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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Ascension

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1. NT statements.-The historical account of the Ascension is given in Acts 1:2-12, for the Gospel story does not carry us so far. The Ascension, the last of the series of the post-Resurrection appearances, is a new subject, and the description of it begins a new book. This is the case whatever view we take of the text of Luke 24:51, as that in any case is no detailed description of the event, but only a brief summary of the incidents. The First and Fourth Gospels end before the final departure, and so probably did the Second, the conclusion of which (after Luke 16:8) we have lost.

The place of the Ascension was Olivet (Acts 1:12, Ἐλαιών-so, according to some editors, we ought to read the word in Luke 19:29; Luke 21:37), usually called the Mount of Olives. It was ‘over against Bethany’ (Luke 24:50), and therefore on the far or S.E. side of the hill, looking down on Bethany, which lies in a hollow; the reputed site overlooks Jerusalem, and is unlikely to have been the real one (Swete, Appearances, p. 103; but see C. Warren, Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) iii. 619). As they were talking, Jeans lifted up His hands and blessed the disciples (Luke 24:50), and in the act of blessing He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight (Acts 1:9). Two angels (‘men in white apparel’) appeared and assured them of His future return to earth, and they went back to Jerusalem (v. 10ff.) with great joy (Luke 24:52). There had been no record of angelic appearances when the risen Jesus was seen by the disciples, as we might have expected from John 1:51; the angels appeared only to announce the Resurrection and to explain the Ascension. The account in Luke 24:50-52 can hardly apply to any other parting than the Ascension, even if with ‘Western’ authorities (DA, some Old-Lat. Manuscripts , Angustine* [Note: Augustine inserts the words once, and omits them once. Syr-sin is also quoted for the omission; it rends: ‘when he blessed them, he was lifted up (ettrîm) from them,’ which seems to be an abbreviation of the fuller text, and, if so, to be a witness against, the omission (the tr. ‘taken away’ possible but less probable; D-lat has ‘discessit’). Syr-sin also omits ‘and they worshipped him,’ with ‘Western’ texts. The Peshiṭta Syriac has the full text (with ethpresh, ‘was separated,’ for the first verb), as has the Latin Vulgate. The omission may be due to homoioteleuton.] ) we omit the last half of Luke 24:51; ‘was carried up into heaven.’ On no other supposition can the ‘joy’ of the disciples be understood. At any rate, the person who inserted the words, whether the Evangelist or a scribe, so took them.

The NT is full of references to the Ascension. It is called an ‘assumption’ (ἀνάληψις), in the hymn quoted in 1 Timothy 3:16 (‘received up [ἀνελήφθη] in glory’), in the Appendix to Mk. (mark 16:19, ἀνελήφθη) and Luke 9:51 (‘the days of his assumption,’ ἀναλήψεως), as in Acts 1:2; Acts 1:11; Acts 1:22 (cf. ὑπέλαβεν, Acts 1:9). The same verb is used of Elijah (2 Kings 2:11 Septuagint , Sirach 48:9) and of Enoch (Sirach 49:14), and also of the vessel received up into heaven in St. Peter’s vision (Acts 10:16). On the other hand, we read of an ‘ascension’ (ἀνάβασις) in John 6:62; John 20:17, and in Ephesians 4:8 f., where Psalms 68:18 is quoted, the first clause nearly following the Septuagint , the latter differing from it. St. Paul was probably guided by an old Jewish interpretation (Robinson, Com. in loc.); so in Acts 2:34 St. Peter says that David did not ascend (ἀνέβη) into the heavens. The word ‘ascension’ has less of a mystical meaning than ‘assumption,’ and emphasizes the historical side of the matter; ‘assumption’ may be misinterpreted in a Docetic sense, as it is in the Gospel of Peter, 5, where our Lord’s death is so called (ἀνελήφθη) by the Docetic author. For this reason Irenaeus speaks of the Ascension as an ‘assumption in the flesh’ (ἔνσαρκον ἀνάληψιν [Hœr. i. x. 1]; see also Swete, Ap. Creed, 70). Other words are used elsewhere in the NT. Jesus is the High Priest who has ‘passed through’ (διεληλυθότα) the heavens (Hebrews 4:14)-the reference is to the idea of seven heavens (cf. Hebrews 7:26 ‘made higher than the heavens’); He ‘entered’ (εἰσῆλθε) within the veil as a forerunner on our behalf (Hebrews 6:20), not into a holy place (ἅγια) mode with hands, but into heaven itself (Hebrews 9:12; Hebrews 9:24). The Ascension was a ‘departure’ (John 16:7, ἀπέλθω), a ‘parting’ (Luke 24:51, διέστη), according to many Manuscripts a ‘carrying up’ into heaven (ib., ἀνεφέρετο [see above], a verb used of the taking up of the disciples to the Mount of Transfiguration, Matthew 17:1, Mark 9:2), a ‘lifting up’ (Acts 1:9, ἐπήρθη, a verb used of lifting up the eyes to heaven, Luke 18:13, John 17:1), and a ‘journey’ (1 Peter 3:22, πορευθείς, used of the nobleman who went into a far country, a parable looking forward to the Ascension, Luke 19:12).

