The Resurrection and Modern Thought
by William John Sparrow-Simpson
Longmans, Green, 1911
[Footnotes have been moved within or following the paragraphs in which they are cited.
Bible citations have been converted to all Arabic numerals. Spelling slightly modernized.]
Preface (this page below)
Book I: The Witness of the Twelve
I. Our Lord’s Predictions of His Resurrection
II. The Burial of Christ
III. The Empty Grave
IV. The Third Day
V. The Locality of the Appearances
VI. The Appearances of the Risen Master
VII. The Interpretation of the Appearances
Book II: The Witness of S. Paul
VIII. S. Paul’s List of the Witnesses
IX. The Personal Testimony of S. Paul to Christ’s Resurrection (The Documents)
X. Non-Christian Interpretations of S. Paul’s Conversion
XI. The Christian Interpretation of S. Paul’s Conversion
XII. The Changes in S. Paul’s Theology Caused by his Conversion
XIII. The Historical Jesus and the Pauline Christ
XIV. The Resurrection in the Acts
Book III: The Theology of the Resurrection
XV. The Teaching of the Risen Lord in S. Matthew
XVI. The Universality of the Risen Lord’s Commission
XVII. The Baptismal Formula
XVIII. Christ’s Resurrection an Evidence of His Divinity
XIX. Christ’s Resurrection Instrumental in His Exaltation
XX. Christ’s Resurrection the Means of Our Justification
XXI. Christ’s Resurrection Instrumental in the Moral Resurrection of Christians
XXII. Christ’s Resurrection Instrumental in the Physical Resurrection of
XXIII. S. Paul’s Conclusions on the Dogmatic Value of Christ’s Resurrection
XXIV. S. Paul’s Doctrine of the Resurrection Body
XXV. Patristic Teaching of the Resurrection Body
XXVI. Formulas of the Church on the Resurrection Body
XXVII. Post-Reformation English Teaching on the Resurrection Body
XXVIII. Modern Roman Teaching on the Resurrection Body
XXIX. Conclusions on the Doctrine of the Resurrection Body
Book IV: The Resurrection and Modern Thought (in file with Book III above)
XXX. The Documents Considered as Evidence
XXXI. Christ’s Resurrection and Psychical Research
XXXII. Historical Judgments and Dogmatic Judgments
XXXIII. Christ’s Resurrection as an Object of Faith
Index of Names; Index of Subjects (omitted for web)
It is characteristic of many writings on the Resurrection of our Lord that they concentrate attention chiefly upon the evidences, while giving scanty recognition to the theology. This is, surely, even from an evidential standpoint, to be regretted; because the fact itself acquires a different value when seen to occupy a central place in a religious interpretation of human life and destiny. The writer is conscious of having dwelt insufficiently upon the doctrine in the volume which he was allowed to contribute to the Oxford Library of Practical Theology. An attempt was made to supplement this in an article contributed to Hastings’ “Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels”. But the exigencies of space precluded a full discussion. A study of the theology and of the history of the doctrine is offered in the following pages.
Of central importance are the changes caused in S. Paul’s theology by his experience of the manifested presence of the Risen Lord. The doctrinal conclusions drawn from the Resurrection in the Mission Sermons of the Acts should receive the most careful study. Then comes, in its matured development, the theology of the Resurrection as expounded by S. Paul: its bearing on our Lord’s Divinity; its effect in the process of His exaltation; its effect on the justification of the Christian Community, on the moral and physical Resurrection of individuals. Thus the theology of the Resurrection is shown to be at the foundation of any real Christianity.
The history of the doctrine of the Resurrection of the Body is traced from the Apostolic age down to modern days. And it is believed that a careful study of the two directions in which Christian thought has moved upon this momentous subject would greatly contribute to solve some difficulties which disturb the modern mind. A crude traditional theory, of materialistic and quite unphilosophic character, is yielding to the Pauline teaching on the spiritual body.
The writer desires gratefully to acknowledge his indebtedness to the suggestions of Dr. Swete, and to the criticisms of Professor Crawford Burkitt, who both read over the work in proof. Thanks are also due to the Editor of the “Church Quarterly Review” for permission to utilize material contributed to its pages.
Book I: The Witness of the Twelve
Chapter I – Our Lord’s Predictions of his Resurrection
The passages in which Christ is stated to have foretold His own Resurrection may form a preliminary study. They are numerous, and occur in the earliest form of the Gospel tradition. For various critical reasons, however, they do not all stand upon an equal level. And, in view of modern opinions about them, it is well to classify them in two divisions: those which are attended with some uncertainty; and those which are indisputable.
I. First, then, there are passages in which the reference to the Resurrection is by many modern expositors held to be uncertain.
1. One of these contains the words of Christ spoken at the cleansing of the Temple. When the Jews demanded a sign, Christ’s answer was: “Destroy this Temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” [S. John 2:18, 19.] The Jews understood the Temple to mean the House of Prayer. Their criticism was that this Temple had been forty-six years in building: it was therefore incredible that Christ could raise it in three days. But, says the Evangelist, “He spake of the Temple of His Body.” “When therefore He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He spake this; and they believed the Scripture, and the word which Jesus had said.” Several recent critical writers [E.g. Wendt, “T. J.” i. 323 and ii. 37; Barth, “Hauptprobleme,” 188, 189.] point out that the occasion was the Temple cleansing; that the words were spoken in the Temple; that the Temple and its building was the subject of conversation, at least on the side of the Jews; and that if the answer does not relate to it then the conversation was at cross purposes, and Christ’s reply had no bearing on the Jews’ objection. Moreover, this destruction and rebuilding of the Temple was the very charge brought against our Lord in His trial before Caiaphas: “We heard Him say, I will destroy this Temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another made without hands.” [S. Mark 14:58; cf. S. Matt. 26:61.] And further, this became part of the reviling when He was crucified. [S. Matt. 27:40.] Accordingly, while S. John has undoubtedly given the words a deeper meaning, it is suggested that the Jews were right as to the original sense. Indeed, the very passage itself implies that the deeper meaning has a mystic interpretation imposed upon the words by a revering faith after the Resurrection had taken place. It is remarkable that this modern critical view is anticipated and supported by Origen, [On S. John T. x. (43) 27.] who asserts that the disciples applied to the Resurrection what had been originally spoken of the Temple, and that what led them to this application was the mention of the Three Days. Now while a mystic allusion is intelligible from the standpoint of faith, and while a believer may be prepared to think it underlay the other meaning in the Speaker’s mind; yet clearly if what our Lord intended to convey to the Jews was the thought that He “felt in Himself the power to create and establish, after the briefest interval, a new form of worship,” [Wendt.] then the passage can hardly be appealed to as a prediction of His Resurrection.
2. Next may be taken the difficult passage on the sign of Jonah the prophet.
S. Matthew’s report of our Lord’s words is: “Then certain of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee. But He answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet: for as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale; so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh shall stand up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, a greater than Jonah is here.”
Here the sign of Jonah is his miraculous resuscitation: the parallel is Christ’s Resurrection. Yet this was in the future. And the men of Nineveh repented at Jonah’s preaching, while the preaching of Jesus makes less impression on the Jews. Wellhausen accordingly finds it difficult to say how this contrast could really be a sign. [“Das Evangelium Matthäi,” p. 64.]
But the corresponding passage in S. Luke is different. In S. Luke [11:29, 30.] the words reported are: “And when the multitudes were gathering together unto Him, He began to say, This generation is an evil generation: it seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it but the sign of Jonah. For even as Jonah became a sign unto the Ninevites, so shall also the Son of Man be to this generation.”
Here nothing is said of the Resurrection. And the contrast between the men of Nineveh and our Lord’s contemporaries is drawn as follows: “The men of Nineveh shall stand up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, a greater than Jonah is here.”
Now it is suggested by Wendt, [“Teaching of Jesus,” ii. 146.] that here the sign of Jonah so far from denoting a miracle must denote rather the ordinary and the commonplace.
When the Jews would not recognize the Divine Authority and nature of Jesus’ work, He condemns their sensational search for signs as an evidence of the unspirituality of the generation desiring them; and expressly refuses to satisfy any such craving. The only sign which His contemporaries shall be allowed to receive is the sign of Jonah: that is surely the non-miraculous utterance of a prophet and a preacher. It was this which was sufficient for Nineveh. And if the men of that city stand favourably contrasted with Christ’s contemporaries it was exactly because they recognized the truth in spite of the obscure appearance of the messenger. Thus the sign of Jonah is not the miraculous but the commonplace. Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, not as a worker of miracles but as a preacher of repentance. The parallel suggested is moral not miraculous: a parallel in outward appearance of humiliation and insignificance; not in their miraculous experiences.
This interpretation is partly confirmed by the earliest of the narratives, for S. Mark, while he omits all reference to Jonah, reports that Jesus “sighed deeply in His Spirit and saith, Why doth this generation seek a sign; verily I say unto you, There shall no sign be given unto this generation. And He left them, and again entering into the boat, departed to the other side.” [S. Mark 8:11–13.]
It is noteworthy that S. Matthew gives the mention of the sign of Jonah on a second occasion. [16:1–4.] And this time he omits all reference to the Resurrection. “And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and tempting Him asked Him to show them a sign from heaven. But He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the heaven is red. And in the morning, It will be foul weather today: for the heaven is red and lowring. Ye know how to discern the face of the heaven; but ye cannot discern the signs of the times. An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of Jonah. And He left them, and departed.”
It would appear, therefore, probable that the interpretation of the sign of Jonah as parallel with Christ’s Resurrection is (1) either an exposition added by the Evangelist; [Cf. Feine, “Jesus Christus und P.” p. 129 n.; Goguel, ‘L’Apôtre P.” p. 272; Schwartzkopff, “Prophecies,” p. 69; Pfleiderer, “Urchristentum” (Ed. 2) i. 358; B. Weiss, in Meyer’s Commentary; Kähler, “Dogm. Zeitfragen,” ii. 163.] (2) or else a saying of our Lord belonging to some other occasion. It may be admitted that it does not appear to harmonize with the circumstances in which it is recorded; and in view of this uncertainty it may be safer not to include it in the list of our Lord’s predictions.
Criticism, however, is not unanimous in this exposition. Barth holds the Resurrection reference to be an authentic saying of our Lord, were it only on the ground of the inexactness between the Three days and Three nights and the Resurrection on the Third Day. The parallel would have been closer if composed after the event. [“Die Hauptprobleme des Lebens Jesu,” p. 192.]
II. Setting aside, however, these predictions, which seem to the critical mind less securely established, there are in the earliest tradition a series very clear and unquestionable.
In the Marcan narrative our Lord Himself is reported to have predicted His Resurrection upon three leading occasions (Mark 8:31, 9:9, 10:32).
1. The first of these was after the great confession by S. Peter: [S. Mark 8:31.] “And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders, and the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.”
It is important to notice here that while our Lord affirms these experiences to be a divine necessity (δει), He does not give any explanation of their theological significance. Not a word is uttered to show wherein their necessity lies, or what will be the spiritual issue of His enduring them. Later dogmatic developments are entirely absent from the passage. And in the absence of any religious explanation to account for the death and the rising, it is perfectly natural that the announcement of the former, in spite of the latter, came upon S. Peter as a terrible shock, and prompted his immediate expostulation against their possibility. The stern rebuke which suppressed the Apostle’s protest represents the conflict between two conceptions of the Messianic ideal: that of our Lord and that of His contemporaries. But it is clear that, in the existing stage of discipleship, the opposition had to be suppressed by rebuke rather than removed by instruction. The period of intelligent perception had not yet arrived. The disciples must meantime accept the teaching on the Master’s authority. But the fact must not be overlooked that no dogmatic interpretation of the coning experiences of the Christ was given.
2. Our Lord’s second prediction of His Resurrection followed immediately upon the Transfiguration: [S. Mark 9:9.] “As they were coming down from the mountain, he charged them that they should tell no man what things they had seen, save when the Son of Man should have risen again from the dead.” After the severe rebuke which answered S. Peter’s protest on the former occasion, it was not likely that the disciples would venture upon a protest a second time. That lesson had been learnt. They confined themselves to discussion upon its meaning. “And they kept the saying, questioning among themselves what the rising again from the dead should mean.” Not, of course, that the idea of such an experience as resurrection from the dead was new to them, or foreign to their accepted beliefs. They undoubtedly believed in its universal occurrence at the end of history. But its occurrence as a proximate experience confined to one individual they did not understand. It formed no part of their traditional conceptions. But our Lord reinforced it in plainer terms, making it the subject of special instruction and prediction: [Ib. 9:30, 31.] “And they went forth from thence, and passed through Galilee; and He would not that any man should know it. For he taught His disciples, and said unto them, The Son of Man is delivered up into the hands of men, and they shall kill Him; and when He is killed, after three days He shall rise again.” Here again, as before, the experiences are predicted, but their meaning is not revealed. And the disciples are left in obvious perplexity. “But they understood not the saying, and were afraid to ask Him.” He, on His side, volunteered no further explanation. Their perplexity could not be concealed from Him, but the time for explanations was not yet. The events must occur before their meaning could be really understood.
The difficulty of the disciples when they questioned among themselves “what the rising again from the dead should mean” [S. Mark 9:9.] could not be due to unintelligibility of the words. It must have been that their conceptions of the ultimate Resurrection left no place for an immediate and exceptional Resurrection of the one individual. Orthodox Jews of that period could not fail to apprehend what Resurrection meant. But they were perplexed with the idea of the Resurrection of their Master involving as it obviously did the repellent conception of His death. It was the death which was to their minds inconceivable. The death of the Messiah formed no part of the prevailing conception. It seemed self-contradictory. A dead Christ was not only a contradiction in terms, but a conception emptied of its religious and practical worth. They were reluctant even to think of it. They “feared to ask Him” because they felt instinctively that inquiry would fix His teaching upon themes from which they desired to avert it. But the thought of His Resurrection could not be entertained in minds reluctant to contemplate His death.
3. A third prediction followed. This time it is at the final ascent to Jerusalem. [Ib. 10:32–34.] S. Mark’s account is extraordinarily graphic. Our Lord went before them; not, as ordinarily, with them. They followed, with grave forebodings. He evidently appeared absorbed in what was coming. Then he turned, rejoined them, and instruction began.
“Behold we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man shall be delivered unto the chief priests and the scribes; and they shall condemn Him to death, and shall deliver Him unto the Gentiles: and they shall mock Him, and shall spit upon Him, and shall scourge Him, and shall kill Him; and after three days He shall rise again.”
Here the prediction becomes more vivid, more detailed, more solemn. He is dwelling in His Passion. It is thoroughly natural that the nearer He approached Jerusalem the deeper grew His description of the sufferings which awaited Him. [See Barth, “Hauptprobleme,” p. 195.]
S. Mark does not describe the impression which these words produced. Perhaps he leaves it to be inferred from the mention of the disciples’ amazement and fear.
It is significant that each of the three predictions is differently received by the Twelve. The first with a protest, the second with discussion, the third in silence. [See Barth, p. 195, 196.] This can scarcely be accidental. But it does not mean increased intelligence of the redemptive value of the coming experiences. It may mean submission to the apparently inevitable, or acquiescence in the Master’s authority or superior wisdom. But since nothing has been told them in these predictions as to the redemptive consequences of His death, they could scarcely have put such construction upon it. They are of course still in the sphere of contemporary traditional ideals of the Messiah. There is, indeed, one passage which may have thrown light for the disciples upon the value of His approaching death. It followed close upon the third prediction: “The Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many” (S. Mark 10:45). But we cannot be sure what inferences at this period of their development the disciples were able to draw from this saying.
So again the words at the Institution of the Eucharist: “This is My Blood of the Covenant, which is shed for many,” [S. Mark 16:24.] might have led them at the time to place a profound interpretation on the value of His death. But we cannot be sure how much the disciples understood.
It is very remarkable that all the three predictions agree in declaring not only the Resurrection, but also its occurrence on the Third Day.
III. Criticism often feels a difficulty in reconciling these predictions, clear, definite, detailed as they are, with the mental condition of the apostles at Eastertide, as represented by the Evangelists. They seem to have no expectation of their Master’s Resurrection. The predictions seem to have fallen on unheeding ears. Hence it is asked, Could the apostles have conceivably forgotten words which seem to have profoundly impressed them when spoken; words which they had met with vigorous protest, or discussed with perplexity? Some have accordingly concluded that the predictions could not possibly have been spoken.
1. Is it possible that the effect of our Lord’s predictions of His Resurrection was partly weakened by the effect of His prayer in Gethsemane? When he said that His soul was “exceeding sorrowful even unto death,” and prayed the Father, if it were possible, to “remove the cup” from Him (S. Mark 12:34–36), did He not seem to declare that His death was not His will, and to suggest that there might be some alternative to its experience? Until the deeper meaning of Gethsemane dawned on the believing mind, as a profoundly spiritual agony, and no mere physical shrinking, the effect on the disciples might easily be to deepen their sense of ruin and overthrow. The death of Jesus, viewed as an external infliction induced by national and political force, wherever it dominates the mind, can never lead to thoughts of Resurrection. The external impressiveness of physical overthrow easily holds the imagination back from practical ascent to intellectual truth. That the predictions of Jesus should for the moment suffer total eclipse in face of His desolating Passion seems not only psychologically natural but almost inevitable.
2. Again, it must be remarked that the disciples possessed at the time the smallest insight into the redemptive significance of their Lord’s Passion. As we have seen, the predictions had simply predicted a fact, but gave no intellectual explanation to it as a fact with the profoundest meaning. They had not been clearly told, they could not possibly understand, why their Lord should die. Criticism generally recognises that the estimate of Jesus given in S. Luke 24:19 represents exactly the contemporary disciples’ view. [Cf. Holtzmann, p. 494.] “Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people: and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him up to be condemned to death, and crucified Him. But we hoped that it was He which should redeem Israel. Yea, and beside all this, it is now the third day since these things came to pass. Moreover, certain women of our company amazed us, having been early at the tomb; and when they found not his body, they came, saying, that they had also seen a vision of angels, which said that He was alive. And certain of them that were with us went to the tomb, and found it even so as the women had said: but Him they saw not.” (S. Luke 24:19–24.) Here are the main contemporary ideas in the circle of discipleship. The Master’s prophetic character is indisputable. His death is viewed purely as a work of human hostility. There is no conception of its divine meaning. If He had continued to live, the hope was that He would have delivered the Jewish people. But that He could manifestly only do by His life. A dead leader was impossible. A dead Messiah was unthinkable. Then comes a strange unexpected allusion to the Third Day. What does this allusion mean? Is it an indication that the Lord’s thrice-spoken prediction “after three days He shall rise again” (S. Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:34) was to this extent effective: productive of a vague indecisive hope? The report of Resurrection has reached them; but its result is to create amazement and perplexity.
Now all this is deeply natural. Critics sometimes assume that Christ’s Resurrection would be easy for his disciples to expect simply because He predicted it. But we must remember the effect produced upon them by His death. This also He had predicted. “All ye shall be offended because of Me this night” must refer not only to the panic and denial, but also to the intellectual and religious scandal of His death. How deep that scandal was, S. Peter’s protest and the disciples” perplexed discussion indicate. They could not reconcile His death with their theology. Doubtless when His Resurrection became experienced as a fact by them, it would reflect new light and meaning on His death. But His death taken by itself was so revolutionary to their Messianic ideas that it was more than sufficient to frustrate the effectiveness of His predictions that He would rise.
3. Recent criticism vacillates on the subject of Christ’s predictions of His Resurrection, between denial on the ground of the disciples’ failure to expect it, and affirmation on the ground that without such predictions it is more difficult to account for the disciples’ belief. On the whole it appears that denial was more characteristic of an older school of criticism. [The predictions were rejected by Holsten, Strauss, and Keim, but also by Pfleiderer, “Urchristentum” (Ed. 2), i. 360, 1902.] They are accepted by Schwartzkopff, [“Prophecies.”] Holtzmann, [“Life of Jesus.”] Wendt. [“System der Christlichen Lehre,” ii. 394.] There is, however, one prediction ascribed to our Lord which is widely accepted among negative critics: it is the prediction that after He was risen He would go before the disciples into Galilee. A very considerable number of critics construct an argument from this prediction as to the locality in which the visions of the risen Lord occurred. This will be considered in the chapter on the locality of the Appearances. Meantime, it must be noticed that one acknowledged prediction admits the principle, and makes rejection of other predictions illogical.
Unless criticism is exceedingly careful, it will go arguing in a circle here; founding the Apostles’ faith on our Lord’s prediction, and our Lord’s prediction on the Apostles’ faith.
IV. That our Lord actually uttered these predictions is confirmed by the psychological situation.
1. It is generally admitted that He predicted His own death. Even on purely humanitarian levels such a prediction must seem natural. It is sometimes said, indeed, that so long as He increased in public favour He could have found no great occasion, in the concrete experience of life, for supposing that He would meet with a violent death. [Schwartzkopf, p. 26.]
But surely the contradictions between the popular conception of the office of Messiah and His own, involved a conflict which could only have one termination. It is perfectly natural that a presentiment of His death comes early in His public life. He foresees the time coming when the Bridegroom will be taken from the disciples. [S. Mark 2:20.] This anticipation is deepened when the popular favour is turned into dislike, and the hostility of the authorities of the nation becomes increasingly pronounced. The three main prophecies already considered are primarily prophecies of His death. His death is declared to be a divine necessity. [δει, S. Mark 8:31.] It is by no means the mere product of human violence in its blind opposition to the truth. It may be effected by political instrumentality, but it possesses an intrinsic religious worth. His blood is the blood of the covenant, shed for the salvation of many. [S. Mark 14:24.] The original covenant between God and His people will be thereby elevated and perfected. [Jer. 31:31.] Jesus recognizes in Himself the sinless mediator of salvation. Through His death will be constituted the spiritual kingdom of God. He is to give His life a ransom for many. [S. Mark 10:45.]
2. It has been often said, and surely with truth, that, if our Lord predicted His death, He must have predicted His Resurrection also: for only so could He reconcile His death with His Messianic claim. If Jesus claimed to be the Christ, and also anticipated with certainty His own death, the contradiction could only be solved by an equally confident certainty of His Resurrection. Thus the prediction of His Resurrection seems confirmed by the requirements of His circumstances. If Christhood was His mission, and His death an absolutely essential condition of its fulfillment, the vindication of God’s chosen must lie in reversing the death, that is in Resurrection. The Son of Man could not humanly go up to Jerusalem predicting His death unless He also predicted His Resurrection. Hence, most significantly, in keeping with the theological requirements of the position, every main prediction of His death is, in the earliest evangelical tradition, accompanied by an equally definite prediction of His Resurrection.
V. The argument for the reality of Christ’s predictions may be put in another form.
When the disciples became convinced that He was risen, they immediately proclaimed Him as the Messiah, and affirmed that He would return in glory. But it is necessary to ask, What is the connection between Messiahship and Resurrection? How would it follow that One who rose from the dead was therefore the Messiah? In certain circles the Resurrection of John the Baptist was asserted; but no one thereupon proclaimed him as Messiah. Messiahship does not follow upon Resurrection. How then did the apostles reach this conclusion? They can only have reached it through the teachings which our Lord had given them during His ministry. Our Lord must Himself have claimed Messiahship and predicted His coming in glory; otherwise the Easter Appearances would neither have proved His Messiahship, nor become the basis for their eschatology. Thus it has been recently urged that when the identification of Jesus with the Messiah had been already made by Jesus Himself, and imparted in instructions to His disciples, His Messiahship must have been introduced into the instructions ascribed to Him after He was risen. But the Easter instructions contain no such Messianic claims. They are completely absent. Why? Because they were already contained in the teaching of Jesus during His earthly life. [See Schweitzer, p. 344.]
But all this implies predictions. The very fact that so much is left unsaid in the Resurrection utterances means that it must have been spoken during the ministry. Nothing but the assumption that much had been already predicted can make the omissions in the Resurrection period intelligible. If the apostles understood at once, without being told, and were able to proclaim confidently and unanimously to the world, that the risen Jesus was the Messiah, and would return in glory, that implies predictions. If, then, the Marcan narrative, the earliest tradition, asserts that our Lord did announce many things beforehand, this assertion is exactly what the subsequent facts require. Without some such declarations the entire position becomes incoherent and unintelligible.
VI. If the attempt be made to reconstruct the historical situation, it may be said that the predictions of His Death and Resurrection were actually made; that neither being conformable with the disciples’ theology, sometimes the one aroused their incredulity, sometimes the other. Their inherited conceptions prevailed above their capacity to assimilate new ideas. Yet the new ideas although largely ineffective at the moment were by no means wholly lost. Then came the shock of the arrest, the condemnation, and the death. Thrown into complete confusion, what more natural than that their inherited conceptions should prevail, confirmed as they seemed to be by the fact of His ruin? And yet the recollection of His utterances lurked behind, still largely ineffective, yet indicated by vague reference to the Third Day since these things were done: a recollection too weak to kindle faith, or cause them to suspend the ordinary ministrations to the corpse; yet strong enough to open out their minds to further impressions when the time for His Appearances arrived. It is quite possible that the predictions formed part of the necessary preparation for His Appearances, and exerted more influence below the surface of the Apostles’ minds than is ascertainable either in their words or actions. It is possible that their capacity to receive the subsequent Appearances was partially developed by the words which Christ had spoken. There is this element of truth in the criticism which postulates the predictions as a cause of the Apostles’ faith. This may be, no doubt, and sometimes is, utilized against the objective reality of the Appearances. But that is its abuse. It may still be perfectly true that Christ’s predictions prepared the way for His Appearances, and that they were even a necessary preparation.
