THE SYNCHRONY OF THE GREAT STORY:
JESUS'S RESURRECTION AND RELATED EVENTS
J. J. Jackson, Zimbabwe
THIS writing is for those who believe in the inspiration of the Bible, and recognize that even every smallest textual piece of the puzzle has its intended place in the harmony of the whole. Sadly some leamed critics see the Bible as being full of contradictions. For them the different Gospel accounts of Jesus' resurrection present a prime example.
My object is to try to show that there is no discord. I am not a Greek scholar, and my limited tools are a few different Bible translations, and especially their margin
notes. In addition Strong's Exhaustive Concordance has been a vital key. So I am not trying to act as an expert, but I am trying to fit together the loose bits of evidence gathered from the different experts. I fully realize that all translators were faced with a formidable task. One of the greatest drawbacks was post apostolic tradition, which had become entrenched for nearly two millennia. Besides that there is the vast difference between English and Greek. Some English words are translated from a range of Greek words, while other Greek words are translated into a range of English words. This becomes all too evident when you use Strong's.
Passover is the 14th day of the first month of the sacred calendar (Numbers 28:16-17). The following day, the 15th, is an annual "Sabbath" or "High day" (John 19:31). It is the first and most holy day of the seven-day feast of unleavened bread. It came to be popularly called "Passover", while Passover day came to be called the "day of preparation". However, the whole Passover week was also called "Passover". But the 15th always was a focal day.
One glance at any Jewish calendar will show that this "Passover" public holiday falls on different days of the week in different years. For example in the year 2006, it fell on Thursday 13 April of our calendar. Is that not perhaps how it fell in the year when Jesus was crucified? The indications are that it was. In all the years where it does not fall on Saturday there are therefore two Sabbaths in the Passover week. The one Sabbath is this "Feast of unleavened bread", annual Sabbath, while the other is the fourth commandment, seventh day rest, weekly Sabbath.
When Matthew introduced the resurrection story he started with the words: "In the end of the Sabbath" (Matthew 28:1). My Scofield Bible margin notes say that the Greek here is plural, and that this text should read Sabbaths (plural). That is how the Ferrar Fenton Bible translates it.
The women prepared spices and ointments, so we read in Luke 23:56, "and rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment". Are those last four words not deliberately put there to indicate that this was the fourth commandment Sabbath? So these women must have bought (Mark 16:1), and prepared (Luke 23:56) the spices before the Sabbath. But we read in the gospels that these women had watched the entombment of Jesus' body, which was a race against time, to be completed before the sun set, because sunset was the beginning of the Sabbath. They could therefore not possibly have done those things before that Sabbath. There simply was not enough time. But, of course, we are dealing with two different Sabbaths. If that year's calendar was the same as this year's then Thursday
would have been the feast Sabbath, and, of course, Saturday the weekly rest Sabbath. The Friday between those two Sabbaths would have been the opportunity
to buy and work.
In the apocryphal fragment of the gospel of Peter we read of the apostle's distress when Jesus was crucified, and the author says: "And I with my companions was grieved; and being wounded in mind we hid ourselves... and we fasted and sat mourning and weeping night and day until the Sabbath" (Chapter 1:7). How obvious that he was not referring to the feast Sabbath, because it started at sunset the very day Jesus was crucified!
Three Days And Three Nights:
Certain Scribes and Pharisees demanded from Jesus a sign to prove that He was the Messiah. Jesus answered in Matthew 12:39-40:
''An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: For as the prophet Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly: so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth".
Jesus was referring to Jonah 1:17,which reads: ''And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights". Jonah also called the fish's belly "sheol" (Jonah 2:2), which is translated "hell" here, but "the grave" in some other places.
That was the only sign to be given to those Jews as proof of the Messiahship of Jesus. What importance rating would you give it? Do you not think the Devil would
have been tempted to tamper with the evidence in order to deny that sign?
An ancient writing of Old Testament times, called "The Book of Adam and Eve" states that God told Adam that He would come in the flesh to save his seed, and that they would put Him to death "and they will lay Me in a rock, and seal a large stone upon Me, and I shall remain in that rock three days and three nights. But on the third day I shall rise again, and it shall be salvation to thee, O Adam". God introduced this statement with the words: ''And this sign, O Adam,will happen to Me at My coming upon earth:" (Adam and Eve chapter 49:8-9). How significant the use of the word "sign"!
In Three Days:
John records that on another occasion the Jews asked Jesus "What sign givest thou us"? Jesus answered and said unto them: "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up" (John 2:18-19). Verse 21 tells us that "He spake of the temple of His body". The gospels give four records of the accusation hurled against Jesus concerning those words He spoke. The only consistent thing in their accusations was the "in three days" aspect. They all applied it in different ways to the building (Matthew.26:61;27:40, Mark 14:58;15:29). It is clear that this "in three days" must be synonymous with the "three days and three nights" of Matthew 12. Both are the same "sign".
