resurrection-33People are sometimes confused by the differences in the Gospels’ infancy narratives and their resurrection narratives. Sometimes it is claimed that they contradict each other.

I’ve already written about how the infancy narratives fit together. You can read that here.

Now I’d like to show how the Gospels’ resurrection narratives fit together, not only with each other but also with information about this period from Acts and 1 Corinthians.

When I first began studying this issue, I was startled by how easily the resurrection narratives fit together.

To see how this happens, one needs to bear in mind a few aspects of the way the Evangelists wrote, because the ancient Greek genre of a bios (“life”) worked differently than a modern biography.

In particular, it is important to note that the Evangelists had the freedom to:

  1. Choose which details they will record or omit
  2. Choose the order in which to present events
  3. Present things Jesus said on different occasions in a single, particular location in their work
  4. Reconstruct scenes to make implications clear

In what follows, we will use the material from the Gospels after Jesus has been buried. We will also deal with material from the beginning of Acts and from 1 Corinthians 15.

One passage of special note is the longer endings of Mark. The original narrative of Mark cuts off at Mark 16:8. Whether Mark stopped writing at this point or whether he composed an ending which has been lost is debated by scholars.

However, it is generally agreed that the material which follows (Mark 16:9-20) was composed afterwards—either by Mark or by another author. We will refer to it as the longer ending of Mark. Even if it was not produced by Mark’s hand, it represents traditions about Jesus that were of very early date and in circulation in the first century Christian community.


1) Securing the Tomb (Matt. 27:62-66)

Matthew records that, after Jesus was buried, the chief priests and Pharisees went to Pilate and asked for a guard to be posted at the tomb. This is an event recorded only by Matthew, and it does not contradict anything contained in the other accounts, which simply do not mention it.

This is not a problem, because the Evangelists were free to choose which traditions about Jesus they included in their accounts. The sheer number of traditions made it impossible to include them all—a point that John makes explicitly (see John 21:25).


2) The Moved Stone (Matt. 28:1-4, Mark 16:1-5, Luke 24:1-4, John 20:1)

All four Evangelists record that, after the Sabbath, on the first day of the week, certain women went to the tomb.

Matthew says it was “toward dawn” (Matt. 28:1), Mark says it was “very early . . . when the sun had risen” (Mark 16:2), Luke says it was “at early dawn” (Luke 24:1), and John says it was “while it was still dark” (John 20:1). This last statement need not mean it was completely dark, just that it wasn’t full daylight yet.

These all point to the same basic time of day, and it is likely that the women left before dawn and that the sun came up while they were involved in this effort.

All four Evangelists mention Mary Magdalene as being among the women (Matt. 28:1, Mark 16:1, Luke 24:10, John 20:1). Matthew adds that “the other Mary” was there (Matt. 28:1). This person seems to be identified in Mark and Luke as “Mary the mother of James” (Mark 16:1, Luke 24:10). Mark also adds that Salome was there (Mark 16:1), and Luke adds that Joanna and “the other women with them” were present (Luke 24:10).

There is no contradiction involved in the variation regarding which women are mentioned as being present, per the principle that the Evangelists can choose which details they will record.

We can conjecture why each Evangelist mentioned the particular women he did. For example, Richard Bauckham has pointed out that named people in the Gospels often indicate the bearers of the traditions that were drawn on by the Evangelists (see his book, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses), and so it may be that the named women were ones whose traditions of the event were used by the respective Evangelists. (After all, no men were there.)

Literary concerns may also be involved. For example, John mentions only Mary Magdalene, and it may be because he wants to keep his narrative streamlined, simple, and focused on her, because he is going to record information from her that is not preserved by the other Evangelists.

Mark and Luke mention that the women brought spices for the body (Mark 16:1, Luke 24:1).

Mark also records that the women were trying to figure out who would roll the stone away from the tomb for them (Mark 16:3).

We now come to one of the points where many people wonder how to reconcile the Gospels. According to Matthew, “there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone, and sat upon it” (Matt. 28:2), but the other three Evangelists say that the women saw that the stone was rolled back (Mark 16:4, Luke 24:2, John 20:1).

There is certainly a difference in how Matthew describes this event compared to the other three, but before we seek to explain it, we should note that the other three do mention there being angels involved (Mark 16:5, Luke 24:4, John 20:12). This will be important to understanding the reason that Matthew recounts the incident in the way he does.

All four Evangelists also describe the angels in similar terms. Matthew says his angel’s appearance was “like lightning” (i.e., dazzling) and his clothes were white as snow (Matt. 28:3). Mark says the angel wore a white robe (Mark 16:5). Luke says there were two angels “in dazzling apparel” (Luke 24:4). And John says they were “in white” (John 20:12).

All four also mention the angels’ posture. Matthew says his angel sat on the rock outside the tomb (Matt. 28:2). Mark says he sat inside the tomb, on the right side (Mark 16:5). Luke says they stood by (Luke 24:4). And John says they sat in the tomb where the body of Jesus had lain, “one at the head and one at the feet” (John 20:12).

We thus see considerable convergence among all the Evangelists. They all agree that the stone was moved back and that there was at least one angel in white/dazzling clothes there.

The differences in the descriptions are minor and concern whether the angel was seen rolling away the stone, whether there was one or two angels, whether he/they were seated or standing, and—if seated—where.

All of these details fall within the liberty that the Evangelists have in how they record events. For a start, Matthew and Mark may have chosen to mention only one of the two angels to simplify their narratives.

The angels may have sat during part of the encounter (as in Matthew, Mark, and John) and also stood (as in Luke). More likely, the angels may have sat inside the tomb (as in Mark and John), while Matthew depicted the angel sitting outside as part of his reconstruction of the scene (see below), and Luke simply recorded them being present, without meaning to imply a particular posture (the Greek verb—ephistēmi—can mean “to be present” or even “to appear”).

It is also worth noting that Mark’s description of the angel sitting on the right and John’s description of the angels sitting at the head and foot of where Jesus lay are compatible. In fact, if you enter the tomb at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, the place where Jesus lay is on the right, and the angels could have sat at its head and foot.

The most significant difference in the accounts is between Matthew’s presentation of the angel rolling away the stone and the other Evangelists’ presentation of the stone as already being rolled away when the women arrive.

Matthew’s statement (“And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone, and sat upon it,” v. 2) could be taken to mean that the angel descended in front of the women but that the events of vv. 2-4 occurred while they were going to the tomb, and the angel did not interact with the women until they arrived in v. 5. While this reading is possible, it is unlikely in view of Matthew’s statement that the angel sat on the stone, which seems to suggest the women as witnesses of his descent.

Since Matthew used Mark and therefore had read Mark’s account of the tomb being found already open, his sequencing events is likely due to literary reasons to make the implications of the event clearer to readers: Someone rolled away the stone, and the other Evangelists do not record who.

Matthew describes the incident the way he does to make it clear that it was not any ordinary, human agency that moved the stone. Neither did Jesus do so (he was already gone). Instead, the stone was moved by angelic agency, specifically to allow the women access to the tomb.

Matthew thus depicts this happening to make what is implicit in the other Gospels clear to the reader. (This is similar to the way that Matthew reconstructs the account of the Centurion’s Servant to make it clear that Jesus and the Centurion were the prime actors, not the intermediaries recorded by Luke; see Matt. 8:5-13, Luke 7:1-10). Having reconstructed the scene thus, Matthew then records the angel sitting on the stone.

