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Bible Commentaries

Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary
Luke 24

 

 

Verse 1

1.] ὄρθρ. βαθ., deep dawn, i.e. just beginning to dawn (in Plato, Crito, § 1, we have οὐ πρῲ ἔτι ἐστίν; πάνυ μὲν οὖν. πηνίκα μάλιστα; ὄρθρος βαθύς) = σκοτίας ἔτι οὔσης, John, and τῇ ἐπιφωσκ. εἰς μίαν σαβ., Matt., and λίαν πρωΐ, Mark; but not ἀνατείλαντος τοῦ ἡλ., Mark also: see notes there. βαθέως may be an old form of the gen. as rendered above, or the adv.

ἦλθον—the same women as those afterwards mentioned (Luke 24:10) who told the Apostles the intelligence. The reference is to γυναῖκες αἵτινες, &c. ch. Luke 23:55.

ἀρώματα, which (ch. Luke 23:56) they had made ready before the sabbath; in Mark 16:1, had bought the evening before, διαγεν. τοῦ σαβ.


Verses 1-12

1–12.] THE WOMEN COMING TO THE SEPULCHRE LEARN THAT HE IS RISEN, AND ANNOUNCE IT TO THE APOSTLES, BUT ARE NOT BELIEVED. Matthew 28:1-10. Mark 16:1-8. John 20:1-10. See notes on Matt.


Verse 2

2.] This agrees with the more detailed account in Mark;—and, as regards the majority of the women, may also with that in Matt.:—but not as regards the two Maries.


Verse 4

4.] ἐπέστ. does not determine the position of the angels. It is merely came upon them under ordinary circumstances;—appeared to them, in a supernatural connexion: see reff. On the two angels here, see note on Mark 16:5; to which I will just add, that the Harmonistic view, as represented by Greswell [Diss. vi., vol. 3], strangely enough puts together the angel in Matthew, and the angel in Mark, and makes the two angels in Luke: see Acts 1:10.

ἄνδρες—to all appearance; the Evangelist does not mean that they were such, as clearly appears from what follows.


Verse 5

5.] τὸν ζῶντα, simply the living,—Him who liveth, as addressed to the women; but Olshausen’s view of a deeper meaning in the words (Bibl. Com. ii. 47) should be borne in mind;— τὸ κυρίως ζῆν παρὰ μόνῳ κυρίῳ τυγχάνει, Orig(117) in Joan. tom. ii. 11, vol. iv. p. 71.


Verse 6-7

6, 7.] See ch. Luke 9:22; Luke 18:32. The mention of Galilee is remarkable, as occurring in the angelic speeches in Matt. and Mark in quite another connexion. Here it is said to the women, as being from Galilee, see ch. Luke 23:55—and meaning, ‘when He was yet with you.’


Verse 9

9.] See note on Mark 16:8.


Verse 10

10.] It seems as if the testimony of one of the disciples who went to Emmaus had been the ground of the whole former part—perhaps of the whole—of this chapter. We find consequently this account exactly agreeing with his report afterwards, Luke 24:23-24.

Joanna was the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, ch. Luke 8:2. On ΄αρία [ ] ἰακώβου, and the questions connected with it, see Prolegg. to Vol. IV. ch. 2. § i. 4.

It will be observed (see var. readd.) that the omission of the second αἵ (as in Lachm.), will make this verse mean: ‘It was Mary, &c.; also the rest with them told the Apostles these things.’


Verse 11

11.] ἐφάνησαν, a plural, with τὰ ῥήμ., is not without meaning. The ῥήματα were the (perhaps slightly differing) accounts of many persons.


Verse 12

12.] This verse cannot well be interpolated from John 20, for the only reason for the insertion would be, to tally with Luke 24:24, and in that case it certainly would not mention Peter alone. That Cleopas says, Luke 24:24, some of [them that were with] us went, &c. must not be pressed too much, although it does certainly look as if he knew of more than one (see note there). The similarity in diction to John 20:5; John 20:10 ( παρακύψας βλέπει τὰ ὀθόνια κείμενα, and ἀπῆλθ. πρὸς ἑαυτ., being common to the two passages) indicates a common origin, and, if I mistake not, one distinct from the rest of the narrative in this chapter. The meaning of πρὸς ἑαυτόν, as belonging to ἀπῆλθεν and not to θαυμάζων, is fixed by the expression in John, l. c.


