16. Why is Matthew the only gospel to mention that people rose from the dead after Christ’s resurrection?

Three out of four gospel writers agree: Zombies didn’t invade Jerusalem.

“And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.”
~ Matthew 27:52-53

So why is Matthew the only gospel writer to include this detail?

Zombies?  What Zombies?

Whenever a story is missing from the other gospels, a common apologetics move is to say that “the absence of evidence isn’t evidence of absence.”  In other words, just because Mark, Luke and John don’t mention it, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.  Perhaps they’re right.  Perhaps the other gospel writers just forgot that detail, or were ignorant of it, or didn’t feel it was important to the story.  Seriously?

Queue the Thriller music

Imagine you witnessed a car accident near a graveyard.  After the accident, some graves opened up and several people rose from the dead.  Do you think this might be something you’d mention when retelling the story?  Sure, because it’s an extremely unusual event.  People don’t just rise up out of the grave every day (well, not nearly as often as they used to).

But what if several other people witnessed the same accident, but didn’t mention any dead people rising from the grave?  Perhaps they all just had a minor lapse in memory.  Or perhaps they all didn’t feel it was relevant to the story.  Or perhaps they all would later recall “Oh yes, I forgot the bit about the zombies.  Now that you mention it, I definitely saw some zombies.”

No, I’m sorry, but one does NOT forget to mention zombies.  It’s certainly normal to forget (or leave out) minor details when retelling a story, but not something as significant as this.

So what happened next?

Matthew doesn’t go into much detail, so one can only speculate about what happened after the dead arose…

Did they have physical bodies or were they ghosts?  Could they talk?  What did they say?  Did they talk about life after death?  Did they return to their graves?  Or rise to heaven?  Or did they just go back home?  (“Honey, I’m home! … Again!”)

No one can say for sure, but I like to think the citizens of Jerusalem panicked and started stabbing them with knives and pitchforks screaming “You’re dead!  We buried you!  Why won’t you die!?!

A story only Fox News could love

Why do no other outsiders cover this story?  Wasn’t this big news?  You’d think everyone leaving the city would be saying, “Hey, did you see the dead people yet?” and the people entering would say “No, we heard, we’re heading there now!!!”  How unfortunate it is that Matthew is the only person in the world to record this event.

Back to the Gospels

So did the other gospel writers just think Matthew was full of crap?  Maybe they thought the story would steal Jesus’s thunder.  After all, if everyone else is rising from the dead, maybe it’s not such a big deal.  (“You say Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to many?  So did my uncle Joe!”)

Incidentally, Matthew is also the only one to record an earthquake after Jesus’s death.  He also has the most dramatic retelling of the resurrection.  You might say that while the other gospel writers were telling a story, Matthew was writing a screenplay.  “More earthquakes!  More thunder!  More blood!  More zombies!!!”

So what does this mean?

At best, Mark didn’t know of the event, and somehow Luke and John never heard of it or read Matthew’s account.

At worst, Matthew isn’t telling “the gospel truth,” and lied to make the story more convincing.

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29 Responses to 16. Why is Matthew the only gospel to mention that people rose from the dead after Christ’s resurrection?

  1. nrhatch says:

    I’m convinced that Matthew is a big fat liar. 😀

  2. rautakyy says:

    Well, in my case, and I believe in your also, Mathews “exaggeration” made it less convincing. It is also very strange that the historian Josephus who lived in Jerusalem does not mention any of the events in the gospels. He does mention there were these wondering teachers, who could be related to the story of the unemployed carpenter from Nasarea roaming the countryside whith a bunch of hippies, and basicly stating the obvious like “do the right thing” to the oppressed masses.

    In my opinion it is quite possible most of the events in the gospels did happen, but to accept any of the miracles, would be the same as accepting all the other information from the same era whith as little critique. Tacitus who was a Roman historian less then hundred years after the Jesus incident, has told us marvellous things about the german tribes north of the empire. His stories have later been backed up by archeological evidence even as far as how people lived in Lapland, but yet we do not think his account of cynocephalons or men whith faces on their bellies beyond the german and sarmatic people are true. Why? Because such miracles would require a leap of faith in the innerrancy of the scripture. Same goes for zombies in the gospels, including the one who was proclaimed to be the son of a very insignificant god (at the time), which hundreds of years later became the religion in the empire that executed this alledged son. And the predestination of his death removed the guilt of killing the only son of this god, from the shoulders of the empire. In fact, the blame was set for hundreds of years on the “chosen people” of the insignificant god. Intriguing story.

