A New Dawn

new dawn

10) Matt 28:1: As foretold in Gen 3:15, Christ’s conquest of the serpent came via his execution. Nevertheless, few people in Israel expected their messiah to die (Cf. Deut 21:23; John 12:31–34; 1 Cor 1:22–23).

Imagine how forlorn and forsaken Jesus’s followers must have felt (Matt 27:50, 54–61; Luke 24:17–21).[1]

In keeping with the other gospel writers, Matthew simply announced Christ’s resurrection.[2] He did not describe how, or even exactly when, it occurred.[3]

The familiarity of his original audience with this event may account for our lack of insight.[4]

Ancient writers felt little inclination to pay a scribe to record what their intended readers already knew. In that era, a scribe earned twelve days’ unskilled wages for penning a scroll equal to the length of Matthew’s gospel.[5]

Every resurrection account in the four gospels varies considerably. In the case of Luke 24, the author may have wished to fill the remaining space on his costly scroll. This resulted in a long, detailed report.[6]

Matthew dictated one of his shortest narratives when discussing the resurrection,[7] possibly due to the constraints of scroll length, rather than for theological purposes.[8]

A standard papyrus scroll twelve feet long cost the equivalent of eight days’ wages for an unskilled laborer, just for the materials. People also avoided scrolls over thirty feet long as too unwieldy.[9]

Each author wrote of this event from a perspective familiar to him, without concern about matching someone else’s details.[10]

This points to independent narratives based upon eyewitness traditions circulating in the first century. They broadly converged on the crucial facets of the circumstances of that day:[11] several women visited Jesus’s grave on Sunday morning; they encountered one or more angels; then discovered that Christ no longer inhabited the tomb, for he had risen from the dead.[12]

We have no sense of coordinated deception from the gospel writers.[13] Only reliable testimony of Jesus’s bodily resurrection can explain the explosive growth of early Christianity (Acts 4:1–4; 1 Cor 15:1–8).[14]

Matthew began his account of Easter morning by writing, “Now, after the Sabbath, at the dawning of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb.”

Early Christians celebrated Jesus’s resurrection on the first day of each week,[15] calling it “the Lord’s day” (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor 16:1–2; Rev 1:9–10).[16]

The Didache (ca. 50–120 AD), also known as The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, provides us with the earliest extra-biblical record of Christian practices.[17]

It says, “But every Lord’s day gather yourselves together, and break bread, and give thanksgiving after having confessed your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure.”[18]

Close to the same era, the Epistle of Barnabas (80–120 AD) states the rationale for gentiles changing the day of the Sabbath (Gen 2:1–3). It proclaims:

[W]hen there is no more sin, but all things have been made new by the Lord, then we shall be able to keep it holy because we ourselves have first been made holy. Furthermore, he says to them, “Your new moons and your Sabbaths, I cannot away with” [Isa 1:13].

Do you see what he means? The present Sabbaths are not acceptable to me, but that which I have made, in which I will give rest to all things and make the beginning of an eighth day, that is, the beginning of another world. Wherefore, we also celebrate with gladness the eighth day in which Jesus also rose from the dead, and was made manifest, and ascended into heaven.[19]

In his First Apology (ca. 150–160 AD), Justin Martyr described a service early in church history:

On the day called Sunday, all who live in the cities or the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read as long as time permits; then when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs and exhorts to the imitation of these good things.

Then, we all rise together and pray…when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying “Amen”; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons.

And they who are well-to-do and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succors the orphans and widows, or those, who through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds, and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need.

But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world [Gen 1:1–5]; and Jesus Christ our Savior on the same day rose form the dead.

For he was crucified on the day before that of Saturn (Saturday); and on the day after that of Saturn, which is the day of the Sun, having appeared to his apostles and disciples, he taught them these things, which we have submitted to you also for your consideration.[20]

The arrival of dawn on that Sunday morning ushered in a new era in human history.[21]

In each of the four gospels, Mary Magdalene emerges as a primary witness to the events at the garden tomb.[22]

The “other Mary” refers to the mother of James. Matthew did not mention at least two other women, either for stylistic purposes or due to the slight differences inherent in eyewitness accounts (Cf. Mark 16:1; Luke 24:1, 9–10; John 20:1).[23]

