61. Matthew proceeds thus:
And there was there Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary, sitting over against the sepulchre. This is given by Mark as follows:
And Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of Joseph, beheld where He was laid. So far it is evident that there is no kind of inconsistency between the accounts.
62. Matthew continues in these terms:
Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate, saying, Sir, we have remembered that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first. Pilate said unto them, You have a watch; go your way, make it as sure as you can. So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch. This narrative is given only by Matthew. Nothing, however, is stated by any of the others which can have the appearance of contrariety.
63. Again, the same Matthew carries on his recital as follows:
Now, in the evening of the Sabbath, when it began to dawn towards the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary, to see the sepulchre. And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. And his countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: and for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men. And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not: for I know that you seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay: And go quickly, and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead; and, behold, He goes before you into Galilee; there shall you see Him: lo, I have told you. Mark is in harmony with this. It is possible, however, that some difficulty may be felt in the circumstance that, according to Matthew's version, the stone was already rolled away from the sepulchre, and the angel was sitting upon it. For Mark tells us that the women entered into the sepulchre, and there saw a young man sitting on the right side, covered with a long white garment, and that they were affrighted. But the explanation may be, that Matthew has simply said nothing about the angel whom they saw when they entered into the sepulchre, and that Mark has said nothing about the one whom they saw sitting outside upon the stone. In this way they would have seen two angels, and have got two separate angelic reports relating to Jesus,— namely, first one from the angel whom they saw sitting outside upon the stone, and then another from the angel whom they saw sitting on the right side when they entered into the sepulchre. Thus, too, the injunction given them by the angel who was sitting outside, and which was conveyed in the words,
Come, and see the place where the Lord lay, would have served to encourage them to go within the tomb; on coming to which, as has been said, and venturing within it, we may suppose them to have seen the angel concerning whom Matthew tells us nothing, but of whom Mark discourses, sitting on the right side, from whom also they heard things of like tenor to those they had previously listened to. Or if this explanation is not satisfactory, we ought certainly to accept the theory that, as they entered into the sepulchre, they came within a section of the ground where, it is reasonable to suppose, a certain space had been by that time securely enclosed, extending a little distance in front of the rock which had been cut out in order to construct the place of sepulture; so that, according to this view, what they really beheld was the one angel sitting on the right side, in the space thus referred to, which same angel Matthew also represents to have been sitting upon the stone which he had rolled away from the mouth of the tomb when the earthquake took place, that is to say, from the place which had been dug out in the rock for a sepulchre.
64. It may also be asked how it is that Mark says:
And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they anything to any man; for they were afraid; whereas Matthew's statement is in these terms: And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy, and did run to bring His disciples word. The explanation, however, may be that the women did not venture to tell either of the angels themselves—that is, they had not courage enough to say anything in reply to what they had heard from the angels. Or, indeed, it may be that they were not bold enough to speak to the guards whom they saw lying there; for the joy which Matthew mentions is not inconsistent with the fear of which Mark takes notice. Indeed, we ought to have supposed that both feelings had possession of their minds, even although Matthew himself had said nothing about the fear. But now, when this evangelist also particularizes it, saying,
65. At the same time, a question, which is not to be dealt with lightly, does arise here with respect to the exact hour at which the women came to the sepulchre. For when Matthew says,
Now, on the evening of the Sabbath, when it was dawning toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary, to see the sepulchre, what are we to make of Mark's statement, which runs thus:
And very early in the morning, the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun? It is to be observed that in this Mark states nothing inconsistent with the reports given by other two of the evangelists, namely, Luke and John. For when Luke says,
Very early in the morning, and when John puts it thus,
Early, when it was yet dark, they convey the same sense which Mark is understood to express when he says,
Very early, at the rising of the sun; that is to say, they all refer to the period when the heavens were now beginning to brighten in the east, which, of course, does not take place but when the sunrise is at hand. For it is the brightness which is diffused by the rising sun that is familiarly designated by the name of the dawn. Consequently, Mark does not contradict the other evangelist who uses the phrase,
When it was yet dark; for as the day breaks, what remains of the darkness [of the night] passes away just in proportion as the sun continues to rise. And this phrase,
Very early in the morning, need not be taken to mean that the sun itself was actually seen by this time [blazing] over the lands; but it is rather to be taken as like the kind of expression which we are in the habit of employing when speaking to people to whom we wish to intimate that something should be done more betimes than usual. For when we have used the term,
Early in the morning, if we wish to keep the persons addressed from supposing that we refer directly to the time when the sun is already conspicuously visible over earth, we usually add the word
very, and say,
very early in the morning, in order that they may clearly understand that we allude to the time which is also called the daybreak. At the same time, it is also customary for men, after the cockcrow has been repeatedly heard, and when they begin to surmise that the day is now approaching, to say,
It is now early in the morning; and when after this they weigh their words and observe that, as the sun now rises,— that is to say, as it now makes its immediate advent into these parts—the sky is just beginning to redden, or to brighten, those who said,
It is early in the morning, then amplify their expression and say,
It is very early in the morning. But what does it matter, provided only that, whichever method of explanation be preferred, we understand that what is meant by Mark, when he uses the terms
