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HARMONY OF THE ACCOUNTS
RESURRECTION, APPEARANCES, AND ASCENSION OF CHRIST.
I. THE RESURRECTION.
As there has been much difficulty felt in reconciling the accounts of the different evangelists respecting the resurrection of Christ, and as infidels have maintained that they are utterly irreconcilable, it may be proper, in closing the Notes on Matthew, to give these accounts at one view. One thing should always be borne in mind by all who read the gospels, viz.: that the sacred narrative of an event is what it is declared to be by all the evangelists. That a thing is omitted by one does not prove that another is false because he has declared it ; for the very object of the different gospels was to give the testimony of independent witnesses to the great facts of the life and death of Jesus. Nor does it prove that there is a contradiction because one relates facts in a different order from another ; for neither of them professes to relate facts in the precise order in which they occurred. The object was to relate the facts themselves. With these principles in view, which are conceded to profane historians always, let us look at the accounts which are presented in the sacred narrative respecting the resurrection, appearance, and ascension of Christ.
1. Jesus was laid in the tomb on Friday evening, having been wrapped in linen with myrrh and aloes, in a hurried manner. John xix. 39, 40. The romen, not apprised of that, or desiring to testify their regard further, prepared spices on the same evening to embalm him. Luke xxiii. 56. As it was too late that night to complete the preparation, they deferred it till the first day of the week, resting on the sabbath. Luke xxiii. 56.
2. On the first day of the week, carly, the women completed their preparation, purchased more spices and properly mixed them to make an unguent to anoint the bandages in which the body was rolled. Mark xvi. 1. Or this may refer to the same purchase as is mentioned by Luke. They had bought them, i.e., on Friday evening.
3. They came to the sepulchre just as the day began to dawn, or just as the light appcared in the east, yet so dark as to render objects indistinct. It was “in the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn towards the first day of the week." Matt. xxvii. 1. “Very early in the morning, at the rising of the sun ;" or as the sun was about to rise. Mark xvi. 2. “Very early in the morning.” Luke xxiv. 1. “Early, while it was yet dark.” John xx. 1. 4. The persons who came were Mary Magdalene, Matt. xxviii. 1.
John xx. I. Mary, the mother of James and Joses, Matt. xxviii. 1. Luke xxiv. 10. Mark
Salome, the wife of Zebedee, and mother of James and John. Compare Matt. xxvii. 56. Mark xv. 40. Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod's steward, compare Luke viii. 3 ; xxiv. 10 ; and certain others not specified. Luke xxiv. 1. 10.
5. The object of their coming : 1. To see the sepulchre. Matt. xxviü. 1. 2. To embalm him, or to finish embalming him. Mark xvi. I. Luke xxiv. 1.
6. While on the way, they inquired who should roll away the stone for them, that they might have access to the body of Jesus. Mark xvi. 3.
7. When they arrived, they found that there had been an earthquake, or shaking of the tomb, so that the stone was rolled away. Matt. xxviii. 2. Mark xvi. 4.
8. The angel, who rolled the stone away, had sat down on it, and appeared to the keepers, and frightened them ; though he did not appear in this place to the women, but only to the keepers. Matt. xxviii. 2-4. At that time probably our Saviour had risen; how long before the women came there is not known, and cannot be ascertained.
9. When they came there, Mary Magdalene, greatly agitated with the appearance, and probably supposing that the body had been stolen, left the other women, and ran to the city, at the distance of half a mile, to inform the disciples. John xx. 2.
10. While Mary was gone, the others probably looked round the garden in search of the body, and then came and examined the sepulchre to see if it was not there. The tomb was large, and they entered into it. There “ the angel spake unto them.” Jlatt. xxviii. 5. “They saw a young man”-i. e., an angel in the appearance of a young man,“ sitting on the right side.” Mark xvi. 5. When they entered he was sitting ; as they entered he rose and stood. Luke xxiv. 4. Luke adds that there kas another with him, xxiv. 4 ; this other one was not seen when they entered into the sepulchre, at the time mentioned by Mark ; but was seen when they had fully entered in, as mentioned by Luke.
11. The angel charged them to go and tell the disciples and Peter, Mait. Ixvii. 7, Mark xvi. 7, and to assure them that Jesus would see them in Galilee. The angel also reminded them of what Jesus had said when they were in Galilee. Luke xxiv. 6, 7.