Verse 13

13.] ἐξ αὐτῶν, not of the Apostles—the last-mentioned were οἱ ἕνδεκα καὶ πάντες οἱ λοιποί, Luke 24:9 : see also Luke 24:22, ἐξ ἡμῶν. One of them, Luke 24:18, was called Kleopas (= κλεόπατρος, probably a different name from κλωπᾶς, John 19:25 ( חלפי): see note on Matthew 10:3). Who the other was, is idle to conjecture. Origen, in several places, calls him Simon; apparently from having read λέγοντες in Luke 24:34, and referring ὤφθη τ. σ. to the present appearance. Epiphanius says it was Nathanael; Theophylact, Luke himself. This may shew what such reports are worth. Wieseler (Chron. vol. i. p. 431) believes the two to have been, James the son of Alphæus or Clopas or Cleopas (but see above) journeying with his father, and the appearance on the road to Emmaus to be the same as ὤφθη ἰακώβῳ, 1 Corinthians 15:7. Our narrative seems to have been from the report of Cleopas.

ἐμμαούς] Joseph., B. J. vii. 6. 6, mentions this Emmaus as sixty stades from Jerusalem. There were two other places of the same name: (1) a town afterwards called Nicopolis, twenty-two Roman miles from Jerusalem, where Judas Maccabæus defeated the Syrian general Gorgias: see 1 Maccabees 3:40-57. (2) Another Emmaus is mentioned Jos. B. J. iv. 1. 3, πρὸ τῆς τιβεριάδος—where he adds, μεθερμηνευομένη δὲ ἀμμαοῦς θερμὰ λέγοιτʼ ἄν, ἔστι γὰρ ἐν αὐτῇ πηγὴ θερμῶν ὑδάτων πρὸς ἄκεσιν ἐπιτήδειος. This was the case also with the other places of the name. Our Emmaus is now called Cubeibi (?).


Verses 13-35

13–35.] JESUS APPEARS TO TWO OF THE DISCIPLES AT EMMAUS. Peculiar to Luke:—the incident (but from another source) is alluded to in the fragmentary addition to Mark 16 (Luke 24:12).


Verse 15

15.] καὶ ἐγέν.… καὶ …, the ordinary construction. The last καί does not mean ‘also.’

αὐτὸς ἰη.] Jesus Himself, of whom they had been speaking. But this expression forbids the supposition that He was here, strictly speaking, ἐν ἑτέρᾳ μορφῇ, as we find it less precisely expressed in Mark 16:12. The reason why they did not know Him was (Luke 24:16), that their eyes were supernaturally influenced, so that they could not:—see also Luke 24:31. No change took place in Him—nor apparently in them, beyond a power upon them, which prevented the recognition just so much as to delay it till aroused by the well-known action and manner of His breaking the bread. The cause of this was the will of the Lord himself, who would not be seen by them till the time when He saw fit.

ἐγγίσας—from behind: see Luke 24:18, where they take Him for an inhabitant of Jerusalem.


Verse 17

17.] He had apparently been walking with them some little time before this was said.

ἀντιβάλλειν λόγους implies to dispute with some earnestness: but there is no blame implied in the words. Possibly, though both were sad, they may have taken different views:—and in the answer of Cleopas we have that of the one who was most disposed to abandon all hope.


Verse 18

18. μόνος παρ.] They took Him (but we must not think of a peculiar dialect as giving that impression) for one who had been at Jerusalem at the feast:—and asked, Dost thou lodge alone at Jerusalem?

παροικ. (with or without ἐν, see reff.) in the LXX is to sojourn in—not to dwell in.


