googlef87758e9b6df9bec.html A Sure Word: A Synopsis of the Events on Resurrection Morning

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Synopsis of the Events on Resurrection Morning

In an effort to discredit the Bible, critics often point to seeming contradictions in the various gospel accounts of the events on the Resurrection Morning. Who went to the tomb? When did they go? What did they see? When comparing the accounts given in each gospel, we see that the events are described differently – but are they contradictory? Of course they are not.

So who went to the tomb? Matthew 28:1 says, “Mary Magdalene and the other Mary.” Mark 16:1 says, “Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome.” Luke 24:10 says it was, “Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women that were with them.” Finally, John 20:1 says only, “Mary Magdalene.” These are not contradictory in the slightest. The simple answer is that all of these women (including some unnamed women mentioned by Luke) went to the tomb. John may have mentioned only Mary Magdalene because she is the main character but the Synoptic Gospels make it clear that other women went to the tomb also. If I were to attend a ball game with my brother, I might tell my co-workers that “I went to the game.” I might not mention my brother at all since my co-workers don't know my brother and my point is that I attended the game, not necessarily who I attended it with. However, if I were to describe the same event to my mother, I would likely mention that I went with my brother. My different accounts do not contradict each other; They just each included different (factual) details.

The next question is, “when did the women visit the tomb?” Was it while it was still dark (John 20:1), at early dawn (Luke 24:1 ASV, Matthew 28:1), or when the sun had risen (Mark 16:2)? It hardly needs pointing out that these times are relatively close together. We also know that the tomb was outside of the city (John 19:41-42). How long would it take the women to walk to the tomb? If they left for the tomb while it was dark, and arrived as it began to dawn, either description of the time could still be accurate. Also, since we know there were several women going to the tomb, they likely all left their homes at different times and arrived at the tomb at different times.

Finally, “what did the women see at the tomb?” Matthew 28:2 says there was an “angel” who rolled away the stone and then sat on it. Mark 16:4-5 says the stone was already rolled away and there was a “young man,” clothed in white, sitting inside the tomb. Luke 24:2-4 also says the stone was already rolled away and there were two “men” dressed in white inside the tomb. John describes two events: In John 20:1 we see that Mary saw the stone rolled away and then ran to tell the disciples. When she returned (John 20:10-11) she saw two “angels” sitting inside the tomb. So were there angels or men at the tomb? This is a very weak criticism of the Bible. The description given of the “men” in the various accounts reveals that they aren't ordinary men. They are always described as wearing white. Luke 24:4 further describes their garments as “shining” (KJV, Darby), “dazzling” (NASB, ESV, ASV), “glittering” (Young's), or “like lighting” (NIV). These were obviously not ordinary “men” but were indeed angels.

To the question of, “how many angels were there?” This is yet another weak criticism. If there are two men somewhere, there is also one man there as well. If I were at a party with many people, I might later say, “there was a man there handing out balloons.” I might tell another person, “there were two men handing out hot dogs.” Once again, both of my statements can be true and not contradictory. And remember that different women arrived at the tomb at different times. One or more of them might have arrived and saw the angel who rolled away the stone. Others arrived a little later and saw the stone already moved and now saw angels inside. In my party example above, another person who was at the party might say, “I was at the party and only saw one man handing out hotdogs.” If I were at the party earlier and he at the party later, one of the hotdog peddlers might have already left. Or maybe they were still both there and he only “saw” one of them. Or maybe yet, he might have seen two men handing out hotdogs and still say, “A man was there handing out hotdogs and he gave me one.”

The supposed contradictions of the Resurrection accounts are very superficial. People who raise these objections usually have not given even a moment of thought on how to resolve them. Yet this is the nature of critics – they choose not to believe. I have no doubt that if the accounts agreed perfectly, down to the very last detail, critics would object saying that the accounts sound contrived and rehearsed.

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