What is the Significance of the Strange Stories Associated with Jesus’ Death?

Gospel accounts of Jesus’ death and resurrection include some very strange stories: darkness, a torn temple curtain, earthquakes, and the resurrection of a number of deceased holy people. What do we make of these stories? Many believers think these stories actually happened, and that’s okay. It is not impossible, of course, but I don’t think this is the only possibility or the most likely one.

Some of the stories are shared by the synoptic gospels but not mentioned by John. This makes sense because most biblical scholars consider that Mark is actually a source for Matthew and Luke, so it is not surprising that their accounts would read similarly. But where did Mark get these stories?

My guess is that the book of Mark reflects the preaching of a very early follower of Jesus—perhaps Peter, as some early church fathers suggested. If this is the case, then Mark drew from the preaching of Peter and influenced Matthew and Luke in their reports on the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Lets take a look.

crucifixion1
The Darkness from Noon Until 3 PM

Mark 15 tells us: 

At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”)…With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.

Matthew follows Mark in chapter 27:

From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”)…And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.

And so does Luke in chapter 23:

It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining…Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.

Keep in mind that Matthew and Luke are not independent witnesses in this report of the darkness—they are simply following Mark, except that Luke adds that the sun stopped shining—I assume he meant this figuratively and not literally. John does not mention the darkness at all.

So what was significant about the three-hour darkness in Mark’s source (perhaps the preaching of Peter)? I don’t know. Maybe a natural darkness DID occur—dark clouds or a dust storm—but, more likely, the description symbolized something like the figurative darkness surrounding the imminent death of Jesus.

The Tearing of the Curtain in the Temple

Lets return to Mark 15 for a more complete report:

At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last…The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.

Again, Matthew 27 follows Mark:

And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.

As does Luke 23:

And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.

And, again, John does not mention this event at all. So was Mark’s report of the tearing of the temple curtain something that actually happened or was it a symbolic declaration in Peter’s preaching (or some other early follower) that Jesus’ death forever opens us into the very presence of God, which the temple curtain prohibited.

I favor the second option. Even today, preachers often go beyond literalism to elaborate on the significance of something. I think if the temple curtain was actually torn in two that Paul would certainly have used that fact in his letters about Jesus replacing the sacrifices and other temple services that attempt to grant us access to God.

And what about the writer of Hebrews? That writer actually dwells on the comparison of Jesus with the temple services. If the temple curtain was torn in two, it would have been a perfect point to make in the argument of Hebrews.

More Momentous Events Surrounding the Death of Jesus

Now we come to a report that is NOT mentioned in Mark, and neither Luke nor John mention it either. Only Matthew shares this story—in chapter 27:

And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

Matthew says that the earth shook, the rocks split, and the tombs broke open. What might this mean, and why did the other gospels not mention such momentous apocalyptic events? I think these elements were most likely part of the preaching at the Matthean church to emphasize the tremendous significance of Jesus’ death. While there may not have been any historical earth shaking, rock splitting, or tomb opening, these things did describe the meaning of Jesus’ death (and coming resurrection). These occurrences would not have been apparent to observers, but they were enormously significant behind the scenes as would soon be evident in Jesus’ resurrection.

However, I would like to give more consideration to the resurrection of the many holy people. We will do that next time.

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58 Responses to What is the Significance of the Strange Stories Associated with Jesus’ Death?

  1. rwarnell says:

    I have read that the theological statement about the tearing of the Temple Veil was significant in the sense that in Temple worship, the High Priest, on the Day of Atonement, would go behind the veil, make the sacrifice, then coming through the veil would sprinkle the blood of the sacrificed animal on the gathered people. This was the ONE time of the year that God’s Name (YHWH) would be pronounced. Now, with Jesus’ death as the once and for all sacrifice, the veil was no longer needed.

    Liked by 2 people

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Rwarnell, I think you nailed it! We now have access to God without the need for sacrifices,intervening priests, and rituals.

