It isn't just that it is our right, it is our duty.
For our Lord, Jesus Christ, has commanded us to go to all the
nations of the world, and spread his message and baptize", the
missionaries say, and even lay Christians. "How can we disobey his
command and still claim to be Christians?"
The point apart that the claim cannot stand in law,
how much weight can one attach to the claim itself? What exactly is
Jesus supposed to have said? How do we know he said that?
Answers to these questions are vital in themselves
- they are central to believing the claim or setting it aside. They
are doubly important because they lead us to a fundamental point,
indeed to what is the fundamental fraud in missionary activity. But
first the answers themselves.
The bare sequence is as follows. Jesus has been
nailed to the Cross. He dies. His body is interred. A large stone is
placed to close the tomb. Devotees visit the tomb. The body is
missing. Jesus appears to disciples. He speaks to them.
Now, let us take the sequence step by step. As
everyone knows, there are four Gospels - by Mathew, Mark, Luke and
John. In the eyes of the Church each is a saint. Every word of each
Gospel is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
Who goes to the tomb ? For what purpose ? "Mary
Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre", says St. Luke
[288.1]. "Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and
Salome," says St. Mark, as they "had bought sweet spices,
that they might come and anoint him" [16.1]. "Mary Magdalene, and
Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women that were with
them", says St. Luke, "bringing the spices which they had
prepared" [24.1, 11]. St. John reports Mary Magdalene alone
as having gone to the tomb [20.1]. Thus : from Mary Magdalene alone
to her and the other Mary, to the two of them and Salome, to the two
of them and Joanna plus the other women who were with them.
Similarly, whoever went, the purpose was either to "see the
sepulchre" or to anoint the body. For the latter they were carrying
sweet spices which they had either bought or prepared
What happened when, whoever went, arrived at the
tomb? "And, behold, there was a great earthquake," says St.
Mathew, "for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and
came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it"
[28.2]. St. Mark mentions no earthquake, no angel descending;
instead he says that, while on their way the women had been asking
each other "who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the
sepulchre?," when they arrived they saw that the stone had already
been rolled away [16.3-4]. St. Luke too does not report any
earthquake, he too says that when the women arrived they found the
stone to have been rolled away [24.2]. According to St. John,
Mary Magdalene alone had gone. He too mentions neither an
earthquake, nor any angel descending. But he too reports that she
found the stone to have been rolled away already [20.1].
Upon reaching the tomb, upon seeing the stone
rolled away, whom do they encounter ? An angel, says St.
Mathew, sitting on the stone he has rolled away, "his
countenance was like lightening, and his raiment white as snow", and
so awesome was his presence that "and for fear of him the keepers
[that is, the guards] did shake, and became as dead men" [28.2-4].
Not an angel, but "a young man", sitting, not on the stone outside
the entrance to the tomb, but "on the right side" inside the
sepulchre [the women see him after entering the sepulchre]. The
young man is "clothed in a long white garment" -- not dazzling like
lightening, just ordinary white. And upon encountering a young man
unexpectedly inside the tomb, the ones who are "affrighted" are the
women -- there is no mention of guards. St. Luke reports no
angel, nor does he report one young man. According to him the women
encountered "two men.... in shining garments" [24.4]. St. John
has Mary Magdalene going alone, she encounters no one [20.1-2].
Thus, from "an angel" to "one young man" to "two men" to no one.
One woman, two sets of three women, or more than
three women have reached the tomb. They have encountered an angel,
one young man, or two, or none. The women see that the body of Jesus
is missing. What happens next?
Do not be afraid, the angel told them. St.
Mathew says. You are looking for the Jesus who was crucified. He
is not here, for he is risen. "Go quickly and tell his disciples
that he is risen from the dead; and behold, he goeth before you into
Galilee; there shall ye see him." The women depart quickly "with
fear and great joy", and run to the disciples. But on the way, Jesus
meets them. "All hail", he says. They fall at his feet, they hold
his feet, they worship him. "Be not afraid", Jesus says, "Go tell my
brethern that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me"
According to St. Mark, neither the angel at
the bomb nor Jesus on the way asked them to give that message to the
disciples. That one young man did so -- at the tomb itself
According to St. Luke the conversation takes
place with the two men at the tomb. Not only are the words that are
exchanged different. No one - not the angel, not one man, not Jesus,
not either of the two men - asks the women to tell the disciples
that Jesus is going to Galilee ahead of them and that they will see
him there [24.5-7].