Chapter II – The Burial of Christ
The burial of our Lord is described in all the four Gospels. We begin with an analysis of their contents.
1. The main features of the Marcan narrative of the burial are three: the qualities of Joseph of Arimathea; his visit to Pilate; and his actions at the grave. First, as for his qualities, he is described as being in position, “a councillor of honourable estate”; a phrase denoting either a councillor and therefore distinguished, or else a councillor and also distinguished. He is, moreover, described, as “looking for the Kingdom of God”; a phrase denoting religious earnestness, but by no means necessarily implying discipleship. The language may mean no more than might be applicable to any pious Jew.
Secondly, of his visit to Pilate, S. Mark particularly notes that it was bold. Pilate’s surprise, Pilate’s caution, Pilate’s concession, are all emphasized, and that in a manner to which the other Evangelists present no parallel. Indeed in the other accounts Pilate’s surprise and caution are left out. They are none the less deeply significant and valuable details. For Pilate’s surprise at the rapidity of the death of Jesus, unusual in such executions, prompted him to verify the fact of decease by inquiring from the officer in command. Thus it was after receiving official satisfaction of the reality of the death that Pilate gave permission to Joseph to take the body away. It is remarkable that we owe this knowledge of the official certificate of the death to the earliest Evangelist.
Thirdly, in the description of the actual burial, the Marcan narrative speaks of purchase of linen for the grave clothes, but omits all mention of spices and ointment, or of the ownership of the grave. The grave itself is said to have been hewn out of a rock; a stone is “rolled against the door.” And two women, both of whom are named, are recorded as witnesses of the exact locality, “Behold where He was laid.”
2. In the Lucan account of the burial the same general line is observed, the qualities of Joseph, the visit to Pilate, the scene at the grave. But there are very marked peculiarities. Greater stress is laid on Joseph’s character, less on his position. The Marcan epithet “of honourable estate” is here replaced by “a good man and a righteous,” which is further explained by the information that “he had not consented to their counsel and deed.” After this, S. Luke adds the sentence, already found in S. Mark, that Joseph “was looking for the Kingdom of God.” The order of the sentences is worth observing. The fact of Joseph’s disapproval of the deed of the Sanhedrim can scarcely be a merely explanatory addition to the sentence found in S. Mark; for the explanation would surely follow, not precede it. Moreover, the religious zeal denoted by the phrase “looking for the Kingdom of God” would not necessarily carry with it disapproval of the Sanhedrim’s decision. That would surely depend on the pious individual’s estimate of Jesus’ claim. It would not be fair to say that none of the Sanhedrim who voted against our Lord were looking for the Kingdom of God. We have no right to give the phrase a Christian significance or even necessarily a Christian tendency.
S. Luke’s account of the visit to Pilate omits all reference to Pilate’s surprise and caution. Indeed it even leaves his consent to be inferred. It could scarcely say less if it said anything. The Lucan narrative is reduced to the single sentence “this man went to Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus.” The omissions are so remarkable that it has been wondered whether S. Luke had the passage before him in his copy of S. Mark. If the passage was there, and yet he left it out, it becomes an important instance of superiority to any tendency to “embroider” events with imaginary details, such as has been sometimes ascribed to the Evangelists. So far from expanding the passage S. Luke condensed it.
In the actual burial S. Luke adds that the tomb was one “where never man had yet lain.” This does not at all follow from the Marcan account. Unless we are prepared to ascribe it to imagination, S. Luke must have had some independent source from which the statement was derived. The criticism that the later Evangelist only varies the earlier narrative is quite inaccurate. It is also noticeable that while S. Luke mentions that women were witnesses of the scene he omits their names, although S. Mark had given them. Quite characteristic also of S. Luke is the change by which “beheld where He was laid” becomes “beheld the tomb and how His body was laid.” There is a tenderness of womanly devotion in the latter phrase.
3. In S. Matthew’s account of the burial we find independent features again. He says that Joseph of Arimathea was rich. But he has omitted (1) the fact that he was a councillor, which both the other narratives affirm; (2) that he was looking for the Kingdom of God, also found both in S. Mark and S. Luke. And in place of the statement, given by S. Luke, that he had not consented to the counsel and deed of the Jews, we find the perfectly new announcement that he “also himself was Jesus” disciple.”
Here also in S. Matthew we read for the first time that the tomb was “ his own,” and that it was hewn out in the rock. The stone rolled to the door of the tomb is described as great. Both the women who witnessed the burial, and whose names S. Luke omits, are mentioned in S. Matthew following S. Mark. But whereas S. Mark says they beheld “where He was laid,” and S. Luke says they “beheld the tomb and how His body was laid,” S. Matthew says they were “sitting over against the sepulchre.”
S. Matthew then adds a distinctive contribution to the subject in his narrative of the guards at the grave.
4. In the Johannine account no mention is made of Joseph of Arimathea’s wealth, or of his membership of the Sanhedrim, or of his looking for the Kingdom of God. But the fact of his discipleship, found already in S. Matthew, is repeated; with, however, the qualifying words, “but secretes for fear of the Jews.”
The visit to Pilate is less condensed than in S. Luke, resembling the account in S. Matthew, except that while S. Matthew says, “Pilate commanded it” [the Body] “to be given up,” S. John says, “Pilate gave him leave.” But no reference to the surprise and the caution of Pilate is made.
And curiously S. John does not mention the taking down from the Cross. In this also he resembles S. Matthew, rather than either S. Mark or S. Luke.
But in S. John we find, and nowhere else, that Nicodemus assisted at the burial. This introduction of another figure into the scene at the grave is the more important because to him is ascribed the “bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes.” The Synoptists have said nothing of the use of spices at the burial. The tendency of recent criticism appears to be to say that the Synoptists are right and the fourth Evangelist mistaken; that there was no time on the night of the entombment for any such preparations. The Sabbath was close at hand. Hence the Synoptists assign the bringing of the spices to the women who visited the grave on Easter morning. But to say this is to assume more than we really know. We really are not competent to say whether it was possible to enwrap the dead in the folds with the spices within the time before the Sabbath began.
II. 1. This analysis shows that while the earliest form of the tradition described Joseph of Arimathea as a member of the Sanhedrim and omitted his discipleship, being followed in these points by S. Luke, the later form omits his membership of the Sanhedrim and describes him as a disciple (S. Matthew and S. John). A recent criticism strangely suggests that this alteration was due to Christian feeling which preferred to believe that their Lord was buried by a disciple, and to idealize the conditions of the burial. Considering that the fourth Evangelist states without hesitation that our Lord was betrayed by one disciple, and denied by another, it is difficult to see why the thought of burial by a stranger should have distressed him into a preference for fiction over truth. Certainly there is no tendency to idealize in his version of the conduct of Judas and Peter. If such tendency existed, why did it confine itself to the detail of the burial? Why leave untouched the much more serious instances of betrayal and denial? It is admittedly curious that the Gospels which ascribe councillorship to Joseph omit discipleship, and vice versa. But still the two are not incompatible ideas. The existence of secret discipleship in the Sanhedrim cannot be called impossible. Nor does there seem any reason why the primitive community should have objected to the thought that the disciple who buried their Lord was also a member of the Sanhedrim. Whatever the explanation may be it does not seem accounted for by idealizing tendencies; that is to say, preference for pleasing fiction to unpleasant truth. Is there any solid ground for the supposition that the alteration was intended to substitute a new version for the former Gospel and not to supplement it? The further statement in S. Mark, that Joseph was “looking for the Kingdom of God” is not the language natural to one who knew him to be a disciple. It may be that S. Mark was not aware of the fact. On the other hand discipleship was, especially at that period, a term capable of many degrees. And the fourth Evangelist’s statement, that Joseph’s allegiance was secret for fear of the Jews, may account for S. Mark’s ignorance of the fact, or for his selection of a vaguer phrase. What was obvious about Joseph of Arimathea was that he was in sympathy with the disciples in their hopes of the Kingdom of God. But secret discipleship is of all things liable to misconception. What Joseph’s mental condition in reference to Jesus Christ really was S. Mark makes no attempt to determine. Such analysis of the spiritual state is not at all his scope. But it is exactly what we should expect in the fourth Evangelist. And there we actually find it. It is conceivable that the information as to his secret discipleship was derived from Joseph himself. This is, of course, mere hypothesis. But it is conceivable. And therefore we have no right to propound a hypothesis which makes the Gospel statements inconceivable, and then to declare that one or other must be necessarily untrue.
2. Closely akin to this question of Joseph of Arimathea’s discipleship is the question, What was his motive in arranging the burial of the Crucified? It has been suggested recently that his motive was regard for the Jewish law.
Now the difficulties created by this theory are numerous:
(1) If burial in such cases came in the usual course, there was no necessity for Joseph of Arimathea to intervene at all. He had only to let things go their ordinary way. The Jews had already taken the preliminary steps in this direction (S. John 19:31).
(2) Nor was there any necessity for him to remove the body to the private grave instead of allowing its interment in the ordinary grave for the condemned.
(3) There is no trace of any interest on his part in the crucified robbers. And yet there must have been, if his sole interest were fulfillment of the Jewish criminal law.
(4) The earliest Evangelist considers Joseph’s visit to Pilate an act of courage. If the burial were part of the ordinary course there would be no courage required, either in reference to the Roman official or to the Jewish people. S. John ascribes no courage to the Jews who asked Pilate not to allow the bodies to remain on the cross on the Sabbath day (S. John 19:31). But if Joseph of Arimathea was going counter to the opinion of his own people and their authorities then, indeed, his visit to Pilate deserved the epithet “brave.”
III. There are some important points to notice in the evidence for the burial of our Lord.
1. The first is the identification of the place of burial. Apart from the story of the guards, quite a number of persons knew which grave it was wherein the sacred body was placed. If attention be confined to the earliest form of the tradition, certainly Joseph of Arimathea knew in what grave he placed the body. And the same earliest tradition expressly says that the women “beheld where He was laid.” Among these women is named S. Mary Magdalene. Surely this disposes of the strange recent criticism that the women in their confusion on Easter morning, not knowing among the multitude of graves which was the real burying place, looked into an empty tomb by mistake where a gardener was at work, who would have corrected their blunder had they waited to allow him time to finish his sentence. This theory contradicts the earliest form of the tradition, that of S. Mark.
2. The burial of the body is extremely important as being assumed in all statements about the empty grave. It has recently been said that the discovery of the empty tomb is all the less worthy of credit, since Jesus, if he had been handed over to punishment, would have been cast by the Roman soldiers into a common pit. [Reinach’s “Orpheus,” p. 331.] No authority is given for this statement. Inferences from general practices to a particular instance are surely precarious, especially in the presence of evidence to the contrary. It would require something more than this assertion to overthrow the earliest Christian tradition. May not something intervene to change a usual practice? Is not the peculiarity of history that you cannot predict human conduct in this logical sort of way? The Roman practice was to leave the victim of crucifixion hanging on the cross to become the prey of birds and beasts. But who would dream of saying that there were no exceptions to this rule? Josephus induced the Emperor Titus to take down from the cross three crucified persons while still alive. [Autobiography of Josephus, ch. 75.] Would any one argue that this cannot be historic because the rule was otherwise? The Jewish practice, no doubt, was the burial of the condemned. This was the Jewish law. But Josephus assures us that even the Jews themselves broke the law of burial at times. In the “Wars of the Jews,” he writes: “They proceeded to that degree of impiety as to cast away their dead bodies without burial, although the Jews used to take so much care of the burial of men, that they took down those that were condemned and crucified, and buried them before the going down of the sun.” [Josephus, “Wars of the Jews,” iv. v. 2, Whiston’s transl.]
Loisy thinks it probable that Jewish law would be observed in Jerusalem even in cases of those condemned by Roman authority. We note that Loisy can only assume that the observance of Jewish law in cases of the condemned was probable. We cannot tell for certain that the body of Jesus would have been “cast by the Roman soldiers into a common pit.” Loisy thinks that relatives might obtain permission for burial of one condemned. No relative, however, obtained it for Jesus’ body: nor any of the Twelve. The three crucified men whom Josephus induced the imperial authority to take down from the cross were not relatives; they were only friends. He “remembered them as his former acquaintances.” A strong case might be made out against the likelihood of Josephus’ request, still more of its being granted. No one, however, appears to doubt the facts. They are constantly quoted as if they were true. Why should not Joseph of Arimathea make a similar request to Pilate? Because, says Loisy, the whole Sanhedrim had decided the death of Jesus; and it is inexplicable how a member of the same Council could have concerned himself in the burial. But this difficulty seems expressly anticipated and met by S. Luke’s assurance that Joseph of Arimathea had not consented to their counsel and deed. The implication is, as Loisy admits, that Joseph had been present at their deliberations, and had refused to vote with them. But, asks Loisy, how did Luke learn what passed in the discussions of the great Council? This singular question suggests the critic’s limitations. Do not the secret decisions of conferences ever leak out? Could not Joseph himself confide in a friend, or inform the Church? Moreover, why Joseph of Arimathea could not act independently against the Council’s decisions, so far at least as the burial, is inexplicable: more especially if, as a record says, he was a courageous person.
It is reported of a distinguished modern Englishman, that his conduct in various important Councils was marked by an independence which no opposition, however numerous, appeared to affect. Whereas most men would be disposed to defer to the prudence or sagacity of a vast majority of their colleagues, this distinguished individual only grew intensified thereby in his convictions; even if, as sometimes happened, he stood absolutely alone. Now why should not Joseph of Arimathea have been a person of such a character?
Chapter III – The Empty Grave
Before we reach the Resurrection Appearances, that which confronts us in the narrative is the empty grave.
I. And first we summarize the contents of the documents. According to S. Mark the women, whose names he gives, brought spices to anoint the body. Their anxiety was who should roll away the stone from the door of the tomb, “for it was exceeding great.” They find the stone rolled back already. Entering the tomb they see a young man arrayed in white who reassures them, and then announces the Resurrection: “He is risen; He is not here; behold the place where they laid Him!” Then follows a message to the disciples and Peter, “He goeth before you into Galilee: then shall ye see Him, as He said unto you.” The result of the communication is that the women fled trembling and astonished, and “said nothing to any one.”
According to S. Matthew there was an earthquake; and an angel rolled away the stone, terrified the guards, and reassured the women, delivering a similar announcement of the Resurrection, “He is not here, for He is risen, even as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.” Then follows the message to the disciples, without any special mention of Peter: “Go quickly and tell His disciples He is risen from the dead; and lo, He goeth before you into Galilee; there shall you see Him; lo, I have told you.” The result of the communication, according to S. Matthew, is that the women “departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word.” On the way Jesus met them, and repeated the angel’s message.
The differences between these two accounts are obvious enough. The fear, amazement, and silence in S. Mark are resolved into fear and great joy and communicativeness. The fact that they “ran to bring His disciples word” is made to appear as the result of the angel’s communication. If we take the Marcan narrative as our basis, it would seem obvious that the reason why our Lord appeared to the women repeating the angel message was that they were so overcome by fear and amazement that, as S. Mark reports, “they said nothing to any one for they were afraid.” This failure of the women to carry the news of the Resurrection was remedied by our Lord’s appearance to them.
What then has S. Matthew done? He has transposed the order of events. The “ran to bring His disciples word” was not, as S. Matthew’s order makes it seem, the effect of the angel message, but of our Lord’s reiteration of the same.
In S. Luke, the women brought the spices which they had prepared, and “found the stone rolled away from the tomb.” They “entered in and found not the body of the Lord Jesus.” “Two men in dazzling apparel” deliver the announcement of the Resurrection: “Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen.” Then follows a reminder of His teaching given when He was yet in Galilee.
No appearance of Jesus to the women is recorded. But the effect of the angel’s announcement is their obedience. “They remembered His words, and returned from the tomb, and told all these things to the Eleven and to all the rest.” The result of the women’s message is disbelief; with the sole exception that Peter paid a visit to the tomb, and “departed wondering.” S. Luke also describes the two disciples on the Emmaus road, discussing the problem presented by the empty grave, and considering the statement of the women, that the body could not be found.
The fourth Evangelist describes the visit of only one woman, Mary Magdalene, to the grave, and her announcement to S. Peter and S. John, who investigate the grave for themselves. The presence of other women may be implied in the plural, “we know not where they have laid Him.” The fourth Evangelist also lays stress on the disposition of the grave-clothes as evidence for Resurrection.
Now the diversities in these narratives are numerous. But whether the angel was inside or outside the grave; whether there was one angel or two; whether the form of the message was a reminiscence about Galilee or a command to assemble there; whether the women said nothing to any one for they were afraid; or ran to carry His disciples word; whether one woman or several, or various groups at different times, visited the grave; in any case these narratives yield a uniform and very impressive tradition that the grave was empty on Easter Day.
II. That the grave was empty seems required by the contemporary idea of Resurrection. One of the most extreme of recent negative critics, Arnold Meyer, [“Die Auferstehung J.,” pp. 13, 24, 121.] recognizes that the empty grave not only harmonizes with the entire N. T. miraculous element, but with the whole contemporary Jewish view of the world. A Resurrection without an empty grave would have been to popular Judaism unthinkable. The Jewish and Christian conceptions presented in Dan. 12:2, 2 Macc. 7:11, and S. John 5:28 clearly demonstrate the inseparability of the empty grave from the idea of Resurrection. The empty grave was a necessary postulate for the disciples of Galilee.
III. But, it is said, however true it may be that this was the popular Jewish idea, it was not the conception of S. Paul. S. Paul’s outlook, urges Arnold Meyer, was not that of the ordinary Jew: for S. Paul maintained that flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God; that we sow not the body that shall be; and his theory of the heavenly body in 2 Cor. 5 is suggestive of entire indifference to the fate of that which was consigned to the grave. Arnold Meyer also asserts that for S. Paul the risen Christ was entirely spirit; in proof of which, he appeals to 2 Cor. 3:17: “Now the Lord is the Spirit.” Confirmatory of S. Paul’s theological indifference to the question of the empty grave, is the fact that he never mentions it; not even in that exhaustive account of the evidence given in the opening of 1 Cor. 15. Arnold Meyer considers this omission of immense significance. It means, to him, either that S. Paul did not consider it evidentially valuable, or that he knew nothing about it, or that it was foreign to his ideas. Arnold Meyer’s view is not original. It is shared by other critics. [E.g., Holtzmann, “Life of Jesus,” p. 499. Schenkel.] But it has at least the advantage of being a thoroughgoing and uncompromising statement of the opinion.
On the other hand many critics* hold firmly that this interpretation of S. Paul’s attitude towards the question of the empty grave is mistaken. This supposed indifference of S. Paul to the question of the empty sepulchre is based partly on the asserted independence of his theology, and partly on his omission of any reference to the fact. It may be convenient to consider these in order.
*Among them are: Dobschütz, “Ostern und Pfingsten,” pp. 7, 8, 9. Beyschlag, “Stud. and Krit.,” 1864. Loofs, “ Die Auferstehungsberichte,” p. 12. Bartlett, “Apostolic Age,” p. 4. Schmiedel, “Encycl. Bibl.,” p. 4059. Knowling, “Testimony,” p. 322. Schwartzkopff, “Prophecies,” p. 105. Chase (in “Cambridge Theol. Essays”). Schmöller, “Stud. and Krit.,” 1894. Harnack also inclines that way. Kreiger, “ Die Auferstehung J.,” p. 20.
1. And first, the omission of the fact. It ought to be quite clear that S. Paul’s ignorance, or indifference, on the subject cannot be justly inferred from the omissions in 1 Cor. 15; for the simple reason that the summary there recorded was a tradition which he had received, not an invention of his own. It is therefore unconnected with peculiarities of his own thought and training. If the omission proved anything, it would militate against the Galilean disciples’ interest in the empty grave. But this is not asserted by the critics. It can prove nothing as to the ignorance of S. Paul. And to describe that brief list as an exhaustive account of the evidences is one of the strangest aberrations of criticism. It is evident, on the face of it, that no list ever had less claim to be considered as a narrative, still less as an exhaustive one.
But, after all, is not the empty grave implied in 1 Cor. 15? The suggestion in the term εγείρειν, as applied to the dead, is that death is compared with sleep, and the resuscitation out of the one to the awakening out of the other. [Schmöller, “Stud. and Krit.,” 1894, 669.] The original tradition which S. Paul affirms that he received was “that Christ died ... and that He was buried and that He rose again” (1 Cor. 15:3, 4). Died ... Buried ... Rose: this series is a series of physical experiences. They all occur to the same subject. That which died is that which was buried, and that which was buried is that which rose. This is the obvious sequence: and the readers of the Epistle could put no other construction upon it. [Cf. Riggenbach, p. 7.] What sense, it has naturally been asked, has this interpolation of burial between death and resurrection, if the body which was buried had no connection with resurrection? [Beyschlag, “Stud. and Krit.,” 1864.] “The burial of Jesus appears between His death and resurrection: directly connected with them in a continuous and integral fashion; is represented just like them as an essential part of the tradition alongside the other main facts of our salvation. Here, then, it is impossible to regard the Resurrection as a mere endowment with a heavenly body which would have nothing whatever to do with the earthly body lying in the grave. We must rather admit that it is to be conceived as a coming forth of the body from the grave.” [Schwartzkopff, p. 105.] Arnold Meyer admits that, if S. Paul was indifferent to the empty grave, it is natural to inquire, why then did he mention the fact that our Lord was buried? This Meyer attempts to answer by reference to S. Paul’s mystical tendencies as illustrated in such phrases as “buried with Christ “ (Rom. 6:4). It is however obvious to reply that whatever mystical applications may be made of the idea that Christ was buried they cannot affect the truth that the burial of Christ was a physical and literal fact. Nor can there be any more reason why the mystical expression “risen with Christ” should contradict the fact of Christ’s physical resurrection. The mystic meanings would never have arisen if the apostle had been unable to base them on historic occurrences.
2. But whatever account be given of S. Paul’s omission of reference to the empty grave, it is certain that the question was not indifferent to him from a dogmatic point of view.
Meyer’s inference from 2 Cor. 3:17, that for S. Paul the risen Christ is entirely spirit, makes the apostle contradict his own doctrine of the spiritual body (1 Cor. 15). For the spiritual body is not in S. Paul’s thought a body which has become converted into spirit: it is a body in which matter is made wholly subservient to the purposes of spirit. Nor can S. Paul’s indifference to the empty grave be any more justly inferred from his theory of the “tabernacle not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building,” in 2 Cor. 5. The teaching given there expressly presupposes the destruction of the existing body, as prior to the reception of the body not of this creation. The inference would rather be that Christ’s buried body was dissolved rather than that it remained. A similar thought is suggested by the triumphant conception, in Rom. 8:10, 11, of the power of Christ’s Spirit over the two departments of human nature, the soul and the body. The indwelling Christ produces, according to S. Paul, a double resurrection of the believer, first moral and then physical. Thus the whole of human nature is subjected to the Resurrection influence. And the parallel is drawn between the past experience of Christ Jesus and the future experience of Christians. The experience of the latter is to be a “quickening” of their “mortal bodies.” The reference being manifestly to the corpse. Thus the parallel, and the references to the mortal bodies show clearly that in S. Paul’s mind the Resurrection of our Lord was also a quickening of His mortal body. The passage includes alike S. Paul’s conception of Resurrection and by implication his belief in the empty grave. On this conception the grave of Jesus cannot be considered by S. Paul otherwise than as empty.
In Rom. 6:4 “raised” is the opposite of “buried.” The suggestion is that the body experienced both.
This is the type of his fully matured instructions. And certainly in the earlier doctrine of 1 Thess. 4:17 (based on the postulate, “if we believe that Jesus died and rose again”) “the dead in Christ shall rise first,” he is evidently thinking of a literal physical resurrection from the dead.
Thus S. Paul’s conception of the Resurrection of our Lord is not so essentially different from that of the Galilean circle as criticism has sometimes represented.
With this conclusion Schmiedel agrees. [Encyc. Bibl. s.v. “Resurrection,” 4059.] The explanation of S. Paul’s silence about the empty sepulchre as due to the fact that resurrection of the dead body did not fit in with his theology, is, according to Schmiedel, wide of the mark. “If it were indeed the fact that his theology was opposed to this, it is nevertheless true that his theology came into being after his conversion to Christianity. When he first came to know of Jesus as risen he was still a Jew, and therefore convinced of resurrection in no other way than as reanimation of the body.”
Prof. K. Lake says much the same: “It is almost as certain as anything which is not definitely stated can be, that S. Paul’s doctrine of the translation of flesh and blood into spirit implied a belief in an empty tomb.” [K. Lake, “Resurrection,” 192.]
