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Gathering of Disciples at Jerusalem

A few days after the meeting upon the mountain

in Galilee, the apostles return to Jerusalem, accom- Luke xxiv. 49.

panied by Jesus' mother and brethren. Upon the Acts i. 1-3.

fortieth day after His resurrection, Jesus gathers the Acts i. 4-8.

Eleven at the Mount of Olives, and, leading them Luke xxiv. 50, 51.

toward Bethany, ascends to heaven. Whilst they Mark xvi. 19.

were gazing after Him, two angels appear to them, Acts i. 9-12.

and remind them that He is to return. The apos- Luke xxiv. 52, 53.

ties go back to Jerusalem, and there wait for the

promised baptism of the Holy Spirit. After Pente- Mark xvi. 20.

cost they begin their labors.

That Luke, in his statement (Acts i. 3) that Jesus " Showed Himself alive after His passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of the apostles forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God," includes more interviews than are specifically recorded by any of the Evangelists, cannot well be doubted. But whether these interviews occurred in Galilee, before the apostles went up to Jerusalem, or in Jerusalem, or in both, can only be conjectured. In favor of Galilee it may be said, that here the apostles were at home and among friends, and that amidst the scenes of His former teachings His present words would come with double power and meaning; whilst in Jerusalem they would be among His enemies, and in a state of disquietude, if not of positive fear. We may, then, suppose that it was near the fortieth day ere they went up to Jerusalem. That they went in obedience to some special direction, is probable, and not simply to be present at the feast of Pentecost; but that they knew for what end He had gathered them there, may be doubted. Indeed it may be fairly inferred from Acts i. 6, that so far from supposing that He was then about to depart from them into heaven, they rather hoped and expected that He was about to reveal Himself in glory, and to commence His reign with the baptism of the Holy Ghost, conformably to His promise, (v. 5.) Olshausen wTould refer v. 4 to one assembling of the disciples, and v. 6 to another and later, but his reasons are not strong.

The exact spot of the ascension upon the Mount of Olives has been preserved by tradition; and a chapel now stands upon it, of modern erection, and in the hands of the Mohammedans. But it is certain that Helena, mother of Constantine, erected a church upon the summit, and probably near the present site ; though Stanley (448) claims that she did not mean to honor the scene of the ascension itself, but a cave, in which, according to Eusebius, Jesus initiated His disciples into His secret mysteries. " There is, in fact, no proof from Eusebius that any tradition pointed out the scene of the ascension." * As to the rock within the present chapel, which has been pointed out to pilgrims since the seventh century as bearing the imprint of the Lord's footsteps, he says, " There is nothing but a simple cavity in the rock, with no more resemblance to a human foot than to any thing else."

As Luke alone of the Evangelists mentions the place of the ascension, we must turn to his statements. He says in his Gospel; (xxiv. 50 :) " And He led them out as far as to Bethany," ews cts BrjOavtav; in the Acts of the Apostles, (i. 12:) "Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbathday's journey." There is thus the topographical objection to the traditional site of the ascension, that it is but about half a mile from the city wall; and if Jesus was separated from the disciples here, He did not lead them out as far as to Bethany. There is also another objection, in the fact of its publicity, being in full view from the city. But if we construe the statement, "as far as to Bethany," to mean the village of Bethany, we on the other hand make Luke inconsistent with himself, since this is a mile below the summit of Olivet, and much more than a sabbath-day's journey.

Several solutions of the difficulty have been proposed. Lightfoot would distinguish between Bethany, a tract of

1 See, however, Porter, i. 177.

the mount, and the town Bethany. The former was distant from the city but seven furlongs, or one mile; the latter, fifteen furlongs, or two miles. Between the two lay Bethphage, and He ascended " in that very place where He got upon the ass when He rode into Jerusalem." Wieseler (435, note) supposes that Bethphage was regarded by the Jews as if it constituted a part of the city, and that, reckoning from it eastward, Bethany wras but a sabbath-day's journey. He refers to John xii. 9-11, that the Jews did go as far as Bethany upon the Sabbath. Robinson 2 affirms that Bethany and the Mount of Olives are used by Luke " interchangeably, and almost as synonymous." With him many agree. "As far as to Bethany, not quite to the village itself, but over the brow of the Mount of Olives, where it descends on Bethany." (Alford.) " Not altogether into Bethany, but so far as the point where Bethany came into sight." (Stier.) " The secluded hills which overhang that village on the eastern slope of Olivet." (Stanley.) That the "Mount of Olives" is a general designation, embracing the eastern as well as the westerri slopes, and the villages upon them, is apparent from various passages in the Evangelists. (Compare Mark xi. I; Luke xix. 29; Mark xi. 11, 12 ; Luke xxi. 37.) We have, then, to seek a site somewhere upon the mount, in the neighborhood of Bethany, and distant about a sabbath-day's journey from Jerusalem.2 Such a site Barclay thinks he finds in a hill which overhangs Bethany, that lies about five hundred yards below. This hill is a mile from St. Stephen's gate, and within a hundred yards of the direct footpath from Bethany to Jerusalem.

