Will the saints in Matthew please stand up!

Miraculous historical incident or fairy tale?

by ibn Anwar

  The following story is a short narrative of an incident which allegedly occured after the alleged death of Jesus Christ by crucifixion. How credible is it to the eye of scrutiny? We shall see.

“The tombs were opened, and the bodies of many holy people who had died came back to life.They came out of the tombs after he had come back to life, and they went into the holy city where they appeared to many people.”(Matthew 27:52-53)

It says that many holy or saintly people rose from their graves and marched into Jerusalem! In case you do not know, Jerusalem back then was like New York today. It was a very important city and is not just some small township. Yet, amazingly enough the only human being who witnessed the event and thought to put it into writing was the author of Matthew! Can you imagine dead saintly people rising from their graves and walking into a city and meeting MANY people? It would be the news of not just the century, but rather the single greatest news in the whole of human history. Reason demands that such a novel incident gets recorded by one and all. Yet, we find total silence by one and all except for that solitary individual in Matthew. Not one of the other three gospels mentioned the event. Not one! The problem is compounded further when we are informed by the following from a famous Bible commentary that :

“(perhaps Simeon, Zacharias, John the Baptist, and others who had believed in Christ, and were known to many in Jerusalem,) And coming out of the tombs after his resurrection, went into the holy city (Jerusalem) and appeared to manyWho had probably known them before: God hereby signifying, that Christ had conquered death, and would raise all his saints in due season.” (Wesley’s Commentary)

According to the above Bible commentary those who were ressurected were not just a group of insignificant tom, dick and harry, but rather great teachers of the people like Simeon, Zacharias and John the Baptist himself! These were those who had died. The commentary goes further and emphatically says that they appeared to many “who had probably known them before”. So, there is no doubt whatsoever that this was an open event and not some hidden, secluded incident that went unnoticed. The problem doesn’t end there. We further read :

“And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:” (Hebrews 9:27)

The verse says that men are appointed to die only once and after that is the judgment. If that is the case, then what in the world happened to all those people who were resurrected in Matthew 27:52-53 ? Where did Simeon, Zacharias and John the Baptist go to? Are they hiding somewhere? And what exactly did they do when they met those MANY people in Jerusalem? They just marched into Jerusalem, met all those people and that’s it? Perhaps the fate of those people will never be known to us, but what is most disconcerting is that nobody mentioned it except the author of Matthew : (. You may say,”Yea, so what’s the big problem? So, what if it’s only recorded by the author of Matthew?” Well, it’s quite simple. Several reasons have already been stated, but here’s another one. In all the four Gospels we will read the following:

“…and they sat him thereon(the donkeys).” (Matthew21:7)

“…and he(Jesus) sat upon him(the donkey).” (Mark 11:7)

“…and they set Jesus thereon(the donkey).” (Luke 19:35)

“…Jesus…sat thereon(the donkey).” (John 12:14)

Yes, Jesus SAT ON  DONKEYS! Hooray! The authors of the four Gospels jotted down Jesus riding on a donkey when every tom, dick and harry were riding on donkeys those days. Here’s the million dollar question. How is it that they, the authors of the four Gospels construed it so important to write down Jesus riding on a donkey as if it was some great, special feat when in fact its the commonest possible thing which everybody did, but LEFT OUT such a great wonderous miracle as a mass ressurection of saintly people? By asking this question, I believe the answer is already clear. This incident was no more than a conjuration of the author of Matthew which has no place in real history. Finally, we may also find that Christian scholars like the New Testament historian Michael Licona who in a debate on the subject of Crucifixion in 2004 with Ali Altaie admitted that he does not have any problem in accepting that the story about people rising up from the dead in Matthew 27 is just “literary embellishment”. In lay terms, it is FICTION.

Allah knows best.

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5 Responses to “Will the saints in Matthew please stand up!”