    Maybe Mathew just simply wanted his Jesus-story to be THE Jesus-story. Or maybe he was writing under divine inspiration and a god told him to put in some extra fluf to make his might look greater than it actually was…

  3. brunnell de Castro says:

    Did Mathew,really write those events? Once I read that the original book of Mathew was lost,and what is wrten was told bya people who testify those events..The wor of God is pure and true. t you never read that most of the children of this earth are not God`s children? maybe,this who suffer are satan`s children. In John,chapter 17 Jesus is praying,and He mention to God the next: Father,bless those who will believe i thee,through the preaching of the gospel. I don t play for the whole world,but for those you gave me.Here they are,and noone of them were lost,EXCEPT THE SON OF PERDITION( JUDAS ISCARIOTES).SEe,them,beloveds,that God is not obliged to defend the children of the devil. And who are these children? those who will never accept the gospe of The glorious Jesus,for their salvation.Maybe you are the one..then,my friend..take care.God may destroy you also. To critisais God, is to face death.

    • John Toniolo says:

      lolwut? I cant, say, if Matthew, really wrote. Those. Events. Critisais

    • Anonymous says:

      Laughing my ass off, first christians boast that God created us ALL and that since he is omnipotent he is in charge of everything that happens and he is the perpetrator of the “master plan” then we turn around and now it turns out Satan can spawn children into the world as well? Damn he sure must be powerful, isn’t God the only supposed creator of humanity or did I miss the part where the Bible talks about Adam and Eve’s evil twins? Either God is responsible for everything or he isn’t there is no in between. Funny to see the extremes Christians will go to defend their delusion.

    • DanD says:

      None of the books were actually written by the apostle named, with the earliest (probably Mark) written no earlier than 65 AD.

      However, if you believe the bible is literal and divinely inspired, then it doesn’t make any difference who wrote it, because they were just taking dictation for God. So, did Go’d copy editor advise him to punch it up a bit between between Mark and Matthew? Or maybe he retroactively made the events have happened in the past. After all, he can do that sort of thing.

  4. John says:

    Theologically…most Catholics believe that Matthew probably was sitting behind Mark in class and plagarized some stuff (the shortest gospel is Mark) because there are some pretty significant similarities that I haven’t read😛 as for scriptural inerrency, there are entire courses of theological study devoted to just such questions…hell, there’s semester long courses on sacramental theology (about the 7 catholic sacraments) at my school (thank God I’m a nursing major lol) and that stuff doesn’t even seem that complicated. Long story short, some apostles claim things on a different timeline for thematic effect (lights camera action if you will haha)…but then I just took a Theo 101 class.

  5. Don says:

    Have you read Mike Licano’s explanation?

    • Mary says:

      Michael Licona, in his awesome must-read book on the resurrection, argues that the earthquake and resurrection of the saints story is probably not historical, but is instead apocalyptic imagery. Norman Geisler, another Christian apologist, disagreed with this view publicly, claiming that it compromises inerrancy. Must we accept that the earthquake and resurrection of the saints is real history in order to be inerrantists?

  6. Not lying but trying to be poetic. I think that some parts are eyewitness accounts and some parts are poetic and more allegorical thoughts and intentions of the writers.

  7. daveton hill says:

    A lot of people like you MdIngetsoll think you have All answers or that you can do a better job at running this world you cant even run your own life.God dont create weapons of mass destruction God dont give children guns God dont rape or abuse children.All the evil in the world today is a result of sinful man and our selfish greedy ambitions and desires.So you want instruct God??? Where were you when God created Heaven and Earth, How do you create a soul?? Can you blow the breath of life can you make something out of nothing by just speaking it ?? Can you lay your life down and raise it up on your own?? Where upon are the foundations of the world fastened?? If you or anyone else can do even one of these things then you or anyone else can judge God.Robert Ingersoll you are nothing without God.Not because God does not reveal His will or purposes doesn’t make HIM evil

    • Hi Daveton,

      If I may interject (not sure who you were addressing here), you are correct in saying that God did not give mankind these weapons. If mankind were the ONLY cause of evil in the world, then we could make a good argument for God being good and man being evil.

