ASCENSION OF JESUS

 

Contradictions are present until the very end of the descriptions because neither John nor Matthew refer to Jesus's Ascension. Mark and Luke are the only one to speak of it.

For Mark (16, 19), Jesus was 'taken up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God' without any precise date being given in relation to His Resurrection. It must however be noted that the final passage of Mark containing this sentence is, for Father Roguet, an 'invented' text, although for the Church it is canonic!

There remains Luke, the only evangelist to provide an undisputed text of the Ascension episode (24, 51): 'he parted from them [ i.e. the eleven Apostles; Judos, the twelfth, was already dead.] and was carried up into heaven'. The evangelist places the event at the end of the description of the Resurrection and appearance to the eleven Apostles: the details of the Gospel description imply that the Ascension took place on the day of the Resurrection. In the Acts of the Apostles, Luke (whom everybody believes to be their author) describes in chapter 1, 3 Jesus's appearance to the Apostles, between the Passion and the Ascension, in the following terms:

"To them he presented himself alive after his passion by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days, and speaking of the kingdom of God."

The placing of the Christian festival of the Ascension at forty days after Easter, the Festival of the Resurrection, originates from this passage in the Acts of the Apostles. The date is therefore set in contradiction to Luke's Gospel: none of the other Gospel texts say anything to justify this in a different way.

The Christian who is aware of this situation is highly disconcerted by the obviousness of the contradiction. The Ecumenical Translation of the Bible, New Testament, acknowledges the facts but does not expand on the contradiction. It limits itself to noting the relevance the forty days may have had to Jesus's mission.

Commentators wishing to explain everything and reconcile the irreconciliable provide some strange interpretations on this subject.

The Synopsis of the Four Gospels edited in 1972 by the Bibli cal School of Jerusalem (vol. 2, page 451) contains, for example, some very strange commentaries.

The very word , Ascension' is criticized as follows: "In fact there was no ascension in the actual physical sense because God is no more 'on high' than he is 'below' " (sic). It is difficult to grasp the sense of this comment because one wonders how Luke could otherwise have expressed himself.

Elsewhere, the author of this commentary sees a 'literary artifice' in the fact that "in the Acts, the Ascension is said to have taken place forty days after the resurrection". this 'artifice' is "intended to stress the notion that the period of Jesus's appearances on earth is at an end". He adds however, in relation to the fact that in Luke's Gospel, "the event is situated during the evening of Easter Sunday, because the evangelist does not put any breaks between the various episodes recorded following the discovery of the empty tomb on the morning of the resurrection..."-". . . surely this is also a literary artifice, intended to allow a certain lapse of time before the appearance of Jesus raised from the dead." (sic)

The feeling of embarrassment that surrounds these interpretations is even more obvious in Father Roguet's book. He discerns not one, but two Ascensions!

"Whereas from Jesus's point of view the Ascension coincides with the Resurrection, from the disciples' point of view it does not take place until Jesus ceases definitely to present Himself to them, so that the Spirit may be given to them and the period of the Church may begin."

To those readers who are not quite able to grasp the theological subtlety of his argument (which has absolutely no Scriptural basis whatsoever), the author issues the following general warning, which is a model of apologetical verbiage:

"Here, as in many similar cases, the problem only appears insuperable if one takes Biblical statements literally, and forgets their religious significance. It is not a matter of breaking down the factual reality into a symbolism which is inconsistent, but rather of looking for the theological intentions of those revealing these mysteries to us by providing us with facts we can apprehend with our senses and signs appropriate to our incarnate spirit."