5

Jesus, after being resurrected, appeared to his eleven disciples on a mountain and was worshipped by them. Matt 28:17 says some of them doubted. What did they doubt? Was it his resurrection?

Matthew 28:17 (KJV) 17 And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted.

2

The word “doubt” in the Greek that is used in the Bible is δισταζω - pronounced distazo. The Greek dictionary defines it as ‘to waver, hesitate’ and the modern English dictionary gives its archaic (ancient) meanings as:

to fear; be apprehensive about.to be uncertain about something; 
be undecided in opinion or belief.
A feeling of uncertainty about the truth, reality, or nature of something.

In this instance, the doubt experienced by the disciples falls short of outright unbelief - ὰπιστια, pronounced apistia. When δισταζω is used with the meaning 'hesitate', the use, as here, is consistent with 'hesitate to believe'. However, particularly given the obscurity of this verse, there seems to be a case for using it in the sense of hesitating to worship him, but this hesitation would still come back to doubt. The disciples had gone to this mountain because they were told that the risen Jesus would meet them there ("into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them") so they truly believed that Jesus had risen. It can only be that they doubted that this man whom they were meeting actually was Jesus.

  • I agree with the above analysis but I wonder if there are alternatives to the conclusion, could it be a sense of, "This is too good to be true" doubt? – Jonathan Chell Apr 13 '15 at 7:02
  • @JonathanChell Yes, all options are open, and I'm sure we will get some more good answers along other lines. I personally do not see any mileage in "This is too good to be true" because they followed the directions given by Jesus to the women and went to the mountain where they knew they would meet him: thus they truly believed that Jesus had risen and intended to meet them at the mountain. So at least that much was not too good to be true. (This exegesis ignores the Lukan meetings on the day of the resurrection.) – Dick Harfield Apr 13 '15 at 8:18
  • on my wedding day I went to the church to get married despite feeling like it was too good to be true :-D – Jonathan Chell Apr 13 '15 at 13:26
  • @DickHarfield, your answer would be stronger if you referenced an actual Greek dictionary, not user 'Luke Wilson' at Scribd. And how does the archaic meaning of an English word (what word?) help define the Greek text? 'Luke Wilson' is not very helpful here, IMO. – Schuh Apr 15 '15 at 18:15
0

In addition to word studies and lexicons, how a word is used conveys meaning.

In this case the word “doubt” ἐδίστασαν is used only twice in the New Testament:

So he said, “Come.” Peter got out of the boat, walked on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the strong wind he became afraid. And starting to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt ἐδίστασας?” (Matthew 14:29-31 NET)

As seen from the event doubt does not mean unbelief. Peter believed and so he got out of the boat. Then he doubted.

The HELPS Word-studies states:

the word comes from dis “two or double” and stasis “stance or standing” – properly, going two ways, shifting between positions; choosing “a double stance” and hence vacillate (waiver); (figuratively) uncertain at a crossroad because refusing to choose one way over the other – “wanting to have our cake and eat it too”, to halt between two opinions (view, beliefs) [distazo]

In Peter’s case, he got out of the boat, started to go toward Jesus and then something happened. According to Jesus Peter “ἐδίστασας.”

One can imagine Peter walking on water toward Jesus and with each step moving further away from the boat. If Peter continues to move toward Jesus he will reach a crossroad where he must reaffirm (or question) his decision. Should he continue to move toward Jesus or go back to the boat? At first Peter will be close enough to the boat to go back; at some point Peter must choose to continue to move beyond the safety of going back to the boat.

Peter waivered: he vacillated refusing to choose one way over the other. He did not go back to the boat (a form of unbelief); yet he did not continue moving toward Jesus (a form of doubt).

The expectation a Jewish person had about the future was that God would gather all of the Jewish people back to a restored kingdom of Israel:

The LORD will then be king over all the earth. In that day the LORD will be seen as one with a single name. All the land will change and become like the Arabah from Geba to Rimmon, south of Jerusalem; and Jerusalem will be raised up and will stay in its own place from the Benjamin Gate to the site of the First Gate and on to the Corner Gate, and from the Tower of Hananel to the royal winepresses. And people will settle there, and there will no longer be the threat of divine extermination—Jerusalem will dwell in security. (Zechariah 14:9-11 NET)

After restoring Israel, the world will then come to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD who rules over all the earth. In particular, each year all nations are expected to come to Jerusalem to worship at the time of the Feast of Tabernacles:

Then all who survive from all the nations that came to attack Jerusalem will go up annually to worship the King, the LORD who rules over all, and to observe the Feast of Temporary Shelters. But if any of the nations anywhere on earth refuse to go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD who rules over all, they will get no rain. (Zechariah 14:16-18 NET)

After the resurrection the disciples continued to hold on to this expectation:

So when they had gathered together, they began to ask him, “Lord, is this the time when you are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6 NET)

Matthew records Jesus instructing the disciples what to do next:

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20 NET)

The Christian understanding that the disciples were to "go" as in leave Israel to make disciples of all the earth is completely opposite of the Jewish expectation that all nations will come to Jerusalem. The Old Testament belief is such that the restoration of Israel leads to the world knowing the one true God by coming to Jerusalem and worshiping Him at the time of the Feast of Tabernacles not by the LORD's disciples leaving Israel to go and teach the nations.

So what did those disciples who worshiped Jesus on the mountain do?

According to Acts they left the mountain and returned to Jerusalem and after receiving the Holy Spirit on the day of Shavuot, they remained in Jerusalem. They stayed on after the Feast of Tabernacles.

They all doubted; they all waivered; they all remained in Jerusalem. They did not "go." Eventually circumstances would force a different decision but after worshiping on the mountain and returning to Jerusalem they wavered between how to understand the command to go and make disciples of all nations.

-2

It seems that "they doubted" if it was really Jesus who stood before them. This is why Christ gives them the reassurance of His deity in the following verses.

Up to this point, the apostles had had the right example and the right teachings. Now after His crucifixion, He begins to "reassure" them and putting everything into perspective and systematically; from the O.T. to that moment, and what was to follow at Pentecost (the right power).

  • I'm very grateful for your participation here. We're a little different from a forum, so do take the site tour if you haven't already. Answers are expected to have informed argument, cite evidence (primary and secondary). I think you can benefit a lot if you see the kind of answers that this site is looking for. – Paul Vargas Apr 12 '15 at 21:23

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.