Christianity

When the Dead Walked the Streets of Jerusalem

We’ve seen a few movies which  tried to dramatize the events of the life of Jesus (pbuh) as described within the Christian scriptures, and I’ve almost always been disappointed in them. The one I enjoyed the most is also the one which remained truest to its source material: 2003’s The Gospel of John (starring as Jesus the wonderful Henry Ian Cusick before he became famous as Desmond Hume on the television series Lost). Although still an adaption, it relied entirely upon the Biblical Gospel According to John for its script, saving it from any Hollywood “improvements.”

Most such films seem to be an amalgam of the four canonical gospels (Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ is a notable exception, being based instead on The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, a book written by Roman Catholic mystic Anne Catherine Emmerich of Germany) with some non-canonical conjecture thrown in for dramatic interest and to fill in some of the perceived gaps. I’m also always a little thrown when the actor portraying Jesus doesn’t look at all Semitic. (It would really blow Christian minds if it somehow turned out that Jesus looked alot like Osama bin Laden, eh?) The amalgam thing makes sense, because I firmly believe that most Americans’ idea of Jesus is an amalgam of all four canonical gospels along with a metric ton of cultural baggage such as Greeting Card Jesus, All-American Jesus, Hippie Jesus, Republican Jesus, Sensitive New Age Jesus, etc.

Leaving aside the topic of bits added to the Biblical accounts, I found myself thinking today on a part of the Gospel narrative from the book of Matthew which I have never seen make it into a film or even get discussed much:

50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. 51 And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split. 52 The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; 53 and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many. 54 Now the centurion, and those who were with him keeping guard over Jesus, when they saw the earthquake and the things that were happening, became very frightened and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”

The Gospel According to Matthew, Chapter 27, Verses 50 through 55 (NASB)

Now, you can’t argue that this wouldn’t make for great cinema – the streets of Jerusalem filled with the resurrected dead, appearing to their friends and families. Tearful reunions, Hosannas, etc. In fact, it’s such a remarkable image that it’s surprising that none of the other gospels thought it worthy of inclusion in their accounts of the events following the Crucifixion.

It could even be argued that such an event – many families seeing their beloved dead alive once again and in the streets of Jerusalem, certainly a major metropolis for its time – should have been so noteworthy that it would have made it into the writings of some historian somewhere. But no. Nothing. No mention in the writings of Josephus, the Jewish historian whose writings are often cited by Christians. No mention anywhere.

What happened to those resurrected dead? Did they live out the rest of their lives with their families, telling everyone about what death had been like? Did “many” families have old family stories about some relative, Uncle Jedediah perhaps, who came back from the dead that one time? What about those saints who came back from the dead to find that their widowed spouse had remarried? Where are these stories? Where are the Jewish religious discussions regarding the status of these resurrected dead – whether they were allowed to marry into a family of Levites, whether they could attend the Temple, what their ritual status was? Would any of these resurrected individuals have gone on to preach the Gospel and travel to many lands, holding up as proof of the Gospel their own resurrection? How many would have been converted by such a spectacle and testimony? And how many traders were in Jerusalem from distant lands at the time and would have gone home with such tales on their lips?

If true, this was not a small, local event witnessed by only a few, as was the raising of Lazarus. This was the resurrection of “many,” who then traveled through a major city and appeared to “many” more. Even without the Jerusalem Post, word would have gotten around about something this big and just plain strange.

As for me, I have no answer for why this episode is not more widely attested, save for the Muslim answer – that God was not hung on a cross and killed by humans. And that the Bible is a not entirely reliable record – historically or theologically. I’m open to hearing other explanations, though.

Categories: Christianity

30 replies »

  1. “… it’s such a remarkable image that *it’s surprising that none of the other gospels thought it worthy of inclusion in their accounts* of the events following the Crucifixion…”

    “I found myself thinking today on a part of the Gospel narrative from the book of Matthew *which I have never seen make it into a film* or even get discussed much…”

    I guess that wraps things up here. Thanks.

    • Salaam Anthony. I assume that you are disagreeing with me on the two points you excerpt.
      1. In which of the other gospels does the Resurrection of the Saints occur? I don’t have my Bible with me here at work, and so am relying upon memory. Am I misremembering?
      2. I don’t recall seeing the dead rise from the grave in any of the filmed versions of Jesus’s life that I’ve ever seen. I’d like to see it.
      I apologize if I’m misinterpreting the meaning of your comment.

      (Of course I don’t assign any theological import to whether an aspect of the Gospels makes it into a film. My discussion of films was rather obviously (I thought) an entertaining device used to introduce my thought that the Resurrection of the Saints isn’t really spotlighted by apologists. It’s kind of kept on the B-list of events, not denied, but not really emphasized either. This leads me to believe that it’s not considered to be the most credible story, even amongst Christians. That, plus it really would be fun to see it in the next movie.)