Verses 19-24

19–24.] Stier well remarks, that the Lord here gives us an instructive example how far, in the wisdom of love, we may carry dissimulation, without speaking untruth. (See the citation from Jer. Taylor below, on Luke 24:29.) He does not assert, that he was one of the strangers at this feast at Jerusalem, nor does He deny that he knew what had been done there in those days, but He puts the question by, with What things?

οἱ δὲ εἶπ.] Either, one spoke and the other assented; or perhaps each spoke, sometimes one and sometimes the other;—only we must not break up these verses and allot an imagined portion to each. They contain the substance of what was said, as the reporter of the incident afterwards put it together.

ὃς ἐγ. ἀν. πρ. κ. τ. λ.] See a similar general description of Him to the Jewish people, Acts 2:22. They had repeatedly acknowledged Him as a Prophet: see especially Matthew 21:11; Matthew 21:46. The phrase δυν. ἐν λόγοις κ. ἔργοις occurs of Moses, ref. Acts.

ἐγένετο, was, not became (or was becoming), as Meyer renders it. They speak of the whole life of Jesus as a thing past.


Verse 20

20.] ὅπως depends on οὐκ ἔγνως,, Luke 24:18.

ἡμῶν] Therefore the two disciples were Jews, not Hellenists, as some have supposed. That “they say our, not as excluding, but as including the stranger,” as alleged in some former Editions, is not a safe view from the evidently exclusive use of ἡμεῖς in the next verse.

παρέδωκαν, to Pilate.


Verse 21

21.] ἠλπ. is a word of weakened trust, and shrinking from the avowal that they ‘believed’ this.

λυτροῦσθαι—in the theocratic sense—including both the spiritual and political kingdom: see ch. Luke 1:68-69; Luke 1:74-75, and compare Acts 1:6.

σὺν π. τ., rightly rendered in E. V. beside all this: see reff.

ἄγει, not impersonal (as alli(118). and recently Wordsw.), nor to be supplied with a nom. case θεός or ὁ ἥλιος, &c., but spoken of Jesus. He is now in the third day, since &c. This is the usage of later Greek:—and the words are spoken not without a reference, in the mind of the speaker, to His promise of rising on the third day.


Verse 22

22.] ἀλλὰ καί, but, moreover—equivalent to ‘certainly, thus much has happened, that’.…

ὀρθριναί is the later form, for which the Attic ὄρθριαι has been substituted: see var. readd.

ἐξ ἡμῶν—‘disciples, as we are.’ The Apostles are distinguished presently as οἱ σὺν ἡμῖν, Luke 24:24.


Verse 23

23.] This agrees exactly with Luke’s own narrative, but not with Matthew’s, in which they had seen the Lord Himself. There seems however to be some hint that the women had made some such report in the αὐτὸν δὲ οὐκ εἶδον said below of the τινὲς τῶν σὺν ἡμῖν.


Verse 24

24. ἀπῆλθόν τινες] See Luke 24:12 and note. It is natural, even in accordance with Luke 24:12, that the antithesis to τινές before, and the loose way of speaking to a stranger, who (they believed) was not acquainted with any among them, might cause them here to use τινές, without any reference to Peter being accompanied. But what wonder, if the reports of such a day of anxiety and confusion were themselves disjointed and confused?


Verse 25

25.] ἀνόητοι, without understanding;— βρ. τ. κ. sluggish—in disposition—to believe: these were both shewn in their not having apprehended, from the fulfilment of the sufferings and death of Christ, the sequel of that death, the resurrection.


Verse 26

26. παθεῖν καὶ εἰσελθ.] The sufferings were the appointed way by which Christ should enter into His glory. παθεῖν καὶ εἰσελθ. = παθόντα εἰσελθ. It was not the entering into His glory, but the suffering, about which they wanted persuading.


Verse 27

27.] ἀρξάμ. belongs to both the following clauses, and cannot, as Stier would take it, stand by itself, leaving ἀπό in both clauses to be construed with διερμ. A similar expression is found Acts 3:24. He began with Moses first;—He began with each as He came to them.