IV. But it is argued that if the contemporary idea of Resurrection involved belief in the empty grave, the fact of its emptiness would easily be assured, after the appearances had happened, without the process of investigating whether the grave was really vacant or not. If the disciples came to believe that they had really seen Him as risen, which of them would think it necessary to test their experience by a visit to His grave? When Herod Antipas declared that John Baptist had risen did it occur to any disciple to look for the body in the place where they had buried it?
It is also suggested that unwillingness to incur ceremonial defilement would prevent intrusion within the grave.
Now it is probably correct to say that for men who had already experienced an Appearance of Christ as risen, research among the graves would be unnatural. A faith already convinced by personal experience would not need or endure supporting by such investigations. A test of such a kind would already imply suspicions. But this objection has unconsciously misstated the case, because it has inverted the evidence. The evidence is that the grave was visited, and its emptiness ascertained, before the experience of the Christophanies occurred.
That this was the order of the incidents all the documents agree: first came the discovery that the grave was vacated, afterwards the experience of actual Appearances. Now clearly criticism can have no right to invert this order; no right to place the Appearances first, and then to consider them merely subjective visions, and then afterwards to describe the empty grave as an unverified theological inference. That the emptiness of the grave was involved in the popular idea of resurrection does not prove that the asserted emptiness in a particular instance originated in this way; nor can it justify an inversion of the incidents in defiance of all the evidence we possess. And without this inversion the opinion possesses no plausibility.
As to the question whether any person troubled to ascertain the condition of S. John Baptist’s grave, after the assertion was made that he was risen; there is surely no parallel whatever between a narrative of which the whole point is that the grave was investigated and found empty, and an inquiry whether in another case, under totally different circumstances, a grave was visited or was not. In the case of S. John Baptist, the appearance of a person suggests the idea that he was risen. In the case of Christ, an empty grave suggests the idea that the body has been taken away. A parallel between these is only created by inverting the evidence in the case of Christ: an arbitrary and unjustifiable procedure.
As to the improbability that any investigation would be made at the grave, owing to Jewish reluctance to incur ceremonial defilement through contact with a corpse, it may be enough to suggest that ritual regulations are not proof against the human passions of love or of hate. It is a shallow view of human nature to suppose that external observances which, under normal conditions, might easily get themselves obeyed, would be equally powerful under abnormal conditions, when the strongest passions of which human nature is capable were roused to an extraordinary degree. It seems to us self-evident that neither the devotion of a Mary Magdalene or of a S. John, nor the hatred of a Sanhedrist would, under the circumstance of Jesus’ death, be controlled by fear of ceremonial defilement. This is especially the case with the Sanhedrist opponents of the apostles. For their whole religious position required them to be interested in the contents of that grave. They were publicly confronted with an announcement which implicated them in the gravest of conceivable crimes to a Jew, that of the murder of their own Messiah. The author of the Acts reports [Acts 2:31.] that S. Peter, preaching in Jerusalem only six weeks after Easter, did not hesitate to apply to the Christ the Psalmist’s words, “Neither wilt Thou give thy Holy One to see corruption,” and to affirm the literal fulfillment of the passage in Jesus of Nazareth, “neither was He kept in Hades nor did His flesh see corruption.” If this report actually represents S. Peter’s sentiments, he laid himself open to a challenge on the part of his hearers, who might interrupt him with the remark: We know where Jesus was buried, and the body lies there still. [Cf. Ihmels, p. 26.]
The Sanhedrist opponents of S. Peter had the strongest of reasons for refuting such a charge. The Acts consistently represent them as reproaching the apostles with “intending to bring this man’s blood upon” them. The whole situation implies a desperate eagerness to bring a crushing reply against S. Peter if only it could be found. “We cannot conceive them,” it has been said, “in such circumstances, not attempting to cleanse themselves from that fearful stain of murder of Messiah, by proving to the senses that the Resurrection had not taken place.” [Schwartzkopff, “Prophecies,” p. 116.] If they could have pointed to the mouldering remains of a corpse in the grave, if they could have given even a plausible identification of the remains with the actual burying-place of Jesus of Nazareth, they would have placed a very formidable obstruction in the apostles’ way. We may surely ask, did not so obvious a measure occur to the able men of whom the Sanhedrim was composed? Yet there is not the trace of any hostile investigation at the grave where Jesus was buried; no attempt on the part of any opponent to ascertain which grave it was. It is no real argument to say that within a few weeks the remains would have been unrecognizable. If it could have been affirmed that this was the actual grave, and shown that the grave was the scene of decomposition, the Resurrection would have been almost impossible for Jews at Jerusalem to believe.
There is also evidence to show that in other instances Jews were not debarred from contact with the dead, nor from visiting the place of burial, nor from belief in beneficial influences obtainable at the grave. It is the Old Testament itself which records restoration of a corpse to life by contact with the bones of Elisha. [2 Kings 13:21.] And such conceptions are known to have prevailed among the later Jews. They occur in the Talmud – “according to Sanhedrim 47b dust was taken from the grave of the Leader, the great Saint, ... in order to cure fever, and indeed, not secretly: Rabbi Samuel approved of it. It is also a tradition ... that the bones of Joseph were not allowed to remain in Egypt because the Egyptians might have been redeemed by them, since miraculous healing influences proceed from the bones of lesser saints, and even from the dust of their graves.” [Weber, “d. Lehre d. Talmud,” p. 289. See the actual passage in Wünsche, “Babylonische Talmud,” Tractate iv. Sanhedrim, § 125, T. ii. 89. 1888.] If such ideas prevailed among the contemporaries of our Lord, they would clearly override any fear of ritual contamination among those who believed Him to be “a righteous man,” still more among all who were of the number of His disciples.
Wendt is so certain that the grave of Christ was discovered to be empty, that he considers the incident providentially permitted. For he shrinks from contemplating the reverence which Christendom would otherwise have bestowed upon the relics of Jesus Christ. [Wendt, “Lehre,” p. 404.] Thus the empty grave is providentially designed in order to spiritualize and refine the character of the Christian religion. If the Almighty is so concerned for the substance of Christianity as to secure the emptying of the grave of Jesus, would this be effected by an illusion or not rather by truth? For the emptiness of the grave has led Christendom, on this theory, into belief in Jesus’ Resurrection. Thus the “providential” precautions against reverencing Christ’s relics have promoted belief in the “illusion” of Christ’s Resurrection! Was not this foreseen? Or was it “permitted,” on the principle that of two evils one should choose the less? But it is really worth reflecting whether, if the emptiness of the grave of Christ had not been ascertained as a fact, some early and degenerate form of Christianity might not have arisen to venerate the relics of the buried Christ. This would have been perfectly harmonious with some merely humanitarian conception of the Prophet of Nazareth. Why is it that no such sect arose, that belief in the empty grave swept everything before it, and held undisputed dominion, alike in hostile and devoted circles, unless it was because the fact was so?
V. Those who definitely maintain that the grave of Christ was not empty, that the foul-engendered worm has fed upon the flesh of our Anointed One, simply reject the whole series of the narratives, including the most ancient form of the Gospel tradition. Whatever S. Mark omits, he says that the grave was empty. There is not the slightest evidence on the other side. But to say that the whole series of reported visits to the grave are fictions, fabricated inferences from a theological idea, is to say what is simply incredible. The Jewish Christian is supposed to hold that the Resurrection involves an empty grave. On the basis of this conception he is then supposed to build up the detailed lifelike realistic incidents of Mary Magdalene, and the two disciples; incidents which are marked by extraordinary insight and penetration and psychological appropriateness.
To the critic Loisy, indeed, the angel words “Why seek ye the living among the dead,” bear evident marks of the Evangelist’s authorship, containing a fine thought converted almost into an aphorism, and a little over-refined for the circumstances. [“Les Ev. Synoptiques,” p. 727.] Martineau, on the other hand, complains of the meagreness of the Lords reply to the women; as being no more than a repetition of words which the angel had already spoken. Thus the one phrase is too original, and the other not original enough.
To most minds, however, the singular impressiveness of the utterance conveys a sense of its reality, granting the circumstances to be what the Evangelist declares.
The fourth Evangelist’s description of the visit of the two disciples to the grave is extraordinarily lifelike and convincing. The characteristics of each are painted with a firm hand, and in exact correspondence with the individuality of the Peter and John of the Synoptic narrative of the ministry. It does not read like fiction. Each acts naturally, inimitably, true to himself. While we could not have anticipated what each would do, we are at least able to feel the psychological accuracy of what each is said to have done. On receiving Mary Magdalene’s report, “they have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we know not where they have laid Him” – a statement which contains an announcement of the emptiness of the grave with an evident ignorance of the idea of Resurrection – Peter and John both ran to the grave. That S. John paused outside the grave, stooping down and looking in and seeing the grave-clothes still there, is profoundly in keeping with that apostle’s instinctive reserve. That S. Peter, on the contrary, did not pause outside, but pushed straight into the grave, is equally in keeping with his character. Very striking also is the graduated succession of terms expressive of “seeing.” S. John outside the grave, stooping down and looking in – “seeth” (βλέπει) the linen clothes lying; takes in the general fact that the grave-clothes are there, without the body. Then Peter, within the grave, “beholdeth (θεωρει) the linen clothes lying, and the napkin, that was upon His Head, not lying with the linen clothes, but rolled up in a place by itself.” Peter gazes intently upon the details of this unaccountable phenomenon. Then, finally, S. John also entered, and “saw (ειδεν) and believed”: saw through to the meaning of the phenomena, and rose to an act of faith.
The visit of S. John and S. Peter to the grave of Christ should be compared with their visit with our Lord to the grave of Lazarus. The contrasts are significant and impressive, and can scarcely be other than intentional. In the one the stone still lies upon the grave, and has to be removed by human exertions (11:38, 39). In the other the stone is already taken away (20:1). But most impressive of all is the contrast between the words “And he that was dead came forth bound hand and foot with grave clothes, and his face was bound about with a napkin”; while the task is left to human agency to “loose him and let him go” (11:44); and the words “seeth the linen clothes lie, and the napkin, that was about His Head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself” (xx. 6, 7).
Latham, in his “Risen Master,” published in 1901, called especial attention to the account in the fourth Evangelist of the disposition of the grave-clothes in the place where the Lord’s body had lain, quoting from a pamphlet by the Reverend Arthur Beard (1873), called “The Parable of the Grave-Clothes.” Beard suggested that S. John “understood that the Lord had risen, because the grave-clothes were undisturbed, and on this evidence he believed.” [Latham, p. 3.] “John was the historian as well as the eyewitness of the deserted grave-clothes; and we understand from his history that when Jesus rose from the dead He withdrew from his grave-clothes without disturbing their arrangement; on His retiring from them the linen clothes fell flat on the rock, because their support was withdrawn, and because they were borne down by the hundred pounds” weight of aloes and myrrh. But there was no such weight pressing upon the napkin. Its smaller size, or the nature of its material, or its three-days’ wrapping, or all these united together, apparently enabled it to retain its erect form after the support which had moulded it was withdrawn.” [Latham, p. 4.]
Latham’s own view, which is similar, but more developed, is expressed as follows: When S. John reached the grave “We read, ‘he did not, however, go in.’” Why is he careful to tell us this? Why does he use the word “however”? Does not this word imply “as he might naturally have been expected to do”? I incline to think that he was startled at the sight of the grave-clothes; he expected to find that the body had been taken away, but it had never entered into his head that the body would be taken and the grave-clothes left. That the grave-clothes should remain in the tomb at all might make him wonder a little, but that they should be lying undisturbed, as he would find out that they did, would give him infinitely more to wonder at. On first reaching the tomb he was struck by the sight of them seen through the door, and what he especially notes is that they were lying flat, and not, as might have been expected, in a heap. Very naturally he stopped for a moment and gazed.” [Ib. p. 41.]...
Peter “regards the linen clothes as they were lying.” It would have been unnecessary to speak of the position of these clothes unless there were something in it that caught attention. Peter then tells John of something more that he sees, namely, “the napkin, that was upon his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but rolled up in a place by itself.” “Now the word used for ‘rolled up’ (εντετυλιγμένον) is employed (Matt. 27:59, and Luke 23:53) to express the wrapping of the Lord’s body in the linen clothes, and it implies here that the napkin had been wrapped round the head and partially retained the annular form thus given it; I take it to mean that it was not folded so as to lie flat with the clothes.” [Ib. p. 43.]
Thus Latham’s theory is that the body had, so to say, evaporated through the linen. And when the angel said to the women, “Come and see the place where the Lord lay!” or “behold the place where they laid Him,” “these verses give the idea that there must have been something to show.” [Latham, p. 50.] The angels were directing the women’s attention to the evidence of the grave-clothes. But “the women and the apostles look with different eyes on the risen Lord, and this difference corresponds to what they had respectively made out from the sight in the tomb. The women did not examine the grave-clothes sufficiently to perceive that the body must have vanished from among the folds, as I maintain it did.” [Ib. p. 56.]
Dr. Sanday says: “We might perhaps paraphrase: “the wonder of the Resurrection began to dawn upon them, though they were not prepared for it. At a later date they came to understand that prophecy had distinctly pointed to it, and that the whole mission of the Messiah would have been incomplete without it: but as yet this was hidden from them. They saw that something mysterious had happened, and they felt that what had happened was profoundly important; as yet they could not say more. The first step towards a full belief had been taken, though the full belief was still in the future.’” [Sanday, “The Criticism of the Fourth Gospel,” p. 162.]
This detailed account of the two disciples’ visit to the grave is only found in the latest Evangelist. Certain critics therefore suggest that it was elaborated in answer to opponents, and written with apologetic design. Against this, must be maintained the air of reality, already indicated, which pervades the whole passage and the conduct of the personages concerned in it. The mention of the visit in S. Luke is complicated by some uncertainty as to the MSS. The passage is: “But Peter arose, and ran unto the tomb; and stooping down and looking in, he seeth the linen clothes by themselves; and he departed to his home, wondering at that which was come to pass.” [S. Luke 24:12.]
The Revised Version includes this verse with, however, a marginal note that “some ancient authorities omit verse 12.” The verse is placed in brackets in Westcott and Hort’s text, chiefly on the authority of Codex Bezae ; with the remark that the text is derived “from S. John 20:3–10 (except “arose” and “wondering at that which was come to pass,”) condensed and simplified, with omission of all that relates to the other disciple.” [Notes on Select Readings, p. 71.] Some think that the narrative is continuous until this verse. But even if this verse were cancelled, there still remains in S. Luke another allusion to the visit of the disciples to the grave. Verse 24 reports “and certain of them that were with us went to the tomb, and found it even so as the women had said: but Him they saw not.” The critic Blass [Blass, “Philology of the Gospels,” p. 189.] inquires whether this also is an interpretation. Its removal would no more leave a gap than the removal of verse 12. “But,” he adds, “neither have we evidence for the omission, nor is the verse found in S. John.” While, therefore, as an editor of the text, Blass felt “bound to omit verse 12 like Tischendorf and Westcott-Hort,” yet “doubts still remain.” Is verse 12 after all really derived from the fourth Evangelist? The statement that S. Peter “departed wondering” is certainly not derived from the words of the fourth Evangelist: is it an inference from the passage? Or is it derived from an independent authority? No explanation is yet suggested why an account of S. Peter’s visit omitting S. John should be interpolated in S. Luke. S. Luke was clearly aware that more than one of the disciples visited the grave. [Verse 24.] It is noticed by Plummer that the words employed in verse 12 include several Lucan characteristics. [E.g. αναστάς (not found in S. John) and το γεγονός not in S. John but specially figures in S. Luke – Plummer’s S. Luke, p. 550.] And this has led to the suggestion that the verse was perhaps interpolated by S. Luke in his revised edition of the Gospel – “Luke made a rough copy first on cheap material, and then a better copy to give to Theophilus, who was a person of distinction. In this second copy he made alterations. But both remained in existence and became the parent of other copies, the Western text being derived from the rough draft, and the more widely diffused text from the presentation copy.” [Plummer, Ib. p. 567.] Such is Blass’ theory as to the Acts. If something similar occurred, as Salmon thought, with the Gospel, it may account for the varieties in the MSS. as to verse 12. But, of course, this is not much more than conjecture. If the verbal similarities render Lucan authorship likely, how can the passage be condensed and simplified from S. John 20? It seems accordingly necessary to decide between verbal similarities with S. Luke and substantial agreement with S. John. We should certainly see further if we could realize why S. Peter alone is mentioned in S. Luke. Keim [“Jesus of Nazareth,” vi. 315, n. 9. See also Bleek, De Wette, and Meyer.] declared that he could not strike this verse 12 out, notwithstanding the editors of the text who omit it. The verse was required by the statement in verse 24. Nor does it seem probable that S. Luke derived the passage from S. John. Nor is it probable that a later interpolation building upon S. John would have named S. Peter alone in opposition to S. John.
VI. The various materialistic attempts to account for the emptiness of the grave may be grouped as follows:
1. First, an imposture practiced by the disciples while the guards were asleep.
No part of the Resurrection narratives has been more severely criticized than S. Matthew’s story of the soldiers at the grave. It has been argued recently [Loisy, “Les Ev. Syn.,” ii. 736.] that the story is incredible alike in the action assigned to the Jewish authorities and to the Roman soldiers. The chief priests are exclusively concerned in suppressing truth: they purchase the silence of the men who know. The part assigned to the soldiers presents equal difficulties. The version of the story which they were paid to tell has no plausibility. Everybody knew that Roman soldiers do not mount guard in their sleep. Thus the self-contradictory character of their version would be evident to every hearer. Accordingly it is suggested that the story was composed, in apologetic interests, by believers, in reply to the charge that they had stolen the body away.
It must be remembered, however, that our present discussion is simply concerned with the empty grave. And it is necessary to distinguish between the fact of the empty grave and the explanation. The story in S. Matthew is connected with the explanation. It is an answer to the accusation of fraud raised against the disciples. The Christian proclaimed that the grave was empty. The Jew retorted that disciples stole the corpse. The Christian announced that the soldiers were paid to tell that lie. Now whether the Christian apologists’ reply to the Jewish explanation carries conviction or not to the modern mind, the significant feature of the passage is that both sides alike agreed upon the fact that the grave was empty. S. Matthew’s story of the bribery of the soldiers could have had no apologetic value whatever unless his Jewish opponents, like himself, accepted the fact of the empty grave. It is self-evident that if the Jews had been accustomed to say that the body of Jesus was never removed from the grave in Joseph’s garden a very different answer must have been given than that in S. Matthew’s Gospel. Thus the whole story of the guards strongly attests the Jewish belief that the grave was really vacated. [Cf. Rohrbach, p. 82.] And this Jewish acknowledgment that the grave was empty appears to have been the ordinary and only view. It extends, so far as the present writer is aware, to all the subsequent hostile Jewish criticisms on the point. That the disciples removed the body was a saying commonly repeated among the Jews at the time when S. Matthew’s gospel was written; and, as it has been truly observed, “this is enough to show that even in unbelieving Jewish circles the fact of the empty grave was admitted. If so, the evidence for it must have been too notorious to be denied.” [“Camb. Theol. Essays,” p. 336.] Jewish anti-Christian propaganda, as far down as the twelfth century, still circulated a version in which the empty grave was admitted and the removal explained. The story is that when the queen heard that the elders had slain Jesus and had buried Him, and that He was risen again, she ordered them within three days to produce the body or forfeit their lives. “Then spake Judas, ‘come and I will show you the man whom ye seek: for it was I who took the Fatherless from his grave. For I feared lest His disciples should steal Him away, and I have hidden Him in my garden, and led a waterbrook over the place.’” And the story goes on to describe that the body was actually produced. [Toledoth Jesu, in Baring Gould, “Lost and Hostile Gospels,” p. 88.] This daring assertion of the actual production of the body never, we believe, obtained for itself a credence anywhere outside a fiercely hostile Jewish propaganda. The Palestinian explanation in S. Matthew could never conceivably have been written, if contemporary opponents had then asserted it.
Upon these assumptions of daring falsehood and fraud to the disciples Keim observes: “All these assumptions are repellent and disgraceful; they show that the holy conviction of the apostles and the first Christians ... has not in the slightest degree influenced the hardened minds of such critics.” [Keim, vi. 325.]
2. Another explanation of the empty grave is that which ascribes the removal of the body to Joseph of Arimathea. Arnold Meyer suggests [Arnold Meyer, p. 118.] that Joseph himself removed the body from a place which he had only intended as its temporary dwelling. He would not be likely to leave a stranger’s remains permanently in his family burying ground. He was not a disciple, and his only interest in the burial was compliance with the Jewish ceremonial regulations. But Arnold Meyer is hard to reconcile with himself; for he elsewhere denies that Joseph’s grave could be at Jerusalem. [p. 123.] The family grave must obviously have been at Arimathea, miles away! Elsewhere, again, Meyer declares that the difficulty of the narrative suggests that the grave was not empty at all! [p. 116.] But Meyer is not alone in attributing the removal to Joseph. O. Holtzmann [“Life of Jesus.”] maintains that Joseph of Arimathea on further reflection, for prudential reasons, withdrew the body from the grave in which he had at first allowed it to lie. He did it with the utmost secrecy; carefully withheld the fact from the disciples, who were consequently allowed to believe that their Master was risen. Joseph’s position precluded any explanation; and thus, on the basis of a misconception, the inference of the Resurrection was made.
The reader is reminded of Tertullian’s sarcastic suggestion that the gardener removed the corpse because he could not have visitors trampling his garden down. [“De Spectaculis,” ch. 30.]
Other critics have felt that it is not safe to leave Joseph of Arimathea in the neighbourhood of Jerusalem. His secret might leak out. It is never safe to leave a man, with a secret on his conscience, in the neighbourhood where the deed was perpetrated. What if, aghast at the unforeseen results of his action, a momentary impulse should lead him to confess the truth? Accordingly some critics suggest that he withdrew immediately afterwards, quite quietly, to the Dispersion. There, among strangers, where his identity was unknown, he was safe from the risk of pertinacious and awkward questionings. So the life of Joseph of Arimathea had to be rewritten, without a shred of documentary evidence, into conformity with the critics’ presuppositions.
3. It was reserved for the rationalism of the closing eighteenth century to invent the theory that Jesus did not die upon the Cross, but only fainted, and recovered consciousness in the cool and quiet of the grave. The rationalist Venturini [“Natürliche Geschichte des grossen Propheten von Nazareth,” 1806. 4 vols.] constructed an independent romance, in which the invalid Jesus is carefully tended by the Essenes, and so far restored to health that He was able to show himself to His disciples. He lived retired in some sequestered district of Jerusalem, or perhaps on the Mount of Olives; and, as His gradually diminishing strength was almost gone, withdrew to some unknown corner and expired.
This is the school of rationalistic romance. Subject to no historical restraint, it gave free rein to its own weird imaginations. [Cf. Schweitzer “Von Reimarus zu Wrede,” p. 47.] Detailed criticism would be superfluous. Keim long ago treated it as it deserved. [“Jesus of Nazara,” vi. 327–331.] Probably no living person could be induced to credit it. The abstract possibility of recovering after crucifixion is acknowledged. It occurred in the case of one of the friends of Josephus. [“Life of Josephus,” 75.] But the total misrepresentation of the facts, and the immoral concealment of the truth, which such a theory ascribes to the Apostles, is surely its sufficient refutation. As to the reality of the death, Origen appealed to the conspicuousness of crucifixion in the presence of His nation: death was endured in full publicity “in order that no one might have it in his power to say that Jesus withdrew from the sight of men and only seemed to die.” [Contr. Cel.” ii. 56.] Renan considered that the hatred of his enemies was sufficient guarantee to the reality of Jesus” death. [“Life of Jesus.”] Réville appeals to the doubts and hesitations of the disciples as to His identity. The difficulties of recognition could never have been possible if the Appearances were a mere recovery without death. All the mysterious capacities of the body, its sudden manifestation and unaccountable disappearance, confirm the same. Réville dismisses the stealing as “un tissu d’invraisemblances matérielles et morales.” [“Réville, ii. 455.] But the completest refutation of the theory is the answer given by Strauss.
“It is impossible that a being who had stolen half-dead out of the sepulchre, who crept about weak and ill, wanting medical treatment, who required bandaging, strengthening, and indulgence, and who still at last yielded to his sufferings, could have given to the disciples the impression that he was a conqueror over death and the grave, the Prince of Life: an impression which lay at the bottom of their future ministry. Such a resuscitation could only have weakened the impression which he had made upon them in life and in death, at the most could only have given it an elegiac voice, but could by no possibility have changed their sorrow into enthusiasm, have elevated their reverence into worship.” [Strauss, “New Life of Jesus,” i. 412 (tr.).]
4. Neither fraudulent disciples nor prudential Sanhedrists seem to another critical school to provide a satisfactory solution of the empty grave.
Prof. Kirsopp Lake suggests that “the doubt is worth considering, whether the tomb which the women found open was the same as Joseph of Arimathea had closed. If it were not the same, the circumstances all seem to fall into line. The women came in the early morning to a tomb which they thought was the one in which they had seen the Lord buried. They expected to find a closed tomb, but they found an open one; and a young man, who was in the entrance, guessing their errand, tried to tell them that they had made a mistake in the place. “He is not here,” he said, “see the place where they laid Him”; and probably pointed to the next tomb. But the women were frightened at the detection of their errand and fled, only imperfectly or not at all understanding what they heard. It was only later on, when they knew that the Lord was risen, and – on their view – that his tomb must be empty, that they came to believe that the young man was something more than they had seen; that he was not telling them of their mistake, but announcing the Resurrection, and that his intention was to give them a message for the disciples.”