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      • rwarnell says:

        I was raised Roman Catholic. I now follow The Way as an Episcopalian, but try to never lose sight of the purpose is following The Way. I am convinced the Roman Church by exalting the (non-scriptural) Sacerdotal (I would define it as Shamanistic) Priesthood conferred by ordination while barely giving lip service to the (scriptural) Priesthood conferred by our Baptism, it has led to an over-clericalized, dysfunctional church. With that said, I do believe that it is good that certain people be “set aside” in order that the community has structure and things be done “…decently and in order” as Paul said. These folks need to keep Jesus’ example of a the servant down on his knees with a towel around his waist washing the donkey and camel poo off the feet of his disciples.

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        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          Rwarnell, I think you are right that the clergy has become much too distant from ordinary believers. While congregational, and even denominational organization can be good and helpful, many of the clergy are far too condescending, controlling, and demanding of the layman. I still believe in the ‘priesthood’ of the believer. The place of the clergy is not to be an authoritative power over the believers.

          However, there are many true servants among the clergy–and we need every one of them! They tend to be more biblically educated than the laymen and able to give us direction and assistance, and I think they would not hesitate to wash the donkey and camel poo off the feet of their fellow believers.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Marjorie Weiss says:

    Thanks. Good stuff. So sad that do much of this symbolism is taken literally.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Thanks, Marjorie. I think when we take symbolism literally we miss the significance of it and often create misguided ‘truth’ constructs in its place.

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  3. Michael East says:

    Tim, this is a very good analysis of the accounts of Jesus’ death.
    I also subscribe to the view that Mark derives from Peter’s recollections and later preaching.
    And that Matthew and Luke derive from Mark. The more we study the scriptures the more these modern assertions are verified.
    The darkness and the torn curtain are symbolic phenomena.
    But I do not rule out the possibility that God acted symbolically as with the light of the transfiguration. I have experienced a light from God which is both real and symbolic.
    The darkness may have been real as well. But the symbolism is significant.

    Liked by 2 people

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Thanks, Michael.

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    • Sandra John says:

      Michael East. I agree the above is a good analysis and the review of lineage is very helpful. It occurs to me that the tearing of the curtain might actually be a reference to Jesus himself. As an intermediary between God and Man he might be seen as the living, “veil of the Temple, so that, his being torn apart (spirit torn from body) was, both literally and metaphorically speaking, a tearing of the veil of the Temple. One might also see Jesus as both High Priest and Sacrifice who, having gone beyond the veil of matter / into the presence of God, returns to sprinkle (spill) his sacrificial blood on the people. Again that would be both literally and metaphorically true. The crucifixion also parallels the day of Atonement in that Jesus calls out the name of God. I agree that the darkness might have been real. First the sun might have been hidden by dense cloud and who knows if that was somehow caused by Jesus’ death? We now have Chaos theory to validate the possibility. It also might have been an internal darkness clouding the vision of the onlookers – the stress of watching such a death of someone you believed to be the son of God would, I think, have been strong enough to create it. I daresay most people have experience the waves of darkness that precede loss of consciousness from a shock of some kind. It might have been both those things.. Everything happens on all planes and I think we must beware equally of credulity and cynicism. I was very intrigued to read that you experience a real and symbolic light of God. If it is not too personal would you say more about that?

      Liked by 1 person

  4. newtonfinn says:

    Nice job, Tim, of showing how the oral traditions behind the gospels (and the Q source) were amplified in the retelling, even after having taken initial written form. This is precisely the kind of clear, astute analysis that undercuts the intellectual viability of literalism…at least for those who have ears to hear and eyes to see.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Thank you so much, Newton! When we take the symbolic to be literal, we actually miss the true significance and often come to really off-base conclusions instead.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. mandibelle16 says:

    To note, while, Matt, Mark, Luke, agree in many places, there are more sources that each Gospal used other than Mark’s text. The first few pages of my NIV Study Bible introducing the ‘Synoptic Gospels’ note that “91 percent” of Mark is contained in Matthew, while “53 percent” of Mark is found in Matthew. However, we can also note that oral tradition (stories passed down); the existence of an early Gospal, now lost; written fragments composed with various parts of Jesus’s life; mutual dependence or each Gospal supporting each other; the use of not only Mark as a source, but a document called the ‘Quelle’ used by Matthew & Luke; another view that suggests Matthew is the main source (not Mark); and lastly, what I think is true, and as my source states, a combination of some of these theories tell us what happened during Jesus’s death, life,bbirth, etc,. However, they also take into account eye witness experiences.

    For instance, Mary is very young when she has Jesus. So, it’s likely when Jesus dies, that she she is 40 to 45ish. There were other disciples and many other witnesses, Mathew or Mark, in particular talked to, as well, or that they had written from eyewitness accounts. My pastor believed the gospels were written as early as 30years after Jesus’s death. So this makes sense. It’s also noted in my Bible’s intro to Mark/Matthew that John Mark received his info directly from Peter, who would know Mary; that he had his own experiences; as well as, other disciples, and acquitenances/friends experiences, from during the cruxifixian. He is also noted to be related to experiences with Paul in the book of Acts. His audience is ‘Gentiles’ while Matthews was stated to write from the Jewish tradition or perspective.

    When we look at Luke, while his events are somewhat from Mark, he focuses a great deal on the path to salvation. He is a well educated Greek and a physician and a friend of Paul’s. He focuses more on the vital events that lead to salvation through Jesus. His writing is a great deal more educational. He writesalso for the non-Jewish people being apart of God’s plan too; on prayer, in before important occasions; the joy of sharing the ‘gospel’ the good news; the role of women in this; caring for the poor; stress on the ‘family’ circle or the family setting; and repeated use of the ‘Title’ of Jesus as ‘“Son of Man.’” Luke is said to use “personal investigation & arrangement,” “testimony” from “eyewitnesses and servants of [God’s] Word” — including Oral accounts from the disciples and/or apostles. His gospal shows use of “dinstictive material” from other gospels including Matt and Mark, along with John, of course. I know your focus here is the Cruxifucian but it’s vital to note Luke’s Christmas story as the main one most churches use during Jesus’s birth/Christmas, but His birth, life, as with His death, share similar vital events but provide their own pepective and sources about the crucifixian.

    My pastor was also a historian of sort, and very much viewed the gospals as interweaving supports and proof of each other in Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection. Where one gospel did not focus, another would. Also, we can look at when these gospels were thought to have been written, from the source, not my Pastor. Mark could’ve been written around” 50 to 60 AD” but also even in “70 AD,” depending on your theory of which gospel, Matt or Mark, is more likely the first source. However, Matthew is written within “50 to 60 AD,”and “Luke 59 to 63 AD.” However, Mark, Matthew and Luke could’ve been written in the “70’s AD” as well. These are all well supported possibilities

    Also, we need to consider the larger historical context. We have to look, historically, at other writers, censuses, political events, natural disasters etc, that happened around this time through Roman historians and other writers/historians, not in the Bible. Even if it’s just a mention that Jesus was crucified, in some context. I’d have to do more research on this or ask my pastor or other Religious experts, but all that I’ve mentioned is important, and it’s quite literal even though on another level it’s symbolic. Where you note M, M, L, writings about how the earth shook, rocks split, the curtain torn etc., historical documents to corroborate and better understand the diverse and similar aspects of Matthews and the other gospels of Jesus’ Crucifixion are useful. Their varied aspects or perceptions of Jesus’s death such as the darkness, the dead rising, His words before death, the sponge with wine-vinegar, the crown of thorns, and the tem curtain, (etc.) are found in at least the first three gospels, but still given from a different view point in each book. Thus, each of the 4 gospels are proofs for each for, filling in where the others leave out, but also confirming major events. They gospels are complementary, even the book of John.