τὰ π. ἑαυτοῦ] De Wette remarks, “It were much to be wished that we knew what prophecies of the death and triumph of Jesus are here meant. There are but few that point to the subject.” But I take the τὰ περὶ ἑαυτοῦ to mean something very different from mere prophetical passages. The whole Scriptures are a testimony to Him: the whole history of the chosen people, with its types, and its law, and its prophecies, is a shewing forth of Him: and it was here the whole,— πᾶσαι αἱ γρ.,—that He laid out before them. This general leading into the meaning of the whole, as a whole, fulfilled in Him, would be much more opportune to the place, and the time occupied, than a direct exposition of selected passages.

The things concerning Himself (E. V.) is right: not, ‘the parts concerning Himself.’

Observe the testimony which this verse gives to the divine authority, and the Christian interpretation, of the O.T. Scriptures: so that the denial of the references to Christ’s death and glory in the O.T. is henceforth nothing less than a denial of His own teaching.


Verse 29

29.] παρεβ., they constrained Him. It is not implied that He said any thing to indicate that He would go further—but simply, that He was passing on. “Our blessed Saviour pretended that He would pass forth beyond Emmaus: but if he intended not to do it, yet He did no injury to the two disciples, for whose good it was that He intended to make this offer: and neither did He prevaricate the strictness of simplicity and sincerity, because they were persons with whom He had made no contracts; to whom He had passed no obligation; and in the nature of the thing, it is proper and natural, by an offer, to give an occasion to another to do a good action: and in case it succeeds not, then to do what we intended not; and so the offer was conditional.” Jer. Taylor, Sermon on Christian Simplicity. Works (Heber), vi. 156.

μεθʼ ἡμῶν does not imply that they lived at Emmaus; merely in the same quarters with us.


Verse 30

30.] I believe that there was something in the manner of His breaking the bread, and helping and giving it to them, which was his own appointed means of opening their eyes to the recognition of Him. But we must not suppose any reference to, much less any celebration of, the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. Neither of these disciples was present at its institution (but see Wieseler’s conjecture, which is at all events worth consideration, in note on Luke 24:13); and certainly it had never been celebrated since. With this simple consideration will fall to the ground all that Romanists have built on this incident, even to making it a defence of administration in one kind only. See Wordsw., who gives, in reply, a solution as artificial and unwarranted as the argument of the R. Catholics: shewing the danger of departing from the plain sense of Holy Scripture in search of fanciful allusions. The analogy of such a breaking and giving with His institution of that holy ordinance becomes lost, when we force the incident into an example of the ordinance itself. The Lord at their meal takes on Him the office of the master of the house (which alone would shew that it was not their house, but an inn), perhaps on account of the superior place which His discourse had won for Him in their estimation:—and as the Jewish rule was, that “three eating together were bound to give thanks” (Berac. 45. 1, cited by Meyer), He fulfils this duty. In doing so, perhaps the well-known manner of His taking bread, &c., perhaps the marks of the nails in His hands, then first noticed, or these together, as secondary means,—but certainly His own will and permission to be seen by them, opened their eyes to know Him.


Verse 31

31.] ἄφαντος, not αὐτοῖς, which would imply His Body to have remained, but invisible to them: but ἀπʼ αὐτῶν, implying, besides the supernatural disappearance, a real objective removal from them.


Verse 32

32.] ‘Was there not something heart-kindling in His discourse by the way, which would have led us to suppose that it was none but the Lord Himself?’ not that they did suppose it,—but the words are a sort of self-reproach for not having done so. Compare Matthew 7:29.

ἐλάλει ἡμῖν, as Bengel remarks, is more than συνελάλει ἡμ.:—He spoke to us, not merely, ‘with us,’ as E. V.


Verse 33

33.] ‘Jam non timent iter nocturnum, quod antea dissuaserant ignoto comiti.’ Bengel. The whole eleven were not there—Thomas was not present, if at least the appearance which follows be the same as that in John 20:19, which there seems no reason to doubt. Some have derived an argument from this incompleteness in their number, for the second of the travellers being also an Apostle: see above on Luke 24:13.

Who these οἱ σὺν αὐτοῖς are, we learn from Acts 1:14.