According to St. John, what transpired was
altogether different. Mary Magdalene goes alone. She sees that the
stone has been removed, and the body is missing. She runs "to Simon
Peter and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved", and informs them
that the body is missing. Simon Peter and the other disciple run to
the sepulchre. They see for themselves, and return home. Mary, on
the other hand continues to stand outside, weeping. She looks into
the sepulchre and sees two angels "in white sitting, the one at the
head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain".
And then Jesus himself appears to her. Jesus appears to her - as in
Mathew. But there are three differences. In Mathew
Jesus appears to the two Marys, in John he appears to Mary
Magdalene alone. In Mathew he appears as the two Marys are
rushing to the disciples, in John he appears when Mary
Magdalene, having informed two of the disciples, returns with them
to the sepulchre. And, third, in Mathew, Mary Magdalene and
Mary, the mother of James, at once recognise him, they fall at his
feet, they hold his feet, and worship him [28.9]. But in
John, even when she sees Jesus standing in front of her, she
does not recognise him. Instead, she takes him to be the gardener
Jesus speaks to her in John, as Jesus does
in Mathew -- though in the latter to two Marys, not one;
though on their way to the disciples, and not at the tomb when one
of them has returned with the disciples. But what he says is
altogether different. In Mathew he says, "Be not afraid : go
tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there they shall see
me." In John, Jesus tells Mary Magdalene, "Touch me not [in
Mathew, the two Marys hold him by the feet]; for I am not yet
ascended to my Father : but go to my brethern, and say unto them, I
ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God"
[20.17]. Not a word about going to Galilee !
To proceed. The women have seen that the body is
missing. They have or have not been told by an angel, by one man, by
two men or by Jesus to tell the disciples one thing or something
altogether different. Whom do they go and tell ?
In Mathew, they run to get the message to
the disciples -- that they get to the disciples can only be
inferred. For the account is overtaken by other happenings. First,
as we have seen, Jesus himself appears to them. Second,the Gospel
diverts to narrate a conspiracy of the Jews -- one which none of the
other three Gospels mentions : noticing that the body is missing,
the guards go to the chief priests who are at that time in assembly
with the elders; there a conspiracy is hatched : to deny that Jesus
has risen, the guards are to say that they had fallen asleep and, as
they slept, the followers of Jesus whisked away his body. The guards
are paid, and guaranteed protection. And on this basis the Jews get
a concoction to deny the Resurrection unto this day [28.11-15].
In Mark, the women tell no one : after the
conversation with the youngman, Mark informs us, "they went
out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were
amazed : neither said they any thing to any man; for they were
afraid" [16.8]. It is in what is acknowledged even in the printed
Bibles to be one of three different endings to the Gospel of St.
Mark that we are told that the women went to "Peter and his
friends" and conveyed what they had been told [third alternate,
16.9-10 in The Good News Bible].
In Luke, the women convey the message to
"the eleven disciples and all the rest" [24.8].
In John, Mary Magdalene, who alone has gone
to the tomb, goes and tells not, for instance, "the eleven disciples
and all the rest", she tells "Simon Peter and the other disciple,
whom Jesus loved" [20.2].
But, of course, as she has not encountered anyone
at the tomb at this state, she has no message to convey -- neither
about going to Galilee nor about Jesus ascending to the Father. All
she conveys is that the body is missing.
Informed or not, having received only the news of
the missing body or having received that as well as a message,
having received one message or an entirely different one, which of
the disciples goes to the tomb?
In Mathew no one goes to the sepulchre. The
eleven disciples proceed to Galilee [28.16].
In Mark, no one goes to tell the disciples
that the body is missing -- the women having been struck dumb by
fear. So, no occasion arises for the disciples to go to the
sepulchre. Subsequently, Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene. She tells
them. But "they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had been
seen of her, believed not" [16.11]. In any event, no one goes to the
In Luke, the women narrate everything to the
apostles. But, "their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they
believed them not" [24.11]. Peter alone gets up and rushes to the
sepulchre [24.12]. Though later on, when they are talking to the
resurrected Jesus, whom they take to be a stranger, two disciples
speak of "certain of them which were with us" having gone to the
In John, the information is conveyed not to
all the apostles, Mary Magdalene informs only two - "Simon Peter and
the other disciple, whom Jesus loved". And the two of them rush to
the sepulchre [20.2-4].