» Har. 234.

2 Meyer would make, not the place of the ascension, but the mountain, to be so far distant. But the mountain, at its base and lower slopes, is within a few rods of the city. «" The mean distance," says Barclay, (59,) " of that portion of its summit opposite the city, is about half a mile. But by the nearest pathway it is 918 yards from St. Stephen's gate to the Church of the Ascension; by the longer footpath, 1310 yards; and by the main camel road, is perhaps a little farther."

However it may be with this particular spot, there is little doubt that from some one of the heights a little below the summit of Olivet, that look to the east, and overhang the village of Bethany, He ascended to sit at the right hand of His Father.1

In regard to the hour of the day when the ascension took place, nothing definite can be said. By some it is supposed to have been early morning, by others midday. That others wTere present beside the Eleven, is probable, though not expressly said.

The difficulties connected with the statements of the Evangelists respecting the ascension demand that we examine their respective narratives in some detail. Matthew does not say that Jesus ascended into heaven after His resurrection, but closes his Gospel with the departure of the Eleven from Jerusalem to Galilee, where Jesus met them at the mountain, as He had appointed them. There, as it would seem, He gave them the commission to go and teach all nations, promising to be with them to the end of the world.3 That these words wTere spoken at this interview in Galilee is intrinsically probable; and there is an especial fitness in it if we suppose that, not only the Eleven, but the great body of the disciples were present. But the assertion that this was the final interview, and these the last words of Jesus to His apostles, and therefore that the ascension was from Galilee, is without proof. Here, as often, the brevity of our Evangelist must be complemented by the fuller narratives of the others. Had we the account of Matthew only, we could not know that Jesus ascended from the mountain in Galilee, since lie does not mention the ascension at all. But as he was not ignorant of the fact, so he could not have "been of the time and place.

1 In favor of the traditional site, see Williams, ii. 440; Ellicott, 413. Jones, (Notes, 451,) who supposes several ascensions, makes the first to have taken place on the evening of the day of the resurrection, (Luke xxiv. 50, 51,) and to have been at Bethany, nearly two miles from Jerusalem; and the last, (Acts i. 12,) from Olivet, about five furlongs distant.

2 Teschendorf, Lichtenstein, Robinson.

The narrative of Mark (xvi. 14-20) presents greater difficulties. He records the command of the Lord to go into all the world and preach the Gospel, and the promise that certain signs should follow them that believe. From the connection in which His words stand it would seem that they were spoken to the Eleven as they sat at meat on the evening of the day of the resurrection, and that immediately after He ascended into heaven. This, however, is wTholly irreconcilable with th§ statements of Luke ; and it is also intrinsically improbable that upon the occasion of His first meeting with the apostles after He had risen, and while their minds were in so great excitement, He should give them this commission. We give some of the solutions that have been proposed: 1st. That which takes Mark's narrative as strictly chronological, and makes the Lord's words to have been spoken to the Eleven, on the evening of the day of the resurrection, and His ascension to have immediately followed. This is affirmed by those who, as Kinkel and Jones, maintain that He repeatedly ascended to heaven; and, indeed, that He departed thither after each appearance to His disciples. The ascension on the fortieth day (Acts i. 9) was the last, and as such visible, and marked with especial solemnity.1 This view of several ascensions may remove some difficulties, but involves others greater, both historical and dogmatic. Others affirm, as Meyer and Alford, that Mark, intending to relate what took place at one and the same time, brings together here by mistake what really took place on several distinct occasions. He supposed that the Lord spake these words to the Eleven on the evening of the day He rose, and the same evening ascended to heaven.

i See Kinkel, Studien u. Krit., 1841, translated in Bib. Sacra, Feb. 1844. Jones, (Notes, 480:) " He was during the forty days ordinarily an inhabitant of the heavenly world." See, contra, Robinson, in Bib. Sacra, May, 1845.

