Ascension of Jesus

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Jesus' ascension to heaven depicted by John Singleton Copley, 1775
Events in the
Life of Jesus
according to the Gospels
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The ascension of Jesus (anglicized from the Vulgate Latin Acts 1:9-11 section title: Ascensio Iesu) is the departure of Christ from Earth into the presence of God in heaven. [1] In the Christian tradition, reflected in the major Christian creeds and confessional statements, God exaltated Jesus after his death, [2] [3] raising Him as first of the dead, [4] and taking Him to heaven, where Jesus took his seat at the right hand of God. [5] While in modern times a literal reading of the ascension-accounts has become problematic, as its cosmology is incompatible with the modern, scientific worldview, [6] [7] [8] the real relevance of Jesus' ascension lies in this exaltation. [9]

Vulgate Latin translation of the Bible

The Vulgate is a late-4th-century Latin translation of the Bible that was to become the Catholic Church's officially promulgated Latin version of the Bible during the 16th century, and still used fundamentally in the Latin Church until this day. The translation was largely the work of Jerome, who in 382 had been commissioned by Pope Damasus I to revise the Vetus Latina Gospels then in use by the Roman Church. Jerome, on his own initiative, extended this work of revision and translation to include most of the books of the Bible; and once published, the new version became widely adopted; and over succeeding centuries eventually eclipsed the Vetus Latina, so that by the 13th century it had taken over from the former version the appellation of versio vulgata or vulgata for short, and in Greek as βουλγάτα ("Voulgata").

<i>Christ</i> (title) A title meaning anointed

In Christianity, Christ  is a title for the saviour and redeemer who would bring salvation to the whole House of Israel. Christians believe Jesus is the Israelite messiah foretold in both the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Old Testament. Christ, used by Christians as both a name and a title, is synonymous with Jesus.

Earth Third planet from the Sun in the Solar System

Earth is the third planet from the Sun and the only astronomical object known to harbor life. According to radiometric dating and other sources of evidence, Earth formed over 4.5 billion years ago. Earth's gravity interacts with other objects in space, especially the Sun and the Moon, Earth's only natural satellite. Earth orbits around the Sun in 365.26 days, a period known as an Earth year. During this time, Earth rotates about its axis about 366.26 times.

Contents

In Christian art, the ascending Jesus is often shown blessing an earthly group below him, signifying the entire Church. [10] The Feast of the Ascension is celebrated on the 40th day of Easter, always a Thursday; [5] the Orthodox tradition has a different calendar up to a month later than in the Western tradition, and while the Anglican communion continues to observe the feast, many Protestant churches have abandoned the observance. [11] [12]

Christian art art genre

Christian art is sacred art which uses themes and imagery from Christianity. Most Christian groups use or have used art to some extent, although some have had strong objections to some forms of religious image, and there have been major periods of iconoclasm within Christianity.

Feast of the Ascension religious holiday

The Feast of the Ascension of Jesus Christ, also called Ascension Day, Ascension Thursday, or sometimes Holy Thursday, commemorates the Christian belief of the bodily Ascension of Jesus into heaven. It is one of the ecumenical feasts of Christian churches, ranking with the feasts of the Passion, of Easter, and Pentecost. Ascension Day is traditionally celebrated on a Thursday, the fortieth day of Easter, although some Christian denominations have moved the observance to the following Sunday. In the Catholic Church in the United States, the day of observance varies by ecclesiastical province.

Easter Major Christian festival celebrating the resurrection of Jesus

Easter, also called Pascha or Resurrection Sunday, is a festival and holiday commemorating the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, described in the New Testament as having occurred on the third day after his burial following his crucifixion by the Romans at Calvary c. 30 AD. It is the culmination of the Passion of Jesus, preceded by Lent, a 40-day period of fasting, prayer, and penance.

