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Choose Life That You Might Live

Part 8 b: Alleged Discrepancies in The Resurrection Accounts
There is little question that, on an initial reading, the chronology of the events surrounding the discovery of Jesus' resurrection are difficult to fit in with each other, with many specifics seemingly difficult to reconcile. However, should one take a little trouble and dig a little deeper virtually all the details can be pieced together

Carol Brooks

List of Chapters
For a slightly longer description of each chapter, please go to the Main Index

Part 1: Spiritual not Religious. The question is how do you know that the spiritual path you are on will lead somewhere you want to be? What does it offer you in the long run... beyond this life?
Part 2: Religious Pluralism. It is tragically true that few of those who believe that all spiritual beliefs are valid paths to God seem to have made an in depth study of various religions to see if their claims are based on fact, or fairy dust.
Part 3: Faith and The Bible. Christianity is perhaps the only religion that does not demand 'blind faith' from its followers.
Part 4: God And His Bible. There is far more evidence in favor of the Bible being true, than there is for any of the other 'holy books which usually consist of endless streams of often mind numbing philosophy, with little or no framework or context. The evidence includes the Bible’s humanly impossible authorship, its archaeological and scientific accuracy and  fulfilled prophecy.
Part 5: Alleged Old Testament Discrepancies. The charges are usually careless, overconfident and unsubstantiated.
Part 6: Why Jesus Is Without Equal.  Many so called holy men claim to to be divine or divinely inspired - to have had mystical visions or experiences. So what?
Part 7: The Reliability of The New Testament. If we applied whatever criteria liberal scholars use to dismiss the Gospels, to the evidence for other historical people and events, we would have to dismiss as myth everything we think we think we know about the ancient past.
Part 8: New Testament Differences and Discrepancies  Most alleged 'mistakes' arise from understanding too little about the Bible.
YOU ARE HERE 001orange Part 8 b: The Resurrection Accounts  The so-called contradictions are trotted out without a single reference to the possible solutions that can very plausibly and naturally explain them.
Part 9: The Bible, Then And Now. People commonly reject the Bible because they believe the original text has been changed significantly since it was first written making it a corrupted book. But is there any truth to the charge?
Part 10: Historical Corroboration. Were any of the Gospel accounts substantiated by non-Christian sources?
Part 11: Archaeology and The Bible. Does archaeology confirm, or undermine, the New Testament accounts?
Part 12: Is The Evidence Insufficient or Too Obscure? A far more sensible way to look at it is... the more severe the consequences, the fewer risks we should take.
Part 13: The Message of The Bible. The Heaven Jesus was sent to tell us about is no pie in the sky ethereal place 'somewhere out there. In fact, the Bible's description of the coming kingdom is far more practical than that of our theologians. '
Part 14: The Warning of The Bible. We are all under the death penalty. If dying once sounds terrible to you, how does doing it twice sound? -  which is exactly what the Bible says will happen if...
Part 15: Who Is and Isn't a Christian. Since the word originated with the Bible, only the Bible has the right to define what a "Christian" is.
Part 16: Myths and Misconceptions that stem from knowing too little about Biblical Christianity.



Part I

The Importance of the Resurrection

Factors That Are Rarely Taken Into Consideration
The Gospel Authors Were "Historians"
They Agreed on The Fundamental Issues and Made No Effort To 'Tally' Their Stories
A Difference is Not the Same as A Contradiction
Jesus' Followers Were Initially Very Skeptical

How ALL Historical Accounts Are Pieced Together

Part II - Alleged Discrepancies in The Gospel Accounts of the Resurrection
A Difference is NOT The Same As A Contradiction
When Was The Stone Moved?
Who Was Guarding The Tomb?
How Many Women Went To The Sepulcher That Morning?
Why Matthew Only Named Two Women
When Did The Women Arrive?
How Could Mary Magdalene Not Have Recognized Jesus?
The Angels At The Sepulcher - Angels or Men? One Or Two? What Did They Say?
Did The Women Report What They Had Seen and Heard?

