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The major Resurrection appearances of Jesus are reported in the New Testament to have occurred after his death and burial and prior to his Ascension. These are: , (see also the article on Mark 16), , , , and . Among these primary sources, most scholars believe First Corinthians was written first, authored by Paul of Tarsus, circa AD 55.

Appearances reported in the New Testament

1 Corinthians 15

  1. "seen of Cephas, then of the twelve"
  2. "seen of above five hundred brethren at once"
  3. "seen of James; then of all the apostles"
  4. "last of all he was seen of me" (Paul) , also claimed in

Matthew 28

  1. As Mary Magdalene and "the other Mary" were running from the empty tomb to inform the disciples that he is alive, Jesus tells the women to instruct the disciples to go to Galilee ahead of him to greet him ( ).

  1. To the eleven apostles on a mountain in Galilee where Jesus had directed them. See Great Commission.

Mark 16

  1. To Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome.
  2. To two of Jesus's followers as they were walking in the countryside (Jesus appeared to them in "another form").
  3. To the eleven while they were dining.
All of these occur in the so-called "longer ending of Mark", which most scholars believe was not part of the original text. In the shorter ending of Mark, Jesus is not explicitly seen, but the tomb is empty. See Mark 16 for a full discussion.

Luke 24

  1. To Cleopas and one other disciple as they walked to Emmausmarker. At first "their eyes were holden" so that they could not recognize him. Later while having supper at Emmaus "their eyes were opened" and they recognized him.
  2. To "Simon." This appearance is not described directly by Luke but it is reported by the other apostles. It is not clear whether it happened before, after or contemporaneously with the appearance at Emmaus.
  3. To the eleven, together with some others (including Cleopas and his companion), in Jerusalem.

John 20–21

  1. To Mary of Magdala. At first she did not recognize him and thought that he was a gardener. When he said her name, she recognized him.
  2. To the disciples (not including Thomas) on that same day. They were indoors "for fear of the Jews." Jesus entered and stood in their midst while the doors were shut.
  3. To the disciples including Thomas, called Didymus. This was a week later, again indoors, and resulted in the famous doubting Thomas conversation.
  4. To "Simon Peter, Thomas called Didymus, Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, Zebedee's sons and two other of his disciples", by Lake Tiberias, see also Catch of 153 fish. The disciple whom Jesus loved was present in this group.


  1. To the Church in Jerusalem — forty days after the resurrection after which he ascended into heaven, with a prophecy to return ( ).
  2. To Saul (Paul), on the Road to Damascus, though according to the text, it was a voice, not a vision, as Paul was blinded by a light ( , , ) and also when Paul was in a trance he saw the Lord speaking ( ).
  3. Peter also heard a voice while in a trance ( , ).
Stephen saw the Lord just before his death ( ).


  1. John of Patmos experiences a vision of the resurrected Christ described in .

St Paul's account

St Paul's account in is the earliest biblical description of the resurrection appearances of Jesus. It seems to represent a pre-Pauline credal statement derived from the first Christian community:

The antiquity of the creed has been established by many biblical scholars as dating to less than a decade after Jesus' death, originating from the Jerusalem apostolic community. Concerning this creed, Campenhausen wrote, "This account meets all the demands of historical reliability that could possibly be made of such a text," whilst A. M. Hunter said, "The passage therefore preserves uniquely early and verifiable testimony. It meets every reasonable demand of historical reliability."

Mark's account

The ending of Mark varies substantially between ancient manuscripts, and scholars are in near universal agreement that the final portion of the traditional ending, in which all Mark's resurrection appearances occur, is a later addition not present in the original version of Mark's gospel. Unhelpfully it is the general opinion of textual scholars that none of the known variant endings, including the traditional one, is actually the original ending.

The appearance to Mary Magdalene

While Mark doesn't mention when the incident occurred, Matthew states that Jesus appeared to Mary and Mary while they were returning to tell the disciples what they had seen. John, on the other hand, presents a completely different incident. John's account parallels the synoptic accounts of Mary's first visit to the tomb, though in John, Mary has already been to the tomb once, and Peter has already inspected it. Unlike the first visit, the second, in John, is much more similar to the synoptic account of the empty tomb, with Mary peering into the tomb and witnessing two angels inside dressed in shining white. Having been questioned by the angels about her concern for the tomb's emptiness, Mary turns and sees Jesus, according to John.

Why John describes Mary as loitering outside the tomb is unknown, though Augustine of Hippo (a man) proposed that when the men went away, a stronger affection kept the weaker sex firmly in place. Bruce believed that Mary was hoping someone would pass by who could give her some information, though why Mary does not seek out Joseph of Arimathea, the owner of the tomb, for information is an obvious question. One theory is that Joseph was so far above Mary's in terms of social class that it would not be right for her to disturb him, but a more obvious solution is presented by Schnackenberg—the Codex Sinaiticus version of John has Mary waiting inside rather than outside, and this may be the original form—though again this still raises the question of why she was waiting at all, with several textual scholars arguing that Mary waiting outside is a redaction that was added once the angels' part of the narrative, for the original tomb visit, became misplaced.

