بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْم
Dawn of the Dead: The Gospel of Matthew and the Zombie Apocalypse
“And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many.” (Matthew 27:51–53).
While the so-called “Massacre of the Innocents” story in the Gospel of Matthew is most likely a gruesome myth, another story found only in the Gospel of Matthew is even so bizarre and imaginary, that it insults the intelligence of reasonable people. This story involves the amazing events that occurred after Jesus (peace be upon him) allegedly died on the cross, the most absurd being the resurrection of the bodies of “saints”, who rose from their graves and “appeared to many people” in Jerusalem. In this article, we will see why this story is not only a pious myth but one that is even more absurd than Matthew’s other myth, the “Massacre of the Innocents”, insha’Allah.
The Historicity of Matthew’s Zombie Apocalypse
Given the unlikelihood that no one noticed Herod’s act of infanticide during a census (according to Luke), it is even more unlikely that “saints” rose from their graves and were seen by many people. It is claimed by Matthew himself that there were many eyewitnesses! Also, this is yet another amazing incident that ONLY Matthew happens to mention. No other source, even in the New Testament (including Luke who, like Matthew, mentioned the curtain of the temple being torn after the crucifixion), let alone “extra-Biblical” sources, mentions this event. This is despite Matthew claiming that many people witnessed this event (thus, the Christians cannot claim that this event was simply “overlooked” because it happened in a small, insignificant town).
But as expected, the Christian apologists do just that, by trying to excuse the universal silence on Matthew’s “Walking Dead” story by claiming that it is an “argument from silence” and that it is “possible” that the incident was “overlooked”! Yet as with Herod’s “massacre of the innocents”, the Christian apologists do not seem to be familiar with the concept of probability. The problem for them is that Matthew’s zombie apocalypse would have occurred during the middle of Judaism’s biggest holiday: PASSOVER. Jerusalem, the site of the alleged event, would have been packed with people. The Gospel of John makes it a point to reiterate again and again that it was Passover. This was part of John’s theological goal of presenting Jesus as the Passover lamb. Thus, it is impossible that people witnessed the zombies (as Matthew says: “[they] appeared to many people”), and who would inevitably have told others, and yet somehow, the incident was “overlooked” by EVERY source from the time. At the very least, one would expect even a hint or a passing rumor of this fantastic incident in the historical source. But alas, we don’t even see that.
The interesting parallel between Matthew and Luke is that, as previously mentioned, both said that the temple curtain was torn in two. But they also both said that the land was covered with darkness from noon until 3 pm. But, for some unfathomable reason, Luke omitted the episode of the “walking dead”, either because he was completely unaware of it or he knew it was a made-up event! Not only that, but the 2 accounts do not even agree on the timing of the miraculous events. The table below shows the differences:
Table 1: Comparison of Matthew and Luke’s crucifixion miracles
We can see that Matthew and Luke agree up to the period of darkness but then diverge significantly. Matthew says the remarkable events (including the zombie episode) occurred immediately AFTER Jesus’ death, but Luke says only the temple curtain was torn AND that it occurred BEFORE Jesus’ death. Most significantly, Luke completely OMITS the zombie episode. Assuming that Luke was relying on an independent tradition (i.e., he wasn’t using Matthew), how is it possible that this separate story somehow overlooked the zombie episode, ESPECIALLY since it occurred during the Passover festival? How could a Christian tradition manage to overlook something as remarkable as the dead rising from their graves? Of course, if Luke did rely on Matthew, but as Matthew relied on Mark (and possibly the Q gospel) and made changes when he saw fit, it would seem that Luke did the same with Matthew. In other words, The educated Greek physician seems to have deliberately omitted the story of the zombie apocalypse. The only other possibility is that, if Luke was not using Matthew as a source, then he was just not aware of the story from either Mark or the Q gospel. This latter scenario would be virtually impossible if the dead “saints” really did rise from their graves around the year 32 CE.
There is another important point. Since a zombie apocalypse likely would not go unnoticed by historical sources, especially when thousands of potential eyewitnesses were allegedly present at the time, it is even more improbable that hundreds of Roman soldiers and officials witnessed the event and did not report it to their superiors. Multiple Roman officers testifying to such an event would have at least spurred an investigation. Both Matthew (27:54) and Luke (23:47) report that the “centurion” saw “what had happened”.
Figure 1: The late American actor Ernest Borgnine as the “centurion” in the 1977 movie “Jesus of Nazareth”
Surely, at least one of the Roman soldiers present would have told his superiors. Even if we assume that the centurion or other soldiers did report the incident, but that it was simply brushed aside and rejected as a delusion by the authorities, one would think that there would be at least some record of it, even if it was to refute it as a silly myth.
The reality is that Matthew’s stories, both the “massacre of the innocents” and the zombie apocalypse, were pious forgeries, and there is no reason for objective people to accept them solely on Matthew’s word. There is a reason why history is silent on these events, despite Matthew himself claiming there were thousands of eyewitnesses: THEY DID NOT HAPPEN. So, when Christian apologists try to save Matthew and his pious fictional fairy tales by claiming they were simply “overlooked” by THOUSANDS of people, they are insulting our intelligence. The burden of proof is on the Christians to prove these events did happen. Good luck! You’re going to need it!
This article has demonstrated that Matthew’s tale of miraculous resurrections after the alleged death of Jesus (peace be upon him) is, like his tale of Herod’s horrible act of infanticide, just pious fiction. It is not merely an “argument from silence” to point out that not one historical trace or hint exists of the dead “saints” rising from their graves and “appearing to many people”. Matthew himself tried to make it appear as authentic as he possibly could by claiming that many people saw the risen dead. Yet it stretches the limits of credulity to believe that the event was somehow lost in history and no corroborating evidence survived. In addition, Matthew’s version is different from Luke’s, with the latter seemingly unaware of the resurrection miracles, or he simply did not believe it and thus omitted the story. All in all, there is no good reason to believe Matthew and every good reason to relegate the story to the realm of fiction. Matthew’s story of the “Walking Dead” is about as real as George Romero’s stories of brain-hungry, cannibalistic zombies.
And Allah knows best!
 Roman chroniclers record alleged “miracles” occurring at the hands of the emperors, so it is not outside the realm of possibility that they would have heard of a miraculous event in a packed city during a Jewish holiday. For example, the Roman historian Suetonius recorded that the emperor Vespasian miraculous healed a blind man and a lame man with the help of the god Serapis:
“Vespasian as yet lacked prestige and a certain divinity, so to speak, since he was an unexpected and still new-made emperor; but these also were given him. A man of the people who was blind, and another who was lame, came to him together as he sat on the tribunal, begging for the help for their disorders which Serapis had promised in a dream; for the god declared that Vespasian would restore the eyes, if he would spit upon them, and give strength to the leg, if he would deign to touch it with his heel. Though he had hardly any faith that this could possibly succeed, and therefore shrank even from making the attempt, he was at last prevailed upon by his friends and tried both things in public before a large crowd; and with success. At this same time, by the direction of certain soothsayers, some vases of antique workmanship were dug up in a consecrated spot at Tegea in Arcadia and on them was an image very like Vespasian” (Suetonius, The Lives of the Caesars: The Life of Vespasian, 7:2–3, https://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/e/roman/texts/suetonius/12caesars/vespasian*.html).