MoboReader> Literature > The Truth of Christianity

   Chapter 17 THAT THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST IS PROBABLY TRUE.

The Truth of Christianity By William Harry Turton Characters: 35077

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


(A.) Its Importance.

The third day, the empty tomb.

(B.) The Narratives.

The various accounts, table of Christ's appearances, the three groups, the double farewell.

(C.) Their Difficulties.

(1.) Discrepancies; often due to the appearances being placed together; the disciples going to Galilee.

(2.) Omissions; the Gospels only record selected instances, and St. Paul refers to them in groups.

(D.) Their Truthfulness.

(1.) Agreements; very important.

(2.) Mutual explanations; very numerous.

(3.) Signs of early date; very interesting.

Conclusion, the narratives appear to be thoroughly trustworthy.

We decided in the previous chapters that the Four Gospels, and also the Acts of the Apostles, were genuine; that is to say, they were written by the persons to whom they are commonly ascribed. And to these may be added the four great Epistles of St. Paul, and the Revelation of St. John, which, as before said, are admitted to be genuine by critics of all schools. We have thus direct testimony as to the life of Christ, that is to say, the testimony of contemporaries, some of whom must have known Him well. St. Matthew and St. John were two of His Apostles; St. Mark and St. Luke had exceptionally good means of knowing the truth, and may perhaps have had some slight knowledge of Christ themselves, as had also St. Paul.[268] We have now to examine the value of this testimony, more especially as to the Resurrection of Christ. So in the present chapter we will consider the importance of the Resurrection, and the narratives we have of it; both as to their difficulties, and their truthfulness; and in the next the various alternative theories.

[268] 2 Cor. 5. 16.

(A.) Its Importance.

In the first place, we cannot overestimate the importance of the Resurrection, for this fact, either real or supposed, was the foundation of Christianity. This is plain not only from the Gospels, but still more from the Acts, where we have numerous short speeches by the Apostles, given under various circumstances, and to various audiences, including Jewish Councillors, Greek philosophers, and Roman governors. And in nearly all of them the Resurrection of Christ is not only positively asserted, but is emphasised as a fact established by indisputable evidence and as being the foundation of Christianity.[269] It is even said that it was the special duty of an apostle to bear witness to it; and St. Paul seems to have been aware of this, since, when claiming to be an apostle, he is careful to show that he was thus qualified. And for himself he makes it the basis of all his teaching, if Christ hath not been raised, then is our preaching vain.[270] It is certain, then, that the first preachers of Christianity preached the Resurrection of Christ.

[269] Acts 2. 24; 4. 10; 5. 30; 10. 40; 13. 30; 17. 31; 26. 23.

[270] Acts 1. 22; 1 Cor. 9. 1; 15. 14-17.

It is equally certain that they preached that it occurred on the third day, counting from the Crucifixion.[271] This also is stated not only in the Gospels, but by St. Paul; who in one place bases his whole argument on the fact that the Body of Christ (unlike that of David) saw no corruption, a point also alluded to by St. Peter, and implying a Resurrection in a few days.[272] While if further evidence is required, the fact that this third day (the first day of the week) became the Lord's Day-the Christian Sunday-seems to put the matter beyond dispute.

[271] Sometimes described as after three days, but that the two expressions are intended to mean the same is clear from Matt. 27. 63-64, where Christ's saying that He would rise again after three days is given as the reason for guarding the sepulchre until the third day. In the same way after eight days evidently means on the eighth day (John 20. 26).

[272] 1 Cor. 15. 4; Acts 13. 35-37; 2. 31.

Once more it is certain that the Christians believed that this Resurrection was one of Christ's Body, not His Spirit. This again is clear not only from the Gospels, which all speak of the empty tomb; but also from St. Paul's Epistles. For when he says that Christ died, and was buried, and was raised on the third day, and appeared to Cephas, etc., he must mean Christ's Body (for a Spirit cannot be buried); and he must mean that it was the same Body that died and was buried, that was afterwards raised, and appeared to them, including himself.[273] Christ's being raised, it will be noticed, was distinct from, and previous to, His appearing to anyone, just as in the Gospels the empty tomb is always mentioned before any of the appearances.

[273] 1 Cor. 15. 3-5.