Prof. Kirsopp Lake adds indeed that “these remarks are not to be taken as anything more than a suggestion of what might possibly have happened.” And he also tells us that the Gospel version is based on the doctrine that Resurrection must imply an empty tomb. “Those who still believe in this necessity are justified in making the same inference: but those of us who believe that the Resurrection need not imply an empty tomb are justified in saying that the narrative might have been produced by causes in accordance with our belief, and that the inference of the women is one which is not binding on us. The empty tomb is for us doctrinally indefensible, and is historically insufficiently accredited. Thus the story of the empty tomb must be fought out on doctrinal, not on historical or critical grounds.”
The real interest of this passage lies in its frank admission that the story of the empty grave is rejected on dogmatic grounds; because it does not harmonize with the critics’ view of the real nature of Resurrection. Therefore he proceeds to rewrite the Gospel, for it is nothing less than this, into harmony with his own dogmatic presupposition. Every detail which conflicts with his view that Resurrection has nothing to do with the buried body is ignored, or turned into the opposite of what it was meant to convey. It would not be difficult to criticize the version of the incidents which Prof: Kirsopp Lake considers possible. But intrinsic probability, the test which the author proposes, is of all things profoundly subjective. What appears to one mind “possible” or “probable” will appear very much the reverse to another. But the important matter is that the emptiness of the grave is really denied on dogmatic presuppositions. Whether, however, modern criticism is justified, on that ground, in asserting, in spite of all the Gospel statements to the contrary, that the first believers either looked in the wrong grave; or never looked at all; and, without verification, inferred the emptiness of the grave from their assurance that Christ was risen; must, we feel confident, be answered with a most emphatic negative.
VII. The conclusion to which a study of the evidence leads us is that the emptiness of the grave of Christ was primarily known, not as a theological inference from the nature of Resurrection, but as a fact investigated and actually ascertained.
With this conclusion a very large number of negative critics agree. They reject the theory that the empty grave was an unverified inference from the belief that He was risen; but they maintain instead that it was the empty grave which greatly contributed to create the Appearances, and the consequent faith that He was risen. They think that if the grave was actually found vacated, the fact would greatly conduce to visions of the risen Master, or at any rate to belief in His triumph over death and His exaltation to glory. But they think it difficult, in the absence of any such external aid to faith, to account for the vigorous joyous confidence in His victory, which undoubtedly pervaded and possessed the entire being of the first disciples.
It would not be difficult to produce a strong array of modern critics, of very different schools, who accept this unanimous tradition of the empty grave – as Schenkel, Dobschûtz, Loofs, Stapfer, Steude, Holtzmann, Réville, and Wendt.
It should, however, be recognized that the emptiness of the grave does not necessarily prove Resurrection. Believing as we do that all the evidence concurs in declaring that the grave was vacant, the interpretation of the fact must be ultimately one of two things: either this was a human work, or else it was the work of God. Either human hands removed the corpse, or the Almighty raised the dead. That is exactly the question. Two antagonistic conceptions of God and the world meet at the grave of Christ. And the ultimate decision will be largely determined by the entire range of a man’s presuppositions.
Now the fourth Evangelist represents that the sight of the empty grave actually did in the case of one disciple create faith in the Resurrection. Belief then in the Resurrection existed, at least in one instance, prior to experiencing an actual appearance. It will, therefore, be open to criticism to suggest that the empty grave created the Appearances. For, of course, if it be granted that faith preceded the Appearances in any one instance, the possibility will be undeniable that it might have preceded them in other cases also.
But, while the fact of the empty grave is admittedly liable to this construction, there are very serious reasons for rejecting the assertion that the mere fact by itself could overcome the facts of death and defeat, and produce visions of triumph and glory. For the empty grave was not in itself necessarily conclusive. It was, as has been already said, open to more than one interpretation. It was not sufficient by itself for the exclusion of doubt. If the fourth Evangelist is to be credited when he affirms that it was sufficient in one very especial case, he is equally to be credited when he implies that it was not sufficient in any other.
There could be, after all, nothing peculiarly convincing in the sight of the emptied grave. It would undoubtedly make men think. This is what the evidence affirms. It would not necessarily create belief, but it would promote inquiry. It would bewilder and confuse. It would form a stage in preparation for higher truth, or further development, because it would create an attitude of suspense. For anything we know to the contrary the empty grave may have been an indispensable preliminary to belief in the Resurrection. It introduced new thoughts, opened out new possibilities. It may be that such thoughts were indecisive and vague. But here was a definite solid fact; a fact to be accounted for. It challenged explanation. The explanation was ultimately either human action or divine.
VIII. The question remains, Whether it is therefore true to say that Christianity or the Church are founded upon an empty grave? The answer is included in the previous discussion. For we have already seen that the empty grave does not necessarily imply Resurrection. This inference is an inference of faith, a selection between alternative explanations. Not on the fact of the empty grave, but on the religious contents of the fact, is Christian faith, in reality, founded.
The modern inquiry, Whether the emptiness of the grave of Christ is necessary to the Christianity of today, must be postponed until we come to consider the nature of the Resurrection body. Suffice it to say for the present that the urgent insistence in the narratives that the grave was actually vacated shows how necessary the fact appeared to the Christianity of the apostolic age.
Chapter IV – The Third Day
The phrase, as associated with our Lord’s Resurrection, assumes various forms in the New Testament. The form in the earliest of the Gospels is, “after three days.” This is the form in each of our Lord’s three main predictions in S. Mark. [S. Mark 8:31, 9:31, 10:34.]
In the other two Synoptic narratives the form is “the third day.” We might perhaps at once have assumed the equivalence of these two phrases, had not a critic insisted that the earlier form “after three days” is less definite than the later “the third day.” Wendt considers the form after three days “a specially characteristic sign of the priority of Mark, and of the verbal exactness with which he renders the apostolic tradition which stands as his authority.” [Wendt, “Teaching of Jesus,” ii. 269.] But the force of this criticism is greatly modified by the fact that S. Paul, whose witness is far earlier than S. Mark, and whose authority was the apostolic circle at Jerusalem and especially S. Peter, does not employ this form but writes “the third day.” [1 Cor. 15.] It seems difficult in face of such a fact to draw any special distinction between the two phrases. There is also the phrase “three days and three nights” which S. Matthew employs. [S. Mark 12:40.] Moreover, when our Lord says, “I cast out devils and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I am perfected,” [S. Luke 13:32.] it is clear that the phrase the third day can be, and is, sometimes employed in the vaguer sense of a very brief interval. And further still, it so happens that S. Matthew combines both expressions in a single passage. He represents the chief priest as saying to Pilate, “We remember that that deceiver said, while He was yet alive, after three days I rise again. Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day.” [St. Matt. 27:63–64.]
I. We first summarize the use of the phrase in the Gospels:
1. It occurs in all three of our Lord’s main predictions of His Resurrection: at the great Confession of S. Peter; after the Transfiguration; on the way to Jerusalem. [S. Mark 8:31, 9:31, 10:34, and parallels.]
2. It occurs in the fourth Gospel, in the form, “Destroy this Temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” [S. John 2:19.]
3. It became an accusation at His trial before Caiaphas. [S. Matt. 26:61.]
4. It occurs in the derision at the Cross. [S. Mark 15:29.] This also in the earliest Evangelist.
5. It is heard again in the misgivings of the chief priests which they confide to Pilate. [S. Matt. 27:63.]
6. It is echoed again on the journey to Emmaus. [S. Luke.]
7. It is implied as actually fulfilled in the notes of time between Good Friday and Easter Day.
All the narratives agree that the journey to the grave was on the first day after the Sabbath. [S. Mark 16:2, S. Luke 24:1, S. John 20:1, S. Mark 28:1.]
The Crucifixion is said to have happened on the day before the Sabbath: [S. Mark 15:42, S. John 19:31.] and the Sabbath lay between. [S. Mark 16:1.]
Thus according to the Evangelists it was predicted by Christ, remarked by opponents, discussed by disciples, and endorsed by the event.
II. But the tradition of the date of the Resurrection, on the Third Day, goes back behind all the existing Evangelists. It is part of the tradition received by S. Paul from the Community at Jerusalem. “I delivered unto you first of all,” he tells the Corinthians, “that which also I received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that He was buried; and that He hath been raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” [1 Cor. 15:3, 4.] It is necessary here to anticipate our later investigations into the testimony of S. Paul, and to remember that this tradition was received by S. Paul most probably three years after his conversion. That is to say, between 4 and 10 years after the Resurrection took place: according to the date at which his conversion should be fixed.
It is, then, an excessively early tradition, received at first hand by S. Paul from S. Peter, in the actual place where the Resurrection happened. That is to say, from the best source, at the best place, at almost the best time. It is necessary to lay great stress on this, in order that the exceptional value of the evidence may be fully appreciated. Critics have constantly written as if we chiefly depended on the Gospels for our knowledge of the third day. Wendt, for instance, dwells almost entirely on S. Mark, merely giving a passing reference to S. Paul, leaving the impression that his evidence is less significant; [Wendt. “T. J.,” ii. 269, n.] whereas the fact is that the testimony of the earliest of the Gospels must be at least some 30 years later than the date of S. Paul’s tradition. We are authorized in saying from S. Paul’s tradition that the Church of Jerusalem taught within ten years of the occurrence, at the latest, perhaps within four, that the Resurrection happened on the third day after the death. It is certainly difficult to see on what historic grounds a tradition so attested can be set aside. To this it should be added that there is no conflicting evidence, no necessity to decide between alternative reports, or “duplicated” versions. There is one steady consistent witness. All the later authorities endorse S. Paul. Pressensé was perfectly right to insist “that the Resurrection of Christ on the third day is guaranteed by a tradition more ancient than any evangelist.” [Pressensé, “J. C.”, p. 664.]
III. But more than this. The third day, insignificant as the detail might at first sight appear, has stamped itself indelibly on one of the Christian devotional institutions, the observance of the Lord’s Day.
S. Paul in writing to the Corinthians directs that the practice of almsgiving should take effect “upon the first day of the week.” [1 Cor. 16:2.] He gives no explanation of the selection of this day. The Corinthians will evidently understand. In the Acts we read “upon the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul discoursed with them” [Acts 20:7.] [at Troas]. In the Revelation again the writer declares “I was in the spirit on the Lord’s Day.” [Rev. 1:10.]
Here we have the familiar evidence of the apostolic observance of Sunday. But the cause of the transference of the day from the last to the first of the week is the Apostolic conviction that the third day after the burial our Lord rose again from the dead. If on the third day, that is the first day of the week, Jesus rose again, “then,” says Dr. Knowling, “we can understand why S. Paul does not consider it necessary to give any reason for the selection of that day.” [Knowling, “Witness of the Epistles,” p. 368. Cf. Maclear, “Evidential Value of the Eucharist.”] The Resurrection occurred on the third day. “That we have here much of history, and not an application of prophecy, is,” says Sabatier, “proved by the substitution in the Pauline Churches of the Lord’s Day in the place of the Sabbath.” [Sabatier, “ L’Apôtre Paul,” p. 65.]
In the Revelation the idea of the Lord’s Day and the Resurrection are definitely associated together. If the writer “was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day,” the announcement which he hears the Lord make is “I am the first and the last and the living one; and I was dead, and behold I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.” [Rev. 1:10, 18.]
“An unhistorical origin,” says Strauss, “of the statement as to time, which lies at the foundation of the history of the Resurrection will be more difficult to admit than in the case of the locality of the Appearances. The primaeval definite account that Jesus rose on the third day, and was seen after having so risen, seems to have every claim to historic validity.” [Strauss, “New Life,” i. 438.]
Strauss indeed qualifies this admission by attempting to prove that the Third Day was suggested partly for the theoretical necessity of rapid victory over death, and partly for scriptural exegesis, e.g. Hosea 6:2 and S. Luke 12:32: On the third day I shall be perfected.
“It cannot be denied,” says Schwartzkopff, “that the disciples understood literally Jesus’ prediction of His Resurrection on the third day.” [Schwartzkopff, “Prophecies,” p. 87.] Schwartzkopff himself considers that this was a misunderstanding on their part, since he believes that our Lord intended to convey the notion of a short but indefinite period. But he owns that the consequence of the disciples’ “misunderstanding” was that they must necessarily have expected Jesus’ Resurrection on the third day. [Ib. p. 88.]
IV. Our next inquiry is: Whether this idea of the Resurrection on the third day is derived from the Old Testament.
S. Paul’s account as received from the Church at Jerusalem is “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that He was buried; and that He hath been raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” Here the death and its redemptive purpose are affirmed to be in accordance with the Old Testament. So also is the Resurrection. Does the phrase “according to the Scriptures” apply to the third day as well as to the Resurrection? It certainly would appear that it does. This is supported by the words ascribed to our Lord on the Emmaus road: “Thus it is written, that the Christ shall suffer, and rise again from the dead the third day; and that repentance and remission of sins shall be preached in His name, unto all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” [S. Luke 24:46, 47.]
Various Old Testament passages have been suggested as predicting the third day as the period between Christ’s death and Resurrection.
1. First is the experience of the prophet Jonah. “Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.” [Jonah 1:17.] And this passage is expressly so interpreted in the report of our Lord’s reference to the sign of the prophet Jonah in S. Matthew. [S. Matt. 13:40.] The difficulty however is, as we have already seen in discussing our Lord’s predictions, that the earliest form of these words does not contain this reference to the three days, and indeed suggests an entirely different interpretation. If the Marcan form of our Lord’s words is the original, and if the reference to the three days is a comment by the Evangelist, then we cannot tell at what period this interpretation was first placed upon the passage in Jonah. We have no longer our Lord’s authority for the exposition. And it becomes all the more significant that S. Luke places our Lord’s statement, “Thus it is written that the Christ should suffer, and rise again from the dead the third day,” among the utterances spoken after the Resurrection and not before it. S. Luke’s suggestion certainly is that the actual occurrence of the Resurrection on the third day led to an interpretation by our Lord of the Old Testament in accordance with the occurrence. It was not the reverse process that an interpretation of the Old Testament induced belief that the Resurrection occurred on the third day.
2. A second Old Testament passage not infrequently supposed to predict the third day is Hosea 6:2:
“Come and let us return unto the Lord:
For He hath torn, and He will heal us;
He hath smitten, and He will bind us up,
After two days will He revive us;
In the third day He will raise us up,
And we shall live in His sight.”
Patristic allegorical exposition has found in this passage a mystic reference to the Resurrection of Christ: but the Rabbinical interpretation finds in it not an individual but a national reference; and modern critical and historical exegesis unquestionably supports the latter. Delitzsch, for instance, explains as follows:
“The earlier Jewish and Christian expositors have taken the numbers, after two days and on the third day, chronologically. The Rabbins consequently suppose the prophecy to refer either to the three captivities, Egyptian, Babylonian, Roman, or to the three periods of the Temple.... Many of the Fathers on the other hand ... have found in them a prediction of His Resurrection on the third day.... But any direct allusion in the hope here uttered to the Death and Resurrection of Christ is proved to be untenable by the simple words and their context.” [Delitzsch, p. 95, 96.]
On the other side a gifted writer [“Kernel and Husk,” p. 241.] says: “The tradition that Jesus appeared on the third day, or after three days, to His disciples, is so naturally derived from the prophecy of Hosea: “on the third day he shall raise us up” – a prophecy probably applied by Jesus to Himself – that we can place no reliance on its numerical accuracy.” But it is very questionable whether the Resurrection of the Messiah on the third day is so naturally derived from the prophecy of Hosea. It did not appear so natural to the Jewish interpreters. We do not know that the words were applied by our Lord to Himself; there is no trace of any such application in the New Testament. If the passage was so expounded by our Lord it was in the period after the Resurrection, and therefore could not create the tradition of the third day. Least of all can we infer the unreliable character of the tradition on the ground of a questionable interpretation of a passage in Hosea.
Critics are greatly divided on the question whether the idea of the third day is traceable to the language of Hosea. Some consider that the original form of our Lord’s prediction is “after three days,” and that the form “on the third day” is a correction of the original, and that the original does not agree with Hosea’s language. They conclude accordingly that the passage in Hosea cannot have been the same from which our Lord took the phrase “after three days.” [Rohrbach, p. 4.]
Far more solid reasons are urged by another critic, Loofs. [“Auferstehungsberichte,” p. 11.] He points out that the New Testament shows no signs of reference to the passage in Hosea. It is never quoted in the entire N.T. The Fathers, in collections of prophetic reference to Christ, e.g. Justin Martyr, nowhere mention these words of Hosea.
3. A third Old Testament passage has been suggested as predicting the Resurrection on the third day. It is the message brought by Isaiah to King Hezekiah: “I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold I will heal thee on the third day thou shalt go up into the house of the Lord.” [2 Kings 20:5.]
But we do not know that this was ever applied by the Jews to the Messiah. It is enough to say that, while a mystic reference is easily discoverable in this passage after the event, we cannot assume that the passage credited the belief and convinced men in the absence of the fact. [Cf. Dobschütz, “Ostern and Pfingsten,” p. 12.]
What must impress the reader of all these Old Testament passages is that they require a distinct effort to make them applicable. It is not meant by this that they possess no mystic reference. Very far from it. Only their remoteness, their apparent connection with other things, would disable them hopelessly from creating belief in an event which did not happen. To imagine that these vague statements led the disciples to believe that the Resurrection occurred on the third day when really nothing of the kind took place is psychologically incredible. That after the fact occurred the exposition became easy is quite intelligible. Our Lord, after He was risen, declared that the third day was determined by Old Testament predictions. It does not follow that this period is explicitly predicted or easily ascertained. It seems, on the contrary, clear that the disciples, antecedently to being instructed by our Lord in the light of the event, did not for themselves discover it in the Old Testament at all. It is not in the least degree likely that they should. Considering that the death itself was a scandal and an overthrow of their Messianic hope; that they had no conception whatever of the pathway of the Messiah through crucifixion and resurrection, the question of the date when He would rise must have been outside the sphere of their considerations. The third day would be comparatively meaningless in their state of mind. And, further, it is generally admitted that only by a mystic use can such a reference to Christ’s Resurrection be discovered in the ancient scriptures.
The situation compels the inference that it was not the Old Testament passages which created belief in the third day, but that conversely the Old Testament became illumined by the actual Resurrection on that date. It was not the Scripture which caused the belief, but the fact which explained the Scripture. [Cf. Dobschütz, p. 13.]
And if the tradition of the empty grave has been challenged expressly on the ground that it is not mentioned by S. Paul, corresponding importance surely ought to be attached to the tradition of the third day for the very reason that S. Paul does mention it. It is scarcely impartial to undervalue what he omits without valuing what he records.
V. But there is a deeper meaning in “the third day” than a mere Old Testament reference. It appears that in ancient thought the third day was connected with the phenomena of dissolution. Traces of this survive in many religions. It was a maxim of the Chinese that the body should not be prepared for funeral till three days after death, as that was the proper time to wait to see whether it would come to life again. [“Li-Ki,” xxxiii. 4, quoted in A. Meyer, p. 152.] Similarly the Parsees relate that the consciousness of the man sits three nights outside the body before finally relinquishing it. [Parson’s “Nature and Purpose of the Universe,” p. 156.] Plato suggests a delay of burial for three days to distinguish between apparent and real death. [Nomm. Bk. xii. 959, A. Burnet’s Edit.] Popular opinion among the Jews held that after death “the soul hovered above the grave until the third day, desiring to return to the body; but when it sees the appearance change, then it leaves the body altogether. [See “Bereschit Rabba,” trans. in Wünsch, “Der Midrasch Bereschit Rabba,” 100. 10, vol. i. p. 504.]
Thus at the grave of Lazarus Martha concludes that corruption has begun: for he has been dead four days. [A. Meyer, “Auferstehung,” 183 and 353.] Was it this thought which partly held the mind of the disciple on the Emmaus road when he reflected, “Yea, and beside all this, it is now the third day since these things came to pass”? [S. Luke 24:21.] Was he hovering between a recollection of our Lord’s prediction and a fear that the period of dissolution must be setting in?
Clearly, then, the significance of the Third Day, to the Eastern mind, as the date of Resurrection, is that it denotes the reality of the Death, and yet the exemption from corruption. It is Resurrection at the earliest moment consistent with the one, and at the latest consistent with the other. The following sentences of Bishop Pearson may sound remote from modern thought, but they accurately express the Scriptural idea: “He might have descended from the Cross before He died; but He would not, because He had undertaken to die for us. He might have revived Himself upon the Cross after He had given up the ghost, and before Joseph came to take Him down; but He would not, lest, as Pilate questioned whether He were already dead, so we might doubt whether He even died.” It was necessary that some space should intervene between the Death and the Resurrection. But “when the verity of His Death was once sufficiently proved,” there could be no more delay, “lest ... any person after many days should doubt whether He rose with the same body with which He died.”
It has further been often observed that the third day really means one day complete, and that the one day complete was the Sabbath. This, to the Jewish mind, certainly conveyed the idea of achievement and finished work.
VI. The importance of the third day is obvious in various directions.
Here, however, it is objected that the tradition is that on the third day He rose, not that on the third day He appeared. This objection is verbally correct. Neither S. Paul nor any other writer says the third day He appeared to Cephas. S. Paul says, “and that He hath been raised on the third day according to the Scriptures; and that He appeared to Cephas.” [1 Cor. 15:4, 5.] Thus, that the day of the Resurrection was also the day of the appearance to Cephas is not said. But surely it is implied. If Christ did not appear on the third day, how was it known that He rose on the third day? What is the meaning of the third day at all, unless it refers to an apostolic experience occurring on that day? If Christ did not appear on the third day, if the Resurrection is separable from the appearance of the Lord as risen, why should the Resurrection be assigned to the third day at all? Why not Good Friday night? For anything the apostles could prove to the contrary, this might have been the case, unless the Resurrection was dated by the Appearances. We must certainly agree with Bernhard Weiss that “only on the ground of the fact that appearances occurred on that day can the tradition have arisen that Jesus rose from the dead on the third day.” [B. Weiss, “Life of Christ,” iii. 389.]
Strauss inquired: Why, if the Resurrection occurred on the third day, did the disciples wait until the fiftieth to proclaim it? It might suffice to answer that even if no explanation were forthcoming, such objections could not even disturb the evidence of the tradition, still less refute it. But it seems curious that it did not occur to so acute a critic that a certain time to mature and take action might well be necessary. He himself postulates for a theory of his own, as we shall presently see, this necessity of time to develop. But the Acts explains the delay as imposed upon them by the Master’s will, and by the necessity of reception of heavenly power, which was not bestowed till Pentecost. The whole conduct of the apostles after the Resurrection is presented in the Acts as deliberate: the very opposite of anything emotional or impulsive. They do not act as isolated individuals, but with the regularity of a corporate institution.
1. One importance of the third day Resurrection is that it makes the rationalist explanation of the faith as the result of self-generated visions incredible. For it is widely felt that purely subjective changes from despair to hope and joy would at any rate take time. It is psychologically incredible that all this should be wrought in the space of some forty-eight hours. It is simply impossible, says Holsten, [“Zum Evangelium des Paulus und des Petrus,” p. 125, 6.] that the first apostles should clearly, on the third day after the Crucifixion, experience a subjective vision of Christ. Strauss, with his usual frankness, admits the difficulty in remarkable terms: “If we look upon the Resurrection of Jesus as a miracle, it might take place as well on one day as another; a natural restoration to life must occur on some day soon after death, or it could not occur at all: on the other hand, the psychological revolution from which we suppose the visions of apostles to have proceeded, appears to require a longer interval for its development. More than one day; it would seem, should intervene before the disciples could recover from their terror at the unlooked-for result.... Supposing in particular that it was from renewed and profounder study of the sacred writings of the Old Testament that the certainty arose that their Jesus, in spite of suffering and death, had been the Messiah, that His suffering and death had been for Him only the passage to the glory of the Messiah, for this also a longer time was requisite. It appears therefore, if it is true that on the very first day after the death of Jesus appearances of His took place, not to be conceivable that those appearances were merely subjective visions of the disciples; and our view of the origin of the belief in the Resurrection of Jesus appears to fall to pieces upon the impossibility of making that origin conceivable on the third day.” [Strauss, “New Life,” i. p. 431.]
Strauss’s own reply to the difficulty is as follows: The difficulty is not insuperable; “a purely logical method was not yet possible. [Ib. p. 432.] The belief in the Resurrection was a reaction in the secret depths of the apostles’ minds: followed by an “electric discharge in which the overloaded feelings relieved themselves. Criticism does not wait for reason. Imagination works everything. Reflection comes to the rescue afterwards. [Ib. p. 433.] Thus, thinks Strauss, even if it was established that the conviction of His Resurrection prevailed so early as the Third Day, it might still be the product of subjective fancies.