  1. Ali says:

    Sallam,
    When I first read the verse I was astonished. You are one hundred percent correct brother the fact that Mathew is the only writer to have jolted this down as information for his gospel is quite an astounding thought to fathom . As you pointed out brother, how can all four ‘’inspired’’ writers mention Jesus entering a city on the back of an animal, but not holy people rising from their graves and marching into Jerusalem. It is a known fact that the gospel of mark is the first gospel ever written, so I am quite interested to learn from where Matthew would derive this story from. Brother I have one problem with your article, you say that Jerusalem is olden day Ney york city, I personally have to disagree with you, I don’t there were that many Jews in Jerusalem. J
    Great job brother at exposing the bible for what it is. A fraud book.

    I leave with the following Quran verse….

    002:079] Then woe to those who write the Book with their own hands, and then say: “This is from God,” to traffic with it for miserable price!- Woe to them for what their hands do write, and for the gain they make thereby.

  2. Ronnie says:

    Greetings,
    I am quite shocked on how weak this argument of yours is.
    Lets first get all of the weak points out of the way.
    I am shocked that you dont understand the importance of the four gospel writers speaking on the enterance of our lord Jesus.
    I hope you dont want the verse, but it is a OT prophecy that the messiah shall enter on the back of a donkey, and I am sure you know how the gospel of matheww is written, when the gospel of mathew is being writen, the ot prophecies which are fulfilled are being written side by side it.
    The other gospels dont have to worry about this, but none the less. our lord enterting the city on a donkey is a fulfulment of a prophecy.
    Regarding the saints, I first ask you why is it of such importance that the other gospel writers would write such a thing? I am curious to know. Secondly there is no proof that the saintyl bodies included the likes of john the baptist and other sorts of his characters, so please try to not add importance to the verse.
    opnion of many scholars conclude that this verse was a fulfilment of another OT prophecy in isaih which states
    Isaiah
    Chapter 26 verse 19-21

    19 But your dead shall live, their corpses shall rise; awake and sing, you who lie in the dust. For your dew is a dew of light, and the land of shades gives birth.
    20 Go, my people, enter your chambers, and close your doors behind you; Hide yourselves for a brief moment, until the wrath is past.
    21 See, the LORD goes forth from his place, to punish the wickedness of the earth’s inhabitants; The earth will reveal the blood upon her, and no longer conceal her slain.
    As to you question regarding why there is no proof of this other then mathew is quite an unnescary argument.
    here R few quick notes about what we DO know:
    Jesus dies with a loud cry.
    The veil of the Temple of torn in two from top to bottom.
    There was an earthquake of some sort (common for that area).
    The rocks split (a more severe earthquake)
    Bodies of many (but not all) Jewish saints came back to life (of some type-natural or supernatural)
    They come out of the tombs in which they had been buried.
    They went into the “holy city” (undoubtedly Jerusalem)
    They became visible to many people (but not all).
    The events above concerning the raising/appearing of the saints occurred AFTER the resurrection .
    and a few notes about what we DO NOT know:
    How many were raised.
    Whether they were in natural-but-mortal bodies ( Lazarus), natural-but-immortal bodies (), or supernatural/glorified bodies (.
    How long they remained on earth (till Jesus ascended? Until they died?).
    Whether they only appeared to believing Jews ( Acts 10.40-41) or anyone.
    Why were not all the saints were not raised?

    So all in all, your argument is un nesscary and just exposes you for the ignorannce that you attain towards the bible.
    thank you

  3. Ibn Anwar says:

    Greetings,

    First and foremost I’d like to extend a hand of warm welcome to you Ronnie. Welcome to my domain. I thank you for taking the time to respond to my article. Without further ado, let’s have a look at your great arguments against my “weak” ones.

    You said,
    “I am shocked that you dont understand the importance of the four gospel writers speaking on the enterance of our lord Jesus.”

    Well, if you knew me you wouldn’t make such a statement. Without sounding too presumptuous, I have probably read the Bible more times than many Christians. I speak this in light of personal experience. I know exactly the Christian stance regarding Jesus riding NOT just on a donkey but also a colt at the same time into Jerusalem, a stunt(or a circus trick might I add) as fulfillment of prophecy from the Old Testament.

    You said,
    “I hope you dont want the verse, but it is a OT prophecy that the messiah shall enter on the back of a donkey, and I am sure you know how the gospel of matheww is written, when the gospel of mathew is being writen, the ot prophecies which are fulfilled are being written side by side it.”