And even in the one case, where St. Paul alludes to what he saw as a heavenly vision, he refers to it in order to prove that it is not incredible that God should raise the dead;[274] which again shows that he thought it was a Body, for a Spirit cannot be raised from the dead. And his specifying the third day makes this (if possible) still plainer, for the life of the spirit after death does not commence on the third day; nor would it have prevented Christ's Body from seeing corruption.

[274] Acts 26. 19, 8.

From all this it is abundantly clear that St. Paul, like the Four Evangelists, and the other Apostles, believed in what is called the physical Resurrection, in the sense that Christ's Body was restored to life, and left the tomb. Though like them, he also believed that it was no longer a natural body, bound by the ordinary laws of nature, but that it had been partly changed as well, so that it shared to some extent the properties of spirits.

Nor is his statement that flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God, opposed to this.[275] For when he uses the same expression elsewhere (e.g., I conferred not with flesh and blood)[276] it is evidently not used in a literal sense. It does not mean flesh and blood, in the same way in which we might speak of bones and muscles. It means men. So his meaning here is probably that mere men-human beings as such-cannot inherit the future life of glory. Their bodies will first have to be changed, and made incorruptible; but they will still be bodies. And as just said, St. Paul is quite definite as to its being the Body of Christ that was buried, that was afterwards raised on the third day.

[275] Cor. 15. 50.

[276] Gal. 1. 16; Eph. 6. 12; comp. Matt. 16. 17.

We may say, then, with confidence, that wherever the Resurrection was believed, the fact that it occurred on the third day, and the fact that it was a physical Resurrection, involving the empty tomb, was believed also. The three invariably went together. But was this belief justified? This is the question we have to discuss.

(B.) The Narratives.

Now we have five different accounts of the Resurrection; and these are so thoroughly independent that not one of them can be regarded as the source of any of the others. Little stress, however, can be laid on the latter part of St. Mark's account, as the genuineness of the last twelve verses is doubtful; but it anyhow represents a very early Christian belief, Aristion being sometimes named as the author. And even the earlier part is conclusive as to the empty tomb, and the promised appearance in Galilee. On the other hand, St. Paul's account, which is perhaps the strongest, is universally allowed to have been written within thirty years of the event; the most probable date for which is A.D. 29 or 30, and for the Epistle A.D. 55. And it should be noticed that St. Paul reminds the Corinthians that what he here says about the Resurrection is what he preached to them on his first visit (about A.D. 50), and that as they had received it from him, so he had himself received it from others at a still earlier date.[277]

[277] 1 Cor. 15. 1-3.

And we can even fix this date approximately, for two of the appearances he records were to St. Peter and St. James; and he happens to mention elsewhere[278] that these were the two Apostles he met at Jerusalem, three years after his conversion (A.D. 35, or earlier); so he doubtless heard the whole account then, even if he had not heard it before. And this was certainly within ten years-probably within seven years-of the Crucifixion. More ancient testimony than this can scarcely be desired. And if anything could add to its importance it would be St. Paul's own statement that in this respect his teaching was the same as that of the original Apostles: Whether then it be I or they, so we preach and so ye believed.[279]

[278] Gal. 1. 19.

[279] 1 Cor. 15. 11.

We need not quote the various accounts here, but the accompanying table gives them in a convenient form for reference. Altogether Christ seems to have been seen on thirteen different occasions; and there may have been others, which are not recorded, though they are perhaps hinted at.[280]

[280] Acts 1. 3; 13. 31; John 20. 30.

It is doubtful however if the eighth appearance was separate from the ninth, for St. Matthew says that when the Eleven saw Him, on the mountain in Galilee, as He had appointed, they worshipped Him, but some doubted. This some can scarcely mean some of the Eleven, who had just worshipped. It probably refers to some others who were present (i.e., some of the five hundred) who doubted at first if it was really He, as He was some way off, and it was before He came to them. And since the command to preach the Gospel to all the world, which St. Matthew records, was probably addressed to the Eleven only, it will account for his not mentioning that others were present. In the same way St. Luke relates the Ascension, as if only the Eleven were there, though it is clear from his own narrative that he knew there were others with them; since he afterwards records St. Peter as saying so.[281]

[281] Acts 1. 1-13; 22-23.

