Through the years there have been questions in the minds of many concerning the day Jesus was raised from the dead. Undoubtedly, the time recognized by the majority of Christian people is the first day of the week; others, however, believe He rose near the end of the Sabbath day. The matter has been considered on many occasions; and in studying the question, I find it evident that there are a number of important phases of the subject which call for consideration.
There is not only the Biblical evidence for the fact that He rose on the first day of the week but also the whole question of the period of time which elapsed between the crucifixion and His glorious resurrection from the dead. Some maintain, in view of the expression, "three days and three nights," that He must have been in the grave a full seventy-two hours. Others, however, believe that one full day and parts of two others fit the requirements of the divine record. It is my purpose in this presentation to examine the varied aspects of this question.
In pursuance of this study we will consider the following:
I. Textual Evidence for First Day of Week
As is well known, there are but eight texts which are known as first-day texts in the New Testament. Six of these relate to the resurrection of Jesus. They are as follows : *Matthew 28 :1 ; * Mark 16 :2 ; Mark 16 :9 ; * Luke 24 : ; * John 20 :1 ; John 20:19.
In the record of Jolin 20:19 we read, "Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week," Jesus met with His disciples. This was obviously at the close of the light part of that day; and according to Jewish reckoning, this would really be the evening of the second day of the week. Because John uses Roman reckoning, however, quite generally, it is easy to understand why he would word it as he does in this text.
Four of the texts listed—those indicated with an asterisk—tell us merely what happened on the first day—that the women came to the tomb. They say nothing about the time Jesus rose from the dead.
The only text listed above that actually bears on the time of Christ's resurrection is Mark 16:9. There we read: "Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene."
This text, we feel, might rightly be construed as teaching that Jesus actually rose from the dead on Sunday. We say construed, because it so happens there are three ways in which this text is punctuated. We will list the forms herewith.
If we accept the first rendering, then the thought conveyed to our minds is that Jesus actually rose on the first day. If we accept the second rendering, the emphasis would be, not on the fact that He rose on the first day, but that He appeared to Mary Magdalene on the first day, and that His resurrection took place before the first day of the week began. If we accept the third rendering, the 'punctuation is such that one hardly knows where to place the emphasis. It could be construed according to either the first or second understanding as indicated above.
It is obvious that the weight of authority, so far as the translations are concerned, is in favor of the rendering which indicates that Jesus actually rose from the dead on the first day of the week. In this connection we might call attention to the significant translations of Tyndale and Cranmer as listed above under form a. Their translations are as follows :
TYNDALE : "When Jesus was risen the morrow after the Sabbath day, He appeared."
CRANMER: "When Jesus was risen early the first day after the Sabbath He appeared."
II. Authenticity of Mark 16:9-20
Some scholars claim that the latter part of Mark's Gospel, namely verses 9 to 20 of chapter 16, does not constitute part of the sacred text at all; that the gospel originally ended at verse 8. There is one school of thought that takes this position. Of course, if that position could be maintained, then the argument listed under Section I would fail, because the text in question happens to be the first text of the latter part of Mark. That raises, however, a very important disputed point. It seems that although there are certain ancient manuscripts that do not have this particular part of the Gospel, most of the Greek manuscripts itIclude it.
In fact, whereas two of the oldest uncial manuscripts omit this particular section, the others (about eighteen) include it. Furthermore, there are more than six. hundred cursive manuscripts which contain these particular verses. Still further, all the versions such as the Syriac, the Latin, the Gothic, the Egyptian, the Armenian, the Georgian, and the Ethiopic, contain these verses.
We are assured, also, that some of the old manuscripts that do not have these verses, have a blank space which indicates that something had been there originally, but disappeared in some way or other through the centuries. We give herewith a few extracts concerning this section of Mark's Gospel:
LYMAN ABBOTT: "It is found in the Alexandrine Ephraem and the Cambridge manuscripts and in the Vulgate, Ethiopic, Curetonian Syriac, Peshito, Jerusalem Syriac, Memphitic and Gothic versions. It is wanting in the two oldest and most -valued manuscripts, the Vatican and Sinaitic. If not a part of the original gospel, it must have been added at a very early date, probably during the first century...
"The genuineness of this passage is affirmed by Mill, Olshausen, Edward, Lachmanp, and Schaff ; it is doubted or denied by Griesbach, Ewald, Meyer, Tischendorf, Tregelles, Lightfoot, and Norton. For an elaborate discussion of these and other conflicting testimonies, see James Morison's Commentary on Mark ; he concludes that the passage is genuine. The weight of authority internal and external, appears to me to point to the other conclusion, viz., that Mark's gospel was abruptly broken off by some accident, or its close was early lost, and that verses 9-20 were appended at a very early day, probably during the first century, to give completion to the book. The question is one of secondary importance, since all that is essential in spirit and substance in this passage is to be found elsewhere in the gospels, in accounts whose authenticity is undoubted."—An Illustrated Commentary on the Gospels According to Mark and Luke (New York : A. S. Barnes and Company, 1877), vol. 2, p. 64.