  2. Good article and yes the vast majority of Christian scholars today would see this as a legendary story invented by Matthew. Matthew unfortunately has a tendency to invent things in his gospel – in chapter 27 and elsewhere…

  3. Hi Ashmath,

    No, that wasn’t my point. I think if you read the two statements together a few times you will catch my drift.

    BTW, Paul, since I stopped by, when you say “the vast majority of Christian scholars today” you are of course only gerrymandering a canal beneath your own feet. That also isn’t an argument, and if it was intended as one it is an informal fallacy.

  4. The article jumps to a few conclusions without any proof from the text. Such as the resurrected individuals were “young” enough to have had living relatives or friends who would have remembered them; also that these people would also just happen to be in Jerusalem at the time of their resurrection. I think it is fairly obvious that they did not stay on earth for long. The text only says that they appeared and not that they conversed with anyone.

    “… it’s such a remarkable image that *it’s surprising that none of the other gospels thought it worthy of inclusion in their accounts* of the events following the Crucifixion…”

    The writer should not confuse the way in which the Koran was written with the way the Bible was written.

    • Salaam madmanna. You say, “The article jumps to a few conclusions without any proof from the text. Such as the resurrected individuals were “young” enough to have had living relatives or friends who would have remembered them”

      I can’t imagine that it would be a very convincing miracle to have a bunch of resurrected “saints” walking around Jerusalem that no one knew. Would any of the living inhabitants of Jerusalem have known that these people claiming to be resurrected were noteworthily holy in any way if they had not known them in life? If they were unknown people, who would have known that they were even resurrected, as opposed to just average people walking around claiming to be resurrected saints? The miracle makes even less sense if the resurrected had no living contemporaries to recognize the miracle and to marvel at their friend/husband/wife *whom they had seen buried* walking amongst them, alive and praising Jesus (pbuh) as the second person of a heretofore unknown trinity. Who among us would be convinced of the truth of some life-changing assertion if they were approached by a stranger on the street claiming to be a resurrected saint? Madmanna, would you be convinced of the truth of Islam if you were approached on the streets of Manhattan by a stranger who claimed to be a resurrected Muslim “saint”?

  5. @Anthony Rogers, if you mean that the reason this event is rarely or never portrayed in films is BECAUSE it only appears in one Gospel, that might be true. As the article states, most films are based on an amalgam of all the Gospels, so perhaps there is a tendency to focus more on the events that appear in all four. But that is neither here nor there – as Ashmath said, the discussion of films was just an entertaining device – what is amazing is that such an incredible and widespread event has NO other *contemporary* historical record.

    @Ashmath, assalamo 3alaykom wr wb, another fantastic piece – it’s not only this event, but the whole story of God (supposedly) coming to earth, that is far too under-emphasized in the NT for it to be true. If Jesus were truly God, where is the awed adoration and worship, falling on their faces, of the multitudes that saw Him, or at least of the disciples that walked with Him? Where is the *clear, unamibiguous* declaration of it in all the Gospels and NT? And where is the massive, unified church, immediately proclaiming him their god and saviour as soon as He rose from the dead, abandoning the law completely in favour of his imputed righteousness? What kind of christology is “Jesus of Nazareth was a MAN accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know” (Acts 2:22)? If God truly walked on the earth, if it were even possible according to OT theology, would not the whole universe tremble in remembrance of that day?

    • Salam sister Khadija,

      (Nice argument – jazakallah.)

      Expect Rogers, Thompson etc to hurl some thing like, “didn’t Thomas said My God, My Lord”😀

      sincerely,
      Ibn Salim Khan.

    • you are a contentious and contrary fellow Anthony.

      the fact is “the vast majority of Christian scholars today would see this as a legendary story invented by Matthew”

      I have clearly rattled your cage anthony! At some level you are clearly disturbed by what I write.

      But why is my assertion untrue? Are you claiming to be conversant with mainstream biblical scholarship?

      It is not logically irrelevant at all, but your comments speak volumes concerning the fragility of your mindset and the need you have to attack anyone who disagrees with your fundamentalism.

  6. It seems everyone here missed the point. You wonder at the fact that only one Gospel records the event. You also marvel that it isn’t portrayed more often (or at all) in movies about the life of Christ. Don’t you see that you have given a contemporary example of the very thing you marvel at when it comes to the Gospel accounts? Why be so incredulous regarding the former when you have a contemporaneous example staring you in the face?

    That’s all I was getting at. Regards.

