A Theological/Bible Related Commentary

         We now turn to yet another  difficulty Christian apologists must be forced to contend with. And one which is not quite so readily apparent.

        In John 20:1, we learn that Mary Magdalene, traveling alone, made her way to Jesus tomb, “while it was still dark” on the first day of the week (i.e., “Sunday”), only to find it empty. But we also learn from Matthew 28:1 that Mary Magdalene, in the company of the “other Mary,” returned to the tomb, at daybreak; making it Magdalene’s third visit there. It is then when the pair is said to have encountered a lone angel sitting atop Jesus’ burial stone.

          Since Mary Magdalene’s earlier visit in John’s gospel took place “while it was still dark,” and her third visit takes place at the crack of dawn, it means Jesus would had to have arisen on Saturday, and not Sunday—this, despite John 20:1 stating it was “early on the first day of the week” when Mary first made her way to the tomb.

          The Greek text of Matthew 28:1 actually reads: τῇ  ἐπιφωσκούσῃ εἰς μίαν σαββάτων. Literally, “It being dawn toward   [the] first [day] of [the]* week.” (Emphasis mine.)

           We must remember that the Magdalene had traveled back to Jerusalem to tell Peter and the Beloved Disciple that Jesus’ tomb was empty, then returned with them both in tow to search for Jesus’ body. The time needed for such back-and-forth tripsin addition to her tomb activities, plus  the time needed to gather “the other Mary” and then return to the tomb for a third time at daybreak, simply does not permit a Sunday resurrection. There is simply too much traveling back and forth and other activities between Mary’s first visit in John 20:1 and this third visit at the crack of dawn in Matthew 28:1 for Jesus to have arisen on Sunday proper.

            Fact is, the claims of a Sunday resurrection actually rest on nothing more than Church doctrine and dogma. There’s no empirical evidence whatsoever to positively demonstrate that Jesus actually arose on Sunday rather than Saturday. There were no eyewitnesses to the event. And nothing in the gospel records can actually certify a Sunday rising. That being the case, we should honestly rule the Resurrection a Saturday  event rather than a Sunday one (assuming, for the sake of argument, that there even was  a “resurrection”). The latter being more of a matter of Church tradition rather than a matter of fact. And so, until proven otherwise, the Saturday resurrection stands. There is simply no irrefutable proof indicating otherwise.

Evangelists Caught Altering Text

           Previously we wondered why both Matthew and Luke changed Mark’s “After three days” to “On the third day” in their respective gospels. A vital clue, perhaps, is to be found in the text of I Corinthians 15:3-4. where the “apostle” Paul declares :

“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.”

          The question is: What  specific verses of “scripture” is Paul actually referring to? His claim has confounded bible scholars for centuries due to the fact there are no Old Testament passages specifically stating any such thing. Nonetheless, Paul may have had in mind Hosea 6:2-3. where we read:

He will revive us after two days; He will raise us up on the third day, That we may live before Him. Let us acknowledge the Lord;
    let us press on to acknowledge him.
As surely as the sun rises,
    he will appear
  (NIV)

          Knowing the propensity of the gospel writers to try and tie Jesus to Old Testament “prophecy” in as many ways as possible, Hosea 6:2-3 may have been just too  irresistible for Matthew and Luke to pass up and not try and conform it to the death of Jesus in some fashion.

          Best bet is that Hosea 6:2-3 was seen by both Luke and Matthew as yet another “fulfilled prophecy” regarding Jesus that could be extracted from the Old Testament, and so they decided to alter the text of Mark accordingly. Veritable proof of the likeliness that this did indeed occur lies in the fact that not only have both Jerome and Martin Luther believed Hosea 6:2-3 to be Old Testament prophecy at work, but so too many modern  day evangelical Christian writers! A survey of Bible commentaries reveals that list to be rather extensive. We provide a very brief listing of some of those commentators here. So there can be little doubt that both Matthew and Luke deliberately altered Mark’s wording in order to see in the death of Jesus, the fulfillment of  Old Testament prophecy―this, despite the fact that Hosea 6:2-3 is clearly referencing the nation of Israel and not a lone individual.