      However, the overwhelming majority of people do not suffer and die because of bombs, guns, and rape, they actually suffer and die because of bacteria, viruses, cancer, genetic defects, natural disasters, insufficient resources, etc. Man did not invent these things, they came with the environment. God certainly did not HAVE to allow these things, we could have performed plenty of evil deeds without them.

      Even assuming there was a “fall,” a good God could still provide us a perfect place to live in which we conduct our evil deeds. We could still wage war in the Garden of Eden. Bacteria and viruses are not a prerequisite for evil behavior. We tend to assume God exists and he is good, but our environment provides us with ample evidence to the contrary.

      Anyone can say, “(Insert god here) created us, so we must not question why it does what it does.” We have to examine the evidence for every proposed god to see which is the true god, if any are true.

      Take care,

  8. jas. says:

    Zombies lol…no…there’s reincarnation is nothing of the god…its Satan saying u can rise so can all those that got the world to hatecu the first time…ppl of this world bow down to power that can effect there body’s personal wellbeing… Sad but true…now there’s those that look past living to existing…I believe god had him speak of it to let u know when the government starts opening graves and digging up remains..u know what he wrote was another prophecy of the teachings..its not a story book…its real and its day and days is upon us…Jesus left back to god and sent the holy spirit to carry the word…. Perfectness can’t sit in the eye of the devel nor does god or any of gods ppl want to feel the pain of a loved one deceiving the glory….god is love and love is forgiveness… Us as ppl are gonna have to stand up and put the zombies back in there grave lol…but don’t mock gods messagers….the holy spirit is the gateway to heaven…look into our soul of u…look past the fake image u pertray in this world…look at how goofy and freely u act in the comfort of ur home and how u act when u go to work and how u act when our out with friends???? So who has the nerve to say Jesus is fake…when we don’t know how to be just who we are lol

  9. moses says:

    plz every word of God is inspired of the spirit if others didnt write about the ressurection of the dead they didnt know about it

  10. Anonymous says:

    Hey 500Q,

    Here’s a very interesting take on this story: http://www.illustratedbiblestories.ca/dawn_of_the_dead_saints_1.htm

  11. Randall Stevenson says:

    Many of the differences in the Gospels relate to the intended audiences. Mark the story of the passion with a long introduction, attributed to John Mark, who was believed to be Peter’s interpreter in Rome. Luke is very Gentile in orientation and fits with a Pauline focus. Matthew was written for a Jewish-Christian community. (Where Luke mentions “Kingdom of God”, Matthew usually uses “Kingdom of Heaven”, since Jews would avoid using a name of God.) The idea of a resurrection of the righteous was fairly new to the Jewish beliefs. Initially they believed that God awarded or punished people in their lives. The idea that good people were being killed and evil people were doing well created a problem with their theology and the idea of divine justice. The solution was an afterlife, where the evil were punished and the good were rewarded. This belief taking hold is reflected in the books of the Maccabees. At the time of Jesus there was debate in the Jewish community about whether or not there was a resurrection and an afterlife. The Sadducees held the position of when someone is dead that is the end. The Pharisees believed in an afterlife. Jesus supported the Pharisee position. Matthew was providing information that Jews would be interested in knowing. It answered the question of what happened to our family members that died before Jesus came? Paul addressed it somewhat with the Corinthians when he asked them if they did not believe in a resurrection, why were they baptizing for the dead?

  12. Anonymous says:

    The eastern mindset was different to our western world. They saw everything with spiritual eyes. Paul was at a fire pit one day and a snake came out of the fire. When Jesus walked on water they were frightened and thought he was a spirit. In cultures where there is no dependence on technology, God is all they have and they develop spiritually.