Chronology Of Events

 Jesus' Post-Resurrection Appearances

Jerusalem or Galilee?


Critics claim that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John's accounts of the resurrection differ substantially from each other and that these discrepancies or contradictions can neither be harmonized nor explained. This is then offered up as 'evidence' that the Gospels are completely unreliable as eyewitness testimony and can therefore be peremptorily dismissed. But is this true? Are there actually irreconcilable contradictions in the Gospel accounts?

What needs pointing out is the fact that all too often criticism stems from a very shallow reading of the text and/or a tendency to judge ancient writings by modern standards. Most of the accounts can actually be reconciled if one takes into account factors such as how ancient authors differed from modern ones, the prevalent culture, how all historical account were pieced together, whether each Gospel writer had a reason for focusing on something particular etc. etc. etc. But that involves a lot of work something that most critics seem unwilling to do. In fact, the claim of numerous contradictions usually comes from those disinclined do to any serious thinking for themselves. Besides which quite a few seem not to know what a true contradiction is.

Retired judge Herbert C. Casteel was a practicing attorney for fifteen years and a trial judge for twenty-six years. In his book Beyond a Reasonable Doubt he wrote,

    False testimony appears on the surface to be in harmony, but discrepancies appear when you dig deeper. True accounts may appear on the surface to be contradictory, but are found to be in harmony when you dig deeper." [01]

And he is certainly right about the digging deeper part. If you are clear as to what constitutes a true contradiction. If you are familiar with Scripture as a whole and realize that the ancients did not adhere to generally accepted modern standards or writing. If you are aware that some peculiarities of Greek grammar have to be taken into consideration. And, above all, if you make the effort to piece together the four accounts - virtually all the so-called contradictions disappear.

See Does The Bible Fulfill The Historian's Requirements? in Chapter 7
Bias aside, do the New Testament records fulfill the historian's requirements in order to make an informed decision as to whether the document in question is authentic.

The Importance of the Resurrection
When it comes to the future of every believer it is impossible to overstate the importance of this momentous event simply because the Bible does not teach that only the spirits of those that accept Gcd's offer of forgiveness of sin and eternal life will live on forever in some ethereal world. In other words, death will not be the termination of our physical existence  - we too will be physically raised just as the Christ was. His resurrection was the just first of many, many more.

(See The Message of the Bible   Salvation   and What and Where is Heaven?),

How do we know this?

One reason is of the Seven Feasts that God introduced in the Old Testament which the nation was required to keep every year. These feasts not only celebrated a historical event in Israel's past but were also a 'type' or 'prefigurative symbol' of events yet in the future (See Typology).

The first four feasts have already been fulfilled -the first two by Jesus Christ on the actual feast days according to the Hebrew calendar. He was sacrificed on Passover and resurrected on the Feast of First Fruits when a sheaf of grain from the very first of the harvest was waved before the Lord. This was not only a symbolic gesture that dedicated the coming harvest to God (Leviticus 23:9-11) but pointed to Jesus' resurrection - the first-fruits of the harvest to come at the end of the age.

See The Seven Feasts of Israel and

The Sounding Of The Seventh Trumpet /The Third Woe

As Paul said...

    But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. (1 Corinthians 15:20 NASB)

    For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ's at His coming (1 Corinthians 15:22-23 NASB)

In other words, the Christian's ultimate hope stands or falls on the astounding claim that Christ was raised from the dead and that we too will attain eternal life. If Christ didn't rise from the grave, our faith is in vain and every believer from centuries past have permanently "perished".

    and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. Moreover, we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied. But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. (1 Corinthians 15:14-20 NASB)

Factors That Are Rarely Taken Into Consideration
Because apart from the four Gospels no document supports the resurrection, the claim that Jesus rose from the grave hangs exclusively on New Testament texts

As said in the introduction, critics claim that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John's accounts of the resurrection differ substantially from each other and that these discrepancies or contradictions can neither be harmonized nor explained. This is then offered up as 'evidence' that the Gospels are completely unreliable and can be summarily dismissed. However numerous factors are never taken into consideration - See Chapter 4 - The Reliability of The Old Testament and Chapter 7 - The Reliability of The New Testament.