    As well, I understand the Bible is symbolic in parables (etc.) but also where fortellings of certain events occur. I have learned that the temple curtain tearing is not only symbolic but also literal. It was foretold, along with the dead rising, etc before Jesus death. Matthew 27:45 talks about the darkness, not just at noon but from noon to 3:00 pm approx. Different than the other two major gospels you compare. My source also notes, that the “inner curtain . . .seperatsd the Holy Place from The Most Holy Place, and the [literal] tearing of the curtain signified Christ’s making it possible for all believers to go ‘directly’ to God’s presence,” so not just a symbolic event. The importance of the temple curtain for the Jews is explained in Hebrews 9: 1-14. But Hebrews 9: 11 to 15, in particular, state why Jesus died for all mankind but also why the curtain was literally and figuratively torn. It actually occurred, along with the dead rising etc. In Matt 27: 51 to 53, this is proven. These events had to occur as historical events or literal events, to be symbolic and make a point that Christ is “conquering death through his redemptive work on the cross.” However the mention of the Centurian in in Matthew 27: 54 is also proof of these events b/c he sees them happen. Matthew may have intended to show that the Centurian had faith now, which is the standard belief. But the source notes, he could have been “acknowledging that since the gods had so obviously acted to vindicate” Jesus, then “he must be favoured.” Although the first conclusion seems to be Matthews point. Nevertheless, the centurion is an actual and historical witness.

    Back to Hebrews 10: 14 to 22, we see inductation that theseevents occurred at Jesus’s death, including the temple curtain tearing and other events Matthew mentions. Especially in Hebrews 10:18 the Hebrews writer (thought to be Jesus himself) writes that: “And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer sin.” Thus, there is no need for sacrifice of animals, a Holy Place, or the Most Holy Place, again, it enforces believers direct connection and path to God w/o having to purify themselves or use a sacrifice. Hebrews 10:19 to 23 in particular states: “ . . . by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way open to us THROUGH THE CURTAIN” and since Jesus is our new “great priest over the house of God . . . [l]et us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who is promised is faithful.” All three gospels, in my Bible, have references to these Hebrews verses in chapters 9 and 10 going to Hebrews 10: 22 , but I believe 23 provides the reason for all these events during Jesus’s death. There’s also a reference in Mark 15: 33, 38 to Exodus 26:31-33. Exodus 31 describes the curtain the Jewish people had to use in their temples, with Moses at this time. The promise of Jesus existed and belief in what he would do , dying on the cross and coming to earth, was the focus. As in Hebrews 11: 1 which describes faith: “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see.” It goes on to describe how those before Jesus still had faith (Abraham, Jacob, Esau, Jacob, Moses,Samson, David, etc. Despite Jesus not being born on earth yet. In the rest of Hebrews 11 we are given examples of this. Of those who “liv[ed] by faith when they died” and “did not receive the hints promised; they only saw hem and welcomed them from a distance” (Hebrews 11: 13). Later in Hebrews 11: 39 we read “God had planned something better for us, so that only together with us, would they be made perfect.” So, these events abs the whole of Jesus, death had to occur in reality, to save the faithful throughout all time. The Exodus 26: 31 -33 verses give us a realistic and tactile sense of this curtain torn in two, such as it’s specific luxurious materials. In Exodus 26: 33 we read, “[t]he curtain will separate the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place.” Therefore we know, the curtain was both literal and symbolic as are many events in the Bible. These aren’t just stories and they are many ways in the Bible and beyond it, to confirm this, or argue at at least, that many events as the curtain, the earthquakes, the crucifixian itself, is literal as much as figurative.

    Anyways this is my argument and I know it’s an essay, but your words got me thinking, so I researched, and as you can see I agree and don’t agree with you on certain points. Sorry for the length. It was needed this time.

    Works Cited: Hoerber, Robert G. General Ed, Horace D. Hummel, Walter R. Roehers, Dean. O Wenthe, Associate Eds. ‘Concordia-Self Study Bible: NIV.’ Concordia Publishing House: St. Louise, 1986.

