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§ 302. Christ appears to five hundred Believers; to his Brother James to the Apostles, Thomas included.—His Conversation with Thomas.

Christ next appeared to more than five hundred disciples, assembled in one place; and then to his brother James.815815   1 Cor., xv., 7. No specific description of “James” being given by Paul in this passage, it was, in all probability, James the Just, as he was called, the brother of our Lord. This appearance of Christ is mentioned in the Evang. ad Hebraeos (translated by Jerome); but apparently as his first appearance; for it goes on, “After Jesus had given the shroud to the servant of the high-priest, he went to James.” Perhaps this arose partly from the high rank assigned to James by the sect among whom this Gospel arose, and partly from the fabulous circumstances that are given in the account. of the following sort: “James had made a vow, after partaking of the bread given by Christ at the Last Supper, that he would eat no more until he had seen Jesus risen from the dead. Jesus, coming to him, had a table with bread brought out, blessed the bread, and gave it to James, with the words, ‘Eat thy bread now, my brother, since the Son of Man has risen from the dead’” (Hieron. de Viris Illust., c. ii.). Mark the contrast between the objective tone of the traditions that form the base of the synoptical Gospels, and this tradition of a party that owed its origin to an alloying doctrinal element, remodelling the facts to serve a subjective purpose. Another and striking contrast is, that our Gospels (and Paul following them) make Christ appear only to believers, for reasons explained in our text. Had they aimed to make the testimony as strong as possible, without regard to truth, they would have represented him as appearing also to his opponents. The statement above cited from Evang. ad Hebr., of his appearing to a servant of the high-priest, conflicts with the whole import and object of his resurrection. And on Sunday, eight days after his first appearance among the living, he again showed himself to the Apostles unawares, while they were assembled with closed doors. Thomas was now among them; the same Thomas who on a former occasion had displayed his peculiar character in an expression 433of doubt. Christ’s appearance, and the way in which he reproached the doubting Thomas, impressed the latter with so powerful and overwhelming a sense of the Divinity that beamed forth in the manifestation of the risen Saviour, that he addressed him by a title which had been ascribed to him, so far as we know, by none of the disciples: “My Lord and my God.” We are not justified in ascribing to Thomas, whose immediate impressions impelled him to this exclamation, a fully-formed theory of doctrine; yet how mighty a cause must have been at work to induce a man trained in the common opinions of the Jews to use such a title!816816   Or, are we to suppose that John involuntarily remodelled the words of Thomas, in accordance with his own views? Certainly not. Nowhere, in John’s accounts, do the disciples speak out of character. Least of all could he have attributed to one like Thomas more than he uttered. On the contrary, such an expression, coming from a Thomas, would, for that very reason, impress itself more strikingly upon the minds of the disciples. It is not difficult, therefore, to account for the precision with which John records the expression.

Christ then said to Thomas, “Because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed; blessed are they who have not seen, and yet have believed.” We must endeavour to unfold the rich import of these words. Christ does not refuse the title given to him by Thomas. He acknowledges his exclamation as an expression of the true faith. The words “believed” and “believe” cannot be confined solely to Christ’s resurrection; they refer to his person and work in general, and to the resurrection only as one necessary element thereof. But the words of Christ also reproved Thomas for needing a visible sign in order to believe. It was implied in them that the long personal intercourse of Thomas with Christ, and his faith in Jesus as the Son of God and as superior to death, should have been enough to overcome his doubts—and, on this foundation, he should have found the statements of Christ’s reappearance, given him by the others, any thing but incredible.817817   Christ’s reproof, perhaps, referred also to the intimations he had given of his approaching resurrection. His faith should have arisen from within, not waited for a summons from without. And, on the other hand, Christ assigns a higher place to those who are led to faith, without such visible proofs, by his spiritual self-manifestation in the preaching of the Gospel—a faith arising inwardly from impressions made upon a willing mind.818818   Cf. p. 138, 139. His words implied that, in all after time, faith would be impossible, if there were no other way of passing from unbelief to belief except by sensible signs of assurance. The passage is strikingly illustrative of the process by which faith is developed. It contains the ground and reason why the Gospel history had to be handed down precisely in a form which could not but give occasion for manifold doubts to the human understanding, when it conducts its inquiries apart from the religious consciousness and religious wants.

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