John depicts Mary as weeping, ultimately causing her name to be associated with Maudlin (a corruption of Magdalen, "typifying tearful repentance"). Both the angels address Mary as woman, and then ask why she had been crying. This is not as uncouth as it first appears, since the underlying Greek term—gunai—was, in Greek, the polite way to address an adult female. While the synoptic Gospels demonstrate an awareness of Jewish beliefs, and people there are presented as being shocked and afraid of angels, John demonstrates no such awareness, instead presenting Mary as responding nonchalantly, and while some believe that this is due to Mary not recognising the figures as angels, due to grief or tears, some scholars tend to see this as owing to issues surrounding the author of John. The conversation itself differs considerably from the one reported by the synoptics, and the angels are brief and do not give any hint of resurrection having happened, which Calvin attempted to justify by arguing that John was only including what was necessary to back up the resurrection. At this point the angels abruptly disappear from the narrative, and John and the synoptics begin to share the order of events again.

Mark mentions Mary's post-tomb encounter with Jesus but gives no details, though he does remark that Jesus had cast seven devils out from her, presumably indicating an exorcism. Matthew instead reports that Jesus met Mary and Mary as they were returning to the other disciples; that they fell at his feet and worshipped him; and that he instructed them to tell the disciples that they would see him in Galilee.

John presents a far more elaborate conversation. According to John, once Mary has explained to the angels about her concern at the emptiness of the tomb, she turns and suddenly sees Jesus, but mistakes him for a gardener (the word gardener is a hapax legomenon in the Bible). In John's account of the conversation, Jesus repeats the angels' question of why Mary is weeping, and Mary responds similarly, by requesting to know what Jesus (whom she has mistaken for someone else) has done with Jesus' body. After this response, John states that Jesus says Mary's name, she turns, and apparently realises who he is, whereupon Jesus enigmatically tells her to Touch [him] not, for [he is] not yet ascended to [his] father (see Noli me tangere) and then to inform the disciples. To resolve the differences between the Gospels, some inerrantist scholars like Norman Geisler believe that after the events recounted by John, Mary runs into another group of women, whereupon the events of the synoptic accounts occur, though there is no evidence whatsoever for such a conclusion from John itself.

Gnostic significance of Mary Magdalene

Saint Mary Magdalene approaching the Sepulchre by Gian Girolamo Savoldo.

That three of the Gospels portray Mary Magdalene as the first to see Jesus post-death, is generally considered to be of significance. Mary Magdalene was a major figure in Gnosticism, and one of the main teachers besides Jesus, the only other of similar significance being Thomas Didymus. Supporters of Gnostic priority (that Gnosticism is the original form of Christianity) see this as clear evidence that Mark, and hence, due to Markan priority, the entire resurrection narrative, was intended to be interpreted gnostically. Though owing to intrinsic beliefs about the nature of the physical world, Gnosticism generally viewed women as equals, in Judaism of the era women were not considered valid legal witnesses. Westcott, and other supporters of John's authenticity, sometimes use this to argue that the narratives must be factual, since someone faking it would be more likely to use a prominent and respected witness.

Why John portrays Mary as initially not recognising Jesus, even though she had known him well for a long time, is something of much debate. One theory is that, since Luke records two disciples as failing to recognise a post-death appearance of Jesus, the physical form of Jesus after resurrection must have been different, either due to the resurrection process itself, or due to the ordeal of crucifixion. More down-to-earth explanations have also been advanced, the most prominent being that Mary's tears had clouded her vision, or alternately that she is so focused on recovering Jesus' body, that she is temporarily blind to its being in front of her. However, John Calvin, and many other Christians, read this as a metaphor: that Mary's blindness despite seeing Jesus represents the blindness, according to Christians, of non-Christians who have already been informed about Jesus. Why Jesus initially encourages Mary's lack of recognition is also something of a mystery, though Dibelius sees it as a literary conceit, since the trope of a returning hero being unrecognised or disguised dates back at least as far as Homer's Odyssey, and André Feuillet sees echoes of the Song of Solomon in this passage.

Amongst those who see John as a deliberate piece of polemical orthodox propaganda, it is seen as a deliberate attack by John against the gnostics, by portraying one of their key figures as being stupid. The idea that John is orthodox propaganda has also been proposed to explain the reference to gardeners. Hans Von Campenhausen has argued that John adds the mention of a gardener as a deliberate reference to a Jewish story, and as an attempt to discredit it, though Rudolf Schnackenberg regards the sequence of cause and effect to be the reverse—that the Jewish story originated from John's mention of a gardener. Amongst Victorian commentators, Edwyn Hoskyns and Lightfoot regarded the mention of a gardener as a metaphor relating to the Garden of Eden.