Biblical accounts

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Luke-Acts, a single work from the same anonymous author, provides the only narrative account of the ascension. [13] [1] Luke chapter 24 tells how Jesus leads the eleven disciples to Bethany, a village on the Mount of Olives, where he instructs them to remain in Jerusalem until the coming of the Holy Spirit: "And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he parted from them, and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy." The biblical narrative in Chapter 1 of the Acts of the Apostles takes place 40 days after the resurrection. Acts 1 describes a meal at which Jesus commands the disciples to await the coming of the Holy Spirit. Jesus is taken up from the disciples in their sight, a cloud hides him from view, and two men in white appear to tell them that he will return "in the same way you have seen him go into heaven." [14] Luke and Acts appear to describe the same event, but present quite different chronologies, Luke placing it on the same day as the resurrection and Acts forty days afterwards; [15] various proposals have been put forward to resolve the contradiction, but the question remains open. [16]

Gospel of Luke Book of the New Testament

The Gospel According to Luke, also called the Gospel of Luke, or simply Luke, is the third of the four canonical Gospels. It tells of the origins, birth, ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ.

Luke 24 twenty-fourth and final chapter of the Gospel of Luke in the New Testament of the Christian Bible

Luke 24 is the twenty-fourth and final chapter of the Gospel of Luke in the New Testament of the Christian Bible. The book containing this chapter is anonymous, but early Christian tradition uniformly affirmed that Luke composed this Gospel as well as the Acts of the Apostles. This chapter records the discovery of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, his appearances to his disciples and his ascension into heaven.

Mount of Olives mountain

The Mount of Olives or Mount Olivet is a mountain ridge east of and adjacent to Jerusalem's Old City. It is named for the olive groves that once covered its slopes. The southern part of the Mount was the Silwan necropolis, attributed to the ancient Judean kingdom. The mount has been used as a Jewish cemetery for over 3,000 years and holds approximately 150,000 graves, making it central in the tradition of Jewish cemeteries. Several key events in the life of Jesus, as related in the Gospels, took place on the Mount of Olives, and in the Acts of the Apostles it is described as the place from which Jesus ascended to heaven. Because of its association with both Jesus and Mary, the mount has been a site of Christian worship since ancient times and is today a major site of pilgrimage for Catholics, the Eastern Orthodox, and Protestants.

The Gospel of John has three references to ascension in Jesus' own words: "No one has ascended into heaven but he who descended from heaven, the son of man" ( John 3:13 ); "What if you (the disciples) were to see the son of man ascending where he was before?" ( John 6:62 ); and to Mary Magdalene after his resurrection, "Do not hold me, for I have not yet ascended to my father..." (John 20:17). [1] In the first and second Jesus is claiming to be the apocalyptic "one like a son of man" of Daniel 7; [17] the last has mystified commentators – why should Mary be prohibited from touching the risen but not yet ascended Christ, while Thomas is later invited to do so? [18]

Gospel of John The fourth of the canonical gospels

The Gospel of John is the fourth of the canonical gospels. The work is anonymous, although it identifies an unnamed "disciple whom Jesus loved" as the source of its traditions. It is closely related in style and content to the three Johannine epistles, and most scholars treat the four books, along with the Book of Revelation, as a single corpus of Johannine literature, albeit not from the same author.

John 20:17 verse of the Bible

John 20:17 is the 17th verse of the twentieth chapter of the Gospel of John in the New Testament. It contains Jesus' response to Mary Magdalene right after he confronts her just outside his tomb after his resurrection. According to the longer ending of Mark's Gospel Mary Magdalene is the first person to whom Jesus shows himself alive after his resurrection.

Daniel 7 tells of Daniel's vision of four world-kingdoms replaced by the kingdom of God. Four beasts come out of the sea, the Ancient of Days sits in judgement over them, and "one like a son of man" is given eternal kingship. An angelic guide interprets the beasts as kingdoms and kings, the last of whom will make war on the "holy ones" of God, but he will be destroyed and the "holy ones" will be given eternal dominion and power.

Various epistles (Romans 8:34, Ephesians 1:19–20, Colossians 3:1, Philippians 2:9–11, 1 Timothy 3:16, and 1 Peter 3:21–22) also refer to an ascension, seeming, like Luke-Acts and John, to equate it with the post-resurrection "exaltation" of Jesus to the right hand of God. [19] There is a broad consensus among scholars that the brief ascension account in the Gospel of Mark (Mark 16:19) is a later addition to the original version of that gospel. [20]

Gospel of Mark Books of the New Testament

The Gospel According to Mark is one of the four canonical gospels and one of the three synoptic gospels. It tells of the ministry of Jesus from his baptism by John the Baptist to his death and burial and the discovery of the empty tomb – there is no genealogy of Jesus or birth narrative, nor, in the original ending at chapter 16, any post-resurrection appearances of Jesus. It portrays Jesus as a heroic man of action, an exorcist, a healer, and a miracle worker. Jesus is also the Son of God, but he keeps his identity secret, concealing it in parables so that even most of the disciples fail to understand. All this is in keeping with prophecy, which foretold the fate of the messiah as suffering servant. The gospel ends, in its original version, with the discovery of the empty tomb, a promise to meet again in Galilee, and an unheeded instruction to spread the good news of the resurrection.