On the other hand, the appearance to the five hundred must have been on a mountain, or some other open space, as a room would not have been large enough. It must have been in Galilee, as there were not so many disciples in Jerusalem.[282] It must have been by appointment, as they could hardly have come together by accident; and they are not likely to have come together at all unless the Eleven had collected them. And all this is an additional reason for identifying it with that recorded by St. Matthew.

[282] Acts 1. 15.

It must next be noticed that the appearances form three groups. First a group in or near Jerusalem, which was chiefly to the Twelve Apostles, and extended over eight days. Secondly a group in Galilee, the most important being that to the five hundred, which was a sort of farewell to His Galilean disciples. And thirdly to a group back again at Jerusalem, chiefly to the Twelve, but including others, and ending with the Ascension, or farewell to His Jud?an disciples.

TABLE OF CHRIST'S APPEARANCES.

1 Cor. Matt. Mark. Luke. John.

Empty tomb visited by women .. 28. 1-8 16. 1-8 24. 1-11,

22-23 20. 1-2

And by Apostles .. .. .. 12, 24 3-10

An appearance in Galilee foretold .. 7 16. 7 .. ..

Then Christ was seen

In or near Jerusalem, by

(i.) Mary Magdalene .. .. 9-11 .. 11-18

(ii.) The two Marys .. 9-10 .. .. ..

(iii.) St. Peter 15. 5 .. .. 34 ..

(iv.) Cleopas and another, perhaps St. Luke, at Emmaus. .. .. 12-13 13-35 ..

(v.) The Apostles and others (without St. Thomas) 5 .. 14 36-43 19-25

(vi.) The Apostles (with St. Thomas) .. .. .. .. 26-29

In Galilee, by

(vii.) Seven Apostles on the Lake. .. .. .. .. 21. 1-23

(viii.) The Apostles on the mountain .. 16-20 15-18 .. ..

(ix.) Over 500 persons 6 .. .. .. ..

(x.) St. James 7 .. .. .. ..

Back at Jerusalem, by Acts.

(xi.) The Apostles at Jerusalem .. .. .. 44-49 1. 4-5

(xii.) The Apostles and others at Bethany 7 .. 19-20 50-53 6-11, 22

(xiii.) St. Paul 8 .. .. .. 9. 3-9

And though this double farewell is sometimes thought to be a difficulty, yet as Christ's Resurrection was meant to be the proof of His mission, it seems only natural that He should have appeared again to all His disciples, and have taken leave of them; both those in Galilee, and those at Jerusalem, the Apostles themselves being of course present on each occasion. And as the words when they were come together imply that the meeting in Jerusalem, like that in Galilee, had been previously announced, all the Jud?an disciples may well have been there; and this we know was the case with Matthias, Justus, and others.[283]

[283] Acts 1. 6, 22.

(C.) Their Difficulties.

Passing on now to the difficulties in the narratives; they may be conveniently placed under the two heads of discrepancies and omissions.

(1.) Discrepancies.

These seem to be chiefly due to two of the Evangelists, St. Mark and St. Luke, recording separate appearances as if they were continuous. But it so happens that they do much the same in the rest of their Gospels, often recording separate sayings of Christ as if they were one discourse; and even in closely-connected passages a break has sometimes to be assumed.[284] While in these very narratives, St. Luke describes an appearance at Jerusalem in Acts 1. 4, and continues without any change of place till v. 12, when he says they returned to Jerusalem. Plainly he is here grouping together words spoken on different occasions.

[284] E.g., in Luke 14. 21-22.

Therefore he may have done the same at the end of his Gospel. Indeed, it is almost certain that he did, otherwise we should have to place the Ascension in the middle of the night, which is scarcely probable. Moreover, in the Acts he expressly says that the appearances lasted forty days; and he quotes St. Paul, as saying that they lasted many days.[285] He seems to have thought it unnecessary in his Gospel to explain that they were at different times; and if St. Mark did the same, it would account for most, though not all, of the discrepancies between them.

[285] Acts 1. 3; 13. 31.

