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Luke is the only Evangelist who gives a narrative account of the Ascension of Christ at 24:50-53 (NRSVCE)

"' Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; 53 and they were continually in the temple blessing God.''

The Ascension is a key element of our faith, in that it finds a place in the Creed. That said, it is intriguing to note that Matthew, Mark and John do not give a narrative account of Ascension. My question therefore is: What is the explanation offered by Catholic Church for the absence of narrative account of the Ascension of the Lord in the Gospels according to the Evangelists other than Luke ?

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    Asking the negative (in regard to the gospel accounts' inclusions or exclusions) puts far more burden on the answer (in terms of documentation and proof of evidence) than asking the positive : Why is a certain thing included in a certain book ? This makes this question very much broader and more difficult to document than the positive. It makes the question unfocused, in my view.Mark 16:19 contains an account of Jesus' ascension so the answer will also have to cover the matter of the Greek Text (not the Vulgate) and the matter of exclusion of that text in modern Greek Texts. – Nigel J Feb 14 '20 at 10:52
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    What specific relevance does this question have to the Catholic Church such that it's reasonable to expect them to have a clear answer? – curiousdannii Feb 14 '20 at 12:40
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    It's an excellent question. The Ascension is arguably the most important miracle in the Bible. It seems unthinkable that it wouldn't be extensively covered in all of the gospels. How could anyone reporting the story of Jesus's life miss out such a crucial piece? – Kevin Ryan Feb 14 '20 at 17:00
  • I'd like you to read this meta-post I just wrote and consider if you really are expecting to get some Official Magesterial teachings or just want say, something between what Dr. Scott Hahn or St. John of the Cross may have written on the subject. christianity.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/6850/… – Peter Turner Feb 14 '20 at 17:52
  • There are lots of events which some gospel writers list or describe and others don't. Besides, Mark does record it, and its also recorded in Acts. - which many scholars believe was authored by Luke. Also, why do you imply that this applies more to Catholics than Protestants? – Tennman7 Feb 17 at 14:29
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Why do Matthew, Mark and John not give narrative account of the Ascension?

The challenge question of the day! The Catholic Encyclopedia states that St. Luke is not the only Evangelist to speak about the Ascension of Our Lord. There is no need for all the Evangelists to make an account on the Ascension of Jesus into heaven when, for the faithful, it is an accepted truth.

St. Luke, it may be noted did not witness the Ascension and thus he certainly thought it was quite important to mention in his Gospel.

The elevation of Christ into heaven by His own power in presence of His disciples the fortieth day after His Resurrection. It is narrated in Mark 16:19, Luke 24:51, and in the first chapter of the Acts of the Apostles.

Although the place of the Ascension is not distinctly stated, it would appear from the Acts that it was Mount Olivet. Since after the Ascension the disciples are described as returning to Jerusalem from the mount that is called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, within a Sabbath day's journey. Tradition has consecrated this site as the Mount of Ascension and Christian piety has memorialized the event by erecting over the site a basilica. St. Helena built the first memorial, which was destroyed by the Persians in 614, rebuilt in the eighth century, to be destroyed again, but rebuilt a second time by the crusaders. This the Moslems also destroyed, leaving only the octagonal structure which encloses the stone said to bear the imprint of the feet of Christ, that is now used as an oratory.

Not only is the fact of the Ascension related in the passages of Scripture cited above, but it is also elsewhere predicted and spoken of as an established fact. Thus, in John 6:63, Christ asks the Jews: "If then you shall see the son of Man ascend up where He was before?" and 20:17, He says to Mary Magdalen: "Do not touch Me, for I am not yet ascended to My Father, but go to My brethren, and say to them: I ascend to My Father and to your Father, to My God and to your God." Again, in Ephesians 4:8-10, and in Timothy 3:16, the Ascension of Christ is spoken of as an accepted fact.

The language used by the Evangelists to describe the Ascension must be interpreted according to usage. To say that He was taken up or that He ascended, does not necessarily imply that they locate heaven directly above the earth; no more than the words "sitteth on the right hand of God" mean that this is His actual posture. In disappearing from their view "He was raised up and a cloud received Him out of their sight" (Acts 1:9), and entering into glory He dwells with the Father in the honour and power denoted by the scripture phrase.

For any more reasoning on this from a Catholic perspective, we will have to wait and ask the Evangelists when we see them in heaven! Anything else is simply an opinion, even from a Catholic point of view.

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The question is akin to asking why belt loops don't also have zippers. In other words, the purpose of each book is not to duplicate what others have said, although there is some overlap, but to give the whole picture in their own way. As well, we can't assume that just because one book mentions ABC, but others do not, that ABC somehow is less important; it isn't.

Here is Irenaeus' account of the four circa 175 AD.