    Liked by 3 people

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Hi Mandibelle,

      Wow, you have done some serious study and research! Good for you! And I agree with much of what you have written. I am very aware that Mark is not the only source for Matthew and Luke. Another common source for both of them is a document of Jesus’ sayings–‘Quelle’ or ‘Q’, as you mentioned.

      In addition, both Matthew and Luke used additional material unique to each of them–for Luke, some of which could have been personal recollections of people he interviewed. I think much of Mark, Matthew, and John came from the preaching of Jesus’ earliest followers who preached in a congregation for a very extended period of time.

      The thought that Mark used Matthew as a source is very much a minority position. I have one commentary (CS Mann) that holds that position, but it seems very awkward when he is working it out in his commentary.

      You seem to understand the ‘strange stories’ I discussed as literal, and that is fine with me. But I do not, obviously; however that does not diminish their importance and impact. Hebrew 10 does talk about by a new and living way opened for us through the temple curtain, but I don’t think the author is saying that in a literal way but simply as access to the presence of God.

      In your concluding remarks, you mentioned Jesus’ crucifixion as being literal; I certainly agree with you on that! And I think his resurrection was literal too. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with us.

      Liked by 1 person

      • mandibelle16 says:

        Lol. I did. I didn’t realize how much I did until I had it all written. Indeed, whether or not the curtain tearing was literal is of minor importance to its symbolic significance as you say, having access to God directly. And yes I definently agree Jesus’ death and resurrection did occur. I do believe that this means belief in Him, means salvation when we die as He is the access to God that ‘tore the curtain.’ Thanks for replying 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • If I don’t believe that these events literally happened, I have no particular reason to believe that the crucifixion happened either. I only see two possibilities, either the writers of the gospels were terrible Liars, in which case I should believe none of it, or else they told of actual events, and I should believe all of it.

        Liked by 1 person

        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          Wild, that seems extreme to me.

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          • I’m not surprised, lol. We aren’t talking about figures of speech to explain a concept here, We are talking about fabricating historical events. What would you call that but lying?

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          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            Wild, I call it trying to understand the New Testament from the culture and point of view of its writers and readers and not by our own church culture.

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    • Paz says:

      WOW Mandibelle, Thank you for sharing your thoughts from your study and research!
      I also believe and totally agree that the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus did literally happened.

      Liked by 2 people

      • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

        Paz, just to clarify–I believe and totally agree that the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus literally happened as well.

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        • newtonfinn says:

          What do we mean by “literal?” When you stop and think about it, it’s really not a simple question at all.

          Liked by 1 person

          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            Newton, by literal I mean that Jesus really died on the cross. He was dead. To loosely quote The Wizard of Oz, Jesus was not only merely dead, he was really most sincerely dead.

            I also believe in the literal resurrection. I think Jesus was no longer dead and that he literally appeared to certain of his followers. I don’t think it was in their imagination; I think Jesus was conscious and literally present with them.

            Is this what you are asking? What are your thoughts?

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        • Paz says:

          Thanks Tim for clarifying, although you really didn’t have to as you had already made it clear in previous comments that you do believe and totally agree in the literal crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus! 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

      • mandibelle16 says:

        Thanks. I guess I was super curious to see how everything related. I’m glad you found it helpful & I’m glad you believe this also 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  6. cmgatlin53 says:

    For anyone interested in the differences and similarities of the four gospels, I recommend R. Bauckham’s JESUS AND THE EYEWITNESSES. It’s a good reassessment of the issues, and ad I recall, somewhat sceptical of some of the more extreme theories about Q (which is only an inference, after all).
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus_and_the_Eyewitnesses

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    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Thanks Chuck!