The Ascension of our Lord was not a death. David did not ascend, though he died and was buried (Acts 2:29; Acts 2:34). So in John 3:13 those who had died had not ‘ascended.’ This verse would hardly have been recorded if the Evangelist had not assumed the Ascension of Jesus as a historical fact, and it is in effect a prophecy of that event; it asserts the pre-existence (καταβάς), and points forward to the Ascension, though it does not assert that our Lord had at that time actually ascended (ἀναβέβηκεν).

The Ascension is implied by the expected return or ‘descent’ of our Lord, 1 Thessalonians 4:16 (καταβήσεται), a return called a ‘revelation’ (ἀποκάλυψις) of the Lord Jesus in 2 Thessalonians 1:7, 1 Corinthians 1:7. The disciples did not look for any other appearance such as had taken place in the Forty Days, until He should come at the end of the world.

2. Session and exaltation of our Lord.-In the passages given above, the Ascension is described as the parting of Jesus from the disciples at the last of the Resurrection appearances; for thereafter there were no such manifestations as those in which Jesus had been touched by the disciples and had eaten in their presence (Matthew 28:9, Luke 24:43 and probably Luke 24:30; Luke 24:35, John 20:27 -though St. Thomas perhaps did not actually touch the Lord when invited to do so-and possibly John 20:17); the appearances to St. Paul at his conversion and to St. John in Patmos were of quite another nature. In the description of the parting a symbolical tinge is seen. The glorified body is received by a cloud as it gradually vanishes from the disciples’ eyes. But ‘up’ and ‘down’ are symbolical words; heaven is not a palace vertically above the Mount of Olives, nor is it a place at all, but a state; the Ascension is a transition rather from one condition to another than from one place to another (Milligan, The Ascension, p. 26). The fact that men were accustomed to speak symbolically of heaven being ‘above’ was doubtless the reason of the last disappearance taking the form that it did; it would seem that when Jesus disappeared on former occasions during the Forty Days (for the Gospels describe His Resurrection body as being not bound by the ordinary laws of Nature) He did not vanish by an apparently upward movement. In the statements about the ascended life of our Lord symbolism has to be still more freely employed, as no human language can adequately describe the new conditions. Just as symbol was necessary to describe the Temptation of our Lord, or the overthrow of Satan by the efforts of the Seventy disciples (Luke 10:17 f.), or the eventual triumph over evil foretold in the Apocalypse, so was it necessary in describing the heavenly life of Jesus. The use of symbolism, of which the Bible from beginning to end is full, does not mean that the incident or condition described is mythical, but that it cannot he expressed in ordinary human words. Sanday, in his striking lecture on ‘The Symbolism of the Bible’ (Life of Christ in Recent Research, Oxford, 1907), defines it as ‘indirect description.’

