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Matthew's Crucifiction Account

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  • Matthew's Crucifiction Account

    This is an excerpt from Thomas Paine's "Age of Reason" that really made a lot of sense to me when I read it. In fact, this was one of the books that was a major contributor in my decision against faith. I would like to know what you all think.

    "The book ascribed to Matthew says 'there was darkness over all the land from the sixth hour unto the ninth hour - that the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom - that there was an earthquake - that the rocks rent - that graves opened, that the bodies of many of the saints that slept arose and came out of their graves after the resurrection, and went into the holy city and appeared to many.' Such is the account which this dashing writer of the book of Matthew gives, but in which he is not supported by the writers of the other books.

    The writer of the book ascribed to Mark, in detailing the circumstances of the crucifixion, makes no mention of any earthquake, nor of the rocks rending, nor of the graves opening, nor of the dead men walking out. The writer of the book of Luke is silent also upon the same points. And as to the writer of the book of John, though he details all the circumstances of the crucifixion down to the burial of Christ, he says nothing about either the darkness - the veil of the temple - the earthquake - the rocks - the graves - nor the dead men.

    Now if it had been true that these things had happened, and if the writers of these books had lived at the time they did happen, and had been the persons they are said to be - namely, the four men called apostles, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, it was not possible for them, as true historians, even without the aid of inspiration, not to have recorded them. The things, supposing them to have been facts, were of too much notoriety not to have been known, and of too much importance not to have been told. All these supposed apostles must have been witnesses of the earthquake, if there had been any, for it was not possible for them to have been absent from it. The opening of the graves and resurrection of the dead men, and their walking about the city, is of still greater importance than the earth-quake. An earthquake is always possible, and natural, and proves nothing; but this opening of the graves is supernatural, and directly in point to their doctrine, their cause, and their apostleship. Had it been true, it would have filled up whole chapters of those books, and been the chosen theme and general chorus of all the writers; but instead of this, little and trivial things, and mere prattling conversation of he said this and she said that are often tediously detailed, while this most important of all, had it been true, is passed off in a slovenly manner by a single dash of the pen, and that by one writer only, and not so much as hinted at by the rest.

    It is an easy thing to tell a lie, but it is difficult to support the lie after it is told. The writer of the book of Matthew should have told us who the saints were that came to life again, and went into the city, and what became of them afterwards, and who it was that saw them ; for he is not courageous enough to say that he saw them himself ; whether they came out naked, and all in natural buff, he-saints and she-saints, or whether they came full dressed, and where they got their clothes ; whether they went to their former habitations, and reclaimed their wives, their husbands, and their property, and how they were received ; whether they entered ejectments for the recovery of their possessions, or brought law suits against the rival interlopers ; wheter they remained on earth, and followed their former occupation of preaching or working ; or whether they died again, or went back to their graves alive, and buried themselves.

    Strange indeed, that an army of saints should return to life, and nobody know who they were, nor who it was that saw them, and that not a word more should be said upon the subject, nor these saints have anything to tell us! Had it been the prophets who (as we are told) had formerly prophesied of these things, they must have had a great deal to say. They could have told us everything, and we should have had posthumous prophecies, with notes and commentaries upon the first, a little better at least than we have now. Had it been Moses, and Aaron, and Joshua, and Samuel, and David, not an unconverted Jew had remained in all Jerusalem. Had it been John the Baptist; and the saints of the times then present, everybody would have known them, and they would have out-preached and out-famed all the other apostles. But, instead of this, these saints are made to pop up, like Jonah's gourd in the night, for no purpose at all but to wither in the morning." END OF EXCERPT

    As a believer, this story always really bothered me, although I could never put my finger on it. When I read the above excerpt for the first time, it was the first time that these events surrounding the crucifiction part of Matthew made any sense. I finally realized - it's because it's not true! And it was an epiphany in my life.
    Without evil there would be no good, so it must be good to be evil sometimes...

  • #2
    To my mind, applying the woulda, coulda, shoulda technique to Bible criticism is completely contradictory to a true "Age of Reason". Whether you believe in God or not, it isn't rational to expect that a mere man could dictate what a supreme Being (if one existed) should say or not say; what it should do or not do.

