When Did Jesus Breathe on His Disciples?

The act of Jesus breathing on his disciples is a significant moment in the New Testament that has been analyzed and debated by scholars for centuries. The event is recorded in John 20:22, which says: “And with that, he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.'”

However, the timing and context of this event are not entirely clear. In this article, we will explore different interpretations of when Jesus breathed on his disciples according to biblical scholarship.

Background

To understand the significance of Jesus breathing on his disciples, we need to examine the broader context of this event. After Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, he appeared to his disciples several times. In John’s Gospel, the first appearance occurs on the evening of Easter Sunday when Jesus appears to ten of his disciples (excluding Thomas) who were gathered in a locked room out of fear for the Jews.

Interpretations

There are several interpretations among scholars regarding when exactly Jesus breathed on his disciples. Here are three common ones:

1. Pentecost

One interpretation is that Jesus breathed on his disciples after his resurrection as a symbolic gesture to prepare them for Pentecost. According to Acts 2:1-4, Pentecost was the day when the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles in tongues of fire, empowering them to preach and spread Christianity throughout the world.

This interpretation suggests that Jesus’ breath was a foreshadowing of Pentecost rather than an actual imparting of the Holy Spirit. Proponents argue that if receiving the Holy Spirit was immediate after Jesus’ breath as described in John 20:22, then it is unlikely that they would have needed another empowering experience at Pentecost.

2. Resurrection

Another interpretation suggests that Jesus breathed on his disciples after his resurrection, before he ascended into heaven. This theory suggests that the breath was a symbolic gesture to impart the Holy Spirit upon the disciples as they were preparing to begin their mission of spreading the gospel.

This interpretation is supported by the fact that Jesus’ appearance to his disciples in John 20 occurs before he ascends into heaven in John 20:17. Additionally, it aligns with Luke’s account of Jesus’ final words to his disciples in Luke 24:49, where he instructs them to wait in Jerusalem until they receive power from on high.

3. Forgiveness of sins

A third interpretation suggests that Jesus breathed on his disciples as a sign of the forgiveness of sins. In John 20:23, immediately after breathing on them, Jesus says, “If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

This interpretation suggests that Jesus’ breath was an actual imparting of the Holy Spirit and was meant to give authority to his disciples to forgive sins and spread Christianity.

Conclusion

In conclusion, when exactly Jesus breathed on his disciples is a topic of debate among biblical scholars. While there are different interpretations regarding this event, what is clear is that it was a significant moment in the early Christian church. Whether it was a symbolic gesture or an actual imparting of the Holy Spirit, it demonstrated Jesus’ authority and prepared his followers for their mission to spread Christianity throughout the world.