The “On the Third Day” Tradition

         Earlier, we mentioned that nowhere in the gospels does Jesus arise on the “fourth” or “fifth” day; a fact that Christian apologists claim “proves” Mark 8:31 must be interpreted as meaning ON the third day. And today, the “third day” tradition is practically carved in stone. But that is NOT what the text of Mark 8:31 maintains. Mark clearly  indicates Jesus would arise three days AFTER his death:

He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and AFTER three days rise again. (NIV; emphasis mine)

        This is also the case in Mark 9:31, 10:34, Matthew 12:40, and 27:63. The Christian cannot simply choose to ignore verses of Scripture that do not “square” with their religious world-view. That’s being dishonest with the texts, and consequently, not dealing with the “truth” in a forthright manner. A hallmark of the Christian religion is that its members are to always tell the truth, not flee from it.

 Conclusion

         We have seen that there is no “legitimate” way Christian apologists can reconcile the contradiction between between Mark 8:31 and Matthew 16:21 and their corresponding parallel passages. So as it stands, not only do the two passages remain in a state of  irrefutable contradiction, but Mark 8:31 also puts on the lips of Jesus a “prophecy” which has proven to be patently false. And, in turn, proves Luke 1:37 ‘s declaration, “No word from God will ever  fail,” to be untrue as well. There is simply no escaping this fact.

          We’ve also reached the conclusion that Jesus did not arise on Easter Sunday, but during the evening of Saturday instead―assuming that there even was a “resurrection.” The preponderance of evidence for Saturday is just to strong to deny; and the ramifications of which are yet to be fully determined.

          Church tradition will, of course, invariably hold sway more often than not. The faithful will continue to believe what they want  to believe. The Christian apologists will hold firm to tradition. But that doesn’t make their beliefs “true,” nor tradition right. Neither faith nor tradition prove anything  true. Only the truth does that.

End of Part IV – The Conclusion

Part I Here     Part II Here     Part III Here

* http://biblehub.com/text/matthew/28-1.htm See also the NASB and Berean Literal Bible.

A Theological/Bible Related Commentary

Part III – The Rebuttal Begins

        In Part I of this article, we addressed the fact that the website Apologetic Press rigorously defends the bizarre idea that “On the third day,” and After three days” both denote one and the same day. (And is not the only apologetic source to do so either.**) The Apologetic Press’ Eric Lyons writes:

“…as awkward as it may sound to an American living in the 21st century, a person in ancient times could legitimately speak of something occurring “on the third day,” “after three days,” or after “three days and three nights,” yet still be referring to the same exact day”*

      The two-step process taken in pursuing this line of defense was to first stress that time-keeping in ancient times was not nearly as precise as it is in the 21st century; and second, to emphasize the fact that we moderns are not familiar enough with the Jewish idioms of Jesus’ day to recognize no real problem exists. Eric Lyons states:

“The idiomatic expressions that Jesus and the Bible writers employed to denote how long Jesus would remain in the grave does not mean that He literally was buried for 72 hours. If we interpret the account of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial, and resurrection in light of the cultural setting of the first century, and not according to the present-day (mis)understanding of skeptics, we find no errors in any of the expressions that Jesus and the gospel writers used.”*

    Eric lists six examples of biblical time-keeping verses which he feels are similarly ‘contradictory” to those undergoing our scrutiny, but which upon close inspection, prove to provide no real problem for the skeptic either. The most pertinent one related to our examination is reproduced below:

  • In 1 Samuel 30:12,13, the phrases “three days and three nights” and “three days” are used interchangeably.