Views on the ascension

Orthodox Feast of the Ascension

Theology

In Christian theology, the death, resurrection, and exaltation of Jesus are the most important events, and a foundation of the Christian faith. [21] [9] The early followers of Jesus believed that God had vindicated Jesus after his death, as reflected in the stories about his resurrection, ascension, and exaltation. [5] The early followers of Jesus soon believed that Jesus was raised as first of the dead, [4] taken into heaven, and exaltated, [2] [3] taking the seat at the right hand of God in Heaven, as stated in the Apostles' Creed: "He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty." [5] Psalms 110:1 played an essential role in this interpretation of Jesus' death and the resurrection appearances: "The Lord said to my Lord, "Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool." It provided an interpretative frame for Jesus' followers to make sense of his death and the resurrection appearances. [22] [5]

Christian theology is the theology of Christian belief and practice. Such study concentrates primarily upon the texts of the Old Testament and of the New Testament, as well as on Christian tradition. Christian theologians use biblical exegesis, rational analysis and argument. Theologians may undertake the study of Christian theology for a variety of reasons, such as in order to:

Resurrection of Jesus Christian belief that God raised Jesus after his crucifixion

The resurrection of Jesus, or anastasis is the Christian belief that God raised Jesus after his crucifixion as first of the dead, starting his exalted life as Christ and Lord. In Christian theology, the death and resurrection of Jesus are the most important events, a foundation of the Christian faith, and commemorated by Easter. His resurrection is the guarantee that all the Christian dead will be resurrected at Christ's parousia. For the Christian tradition, the bodily resurrection was the restoration to life of a transformed body powered by spirit, as described by Paul and the Gospels, that led to the establishment of Christianity.

Jewish Christian Members of the Jewish movement that later became Christianity

Early Christianity had its roots in Hellenistic Judaism and the Jewish messianism of the first century and Jewish Christians were the first Christians. Christianity started with Jewish eschatological expectations, and it developed into the veneration of a deified Jesus after his earthly ministry, his crucifixion, and the post–crucifixion experiences of his followers.

Background

Ascension stories were fairly common around the time of Jesus and the gospel-authors, [23] signifying the deification of a noteworthy person (usually a Roman Emperor), and in Judaism as an indication of divine approval. [24] Another function of heavenly ascent was as a mode of divine revelation reflected in Greco-Roman, early Jewish, and early Christian literary sources, in which particular individuals with prophetic or revelatory gifts are thought to have experienced a heavenly journey during which they learned cosmic and divine secrets. [24]

Figures familiar to Jews would have included Enoch (from the Book of Genesis and a popular non-Biblical work called 1 Enoch); the 5th-century sage Ezra; Baruch the companion of the prophet Jeremiah (from a work called 2 Baruch, in which Baruch is promised he will ascend to heaven after 40 days); Levi the ancestor of priests; the Teacher of Righteousness from the Qumran community; the prophet Elijah (from 2 Kings); Moses, who was deified on entering heaven; and the children of Job, who according to the Testament of Job ascended heaven following their resurrection from the dead. [25] [26]

Non-Jewish readers would have been familiar with the case of the emperor Augustus, whose ascent was witnessed by Senators; Romulus the founder of Rome, who, like Jesus, was taken to heaven in a cloud; the Greek hero Heracles (Hercules); and others. [19]

Cosmology

The cosmology of the author of Luke-Acts reflects the beliefs of his age, [27] which envisioned a three-part cosmos with the heavens above, a flat earth centered on Jerusalem in the middle, and the underworld below. [28] [29] Heaven was separated from the earth by the firmament, the visible sky, a solid inverted bowl where God's palace sat on pillars in the celestial sea. [30] Humans looking up from earth saw the floor of heaven, made of clear blue lapis-lazuli (Exodus 24:9-10), as was God's throne (Ezekiel 1:26). [31] According to Dunn, "the typical mind-set and worldview of the time conditioned what was actually seen and how the recording of such seeings was conceptualized," [27] and "departure into heaven could only be conceived in terms of 'being taken up ', a lietral ascension." [27]