The symbolism used to describe our Lord’s ascended life is that of Psalms 110:1, which is quoted directly in Mark 12:36, Matthew 22:44, Acts 2:34 f., 1 Corinthians 15:25, Hebrews 1:13; Hebrews 10:12 f., and indirectly in numerous passages which speak of Jesus being, sitting, or standing, on God’s right hand till all His enemies are subdued. In some passages it is said that He ‘sat down’ (ἐκάθισεν, Hebrews 1:3; Hebrews 8:1; Hebrews 10:12, Mark 16:19) or ‘hath sat down’ (κεκάθικεν, Hebrews 12:2, inferior Manuscripts ἐκάθισεν); so in Ephesians 1:20 it is said that God ‘made him to sit’ (καθίσας), and in Revelation 3:21 Jesus says ‘I sat down (ἐκάθισα) with my Father in his throne’ (cf. Revelation 12:5). In other passages Jesus is said to ‘be sitting,’ as in Colossians 3:1 (ἐστὶνκαθήμενος); so in Mark 14:62 and || (see below). While the former method of expression emphasizes the historic fact of the Ascension on a certain day, the latter denotes that the Session was not an isolated, but is a continuous, action. The latter point of view is seen also in Romans 8:34, 1 Peter 3:22 (‘who is at the right hand’), and in Acts 7:55 f. where Stephen sees the Lord ‘standing’ at the right hand of God-ready (such seems to be the meaning) to help His martyr (cf. also Revelation 5:6; Revelation 14:1). And we note that in Psalms 110:1 [Septuagint ] the imperative ‘sit’ (κάθου) marks the continuance of the Session (Westcott on Hebrews 1:13). This variation in biblical usage is reflected in the use of both ‘sitteth’ and ‘sat down’ (sedet, sedit) in different Creeds. The former is the usual form, e.g. in the ‘Constantinopolitan’ form of the Nicene Creed (καθεζόμενον; cf. Tertullian, de Virg, Vel. 1, ‘sedentem nunc’). But the latter is sometimes found, especially in the 4th cent., as in the Creed of Jerusalem (Cyr. Jer. Cat. xiv. 27, καθίσαντα ἐκ δεξιῶν τοῦ Πατρός); in the Testament of our Lord (ii. 8); the Verona Latin fragments of the Didascalia (ed. Hauler, p. 110); the Egyptian and Ethiopia Church Orders; and in the Creeds of the Abbot Pirminius (8th cent.), of the Bangor Antiphonary (7th cent.), of the Gallican Sacramentary (7th cent.; Codex Bobiensis), and of the Missale Gallicanum (Mabillon); cf. also Tert. de Prœscr. 13, ‘sedisse.’

The Session is ‘at the right hand of God’-either ἐκ δεξιῶν or ἐν δεξιᾷ; the former in Psalms 110:1 [Septuagint ] (‘at my right hand’) and in the quotations of it in Matthew 22:44, Mark 12:36, Acts 2:34, Hebrews 1:13, also in the allusions to it in Mark 14:62 and || Matthew 26:64 (both ‘of power’) and || Luke 22:69 (‘of the power of God’) and Mark 16:19, Acts 7:55 f. twice (‘of God’). But St. Paul, St. Peter, and the writer of Hebrews prefer ἐν δεξιᾷ: Romans 8:34, Hebrews 10:12 (though Hebrews 10:13 is a quotation from Psalms 110:1), Colossians 3:1, 1 Peter 3:22 (all these have ‘of God’); so Hebrews 1:3 (‘of the Majesty on high’) Hebrews 8:1 (‘of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens’) Hebrews 12:2 (‘of the throne of God’), Ephesians 1:20 (‘his right hand’). With these phrases cf. Acts 2:33 (‘being therefore by the right hand of God exalted,’ ὑψωθείς) Acts 5:31 (‘him did God exalt with his right hand’), in both of which places Revised Version margin reads ‘at’ for ‘by’ or ‘with.’