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    • newtonfinn says:

      Back in my seminary days (early 70s), there was a marvelous book called “Gospel Parallels.” What it did was put side by side, on the same page, the accounts of the various teachings and actions of Jesus, and the events in his life, as told by the four gospel writers. When only one or some of the gospels contained certain material, that was also indicated. I found the book to be an invaluable resource because of the lack of commentary. It was, as they used to say in Dragnet, “Just the facts, ma’am.” You could then read and compare and draw your own conclusons.

      Liked by 1 person

      • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

        Newton, I have used various parallel gospels for years. In fact, I used my current NIV parallel gospels in writing this article. I think they are very useful, though some judgment must be used in some cases on whether certain passages are parallel or not–but this is not a big issue.

        Thanks for bringing it up. I recommend a parallel gospels for everyone who might be interested.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Alan C says:

    I think it’s also worth noting, in reference to the temple veil, that at Jesus’ baptism “he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him” (Mark 1:10). Mark is the only Gospel to include the detail about the heavens being “torn apart” and Mark uses the same Greek word as when he describes the Temple veil being torn in two. However literally or not you take either of these images, there’s obviously heavy symbolic meaning, and Mark seems to at least suggest we should tie these two episodes together–Jesus’ baptism and death/resurrection certainly are the bookends around his ministry.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Alan, thanks so much for sharing this! I have never made the connection between Mark’s two mentions of ‘torn apart’, but it makes good sense. I plan to read the two passages more closely together.

      By the way, I am not sure how the heaven’s being torn open can be understood as literal.

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      • Sandra John says:

        jesuswithoutbaggage. The quote you gave was, “he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him”. That might be taken to mean he, “saw”, that, meaning, he had a vision of that event. Visions, I think we are probably agreed, are seeings into different planes of being and it might be that the intention was to say that the heavens were torn apart on a higher plane: indicating a cataclysmic event on that plane corresponding to a dreadful event on this one. It would then be both literal and metaphoric.

        Liked by 1 person

        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          Sandra, you could be right; I wouldn’t rule it out. The thing that concerns me is people reading everything written in the gospels as literal. It probably doesn’t matter much in regard to the events reported in conjunction with Jesus’ death and resurrection, but the practice of reading metaphor in the Bible as literal does lead to very harmful, misguided conclusions in many cases.

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  8. newtonfinn says:

    Time for my first report on reading Hart’s new translation of the NT, in which he attempts to render rough and clumsy Greek into equally rough and clumsy English. So far, I’ve read Mark, Matthew, and about a third of Luke. What has hit me like a baseball bat is that all three gospels are largely a series of miracle stories interlaced with explanatory parables and sayings. It makes one wonder how such obviously ancient writings, reflecting a worldview so different from our own, have continued to capture the religious imagination for two millennia. Schweitzer observed that this frozen fascination with first century Jewish and Greek metaphysics was responsible for the failure of Christianity to evolve and sink more deeply into human hearts and minds. While I will strive to remain openminded until I’ve finished Hart’s entire NT translation, at this point I see more clearly what Schweitzer was trying to get at. Maybe the letters and other NT books will move my assessment in a different direction, but at this point, I’m not much impressed by the synoptics in the raw.

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  11. I have always found that the distinctions are quite clear between passages that are parables or visions or stories with a moral and those that are describing actual historical events. Again, if the happenings surrounding the crucifiction are merely fabrications to add drama, it casts doubt on the the events from beginning to end. And calling it a metaphor really doesn’t answer anything. If it didn’t happen, there is no metaphor to take from it.

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    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Wild, you call them fabrications, which often means lies. I don’t think they were lies, and I think they are filled with meaning. I am sure this was more clear to those of that culture than it is to us today.

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      • What If I tell you I was driving down the highway and I saw a man get run over by an 18-wheeler and body Parts flew everywhere, and then I saw him magically put back together and get up and walk away. And I get done with my story, and I happen to mention, “Oh, by the way, there was a strange light in the sky when this happened..”
        And let’s say your answer is,” I believe you about the dead man coming to life, that is amazing.” But a weird light in the sky? That part I don’t believe. It’s just too crazy.”