But this explanation did not win its way to critical acceptance. It was still felt that such revolutions of thought and feeling take time. Criticism itself has not been content with Strauss’s “electrical discharge.” No one has drawn this out more conclusively than Keim, whose work should be consulted on this point. “The tradition that Jesus rose from the dead on the Third Day,” says Bernhard Weiss, “can only have arisen in virtue of the fact that appearances occurred on that day.” [“Life of Christ,” iii. 389.]
2. A second importance of this brief interval is that it compels the location of the first Appearances of the Risen Lord in Jerusalem. If only one complete day intervened between the Death and the Resurrection, then the Judean series of manifestations must come first; for there would be no possibility of the disciples reaching Galilee by that time, even if they had started direct from Gethsemane. Thus this detail, deeply rooted as it is in the primitive tradition, and the Judean Appearances, are mutually corroborative. And it must not be forgotten that “the third day” is supported by those Evangelists who give the Galilean series of appearances. Thus, either they contradict themselves, or else they imply the existence of the series which they omit.
Chapter V – The Locality of the Appearances
If the recorded Appearances of the risen Christ are classified according to locality, they fall into two obvious groups: Judea and Galilee. The Galilean series is contained in S. Mark and S. Matthew; the Judean in S. Luke, S. John, and the appendix to S. Mark.
A recent school of critics which, for sake of distinction, may be described as negative, deal with the documents somewhat in the following way:
1. They point out that in the original Gospel of S. Mark, Jesus is said before He died to have expressly fixed Galilee to be the meeting place after His Resurrection: “After I am raised up, I will go before you into Galilee.” [S. Mark 14:28.] And the young man’s message to the women at the grave repeats the same design: “Go tell His disciples and Peter, He goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see Him, as He said unto you.” [S. Mark 16:7.] Here the original Gospel abruptly ends with a statement that the women “said nothing to any one; for they were afraid.” But the logic of the situation requires that the lost ending of S. Mark proceeded to describe a meeting in Galilee. It is also asserted that the disciples were already on their way to the northern province, having started on Thursday night or Friday morning immediately after the betrayal in Gethsemane. The words, “And they all left Him and fled,” [S. Mark 14:50.] being explained to mean, fled clean away from Jerusalem toward their home in Galilee.
It is further considered that this view of the fact is confirmed by S. Matthew, who follows closely the Marcan narrative hitherto, and is scarcely likely to have deviated from his authority in describing the Resurrection events. S. Matthew, therefore, is supposed to supply the original but lost account. Now, S. Matthew places the scene of the meeting between the disciples and Christ in Galilee. He says indeed that Jesus appeared to the women near the grave at Jerusalem; but it was only to reinforce the message already given by the angels, “Go tell My brethren that they depart into Galilee, and there shall they see Me.”
So far, then, all the evidence appears to be for Galilee.
2. On the other side, the Gospel of S. Luke, the Gospel of S. John, and the present conclusion to S. Mark, give a series of appearances in Judaea. Not only is this the case, but S. Luke appears so entirely unconscious of any appearance in Galilee that he goes on to refer to the Ascension itself. And, what is even more remarkable, the angel message to the women appears in S. Luke changed from a direction to go to Galilee into a reminder that Christ spoke to them about His Resurrection when He was still in Galilee. Thus, whereas the Marcan version is “He goeth before you into Galilee, there shall you see Him, as He said unto you”; [S. Mark 16:7.] the Lucan version is, “Remember how He spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, saying that the Son of Man must be delivered up ... and the third day rise again.” [S. Luke 24:6–7.] Here then, it is said, we have the angel message in an altered form. The Marcan version is the original. And, in accordance with it, the meeting must have taken place in Galilee.
3. The critical conclusion from this evidence is that the Galilean series represents the earlier tradition; that the Judean series arose at a later time, and does not possess the same historic worth, being rather the product of devout reflection, or apologetic requirements, in the developing Christian community.
Thus, it is asserted that the first appearances happened far away from the neighbourhood where the Christ was buried, and certainly at a later period than the third day from the death.
The question is dealt with in the following way by Strauss. [Strauss, “New Life,” i. 404.] “If Luke is correct in the statement that Jesus on the day of the Resurrection directed the disciples to remain in Jerusalem, He cannot, as Matthew says, have told them on the very same morning to go to Galilee, and as they would not have gone there against His express directions, they cannot have seen the appearances there of which Matthew and the author of the supplementary chapter in John give an account. Conversely, if Jesus had defined Galilee to the disciples as the place where they were to see Him, it is impossible to imagine what could have induced Him to show Himself to them on the same day in Jerusalem; and if, therefore, Matthew is correct, all the three other appearances to the disciples which took place in the neighbourhood of Jerusalem vanish into nothing.”
I. First, then, let us take the series of appearances in Galilee.
1. According to the original Gospel of S. Mark, not only did the women visit the grave on Easter Day, and therefore were still in the neighbourhood of Jerusalem, but the message sent to the disciples, “He goeth before you into Galilee,” implies the presence of the disciples also in Jerusalem on that day. [“Cf. Rördam, “Hibbert Journal,” July, 1905, p. 781.] Accordingly the theory that “they all left Him and fled” means fled direct home to Galilee is refuted by the implications of the earliest Evangelist. S. Mark knows nothing of a flight of the apostles before Easter to Galilee. [Loofs, “Auferstehungsberichte.”] The Apocryphal Gospel of Peter takes a similar line. [Swete, “Akhmîn fragment of the Apocryphal Gospel of S. Peter,” xii. pp. 24 and 28.] The apostles, if we may credit S. Mark, were still residing in the Holy City.
Now to place the first appearance of our Lord in Galilee it is of course necessary to transfer the apostles from Jerusalem. But this has no historic basis whatever. When it is reported that all the disciples forsook Him and fled, the obvious sense of the words is fled from the Garden of Gethsemane; but there is no hint that they fled on and on, and never paused until they found themselves safe in their Galilean home. On the contrary, it is expressly noted that Peter followed afar off to the high priest’s palace (Mark 14:54). And the message entrusted to the women (in S. Mark 16:7), tell His brethren that He goes before them into Galilee, proves that the oldest tradition recognized the fact that the apostles were still waiting in Jerusalem. [See Loofs, p. 19.] Wellhausen [On S. Luke 24:13.] recognizes that (according to Mark 16 and Matt. 28) the disciples did not flee from Jerusalem on Friday, but were in Jerusalem on Easter Day: but he thinks they then left, according to the order to go to Galilee, with a view to seeing the Risen there.
But what did the lost conclusion of S. Mark contain? It may be said, with approach to certainty, it must have contained an appearance of Christ in Galilee. The angel message would seem to necessitate this. But was there anything further? Did the lost conclusion contain an appearance of Christ in Jerusalem? It is often confidently asserted that it did not.
But that is precisely what we find in S. Matthew after a similar injunction to go to Galilee. S. Matthew describes a manifestation of Christ to the women near Jerusalem, and afterwards to the Eleven in Galilee. Now suppose that the ending of S. Matthew had been lost after verse 7 which contains the angel’s direction to the disciples to go to Galilee. If in the absence of the original we had inferred from that command that the lost conclusion must have contained a meeting in Galilee we should have argued correctly. But if we had also inferred from the same command that the original contained no meeting near Jerusalem we should have been quite mistaken. Ought not such considerations to increase our caution in dogmatizing as to what was absent from missing documents?
2. S. Matthew, as has just been said, relates that the first appearance of the risen Lord took place near Jerusalem, but he also adds a manifestation to the Eleven in Galilee. The question is whether these incidents followed in close succession. “There is certainly nothing in S. Matthew’s narrative when analyzed to compel this supposition. In fact, the disconnected character of this narrative is apparent from the Evangelist’s very words. The narrative contains four sections: (a) the appearance of the angel, (b) the appearance of Christ, (c) the story of the guards, (d) the appearances in Galilee. Now, while the first of these sections is closely connected with the second by the words, “and as they went,” and the second closely connected with the third by the words, “when they were going,” no similar connection is given between the third section and the fourth. It is possible, then, to place an interval of time after the account of the guards and before the departure for Galilee. In which case room is found for a whole series of manifestations in Jerusalem.” [“Our Lord’s Resurrection,” p. 47.]
It seems, therefore, that the inference sometimes drawn from S. Mark that appearances to the apostles occurred exclusively in Galilee is due to the compression and condensation of the narrative. [The writer is glad to find this statement supported in an article in the “Church Quarterly Review,” January, 1906, p. 352.]
II. This brings us to the Judean series of appearances.
For this the first authority is S. Luke. His whole narrative of the Resurrection circles round Jerusalem. He seems unconscious of any manifestations in Galilee. If we possessed his Gospel only, we should not know that the Risen Master was seen anywhere except in Judaea: save only in the conversion of S. Paul. The place of the burial, the empty grave, the road to Emmaus, and the house in the village, the assembled Eleven in the Jerusalem chamber: these are the absorbing interests in S. Luke. And there is nothing else. Moreover, the impression left by the narrative is that the appearances were completed on Easter Day. More remarkable still is the form, already quoted, of the angel message. The designation of Galilee as the place of meeting is converted into a reminiscence of a conversation held in that locality. And as if still more effectually to exclude a meeting in the northern province, the injunction is expressly added: “Tarry ye in the city until ye be clothed with powers from on high.” [S. Luke 24:49.] Here, then, are two forms of the angel message: “Go tell His disciples and Peter, He goeth forth before you into Galilee; then shall ye see Him, as He said unto you” [S. Mark.]; and, “remember how He spake unto you when He was yet in Galilee, saying that the Son of Man must be delivered up ... and the third day rise again.” [S. Luke 24:6, 7.]
But there is yet another striking feature of the Lucan narrative. Our first impression as we read his Gospel is that the Ascension itself took place on Easter Day. The narrative glides smoothly on, event passes into event, until at the close of the day we find ourselves at Bethany and the Ascension takes place. It begins with the women at the grave, passes on into Peter’s visit, who departs wondering; then comes the Emmaus narrative; then the scene in the upper room; then without any apparent break our Lord leads them as far as Bethany, and, while blessing them, is parted from them. Whatever form of the text be adopted here, this can be nothing else than the Ascension. If we take this account by itself, it seems to place the Ascension and Resurrection on the same day. This would more effectually than ever exclude appearances in Galilee.
1. But to do justice to S. Luke’s account it is necessary to consider his characteristics as a historian. Professor Ramsay has insisted that “S. Luke’s style is compressed to the highest degree; and he expects a great deal from the reader ... he states the bare facts that seem to him important, and leaves the reader to imagine the situation.... Hence though his style is simple and clear, yet it often becomes obscure from its brevity; and the meaning is lost, because the reader has an incomplete, or a positively false idea of the situation.” [“Paul the Traveller,” p. 17.] And further, according to the same authority, “S. Luke was deficient in the sense of time.” “It would be quite impossible from Acts alone to acquire any idea of the lapse of time. That is the fault of his age.... He dismisses ten years in a breath, and devotes a chapter to a single incident.”[ “Paul the Traveller,” p. 18.] Plainly these characteristics must affect his Gospel account of the Resurrection. In fact we may find in that section the traces of considerable compression. If he seems at first to imply that the Ascension took place on Easter Day, a further study of the passage corrects the idea. For there does not seem sufficient time to crowd all the occurrences into the space of a single day. Emmaus is reached “toward evening” when “the day was far spent.” Then followed the evening meal, which must have taken a little time. Then the return journey to Jerusalem, which was a distance of three score furlongs, or seven miles, would take the greater part of two hours. Then comes the conversation between the two disciples and the Eleven. Afterwards Christ Himself appears, and gives them an instruction in the Scriptures: the law, the prophets, and the Psalms. This surely required a considerable interval. A similar exposition to the two occupied perhaps most of the journey to Emmaus. Then, after this instruction, is placed the walk to Bethany and the Ascension. This could scarcely be before the middle of the night. And yet certainly the account gives the impression that the event was conceived as happening in the day. [“Hibbert Journal,” July, 1905, p. 774.] Here, then, is an evident trace of condensation. The fact is the whole Resurrection account in S. Luke’s Gospel easily falls into sections. [See the division into paragraphs in R. V.] There is no necessity to suppose that all the sayings recorded were spoken on one and the same occasion; nor that the walk to Bethany took place that day. These may easily be instances when S. Luke becomes obscure from brevity. Those who believe that a series of appearances occurred in Galilee can hardly believe that, if Christ on Easter Day assigned Galilee for the place of meeting, He also said on the same day “tarry ye here in Jerusalem.” [See Wellhausen on S. Luke 24:49.] But if S. Luke has here grouped the sayings together which, although spoken in the same upper chamber, were spoken on different occasions – the one at the beginning, the other at the close of the great forty days – the accuracy of the conversation is secured and the difficulty seems to be simply caused by compression.
Professor Rürdam [“Hibbert Journal,” July, 1905, p. 776.] points out that the words in S. Luke 24:47–49, which seem as if spoken in the evening of Easter Day, were in reality spoken at the Ascension, forty days later. For the Ascension words in the Acts, “Ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem,” etc., correspond with the Gospel passage on Easter Day, “And ye are witnesses of these things. And behold I send the promise of My Father upon you, but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem until ye be endued with power from on high.”
2. S. Luke was no Jew of Palestine, his antecedents were Greek. Harnack is sure that his native place was Antioch. His knowledge of historic detail must have been obtained during a visit to Jerusalem.
Jerusalem meant more for a Greek than Galilee. It was the home of the apostles, the mother Church, the city whence his religion spread. Would not the Greek Evangelist feel a special interest in what he calls “the Holy City,” and care especially to record, for the Gentile world, what had happened there? This is confirmed by the fact of S. Luke’s obvious interest in great cities. As the Gospel ends with Jerusalem, so the Acts begins with Jerusalem, advances to Antioch, and terminates at Rome. There is a constant reiteration of the name Jerusalem in the chapter with which this Gospel ends. [24:13, 18, 33, 47, 49, 52.] S. Luke reveals throughout great interest in Judaea. [Spitta, in a valuable essay on the geographical disposition of the life of Christ in the Synoptists, shows that all through his Gospel S. Luke manifests a decided preference for Judaea over Galilee. Spitta, “Streitfragen,” 7, 9, 15, 69.] Was it not thus natural that he should record a Jerusalem series of appearances? Would it matter so much to the Greek that Christ also appeared elsewhere? And S. Luke was in Jerusalem within thirty years of the actual events.
But from whom in Jerusalem did S. Luke derive his account? It is probable that at the date of his visit none of the original Twelve were there. He would certainly see S. James, the Lord’s brother, head of the Jerusalem Church. But S. Peter, who informed S. Mark, had left Jerusalem before that time. Does the absence of S. Peter explain why S. Luke heard nothing of appearances of the risen Lord in Galilee? S. Luke at any rate found at Jerusalem a tradition of appearances in which Galilee was left out. Now, it certainly was not left out in the Marcan narrative. And S. Mark was a Palestinian and a Jerusalemite. How did it come to pass that the Galilean series was omitted from recital in Jerusalem? How did it happen that a companion of S. Paul, inquiring at Jerusalem within thirty years of the events, heard nothing of these manifestations in Galilee? If the Galilean series were, as the negative criticism supposes, the original and genuine account, how did it come to disappear? Harnack says it was “replaced by later legends which had arisen in Jerusalem.” [“Luke the Physician,” p. 159.] But then Harnack has also to assert that S. Luke, “in direct opposition to S. Mark, has ascribed the first announcement of the Resurrection to women.” But it must be remembered that S. Matthew does the same. [S. Matt. 28:8.] Here then S. Luke and S. Matthew agree. Since they worked independently, and both had S. Mark before them as they wrote, their agreement must have some further ground. Moreover, as we have already seen, S. Matthew places the first appearance of the risen Lord in Jerusalem. Accordingly, both the later Evangelists bear evidence for Jerusalem. Now, in face of these facts in Matthew and Luke, it is simply impossible to demonstrate that S. Mark gave no manifestation in Jerusalem. There is no real proof that the Lucan account contains “later legends.” To keep exactly within what we know, it contains a report of two Judean appearances. But it is just as reasonable to say that the Church of Jerusalem gave S. Luke a description of their own local experiences; and that these experiences were equal in value, and not different in character, from the experiences in Galilee. What we really possess in S. Luke is the testimony of the Jerusalem Church to its own experience.
3. It is necessary here to discuss more fully the different forms of the angel message at the grave. As already stated, the Marcan form of the tradition is “go tell his disciples, and Peter, He goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see Him, as He said unto you.” [S. Mark 14:7.] The Lucan form is “remember how He spake unto you when He was yet in Galilee, saying that the Son of Man must be delivered up into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again. And they remembered His words....” [S. Luke 24:7, 8.] It is scarcely possible to doubt which of these alternatives is the original form. The Marcan form agrees with the prediction on the Mount of Olives: “All ye shall be offended: for it is written I will smite the shepherd and the sheep shall be scattered abroad. Howbeit, after I am raised up, I will go before you into Galilee.” [S. Mark 14:27, 28.] This is also reported in S. Matthew, [S. Matt. 24:32.] who also gives the angel message in the Marcan form, [Ib. 28:7.] and further ascribes the same message to the risen Lord Himself: “Go tell My brethren that they depart into Galilee, and there shall they see Me.” [Ib. 10.]
It is obviously then the Marcan narrative which represents the original. In the Lucan version the angel message has been changed.
It is maintained by the critic Spitta that the promise “I will go before you into Galilee” does not denote an appearance in Galilee to the exclusion of one in Judaea. Rather the meaning is that Jesus will collect His scattered flock after His Resurrection, and then precede them into Galilee. It implies a work in Judaea first of all. [Spitta, “Streitfragen,” pp. 74–75.]
Schweitzer suggests a similar interpretation. The “going before them into Galilee” means that Jesus “will return with them, at their head, from Jerusalem to Galilee.” Accordingly Schweitzer argues that “the saying, far from directing the disciples to go away to Galilee, chains them to Jerusalem, there to await Him who should lead them home. It should not therefore be claimed as supporting the tradition of the Galilean appearances.” But, to justify this interpretation, Schweitzer is obliged to suppose that the angel message in the Marcan form itself has been altered. There is, moreover, no real ground for interpreting the “going before them” in the sense of actual leadership. The word is surely used here in the same sense as when “He constrained His disciples to enter into the boat and to go before Him unto the other side to Bethsaida, while He Himself sendeth the multitude away.” [S. Mark 6:45.] We cannot doubt then that it is the Lucan form of the message which has been changed. The assignment of Galilee as the place of meeting has been altered into a reference to a conversation held in that locality. What was the motive for this alteration? Clearly to bring the angel message into harmony with a narrative which is conclusively concerned with Judaan manifestations. By whom was the alteration made? The construction of the documents would suggest without any doubt that it was made by S. Luke himself.
4. If an attempt be made to reproduce the historic circumstances under which S. Luke wrote his account, it would seem that sometime after leaving Rome he resided in Achaia. S. Mark’s Gospel, it is said, was written in Rome; S. Luke possessed a copy in Achaia. When he came to write on the Resurrection, the Gospel before him undoubtedly contained an account of an appearance in Galilee. He was familiar also, we may suppose, with the summary of the evidences reproduced by S. Paul in 1 Cor. 15. For this was clearly derived from Jerusalem. It contained a mention of the appearance to the 500. This was scarcely likely to have been located elsewhere than Galilee. Thus the implication of S. Paul confirmed S. Mark. Moreover, S. Mark, like himself, had been a companion of S. Paul. The locality of the Resurrection appearances was therefore not easily restricted to Jerusalem. And yet S. Luke felt such confidence in the authority which instructed him in Jerusalem that he had no hesitation in omitting the series in Galilee. He did omit it. He went further still. Finding himself confronted in the Marcan narrative with an angel message assigning Galilee as the place for reassembling, and being unable to harmonize it with the tradition received by himself of appearances in Judaea, he changed the form of the message into agreement with the facts before him. Is this the explanation? If it is, it would not justify a hasty generalization adverse to the historic reality of Synoptic reports. [As Pfleiderer.] Harnack’s recent work on the “Sayings of Jesus” goes far to establish the accuracy with which S. Luke utilized his materials. “Alterations in the subject matter of the source showing distinct motives and bias are extremely rare when compared with stylistic changes.” [Ib. p. 113.] “Such bias had no stronger influence with S. Luke than with S. Matthew.” [Ib. p. 115.]
What it does seem to show is S. Luke’s strong preference for personal information obtained direct. He is confident that the Church at Jerusalem could be relied upon. He went behind the documents to the living persons whom he met and knew.
But S. Luke wrote a second time. Beside the Gospel is the Acts. [Accepting Harnack’s conclusion of authorship.] It has been asserted that the antagonism between the substance of the angel message in S. Mark, and the tradition which he himself had received at Jerusalem, led S. Luke to further investigations; in the course of which he ascertained that the period during which the risen Lord revealed Himself was forty days. And this he recorded in the opening of the Acts. But there really seems no proof that it was S. Luke whose information was increased. It is just as likely that he was correcting the misapprehension of some readers. For we notice that although he now gives additional sayings of the risen Master, he still confines attention, just as exclusively, to Jerusalem. And the Gospel retained the form of the angel message which he had given it in his alteration of S. Mark. Indeed the account of the great forty days in the Acts is manifestly an ancient narrative derived from Jerusalem. For the distance between Bethany and the city is measured as “a Sabbath day’s journey”: an expression not likely to have originated with the Greek Evangelist. And the Apostles are addressed by the angel as “ye men of Galilee”; while in the following chapter S. Peter addresses the crowd as “ye men of Judaea.” Moreover the whole interest of the opening chapter is concentrated upon Jerusalem. Jerusalem is expressly the centre from which the Gospel is to extend. And perhaps most remarkable of all is the amazing question put by the disciples to their risen Master, Whether he would at that time restore again the Kingdom to Israel. This is a question which certifies its own historic character. It betrays an ignorance of the Master’s design which no forger could conceivably have ascribed to the Apostles at a later period. When the Catholic Church was extending rapidly everywhere, when Jerusalem itself had fallen, the immediate restoration of the Kingdom to Israel would neither have come within the range of probabilities, nor have formed an urgent portion of Christian expectation, nor have been ascribed to the Eleven. It is a conception obviously contemporary with the actual Resurrection period. We certainly seem led to the conclusion that S. Luke found no authority sufficiently convincing to justify him in recognizing appearances in Galilee. But this confirms our confidence in his historical care.
III. Such, then, are the two series of appearances, the Galilean and the Judaean.
The question next arising is, Are we to regard them as alternative versions? Must we make our choice between them? Or may we not accept them both? Among modern critics some decide for Galilee, some for Judaea, while others combine the two.
1. Prof. Kirsopp Lake argues very strongly against this last alternative; not merely because it is difficult, but chiefly because “the method of the growth of tradition is always synthetic”; that is to say, it joins together various versions of the same event. But, however correct this generalization may be, it cannot possibly follow that Christ could not have been seen in two localities. The maxim may be generally true yet false in this particular instance, The duplication may be actual, not imagined. Prof. Kirsopp Lake admits as much. He says “it is extremely probable that there has been a considerable confusion of localities”: but yet he adds, “It is improbable that this will account for the whole of the Jerusalem tradition.”
Improbable indeed. For the tendency of tradition to duplicate is surely controlled by certain principles. If criticism declares the two miracles of feeding the multitude to be duplicates of the same event, we may, of course, reply that the notebook of a physician will exhibit many cases of strong similarity, not however created by the tendencies of tradition to duplicate, but by the recurring needs of human nature in actual fact: but nevertheless the criticism has much to say for itself, and can point to the very striking similarity. But the narratives of the appearances of the Risen Lord in Galilee and Judaea do not possess the note of striking similarity. The narratives do not read like alternative versions of the same event. They cannot be reconciled by the easy expedient of changing the names of the locality, or by making a few alterations in the details. On the contrary, there is the greatest difference between the scene in the upper room at Jerusalem and the scene in the boat at the Galilean lake. It is much easier to say that the two accounts of the draught of the fish, the one before the Passion and the other after the Resurrection, are duplicate versions of the one incident than to say this of the Galilean and Judean series of Resurrection appearances. They have exceedingly little in common. It would not be easy to take the Emmaus narrative and transfer the scene to Galilee. The one common feature which the narratives possess is that they are apostolic experiences of the Resurrection. But their distinctness, their independence, is most marked. The question is whether these phenomena can be properly accounted for by the acknowledged tendencies of tradition to duplicate. This is what would require to be proved. It is not too much to say that no proof has yet been presented.
2. Among critics who decide for the Galilean series as the original tradition is Loisy. [“Les Ev. Synopt.” pp. 728.] Loisy maintains it first on the ground of literary criticism, that S. Luke depends upon S. Mark; from whom he is supposed to have arbitrarily departed. Secondly, on the ground of historic criticism, that the apologetic preoccupations of the Evangelists make it incredible that, having described appearances in Jerusalem within three days of the Passion, they would omit this, and say that the first appearances only took place in Galilee after the apostles’ return to that country. It is difficult not to see the very large assumptions upon which this criticism rests. It provokes interrogation at every turn. The Evangelists, for instance, do not say that the first appearances only took place in Galilee.
