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Wordwise Insight, Issue #113
January 14, 2014


BIBLE INSIGHTS (and Reader Q & A): What do we know about the strange resurrection occurring in Matthew 27:52-53?

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Early Resurrection

(About those raised in Matthew 27:52-53)

QUESTION: In Matthew 27:52-53, what did the saints say when they appeared to many? Josephus does not write anything about it.

ANSWER: You ask an interesting question. Of course we don't really know what they said, since the Word of God doesn't tell us. But it's worth taking a closer look at this unusual miracle.

Matthew reports that when the Lord Jesus died "the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom" (Matt. 27:50-51). This "veil" was the curtain that divided off the Holy of Holies, a place that only the high priest was allowed to go–and only once a year, on the Day of Atonement. By the supernatural tearing of this heavy curtain, God announced that now a way had been opened into His presence, for all who would trust in Christ (cf. Heb. 10:19-20).

At the same time, a great earthquake shook the land (Matt. 27:51), and it broke open many of the tombs in the area. Then, after Christ's resurrection on the Sunday morning, "many" of these saints who were dead and buried were also resurrected, and went into Jerusalem, where they appeared to others (vs. 52-53). Several questions can be asked about this strange occurrence.

1) How many of the saints were raised from the dead–how many is "many"? One ancient source in the Ante-Nicene library says it involved 12,000 people, claiming that they walked through the land until Christ's ascension, when they were caught up to heaven with Him. It says that among those resurrected was old Simeon (Lk. 2:25).

Well, maybe. But the number seems impossibly high, and neither that nor any of the other details are substantiated by Scripture. Given the circumstances, I would think a couple of dozen could be considered "many."

2) Another pertinent question is: What kind of resurrection was this? Were these dead saints simply restored to mortal life temporarily, as Jairus's daughter was (Mk. 5:41-42), or Lazarus was (Jn. 11:43-44)? Or did they...

(To read the remainder of the article, click on Early Resurrection.


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I have developed a blog that is called Wordwise Hymns. As the title suggests, it is about hymns, and church music in general.

But as many of you will know, a blog is especially designed to facilitate a conversation on its particular subject. Readers can easily post comments about what they see, and I'm able to reply. I hope you will take part in the discussion!

Through 2010, almanac entries dealt with what happened in hymn history on each day of the year. Beginning in 2011, I hope to analyze hymns from a biblical standpoint, linking to the material that has come before.

My hope is that the blog will add to the value of the website and this newsletter, and promote some profitable exchanges on the subject of sacred music.

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