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Pondering Matthew 27:52-53


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#1 Joel

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Posted 07 January 2012 - 09:34 PM

In light of the new AiR article on the two resurrections, I started pondering the off case of Matthew 27:52-53:


Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, 52 and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; 53 and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.


Based on my thinking and study, I do not believe that this verse is referring to Old Testament saints and do not believe that what is being described here is "resurrection" (a la Christ). My reasons are:

1) 1 Corinthians 15:23 gives a clear order to resurrections, and Christ is first. Second is those who are his AT HIS COMING. As such this cannot be a "resurrection".

2) The Greek here does not really demand such an interpretation. In fact, the verses strongly imply that those raised came out of graves opened by the "crucifixion earthquake" which struck the Jerusalem environs as described in v52.

What I am thinking with regards to this passage is that what occured was the raising of many disciples (by the time Matthew wrote his Gospel disciples of Christ were referred to as "saints") who had passed away during Christ's ministry but whose bodies were not yet fully decomposed. They were raised in the same manner as Lazarus and Dorcas (body and spirit rejoined but body not made incorruptible) and hence were not Resurrected in the sense of having their incorruptible bodies. Admittedly it is speculation but it is definitely permissable within the text and harmonizes properly with the other Scriptural data on the Resurrection.

Thoughts?

#2 Micha6:8

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Posted 10 January 2012 - 12:27 PM

Now that you bring it up I too would like to hear commentary from those more knowledgable than I. I have never contemplated this passage. The way it is worded seems to explain the graves were opened, but that they were raised when Jesus was resurrected. Then they went into the city. I too would have to say I would be drawing conclusions on who the saints were. How does the greek read on it?
Michael

#3 Tim

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Posted 10 January 2012 - 08:07 PM

Joel,

There is nothing in the Greek to either refute or confirm your interpretation. The fact that it is not referred to as "the resurrection" would also lend support to your point. (Or perhaps I should say that had the word resurrection with the article been used of these people, it would have undermined your point).

Tim

#4 Joel

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Posted 10 January 2012 - 08:14 PM

Agreed Tim. That is why I referred to my concept as speculation. I would however call it a reasonable speculation as it harmonizes properly with the rest of Scripture and the language allows it.

#5 henrydmilligan

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Posted 10 January 2012 - 08:36 PM

The fact that there is noone on earth today with an incorruptible body is sufficient proof that this ressurection is not a permanent one like Christ's and those who are Christ's at his coming. Which leaves only speculation as to whether they were old testament saints or of Christ's followers. Joel's speculation seems very reasonable but like you say, not certain.

Tim, how would the word ressurection disallow Joel's interpretation? Correct me if I'm wrong but doesn't "ressurection" in greek just mean, "Up-standing"? It seems that any dead body being raised to life would qualify, even Lazarus. Woundn't the difference be the nature of the ressurection? In ICor 15:52 Paul says that the dead will be raised incorruptable. Could this mean that he was distinguishing between the future ressurection and the past ones like Lazarus? It's in this same passage that he tells us the order of the ressurections. Therefore it would seem that its the incoruptible ressurection that he is refferencing.

Please correct me if i'm missing something

#6 Tim

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Posted 11 January 2012 - 09:46 AM

Henry,

The meaning of any Greek word is not only derived from its root, but more importantly from its usage. "Anastasis" (resurrection) is a compound of "ana" (again) and "stasis" (to stand). Literally, "stand again." "Stasis" is a verb, however. "Anastasis" is a noun. Even though the noun is derived from the verb, and carries much of the meaning of the verb, the meanings are not necessarily identical. And the way that we refine our understanding of the sense of the verb imported into the noun, is to examine the usage in the rest of the NT, and also the LXX. The noun "the resurrection" with the definite article is used exclusively in the Bible of either Christ's own resurrection or the resurrection of the dead believers collectively at His coming. In both of these cases, people are raised to immortality. This noun with the article is never directly used of a "rising again" to a mortal state, to die again, as in all those whom Jesus personally raised from the dead. Therefore, to be consistent with the Biblical usage of the term, we ought to distinguish between a "rising" from the dead (which has a broad meaning) and "the resurrection" which has a much narrower meaning according to usage.

