Contradictions in the Resurrection account

There seem to be apparent contradictions in the stories of Jesus’ resurrection appearances. How are these things reconciled?

There are no contradictions. If you will please Please give citations (chapter and verse) of where you think you see these contradictions perhaps we can clear this up.

I have also heard this said before, that if you put all four gospels together, you
cant get a coherent story from beginning to end, including all the details mentioned
in the gospels. Yet it’s funny, we all know the story, and we don’t have a problem
telling it…

As has been noted, there are no necessary contradictions. Elaborate?

Thats because it was written by different people, in different cities, with different needs, and they knew the stories by oral tradition, and they wrote down what they thought was important (with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit)

The Gospels were written at different times, by different people, for different audiences, and have different messages. I like to think of it as being similar as my wife and I recalling our wedding day. We were both there and yet, as time goes on, we seem to have different recollections of that day. I wouldn’t say either one of us is wrong, it’s just that we perceived the same event differently.

I can perhaps offer a different perspective on this.

I’ve been working in a criminal law firm for the past four months. I’ve spent a fair amount of time in court, listening to witnesses giving their versions of events that they’ve seen and heard firsthand.

I have observed, am assured, and verily believe, that you never EVER, when more than one person has witnessed something, are going to get them to be entirely consistent among themselves about what they observed. If you get witnesses who are COMPLETELY consistent with each other, it’s a sure and certain sign they’ve concocted a story together.

The reason for this is simple and twofold.

Firstly - different people see and hear things differently, one inevitably misses out or is wrong about details that the other observes correctly and remembers.

Two - people are recounting these details some time after the events occurred. Many people would be hard put to remember what they had for breakfast this morning let alone every last detail of an event that happened days or months ago.

Both of these factors come into play in the Gospel accounts. Difficulty of accurate recall even more so than in the courtroom, since we’re talking many years, even decades, after the event in the case of the Gospels.

Of course a third factor is added that isn’t an issue in courts, which is hearsay. Remember only two of the accounts, as traditionally attributed, were written by eyewitnesses. Luke and Mark were not, but were secondhand. Probably a lot of Luke’s information came from Mary as his gospel focuses the most on her, and Mark’s traditionally came from Peter.

This is useful:

Countering Bible Contradictions:

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I have heard it said that the Resurrection accounts are exactly what you would expect from a bunch of very excited people running around the city in the dark. . . .

I also come from a large active family where you can trigger a long, loud, animated discussion by asking a simple question about something that happened at Thanksgiving five years ago. Given that the Gospels were written 20+ years after the fact, I find the apparent “contradictions” quite authenticating.

With normal people, of course it would be expected that there were variations. But, what sort of “infallibility” are we talking about here? The Church maintains that scripture is 100% inspired, even historically. So I’m wondering, are you saying there are some contradictions? Or is it all a harmony?

For those of you wondering what the contradictions are, read John Ch. 20, Matt Ch. 28, Mark 16, and Luke 24. Different people are mentioned in different order. Jesus is said to appear only to some, then to others in different passages. Some accounts say there was 1 angel, some say 2. Etc.

Etc??? That’s not very precise. You’re saying that there are contradictions. We’ve all read the scriptures, There are no contradictions. If you will please Please give the exact text of your perceived contradictions perhaps we can help clear this up.

I apologize. I’ll try to be more precise.

John 20:1 Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. 2So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, **“They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” **…10Then the disciples went back to their homes. 11But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. 12And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, "They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him."14Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). 17Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them,‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her.

Accoring to this account, Mary went to the tomb when it was dark and did not see Jesus. Her words that I’ve bolded imply that she does not know where Jesus is. There is also no mention of her seeing any angels telling her that Jesus is risen. She tells Peter and John that Jesus’ body is taken. They run there to see the empty tomb. It is THEN that she sees the angels and Jesus, after Peter and John return home and after she had told them.