The same rule of interpretation seems also to show that He was received up from the room in which they were eating, and that the Eleven, going immediately forth from this room, began at once to preach the Gospel. Of course the writer, whether Mark or some one else, could have known nothing of the several appearances of Jesus during the forty days, of the ascension from Bethany, or of the ten days' waiting for the Spirit ere the disciples began to preach. The supposition of such ignorance itself presents a greater difficulty than that it is intended to remove.

2d. That which makes Jesus to have spoken these words to the Eleven on the evening of the clay of the resurrection, but defers the ascension itself to the fortieth day following. In this case the phrase fxera To ^aA^cmi, "After the Lord had spoken to them," (v. 19,) is not to be confined to the few words just recorded, but embraces His discourses in general, down to the time He ascended.

3d. That which places His interview with the Eleven on the evening of the day of the resurrection, (v. 14,) but the words following upon some subsequent occasion, perhaps upon the mount in Galilee; and the ascension at a still later period.

4th. That which makes this interview with the Eleven to have been after the return of Jesus and the disciples from Galilee to Jerusalem, and immediately before the ascension at Bethany.

The obvious and natural interpretation of the narrative is this: The Evangelist, washing to give in the briefest wray the substance of the Lord's missionary commission to the Church, with its accompanying promises, connects it with a meeting of the eleven apostles, which may have been on the evening of the day of the resurrection, or more probably at some subsequent period. All the instructions of the

from the mountain in Galilee, since lie does not mention the ascension at all. But as he was not ignorant of the fact, so he could not have "been of the time and place.

The narrative of Mark (xvi. 14-20) presents greater difficulties. He records the command of the Lord to go into all the world and preach the Gospel, and the promise that certain signs should follow them that believe. From the connection in which His words stand it would seem that they were spoken to the Eleven as they sat at meat on the evening of the day of the resurrection, and that immediately after He ascended into heaven. This, however, is wTholly irreconcilable with th§ statements of Luke ; and it is also intrinsically improbable that upon the occasion of His first meeting with the apostles after He had risen, and while their minds were in so great excitement, He should give them this commission. We give some of the solutions that have been proposed: 1st. That which takes Mark's narrative as strictly chronological, and makes the Lord's words to have been spoken to the Eleven, on the evening of the day of the resurrection, and His ascension to have immediately followed. This is affirmed by those who, as Kinkel and Jones, maintain that He repeatedly ascended to heaven; and, indeed, that He departed thither after each appearance to His disciples. The ascension on the fortieth day (Acts i. 9) was the last, and as such visible, and marked with especial solemnity.1 This view of several ascensions may remove some difficulties, but involves others greater, both historical and dogmatic. Others affirm, as Meyer and Alford, that Mark, intending to relate what took place at one and the same time, brings together here by mistake what really took place on several distinct occasions. He supposed that the Lord spake these words to the Eleven on the evening of the day He rose, and the same evening ascended to heaven. The same rule of interpretation seems also to show that He was received up from the room in which they were eating, and that the Eleven, going immediately forth from this room, began at once to preach the Gospel. Of course the writer, whether Mark or some one else, could have known nothing of the several appearances of Jesus during the forty days, of the ascension from Bethany, or of the ten days' waiting for the Spirit ere the disciples began to preach. The supposition of such ignorance itself presents a greater difficulty than that it is intended to remove.

i See Kinkel, Studien u. Krit., 1841, translated in Bib. Sacra, Feb. 1844. Jones, (Notes, 480:) " He was during the forty days ordinarily an inhabitant of the heavenly world." See, contra, Robinson, in Bib. Sacra, May, 1845.

2d. That which makes Jesus to have spoken these words to the Eleven on the evening of the clay of the resurrection, but defers the ascension itself to the fortieth day following. In this case the phrase fxera To ^aA^cmi, "After the Lord had spoken to them," (v. 19,) is not to be confined to the few words just recorded, but embraces His discourses in general, down to the time He ascended.

3d. That which places His interview with the Eleven on the evening of the day of the resurrection, (v. 14,) but the words following upon some subsequent occasion, perhaps upon the mount in Galilee; and the ascension at a still later period.

4th. That which makes this interview with the Eleven to have been after the return of Jesus and the disciples from Galilee to Jerusalem, and immediately before the ascension at Bethany.