In modern times, a literal reading of the ascension-stories has become problematic, due to the differences between the pre-scientific cosmology of the times of Jesus, and the scientific worldview that leaves no place for a heaven above us. [6] [8] Theologian James Dunn describes the ascension as at best a puzzle and at worst an embarrassment for an age that no longer conceives of a physical heaven located above the Earth. [6] Similarly, in the words of McGill University's Douglas Farrow, in modern times the Ascension is seen less as the climax of the mystery of Christ than as "something of an embarrassment in the age of the telescope and the space probe," [8] an "idea [that] conjures up an outdated cosmology." [7]

Yet, according to Dunn, a sole focus on this disparity is beside the real importance of Jesus' ascension, namely the resurrection and subsequent exaltation of Jesus. [9] Farrow notes that, already in the third century, the ascension-story was read by Origen in a mystical way, as an "ascension of the mind rather than of the body," representing one of two basic ascension theologies. [32] The real problem is the fact that Jesus is both present and absent, [33] an ambiguity which points to a "something more" to which the eucharist gives entry. [34] [note 1]

Liturgy: Feast of the Ascension

The Feast of the Ascension is one of the ecumenical (i.e., universally celebrated) feasts of the Christian liturgical year, along with the Passion, Easter, Pentecost, and Christmas. Ascension Day is traditionally celebrated on the sixth Thursday after Easter Sunday, the fortieth day from Easter day, although some Roman Catholic provinces have moved the observance to the following Sunday to facilitate the obligation to attend Mass. Saint Jerome held that it was of Apostolic origin, but in fact the ascension was originally part of Pentecost (the coming of the Holy Spirit), and developed as a separate celebration only slowly from the late 4th century onward. In the Catholic tradition it begins with a three-day "rogation" to ask for God's mercy, and the feast itself includes a procession of torches and banners symbolising Christ's journey to the Mount of Olives and entry into heaven, the extinguishing of the Paschal candle, and an all-night vigil; white is the liturgical colour. The orthodox tradition has a slightly different calendar up to a month later than in the Western tradition; the Anglican communion continues to observe the feast, but most Protestant churches have abandoned the traditional Christian calendar of feasts. [11] [12]

In Christian art

The ascension has been a frequent subject in Christian art. [37] By the 6th century, the iconography of the ascension had been established and by the 9th century, ascension scenes were being depicted on domes of churches. [38] [39] The Rabbula Gospels (c. 586) include some of the earliest images of the ascension. [39] Many ascension scenes have two parts, an upper (Heavenly) part and a lower (earthly) part. The ascending Christ may be carrying a resurrection banner or make a sign of benediction with his right hand. [40] The blessing gesture by Christ with his right hand is directed towards the earthly group below him and signifies that he is blessing the entire Church. [10] In the left hand, he may be holding a Gospel or a scroll, signifying teaching and preaching. [10]

The Eastern Orthodox portrayal of the ascension is a major metaphor for the mystical nature of the Church. [41] In many Eastern icons the Virgin Mary is placed at the center of the scene in the earthly part of the depiction, with her hands raised towards Heaven, often accompanied by various Apostles. [41] The upwards-looking depiction of the earthly group matches the Eastern liturgy on the Feast of the Ascension: "Come, let us rise and turn our eyes and thoughts high ..." [10]

Olivet and the Chapel of the Ascension

The Ascension edicule 5035-20080122-jerusalem-mt-olives-ascension-edicule.jpg
The Ascension edicule
Close-up of the Rock of the Ascension inside the Ascension edicule Church of the Ascension, Jerusalem3001.JPG
Close-up of the Rock of the Ascension inside the Ascension edicule

The traditional site of the ascension is Mount Olivet (the "Mount of Olives"), on which the village of Bethany sits. Before the conversion of Constantine in 312 AD, early Christians honored the ascension of Christ in a cave on the Mount, and by 384 the ascension was venerated on the present site, uphill from the cave.[ citation needed ]

Around the year 390 a wealthy Roman woman named Poimenia financed construction of the original church called "Eleona Basilica" (elaion in Greek means "olive garden", from elaia "olive tree", and has an oft-mentioned similarity to eleos meaning "mercy"). This church was destroyed by Sassanid Persians in 614. It was subsequently rebuilt, destroyed, and rebuilt again by the Crusaders. This final church was later destroyed by Muslims, leaving only a 12×12 meter octagonal structure (called a martyrium—"memorial"—or "Edicule") that remains to this day.[ citation needed ] The site was ultimately acquired by two emissaries of Saladin in the year 1198 and has remained in the possession of the Islamic Waqf of Jerusalem ever since. The Russian Orthodox Church also maintains a convent of the ascension on the top of the Mount of Olives.

