Angels Who Saw It Happen

Throughout the Old Testament, the Tenakh, angels delivered messages and prophecies, dispensed judgements, provided protection and bore witness to special events – some of the Bible’s most profound events.

An “angel of the Lord” called out to Abraham in the mounts of Moriah to spare the life of his only son, Isaac, followed by delivering a blessing to Abraham and his descendants.[1] Abraham became the patriarch of Judaism, Islam and Christianity.

Balaam’s donkey was blocked by an “angel of the Lord” when he attempted to go to King Balek on his own volition rather than first waiting to see if the King summonsed him. While Balaam was allowed to proceed with meeting Balek, the angel commanded Balaam to only say to the King what God instructed him to say. Concluding his dealings with Balek who wanted a curse placed on the Hebrews, Balaam instead prophesied that a future star would shoot out from Jacob and a scepter would arise from Israel.[2]

Judgement was dispensed by an “angel of the Lord” for King David’s sin of failing to have faith in God’s promise of protection by enumerating the warriors, the strength of his army.[3] To obtain forgiveness for his sin, at the direction of Gad the prophet, David built an alter and offered a sacrifice on Mount Moriah where, by royal command, it would become the future location of the Temple.[4]

Mouths of the lions were shut by “His angel” protecting Daniel when King Darius had him thrown into the lion’s den.[5] Later, the angel Gabriel interpreted for Daniel’s vision of the 70-week end-time prophecy.[6]

Gabriel would again appear hundreds of years later in the Gospels. First, the messenger of God appeared to the priest Zechariah in the Temple to announce that his wife, Elizabeth, would bear a son to be named John.[7] Their son would later become known as John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus.[8]

LK 1:18 Zechariah said to the angel, “How can I be sure of this? For I am an old man, and my wife is old as well.” The angel answered him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news.”

Six months later, Gabriel appeared to Mary announcing, “And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus.” [9] Joseph was unaware of God’s message to Mary and considered divorcing her for infidelity. Before Joseph arrived at a final decision, “an angel of the Lord” appeared to Joseph in a dream informing him that Mary’s conception was from God to fulfill a prophecy, not by another man.[10]

Shepherds in the field outside of Bethlehem were visited by an “angel of the Lord” whose appearance shone around him. His presence “terrified” the shepherds, translated from the Greek word phobeo – they were so scared by the appearance of the angel they wanted to flee.[11]

Attempting to calm the shepherds, the angel told them not to be afraid because he was bringing good news and great joy for everyone:  “for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”[12]

Validating his message, the angel instructed the shepherds to go into Bethlehem where they would find the baby wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger. Obvious to the shepherds, finding a newborn baby in a stable lying in a manger was very specific – what are the odds of finding more than one newborn baby in a stable lying in a manger?

As their minds whirled from this sudden, unexpected angelic encounter, a host of angels appeared in the sky. “Host” is translated from the Greek word stratia meaning a vast number of troops; a number so great it is likened to the countless number of stars in the sky.[13] In the largest angelic appearance in the Bible, angels praised God, “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”[14]

Two men in dazzling clothes, according to the initial empty tomb encounter chronicled in Luke, witnessed the Resurrection of Jesus. Matthew and Mark only describe the one angel who spoke to the women at the tomb whereas Luke does not identify which of the two angels spoke to the women.[15]

Confirming two angels appeared at the empty tomb is the witness statement of Cloepas who also used a plural reference indicating more than one angel. Interestingly, Jewish Law required two witnesses to establish a legal fact.[16]

Written by the same author of Luke, the Book of Acts describes two men dressed in brilliant white clothing appearing to the witnesses from Galilee who were fixated on seeing Jesus rise from the ground into the clouds.[17] The two men are described in very similar terms as the angels at the empty tomb. As such, many Bible experts consider these two individuals at the Ascension to be angels, perhaps even the same angels who were at the empty tomb.[18]

In both instances – Resurrection and Ascension – the angels asked the witnesses why they marveled at what they were seeing? Reflected in their questions, the angels seemed to be puzzled by the human reactions at what the angel’s regarded as not all at surprising to them:

LK 24:4-5 While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.” (NRSV)

Acts 1:10-11 While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” (NRSV)

If angels witnessed and participated in key events prior to the Gospels, does it then make sense that they would be heavenly witnesses to the Resurrection and Ascension described in the New Testament?


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[1] Genesis 22:11-12, 15-18.
[2] Numbers 22:15 – 24:19. Commentary. 2020. <>
[3] I Chronicles 21:1-30. 2 Samuel 24:10-17.
[4] I Chronicles 22:1.
[5] Daniel 6:19-21.
[6] Daniel 9:20-23. CR Daniel 8:15-18.
[7] Luke 1:8-21.
[8] Luke 1:17; John 3:28.
[9] Luke 1:26-38.  NRSV – Luke 1:31.
[10] Matthew 1:20.
[11] “phobeo <5399> Luke 2:9. Greek Text. <>
[12] Luke 2:11. NASB.
[13] “stratia” <4756> Luke 2:13. Greek Text. <>
[14] Luke 2:14. NKJV.
[15] Matthew 28:5; Mark 16:5; Luke 24:4.
[16] Deuteronomy 17:6; 19:15; Luke 24:4-7; John 20:2, 13. CR Matthew 28:2-8; Mark 16:5-7;
[17] Acts 1:10-11.
[18] Commentary. Acts 1. 2020. <> “Ascension.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2020. <>

John, the Eyewitness Gospel

Gospel of John, disputed by few religious critics an eyewitness account, was written independently of the three Synoptic Gospels.[1]As with the other three Gospels, the author does not specifically identify himself. One reason why is the Jewish literary protocol of that era not to pen a name to literary works.[2]

Oldest of the fragments of the Gospel of John are dated to 125 AD, possibly from the original manuscript text.[3] The Gospel account is believed to have been written when John was in his 90s, a few short years before he died in approximately 100 AD.[4]

Some assert that the Disciple John, aka Apostle John, was not the actual author, rather someone else wrote it for him.[5] If indeed that is the case, advanced age may have required someone else to write on his behalf. Nonetheless, written or dictated, the account reflects intimate knowledge of someone who was there.

Writing “Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book;” consequently, there should be no such expectation.[6] Still, some critics use John’s omission of events otherwise referenced in the three Synoptic Gospels as evidence to challenge the credibility of his Gospel.[7]

Identifying himself as a Disciple, the list of possibilities for authorship is limited to eleven Disciples. Investigating the accounts of Matthew, Mark and Luke provides important insights. Narrowing the possibilities to the inner circle of Jesus – Peter, James and John – they were the only three Disciples chosen by Jesus to be with him during the Transfiguration and his final prayer on the Mount of Olives.[8]

James was executed decades before John’s Gospel was written excluding him as a possibility.[9] Peter is ruled out when he is identified as the one who motioned to the Disciple author leaning on the chest of Jesus to ask for more details about who would be the betrayer among them. Investigation thus reveals John is the Disciple author of the Gospel.[10]

Characteristics of an eyewitness statement provides a second validation to John as an eyewitness author of the Gospel. A credible eyewitness statement, as opposed to an investigative report, is expected to begin when the witness became engaged; typically written chronologically as memory recall dictates; makes references to specific dates and times, locations and names; and may include quotes.[11]

Events in the Gospel begin with John the Baptist shortly before John was called by Jesus to become a Disciple. After setting a pretext scenario, the Resurrection morning events begin at the point when Mary Magdalene and other women burst into the room telling John and Peter what they had seen and heard at the empty tomb. The Gospel ends with a detailed encounter and breakfast with the resurrected Jesus on Sea of Tiberias shore.

Instead of writing about himself, John provided an account of how Andrew, Peter, Philip and Nathaniel became Disciples.[12] Chronologically written, the Gospel marks the sequence of events using the Feasts in Jerusalem, important to a Jewish audience.[13] Compared to the parallel Jewish writing styl e of Matthew, Mark and Luke, obviously there are going to be chronological timeline differences.[14]

Beginning the ministry of Jesus, John writes “the Passover of the Jews was near.”[15] Next marking the midpoint, “Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near.”[16] The Gospel account moves into the final phase with “Now it was the Preparation Day of the Passover.”[17] Times of day, in some instances the very hour, are pinpointed in John’s account.[18]

Locations are so frequent in such detail, it is easy to map the journey of Jesus throughout his ministry. Obscure locations are named, “Aenon near Salim and a “Samaritan town called Sychar” as well as places near Jerusalem, “the Kidron Valley,” the “Mount of Olives” and .[19] Precise locations within Jerusalem are identified, the “Sheep Gate a pool called Bethzatha in Aramaic,” “The Stone Pavement” (Gabbatha in Aramaic) and “the Roman governor’s residence” of Pilate.[20]

“Cana in Galilee” is named three times, first where Jesus turned the water to wine and is identified as the hometown of Disciple Nathanael.[21] Bethany is cited as the hometown of the siblings Mary, Martha and Lazarus as well as a place where John baptized.[22]