    Thanks, but I already know the verse involved. And I’m sorry, but you are rather inaccurate in saying that the messiah entered on the back of a donkey(singular) as fulfillment of prophecy. According to the author of Matthew as fulfillment of prophecy Jesus rode on both a donkey AND a colt, the foal of a donkey. So, he rode on two animals at once. Here’s the passage:

    When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethpage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, just say this, `The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately.” This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying, “Tell the daughter of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you, humble, mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

    The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them (Matthew 21:1-7).

    There are two important points of disparity in Matthew’s version of the event as opposed to those in Mark(11:1-10) and Luke(19:28-40). Firstly, According to the author of Matthew Jesus was mounted on BOTH a donkey and a colt whilst Mark and Luke only mentions Jesus riding on a colt. Secondly, Matthew in no uncertain terms saw the event as a fulfillment of an OT prophecy whilst Mark and Luke says nothing at all about prophecy fulfillment. At this juncture one can already notice a clear discrepency in the incident. Nevertheless, let us continue with our analysis.

    The author of Matthew apparently misunderstood the prophecy which he was quoting in Matthew 21. The prophecy in question is from Zachariah:

    “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy king cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, even upon a colt, the foal of an ass.”(Zech. 9:9)

    Unfamiliar with the intricacies of Hebrew poetry and language, the author of Matthew misunderstood the parallel between “riding upon an ass, even upon a colt, the foal of an ass.” in the original wording of Zachariah. This then led to a misquotation and misunderstanding in Matthew 21, “mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” thinking that Zachariah is talking about two animals i.e. a donkey and its foal when actually only one animal is involved. This MISTAKE tells us that whoever the author of Matthew was, he was certainly non-Jewish, hence his obliviousness to Hebraic literary forms. The misunderstanding and misinterpretation led to the absurd idea that Jesus performed a circus-like act, riding on a donkey and a colt into Jerusalem, something which is absent in both Mark’s and Luke’s version of the incident.

    There are many examples for the parallelism found in Zachariah throughout the Old Testament. In fact, Zachariah himself used it often:

    “that the word of the Lord came unto Zechariah in the fourth day of the ninth month, even in Chislev” (Zachariah 7:1)”

    The ninth month was Chislev and vice versa. The two are one and the same.

    Further examples:

    “And he declared unto you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, even the ten commandments” (Deut. 4:13)

    “The Lord hath rent the kingdom out of thy hand, and given it to thy neighbor, even to David.”(1 Sam. 28:17)

    The above is closer as an example to the “prophecy” discussed. Here we see a mention of neighbour and David. But taken in with the understanding of Hebrew literary form we understand that it’s not talking about a neighbour and David, but they are actually the same person.

    “Thou also, son of man, take thee a tile, and lay it before thee, and portray upon it a city, even Jerusalem, and lay siege against it.” (Ezek. 4:1-2)

    In each of the examples given it’s quite clear that “even” or “and”(ve in Hebrew)does not constitute a conjunction between two different beings, but is in actual fact the one and the same being. A Christian ministry says regarding Jesus riding on a colt(singular) in light of Zech. 9:9:
    “For the mighty Messiah to arrive on a donkey’s colt would seem incongruous by the time of Christ. Nevertheless that’s what Jesus did, thus fulfilling Zechariah 9:9 (Matt. 21:1- 5).”
    http://www.biblebb.com/files/MAC/sg2165.htm

    Yet another, Rev. Bruce Goettsche:
    “This is a quote from the Old Testament book of Zechariah. In Zechariah 9:9 we see a prediction that a King would ride into Jerusalem one day on a donkey.”
    http://www.unionchurch.com/archive/032397.html

    Sadly, the ministers failed to realise that Matthew 21 actually says Jesus rode on two animals. There is no doubt that the author of Matthew thought that Jesus rode on both donkey and colt whilst none of the other disciples say so. The others all agreed that it was on a single animal. So, again we see in Matthew 21:7:
    “and brought the donkey and the colt, and laid their clothes on them; and he sat on them.”
    In Greek, we read the last key words “επανω αυτων” (epano autos) epano there is an adverb and it means to be upon something and autos which is a personal pronoun and genetive PLURAl neuter refers to the two animals.