Having already mentioned the presence of the tomb guards (Matt. 27:62-66), Matthew now (Matt. 28:4) records their fainting in reaction to the arrival of the angel and the moving of the stone (even if, chronologically, this happened before the women arrived).


3) Peter at the Tomb (Luke 24:12, John 20:2-10)

Both Luke and John record a visit by Peter to the tomb. John’s account, which is much longer, records significantly more detail. The most notable additional detail is the presence of the beloved disciple, from whose viewpoint the incident is recounted. The absence of the beloved disciple from Luke’s version is accounted for by the Evangelists’ freedom to choose which details to include.

The other significant difference is the fact that, in John’s account, the visit to the tomb occurs before any of the women have met the angels. In his version, as soon as the empty tomb is discovered, Mary Magdalene—thinking that Jesus’ body has been stolen—runs and informs Peter and the beloved disciple, who then rush to the tomb to investigate.

In Luke’s account, however, Peter’s visit occurs after the women have seen the angels and reported their message.

The difference is accounted for by the Evangelists’ freedom to choose the order in which the material is presented.

Because of John’s interest in exact chronology elsewhere in his Gospel, and because he is giving eyewitness testimony, it is probable that his version of the event is the chronologically exact one. Luke places the visit to the tomb later either for literary reasons or simply because he knew the tradition of Peter visiting the tomb but did not know or wasn’t sure where in the sequence it occurred.

Another, very minor difference in the accounts is that in Luke Peter stoops and looks into the tomb, seeing the discarded grave clothes, while in John he enters the tomb. The omission of Peter’s entry into the tomb may be caused by Luke having a lack of specific details about the event: He knew Peter went there, he knew Peter saw the grave clothes in the tomb, and he knew Peter went home, but he may not have known that Peter actually entered the tomb.

Both Luke and John record the need to stoop to see or enter the tomb (Luke 24:12, John 20:5, 11), suggesting an authentic tradition of the tomb’s physical structure.

Both Evangelists also record a confusion or lack of faith in connection with this incident. Luke records that Peter went home, “wondering what had happened” (Luke 24:12), and John remarks that the disciples “did not know the scripture, that he must rise from the dead” (John 20:9).

(John also says that the beloved disciple “saw and believed” at this point; John 20:8; this is usually taken to mean that the beloved disciple came to faith earlier than the other disciples; alternately, it may mean that he had a kind of incipient faith but did not fully understand or simply that he believed Mary Magdalene that the body was gone.)


4) The Angelic Message (Matt. 28:5-8, Mark 16:6-8, Luke 24:5-8, John 20:11-13)

All four Evangelists record the angel(s) giving a message to the women:

  • Luke reports that the women were terrified and bowed low (Luke 24:5a)
  • In Matthew, the angel tells the women not to be afraid (Matt. 28:5a), while in Mark he tells them not to be amazed (Mark 16:6a).
  • In Matthew and Mark the angel says that he knows the women are seeking Jesus, who was crucified (Matt. 28:5b, Mark 16:6b).
  • Luke says the angels asked why the women were seeking the living among the dead (Luke 25:5b).
  • All three Synoptic Evangelists report the angel(s) saying, “He is not here” and “He is risen” (Matt. 28:6a, Mark 16:6c, Luke 25:5c).
  • Matthew and Mark then record the angel inviting them to see where Jesus lay (Matt. 28:6b, Mark 16:6d).
  • Luke records the angels reminding them that, when he was in Galilee, Jesus had predicted his crucifixion and resurrection (Luke 24:6-7). He also records the women remembering this (Luke 24:8).
  • Matthew and Luke record the angel instructing the women to go and tell the disciples (Matt. 28:7a, Mark 16:7a; Mark mentions Peter in particular).
  • In Matthew, the angel says to inform the disciples that Jesus has risen (Matt. 28:7b).
  • In both Matthew and Mark, the angel says to tell the disciples that Jesus is going before them to Galilee, where they will see him (Matt. 28:7c, Mark 16:7b).
  • All three Synoptic Evangelists then report the women leaving to tell the disciples (Matt. 28:8, Mark 16:8, Luke 24:9). (NOTE: In Mark’s version, v. 8 ends saying that the women didn’t say anything to anyone because they were afraid. It is at this point that the original version of Mark breaks off. However, given what the women were told and what the reader knows about what happened next, this certainly means that they didn’t say anything to anyone while they were on their way to the disciples. They were not disobeying the angel; they were leaving to fulfill his instructions. They simply weren’t joyously announcing the news to passers-by as they went.)

All of these variations are within the Evangelists’ freedom to paraphrase and choose which details to record. They are clearly different accounts of the same event.

John’s account of the angelic message is significantly different, and it is the briefest. In his version, the angels ask Mary Magdalene why she is weeping, and she replies that she does not know where Jesus’ body has been taken (John 20:13). He does not preserve further interaction with them.

The reason is likely twofold: First, John expects the reader to already know the Synoptic tradition (as illustrated by the fact that he seems to have built his Gospel to interlock with the outline of Mark’s Gospel; see Richard Bauckham, “John for Readers of Mark” in The Gospels for All Christians). He thus doesn’t feel the need to repeat everything that was said.

Second, John is setting up Mary’s unexpected meeting with Jesus himself, and to convey the emotional force of this in literary terms, he transitions from the briefest account of her interaction with the angels to her unexpected, face-to-face encounter Jesus.

My assumption, in this and each of the encounters involving the women, is that they were all present, though sometimes only Mary Magdalene is mentioned because she was the major preserver of the tradition that the evangelists drew on since they weren’t there for the encounter.


5) Meeting Jesus (Matt. 28:9-10, Mark 16:9, John 20:14-17)

Matthew, John, and the longer ending to Mark record that, after the angelic encounter, Jesus himself appeared.

In John and the longer ending of Mark, it is to Mary Magdalene that Jesus appears (John 20:14, Mark 16:9). In Matthew, it is the same women who went to the tomb (Matt. 28:9).

The longer ending of Mark does not preserve any information about what happened during this encounter.

John’s account, which is lengthy, includes significant interaction with Mary Magdalene.

In Matthew’s version, the women take hold of Jesus’ feet and worship him (Matt. 28:9), while in John, Jesus tells Mary not to hold him (John 20:17).

In both Matthew and John, Jesus tells the women/Mary Magdalene to deliver a message to the disciples (Matt. 28:10, John 20:17). In Matthew the message is to go to Galilee, where they will see him. In John it is that he will be ascending to the Father.

While the Gospels are in agreement about the occurrence of this encounter, its specific chronology is harder to pin down. Matthew gives the impression that the women first left the tomb and then Jesus appeared to them, including Mary Magdalene (cf. Matt. 28:1). John gives the impression that Mary (presumably with the other women still there) encountered Jesus at the tomb and then left.

It is possible that all the women except Mary Magdalene left the tomb and that Jesus appeared to both. However, this seems overly complex—particularly when the issue of touching or clinging to Jesus appears in both Matthew and John’s accounts.

John’s account is the most detailed—and certainly draws on traditions from Mary Magdalene herself. John is also demonstrably more interested in specific chronology than the other evangelists. Consequently, it seems probable that the picture presented by John reflects the specific chronology of what happened.


6) Explaining the Empty Tomb (Matt. 28:11-15)

Matthew reports that, while the women are on their way to the disciples, the guards from the tomb return to those who sent them and an explanation for the empty tomb is concocted.


