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§ 307. The Ascension necessary for the Conviction of the Apostles.

Moreover, the resurrection of Christ, considered as a historical link in the psychological developement of the Apostles (which cannot be explained, as we have shown, unless the resurrection is taken for granted), loses its true significance in this regard, if Christ were removed from the earth in any other than a supernatural way. How could his resurrection have formed, for the disciples, the basis for belief in an eternal life, if it had been subsequently followed by death? Their faith, raised by his reappearance, would have sunk with his dissolution. Their belief in his Messiahship would have been rudely shocked; he would have been to them again an ordinary man. And how could the conviction of his exaltation, which we find every where outspoken in their writings with such strength and confidence, ever have arisen? Although, therefore, the visible fact of the ascension is only expressly mentioned by Luke, yet all that John says of his going up to his heavenly Father, and all that the Apostles preached of his elevation to God, presupposed their conviction that he had been supernaturally removed 438from the earth, to the utter exclusion of the idea that he had departed in the ordinary way of death. It was not necessary to make express mention of the outward and visible fact, as they never entertained the thought that Christ, in the form in which he appeared to them after his resurrection, could be touched again by death. When he took leave of them, and they saw him no more, they never thought of any thing else but that he had been supernaturally removed from human view to a higher region of existence.

If it be said now that “it does not follow, because the Apostles conceived the matter so, that it really was so; and that we must distinguish the fundamental fact from their subjective conceptions,” we have the reply ready. Their subjective conception was founded in a fact which it presupposed, viz., the way in which Christ showed himself to them after his resurrection; in the impression which he made upon them by his higher and celestial appearance. And further, apart from this necessary presupposition, if Christ led the Apostles to form such a subjective conception merely by mysteriously appearing and vanishing, by keeping silence as to his abode and as to the end towards which he advanced, he must have planned a fraud, to form the basis of their religious conviction from that time on. As surely as we cannot attribute such a fraud to the Holy One, who called himself the “Truth,” so certainly must we take for granted an objective fact as the source of the faith of the Apostles.

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