early in the morning, is just the same as is intended by Luke when he adopts the phrase,
in the morning; and that the whole expression employed by the former— namely,
very early in the morning — amounts to the same as that which we find in Luke— namely,
very early in the dawn, — and as that which is chosen by John when he says,
early, when it was yet dark? Moreover, when Mark speaks of the
rising of the sun, he just means that by its rising the sun was now beginning to bring the light in upon the sky. But the question now is this: how can Matthew be in harmony with these three when he says neither
in the early morning nor
early in the morning, but
in the evening of the Sabbath, when it was beginning to dawn toward the first day of the week? This is a matter which must be carefully investigated. Now, under that first part of the night, which is [here called] the evening, Matthew intended to refer to this particular night, at the close of which the women came to the sepulchre. And we understand his reason for so referring to the said night to have been this: that by the time of the evening it was lawful for them to bring the spices, because the Sabbath was then indeed over. Consequently, as they were hindered by the Sabbath from doing so previously, he has given a designation of the night, taken from the time at which it began to be a lawful thing for them to do what they did at any period of the same night which pleased them. Thus, therefore, the phrase
in the evening of the Sabbath is used, as if what was said had been
in the night of the Sabbath, or in other words, in the night which follows the day of the Sabbath. The express words which he employs thus indicate this with sufficient clearness. For his terms are these:
Now, in the evening of the Sabbath, when it began to dawn toward the first day of the week; and that could not be the case if what we had to understand to be denoted by the mention of the
evening was simply the first short space of the night, or in other words, only the beginning of the night. For what can be said
to begin to dawn toward the first day of the week is not explicitly the beginning [of the night], but the night itself, as it commences to be brought to its close by the advance of the light. For the terminus of the first part of the night is just the beginning of the second part, but the terminus of the whole night is the light. Hence we could not speak of the evening as dawning toward the first day of the week unless under the term
evening we should understand the night itself to be meant, which, as a whole, is brought to its close by the light. It is also a familiar method of speech in divine Scripture to express the whole under the part; and thus, under the word
evening here, the evangelist has denoted the whole night, which finds its extreme point in the dawn. For it was in the dawn that those women came to the sepulchre; and in this way they really came on the night, which is here indicated by the term
evening. For, as I have said, the night as a whole is denoted by that word; consequently, at whatever period of that night they might have come, they certainly did come in the said night. And, accordingly, if they came at the latest point in that night, it is still unquestionably the case that they did come in the said night. But it could not be said to be on
the evening, when it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, unless the night as a whole can be understood under that expression. Accordingly, the women who came in the night referred to, came in the evening specified. And if they came at any period, even the latest during that night, they surely came in the night itself.
66. For the space of three days, which elapsed between the Lord's death and resurrection, cannot be correctly understood except in the light of that form of expression according to which the part is dealt with as the whole. For He said Himself,
For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly, so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. Now, in whichever way we reckon the times, whether from the point when He yielded up the ghost, or from the date of his burial, the sum does not come out clearly, unless we take the intermediate day, that is to say, the Sabbath, as a complete day— in other words, a full day along with its night—and, on the other hand, understand those days between which that one intervenes— that is to say, the day of the preparation and the first day of the week, which we designate the Lord's day— to be dealt with on the principle of the part standing for the whole. For of what avail is it that some, hard pressed by these difficulties, and not knowing the very large part which the mode of expression referred to— namely, that which takes the part as the whole— plays in the matter of solving the problems presented in the Holy Scriptures, have struck out the idea of reckoning as a distinct night those three hours, namely, from the sixth hour to the ninth, during which the sun was darkened, and as a distinct day the other three hours, during which the sun was restored again to the lands, that is to say, from the ninth hour on to its setting? For the night connected with the coming Sabbath follows, and if we compute it along with its day, there will then be two days and two nights. But, further, after the Sabbath there comes in the night connected with the first day of the week, that is to say, with the dawning of the Lord's day, which was the time when the Lord arose. Consequently, the result to which this mode of calculation leads us will be just two days and two nights, and one night, even supposing it possible to take the last as a complete night, and taking it for granted that we were not to show that the said dawn was in reality the ultimate portion of the same. Thus it would appear that, even although we were to compute these six hours in that fashion, during three of which the sun was darkened, and during the other three of which it shone forth again, we would not establish a satisfactory reckoning of three days and three nights. In accordance, therefore, with the usage which meets us so frequently in the language of the Scriptures, and which deals with the part as the whole, it remains for us to hold the time of the preparation to constitute the day at the one extremity, on which the Lord was crucified and buried, and, from that limit, to find one whole day along with its night which was fully spent. In this way, too, we must take the intermediate member, that is to say the day of the Sabbath, not as calculated simply from the part, but as a really complete day. The third day, again, must be computed from its first part; that is to say, calculating from the night, we must look upon it as making up a whole day when its day-portion is connected with it. Thus we shall get a space of three days, on the analogy of a case already considered, namely, those eight days after which the Lord went up into a mountain; with respect to which period we find that Matthew and Mark, fixing their attention simply on the complete days intervening, have put it thus,
After six days, whereas Luke's representation of the same is this,
An eight days after.
