Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Geography of the Resurrection

A comparative study of the resurrection appearances in the four gospels reveal distinct geographical differences as to where Jesus will appear to his disciples.

Mark's narrative has no resurrection appearances, but the women at the tomb are told by an angel (?) that the disciples should go to Galilee and it is there they will see Jesus. At this point, Mark's gospel ends with the women so terrified that they tell no one what has been revealed to them.

Matthew follows Mark in identifying Galilee as the location where the disciples will see the resurrected Jesus. In Matthew, Jesus himself reveals the meeting site to the women after they leave the tomb. Further detail specifies that Jesus in some way directed the disciples to an unidentified mountain in Galilee for a post-resurrection meeting with them.

Luke tells nothing of a Galilean interaction with Jesus. For Luke, Jerusalem is the geographic epicenter. On Easter, Jesus immediately reveals himself to the disciples, first to two followers near Jerusalem at Emmaus and then to the Eleven disciples in Jerusalem. The disciples are commanded not to leave Jerusalem for there they will receive the Holy Spirit, an event narrated in detail in Luke's second volume (The Acts of the Apostles).

John, the latest of the four gospels, combines the two geographies. Jesus first visits the disciples in Jerusalem on Easter Sunday, giving them the Holy Spirit. Then there is a subsequent appearance in Galilee. This appearance, however, takes place at the sea of Galilee, not on a mountain.

If we consider the tradition that Paul provides about the resurrection appearances which has no geographical reference, it seems that there were various traditions in circulation before the end of the first century that are not easily reconciled.

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