Dead Saints

Copyright 2003

Joseph Francis Alward



The Bible contains many accounts of extraordinary events: walking snakes, talking donkeys, axe blades floating on water, walking on water, women turning into pillars of salt, resurrections. There is one event in particular, not mentioned above, that was so much more unusual than any other in the Bible that one would surely think that more than just one Bible author would have recorded it

Matthew--and only Matthew--tells us that a profound event occurred after Jesus gave up the ghost and rose to heaven.

Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; 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 27:45-53)

The Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, writing during the second half of the first century AD, produced two major works: History of the Jewish War and Antiquities of the Jews, and he had not one word to say about this most extraordinary occurrence.  Fifty days after the alleged event, Peter was giving a speech recorded in Acts 2, exhorting his listeners ("Hear these words") to believe that God raised Jesus up from the dead. Surely his listeners would have heard, or direct knowledge of the many saints who allegedly had been raised up from their graves, so if Peter wanted to convince his listeners that Jesus was resurrected, too, why didn't he mention the many saints who were resurrected, if that had really occurred?

Paul, who spoke at great length (1 Corinthians 15:12-17) to convince his listeners that Jesus' resurrection had occurred, had nothing to say about it either; surely his listeners would have quite readily accepted the resurrection of Jesus if the resurrection of saints "appearing to many" were a fact. 

One has to wonder how long the "many bodies" of these saints had been in their graves. Hundreds of years? What a stir the sight of many grotesquely shriveled, stinking corpses, walking into the holy city, must have caused. The appearance of these bodies "unto many" must have been the sensation of a lifetime for the residents of Jerusalem, but, if this remarkable event actually happened, why was Matthew the only one who reported it?

Also, how come Matthew doesn't think we should know the names of the saints which rose from their graves? Why doesn't he tell us with whom the bodies of the saints met, and what they said--assuming they said anything, and where they went after their appearance unto the many? Did the bodies of the saints dutifully return to their graves after a polite visit, or did they remain for years among the residents of Jerusalem?  Can anyone but the most faithful accept this story?

For an excellent, more thorough discussion of the resurrected saints, I urge the reader to read Resurrected Saints, by Ed Babinsky.