Thursday, February 6, 2014

Is the Rising of the Saints in Matthew's Gospel a "Tall Tale" or a "Monomyth?"

Is it? I do not think so but others do. 

        Kenneth Waters expresses that the rising of the saints passage, “…is not history, nor is it presented as history.” [1] Also David Senior argues that the rising of the saints was probably an apocalyptic illusion when, “the opening of the tombs and the resurrection of the just Israelites. Thus Matthew portrays the very moment of Jesus’ death as a triumph; an anticipation of the resurrection…Matthew will include this kind of eschatological coloring..”[2]
        Moreover, Dale C. Allison, Professor of NT at Princeton Theological Seminary, puts Matthew’s account of the saints as a “tall tale.” [3] This is an idiom for lie, fib, cock-and-bull story, falsehood, falsity, and untruth. [4]
        M. de Jonge from Leinden University in South Holland writes there are a wide variety of views among the Church Fathers on verses 52 and 53 in Matthew 27. Jonge acknowledges that some did comment on this passage in early Christian writings. However, Jonge reports one will “…find an astonishing variety of points of view.” [5]
        Hugh T. Kerr categorizes Matthew 27:51-53, as well as other parts of the canonical gospels, as part of a “monomyth” [6] which is a story that all can relate specifically to a cultural hero. The hero exits one’s daily routine, enters into what can appear to be impossible odds, but overcomes them wounded but victorious. [7] This approach to mythology mainly comes from Joseph Campbell (influenced by Carl Jung) [8] which according to NT Historian John Meier, Campbell and others were, “…unconcerned with historical questions.”[9] Moreover, Campbell’s and his associate’s methodological approach to the historical Jesus was to consider it a “…archetype open to Jungian analysis” [10] possibly influencing an interpretation into Matthew 27:51-53.


[1]Kenneth, L. Waters,Sr. "Matthew 27:52-53 as Apocalyptic Apostrophe: Temporal-Spatial Collapse in the Gospel of Matthew." Journal of Biblical Literature 122, no. 3 (2003): 489-515
[2]Senior, Donald (2011-12-01). The Gospel of Matthew. Interpreting Biblical Texts Series (p. 169). Abingdon Press. Kindle Edition
[3] Allison, Dale C. Resurrecting Jesus. The Earliest Christian Tradition and Its Interpreters (New York: T & T Clark, 2005), 307. Should be noted that William Lane Craig, although not endorsing Allison’s historical conclusions, does speak somewhat highly of Allison’s book declaing, “I’ve never seen a better presentation of the case for scepticism about Jesus’ resurrection than in Allison’s Resurrecting Jesus: The Earliest Christian Tradition and Its Interpreters He’s far more persuasive than Crossan, Lüdemann, Goulder, and the rest who actually deny the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection. That Allison should, despite his sceptical arguments, finally affirm the facts of Jesus’ burial, empty tomb, post-mortem appearances, and the origin of the disciples’ belief in Jesus’ resurrection and hold that the resurrection hypothesis is as viable an explanation as any other rival hypothesis, depending upon the worldview one brings to the investigation, is testimony to the strength of the case for Jesus’ historical resurrection.” (accessed Feb 2014)
[4]Inc Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Thesaurus (Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, 1996). A tall tale can also mean some is a “stretcher” of the truth. Inc Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary., Eleventh ed. (Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, Inc., 2003).
[5]The Harvard Theological Review , Vol. 79, No. 1/3, Christians among Jews and Gentiles: Essays in Honor of Krister Stendahl on His Sixty-Fifth Birthday (Jan. - Jul., 1986), pp. 74
[6]Hugh T. Kerr. “The Christ-Life as Mythic and Psychic Symbol.” Numen , Vol. 9, Fasc. 2 (Sep., 1962), pp. 145, footnote 7.
[7]Michael Downey, The New Dictionary of Catholic Spirituality, electronic ed. (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2000), 695.
[8]The Lexham Bible Dictionary says, “Campbell also articulated a relationship between mythology and the universal archetypes, using primarily those outlined by Carl Jung. In A Hero with One Thousand Faces, Campbell charts the standard path of the mythological hero in the following formula: separation, initiation, return.” A.E. Buster, "Myth" In, in The Lexham Bible Dictionary, ed. John D. Barry and Lazarus Wentz (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2012).
[9]John P. Meier, A Marginal Jew, Rethinking the Historical Jesus: Volume One, The Roots of the Problem and the Person (New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 1991) 254 footnote 1.

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