The symbolism of Session, according to Pearson (On the Creed, article vi.) and Westcott (Historic Faith4, 1890, p. 52), is that of perfect rest from all pain, sorrow, disturbance, and opposition. Yet, as Swete points out (Ascended Christ, p. 14), this is, at best, incomplete. The seated monarch on earth is not idle, and so the seated Christ ‘rests not day nor night from the unintermitting energies of heaven.’ The symbolism of the right hand is unmistakable. It expresses the exaltation and glory of the Ascended Christ as Man. Jesus did not merely return to His former glory (cf. John 17:5 : ‘which I had with thee before the world was’), but, in addition, was glorified in His human nature. For the exaltation see Luke 24:26 (‘to enter into his glory’-the glory which was His due), John 7:39; John 12:16, Acts 2:36 (‘God hath made him-caused him to be recognized as-both Lord and Christ’; with reference to the Session), 2 Corinthians 3:13-18, Philippians 2:9 (αὐτὸν ὑπερύψωσε, ‘highly exalted him,’ in consequence of the self-emptying and self-humiliation), 1 Timothy 3:16 (‘received up in glory’), Hebrews 2:9 (‘crowned with glory and honour’), and the passages given above. The exaltation or ‘lifting up’ (ὕψωσις) is spoken of by our Lord in immediate reference to the Crucifixion (John 3:14; John 8:28; John 12:32; John 12:34), but doubtless with the further thought that death leads to glory (cf. John 13:31; see also Milligan, op. cit. p. 78f.).-It is not improbable that the period of Forty Days was one of increasing glory, of which the Ascension was the consummation. In John 20:17 our Lord Says to Mary Magdalene, ‘I ascend’ (ἀναβαίνω), that is, not ‘I shall ascend,’ as our looser English use of the present tense may suggest, but ‘I am ascending.’ ‘The Resurrection had begun the great change; from Easter morning He was already ascending’ (Swete, Holy Spirit in NT, p. 374). But the last parting was the definite act of Ascension.

3. The work of the ascended Christ.-(a) Jesus has ascended to make intercession for us as our Priest, Romans 8:34, Hebrews 7:25 (a perpetual intercession). The High-Priesthood of Christ is one of the great themes of Hebrews, and Psalms 110:4 is quoted in Hebrews 5:6; Hebrews 5:10; Hebrews 7:17; Hebrews 7:21. Jesus is High Priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek, not of the Aaronic order (see below). He is our ‘great priest’ (Hebrews 10:21). One of the meanings of ‘Paraclete’ is ‘Advocate’ or ‘Intercessor,’ and Jesus is our Paraclete (1 John 2:1), as He Himself implies in calling the Holy Ghost ‘another Paraclete’ (ἄλλον Παράκλητον, John 14:16). His very presence in heaven is the intercession which He offers. He ‘appears before the face of God for us’ (Hebrews 9:24). This is the meaning of the references in Hebrews to the high priest entering into the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement (Hebrews 4:14-16; HEB 16:20; Hebrews 7:27; Hebrews 8:3; Hebrews 9:7; Hebrews 9:12; Hebrews 9:24 etc.) But we must notice two differences between the type and the antitype. The earthly high priest stands to offer (Hebrews 10:11), while Jesus is usually (though not always) depicted as sitting (above, § 2). And the earthly high priest enters into the Holy of Holies alone, leaving the people outside, while Jesus carries the people with Him within the veil and gives them access to the Father (Hebrews 10:19-22). Jesus is the Mediator (Hebrews 8:6; Hebrews 12:24), and on His mediation all human intercession is based (1 Timothy 2:1; 1 Timothy 2:5). Mediation and intercession are not, indeed, quite the same thing. A mediator brings the contending parties together. But our ascended Mediator goes further, and offers intercession for all men (see Swete, Asc. Christ, p. 93). In this connexion we must notice that there is no contradiction between the intercession of the Holy Ghost and that of our ascended Lord. St. Paul speaks of both intercessions in the same context (Romans 8:26 f., 34). The two are not to be separated; they are really one act, though the insufficiency of human language makes them seem two. The intercession of our Lord in heaven and that of the Spirit in the hearts of believers are one. Christ in heaven sends the Holy Ghost to intercede within us. This double conception is parallel with that of the Holy Spirit coming down to us here on earth at the same time that we are taken up to ‘the heavenlies’ with Jesus (Ephesians 2:6).