Harnack [Harnack, “Lukas der Arzt,” p. 112 ff.] also decides for the Galilean tradition as against S. Luke. Harnack maintains that the mere undertaking to write another Gospel with S. Mark before him implies a supposed possession of better and further information. But does it follow that what he omits he considers unhistoric? The independence of S. Luke is particularly prominent, says Harnack, in the Passion and Resurrection history. Above all, in the last of these; where, in conformity with his own independent sources of information, he replaces the Marcan witness by the later Jerusalem story; and, in contradiction with Mark, makes the women the first witnesses to the Resurrection. Harnack puts no confidence in the Lucan account – Mark was a Jew and a Jerusalemite: Luke a Greek and an Antiochean. The Palestinian Church would never have accepted Matthew when he contained a tradition endorsed at Jerusalem. Yet Harnack himself has just allowed that S. Luke derived his information from Jerusalem. Harnack calls it the later Jerusalem story. Considering the period when S. Luke was in Jerusalem, one wonders how much “later” S. Luke’s information was than S. Matthew’s.
Another critic, [Rohrbach] who would confine the Appearances to Galilee, feels constrained by the Apocryphal Gospel of Peter to imagine that the disciples remained eight days in Jerusalem, to the end of the feast, without any knowledge of the Resurrection. Then at least the words “they all forsook Him and fled” do not mean fled away to Galilee. And then also the Octave of Easter Day still found (as the fourth gospel affirms) the apostles in Jerusalem. This view at any rate lends considerable support to the Appearances in Jerusalem, even while rejecting them. For it affirms the apostles to be there, and gives no adequate explanation for their presence.
3. We may think that the Judean series cannot be accounted for on different principles than these in Galilee. The later origin of the form seems asserted but not proved. (1) It will not account for the early tradition which has deeply imbedded itself in the whole apostolic literature that the Resurrection took place on the Third Day. This would have no basis and no meaning unless it was ascertained by manifestations on that very day. And such manifestations, if they occurred at all, at such an early date, must have occurred in Judea; for it leaves no time to reach the northern province of Galilee. (2) It will not account for the tradition of the empty grave. The earliest narrative we possess, the original S. Mark, affirms a visit to the grave on Easter morning. This would be impossible if the women had fled to Galilee. Yet the earliest record affirms it. (3) Moreover there is the intrinsic character of the Judean accounts. “Luke’s story ... of the disciples at Emmaus,” says Holtzmann, who certainly will not be accused of apologetic bias, “would seem faithfully to reproduce the sentiments that prevailed among the disciples in general after His death.” [Holtzmann, “Life of Jesus,” p. 494.] If the historic situation is thus accurately and faithfully reproduced, is the locality hopelessly inaccurate and misleading? (4) And further, if the death was followed by flight to Galilee and the manifestations were only there, what brought the apostles back to Jerusalem ? Above all, why was the Church founded, not in Galilee, but in Jerusalem ? Prof. K. Lake can only reply that “Why this was so is one of the missing links in the chain of early history.” It is “one of the most curious though least doubtful of facts in the history of the Church.” [Lake, p. 210.] But it is only rejection of the Jerusalem series which makes it so.
“The whole tendency of early Christian thought was to emphasize Jerusalem and to forget Galilee.” If the first Appearances were there, and they were bidden to tarry there, and the pentecostal gift was there, then the emphasis on Jerusalem becomes intelligible. (5) Moreover, the flight from Jerusalem to Galilee is pure assumption. All that the narrative says is, “they all left Him and fled.” [S. Mark 14:50.] To interpret “fled” as equivalent to “ran away and never paused until they found themselves in their northern homes” is a very large paraphrase, and an interpolation of ideas which the words do not necessarily contain. A criticism which is anxious not to read fuller contents into words than they absolutely must contain ought not to embroider this passage with ideas which it certainly need not convey.
As a critic observes, “These words, ‘they all left Him and fled’ can only refer to the fact that they were scattered abroad in Jerusalem. They would probably find sufficient protection there. The very fact that no one but the Master was apprehended in Gethsemane makes the assumption that ‘all’ the disciples felt themselves irresistibly forced to flee directly into Galilee seem to be without justification. And even the ‘all’ should not be taken too strictly. For, only three verses after the flight is mentioned, Peter’s disciple expressly relates of his master that he followed Jesus, though at a distance, into the palace of the high priest. [S. Mark 14:54.] In his repeated denials, also, which no doubt betray a certain fear, Peter escapes unmolested. And there is nothing in the report to indicate that he then immediately withdrew from Jerusalem. [S. Mark 14:72.] All this does not look like a universal panic-struck flight to a distance.” [Schwartzkopff, “Prophecies,” p. 114.]
Unless the historic character of S. Peter’s denial is rejected, the interpreter who accepts it, and still believes in the flight to Galilee, would have to paraphrase the words – “they all left Him and fled” as meaning “fled away to Galilee, but not until after Peter had followed Him afar off to the high priest’s palace, and sat with the servants and thrice denied Him.” But is this to interpret? And further, if the fourth Evangelist is to be considered, both the mother of Jesus and the beloved disciple stood beside the Cross. Quite in keeping with this, the Apocryphal Gospel of Peter places the retreat to Galilee at the usual time, after the last day of the great festival. Although it is true that the narrative says nothing of Appearances in Jerusalem.
At the same time, the exclusive acceptance of the Jerusalem Appearances is quite impossible; notwithstanding various attempts of individual critics to do so. [Loofs, Rudolph Hofman, and Alf. Resch take this course; cf. also Romberg in the “N. K. Zeitschrift,” 1910, p. 288, and Horn, “N. K. Z.,” 1902, p. 350.]
We therefore come to the problem of chronology. Is it possible to include both series within the time limit given? The limit of time is forty days. And even if that were taken in a figurative sense, the limit is further determined by the interval between the Passover and Pentecost. Accordingly we have to consider some forty days. Can space be found for both within that period? If the disciples remained in Jerusalem from Good Friday to the Sunday after Easter Day, nine or ten days must be deducted from the sum. That will leave us thirty. It is not likely that the disciples should remain in the city any longer. The feast was past, their foes were round them, their homes remote. Suppose them to start for Galilee on the tenth day after the Crucifixion. “The journey to and from Galilee with the Appearances there,” says a learned writer, “must have cost the apostles at least ten days.” [Dr. Wright, “Synopsis,” p. 174.] Let us call it ten without the Appearances. Twenty days remain. The recorded Appearances in Galilee are only two, that to the seven by the lake, and that to the 500; assuming this latter, as is most probable, to be rightly assigned to the northern province. To assemble so large a body of disciples might take some time. It could surely be done within the period of twenty days. [Dr. Sanday gives a somewhat similar distribution of time in his outlines of the life of Christ.] If, then, the two series can be included within the limit of time there is critical justification for accepting both.
IV. But why the promise to meet the disciples in Galilee? – a promise spoken in Gethsemane and reiterated by the angel at the grave; and in S. Matthew reinforced by the risen Master Himself. The reason for the choice of Galilee is not hard to find. For assembling the general multitude of disciples it was the obvious place. Here the majority of them lived. The hostile authorities would be far away. To gather in considerable numbers, peacefully, and without risk of interruption, would be easy here.” [This is no new idea. See Lange’s “Life of Christ,” v. 108.] No need to take precautions on a mountain in Galilee “for fear of the Jews.” It would not be conducive to a receptive condition if the disciples were assembled in large numbers in the very centre of the hostile capital. [Cf. Lange, vi. 53]
Why, then, did the meeting not take place as arranged in Galilee? The answer has been admirably given by Prof. Rördam. [Hibbert J., July, 1905, “Lost Ending of S. Mark’s G.” p. 784.]
“The answer to this objection is easy, owing to the strange fact that we have to deal with events from real life, and not logically constructed accounts. The key is that human nature is always the same. The women doubted the angel’s word. Thereupon Christ appeared Himself to the women and removed their doubts. The women then told the tidings to the disciples, apostles included, but none of them believed. Thereupon Christ appeared to the Eleven ... removing their doubts and indicating a certain mountain in Galilee as the place for the general meeting predicted by the women.”
To Prof. Rördam it seems that the Marcan account, as the original Lucan source, went on to relate that the doubt and unbelief of the disciples caused the place to be changed from Galilee to Jerusalem. [Ib. p. 780.]
This idea has been supported by a writer in the “Church Quarterly Review” of January, 1906. [P. 353 ; cf. also Vincent Rose, “Etudes sur les Evangiles,” p. 299 (1902).]
Is it in any way improbable that the risen Lord’s original design was to manifest Himself in Galilee, and that this intention was frustrated by His disciples’ lethargy?
It would not be the first time in history where the Divine plan was affected by human infirmities. In this case, the contradictions, between the message to go to Galilee, and the narratives relating Appearances in Jerusalem, are due to contradictions in the agents themselves; to conflicts between the will of Christ and the wills of His disciples. This diversity of purpose between the Master and the Twelve naturally reflects itself in the narrative. Indeed it would not be historical were it otherwise.
But S. Luke is not the only documentary evidence for Resurrection Appearances in Judaea. There is also the fourth Evangelist. Here, of course, everything will depend on the critical estimate of this wonderful work. But, at any rate, it is striking that this fourth narrative terminates with a Judean series, and only in an appendix adds Appearances in Galilee. This order is remarkable. Not only is there a recognition of both series, but they are placed in the order which, assuming both to have occurred, is the obviously historical. If it had so happened that the fourth Evangelist had ended with the Appearance in Galilee, and then, as an appendix, had come an Appearance in Judaea, how easy the inference that the later legend had become tacked on to the earlier account. The existing order gives the Judean tradition first, and the Galilean tradition was obviously not added for the interest of the locality. Yet, incidentally, the result of the addition is that both localities are combined.
But whatever difficulties remain, due perhaps to compression, or method, or to some ignorance on our part of explanatory details; these difficulties are not sufficient to destroy the evidence of two distinct series of Appearances; nor can they be removed by cancelling either of the series.
V. A discussion of the localities of the Appearances ought not to close without a reminder of the immense importance occupied in it by a prediction ascribed to Jesus Christ.
It is worth while to dwell on this prediction. The disciples are supposed to have left for Galilee. Why? Their Master’s direction sent them thither. “After I am risen I will go before you into Galilee.” Did He then predict His Resurrection, and also calmly arrange for a subsequent reunion with His disciples? From the rationalist standpoint this is obviously hard to credit. Predictions so definite and detailed, directing a meeting at a certain locality subsequent to His death; what is to be made of them? Yet if He did not predict, and so arrange, the order which directed them to Galilee is gone. Spitta rightly detects the inconsistencies of a criticism which first discredits the prediction because it is a prediction, and then utilizes it to exclude a manifestation in Judaea. [Spitta, “Streitfragen,” p. 77.]
An argument which locates the Appearances in Galilee on the ground that our Lord so predicted, obviously assumes the reality, and is implicated in the consequences of His predictions of His Resurrection. It is essential to that argument that Christ really did predict, and that the apostles really acted in a certain way as a result of the prediction.
But if Christ really did predict His Resurrection, it is impossible to avoid the theological problems which such a prediction entails.
Chapter VI – The Appearances of the Risen Master
It is the apostolic tradition not only that the grave was empty, and that the Lord rose from it, and that this occurred upon the Third Day; but also that He manifested Himself to the disciples after He was risen. All manifestations were after He was risen, and not at the time when He rose. The actual Resurrection no human eye beheld. It is not reported among the Gospel Appearances. The stone was rolled away, not to let the Master out, but to let the women in; not rolled away by the Lord Himself, as a modern critic supposes S. Mark to imply. In any case not a hint is given in the Canonical Gospels of a witness to the actual rising of Jesus out of the grave. This is in itself significant. It implies reserve. If the narratives were imaginations there is no likelihood that reserve would exist. The Apocryphal Gospels do not observe it. There we find a truly stupendous account of the Lord issuing from the grave.
The Appearances of the Risen Master may be analyzed according to the human senses to which they appealed, whether the sense of sight, or of hearing, or of touch. The different phenomena may be conveniently grouped together under these divisions.
I. And first as to the sense of sight. This is naturally first, as the initial form of gaining their attention. It is described in the Gospels by various expressions: “Jesus met them.” [S. Matt. 28:9.] “They saw Him,” [ίδοντες, S. Matt. 28:17.] but this seeing included those who doubted. “They knew Him.” [επέγνωσαν, S. Luke 24:31. Cf. 35.] “They ... supposed that they beheld a spirit.” [θεωρειν, S. Luke 24:37.] “See [ίδετε] My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; handle Me and see, for a spirit hath not flesh and bones as ye behold [θεωρειτε] Me having. And when He had said this He shewed unto them [έδειξεν] His hands and His feet.” [S. Luke 24:39.] Similarly also in the fourth Evangelist: “I have seen the Lord.” [S. John 20:18.] “He shewed unto them His hands and His side.” [Ibid. 20.] “They saw the Lord.” [Ibid.] “Except I shall see in His hands the print of the nails.” [Ibid. 25.] “Because thou hast seen Me.” [Ibid. 29.] “And none of His disciples durst inquire of Him, Who art Thou? knowing that it was the Lord.” [S. John 21:12.] “Appearing unto them by the space of forty days.” [Acts 1:3, οπτανόμενος αυτοις.]
1. Appeal is made by the Risen Lord in these Appearances to the marks of the wounds inflicted in the Passion. S. Luke speaks of the hands and the feet. [S. Luke 24:29–40.] S. Matt. mentions neither. S. John mentions “His hands and His side.” [S. John 20:20–25, 27.]
These were necessary condescensions for evidential purposes. If the body of the Risen Master had appeared without the “tokens of His Passion,” belief in His identity would have been, for the Galileans, much more difficult. It seems quite true to say that there is a significance in the fact that these Appearances of the known form, with the marks certifying identity, occur in the manifestations to the Eleven who had known the earthly Jesus; while S. Paul, who had never seen the earthly Jesus, apparently received no similar indications. [Cf. A. Meyer, p. 175.] The significance is that the form of the manifestation corresponds with the recipient. This does not in the least mean that it is therefore merely or chiefly subjective; it simply means that there are divine adaptations to individual needs. What did S. Paul actually see at his conversion? The statement that “the men that journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing the voice, but beholding no man” (Acts 9:7) would seem to imply that S. Paul both heard and saw. This is not contradicted by the statement that he “could not see for the glory of that light” (Acts 22:11). That he did not know with Whom he was concerned would not at all prove that he saw no human form. We are not justified in saying, “all he saw was a blinding light, all he heard certain words.” [A. Meyer, p. 188.] His challenge to the Corinthians, “Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?” seems definitely to affirm a sight of Jesus in glory. This “seeing” [1 Cor. 9:1.] the Risen Lord experienced by S. Paul was not different in kind from the seeing experienced by the Twelve: but it was different in form, corresponding with the different antecedents of the recipient.
It has been suggested [Skrine, in “Contemporary Review,” 1904, p. 867.] that if the Risen Lord had appeared to disciples who had travelled to a great distance, say for instance, Alexandra, and had heard nothing of the details of the Passion, there is no necessity to suppose that the manifestation would have included the sacred wounds. For although, of course, such phenomenon is possible, it would rather hinder recognition than promote it. The scars of the Passion presuppose a knowledge of the Passion, without which they would be bewildering. Once again this does not mean a denial of their objective character. It emphasizes the necessity of cooperation between the Risen Master and the disciples.
2. The next phenomenon is the variation in the Appearances which the Risen Lord assumed, and the consequent difficulties of recognition. He can be mistaken for a gardener, a traveler, a stranger, a spirit, and that by those who knew Him intimately. Mary Magdalene does not recognize Him at first, nor do the two on the Emmaus road, nor the seven on the sea. Such suggestions as that Mary Magdalene did not look up, or that she was preoccupied, or blinded by her tears, are surely very unsatisfying examples of apologetics. She did not even recognize His voice.
On the journey to Emmaus it was possible for two disciples to hear a lengthy exposition from Him of the three departments of the Old Testament references to the Messiah, without realizing, although greatly moved by it, who He was. This is particularly unexpected; for the signs of self-identity as shown in intellectual expression, tendencies, phrases, outlook, thoughts, would seem to be the most obvious and irresistible for those who already knew Him. Their instinctive apprehension might have been expected in spite of alteration in form and practice. But yet it was not so.
In S. Matthew’s account of the Appearance to the apostles, which must represent a later, not an earlier manifestation (owing to the absence of any effort to convince them of His identity, and from the nature of the instruction given, which was obviously final), we still encounter the unexpected observation that “some doubted.” Who they were we are not told. It is scarcely credible that they were apostles who had seen Him already at least twice before. A similar difficulty of recognition recurs at the Galilean lake. “And none of the disciples durst inquire of Him, Who art Thou? knowing,” [feeling instinctively, yet, as the sentence implies, with an element of misgiving] “that it was the Lord.” [S. John 21:12.] The suggestion here appears to be that recognition, in some cases, instead of becoming easier, becomes increasingly difficult.
Of these details some certainly lend themselves easily to a subjective interpretation. It is not wonderful that certain modern schools of thought should feel confirmed by them in an opinion of unreality.
And yet, another account can just as certainly be given of these variations of form and difficulties of recognition.
In the first place, it is quite open to question whether ordinary human beings could bear with impunity the sudden apparition of one risen from the dead. In spite of Tennyson’s assertion that if he re-encountered his dead friend in the familiar haunts, he would not think it strange, a real indisputable appearance of the dead would be a tremendous strain on the nerves of ordinary people. To be suddenly confronted, without adequate warning, with one as alive whom we knew to have been a buried corpse, would be likely to cause so serious a shock as perhaps to inflict a permanent injury to the mental and moral balance of the recipient. It would surely produce at least such a state of bewilderment as would render instruction or dispassionate judgment almost impossible. When we consider the emotional nature of S. Mary Magdalene, there seem very obvious reasons why an appearance from the other world should not be made to her without due precautions and preparations. It is not surely without a meaning that she was first allowed to see the empty grave, and then to see a figure which she takes for the gardener, and should then be led to realize the truth through the utterance of her own name. All this at any rate falls in with the supposition here suggested. Then again, the prompt suppression of rapture and sentiment; the extremely practical duty imposed, of communicating what she knows rather than merely dwelling upon it; the effort to enable others to believe; the excessively cooling and sobering experience of other people’s incredulity; seem a very significant continuance of the same discipline and watchful exercise of caution. Thus, messages are sent through one who has been, for a moment, and for a moment only, enabled to see, to prepare and warn others who have not seen yet. And so the manifestations widen. On the way to Emmaus instruction precedes manifestation, and the inability to discern is expressly ascribed to our Lord’s own act; “their eyes were holden that they should not know Him:” [S. Luke 24:16.] an explanation not at all conflicting with the statement in the existing conclusion of S. Mark, that it was due to external difference in the appearance of our Lord. [S. Mark 16:12.]
Then, if in the upper room appearance precedes instruction, the preparations have been numerous. The message of the women, the sight of the empty grave, the quiet assurance of S. John, the appearance to S. Peter, the evidence of the Emmaus disciples: all these were so many preparations and precautions before our Lord took His place again at the head of the apostolic body. The variations, therefore, in our Lord’s Appearances are open to a perfectly consistent objective interpretation.
We ought not, of course, to speak with too great confidence, as if, assuming the reality of the Appearances, it would follow that Christian thought could easily understand why everything was done and could solve all difficulties. The existence of inexplicable phenomena is no argument against their truth. But still it does seem that even the strange paradox of the increasing difficulties in recognition, as the Appearances proceed, is not at all insoluble.
The difficulties of recognition suggest the objective nature of the Appearances. If the Christophanies had been mere self-generated visions, surely there would be no hesitation or uncertainty who the figure was. Yet this slowness to recognize pervades the whole series of the narratives. If the eye sees that of which the mind is full, at least it does not fail to recognize what it sees. A mind preoccupied, or filled with adverse conceptions, may see and not understand the meaning of an object perceived. The phenomena, therefore, suggest that the Appearances were rather forced upon the mind’s attention from without than created from within.
It is sometimes said indeed that this element of doubt is unhistoric, the product of an apologetic desire to show that the apostles were neither easily convinced, nor even persuaded, nor led away by their emotions, but cautious before accepting the reality of the Appearances. Now, plainly, if the element of doubt were invented by the Evangelists, then we know nothing at all of the conditions under which the apostles came to believe. Then the difficulties of recognition cannot be utilized to show the subjective nature of the experience. Criticism cannot both utilize a narrative as historic and at the same time discredit it as unhistoric. But indeed this element of doubt pervades the whole of the apostolic evidence. It recurs in the story of S. Paul. So uniform and persistent a feature as this hesitation and difficulty, this ignorance of Christ’s identity while standing in His presence, cannot be a mere interpolation. It is manifestly a faithful reproduction of the disciples’ experience. To adopt any other view is not to interpret documents but to rewrite them.
Indeed, it is very questionable whether such a statement as that in S. Matthew, “when they saw Him, they worshipped Him, but some doubted,” [S. Matt. 28:17.] is at all calculated to promote an apologetic interest, or to assure the reader that he may therefore rest content with the sagacity of the witnesses. It is not even said that these doubters afterwards came to believe: unless the “some” who “doubted” were of the Eleven disciples. In any case it is not said. And the effect of the passage upon the reader is probably rather disconcerting than reassuring. We find ourselves suddenly confronted with a shadow of cold suspicion which we did not expect. How could this be invented by some designing apologist?
The variations in the Appearances of the Risen Lord, and the increasing difficulty of recognition, or at least the uncertainties and slowness of perception in the later accounts, have been frequently explained as denoting that the Risen Body was going through a process of change during the forty days. But this is wholly mistaken. It has arisen from the assumption that the body which was manifested is identical in its conditions with the spiritual body behind the manifestations. But if, as we believe, the whole Appearances are manifestations, within the realm of sense, of a spiritual body whose essential nature is beyond the reach of human senses, it would follow that we cannot transfer the changes in the manifested form to the essential reality behind it.
Is not the explanation rather to be sought in the Master’s desire to emphasize the unearthly, the heavenly, character of the life into which He had entered?
3. Then there are, thirdly, the contradictions presented by the Risen Body. It is solid and tangible, and can partake of food: yet the closed door is no obstruction to its entrance; it disappears in an equally mysterious way. It seems at once to be subjected to the laws of terrestrial existence and to transcend them. It comes and it goes in the manner of a disembodied spirit; yet it is temporarily within reach of the human senses. These contradictions have often perplexed the thoughtful reader. [E.g., Hermann Fichte, “Vermischte Schriften,” ii. 134.] They seem at times to render the whole incredible. The modern mind postulates one thing or the other: either a body entirely altered, or else a body entirely like our own. But yet if this postulate were complied with in the accounts, what should we really possess? If the Appearances of the Risen Christ had assumed a purely ethereal form, it would have given no suggestion of identity. It would have revealed Him as entirely different. It would have rendered belief in His sameness difficult. It would not have taught a Resurrection. It would have revealed a mere survival of spirit. If, on the other hand, the Appearances had assumed a body entirely resembling our own, then it would have taught the apostles nothing of the conditions of the future life. It would have been simply a resumption of the old physical state. It would have been such another case as the restoration of Lazarus. Thus, if any Appearance was to declare at once the double facts of identity and superiority, the existence of contradictions is inevitable.
Indeed, to imagine an Appearance which should reveal itself to human senses, should suggest the ideas of identity and superiority, and yet present no contradictions, is surely a task impossible. Contradiction is the result of teaching two antithetical ideas simultaneously. This is the essence of paradox. In fact, the Appearances of the Risen Master may be described as an enacted paradox. The signification which we sometimes desire, the reduction of the paradox to one or other of its elements, would secure simplicity at the expense of the balancing of truth. The revelation of the existences of a higher world in the earthly sphere involves the element of contradiction.
While it was one purpose of the Appearances to establish His identity, and therefore physical similarities with the past were needful, as in the scars of the wounds; another simultaneous purpose was to establish the superiority of His new condition. Hence new capacities are manifested by His Body such as belong to no ordinary terrestrial life. Hence, the moment instruction is completed, and identity revealed and recognized, He vanishes out of their sight. Hence the implication that His method of returning to Jerusalem was not that of ordinary procedure along the road, but one transcending the powers of our fleshly constitution. Hence the suggestion that His ordinary dwelling during the long intervals between the occasional Appearances was not Jerusalem or Galilee but the other world.
4. Then again the Appearances of the Risen Lord were restricted within a limited circle. They were granted to disciples alone: except in the one instance of S. Paul. The first to call attention to this limitation was S. Peter in his sermon in the Acts. Origen taught that the Risen Christ “had no longer anything which was capable of being seen by the multitude: all who had formerly seen Him were not now able to behold Him.” Thus spiritually injurious manifestations were mercifully withheld. [Ag. Celsus, II., lxiv. Cf. lxvii.] Nor indeed, as Origen also reminds us, was He perpetually present, or constantly showing Himself, even to His apostles and the circle of faith. They were not able to bear it. Objections to the method of Christ’s Appearances are just as valid against the method of the providential government of the world. It would be quite easy to arrange things differently from what they are, and to allege that the world would be better if it were arranged on such a principle. [Ib. lxviii.]
