Showing posts with label Matthew. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Matthew. Show all posts

Friday, April 10, 2020

And and and and and after his resurrection

This past week I shared the macro and micro literary structures of the final narrative section of Matthew's Gospel (here and here). Today I want to highlight a pericope within one of the micro literary structures of that final narrative section: Matthew 27:51-56. More specifically, I want to pinpoint verses 51 to 53. 

As I noted in a previous post, the micro-structure of that section looks like this:

a)  27:51 —> Behold (i.e. “Look” or “see”): The veil is torn (and) >> the earthquake (and) >> the rocks are split (and)
     b)  27:52 —> the tombs are opened and “many” bodies of the saints are raised

     b’)  27:53 —> those from the tombs appeared to "many" in the Holy City after Jesus’ resurrection

a’)  27:54-56 —> The guards (and) Mary magdalene (and) Mary of James and Joseph (and) the Mother of the sons of Zebedee beheld (i.e. saw) the earthquake and “the things that were done”

An English translation of verses 27:51-53 say this:
And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom, and the earth shook, and the rocks were split, and the tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many.

The Greek text underlying this translation is this:
καὶ ἰδοὺ τὸ καταπέτασμα τοῦ ναοῦ ἐσχίσθη ἀπʼ ἄνωθεν ἕως κάτω εἰς δύο, καὶ ἡ γῆ ἐσείσθη, καὶ αἱ πέτραι ἐσχίσθησαν, καὶ τὰ μνημεῖα ἀνεῴχθησαν καὶ πολλὰ σώματα τῶν κεκοιμημένων ἁγίων ἠγέρθησαν, καὶ ἐξελθόντες ἐκ τῶν μνημείων μετὰ τὴν ἔγερσιν αὐτοῦ εἰσῆλθον εἰς τὴν ἁγίαν πόλιν καὶ ἐνεφανίσθησαν πολλοῖς.1 

If we are reading sections b and b' carefully, whether in English or Greek, it becomes apparent that this is one long sentence connected with the word "and" many times. It should also be equally apparent that somewhere within this lengthy sentence there are likely two distinct days of events being described. What is not clear is the event taking place on a different day than the day of crucifixion. All of the listed events are lumped together, giving the impression that all of them occurred either on the day Jesus was crucified, or all of them occurred "after his resurrection."

This is how I imagine these events taking place: The curtain of the temple was torn, the earth quaked, and the rocks were split on the day Jesus gave up his spirit. Then, on the "third day" when Jesus was raised from the dead-ones in Hades, the tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints were raised up to life again, and they came out of the tombs after his resurrection and went into the holy city to appear to many.

These saints may or may not be representatives of the first resurrection (Rev. 20:5) mentioned elsewhere in Holy Scriptures. This resurrection account might not be the historical fulfillment of that "first resurrection" either. It might be. It might not be. I'm largely indifferent; although with a gun to my head and ten seconds to say more, I'd say the "first resurrection" of Revelation is far more likely to be a reference to this first resurrection in Matthew 27:52-53. As to how it all fits together, I don't have a comprehensive set of answers, nor do I care to ever have one. I can, however, confidently assert that this event points out the power of what Christ accomplished through his resurrection from the dead-ones.

After his resurrection (μετὰ τὴν ἔγερσιν αὐτοῦ), many bodies of the saints who had died were raised with Jesus. At that time, they were obviously not yet raised to heaven. For this first event, they were not merely raised spiritually either (also, obviously). They were previously alive in a place known as the unseen realm of Sheol/Hades, but for the first time in human history they were released from bondage. At that punctiliar point in time, many among the dead-ones were raised along with Jesus, and life was given to their mortal bodies again (i.e. their fleshly "bodies" were "raised" to life again). Since we don't know what happened to their fleshly bodies after that time mentioned in Matthew 27:52-53, at least not any more than we know what exactly happened to Jesus' flesh and bodily organs after this time (and yes, I am aware of how much philosophical speculation has occurred throughout Christian traditions in that regard), I am simply not going to speculate further. But it is safe to believe that once they were raised to eternal life with Jesus (whenever that was), they still remain alive today

Did their fleshly bodies ascend to heaven? 