It has long been disputed when the High-Priesthood of Christ began. He was the Priest-Victim on the Cross, and some passages in Hebrews point to a Priesthood on earth, while others point to one in heaven only. Westcott (Hebrews 3, p. 229, Add. Note on 8:1) says that Christ fulfilled two types, and that there are two aspects of His Priesthood, one as fulfilling the Levitical High-Priesthood on earth before the Session, and the other as fulfilling that of Melchizedek thereafter. The priesthood was thus, as it were, completed by the Ascension. But Milligan (op. cit. p. 72ff.) denies the two types of priesthood, and says that our Lord’s Priesthood began with His glorification, and that the Death was part of this glorification, falling in the sphere of the heavenly Priesthood. There seems to be much truth in both views. The Priesthood of Christ is one, but as the earthly high priest only fulfilled his priesthood when he brought the blood of the victim within the Holy Place, so Christ did not fulfil His Priesthood till the Ascension (see J. H. Bernard, in Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics ii. 157).

(b) Jesus has ascended to rule over and to fill all things; He is our King. This is specially emphasized in Rev (Revelation 1:5; Revelation 5:11 f.; Revelation 11:15; Revelation 19:12; Revelation 19:16; Revelation 20:4). Jesus is the ruler of the kings of the earth, and is worthy to receive the power and the might; the kingdom of the world is become the Kingdom of our Lord [the Father] and of His Christ; Jesus has many diadems on His head, and is King of kings and Lord of lords; He reigns with His saints for a thousand years. St. Paul also emphasizes the Kingship of the Ascended Christ. He must (δεῖ)-it is fitting that He should-reign till His enemies are conquered (1 Corinthians 15:25). He is seated far above all rule, authority, and power, both in this and in the coming age (Ephesians 1:21); He ascended that He might fill all things (Ephesians 4:10; cf. Ephesians 3:19). His rule is with a view to the restoration of the universe to order, and is not only over Christians, but over all. He was exalted that in His name every knee should bow throughout the whole universe (Philippians 2:9 f.), i.e. in the name which the Father gave Him (v. 9), namely, the Divine Majesty: to the Divine Jesus all shall do homage (see Lightfoot’s note). He is the Head of the Church, and in all things has the pre-eminence (πρωτεύων), for in Him all the fulness dwells (Colossians 1:18 f.; for πλήρωμα, see Robinson, Ephesians, p. 255); cf. Ephesians 4:15 f.; 5:23. So St. Peter speaks of angels and authorities and powers being made subject to the Ascended Christ (1 Peter 3:22). All authority in heaven and earth has been given to Him (Matthew 28:18). He is the Priest-King, the ‘priest upon his throne’ of Zechariah 6:13; and His Kingship assures us that good will triumph over evil.

(c) The office of the Ascended Jesus as Prophet is not so explicitly mentioned in the NT as His Priesthood and Kingship. Yet it is clearly implied. His prophetic or teaching office did not cease at the Ascension; on the contrary, He thereafter teaches more plainly; not, as formerly, in proverbs (John 16:25); the teaching is through the girt of the Spirit, who was to teach us all things (John 14:26), and guide us into all the truth, not speaking from Himself, ‘for he shall take of mine and shall declare it unto you’ (John 16:13 f.). This is illustrated by the outpouring of the gift of prophecy upon the infant Church; ‘the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy’ (Revelation 19:10). Now the Ascension is intimately connected with the gift of the Spirit. The Ascension was not a mere spectacle to reassure the disciples, but the mode by which we are given a new life. Until Jesus was glorified it was not possible for the new mode of His presence to take effect (John 7:39; John 16:7; cf. Luke 24:49). Hence the necessity of our Lord’s death: otherwise the grain of wheat could not bear fruit (John 12:24). The Ascended Christ became a life-giving Spirit (1 Corinthians 15:45). The connexion between the Ascension and the gift of the Spirit is also seen from the fact that the last words of Jesus (Acts 1:8) were that the disciples should receive power when the Holy Ghost should be come upon them, and so they would be Jesus’ witnesses in all the world. This explains to us the purport of the words ‘after he had spoken to them,’ in the Appendix to Mk. (Mark 16:19).

