Jehovah’s Witnesses watchman Forums Watchman Forum A closer look at Matthew 27:51-53

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  • SongofHannahSongofHannah
    Post count: 55
    #39139 |

    Matt 27:51 — And look! the curtain of the sanctuary was torn in two, from top to bottom, and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split. 52 And the tombs were opened, and many bodies of the holy ones who had fallen asleep were raised up 53 (and people coming out from among the tombs after his being raised up entered into the holy city), and they became visible to many people. 54 But when the army officer and those with him keeping watch over Jesus saw the earthquake and the things happening, they grew very much afraid and said: “Certainly this was God’s Son.”

    Now I’ve known the WT’s explanation of this scripture, and taught it for many years (I’ll put an excerpt below). But now I’m taking a fresh look at it, if only for the symbolism of it.

    For certainly if the curtain being torn in the sanctuary has spiritual significance, then this account of the opened tombs must also, right? But I’ve never seen any explanation regarding its significance, unlike the curtain. Have you?

    Of course, it seems highly doubtful there was a true resurrection here, as it would have been a huge event, worthy of all four Gospels. Yet, only Matthew records it. But it still seems that there is something significant here, a “hidden treasure” worth unburying. So here’s what I’ve collected. If any of you have any insights regarding this, I am all ears! 🙂

    Here’s Matt 27:52-53 in the Greek:
    Greek / English
    καὶ and
    τὰ the
    μνημεῖα tombs
    ἀνεῴχθησαν were opened
    καὶ and
    πολλὰ many
    σώματα bodies
    τῶν of the
    κεκοιμημένων having fallen asleep
    ἁγίων holy (ones)
    ἠγέρθησαν arose
    καὶ and
    ἐξελθόντες having gone forth
    ἐκ out of
    τῶν the
    μνημείων tombs
    μετὰ after
    τὴν the
    ἔγερσιν resurrection
    αὐτοῦ of him,
    εἰσῆλθον they entered
    εἰς into
    τὴν the
    ἁγίαν holy
    πόλιν city
    καὶ and
    ἐνεφανίσθησαν appeared
    πολλοῖς. to many.

    Here is the info on the Greek word used for “arose” from the Strong’s Concordance:

    G1453: ἐγείρω (eg-i’-ro)
    probably akin to the base of 58 (through the idea of collecting one’s faculties); to waken (transitively or intransitively), i.e. rouse (literally, from sleep, from sitting or lying, from disease, from death; or figuratively, from obscurity, inactivity, ruins, nonexistence):–awake, lift (up), raise (again, up), rear up, (a-)rise (again, up), stand, take up.

    Jesus used this word several times in the context of his being resurrected, but also used it to ask people to rise up from sitting.

    Here is the Greek word used for “resurrection”:

    G1454: ἔγερσις (eg’-er-sis)
    from 1453; a resurgence (from death):–resurrection.

    The only other word in the Greek used for resurrection is “anastasis”:

    G386: ἀνάστασις (an-as’-tas-is)
    from 450; a standing up again, i.e. (literally) a resurrection from death (individual, genitive case or by implication, (its author)), or (figuratively) a (moral) recovery (of spiritual truth):–raised to life again, resurrection, rise from the dead, that should rise, rising again.

    And I can’t help but think of this scripture along side it:

    Daniel 12:1b And there will occur a time of distress such as has not occurred since there came to be a nation until that time. And during that time your people will escape, everyone who is found written down in the book. 2 And many of those asleep in the dust of the earth will wake up, some to everlasting life and others to reproach and to everlasting contempt.

    Here is the excerpt from the WT on the subject:

    ‘Tombs Opened’ at Jesus’ Death. The text at Matthew 27:52, 53 concerning “the memorial tombs [that] were opened” as the result of an earthquake occurring at the time of Jesus’ death has caused considerable discussion, some holding that a resurrection occurred. However, a comparison with the texts concerning the resurrection makes clear that these verses do not describe a resurrection but merely a throwing of bodies out of their tombs, similar to incidents that have taken place in more recent times, as in Ecuador in 1949 and again in Sonsón, Colombia, in 1962, when 200 corpses in the cemetery were thrown out of their tombs by a violent earth tremor.—El Tiempo, Bogotá, Colombia, July 31, 1962. — Insight “Memorial Tomb”

    Also including an excerpt of the significance of the rent curtain:

    When Jesus dies, the long, heavy curtain that divides the Holy from the Most Holy in God’s temple is ripped in two, from top to bottom. The astonishing event is a manifestation of God’s wrath against those who killed his Son and signifies that the way into the Most Holy, heaven itself, is now possible. (Hebrews 9:2, 3; 10:19, 20).
    — Jesus the Way, pg 301.

    Disqus_LgOOYv99voJohn 3:16
    Post count: 13

    Have you noticed the similar language used in Matthew 24:21-22 and Daniel 12:1?

    NWT – For then there will be great tribulation+ such as has not occurred since the world’s beginning until now, no, nor will occur again.+ 22 In fact, unless those days were cut short, no flesh would be saved; but on account of the chosen ones those days will be cut short.+

    Daniel 12:1b And there will occur a time of distress such as has not occurred since there came to be a nation until that time. And during that time your people will escape, everyone who is found written down in the book. 2 And many of those asleep in the dust of the earth will wake up, some to everlasting life and others to reproach and to everlasting contempt.

    Disqus_LgOOYv99voJohn 3:16
    Post count: 13

    Another thought on this in regards to the rocks being split at the end of verse 51…

    Where have we heard about rocks being split in the Bible? The first instance was with Moses: (all quotes from NWT Bible)

    Exodus 17:6 – Look! I will be standing before you there on the rock in Horeb. You must strike the rock, and water will come out of it, and the people will drink it.

    Also, look at Nehemiah 9:15 – You gave them bread from heaven when they were hungry, and you brought water out of the crag when they were thirsty, and you told them to enter and take possession of the land that you had sworn to give to them.

    And some other scriptures in reference to water…


    78:15 – He split rocks in the wilderness,
    He let them drink their fill as if from deep waters.

    42 As a deer that longs for streams of water,
    So I long* for you, O God.
    2 I do thirst* for God, for the living God.+
    When may I come and appear before God?

    Isaiah 11:9 – They will not cause any harm+
    Or any ruin in all my holy mountain,+
    Because the earth will certainly be filled with the knowledge of Jehovah
    As the waters cover the sea.+

    And to wrap it all up, from Jesus himself…

    John 4:13 – In answer Jesus said to her: “Everyone drinking from this water will get thirsty again. 14 Whoever drinks from the water that I will give him will never get thirsty at all,+ but the water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water bubbling up to impart everlasting life.”

    Revelation 7:16 – They will hunger no more nor thirst anymore, neither will the sun beat down on them nor any scorching heat,+ 17 because the Lamb,+ who is in the midst* of the throne, will shepherd them+ and will guide them to springs* of waters of life.

    In conclusion, as many of you already know, water tends to be synonymous with knowledge, hence the scripture “let anyone who wishes take life’s water free”. This makes me wonder if that’s what is being said here in verse 51? Is it talking about knowledge flowing forth?

    I’ve been praying and asking for insight on many things lately and I thank Jehovah through Jesus for helping me to see things I’ve never noticed before. There are no doubt many “hidden gems” throughout the scriptures and I hope to keep learning and refining.

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