Hey, Regarding the "Resurrection" thing and the WT denial of the Mt 27:51-53 incident...

by FragrantAddendum 35 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • Vanderhoven7

    Excellent! Thanks Pete

  • aqwsed12345

    Matthew 27:52-53 in the translation of the Watch Tower Society reads as follows:

    "And the tombs were opened, and many bodies of the holy ones who had fallen asleep were raised up (and people coming out from among the tombs after his being raised up entered into the holy city), and they became visible to many people."

    The same passage in the Nestle-Aland is as follows:

    kai ta mnemeia aneōichthēsan kai polla sōmata tōn kekoimēmenōn hagiōn ēgerthēsan, kai exelthontes ek tōn mnēmeiōn meta tēn egersin autou eisēlthon eis tēn hagian polin kai enephanisthēsan pollois.

    Word-for-word translation:

    "And the tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and (the ones) coming out of the tombs after his resurrection, they entered into the holy city and appeared to many."

    The verb "ēgerthēsan" in the passive form derives from the verb "egeiró," which is one of the technical terms in the New Testament for the act of resurrection. It can also simply mean "awaken, raise up," and metaphorically, "to arouse, to incite." In its passive form, it usually means "to awaken, to rise." The 53rd verse itself refers to Jesus' resurrection as "egersis." Therefore, it is not possible to translate the appearance of the bodies as merely "emerging" in the first place. (Interestingly, the English NWT in my possession from 1961 renders it as "were raised up," using the same term for Jesus' resurrection in verse 53.)

    Much depends on the participle "exelthontes" as well. It can generally be translated either way: "those coming out" or "(they) having come out." In this respect, the NWT translation has lexical accuracy. However, there is indeed no trace of the words "people, who" in the text, and the natural reading is without inserting parentheses and changing the subject simultaneously. This latter solution would weave trivial information into the text—where would the parenthetical clause introduced by the NWT be linked?—and it would only obscure the text further. The double (unmarked) subject change does not feel natural, harming the text's clarity and unity, and it is not necessarily implied by the context.

    Moreover, the New World Translation's rendering ("came out") poorly represents the action of the participle, i.e., its aspect. The Greek uses the aorist (exelthontes), which typically refers to a punctiliar action, not a continuous one (exerchomenoi). This also suggests that those who came out of the tombs did not trickle out continuously but rather exited at once (or only once). True, the New Testament is not entirely consistent with verb aspects, but translating an aorist with a continuous action is a bold move without a clear contextual justification.

    Theologically, it would be quite difficult to explain from the NWT's perspective why the text specifically mentions the bodies of the "holy ones" if nothing more happened than that they rolled out of the tomb due to some earthquake. This could have easily happened with any non-holy dead bodies as well. However, the resurrected "holy ones" (according to traditional Christian interpretation) appeared to many, thus bearing witness to the power that raised them.

    The term "exelthontes" can theoretically mean both "coming out" and "having come out." In Greek—and as far as I know, in Latin—the participle does not require a suffix to mean "having come out" instead of "coming out." Greek grammar books dedicate entire pages to participles with subordinate clause meanings ("after they came out, when they came out, once they came out," and the like), so I will not quote those here.

    Now, if the direct grammatical analysis of the word does not resolve the ambiguity, we can theoretically turn to word statistics (which is generally, and in this case too, inconclusive, because there are many examples of both meanings in the New Testament) and logical coherence. Which interpretation makes more sense in the context and fits more naturally?

    kai ta mnemeia aneōichthēsan = "And the tombs were opened." We agree here.

    kai polla sōmata tōn kekoimēmenōn hagiōn ēgerthēsan:

    • According to the JWs: many bodies of the deceased saints rolled out, emerged, or were thrown out of the tomb.

    • According to us: they did not roll out but were resurrected. The verb "egeiro" is often used to refer to resurrection (Schmoller's concordance devotes nearly 25 centimeters of text to the citations of this verb in the New Testament, and some citations are omitted due to text agreement). It lists an additional 15 centimeters of the everyday meanings "stand up, rise, arise, increase, lift up," etc. I think the majority rule strongly suggests that your translation requires concrete evidence.

    kai exelthontes ek tōn mnēmeiōn (a) meta tēn egersin autou (b) eisēlthon eis tēn hagian polin:

    We can set aside for now whether the explanatory comma should be placed at (a) "after his resurrection they came out of the tombs" or at (b) "they came out, and after his resurrection entered the city." This could be discussed further, although the miraculous atmosphere makes logical analysis somewhat tentative.