This restriction of the Appearances, with the one exception of S. Paul, to the circle of discipleship does undoubtedly remove Christ’s Resurrection from the category of ordinary historical facts. That there was no Appearance to the nation or to the chief authorities of the nation, no opportunity of testing and verifying for themselves by personal experience, has indeed a profoundly moral and religious significance: but it also precludes us from describing the Resurrection as the most certain fact in history. It is the religious experience and testimony of a carefully selected inner circle of faith. This is not what we mean by ordinary historic occurrences.
Adverse criticism of the Resurrection Appearances, on the ground that they were restricted to the circle of faith, involves large assumptions. It is perfectly easy to infer that they were therefore subjective. But the inference is mainly due to large and questionable presuppositions. What if an “almost irresistible” revelation would be a disastrous infringement of moral responsibility? What if religious history suggests that development is through the medium of the few? What if the experience of a Christophany requires receptiveness? What if no revelation whatever, not even of immortality, or of God’s existence, is founded on evidence almost irresistible? Then these Resurrection Appearances are analogous in their limitation to the whole religious experience of mankind.
5. Very suggestive, again, is the infrequency of the Appearances. The recorded occasions were, at the most, eleven. Nor do the Apocryphal Gospels increase the occasions, whatever they may add to the details. Visions and revelations there were in abundance, but not Appearances of the distinctive Easter kind. The narrators are conscious of the difference.
The very infrequency of the Appearances was surely designed to instruct. It signified the difference between Christ’s risen and earthly state. It taught that there was no resumption of the old companionship. Brief Appearances at rare intervals over a short period, then ceasing entirely, must have impressed upon the mind the fact of change and transition from one order of things into another.
II. The Appearances of the Risen Christ are reported also as appeals to the sense of touch.
We have already considered the Appearances of the Risen Lord as appeals to the sense of sight. We are now to consider them as related to the sense of touch and the sense of hearing.
As related to the sense of touch.
By far the most emphatic words in this respect are those in S. Luke: “Handle Me and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye behold Me having” (24:39). Here it is that modern thought chiefly recoils. Flesh and bones! Here we have the Resurrection in its most realistic gross and earthly form. And this is not all. For the passage continues that He asked for food. “And they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish. And He took it, and did eat before them.” [S. Luke 24:42, 43.]
Many ancient authorities add His receiving also of a honeycomb. Westcott and Hort give an ancient addition: “and taking what was left He gave it to them.” [Westcott and Hort, “Notes on Selected Readings,” p. 72.] This is suggestive of Acts 10:41, where S. Peter is reported as saying “to us who did eat and drink with Him after He rose from the dead.” [Cf. S. John 21:12.] It is observable that the Lucan writings are the only authority for the Risen Christ’s reception of food. It was, therefore, not unnatural for criticism to ask whether there was anything in the Lucan point of view, or in the sources from which his narrative is derived, to account for these exceptional statements.
Recently, the suggestion has been made that these intensely materialistic utterances are the product of apologetic interests. It has been suggested that the peculiar emphasis laid by S. Luke on the solidity of the Risen Body as tested by the sense of touch may be a reply to gnostic and doketic tendencies around the Church, which denied the reality of our Lord’s human body. A curious passage has been quoted [A. Meyer, p. 203. See Henneke, “Handbuch zu den Neutestamentlichen Apokryphen,” p. 524.] from the Apocryphal Johannine Acts, which states: “Sometimes when I would touch Him I encountered a solid and firm body; sometimes again His nature was bodiless and immaterial and as nothingness.”
1. It must be remembered that if S. Luke gives to the material solidity of our Lord’s Risen Body the most emphatic expression, the other Evangelists substantially corroborate his thought. It is S. Matthew who writes that when the women saw our Lord, “they came and took hold of His feet, and worshipped Him.” [S. Matt. 28:9.] And it is the fourth Evangelist who, after recording that S. Mary Magdalene was not permitted to hold Him, records the express invitation to S. Thomas, “reach hither thy hand, and put it into my side.” [S. John 20:27.]
Whether the Evangelist means us to understand that S. Thomas was convinced by sight alone, or whether also by the sense of touch, the passage itself appears to leave undetermined. [Cf. S. Augustine, Tract cxxi. in “S. John,” p. 5.] But the quotation which S. Ignatius gives from an early Christian writing, says “and straightway they touched Him and believed.” [Ep. Smyrna ii.] Considering that Ignatius wrote in A.D. 110, the original from which he quotes was probably other than S. John’s Gospel. [See also S. Justin M. on the “Resurrection,” ch. ix.] And in accordance with this, perhaps, is the passage in S. John’s first epistle: “that which we beheld and our hands handled concerning the Word of Life.” [1 S. John 1:1.] But whether this be so or not, what is certain is that the thought of the solidity and tangibility of the Risen Body pervades the Gospel narratives.” [Cf. Horn, “N. K. Zeitschrift,” 1902, 354.]
2. If the invitation to touch Him is given in S. Luke and S. John, the actual touching is recorded in S. Matthew alone. Hence it cannot accurately be inferred that the evidence of sight is earlier than that of touch.
3. Opposing tendencies denying the reality of the body of Christ would certainly dispose the Christian Evangelist to emphasize the truths denied; but it is quite another thing to charge the Church with inventing the evidence required. And whatever tendencies may have arisen when the Gospels were written, we must remember the evidential needs of the disciples when the Lord was risen. For aught we can possibly know to the contrary, such appeals to the sense of touch were absolutely necessary to convince the apostles that the Resurrection was real. S. Luke may have selected the facts most calculated to refute doketic tendencies: he may none the less be true to the facts themselves.
4. The report is open to the interpretation that the evidences of touch, and of reception of food, were really necessary elements in producing the conviction of identity and reality. Wellhausen infers from the words “See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself” that the assurance was not derived from His features. “They supposed that they had seen a spirit.” Consequently the reality of the appearance is endorsed by the marks of the wounds, identifying Him with the recent Passion; and by the sense of touch demonstrating His true humanity. But, even then, they still disbelieved for joy. Therefore a further proof is offered in the reception of food. And only so was their hesitation finally dispelled. Thus we have a progressive series of the appearances in face and form: the solidity and the scars of the hands and feet; the thoroughly human nature, in the reception of food.
All this is perfectly intelligible as a response to the disciples’ bewilderment and incapacity.
5. To various types of the modern mind an appeal by the Risen Christ to the senses of hearing and of sight seems much more credible than an appeal to the sense of touch. This is not only the case with the sceptical mind, which, disbelieving that our Lord appeared at all, naturally finds it easier to account for appearances to the sight, as an effect of imagination, than for appearances which were also tested by the sense of touch. But the religious mind also at times finds it easier to believe that our Lord was merely seen and not touched. To suppose that His presence was verified by the sense of touch would require a material solidity, which some feel unable to assign to a being who appeared from the higher world. That the Risen Body of Christ could be ascertainable by the sense of touch is accordingly challenged in the supposed interests of true spirituality.
But this is a confusion of thought. For all the human senses are variations of the sense of touch. That is the primitive form out of which all the human senses originated. And every appeal to the senses is an appeal through the medium of material processes. Nothing but that which is material is verifiable by human organs of sight. The appeal to sight is, essentially, as material as the appeal to touch. If the person of the Risen Christ was verifiable by human sight, the form of its appearance was just as truly materialized as any solid body can be. The idea that what appeals to sight is less material than what appeals to touch is a popular confusion of the ethereal with the spiritual. It is popular, but it is wholly unphilosophical.
Thus the ultimate problem is whether the self-manifestation of the Risen Lord should be through the human senses or not. The question, through which of the senses, is purely subordinate. There is no more philosophic justification for discrediting a revelation made through touch than for discrediting one made through sight. The only consistent alternatives are, either to disallow all external revelation through the senses, or to allow that such revelation may be through any of the senses.
And if it be correct that men naturally imagine that the sense of touch is less likely to be deceived than any other; if, moreover, its evidence is less easily explained away as a work of imagination than that of sight; these will be presumptions in favour of its use, on the supposition that Christ really did appear. [Cf. “Church Quarlerly Review,” Jan. 1906, 335, and “ Camb. Theol. Essays,” pp. 338–9.]
III. The Appearances may be next criticized in relation to the sense of hearing.
1. Now, of course, it is easy to say that the words alleged to have been spoken during the forty days were subjective creations; that the message, given by the Lord to the women for the apostles, to go to Galilee, is but a repetition of the words spoken on the Mount of Olives; that the instructions ascribed to the forty days are reminiscences of utterances really spoken during the ministry. Or again, the general principles may be introduced that the suggestion of ideas does not necessitate bodily presence: or that ideas, although ascribed by those who expressed them to external occurrences, might really originate within; or that the words are only the interpretations of the visions. Thus S. Paul’s companions only heard a sound, S. Paul alone understood the message. Or again, the criticism has been made that some of the sayings are of small account. Martineau, for instance, considered that there was no need for Christ to speak if all He had to say was to repeat the message already given to go to Galilee. It is also urged that the various versions of those utterances differ so considerably as to throw uncertainty over the whole tradition; and that they are the creations of a later religious experience transferred by a pardonable anachronism to the great forty days.
2. The proper test of the value of these criticisms would be a searching analysis of all the words ascribed to the Risen Christ. Here it is to be observed that the invention of words for such occasions would be, to say the least, exceedingly venturesome. The Appearances of the Risen Lord are in no case silent manifestations. Now every such utterance offers itself as a test of reality. Here, above all, would invention fail; here self-identity would be manifest. The simple injunction to go to Galilee, which Martineau considered superfluous, is certainly commonplace enough, but is surely required by the disciples’ practical refusal to assemble at the appointed place. The level of the utterance was determined by the disciples’ want of faith. But if the general character of the sayings reported as heard during the forty days be considered, it is surely true that they are not only very real, [E.g., S. John 20.] but they also fit, with singular appropriateness, into the circumstances. It is quite true to say of the whole series of Appearances that “the result is a series of pictures which are either direct transcripts from life, or the creations of a very high order of literary genius.” [“Cambridge Essays,” p. 337.] The historic situation is carried a further stage. Conversations interrupted by the Passion are now resumed. It is incredible that the conversation in which the restoration of S. Peter occurs is a fiction. Moreover, the instructions of the Resurrection period are in part the logical sequel to the instructions previously given, and, in part the addition of higher conceptions. The former element makes them the consummation of the past, the latter element explains the mighty historic development which unquestionably originated in that period. While some critics suggest that these instructions were composed at a later date, and read back into the primitive days, it ought to be noticed how free these instructions are from the theological conceptions known to be prevalent at a later time.
But more than this, the sayings of the forty days are marked by the same qualities of identity and difference which has been already noticed in the Appearances themselves. They show identity of mind and purpose with the utterances of the Jesus of the ministry. There is the same searching, penetrating knowledge of the human heart, the same severity mixed with tender compassion, as in words spoken before He died. There is the same assumption of authority, only more lofty and unearthly than before. There is also a concentration into special commands of thoughts and teachings found in the previous period of the disciples’ training. There is the conferring of new powers which nothing but the Resurrection can explain. The notion that these utterances were really spoken during the ministry, and were transferred to the interval after the death, is singularly refuted by their contents and by their implications. They belong to the period where the Evangelists have set them: to that period, and neither before it nor after it.
But together with this quality of identity, there is, equally conspicuous, the quality of difference in the whole bearing of the Risen Lord towards His disciples. There is an indescribable remoteness in the apparently simple but yet profound saying, “These are my words which I spake unto you, while yet I was with you.” [S. Luke 24:44.] While I was yet with you: so simple is the phrase, we might easily miss its force. Was He not “with them” at the very moment when He uttered the phrase? He was no longer “with them” in the former terrestrial way. It is an express reminder that He has not returned to the old conditions. The earlier state of existence will never again be resumed. And, significantly, this was spoken at the very time of His most materialistic self-revealing; [Ib. 39–43.] even while He disclaimed a purely immaterial existence, and took food, and ate it before them. Hence also His words to Mary Magdalene, while gently disentangling Himself from her desire to detain Him: “touch Me not for I am not yet ascended ... I ascend.” There is the dominant note of difference.
3. Now while every appeal to the human senses is an appeal to the mind and spirit, there is a higher appeal in words, because they are the more direct revelation of self. In His words the Risen Lord offers the highest proof of His identity. The recognition of a person is partly based on physical identity, but ultimately on spiritual identity. The testimony of the apostolic age is that they knew Him again not merely by sight and touch, but by the deeper evidence of personality.
IV. Whatever the advantages of an analysis, such as is here attempted, may be, there are corresponding drawbacks inseparable from such treatment. For that which is dissected and analyzed conveys a very different impression from life. If the full force of these Appearances of the Risen Master is to reach us, they must be contemplated in their entirety, as well as in fragments and details. It is well after such an analysis to go direct to the Gospel narrative, and attempt to realize it as a whole. The lifelike character of these Resurrection Appearances, the intense reality about them, seems to our judgment unmistakable.
Chapter VII – The Interpretation of the Appearances
We now reach the momentous inquiry, What is the explanation of the apostles’ assurance that they had seen the Risen Lord? What caused these Appearances? The ultimate answers are one of two: either these visions were self-generated, or they were brought about by the Risen Christ. This is the essential distinction between the Christian and the non-Christian explanations. Either they were the product of reflection, the natural issue of emotional strain and desire, projected unto transient reality; or else they were the action of the Risen Christ on the disciples.
I. The non-Christian explanation may be illustrated by the following account from a Jewish writer:
“That the movement did not end with the Crucifixion, but gave birth to that belief in the Risen Christ which brought the scattered adherents together and founded Christianity, is due to two psychic forces that never before had come so strongly into play: (1) the great personality of Jesus, which had so impressed itself upon the simple people of Galilee as to become a living power to them even after His death; and (2) the transcendentalism or other worldliness in which these penance-doing saintly men and women of the common classes, in their longing for godliness, live. In entranced visions they beheld their crucified Messiah expounding the Scriptures for them, or breaking the bread for them at their love feasts, or even assisting them when they were out on the lake fishing. In an atmosphere of such perfect naiveté the miracle of the Resurrection seemed as natural as had been the miracle of healing the sick.” [“Jewish Encyc.,”V. 4, p. 54, Art. “Christianity”.]
Martineau’s explanation is expressed with all the rich and imaginative eloquence of which he was so distinguished a master. But its substance is similar. [Martineau, “Authority,” pp. 362–369.]
Martineau endeavours to account for belief in the Resurrection as created by the disciples’ enthusiasm, love, and gratitude. “Must they say that the divinest vision of their life was an illusion? that the priests were right and Calvary was just? No, it was impossible.” [Ib. p. 362.] In this frame of mind they read again the prophetic language: Is He not led as a lamb to the slaughter, seemingly smitten of God and afflicted, despised and rejected of men? And yet is it not said that He shall still prolong His days and divide the spoil with the strong? Was it not written – Thou wilt not suffer thy Holy One to see corruption? Martineau thinks that “the utterance of trust and love, beaten back by the tragedy of Calvary, was sure to reassert its elasticity.” [Ib. p. 363.] Accordingly by a perfectly natural and indeed inevitable process the disciples would be led to believe that “Jesus still lives,” and this, says Martineau, is the faith in His Resurrection. They would come to be convinced that Jesus had not passed like other men into the great storehouse of souls in the underworld, but, like the two or three great spirits who had walked with God and followed Him, into the abodes of the immortals. “This exceptional assignment to the ranks of the blessed,” says Martineau, “is the distinctive reward of reverence and gratitude to the divine lights of the world.” [Ib. p. 364.] Accordingly he goes on to speak of “This dependence of their faith in immortality on the irresistible suasion of a single supreme and living personality”; describes how they “flung themselves with unreserved confidence on the faith that Jesus was in Heaven, to die no more; and accepted it as their mission to spread this faith among the nation and beyond.” And here Martineau adds most significantly: “In carrying out this mission they affected something more than their faith in the Resurrection of Christ; they declared that they had seen the Risen Christ.” Martineau acknowledges that this declaration of having seen the Risen Christ was essential to the success of their labours. “Had they not been able to do so they could hardly have conveyed to others the profound assurance of His heavenly life, which in their own minds so largely depended on the impression of their personal experience.” [Martineau, “Authority,” p. 361.] But he maintains that the declaration of actual Christophanies was created by the demand for proof made upon them by their hearers. “Traditions were so moulded as to answer this demand.” [Ib., p. 369.]
The German critic Wendt assures us [“System der Christlichen Lehre,” ii. 400 ff. (1907).] that modern belief in the exaltation of Jesus is independent of the question, What is the nature of the disciples’ experience? Even if the Appearances of the Risen Lord were the means by which the disciples reached the higher conceptions, they are entirely separable from those higher conceptions. The conceptions themselves may be perfectly valid apart from all consideration of the value of the Appearances. A true conclusion may be reached through mistaken premises. The Appearances have the value which belongs to reported means through which faith in Christ’s exaltation was gained. But the denial of their objectivity does not carry with it a denial of Christ’s spiritual exaltation.
It must be remembered, argues Wendt, that the disciples did not believe in the exaltation without other grounds besides the reported Appearances. Without such ideas as the possibility of winning life through losing it, and the nature of eternal life, reports of Appearances after the death could only seem, and did seem, as idle tales. Among other grounds for their belief Wendt places the fact that Jesus Himself had confidently predicted that He would rise. There was also the fact of the empty grave. Such reasons ought to have been sufficient without Appearances. And the narrative justly represents Jesus as rebuking the unbelief which could not credit His Resurrection without the aid of Appearances. And this belief in His Resurrection, apart from any objective Appearances, is just as possible for Christendom today as it was for the first disciples. It is a reprehensible want of faith to make belief in the Resurrection of Jesus dependent on the objectivity of the manifestations to the original disciples. The real ground of faith in the heavenly exaltation of Jesus after death lies in the character of His whole life on earth; in His Sonship; in His fullness of divine spiritual power. Those who discredit these conceptions do not believe in His Resurrection. But the Christian outlook on life requires that the historical Jesus was the perfect Son of God. Thus, for the Christian consciousness, the Resurrection of Jesus is independent of all criticism on the evidence for His Appearances.
Wendt, indeed, considers that the Appearances to the disciples can be psychologically explained as subjective consequences of reflection. It seems to him psychologically credible that, while the first shock of the death caused the disciples to lose all faith in the Christhood of their Master, yet subsequent reflection on the sublimity of His life not only cancelled the effect of the catastrophe, but led them to victorious assurance of His exaltation. The empty grave, and His confident prediction that He would rise again, combined with the influence of His personality to recreate Christian faith. And so the Appearances took place, and the Resurrection became established as a certainty in the primitive mind.
Wendt’s theory, that the Appearances to the apostles are indifferent to modern belief in the Resurrection, suggests many criticisms.
1. We observe then, first, that while Wendt asserts that the disciples ought to have acquired faith in Jesus’ Resurrection without any Appearances, he nevertheless recognizes as subsidiary aids to such faith that the grave was really empty, and that our Lord had confidently predicted His Resurrection. Wendt, indeed, seems to vacillate between the opinion that faith is independent of such external aids, and that faith is supported by them. Manifestly this vacillation is naturally caused by his theory. For if the higher convictions of the apostles as to the exaltation of their Master were assisted by the external fact of the empty grave, and the external fact of His predictions, then it is open to question whether they could have reached these higher convictions without such external aid. And it becomes further open to question whether other external aids were not also required. And in particular, whether it was possible to reach belief in His exaltation, as an inference from His character in the absence of objective Appearances of the Lord as risen. The remarkable stress which many modern critics place either on the empty grave or on our Lord’s predictions, as largely accounting for the apostolic belief in the Resurrection, seems to show our instinctive sense that something more than a theological inference from a character was required to enable the apostles to reach this tremendous result.
2. But secondly, as to the proposition that the real ground for belief in the heavenly exaltation of Jesus after death lies in the character of His earthly life; this certainly strongly commends itself to the modern mind. But the question is whether this was the actual process in the apostolic age. Plainly it was not the case with S. Paul. His faith in the exaltation preceded his knowledge of the real character of the earthly life. Was it the case with the Twelve? The narratives which represent the Risen Jesus as rebuking their unbelief (Wendt adds “justly”), shows them unable to make the inferences from the character. And this inability was, from their standpoint, perfectly natural. For if His character suggested one conclusion, His death (to a Jew) suggested the opposite. The evidence conflicted. Modern thought sees things in the light of twenty Christian centuries. But for the Galilean disciples, the character was compromised by the death. We have moved so far from the Galilean position that it requires a resolute effort of historical imagination to appreciate fully what such a death involved to a pious Jew of the apostolic age.
This subject will be treated more fully when we discuss the conversion of S. Paul. Here it may suffice to quote two distinguished writers as to the bearing of the death of Jesus on His Messianic claim:
“Within the compass of national expectation,” writes Bishop Chase, “there was no room for a crucified Messiah. Three centuries of national sorrows had to elapse before the idea of a suffering Messiah became familiar to Jewish thought. If the Jewish author of the 2nd Book of Esdras speaks of the death of Messiah, it has no special significance attaching to it. The writer, in the deep melancholy of his views of human life and human destiny, conscious of the world as at last overwhelmed by a universal winter, in which all life withers and passes away. ‘After these years shall My Son Christ die, and all that hath the breath of life. And the world shall be turned into the old silence seven days, like as in the first beginning: so that no man doth remain’ (vii. 29, f.) ... It was not the fact that Jesus Christ died, but that He died as He did, that seemed to give the lie to the Messianic claims which His followers made for Him.” [Chase, “Credibility of Acts,” p.146.]
“Looked at from the later standpoint of the apostles,” says Bernard Weiss, “the death of Jesus could easily be perceived to be salvation-bringing; but at first, even for the apostles, every hope in the Messianic consummation which was expected of Jesus, seemed to be borne to the grave along with Him. [Luke 24:21.] It is the expression of the most immediate living experience when Peter says that they were begotten again unto a living hope by the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. [1 Peter 1:3.] Not till it took place was the dead Jesus manifested with absolute certainty as the Messiah.” [B. Weiss,”Bibl. Theol. N. T.” i. 239.]
Undoubtedly the impression of Christ’s personality must have powerfully affected the Twelve, even immediately after His Crucifixion. But it is quite another thing to assert that it created faith that He was risen; that it established the certainty that He was the Messiah. His death must have seemed the usual reward of a prophet: the supreme illustration of national blindness, certifying more truly than ever the justice of the reproach – “Jerusalem that killest the prophets!” But it is difficult to see how their Messianic theories could Lead them to an idea of His Resurrection which must inevitably revolutionize those very theories. It would require us to suppose that their belief in His Christhood created belief in His Resurrection, and then that belief in His Resurrection reacted upon and transfigured their belief in His Christhood.
It has been urged, indeed, that unless they won this conviction they must abandon all their hopes in Him. Undoubtedly this was so. But it has been truly answered, that you cannot win a conviction merely because failure to acquire it would be disastrous. Least of all could a conviction so triumphant, so powerful, so deeply rooted, be acquired, merely from the wish that the thing was true. [Hermann Fichte, “Vermischte Schriften,” ii. 150.]
It is suggested that the general idea of Resurrection was among the familiar principles of Jewish faith; they believed in the general Resurrection at the last day, and had only to suppose its realization anticipated in a particular instance; which as a fact was easy for them, as Herod’s idea, that Jesus was John Baptist risen from the dead, plainly shows.
There is, however, this obvious distinction between Herod’s idea and the disciples’ belief. There was for Herod the concrete fact of John Baptist alive and at work. Herod accounted for this fact by the theory of Resurrection. But in the case of the disciples there was, on the supposition of subjective visions, no concrete fact at all to be accounted for. If Herod’s belief in the general idea of Resurrection had projected an otherwise invisible John Baptist into visible manifestations, then the vision theory might claim him as a supporter. But a fact which creates a theory is not parallel to a theory which creates a fact.
But it is said Jesus Himself had predicted His Resurrection. This must have conduced to create belief in it.
There is, however, no psychological necessity for this inference. Under the circumstances of overwhelming failure and death, it is surely not wonderful if reiterated predictions completely failed to take effect. The earliest tradition affirms that the very idea of Resurrection in the case of the Christ “was foreign to the Galilean accepted principles. And we know how difficult it is for new ideas in such a case to penetrate and get themselves a recognition. Surely if ever men were under conditions which make bewilderment natural and collectedness almost impossible, it was the Galilean disciples at their Master’s death.
S. Paul surely represents contemporary thought when he describes the death of Jesus as to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness. And the moral excellence of Jesus, His life and work, however powerfully it impressed the men of Galilee, could not conceivably enable them to set aside a fact which was to them, necessarily, not a mere disaster, but a divine refutation of their future hopes. It is easy to imagine the disciples, as for instance Martineau does, recovering their equanimity under the pleasing associations of Galilee; but it wanted something more than speculative inferences from His character to convince them of Jesus’ exaltation as Messiah, or to reverse the obvious judgment which His death declared, and the annihilation of all their hopes. Given an objective manifestation of the Risen Jesus, and everything is accounted for.
The endeavour of Wendt to maintain that belief in the exaltation of Jesus might be for the apostolic age an inference from the value of the character must be pronounced an anachronism. It is precisely the contrary which is the truth. The whole tradition of the apostolic age seems to show that belief in the redemptive nature of Christ’s work was founded on the experience of His Appearances after He was risen. There is no trace of inferring His exaltation from his moral worth. This is not peculiar to any one strain of apostolic reflection. It pervades the whole.