These discrepancies, however, are often much exaggerated. Take for instance the fifth appearance in the previous list. St. Luke and St. John evidently refer to the same occasion, as it was on the evening of Easter Day; yet one says the Apostles were terrified, and thought they saw a spirit; while the other says they were glad. Can both be true? Certainly they can, if we assume (as is most natural) that the Apostles were at first terrified, and thought they saw a spirit; but were afterwards glad, when on Christ's showing them His hands and side, they were convinced that it was really Himself. And He may then have reproached them for their unbelief as recorded by St. Mark.

Or take the case of the Angels at the Tomb. These are referred to by every Evangelist, though some call them men (in white or dazzling apparel) and others angels. But as St. Luke uses both words,[286] and as angels are not likely to have appeared in any but a human form, there is no real difficulty here. While if the second angel was not always visible, it would account for some of the Evangelists speaking of only one. And it may be mentioned in passing, that one of the angels is said to have been seen by the Roman soldiers as well, who went and told the Jews about it.[287] And this is not likely to have been asserted within twenty years unless it had been the case, as the Jews would have contradicted it. Yet if it was the case, it affords an additional argument for the Resurrection, and one derived from Christ's enemies, not His friends.

[286] Luke 24. 4, 23. Similarly Gabriel is called a man in Dan. 9. 21, and an angel in Luke 1. 25.

[287] Matt. 28. 4, 11.

A more important difficulty is caused by Christ's command to the women, that they and the Apostles were to proceed to Galilee to meet Him, when, as He knew, He was going to appear to them in Jerusalem the same day. The most probable explanation is that the meeting in Galilee was the one intended all along, in fact we are definitely told so.[288] But when the women, in consequence of the Angel's message, and after they had recovered from their fright (which at first made them run away and say nothing to anyone),[289] went and told the Apostles to go there, they were disbelieved.[290] This naturally made the women doubt too, so they returned to the grave to make further inquiries, none of them having the slightest intention of going to Galilee.

[288] Mark 14. 28.

[289] Mark 16. 8.

[290] Luke 24. 11.

Under these circumstances, something more was necessary, so Christ appeared first to Mary Magdalene, and then to her with the other Mary, when He told them Himself to warn the Apostles to proceed to Galilee, which they again did, and were again disbelieved.[291] Then He appeared to the two disciples on the way to Emmaus, and when they came back, and told the rest, they were also at first disbelieved; the Apostles, though now admitting that Christ had been seen by St. Peter, still denying such a bodily resurrection (able to eat food, etc.) as they described.[292]

[291] Mark 16. 11.

[292] Mark 16. 13; Luke 24. 34.

After this there was nothing for it, but for Christ to appear to the Apostles Himself, and convince them personally by eating food in their presence, which He did, when most of them were assembled together the same evening. And He may then have told them to remain in Jerusalem till they were all convinced, as they could scarcely have been expected to collect the five hundred for the meeting in Galilee, so long as they kept disputing among themselves as

to whether He had really risen. And it was thus another week before the last sceptic (St. Thomas) was convinced, and they finally started for Galilee. These discrepancies then are not nearly so serious as is commonly supposed.

(2.) Omissions.

With regard to the omissions, none of our lists are at all complete, and this is often thought to be a difficulty. But as far as the Gospels are concerned, the writers nowhere profess to give a complete list of Christ's appearances, any more than of His parables, or His miracles; they only record (as one of them tells us)[293] selected instances. And in the present case their choice is quite intelligible. Thus St. Matthew closes his Gospel, which is concerned chiefly with the Galilean ministry, with the farewell meeting in Galilee; St. John, whose Gospel is concerned chiefly with the Jud?an ministry, ended his (before the last chapter was added, which seems a sort of appendix) with some of the appearances in Jerusalem. While St. Luke, who was more of an historian, and wrote everything in order,[294] though he describes most in detail the appearance to the two disciples at Emmaus (which is only natural if he was one of them), is yet careful to carry his narrative right on to the Ascension. Therefore, though they only record certain appearances, they may well have known of the others; and there can be little doubt that they did.

[293] John 20. 30.

[294] Luke 1. 3.

Thus, St. Matthew speaks of the Eleven meeting Christ by appointment, so he must have known of some interview when this appointment was made, (perhaps the one on the Lake), as the messages to the women did not fix either the time or place.[295] In the same way St. Mark must have known of a meeting in Galilee, as he refers to it himself, and St. Luke of an appearance to St. Peter.[296] While St. John, though he does not record the Ascension, must certainly have known of it, as he refers to it twice in the words, if ye should behold the Son of Man ascending, and I ascend unto My Father, the former passage clearly showing that it was to be a visible ascent, and that the Apostles were to see it.[297] Plainly, then, the Evangelists did not relate every appearance they knew of, and the objection as far as they are concerned, may be dismissed at once.