Noli me tangere

What is meant by Jesus telling Mary (in older Bible translations) to Touch [him] not, for [he is] not yet ascended to [his] father ( ), has been the subject of debate. The Latin phrase, Noli me tangere ("Touch me not"), became well-known as a reference to these words found in translations of the Gospel of John, words that appear to be at odds with Jesus' invitation, later in the same chapter of John, to Thomas Didymus to touch his hands and side ( and to the account in ) of Mary Magdalene "and the other Mary" taking hold of his feet.

There are a wide variety of proposed solutions, perhaps the most facile being suggestions of textual corruption, with some saying that the word not was not originally there, while W.E.P Cotter proposed that the text originally said fear rather than touch (i.e., do not fear me), and W.D. Morris has proposed it originally said fear to touch (i.e., do not fear to touch me).

There is, however, no manuscript evidence for these suggestions, and so most scholars concentrate on non-textual arguments. Kraft proposes that it was against ritual to touch a corpse, and Jesus wished to enforce this, regarding himself as dead, while C. Spicq proposes that Jesus saw himself as a (Jewish) high priest, who was not meant to be sullied by physical contact, and others still have proposed that Mary is being ordered to have faith and not seek physical proof.

non-textual solutions neglect the fact that John later describes Thomas Didymus as being encouraged to touch Jesus' wounds, apparently contradicting the prior arguments. Consequently other proposals hinge on portraying Jesus as upholding some form of propriety, with Chrysostom and Theophylact arguing that Jesus was asking that more respect be shown to him. The notion of "propriety" held by some is linked to the idea that, while it was inappropriate for a woman to touch Jesus, it was fine for a man like Thomas. Kastner has argued that Jesus was naked, since the grave clothes were left in the tomb, and so that John portrays Jesus as being concerned with Mary being tempted by his body.

H.C.G. Moule suggested that Jesus is merely reassuring Mary that he is firmly on Earth and she need carry out no investigation, and others have suggested that Jesus is merely concerned with staying on-topic, essentially instructing Mary "don't waste time touching me, go and tell the disciples". Barrett has suggested that as Jesus prohibits Mary by arguing that he "has not ascended to [his] father", he could have ascended to heaven before meeting Thomas (and after meeting Mary), returning for the meeting with Thomas, though this view implies that the meeting with Thomas is some form of second visit to Earth, hence raising several theological issues, including that of a second coming, and is consequently unfavourably viewed by most Christians. John Calvin argued that Mary Magdalene (and the other Mary) had started to cling to Jesus, as if trying to hold him down on Earth, and so Jesus told her to give up. Some say Jesus was willing to provide Thomas with sufficient evidence to overcome his unbelief, whereas this was not a problem for Mary. In the case of Mary, she had evidently loved Jesus deeply, not surprising in view of her deliverance (Mark 16:9), and was reluctant for Jesus to leave her now that he had returned. This shows Jesus' ability to penetrate beneath the surface and understand each individual's deepest motivations.

The phrase formed one of the main arguments in the early debate on Christology, seemingly suggesting some form of intangibility—a view shared in the modern era by Bultmann—and hence appearing to advocate docetism (a view where Jesus' body is not resurrected as a physical object—do not touch me because you can't). This is quite at odds with John's general emphasis elsewhere against docetism, and so those who regard John as deliberate polemic tend instead to see this verse as an attack on Mary. Gnostics frequently viewed Mary Magdalene as being greater than the other disciples, and much closer to Jesus on both a spiritual and personal level, and hence Jesus treating Mary with disdain would question the respect and emphasis that gnosticism placed on her, much in the same way that Thomas Didymus is presented as doubting Jesus is physically there until he actually confirms it, while Gnostics viewed Thomas as a great teacher who had many revelations, and advocated docetism.

Mary's report

Mark reports merely that Jesus met Mary, and Luke doesn't even report this, but Matthew reports Jesus as instructing Mary to arrange for the disciples to meet him, while John has Jesus giving Mary a specific message to deliver—that he ascend[s] to [his] father and [her] Father, and to [his] God and [her] God. Matthew also reports that while Mary and Mary were returning to the disciples, the watchmen of the city informed the chief priests of "the things that were done", and the Sanhedrin gave money to the soldiers to spread the message that Jesus' corpse had been stolen by his disciples. Matthew mentions that this had become a common claim of the Jews.