The body, having disappeared, Jesus appears. To
In Mathew he first appears to the two Marys
when they are rushing to the disciples [28.9]. Subsequently, as he
had promised, he appears to the eleven disciples at Galilee
In Mark he appears first to Mary Magdalene
alone -- the occasion is neither at the tomb, nor on the way to the
disciples, but an altogether different, sui generis one
[16.9]. After that he appears "in another form unto two of them, as
they walked, and went into the country" [16.12]. And finally he
appears "unto the eleven as they sat at meat" [16.14] - where the
conversation, to which we shall just return, takes place.
In Luke he appears first to two of the
disciples as they are on their way to a village called Emmaus "which
was from Jerusalem about three-score furlongs." Jesus walks with
them, he talks with them. But they do not recognise him for the
longest time - it is only later after he vanishes that, seeing how
their hearts burned as the stranger talked with them, that they
realise who he was [24.13-32].
They go to tell the eleven. Who says that he has
appeared to Simon [24.34]. And as they are talking "Jesus himself
stood in the midst of them." Jesus talks to them at length
In John, Jesus first appears to Mary
Magdalene -- outside the sepulchre when she has returned with two of
the disciples. She takes him to be the gardener, as we have seen,
till he addresses her by her name [20.14 - 17].
He next appears to the disciples as they have
assembled behind shut doors "for fear of the Jews" [20.19 - 23].
He appears again to the disciples eight days later
- this time doubting Thomas too is present [20.26 - 29].
He appears a third time to his disciples at "the
sea of Tiberias" [21.1 - 22]. Extensive exchanges take place between
Jesus and the disciples on this - the last -- occasion.
By this uncertain route we reach the exhortation to
carry the message to all nations. But what precisely does Jesus
say on the subject ?
In Mathew, after telling his disciples that
all power has been given to him in heaven and in earth, Jesus says,
"Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptising them in the name
of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost : teaching them
to observe all thing whatsoever I have commanded you : and, lo, I am
with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen" [28.18 -
In Mark, he upbraids them for "their
unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which
had seen him after he had risen." And then come the words relevant
to our concern : "And he said unto them Go ye into all the world,
and preach the gospel to every creature." "He that believeth
and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be
damned" [16.15 - 16]. Notice that here Jesus is asking the disciples
to go "and preach the gospel to every creature" -- he is not
asking them to baptize and convert the people they encounter. What
he does is to forecast a future for those who believe and have been
baptized, and for those who do not believe.
Incidentally, after this Jesus tells them : "And
these signs shall follow them that believe; in my name shall they
cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues, they shall take
up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt
them; they shall lay hand on the sick, and they shall recover"
[16.17 - 18]. Are the missionaries able to take up serpents? Are
they immune to poison ? Do the sick recover as they touch them ? Are
there devils which missionaries drive away ?
Thus, in a word, while in Mathew what Jesus
says about baptism is an exhortation, in Mark it is an
adjective. The even more consequential fact in this context is that
the earlier manuscripts of the Gospel of St. Mark end at the
8th para of this chapter. Paras 9 to 20 - of which paras 15 to 18
which contain the exhortation form a part -- are acknowledged, even
in the printed versions of the Bible today, to be later add-ons.
In Luke, Jesus is at pains to convince the
disciples that what has been visited upon him is in accord with what
had been written in the scriptures. Luke adds, "And he said
unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer,
and to rise from the dead the third day," "And that repentance and
remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations,
beginning at Jerusalem" [24.44-47]. Notice that here also Jesus is
not asking them to convert and baptize, he is merely asking them to
preach in his name -- indeed, what he asks them to preach is also
limited to "repentance and remission of sins".
John also reports at length the exchanges which
Jesus has with his disciples when he reappears to them. There is not
a word in these passages about going out, converting and baptising,
or even preaching to the others.
Would a claim based on so tenuous a foundation
survive in any court assessing