Did their fleshly bodies decay again after age, followed by ascension into heaven as "spiritual bodies," as Saint Paul says (whatever he meant)? 

Who knows? 

Does a precise answer to that even matter?

I believe that Christian traditions are sufficient to guide people along a path of discovering helpful answers to those questions, without everyone ever collectively needing to know absolutely everything for certain.

What matters to us now is that a human being has been raised from the dead-ones of Sheol/Hades! 

And that human being was Jesus of Nazareth! 

And by the power and authority of Jesus, many dead have been raised with him!

And that event initiated a transfiguration of authority over the cosmos! 

It may also be worth pointing out that this brief event mentioned in Matthew 27:52-53 does not define what "resurrection" means. "Resurrection" is a term that could describe a lot of things. But that shouldn't stop us from realizing that its use in this passage means something profound. It means that along with the Second Adam being raised from Hades, the first Adam and many others in Hades who had been captive with the dead up to that time could have been raised with him; and if they could have been raised (as some obviously were, according to Matthew's account), then those were indeed raised at that time, starting the day Jesus was raised. It was the "many" among the tombs of Jerusalem who testified to the fact that the dead are now able to be raised because Israel's promised Christ is risen, and by his death he has trampled upon death. This teaching of eternal life made possible and real in Jesus of Nazareth was no light or insignificant matter; and neither was Jesus' final judgment upon the old creation, when the rest of the dead were raised, and Hades/Sheol became no more. 

1.  Harris, W. H., III. (2010). The Lexham Greek-English Interlinear New Testament: SBL Edition (Mt 27:50–53). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Matthew's Final Narrative (Matthew 26-28): Part Two

In the previous post I layed out the literary structure of the final narrative section of Matthew's Gospel. In this post I am going to break each section down for us to view its micro-literary structures, for closer examination. Once again, here is the larger, macro literary structure of Matthew chapters 26 through 28:

A)  26:1—35

B)  26:36—56

C)  26:57—75

B’)  27:1—37

C’)  27:38—56

A’)  27:57—28:20

Here is the zoomed-in, micro-literary structure according to that outline:

A)  26:1—35

a)  26:1—5 —> Chief Priests assemble in the palace of Ciaphas
b)  26:6-13 —> Unnamed woman offers expensive perfume & Jesus prophesies: “Truly, I say to you…”
a’)  26:14-16 —> Judas goes to the Chief Priests in the palace of Ciaphas
a)  26:17-19 —> “Now” on the first day of the feast: preparation is made to find a place for feasting
b)  26:20-25 —> When evening had come, Jesus prophesies: “Truly, I say to you…”
a’)  26:26-29 —> “Now” as they were feasting: the eucharist tradition is established
a)  26:30 —> Jesus’ disciples sing together and then travel toward the mount of olives
b)  26:31-35a —> Dialogue between Jesus an Peter about stumbling & Jesus prophesies: “Truly, I say to you…” 
a’)  26:35b —> All the disciples affirm together and say what Peter said to Jesus

B)  26:36—56

a)  26:36-38 —> Jesus grieves & walks with disciples
b)  26:39 —> Jesus prays
c)  26:40-41 —> Jesus approaches disciples
b’)  26:42 —> Jesus prays
c’)  26:43 —> Jesus approaches disciples
b’’)  26:44 —> Jesus prays
a’)  26:45-46 —> Jesus prepares for betrayal with disciples
a)  26:47-49 —> Judas, one of the Twelve, approaches with “crowds” bringing “swords” and “clubs” & Jesus responds to Judas
b)  26:50-51 —> Jesus is arrested & his disciple cuts off the ear of the high priests’s servant with a sword
b’)  26:52-54 —> Jesus responds to his disciples about living by the sword
a’)  26:55-56 —> Jesus responds to the “crowds” who brought “swords” and “clubs” & the Eleven disciples flee