  1. It is not possible that the Gospels can be either more or fewer in number than they are. For, since there are four zones of the world in which we live, and four principal winds,3449 while the Church is scattered throughout all the world, and the “pillar and ground”3450 of the Church is the Gospel and the spirit of life; it is fitting that she should have four pillars, breathing out immortality on every side, and vivifying men afresh. From which fact, it is evident that the Word, the Artificer of all, He that sitteth upon the cherubim, and contains all things, He who was manifested to men, has given us the Gospel under four aspects, but bound together by one Spirit. As also David says, when entreating His manifestation, “Thou that sittest between the cherubim, shine forth.”3451 For the cherubim, too, were four-faced, and their faces were images of the dispensation of the Son of God. For, [as the Scripture] says, “The first living creature was like a lion,”3452 symbolizing His effectual working, His leadership, and royal power; the second [living creature] was like a calf, signifying [His] sacrificial and sacerdotal order; but “the third had, as it were, the face as of a man,”—an evident description of His advent as a human being; “the fourth was like a flying eagle,” pointing out the gift of the Spirit hovering with His wings over the Church. And therefore the Gospels are in accord with these things, among which Christ Jesus is seated. For that according to John relates His original, effectual, and glorious generation from the Father, thus declaring, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”3453 Also, “all things were made by Him, and without Him was nothing made.” For this reason, too, is that Gospel full of all confidence, for such is His person.3454 But that according to Luke, taking up [His] priestly character, commenced with Zacharias the priest offering sacrifice to God. For now was made ready the fatted calf, about to be immolated for3455 the finding again of the younger son. Matthew, again, relates His generation as a man, saying, “The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham;”3456 and also, “The birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise.” This, then, is the Gospel of His humanity;3457 for which reason it is, too, that [the character of] a humble and meek man is kept up through the whole Gospel. Mark, on the other hand, commences with [a reference to] the prophetical spirit coming down from on high to men, saying, “The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as it is written in Esaias the prophet,”—pointing to the winged aspect of the Gospel; and on this account he made a compendious and cursory narrative, for such is the prophetical character. And the Word of God Himself used to converse with the ante-Mosaic patriarchs, in accordance with His divinity 429 and glory; but for those under the law he instituted a sacerdotal and liturgical service.3458 Afterwards, being made man for us, He sent the gift of the celestial Spirit over all the earth, protecting us with His wings. Such, then, as was the course followed by the Son of God, so was also the form of the living creatures; and such as was the form of the living creatures, so was also the character of the Gospel.3459 For the living creatures are quadriform, and the Gospel is quadriform, as is also the course followed by the Lord. For this reason were four principal (καθολικαί) covenants given to the human race:3460 one, prior to the deluge, under Adam; the second, that after the deluge, under Noah; the third, the giving of the law, under Moses; the fourth, that which renovates man, and sums up all things in itself by means of the Gospel, raising and bearing men upon its wings into the heavenly kingdom. AH III XI

So, although not strictly a Catholic Church point of view, this would be a reason why books are not exactly the same on all matters.

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The whole point of John's Gospel is to show its readers (and listeners) that Jesus is Christ, the Son of God (20:31), which goes back to Psalm 2 where God installs David to sonship i.e kingship, where David "ascends" to the throne, as it were, as a type of Christ.

The means by which John aspires to prove Jesus' Christhood, are signs. Some pointing back to the Prophets, and some, forward toward The New Era. As the ascension of Christ would be one of the most important, if not the most important sign to prove that Jesus is the Christ, John seems on the surface to fail to drive home his point by omitting that from his story, as it is displayed in the Synoptics. However, going back to the first clause above, it would seem to be circular reasoning, superfluous and contra-productive, even to try to prove an event with a sign that is that very event, and which you're actually trying to prove by presenting other signs.

If Jesus' identity as the Messiah has come into question because it can't be proven he actually has ascended up into heaven, and the Messiahship is connected to that ascension, it wouldn't be helpful to impart the occasion into the story. However, the ascension is mentioned in 20:17:

"Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me yet (still), for I have risen [from the grave] toward my Father to yet (first) go to my brothers, to say to them that I am ascending to my Father and your Father, my God and your God”

Then the words in verse 21 are characterized by a clear "farewell"-language. Only the event itself is missing. And the content of the remaining 32 days after his last encounter with Tomas, a week after, is by Luke not displayed anyway.

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  • Which Bible translation says that Jesus was descending to his Father? And are you actually presenting the Catholic view in answer to this question? When you have a moment, please take our Tour: christianity.stackexchange.com/tour – Lesley Feb 17 at 17:11
  • Sorry, I meant "ascending". Thanks for the correction. – Peter Abramsgård Feb 18 at 18:49

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