Monday, April 12, 2010

Jesus Ascended to Heaven in His Own Power; He Was Not Merely "Assumed" Solely By God the Father's Power (As Enoch, Elijah, and Mary Were)

Someone on the CHNI forum asked:

I just started a new Bible study at my parish which uses the New Collegeville Bible Commentary and already I am struggling with it. Referring to Acts 1:9 the commentary says:

Although the traditional word for the withdrawal of Jesus' physical presence from the apostles is "ascension," it might be more accurate to describe Luke's description of this event as an "assumption" since the author portrays it as an act of the Father. To describe this departure, Luke draws upon the biblical traditions about the assumptions of Enoch and Elijah. To interpret the the event he adds what have been called "apocalyptic stage props" -- the movement upward into the heavens, a cloud as vehicle, and the interpreting of angels.

It seems to me that if you use the word "assumption" instead of "ascension", it reduces Jesus to a mere human, not divine, on par with his mother Mary. Am I confused? Is it appropriate to say that Jesus was "assumed" into heaven instead of saying He "ascended" into heaven? Or is the commentator just trying to say that Jesus' human nature was "assumed" into heaven and left out the part about Him "ascending" into heaven of His own power and as God in Divine Power?

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I don't know what the commentator is trying to say, but I know he is confused and probably affected by liberal higher criticism and theology (if not of that school himself). There is no such thing as one Nature of Jesus being "assumed" to heaven. Jesus the Divine Person (Who has Two Natures) ascended of His own omnipotent power.

Clouds are associated with God Himself (as I have shown in one of my papers), whereas Elijah's departure was by a "whirlwind," not a cloud (2 Kings 2:11). No description is given of Enoch (it simply says "God took him": Gen 5:24). Cross-reference Hebrews 11:5 says he was "taken up" but mentions no cloud. The deuterocanonical book Sirach uses the same terminology of "taken up" (44:16; 49:14).

Moreover, it is silly for this commentator to use the language of "it might be more accurate to describe Luke's description of this event as an 'assumption'"-- since that is not the word-choice of the Bible itself. The word ascend -- and its cognates -- (Greek, anabaino) is constantly used in this regard (in English translations), not assumption or assumed. So where does he get off saying that "assumption" is a "more accurate" word for it? It is not. The Bible itself puts that matter to rest.

This commentary is weak (and close to -- if not already -- heretical), and minimizes the essential differences. Enoch, Elijah, and Mary were creatures, and could not ascend in their own power, but Jesus is God and omnipotent in His Divine Nature. Other passages besides Acts 1:9 suggest His own power and decision to ascend:

John 3:13 (RSV) No one has ascended into heaven but he who descended from heaven, the Son of man.

John 6:62 Then what if you were to see the Son of man ascending where he was before?

John 14:2-3 In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

John 14:12 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I go to the Father.

John 16:7, 10 Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. . . . I go to the Father, and you will see me no more.

John 16:28 I came from the Father and have come into the world; again, I am leaving the world and going to the Father.

John 20:17 Jesus said to her, "Do not hold me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brethren and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God."

Ephesians 4:8, 10
Therefore it is said, "When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men." . . . He who descended is he who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.)

Likewise, Jesus raises Himself from the dead:

John 2:19-21 Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." [20] The Jews then said, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?" [21] But he spoke of the temple of his body.

John 10:17-18 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again. [18] No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again; this charge I have received from my Father.

The Bible also says that God the Father raised Jesus from the dead (Gal 1:1; 1 Thess 1:10), and that the Holy Spirit did (Rom 8:11). That is because all three Persons of the Holy Trinity are omnipotent and have the same essential characteristics, and they are all "in one another." I've written about this general theological principle, which is called perichoresis or circumincession (see also a second related paper).

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