Resurrected Jesus First Appears To Mary Magdalene
According to Mark 16:9 and John 20:16–18 the resurrected Jesus first appeared to Mary Magdalene. And according to John 20:17 Jesus is supposed to have told Mary Magdalene “Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father” The Greek verb that was translated in the King James Version as “touch me not” could also be translated as “stop touching me”. From this it could be understood that Mary Magdalene is hugging Jesus from the sheer joy of seeing him alive again.
Mary Magdalene Was Considered The Next Most Important Teacher Only To Jesus
The fact that three gospels state that it was Mary Magdalene that Jesus appeared to first, is considered to be significant for several reasons. While she was considered a principle figure in Gnosticism, she was also considered to be the next most important teacher only to Jesus.
Mary Magdalene is not the only one who fails to recognize the resurrected Jesus, according to Luke two other disciples also fail to recognize him immediately. Many reasons have been put forward to explain this. One is that her tear soaked eyes impaired her vision, two, that her preoccupation with finding the body of Jesus prevented her from recognizing something that was right there before her eyes and three, that the physical appearance of Jesus was different, either because of the “resurrection process itself, or due to the ordeal of crucifixion”.
According to some claims “Peter was the first to whom Jesus appeared after his resurrection.” However others claim that it was “James, not Peter (and certainly not Mary Magdalene) was the “first witness of the resurrection.””
Some Scholars Reject the Resurrection Claim
Some scholars have questioned the very concept of the resurrection. They say that the resurrection stories were all written much later than the purported occurrences and based on narratives by people who reported what eyewitnesses were supposed to have seen. As a consequence the narratives are contradictory and sometimes puzzling (1).
Some Christian accounts claim that the risen Jesus was seen as an actual human being. According to Luke the disciples, astonished and terrified at the appearance of Jesus in their midst, thought that they were seeing a ghost. But Jesus reprimanded them “Handle me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones, as you see that I have.” However as the disciples continued to be baffled Jesus asked for something to eat and ate the piece of broiled fish that was offered to him. This prompted Peter to later exclaim: “[We] ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.”
The resurrected Jesus eating with the apostles
However some Christians rejected the literal interpretation. Christians who rejected the literal resurrection were labeled as heretics. These heretics interpreted the resurrection experiences as “encounters on a spiritual level.” They claimed that such spiritual encounters occurred “occur in dreams, in ecstatic trance, in visions, or in moments of spiritual illumination.”
Why did orthodox Christian literally interpret the resurrection of Jesus? Some scholars believe that the resurrection accounts not only had a religious connotation but also political undertones. Individuals who claimed to have seen the bodily resurrected Jesus had more authority “to exercise exclusive leadership over the church”. Probably it is for this reason that there are contradicting claims as to who the resurrected Jesus first appeared: Mary Magdalene or Peter? It is probably for the same reason that Paul also claimed to have seen the risen Jesus.
Others question the day of Jesus’ resurrection. They say that the claim that Jesus resurrected on Sunday is untenable. According to Talmudic tradition a spirit does not depart from a body until after the third day. This led to the practice of embalmment after three days. And this seems to be the reason why the resurrection is said to have occurred after the completion of three days. This was a precaution against claims that Jesus may have just been in a trance or that he had been resuscitated.
Therefore, first century Jews would not accept that an individual was truly dead unless three days had passed. As a consequence they had interpreted Jesus’ statement that “After three days I will rise again,” as a claim that he would resurrect after the completion of three days. This is the argument they put forth to Pilate when they asked him for permission to seal the tomb (Matt. 27:63). Jesus also told the Jews (John 2:19) that the sign he would show them is to “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up”. John explains that by Temple Jesus was referring to his body.
Some scholars claim that “A Friday crucifixion and Sunday morning resurrection do not allow for three days and three nights in the tomb”.
Matthew 27:57 states “And evening having come, a rich man from Arimathea coming up to Pilate, requests the body of Yeshua”. Mark 15:42 says “Now evening occurring, since it was a preparation which is toward a sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea…came with daring to Pilate and requests the body of Yeshua”. Elsewhere in the bible the similar phrase “Now evening occurring” (Mark 15:42 and Matthew 27:57) has been interpreted as when the sunsets. To avoid upsetting the “Pharisees and leaders of the synagogue” who considered even the miracle of healing as work on a Sabbath, people waited till after sundown before they brought the sick to Jesus to be healed.