(d) Another work is referred to in Hebrews 6:20. The Ascended Christ has entered within the veil on our behalf as a Forerunner (πρόδρομος [see forerunner]), to prepare a place for us (John 14:2; for the ‘many resting-places,’ see Swete, Asc. Christ, 105ff.), that we may sit with Him on His throne (Revelation 3:21).

4. Interval between the Resurrection and the Ascension.-In Acts 1:3 Jesus is said to have appeared to the disciples ‘by the space of forty days’ (διʼ ἡμερῶν τεσσαράκοντα). This interval has boon usually taken as exact, and when the Festival of the Ascension was instituted, in the 4th cent., the sixth Thursday after Easter was selected for the purpose (Ap. Const. v. 20; cf. viii. 33, ed. Funk), and has been so observed ever since. But St. Luke’s words do not necessarily imply an exact period of forty days, and there have been other calculations. In the Third Gospel he describes all the events which took place after the Resurrection till the ‘parting’ of Luke 24:51 (see above, § 1), without Any note of time, and the deduction has been drawn that when he wrote the Gospel he supposed that all the post-Resurrection appearances which he describes took place on Easter Day itself, but that he learnt a more accurate chronology before he wrote Acts (cf. article Acts of the Apostles, V. 1). This is scarcely credible, and assumes that the Gospels are what they never claim to be-chronological biographies, like modern ‘Lives.’ This view makes St. Luke get in all the events which happened after the evening meal at Emmaus (Luke 24:29), including the return journey of the two disciples 7 or 8 miles to Jerusalem, before nightfall, for none of the authorities suggests that the Ascension took place at night. In Luke 24 we have a series of events foreshortened (probably because the author had already planned Acts), and no note of time is suggested.

There are, however, some indications that the words ‘forty days’ were not always taken exactly. ‘Barnabas’ makes the Ascension take place on a Sunday (§ 15); but he does not say that it was the same Sunday as the Resurrection (‘the eighth day … in which also Jesus rose from the dead, and, having been manifested, ascended up to heaven’). He mentions the ‘eighth’ rather than the ‘first’ day because it follows, the seventh day or Sabbath, of which he is treating; he hints at the replacement of the Jewish Sabbath by the Christian Lord’s day, but only obscurely. With this we may compare the fact that in the Edessene Canons (4th cent.) the Ascension was commemorated on Whitsunday, and go in the Pilgrimage of ‘Silvia’ (Etheria), though in that work the fortieth day after Easter was observed for another purpose; seethe present writer’s article ‘Calendar, The Christian,’ in Dict. of Christ and the Gospels i. 261a. This is some confirmation of the suggestion that the Ascension took place on a Sunday. There are also some speculations of an extravagant nature, such as the valentinian idea that the interval between the Resurrection and the Ascension was 18 months, or that of certain Ophites that it was 11 or 12 years, or that of Eusebius in one place (Dem. Evang. viii. 2) that it was as long as the Ministry before the Crucifixion; see Swete, Ap. Creed, p. 69f. All that we can deduce from these facts is that, while the Ascension may have taken place on the Thursday, it may also have happened on the following Sunday, or on any day between or close to these dates.

5. Modern objections to the Ascension.-The present article is mainly concerned with the facts, and the reader may be referred for an answer to objections from a philosophical point of view to A. S. Martin’s article in Dict. of Christ and the Gospels i., which is very full on this head. Here it is enough to say (a) that the objection that it is impossible for a body to disobey the laws of gravity and to ascend instead of fall, presupposes that the Resurrection body of our Lord was under the same material conditions as His body before Easter Day, which all the Evangelists’ accounts show not to have been the case. Objections on this head are therefore really objections to the Resurrection, not to the Ascension. (b) It is impossible to regard the account in Acts 1 as a myth unless we adopt the now exploded theory that the whole gospel story is such. The narrative bears the same stamp of truth as the evangelical records. For example, Sanday well points out the authentic touch about the disciples desiring the restoration of the earthly kingdom of Israel (v. 8f.; see Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) ii. 643a). However we may interpret the narrative, there can be little doubt that it represents what the eye-witnesses believed to have taken place.

