At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people. Matt. 27:51-53
Let me just say right up front, THIS NEVER HAPPENED!. There are two unlikely events mentioned in these three verses. The first is the ripping of the temple curtain. To that event I say, who cares! It’s a none story. It didn’t happen, but it doesn’t matter. I’m certain there must be some charlatan selling bits and pieces of the torn curtain. All three synoptic gospels attest to it, but John, it seems never heard about it. In any event, it simply doesn’t matter. It is burying the lead.
The real story is that the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people. As far as I’m concerned, these are the most important two verses in the bible. No other miraculous signs or wonders compare. Even the resurrection of Jesus pales in comparison to this event. Jesus is one man from one tomb with a few select appearances to his followers. This is a mass exodus from the grave by many recently departed who reintegrated into the lives of one of the major cities of the world. That’s a story worth telling again and again and again. There is just one problem; it wasn’t.
The story was not told by Peter who preached the first gospel sermon. What a perfect time to point out a few people in the audience who had been recently dead. It seems non of these newly risen people made it to Pentecost. Paul didn’t tell the story, even though he wrote the first of the Christian scriptures closest to the time of the event. Perhaps some would have still been alive. It seems Paul never heard about it. Nor is the story told by any of the other New Testament writers.
The story was not told by the first gospel writer: Mark. Oddly, Mark wrote of the curtain, but not a word about the great zombie uprising. Perhaps more interesting, Luke, who by many scholars, is believed to have had access to Matthew, and therefore would have known about the story, chose not to include it in his account. Could it be that Luke knew it to be a fabrication? Perhaps the more likely scenario is that it was a late addition by a copyist, and was never a part of the original manuscript. That is just speculation on my part.
The fact that no biblical writers other than Matthew seemed to know about this event is extremely suspect. But suspicion increases when you consider that no one in Jerusalem, Rome, or indeed, the entire world ever wrote about the event. These risen people were not trying to hide themselves. They would have gone to the temple and been seen by the priests. They would have been seen by the Romans stationed in the city. They would have been seem by those who came from all over the world to attend the Pentecost celebration. There is no way to cover up this event and hide it from history. Yet, we are to believe that only one man in the entire world cared enough about the greatest miracle ever done, to write about it.
Matthew is lying. He is simply making stuff up. This passage is the proof of that assertion. The only question is, since he is lying about this, what else is he lying about.
I posited that the passages could have been added later by someone else. I have no critical evidence for that. Another equally plausible reason why the passage is there is that Matthew thought he could have Jesus fulfill yet another prophecy. Matthew was nothing if not single-minded. He was focused on making sure his version of Jesus fulfilled as many prophecies as possible. This leads to more than one embarrassment in this gospel.
In this case, he may have been trying to fulfill a prophecy from Ezekiel 37:
Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you, my people, will know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the LORD have spoken, and I have done it, declares the LORD.’”
Sound familiar? I thought so. Either Matthew was a terrible hebrew scholar, (which I happen to believe) or he was an outright charlatan (which I also believe). He abused, bent, and corrupted the Hebrew scriptures to mean whatever he needed them to mean at the time. This is just one more prophecy that he didn’t understand, and wanted to use to show that Jesus was the fulfillment of prophecy. It seems this stretch was a bridge too far for Luke, who use much of Matthew for his own writings.
This passage, alone, makes Matthew a joke of a source, but this passage is not alone. As I suggested earlier, there are others in the gospel of Mathew that make it clear he was just trolling prophecies he didn’t understand, to make Jesus the messiah of prophecy. Matthew should be stricken from the bible, but what would be the point? Matthew is not the only writer who played fast and loose with the truth to make a point. What set’s Matthew apart is that his lies are more obvious. If Matthew is a reliable witness for the Jesus story, then the Jesus story is in a lot of trouble.
That might explain why we do not hear many sermons on the most public and astounding miracle ever done. Even today’s preachers are ashamed of that story. How do they deal with it? They try to ignore it out of existence. They hope no one challenges them and forces them to explain the lack of documentation for this miracle. If this is the stuff of the Christian faith, and it is, count me out. I would love for someone to explain to me why I should believe anything in the four gospels with fictions like this filling every page.
Are you embarrassed by this story? Feel free to leave a comment.