C)  26:57—75

a)  26:57-58 —> Peter follows Jesus, goes through a “courtyard,” and “sits” inside the Sanhedrin among the guards
b)  26:59-61 —> False witnesses are brought forward
c)  26:62-64 —> Dialogue between Jesus & High Priest: High Priest Questions >> Jesus is silent >> High Priest questions >> Jesus answers
c’)  26:65-66a —> Dialogue between High Priest & Sanhedrin: The verdict is “Blasphemy” >> A question to the Sanhedrin >> The verdict is repeated >> A question to the Sanhedrin
b’)  26:66b-68 —> Jesus is treated as a false prophet, sentenced death, beaten, mocked for Blasphemy
a’)  26:69-75 —> Peter “sits” outside the courtyard of the Sanhedrin & denies Jesus three times

B’)  27:1-37

a)  27:1-2 —> Jesus is delivered to Pilate the Governor
b)  27:3-10 —> “Blood money” (30 pieces of silver) & the land bought with it
a’)  27:11-14 —> Jesus stands before Pilate the Governor
a)  27:15-16 —> Introduction of Barabbas (“son of the Father”) for possible release in place of Jesus
b)  27:17-18 —> Pilate asks about which son to release: Barabbas or “Jesus called the Christ”? & The crowds envy
c)  27:19-20 —> Pilate’s wife sends word to Pilate about a dream to do nothing to Jesus & The Chief Priests persuade crowds to destroy Jesus and ask for Barabbas
b’)  27:21-23 —> Pilate asks about which to release: Barabbas or “Jesus called the Christ”? & The crowds cry enviously
a’)  27:24-26 —> Barabbas is released & Jesus is delivered to be crucified
a)  27:27-31 —> When the soldiers mocked Jesus, they struck and crowned his head, saying “Hail! King of the Jews!” & Thee soldiers also robed and de-robed & re-robed Jesus
b)  27:32-34 —> Simon the Cyrene carries the cross of Jesus to the place of a skull, where Jesus is offered wine with poison in it, but would not drink
a’)  27:35-37 —> When the soldiers crucify Jesus they divide his garments and place a sign above his head to mock him, saying: “King of the Jews”

C’)  27:38—56

a)  27:38 —> “Robbers” are crucified with Jesus
b)  27:39-40 —> Those who pass by also mock: He cannot save himself >> He is God’s son >> Come down from the cross
b’)  27:41-43 —> The Chief Priests mock: He cannot save himself >> He is God’s son >> Come down from the cross
a’)  27:44 —> “Robbers” are crucified with Jesus
a)  27:45-46 —> Jesus cries out with a loud voice
b)  27:47 —> Some standing there speak: Elijah is being called
c)  27:48 —> One of them standing there offers Jesus a drink
b’)  27:49 —> The rest of them said: Elijah might come and save him
a’)  27:50 —> Jesus cries out with a loud voice
a)  27:51 —> Behold (i.e. “Look” or “see”): The veil is torn (and) >> the earthquake (and) >> the rocks are split (and)
b)  27:52 —> the tombs are opened and “many” bodies of the saints are raised 
b’)  27:53 —> those from the tombs appeared to "many" in the Holy City after Jesus’ resurrection
a’)  27:54-56 —> The guards (and) Mary magdalene (and) Mary of James and Joseph (and) the Mother of the sons of Zebedee beheld (i.e. saw) the earthquake and “the things that were done”

