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Arch Hellen Med, 33(Supplement 1), 2016, 25-29


The answer of Gospels. Evangelists don't deal with "when" but with "how" a human being should die

S. Atmatzidis
Holy Church of St. Nikolaos of Thermi, Thessaloniki, Greece

OBJECTIVE In our days, when life expectancy has more than doubled since the ancient times and biomedical advances blur boundaries between life and death, we face the challenging question of "when is the right time for a human being to die". Our aim was to investigate whether and how the four Evangelists answer this question.

METHOD All passages related to death were systematically searched in the Gospels via four distinct methods: (a) Reading the Gospel texts, both the originals and their translation, using the reputable publications of the Bible Society. (b) Using keywords to search three different printed directories of the New Testament known as Concordances (Bruder 1993, Erasmus Schmidt 1990, Arch. Kosmas L. Palaiogiannis 2000). (c) Using keywords to search two different electronic directories of the New Testament. (d) Reading the interpretation of the evangelic texts by the Father of the Orthodox Church Saint Theofilaktos of Bulgaria (of the 11th century). The translations to contemporary English are from The Gospel passages by King James' Bible, 1611 can be found at

RESULTS In total, 133 passages have been identified, some more relevant than others, 38 from Matthew's Gospel, 30 from Mark's, 49 from Luke's and 23 from John's. The three more relevant passages appear to be: (a) "No one knows of that day and hour, not even the angels of heaven, but my Father only" (Matthew 24:36, Mark 13:32). Here the emphasis is not on "when it should happen" but rather on "when it actually happens" and it is summarised as "no one knows". (b) "Now you are releasing your servant, Master, according to your word, in peace; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared before the face of all people" (Luke 2:29–31). Here a "now" is given as an answer to "when", however, the criterion to identify "now" as the right time (to have held Jesus in their arms) is difficult, if not impossible, for humans to apply. (c) "Now before the feast of the Passover, Jesus, knowing that his time had come that he would depart from this world to the Father" (John 13:1). This is equally difficult for mortals to apply.

CONCLUSION The Evangelists do not answer the "when" (when is the right time for a human being to die) but rather they deal with "how" (how a human being should die). From the passage "his time has come" we can infer that also for every human being there is a right time, no sooner (premature death) nor later (postmature death); however, the Gospels do not provide us with a way to determine this time. Future and more extensive research, including the rest of the New Testament and all of the Old Testament as well as the Patristic writings could strengthen or weaken our conclusion or perhaps even find the answer on "when" should humans die.

Key words: Euthanasia, Evangelist, Good death, Gospel, Resurrection, Right time to die (RTD), When should we die (WSWD).

© Archives of Hellenic Medicine