A Saturday that Shouldn’t be Skipped

A Saturday that Shouldn’t be Skipped April 3, 2010

The Saturday between Good Friday and Easter provides a wonderful opportunity to reflect on historical misconceptions and uncertainties as well as important theological questions. In the case of the latter, where you think Jesus was on that Saturday nearly 2,000 years ago provides indication of how you think not only about the afterlife but also about human nature in general.

As for the historical issues, the textbook I am currently using in my class on the Bible, Stephen Harris’ Exploring the Bible, makes the same mistakes that many others do, reading back into Mark’s Gospel the idea that Joseph of Arimathea was a disciple of Jesus. Mark says no such thing. The disciples and family remain at a distance, while the bare minimum required by the Torah is done. Jesus is not anointed for burial (hence the sories about an anointing beforehand and an attempt to anoint him on Sunday morning) and is placed in “a tomb” which is most likely one used for the dishonorable burial of criminals executed on the site.

The Gospel of Mark’s “Easter” story as it now stands in our earliest manuscripts is itself an enigma. No appearances by Jesus, just predictions without fulfillment, fear and confusion. But whatever we may think happened on Sunday and beyond, if we do not pay close attention to the stories about late Friday and Saturday, we shall fail to understand what the earliest Gospel contains, not to mention why the subsequent Gospel authors changed what Mark wrote at this point.

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