CHRISTOPHER WORDSWORTH: "After all, even if the Author of these verses were doubtful, it would suffice us to know that this portion of the Gospel is received by the Universal Church, bearing witness to it in the great body of Manuscripts and Versions, and that it is received and read by her as Holy Scripture; in short, that it is received as the WORD OF GOD, by the SPIRIT OF GOD, in the CHURCH OF GOD.
"Let us add, that the fact to which reference has been made, viz., the supposed uncertainty of authorship, is suggestive of very instructive reflections.
"Suppose it were doubtful whether this portion had been written by St. Mark. This doubt would suggest the important question---on what grounds do we receive the Scriptures as the Word of God?'
"We do not know who was employed by the Holy Spirit to write the Book of Job, or the conclusion of the Books of Deuteronomy, or of Joshua, or many of the Psalms; but we receive them as Canonical Scripture, and as the work of the HOLY GHOST.
"If we knew, by whose hand every book of Scripture was penned, we might be tempted to imagine that the Inspiration of Scripture depended on the writers, by whose instrumentality Scripture was written, and not on the Holy Ghost, who employed them."—The New Testament . . . in the Original Greek (London: Rivingtons, 1877), pp. 154, 155.
It seems evident that when the matter has been considered pro and con by the most critical Greek scholars, they admit that verses 9 to 20 really belong to the Gospel, even though they may have --'been written by another hand than Mark's. The verses in question are of great antiquity, for they were mentioned at a very, early date by Irenaeus, one of the early church fathers. Observe the following from his dissertation against heresies :
"'Also, towards the conclusion of his Gospel, Mark says: "So then, after the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God."'"—Adv. Haer. [Irenaeus Against Heresies] III, to :5. Quoted in Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. I, p. 426. (Buffalo : Christian Literature Publishing Company, 1885.)
Furthermore, the Spirit of prophecy endorses these verses, as can be seen by the following references.
"The disciples rested on the Sabbath, sorrowing for the death of their Lord, while Jesus, the King of glory, lay in the tomb. As night drew on, soldiers were stationed to guard the Saviour's resting-place, while angels, unseen, hovered above the sacred spot. The night wore slowly away, and while it was yet dark, the watching angels knew that the time for the release of God's dear Son, their loved Commander, had nearly come."—Early Writings, p. 181.
"These types were fulfilled, not only as to the event, but as to the time. On the fourteenth day of the first Jewish month, the very day and month on which, for fifteen long centuries, the Passover lamb had been slain, Christ, having eaten the Passover with His disciples, instituted that feast which was to commemorate His own death as 'the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.' That same night He was taken by wicked hands, to be crucified and slain. And as the antitype of the wave-sheaf, our Lord was raised from the dead on the third day, 'the first-fruits of them that slept' [ x Cor. 15 :23, 29], a sample of all the resurrected just, whose vile body' shall be changed and 'fashioned like unto His glorious body' [Phil. 3 :2r]."—The Great Controversy, p. 399.
"The night of the first day of the week had worn slowly away. The darkest hour, just before daybreak, had come. Christ was still a prisoner in His narrow tomb. The great stone was in its place; the Roman seal was unbroken ; the Roman guards were keeping their watch. And there were unseen watchers. Hosts of evil angels were gathered about the place. Had it been possible, the prince of darkness with his apostate army would have kept forever sealed the tomb that held the Son of God. But a heavenly host surrounded the sepulcher. Angels that excel in strength were guarding the tomb, and waiting to welcome the Prince of Life." —The Desire of Ages, p. 779.
In view of these considerations concerning the authenticity of Mark 16:9, and the ample testimony of the translators in the matter of punctuation, we feel there is strong evidence for the understanding that Christ rose from the dead on the first day of the week, commonly called Sunday.
—To be concluded in December
1Authorized Version, Emphatic Diaglott, Interlinear Greek, Fenton, Moffatt, Weymouth, Ballentyne, Syriac, Douay, Verkuyl, Rotherham, Revised Version, Cunnington, Aramaic by Lamsa, Student's Greek Testament, Moulton, Wycliffe, Tyndale, Cranmer, Rheims, R.C. by Spencer.
2 Rheims, Goodspeed, Montgomery.
3 Twentieth Century.