Verse 34

34.] This appearance to Simon (i.e. Peter—the other Simon would not be thus named without explanation: see ch. Luke 5:3 ff.) is only hinted at here,—but is asserted again, 1 Corinthians 15:5, in immediate connexion with that which here follows. It is not clear whether it took place before or after that on the way to Emmaus.


Verse 35

35.] And they—the travellers, distinguished from the others—not ‘they also,’ for thus we should leave the clause without a copula.

ἐν τῇ κλ.] We can hardly after ἐγνώσθη exclude that sense of in, which gives that which follows a share in the instrumentality: being the element, in and by means of which. The example cited by De Wette, ἐν τῇ ἀναστάσει, Matthew 22:28, for the sense, ‘during the breaking,’ &c. does not apply, inasmuch as in that case there is no verb: John 13:35 is far more to the point, and almost decides for the other sense. That this should have been so, does not exclude the supernatural opening of their eyes: see above, on Luke 24:31.


Verse 36

36.] ἔστη ἐν μέσῳ—while they were speaking of these things,—possibly not entirely crediting the account, as seems hinted at in Mark 16:13,—the Lord appeared, the doors being shut, in the midst (John 20:19 and notes).

εἰρ. ὑμ., the ordinary Jewish salutation, שָׁלוֹם לָכֶם, see ch. Luke 10:5, but of more than ordinary meaning in the mouth of the Lord: see John 14:27.


Verses 36-49

36–49.] APPEARANCE OF JESUS TO THE DISCIPLES. Mark 16:14. John 20:19-23. The identity of these appearances need hardly be insisted on. On Mark’s narrative, see notes there. That of John presents no difficulties, on one supposition,—that he had not seen this of Luke. The particulars related by him are mostly additional, but not altogether so.


Verse 37

37.] On account of His sudden appearance, and the likeness to one whom they knew to have been dead.

πνεῦμα is a ghost or spectre—an appearance of the dead to the living; not exactly as φάντασμα, Matthew 14:26, which might have been any appearance of a supernatural kind.


Verse 38

38.] διαλογ., not merely ‘thoughts,’ as E. V., but questionings.


Verse 39

39.] There seems to be some doubt whether the reference to His hands and feet was on account of the marks of the nails, to prove His identity,—or as being the uncovered parts of His body, and to prove His corporeity. Both views seem supported by the text, and I think both were united. The sight of the Hands and Feet, which they recognized as His, might at once convince them of the reality of the appearance, and the identity of the Person. The account of John confirms the idea that He shewed them the marks of the nails, both by His side being added, and by the expressions of Thomas which followed. The same seems also implied in our Luke 24:40.

The assertion of the Lord must not be taken as representing merely ‘the popular notion concerning spirits’ (Dr. Burton); He who is the Truth, does not speak thus of that which He knows, and has created. He declares to us the truth, that those appearances to which He was now likened by the disciples, and spirits in general, have not flesh and bones. Observe σάρκα κ. ὀστέα—but not αἷμα. This the resurrection Body probably had not,—as being the animal life: see notes on John 6:51, and John 20:27.


Verse 41

41.] ἀπὸ τῆς χ., from their joy: the joy which they felt. Wetstein quotes Livy, xxxix. 49, vix sibimet ipsi præ necopinato gaudio credentes.


Verse 42

42.] This was done to convince them further of his real corporeity. The omission of the words καὶ κηρίου in the best MSS. is remarkable: see var. readd. It may possibly have arisen from an idea in some transcriber that this meal is the same as that in John 21:9. The words could hardly have been an interpolation.


Verse 44

44.] Certainly, from the recurrence of δέ, which implies immediate sequence, Luke, at the time of writing his Gospel, was not in possession of records of any Galilæan appearances of the Lord, nor indeed of any later than this one. That he corrects this in Acts 1, shews him meantime to have become acquainted with some other sources of information, not however perhaps including the Galilæan appearances (see Prolegg. to Luke, § iv. 2).