12. They went immediately towards the city, yet taking a different way from the one Mary had taken, or going in such a way that they did not meet her when she was returning from the city with Peter and John. Matt. xxviii. 8. Mark xvi. 8. • They said nothing to any man.” Luke xxiv. 9, 10. In Luke xxiv. 10, it is said that it was Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, that told these things to the disciples. Not that Luke affirms that they were together when they told them, but that the information was given by them, though perhaps at different times.
13. While they were gone, Mary Magdalene returned to the sepulchre, following Peter and John, who came running. John xx. 2—9. They examined the sepulchre, and found that the body was really gone ; but as yet they did not know the reason, not having seen the other women to whom the angel had told the cause, and Mary Magdalene having left the women before the angel had spoken to them. As yet, therefore, she was ignorant of the reason of his removal.
14. Péter and John then left the sepulchre, returned home, and left Mary alone. John xx. 10.
15. While Mary was there alone, she looked into the sepulchre, and saw two angels, probably the same that had appeared to the other women. John xx. 11–13.
16. Jesus appeared to Mary while she was alone at the sepulchre. John xx. 14-18. Thus, according to Mark, xvi. 9, he appeared to Mary Magdalene “ first.”
17. Mary then went to tell the disciples that she had seen him, but they did not fully believe her. Mark xvi, 10, 11. John xx. 18.
18. Afterwards Jesus appeared to the other women. Matt. xxviii. 9. “As they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail.” This would xem, in Matthew, to be immediately after they left the sepulchre the first time. But many critics observe that the words,“ to tell his disciples," are wanting in many manuscripts, and of doubtful authority. It may be further said, that the words “as they were going,” might have been rendered, “after they were gone." They do not imply, of necessity, that the appearance took place immediately, but only after they were gone, without specifying the time. Probably it was not long after he had appeared to Mary Magdalene. They would probably return to the garden after they had informed the disciples, and linger around there that they might ascertain what had become of him, or learn whether he had been seen by any one. It was then, probably after they had been away and returned, and after he had been seen by Mary, that they saw him.
IT. APPEARANCES OF JESUS AFTER THE RESURRECTION. 1. To Mary Magdalene. Mark xvi. 9. John xx. 14. 2. To the other women. Matt. xxviii. 9. 3. To Peter. Luke xxiv, 34. 1 Cor. xv. 5.
4. To two disciples as they were going to Emmaus. Mark xvi. 12, 13. Luke xxiv. 13–32.
5. The same day at evening, to the apostles, in the absence of Thomas. Mark xvi. 14. Luke xxiv. 36. John xx. 19, 24. i Cor. xv. 5.
6. To the apostles when Thomas was present. John xx. 26—29.
7. In Galilee, at the sea of Tiberias, to Peter, Thomas, Nathaniel, James, and John, and two others. John xxi, 1–14. This is said to be the third time that he showed himself to the disciples--i. e. to the apostles--when they were assembled together. John xxi. 14.
8. To the disciples on a mountain in Galilee. Matt. xxvii. 16, 9. To more than five hundred brethren at once. 1 Cor. xv. 6. 10. To James, one of the apostles. 1 Cor. xv. 7.
11. To all the apostles assembled together. Cor. xv. 7. He was seen by them forty days after he rose-probably conversing with them familiarly.
12. To the apostles at his ascension. Luke xxiv. 50, 51. Acts i. 9, 10. 13. To Paul. Acts ix. 3—5; xxii, 8. 1 Cor. xv. 8.
THE ASCENSION. 1. It was forty days after his resurrection. Acts i. 3.
