There is an interesting piece of text in this regard in the 3rd part of the old Latin version of the Gesta Salvatoris (aka Evangelium Nicodemi). Although that piece is nowadays regarded as spurious or just another apocryphic “literary composition” of an unknown 4th to 6th century author by all scholars, there are many passages and expressions that lead me to believe that we have elements here of an older version about what happened before, during and after the Savior’s resurrection, that has somehow escaped the early censorship which might have been applied to certain sections of the canonical gospels.
Whereas various characters in the Gesta Salvatoris testify of seeing Jesus ascend into heaven -and the normal gospel expression “vidimus eum ascendentem in caelum > we saw him ascending into heaven” is used - at the end of part three Enoch and Helias appear in paradise after Christ had brought up the dead there from Hades, the lower world.
Enoch then says:
“Ego sum Enoch, qui verbo DN̅i hic sum translatus; iste autem qui mecum est, Helias est Thesbites, qui curru igneo hic est adsumptus. > I am Enoch who has been transported here by the word of the LORD, but that one who is here with me, is Elias who was taken here by (means of) a fiery chariot (or vehicle).”
After shortly talking about their future battle with the Antichrist (as in the book of Rev.), the text continues:
“postque triduum & dimidium diei, iterum vivi in nubibus assumendi. > after three and a half days, being alive again, to be taken up into the clouds.”
Up to here, the text with respect to the physical ascension does not very much deviate from other known canonical passages, leaving one to wonder though what the nature of that “currus igneus” really is. But towards the end of the twin brothers Karinus’ and Leutius’ account things are getting more explicit. The text is corroborated by the oldest manuscripts of the Gesta Salvatoris.
Here the brothers talk about the dead that had been resurrected by the Savior and were permitted to celebrate his resurrection with their parents living on earth for three days:
"Quia tantum tres dies permissi sumus, qui resurreximus a mortuis, celebrare in Hierusalem pascha DN̅i cum viventibus parentibus nostris, in testimonium resurrectionis XP̅i DN̅i; et baptizati sumus in Sc̅o Iordanis flumine, accipientes singuli stolas albas. Et post tres dies celebrantes pascha DN̅i, rapti sunt a nubibus omnes qui nobiscum resurrexerunt; & perducti sunt trans Iordanen, & iam a nemine visi sunt. > as we, who were resurrected from the dead, are only permitted to celebrate the Pascha of the Lord with our living parents for three days, bearing testimony to the resurrection of Christ the Lord. And we are baptized in the holy river Jordan, each receiving a white robe. And after three days of celebrating the Pascha of the Lord, they who were resurrected with us (Karinus and Leutius), are taken away by clouds, and are led away across the (river) Jordan, and no (more) seen by anyone.”
Only the later Paris codex BNF 3784 has replaced the preposition “a” with “in”. Einsiedeln SBE 324 has an even weirder variant:
“ ... reper(ti) sunt a nubibus, omnes qui nobiscum resurrexerunt, & perducti sunt trans Iordanem, & iam a nemine visi sunt. > were spotted / found out by (the) clouds and led away .. "
People may say that those are scribal errors in earlier manuscripts that have been copied down, but I am not so sure. If you connect that to Acts 1, 9 “et nubes suscepit eum”, one begins to wonder what the heck those clouds were.
One explanation is to give to the reader a pleasant image in which Christ is gracefully lifted up, blending gently with some kind of mist, which a cloud is in the last analysis, but that image is in stark contrast to the use of the verb “rapere” in the Gesta which means to take away by force. In the end you are left with your very own ideas you have about hell, paradise and heaven, and early public air transport.
For the agnostic things are abundantly clear, but for somebody who believes the resurrection to be a real thing, the ascension we are going to celebrate tomorrow becomes either a metaphysical or an astrophysical problem. It must also be said that the resurrected dead in the Gesta do appear to possess bodies that are not entirely material. In my opinion, Were all this a made-up story, one would expect them to be described as having normal bodies.
"fiery chariots" The passage in 2 Kings 2,11 should also be read in the version of the LXX, which is quite different to the Hebrew text. In fact the whole chapter is pretty astonishing. There is a good English translation by Sir Lancelot C.L. Brenton which most people in the U.S. possess who are interested in the subject. It is a very precise translation, as far as I can judge. I am using the Latin translation by cardinal Ximenez, Rome 1588, which has a good apparatus, although I understand the translation is based in large part on the Greek Text of the codex Vaticanus.
In what concerns the Gesta Salvatoris, the only passage in the New Testament that refers to the dead being risen after the Lord’s resurrection is found in the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 27, 51b – 53. This theme is picked up in the Gesta Salvatoris, but since this piece itself is not a canonical text, the moderator may well delete my post, as I did not realize that only passages from the canonical scriptures may be quoted from on this platform.
On the other hand, had the evangelists known in their own time that most of material they did not include in the gospels for reasons of space and conciseness would later be regarded as not genuine they might have attempted to enlarge their accounts considerably.
Gospel of Matthew, Old Latin Codex Vercellensis, edition Gasquet; Chapter 27 (there are few variants in this portion of text with respect to modern recensions)
“51b [Et ter]raemotum factum est magnum et petrae fissae sunt! 52. Et monumenta patefacta sunt, et mult(a) corp(or)a sanctorum dormi(ent)ium sur(re)xerunt. 53 Et (ex)euntes de (m)onumen(tis p)ost resur(recti)onem ipsius uene(runt) in sanc(tam) civitatem (et mul)tis appa(ruerunt)“
51b "And a massive earthquake took place and rocks were rent asunder. 52. And graves were opened, and many bodies of believers who had passed away were risen. 53. Leaving the graves after the resurrection of Him they came into the holy city and appeared unto many.
Tyndale 1526 ".. and the earth did quake, and the stones did rent, and graves did open, and the bodies of many saints which slept, arose; and came out of their graves after his resurrection, and came into the holy city, and appeared unto many"
In what concerns the question that Mr. Heeg poses, it appears difficult to judge from scripture alone what the metaphysical implications are for his question. The chapter in II Kings is a good example. Either one interprets the events told therein as mere tales or one believes them to have taken place in the way they are described in text. In the latter case a number of problems arise that cannot be solved with the help of biblical texts alone.