The following discourse apparently contains a summary of many things said during the last forty days before the ascension;—they cannot have been said on this evening; for after the command in Luke 24:49, the disciples would not have gone away into Galilee. Whether the Evangelist regarded it as a summary, is to me extremely doubtful. Knowing apparently of no Galilæan appearances, he seems to relate the command of Luke 24:49, both here and in the Acts, as intended to apply to the whole time between the Resurrection and the descent of the Holy Ghost.

οὗτοι οἱ λ., ‘behold the realization of the words,’ &c.

οὓς ἐλ.] See ch. Luke 18:31-33; Luke 22:37 : Matthew 26:56 alli(119).; but doubtless He had often said things to them on these matters, which have not been recorded for us. So in John 10:25, we have perhaps a reference to a saying not recorded.

This threefold division of the O.T. is the ordinary Jewish one, into the Law ( תּוֹרָה), Prophets ( נְבִיאִים), and Hagiographa ( כְּתוּבִים)—the first containing the Pentateuch; the second Joshua, Judges, the four books of Kings, and the Prophets, except Daniel; the third the Psalms, and all the rest of the canonical books,—Daniel, Esther, Ezra, and Nehemiah being reckoned as one book, and the Chronicles closing the canon.


Verse 47

47. ἀρξάμενοι] See reff. The substance of the preaching of the Gospel literally corresponded to this description—see Acts 2:38; μετανοήσατε, καὶ βαπτισθήτω ἕκαστος ὑμῶν ἐπὶ τῷ ὀν. ἰησοῦ χρ. εἰς ἄφεσιν ἁμαρτιῶν,—were the words of the first sermon preached at Jerusalem.


Verse 48

48. ὑμεῖς] From what follows, Acts 1:22, if these words are to be taken in their strict sense, they must have been spoken only to the Apostles;—they may however have been more general, and said to all present.


Verse 49

49.] This promise is explained (Acts 1:5) to be the baptism with the Holy Ghost,—and the time is limited to ‘not many days hence.’

ἐγὼ ἐξαποστ.] The procession of the Holy Spirit from the Son is clearly here declared, as well as that from the Father. And consequently we find Peter, in Acts 2:33, referring back to these very words, in ascribing the outpouring of the Spirit to the now exalted Saviour. In that verse, the ἐγώ of this is filled up by τῇ δεξιᾷ τοῦ θεοῦ ὑψωθείς—the proper supplement of it here also.

The promise itself is not found in the three Gospels, but expressly and frequently in John 14-16; see Luke 14:16-26; Luke 15:26; Luke 16:7-11; Luke 16:13-14.

The present, ἐξαποστέλλω, is not = a future, but implies that the actual work is done, and the state brought in, by which that sending is accomplished;—viz. the giving of the πᾶσα ἐξουσία ἐν οὐρανῷ κ. ἐπὶ γῆς, Matthew 28:18.

No stress need be laid on καθίσατε: see reff.

The word ἱερουσ. is probably interpolated by some who, believing these words to represent the Galilæan discourse, placed it here for an explanation: or perhaps Acts 1:4 gave occasion to it. This command must have been (historically) uttered after the return from Galilee: see above.

ἐνδύσ.] Though the verb is used in the O.T. (see Judges 6:34; 2 Chronicles 24:20; 1 Chronicles 12:18) of inspiration by the Spirit, it here has its full meaning, of abiding upon and characterizing, as a garment does the person: this, as Stier remarks, was the true and complete clothing of the nakedness of the Fall.


Verse 50

50.] The Ascension appears to be related as taking place after the above words were spoken—but there is an uncertainty and want of specification about the narrative, which forbids us to conclude that it is intended as following immediately upon them. This however can only be said as taking the other Gospels and Acts 1 into account:—if we had none but the Gospel of Luke we should certainly say that the Lord ascended after the appearance to the Apostles and others on the evening of the day of His resurrection.

ἐξήγ. [ ἔξω], i.e. probably, after the words ἐν τῇ πόλει just occurring, outside Jerusalem, as in ref. Mark: but the ἔξω might only apply to the house in which they were, see the other reff., and Matthew 26:75.