[295] Matt. 28. 16, 7, 10.

[296] Mark 16. 7; Luke 24. 34.

[297] John 6. 62; 20. 17.

On the other hand, St. Paul's list certainly looks as if it were meant to be complete; and this is no doubt a real difficulty. Surely, it is said, if the other appearances had occurred, or were even supposed to have occurred, when St. Paul wrote, he would have heard of them; and if he had heard of them, he would have mentioned them, as he was evidently trying to make out as strong a case as he could. He might perhaps have omitted the appearances to women, as their testimony was not considered of much value at the time; and they were not witnesses of the Resurrection, in the sense he alludes to-i.e., persons who went about preaching it;[298] but why should he have omitted the rest?

[298] 1 Cor. 15. 11.

There is however a fairly good explanation. The appearances it will be remembered form three groups. Now St. Paul mentions two appearances to individual Apostles-St. Peter and St. James; and this was doubtless because he had had such vivid accounts of them from the men themselves, when he met them at Jerusalem. For we may be sure that if they had not told him, he would not have accepted it from anyone else. But he seems to refer to the others in these groups, first to the Twelve (at Jerusalem), then to the five hundred (in Galilee), and then to all the Apostles, evidently meaning more than the Twelve (back again at Jerusalem). But by so doing, he does not limit it to only one appearance in each group. In the same way a man might say that on returning to England he saw first his parents, then his brothers, then his cousins; though he had seen his parents on two days a week apart, his brothers for only a few hours, and his cousins for several successive days.

And the fact that St. Paul, in one of his speeches in the Acts,[299] expressly says that Christ was seen for many days at Jerusalem, strongly confirms this view. We conclude, then, that in his Epistle he is mentioning the appearances by groups, rather than every single one; wishing to emphasise the number of men who had seen Christ, rather than the number of times they had seen Him; and if so it does away with the difficulty. None of these objections, then, are of much importance.

[299] Acts 13. 31.

(D.) Their Truthfulness.

Turning now to the other side, the narratives bear abundant marks of truthfulness. These we will consider under the three heads of agreements, mutual explanations, and signs of early date.

(1.) Agreements.

In the first place it is important to notice that in spite of the discrepancies and omissions just alluded to, there is an extraordinary amount of agreement in the narratives. For all the more important points-the third day, the empty tomb, the visit of the women, the angelic message, the first appearance being in Jerusalem, the incredulity of some of the disciples, and Christ's not only appearing, but speaking as well, and this in the presence of all the Apostles-are all vouched for by every Evangelist.

They also agree in saying that the Apostles remained in Jerusalem after Christ's arrest, and did not as we might have expected return at once to Galilee? For the last two Gospels expressly state that they were in Jerusalem on Easter Day; and the first two imply it, or how could the women have been told to take them a message to go to Galilee?

Further they all agree in not giving (what imaginary accounts might well have contained) any description of the Resurrection itself, any appearance of Christ to His enemies; or any information as to the other world, though this last would have been so eagerly welcomed, and could have been so easily invented.

Moreover the order in which the appearances are placed is also the same in every account, that to Mary Magdalene for instance (wherever it occurs) being, always placed first, that to St. Peter next, that to Cleopas next, then that to the Twelve, etc. And this is the more remarkable because the narratives are so obviously independent, and the order is not at all a likely one. Writers of fiction, for instance, would never have made Christ first appear to so little known a person as Mary Magdalene, rather than to His Mother or His Apostles.

Once more the narratives all agree in the extreme calmness with which they are written. One would have thought it almost impossible for anyone after relating the story of the Cross, to have avoided some word of triumph, or exultation, in regard to the Resurrection and Ascension. But nothing of the kind is found. The writers record them, like the rest of the history, as simple matters of fact, apparently regarding them as the natural close for such a Life, and calling for no comment. How unlikely this would be in legendary accounts scarcely needs pointing out.

