And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. (Matt. 27:50)The word "spirit" in these three verses is being translated from the Greek word πνεῦμα (pneuma), which means, according to the lexicon, "the vital principal by which the body is animated;" "the rational spirit, the power by which the human being feels, thinks, decides;" and "the soul."
Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last. (Luke 23:46)
When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (John 19:30)
Thus we can conclude that the word "spirit" is referring to the self within - the living being who lives within the physical body and leaves the physical body at the time of death.
The author of the Book of Matthew also referred to Jesus as having been "resurrected" at the time of death:
... after Jesus' resurrection... (Matt. 27:53)The events described in Matt. 27:51-53, which begin with "At that moment," clearly detail events at the time of death of Jesus' physical body. The inclusion of the word "resurrection" within this description of events - well before Jesus' supposed "rising from the dead" three days later - clearly indicates the Book of Matthew refers to "resurrection" as the leaving of the spirit-person from the body at the time of death.
This is confirmed by Jesus' own teachings regarding resurrection:
That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. “Teacher,” they said, “Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and have children for him. Now there were seven brothers among us. The first one married and died, and since he had no children, he left his wife to his brother. The same thing happened to the second and third brother, right on down to the seventh. Finally, the woman died. Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?”Both the question and Jesus' answer are obviously referring to the period following the spirit-person leaving the body at the time of death.
Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. But about the resurrection of the dead — have you not read what God said to you, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.” (Matt. 22:23-31)
The very word "resurrection" - translated from the Greek word ἀνάστασις (anastasis) - means "a raising up, rising." What is rising? The spirit-person is rising up out of the body at the time of death.
Each of us has been created by God - and thus we are made of the same spiritual essence as He is (in quality, not quantity). This living personality is unseen by the physical eyes. We know each of us is alive and has a unique personality, but we cannot see this personality with our physical eyes. It lies on another dimension. It is spiritual in essence, while our physical eyes are made of matter.
When the body dies, it becomes lifeless, and begins to decompose. It becomes "dead" because the living person becomes separated from that body. At the same time, the notion of being "dead" can be used symbolically to describe someone who has not dedicated their life to the Supreme Being - a self-centered person. Thus as Jesus says that God is "the God of the living," he is speaking both practically and metaphorically.
In other words, each of us will leave our body at the time of death, but at that moment we will also be either "living" or "dead" in the spiritual sense. This is an important element of Jesus' teachings, and he is trying to drive this point home, because each of us has that choice to become spiritually "living" or spiritually "dead" at this very moment.
Jesus confirms this when he discusses resurrection in another situation:
"Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous." (Luke 14:14)Here Jesus refers to "resurrection of the righteous" rather than "resurrection of the dead" because the destination of a person who has dedicated their lives to loving and serving the Supreme Being will be different than the destination of one who has lived a self-centered life. And being "repaid" refers to our current actions having consequences after we leave this body.
Martha, one of Jesus' students, also clarified that Jesus taught that resurrection was the spirit-person leaving the body at the time of death:
Martha answered, "I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day." (John 11:24)
Here "the last day," translated from ἔσχατος (eschatos) and ἡμέρα (hēmera) refers to the last day of the physical body - the time of death. ἔσχατος (eschatos) means "last in time or in place" according to the lexicon, but it can only refer to time when followed by "day" - taken from ἡμέρα (hēmera). In other words, it is a metaphorical use of the term. We still use this metaphor to some degree, as we might say, "the last days of ...." when we are referring to a period of time just before someone dies.
Note that prior to Martha's statement, Jesus said to her:
"Your brother will rise again." (John 11:23)But didn't Jesus' dead body rise after three days? Nope.
We can see this clearly from the events regarding how they found the tomb. In Matthew, we find that "Mary Magdalene and the other Mary" came to the tomb and met with the following:
There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. (Matt. 28:2)The angel then shows the Marys where Jesus was laid, to find him gone:
"He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay." (Matt. 28:6)In Luke, we find that the 'women who had come with Jesus from Galilee' (Luke 23:51) found the tomb stone already rolled away and then: 'suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them' (Luke 24:4) and told them that Jesus had "risen!"