    If God existed, and spoke, I would expect any reasonable man to quickly put his hand over his mouth and listen with the utmost intensity; expect to hear many things that don't compute to his tiny mind; and seek to understand what he could. I would not expect a reasonable man to go into critique mode correcting God on how He should have said it all differently.

    If one chooses not to believe the Bible they're certainly free to do so. But to disbelieve because they don't understand why it would have been written that way seems completely illogical to me. Just by the very nature of the matter, I would expect that a book written by a supreme Being would be written in a way that would be different from anything I might come up with.

    Just my thoughts.
    Dave
    Eph 1:9 Having made known unto us the mystery of his will

    __________________

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    • #3
      Thanks, Dave.

      I know what you're saying. But there are certain markers of truth in historical documents that one would look for, especially when there are multiple accounts of the same occurance. I think he's basically saying those markers aren't there with Matthew's account of the Crucifiction.
      Without evil there would be no good, so it must be good to be evil sometimes...

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by DaveS View Post
        Whether you believe in God or not, it isn't rational to expect that a mere man could dictate what a supreme Being (if one existed) should say or not say; what it should do or not do.......

        Just by the very nature of the matter, I would expect that a book written by a supreme Being would be written in a way that would be different from anything I might come up with.
        Mere men wrote the Bible, not God (or a supreme being, if you will). It's an account of events, not straight dictation from God.
        Without evil there would be no good, so it must be good to be evil sometimes...

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        • #5
          Originally posted by levi_athan View Post
          Thanks, Dave.

          I know what you're saying. But there are certain markers of truth in historical documents that one would look for, especially when there are multiple accounts of the same occurance. I think he's basically saying those markers aren't there with Matthew's account of the Crucifiction.
          That's odd. I met a Jew in school who converted to Christianity after reading the Gospels. He was a history major and said the reason for his conversion was the historical markers in the Gospels. I mean, I don't see very many 20 something-year-old men crying in a 'busy' library with a Greek Bible in hand (Septuagint).

          Now, no offense to Thomas Paine, but if the accounts were all similar, we would suspect they were copied off each other, or some common source. The differences give us 1) a fuller picture of events and 2) good reason to assume the events were recorded separately four different times (if you include John). Sorry to bust Thomas Paine's bubble, but the important events were covered in detail--such as the bodily resurrection of Christ, which went completely against the Jewish understanding of resurrection at that time.

          Different story, different angles, fuller picture.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Xel'Naga View Post
            That's odd. I met a Jew in school who converted to Christianity after reading the Gospels. He was a history major and said the reason for his conversion was the historical markers in the Gospels. I mean, I don't see very many 20 something-year-old men crying in a 'busy' library with a Greek Bible in hand (Septuagint).

            Now, no offense to Thomas Paine, but if the accounts were all similar, we would suspect they were copied off each other, or some common source. The differences give us 1) a fuller picture of events and 2) good reason to assume the events were recorded separately four different times (if you include John). Sorry to bust Thomas Paine's bubble, but the important events were covered in detail--such as the bodily resurrection of Christ, which went completely against the Jewish understanding of resurrection at that time.

            Different story, different angles, fuller picture.
            Thanks, Xel'Naga.

            I'm not talking about the historical markers of all four Gospels, just this particular event in Matthew. I know that differing angles make a richer understanding of the story, but there's only so far you can take that. If dead people rose out of the ground, especially saints, EVERYBODY would have written about it. Since none of the other gospels even mention it, there's a good chance that the apparent earthquake and resurrection is made up.
            Last edited by levi_athan; May 8th 2008, 11:22 PM. Reason: Clarification
            Without evil there would be no good, so it must be good to be evil sometimes...

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by levi_athan View Post
              Thanks, Xel'Naga.

              It is widely believed by secular scholars they did copy off of one another. Especially from Mark to Matthew. But that's really not what my original post was about. I would agree with Paine that if there really were resurrected saints, that we should know who they are and what happened to them. Since none of the other gospels even mention it, there's a good chance that the apparent earthquake and resurrection is made up. Resurrection of saints is simply too important to just be left out.
              Yeah, the so called 'Synoptic Problem'.

              You'll have to excuse me, I must go book diving.

              ...And back. Alright, so why does Matthew mention this, but not the other four gospels? Well, let's ignore that for a minute and ask ourselves why Matthew recorded the line in the first place. After a bit of reading I learned that Jews at the time believed that when the Messiah came the bodily resurrection of OT saints would occur.