     What is imperative to keep in mind, however, is that in I Samuel 30:12,13, the Egyptian is recounting the events of his ordeal on the fourth day of the week―not the third. Below is the text as to what actually transpired:

“They found an Egyptian in a field [on the fourth day of his suffering] and brought him to David. They gave him water to drink and food to eat— part of a cake of pressed figs and two cakes of raisins. He ate and was revived, for he had not eaten any food or drunk any water for three days And three nights.  David asked him, “Who do you belong to? Where do you come from?” He said, “I am an Egyptian, the slave of an Amalekite. My master abandoned me when I became ill three days ago. ” (I Samuel 30:12-13-NIV; emphasis mine)

       So there is no question that in this  particular instance, both “three days AND three nights” and “three days” are, indeed, perfectly interchangeable seeing as the Egyptian is recounting his ordeal on the fourth day. The text of Matthew 12:39b-40, however, is an entirely different matter altogether. Here are the actual words of Jesus himself:

“An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; for just as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days AND three nights, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” (NIV; emphasis mine)

       There is simply no valid reason whatever to doubt that Jesus was being as precise as possible in detailing his prophecy. Taking Jesus at his word then, it means the resurrection would had to have occurred on the “Monday” following Good Friday, and not Sunday. But before we explore this point any further, let us first examine the ramifications of trying to insist that “On the third day” and “After three days” both refer to the same exact day, and that any “perceived” disagreement is simply due to a modern “misunderstanding” of 1st-century Jewish Idiom.

A Conversation Between Two Apostles

        Envision the following scene: Jesus’ apostles, Peter and James, have  just met at a well on a very hot Sunday afternoon in the village of Nazareth:

Peter:     Did you hear? Timothy is getting married!

James:   Why, that’s wonderful  news!! When’s the wedding?

Peter:     Well, let’s see, Bartholomew told me it was to be on the third day of this week, so that  would make it Tuesday afternoon.

James:   Well I’ll make sure then, that I have my mule and I ready to arrive as early as I can after [those] three days, on Wednesday, so that I don’t miss any  part of the wedding ceremony.

So much for the skeptic’s “misunderstanding” 1st-century “Jewish idiom” argument.

End of Part III

   * https://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=6&article=756

**  http://www.defendingyourfaith.org/Contradictions.htm

Part 1  Here          Part II  Here     Part IV Here

Next Time: Part IV: The Rebuttal Continues

Resurrection 6

A Theological/Bible Related Commentary

Part II

     In Part I of this article, we focused on the Christian apologetic argument that “On the third day” and “After three days” are, in reality, one and the same “day.” This is a claim that is rigorously defended on the Christian website Apologetic Press.*  So now we will turn our attention to another angle Christian apologists have used to reconcile the apparent contradiction between “On” the third day, versus three days later. And that is to simply deny that there isn’t any  gospel evidence for a “fourth” day resurrection of Jesus at all!

     The Christian apologist, Andreas Köstenberger, whose work can be found at the website, Biblical Foundations** reports:

Regarding the Gospel evidence, we can observe at least two things. First, the Gospels uniformly attest to the fact that Jesus was crucified and subsequently rose “on the third day” (e.g., Luke 24:7; see also Luke 24:21 where the two disciples on the road to Emmaus tell Jesus that this is “now the third day since these things happened”; this later became part of the gospel message, as we can see in passages such as 1 Cor 15:4 and later still in the Apostles’ Creed). The Gospels nowhere say Jesus was crucified and rose “on the fourth day” or “on the fifth day”; it’s always on the third day.

     Technically speaking, this is true. No New Testament writer ever asserts that Jesus arose on the “fourth” or “fifth” day. But this is point we will be exploring more fully later in this article.

     A third method Christian apologists use to reduce the “On” the third day,” versus the “three days later” statements of Jesus to insignificance, is to either avoid any mention of the issue at all, or bypass “after three days” without drawing any attention to the passage whatsoever.

     Finally, we turn to our last example. And that is to plead that Mark was not actually marking the days from the day of Jesus’ death, but rather from the day he was apprehended and tried before the Sanhedrin. In other words, on the Thursday preceding  Good Friday! Bible commentator Matthew Poole states it this way:

“With the doctrine of his suffering, he joins also the doctrine of his resurrection the third day: so saith Matthew. Mark saith, after three days, [μετὰ] meta, which seemeth to be a difference between the two evangelists, and also a difficulty, when it is certain that our Saviour did not lie three entire days in the grave. But either Mark reckons the time from his first being betrayed and apprehended, so it was after three days; and Matthew speaketh only of the time which he lay in the grave, that was but part of three days; or else it was the fault of our translators to translate [μετὰ] meta, “ after,”  because indeed it often so signifies, whereas it sometimes signifies in, which had better fitted this text.“*** (emphasis mine)

     And so we conclude the Christian apologist portion of this article. Now it’s on to view the evidence from a very different perspective.