After Three Days:
It is twice recorded that Jesus said to His disciples: "after three days I will rise again (Mark 8:31). It is also clear that the "three days and three nights" must be in agreement with this "after three days". But,we may ask, why three days? My Companion Bible commentary states that, in the case of Lazarus, Jesus deliberately delayed His coming until he had been dead a full three days. The Rabbis taught that the spirit sought readmission to the body for three days before abandoning it. So three days had to be fulfilled before death was absolutely proven. Resurrection after three days, therefore, had to be counted a miracle. It was also not permitted to embalm a body before the lapse of three days. I wonder whether the same did not apply to the anointing the women intended to do.
The Third Day:
On several occasions Jesus plainly said to His disciples that He would rise again on "the third day" (Matthew 16:21,17:23, 20:19, Mark 9:31,10:34, Luke 9:22, 18:33, 24:7, 46). Then in 1 Corinthians 15:4, we read that "He rose again on the third day".And we read that the two travellers to Emmaus, on the morning following Jesus' resurrection said: ''And besides all this, today is the third day since these things happened". In that case, however, the "these things" may have included the sealing of the tomb. It seems that "the third day" in the Bible has a fuller meaning than our "day after tomorrow". In Genesis 1:13, after completion of the day's work, we read: ''And the evening and the morning were the third day". That means three evenings and three mornings completed the third day.
In the Bible Law there are many "third day" rules, some of which may have a bearing on this matter. A further proof of the synonymity of "after three days" with
"the third day" is to be found in the request to Pilate by the Chief priests and Pharisees who claimed that Jesus said He would rise again "after three days" to "therefore" make the sepulchre sure "until the third day". In that Book of Adam and Eve quoted above, we may have noticed, those two terms are also used synonymously.
There is one moment in time when "on the third day", and "after three days" bear the same meaning, and that is when the clock strikes 72 hours. Is it not also true that there must have been one precise moment in etemity when the Son of man was to rise from the grave? Is that not perhaps why these different phrases were used, which on their own could each be approximated, but when put together, have just one moment of synchrony? The moment Jesus was buried must have been the same moment that He rose from the grave, 72 hours later. Let us now take a closer look at the story of each gospel.
Verse1: This verse starts with the words: "In the end of the Sabbath" (KJV), or: ''After the Sabbaths" (FF). or: "In the evening of the Sabbath" (Restoration Scriptures). The words that follow will give more clarity.
"as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week". The first day of the week starts at the sunset of the Sabbath. "As it began to dawn toward" must, therefore, have meant approaching sunset. Our word "dawn" does not always mean approaching sunrise. So the time indicated here was still on the Sabbath. The word translated "dawn" here is Strong's Greek no. 2020. There is only one other occurrence of the word dawn in the N.T.and that is in 2 Peter 1:19. There it speaks of "the day dawn, and the day star arise", clearly a morning dawn, and a different Greek word (Str. Gr. 1806) is used.
This assumption that Matthew was referring to presunset is a key factor in finding the synchrony of events. To clinch it let us see what word is used for the same
time of the day when Jesus was buried. Luke 23:54-55 reads: "And that day was the preparation, and the Sabbath drew on. And the women also, which came with Him from Galilee, followed after, and beheld the sepulchre, and how His body was laid". Those two words "drew on" are so translated from exactly the same Greek word (Str Gr.2020) as the word "dawn" in Matthew. So, regarding time of the day, Jesus was buried at Str. Gr. 2020 on the day of preparation, and He rose from the dead at Str.Gr.2020 on the weekly Sabbath, in both cases at approaching sunset.
This is of course contrary to the strongly entrenched tradition that Jesus rose on the first day of the week. We will be considering all the relevant Scriptures involved
as we go along.
"Came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre". The word "see" occurs four times in this chapter. In this case it is Str.Gr.2334. The other cases are two different Greek words. This "see" means to "gaze upon" (Bullinger). We note that on this occasion they did not bring any spices with them, neither did they ask who would rollaway the stone. Their purpose now was not to anoint Jesus' body, but just to gaze upon the sepulchre. How strong their desire must have been! And how natural to take a Sabbath afternoon walk! The men were in hiding, but the women could move around more freely.They may have gone to the sepulchre several times before, it was barely one kilometre from John and Mark's houses in the city.And walking that distance was well within the limits of the accepted Sabbath journey.
They would of course not have planned to anoint the body after sunset, because of the approaching darkness, but they no doubt had their programme arranged for the morning.