    But most importantly: the author uses the same "egersis" directly next to the previous occurrence, and this time it undoubtedly refers to Jesus' resurrection, not merely his body rolling out. This further supports our translation's accuracy.

    No matter how we punctuate the text, the positions are as follows:

    According to the JWs, a new subject emerges with "kai exelthontes"—so while bodies rolled out before, now those walking out of the tombs, likely some kind of visitors or caretakers, start to act. However, the text, as it stands, fits rather awkwardly with the JWs' interpretation. A subject change would require some grammatical marker, such as "kai tines exelthontes" (and some walking out) or "kai hoi exelthontes" (and those walking out). But there's nothing there, and the text's most natural flow would require the subject to remain consistent.

    Another problem for the JWs is that "exelthontes" is in the aorist, typically suggesting a single, punctiliar action rather than a continuous one. Clearly, whether these persons exited at Jesus' resurrection or at his death, the single exit suggested here fits best with the miraculous event (such as an earthquake or angelic appearance), i.e., the single departure of the resurrected saints from the tombs, rather than the everyday departure of unaffected visitors or caretakers.

    Additionally, consider: if the author meant what we suggest, they would have phrased it to be interpreted and translated as we do. But if they intended your interpretation, why phrase it so that everyone else reads it our way? There is no evidence of text corruption; the NA only has one note for this place: "ēgerthēsan" versus "ēgerthē" (formally singular), but it means the same because "soma" is neuter, and it's common (one might say regular) in Greek for a plural neuter subject to be followed by a singular predicate.

    Finally, entering the holy city is also in the aorist, suggesting a punctiliar action just like coming out.

    "kai enephanisthēsan pollois" = "And they appeared to many." The verb "emphanizo" also has both everyday and miraculous meanings: "to make known, to reveal" or "to appear (to someone)," and in the passive form, it usually means "to appear" (according to Schmoller). The verb occurrences: Mt 27:53; Jn 14:21, 22; Acts 23:15, 22; 25:2, 15; Heb 9:24; 11:14.

    According to you, it was the cemetery visitors who "appeared to many" in the city. This makes no sense: how would the mere return home of well-known, not-dead people from the cemetery testify to Jesus' resurrection? The evangelist describes this "appearance" as an essential, and somehow convincing, event supporting Jesus' resurrection.

    Do you want to read into it that they "revealed, narrated to many?" The meaning "to make known" in the verb "emphanizo" strongly demands a direct object (e.g., Heb 11:14, where a subordinate clause serves as the object: "they demonstrate / make it clear that they seek a homeland"), but there is no object here. Moreover, "to make known" cannot be in the passive voice, as in Heb 9:24 ("we must appear before God").

    At this point, your position becomes untenable. Logic, no matter how you try to evade it, holds you.

    Our position (and that of the overwhelming majority of Bible translators—I don't know if there are any exceptions besides you) is grammatically smooth and makes sense, even if the miraculous elements might be considered excessive, but I don't find that necessary. The JW translation regarding "exelthontes" is refutable by the logical theological reflection and the grammatical and logical analysis of the other key words prove that it is nonsensical.

    What happened to these resurrected saints, I can hardly tell you, but I deny that the evangelist necessarily had to follow their fate. I don't think they died again because I suppose they were now in transformed bodies (the term "enefanisthesan" = "appeared" echoes Jesus' appearances to his disciples ("efanerothe" in Mark, a related verb). If you press me, I would say that sometime after Jesus, they too ascended to heaven.

    "kai exelthontes ek tōn mnēmeiōn (a) meta tēn egersin autou (b) eisēlthon eis tēn hagian polin kai enephanisthēsan pollois.

    But in the JW version, a comma should not be placed at either (a) or (b), because "exelthontes" would refer to persons, not an action, and by itself, it could not form a proper clause up to (a), nor from the beginning to (b), since there is no verb or participle up to that point. In that case, "eisēlthon" would be the first word expressing an action.

    So what remains is: many bodies of the deceased saints were raised from the tomb, "and certain persons came out from the tombs after his resurrection, entered the holy city, and appeared to many." But 1. what could this mean? It makes no sense. 2. If this were the meaning, then why does it not mention the relationship between these persons who came out and the rolled-out corpses ("they saw them"), and what these persons did in the city with this news ("they reported it").