When it comes to the four Gospels why are we dismissing or ignoring the following facts?

1.) The Gospel Authors Were "Historians"
When critics point out that no 'contemporaneous historian' said a single word about the event, they seem to forget that "historian" is not a title bestowed on a person at birth, nor is it an office one aspires to. A 'historian' simply records history - which is exactly what Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John did. All four of them lived at the same time as the events they wrote about and were therefore 'contemporaneous historians'.

Had there only been one document that testified to Christ's birth, life, death, and resurrection, we could have dismissed it as the work of someone who had been smoking something he shouldn't have. But we have an unprecedented number of testimony to that momentous event. Not only is four separate records by four different authors of someone who lived two thousand plus years ago unheard of, but a total of nine of the New Testament authors were eyewitnesses or contemporaries of the events. Between them they wrote 27 documents, the majority of which either directly or indirectly mention the Resurrection.

Considering these documents are 2000 years old, how much more do we need or expect to find? The reality is that no other event of ancient times is better supported than Christ's resurrection yet, skeptics tend to dismiss the four Gospels for a handful of reasons including the following,

    a.) They Are Part Of The Bible: As the late F. F. Bruce, professor of biblical criticism and exegesis at the University of Manchester is reputed to have once said,

      If the New Testament were a collection of secular writings, their authenticity would generally be regarded as beyond all doubt.  [00]

    In any case, when these men sat down to write their accounts... there was no Bible as we know it today. All Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John had were the Hebrew Scriptures - the Old Testament that had been completed some 400 years earlier.

    b.) Resurrection is Impossible: The Gospels speak of events that do not fit in with our ideas of what is possible and what is not. After all, 'enlightened' moderns know that miracles of healing do not happen, angels (even if they exist) do not talk to men, and no one can be raised from the dead. Besides which, a secular culture that is increasingly more focused on the 'self' is unwilling to accept that man is accountable to God who controls the destiny of the world.

    c.) They Had Motive: Others believe that the Gospel authors were incapable of writing unbiased history because they had a stake in the matter. This hardly rings true in the face of the fact that virtually all of them were cruelly killed for their beliefs - yet not one recanted. See Motive... Did the Gospel Writers Intend To Record History, Or Did They Have A Hidden Agenda?

2.) They Agree on The Fundamental Issues
All four of the Gospels agree on the principal facts, i.e. Jesus of Nazareth was crucified in Jerusalem by the Romans, died several hours
later, and was buried in Joseph of Arimathea's tomb that was sealed with an extremely large stone. Early on Sunday morning several women including Mary Magdalene (who is named in all the Gospels), visited His tomb only to find that it was empty. The women were not only the first to be told by an angelic being that Christ had risen from the dead, but the first to see the risen Christ. Subsequently Christ appeared to the disciples then to many other people.  (As a by the way, no one inventing stories in that culture and at that time would have given women so important a part in the entire account.

3.) And Made No Effort To 'Tally' Their Stories
Since there is little doubt that the four disciples had plenty of time to ensure that their stories 'tallied' why didn't they do just that? The very fact that they did not make the slightest effort to unify their descriptions is actually evidence to reliability. People who conspire together to invent false stories are careful to avoid contradictions but, as any trial judge knows, genuine witnesses rarely agree on every single little detail. If they did, it is more than likely they would be treated with suspicion.

However, it is a no win situation when it comes to the Bible, If the four authors agreed with each other in every regard, they would be accused of conspiracy. Because they didn't, they are accused of contradicting one other.