It may also be added (though it does not concern these actual narratives) that the Evangelists all agree in saying that Christ had prophesied His own Resurrection.[300] And while this does not of course prove it to have been true, it yet forms a difficulty on any other theory.

[300] E.g., Matt. 16. 21; Mark 9. 31; Luke 18. 33; John 2. 19-21.

(2.) Mutual explanations.

In the next place it is surprising to find how often a slight remark in one of the narratives will help to explain some apparent improbability, or difficulty in another. And since, as just said, the narratives are quite independent, and were certainly not written to explain one another; such indications of truthfulness are of great value. We will therefore consider several examples.[301]

[301] These and some others are discussed in a paper in the Expositor, May, 1909, by the present writer.

To begin with, St. John records Mary Magdalene as visiting the empty Tomb, and then telling the disciples we know not where they have laid Him. But to whom does the we refer, as she was apparently alone all the time? St. John does not explain matters; but the other Evangelists do. For they say that though Mary Magdalene was the leader of the party, and is always named first, yet as a matter of fact there were other women with her; and this accounts for the we. Later on no doubt she was alone; but then she uses the words I know not.[302]

[302] John 20. 2, 13.

Secondly, St. Luke says that Peter was the disciple who ran to the tomb on hearing of the Angel's message, without however giving any reason why he should have been the one to go. But St. Mark, though he does not mention the visit of Peter, records that the message had been specially addressed to him; and St. John says that Mary Magdalene had specially informed him; and this of course explains his going. St. Luke, it may be added, in the subsequent words, certain of them that were with us,[303] implies that at least one other disciple went with him, which agrees with St. John.

[303] Luke 24. 24.

St. Luke then says that when Peter arrived at the tomb, he saw the linen cloths by themselves, and went home wondering. This seems only a trifle, but what does it mean? St. Luke does not explain matters, but St. John does; for he describes how the cloths were arranged. This was in a way which showed that the Body could not have been hurriedly stolen, but had apparently vanished without disturbing them. It convinced St. John that the disappearance was supernatural, and would quite account for St. Peter's wondering.[304]

[304] Luke 24. 12; John 20. 6-8.

Again, St. Matthew narrates that when Christ appeared to Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary, He was at once recognised, held by the feet, and worshipped. And they do not seem to have been at all surprised at meeting Him near the tomb, in spite of the Angel's message that they should go to Galilee to see Him. Evidently something must have occurred between, making a break in the narrative after v. 8, which is quite possible, for the words, And behold (Rev. Vers.) do not always imply a close connection.[305] And from the other Evangelists we learn what this was. For St. John describes an appearance to Mary Magdalene alone, when she was rebuked for wishing to touch Him, apparently in the old familiar way, and without any act of reverence; and St. Mark says this was the first appearance. If then a few minutes later, she, in company with the other Mary, saw Christ again, it would quite account for their not being surprised at meeting Him, and also for their altered behaviour in prostrating themselves to the ground, and being in consequence permitted to hold Him by the feet, and worship Him.

[305] E.g., Matt. 2. 1.

Once more St. Luke says that when Christ appeared to the Apostles in the evening, He was mistaken for a spirit; but he gives no reason for this, and it was apparently the only occasion on which it occurred. St. John however, though he does not mention the incident, fully explains it; for he says that the doors were shut for fear of the Jews; and obviously if Christ suddenly appeared within closed doors, it would account for their thinking that He must be a spirit. On the other hand, St. John speaks of Christ's showing them His hands (and also His side) though without giving any reason for this. But St. Luke's statement that they at first took Him for a spirit, and that He did this to convince them of His identity, quite accounts for it; so each of the narratives helps to explain the other.

But this is not all, for St. Luke then adds that as they still disbelieved, Christ asked if they had anything to eat (i.e., if they would give Him something to eat) and they at once offered Him a piece of broiled fish. But he gives no hint as to why they happened to have any fish ready. St. Mark however, though he does not mention either the request, nor its response, fully explains both; for he says they were sitting at meat at the time, probably just concluding their evening meal. And all this still further explains St. John's narrative, that Christ said to them again, the second time, Peace be unto you; which would be much more natural if something had occurred between, than if (as St. John implies) it was just after the first time.