7) Telling the Core Disciples (Mark 16:10-11, Luke 24:9-11, John 20:18)

Luke, John, and the longer ending of Mark report that Mary Magdalene/the women delivered the message to the disciples in a body (Mark 16:10, Luke 24:9, John 20:17).

Luke and the longer ending of Mark record that the message was not initially believed (Mark 16:11, Luke 24:11).


8) Jesus Appears to Two Disciples (Mark 16:12-13, Luke 24:13-35)

Both Luke and the longer ending of Mark record Jesus appearing to two disciples in the country, without them recognizing him.

Luke’s account is much more detailed, and the account in the longer ending of Mark may well be based on Luke’s version.

In Mark, Jesus is said to appear “in another form” (Mark 16:12), while in Luke it is said that “their eyes were kept from recognizing him” (Luke 24:16). These need not be understood in opposition, for appearing in another form would keep others’ eyes from recognizing one. (Alternately, the miracle may have been one of induced prosopagnosia, with the resulting effect of Jesus manifesting in another apparent form to them.)

Both accounts agree that, when Jesus manifested himself, the two disciples returned and told the others.

The longer ending of Mark says that “they did not believe them” (Mark 16:13), while in Luke the other disciples have already believed the message of the resurrection (Luke 24:34).

Even in Luke, however, it is clear that the issue of the resurrection is not fully settled in the disciples’ hearts, as the forthcoming appearance to the core disciples shows. This may be the reason that the longer ending of Mark reflects doubt on their part at this juncture.


9) Jesus Appears to Peter (Luke 24:34, 1 Cor. 15:5a)

At this point in the narrative, Jesus has appeared to various women and to individual disciples, but he has not yet appeared to the apostles as a group.

Both Luke and Paul indicate that, before Jesus appeared to the twelve, he appeared to Peter in particular.

We can’t know whether this appearance occurred before or after the appearance to the two disciples in the country (or whether it happened concurrently, since God’s power transcends space and time).

Assuming Jesus wasn’t bilocating, he presumably appeared to Peter either before he appeared on the road to Emmaus or while the two disciples were coming back from Emmaus.

Since Jesus was not still with Peter and the disciples when the two returned from Emmaus, it suggests that some time has passed. It therefore seems probable that this appearance occurred before the encounter on the road.


10) Jesus Appears to the Core Disciples (Mark 16:14, Luke 24:36-43, John 20:19-23, 1 Cor. 15:5b)

Luke and John report that Jesus appeared to the core disciples on the evening of the day he rose (Luke 24:29 with 24:36; John 20:19).

In both, Jesus greets the disciples by saying, “Peace to/be with you” (Luke 24:36, John 20:19).

Though Luke previously depicted the core disciples as having acknowledged the resurrection (Luke 24:34), when Jesus stands before them, he tells us that “they were startled and frightened, and supposed that they saw a spirit” (Luke 24:37).

Jesus assures them that he has risen bodily (Luke 24:39), and shows his hands and feet to them (Luke 24:40). In John, he shows them his hands and his side (John 20:20).

In Luke, Jesus also asks for something to eat, and he eats fish in their presence (Luke 24:41-43). (This may also be a reflection of the fish-eating scene by the Sea of Galilee in John 21:9-15; Luke may have placed the tradition here to avoid a reference to Galilee—see below—or because he knew it happened but wasn’t sure when.)

The longer ending of Mark also records that Jesus appeared to the eleven “as they sat at table” and reprimanded them for not believing the reports they had heard (Mark 16:14). This appears to refer to the same event. It may be based on Luke’s account.

In John, he imparts the Holy Spirit to them and commissions them to forgive and retain sins (John 20:21-23).

Paul refers to Jesus appearing to the twelve, but gives no other details about the event. Based on the sequencing of events in 1 Corinthians 15, it is likely this appearance that he refers to (see below).

In both longer-Mark and Paul’s case, “the eleven” and “the twelve” are used as customary ways of referring to the group of apostles, even though Judas Iscariot and Thomas were not there, as indicated elsewhere (Matt. 27:3-5, John 20:24).


11) The Encounter with Thomas (John 20:24-31)

John, uniquely, records that Thomas was not with the other disciples during the previous encounter, and he records that Thomas did not initially believe the other disciples’ report (John 20:25). However, “eight days later” (John 20:26), Thomas is with them, and Jesus invites him to inspect his wounds (John 20:27).


12) Encounter at the Sea of Galilee (John 21:1-25)

John records a subsequent encounter in Galilee on the Sea of Tiberias, during which Jesus (apparently) eats fish in the presence of the disciples (John 21:9-15).

This tradition may be reflected in Luke’s reference to him eating fish in his account of the evening appearance (Luke 24:41-43), in which case Luke likely knew the tradition of Jesus eating fish and placed it in the previous encounter since he knew they were at table on that occasion.


13) Appearance to Five Hundred Brethren (1 Cor. 15:6)

St. Paul depicts the appearance to five hundred as occurring after the appearance to the twelve and before the appearance to James. We do not know precisely when it occurred, but this is a reasonable place to locate it.


14) Appearance to James (1 Cor. 15:7a)

St. Paul indicates that the appearance to St. James the Just occurred after Jesus appeared to the five hundred brethren and before his appearance to “all the apostles.”

We do not know precisely when it occurred, but this is a reasonable place to locate it, particularly in view of the fact that the scene has shifted to Galilee, where Jesus’ brothers presumably lived at this time (not yet having become believers; cf. John 7:5; and not yet having come to live in Jerusalem; cf. Acts 15:13).


15) Jesus’ Evangelistic Instructions (Matt. 28:16-20, Mark 16:15-18, Luke 24:44-49; 1 Cor. 15:7b)

Matthew, Luke, and the longer ending of Mark record Jesus giving the disciples a set of final, evangelistic instructions. As we will see, these instructions may have been given during a series of occasions (cf. Acts 1:3) that cannot be untangled. This is similar to the way Matthew draws together Jesus’ ethical teachings, which were given many times throughout his ministry (and which are found at different places in Luke) and presents them together in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7).

In Matthew, Jesus’ final evangelistic instructions are delivered on a mountain in Galilee (Matt. 28:16). In Luke and the longer ending of Mark, the place is not specified but would appear to be the same location as the evening appearance described above, in which case it would have taken place in Jerusalem. Particularly noteworthy is that in Luke’s account Jesus tells them to “stay in the city, until you are clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49).

These locations—Galilee and Jerusalem—are considered one of the more challenging differences in the resurrection narratives, but they are not problematic. There are several possibilities:

First, one could say that, just as the Evangelists have the freedom to present material in a non-chronological manner for literary reasons, they also have the freedom to present it in a non-geographical manner for literary reasons.

If so, Matthew might present his final evangelistic instructions on a mountain in Galilee because of the literary suitedness of this setting. Mountains are frequent places of encounter with the divine, and we have multiple significant mounts in Matthew alone. Galilee, for its part, was Jesus’ home base during the bulk of his ministry, and a return to a mountain in Galilee could make an apt literary setting for Jesus’ final evangelistic instructions.

However, there are other options.

Second, it may be noted that Luke—and Mark’s longer ending—do not expressly state that this is occurring in Jerusalem. This is simply the appearance generated by the fact that the last mentioned location was Jerusalem. Jesus could have given these instructions in Galilee (even the comment found in Luke telling the disciples to remain in “the city”—meaning Jerusalem—which would imply that they were to make a trip back to Jerusalem).