A’)  27:57—28:20

a)  27:57 —> Joseph, a rich man and disciple of Jesus, approaches Pilate
b)  27:58a —> A Request of Pilate
c)  27:58b —> Pilate grants his request
d)  27:59-60 —> Pilate order the request to be done
e)  27:61 —> “Mary Magdalene and the other Mary” are at the tomb
a’)  27:62 —> The Chief Priests and Pharisees approach Pilate
b’)  27:63-64 —> A request of Pilate
c’)  27:65 —> Pilate grants their request
d’)  27:66 —> Pilate orders their request to be done
e’)  28:1 —> “Mary Magdalene and the other Mary” are at the tomb
a)  28:2-4 —> An angel descends, the stone is removed, the guards “fear” and tremble and become as dead men
b)  28:5-7 —> The angel speaks to the women: “Do not be afraid” & Jesus is “going before you to Galilee”
a’)  28:8-9 —> The women depart from the tomb with “fear” and great joy and they worship Jesus when he greets them
b’)  28:10 —> Jesus speaks to the women: “Do not be afraid” & “Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee”
a)  28:11 —> Guards “went into the city” to report what happened to the Chief Priests
b)  28:12 —> The Chief Priests assembled and consulted together and offered the guards a bribe
c)  28:13-15 —> The Chief Priests commission the guards to lie greatly, and they did as they were instructed, and that lie spread among the Jews until today’s day
a’)  28:16 —> Jesus disciples “went into Galilee” to the mountain Jesus appointed for them
b’)  28:17 —> The disciples see Jesus and worship him
c’)  28:18-20 —> Jesus appoints his Great Commission for them, to spread his Gospel to all nations

Friday, April 3, 2020

Matthew's Final Narrative (Matthew 26-28): Part One

The final section of Matthew’s Gospel begins at 26:1 and ends at 28:20. In 26:1 we are told for the fifth and final time that Jesus “finished all these sayings”, which is a literary marker indicating to the reader that we are about to begin another narrative section. I have shown elsewhere how Matthew has structured his entire Gospel, punctuated with five discourses by Jesus that are sandwiched between a variety of historical narratives. Below is what the structure of this final narrative structure looks like from a birds-eye view:

A)  26:1—35  (Preparation for Death & Burial)

B)  26:36—56  (Jesus on Trial)

C)  26:57—75  (Derision & appointment of King Jesus)

B’)  27:1—37  (Jesus on Trial)

C’)  27:38—56  (Installation & Derision of King Jesus)

A’)  27:57—28:20  (Preparation for Burial & Resurrection)

Below is a breakdown of each section with its shared concepts, words, phrases, and themes. As each section is combed through carefully, be sure to remember the literary parallels between each matching section (A & A’, B & B’, C & C’). They will become important for part two of this post (among future posts in this series) where I will break down this larger governing literary structure into smaller pericopes and comment upon each section’s unity:

A)  26:1—35
> Assembly of Chief Priests: They plot together (26:3)
> Judas receives bribe money (26:14-16)
> Jesus speaks to disciples: My sheep will be scattered (26:31)
> The “Twelve” disciples are mentioned, among whom Judas is one (26:14)
> The first day of the feast is mentioned (26:17)
> “When evening had come” is mentioned (26:20)
> Jesus is to drink καινός (“new”) fruit of the vine (26:29)
> Jesus will “go before” his disciples “to Galilee”: προάξω ὑμᾶς εἰς τὴν Γαλιλαίαν  (26:32)
> Jesus’ body is prepared for burial (26:6-13)

A’)  27:57—28:20
> Assembly of Chief Priests: They plot together (27:11-15)
> Guards receive bribe money (27:12)
> Jesus speaks to disciples: Go and make disciples of all nations (28:18-20)
> The “Eleven” disciples are mentioned, without Judas being numbered among them (28:16)
> The first day of the week (after the Sabbath feast) is mentioned (28:1)
> “When evening had come” is mentioned again (27:57)
> Jesus is laid in a καινός (“new”) tomb (27:60)
> Jesus is “going ahead of” his disciples “into Galilee”: προάγει ὑμᾶς εἰς τὴν Γαλιλαίαν (28:7)
> Jesus’ body is prepared for burial (27:59-61)

B)  26:36—56
Jesus goes into a place called (ἔρχεται … εἰς χωρίον λεγόμενον) Gethsemane: meaning ‘oil press’ (26:36)
> Jesus is seized by guards & Judas betrays Jesus

B’) 27:1—37
Jesus goes into a place called (ἐλθόντες εἰς τόπον λεγόμενον) Golgotha: meaning “a skull”  (27:33)
> Jesus is delivered to Pilate the Governor & is not betrayed by Pilate