2. He ascended from the mount of Olives, near Bethany. Luke xxiv. 50, Acts i. 12.
3. It was in the presence of all the apostles. Luke xxiv. 50. Acts i. !!, 10.
4. He was received into a cloud, and ascended to heaven. Luke xxiv. sl. Acts i. 9, 11. Eph. i. 20-22.
This gospel, written with the same general object, and under guidance of the same inspiration as the other evangelical narratives, would of course resemble them in its general features. It has, however, its peculiarities. That which it most resembles is the preceding gospel by Matthew; it differs, however, from it in several particulars. Matthew's gospel, as was remarked, p. 18, is an argument addressed to Jews principally. Mark's is a narrative designed chiefly for Gentiles. Mr. Barnes has remarked in the preface to this gospel, on page 353, that Mark is generally regarded as having been the companion of Peter : his gospel consists no doubt mostly of the facts in our Lord's history which that apostle dwelt upon in his ministrations. Whether Matthew's history had been read by Mark, or was used by him in preparing his own narrative, cannot now be determined. Neither of these suppositions is improbable : Mark’s explanation of Jewish customs, as in ch. vii. 2-13; xü. 18; xi. 3 ; xiv. 12 ; xv. 6, 42; and his infrequent references to Old Testament predictions, may be taken as proof that he wrote for Gentiles. He omits the genealogy of Jesus, and the sermon on the mount, both of them important in an argument with Jews; the one tracing his connexion with David according to their prophecies, and the other showing the relation between the teaching of Jesus, and the Old Testament dispensation; they were less important in a history for Gentiles, and hence, probably, the omission.
Mark also differs from Matthew in the order of time which he observes in his narrative. Matthew groups events and discourses together, with a view to his argument; distribution and consecutive oriler better suited Mark's purpose; and probably in that purpose, may be traced the reason why Mark relates so few of Christ's discourses, so little, in fact, of the instructions he gave, whether to his disciples or to the inultitude. Events were best adapted for the vivid impression he sought to produce, as well as for the general circulation among Gentiles, which probably he anticipated.
The contents of Mark's gospel for the most part are not new. They had been exhibited, or they were touched upon, by Matthew; Mark, however, exhibits them with greater minuteness, as well as with more chronological accuracy. See ch. iv. 37–41; vi. 7, 8, 13; vii. 33; viii. 23. Mark mentions numbers, dates, times, &c., with more precision than Matthew : see ch. i. 32, 35 ; ii, 1, 26; iv. 26, 35 ; v. 13, 42; vi. 2, 7, 14, 30; xi. 11, 19, 20; and some other passages. In the whole structure of his gospel he is the more graphic and lively writer. He strives rather to portray Christ's performance of the outward functions of his office, than to communicate his discourses and prove his messiahship. Or he looks at the outward, while Matthew looks at the theological. Compare, for instance, Matt. viii. 28—34, where the cure of the Gadarene demoniacs is described in general and matter-of-fact terms, with Mark v. 1-19, where the same occurrence is in the most vivid manner brought actually before us. Compare, also, Matt. xiv. 1-12, with Mark vi. 14-20. There are many other similar parallel passages.
The same desire for enlargement and explanation is also manifested in minor circumstances. Matthew, ch. ix. 18, only mentions a ruler ; Mark gives both his name and office, ch. v. 22. Matthew describes Barabbas merely as a notable prisoner, ch. xxvii. 16 ; Mark tells us his crime, ch. xv. 7. According to Matt. xvi. 5, the disciples had forgotten to take bread with them; yet Mark says, ch. viii. 14, they had one loaf. Matthew speaks, ch. viii. 30, of a herd of many swine ; Mark, ch. v. 13, of about two thousand. This peculiarity of Mark's gospel will serve to explain many apparent contradictions. Matthew speaks of two demoniacs, ch. viii. 28, and two blind men, ch. ix. 27; Mark of but one in each case, ch. v. 2, x. 46. Something peculiar in the circumstances or character of one of these persons rendered him more prominent, and led Mark to speak of him particularly. " He who narrates the greater number,” says Le Clerc, “ includes the smaller; he who mentions the smaller, does not deny the greater."
A few brief sections Mark has that are peculiar to himself; they are chiefly historical. See ch. iii. 8-11, 19-21; v. 18—20; vii. 32—37 ; viii. 22–26; xiv. 51, 52. Here and there a doctrinal section peculiar to him may be discovered ; see ch. iv. 26–29; xi. 24–26; and somewhat frequently Mark's minuteness leads him to mention what other evangelists omit in incidents which they, as well as he, have given.
See ch. ix. 20–25 ; x. 49, 50; xi. 4-6; xii. 32-34. On the whole, while Matthew's gospel is an argument, Mark's is a history. One alleges its incidents in support of certain views; the other presents them in the form of a narrative, lucid, instructive, and of the utmost value ; designed for all times and for every people.