Third, there is no need to choose between having the disciples both visit Galilee and Jerusalem during this period. Indeed, this is the tradition represented by John. In John, Jesus appears to the disciples both in Jerusalem (John 20:19-23) and in Galilee (John 21:1-25). The same thing seems to happen in longer Mark, where a visit to Galilee is implied in the original ending (Mark 16:7) and Jesus also appears, apparently, in Jerusalem (Mark 16:12-14).

On this view, Matthew would have chosen to omit the Jerusalem traditions because of the way he wanted to end his Gospel, with the appearance on a mountain in Galilee.

By contrast, Luke would have chosen to omit the Galilee traditions because of the way he wanted to end his Gospel and begin Acts, with the Ascension, which occurred in the Jerusalem area (Luke 24:50-52, Acts 1:4, 8-12).

It may be noted that Luke used Mark and, even if he had access only to the shorter version of Mark, he thus would have been exposed to the tradition that Jesus appeared to the disciples in Galilee after his resurrection. Since Luke does not preserve this tradition, we may infer that he chose not to use it because of the way he wanted to end his Gospel and begin Acts.

Indeed, since Luke tells us that Jesus appeared to the disciples multiple times during a period of forty days (Acts 1:3), it is likely Jesus spent much of this time preparing them for their upcoming mission by giving them evangelistic instructions, and—in keeping with the traditions preserved in the four Gospels and Acts—some of these instructions were given in Galilee and some in the Jerusalem area.

Luke also says that Jesus “presented himself alive after his passion by many proofs” to the disciples, which may be a deliberate gesture to traditions preserved in the other Gospels and in 1 Corinthians, even if they are not found in Luke/Acts. In view of this statement, we should thus seek to read Luke/Acts in harmony with the other materials.

Given the fact that Jesus likely gave evangelistic instructions on multiple occasions in this period, we should not too closely tie particular remarks with particular locations. He likely reiterated the same things on multiple occasions, and the eyewitnesses were not interested with noting precisely which things he said in precisely which locations. It would be overtaxing the Gospel narratives to expect that kind of precision, just as it would be to expect most of Jesus’ parables to have been said in particular locations on particular occasions, rather than simply being things that Jesus said which the Evangelists needed to put in appropriate places in order to record them.

Finally, we may note that Paul records that Jesus appeared to “all the apostles” after he appeared to James (1 Cor. 15:7b). This is an interesting statement, since he recorded an earlier post-resurrection appearance to “the twelve” (1 Cor. 15:5b).

It is presumably to be explained by the fact that not all of the apostles were members of the twelve. Barnabas and Paul, for example, were not (Acts 14:14). While Paul separates out the appearance Jesus made to him as a separate encounter (1 Cor. 15:8), which occurred after the Ascension (Acts 9:3-7), it is possible that Jesus made a collective appearance to the twelve and others who counted as apostles, such as Barnabas. If so, this presumably would have happened before the Ascension, and so we place the event here, in the same forty days that Jesus gave evangelistic instructions to his core disciples.

On the other hand, Paul (and the creed he is thought to be quoting) may not intend a single appearance to “all the apostles.” The thought may be that Jesus appeared to all the apostles in one way or another, at one time or another, in which case a single event is not in view.


16) The Ascension (Mark 16:19-20, Luke 24:50-53, Acts 1:3-11)

The post-resurrection narratives come to a conclusion with the Ascension, which is recorded in Luke, Acts, and the longer ending of Mark.

In Luke, this event occurs when Jesus has led the disciples “as far as Bethany” (Luke 24:50), while in Acts Luke says that they afterward returned “from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away” (Acts 1:12). This is not a contradiction, because Bethany was located near the east foot of the Mount of Olives.

In the longer ending of Mark, no location for the event is stated. It is simply presented as occurring after Jesus gives his final evangelistic instructions. The author therefore does not assert any particular location for it.


Gospel Sequencing

One thing that may not be obvious from a quick reading of the preceding commentary is the way in which the material from the different sources—Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, and 1 Corinthians—fits together.

While individual sources may omit particular traditions, they almost never resequence them. The material they present dovetails together in such a way that, with a few very small exceptions, all of the material fits together in sequence.

Examine the verse numbers in the section headings above, and you will see how they proceed forward through each Gospel.

Acts, having only one element in the above treatment—the Ascension—can’t help but fit this pattern, but the material from 1 Corinthians does also.

The fact that the pattern holds for each of the other sources is very remarkable, and it reveals that they are each describing the same chronological sequence of events, with only minor variations.

The variations are as follows:

  1. Matthew 28:2 appears to relate the descent of the angel later than it happened chronologically, to make the it clear to the reader who rolled the stone away.
  2. Matthew 28:8-9 seems to suggest that the women left the tomb and then encountered Jesus, while John 20:14-18 seems to suggest that the women encountered Jesus at the tomb and then left it. Both are possible if the group split (i.e., most of the women left while Mary remained at the tomb), but it seems more likely that John’s account reflects the strict chronology of what happened.
  3. Luke 24:12 records Peter’s visit to the tomb. For reasons explained above, we have grouped this verse with John’s account of the visit, which is the one more likely to be presented in the chronologically exact order.
  4. Luke 24:41-43 may record the tradition of Jesus eating fish out of its chronological sequence, which is preserved in John 21:9-15. However, this is uncertain, since Jesus may have eaten fish in the disciples’ presence more than once (it was a very common dish, especially for fishermen), and John 21 does not explicitly say that Jesus ate fish on that occasion, though it seems to be implied by their common breakfasting on fish.

(Luke’s reference to Jesus’ appearance to Peter, preserved in Luke 24:34, might seem to be an exception, but it is not, because it is described within the narrative as having already happened, making it a kind of flashback, and thus an event Luke knowingly presents out of sequence.)

The fact that the material from the resurrection narratives so easily fits together, with only a tiny number of minor details seeming to be resequenced, is a startling and unexpected testimony to the fundamental harmony of these accounts.


Proposed Chronology

Based on the above, I would propose the following chronology for the overall sequence of events:

  • (Good Friday) A guard is set over the tomb (Matt. 27:62-66)
  • (Between Saturday night and Sunday morning) Jesus is resurrected and leaves the tomb
  • (Easter Sunday morning) An angel descends and rolls away the stone to allow the women access (Matt. 28:2-3)
  • The guards faint (Matt. 28:4)
  • The women leave for the tomb (Matt. 28:1, Mark 16:1-2, Luke 24:1, John 20:1a)
  • They find the tomb open (Mark 16:3-4, Luke 24:2, John 20:1b)
  • The women—or at least Mary Magdalene—run and tell Simon Peter, who then visits the tomb, sees that it is empty, and returns home (Luke 24:12, John 20:2-20)
  • The women, including Mary Magdalene, remain at the tomb. Upon entering it, they encounter angels, who speak to them (Matt. 24:5-7, Mark 16:5-7, Luke 24:3-8, John 20:11-13)
  • Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene and the other women (Matt. 28:9-10, Mark 16:9, John 20:14-17)
  • The women leave to inform the disciples what has happened (Matt. 28:8, Mark 16:8, Luke 24:9a)
  • Some of the guard leaves to inform the authorities what has happened (Matt. 28:11-15)
  • The women tell the disciples what has happened (Mark 16:10-11, Luke 24:9b-11, John 20:18)
  • Jesus appears to Peter (Luke 24:34, 1 Cor. 15:5a)
  • Jesus appears to the disciples on the road to Emmaus (Mark 16:12-13, Luke 24:13-35)
  • (Easter Sunday night) Jesus appears to the core disciples but without Thomas (Mark 16:14, Luke 24:36-43, John 20:19-23, 1 Cor. 15:5b)
  • (The next Sunday) Jesus appears to the disciples with Thomas present (John 20:24-31)
  • (Also between Easter and Ascension Thursday) The encounter at the Sea of Galilee (John 21:1-25)
  • The appearance to five hundred brethren (1 Cor. 15:6)
  • The appearance to James (1 Cor. 5:17a)
  • Jesus gives evangelistic instructions to the disciples (Matt. 28:16-20, Mark 16:15-18, Luke 24:44-49, Acts 1:3-5, 1 Cor. 15:7b)
  • (Ascension Thursday) Jesus ascends into heaven (Mark 16:19-20, Luke 24:50-53, Acts 1:6-11)

