Resurrection Narratives


According to Matthew

There is a key apologetic focus within Matthew's Resurrection Narrative - he is the only Gospel writer to include the Guard at the Tomb, answering the charge that the disciples stole Jesus' body. He wanted to make clear that these events were beyond normality and emphasises this through the use of the physical Jesus - he speaks to the women at the Tomb and they clasp his feet. He also portrays Jesus as the Messiah, who would bring the Kingdom of God into the New Age. There are also references to angels, confirming that the message was sent from God - "suddenly, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it."

His heavenly status is confirmed when he instructs his disciples to teach all nations. This Great Commission is a reflection of the prophet Daniel, depicting the Son of Man in similar terms.

The Church's mission is clearly stated in Matthew also: to teach, to convert and to baptise. However, Jesus promises to be within the midst of this community. Matthew has also constructed the re-telling of his story to bring out the significance with the two contrasting scenes - the priest's demands to have the tomb guarded and the plot to spread lies about what happened to the body of Jesus.

He emphasises mission work, evangelism and baptism.

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According to Luke

God's Salvation Plan - Luke shows throughout his narrative that God is at work in all of the events as it is part of his plan. The use of the phrase "has been raised" points to the fact that God raised Jesus and that Jesus did not raise himself. The divine plan is also explained on the Walk to Emmaus as Jesus tells them that "Christ must suffer" and explains to them the prophecies in scriptures concerning the event. The Gospel ends with the risen Lord, ascending to heaven.

The reality of the resurrection is evident as it displays the disciples sceptiscism. His physical presence is also made clear during the Walk to Emmaus - Luke wanted the reader to have no doubt of Jesus in the physical form as he walks, talks and even eats fish with the two travellers. He does however, suddenly possess supernatural qualities as he has the ability to appear and disappear. During this, he also figuratively opens the disciples eyes as they do not recognise him until he is gone.

During the narrative, Luke emphasises Jesus' messiahship and kingship in that he is being raised. His glory is revealed to the women and the angels make clear that God's truth was being proclaimed - he is referred to as the Son of Man. He is a fulfilment of prophecy.

There is also the theme of the growth in faith as there is a clear idea of wondering. Walk to Emmaus further demonstrates this - the disciples at the end go out "praising God."

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According to Mark (shorter ending)

The text of Mark has been a matter of debate. Verse 8 ends with "for they were afraid" - this is an odd and abrupt ending to leave thhe Gospel, however Mark's Greek was not good yet poses many questions on whether or not it is the true ending. The Eleven are absent from the events, the women are frightened and confused and there is a clear sense of awe and wonder, something that all the Gospels try to convey. R.H. Lightfoot comments that Mark's ending may have been to emphasise human inadequacy. The earliest manuscripts such as the Codex Sinaticus stops at Verse 8 and Mark is regarded as the first Gospel, ergo he has to be reliable.

"Good news" ends on a note of fear - it seems unlikely that Mark would not include any resurrection accounts. Most agree that this was the intended ending of Mark, and even if there was more, it is probably lost, leaving to interpretation many theories as to why/where the completed ending would be.

The longer ending has been written but this is not Mark's word; therefore not true doctrine. Perhaps Mark wanted to emphasise the supernatural events that took place to further indictate the sense of awe and wonder.

Nevertheless, what happened after the women went away - who informed the disciples and who spread the word of Jesus - the women are regarded as apostles to the apostles so according to Mark, Christianity would never have even been discovered if it ends at Verse 8.

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According to Mark (longer ending)

To end Mark at Verse 16 seems a more natural ending than to end at Verse 8 with "for they were afraid." Ireanaeus, a second century bishop, used these verses as part of the gospel. Tatian, who produced the first harmony of the four gospels into one narrative also included these verses (Diatessaron - 1st mention of a longer ending). However, the material is not accepted as original but rather composed from material drawn from the other three gospels - it is an attempt at harmonisation to make them all the same.

Some endings have both this ending and the shorter one, implying that they are both additions to the original. Some minuscules mark it with an asterisk to indicate that it did not belong with the orginal. The doubt concerning the ending of Mark's Gospel raises the questions as to whether the writer of the earliest Gospel knew the traditions of the resurrection appearance. This could support the view that the Resurrection was a fabrication by the Church.

This ending makes the Gospel definitively end - the women go and tell the disciples of the "good news", Jesus appears to them and the ascension to heaven takes place with Jesus' Great Commission before hand. There is mention of the Walk to Emmaus suggesting that the writer of this longer ending used Luke as a guide, however the Church accepts Mark to be the earliest and first Gospel.

This longer ending also points towards the instructions for the spread of Christianity.

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