinal problems, as if it isn't now.So here we have these graves opened, but the bodies just lying there, open to view, ewwwwwwwww. bones mostly, not bodies anymore, even though it said bodies. Then, after Jesus rose, the bodies stood up and went home to see the family and friends. You'd think someone would have mentioned this later, but it didn't make much of an impression on anyone but Matthew it seems.
One other way this might have been was that the saints were brought back to life right when the graves opened, (how do they open I wonder?), but had to just lie there for three days and three nights until Jesus was back. Talk about boring and scary if you didn't know what was going on! You'd think, in either event, that the disciples, Joseph of Arimethea-- who buried Jesus, the women who brought spices to the tomb and everyone would have noticed all the opened graves and not of Jews or Romans, but of Saints!.If the graves were opened for three days, would not word get out and the town get about the business of filling them in again? If they were fresh bodies, what a stink and if they were alive fresh bodies laying low for now, what a scare! I can imagine, as a kid of course, a small crowd around each open grave chatting with the saint, and the saint saying, "Help me, I can't move.
Not knowing he had to lay there until Jesus was resurrected first. I can also imagine a small crowd hearing this plea, dispersing rather speedily.Well, it's a great story that no one but Matthew seems to be aware of or use to further the Gospel.
Knowing the writer of Matthew, it never happened. Matthew was great at over reaching and searching the scriptures to make a point about Jesus. Matthew could make an Old Testament story mean what it was never meant to mean.
All of Matthew's "and thus it was fulfilled" accounts in the birth narratives of Jesus, where he goes back into the Old Testament to prove everything from Jesus virgin birth to it being predicted that he would be from Nazareth or return out of Egypt after Herod dies, are examples of this over reaching. No one else quite had this way of proving Jesus down pat as well as Matthew, whoever Matthew really was and may not be who you think. It would be a bit like me using portions of Lord of the Rings to show how Tolkien prophecied the war in Iraq.So off to visit friends in Jerusalem these saints went.
But we have no names and no further accounts. We have no stories of happy reunions of the dead with the living. No one seems to write about this in any public records and no one ever after uses this event to further the proof of Jesus resurrection or the power of God.
Actually, it never happened, and only the most uncritical thinker and die hard (pun intended :) literalist would dig it as a real event in space and time (pun intended again:)..
By: Dennis Diehl