Nonsense pictures of Ascension?

And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.

I find it difficult to believe that Jesus 'took off like a rocket or a drone and sailed off to heaven into a cloud'.

Can it be that our interpretation of the words used by St. Luke in Acts of The Apostles are misleading us into impossible imagery, never the intention of the author?

g1869. ἐπαίρω epairō;
from 1909 and 142; to raise up (literally or figuratively): — exalt self, poise (lift, take) up.
AV (19) - lift up 15, exalt (one's) self 2, take up 1, hoisted up 1;
to lift up, raise up, raise on high. metaph. to be lifted up with pride, to exalt one's self.

g1689. ἐμβλέπω emblepō; from 1722 and 991; to look on, i.e. (relatively) to observe fixedly, or (absolutely) to discern clearly: — behold, gaze up, look upon, (could) see.
AV (12) - behold 5, look upon 4, see 1, gaze up 1, can see 1;
to turn one's eyes on, look at, metaph - to look at with the mind, to consider

Is it common for Mt Olivet to have cloud cover? It is according to the narrative only a Sabath day's journey away from Jerusalem. Jerusalem is already at quite a high elevation. Could we be assuming that the references to 'up' are literal? Could it simply mean metaphorically elevated, as when a King 'ascends' to the throne, i.e. a position of ultimate authority, rather than a vertical position 'in the sky'.

Could the references to cloud simply mean that they were enveloped in cloud and when it cleared Jesus was no longer to be seen? The reference to 'Look at' being more a case of metaphorical 'looking for' as in simply 'wondering where Jesus had gone? I have trekked in the Welsh mountains and can witness to the fact that visibility in cloud cover can be nigh on restricted to zero. Dead easy for someone to disappear from sight.

If so, I would find it so much more encouraging that he might return at any time in similar unpredictable but practically explicable manner. Rather than taking off like an Apollo moonshot or an Apache Helicopter and eventually popping into a stratocumulous, leaving his disciples craning their necks, shading their eyes with their hands and standing around 'looking into the sky' watching a pair of departing size 9 soles, as if what they had just witnessed was not all that unusual an event in human experience.
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Comments

  • I have often said that, were one to make a film of Jesus' life, it would be hard depict the Ascension in a way which didn't make the audience laugh.

    In my view the Ascension was a way of Jesus saying to his disciples, "Look! I'm definitively leaving" in a way which they could understand.
  • tclunetclune Shipmate
    I confess that I am gobsmacked that the one stumbling block you find in this story is His manner of transportation.
  • MooMoo Kerygmania Host
    If Jesus left earth, the only possible direction was up. I think the purpose of this scene was to make it clear to the disciples that Jesus was no longer physically with them; they had to function without seeing him.
  • Yes, exactly.
  • I have often said that, were one to make a film of Jesus' life, it would be hard depict the Ascension in a way which didn't make the audience laugh.
    In Campus Crusade's Jesus film you can clearly see the disciples' hair blowing around in the helicopter backwash.

    Near the beginning of my message this morning I waved around a picture of a pair of feet disappearing into a cloud, and told the congregation that this was the image they needed to get out of their minds.

    I'm not sure how this event actually went down (ha ha) but what I am sure is that it makes much more sense viewed symbolically.

    The most important thing is to underscore the fact that Jesus has left his disciples for good, paving the way for the coming of the Spirit. This took some getting used to for them, as can be seen from their continued gazing after him (cf Jesus' odd words to Mary "do not hold onto me, for I am not yet gone to the Father").

    Jesus was "taken up" not so much in the sense of rising in altitude, but in that at his ascension, God exalted him, as Philippians 2 says.

    Clouds in the Bible are far more often a symbol of God's presence and glory than a meterological phenomenon. When the angels say Jesus will return as he left, they don't mean he will physically parachute to earth on the Mount of Olives but, as Matthew reminds us, that he will come in glory.
  • Eutychus wrote: »
    In Campus Crusade's Jesus film you can clearly see the disciples' hair blowing around in the helicopter backwash.

    When the angels say Jesus will return as he left, they don't mean he will physically parachute to earth on the Mount of Olives.
    Of course there are conservative (?pro-Zionist) Christians who seem to believe exactly that.

  • Gramps49Gramps49 Shipmate
    As my son put it. We had to get rid of Jesus to get the Holy Spirit.

    I do note Matthew, Mark, and John make no mention of an ascension nor do any of the epistles.

    I don't get hung up by a literary device to begin the story of the church.
  • PigwidgeonPigwidgeon Shipmate
    My favorite is from Walsingham.
    :smile:

  • LeRocLeRoc Shipmate
    Pigwidgeon wrote: »
    My favorite is from Walsingham.
    :smile:
    Nice!