Personal names are many, the first offering yet another validation to the identify of the Gospel’s author because John is never called, “John the Baptist” – there was only need to identify one “John.”[23] Some Disciples were identified as Andrew, Simon Peter, Philip, Nathanael, Thomas and ”Judas (not Judas Iscariot).[24] Named also are two Pharisee members of the ruling Jewish council Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea; adversaries Caiaphas, Annas, and Pilate;” and other followers of Jesus, Mary the wife of Clopas, Mary Magdalene and the siblings Mary, Martha and Lazarus.[25]

Quotes appear throughout the account; Nicodemus said, “you are a teacher who has come from God.”[26] Martha said to Jesus about her brother, Lazarus, “I know that whatever you ask from God, God will grant you.”[27] Mary Madelene’s exclamation to Peter and John, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”[28]

Doubting Disciple Thomas said, “Unless I see the wounds from the nails in his hands, and put my finger into the wounds from the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will never believe it!” Days later his excited utterance is quoted upon seeing and touching the resurrected Jesus, “My Lord and my God!”[29] Disciple Peter said “I will lay down my life for you!”[30] The author himself writes of his encounter with the resurrected Jesus at the Sea of Galilee, “It is the Lord!”[31]

Providing specific details strongly suggest the author observed these things himself. Miraculously changing the water to wine, not just a small jug of water, rather “six stone waterpots…containing twenty or thirty gallons each.”[32] “Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard” and anointed the feet of Jesus.[33] Critics asked, “Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?”[34]

After Judas exited the Passover meal, the Last Supper, four chapters describe teaching and admonitions of Jesus that are unique. Jesus foretells of Peter denying him three times before the cock crows that next morning; the coming of the Holy Spirit; the vine and the branches, and prayers for his Disciples and believers.[35]

On the Mount of Olives, “Simon Peter then, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear; and the slave’s name was Malchus.” Not just an ear, it was the right ear of a slave named Malchus.[36]

Describing the crucifixion, “bearing His cross, went out to a place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha, where they crucified Him, and two others with Him, one on either side, and Jesus in the center.”[37] Crucifixion witnesses were identified as the mother of Jesus (Mary), her sister (Salome, mother of John), Mary the wife of Clopas, Mary Magdalene and the Disciple author himself to whom Jesus spoke, “Behold your mother!”[38]

An indication of death, according to medical experts, “one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out.”[39] After the crucifixion, “Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid.”[40]

Words of an eyewitness to the final three years of Jesus of Nazareth, John’s wrote:

“…he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you may believe.”[41]



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[1] “Gospel of John.” Encyclopedia of biblical Christianity.  n.d.  <>  “The Book of John.” Quartz Hill School of Theology. n.d.  <>  Smith, Barry D. “The Gospel of John.” Crandall University. n.d. <> “Crucifixion.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <>
[2] Hoffe , Peter Charles.  “Plagiarism.” University of Massachusetts  Amherst. 2013. <>
[3] Rylands, John. “P52: A Fragment of the Gospel of John (a.k.a. John Rylands P457).” Trans. K. C. Hanson. 2004. <>
[4] “St. John the Apostle.” Catholic News Agency. n.d. <>   “John the Apostle.” TheFamousPeople. n.d. <> “Gospel of John.”
[5] Smith, Barry D. “The Gospel of John.” “The Book of John.” Quartz Hill School of Theology. “Gospel of John.” “Gospel of John Commentary: Who Wrote the Gospel of John and How Historical Is It?” Biblical Archeology Society. 2019.>
[6] John 20:30. NASB, NKJV.
[7] Smith, B. D. “The Gospel of John.” F. 5.3.
[8] Matthew 17:1; 26:36; Mark 1:29; 5:37; 9:2; 14:33; Luke 8:51; 9:28; 22:8; John 13:23-25.
[9] Acts. 2:12. “St. James.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2020. <>
[10] John 13:23-25.
[11] Sapir Avinoam.  LSI Laboratory for Scientific Interrogation. <>   
[12] John 1:40-51.  CR Matthew 4:12-22; Mark 1:19-20; Luke 5:9-11.
[13] Fonck, Leopold. “Gospel of St. John.” The Catholic Encyclopedia.Vol. 8. 1910. New Advent. 2014.  <>  “The Book of John.” Quartz Hill School of Theology.  Smith, Barry D. “The Gospel of John.”
[14] Smith, Ben C. “Gospel manuscripts – The manuscripts extant for the four canonical gospels.” 2018. <> “Synoptic Gospels.”  Gloag, Paton J. Introduction to the Synoptic Gospels. pp 5, 9, 23-38. 1895. <> “The Book of Matthew.” Quartz Hill School of Theology. Mareghni, Pamela.  “Different Approaches to Literary Criticism.” 2014. <>  “Gospel of John.”
[15] John 2:13. NASB, NRSV.  CR John 4:45.
[16] John 6:4. NASB, NRSV. 
[17] John 19:14. NASB, NKJV.
[18] John 1:39; 6:16, 17; 19:14, 31, 42: 20:1, 19.
[19] John 3:23; 4:5. 8:1; 18:1. NET.
[20] John 5:2; 18:28; 19:13. NET.
[21] John 4:43; 5:2.
[22] John 1:28; 11:1, 17, 18; 12:1, 9.
[23] John 1:19.
[24] John 1:40, 42-45; 6:8; 11:14; 14:22; 20:24; 21:2.
[25] John 3:1; 11:1, 49; 18:10, 13-14, 28, 33, 38; 19:25, 38; 20:1.
[26] John 3:1.
[27] John 11:21.
[28] John 20:22.
[29] John 20:25, 28. NET.
[30] John 13:37.
[31] John 21:7.
[32] John 2:6. NASB.
[33] John 12:3. NKJV.
[34] John 12:5. NKJV.
[35] John 13:38; 14:26; 15; 16; 17.
[36] John 18:10. NASB.
[37] John 19:16-18. NJKV.
[38] John 19:27. NKJV.  CR Matthew 27:36.
[39] John 19:34. NASB, NKJV. “A doctor on why “blood and water” gushed from Jesus’ heart.” 2019. <>  Treloar, Adrian. “The Medicine of the Crucifixion.” Catholic Medical Quarterly. 2011. <>
[40] John 19:41. NASB, NKJV.
[41] John 19:35. NKJV.



Sanhedrin Insiders – Nicodemus or Joseph of Arimathea?

One of the mysteries of the Gospels is how the authors gained knowledge of inner workings of the Jewish Council. Two possibilities were Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea – actual ruling members of the Sanhedrin’s Jewish Council.[1]

Early on, Nicodemus wanted to learn more about this new celebrity, Jesus of Nazareth. With his stature in the Jewish Council, it seemed to open the door to set up a meeting with Jesus. Great caution was necessary with Jesus being the archenemy of the Council, where exposure of their meeting could have dire consequences.

Taking the big risk, they agreed to a secret night-time meeting. An unofficial summit, so to speak, where one of the rulers of the Jewish Council, Nicodemus, met clandestinely with the leader of its archnemesis, Jesus of Nazareth.

Miracles performed by Jesus rang an element of truth with Nicodemus asking, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no-one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.”[2]

It was the response that completely threw Nicodemus when Jesus said, “unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Incredulous, Nicodemus asked, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?”[3]

For a Pharisee who prided himself for righteously following the letter of the Law, a single act, to be born again was an entirely foreign concept. It was completely contrary to Judaism’s beliefs which does not provide a clear path to the afterlife.[4] Pulled from a webpage header: “We Don’t Know, So Must Make Our Lives Count.”[5]

Jesus continued, “What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit.”[6] Explaining further led to the most famous quote of Jesus in all the Gospels, often seen on signs and T-shirts at major sporting events and the name of a song by country music superstar, Keith Urban, “John 3:16”:[7]

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (NKJV)

Next in the Gospels came another incident involving Nicodemus, a confidential meeting among the Jewish Council members themselves. The scenario would not otherwise be known unless someone who was present during the private meeting divulged the details to John.

Sanhedrin officers had been sent to listen to Jesus hopefully teaching heresies, then bring him back to the chief priests and Pharisees. When the officers returned empty-handed, the Council authorities were baffled and asked, “Why didn’t you bring him back with you?” The officers responded, “No one ever spoke like this man!”[8]

Nicodemus asked his fellow Sanhedrin peers, “Does our law judge a man before it hears him and knows what he is doing?”[9] For asking this, they mocked Nicodemus, “Surely you are not also from Galilee, are you? Search and you will see that no prophet is to arise from Galilee.”[10]

At the crucifixion scene of Jesus another Sanhedrin Pharisee is introduced, Joseph of Arimathea, a Judean town.[11] Joseph is identified as a rich man, a prominent member of the Sanhedrin Council and a follower of Jesus.[12]

Joseph appears in all four Gospel accounts in the scene when Jesus hung dead on the cross. Taking great courage to overcome his fear of both the Sanhedrin and the fearsome Roman ruler who ordered Jesus to be crucified, Joseph approached Pilate to ask for the body.[13]

Arriving at Pilate’s headquarters before the execution squad Centurion’s report, Pilate was surprised to hear Jesus was already dead.[14] Pilate first wanted confirmation from the Centurion that Jesus was, in fact, dead.[15]

Forced to wait for a decision, it was no doubt nerve-wracking – a despised Jew waiting in the Roman government local headquarters. Upon confirmation from the Centurion, Pilate granted the body of Jesus to Joseph.[16] Knowledge of these distinctive details were limited only to the Romans present with Pilate and Joseph.

Back at the Golgotha crucifixion scene, Joseph claimed the body from the Roman quaternion. He was joined by none other than Nicodemus who brought 75 pounds of burial spices, a mixture of myrrh and aloes – very specific details.[17] Together, the two Pharisee Council rulers carried the body of Jesus to the nearby unused tomb owned by Joseph where they wrapped the body in linens with the burial spices according to Jewish custom.[18]

In the next phase of the Gospel accounts, the Resurrection, neither Nicodemus nor Joseph are mentioned again, but they are still part of the story. As rulers within the Jewish Council, if not present, they were at least aware the Council again approached Pilate the next day on the Sabbath.[19] It was again a meeting with only the Romans, namely Pilate with his staff, and the Jewish leaders in attendance – none of the followers of Jesus were present.

Affirming to Pilate that Jesus was dead and buried, the Jewish authorities requested a means to secure the tomb to protect against theft of the body by followers of Jesus. To convince Pilate, they had to acknowledge Jesus prophesied he would rise from the dead after 3 days.[20] Pilate seemed annoyed by yet another meeting with the Jews and told them to secure the tomb as best they could.

No one had informed the followers of Jesus about the joint Roman-Jewish security actions. The exclusivity of the information is demonstrated by the women of Galilee who planned to go to the tomb at sunrise after the Sabbath hoping they could gain access to the body of Jesus. They wondered if anyone would be there to help roll away the stone from the entrance.[21]

How did the Gospel authors obtain insider information on the Jewish Council plans to trap and kill Jesus, their conversations, quotes from the Sanhedrin trial of Jesus, their request of Pilate to secure the tomb, and the chief priest’s response to the koustodia’s report of the missing body of Jesus? At least one insider or more within the Jewish Council had to be the source or sources of this information.

As ruling authorities within the Sanhedrin Jewish Council, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea were privy to the inner workings of the Jewish leadership. Each was called out by name in the Gospels. John, the eyewitness author, even quoted Nicodemus.[22] Was the insider source one of them, maybe both or perhaps someone else?

Insider information of the Jewish Council, if true, lends significant credibility to the truthfulness of the Gospels. One key consideration goes unstated making it a fact of silence – the Jewish Council did not deny the statements or actions of Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea as written in the publicly distributed Gospels.


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[1] John 12:42. John 3:1. Greek text. 2020. <> “archon <758>” 2020. <>  Mark 15:43; Luke 23:50. Greek text. <> “bouleutes <1010> 2020. <>
[2] John 3:2. NIV.
[3] John 3:4. NRSV.
[4] Josephus, Flavius. Wars of the Jews. Book II, Chapter VIII.14. Trans. and commentary. William Whitson. The Complete Works of Josephus. 1850. <> Moffic, Evan. “Do Jews Believe in an Afterlife?” 2020. <>  Gilad, Elon. “What Is the Jewish Afterlife Like?” 2019. <>
[5] Rose, Or N. “Heaven and Hell in Jewish Tradition.” 2020. <>
[6] John 3:6. NET.
[7] Rossen, Jake. “The Unbelievable Life of the ‘John 3:16’ Sports Guy.” 2017. <,%2C%20but%20have%20everlasting%20life.%E2%80%9D>  Urban, Keith. “Keith Urban – John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16 (Official Music Video).” 2015.<>
[8] Luke 7:45. NET.
[9] John 7:51. NKJV.
[10] John 7:52. NSRV.
[11] Luke 23:51.
[12] Matthew 27:57, Mark 15:43, Luke 23:50-52, John 19:38. Mark 15:43. Footnote #1. <> Luke 23:50. Footnote #2. <>
[13] Matthew 27:58-59; Mark 15:43; Luke 23:51-52; John 19:38.
[14] Mark 15:44.
[15] Mark 15;44-45.
[16] Luke 23:51.
[17] Matthew 27:33; Mark 15:22; John 19:17-19, 39. CR Luk3 23:33.
[18] Matthew 27:57; John 19:40-42.
[19] Matthew 27:62-66; Luke 23:54; John 19:42.
[20] Matthew 27:62-27.
[21] Mark 16:3.
[22] John 3:1, 4, 9; 7:50, 19:39.