  13. Anonymous says:

    And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.”
    ~ Matthew 27:52-53
    There was an earthquake after Christ death and therefore bodies become visible because of it, not zombies or resurrection of humans. This did prove that Christ was in fact the Son of GOD the FATER JEHOVAH

    • DanD says:

      Except that Cemeteries in the period were not located within city walls. So your interpretation still doesn’t explain the “arose” or “went into the holy city”. Or, really the “appeared unto many”, which is saying they (the dead) took an action as opposed to something like “were seen by many” which could be applied to inanimate corpses.

  14. A Biblical Scholar says:

    I find it interesting that many here read this event as a crucial detail, claiming it to be for shock value or a lie to enhance the credibility of the story. There are several details given by Matthew which show him, considering the culture which he comes from, which strongly suggests that this conclusion is false and negligent of the rest of the passage, such as the recording of the detail which claims that the empty tomb was found by two women. In Matthew’s Jewish culture, women had few rights, were considered of weak intellectual character, and could not even testify to their experience in a court of law. If Matthew were to choose to lie for credibility’s sake, certainly he would leave out this detail or even claim to have found the tomb himself.

    Another detail which suggests this not to be a falsehood is that the author states that the holy people rose from their tombs as an afterthought and does not follow up with details about this event. This suggests that the author simply does not find this as important as the death and suffering of Jesus Christ on the cross. Perhaps this is why the other apostles have left this detail out of their testimonies. It is not nearly as important as the main story, that Jesus Christ suffered, died, conquered sin and death, and closed the divide which, for us, is impossible to traverse between our imperfect sinfulness and God’s perfect righteousness. Certainly, to someone who witnessed these events, nothing could possibly upstage the availability of everlasting life, an end to suffering, and the blessing of a relationship with a perfect God whose love conquered all for us.

    Of course this is the case, seeing that all of the disciples willingly suffered greatly and died for this. What fool would die for a lie? Certainly not every one of the 11? (And more witnesses than this as well) And yet, we have historical record which says they did, even after being given chances to renounce their beliefs. I can only conclude that these men truly saw what they claimed to have seen and died for that truth.

    • Hi A Biblical Scholar, thanks for commenting.

      This is a bit like saying, “Well, the witness seems credible, but then he also says he was molested by bigfoot…”

      If I were speaking to someone who seemed reasonable, but then they start going on about how they occasionally have meetings with the ghosts of their dead relatives, I would still question their story (though it’s not uncommon for intelligent people to believe weird things). Such extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and if someone is going to claim that a bunch of dead people suddenly shot up out of their tombs and began wondering around town, I don’t care HOW reasonable that person may have seemed up to that point, they’d better have some pretty damn good evidence to back up that claim. Having ONE guy make the claim, when all the other witnesses don’t even bother mention it, is very suspicions, and hardly good evidence.

      “What fool would die for a lie? Certainly not every one of the 11? (And more witnesses than this as well) And yet, we have historical record which says they did, even after being given chances to renounce their beliefs.”

      According the gospels, no more than 14 people who knew Jesus also witnessed the resurrection. It’s questionable as to exactly how they died, and even if they were killed, they may not have been given the opportunity to recant to save their lives. Like many people who have believed the wrong thing at the wrong time, they may have been killed for just being Christians (just as many Jews were later killed by Christians, for not accepting Christ).

      But even if ALL 14 died for their cause, is this impressive? Consider how Marshall Applewhite (of the Heaven’s Gate cult) convinced 38 others to die for his crazy ideas, or how Jim Jones got over 900 followers to give up their lives. And these are MODERN DAY examples. How much easier would it have been to dupe a dozen superstitious people 2,000 years ago? People who had no idea how the world worked?


      • Someone Who Knows Better Than You says:

        You are still totally disregarding all of those who saw Jesus alive after even the Romans were convinced he was dead. And the over 500 people who witnessed him ascend to heaven. You don’t make a very good point. You disregard all the evidence by saying it’s not evidence. That is the mark of a fool.

        • Listen, I know your Bible teaches you that everyone who doesn’t agree with you is a “fool,” but calling someone a fool is no way to foster an intelligent and constructive conversation.

          The simple truth is that this large number (500) is not supported in any of the four gospels. (If you can show me where these gospels mention 500 witnesses, I will gladly retract this statement.) The four gospels state that Jesus appeared to his apostles (in addition to a couple others), and then ascended into heaven. These accounts all differ somewhat, but even taken collectively, at most, we have a maximum of 14 witnesses.