The truth of this Strauss himself admitted. “The origin of that faith in the disciples is fully accounted for if we look upon the Resurrection of Jesus as the Evangelists describe it, as an external miraculous occurrence.” [“New Life,” i. 399.]
The description of the disciples’ actual state after the death, and without the Appearances, as given by Beyschlag, [“N. T. Theol.” i. 303.] seems thoroughly in accordance with the psychological and historic conditions.
“There continued in their hearts a love for Him, and with it a belief in Him also; their inner relation to Him, even without the Resurrection, might not have given them anything to preach, but it would have remained. They would have clung to His promise of returning, which would now first have truly come to life in them; and living hope rooting itself in that would have accompanied them through life. But that would not have been a victorious hope, a hope so energetic as to impel them to joyous activity; their life would have been passed in unfruitful longing and idle waiting, which would have gradually become more faint through hope deferred. The miracle of the Resurrection preserved them from this stunting of their inner life.” “It is wasted effort trying to explain the Resurrection on purely subjective psychological or pathological grounds. Only as a truly objective supernatural event does it take its place in the historical and psychological conditions of the time.”
It is, of course, quite true that Evangelists at a later date, long after the Appearances had ceased, laid stress on the beatitude of faith in the absence of Appearances. And so we reach the tabulated gradations of faith in the fourth Evangelist culminating in “blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed.” But the obvious implication of the passage is that it maintains an unrealized ideal; that it was exactly in drawing true inferences that the first generation had failed; that they found it impossible to credit the exaltation of Jesus until it was demonstrated to them by His risen appearances. When the actual Appearances had created a circle of believers it was possible for their witness to extend belief to a wider circle which had not seen the manifestations.
3. Next, as to modern thought. Is faith in the Resurrection of Jesus possible for us, even if no Appearances ever happened? We are recipients of a tradition that He did appear. We find ourselves in a religious atmosphere which has been created by the belief that He appeared. No one doubts that the apostles believed as firmly that they saw Him after He was risen as that they saw Him before He died. Whether their belief corresponded with reality is the question. But their believing is not questioned. Suppose, however, that this apostolic belief in His Appearances had never existed: suppose that no tradition of such Appearances had been transmitted down the centuries: suppose that we had found ourselves without that religious atmosphere in which we have always lived and thought: does it follow that, in the absence of such aids to faith, we should have been able for ourselves to infer the Resurrection and exaltation of Jesus? Is it so certain that belief in these things would have penetrated down the centuries, and held their own to this day, without the apostolic belief in the objectivity of those Appearances? Surely this is quite impossible for any man to prove. That which seems to a modern critical mind a simple inference from the moral data of a character may not seem so simple outside the religious environment which has actually created it. We owe more obligations to traditional religion than we are always aware. Is it not clear that the first existence of belief in Christ’s exaltation, the expansion of that belief, and the continuance of that belief down to modern times, have all been founded, not simply on an inference from Christ’s character, but on the asserted Appearances after He was risen ?
It is, moreover, very significant that the inferences which Wendt considers the modern mind competent to draw from the character of Jesus are not those of historical Christianity. The heaven of exaltation, which modern thought would ascribe to Jesus in virtue of His excellence, is not at all the exaltation which the Apostolic Church ascribed to Him. The exaltation which the primitive Church believed to follow upon Christ’s Resurrection was in character quite unique. It set Him at God’s right hand; it demonstrated Him God’s equal; it declared Him to be the judge of humanity. He would assign to each soul its destiny in the other world. But these ideas do not at all belong to the modern idea of the exaltation of a saintly prophet in the realm of the spirit.
4. No thorough discussion of these Appearances is possible without a closer consideration of self-generated visions.
It is said that religious history furnishes numerous illustrations of such phenomena; that the apostolic age in particular was fertile in producing them; that the men of Galilee were, according to the Acts, liable to such experiences; that the borderline between inward vision and ordinary sight was neither defined nor understood; that S. Peter himself is reported as subject to such visions; that, if, on one occasion, when he experienced an actual deliverance from prison, he “wist not that it was true but thought he saw a vision,” he may have formed a contrary inference on another occasion, and one equally mistaken.
The Gospel narratives represent the disciples as drawing clear distinctions between visions of a subjective and of an. objective kind. The terminology of modern thought would not have been intelligible to the men of Galilee, yet their cautious practical discrimination between different kinds of impressions made upon the mind comes out very clearly in their behaviour at the Appearances of the Risen Christ. “They ... supposed that they had seen a spirit.” [S. Luke 24:37.] This manifests a fear of deception by shadowy unrealities.
When S. Thomas heard his fellow disciples announce “We have seen the Lord,” [S. John 20:25.] their announcement aroused a similar suspicion. He did not doubt that they had seen some ghostlike appearance. What he doubted was that this shadow had any vital connection with the personality of Jesus. Hence his demand for a solid substantial organism, which might be subjected to a fuller test by the senses. The narrative affirms that his demand was satisfied. Men who deal with the subject of vision in such a manner as this are keenly alive to the practical distinction to which our expressions subjective and objective manifestations correspond. Critics often argue as if these distinctions were a modern discovery. Yet they were practically obvious to the Evangelists.
On this subject we can hardly do better than summarize the remarks of Strauss, together with the searching criticisms to which the theory was subjected by Keim. Although Keim’s work appeared in 1872 no more penetrating discussion of the theory of self-generated visions has since been given us. Whatever were Keim’s limitations, his was certainly the most learned work on the Resurrection: marked moreover by deep earnestness, which the consciousness of the approaching close of his life intensified. [Cf. Schweitaer, “Von Reimarus zu Wrede.”]
Strauss suggested [“New Life,” i. 421.] that the Appearances to the elder apostles were caused by the excitement due to the persecution of Jesus. The situation, Strauss admits, was critical. Certainly the Messiah ought not to die, at least until He had finished His work: and in no case ought He to experience a criminal execution. But “both had occurred to Jesus.” If the disciples began now to study the Old Testament they might, Strauss thinks, have found materials. for a theory in explanation. But the difficulty is, that “we have no trace that after the final departure of Jesus, it was a renewed search into the Scriptures which served to revive the faith of His disciples.” Accordingly, Strauss postulates discussions after the decease of Jesus between the Jews and His adherents. In these discussions the disciples maintained that He had risen to a higher life.
This theory Keim pronounced entirely unconvincing. It does not render intelligible the existence of belief in the Resurrection at so early a date. It would require a lengthy interval for reflection. It does not account for the “infinite unquestioning joyousness.” [Keim, vi. 333.]
Indeed Strauss himself was not satisfied with this attempt. He acknowledged that such a process of reflection and discussion takes time; whereas the unanimous tradition is that the Resurrection took place on the Third Day.
“If,” says Strauss, with his usual straightforwardness, “we look upon the Resurrection of Jesus as a miracle, it might take place as well on one day as another; a natural restoration to life must occur on some day soon after death, or it could not occur at all; on the other hand, the psychological revolution from which we suppose the visions of the apostles to have proceeded, appears to require a longer interval for its development. More than one day, it would seem, should intervene before the disciples could recover from their terror at the unlooked for result, before they could assemble together again after their first dispersion.. Supposing, in particular, that it was from renewed and profounder study of the sacred writings of the Old Testament that the certainty arose ... for this also a longer time was required. It appears, therefore, if it is true that on the very first day after the death of Jesus, Appearances of His took place, not to be conceivable that these Appearances were merely subjective visions of the disciples; and our view of the origin of the belief in the Resurrection of Jesus appears to fall to pieces upon the impossibility of making that origin conceivable on the third day.” [“New Life,” i. 431.]
Strauss accordingly substitutes another solution. “A purely logical method by the intervention of clear thoughts was not yet possible, and if it was not, and the reaction took place in the secret depths of the minds of the apostles, then it was a violent burst, a flash of lightning, in which the sultriness of the overloaded feelings relieved itself.” [Ib. 432.] And, of course, if the first Appearances occurred in Galilee, then this violent burst need not have been so sudden after all. For this transference of the Appearances to Galilee “disengages us from the third day as the period for the commencement of them, the longer time thus gained makes the reaction in the minds of the disciples more conceivable.” [Ib. 437.]
Yes. But can we “disengage” ourselves from the Third Day? It is deeply rooted, this simple detail, in the very heart of the primitive tradition. Whatever interpretation be put upon it, nothing can extort from it the idea of a lengthy period of time. Is it likely that this note of duration corresponds to nothing actual? Strauss feels the force of this acutely, and honestly owns it. “An unhistorical origin of the statement as to time, which lies at the foundation of the history of the Resurrection, will be more difficult to admit than in the case of the locality of the Appearances.” [Ib. 430.] Strauss refers to Jonah [Jonah 2:1–11.] and Hosea; [Hosea 6:2.] but half-heartedly, and evidently, unconvinced.
Here, then, enter the criticisms of Keim. Keim gathers together, what is to be said in favour of the theory of subjective visions, and expresses it more learnedly and forcibly than Strauss. The theory appeals to him, as a critic, because it rids him of the “embarrassing” doctrine of physical Resurrection, and Appearances with solid flesh and bones. [Keim, “Jesus of Nazara,” vi. 339.] That the picture of the living invincible Jesus should hover before the disciples most vividly during the first few days, Keim considers natural. “In reality He was not dead to them; nor to the women under the Cross; still less to the apostles, since they had seen Him only as living, as strong to the last moment, since they had not witnessed His passion, His disgrace, His dying, His burial, since, finally, they in Galilee, far from the disasters and the graves of Jerusalem, stood again entirely upon His ground and theirs, the ground of His successes, of His strength, of His triumphs.” “In such a flood of unbounded excitement, intensified by abstention from food, and by the feverish moods of evening, it is quite in harmony with experience that the boundaries of the inner and the outer world should disappear.” [Ib. 345.]
After the death of Mohamed, Omar swore to decapitate any who dared to say that the prophet was no more. [Ib. p. 344.] Visions recur throughout religious history. The Maid of Orleans and Savonarola are but leading instances of this faculty for projecting thought and emotion into form and appearances. Quite recently Arnold Meyer has devoted a lengthy essay to such illustrations. If the enthusiastic Peter had a vision, which is quite conceivable, such emotion would become contagious; and he would in this way strengthen his brethren. The communicable character of such experiences is indisputable. Excitement runs from man to man. It infects whole masses. Witness the Methodists, and the Irvingites. That five hundred and more were moved simultaneously is quite intelligible.
Keim puts the case for self-generated visions forcibly. But just at the very moment when he appears to have yielded assent to the theory, he directly withdraws it. “Yet, notwithstanding all these arguments in favour of the vision theory, it is by no means the writer’s intention to adopt that theory.” [Ib. p. 351.] The grounds upon which Keim rejects it are the following:
1. In the first place, while the apostolic age “is full of more or less self-generated human visions ... there is still more of calm consideration and sober reflection.” Keim sees that the dominant characteristic of the primitive community is by no means emotion and excitement, but rather practical work. The early chapters of the Acts represent the beginnings of organization, method, and attention to details of the common life. The ruling quality is not emotion but will.
2. In the second place, visions, which undoubtedly were numerous, are carefully distinguished by the apostolic writers from the Resurrection Appearances. “Otherwise it would have been impossible for the Apostle Paul to close his list with the fifth or sixth Appearance of Jesus.” [Keim. “Jesus of Nazara,” p. 353.] There is a manifest belief that the visions and the appearances differed in character. Keim held that the later visions, “sprung from new motives and impulses of a richly inspired young religion, afford simply no evidence concerning the character and nature of these first Appearances.” [Ib.]
3. Thirdly, that the Appearances were self-generated is “at once contradicted by the evidently simple, solemn, almost lifeless, cold, unfamiliar character of the manifestations.” [Ib. p. 354.] Keim is deeply impressed by the “reserve and reticence” of the disciples “in face of the strange phenomenon.” “There is no trace of a happy, sweet, prolonged repose on the bosom of him who is again endowed with life and love.” The objectivity suggested by the characteristics of the Risen Lord’s Appearances is a subject only hinted at by Keim. It might be much more fully and forcibly stated.
4. Fourthly, there is the sudden cessation of the Appearances. Keim very justly observes that self-generated visions tend to become irregular and exuberant. They multiply. “The spirits that men call up are not so quickly laid.” [Ib. p. 357.] “The visionary piety of the Montanists, A.D. 120, filled half a century with its multiform follies, notwithstanding all the moderating influences of the Church around.” [Ib. p. 355.] Thus Renan speaks of a full year of uninterrupted visions or feverish intoxication.” [“Les Apôtres,” p. 25.] Visions incessantly multiplied. Renan attempts to account for the sudden cessation by ascribing it to a command received within the visions to go and convert the world. Thus the self-generated vision developed a self-suppressing faculty, which negatived the emotions which produced it. This is a somewhat large demand. Keim rejects it, not without contempt. For, as he notes, not only did these appearances cease; they are replaced by a sudden transition to vigorous activity, self-possessing clearmindedness. What produced this “diametrically opposite mental current”? [Ib. p. 356.]
Here, then, Keim concludes his criticisms. “All these considerations,” he writes, “compel us to admit that the theory, which has recently become the favourite one, is only an hypothesis which, while it explains something, leaves the main fact unexplained; and indeed subordinates what is historically attested to weak and untenable views.” [Ib. 358.]
The practical result of the Appearances is no less significant. The apostolate imposed upon the Eleven, as afterwards on S. Paul. Thus the Appearances are distinguished by the activities which they originate. They are creative Appearances, not merely emotional results, but practical on an enormous scale, and permanent.
II. If the Christophanies were not self-generated, then they were the work of God. This is the other side of the alternative. The inadequate character of the theory of self-generated visions has led a number of thoughtful modern writers to acknowledge that the Appearances were created by the personal action of the glorified Jesus on the minds of His followers.
This is maintained from very different points of view, sometimes philosophic, sometimes religious, by Hermann Lotze, [“Microcosmus.”] Hermann Fichte, [“Vermischte Schriften,” ii. 152.] Keim, [“Jesus of Nazara,” vi.] Riggenbach, [“Die Auferstehung Jesu,” p. 34.] Fernand Ménégoz. [“Certitude de la Foi.”]
1. This conception of the Resurrection Appearances as created from without rather than from within, as corresponding to realities of the spiritual order, commended itself to no less philosophical a mind than that of Lotze. [“Microcosmus,” ii. 480, Engl. Edit.]
“Rationalism, in interpreting these circumstances, which are described to us as external facts, as visions of those who describe them, has overlooked the point which can here give more worth to visions than to actual external facts. Rationalism supposes that out of mere psychological trains of ideas there arose in excited minds fancies due to memory and subjective conditions, which had nothing objective corresponding to them; the very thing that it had to take account of was this spiritual world, which, though unseen, is everywhere, and in which that which has no corporeal existence is present and none the less real. Between this world and the world of sense actions and reactions might take place which are foreign to the ordinary course of nature; and from these, which are true, real, living impressions upon the soul of something divine and actually present, those visions might arise, being apparitions, not of the non-existent, but of something really existent, and (as the divine inward action of the Deity) not mediated by help of the course of physical nature, which has no independent worth, or by disturbances of that course which are incomprehensible to us. The significance of the Resurrection lies not in this, that the soul of the risen person now as heretofore inhabits a body which is visible to the eyes of men, but in this, that without any such mediation, his real, living person, and not the mere remembrance of him, takes hold of men’s souls, and appears to them in a form which has greater strength and efficacy of influence than the restoration of the actual bodily presence would have.” [p. 481.]
Gathering up the crucial sentences from this exposition, the Appearances of the Risen Christ are described as “true, real, living impressions upon the soul—of something divine and actually present”; “the direct inward action of Deity”; “His real living presence, and not the mere remembrance of Him, takes hold of men’s souls.” So Lotze.
2. “If,” says Keim, “the visions are not something humanly generated or self-generated; if they are not blossoms and fruit of an illusion-producing over-excitement ... if they are directly accompanied by astonishingly clear perceptions and resolves, then there still remains one originating source, hitherto unmentioned, namely, God and the glorified Christ.” [p. 361.] This is Keim’s own explanation. Jesus exalted, even if not risen, granted visions to His disciples, and revealed Himself to His community. The power that produced the vision came “entirely from without.” “The subjective seeing is merely the reflex form of what is objective.” Hence “the immediate cessation of the seeing and of the will to see, as soon as the operating power ceases to operate, becomes perfectly intelligible.” [p. 362.] Keim is certain that the disciples’ love and reverence could not convince them that Jesus lived as Messiah in the bosom of God “until this fact had from without, essentially from without, been again made clear within.” [p. 364.] All the evidences go to prove that without this action of the glorified Jesus on the disciples, faith in Him would have died away. The evidence that Jesus was alive—“the telegram from heaven”—was necessary before the human race could be convinced. And therefore the evidence was given by the act of Jesus and by the will of God.
3. Ménégoz, in his “Certitude de la Foi,” goes deeper than this, because he insists that Christianity is a religion which stands in a unique relation to history, seeing that it is bound up inseparably with the fortunes of Person. The separation of Christianity from history is acknowledged to be impossible. This is founded in the very nature and constitution of Christianity. There has never been, says Ménégoz, a serious conflict in any but the Christian religion between religious and historic certainty. [“Certitude de la Foi,” p. 6.] The explanation of this remarkable feature is that Buddha, Zoroaster, and other founders of religions drew their disciples to their principles but not to their persons.
Now the endeavour of certain theologians to base Christianity on a principle is according to Ménégoz a psychological mistake. We should say it was infinitely more: being opposed to the essential nature of the Christian religion. It is, contends Ménégoz, a psychological mistake, because piety is not borne of abstract principles, neither can it be nourished by them. The finest theory is too barren and cold to warm the heart and invigorate the will. The austere majesty of abstract principles discourages us. It rebukes our weakness. But when an abstract theory of righteousness is replaced by the living personality of Jesus Christ, a love of the heart and energy of will are created which are otherwise impossible. The history of the Church shows that there is no evangelic piety without contact with the person of Jesus. The experience of Christians proves, in spite of assertions to the contrary, that the personality of Jesus has a unique and eternal worth. [“Certitude de la Foi,” p. 10.]
But if so, then the question has to be faced, does faith in the Resurrection of Jesus form part of the basis of our Christian religion? [p. 28.]
We believe, says Ménégoz, that there was an intervention, unexpected and sudden, of the Spirit of God in the soul of the disciples. This spiritual experience caused them to project externally the figure which formed itself within them. [p. 37.] He also suggests that the manifestations were telepathic phenomena, awakening the powers which the influence of Jesus had accumulated within them during His earthly ministry. God awakened their courage by a psychological phenomenon.
4. Professor Kirsopp Lake puts the view in the following terms: “The objective hypothesis is that the appearance was independent of the belief or feelings of the disciples. In other words, the disciples saw what they saw because there really was a spiritual being which had an existence independent of them, and produced the appearance. This view explains all the facts and agrees with the undoubted belief of the disciples.” [K. Lake, “The Resurrection of Jesus Christ,” p. 267.] Then, after explaining the adverse criticisms, he concludes that, while we must pass from historical evidence to doctrinal grounds to form any decision: “At the same time critical methods point just as clearly to the existence of a conviction among the disciples that the Lord had appeared to them, and neither criticism nor philosophy can give any explanation of this fact without admitting that these appearances were dependent on the personality of Jesus.” [Ib. p. 275.]
These acknowledgements are very remarkable. They come from varied circles of modern thought. They vary in clearness of utterance. To say, for instance, that the Christophanies were “dependent on the personality of Jesus” may mean the personality acting by the influence of memory; or it may mean the direct action of the personality from the other world. To describe the Appearances as a “telegram from Heaven” sounds strange. But yet, whatever changes were desirable in the form of the expressions, these writers range themselves substantially on the Christian side of the alternative. Keim really means to say that the impressions received by the disciples were caused by a special miraculous Divine intervention. [Cf. Prof. Maraoliouth in “Contemporary Review,” 1905, p. 719.] And all these writers appear to acknowledge that the Christophanies cannot be explained by self-generated fancies, but require the personal action of the Risen Lord to account for them. And this acknowledgment is unquestionably on the Christian side. The position, it must be confessed, falls far short of the Christian theology. It evades assent to the externality of the phenomena, and declines belief in the bodily Resurrection. If it employs the word “Resurrection” it means “exaltation.” And it reduces the Appearances of our Lord simply to certificates of the satisfactory condition of Jesus of Nazareth in the other world. It is, according to Keim, evidence that Jesus was alive, that He lived as Messiah in the bosom of God. This is certainly very far beneath the fullness of the conception as found in the theology of the apostles.
But at any rate it is profoundly religious; and it deliberately rejects the materialistic or pantheistic conceptions which underlay a great deal of the earlier denial of the Resurrection of Christ. If it is unsatisfying as a final stage, it is exceedingly hopeful as a great progression upon the way. [Ziegler (“Zeitschrift fur Theologie und Kirche,” 1896, p. 260) regards the Christophanies as direct divine creations in the minds of the apostles. Reischle, “Zur Frage nach der leiblichen Auferstehung J. C.” “Christl. Welt.” 1900, p. 3.]
III. The full Christian belief goes further than the statement that the Appearances of the Divine Christ were the work of God. It maintains that they were real bodily Appearances. There are also modern critics that are prepared to acknowledge the force of this full Christian belief.
“So far as I can see,” writes Schwartzkopff, “no one can maintain the impossibility of bodily Appearances of Christ.” [Schwartzkopff, “Prophecies,” p. 92.] Human knowledge,” he contends, “is too defective to be allowed to contest the possibility of supersensuous spirits being able to act upon our sensuous world. Our own supersensuous spirits constantly make themselves perceptible to one another by sensuous influences. But the spirits of the other world as such are similar to those of this world. As finite spirits, which they still remain, they would perhaps, like ourselves, require a special organic instrument for this purpose.” Experience, however, he thinks, “furnishes us with no clearly proved analogy to the bodily Appearances of Christ.” [Ib. p. 94.] But “since the possibility of a bodily Appearance of Christ can neither be called in question without hesitation, nor definitely affirmed, the question comes to be whether this Appearance can be regarded as having a sufficient historical guarantee.” The critic thinks that “proof cannot be given with certainty.” He balances the various considerations which can be supplied on either side. He holds as absolutely certain that the Appearances were divinely created. “If the belief in Christ is a truth, then it can only have been awakened in man’s heart by the immediate intercourse of the living God or of Christ.” [Ib. p. 100.] The rationalistic theory that the longing to see Jesus once again was strengthened by devotional reading of the Psalms, and then intensified by abstinence from food, until it burst forth into enthusiasm, “not only denies the significance of the Lord, but also the inner truth of all prophetic revelation, according to which the living God does really enter directly into converse with the pious.” [Ib. p. 110. n.] And to consider the early Church, with all its exemplary love and truth, as founded upon enthusiastic self-deception “is a historical absurdity.” On the other hand, the prevalent idea of Resurrection as a relation of the soul to its body would dispose the disciples to regard any Appearances as in bodily reality. But that the Appearances did actually assume external bodily substance is a conclusion reached on religious and dogmatic grounds.
By revealing Himself externally in bodily form to His disciples “whose faith so much needed strengthening, He gave them not only a spiritual guarantee of His heavenly Messiahship, but also one that was corroborated by the senses. Love must have impelled their Lord to do this if He could; and it must, on the other hand, have moved God in any case to confer on Him the power of doing so. For it was in thorough harmony with God’s gracious condescension to facilitate in this way the first genesis of belief in the Resurrection. Thus Jesus revealed Himself to His friends in a spiritual body, in order to root that conviction in their minds, and so found His Church on a basis that could not be moved. That is the dogmatic train of thought by which theology and Christianity reach the conclusion that the Appearance of Christ was a bodily one.” [Ib. p. 142.]
That this dogmatic train of thought represents the truth is confirmed by the character of the resulting faith. It was a sober and a practical faith. In all their remarkably transparent sincerity we never find the slightest trace that these Appearances of the Risen Christ rested upon inference or imagination. “A product of fancy, even though its contents be true, has not in the long run the power of a real outer event.” [Ib. p. 144.]
Moreover, the nature of God corroborates it. For God is not only immanent, He is also transcendent: and His activities partake of this double character. He not only relates Himself to the soul within, but also from without. External nature is part of His self-manifestation to the human soul. And external bodily Resurrection Appearances are in keeping with such analogies.
Then there is a religious superiority in a bodily Appearance of the Risen Lord over and above divinely-created objective visions. If the glorified Lord revealed Himself bodily to His disciples, “then this must appear to us as a glorious act of God, a jewel of universal history.” It is the manifest triumph of Divine power and love in the region of death. It is the reappearance of the victor out of that imperishable world. There is all the difference between a signal given from a distance to certify survival and success and an actual personal reappearance of the Master in the midst of the disciples on the earth. [Schwartzkopff, “Prophecies,” p. 143.]
This exposition by Schwartzkopff is particularly valuable for its consciousness of the goodness and yet inadequacy of the theory of Keim. It is a remarkable advance to the fuller Christian idea.
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