Matthew 27:53

ESV and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many.
NIV They came out of the tombs after Jesus' resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.
NASB and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection, they entered the holy city and appeared to many.
CSB And they came out of the tombs after his resurrection, entered the holy city, and appeared to many.
NLT They left the cemetery after Jesus’ resurrection, went into the holy city of Jerusalem, and appeared to many people.
KJV And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.

What does Matthew 27:53 mean?

Several dramatic things happened in the moments following Jesus' death. One was an earthquake that apparently broke open the tombs of many saints who had died in Israel's past (Matthew 27:50–52). The gist of the narrative is that the earthquake disturbed the bodies in some way. After Jesus' resurrection, these saints were seen alive by many people. Whether they came to life at the moment Jesus died, or were only uncovered, and rose after He rose, Matthew is not explicitly clear. Matthew is the only gospel writer who describes this event, and he does not provide many details. This has frustrated scholars for many centuries, as the event described naturally invites curiosity.

Bible scholars suggest two possibilities for how this may have worked. It's possible these people were resurrected in the same way as Jesus' friend Lazarus. Lazarus returned to a full and healthy human life, not in a glorified body as Jesus did. In other words, Lazarus lived for a time and then died again. If that's what happened with these saints, the "holy city" is Jerusalem, where they appeared to many regular people. Seeing formerly dead saints of Israel would have caused a huge stir after Jesus Himself was resurrected. They likely pointed many people to the power of God through Christ.

The other possibility is that these resurrected souls came back in glorified bodies as Jesus did and went off, after a time, to the "holy city" of heaven. Before leaving, they appeared to many, but when they left, they did not die again and never returned.

Others suggest that Matthew's claims here are poetic, or symbolic, and not meant to be taken as part of the literal narrative. This is an extremely difficult interpretation to support, given that everything else Matthew says in this passage is framed as literal. Another suggestion is that this incident was not part of Matthew's original writing at all, yet there is no textual evidence suggesting it was added.

The most reasonable interpretation is that this is an actual event, which happened as Matthew describes it. Ultimately, we are left with almost no detail or explanation, making it difficult to draw any meaningful conclusions.
What is the Gospel?
Download the app: