of Mark[16:14-19] gives the first account of the Ascension found in the Christian
Bible. Although, the description is brief: Jesus and the remaining eleven
apostles are seated at a table, presumably in a room in or near Jerusalem.
Jesus commands his followers to spread the Gospel (see also Great Commission)
and tells them that those who believe will be known by their invulnerability
to poison, ability to heal the sick, exorcise demons, speak in "new tongues,"
and the like. After delivering these final words, Jesus is received into heaven
to sit at the right hand of God. No description of the Ascension itself is
given; Mark simply states that it happened. This traditional ending of Mark
is considered a summary of Luke's resurrection appearances, commission, and
ascension, plus miracles from the apostolic tradition.
There is even more a brief description
in the Gospel of Luke[24:50-51]. Jesus led the eleven to Bethany, not far
from Jerusalem. While in the act of blessing them, Jesus was carried up to
heaven. Since Luke was once the first part of Luke-Acts, scholars surmise
that this Ascension, different from that in Acts, is from a different hand,
perhaps created when Luke-Acts was divided into Luke and Acts.
of the Apostles.[1:9-12] gives the third account of the Ascension. For forty
days after the Resurrection, Jesus continued to teach his followers. Jesus
and the eleven were gathered near Mount Olivet, to the northeast of Bethany.
Jesus tells his apostles that they will receive the power of the Holy Spirit,
the "Comforter," see also Paraclete, and that they will spread his
message the world over, i.e., the Great Commission. Jesus is taken up and
received by a cloud. Two men clothed in white (i.e., angels) appear and tell
the apostles that Jesus will return in the same manner as he was taken.
Even though these three accounts might
appear contradictory, the reader should keep in mind that the original Gospels
of Luke and Acts were both written by the same author and were thus very unlikely
to contain such glaring discrepancies in their original form.
After his suffering, he (Jesus) showed
himself to these men (the apostles) and gave many convincing proofs that he
was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about
the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave
them this command:
“Do not leave Jerusalem,
but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.
For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with
the Holy Spirit.”
So when they met together, they asked
him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
He said to them: “It is not
for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be
my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of
After he said this, he was taken up
before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
They were looking intently up into the
sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them.
“Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking
into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will
come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” Acts
Not only is the Ascension related in
the passages of Scripture cited above, but it is also elsewhere predicted and
spoken of as an established fact. Thus, Christ asks the Jews: "What if
then you shall see the Son of Man ascend up where He was before?"[Jn. 6:62],
and to Mary Magdalene he says: "Do not touch (translated "approach"
in the Aramaic) Me, for I am not yet ascended to My Father, but go to My brethren,
and say to them: I ascend to My Father and to your Father, to My God and to
your God." 20:17 In Acts,[2:30-33] Ephesians,[4:8-10] and 1 Timothy[3:16]
the Ascension of Christ is spoken of as an accepted fact.
The Gospel of Matthew ends[28:18-20]
at a mountain in Galilee with Jesus commanding the Disciples to spread the Gospel
to the ends of the world, baptizing in the name of the Father, the Son, and
the Holy Spirit (the "Great Commission"). No mention is made there
of the Ascension.
The Catholic and Orthodox traditional
view is that Mary was also present at the Ascension, following her mention in
Outside of the Biblical Canon, the Ascension
is discussed in the Pistis Sophia. Irenaeus in Against Heresies notes the Gnostic
view that the Ascension happened eighteen months after the Resurrection. The
apocryphal text known as the Apocryphon of James describes the teachings of
Jesus to James and Peter 550 days after the resurrection, but before the ascension,
suggesting an even longer period. The recently discovered Nag Hammadi Gospel
of Thomas, like the canonical Gospel of Matthew, does not mention the Ascension.