4.) A Difference is Not the Same as A Contradiction
Very understandably the Gospel authors used different wording even when repeating something that Jesus said and not very much has changed since. If, in the modern world, four people were asked to write a brief account of one event, how much would you be willing to bet that what caught each one's attention, what each one focused on, what each of them chose to include or exclude, etc. etc. would differ quite considerably. Not only would each version differ from the other three - the wording in each report would do so as well.

One example from Scriptures is when Jesus asked the disciples who people said He was and who they thought He was. The difference in wording in both the question and answer in Matthew, Mark, and Luke's accounts is underlined in the quotes below (John doesn't mention this incident). Although a very simple example it serves to illustrate the point that a "difference" is not the same as a "contradiction". Matthew's Gospel directed at a Jewish audience intentionally mentioned the prophet Jeremiah who was well known to the Hebrews. He was also the only one to record the fact that Jesus used the term "Son of Man" - although this phrase was used over 90 times in the book of Ezekiel alone it would have meant nothing to the Gentiles. In spite of the differences no one could possibly believe that all three men were not referring to the same conversation.

    Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" And they said, "Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets." He *said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." (Matthew 16:13-16 NASB)

    Jesus went out, along with His disciples, to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way He questioned His disciples, saying to them, "Who do people say that I am?" They told Him, saying, "John the Baptist; and others say Elijah; but others, one of the prophets." And He continued by questioning them, "But who do you say that I am?" Peter *answered and *said to Him, "You are the Christ." (Mark 8:27-29 NASB)

    And it happened that while He was praying alone, the disciples were with Him, and He questioned them, saying, "Who do the people say that I am?" They answered and said, "John the Baptist, and others say Elijah; but others, that one of the prophets of old has risen again." And He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" And Peter answered and said, "The Christ of God." (Luke 9:18-20 NASB)

5.) Jesus' Followers Were Initially Very Skeptical
A reading of all four Gospels makes it clear that Jesus' followers were neither naive peasants who would believe any story that came along nor zealots bent on propagating a resurrection myth. The descriptions of people's reactions are very realistic - they were convinced that His body had been spirited away by the authorities and openly incredulous when told that Jesus had risen from the grave. It was only personal contact with an angel or Jesus Himself that convinced them that He was alive. Would that be any different from how people in the 21st century would react?

(Actually I may have to take that back. In older times people seemed to be more fearful and run a mile from anything that smacked of the supernatural. In our world spooks that spout great torrents of gobbledygook that passes itself off as "ancient wisdom" are believed to be "Ascended Masters", or "Masters of Wisdom. These beings have indulged in philosophical exchanges or communicated their messages that have been duly written down by their compliant minions and presented to the world as "truth". See Overview of the New Age.

    When the women found the stone rolled away and the tomb empty, they were initially confused (Luke 24:1-4). In fact, Mary Magdalene was convinced that someone had stolen Jesus' body which is what she told the disciples (John 20:13-15). 

    It was only after being reassured by an angel that Christ had actually been resurrected that some of the women, overcome with fear and great joy, ran to report it to His disciples. (Matthew 28:5-8) However, their joyous news was met with disbelief (Mark 16:11 and Luke 24:11 )

    When the two men told the others that Jesus had walked with them on the road to Emmaus, they were not believed (Mark 16:12-13). Even after Jesus appeared to ten of the disciples, they were startled and frightened because they assumed Him to be a spirit, not a flesh and bone body. It was only after they touched Him and saw His hands and feet that they were convinced. (Luke 24:37-40)

    Thomas, who was missing the night Jesus spoke to all the disciples, flatly rejected the idea that Jesus was alive although all other ten disciples affirmed it. (John 20:24-29) Again, it took a one-on-one encounter to convince him. 

How ALL Historical Accounts Are Pieced Together

Unfortunately many critics will not make room for even the smallest amount of speculation or conjecture. This, I am sorry to say, shows little or no understanding of how ancient history is constructed, or even how our judicial system works.

ALL history infers the past from partially known facts.

Anything and everything that is known about any person or event in the past comes from documents, contemporary accounts, (some even fragmentary) writing on steles and other monuments, unearthed clay tablets, etc. However, we have to fill in many of the gaps because these sources do not present us with a complete step by step time line nor exact descriptions of what took place. However, this does not mean we can indulge in wild flights of fancy. Our job is to simply connect the dots making sure we do not deviate from what the evidence tells us.

Stephen Graham (philosophical theologian from Belfast, Northern Ireland) says

    "Ancient historians routinely have to deal with sources of mixed quality and varying reliability when they attempt to reconstruct past events, but they don't throw the baby out with the bathwater by rejecting an entire account because there's a possible minor discrepancy. Moreover this is a principle that we find all the time in the legal world: testimony does not need to be infallible before it can be accepted as reliable." [02]

For example, in a murder trial one witness may say he saw the suspect come out of the house wearing blood-stained blue shirt at shortly after ten a.m. The other says it was around 9:46 in the morning when he saw the suspect getting into a car parked near the victims house wearing a purple shirt that had blood on it. Regardless of the discrepancies, the fact remains that they agreed on the essential fact that the suspect was in the immediate area around ten in the morning and his shirt had blood on it.

Similarly, juries convict someone if the evidence provided proves beyond reasonable doubt that he or she committed the crime. However, no judge or jury in the world ever knows every single detail of how the crime took place which means they have to fill in the gaps between the bits of concrete evidence.

Discrepancies In Other Ancient Books Are Accepted
Sadly, the standards used to judge secular history are very different from the standards used to judge the Gospel narratives. As mentioned in the Chapter Differences and Discrepancies in the Old Testament, the differences in the accounts of even some important historical events such as Hannibal crossing the Alps are often overlooked. 

The Greek author Herodotus was called 'The Father of History' by Cicero because he wrote the first great historical narrative of the ancient world -  the History of the Greco-Persian Wars. Yet, as Joshua J. Mark, who teaches ancient history, writing, literature, and philosophy, says

    While it is undeniable that Herodotus makes some mistakes in his work, his Histories are generally reliable, and scholarly studies in all disciplines concerning his work (from archaeology to ethnology and more) have continued to substantiate all of his most important observations. 

In fact, as he also point out Aristotle may have incorrectly stated where Herodotus was born..

    Herodotus identifies himself in the prologue to his work as a native of Halicarnassus (on the south-west coast of Asia Minor, modern Turkey) and this is accepted as his birth place even though Aristotle and the Suda claim he was a native of Thurii. This discrepancy is generally understood as a mistake made in an ancient source (possibly a translation of Herodotus' work) as Herodotus may have lived on the island of Thurii but had not been born there. [03] 

Alleged Discrepancies in The Gospel Accounts of the Resurrection
The four accounts of the resurrection are in Matthew 28, Mark 16:1-8, Luke 24:1-12 and John 20:14-18

A Difference is NOT The Same As A Contradiction
Before we jump to the conclusion that there are irreconcilable contradictions in the Gospel accounts we need to be clear as to what a true contradiction is ie. a difference or disagreement between two things both of which cannot be true.

Unfortunately, it is often the case that when people read seemingly disparate accounts of the same event they rarely ask themselves (as they should) whether the account is truly contradictory or a.) whether one person is telling us part of the story and another person is relating another part of the same story b.) whether the same information is being presented from different perspectives.

In other words, is it possible that both accounts are accurate but, for whatever reason, the witnesses are simply relating different areas or points of view of the same event? In both cases the information given by one person can actually complement or complete the information given by the other.

In fact, when read together, the four Gospels actually give us a much more complete picture of what happened

(Note: We have a very good idea why some of the disciples (especially Matthew) chose what details to include or emphasize).

When Was The Stone Moved?
At first glance Matthew seems to be saying that an earthquake occurred and the angel moved the stone when the women arrived at the sepulcher. Mark, Luke and John say the stone had already been rolled away when they arrived.