    • Salaam Anthony. Thanks for the clarification. Unless I am even denser than I thought, I gather that you are talking about the raising of Lazarus.
      As I stated in my original article above, the Resurrection of the Saints is of such a different order and magnitude than the raising of Lazarus, regarding the number of those raised as well as the number of witnesses, the nature of the venue in which it happened, etc. that the Resurrection of the Saints should be given much *more* prominence in the case for Jesus as God than even the raising of Lazarus is. Yet it isn’t.
      I think that even devout Christians may have some misgivings about the story and would prefer not to delve too deeply into it. That’s conjecture on my part, but it’s also personal experience from my time as a believing Christian.

      • Here’s my issue with him saying its a “greco-roman nitrarave,” basically a mythology or fable based on Aristitilian philosophy. Orthodox Christianity holds that the Bible was written as a library over 2500 years beginning with Moses and the pentateuch. Moses lived about 1400 BC. Plato and Aristotle lived in the 5th and 4th centuries BC, thus the accounts in Genesis et al originate a millenium before their time. In other words, McLaren is implying that the old testament was adjusted or even written at a later date. He’s also putting forward that the Bible is not a history, but a compendium of stories and myths not meant to be taken at face value. We must be cautious of such men.

    • I guess I just do understand his renionsag. In reading and studying Genesis and the rest of the old testament, God created all things, with man set as steward and personal communion with God was essential. Adam chose himself as god, and thus fell, bringing death to all men, but God promised a Savior. The rest of the Bible unfolds Yahweh’s progressive revelation and work toward Jesus at just the right time in history. I don’t see any philosophy other than God’s love for his people and his creation man has spoiled.

  7. @Anthony Rogers, ahh, I see what you’re getting at. However, I believe the reason most modern renditions of Jesus’ life leave out this story, is precisely because it seems so unlikely, for the reasons Ashmath mentioned. As Paul Williams pointed out, most Christian scholars would tend to regard this as legendary, so why include it in the films? Following this logic, the fact that it is Not included in modern renditions, if anything, can go to show that it is not considered a true story, as certainly there is no evidence to support its veracity in any other contemporary historical records.

    @madmanna, you do raise some good points, but the passage states, “And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split. The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many.” So regardless of their age, the tombs were supposedly opened and the ‘saints’ raised after Jesus gave up his spirit and the temple veil was torn, and THREE DAYS LATER, AFTER the resurrection of Jesus, these saints left the tombs, entered Jerusalem, and appeared to many. Whether or not they had living relatives, whether or not they spoke, Matthew is claiming they appeared to many in the holy city, so this should be a bit more of a deal than it is made out to be. When dead saints come back to life and appear to many, it deserves more than a one-sentence matter-of-fact mention in one ‘historian’s’ record, a historian who was almost certainly not an eyewitness at that, in order to verify its truth.

  8. @qmarkmark, w3alaykom salam, wa iyyakom. I’m perfectly happy to provide rebuttals to anyone who claims to find *clear, explicit, unambiguous* declarations of Jesus as God in the OT or Gospels, with the help of Allah swt insha’Allah, including Thomas’ statement😀 though much of my argumentation would come from your blog, Do Not Say Trinity – you raise some incredibly insightful arguments against Christianity – I look forward to all your articles in my inbox🙂 JazakAllahu khayran

    • @Sister Khadija,

      Oops don’t say that, Rogers was just claiming about the “piddling few” who care for my articles compared to his “thousands upon thousands” – LOL😀. (In the mean time, I go play Cricket and let Rogers increase from thousands to millions.)

      (Sister, you might want to register/follow my “piddling” blog🙂 to get it in your inbox – bi’idhnillah)

      “rabbana takabbal minna innaka antas samiul alim”

      sincerely,
      Ibn Salim Khan

  9. Salaam Ashmath,

    You might be right but the text does not tell us what God’s intention was behind the miracle. My own view is that they were unknown strangers to everyone who saw them. They could have related their experience and then disappeared.

    @ Khadijah Elisabeth

    ” it deserves more than a one-sentence matter-of-fact mention in one ‘historian’s’ record, a historian who was almost certainly not an eyewitness at that, in order to verify its truth.

    I think that is for God to decide, he is after all the author of the book.

      • If God were actually the author of the Bible we have today, I’d humbly suggest that he should have taken on the task of *translation* himself as well. When you want something done right, after all…

        (A tongue in cheek comment, but no disrespect intended to the Creator. Allahu Akbar.)

  10. This is not likely to be accepted by the Christian believers, but a resurrection miracle that might have resulted in history being very different would have been the allegedly resurrected Jesus appearing before the religious *and* civil authorities of the time and allowing *them* to place their fingers in his wounds. Wow! Can you imagine the uproar in the streets of Jerusalem?! Of course, as Christians will assert, this still would not have convinced *everyone*, but can you how many more would have believed if he had done so? Of course, according to the Bible, the resurrected Jesus seems ambivalent about proving himself resurrected; he praises those who upon seeing believe, but gives higher praise for those who believe without seeing. I’m imagining a world in which dozens, if not hundreds, of historical records written by both religious and civil writers of the time, telling of the man Jesus who appeared before them days after his death by crucifixion having been confirmed by the Roman authorities, and bearing the wounds of his murder – yet still alive and proclaiming himself the second person of a Triune God. He called all to repentance and Trinitarian belief before ascending into Heaven.