Matthew 28: 1 Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. **2And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven **and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. 5But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. 7Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold,(H) he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” 8So they departed quickly from the tomb(I) with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and(L) worshiped him. 10Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”

So Mary and co see one angel who tell them Jesus is risen. Upon leaving the tomb to tell the disciples this with joy and fear, Jesus meets them. According to John, Mary goes to tell the disciples that Jesus is missing, at which point John and Peter come to the tomb.

cont…

Luke 24:1 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. 2And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. 5And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” 8And they remembered his words, 9and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. 10Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, 11but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.

Here there are mentioned two angels which prompt Mary to tell the disciples. There is also no mention of Jesus appearing to them on the way back from the tomb. It would also seem that they did not know the tomb was empty - that this was the first time they’d went since the stone rolled away, since they were bringing spices.

Mark 16:1 When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. 2And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 3And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away(F) the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” 4And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back— it was very large. 5And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. 6And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. 7But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” 8And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

The sun has risen in this account, and they are not joyous but frightened and said nothing to anyone. Does this mean they said nothing to the disciples? Did they go to the tomb multiple times?

I’m not saying there are necessary contradictions in these stories. I’m just wondering how they are logically harmonized. Did Mary go to the tomb multiple times? The order of the story has me confused.

It is THEN that she sees the angels and Jesus, after Peter and John return home and after she had told them.

According to this account, Mary went to the tomb when it was dark and did not see Jesus. Her words that I’ve bolded imply that she does not know where Jesus is. There is also no mention of her seeing any angels telling her that Jesus is risen. She tells Peter and John that Jesus’ body is taken. They run there to see the empty tomb.

In the following analysis I am and assuming this is all from the one Gospel of John as you indicated and that it is transcribed accurately, I have not checked, According to what you have written, she didn’t know where Jesus was at the time - highlighted in blue above.

Ok, so when she went back a second time (highlighted in green above) she saw the angels and then spoke to a man who she didn’t recognize who turned out to be Jesus, then she went and told the Apostles that she had seen Him.

Just based on what you’ve written, I am assuming this is all from John and is a correct transcription, I don’t see the problem. Where do you see a conflict? Is it because it is two separate visits to the tomb?

There’s so much that rings true about the idea of two separate visits to the tomb - I can’t imagine wrapping my head around such an utterly extraordinary event as the Resurrection on just one seeing/hearing, and can easily see myself wanting a return visit to be sure that the tomb really was empty!

1/2

There was but one woman who came to the sepulchre"Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance." [John 20:1]

There were two women who came to the sepulchre

“After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to the other tomb.” [Matt 28:1]

This is a case where a contradiction is read into the account. John does not report that ONLY Mary Magdalene went to the tomb. Failing to mention someone does not necessarily mean that no one else was present. In fact, had the critics read further, they would have seen that Mary was not alone:

"So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him!” [Jn 20:2]

If Mary was alone, then who is WE? Clearly more than one person went with Mary. John just doesn’t mention them.

**There were three women who came to the sepulchre [Mark 16:1] **

**There were more than three women who came to the sepulchre [Luke 24:10] **Again, the same reasoning applies. See my previous story about going for a ride in the car. :slight_smile:

It was at sunrise when they came to the sepulchre
“Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb.” [Mark 16:2]

It was some time before sunrise when they came
“Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb.” [John 20:1]

I see no contradiction. Mary could have left a little earlier than the others. Or they could have left while it was still dark and the sun began to rise while they were on their way. I’ve worked my share of nightshifts to know that one can leave the job while it is still dark, and get home after the sun has risen!

**There were two angels seen by the women at the sepulchre, and they were standing up [Luke 24:4]

There was but one angel seen, and he was sitting down [Matt 28:2,5]**

It is quite possible that much of the confusion about these trivial facts stems from the fact that many women went to the tomb that morning (Luke 24:10). It’s possible, at the very least, that a group of women came to the tomb, and saw that the stone had been rolled away. Some women went inside, but the more timid remained outside. Those inside saw the vision of the two angels, while those outside saw the angel on the stone.