  • Gramps49 wrote: »
    As my son put it. We had to get rid of Jesus to get the Holy Spirit.
    One of my more liberal friends has a slightly different take: the Evangelists had done such a good job of resurrecting Jesus bodily that a way had to be found to get rid of him...

  • Pigwidgeon wrote: »
    My favorite is from Walsingham.
    :smile:
    Indeed. The imagery, of course, predates modern Walsingham, eg: https://catholicnewslive.com/story/575161

  • LeoLeo Shipmate
    LeRoc wrote: »
    Pigwidgeon wrote: »
    My favorite is from Walsingham.
    :smile:
    Nice!

    needs a chiropodist
  • Pigwidgeon wrote: »
    My favorite is from Walsingham.
    :smile:
    Indeed. The imagery, of course, predates modern Walsingham, eg: https://catholicnewslive.com/story/575161
    The difference in iconography is that it is designed from the outset to be symbolic rather than literal, with each detail laden with meaning, whereas the Campus Crusade "Jesus" film is designed with the aim of portraying what they think actually, literally happened as faithfully as possible, a task at which I submit it fails at almost every turn (right from the moment when the devil is depicted as a snake in the temptation in the wilderness).
  • I haven't seen said film.
  • Golden KeyGolden Key Shipmate
    I don't know what happened; but I don't have a problem with J flying, going into hyperspace, being transported directly to heaven, etc.

    God knows we gave J reason to get out of here ASAP. And maybe he simply liked to fly.
    (cool) (grin)

    I also don't know how/if J will come back, but I don't have a problem with a return trip from any of those options.
  • Golden KeyGolden Key Shipmate
    Eutychus--

    Eutychus wrote: »

    The difference in iconography is that it is designed from the outset to be symbolic rather than literal, with each detail laden with meaning, whereas the Campus Crusade "Jesus" film is designed with the aim of portraying what they think actually, literally happened as faithfully as possible, a task at which I submit it fails at almost every turn (right from the moment when the devil is depicted as a snake in the temptation in the wilderness).

    I don't remember the visions/presences J saw during the temptation in the wilderness, but he did see some and they were identified as/with Satan. The serpent makes sense, 'cause Genesis. And CC most assuredly believes in literal Creation of some sort, and Eden--unless they've radically changed.

  • I haven't seen said film.

    Don't tell Campus Crusade :wink:

    My reading of the Gospels is mostly pretty literalist, but I think trying to create a "realistic" movie version (as opposed to symbolic iconography, instantly recognisable as such) quickly leads to "nonsense" as the OP says.

    In an attempt to portray what is thought to be the literal truth, such efforts end up completely missing the point and providing a subject of ridicule. This is almost a parable of modern evangelicalism, in fact.

    (I don't know if anyone remembers the film Excalibur, but it always struck me how Monty Python and the Holy Grail did no worse a job of recreating medieval England than its more serious counterpart, doubtless on a fraction of the budget. Similarly, I think one of the best films about miraculous healing is Leap of Faith).
  • tangent:/ I loved "Leap of Faith"! One of my Baptist colleagues took an afternoon off during a rather dull National Assembly to see it and felt she had made better use of the time than if she had stayed in the meetings! /:tangent ends.
  • Baptist TrainfanBaptist Trainfan Shipmate
    edited May 15
    Eutychus wrote: »
    My reading of the Gospels is mostly pretty literalist, but I think trying to create a "realistic" movie version (as opposed to symbolic iconography, instantly recognisable as such) quickly leads to "nonsense" as the OP says.

    In an attempt to portray what is thought to be the literal truth, such efforts end up completely missing the point and providing a subject of ridicule.

    I agree, but I'd like you to expand on your concluding comment, "This is almost a parable of modern evangelicalism, in fact".

    Re. the Ascension itself: I don't think for a moment that Jesus thought heaven was "up above the clouds" or that he needed to "ascend" in order to get there. But the discip;les quite possibly did see things that way. Hence we have the Ascension, nothing more or less than a visual aid intended by Jesus to indicate his final return to his Father. (FWIW To me the spiritual realm is a parallel universe, contiguous with and interpenetratng our own).

  • EutychusEutychus Admin
    edited May 15
    I'd like you to expand on your concluding comment, "This is almost a parable of modern evangelicalism, in fact".
    I think many evangelicals seek to preserve the literal sense of the Scriptures in the mistaken belief that this preserves the integrity of the message, whereas in fact it can end up defeating it, and furthermore that this is in effect a "lower" view of Scripture than interpreting it symbolically where appropriate.

    To keep with the pictorial discussion here, it's often assumed that the ancients did such "silly-looking", "flat" drawings simply because they didn't know any better, rather than consider that they might be obeying some style code of which we are ignorant (I'm not an expert on this, but this Reddit discussion gives you a few links).