See also

Notes

  1. According to Farrow, this ambiguity of absence and presence poses central christological and theological questions concerning the identity of the church and its relation to past (death and resurrection) and future (second coming) events, [35] and to the present world, in which it is situated, but from which it is also different, through "it's mysterious union with one whose life, though lived for the world, involves a genuine break with it." [36]

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Nativity of Jesus birth of Jesus

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Transfiguration of Jesus Episode in the life of Jesus

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Jesus in Christianity Jesus in Christianity

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Life of Jesus in the New Testament life of Jesus as told in the New Testament

The life of Jesus in the New Testament is primarily outlined in the four canonical gospels, which includes his genealogy and nativity, public ministry, passion, resurrection and ascension. Other parts of the New Testament – such as the Pauline epistles which were likely written within 20–30 years of each other, and which include references to key episodes in Jesus' life, such as the Last Supper, and the Acts of the Apostles, (1:1–11) which includes more references to the Ascension episode than the canonical gospels - also expound upon the life of Jesus. In addition to these biblical texts, there are extra-biblical texts that Christians believe make reference to certain events in the life of Jesus, such as Josephus on Jesus and Tacitus on Christ.

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Ascension of Jesus in Christian art

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Acts 1 Acts of the Apostles, chapter 1

Acts 1 is the first chapter of the Acts of the Apostles in the New Testament of the Christian Bible. The book containing this chapter is anonymous but early Christian tradition affirmed that Luke composed this book as well as the Gospel of Luke. This chapter functions as a transition from the "former account" with a narrative prelude, repeated record of the ascension of Jesus Christ with more detail and the meeting of Jesus' followers, until before Pentecost.

References

Citations

  1. 1 2 3 Holwerda 1979, p. 310.
  2. 1 2 Novakovic 2014, p. 135.
  3. 1 2 Hurtado 2005, p. 508, 591.
  4. 1 2 Novakovic 2014, p. 152.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 Cross & Livingstone 2005, p. 114.
  6. 1 2 3 Seim 2009, p. 23.
  7. 1 2 Farrow 2004, p. 9.
  8. 1 2 3 Farrow 2011, p. 16.
  9. 1 2 3 Dunn 2009, p. 149.
  10. 1 2 3 4 Ouspensky & Lossky 1999, p. 197.
  11. 1 2 Quast 2011, p. 45.
  12. 1 2 Stokl-Ben-Ezra 2007, p. 286.
  13. Thompson 2010, p. 319.
  14. Müller 2016, p. 113-114.
  15. Seim 2009, p. 24.
  16. Müller 2016, p. 113.
  17. Köstenberger 2004, p. 85.
  18. Quast 1991, p. 134.
  19. 1 2 McDonald 2004, p. 21.
  20. Cresswell 2013, unpaginated.
  21. Dunn 1985, p. 53.
  22. Dunn 2009, p. 218.
  23. McDonald 2004, p. 22.
  24. 1 2 Aune 2003a, p. 65.
  25. Munoa 2000, p. 109.
  26. Zwiep 2016, p. 16.
  27. 1 2 3 Dunn 2009, p. 148.
  28. Wright 2002, p. 53.
  29. Najman 2014, p. 93.
  30. Pennington 2007, p. 41-42.
  31. Wright 2002, p. 54,56.
  32. Farrow 2011, p. 17.
  33. Farrow 2004, p. 3, 8.
  34. Farrow 2004, p. 3.
  35. Farrow 2004, p. 8-9.
  36. Farrow 2004, p. 11.
  37. Becchio & Schadé 2006, unpaginated.
  38. Baggley 2000, p. 137-138.
  39. 1 2 Jensen 2008, p. 51-53.
  40. Earls 1987, p. 26-27.
  41. 1 2 Nes 2005, p. 87.

Works cited

Further reading