But Luke 24:5) also says:
In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, "Why do you look for the living among the dead?"Meanwhile the Book of John says that it was Mary Magdalene alone who went to the tomb 'while it was still dark' and found that 'the stone had been removed from the entrance.' (John 20:1)
Mary then left and told Simon Peter, and they and another disciple dashed to the tomb to confirm it was empty. They saw strips of linen there in the tomb. After they left, Mary then 'saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus' body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.'
After they asked her why she was crying, suddenly Jesus appears to her in the tomb:
she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. (John 20:14)In Mark we find the event explained differently:
When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus' body. (Mark 16:1)They also found the tomb stone rolled away, but they found something altogether different:
As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. (Mark 16:5)The 'young man' (not Jesus, and not two angels) then notified them that Jesus "has risen!" (Mark 16:6)
So which is it? Was it three women, two women or just Mary who found the tomb open? Was the tomb rolled upon by an angel who appeared when they were there and the guards where there, or was the tomb already laying open with no guards there? Was there one angel who opened the tomb, or were there two angels, or was there just one 'young man' there? Or was Jesus there and spoke to Mary?
As to the variance in these descriptions, ours is not to judge. Clearly, however, all illustrate that Jesus' dead body did not rise.
And isn't it ironic that the very foundation upon which ecclesiastical Christians base their evidence that Jesus was 'special' - his "rising from the dead" - is so flimsy that any person who wanted to discredit such a notion could do so quite easily by simply comparing the stories between the Gospels.
Did the Roman Catholic Church think that people would be so stupid? Actually, they didn't. The early Roman Catholic Church actually took the scriptures away from the people so they couldn't see these inconsistencies. They confiscated all the circulating manuscripts, burned the ones they did not like, and then translated the ones that were the most similar (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) into Latin - a language the common person did not even speak.
And then they only reproduced just enough copies to circulate amongst the bishops and priests (and the Roman Emperor of course). It was against the law to own one of these early Bibles. Only a priest or bishop was allowed by Roman law to own a Bible - or any other written scripture. A common person could not own a Bible - or any scripture for that matter.
Yes, the Romans burnt all the libraries that contained all scriptural manuscripts, save a few copies that were held in secret in the Rome under lock and key. The only manuscripts we have found that made it out had to be taken out of the Roman Empire or buried in the desert to escape their destruction.
The Romans effectively squelched any ability to investigate the authenticity of their translations or their interpretations for over 1,000 years. They imprisoned or burnt at the stake any person who disagreed with the teachings of their Roman Catholic priests or bishops.
This brain-washing interpretation regarding Jesus' 'rising from the dead' was not questioned because to do so would have meant being burnt at the stake or at least prison. After so many centuries, the interpretation has continued unquestioned. Even to this day, if anyone questions it, they are immediately labeled a heretic.
It is ironic that as we mentioned in the beginning, prior to Jesus' body even being put in the tomb, the Book of Matthew's text clearly states that Jesus' resurrection already took place - at the time of the death of his body.
So where does this leave us? Do we need to be convinced of Jesus' being 'special' because he "rose from the dead in three days"?
No. We can know that Jesus was special because of his teachings, and his life of dedication to God and to those teachings. We can understand the meaning of his teachings as confirmed throughout the four Gospels of the New Testament. We can also know that his teachings were consistent with the teachings of the Saints of the Old Testament, such as Moses, David, Samuel, Abraham and so many others, as he often quoted their writings and their missions to serve and please God. We can understand, though a serious investigation of the Scriptures, that Jesus' principal mission was to save us and bring us back to the spiritual realm through his teachings:
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." (Matt. 7:21)
"For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother." (Matt. 12:50)
“ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment.” (Matt. 22:37-38)
(For a translation of Jesus' statements from the Book of Matthew without institutional sectarian influence, see the Gospels of Jesus - translated from the original Greek texts.)