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John 20 – Skeptic's Annotated Bible answered

A response and reply to the notes on John 20 in the Skeptic's Annotated Bible (SAB).

King James Version

SAB comment

My comment

1 The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre.

"Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark ... seeth the stone taken away."
When did the women (or woman) arrive?
How many women came?
Was the tomb opened or closed when the women arrived?
On the number of women that visited the grave, see Matthew 28:1.
The author of the SAB claims there is a discrepancy in the various gospel accounts about the time Mary Magdalene arrived at the sepulcher. In an age without city lightning and with foreign soldiers occupying the city, is it likely Mary Magdalene would be on the streets while it was completely dark, in the middle of the night?
What John says here is that she got out of bed when it was dark and prepared herself. But between the night and the day there is a brief time when we see that the sun is coming, while it is getting lighter, but the sun has not yet appeared at the horizon. That was the time she went to the sepulcher. She arrived at the sepulcher before sunrise when it was not yet day, when it was still dark. But not dark enough anymore that she could not see that the stone had been taken away.

2 Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him.

3 Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre.

4 So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre.

5 And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in.

6 Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie,

7 And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself.

8 Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed.

9 For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead.

"For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead."
Did Jesus tell the apostles about his resurrection?
The meaning of “knew not” is that they did not understand them. For example in chapter 2:19-22 Jesus told not only his disciples, but the whole world. And nobody understood him, except the Pharisees. Isn't it interesting that the only persons who seem to have understood Jesus were the Pharisees, the ones who wanted to kill him? That's why they put a watch on his grave, see Matthew 27:62-65. Only after his resurrection did the disciples remember, i.e. understand, chapter 2:22.

10 Then the disciples went away again unto their own home.

11 But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre,

On the first appearance, see Matthew 28:9.
On the position of the angels, see Luke 24:4.

12 And seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.

"Two angels ... sitting ... where the body of Jesus had lain."
John says that Mary Magdalene saw two angels. But Matthew says there was only one angel (28:2), Mark claims it was a young man (16:5), and Luke says the women saw two men (24:3-4).
Were the men (or angels) inside or outside?
Who did the women see?
On both questions, see Matthew 28:2.

13 And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.

14 And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus.

"She [Mary Magdalene] ... knew not that it was Jesus." (Maybe it wasn't Jesus.)
Did Mary Magdalene recognize Jesus?
If Mary Magdalene did recognize Jesus, see Matthew 28:9.

15 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.

16 Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master.

17 Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.

(20:17) "Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father."
Jesus tells Mary Magdalene not to touch him because he hasn't yet ascended -- as if the touch of a woman would defile him and somehow prevent him from ascending into heaven. One wonders why he insisted that Thomas touch him later that evening (Jn.20:27), and why he permitted his apostles to touch him and hold him by the feet before his ascension (Mt.28:9).
Was it OK to touch the risen Jesus?
(20:17) "To my God, and your God"
Is Jesus God?
The author of the SAB asks if it was OK to touch the risen Jesus. As Jesus even invited Thomas to do so, see verse 27, the answer is yes. As Jesus even allows the women to touch his feet, Matthew 28:9, the author of the SAB is also incorrect in his speculation that the touch of a woman would somehow defile him. Calvin explains why Mary Magdalene was forbidden to touch him:

as it was necessary for removing doubt, he unquestionably did not forbid them to touch him, but, perceiving that their attention was too much occupied with embracing his feet, he restrained and corrected that immoderate zeal. They fixed their attention on his bodily presence, and did not understand any other way of enjoying his society than by conversing with him on the earth. We ought, therefore, to conclude, that they were not forbidden to touch him, until Christ saw that, by their foolish and unreasonable desire, they wished to keep him in the world.

The author of the SAB also asks if Jesus is God. The argument is probably that by saying “my God” Jesus is saying he isn't God. But we have to look at the whole of sentence. When Jesus says he goes to his Father, he doesn't say our Father. The relationship between him and the Father is very different between the disciples and God. God is their Father by adoption, but God is Christ's Father by nature. And so is the relation between Christ and God and us and God. Christ doesn't say I go to our God, but to my God. Christ was God, but had humbled himself as a servant, see Phil. 2:7. So God was Christ's God by his office as mediator, and our God by creation.
What Christ indicates by expressing himself in this manner is that through his work, and planted in him, we are made partakers of the blessings of Christ. By our new creation God has become our God again and this time as our Father as well.