Verse 2-4: "And, behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it". That, probably, was the moment of resurrection. The earth shook when Jesus died, and again it shook when He rose from the dead. Did it not perhaps happen immediately prior to the arrival of the women? The word "behold" in its different usages, and translated from different Greek words, does not
necessarily mean that the women saw the happening. It need not necessarily be the recording of an eyewitness account. The word "behold" seems rather to be directed at the reader, as if to say, "this is what happened", like the creation story in Genesis, which had no human eyewitnesses. The guards of course told a different story. But, it is clear that the women did, perhaps after the event, see the angel, in a different posture, as he spoke to them, and showed them the empty tomb.
The guards were terrified, not only by the earthquake, but also by the appearance of the angel, and by the fact that he rolled the stone away. Some of them went to
report the matter to the chief priests. They then assembled with the elders, and decided upon their plan to spread the false rumour that Jesus' disciples came by night and stole His body away. Their meeting may have been the same evening, or the next moming.
Verse 5-7: "And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified." "He is not here: for He is risen, as He hath said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay". ''And go quickly, and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead; and behold, goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see Him: lo, I have told you".
The matter of Galilee is important. In addition to this reference, we will see that the disciples were instructed to proceed to Galilee. This instruction was given by the angel in Mark 16:7, and by Jesus Himself in Matthew 28:10. Jesus had already told them that after His resurrection He would proceed to Galilee. He told them
that before He was crucified. It is recorded in Mark14:28. In Mark 16:7 the angel reminded them of that. The instruction to go to Galilee was therefore urgent, and Matthew later records Jesus meeting with them there at the place appointed. That meeting bears great significance, and we will come to it as we go along.
Verse 8-10: ''And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring His disciples word". "And as they went to tell His disciples, behold Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held Him by the feet, and worshipped Him". "Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid: go tell My brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see Me".
Superficial reading gives the impression that, as the women were running, Jesus met them somewhere along the way. But those words "as they went" have a slightly different meaning. The word "went" is translated from Str.Gr. 4198, which means departing, as it is translated several times in the N.T. One example of its use is in Matthew 11:7, which reads: "And as they departed (Str. Gr. 4198), Jesus began to say unto the multitude". There are several other Greek words also translated "went". The word "met" also may create a wrong impression. Six different Greek words are translated "met" in the Bible. This one is Str. Gr. 528, and means confronted (Bullinger). So the story is that, as the two Marys were departing, in response to the angels instruction, there Jesus stood and greeted them, still in the garden, and after He had spoken to them they then ran to tell the good news. This point is important, with regard to synchrony, when we come to the gospel of John.
Matthew does not mention the other first day appearances, neither does he mention the experiences of the women the next morning. He also does not mention the ascension. But he has an obvious focus on the Galilee meeting, which he then mentions in verses 16 to 20. The significance of that meeting will be discussed later.
Verse 1: ''And when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint Him".
Which Sabbath is referred to here? It must be the feast Sabbath, which was on Thursday, because Luke tells us that they rested on the Saturday Sabbath after
preparing the ointments (Luke 23:56).Further evidence is that Ferrar Fenton, who insists on the plurality of the word Sabbath, where it is used in connection with Jesus' resurrection, renders this one in the singular. We note that with many words, Strong's does not distinguish between singular and plural. Ferrar Fenton also excludes the word "had", which, according to Strong's, is not in the original.
The text therefore simply means that the women bought and prepared the spices after the feast Sabbath, and rested on the Saturday Sabbath.
Verse 2: "And very early in the morning, the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun". While the original Greek text does not have the word "day", the phrase "at the rising of the sun" shows that the translators, in this case, needed to add that word for clarity in English.The word "they", however, requires some thought. Does it not perhaps mean the whole group of women, including those mentioned above? Those three were mentioned as having purchased the ointments two days previously.
Luke gives us the list, naming three, and then adding: "and the other women with them". We don't know how many there were. But we do know that Mary Magdalene was the leading figure, and that three gospels confirm that Jesus appeared to her first. That appearance, we now know, took place the previous evening. She obviously was not able to inform all, if any, of the other women, during the night, of her experience. And we do not know where they all stayed overnight. They may have arrived from different directions, and at different times. It does, however, seem very probable, that they would not have failed to meet at the sepulchre, as arranged, early that morning, regardless of what they had seen or heard the previous evening. It is also possible that Mary Magdalene arrived on the scene a bit later than the others. Nevertheless the use of the word "they" would still be justified.
