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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 28

Orchard's Catholic Commentary on Holy ScriptureOrchard's Catholic Commentary

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Verses 1-20

G. XXVIII 1-20 The Resurrection and after— The women see the angel and the empty tomb, 1-8; the Magdalen sees the risen Christ, 9-10; the tombguards are bribed into silence, 11-15; the Eleven meet our Lord in Galilee, 16-17, and from him they receive the universal mission, 18-20.

1-8 The Empty Tomb; the Angel (Mark 16:1-9; Luke 24:1-9; cf.John 20:1)—1. The sabbath-rest was observed, Luke 23:56. When the Sabbath was over (?f? d? saßß?t??:after the sabbath; WV) as the sky was lightening towards sunrise on ’the first day of the week’ (Sunday; cf. SB 1, 1052) the women (Mark 16:1; Luke 24:10) including Mary the Magdalen and Mary the mother of James, 27:56, came to watch at the tomb (Mt) with a view, no doubt, to completing the hasty anointing of Friday, Mark 16:1, Luke 24:1.

2-4. Before their arrival as it seems (2-4 are probably parenthetical) a considerable earth-tremor declared the advent of the angel in human form. His purpose was to declare the physical Resurrection of Christ and to confirm his message the spectacle of the empty tomb. He therefore rolled away the stone not to enable the already risen Christ to emerge (cf.John 20:19, 26) but to allow the women to enter. Mt gives the impression that the angel was still seated on the stone when they arrived but that he preceded them into the tomb (???T?t?, de?+?te ?dete). Terror made the guards powerless to interfere; it is probable that they made off citywards before the coming of the women since the angel and the women ignore them completely and there is no trace of their presence in Mark 16:1-8 or Luke 24:1-8; and see on Matthew 28:11.

5-8. But for the women (true seekers of the crucified one) there was no cause for such terror (’Fear not you’—emphatic). The Lord’s promise was fulfilled; cf. 16:21; 17:22; 20:19. Escorted by the angel they saw the empty tomb for themselves. The physical body had risen. Now they were to tell the disciples that the risen Christ would be found in Galilee. (7 is better punctuated thus: ’. . . say to his disciples: "He is risen and behold he will go before you into Galilee [will be there when you, his disciples, arrive]; there you shall see him". Lo, I have told you’) i.e. There, that is all; Joüon. It is possible that the verb ’go before’ (p????e??) is to be translated ’lead, conduct’ ( Braun, Jésus, Paris 1947, 190-4) in which case Mt clearly supposes that our Lord appeared to the disciples in Judaea. But in any case it is Mt’s plan to describe only the Galilean episode. By a kind of factual ’inclusion’ (§ 702), he presents Galilee as the starting-place of the universal mission as it had been the starting-place, 4:12-16, of the first, restricted preaching of the Kingdom. Hence he is careful, unlike Lk and Jn, to report the angel’s message concerning the Galilean rendezvous and to reinforce it, 10, with our Lord’s instruction to the same effect.

9-10 Magdalen and the Risen Christ (cf.Mark 16:9-11; John 20:11-18)—Some Catholic authors identify this apparition, the first mentioned by Mt, with the apparition to Magdalen alone, John 20:11-18. In this hypothesis Mt attributes to the women-group (as opposed to the ’brethren’ in 10; i.e. the disciples; cf. 12:49) what happened to their single representative. Such a ’plural of category’ is perhaps not unfamiliar to Mt; cf. 2:20; 24:8; 27:44; Levesque, RB 25 ( 1916) 13-16. The identification would also explain Luke 24:22-24 where it seems that the women had reported no more than the angel and the empty tomb. Other Catholic authors (e.g. Bover, SJ, El Evangelio de San Mateo, Barcelona 1946, 518-20) oppose the identification and explain (cf. Buzy, Mt, 384) that 9 refers to a second visit of the women (without Magdalen). Whatever the solution, it must take account of the extreme telescoping of Mt’s last chapter.