    In its post-higher-criticism extreme suspicion of scholarship, popular evangelicalism often does the literary equivalent of ignoring these style codes. Or so it seems to me.
    Re. the Ascension itself: I don't think for a moment that Jesus thought heaven was "up above the clouds" or that he needed to "ascend" in order to get there. But the discip;les quite possibly did see things that way. Hence we have the Ascension, nothing more or less than a visual aid intended by Jesus to indicate his final return to his Father.
    As I say, I naturally tend to literalist interpretations, but I keep discovering that not even evangelical commentators do.

    On this passage, I actually have I Howard Marshall's IVP commentary on Acts. He admits "there are of course difficulties if we interpret the story over-literally... the story is rather like the creation of the world or of the incarnation of Jesus or of his resurrection [!!!]... events... which therefore cannot be described fully in terms and categories that belong to [the physical world]... are expressed in a symbolical, pictorial manner".

    I find this an astounding wriggle on the part of an IVP commentator, but it's a wriggle I keep finding in IVP commentaries (Motyer on Isaiah, Baldwin on Daniel...). Sometimes I think evangelical scholars wilfully allow their constituency to retain literalist concepts of Scripture that they themselves do not subscribe to, to an extent bordering on deliberate deception.

    On the passage in hand, once one accepts the idea of symbolic elements, I think there's actually very little lingustic content that requires the mental image we all have to correspond with what actually happened - see my comments on "clouds" in the Bible above.

  • PuzzlerPuzzler Shipmate
    Yes, yes and yes.
  • Baptist TrainfanBaptist Trainfan Shipmate
    edited May 15
    Eutychus wrote: »
    I actually have I Howard Marshall's IVP commentary on Acts. He admits "there are of course difficulties if we interpret the story over-literally ... I find this an astounding wriggle on the part of an IVP commentator.
    I have both this commentary and the older IVP one (I see they do several others these days). I do know that, when the IHM one came out, Christian Literature Crusade in Britain refused to keep it as a stock item because they thought it was "too liberal".

  • SpongSpong Shipmate
    My namesake quotes Carl Sagan on this: if Jesus ascended at the speed of light 2000 years ago he still wouldn’t have left our galaxy...
  • LeRocLeRoc Shipmate
    Spong wrote: »
    if Jesus ascended at the speed of light 2000 years ago he still wouldn’t have left our galaxy...
    He's passing through Messier 25 right now.

  • MudfrogMudfrog Shipmate
    All I would say is that something happened that day.
    They were on the hillside and Jesus was with them.
    I see no reason whatever to say this is a made-up episode or literary device - no more than any other miraculous happening in the gospels, or the entire Bible for that matter.

    We were not there and I would simply suggest that whatever happened, Luke wrote it down in the only language he had. The theology books tell us that it was all symbolic of a change in station and status, etc, and that is not untrue; but if that's all it was - all meaning and no event - then what's the point of the empty tomb, bearing in mind that the resurrection happened to Jesus and not to the disciples?

    I think perhaps a reverent silence on speaking too confidently about it being symbolic might be useful.
    My personal rule of thumb about some of the descriptions of events in the Bible is that there must have been much more to an event than we actually read, but there was never less.
  • Yes, I'd go with that.
  • Jengie JonJengie Jon Shipmate
    The thing that struck me when I actually saw the Walsingham image, rather than heard of it, is that in somehow it looks like an inverted birth. As if Christ is being born into heaven.
  • I'd not thought of that. But in a recent sermon (and in a School Assembly) I did suggest that Ascension is the "opposite" of Christmas.
  • ChoristerChorister Shipmate
    edited May 29
    Living on the edge of Dartmoor, or other moorland / mountainous regions, gives you experience of how a thick mist can envelop the tops of the peaks, tors, mountain tops. Easy to see how someone could disappear. Whether Jesus then actually rose upwards, or merely got 'Pixie Led' will depend on your literal understanding of the text (and your belief in Creamtealand Pixies).
  • magnilomagnilo Shipmate
    I'd not thought of that. But in a recent sermon (and in a School Assembly) I did suggest that Ascension is the "opposite" of Christmas.
    Yes, if by that you mean that Christmas is about God arriving in creation in the person of his Son, and the Ascension is about the Son in some sense departing from his creation as the Risen Lord.

    But, I think, probably no if you’re suggesting that the Ascension entails some kind of disincarnation or downgrading of Jesus’ humanity.

  • Which I certainly wasn't - my view is the same as yours.
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    Certainly no down-grading of His humanity which He took and thereby completed the reconciliation of the Creator and the creation.
  • magnilo wrote: »
    I'd not thought of that. But in a recent sermon (and in a School Assembly) I did suggest that Ascension is the "opposite" of Christmas.
    Yes, if by that you mean that Christmas is about God arriving in creation in the person of his Son, and the Ascension is about the Son in some sense departing from his creation as the Risen Lord.