  11. The just shall live by faith.

    “Of course, as Christians will assert, this still would not have convinced *everyone*,”

    Who wanted to convince everyone?

    Your what-if scenarios are amusing.

    Why should history be different to what it was?

    • Madmanna wrote, “Why should history be different to what it was?”

      Wow. Just wow. I’ve composed and deleted several responses to your comment, madmanna, but none suffice.

  12. Greetings to all my Christian brothers and sisters. To all my muslim friends, my deepeset condolences.

    Since we are speaking here of my beloved Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ I would like to make a challenge to the Muslims here:

    Show me a group in the history before Mohammad who were the Muslim followers of Jesus.

    This ought to be quite simple since they “prevailed” over the disbelievers. I want to see their writings showing that they believed in the Isa of the Qur’an.

    Such an Isa must fit the following criteria:

    1. The true Messiah
    2. Born of a virgin
    3. Not crucified
    4. Not the son of God
    5. Not divine
    6. A mighty messenger of God

    Please show me the pre-Mohammad writings that support such an Islamic view of Jesus.

    Thank you.

    • Why is Abraham widely considered to be the first “Jew” when there was as yet no revealed Torah and no tribe of Judah?
      I would say for the same reason that there are widely considered to have been “Muslims” before Muhammad (pbuh). He submitted himself to the one true God who would later reveal the Torah, who would be further revealed by the Prophet Jesus (pbuh), and who would complete revelation by giving mankind the Qur’an.
      Submission to God is the meaning of the word ‘Islam,’ and even those who submitted to the one and only God before the birth of the Prophets Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad (pbut) are considered Muslims today. Rather than viewing that as some kind of threat or boast, see it as we do, as an honoring of co-religionists: all the People of the Book at one time submitted themselves to the will of the one true God and are considered honorable and pious to the extent that they followed his true revelations.

  13. Matt–Well, that’s the part I’m still not sure about. From what I understand, it’s a navartire line based on the writings of Plato and Aristotle where perfect, non-changing reality becomes imperfect, evolving matter, or something like that. If you read “A New Kind of Christianity,” you’ll see what he means.While I agree with McLaren on several things–like serving our neighbors better–I’m not sure about this concept.

  14. None of the other gospels record the event because it was the High Sabbath and the disciples were all locked in the upper room fearing for their lives. The raising up of the dead that day was another prophecy Jesus fulfilled, the First Fruits who return as the 144k in Revelation.

  15. I would submit that the reason the other gospels did not mention the multi resurrections was because they were not eyewitnesses of it. Remember the 4 gospels were based on the actual events/speeches that were witnessed/heard by the eyewitnesses (except Luke who collated his findings/investigations together from the other eyewitnesses and is remarkably consistent with the other 3 gospels. It could be that only Matthew saw it happen. Maybe Mark and John didn’t see it happen and therefore did not write it as faithful witnesses of what they did see and hear.

    Those who were resurrected only appeared in Jerusalem amongst the Jews. Jesus stated the nature of 1st century Jews is that they would not be convinced even if there was a resurrection. Jesus said “they have Moses and the prophets; if they don’t hear these (put their trust in and act out) neither will they believe if a resurrection occurs” Luke 16:31

    Scripture also tells us that signs are for believers (those whose hearts are ready to receive Jesus) and not for unbelievers (those with stony hearts).

    If you are asking why such a momentous event was not widely spread then consider if the Jewish or Roman authorities would be willing to publicise this. If the Jewish leaders went to such great trouble to propagate that the disciples stole the body of Jesus, then you can be sure that the other event would be hushed up. The Romans wanted to control everything and reign in that area of the world. Would they be keen in publicising anything that would take away the peoples worship of caesar and their Babylon originated religion.

    The same method is used today in the government controlled news media of the world if they do not want the truth to be heard.

    As someone else put it, if the saints appearing were say King David, Abraham, etc then who would recognise them or maybe if recognised many would be scared to mention it as it could appear that they were mad.

    The point is that we cannot use fallible, finite human reasoning to decide the story was not true; just because it doesn’t make sense to out minds in the 21st Century. WE simply do not know what happened, but we CAN trust Matthew’s account as he was simply being a faithful eyewitness. If we examine the 4 gospels fairly, we will see that they are incredibly consistent and those that initially seem to disagree (usually over minor points) can be explained.

    Please check out his link which goes into great detail why the bible can be trusted.

    http://watchmanforjesus.blogspot.co.uk/2010/09/proving-why-bible-is-inspired-inerrant.html

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s