    Your version not only weighs little on the combined scale of meaning and grammar, but even considering the aspect of meaning alone, it proves to be obscure. According to your solution, the evangelist here forgot to describe two vital actions.

    Reasons Why the NWT Translation is Incorrect:

    1. Misinterpretation of "ἐξελθόντες" (exelthontes):

      • The Greek participle "ἐξελθόντες" (exelthontes) is in the aorist tense, indicating a completed action. The natural reading is that the "bodies" of the saints are the subject performing the action of coming out of the tombs. The NWT suggests an ongoing action by separate individuals, which the Greek text does not support.
      • Properly, the phrase should be translated to maintain the connection with the previously mentioned "bodies," indicating that these bodies came out of the tombs after Jesus' resurrection.
    2. Incorrect Subject Linkage:

      • The NWT introduces a new subject by suggesting that "(the ones) coming out of the tombs" refers to different people than the "bodies" that were raised. The Greek text does not support this. There is no change of subject indicated in the text; the same subject (the resurrected bodies of the saints) continues throughout the passage.
      • Greek grammar typically marks subject changes clearly. The absence of any markers such as "τινές" (tines, some) or "οἱ" (hoi, the ones) supports the continuous subject.
    3. Misunderstanding "μετὰ τὴν ἔγερσιν αὐτοῦ" (meta tēn egersin autou):

      • This phrase translates to "after his resurrection," clearly referring to Jesus. The NWT translation disrupts this clear reference by implying that the coming out of the tombs is a separate event from the resurrection.
      • The Greek text implies that the bodies were raised in conjunction with or immediately following Jesus’ resurrection, maintaining a cohesive narrative.
    4. Contextual and Grammatical Consistency:

      • The Greek passage uses consistent grammatical structures to maintain a single subject. The participles and verbs are all in agreement, pointing to a continuous action performed by the same subject: the bodies of the saints.
      • The NWT translation introduces unnecessary complexity by suggesting separate actions by different subjects, which the Greek text does not indicate.
    5. Resurrection Terminology in the New Testament:

      • The verb "ἠγέρθησαν" (ēgerthēsan, they were raised) is commonly associated with resurrection in the New Testament. The NWT weakens this connection by implying mere physical emergence rather than miraculous raising from the dead.
      • Other instances in the New Testament use "ἠγέρθησαν" to refer to resurrection, making it clear that the same interpretation should apply here.
    6. Absence of Necessary Greek Grammatical Markers:

      • For the NWT translation to be correct, there would need to be additional Greek words indicating a change in subject, such as "τινές" (tines, some) or "οἱ" (hoi, the ones). These markers are absent in the original Greek text, reinforcing that the same subject (the resurrected bodies) is being discussed throughout the passage.
      • The text’s natural flow and grammatical structure support the continuous subject of the resurrected bodies.
    7. Logical and Contextual Coherence:

      • The interpretation that the bodies of the saints were resurrected and entered the holy city after Jesus' resurrection makes logical sense in the context of the passage. It highlights the miraculous nature of Jesus' resurrection and its immediate impact.
      • The NWT's rendering creates a disjointed narrative that does not logically follow from the events described, introducing ambiguity and confusion.


    The New World Translation of Matthew 27:52-53 misinterprets key Greek terms and grammatical structures, leading to an incorrect understanding of the passage. The correct interpretation maintains that the saints' bodies were resurrected and came out of their tombs following Jesus’ resurrection, subsequently entering the holy city and appearing to many. The NWT’s insertion of additional subjects and actions not indicated by the Greek text distorts the original meaning and continuity of the passage. This correct interpretation preserves the coherence and miraculous nature of the resurrection narrative as intended in the original Greek text.

  • FragrantAddendum

    that was an awesome grammar breakdown, @aqwsed, thank you🙂

    so again to sum up...

    the text is clear that

    when jesus died

    god did some signs to make it clear jesus was his son

    one of the signs was a really big earthquake

    one of the signs was the temple curtain ripping in two

    one of the signs was a bunch of faithful jews being resurrected in a manner similar to that with the elisha's bones resurrection thing

    the army officer attending jesus' execution and some others witnessed it

    and said "truly this was god's son"

    later after the sabbath those resurrected ones entered the city

    and other people saw them too, for a witness

    and matthew wrote about it

  • KalebOutWest

    Besides the fact that FA has no problem with Aqwsed translating the Greek word HAGION as "saint" but won't allow me to do (claiming that when I do it that the use of the term "saint" is incorrect), let us say for the sake of argument that the above does work.