        Thats how this quibbling over the details surrounding Christ’s death and Resurrection strike me. “Well yes, God became man and was killed and came back to life, but that stuff about the temple veil? Naw, couldn’t be true.”
        Of course I don’t believe they were Fabrications. Why should I? And what meaning do they have if they didn’t happen? None.
        Jesus dying at Passover time has much significance and meaning too. But only because it really happened.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Chas says:

          Wilds, they have meaning, even if they didn’t happen, because if people believe that they did, then their behaviour or beliefs will be modified. Some people in churches have acted on the basis of false prophesies they have heard, because they accepted them.

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    • Sandra John says:

      wildswanderer. I don’t see what reason there is to suppose that these reported events were fabrications. that seems most unlikely to me. More to the point the very idea that they might be fabrications has a place only in modern scientific / rationalist thought. If you suppose a metaphoric way of thinking the distinction doesn’t hold. For instance, what should we make of Shakespeare’s account of the assassination of Julius Ceasar e.g. “The sheeted dead did gyre and gymbol in the streets of Rome”, in which play we also read of lions roaring and comets falling etc I very much doubt that anyone has ever thought that this account was presented as either a literally true or a deliberately false account of an event. It is generally understood to be a dramatization meaning a dramatic way of representing something in terms of its inner meaning or implications. It is an, “as if”, way of looking at it. The events surrounding the crucifixion can be seen in the same light. Perhaps the dead did not rise from their tombs (probably not) but it is, “as if”, they did, meaning that the event that did actually occur was as momentous as the dead rising. The recorders of the event just don’t say, “as if”, because, in a metaphoric way of thinking, it is understood to be implied. We have also to consider that people living at the time had certainly never seen the dead rise and for that reason alone would not take the account literally.

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      • Sandra John says:

        and not as an attempt at deception..

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      • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

        Wow Sandra, this is well said! Very well said!

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      • Taking dramatic license with events is the same thing as fabrication. I seriously doubt that the people of the time thought a metaphoric meaning was implied. If I tell you a true story about a thunder storm and add on hail the size of softballs, which didn’t actually happen, I’m not only being dramatic, I’m lying.

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        • Sandra John says:

          I take your point but strictly speaking anything that is made including a true story is a fabrication. On the other hand an untrue story is not necessarily a lie. If it were all literature would be a lie. For something to be a lie there must be an intention to deceive. I wouldn’t say you were lying about the snow balls (unless I thought you really meant to mislead me) just because it is not at all likely to be strictly true and so has no capacity to deceive. An assertion that the sky darkened is believable, because that could mean that the sun went behind the clouds, and the rending of the veil of the Temple is quite possible so these assertions could serve as metaphors or as lies but the difference is in the intention I think. Perhaps we could agree that they were dramatizations rather than fabrications (meaning lies).

          Liked by 1 person

          • Why in the world would I conclude that they were dramatizations? We have absolutely no reason from the text to decide they weren’t literal events. We are even told how people reacted to them. ” An assertion that the sky darkened is believable. ” Sure it is. And an assertion that a man rose from the dead certainly isn’t believable, it’s scientifically impossible, just as the ripping of the veil was impossible, or dead people appearing. No one has given even a hint as to why we should accept one and not the other. “It’s not at all likely to be strictly true.” Which is kind of the point of any of these events happening. Of course, none of the events are likely, they are miracles. If they didn’t happen, saying they did is a bald faced lie. I don’t know about you, but I have zero tolerance for people who stretch the truth, especially if it’s to prove their idea of how things should be. Jesus flatly stated that he is the truth. To claim his followers made up stories to make him look better is to side with the skeptics.
            ” For we were not making up clever stories when we told you about the powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We saw his majestic splendor with our own eyes.” 2 Peter 1:16
            As far as metaphors, sure, there are meanings to the events, but only if the events actually took place. I remember hearing a very well done sermon once on Jesus turning the water to wine, about how we are the water pots and the Spirit is the wine. Fine as far as it goes, but I’m sitting there the whole time thinking: “This has absolutely nothing to do with the text.”