Typically for John, the message that Jesus gives Mary seems to strongly assert a specific Christology, though many dispute quite which one. Jesus identifies the intended recipients of his message as being his adelphoi, a Greek term meaning both cousin and brother, which Alford believes is an implication that a new closeness exists between Jesus and his followers and an indication that Jesus is still fully human and a brother to other men. The message itself is one that is central to the debate between Monophysitism and Dyophysitism, with Dyophysitism holding that the passage asserts that Jesus was both human and divine. That the passage is seen more to uphold the orthodox position than the non-orthodox position is often cited as evidence that the author of John wrote the Gospel as deliberate propaganda for the purpose of refuting non-orthodoxy in the second century, rather than being a devout work of an eyewitness from the first century, a period when the Monophysitism/Dyophysitism debate was a non-issue. That the message seems more concerned with the ascension than with the resurrection itself is sometimes read, particularly by Pentecostalists to imply that the ascension has far greater importance.

Other views

Critics have suggested that Jesus may have existed and the events chronicled in the Bible may have happened but were misinterpreted by his followers. James A. Keller questions the reliability of the resurrection appearances, claiming: "All we have is other people's accounts of what the eyewitnesses purportedly saw, and these accounts are typically sketchy and were written many years later. Thus, the historian who wants to understand what the resurrection event was must use later, sketchy, second-hand accounts of what the eyewitnesses saw, and from these accounts he must try to determine what the resurrection event was."

Liturgical use

In the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Resurrection appearances of Jesus are used in an eleven-week Matins cycle of Gospel readings, known as Matins Gospels.

Appearances reported outside the New Testament

Gospel of the Hebrews

In the Gospel of the Hebrews, Jesus appears to James the Just.

The Book of Mormon

In the theology of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Jesus appeared to the inhabitants of the Americas following his resurrection in Jerusalem, as recounted in The Book of Mormon (starting in 3 Nephi 11).

Post Ascension appearances and Roman Catholicism

With the possible exceptions of the appearances to Paul and Ananias in , , and to Peter in , and to John of Patmos in , the Bible only records pre-Ascension appearances of Christ. Yet a number of post-Ascension visions of Jesus and Mary have been reported long after the Book of Revelation was written, some as recently as this century. The Holy See endorses but a fraction of these claims, yet some of these visionaries have received beatification and some have achieved sainthood. However, Catholics are not required to believe in these visions.

And, despite the expected controversies, the post-Ascension visions of Jesus and the Virgin Mary have, in fact, played a key role in the direction of the Catholic Church, e.g. the formation of the Franciscan order, the devotions to the Holy Rosary, the Holy Face of Jesus and the Sacred Heart of Jesus. (As an example of a recent reported appearance, see: Artemio Félix Amero, Cordoba Argentina.)

The Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican has a published and detailed set of steps for “Judging Alleged Apparitions and Revelations" that claim supernatural origin. The Holy See does, in fact, recognize a few post-Ascension conversations with Jesus. For instance, the Vatican biography of Saint Teresa of Avila clearly refers to her gift of interior locution and her conversations with Jesus.. The Vatican biography of Saint Faustina Kowalska goes further in that it not only refers to her conversations with Jesus, but quotes some of these conversations

The post-Ascension appearances may be classified into three groups: interior locutions where no visual contact is reported (e.g. Saint Teresa of Avila), visions where visual (and at times physical) contact is claimed (e.g. Saint Marguerite Marie Alacoque) and dictations where large amounts of text is produced (e.g. Maria Valtorta). Saint Juan Diego's reported vision of the Virgin Mary produced a physical artifact, but (apart from stigmata) there are no reported physical artifacts from post-Ascension appearances of Jesus.

As a historical pattern, Vatican approval of a vision seems to have followed general acceptance of the vision by well over a century in most cases. However, some recent Catholic devotions have had an accelerated path. For instance the Holy Face Medal is based on a vision reported as recently as 1936 by Sister Maria Pierina and was approved by Pope Pius XII in 1958.



  • Barrett, C.K. The Gospel According to John, 2nd Edition. London:SPCK, 1978.
  • Brown, Raymond E. "The Gospel According to John: XIII-XI" The Anchor Bible Series Volume 29A New York: Doubleday & Company, 1970.
  • Bruce, F.F. The Gospel According to John. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1983.
  • Leonard, W. "St. John." A Catholic Commentary on the Bible. B. Orchard ed. New York: Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1953.
  • Schnackenburg, Rudolf . The Gospel According to St. John: Volume III. Crossroad, 1990.
  • Tilborg, Sj. van and P. Chatelion Counet. Jesus' Appearances and Disappearances in Luke 24, Leiden etc.: Brill, 2000.
  • Wesley, John. The Wesleyan Bible Commentary. Ralph Earle ed. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1964.
  • Westcott, B.F. The Gospel of St. John. London: John Murray, 1889.

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