    The fact that Matthew made this stark error and that neither Mark which Matthew is based on according to Biblical scholars and Luke are both silent about it being a prophecy is sufficient to disclaim the idea that a prophecy has been fulfilled. After all, Mark and Luke do mention things which they consider fulfillment of prophecies. If the incident is truly a fulfillment of prophecy they ought to be consistent in saying that it is.

    Ronnie’s problem is compounded further that when Zechariah 9:9 is taken in CONTEXT we see that it is a past event which Matthew conveniently plucked out of context and pasted it on Jesus. In verse number one of chapoter 7 in Zechariah, we see that the Lord had come to him in the 4th year of King Darius. This would be around the postexhilic period when the Jews were busy rebuilding Jerusalem and their temple. The task was difficult and much of what was written was to boost the people’s confidence and morale. The passage wherein Zechariah wrote of a king riding on an ass, was meant at humiliating the surrounding nations who were generally malcontent towards Israel. In verse 4 we see a prediction of the burning of Tyre by the Lord. Ashod, Ashkelon and Ekron, the strongholds of the Philistines were to be cut off and become desolate as seen in verses 5 to 7. And the Lord promised to “camp around [his] house” so that armies will not be able to pass in verse 8. This is the context which the verse in Zechariah 9:9 is extracted from. Did any of those things occur in Jesus time? No, Tyre did not burn, nor did any of those mentioned occur. This is the most commonest trick in the evangelical text book. Take verses out of context and nail it on Jesus’ forehead so as to establish his legitimacy. The prophecy itself is vague and becomes even more vague when taken in context. It is a misapplication by Matthew as already proven.

    However, even if we were to accept Ronnie’s claim that its a fulfillment of prophecy for the sake of argument, I do not see how it diminished the quality of my article. In fact, this additional information of it being a fulfillment of prophecy reinforces my point regarding the mass ressurection. Why? Because, according to Ronnie that mass ressurection from Matthew 27:52-53 is also a fulfillment of prophecy. But this time it’s from Isaiah 26:19. This will be elucidated further in due course.

    I’ve gone through several reputed commentaries of the Bible such as Jamieson-Fausset-Brown’s, Scofield reference notes, Matthew Henry’s etc. and none of them mention it being a prophecy for Matthew 27:52-53. In fact, if we were to take the prophecy and try to apply it to Jesus we shall see a clear misapplication yet again.

    The passage from isaiah 26:19-21 reads:
    “Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead”

    In Matthew 27:52 we see an immediate ressurection of the saintly people after the alleged death of Jesus right after the “veil of the temple was torn”. So this mass ressurection happened on a Friday, the first day of Jesus’ alleged death. There is no doubt that according to the narrative the dead woke up right after Jesus’ death between the veil of the temple being torn and the centurions and those with him who said “truly this is the son of God” in reaction to the earthquake which supposedly happened again immediately after Jesus’ alleged death on the cross. When was Jesus ressurected? According to Christians it was on the THIRD DAY! What did Isaiah say?

    “together with my dead body shall they arise”

    The key word there is TOGETHER.

    Further more, take the verse in context and yet again we shall see that it has nothing to do with Jesus’ alleged ressurection. We read in verse 21:

    “The earth will also disclose her blood, And will no more cover her slain”.

    Did that ever happen?? Even until today, the dead will be disclosed by the earth if they are not burned or thrown into the sea.

    Finally, to recap you said that Jesus riding on a donkey is a fulfillment of prophecy. Okay great. Every single gospel writer mentioned Jesus riding on a donkey as we have seen in the article, from Matthew right to John. So they all managed to write this “prophetic” fulfillment of riding on a donkey(forget about the discrepency in Matthew which i exposed earlier for a moment). At the same token, you also claimed that Matthew 27:52-53 the very passage the article deals with is also a fulfillment of prophecy from Isaiah 26:19. Do you see the problem now? No? Okay, let me spell it out for you.