Jesus Resurrected On The Second Day
Another argument that Jesus’ body was interred only after sunset is that washing the body of Jesus and then wrapping it with 75 pounds of myrrh and aloe could only have been done elsewhere outside the tomb and would have taken some time. This suggests that Jesus could only have been entombed after sunset. Based on this some scholars argue that to maintain that Jesus resurrected on Sunday would mean a second day resurrection and not a third day (2). Mark does not report any resurrection appearances (16: 1-8). (3)
In Matthew (Mt 28: 2) he reports how an angel of the lord descended from heaven and rolled back the stone covering the tomb’s entrance.
Luke reports the appearance of two men in dazzling clothes in the tomb to the women (Lk 24:1-7). Luke (Lk 24: 13-35) also states that the resurrected Jesus first appears to Cleopas and a companion on the road to Emmaus. However the two do not recognize Jesus until the evening. In (Lk 24: 30-51) Jesus appears as a ghost and then disappears only to reappear and is then finally carried up to heaven. This he says happened the day after the disciples discover the empty tomb.
John (Jn 20:2-9) talks about the mysterious “other disciple” who Jesus loved accompanying Peter in search of Jesus at the empty tomb. According to the book of acts Jesus appears to his believers for forty days and is then lifted up to heaven (Acts 1: 3-10).
There are other instances in the Gospels to show that Jesus resurrected bodily. After his appearance to Mary Magdalene Jesus appeared to a group of women who were returning home from the empty tomb. The women “held him by the feet, and worshipped him” (Matthew 28:9). After this incident Jesus appeared to ten of the Apostles (Luke 24:36–42; John 20:19–23). Since the disciples thought that Jesus was just a spirit, Jesus told them “Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have” (Luke 24:39).
Proof That Jesus Resurrected Bodily
As further proof that Jesus resurrected bodily we can cite the example of the many ossuaries that were excavated near the Mount of Olives’ Dominus Flevit, Jerusalem. Inscriptions on some of these ossuaries state “Jesus, have mercy,” and “Jesus, remember me in the resurrection”. This shows that even from an early date, there were people in Jerusalem who believed in the physical resurrection of Jesus (4).
While the majority of the apostles were not witnesses to the resurrection, it was Paul who wanted to give Jesus the status of divinity, makes bodily resurrection the foundation of Christianity. Peter adds his bit to this concept. However as for most of the other apostles, they were told different resurrection stories at different times. At the other extreme are stories suggesting that the apostles hid in the tomb and robbed the body of Jesus. This seems a rather flippant theory considering that the apostles were so afraid for their own lives that they went into hiding.
Again as regards Jesus’ post resurrection appearances, there are quite a few claims, but the evangelists agree that it was Mary Magdalene to whom Jesus first appeared. However based on the counter claims it would appear that those jostling for the leadership of Jesus’ movement tried to downplay the significance of Mary Magdalene. It would appear that the then leaders of the nascent church claimed that Jesus appeared to them wanting to create the impression that Jesus revealed something special only to them and to lend credibility to what they taught. And probably Jesus’ appearance to Mary Magdalene is more significant than the church acknowledges.
It’s settled then; Jesus most likely appeared to Mary Magdalene first. But did he appear in the flesh and blood or as a spirit?
That’s a debate that will probably have no conclusion. According to Mary Magdalene, she held the resurrected Jesus. Therefore this must have been a bodily appearance. On the other hand, according to Paul he appeared as a spirit. And then later when he appeared to the apostles, he is said to have walked through a wall. These appearances may have been as a spirit.
(1) Resurrection appearances of Jesus. (2012). Retrieved 2012, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Resurrection_appearances_of_Jesus#The_appearance_to_Mary_Magdalene
(2) Derstine, Todd. (n.d.). Timing of the Savior’s Death and Resurrection. Retrieved 2011, from http://www.todd-derstine.com/americaspropheticdestiny/the-timing-of-the-saviors-death-and-resurrection/
(4) Steve Keohane (n.d.). Documentary Claim – tomb of Jesus and the entire (postulated) Holy Family found in Jerusalem cave. Retrieved 2012, from http://www.bibleprobe.com/jesustomb.htm
(Fig 1) Jesus eating fish https://www.google.co.in/search?hl=en&site=imghp&tbm=isch&source=hp&biw=1024&bih=635&q=resurrected+jesus+with+the+apostles&oq=resurrected+jesus+with+the+apostles&gs_l=img.3…4120.15342.0.16422.214.171.124.126.96.36.199.1076.6j4.10.0….0…1ac.1.64.img..20.17.1126.wER1r15jBCM#hl=en&tbm=isch&q=resurrected+jesus+eating+with+the+apostles&imgrc=mLdoNnie_S10MM%3A