11-15 The Guard bribed (Mt only)—As the women were still on their way, certain of the guard were in touch with the priests. It is probable that the guard had already left for the city before the women arrived at the tomb; 28:2-4, note. The Gk tenses used do not contradict this suggestion (’whilst they [the women] were on their way [from the tomb] the guards having reached the city told . . .’). The situation of the guards is awkward: the true, supernatural, explanation of their discomfiture would be laughed at in a courtmartial. The priests, therefore, have no difficulty in bribing them to suppress an explanation that would have been useless in any case. The main point of the priests’ instruction was the alleged theft by the disciples. This the soldiers agreed to and this story became the current explanation in Jewish circles; cf. 15 and Justin, Contra Tryphonem, 108. The ’sleep’ excuse is thrown out carelessly as a suggestion. It could be used only before the general public; clearly if it came to an official inquiry (14: ’if the case should be brought before the Governor’) sleeping on duty would be no adequate excuse. The priests undertake, in this case, to bribe in high places (for pe?? ’persuade’ in this sense, cf.2 Mac 4:45; 10:20).

XXVIII 16-17 Galilee: Apparition to the Eleven (Mark 16:15-18)—The Eleven remained in Jerusalem until the end of paschal week, John 20:26, when, naturally, they went back to their homes with the assurance, 7, 16, that they were not leaving the risen Christ in Jerusalem, Mt is aware of the fact (though, like the other evangelists, he does not report Christ’s own words) that our Lord had indicated a particular ’mountain’ in Galilee. The ’mountain’ is doubtless the high ground above the Lake (as in 5:1; 14:23; 15:29)—perhaps, fittingly, the hill of the Discourse which inaugurated the Kingdom, 5:1. ’Some doubted’, says Mt. It is probable that he is simply recording a fact (mentioned by the other evangelists, Mark 16:11, 13, 14; Luke 24:11, 21 ff.; John 20:25) without reference to this particular occasion. The reason may lie in the summary nature of Mt’s final chapter (Buzy) or possibly the phrase is to be translated: ’they, the very ones who had doubted, adored’; cf. Abel, Grammaire du Grec Biblique ( Paris 1927) 119.

18-20 The Universal Mission (Mark 16:15-18)—18. The obedience unto death of the man-Christ has resulted in the Resurrection which constitutes his formal investiture as king of the kingdom of heaven and earth, cf.Philippians 2:8 f. Sovereign powers were his before (11:27; cf.John 3:35), a necessary consequence of the Incarnation, but now the Son of Man has formally taken possession of his throne, Daniel 7:14. The Resurrection inaugurates the new and worldwide epoch of the Kingdom. The Kingdom has come ’in power’.

19. Consequently (???) the old restriction of apostolic preaching, 10:5 f., is abrogated. Enrolment of disciples (µaT?te?sate; DV ’teach ye’), baptism, religious and moral instruction are for Gentiles also. The exact conditions of Gentilereception will cause difficulty later (cf.Ac 15) but the principle is already clear. The rite of enrolment is baptism according to Mt (all MSS and versions) and Mark 16:16, and indeed the rigorous and universal practice of the early Church is explainable only by the historical fact of Christ’s command. ’In the name of’ is not ’on the authority of’ (?? t? ???µate?; cf.Acts 2:38; Acts 10:48) but ’by way of consecration to’ (e?? t? ???µa). By baptism the neophyte becomes the property, and therefore the protégé, of the person named’. It therefore seems probable ( Prat 2, 567) that the Trinitarian formula was necessary for the efficacy of the rite, and it is attested early in the 2nd cent. (Didache, 7:1; Justin, Apol. 1:61). It is possible, however, that our Lord is not prescribing the exact formula to be used but describing the effects of the rite—consecration to the blessed Trinity; cf. Lebreton, History of the Dogma of the Trinity, 1, 439.

20. Faith and ritual are not sufficient. There are obligations of the moral order. ’In a few words our Lord initiates a hitherto unknown to the ancient peoples: a doctrine not only religious but, at the same time, moral’, Lagrange, Mt, 545. His precepts and his spirit are known to the Apostles who will, nevertheless, need the light and force of his presence in the hard days ahead. These will be with them until the era of the Messias on earth draws to its close. The promise has held good for two thousand years.

Bibliographical Information
Orchard, Bernard, "Commentary on Matthew 28". Orchard's Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/boc/matthew-28.html. 1951.
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