All of them had watched Jesus during his crucifixion, helped with preparations for his burial, and observed his entombment (Matt 27:55–61; Mark 15:40–47).[24]

Now, they returned to Christ’s grave, likely to express their grief in prayer.[25]

Pope Gregory the Great (540–604) first merged Mary Magdalene’s identity with that of a prostitute in a homily dating to 591. He said, “She whom Luke calls the sinful woman [Luke 7:36–50]…we believe to be the Mary from whom seven devils were ejected according to Mark [16:9]” (Cf. Luke 8:2).[26]

No evidence exists that Mary Magdalene had ever worked as a prostitute, either within the gospels or in extra-biblical records.[27]

Image via Wikimedia Commons

 

Read Matt 28:1. Why didn’t Jewish people expect their messiah to die, especially by crucifixion? How do the variations in the four gospel accounts of Christ’s resurrection point to the reality of this event? Why did early Christians begin meeting together on Sundays? How would you characterize the people who first visited Jesus’s tomb that morning?

 

 

 

 

 

Go to Rolling Away the Stone (Matt 28:2–4)

 

[Related posts include Rolling Away the Stone (Matt 28:2–4); Apostles to the Apostles (Matt 28:5–7); From Terror to Adoration (Matt 28:8–9); A Restoration of Status (Matt 28:10); A Most Cruel and Ignominious Punishment (Matt 27:26–37); Forsaken (Matt 27:38–49); The Death of God (John 19:28–30); God Rends the Barrier (Matt 27:50–51); Conversion of an Executioner (Matt 27:54); Rolling Away the Stone (Matt 28:2–4); In the Beginning of God’s Creating (Gen 1:1–2); Let There Be Light (Gen 1:3–5); God Completes the Heavens and the Earth (Gen 2:1–2); The Lord Blesses the Seventh Day (Gen 2:3); and The First Good News (Gen 3:15)]

 

[Click here to go to Women and Marriage Throughout Redemptive History; or to Chapter 7: The Seed of the Serpent and the Seed of the Woman (Genesis 3:14–15)]

 

[1]Wilkins, Matthew, 933.

[2]France, The Gospel of Matthew, 1097

[3]Hagner, Matthew 14–28, 867.

[4]Wilkins, Matthew, 933.

[5]E. Randolph Richards, Paul and First-Century Letter Writing (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 168–9. I calculated this by comparing the length of Matthew to that of Romans in the Codex Vaticanus.

[6]Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, 697–8.

[7]Wilkins, Matthew, 933.

[8]Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, 18 note 48.

[9]Richards, Paul and First-Century Letter Writing, 51–2.

[10]Leon Morris, The Gospel According to Matthew (PNTC; Grand Rapids; Cambridge: Eerdmans, 1992), 733.

[11]Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, 702.

[12]France, The Gospel of Matthew, 1097.

[13]Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, 697.

[14]Wilkins, Matthew, 934.

[15]Hagner, Matthew 14–28, 868.

[16]Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, 698.

[17]Larry W. Hurtado, “Christology: Didache” in DLNT, 181.

[18]M. B. Riddle, trans., “The Didache: The Lord’s Teaching Through the Twelve Apostles to the Nations,” in ANF 7. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, eds. (New York: Christian Literature, 1886), 381, https://archive.org/details/antenicenefather071913robe/page/380.

[19]Lake, trans., “The Epistle of Barnabas,” in The Apostolic Fathers, 395–6, https://archive.org/stream/theapostolicfath00unknuoft#page/334/mode/2up.

[20]Justin Martyr, “The First Apology of Justin Martyr: With Text and Translation,” in ANF01 (trans. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, rev A. Cleveland Coxe; New York: Scribner’s Sons, 1913), 67, 186, https://archive.org/stream/antenicenefather01robe#page/186/mode/2up.

[21]Davies and Allison, Matthew 19–28, 664.

[22]Wilkins, Matthew, 937.

[23]Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, 702.

[24]Wilkins, Matthew, 936–7.

[25]Hagner, Matthew 14–28, 869.

[26]Michelle J. Morris, “Mary Magdalene” in Lexham Bible Dictionary (LBD). John D. Barry et. al, eds. (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016), no pages.

[27]Raymond F. Collins, “Mary (Person)” in ABD 4:579–81, 580.