ἕως πρὸς β.] Not quite to the village itself, but over the brow of the Mount of Olives where it descends on Bethany: see Acts 1:12. (The synonymousness of these two expressions may shew that the same is meant, when, Mark 11:11, our Lord is said to have gone out at night to Bethany, and, Luke 21:37, to the Mount of Olives.)


Verse 51

51.] διέστη—not, ‘He went a little distance from them previous to His ascension,’—as Meyer would interpret it; but the two verbs belong to one and the same incident,—He was parted from them and borne up into heaven. We need not understand, ‘by an angel,’ or ‘by a cloud,’ nor need ἀνεφ. be middle; the absolute passive is best.

The tense is imperfect, signifying the continuance of the going up during the προσκυν. of the next verse.

The more particular account of the Ascension is given Acts 1:9-12, where see notes. That account is in perfect accordance with this, but supplementary to it.


Verse 52

52. προσκ.] This had been done before by the women, Matthew 28:9, and by the disciples on the mountain in Galilee. This however was a more solemn act of worship, now paid to Him as exalted to God’s right hand.


Verse 53

53.] διὰ παντός, continually,—not ‘all their time;’—daily, at the hours of prayer: see Acts 1:13-14; Acts 3:1.

A few words must be appended here on a point which has been much stirred in Germany, even among the more orthodox Commentators; THE HISTORIC REALITY OF THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE ASCENSION. On those among them who doubt the fact of an Ascension at all, I have nothing to say, standing as I do altogether on different ground from them.

The Lord Himself foretold His Ascension, John 6:62; John 20:17 :—it was immediately after His disappearance from the earth expressly announced by the Apostles, Acts 2:33-34; Acts 5:31 :—and it continued to be an article of their preaching and teaching, 1 Peter 3:22; Ephesians 2:6; Ephesians 4:10; 1 Timothy 3:16. So far should we have been assured of it, had we not possessed the testimonies of Luke, here and in the Acts:—for the fragment super-added to the Gospel of Mark merely states the fact, not the manner of it. But, to take first the a priori view,—is it probable that our Lord would have left so weighty a fact in His history on earth, without witnesses? And might we not have concluded from the wording of John 6:62, that our Lord must have intended an ascension in the sight of some of those to whom He spoke, and that the Evangelist himself gives that hint, by recording those words without comment, that he had seen it?

Then again, is there any thing in the bodily state of our Lord after His resurrection which raises any even the least difficulty here? He appeared suddenly, and vanished suddenly, when He pleased; when it pleased Him, He ate, He spoke, He walked, but His Body was the Body of the Resurrection; only not yet his σῶμα τῆς δόξης (Philippians 3:21), because He had not yet assumed that glory: but that He could assume it, and did assume it at His Ascension, will be granted by all who believe in Him as the Son of God. So that it seems, on à priori grounds, probable that, granted the fact of the Ascension, it did take place in some such manner as our accounts relate:—in the sight of the disciples, and by the uplifting of the risen Body of the Lord towards that which is to those on this earth the visible heaven.

This being so, let us now, secondly, regard the matter à posteriori. We possess two accounts of the circumstances of this ascension, written by the same person, and that person a contemporary of the Apostles themselves. Of the genuineness of these accounts there never was a doubt. How improbable that Luke should have related what any Apostles or apostolic persons might have contradicted? How improbable that the universal Church, founded by those who are said to have been eyewitnesses of this event, should have received these two accounts as authentic, if they were not so? That these accounts themselves are never referred to in the Epistles, is surely no argument against them. If an occasion had arisen, such as necessitated the writing of 1 Corinthians 15, there can be little doubt that St. Paul would have been as particular in the circumstances of the Ascension, as he has been in those of the Resurrection. The fact is, that by far the greatest difficulty remains to be solved by those who can imagine a myth or fiction on this subject to have arisen in the first age of the Church. Such a supposition is not more repugnant to our Christian faith and reverence, than it is to common sense and historical consistency.

 


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Bibliography Information
Alford, Henry. "Commentary on Luke 24:4". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hac/luke-24.html. 1863-1878.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, October 21st, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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