Saturday, April 22, 2017

The distance between the TRUTH and Matthew 28:16-20 is more than 143 kilometers (89 miles)

Dear in Christ,

While I set out to write this article I am fully aware of the fact that it could make me extremely unpopular. I may be called as an atheist or a Bible-hater. Nonetheless, I am bound to tell the truth as it is known to me, without fear or favor.

Though the text doesn't state it explicitly, the subject of Matt 28:16-20 is the ascension of Jesus Christ. Almost all the details in the passage matches with the details in the narratives of ascension in Acts 1, Mark 16 and Luke 24. These details may be sequenced or phrased differently. For instance, while Matt 28:17 tells us that "some doubted", Luk 24:41 tells us that "they yet believed not" and Mar 16:14 tells us that "they believed not".

① Which one was the venue of ascension, Bethany or Galilee?

In the last scene of a drama that was being enacted as the part of a local festival, the protagonist was seen consuming poison from a vial and falling down on the ground and writhing in pain before an agonizing death. The audience were enthralled by the performance of the actor that they kept cheering "Once more! Once more!" Being carried away by the cheering of the audience, the actor got up from the floor, located the vial and enacted the scene one again!
Mat 28:16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them.
Since we are not told that Jesus and his disciples have traveled elsewhere before his ascension, we can safely assume that the proceedings of the rest of the chapter unfolded on the mount in Galilee.

Now, let us consider the parallel passages in the other gospels and Acts of the Apostles.
  • Luk 24:50-51 Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. ... while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven.
  • Act 1:12 Then (after the ascension) they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day's journey away.
  • The Gospel of Mark doesn't specify the venue of ascension. (Mar 16:7 mentions the place where Jesus met his disciples after his resurrection as Galilee, but that needs not to be the venue of the ascension.)
Bethany is situated on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives and hence both the accounts in Acts and the gospel of Luke agree with each other.

Miles Kilometers
Distance from Jerusalem to Galilee 90.73 146.03
Distance from Jerusalem to Bethany 1.50 2.40
the distance between the Truth and Mat 28:16 89.23 143.63

Do we have to believe that Jesus, who ascended from Galilee, was overwhelmed by the disciples cheering "Once More! Once More!" and repeated the act, this time from Bethany?

② When did the disciples worship Jesus, before the ascension or after it?

[This is not a major objection, knowing that the gospels are memoirs of their authors and not not their diaries or journals.]
  1. Before: We read about the disciples worshiping Jesus in Mat 28:17, the rest of the events happen afterwards.
  2. After: We read about Jesus' ascension in Luk 24:50-51 and about the disciples worshiping him in Luk 24:52. So, they should have worshiped him after his ascension.
In the parallel passages in the gospel of Mark and the Acts of the Apostles there is no mention about the disciples worshiping him.

③ Did Jesus receive all the authority in heaven and earth before his ascension to heaven?

Jesus to his disciples, before his ascension:
Mat 28:18 And Jesus came and said to them, All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
The parallel accounts in Mark, Luke and Acts  don't mention anything even remotely similar to this.

In the parable of talents (minas, silver coins), didn't Jesus imply that he has to receive kingdom and authority after reaching heaven?

Luk 19:12 He said therefore, A nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return.
If the nobleman in this parable stands for Jesus Christ, isn't it self-evident that he receives the kingdom (authority) in the far country (heaven) where he goes? He has to return from the far country after obtaining the kingdom.

Daniel's prophecy on Jesus receiving the kingdom and authority:

Dan 7:13 "I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him.
Dan 7:14 And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.
If the son of man stands for Jesus and the Ancient of Days for the heavenly father, is it not self-evident that the kingdom and authority were given to him while he came to the heavenly father, after ascending in the clouds? (Acts 1:9)

④ “The baptism formula” and “the great commission”.

I am convinced that any discussion on the next verse could cause a lot of emotional outburst and religious uproar.
Mat 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
The parallel passages:
Luk 24:47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name (name of Jesus Christ) to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
Act 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my (Christ's) witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."

Mar 16:15 And he said to them, "Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.
Mar 16:16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.
  • Mark 16:15-16 doesn't specify any name for which the disciples should be witnesses or by which they should baptize people.
  • Luk 24:47 implies that the gospel should be preached in the name of Jesus Christ.
  • Acts 1:8 specifies that the apostles have to be the witnesses for Christ throughout the length and breadth of the world.
  • Only Mat 28:19 mentions the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. This is called "the baptism formula".
If Jesus indeed instructed the disciples that baptism should be administered in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, do we have any account of anyone administering baptism using the formula? Do we have any account of anyone being baptized into the 3 names of the formula? The answer is an emphatic NO. On the contrary, we have several scriptures in which the disciples instruct people to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.
Act 2:38 And Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Act 10:48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.
And we have records about people being baptized in the name of Christ.
Act 8:16 for he had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
Act 19:5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
One may argue that though only the name of Jesus is specified in the above passages, all the 3 names are implied. That cannot be true, because we are baptized into the death of Christ Jesus, and not into the deaths of 3 entities.
Rom 6:3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?
Rom 6:4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

⑤ Was Jesus with the disciples always?

