Golden Opportunities Passed Up
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There are places where very minor alterations or enhancements might have significantly strengthened the Christian cause: yet even here the writers are careful not to overstate their case.
- a) Regarding Jesus’ claims to Messiahship and Divinity.
- One of the most obvious examples is Jesus’ response to the High Priest’s demand, ‘Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God!’ Both Matthew and Luke tell us that his actual response was, ‘You say (that I am)’. Although this answer has the force of an affirmative, especially in the light of his accompanying remarks, and the Jews clearly took it as such (Mt 26:64, [Mk 14:62, Lk 22:70]), only Mark renders it in this way.
- b) The tomb not guarded till the second day.
- If Matthew were simply inventing the story of the guards in order to bolster the resurrection story, why does he tell us that they weren’t posted till the day after the crucifixion (Mt 27:62-6)?
- c) No-one actually saw Jesus rise.
- The nearest to an eyewitness account of the resurrection itself is Matthew’s, which has the guards terrified by the appearance of the angel and the women arriving very shortly afterwards; yet no-one sees Jesus at this point (Mt 28:1). If Matthew were fabricating a resurrection story, as has been claimed, the logical choice would have been for them to see him there and then, or even witness the event: yet he has them meeting Jesus whilst on their way to find the disciples.
- d) The disciples’ failure to recognise Jesus.
- Both Luke, in his description of the meeting on the Emmaus road (Lk 24:13), and John, in his description of Mary’s meeting with Jesus (Jn 20:14) have them initially failing to recognise Jesus. Both accounts would have been much easier to accept if they had recognised him instantly.
- (Some might also say that they should have made it clearer that Jesus was really alive from the dead, and not just recovered from his ordeal! However, I won’t cite that as an example, as all the available evidence suggests that they never even considered the possibility that someone might misinterpret them in this way.)