[Mat 27:50-54 NASB] (50) And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. (51) And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split. (52) The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; (53) and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many. (54) Now the centurion, and those who were with him keeping guard over Jesus, when they saw the earthquake and the things that were happening, became very frightened and said, "Truly this was the Son of God!"

It sounds like they were immediately raised but did not come out of the tomb until 3 days later. Is that the idea?

  • Where do you insert the gap. The words "coming out of the tombs" means "and when they had come out of the tombs." It doesn't say anything about a time period between their resurrection and their coming out of the tombs? Commented Feb 11, 2020 at 20:57
  • 1
    My own reading of the Greek text of Matthew 27:52 is that the graves were opened at the point of Jesus' giving up his spirit, but that the raising from the dead of the bodies occurred only after Jesus' resurrection. Matthew's narrative only comments on what was visible : the opening of tombs and the appearance of walking people. He does not conjecture in his narrative about what happened in between the two visibly witnessed and documentally recorded events.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Feb 12, 2020 at 8:52

1 Answer 1


In Matthew 27:52, how were the bodies “raised” but only later “came out of the tomb”?

There is reason to believe that this little story about the saints rising and wandering the streets of Jerusalem, whatever the timeline, got inserted later for whatever reason, i.e. it was not part of the original narrative. It is out of context in Matthew and appears nowhere else in the Bible. In that case, we need not ask where these people were between Jesus's death and resurrection three days later, or how they were "raised" and only later "came out of the tomb."


The basis for my reason to believe this little story was inserted later is that two-fold:

  1. It appears out of context in Matthew. More on this below.
  2. It appears nowhere else in the Gospels, New Testament, or entire Bible.

Context in Matthew

The New International Version of the Bible suggests to omit Verses 52 & 53 and read thus:

50 And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.

51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split.

54 When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”

NIV's suggestion consists of a single cross-reference. By clicking on the live link at the end of Verse 51, a dialogue box pops up saying:

Matthew 27:54 When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that...

Admittedly, my interpretation is debatable. However, if we examine the timeline of the larger narrative, we note that the story of the resurrection of the saints appears between two other events that occur simultaneously: Jesus' dying breath and the guard's exclamation that "Surely he was the Son of God." The next part narrates Jesus' burial.

Clearly, the format of the larger narrative is to follow the natural order of a story of an execution. The story of the resurrection of the saints is, at the very least, a parenthetical narrative--a bubble of time inside the larger narrative; we don't know why the timeline was broken.

Making The Saints' Resurrection Fit

For the story of the saints' resurrection to fit the larger narrative, the passage might read something like this:

The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life and afterward they appeared to many people in the holy city.

When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!

But that's not what it says. The account in Matthew leaves them lingering in the tombs until after Jesus' resurrection. I am using Matt. 27:50-61 NIV.


This is not the only typo or anomaly in the Bible for which we modern readers can hardly find an interpretation, especially if we assume that the Bible has been unchanged since its original writing. As already shown I don't assume it is. I realize my argument would be much stronger if I could document all the items I have read, but memory fails. At the same time, it is only fair that I acknowledge the bases for this part of my reasoning, since it contributes significantly to my reasons above regarding Matthew 27:52.

  1. I have seen other similar examples of anomalies or typos in the Bible but, as stated, I am unable at the moment to document them.
  2. Scholars argue that in the old days before modern lighting copyists were forced to copy by hand manuscripts of the Bible in situations that easily contributed to mistakes, as in the eye wandering from one line to another, skipping a line. That does not appear to account for Matt. 27:52-53.
  3. Scholars have also suggested that during copying changes were made to scripture to support political agendas.

Perhaps someone can help me with this items.

  • 1
    This answer of Sarah Bowman is factually incorrect. Both the NIV English, the NIV GNT text do not question the authenticity of Matt 27:52. Neither does UBS5/NA28, Byzantine text, or any other text I could find. -1.
    – Dottard
    Commented Feb 12, 2020 at 11:04
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Soldarnal
    Commented Feb 20, 2020 at 16:02
  • The "factual incorrectness" has been resolved. See chat. Commented Mar 6, 2020 at 20:44

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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