    Jesus riding of A DONKEY(when everybody else did this) =
    Matthew, Mark, Luke and John all wrote about it. Why? Because its fulfillment of prophecy.

    Saintly people rising from their graves and walking into Jerusalem, the single most extraordinary event in human history =
    Nobody except the author of Matthew witnessed it. This is also suppose to be fulfillment of prophecy.

    Both are suppose to be fulfillments of prophecies. Which is a greater fulfillment, riding on a donkey like EVERYONE ELSE or the saintly people RISING from their graves and walking into Jerusalem? Any reasonable, thinking, sane man will say rising from the dead is a more significant event because of its miraculous nature. Yet, you insist there is no need for the Gospel writers to write them, yet they all wrote about Jesus riding on a donkey. Why aren’t they consistent? If riding on a donkey is written by one and all because its a fulfillment of prophecy, then saintly people rising from the dead deserves even more attention since it is also according to you a fulfillment of prophecy and definitely a great miraculous feat. On the same principle i.e. fulfillment of prophecy the story has to be mentioned by one and all. If you still can’t see the problem, then I feel terribly sorry for you. You yourself recognise the utter ambiguity of the whole affair. Who were they, where exactly did they go to, how many were there, what happened to them etc. Why all the mystery? Because Matthew is the only one who saw it! Because it is nothing more than a little fantasy conjured up by the author of Matthew to dramatise Jesus’ alleged death. It is little wonder that such a story was made up when as we have seen the author can’t even get the prophecy from Zachariah 9:9 right.

    Before I end this response, i’d like to quickly correct you on one thing you said at the end:

    Whether they were in natural-but-mortal bodies ( Lazarus), natural-but-immortal bodies (), or supernatural/glorified bodies (.

    Who told you Lazarus was in a mortal body? With regards to your confusion whether they were immortal or not, i’ve already answered that question in the article. We are informed:
    “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:” (Hebrews 9:27)”

    You do not die a natural death more than once. Thus, we can only conclude that those allegedly ressurected became immortal. In addition, Jesus also said at the upper room,”A spirit has no flesh and bones as you see me have”. If Jesus was a ressurected body and had flesh and bones then one can only conclude that on the same principle the ressurected were also bodily flesh.

    In conclusion, you have brought even more problems to the issue and have not refuted me on even one point. Thank you and do come again.

    Ibn Anwar

  4. Ali says:

    Sallam.
    Mashalllah brother what a great response to respected guest Ronnie. I always knew you as someone who responded to every point, though I never knew you had a response to every point this particular guest brought up, once again brother all I can say is you are absolutely amazing, and I am quite excited for the response by your guest Ronnie.
    Alhamdullah brother that we are blessed with someone of you intelligence.
    I am happy we have people such as you, and Sami Zaatari defending islam, not people such as Christian Prince, or Fares (your article just nailed the coffin on his career). I have one question brother when Jesus supposedly die, is it true that the temple that he said would be destroyed (John 2:19, Mark 11:11-20; Mark 13:1-2) and raised up in three days, did this happen right after his death, which was caused by massive shaking? If so then I find his argument regarding the common earthquakes quite troubling and all this does is just put the bible for him into much more doubt.

    Ronnie said: There was an earthquake of some sort (common for that area).
    The rocks split (a more severe earthquake).
    Argument like these in my opinion will lead one to becoming a Atheist and not a believer of God. I also recommend that before you make the claim that the blog author has weak points, you first look at your own response.

    Walikum Salam Wr Wb

  5. Mansoor says:

    “The tombs were opened, and the bodies of many holy people who had died came back to life.They came out of the tombs after he had come back to life, and they went into the holy city where they appeared to many people.”(Matthew 27:52-53)

    Here is question by Brother Abdullah Kareem:

    It is reported that dead saints came out of their graves and made themselves known to many (Matthew 27:52). When the Jews saw this, why did they not immediately profess faith in Jesus? Where did these saints go? Who did they see? Why is there no account of this story elsewhere other than in Matthew’s Gospel?
    Source:http://www.answering-christian.....ttal_3.htm

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