              The example given of a Jewish Rabbi, "(R. Jeremiah commanded), 'When you bury me, put shoes on my feet, and give me a staff in my hand, and lay me on one side; that when Messias comes I may be ready." (cited in Lightfoot, _Commentary of the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica, in.loc.)"

              There was also some mention, apparently, by outside sources. Quadratus (speaking withing 50-75 years) and Ireneaus.

              But I think the resurrection of the dead finds connection with three things: (1) the Jewish milieu, (2) the messianic mission of Jesus, and (3) the OT prophetic writings about the Messiah.

              Sources:
              http://www.christian-thinktank.com/oddrise.html

              Now coming off that... Exaggeration (if it was used) is no destroyer of the Gospel Message. The Bible is very full of such literary tools.

              Comment


              • #8
                Thanks for doing the research. That may be the answer to why the author of Matthew put that in at all. But it still begs the question, why would something as undeniable as a multiple resurrection be left out of 3 out of four gospels, when their authors were supposed to have known one another and dined together? The news of a multiple resurrection would have been SO extraordinary everybody would have heard of it, and it would be expected to be included in all of the gospels. The fact that it's not seems to leave the door open for the possibility of a fib. Plus the fact that Matthew has absolutely no information as to who the saints were or what happened to them. Like Paine says "It is an easy thing to tell a lie, but it is difficult to support the lie after it is told."

                And just so you know, I don't think these things destroy the gospel message of Ultimate Love. But it does question the historical authenticity of a dead man rising from the grave.
                Without evil there would be no good, so it must be good to be evil sometimes...

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by levi_athan View Post
                  Thanks for doing the research. That may be the answer to why the author of Matthew put that in at all. But it still begs the question, why would something as undeniable as a multiple resurrection be left out of 3 out of four gospels, when their authors were supposed to have known one another and dined together? The news of a multiple resurrection would have been SO extraordinary everybody would have heard of it, and it would be expected to be included in all of the gospels. The fact that it's not seems to leave the door open for the possibility of a fib. Plus the fact that Matthew has absolutely no information as to who the saints were or what happened to them. Like Paine says "It is an easy thing to tell a lie, but it is difficult to support the lie after it is told."

                  And just so you know, I don't think these things destroy the gospel message of Ultimate Love. But it does question the historical authenticity of a dead man rising from the grave.
                  And why would that be? In regards to that area, all your criterion are met? Seems to me to be rather bad liars if they're going to lie about one thing and go every which way on everything else?

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I don't think I understand your question. Maybe rephrase for me? I'm slow sometimes.
                    Without evil there would be no good, so it must be good to be evil sometimes...

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by levi_athan View Post
                      I don't think I understand your question. Maybe rephrase for me? I'm slow sometimes.
                      I acknowledge that a 'fabrication' in one part of the Bible would cast doubt on the whole thing. But as it stands the account is still under dispute as to whether or not it is purely made up, I think the important part is with no reason (even made up are the wrong words, imo). Now, why would four guys get together and fabricate a story, copy most of the important parts, but not all, thereby leaving people to question the validity of their stories? The raising of the saints would have been important. Jesus' resurrection would have been important. Why did all four cover the latter, but not the former, if they were fabricating their accounts?

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Xel'Naga View Post
                        I acknowledge that a 'fabrication' in one part of the Bible would cast doubt on the whole thing. But as it stands the account is still under dispute as to whether or not it is purely made up, I think the important part is with no reason (even made up are the wrong words, imo). Now, why would four guys get together and fabricate a story, copy most of the important parts, but not all, thereby leaving people to question the validity of their stories? The raising of the saints would have been important. Jesus' resurrection would have been important. Why did all four cover the latter, but not the former, if they were fabricating their accounts?
                        That's true. I don't think the Gospel accounts are totally made up. I think that parts are historical and parts are not. I don't believe that the supernatural parts of the Bible like the miracle accounts or the resurrection accounts are historical. It's not likely, in the light of the tendency of people the world over to create religious narratives, that this one is any more historical. I don't think that four guys got together and made stuff up. I think four guys heard about a resurrection, through spoken word or previous gospels, believed it, and began writing. What's more likely, that somebody rose from the dead or that a Biblical author wrote a story about it?