But an allegation of Harnack must be briefly noticed here, as it deals with the facts. He says that the special prominence given to the Ascension in the Creeds is a deviation from the oldest teaching, and that in the primitive tradition the Ascension had no separate place (Das apost. Glaubensbekenntniss, Berlin, 1892). He alleges the silence of the Synoptists, of St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:3 ff., and of the chief sub-apostolic writers; the placing, in some old accounts, of the Session after the Resurrection as if they were one act; and the discrepancy noted above as to the interval between the Resurrection and the Ascension. These allegations have been ably answered by Swete (Ap. Creed, ch. vi.). The argument from silence (always precarious) is invalid in the case of Mt. and Mk., which do not carry the narrative so far as the Ascension (the end of Mk. is lost); at best it hardly applies to Lk. (see above, § 1), and the mention of the Ascension in 1 Corinthians 15:3 ff. would have been irrelevant to St. Paul’s argument. Moreover, the Ascension belongs to the history of the Church rather than to the gospel narrative, and therefore it is not to be expected that it should be found there except in allusion. It is hard to see any force in the argument from St. Paul’s silence in one place when elsewhere he so emphatically states his belief in the Ascension. As to the sub-apostolic writers, the Ascension is explicitly mentioned by ‘Barnabas’ (§ 15), by Justin (Dial. 38), and is probably referred to by Ignatius (Magn. 7). The allegation that the Session and the Resurrection were regarded as one act may be tested by Romans 8:34, where St. Paul names successively the Death, Resurrection, Session, and Intercession of Christ. If the second and third of these are one act, why not also the first and fourth? The argument from the interval has already been dealt with (above, § 4). For fuller details, see Swete, Ap. Creed. It is quite intelligible that those who believe that our Lord is mere Man should find difficulties in the doctrine that He ascended; but it is not really possible to maintain that the disciples did not believe it.

6. Importance of the Ascension for the practical life.-This has been indirectly pointed out above (§ 3). The Ascension shows that the work of Christ for man has never ceased, but is permanent, although He has never needed to repeat His sacrifice. It has brought Jesus into closer touch with us; He has never ceased to be Man, and in the heavenly sphere is not removed far away from us, but is with us until the end of the world (Matthew 28:20). He raises our ideals from earthly things to heavenly; and, giving us through the Spirit the new life which enables us to follow Him, by His Ascension teaches us the great Sursum Corda: ‘Lift up your hearts; we lift them up unto the Lord.’

Literature.-W. Milligan, The Ascension and Heavenly Priesthood of our Lord (Baird Lecture), London, 1892; H. B. Swete, The Apostles’ Creed, Cambridge, 1894, The Holy Spirit in the New Testament, London, 1909, Appendix E, The Appearances of our Lord after the Passion, do. 1907, The Ascended Christ, do. 1910; J. Pearson, On the Creed, article vi.; J. Denney, article ‘Ascension,’ in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) i.; W. Sanday, article ‘Jesus Christ,’ ib. ii.; A. S. Martin, article ‘Ascension,’ in Dict. of Christ and the Gospels i.; J. G. Simpson, article ‘Ascension,’ in Hastings’ Single-vol. Dictionary of the Bible ; J. H. Bernard, article ‘Assumption and Ascension,’ in Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics ii.; B. F. Westcott, Com. on Hebrews, London, 1906; R. L. Ottley, The Rule of Faith and Hope, do. 1912, p. 82ff.; A. J. Tait, The Heavenly Session of our Lord, do. 1912; S. C. Gayford, elaborate review of foregoing, in Journal of Theological Studies xiv. [1913] 458.

A. J. Maclean.


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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Ascension'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hdn/a/ascension.html. 1906-1918.

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