          Sometime later, Paul changes the resurrection story, and clams that he too was “visited” by Jesus (though technically he doesn’t actually SEE Jesus, but a bright light). Paul also adds the visitation to the 500 (1 Corinthians 15:6 ), though Paul doesn’t claim to have witnessed this event personally (i.e. it’s heresay). Unfortunately, Paul only mentions this event in ONE sentence, he doesn’t name who witnessed this event, or where it took place, or why they were gathered together (we can assume they were believers), or in what context Jesus “visited” the 500. Did Jesus spoke to the crowd? Was it just a shared “vision” like Paul had? Could it have been a case of mistaken identity, from a crowed longing to see their risen and returning messiah? We don’t know. What we DO know is that this large number is not collaborated by any of the gospel accounts, or any other historic document. So you can believe it if you wish, but it must be accepted on faith, as it is not admissible as “evidence” (at least not the kind of extraordinary evidence that is required to prove such an extraordinary claim).

          And for the record, the Bible says nothing of these 500 witnessing an ascension into heaven.

          So please try to step back for a moment and look at this objectively: how many false stories have been told throughout history? How many thousands of gods and religions have been invented? And how many miraculous stories have been told? Even if one religion turned out to be true, doesn’t this still prove that humans have an incredible tendency to invent tall tales? And a tendency to believe them? And if this is true, how can you be so certain that the same thing hasn’t happened to you?

          Best of luck to you,

  15. Cena says:

    Well even greek and roman historians write of the darkness on the day of the crucifixion, as well as earthquakes and such. Even tho Thalus’ (a historian during jesus time) writings are so old they just dont seem to exist, his words live on thru other historians like Julius Africanus. Now Thalus tried to explain it all away as a solar eclipse, but others like the church father Julius and others saw proof that something atleast did HAPPEN. Zombies lol maybe Matthew had a vision, who knows. The church says what is in and out of the bible. I have a super old bible from the 1800s and it has the Apocrypha still in it, now its no longer part of the bible.. one of the books named after a female had the last verse, verse and a half or so taken out of the new bible. The english language has changed dramatically since king james days, translation from greek to english period is difficult, then the other language is a dead one so thats just awesome.. theres so manu obsticles and so many ways to view it, see it, disect it, etc. But one thing can be said for sure, we know it happened, we know the day was strange enough for other writers and historians to document it, and we know these people were real. We were able to get JFKs death on video, plus there were hundreds of witnesses.. but do we know exactly what happened? Do we know, without a reasonable doubt, why it all took place? There are still people who swear it was a lone shooter, others a conspiracy. When we listen to everyone we get misguided “truths”. I say that because it may be true to that person who told you so, they actually believe whoever told them knew what they were talking about. I hear people tell me matter of factly that pork will kill chihuauas right away and they are actually part of the fox family instead of the canine family. Lol even a veterinarian told this to people. Peoples ignorance and gullibility amazes me. I say look for the truth yourself before you spread the “truth” of what you were told by so-n-so who heard from so-n-so who has nothin to do with what actually happened.

  16. Bobby says:

    I’ve read the four gospels recently in order, but I read each one many times before I moved to the next one. It’s sort of like the treatment I give Cohen Brothers’ films, because I really like their style and I know I’ll not only enjoy the things I’ve already noticed, but see subtle aspects that are part of their genius. I didn’t have the same motivation with the gospels. I had been told about them in a really disjointed way, with the more dramatic moments and events doctrine is rooted in emphasized by people I’d never met. So just understanding each one as a narrative was my goal, not finding new things or hidden mistakes. I found meanings within old stories I’d never heard that aren’t hidden or ignored, but just there for the taking as something anyone who reads a very short but extremely dense narrative would find. They aren’t obscure. But the storylines are so vastly different from each other in style and focus, and anyone with objectivity would have a hard time inserting matthew’s description of not zombies, but living people who were recently dead into the others. it would be like putting a motif from a beethoven piano sonata into a Philip Glass composition or a slapstick routine into schindler’s list. It’s not relevant.

  17. Keep laughing, boys and girls. The evangelist’s job is not to beat it into your skull, only to tell you, God exists.

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