Also, in response to the manner in which this supposed contradiction is presented, I would point out that a.) Matthew does not say there was “but one angel,” he simply focuses on the angel who moved the stone; b.) the Greek word in Luke rendered “stood near” also means, “to come near, to appear to.” In Luke 2:9 and Acts 12:7 it is translated as “came upon.” Thus, Luke may simply have said that angels suddenly appeared to them without reference to posture. Strictly speaking, one would be hard pressed to establish a contradiction in terms of numbers or posture even without my possible explanation.

2/2

**There were two angels seen within the sepulchre [John 20:11,12]

There was but one angel seen within the sepulchre [Mark 16:5] **

These are not the same incidents. John’s account is particular to Mary after she followed Peter and John back to the tomb, which was later than the account cited in Mark.
Now, I myself once stumbled upon a “better” contradiction. When Mary runs back, she is scared and thinks that the body has been stolen. Then she returns to the tomb and weeps. Now isn’t this odd given that she supposedly heard the angels say that “He is risen”? Why so much despair after that miraculous experience? It doesn’t seem to add up. Of course it is possible that she had not fully comprehended what occurred, as one has to be careful in expecting people to respond coherently. But I think the answer is more clear if we consider John’s account.

John notes that she went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. "So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him”. (John 20:1-2). Then Peter and John ran to the tomb only to find the empty burial wrappings.

Mary must then have followed them, but when she got there, they had gone, so she stood there crying, worried that the body of Jesus had been stolen. Then two angels appeared to her, and then the risen Jesus did. In short, the reason she was in despair is probably because she didn’t go into the tomb with the other women. As they approached the tomb, they saw it open, and probably began to worry amongst themselves that grave robbers came and stole the body before they could anoint it. At this realization, Mary probably left the group and bolted back to tell the others.

Source:

Others already gave more precise answers, and I’ll just be repeating what they said, but here goes my short answer about the women at the tomb:

Matthew 28:1: Now after the sabbaths, at dawn toward the first of sabbaths, came Mary the Magdalene and the other Mary to see the tomb…

Mark 16:1-2: And the Sabbath having past, Mary the Magdalene and Mary of James and Salome bought spices that they might come and anoint Him. And very early* on the first of the sabbaths, they come to the tomb at the rising of the sun…

Luke 23:1, 10: And on the first of the sabbaths, at daybreak, they came to the tomb, carrying the spices they prepared…Now it was the Magdalene Mary and Joanna and Mary of James and the other women with them who told to the apostles these things…

John 20:1: And on the first of the sabbaths, Mary the Magdalene comes early* (there being darkness still) to the tomb, and she sees the stone having been taken away out of the tomb…

First of [the] sabbaths (Greek mian sabbatōn/mia tōn sabbatōn): Sabbatōn is sometimes used with numbers in NT Greek to convey different days of the week; hence, “first of sabbaths” would be ‘[day] first of the week’. This reflects Jewish custom: Jews had no names for the weekdays and often designated them with reference to Shabbat; thus, the day after Shabbat is “one day (or the first day) of the sabbath”.
*Greek proi, “early [in the morning]” (somewhere around 3 to 6 AM)

All the accounts agree that Mary Magdalene comes to the tomb. Now we must check the other women:

Matthew: the other Mary
Mark: Mary of James, Salome
Luke: Mary of James, Joanna, “other women”

As mentioned, there is no indication from John’s text that “only” Mary Magdalene went to the tomb, or from Matthew’s that “only” Mary M. and the other Mary came. No one list excludes any other. If we identify Matthew’s “other Mary” with Mary the mother of James, that leaves only Salome and Joanna and the “other women”.

I think the question is not how they are logically harmonized, but rather how they are faithfully harmonized.

The evangelists weren’t teaching logic by writing the Gospels. They were proclaiming faith.

Hi, Exodus.

The accounts fit with one another seemlessly:

answering-islam.org/Andy/Resurrection/harmony.html

God bless,

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