Tim

#7 Joel

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Posted 11 January 2012 - 02:53 PM

Well put Tim.

So it would be correct to hold that the authors of Scripture used Anastasis as a technical term?

#8 Tim

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Posted 11 January 2012 - 08:57 PM

Absolutely, if the definite article is used.

Tim

#9 henrydmilligan

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Posted 12 January 2012 - 05:20 PM

Thanks Tim.


That makes alot of sense especially the part about the definate article.



#10 Chris

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Posted 13 January 2012 - 10:28 AM

Greetings,

I did a quick search this morning on NT and LXX usage of anastasis (strongs 386). In the NT the overwhelming majority of times anastasis refers to the resurrection at the last day. Most of the time the definite article is used, but not all the time. There is not even a single time when the word is used to refer to resuscitating an individual (e.g., Jesus raising an individual back to life). There is a single use (Lk 2:34) where anastasis refers to rising up in a non-resurrection context.

Anastasis is used only three times in the LXX. In Lam 3:63 and Zeph 3:8 it refers to rising from a sitting position and in Ps 66:1 it refers to the resurrection at the end.

Regarding Mt 27, different greek words are used (i.e., anastasis does not appear in Mt 27):

In vs. 52, the verb egeiro (strongs 1453) is translated arose. A quick perusal of the NT shows that it generally means to arise from a sitting or reclining position. However, this term is also used in reference to rising from the dead (e.g., in Mt 14:2, 26:32, and 28:1). In Mr 5:41, Jesus instructs the dead child to "arise" (egeiro). Context demands that she is rising from the dead, but does not indicate whether this is a corruptable or incorruptable rising.

Also, in vs. 53, a noun form of egeiro (egersis - strongs 1454) is translated resurrection. IMO it would be better translated "rising" so as to differentiate it from anastasis in other NT passages and also to better show the linkage between egeiro and egersis in vs. 52 and 53.

In Christ,

Chris.

BTW, welcome to the forum Henry. :)

#11 Tim

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Posted 13 January 2012 - 11:46 AM

Chris,

Luke 2:34 may not be an exception at all.

"Then Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary His mother, "Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising [lit. resurrection] of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against."

Since the inheritance of the land is possible only through resurrection, this certainly could be speaking of many of Israel being resurrected because of Christ's work, making resurrection for believers possible. And the "fall" certainly could refer to eternal damnation.

There is one other passage you may have overlooked, however, which does not seem to refer to the "resurrection" of the just or "resurrection" of the unjust.

Heb 11:35
35 Women received their dead raised to life again. Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection.
NKJV


Literally, it says, "women received from resurrection their dead." The definite article is not present here, but it seems to refer to being raised to a mortal state. Perhaps it refers to the widow's son whom Elijah raised.

In any case, there are NO cases in the NT where "anastasis" does not refer to the rising of the body. Since "anastasis" is never used figuratively in Scritpture, amillennialists have a really hard nut to crack to try to make "the resurrection, the first one" in Revelation 20 out to be something non-physical which does not involve the body.

Tim

#12 Joel

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Posted 13 January 2012 - 12:11 PM

Hi,

This all seems to support my thinking, which is that Anastasis is a "technical term" and that the the individuals in Matthew 27 were not Old Testament saints and were not resurrected after the pattern of Christ but instead raised similar to Lazarus and Dorcas. This thinking is also harmonious with the other Scriptural uses of Anastasis and is consistent with Paul's statements about resurrections happening in a defined order.

#13 Tim

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Posted 14 January 2012 - 10:05 AM

Joel,

I would only go so far as to say that anastasis with the definite article is a technical term, referring to the rising again to either everlasting life or everlasting damnation. Since this term is not used in Matt. 27:52-53, it says nothing about the meaning of that passage, IMO.

