Why Didn't They Know?
Why Didn't They Know?
John's account of the resurrection has Peter and another disciple running
to the empty tomb after hearing from Mary Magdalene that the body of Jesus
was gone. The unnamed disciple, outrunning Peter, arrived at the tomb first
Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the
tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth
that had been on Jesus' head, not lying with the linen wrappings
but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who
reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed;
for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must
rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes
Luke also indicated that the disciples of Jesus had not expected his
resurrection, for Luke said that after Peter looked inside at the linen
cloths, "he went home, wondering at that which had come to pass"
Numerous references to the apostles' skepticism of a resurrection appear
elsewhere in the New Testament ([ref005]Lk. 24:11,38; [ref006]Jn.
20:24-25; [ref007]Matt. 28:17).
From one perspective, that the disciples did not yet understand the
scripture that Jesus must rise from the dead, as John alleged, is not at
all surprising, for the simple reason that there were no scriptures that
said he would rise from the dead. Luke had Jesus telling his disciples
the night of the resurrection that "it is written that the Christ
should suffer, and rise again from the dead the third day" ([ref008]24:46). The Apostle
Paul also alleged that the scriptures said that Christ would be raised on
the third day ([ref009]1 Cor. 15:4).
That is the claim, but the claim and the reality are two different things.
One could search the OT scriptures until doom's day, and he would find
nothing written about a Messiah who would rise from the dead on the third
One will find nothing in the OT scriptures about a risen Messiah,
period! Bibliolaters like to point to Psalm 16, which Luke claimed that
both Peter and Paul quoted as proof of Jesus's resurrection ([ref010]Acts 2:25-31; [ref011]13:35-37),
but the context of the whole psalm does not support the application that
the apostles gave to the verses they quoted. In my booklet, Prophecies:
Imaginary and Unfulfilled, I have analyzed in detail this psalm and
Peter's and Paul's application of it, so I won't repeat myself here except
to say that anyone who reads the apostles' quotation in context will see a
dubious connection at best between it and the alleged resurrection of
Jesus of Nazareth. Despite the often repeated New Testament claim, there
just are no prophecies of a resurrected Messiah in the OT scriptures.
From another perspective, however, if the resurrection really did catch
the apostles by surprise, one has to wonder why. Certainly they had been
told enough that it would happen. In the context of the famous passage
where Jesus promised Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven, it was
clearly said that Jesus told his disciples that he would be killed and
From that time began Jesus to show unto his disciples that he
must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and
chief priests and scribes and be killed, and the third day be
raised up ([ref012]Matt. 16:21).
Parallels to this passage are found in [ref013]Mark 8:31 and [ref014]Luke 9:22. Jesus
even repeated the statement to his apostles at least twice:
And while they abode in Galilee, Jesus said unto them, The
Son of man shall be delivered up into the hands of men; and they
shall kill him, and the third day he shall be raised up. And
they were exceeding(ly) sorry ([ref015]Matt.
And as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve
disciples apart, and on the way he said unto them, Behold, we go
up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be delivered unto the
chief priests and scribes; and they shall condemn him to death,
and shall deliver him unto the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge,
and to crucify: and the third day he shall be raised up ([ref016]Matt.
Some parallel accounts of these passages ([ref017]Mk. 9:31; [ref018]Luke 18:32-34) say
that the disciples didn't understand what Jesus was saying, but this is
just another case of textual discrepancies in the Bible, because Matthew
clearly indicated that they did understand him. The first time they were
told, for example, Peter took Jesus aside, rebuked him, and said,
"God forbid it Lord! This must never happen to you" ([ref019]Matt. 16:22). The
second time Jesus told them, Matthew said that they were "exceedingly
sorry," but how could they have been exceedingly sorry about
something they didn't even understand? Besides, considering the general
acceptance of the phenomenon of resurrection in those times ([ref020]Mk. 6:14-16), what
was there to misunderstand when a man said he would "rise again"
after he had been killed?