Again, St. Mark records Christ as saying, after His command to preach the Gospel to all the world, 'He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved,' though without any previous reference to baptism. But St. Matthew says the command was not only to make disciples of all nations, but to baptise them as well, and this of course explains the other passage, though curiously enough St. Matthew himself does not refer to it.

And then as to the appearance to the five hundred recorded by St. Paul. None of the Evangelists mention this, but it explains a good deal that they do mention. Thus St. John alludes to the Apostles being in Galilee, (instead of staying in Jerusalem) after the Resurrection, but he gives no hint as to why they went there. Nor do St. Matthew and St. Mark, who say Christ told them to go there, give any hint as to why He told them; but this appearance to the five hundred, who had to be collected in Galilee, explains everything. It also accounts for St. Matthew's curious remark (before noticed) that when the Eleven saw Christ in Galilee, they worshipped Him, but some doubted. And it probably explains St. Luke's omission of Galilee among the places where the Apostles themselves had to preach the Resurrection; as there were so many witnesses there already.[306]

[306] Acts 1. 8.

Now of course too much stress must not be laid on small details like these, but still the fact that such short and independent accounts should explain one another in so many ways is a distinct evidence of truthfulness. Legendary accounts of fictitious events would not be likely to do so.

(3.) Signs of early date.

In conclusion, it is interesting to note that these accounts, especially those in the first three Gospels, show signs of an extremely early, if not a contemporary date. Thus St. Peter is still called by his old name of Simon,[307] and it is the last occasion when that name is used, without explaining to whom it refers; St. Paul, some years later, though alluding to this same appearance, calling him by what was then his usual name of Cephas or Peter. Whilst St. John, writing many years afterwards, though he is equally accurate as to Simon being the name in use at the time, thinks it necessary to explain who was meant by it ('Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon son of John, lovest thou Me?').[308]

[307] Luke 24. 34.

[308] John 21. 15; comp. Acts. 15. 7, 14.

Similarly the Apostles are still spoken of as the Eleven, though they could only have had this title for just these few weeks.[309] And the fact of their having had it seems to have been soon forgotten. For St. Paul even when alluding to this very time prefers to call them by the familiar title of the Twelve, which was equally correct, as we are specially told that St. Matthias, who was afterwards chosen as the twelfth, had been with them all along.[310]

[309] Mark 16. 14; Luke 24. 9, 33.

[310] Acts 1. 22; 1 Cor. 15. 5.

There are also some incidental remarks in the narratives, which seem so natural, and yet so unlikely to have been invented. Thus we read that on one occasion after Christ appeared to the Apostles, they still disbelieved for joy; and on another, that though they knew it was the Lord, they yet wanted to ask Him Who art Thou?[311] Such bewildered feelings are quite intelligible at the time, but are not likely to have been thought of afterwards.

[311] Luke 24. 41; John 21. 12.

Moreover the kind of Resurrection asserted (though no doubt presenting great difficulties) is strongly in favour of a contemporary date. For it was not (as said in Chapter XIII.) a mere resuscitation of Christ's natural body, but His rising again in a body which combined material and spiritual properties in a remarkable manner. And there was nothing in the Old Testament, or anywhere else, to suggest such a Resurrection as this; it was quite unique. Indeed the combination of these properties-and they occur in the same Gospel-is so extremely puzzling, that it is hard to see how anything but actual experience (or what they believed to be such) could ever have induced men to record it. And much the same may be said of their ascribing an altered appearance to Christ's Body, so that He was often not recognised at first. Late writers are not likely to have imagined this.

Lastly, the utter absence of any attempt at harmonising the narratives, or avoiding the apparent discrepancies between them, also points to their extreme antiquity. The writers in fact seem to narrate just what they believed to have happened, often mentioning the most trivial circumstances, and without ever attempting to meet difficulties or objections. And while such disconnected accounts might well have been written by the actual witnesses of a wonderful miracle, they are not such as would have been deliberately invented; nor are they like subsequent legends and myths.

These narratives then appear throughout to be thoroughly trustworthy; and we therefore decide that the Resurrection of Christ is probably true. In the next chapter we will consider the various alternative theories.

Free to Download MoboReader
(← Keyboard shortcut) Previous Contents (Keyboard shortcut →)
 Novels To Read Online Free

Scan the QR code to download MoboReader app.

Back to Top

shares