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          • Sandra John says:

            Wildswandrer. I think I was suggesting that the reporters of these events might have been referring to psychic events that are as real in their way as material events and even that they might not make the same distinction between them as we do. I was not including the resurrection but you are right to do so. The same explanation must apply to both. I dont see that my explanation is particularly far fetched and it seems more likely to me that Jesus’ followers were describing psychic events than telling lies. I don’t mean imaginary events. I mean events actually happening on another plane which I think is what we mean by visions.

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          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            Very well said, Sandra!

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  12. Dennis Wade says:

    Tim, I, too, take the death and resurrection of Jesus as literal.

    As to these reports of other saints being resurrected and the tearing of the temple veil, there is a possible explanation if we remember that although Jesus came for all nations, He would have had to take into consideration the culture and religious beliefs of the nation He chose.
    And He chose that particular nation because of their understanding of having a personal relationship with a Living God through the promises made to Abraham, and also the promises of God actually coming to live with them through the stories of the Messiah.

    Of course, the understandings of these promises were not fully understood, and through time some strange explanations arose, just about as strange as the ones we have about the time when Jesus will return and what it will be like.

    For these people who had become steeped in legalism and the idea that the common people could only approach God through the structured priesthood, God might very well do such things as rend the temple veil and raise a few dead saints just to really get His point across. After all, the religious powers who were so sure that they understood God were thinking that they were just executing a “common rabble rouser.” It would most likely have taken something like these strange events to even begin to shake them up from their fixed ideas. And we need to remember that although Jesus spoke quite sharply to these rulers, He would have wanted them to be brought back into the fold also.

    I’m not saying it literally happened, but I am saying that there could very well be a good reason why it could have happened literally. As to miracles in general, I often think of Arthur C. Clark”s famous quote:
    “Any advanced technology that we don’t understand will have the appearance of magic to us.”

    I think it is quite safe to say that God Himself falls into this category of “advanced technology”!
    And because of that, I strive to keep an open mind.

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    • Sandra John says:

      I would not say technology but I know it is possible for the mind to represent psychic events as sensory phenomena and a person as advanced as Jesus might be able to activate that ability in others. In that case a psychic impression of him in the minds of his disciples would be perceived as and would actually be a sensory impression which after all is what we mean by real.

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  13. Dennis Wade says:

    Hi Tim!
    I, too, accept the resurrection as a historical event.
    As for the strange events surrounding His death, I would like to offer a few thoughts.
    There is a way to see these events as literal if we take into account the context in which they occured.

    We need to remember that although Jesus came for all of humanity, He chose one nation to be born into because of the truth that the Father had revealed to Abraham, that God was not an abstract concept, but an actual Living Presence that wanted to dwell with us.
    Over time that promise of a relationship with a Living God became buried beneath legalism and the idea that we could not approach God directly, but had to go through a priesthood.
    One of the main goals of Jesus was to remove both legalism and the priesthood, and although he often spoke harshly to the religious powers of His day, He did so with a wish to set them free of these ideas also.
    If we accept this way of viewing this, then the events of the rending of the temple veil and the risen saints were necessary to shake these powers up and to hopefully smash through their mindsets.

    I don’t mean to say that this is what really happened, but that there is a way to view them where they could actually be true recorded events.

    And as to miracles in general, I often think of that famous quote by Arthur C. Clark, that any advanced technology that we are unable to understand would appear as magic to us.
    And I think it is safe to say that God is definitely an advanced technology beyond our complete comprehension!
    This helps me to keep an open mind on these type of things.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Thanks Dennis. By the way, Arthur Clark’s quote has always made a big impression on me, so I enjoyed your reference to it, “And as to miracles in general, I often think of that famous quote by Arthur C. Clark, that any advanced technology that we are unable to understand would appear as magic to us.”

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