The obvious and natural interpretation of the narrative is this: The Evangelist, washing to give in the briefest wray the substance of the Lord's missionary commission to the Church, with its accompanying promises, connects it with a meeting of the eleven apostles, which may have been on the evening of the day of the resurrection, or more probably at some subsequent period. All the instructions of the forty days upon this point, are summed up in these few words. In the same concise way it is said, that after the Lord had spoken to them, or after He had finished His instructions, He was received up. To press this brevity as indicating ignorance on his part of the real order of events, is hypercritical.

Substantially the same difficulties meet us in the narrative of Luke as in that of Mark. In his Gospel, (xxiv. 33-51,) he seems to represent the ascension as taking place the evening after Jesus rose from the dead. He meets the Eleven and others as they were gathered together, and after convincing them that He was really risen, by eating before them, and discoursing to them, He leads them out to Bethany, and, blessing them, is carried up into heaven. In the Acts of the Apostles, however, the Evangelist states explicitly that He was seen of them forty days, and full details respecting His ascension at the end of this period, are given. Do these two accounts conflict with each other? This is affirmed by Meyer. According to him, there were two traditions, one of which represented the Lord as ascending upon the day of the resurrection; the other, after forty days. In his Gospel, Luke follows the former; in the Acts, the latter. With Meyer, Alford agrees. " Luke, at the time of writing his Gospel, was not aware of any Galilean appearances of the Lord, nor indeed of any later than this one. That he corrects this in Acts 1, shows him to have become acquainted with some other sources of information, not however, perhaps, including the Galilean appearances." All this is arbitrary conjecture. There is not the slightest hint that the Evangelist wished to correct in the later account an error in the earlier. Had he made so gross a mistake, common honesty toward his readers would have demanded an explicit statement of it, and a retraction. On the contrary, he says that his former treatise embraced all that Jesus did and taught " Until the day in which He was taken up," which day, as he says, was the fortieth after His resurrection. This is a plain averment that in his Gospel he placed the ascension on the fortieth day, although he did not then give any specific designation of time.1

Those who, like Jones, make the Lord to have often ascended, refer these accounts of Luke to different events. In the Gospel he speaks of the ascension on the evening following the resurrection; in Acts, of the last ascension. And as the time, so the place was different; the former ascension being from Bethany, the latter from the summit of the Mount of Olives.2 But Luke's language, in his Gospel, plainly shows that he cannot speak of an ascension upon the evening of the day when Jesus arose. The day was far spent when He was with the two disciples at Emmaus, and they returned to Jerusalem, and probably were some time with the Eleven, ere Jesus joined them. Some time passed in convincing them of His actual resurrection, and in discoursing to them. It must therefore have been late in the evening ere He led them out to Bethany, two miles distant, and the ascension itself must have been in the dead of night. This is intrinsically improbable, or rather incredible.

When the words recorded by Luke (xxiv. 44-48) were spoken, is not certain. Some would put them in immediate connection with what precedes; others refer them to a later period ; to the second interview with the Eleven, or to the meeting upon the mount in Galilee, or to the day of the ascension. That the Evangelist gives here a summary of Jesus' teachings during the forty days, is made doubtful by the fact of His opening their understanding, v. 45, which seems to refer to some special act rather than to a gradual process of enlightening.

i See Ebrard, 596.

a In this way Jones explains the statement of Barnabas, that the Lord ascended on the eighth or Sabbath day. See Heferle, Patrum Apostolicorum Opera, 42.

We therefore connect this with the reception of the Holy Ghost, John xx. 21-23, which was on the evening following the resurrection. Possibly vs. 46-48 may have been spoken later. That the command, v. 49, to tarry in the city of Jerusalem was spoken after they had returned hither from Galilee, and is identical with the command Acts i. 4, needs no proof.

Thus comparing the several Evangelists, ye find that the Lord, during the forty days, first manifested Himself to His disciples in Judea, and, going thence to Galilee, returned again to Judea. So far as we can learn, it was not His purpose to have shown Himself to them in Jerusalem, for He had commanded them to go into Galilee, and there they should see Him. But their unbelief in His words respecting His resurrection, made it necessary that He should manifest Himself to them there; yet even after they nad seen Him, the unbelief of one seems to have detained them some days at Jerusalem. As in Galilee He had gathered His disciples, so here He appoints a place of general meeting. But He cannot ascend to His Father from Galilee. As He went up to Jerusalem to die, He now goes up thither again, that from the Mount of Olives, overlooking the Holy City and the temple, He may ascend to His Father's right hand to receive the kingdom, and to await the hour when His enemies shall be made His footstool, and the Lord shall be King over all the earth.