The Zombie Uprising in Matthew's Gospel

Matthew 27 describes a truly astonishing and moderately creepy event that took place right after Jesus died.  The temple curtain was torn in two, there was an earthquake, and THEN...the tombs opened and many saints who had been long dead were RAISED BACK TO LIFE.  The zombies then went into the holy city, wandered around, and appeared to many (Mt 27:52-53).

Actual photo evidence of the zombie uprising

This is quite a thing.  If this actually happened, it should go down as one of the most astounding and miraculous things that has ever happened on this planet in all of recordable time.  

So here are my thoughts:

  1. Matthew is the only gospel account that includes the zombie anecdote.  If zombies were REALLY wandering around the city, doesn't it seem odd that only Matthew wrote about this?  Did Mark, Luke, and John not know about it, or not care to write about it?  Did they not think it was important to document that people came back to life?
  2. There are no extra-biblical (or even extra-Matthew) sources that corroborate this fantastical event.  None at all.  If there really were dead people walking around Jerusalem and many people saw it, we would expect to see other records written by witnesses or even documented hearsay.  As an aside, this is the same problem that many other central gospel events have, such as the earthquake, darkened day, and the census.  No extra-biblical corroboration.
  3. Was Matthew simply trying to fulfill Old Testament prophecy?
Ezekiel 37:12-13: Therefore prophesy and say to them: This is what the Sovereign LORD says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel.

Isaiah 26:19: But your dead will live, LORD; their bodies will rise— let those who dwell in the dust wake up and shout for joy— your dew is like the dew of the morning; the earth will give birth to her dead.

  1. Where are the zombies now?  Did they ascend to heaven with Jesus?  Did they continue inhabiting Jerusalem until they died a second natural death?  ARE THEY STILL HERE??
  2. Wouldn't an event like this overshadow the death and resurrection of Jesus?  Who would care about an empty tomb if three days ago there had been a zombie invasion?  Wouldn't the town still be buzzing about that?
  3. Would the resurrection of Jesus even be considered a unique event if the inhabitants of Jerusalem had just witnessed who knows how many resurrected saints wandering around? Wouldn't their response to the Jesus resurrection claim be something like, "Big deal, I saw 15 resurrected guys just yesterday walking down the street."  Or, "OK, add that troublesome Jewish rabbi to the list of people who came back to life."
Bottom line: What is the most likely explanation of the story? There are three options.
  1. It literally happened: Events unfolded exactly as described by Matthew.  No one else at the time bothered to record it.  No other gospels mentioned it.  People still somehow thought Jesus's resurrection was a big deal even though dozens of others were resurrected first.
  2. It figuratively happened: I don't even know what this would entail.  But Christians love to call things figurative or metaphorical when they don't make sense, so I included this as an option.
  3. It never happened, it's invented fiction: This is the most likely explanation by a long shot.  The anonymous author of Matthew was trying to improve upon the existing gospel story of Mark, and probably used Old Testament sources as fodder for his fiction.  
Why believe in something improbable when the simplest, most likely explanation requires no mental gymnastics? Even Christians admit they are confused by this story.  

So use your head. Just because the Bible tells you so, doesn't mean it's so. 

Further reading/watching:

  • Short clip regarding the zombie uprising by Mark Goodacre (YouTube)


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