Mat 28:20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
I have seen, heard and read many (Preterists and others) claiming that Jesus didn't leave for anywhere, he was always with the disciples and so on, based on this passage. I have also seen many futurists claiming that this passage alone would demolish Preterism. (I don't know as to how it does.)

To my understanding, Jesus was not with the disciples between his ascension and His spirit coming back to them on the day of the Pentecost.

Even while Jesus spoke to his disciples about not leaving them comfortless, he implied that his continued abiding with them would be after his coming back to them:

Joh 14:16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter (the Holy Spirit - See Joh 14:26), that he may abide with you for ever;
Joh 14:17 Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.
Joh 14:18  I will not leave you comfortless[G3737, fatherless, See Jas 1:27]: I will come to you.
Whoever claims that Jesus Christ was with the disciples during the days between the Ascension and the Pentecost have to convince me about the reasons for the disciples to cast lots for selecting a person to occupy the position that fell vacant by the death of Judas Iscariot, realizing that prayerfully casting lots to know divine approval was part of the Law of Moses (Lev 16:8).
Act 1:24 And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen,
Act 1:25 That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.
Act 1:26 And they gave forth their lots (cast lots for them - ESV); and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles. (KJV)
Let's not concern ourselves with whether Matthias had divine approval or not. Is it even remotely possible that the spirit of Christ would permit a practice from the law of Moses to select a replacement for Judas?

Possible explanations.

Most of the Christians, especially apologists, haven't noticed most of the discrepancies listed above, except for Mat 28:19. (Billions of explanations and justifications are available for Mat 28:19 on the internet and various commentaries.)
  1. This passage is found in all the ancient manuscripts.
    This may sound like a very valid argument, if we are unaware of the fact that none of the autographs (the original parchment the author physically wrote on) do exist. Most of these so-called ancient manuscripts are from the 2nd and 3rd century AD, 150 to 250 years removed from the days of the authors of the New Testament. Isn't it a long enough to alter the text, knowing that the number of the copies then were quite few in number?
  2. Similar passages exist in the writings of early church fathers.
    Let's ask ourselves: If we indeed follow Jesus Christ, are we supposed to consider anyone other than God as father? (Mat 23:9). Who says that their writings are free from errors? For instance, Irenaeus of Lyons, one of the early church fathers, born in 130 AD, has stated that the book of Revelation was seen "almost in our days", immediately after mentioning about the existence of the ancient copies of the very same book. (“Against Heresies”, Book V, Chapter XXX, Sections 1, 3). Saint Augustine, another church father, used to teach that there is no salvation outside the Catholic Church. An objective study of their works may reveal many more inconsistencies in the writings and teachings of the so-called early church fathers.
  3. Some of the non-canonical books contain similar passages.
    If those books have any kind of authenticity, why are they not in both the Roman Catholic and Protestant canons?
  4. Matt 28:16-28 is not about the Ascension.
    Some folks have started realizing the inconsistencies in the passage and they are left with no option than to deny that the passage is about the Ascension. They claim that this passage could be about an event that occurred during the 40 days between Jesus' resurrection and ascension. Even if their claims be true, there remains a few unanswered questions:
    • Was Jesus with the apostles always, including the days between his ascension and the Pentecost?
    • Was all the authority in heaven and earth given to Jesus before his ascension?
The gospel according to Matthew has plenty of errors. [Sorry, I am not interested in commentaries on the following passages. In fact, I have read a lot of them. Most of the explanations are more absurd than the errors themselves.]
  • Four of Jesus' ancestors (Ahaziah, Joash, Amaziah, and Jehoiakim) are missing in the genealogy presented in Matthew 1. (Apologists explain it away saying those were evil or puppet kings, ignoring the fact that it's a list of "who begat whom" and not "who ruled over Judah")
  • After citing Zec 11:12, 13 in Mat 27:9, Matthew says it's from Jeremiah (Jeremy). (Apologists claim that the last few chapters of Zechariah's prophecy was written by Jeremiah. Any proofs?)
  • Matthew made Jesus to ride two asses at once (Mat 21:5), totally misunderstanding Zec 9:9. ("sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass." The word "and" is not there in the Hebrew text of Zec 9:9)
  • The account of the death of Judas Iscariot in Mat 27:2-9 is contrary to the account in Acts 1:18-19. (Apologists try in vain to reconcile the irreconcilable accounts.)
  • ... and many more.
Do I say that the Bible is full of errors? NO! My point is: we need to discern what we get to read.

In Christ,
Tomsan Kattackal