C)  26:57—75
> “Scribes” are mentioned along with the Chief Priests and Elders  (26:57)
> Jesus is accused of speaking βλασφημέω (“blasphemy”) by High Priest  (26:65)
> Peter “follows” Jesus “from a distance” to the Courtyard of the Sanhedrin:  ἠκολούθει αὐτῷ ἀπὸ μακρόθεν  (26:58)
> Jesus is accused of saying, “I am able to destroy the temple of God and to rebuild it in three days”  (26:61)

C’)  27:38—56
> “Scribes” are mentioned along with the Chief Priests and Elders  (27:41)
> Jesus has βλασφημέω (“insults”) spoken to him by those who pass by  (27:39)
> Many women “followed” Jesus from Galilee and gathered together, observing his crucifixion “from a distance”: ἀπὸ μακρόθεν θεωροῦσαι, αἵτινες ἠκολούθησαν  (27:55)
> Those who passed by Jesus were saying, “You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself, if you are the Son of God…”  (27:40)

Thursday, February 13, 2020

A Harmony of the Olivet Discourse

Below is a parallel layout of Jesus' Olivet Discourse. I must apologize in advance for it being in the format of successive photos pasted to the wall, and not the most clear quality either. For now it is the best I can do. The source of these parallels is from Burton's English edition of Gospel parallels (as footnoted at the bottom of this post). Unfortunately, the English looks like it uses the KJV, which provides a notoriously misleading translation of Matt. 24:3, which reads: "What shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?"

For those who have access to the Greek text underlying that translation, it is obvious that the word translated as "world" is actually "age." Jesus is asked what would be the sign of his coming (parousia) and the sign of the end of the age (not the "world", which is an entirely different Greek word).

For those interested in viewing the parallels, a pdf of Burton's greek parallels can be found here. As far as the formatting is concerned, that is my own; it was the only way I knew how to share it publicly with very little time at my disposal this evening.

The reasons why I am sharing this parallel layout of Jesus' Olivet Discourse are very straightforward:

1) The average Christian in the pews nowadays has little patience to map out the parallels between each verse of Jesus' Olivet Discourse. So here it is. I have copied and pasted it all for you. 

2) The average Christian who takes Jesus' teaching seriously, and has been taught in Church (or by reading Christian books) that the so-called "end of the world" is clearly taught in the Olivet Discourse, now has the means by which each version can be carefully traced in context, to see if that is actually so. As I have already noted (here), dozens of very important Church Fathers viewed Matthew 24:4-35 as references to the historical destruction of Jerusalem in AD70 and the historical signs of persecutions and turmoils leading up that cataclysmic event. Most New Testament historical scholars over the last one hundred years concur with that assessment. But then a shift takes place, where virtually all scholars nowadays think that the comments made in Matthew 24:36 and afterward either refer to cataclysmic events in our future, or they are inauthentic and "fanatic" vaticinium ex eventu redactions by later scribes after AD70. 

3) I am convinced that there is a third alternative: Jesus was describing the parousia and the "end of the age" as to-be-fulfilled in that generation (cf. Matt. 24:34, Mark 13:30, Luke 21:32). 

4) When you have finally studied all of these parallels, matching phrase upon phrase, and following the descriptions of each Gospel author, feel free to study the chapters and verses surrounding the passages in Mark outside of chapter 13, and the passages in Luke outside of chapter 21, as contained in bold-typed brackets below.

I believe that there is absolutely no way to take any portion of this Olivet Discourse of Matthew's Gospel seriously as authentic teachings of Jesus without also seriously studying its parallels in Mark and Luke. That means that there are not two cataclysmic events about "the end" in this Discourse. There is no fulfillment of "the end" that has "already" happened in Matthew 24:4-35 and also a future fulfillment of Christ's parousia in judgment that has "not yet" happened, and still awaiting fulfillment in our future. The "already-not-yet" paradigm advocated by too many Christian tribalists simply cannot be taken seriously when the exact same historical discourse is mapped out in parallel between all three synoptic Gospels. 

Take the time. Don't be lazy. See for yourself. Think for yourself. 

I have shared other thoughts of mine here and here and here. The thoughts of Church Fathers can be found here.