Verse 3-8: "And they said among themselves, who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre"? "And when they looked, they saw the stone rolled away: for it was very great". ''And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted". "And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, Which was crucified: He is risen; He is not here: behold the place where they laid Him"."But go your way, tell His disciples and Peter that He goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see Him, as He said unto you". "And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they anything to any man; for they were afraid".
Here again we see the instruction to go to Galilee. The women are simply referred to as "they", and Mary Magdalene is not given the usual prominence here. She,
of course, had already seen the Lord. And we notice that there is no mention here of a morning appearance by Jesus to the women.
That is how far the story of the women's experiences that moming goes, and there is no conflict with the gospel of Matthew. Mark then goes on to summarize:
Verse 9-11: "Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils"."And she went and told them that had been with Him, as they mourned and wept"."And they, when they had heard that He was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not".
That phrase: "Jesus was risen early the first day of the week" appears to be the most solid evidence for a Sunday resurrection. The "was risen", however, puts a bit of past tense to it. The FF Bible reads: "having risen". The RS. Bible gives the translation (in its margin) as follows: "having risen at the end of the Sabbath". Let us take a closer look at this verse:
1) The word "day" is not in the original. The KJV Bible prints the word "day" differently (day), to show that it was not in the original. And Strong's confirms that.
2) The word "week" is "Sabaton" in Greek. In the NT. It is translated "Sabbath" (day) fifty times and "week" only nine times. Some of those nine cases one could read either way. In the OT. "Sabbath" and "week" are two different words. From the R.S. Bible one gathers that the rendering "ton Sabaton", as in this verse, makes the word plural.
3) The word "first" is "protos" in Greek. In the KJV, there are eight cases in the NT. where the words "first day" appear. In seven of them the word "first" is "mia", but in this case it is "protos". Why? What does "protos" mean? It means "foremost" (in time, place, order, or importance), and is translated "chief" or "principal" twelve times.
We could therefore translate the verse as follows: "was risen on the foremost of the Sabbaths". And that is exactly what it would have been, the most important of all Sabbaths, in the chronology of eternity. We are left with only one problem word, and that is "early". The Greek word, "proi" is translated sometimes as "early", and sometimes as "morning", as are six other, different Greek words. "Early" can, however, mean the beginning of any period of time. And the resurrection of Christ was the beginning of an etemal dispensation centred upon the immortal Son of man. So, far from being a problem, that word "early" is most appropriate. I find it significant that, in line with this proposed synchrony, the word "morning" does not appear in Matthew 28:1, Mark 16:9, or John 20:1 while Mark 16:2 and Luke 24:1 correctly say "very early in the morning". It is interesting that in his summary, Mark points out that Jesus appeared to Mary
Magdalene first, yet in his relating of the women's experiences on Sunday morning he makes no mention of it. Of course that is correct, because it was not part of
that story, she had seen Him the previous evening.
We see in verse 11 that those, to whom Mary reported that she had seen Jesus, did not believe her. It was not "believing not for joy". That happened when they actually saw Him.This was simply unbelief, and that is why Jesus reprimanded them so sternly. That unbelief may also be part of the explanation of the futile ointment expedition, and the taking of the back seat by Mary Magdalene, on the Sunday morning, because nobody believed her.
Verse 12-13: ''After that He appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked, and went into the country". "And they went and told it to the residue: neither believed they them".
Here Mark confirms the Emmaus story, which is told in such beautiful detail by Luke. Those words "the residue" suggests that they may have told a wide range of people along the way, as they would have in their excitement, but were also met with unbelief. Luke, however, tells us that they had a positive reception from the eleven, who immediately responded with the news that Jesus had appeared to Peter. It seems that they more readily believed Peter, or was it a matter that they now
had two independent witnesses, a principle ingrained in Israel.
Verse 14: "Afterward He appeared to the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen Him after He was risen".
This appearance of Jesus to the gathered apostles was before sunset on Sunday because John says it was "the same day, at evening, being the first day of the week" (John 20:19). That concluded Jesus' first day appearances. His next appearance was eight days later. This gap was very significant. We will come back to it later.
Mark then recorded Jesus' message, which was a commission, to the apostles. It was probably a summary of all the things He told them over the next forty days.
Verse 19-20: "So then after the Lord had spoken unto them He was received up into heaven, and sat at the right hand of God". "And they went forth, and preached everywhere, the LORD working with them, and confirming the word with signs following".
We will say more, later, on the ascension of Jesus. Here it looks as if He ascended right there, after speaking to His disciples, on that first day appearance. However, the sitting at the right hand of God, and the preaching which followed, belong to His ascension from the mount of Olives, forty days later.
Mark obviously condensed much of the story, and did not mention the happenings in Galilee.
His focus was different.
The second and final part of this article is continued in the July-September edition of Ensign Message.
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