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MATT. 27: 52, 53


All Scripture references are to the King James (Authorised) Version



52. and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, 53. and came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.

Q Is this passage genuine?


A Although the Authorised Version and many other English and foreign translations incorporate these two verses, there are reasons to regard them as interpolations, and therefore spurious. Many commentators have addressed the matter, and their analyses may be found on the Web. We offer a few remarks here:


1) The incident of the raised saints is not mentioned by the other Gospel writers.


2) All those recorded as being resuscitated from death prior to this (supposed) event were raised by Jesus alone (the widow’s son, Lazarus, etc.). See endnote.


3) Jesus was dead when this (supposed) raising of bodies occurred. See Matt. 27: 50. By His death on the cross, Jesus had already paid the ransom merit, after which there could be no bodily raising or resurrection of any kind until His Second Advent, when He returns to establish His kingdom. Until then, the only resurrection would be His own, as the first-begotten and first-born from the dead, raised on the spirit plane. This suggests  that the sequence of resurrection would be: first the spirit, heavenly class (the elect Church); second the class destined to live in the kingdom on earth (the non-elect). See 1 Cor. 15: 20-23.


4) Had the graves opened and the ‘saints’ walked around, showing themselves after Jesus’ resurrection, why would His enemies feel the need to spread the rumour that Jesus’ body had been stolen? See Matt. 28: 11-15. Surely they could have appealed to the events described in vs. 52, 53 to prove that if he had He been raised from the dead He, too, would have been seen?


5) Jesus’ disciples would surely have known about these raised ‘saints’. On this assumption, why did Thomas doubt that Jesus had been raised? See John 20: 25.


Of these verses, the Bible scholar, Adam Clarke, writes:


It is difficult to account for the transaction mentioned in [Matt. 27] verses 52 and 53. Some have thought that these two verses have been introduced into the text of Matthew from the gospel of the Nazarenes; others think that the simple meaning is this: by the earthquake several bodies that had been buried were thrown up and exposed to view, and continued above ground till after Christ’s resurrection, and were seen by many persons in the city. Why the graves should be opened on Friday, and the bodies not be raised to life till the following Sunday, is difficult to be conceived. The passage is extremely obscure.


Note: When sending out His disciples on their mission Jesus admonished them to among other miracles ‘raise the dead’, but there is no record of their having done so until after Pentecost and the bestowing of the holy spirit. See Matt. 10: 8.

July-August 2017


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