Tim

#14 Tim

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Posted 14 January 2012 - 10:26 AM

Chris,

The use of "anastasis" in the OT LXX is pretty facinating. It appears in the following 3 passages:

1. The first occurrance is in the title of Psalm 66. "For the end, a Song of Psalm of resurrection." And the Psalm goes on to speak about the Kingdom.

2. In Lam. 6:63, Jeremiah was speaking about the wicked, and God seeing their crimes. He says,
58 "You adjudicated, O Lord, the punishments of my soul. You ransomed my life.
59 You saw, O Lord, my disturbances. You judged my case.
60 You beheld all their vengeance, and all their devices against me.
61 You heard their scorning, all their devices against me;
62 the lips of ones rising up against me, and their meditations against me the entire day;
63 their sitting down, and their resurrection, behold upon their eyes!
64 You shall recompense to them a recompense, O Lord, according to the works of their hands.
65 You shall recompense to them, while shielding the trouble of my heart.

66 You shall pursue them in anger, and shall completely consume them beneath the heaven, O Lord.

At first glance "anastasis" appears to be in contrast to "sitting down," and thus it is understood here to refer to rising from a seated position. The Hebrew says, "Look upon their sitting down and rising up." Yet, notice that immediately following this statement, we have Jeremiah speaking of their damnation, and being consumed. In this context, Jeremiah may actually be referring to the resurrection of damnation which Jesus mentioned later (John 5:29). If that is so, then "sitting down" is a metaphor for death, and "resurrection" is literal, as in every other passage where this term appears.

3. The last occurrance of "anastasis" in the LXX is: Zeph. 3:8
"Therefore wait upon me, says the Lord, until the day of my resurrection for a witness: because my judgment shall be on the gatherings of the nations, to draw to me kings, to pour out upon them all my fierce anger: for the whole earth shall be consumed with the fire of my jealousy."

This is a reference to Christ's resurrection "for a witness" to Israel that God will fulfill the prophesies about the judgment on the Gentile nations at the Battle of Armageddon.

Therefore, just as in the NT, every occurrance of "anastasis" refers to a bodily resurrection.

Tim

#15 Joel

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Posted 14 January 2012 - 11:54 AM

Joel,

I would only go so far as to say that anastasis with the definite article is a technical term, referring to the rising again to either everlasting life or everlasting damnation. Since this term is not used in Matt. 27:52-53, it says nothing about the meaning of that passage, IMO.

Tim


Point taken Tim. I was a little imprecise in my language - you are quite correct that it would be Anastasis with the definite article that would be the technical term, and also that since the term does not appear in the Matthew passage it is not on point there. However, I would contend that because Matthew did not use the technical term that we are not talking about being raised into an incorruptible body, but rather something like what happened to Lazarus and Dorcas.

By the way, part of why I was pondering in the first place was to account for all of the different Scriptures where dead are raised in the context of two Resurrections.

#16 Tim

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Posted 15 January 2012 - 07:00 AM

Joel,

I don't think the absence of "anastasis" in that passage implies anything at all. The reason I say this is because "anastasis" sometimes is absent in passages that are clearly speaking of "the resurrection." (Example, 1 Thess. 4:16). Silence means nothing at all.

Tim

#17 Joel

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Posted 15 January 2012 - 10:55 AM

That makes sense Tim.

So are you saying that I am incorrect and Matthew is referring to people Resurrected in the sense of Christ?

#18 John

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Posted 19 April 2012 - 06:25 PM

I did a pretty thorough study of the Greek the other day of this very topic. What I found may change the way we view Matthew 27:52,53 alt

#19 John

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Posted 19 April 2012 - 06:29 PM

...altogether. I think it also effectively refutes the pretrib teaching of "multiple stages of the first resurrection". Anyone care to see what I found?

#20 Joel

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Posted 19 April 2012 - 06:37 PM

John.

Welcome and feel free to share your findings.




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