Many exegetes claim, without proof, that Jesus resurrected before the angel rolled back the stone, in order to show that he passed through it as he could walk through doors or as he was born out of the Blessed Virgin Mother's closed, virginal womb.

Commentaries on

Mt. 28:2 And behold there was a great earthquake. For an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and coming, rolled back the stone, and sat upon it.

  1. St. Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on St. Matthew, ch. 28:

    Christ had already risen: for as He went out from a closed womb, so He went out from the sealed tomb.

  2. Ven. Bede, as quoted by St. Thomas in Catena in Mt. cap. 28 l. 1:

    "And came and rolled back the stone;" not to open the door for the Lord to come forth, but to give evidence to men that He was already come forth. For He who as mortal had power to enter the world through the closed womb of a Virgin, He when become immortal, was able to depart out of the world by rising from a sealed sepulchre.

  3. Cornelius à Lapide, S.J., Commentary on Matthew 22-28, ch. 28:

    And rolled away the stone, of the sepulchre of Christ. Not that He might rise out of it, for He had already risen while the sepulchre was closed, but that he might show to the women that Christ their God and Lord had already risen. Opening to them a way to the sepulchre, he showed it to them empty of the body of Christ. For as Christ was born from the closed womb of the Virgin, so also He rose from the closed sepulchre.

But what evidence is there that the Resurrection occurred before the angel rolled back the stone?

3 Answers 3


Mt. 28:2 And behold there was a great earthquake. For an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and coming, rolled back the stone, and sat upon it

The angel rolled back the stone and sat on it. He did not roll back the stone, go inside and perform the resurrection miracle.

The resurrection was performed by God (Romans 8:11).


Matthew 27:50 When Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, He yielded up His spirit. 51 At that moment the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth quaked and the rocks were split.

At the moment of death, the earth quaked. I think at the moment of Jesus' resurrection, the earth also quaked as in Mt. 28:

2 And behold there was a great earthquake. For an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and coming, rolled back the stone, and sat upon it

Jesus died, then the earth quaked. God resurrected Jesus, then the earth quaked, then the angel descended and rolled back the stone.

Jesus's Resurrection occurred before the angel rolled back tombstone?


  • You may be on to something, but couldn't the earthquake and rolling back of the stone occurred simultaneously? That the the angel sat on the stone certainly shows that it was he (and not Jesus) who rolled it back.
    – Geremia
    Apr 5, 2021 at 17:13
  • I added to my answer.
    – user35953
    Apr 5, 2021 at 17:19

Mt. 27:66 And they departing, made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting guards.

On this verse, Cornelius à Lapide, S.J., Commentary on Matthew 22-28:

They sealed it with a signet, not Pilate’s, as S. Chrysostom suggests, but with their own, i.e., with the signet of the city of Jerusalem, or of the Sanhedrim, so that the stone could not be moved, nor the body be taken away, without its being detected. So, too, Darius (Dan. 6:17). Nicephorus adds that the Jews bored through both the stones of the tomb, and fastened them with an iron band. And thus, by endeavouring to prevent the resurrection of Christ, they did but add to the miracle, and furnished greater evidence for it; which God, as it were, extorted from them. So S. Chrysostom, “An undoubted demonstration is furnished by your own doings. For if the sepulchre were sealed, no room was left for fraud and deceit. But if no fraud had been committed, and the tomb was found empty, it is clear beyond all question that He had risen. Thou seest how, even against their will, they help to demonstrate the truth.” “It was not enough,” says S. Jerome, “for the Chief Priests and Pharisees to have crucified the Lord, unless they took a band of soldiers, sealed the stone, and, as far as they could, opposed His resurrection; so that all they did was for the furtherance of our faith. For the more it is kept back, the more fully is the power of the resurrection displayed.”

  • This assumes those who burried His body would not break their own seal, but this still doesn't prove He resurrected before the angel rolled back the stone (and also broke the seal).
    – Geremia
    Apr 5, 2021 at 16:19

As far as the Gospel accounts are concerned, none of the four tells us anything about the actual resurrection of Jesus, except to say that it happened. Here are some things that are NOT recorded:

  • We are not told who actually performed the miracle of raising Jesus. However, other NT accounts tell us something here - see appendix below.
  • We do not know the time of day, except that it was during the night
  • We are not told the sequence of events such as if Jesus was resurrected and then the angel(s) arrived or vise-versa
  • We are not told why the angel rolled the stone away - for Jesus' benefit or the disciples' benefit, or both
  • We are not told how the stone was secured, whether purely by wax seals or other mechanical means, or both, only that the tomb was sealed (Matt 27:66) - a verb most often implying a wax seal (compare Dan 6:17), but in this case it may have involved much more, but that is not recorded. The Greek suggests that the sealing of the stone may have actually been the guard itself (Sealing the stone, and setting a watch; μετὰ τῆς κουστωδίας, with the watch.)

There are many other questions. It is true that Jesus was quite capable of getting out of the tomb without the stone being rolled back because He later entered a locked room with the use of the open door; but whether He did this or not we are not told.

The point of all this is simple - the details of Jesus' resurrection are as important as the details of His incarnation - it is a mystery, unrevealed. The only important thing we need to know is that it happened. Where scripture is silent, so should we be silent.

APPENDIX - Resurrection of Jesus by Whom?

Here is a list of references about who raised Jesus from the dead.

  • Acts 2:24, 3:15, 4:10, 5:30, 10:40, 13:30, 17:31, Rom 4:24, 1 Cor 15:15, Col 2:20, Heb 13:20, 1 Peter 1:3, 1 Thess 1:10 simply say that “God” raised Jesus without specifying any specific member of the Godhead
  • Rom 6:4, Gal 1:1, Eph 1:17-20 say that the Father raised Jesus from the dead.
  • Rom 1:4 & 8:11 suggest that the Holy Spirit was involved in Jesus' resurrection.
  • John 2:19-21 and 10:17, 18 both say that Jesus resurrected Himself. Further, John 1:4 & 5:26 says that the Son has “life in Himself”, that is, is not dependent on the Father for His existence. Compare 1 John 5:11 & 1:1, 2.

Such a comparison shows the traps of proof-text theology and cafeteria theology. The safest conclusion here is that the entire Godhead acted to raise Jesus.

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