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five-cases-of-sodaTime to take some more notes and answer some questions regarding my fasting experience.

First, I have now lost 38 lbs from my recent high, which means I have lost 100 lbs since my all-time high! Woo-hoo!

To visualize 100 lbs, I calculated how many cans of soda it takes to equal that weight. It turns out that it’s 120 cans of soda or five cases of 24 cans each.

Here’s a picture of that.

See here for my main post on intermittent fasting.


Do people with weight problems simply lack motivation or willpower?

Imagine carrying five cases of soda around all the time and being unable to set them down–ever, even for a momenteven when you’re lying on your back!

Now think about how that affects the blame-the-victim, “You just don’t have enough willpower” attitude our society encourages us to adopt regarding those who struggle with weight.

Anyone carrying that much additional weight (like I was) is suffering tremendously and will be highly motivated to get rid of it.

My problem was not lack of willpower but lack of knowing how to get the weight off.

The standard “eat less, move more” advice you hear doesn’t work (and studies show that it doesn’t). Similarly the “eat less fat, fat makes you fat” approach doesn’t work.

Once I discovered an effective means of losing weight (initially low carb, and now low carb plus intermittent fasting), I stuck to them like crazy–to the point that I know others have come to regard me as a diet disciplinarian (at least when it comes to myself). I won’t break my diet just because people are having a party or I’m in a social situation, and I’m willing to be viewed as an oddball for the sake of not impeding weight loss. Motivation and willpower are not problems.

So bear all that in mind when you see someone who has weight issues. Willpower is likely not the issue, but lack of knowledge of an effective way to get the weight off and keep it off. (Because, if you don’t have that, there’s no point.) Odds are, they would become very focused and determined if they found an effective and sustainable way to lose weight.


If you’re doing intermittent fasting, do you need to do anything extra on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday?

It depends on what kind of intermittent fasting (IF) you’re doing, but you may already be fulfilling the canonical requirements for fasting on those days.

Church law allows Catholics in the Latin Rite to have one full meal on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, as well as “some food” (less than a full meal, but not any specified amount) on two other occasions.

If you’re eating that much or less, you’re fulfilling your obligation and don’t need to do anything extra (other than also observe abstinence from meat).

That said, it is a good and praiseworthy thing even for those who are doing IF to reduce their food consumption even more on those days. It’s just not legally (or morally) required.


If you’re fasting for health reasons, does that prevent you from offering it up to God?

Not any more than anything else you have a good, non-religious reason to do. St. Paul states:

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31).

Whatever your task, work heartily, as serving the Lord and not men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward; you are serving the Lord Christ (Col. 3:23-24).

We can–and should–take any and every good thing we do and offer it up to the Lord, because it’s good and we want to do good in accord with his will.

The fact that there are non-religious reasons for doing it is part of why it’s good. Thus the non-religious reasons don’t stop us from doing it “unto the Lord” or “to the glory of God.” And they thus don’t deprive it of having a spiritual aspect that God will reward.

In fact, in the case of weight loss (or other health benefits), one may view the act of fasting as making spiritual reparations to the extent that getting into this weight/health situation was our fault–and as pure good work to the extent it was not our fault (e.g., due to being misinformed about what a “healthy diet” consists of and eating accordingly).

Having said that, if you don’t do something with a spiritual orientation–if it isn’t at least in the back of your mind by way of what theologians call a “virtual intention”–and you’re doing something for purely non-religious reasons then it won’t have a spiritual dimension and so won’t benefit you in that way.


the obesity codeHave you discovered any new, good books relating to this area?

Yes! I’ve been doing more research in this area, and I have two new books I can recommend:

First, there is Dr. Jason Fung’s book The Obesity Code, which is focused on the science behind obesity–what causes it and how it can be successfully fought.

This is not a standard diet book, but a serious look at the science. If you’re a diet skeptic like I am and have a “show me the science” attitude, this is the book for you!

The-Case-Against-Sugar-CoverSecond, there is Gary Taubes’s new book The Case Against SugarThis is a devastating critique of the “calories are the only thing that matters” view and how our society has been severely damaged by Big Sugar and its manipulation of social policy to pump more sugar into the American diet.

Both books are also available on Kindle and Audible.

Both are highly recommended.

Good stuff, Maynard!


What if you have diabetes? Can intermittent fasting help you?

Yes! Absolutely! Here is a talk by Dr. Jason Fung on precisely that point regarding Type 2 diabetes:

I also know a many people who have Type 1 diabetes (formerly called “juvenile diabetes”), and fasting can also help them, though you have to monitor your blood sugar more carefully. Info on that here.


Are you exercising?

Yes. I use both high-intensity, interval exercise and low-intensity, endurance exercise on a regular basis.

At least once a week, I spend 60-90 minutes doing high-intensity, interval-based exercise in the form of one kind of folk dance.

Also, at least once a week I spend three hours doing low-intensity in the form of another kind of folk dance where I am on my feet the entire time.

However, here’s the deal: Despite the “eat less, move more” rhetoric that infests our cultural discourse, exercise does not help you with long-term weight loss.

The number of calories burned in exercise is far too small, and it has the opposing effect of potentially increasing your appetite and thus the number of calories you take in.

Exercise has various health benefits, but weight loss is not one of them.

I dance because it’s fun–and for the other health benefits of exercise. But I don’t exercise for weight loss because both scientific studies and my own experience shows that it won’t help with that.


Since you’re eating only one meal per day, do you miss food and/or cooking?

A little. I love cooking, I’m good at it, and I love trying out new recipes.

The fact I’m eating only one meal per day means that I don’t have the opportunity to try out as many recipes.

The fact that the one meal I eat tends to be late (between 8-10 p.m. in my case, depending on when I get home from dances) also means I tend to go for simple recipes that don’t require a lot of complex cooking, and this deprives me of the opportunity to do new, creative things.

However, I’m far more jazzed about losing weight than I am about trying new or different recipes, so that overrides other considerations. (There’s that motivation thing again!)


If you’re doing one meal a day, when is the best time to eat it?

Probably in the morning. You’ll probably lose more weight that way, but that doesn’t work for me at the moment.


Aren’t you hungry all the time?

Absolutely not! Once your body has shifted into taking energy from your fat cells (which is what the fat cells are there for), it has an energy source, and it doesn’t need to send you the hunger signal to get you to consume more food and get more energy.