    There is are several problem besides the above paradox of FA flip-flopping.

    The text reads as follows:

    At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. After his resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many. Now when the centurion and those with him, who were keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were terrified and said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”--Matthew27:51-54, NRSVue, italics added.

    According to Scripture these "bodies of the saints" did not "come out of the tombs" until "after the resurrection" of Jesus.

    This creates a series of questions:

    Did these holy ones or "saints" rise after Jesus death or after Jesus rose on Easter morning? Or did they rise due to the quake and the ripping of the Temple curtain?

    And after they rose, did the centurion witness this event? Was this what he was speaking of? If this is so, did he also witness the resurrection of Jesus? Why not? Or why did he? Or is this just speaking of the centurion speaking of witnessing the earthquake and subsequent events, not necessarily all the events listed?

    The other gospel writers, including Jewish and secular historians (like Josephus) are silent regarding this event. So explain:

    Who is being raised? How long were they raised? To where? What kind of body? Since none of these people could have exercised faith in Jesus before, could they have entered heaven? How were they able to therefore rise? Explain the theology?

    Who were these witnesses and what did they witness according to Matthew 27:53?

    These "saints" had to have been raised on Easter morning after Jesus according to Colossians 1:18, especially if they were not disciples of Jesus in some manner. Explain.

  • peacefulpete

    Kaleb,....Briefly said, I'd say the phrase, "after his being raised up" is obviously a theologically derived mistranslation. The sentence can equally and much more coherently be translated "after their being raised up".

    846 [e]

    52 and the graves (meaning the individual graves) were opened, and many bodies of the saints who have fallen asleep, arose,

    53 and having come forth out of the graveyard (see: matt 8:28 meaning graveyard) after their resurrection, they went into the holy city, and appeared to many.

    But I will say that it was perhaps the often discussed Lukan redactor's affinity with Paulinism that persuade him to skip over the Matthean addition. Who knows.

  • FragrantAddendum

    god wanted people to know that jesus was the one appointed by god to lead the people

    the signs were undeniable

    the resurrection of those faithful jews moved those who witnesses it

    even a pagan roman officer had to acknowledge god's power

    "truly this was god's son"

    especially if they were not disciples of Jesus in some manner. Explain."

    jesus didn't just heal people who were his followers

    he raised the widow's son without knowing him

    he raised jairus' daughter without knowing her

    he didn't require people to be his followers for him to help them

    god is not partial

    and neither is his son

  • KalebOutWest

    Notice how you two are just blabbering and not answering any of my questions. I am not saying Jesus isn't the Son of God. I am not saying Jesus isn't the Messiah or isn't God's Son or these miracles did not impress the centurion.

    Peacefulpete, your statements are fine, but they don't answer any of my questions. Not a single one. It's like you ignored everything I posted.

    The text reads:

    After [Jesus'] resurrection [on what people normally call Easter morning] they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many. Now when the centurion and those with him, who were keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were terrified and said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”

    Regardless of the details, Pete, the text says these saints or holy ones came out after Jesus rose, after Jesus' own resurrection.

    Since FA considers the Church Fathers as heretics, I cannot for the sake of argument introduce any of the details they claim about this text forward such as:

    the "saints" are the Jewish patriarchs

    the event occurred in the following order--earthquake, tombs opening, saints rising, appearances, after Easter they went to Jesus into heaven

    the statement of the centurion is an "aside" that got interrupted the detail of the comment about the saints as all the centurion saw was the earthquake and perhaps the tombs in the vicinity opening, but he had no access to the Temple curtain and was not a witness to any of the saintly appearances

    the risen patriarchs preached the good news of Christ as Jesus came to release them from the netherworld

    These details are based on those who knew the apostle Matthew before his martyrdom. The gospel of Matthew is actually partially preserved in the writings of the Fathers, unlike the others.

    However, since these details are "heresy," they must be viewed as "incorrect." Neither FA or others can introduce them to FA's approval.

