“I have neither found nor expect to find any solid modern reports of ascensions, which pure invention might create perhaps to evoke very exceptional biblical narrative.”
–Pentecostal Christian apologist, Craig Keener, author of Miracles
[David] Hume or Strauss couldn’t have said it better! They viewed tales of ascensions, including Jesus’, as “pure invention created to evoke very exceptional biblical narrative,” which in Jesus’ case evoked the narrative of Elijah’s ascent to heaven via a whirlwind “which some texts regard as a cloud.” The author of the ascension scene in the book of Acts even “employed many of the same Greek terms from the story of Elijah’s ascent to heaven in the Greek Old Testament version of 2 Kings.”
Furthermore, “a paucity of ascension narratives in the Old Testament are replaced by an abundance in Second Temple Jewish and Greco-Roman literature.” In other words, increasing numbers of ascension narratives began to appear in Jewish and Hellenistic literature right before the New Testament was written.
…So if Jesus “ascended” to heaven, and heaven is not literally “up there” [but in another dimension, as many modern Christian apologists allege] then did God arrange an Indian Rope Trick in which Jesus vanished into another dimension only after he was out of sight of those on the ground?
…there are only two narrative depictions of Jesus’s ascent into heaven in the New Testament, and both come from the same author.
—Angels in the ascension story speak like the author of the Luke-Acts! They use the phrase, “Men of Galilee,” just as the author used similar phrases such as, “Men of Judea,” “Men of Israel,” “Men of Athens,” “Men of Ephesus” (Acts 2:14, 22; 3:12; 5:35; 13:16; 17:22; 19:35; 21:28). The phrase, “They were gazing intently” in the ascension scene (Acts 1:10), is used frequently by the author of Luke-Acts (Luke 4:20; 22:56; Acts 3:4,12; 6:15; 7:55; 10:4; 11:6; 13:9; 14:9; 23:1), but is found only twice in the New Testament outside of Luke-Acts.
…The ascension scene is just one of several in Luke-Acts in which beings return to heaven. There is Luke 1:38 (“Then the angel left her.”); 2:15 (“When the [multitude of] angels had left them and gone back to heaven”); 9:33 (“Moses and Elijah were leaving”); 24:51 (“he [Jesus] left them and was taken up to heaven”). Such scenes are common to that author.
The author of Luke-Acts was plainly willing to alter stories in earlier Gospels to make them fit his new theological agenda, his new sacred history, which has its “…beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 23:47) including resurrection and ascension scenes in or near Jerusalem. Therefore when Jesus is resurrected in the Gospel of Luke he first appears to disciples in or near Jerusalem and commands them, “Do not leave Jerusalem…” (Acts 1:4), unlike the message delivered at Jesus’s tomb in the earliest Gospel, Mark, which was to meet the resurrected Jesus in Galilee.
…The evidence above favors the idea that the “Jerusalem-based” post-resurrection appearances and ascension narratives in Luke-Acts were primarily invented by the author. He knew he had to compete with ascension narratives told by ideologues of the Roman Empire. He also had to combat the embarrassing questions raised as to why Jesus, allegedly resurrected in Jerusalem, chose to wander off immediately into the hinterlands of Galilee to be seen. [Emphasis, Gary’s]
–Edward Babinski, The Case Against Miracles, chapter 5
Gary: The Ascension Story as told only by the author of Luke-Acts is Christian propaganda to convince Romans throughout the Empire that Jesus was superior to the Roman gods; Jesus could perform the same if not greater magic tricks. The Ascension Story is a work of propaganda. It is yet another example of what I call “tabloid evangelism”: inventing fantastical, mind-blowing stories for the sole purpose of selling print (and saving souls). The Ascension Story is an obvious tall tale which no modern, educated person should believe was an historical event.
End of post.