A Real Resurrection or Something Else?
The Word of Elohim is a living word and will continue to speak personally to every individual who dares to read it. No mater how many times passages have been read and studied something new will emerge if you keep reading and studying that particular passage long enough. People from all walks of life have peered into the words that the Bible contains, many who make no profession to the one true God revealed within. Christians have mulled over its words for over two thousand years now and Jews have been pondering over it for thousands more. Although mankind has dissected it time and time again, the words still contain mysteries which will never be truly understood in this life.
I have read the entire Bible many times and still find myself amazed at the mysteries lying beneath the surface. Sometimes I cannot even grasp those things which would seem to me to be understood by children whenever the words were penned.
When I encounter a particular passage that I cannot understand I will keep coming back to it over and over and try to pray and study it out until I think that I can grasp its meaning, at least a little. Then there are other times when the passage baffles me to the point that I just choose to leave it alone until one day when God may decide to give me a little more insight.
There are many such passages in the Bible that I have chosen to walk away from until a later date and time. Today I am going to share one of those troubling passages with you and give a little historical insight into a possible explanation for these scriptures that have baffled me since early childhood when I first began to read the Bible.
In Matthew 27:51-53 we read:
And see, the veil of the Dwelling Place was torn in two from top to bottom, and the earth was shaken, and the rocks were split, and the tombs were opened, and many bodies of the set-apart ones who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection, they went into the set-apart city and appeared to many. (TS2009)
These scriptures bother me for several reasons:
First, the Apostle Matthew is the only person in the gospels or in any other book of the Renewed Covenant (New Testament) to mention this resurrection of saints in conjunction with Messiah Yeshua. This seems pretty significant so why wasn't it mentioned elsewhere in the Renewed Covenant? Second, why aren't we told what happened to these resurrected people, and third, what were they saying to the people that they appeared to in Jerusalem?
The whole passage just doesn't make any sense to me although I have heard many explanations and I have read many commentators views on what happened here. For many years I accepted one particular viewpoint (that I won't take the time to go into here) until I realized that it wasn't scriptural.
My main problem with this passage is that scripture does not bear out that anyone has resurrected from the dead yet except Yeshua who was the first fruits of the resurrection. Those who are His at His coming will resurrect to life in the first resurrection (the resurrection to life) but again, that will not happen until He returns. So, what is up with these passages?
Several months ago I bought a new book entitled, “The Messiah Texts – Jewish Legends of Three Thousand Years” by Raphael Patai. In this book the author has compiled a trove of ancient “Jewish legends dealing with the coming of the Messiah and the events preceding, accompanying, and following his advent. These texts are excerpts from an exceedingly voluminous literature spanning three millennia” (quotation from the preface of the book).
I have found a ton of valuable information concerning ancient Jewish thought on the coming Messiah. The concept of Messiah has evolved much throughout the millennium. Anyone who has studied extensively has surely discovered the concept of Messiah the Son of Joseph or Ephraim and Messiah the Son of David. The first being the Messiah who would come as the suffering servant and the second as King.
Extensive commentary has been devoted to these two Messiah's. Many things have been imagined to happen when either of these two Messiah's should appear on the scene.
For us to imagine that the first century apostles were not aware of these traditions would be ridiculous. Just as we are aware of the traditions and culture around us, so were they. It shaped who they were as a culture and as a people group. Many of these traditions were just allegorical and not to be taken literal but were to show the importance of an event or the importance of a person.
Here is what I found written in this book as taken from the original source (and I personally believe it explains the text we are discussing):
The Fathers of the World (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) will in the future rise up in the month of Nissan and will speak to him: “Ephraim, our True Messiah! Even though we are your fathers, you are greater than we, for you suffered because of the sins of our children, and cruel punishments have come upon you the like of which have not come upon the early and the later generations, and you were put to ridicule and held in contempt by the nations of the world because of Israel, and you sat in darkness and blackness and your eyes saw no light, and your skin cleft to your bones, and your body dried out and was like wood, and your eyes grew dim from fasting, and your strength became like a potsherd. All this because of the sins of our children......”
In that hour the Holy One, blessed be He, raises up the Messiah unto the heaven of heavens and spreads over him the splendor of His Glory (to protect him) from the nations of the world....
(Pes. Rab. Ch 36) (boldness added by me).
Did you catch this? Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will arise in the month of Nissan and speak to the suffering Messiah and say these words to Him. Yeshua was crucified and arose in the month of Nissan. Then it goes on to say that the Holy One would exalt this suffering Messiah to the heavens. Well, that is just what happened!
The book goes on to record by another ancient sage:
In that hour the Holy One, blessed be He, will crown the Messiah and place a helmet of salvation on his head, and give him splendor and radiance, and adorn him with clothes of honor, and stand him up on a high mountain in order to bring glad tidings to Israel. And he will let it hear with his voice: “Salvation is near!” And Israel will say: “Who are you?” And he will say, “I am Ephraim.” And Israel will say: “Are you the one whom the Holy One, blessed be He, called Ephraim, My firstborn, Ephraim is a darling son to Me?” and he will say, “Yes”. And Israel will say to him: “Go and bring glad tidings to them that sleep in (the cave of) Machpela, that they should rise first.”
In that hour he goes up and brings glad tidings to those who sleep in Machpela, and says to them: “Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, rise! Enough have you slept! And they reply and say: “Who is this who removes the dust from over us? “And he says to them: “I am the Messiah of the Lord. Salvation is near, the hour is near.” (Pirqe Mashiah, BhM 3:73-74) (Boldness added by me)
Machpela is the cave where Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebekah and Leah were buried. It is in Hebron, Israel.
There is much more that I could add here from this book, but my hope is that you see the point. Could it be that Matthew is alluding to this tradition. Could it be that this tradition was already circulating in the first century?
Matthew wrote his letter in Hebrew and to the Jews. He did not write to the nations. If the tradition was circulating at that time then Matthew would be drawing his Jewish readers in by informing them that Yeshua was the one that this tradition was about. He, the suffering servant, Messiah the son of Ephraim/Joseph had come! That would also explain why we do not read about this event in any other gospel, or in fact, in any other place in the Renewed Covenant because the event did not really happen it was just drawn from an allegorical tradition about the importance of the Messiah Son of Ephraim. Matthew used this tradition for readers who would have been aware of the tradition. They would have understood.
I will leave this for you to ponder, but as for me, it is settled in my mind.
Patai, Raphael (1979) The Messiah Texts – Jewish Legends of Three Thousand Years, pp 113-114; 202