In view of what Jesus said in the last passage cited above, the
postcrucifixion conduct of the apostles is almost impossible to
understand. On the way to Jerusalem, he took them aside, told them that
he would be (1) delivered up to the chief priests and scribes, (2)
condemned to death, (3) delivered to the Gentiles to be mocked, (4)
scoured, (5) crucified, and (6) raised on the third day. After their
arrival in Jerusalem, the apostles saw Jesus (1) delivered up to the chief
priests and scribes, (2) condemned to death, (3) delivered to the
Gentiles and mocked, (4) scoured, and (5) crucified, yet somehow, after
personally witnessing these five specific fulfillments of Jesus's
statement, they didn't expect him to be resurrected. Why? One would
think that if Jesus had really told them to expect all of these things,
after witnessing the precise fulfillment of the first five of his
predictions, they would have surely expected at least a possibility of the
sixth. So rather than the women's having to run to tell the apostles
about the empty tomb they had found, one would think that the apostles
would have been on the scene themselves that third-day morning at least
waiting to see if Jesus would come forth.
But they weren't there (according to the story). They had to be sought
out and told, and even then they considered the news the women brought to
them to be only "idle talk" ([ref021]Luke 24:11). The
women were telling them exactly what Jesus had said would happen, and they
thought their words were just idle talk! At the tomb, the angels said to
the women, "(R)emember how he spake unto you when he was yet in
Galilee, saying that the Son of man must be delivered up into the hands of
sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again" ([ref022]Luke 24:7). The
next verse says that "they remembered his words." So the women
were able to remember that Jesus had said this, but the apostles whom
Jesus had taken aside on the way to Jerusalem expressly for the purpose of
telling them to expect his death and resurrection apparently couldn't
remember that he had said it. They just looked into the tomb and went
home, "for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must
rise from the dead." Is that what we are supposed to believe?
If the apostles didn't yet understand that Jesus had been destined to
rise from the dead, they were a pretty exclusive club, because just about
everybody else knew what to expect. As we just noticed, the women
remembered immediately that Jesus had said that he would rise from the
dead, and they weren't the only disciples (disciples, not apostles) who
understood this. In the conversation that Jesus had with the two
disciples on the road to Emmaus on resurrection day, Cleopas, after
summarizing the events surrounding the trial and crucifixion of Jesus,
clearly indicated that he understood a resurrection was supposed to happen
the third day:
But we hoped that it was he who should redeem Israel. Yea
and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things
came to pass ([ref023]Luke 24:21).
It seems, then, that just about everyone who had been associated with Jesus
knew that he was supposed to be resurrected except the apostles. Jesus had
apparently entrusted the furtherance of his important cause to a bunch of
dimwits who couldn't understand plain language.
Even the enemies of Jesus understood that he had predicted his
resurrection. After Jesus had been put into the tomb, they came to Pilate
to ask that precautions be taken to prevent a staged fulfillment of the
The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief
priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, "Sir,
we remember what that impostor said while he was still alive,
'After three days I will rise again.' Therefore command the tomb
to be made secure until the third day; otherwise his disciples may
go and steal him away, and tell the people, 'He has been raised
from the dead,' and the last deception would be worse than the
first" ([ref024]Matt. 28:62-64,
So the women remembered that Jesus had predicted his resurrection, the
disciples at Emmaus remembered it, and the enemies of Jesus remembered it.
Everyone apparently remembered it except Jesus's own handpicked apostles.
That's a little hard to believe.
Bibliolaters preach that the Bible is an inerrant work of unity and
harmony so perfect that it can be explained only by the doctrine of verbal
inspiration. It makes great sermon fodder to feed to gullible pulpit
audiences, but this discrepancy in what the apostles didn't know but
should have known about an impending resurrection of their leader is a
glitch in the Bible that must be explained before rational people can
accept the inerrancy theory.
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