Not long ago, I spent hours on a Saturday watching YouTube cooking videos, just because I was interested in the recipes and the techniques the chefs were using to prepare them.

But despite the fact that I spent hours looking at and thinking about food, I wasn’t hungry at all!

As covered in my original post, hunger is largely a matter of habit, and if you wait a couple of days, your body will figure out that this isn’t eating time any more and will stop sending you hunger signals then.

Also, hunger isn’t a constant. When it does come, it comes in waves, and you can drink non-caloric liquids (water, coffee, tea, etc.) to fill your stomach.

My experience is that hunger isn’t strong and that it usually goes away in 20 minutes or so. (Though it may reappear 2-3 times.)

On some days, I find that I experience mild hunger in midday. I’m interpreting this as a good thing, as signalling me that my body is making the transition from using the energy from the one meal I ate the previous night into fat burning mode.

The earlier in the day this happens, the better! It means I have more time for fat burning before the next meal.


Hope this helps! Till next time, gang!

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pope-francis2This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 1 January 2017 to 18 January 2017.


General Audiences



Papal Tweets

  • “May charity and nonviolence govern how we treat each other.” @Pontifex 5 January 2017
  • “Like the Magi, may we also journey and be attentive, untiring and courageous on the path to find the invisible God who was born among us.” @Pontifex 6 January 2017
  • “Let us remember our Christian brothers and sisters of the East, Catholics and Orthodox, who are celebrating Christmas today.” @Pontifex 7 January 2017
  • “Let us ask the Virgin Mary to help us follow Christ on the way of faith and charity, the path set out by our Baptism.” @Pontifex 8 January 2017
  • “There can be no true peace if everyone claims always and exclusively his or her own rights, without caring for the good of others.” @Pontifex 9 January 2017
  • “My hope is that our countries and their peoples may find increased opportunities to work together in building true peace.” @Pontifex 10 January 2017
  • “Everyone can help bring about a culture of mercy, in which no one looks at another with indifference.” @Pontifex 11 January 2017
  • “Young migrants, especially when unaccompanied, are especially defenceless. Let everyone offer them a helping hand.” @Pontifex 12 January 2017
  • “Children forced to flee, especially if fleeing alone, are most defenceless and vulnerable. Let’s pray for them and help them. @M_RSection” @Pontifex 13 January 2017
  • “Unscrupulous exploitation harms young girls and boys who are trafficked and enslaved. May God bless all those who set them free. @M_RSection” @Pontifex 14 January 2017
  • “May the Holy Family watch over all child migrants and accompany the vulnerable and the voiceless on their journey. @M_RSection” @Pontifex 15 January 2017
  • “There can never be true peace as long as a single human being is violated in his or her personal identity.” @Pontifex 16 January 2017
  • “Peace is an “active virtue”, one that calls for the engagement and cooperation of each individual and society as a whole.” @Pontifex 17 January 2017
  • “From the intimacy of our faith in Jesus Christ comes our need to be united in Him.” @Pontifex 18 January 2017

Papal Instagram

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This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 6 December 10 November 2016 to 4 January 2017.


General Audiences






Papal Tweets

  • “The love of God, which can look into the heart of each person and see the deepest desire hidden there, must take primacy over all else.” @Pontifex 15 December 2016
  • “Forgiveness is the most visible sign of the Father’s love, which Jesus sought to reveal by his entire life” @Pontifex 16 December 2016
  • “I thank you all for your kindness. Please do not forget to pray for me.” @Pontifex 17 December 2016
  • “Our joy comes from the confidence we have that the Lord is close to us with his tenderness, mercy, forgiveness and love.” @Pontifex 18 December 2016
  • “I express my solidarity with migrants around the world and thank all those who help them: welcoming others means welcoming God in person!” @Pontifex 18 December 2016
  • “Nothing of what a repentant sinner places before God’s mercy can be excluded from the embrace of his forgiveness.” @Pontifex 19 December 2016
  • “Mercy is the concrete action of God’s love that, by forgiving, transforms and changes our lives.” @Pontifex 20 December 2016
  • “Mercy gives rise to joy, because our hearts are opened to the hope of a new life.” @Pontifex 21 December 2016
  • “The birthday of Jesus, who took on the burden of our human weakness, is drawing closer.” @Pontifex 22 December 2016
  • “The Lord becomes man to journey with us in our everyday lives.” @Pontifex 23 December 2016
  • “Like the shepherds of Bethlehem, may we too, with eyes full of amazement and wonder, gaze upon the Child Jesus, the Son of God.” @Pontifex 24 December 2016
  • “Christ is born for us, let us rejoice in the day of our salvation!” @Pontifex 25 December 2016
  • “On today’s Feast of Saint Stephen let us remember the martyrs of today and yesterday. May we overcome evil with good and hatred with love.” @Pontifex 26 December 2016
  • “Christmas has above all a taste of hope because, for all the darkness in our lives, God’s light shines forth.” @Pontifex 27 December 2016
  • “God, who is in love with us, draws us to himself with his tenderness, by being born poor and frail in our midst, as one of us.” @Pontifex 28 December 2016
  • “Let us be touched by the tenderness that saves. Let us draw close to God who draws close to us. Let us pause to gaze upon the crib.” @Pontifex 29 December 2016
  • “Holy Family of Nazareth, help us all to recognize the sacred nature of the family and its beauty in God’s plan for humanity.” @Pontifex 30 December 2016
  • “As we end this year, let us remember the days, weeks and months we have lived in order to give thanks and offer everything to the Lord.” @Pontifex 31 December 2016
  • “Let us entrust the new year to Mary, Mother of God, so that peace and mercy may grow throughout the world.” @Pontifex 1 January 2017
  • “At the beginning of this New Year, I offer heartfelt wishes of peace to the world’s peoples and nations.” @Pontifex 2 January 2017
  • “May nonviolence become the hallmark of our decisions, our relationships and our actions.” @Pontifex 3 January 2017
  • “To be true followers of Jesus today also includes embracing his teaching about nonviolence.” @Pontifex 4 January 2017

Papal Instagram

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me-l-shirtIf you follow me on Facebook, you may have seen that I’ve recently been chronicling my weight loss journey there, and there’s been a lot of news to report! (The picture is one of me now that I can fit into a shirt that just has an L on the label–no X or XX.)

A few months ago, at the suggestion of my physician, I began to practice intermittent fasting, and it’s really accelerated my weight loss. At the time of writing, I’ve lost 29 lbs 38 lbs (it may be more by the time you read this), it’s produced other health benefits (including improved sleep and energy), and it’s been surprisingly easy (very little hunger at all).

I plan to do a blog series about my experience in the new year, but folks on Facebook have been asking a lot of questions, so I thought I’d jot down a few notes here until I can launch the series.


You’re really fasting?






Are you hungry all the time?

Not at all. I was surprised at how little hunger I’ve had. I had some for the first few days after I altered my eating pattern, but they went away quickly.

I called a friend who does a lot of fasting, and he said his experience is that hunger is largely a matter of habit. When your body is used to getting a new influx of calories, that’s when it sends the “It’s time to eat now” hunger signal. If you ignore that signal when it comes, it will re-set to the new normal and stop sending you the hunger signal at the old times.

I later asked my doctor about this, and she said it has also been the experience of her patients who have tried intermittent fasting.


What do you do when hunger does come?