End of Part II

*       https://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=6&article=756

**     http://www.biblicalfoundations.org/raised-on-the-third-day/

***   http://biblehub.com/commentaries/mark/8-31.htm

Part I – Here

Next Time:  My rebuttal: Part III – Here

 

Resurrection

A Theological/Bible Related Commentary

Part I

     The New Testament actually provides two  answers as to when Jesus was to arise from the dead.

     In the one instance, Jesus tells his disciples:

“They will kill him [i.e.,the Son of Man], and ON the third day he will be raised to life.” (Matthew 17:23; NIV; emphasis mine)

and in another, Jesus says this:

“The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and ON the third day be raised to life.” (Luke 9:22; NIV; emphasis mine)

     Thus, it seems pretty clear that since Jesus was crucified on (Good) Friday, his resurrection was to take place on the following Sunday, i.e. the “third day.”

     But elsewhere we read this:

“He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and AFTER three days rise again.” (Mark 8:31; NIV; emphasis mine)

     The passage above is paralleled as well in Mark 9:31; 10:34; and Matthew 27:63.

     Now, interestingly enough, scholars fully recognize that Mark was the first written gospel, and that both Luke and Matthew used  Mark’s gospel as an exemplar as each was composing their  own version of events. So it seems rather odd that Luke and Matthew would both chose to alter the text of Mark to read “on the third day,” instead of keeping intact Mark’s original “after three days.” Why do such a thing remains quite the mystery; a mystery we will attempt to solve later in this article.

      Short of midway in Matthew’s gospel, we also find Jesus declaring :

“For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days AND three nights in the heart of the earth.” (Matthew 12:40; NIV; emphasis mine)

    Thus, even Matthew’s gospel points to a fourth day! That leaves us with two clearly conflicting indications as to when Jesus was to arise from the dead. The question now becomes:  How have Christian apologists managed to ” resolve” this thorny issue?

The Christian Apologists Respond

      The most accepted explanation put forth by Christian apologists, when they’re brave enough to even tackle the issue at all, is that “On the third day,” and “After three days’ are to be actually understood to mean one and the same  day!

      Christian apologist, Eric Lyons, at the popular website, Apologetic Press,* argues that both phrases are simply Jewish “idiomatic expressions” used on the part of Jesus to signify the very same day. Eric first cites Matthew 27:63:

“Sir,” they [i.e., the chief priests and the Pharisees] said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again,” (NIV; emphasis mine)

which certainly finds full agreement with the statements found in Mark’s gospel. But then he adds the next verse, where we read:

“So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.” (Matthew 27:64 – NIV; emphasis mine)

     What Eric does next is remarkable. He argues that since the tomb was to be “made secure” for just three days, and not four, it must surely mean that ON the third day, and AFTER three days both mean one and the same day. He writes:

“The phrase “after three days” must have been equivalent to “the third day,” else surely the Pharisees would have asked for a guard of soldiers until the fourth day. Interesting, is it not, that modern skeptics charge Jesus with contradicting Himself, but not the hypercritical Pharisees of His own day.”*

     Eric attributes the skeptic’s “misunderstanding” of scripture to a lack of understanding ancient Jewish idiom and how “days” were actually reckoned at the time. He writes:

“While to the 21st-century reader these statements [“On the third day” versus “After three days”] may initially appear to contradict one another, in reality, they harmonize perfectly if one understands the different, and sometimes more liberal, methods ancients often used when reckoning time.

     Eric then concludes:

“The idiomatic expressions that Jesus and the Bible writers employed to denote how long Jesus would remain in the grave does not mean that He literally was buried for 72 hours. If we interpret the account of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial, and resurrection in light of the cultural setting of the first century, and not according to the present-day (mis)understanding of skeptics, we find no errors in any of the expressions that Jesus and the gospel writers used.”*

End of Part I

Next Time: More Christian apologetics. And later, My rebuttal.

*https://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=6&article=756