    So my questions:

    • Who are these people who came out?
    • Since they came out on Easter Sunday with Jesus, obviously the centurion witnessed Jesus too. You cannot claim that this is an "aside" comment as that would be heresy. Why don't the other gospels mention the centurion as a witness to Jesus' resurrection? Why don't they talk about the rising of these people?
    • How long were these people alive that came out of the tombs?
    • Who did they appear to? Where did they go? And etc. See my above post.

    In other words, you can't have it both ways. If the Church Fathers are wrong, this isn't a cafeteria, you need to explain why they are heretics and what makes their claims heretical. You cannot just say: They are heretics.

    Next: You can't pick and choose some of their claims, such as: "Well, I like the point of the holy ones being the patriarchs..." No. That comes from the Church Fathers.

    "I like the part of the centurion's comments being an aside comment interrupted by the comment about the rising of the bodies of the tombs.."

    Nope, that's the Church Fathers.

    If you made the claim from the start that the Church Fathers are heretics, then you have to have new and totally original answers as to all of this. Who are these people? What? Where? When? How?

    You can't pick and choose what you see as fact and fiction without explaining yourself. Otherwise you make spaghetti, which is what you just did.

    And you aren't answering anything. Just blabbering. Who cares how a text was made, etc. When a person asks questions, if you don't answer them, you failed. Get it? It means you cannot answer. I gave a lot of questions--AND YOU DID NOT ANSWER ONE OF THEM...WHY NOT?

    Don't back yourself into a corner because you are too stubborn to let go of your point of view because you have to be right.

    I am through with you and this. Enjoy being Jehovah's Witnesses, because that is what you still are.

  • FragrantAddendum

    paul was jewish

    decades after jesus ascended to heaven

    paul said the heavenly resurrection for other holy ones hadn't happened yet

    there were many apostates promoting false stories

    one false story was that people turn into spirits and go right to heaven when they die

    the apostate so-called "apostolic fathers" taught such lies

    like the dude who wrote "the shepherd of hermas"

    what a freak!

    also today, the watchtower follows in the footsteps of those first century apostates

    when watchtower says "anointed ones started being resurrected to heaven at some point after 1914" they are lying

    none of the "saints" have been resurrected yet

    only jesus has gone from being a human to being a spirit creature in heaven

  • peacefulpete

    The passage did not say the saints were resurrected after Jesus was. Some translators have made it appear so. Some going so far as to use the name. The passage simply said the saints left the graveyard after they were resurrected (raised up).

    Theological questions remain: Did all Christians object to the idea of resurrections prior to Jesus? Obviously not, as Jesus himself is credited with a few (unless they were understood as metaphor). Famously the Lukan addition at (7:11-17) story of the son of a widow is clear intertextual 'doublet' of 1 Kings 17 (LXX).

    Perhaps the author wanted to make explicit a message of 'new life', possibly in a way similar the 2nd Temple scribes responsible for the Elijah/Elisha raisings. Life after death, perhaps played on the theme of national hope/restoration for the 2nd Temple Jew and baptism/rebirth for the Christian. Again, we have metaphor and word plays cleverly woven into a narrative.

    In my mind a theological distinction seems evident between individual raisings from the dead and a mass resurrection as reward for saints as implied by Matt 27. Luke's reuse of 1 Kings but omission of Matt 27:51b-53 suggests he did also.

    Regarding John 3:13. This old thread still addresses the question of what the writer may have been intending.

    Interestingly, there has not been a consistent view of the Elijah/Elisha cycle stories. As you probably know some Rabbis understood the stories to be 'near death' healings rather than resurrections. Did some early Christians also??

    So exactly how the author of the Paulinist Colossians 1 would have interpreted the Elijah story is uncertain. Regardless, "firstborn from dead" clearly had an honorific and/or cultic meaning other than simply being the first to have come back to life.

  • FragrantAddendum

    all the humans who were resurrected by elijah and elisha were not made perfect

    they were brought back to life, but they were still "in death"

    they were able to finish their short life course but they weren't truly "alive"

    which is why they died again

    jesus was different

    when god resurrected him, jesus was changed into a different kind of being

    he was firstborn from the dead in that sense

    (he won't die again)

    there haven't been any other humans made into spirits yet

    all the "saints" who died are still sleeping in the grave at this point

    when they are resurrected as spirit creatures, they will materialize bodies before ascending to heaven in order to interact with others, just like jesus did, for a witness

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