Answering The Atheist
August 8, 2004 / Volume 4, Issue 32
THE ATHEIST'S COMPLAINT:
Was it OK to touch the risen Jesus before his ascension? Jesus tells some not to touch Him (John 20:17), but allowed others to do so (Matthew 28:9; Luke 24:39; John 20:26-27) Is there a contradiction?
Since Jesus allowed others to touch him prior to his ascension, it would seem very unlikely that He forbade Mary to touch him on account that He had not yet ascended. McGarvey has offered a paraphrase which may capture the essence of His command to her. "Do not lay hold on me and detain yourself and me; I have not yet ascended; this is no brief, passing vision; I am yet in the world, and will be for some time, and there will be other opportunities to see me; the duty of the moment is to go and tell my sorrowing disciples that I have risen, and shall ascend to my Father." (The Fourfold Gospel)
The Greek word used, haptomai, means "to fasten one's self to, adhere to, cling to" (Thayer's). Certainly, upon seeing her Lord risen, Mary might desire to simply cling to Him with great joy, but it was more needful at that moment for her to inform the disciples that He was risen.
There is no contradiction.
This article is a response to Skeptic's Annotated Bible