18 Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto her.

19 Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.

(20:19, 24) "For fear of the Jews"
John, with his usual anti-Semitism, says tht the disciples hid in locked room "for fear of the Jews."
Where did Jesus first appear to his disciples?
(20:19, 26) "When the doors were shut ... came Jesus and stood in the midst."
After his resurrection, Jesus could walk through walls.
Our disciples were Jews as well... And the Jews just had killed their master, no wonder they were afraid.
Jesus appeared first to the eleven, or ten actually, on Sunday night. Matthew doesn't say that what he describes Matthew 28:16 was the first appearance, so there cannot be a contradiction there. From the other Gospel writers we know that he described an event that happened a week or two after the event described here.
The author of the SAB also suggests that Jesus could walk through walls. There is no indication in the gospels that Jesus walked through a wall, but his body did no longer have the physical limitations we are subject to, so He seems to have been able to appear at different places without travelling.

20 And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord.

"Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the LORD."
Were the disciples glad or frightened when they saw Jesus?
Initially the disciples were frightened when they saw Jesus, but glad afterwards.
John gives a very short account of the fuller account we find in Luke (Luke 24:37-41). As we can read in Luke (Luke 24:37), initially they feared, upon which he showed them his hands (Luke 24:39-40). This part John also tells us, Luke gives the reason he did (they feared), in John we can only infer that there must have been a reason for Jesus to do that. When they had seen this, they were glad as both John in this verse and Luke 24:41 tell us.

21 Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.

22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost:

"Receive ye the Holy Ghost."
When was the Holy Ghost given?
The meaning of Christ's word is that it was a sign of the giving of the holy Ghost, a promise that they would receive the holy Ghost. This promise was fulfilled on Pentecost, see Acts 2:4. Or as Calvin explains:

the Spirit was given to the Apostles on this occasion in such a manner, that they were only sprinkled by his grace, but were not filled with full power; for, when the Spirit appeared on them in tongues of fire, Acts 2:3. they were entirely renewed.

See also Mark 12:36 on the distinction between the Old and New Testament.

23 Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.

(20:24) "But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came."
How many disciples did Jesus appear to in his first post resurrection appearance?

24 But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.

25 The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.

"The print of the nails"
Torture stake or cross?
The author of the SAB rightly objects to the fantasies of the Jehovah's witnesses.

26 And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you.

Jesus ascended forty days after his resurrection as all accounts tell us. See Luke 24:51.
It is strange that the author of the SAB puts John under the heading of “at least eight days”. John isn't finished with his story, and continues the occurrences of Jesus in chapter 21:1.

27 Then saith he to Thomas, reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.

"Reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side."
Was it OK to touch the risen Jesus?
Yes, see verse 17.

28 And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.

"My LORD and my God."
If Jesus (like the Jehovah's Witnesses) didn't believe himself to be God, then why didn't he correct Thomas when he said, "My Lord and my God"?
Is Jesus God?
Because Jehovah's witnesses know better than Jesus?

29 Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.

30 And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book:

"And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples."
Did Jesus perform many signs?
Yes, Jesus did. See Matthew 12:39 on the occasion and place where Jesus did not do many signs.

31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

(20:30-31) "These are written, that ye might believe."
The gospel of John seems to come to an end with verses 20:30-31, with the next chapter tacked on as a later addition. This is, in fact, what most scholars believe today.1
BOM: Mormon 7:9
Should we trust the rather fickle beliefs of today's so called scholars? One day they believe it doesn't belong in John, but the next day they might. But looking at factual evidence, there are simply no manuscripts which omit this chapter. But that won't stop scholars who don't believe a single word of the Bible anyway. All translations, including the newest include chapter 21.
It could be that John added chapter 21 after he had finished writing his gospel, but before the final publication. We do not know that, but there is no indication the chapter isn't written by John or that an anonymous open source Bible contributor tacked it on because he just felt like it.