67. Let us now proceed, therefore, to look into the rest of this passage, and see how in other respects these statements are quite consistent with what is given by Matthew. For Luke tells us, with the utmost plainness, that two angels were seen by those women who came to the sepulchre. One of these angels we have understood to be referred to by each of the first two evangelists; that is to say, one of them is noticed by Matthew, namely, the one who was sitting outside upon the stone, and a second by Mark, namely, the one who was sitting within the sepulchre on the right side. But Luke's version of the scene is to the following effect:
And that day was the preparation, and the Sabbath drew on. And the women which had come with Him from Galilee beheld the sepulchre, and how His body was laid. And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the Sabbath day, according to the commandment. Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre. And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus. And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments; and as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen: remember how He spoke unto you when He was yet in Galilee, saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again. And they remembered His words. And they returned from the sepulchre, and told all these things unto the eleven, and to all the rest. The question, therefore, is this, how can these angels have been seen sitting each one separately—namely, one outside upon the stone, according to Matthew, and another within upon the right side, according to Mark,— if Luke's report of the same bears that the two stood beside those women, although the words ascribed to them are similar? Well, it is still possible for us to suppose that one angel was seen by the women in the position assigned by Matthew, and in the circumstances indicated by Mark, as we have already explained. In this way, we may understand the said women to have entered into the sepulchre, that is to say, into a certain space which had been fenced off within a kind of enclosure, in such a manner that an entrance might be said to be made when they came in front of the rocky place in which the sepulchre was constructed; and there we may take them to have beheld the angel sitting upon the stone which had been rolled away from the tomb, as Matthew tells us, or in other words, the angel sitting on the right side, as Mark expresses it. And then we may further surmise that the said women, after they had gone within, and when they were looking at the place where the body of the Lord lay, saw other two angels standing, as Luke informs us, by whom they were addressed in similar terms, with a view to animate their minds and edify their faith.
68. But let us also examine John's version, and see whether or in what manner its consistency with these others is apparent. John, then, narrates these incidents as follows:
Now the first day of the week comes Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and saw the stone taken away from the sepulchre. Then she runs, and comes to Simon Peter, and to the other disciples whom Jesus loved, and says unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid Him. Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and they came to the sepulchre. So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre. And he, stooping down, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in. Then comes Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and sees the linen clothes lie, and the napkin, that was about His head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself. Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed. For as yet they knew not the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead. Then the disciples went away again unto their own home. But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and, as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre, and sees two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. They say unto her, Woman, why do you weep? She says unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid Him. And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus. Jesus says unto her, Woman, why do you weep? Whom do you seek? She, supposing Him to be the gardener, says unto Him, Sir, if you have borne Him hence, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away. Jesus says unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and says unto Him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master. Jesus says unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God. Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that He had spoken these things unto her. In the narrative thus given by John, the statement of the day or time when the sepulchre had come to agrees with the accounts presented by the rest. Again, in the report of two angels who were seen, he is also at one with Luke. But when we observe how the one evangelist tells us that these angels were seen standing, while the other says that they were sitting; when we notice, also, that there are certain other things which are left unrecorded by these two writers; and, further, when we consider how questions are thus raised regarding the possibility of proving the consistency of the one set of historians with the other on these subjects, and of fixing the order in which those said things took place, we see that, unless we submit the whole to a careful examination, there may easily appear to be contradictions here between the several narratives.