I may drink non-caloric beverages to fill up my stomach (water, tea, coffee, no-calorie sodas with stevia [a natural, non-caloric sweetener]).

I also just ignore it, because hunger isn’t a constant. It comes in waves, and my experience has been that if I ignore it for 20 minutes, it will go away on its own.

Really, though, I’ve been amazed at how little hunger there has been.


Jimmy, I’m concerned for you. This sounds unsafe.

Thank you for your concern, but please don’t worry.

First, my doctor was the one who recommended it.

Second, I’m doing it under a doctor’s care, so all the right things are being monitored.

Third, it’s actually very safe (see below.) Fasting is actually a normal part of human experience. We’re designed for it. It’s just not part of our culture (which is a big part of our culture’s problem with weight management and various health issues).

Fourth, in case of problems, fasting is the easiest thing in the world to stop (also see below).


Won’t fasting slow down your metabolism?

Not if you’re doing it right. Calorie restriction will slow down your metabolism, but calorie restriction and fasting are two different things, and the body responds to them differently.

If you reduce the number of calories you eat at each meal but you continue to eat 3-7 times a day then your body will think food is in short supply, but that you do have a supply of it. In that case, your body will adjust your metabolism to the supply it thinks you have. You will get sluggish, irritable, and may feel colder than you otherwise would.

But if you stop the calories, your body will think you don’t have a food supply and that it needs to start burning fat, which is what the fat is there for.

Your body doesn’t know that we aren’t still living in caveman days, so if you aren’t putting new calories in, it think that your food supply has run out and that you need to go kill a bison or something.

It therefore does things to help you be a better bison hunter, like keeping your metabolism revved up.


Won’t fasting cause you to burn muscle instead of fat?

No. We can show that people who are fasting aren’t burning muscle because when the body burns protein (the stuff muscle is made of), there is a byproduct known as urea. When people are eating normally, they have substantial levels of urea in their blood from the protein they eat. But when they start fasting, the levels of urea in their blood plummet, showing that they are not burning protein–either from food (which they aren’t consuming) or from muscle.

See this video for more info on that.

Bottom line: You need muscle to go hunt bison, so your body burns the fat and preserves the muscle. The purpose of the fat is to be burned as fuel, so that’s why the body burns it. The purpose of muscle is to help you catch bison, so the body leaves it alone. It will only turn to burning muscle if you’ve used up all your fat and it has no other choice.


Won’t fasting make you mentally fuzzy or give you headaches?

No. You need mental clarity to hunt bison, so your body has an incentive to keep you clear headed. Giving you less clarity or headaches would interfere with a successful bison kill, so your body won’t do that to you.

Or that’s been my experience. If you are used to consuming something (e.g., coffee) that will cause headaches if you stop, and if you then suddenly stop, then you may get headaches. However, it’s not the lack of calories that’s causing the headache. It’s the lack of the specific thing that’s causing the headache.

Also, since coffee is a no-calorie beverage, you can have it when you fast! (Just don’t add cream or sugar.) So you can avoid the problem.

People generally report more mental clarity when fasting, not less, which makes sense if your body is preparing you to go kill bison.


Isn’t fasting unsafe?

For the vast majority of people, no. See previous answers.

Also, billions of people fast, at least occasionally. Catholics, Jews, and Muslims all practice intermittent fasting.

And we’re built for fasting. Our bodies are made to put on fat in times of plenty so they can use it for fuel when the food runs out. That’s why it’s there in the first place. Feasts and fasts are normal parts of human experience, historically speaking, and our bodies are built to handle them.

However, there are some medical conditions in which people either should not fast or should do so under a doctor’s care. This is particularly the case when you are on medications that you may need less of when you fast. For example, diabetics are likely to need less insulin, people who take blood pressure meds are likely to need smaller doses. If you don’t adjust your dosages, your blood sugar or blood pressure might go too low. Therefore, consult your doctor.

However, needing less of these medications is actually a good thing. It means your health is improving! Yay!

More info on these conditions in the resources recommended below.


So what kind of fasting are you doing?

Currently I am eating one meal a day with no snacks.

The one meal I eat is not calorie-counted, but it’s obviously way less than what I would eat during the course of an ordinary day of eating.

It’s also usually low carb/high fat, though I don’t have to be as strict about that as normal.

I eat it in the evening, but you can do it whenever in the day would suit you.

I also stay hydrated and take my normal vitamins/nutritional supplements.


How is eating a meal a day fasting?

It’s an intermittent fast–meaning that I do take some food on a regular basis (in my case, currently once per day).

It’s not a long-term, unbroken fast.


Are long-term, unbroken fasts dangerous?

Well, you will eventually need new calories, but people can go for much longer than they suppose and be perfectly healthy on a fast.

Some individuals literally fast for weeks or months.

The longest fast on record was a Scottish gentleman who–under his doctor’s care–only took water and vitamins for 382 days (no food for more than a year!) and was fine. He also went from over 400 lbs to under 200 lbs, which was the point.


I’m interested in fasting, but I’m afraid to start all at once. Is there a way to work into this easily and gradually?

You bet! That’s what I did. I took it in stages:

  • I started with a low carb/high fat diet so that, without the carbs, I wouldn’t have the insulin spikes and the resulting hunger they cause (this is why people are famously hungry an hour after eating Chinese food: the high carbs lead to high blood sugar, that leads to insulin release, that leads to a blood sugar crash, and that leads to hunger to get the blood sugar back up)
  • Then I cut out all snacks, so I was eating only three meals a day.
  • When hunger did come, I would drink non-caloric beverages or just ignore it since I knew it would shortly go away on its own (see above).
  • Then I dropped breakfast (the idea it’s the most important meal of the day is not true, which is why so many people find it easy to skip).
  • Once I was used to eating two meals a day (lunch and a late dinner), I started moving lunch later and later in the afternoon, to narrow the window in which I was eating and extend the period each day in which I was fasting.
  • Once “lunch” was within a few hours of dinner, I dropped “lunch.”

This stepwise approach was so successful for me that, the day I first went to one meal, I wasn’t even hungry at dinner time. But it was when I had determined to eat, so I did.


I don’t think I could do low carb. Would that stop me from fasting?

No. Fasting is just not eating, so you can do fasting no matter what diet you normally prefer.


What if I encounter problems fasting?

I love the way the book I recommend below puts it:

What happens if you do get hungry or don’t feel good while intermittent fasting? Ummmm, hello, McFly? You eat something! This isn’t rocket science, people (The Complete Guide to Fasting, p. 21).


What are some of the benefits of fasting?

They include:

  • Weight loss
  • Lower blood sugar
  • Lower insulin resistance
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Lower inflammation
  • It may provide added protection against cancer
  • Greater mental acuity
  • You don’t spend as much money on food
  • You don’t spend as much time procuring, preparing, and consuming food
  • You get the chance to practice self-discipline

More info on some of these here.

In my case, I also found my sleep improved (which is noteworthy, because I’m a lifelong insomniac).


If we’re built for fasting and if it has all these benefits, why don’t we hear about it more?

Several reasons. Among them:

  • Big Food has zero interest in not selling you food. It spends enormous amounts of money in advertising trying to get you to buy stuff to eat.
  • Therefore, when its “eat all day by adopting a grazing strategy of three full meals plus three or more snacks” causes people to gain weight and have health problems, it’s solution is not going to be “don’t eat.” It’s going to be “eat something different” (e.g., expensive diet products or the latest fad’s “superfood”).
  • Big Pharma has zero interest in not selling you drugs and medical procedures. Therefore, if you’re suffering from obesity and medical problems, their solution is not going to be fasting but “what kind of drugs or medical procedures can we sell you to address or manage these?”