    But, I think, probably no if you’re suggesting that the Ascension entails some kind of disincarnation or downgrading of Jesus’ humanity.
    Historically the church has celebrated "God arriving in creation" on Annunciation.
  • magnilomagnilo Shipmate
    Ah, I didn’t know that. But it makes sense now that you say it, although I’ve always understood Christmas as giving particular emphasis to the sheer physicality of the incarnation.
  • mousethief wrote: »
    Historically the church has celebrated "God arriving in creation" on Annunciation.
    Not in our tradition, where it tends to pass unnoticed.

  • Pity.
  • Yet I'm willing to bet your tradition teaches that life begins at conception.
  • To be honest, I've very rarely heard the topic discussed.
  • stetsonstetson Shipmate
    edited September 8
    Eutychus wrote: »
    Pigwidgeon wrote: »
    My favorite is from Walsingham.
    :smile:
    Indeed. The imagery, of course, predates modern Walsingham, eg: https://catholicnewslive.com/story/575161
    The difference in iconography is that it is designed from the outset to be symbolic rather than literal, with each detail laden with meaning, whereas the Campus Crusade "Jesus" film is designed with the aim of portraying what they think actually, literally happened as faithfully as possible, a task at which I submit it fails at almost every turn (right from the moment when the devil is depicted as a snake in the temptation in the wilderness).

    In fairness, Martin Scorsese, not exactly anyone's idea of a lunkheaded fundamentalist, also portrayed the
    LeRoc wrote: »
    Spong wrote: »
    if Jesus ascended at the speed of light 2000 years ago he still wouldn’t have left our galaxy...
    He's passing through Messier 25 right now.

    According to some "scholars", he needs to get as far as the Orion Nebula. (Whatever that is.)
  • stetsonstetson Shipmate
    edited September 8
    delete
  • stetsonstetson Shipmate
    My second-last post contains an aborted reference to the film The Last Temptation Of Christ, which I had forgotten to clear from the draft-box before making my next post. The point was that Scorsese, like the Campus Crusade filmmakers, also portrays the snake in the desert as literal.
  • The first ascension fascinates me. For some while, possibly hours, Jesus appeared to be a local resurrected human. Not Omni-Guy. Later, He played according to everyones expectations even to the degree of continuing to use the same now contemporarily untransferable hermeneutic as He used on Himself, on the road to Emmaus. What worked on His humanity would work on some of His contemporaries'.
  • A little more allegory, symbolic understanding and representation of things in the way the people at the time of ascension could understand?

    My first thought at seeing RdrEmCofE's OP was the "beam me up" as per Star Trek (maybe beam me up Dad? in this case). But I'll continue to use StarTrek as an example of a literary and allegorical understanding. In one episode in the crew is caught up in a galactic war with Q continuum people who are basically all powerful. The crew experienced the war as the 19th century American Civil War because this is the frame of reference they can understand. The galactic war was not actually occurring with in the 19th century nor with 19th century technology. It was just represented this way to the humans because this was a frame they could understand it within.

    So how about maybe the ascension being represented in the eyes and minds of the people there in the way they could grasp what is going on, and transmit this to others. I expect if such a thing happened today with going up into a cloud, a "beam me up" type of thing would not impress nor get the message across. It'd have to be differently represented to people.
  • Was Elijah's chariot was out-of-action?; perhaps he was busy at that time and couldn't come down to scoop our Saviour up.

    I suppose us knowing more about the vastness of space has some impact, but as someone feeble-minded compared to the early Church Fathers I tend to go with them about a bodily ascension somehow -- I'm sure it was quite odd to them (as well as a Resurrected body). I don't enquire too much, perhaps wrongly; it brings me comfort humanity has been taken up into the Godhead (if that's not heretically expressed).

    I enjoyed the artworks; thank you.
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    Climacus wrote: »
    Was Elijah's chariot was out-of-action?; perhaps he was busy at that time and couldn't come down to scoop our Saviour up.

    We often have coffee over the weekend with a group of regulars. For quite while, the local Presbyterian minister (he had not joined the Uniting Church, but was a continuing Presbyterian) was a member. He was rather taken aback when one year either Madame or I mentioned our celebration of the Assumption until I put to him that if God had taken up Elijah in a chariot, surely He would similarly assume His mother into eternal life without her suffering death. He very quickly changed his tune.

  • And where did He put Elijah down?
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    Curiously, we're not told exactly where Elijah finished save that 2 Kings 2. 11 says that he went up to Heaven in a whirlwind. On the other hand, tradition is that Our Lady was taken up and placed on the steps of the Throne, there to lead our prayers.
  • Curious indeed. Wherever it was it had a postal service.
  • Gee D wrote: »
    On the other hand, tradition is that Our Lady was taken up and placed on the steps of the Throne, there to lead our prayers.
    Your tradition but certainly not mine!

  • Ah go on Baptist. It were yorn for uh thousand year.
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