                        I don't think that any of the Biblical authors could have ever imagined the popularity that Christianity has attained, so they weren't extremely concerned with people centuries later questioning the validity of the scriptures.

                        Fortunately love is not supernatural. That's why the love portrayed in the Gospels, even for an atheist like me, still speaks through the centuries. I don't have to believe the story to appreciate it's value in the human drama.
                        Without evil there would be no good, so it must be good to be evil sometimes...

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by levi_athan View Post
                          Thanks, Dave.

                          I know what you're saying. But there are certain markers of truth in historical documents that one would look for, especially when there are multiple accounts of the same occurance. I think he's basically saying those markers aren't there with Matthew's account of the Crucifiction.
                          The problem I see with your premise is that you ASSUME
                          1. that Matthew intended to write his book to be a "historical" document
                          2. that a history written in 45-50AD would have the SAME "markers" as a history written in 1700 or 2008

                          Neither of these assumptions is correct.

                          There is a logical axiom that you are also ignoring: "Absence of evidence is NOT evidence of absence!" The fact that one eyewitness does not mention something about an occurrence, that another eyewitness does mention, has absolutely no bearing whatsoever on the truthfulness of the aspect reported by the latter witness!

                          Each of the gospels reports minor aspects of the arrest, trials, execution, and resurrection that are not reported in the other gospels. So what? Take any four people witnessing the same event, have them write an account of that event, and each account will have details that are not included in the other accounts!

                          As a matter of fact, it is this very phenomenon that judges use to determine whether or not there has been collusion among or coaching of witnesses!

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by levi_athan View Post
                            I think four guys heard about a resurrection, through spoken word or previous gospels, believed it, and began writing. What's more likely, that somebody rose from the dead or that a Biblical author wrote a story about it?
                            Then you think they lied about being eyewitnesses?
                            And you think Luke particularly lied about having thoroughly investigated everything?

                            Originally posted by levi_athan View Post
                            I don't think that any of the Biblical authors could have ever imagined the popularity that Christianity has attained, so they weren't extremely concerned with people centuries later questioning the validity of the scriptures.
                            You're right. They neither knew nor cared whether or not belief in Jesus as Lord and Savior would become "popular". Nor did they care whether or not people would believe their accounts. Their only concern was reporting and living the truth -- and 10 of the remaining 11 disciples died miserable deaths for refusing to recant their testimony that AFTER JESUS CRUCIFIXION they themselves saw, talked to, and ate with Jesus who had risen from the dead -- the same Jesus with whom they had spent every day of the last three years!

                            It seems completely illogical (and unreasonable) to me for anyone to assert a premise that the disciples simply heard a RUMOR about Jesus rising from the dead -- and yet, supposedly with no corroboration whatsoever, were willing to die for a rumor! Nonsense. Logic and reason dictate that they were willing to die because they were witnesses to the events they testified about and KNEW that Jesus' bodily resurrection was the truth!

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by levi_athan View Post
                              And just so you know, I don't think these things destroy the gospel message of Ultimate Love. But it does question the historical authenticity of a dead man rising from the grave.
                              Here is a thought. Is the historical authenticity of the assination of John Kennedy in question? We even have film on that one. How consistent are the accounts? Why do some mention shots on the "grassy knoll" and some inssist no way? What about Jack's brain? Is it on life support in some tower?

                              All I can say is it is a shame that you would read that from Paine and it destroy your faith. I know how that works though. Some of us seem to want to "grow up" and decide there isn't a Santa Clause. We look for the slightest hint of undrunken milk and uneaten cookies. We examine the hearth for disturbed ashes. Ultimately, we decide to discard "fables" and embrace "the age of reason". After all, the evidence abounds. The Gospel of Matthew talks about an earthquake and graves bursting open. Our higher institutions of learning teach the Bible right along side the Greek myths. We learn where man really comes from. We embrace reason and become a "new creature".

                              I'll pray for time levi_athan. I praise God that time was allowed for me to work through my unbelief and outright denial of my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

                              God Bless!
                              Watchinginawe

                              I Samuel 3:10 And the LORD came, and stood, and called as at other times, Samuel, Samuel. Then Samuel answered, Speak; for thy servant heareth.

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