69. This being the case, therefore, let us, so far as the Lord may help us, take all these incidents, which took place about the time of the Lord's resurrection, as they are brought before us in the statements of all the evangelists together, and let us arrange them in one connected narrative, which will exhibit them precisely as they may have actually occurred. It was in the early morning of the first day of the week, as all the evangelists are at one in attesting, that the women came to the sepulchre. By that time, all that is recorded by Matthew alone had already taken place; that is to say, in regard to the quaking of the earth, and the rolling away of the stone, and the terror of the guards, with which they were so stricken, that in some part they lay like dead men. Then, as John informs us, came Mary Magdalene, who unquestionably was surpassingly more ardent in her love than these other women who had ministered to the Lord; so that it was not unreasonable in John to make mention of her alone, leaving those others unnamed, who, however, were along with her, as we gather from the reports given by others of the evangelists. She came accordingly; and when she saw the stone taken away from the sepulchre, without pausing to make any more minute investigation, and never doubting but that the body of Jesus had been removed from the tomb, she ran, as the same John states, and told the state of matters to Peter and to John himself. For John is himself that disciple whom Jesus loved. They then set out running to the sepulchre; and John, reaching the spot first, stooped down and saw the linen clothes lying, but he did not go within. But Peter followed up, and went into the sepulchre, and saw the linen clothes lie, and the napkin, which had been about His head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself. Then John entered also, and saw in like manner, and believed what Mary had told him, namely, that the Lord had been taken away from the sepulchre.
For as yet they knew not the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead. Then the disciples went away again unto their own home. But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping, — that is to say, before the place in the rock in which the sepulchre was constructed, but at the same time within that space into which they had now entered; for there was a garden there, as the same John mentions. Then they saw the angel sitting on the right side, upon the stone which was rolled away from the sepulchre; of which angel both Matthew and Mark discourse.
Then he said unto them, Fear not ye; for I know that you seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay: and go quickly, and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead; and, behold, He goes before you into Galilee; there shall you see Him: lo, I have told you. In Mark we also find a passage similar in tenor to the above. At these words, Mary, still weeping, bent down and looked forwards into the sepulchre, and beheld the two angels, who are introduced to us in John's narrative, sitting in white raiment, one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been deposited.
They say unto her, Woman, why do you weep? She says unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid Him. Here we are to suppose the angels to have risen up, so that they could be seen standing, as Luke states that they were seen, and then, according to the narrative of the same Luke, to have addressed the women, as they were afraid and bowed down their faces to the earth. The terms were these:
Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen: remember how He spoke unto you when He was yet in Galilee, saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise. And they remembered His words. It was after this that, as we learn from John,
Mary turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus. Jesus says unto her, Woman, why do you weep? Whom do you seek? She, supposing Him to be the gardener, says unto Him, Sir, if you have borne Him hence, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away. Jesus says unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and says unto Him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master. Jesus says unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God. Then she departed from the sepulchre, that is to say, from the ground where there was space for the garden in front of the stone which had been dug out. Along with her there were also those other women, who, as Mark tells us, were surprised with fear and trembling. And they told nothing to any one. At this point we next take up what Matthew has recorded in the following passage:
Behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail! And they came and held Him by the feet, and worshipped Him. For thus we gather that, on coming to the sepulchre, they were twice addressed by the angels; and, again, that they were also twice addressed by the Lord Himself, namely, at the point at which Mary took Him to be the gardener, and a second time at present, when He meets them on the way, with a view to strengthen them by such a repetition, and to bring them out of their state of fear.
Then, accordingly, said He unto them, Be not afraid: go, tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me.
Then came Mary Magdalene, and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that He had spoken these things unto her; — not herself alone, however, but with her also those other women to whom Luke alludes when he says,
Which told these things unto the eleven disciples, and all the rest. And their words seemed to them like madness, and they believed them not. Mark also attests these facts; for, after telling us how the women went out from the sepulchre, trembling and amazed, and said nothing to any man, he subjoins the statement, that the Lord rose early the first day of the week, and appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven devils, and that she went and told them who had been with Him, as they mourned and wept, and that they, when they heard that He was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not. It is further to be observed, that Matthew has also introduced a notice to the effect that, as the women who had seen and heard all these things were going away, there came likewise into the city some of the guards who had been lying like dead men, and that these persons reported to the chief priests all the things that were done, that is to say, those of them which they were themselves also in a position to observe. He tells us, moreover, that when they were assembled with the elders and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers, and bade them say that His disciples came and stole Him away while they slept, promising at the same time to secure them against the governor, who had given those guards. Finally, he adds that they took the money, and did as they had been taught, and that this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.
Source. Translated by S.D.F. Salmond. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 6. Edited by Philip Schaff. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1888.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1602324.htm>.
Contact information. The editor of New Advent is Kevin Knight. My email address is feedback732 at newadvent.org. (To help fight spam, this address might change occasionally.) Regrettably, I can't reply to every letter, but I greatly appreciate your feedback — especially notifications about typographical errors and inappropriate ads.