As the result of economic incentives like these, fasting has virtually disappeared from our culture, though it used to be the norm. Fortunately, it’s being rediscovered, and studies are backing up its health benefits.


Where can I get more information about fasting?

I recommend this book: The Complete Guide to Fasting: Heal Your Body Through Intermittent, Alternate-Day, and Extended Fasting by Jason Fung, MD, and Jimmy Moore.

I also recommend this video as an introduction:

For more detail, check out Dr. Fung’s epic, six-part series on the science of fasting here on his YouTube channel.

And here’s a web page you can read: Intermittent Fasting–Questions and Answers.


Are you recommend that I fast?

As part of your religious duties on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday (assuming you’re Catholic), yes–unless you have a medical reason not to.

Otherwise, no, I’m not making recommendations here. I’m explaining what my experience with fasting has been and answer common questions people have asked me.

If you think fasting might be for you, great! It’s certainly helped me! But, as noted above, be sure to check with your doctor, particularly if you have medical conditions requiring things like insulin or blood pressure meds.

God bless you, and stay positive in the combox, folks!


UPDATE 1: For more on my experience with fasting, including many common questions, click here!

UPDATE 2: Here’s info on why newspaper diet advice is usually horrible, focusing on a piece in The Telegraph that completely botches the issues of “skipping breakfast,” “snacking and grazing throughout the day,” and intermittent fasting.

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This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 6 December 2016 to 14 December 2016.




Papal Tweets

  • “The Church does not grow through proselytism, but by attraction.” @Pontifex 6 December 2016
  • “Let us learn from the Blessed Mother how to have a humble heart capable of receiving God’s gifts.” @Pontifex 8 December 2016
  • “Let us pray for all the victims of genocide and work together so that this crime never happens again in the world.” @Pontifex 9 December 2016
  • “Let us all work decisively so that no one is excluded from the effective recognition of their fundamental human rights.” @Pontifex 10 December 2016
  • “May Advent be a time of hope. We go to encounter the Lord who comes to encounter us.” @Pontifex 11 December 2016
  • “On this Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, let us entrust to her the American peoples and the mission of the Church on that continent.” @Pontifex 12 December 2016
  • “Today I would like each of us to reflect on his and her own past and the gifts received from the Lord.” @Pontifex 13 December 2016
  • “Now is the time to unleash the creativity of mercy, to bring about new undertakings, the fruit of grace.” @Pontifex 14 December 2016

Papal Instagram

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Pope_Francis_3_on_papal_flight_from_Africa_to_Italy_Nov_30_2015_Credit_Martha_Calderon_CNA_11_30_15This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 27 October to 6 December 2016.


Daily Homilies (fervorinos)

General Audiences

Motu Proprio


Papal Tweets

  • “Today we remember Blessed Charles de Foucauld who said, faith calls us to see Jesus in every human being.” @Pontifex 1 December 2016
  • “I call on all people of goodwill to take action against human trafficking and new forms of slavery.” @Pontifex 2 December 2016
  • “We are all called to go out as missionaries and bring the message of God’s love to every person in every area of life.” @Pontifex 3 December 2016
  • “Advent is a time to prepare our hearts to receive Christ, our Saviour and hope.” @Pontifex 4 December 2016
  • “Jesus teaches us always to go to the essentials and to take on our own mission with responsibility.” @Pontifex 5 December 2016
  • “Jesus gives meaning to my life here on earth and hope for the life to come.” @Pontifex 6 December 2016

Papal Instagram

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Pope_Francis_3_on_papal_flight_from_Africa_to_Italy_Nov_30_2015_Credit_Martha_Calderon_CNA_11_30_15This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 10 November 2016 to 30 November 2016.


General Audiences



Papal Tweets

  • “So many women are overwhelmed with the burdens of life and the drama of violence! The Lord wants them to be free and their dignity respected” @Pontifex 25 November 2016
  • “With the close of the Jubilee, we look ahead at how to continue to experience with joy, fidelity and enthusiasm the richness of God’s mercy.” @Pontifex 26 November 2016
  • “Advent is a time when we journey towards Jesus and his Kingdom of justice and peace.” @Pontifex 27 November 2016
  • “Mercy is not a parenthesis in the life of the Church; it constitutes her very existence, making tangible the profound truths of the Gospel.” @Pontifex 28 November 2016
  • “Jesus calls us to be bearers of joy and consolation as his merciful witnesses.” @Pontifex 29 November 2016
  • “On this feast of Saint Andrew, with fraternal affection I am close to Patriarch Bartholomew and pray for him and the Church entrusted to him” @Pontifex 30 November 2016

Papal Instagram

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popr-francis-teachingThis version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 5 November 2016 to 24 November 2016.


Apostolic Letter

General Audiences



Papal Tweets

  • “It is not enough to experience God’s mercy in one’s life; whoever receives it must also become a sign and instrument for others.” @Pontifex 17 November 2016
  • “If you want a heart full of love, be merciful!” @Pontifex 18 November 2016
  • “God’s mercy toward us is linked to our mercy toward our neighbour.” @Pontifex 19 November 2016
  • “May the Jubilee of Mercy, which concludes today, continue to bear fruit in the hearts and works of believers.” @Pontifex 20 November 2016
  • “Today we close the Holy Door thanking God for having granted us this extraordinary time of grace.” @Pontifex 20 November 2016
  • “May the balm of mercy reach everyone, both believers and those far away, as a sign that the Kingdom of God is already present in our midst!” @Pontifex 20 November 2016
  • “We entrust the life of the Church, all humanity, and the entire cosmos to the Lord, asking him to pour out his mercy upon us.” @Pontifex 20 November 2016
  • “Let us remember with gratitude the cloistered and monastic religious who pray for the Church and the world.” @Pontifex 21 November 2016
  • “How much I desire that the years to come will be full of mercy, so that every person can experience the goodness and tenderness of God!” @Pontifex 22 November 2016
  • “May the Holy Spirit help us to be patient when enduring, and to be humble and simple when advising.” @Pontifex 23 November 2016
  • “We have to break out of ourselves to encounter others. If we don’t, even we Christians can suffer from division.” @Pontifex 24 November 2016

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This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 27 October 2016 to 16 November 2016.


General Audiences




Papal Tweets

  • “We should never forget about beauty, which humanity needs so much!” @Pontifex 10 November 2016
  • “Dear Friends, never forget that in our encounter with people in need we meet Jesus himself.” @Pontifex 11 November 2016
  • “I am before the Holy Door and I ask: “Lord, help me to thrust open the door of my heart!”.” @Pontifex 12 November 2016
  • “If you want to find God, seek him where he is hidden: in the neediest, the sick, the hungry, the imprisoned.” @Pontifex 13 November 2016
  • “In a world which has been damaged by the virus of indifference, the works of mercy are the best antidote.” @Pontifex 14 November 2016
  • “If every one of us, every day, does a work of mercy, there will be a revolution in the world!” @Pontifex 15 November 2016
  • “We don’t have to go far or come up with grand projects to be charitable. Often the people closest to us could use our help.” @Pontifex 16 November 2016

Papal Instagram

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