    Matthew: In the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. And, behold, there was (a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. (28:1-2 KJV)

    Mark: They were saying to one another, "Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?" Looking up, they *saw that the stone had been rolled away, although it was extremely large. (Mark 16:3-4)

    Luke: But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they (the women who had come with Jesus from Galilee. V. 23:55) came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, (24:1-2)

    John: Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene *came early to the tomb, while it *was still dark, and *saw the stone already taken away from the tomb. (20:1 )

Matthew's account appears to relay a chronological sequence in the English translation that the original Greek does not necessarily do. The Greek word ginomai ("there was") is in the aorist tense that, by itself, does not necessarily imply chronological sequence and could just as well been translated "was" or "had been". This is reflected by the NASB's rendering of the relevant words -  "And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred".

In other words, we cannot dogmatically state that Matthew's Gospel says the stone was moved as the women arrived. In fact, as you will see later, it is entirely possible that by the time the women arrived at the tomb that particular angel having done what he was sent to do, had already left.

For Details Copy And Past The Following Url Into Browser http://christianthinktank.com/ordorise.html

Earthquakes in The Region
Incidentally, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in old Jerusalem was built by the Roman emperor Constantine as two connected churches over two different sites. 1) the traditional site of Golgotha, where Jesus was crucified and 2) On the other side, a rotunda which contains the remains of a rock-cut room believed to be Jesus' burial site.

Pertinent to Matthews account is that fact that the church has been damaged by earthquakes several times - in 746, 810 and 1034 A.D. The last earthquake in 1927 caused such major cracks in the structure that the rotunda had to be shored up with scaffolding.

Who Was Guarding The Tomb?
Rabbi Tovia Singer, one of Judaism's more vocal critics of the resurrection narrative, says

    Further contradicting Matthew's post-resurrection account, John's story lacks the Roman guards whom Matthew places at the tomb to prevent anyone from removing Jesus' body. How could John's Mary have thought that someone removed the body, when according to Matthew, Roman soldiers were placed at the tomb for the specific purpose of preventing just such an occurrence? Obviously, the author of the fourth Gospel has no need for Roman guards at the tomb, so in John's crucifixion account they simply do not exist. [04]

The rabbi's objection seems to have been put together without thinking it through or review (it was the resurrection account, not the "crucifixion account"). But to get past nit picking.

The Guards in John's account "simply do not exist".
John was not the only one who made no mention of guards - Luke and Mark did not say anything about them either. And Matthew might not have done so either had he not had a specific reason in mind. See 'Roman Guards' just below

John's Perspective
If you are paying attention John cuts the account very short. He didn't just neglect to mention the guards but says nary a word about an earthquake, the conversation the women had among themselves, or their confusion at seeing the stone rolled away. He does not describe the angels nor recount their message.

All John says is that, upon seeing the moved stone, Mary ran to report this to Peter and the other "disciple whom Jesus loved" - usually identified as John himself. This possibly because his narrative  was concerned only with when and how he heard the tomb was empty and what he (and Peter) did next. Mary Magdalene was named because she was the one who told them that Jesus' body was missing. Right after John told us what happened when he and Peter visited the tomb, he returned to Mary Magdalene's story because she was the first one to see the risen Christ.

'Roman' Guards?
I don't see how anyone can definitively state that the guards at the tomb were Roman. In fact the evidence says otherwise. Matthew 27:62-66 gives one the very distinct impression that the chief priests and the Pharisees secured the grave, sealed the stone, and appointed the guard (in all likelihood temple guards made up of Levites and priests). Pilate told the Jewish leaders to 'Go, make it as secure as you know how'. 

    Now on the next day, the day after the preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered together with Pilate, and said, "Sir, we remember that when He was still alive that deceiver said, 'After three days I am to rise again.' "Therefore, give orders for the grave to be made secure until the third day, otherwise His disciples may come and steal Him away and say to the people, 'He has risen from the dead,' and the last deception will be worse than the first." Pilate said to them, "You have a guard; go, make it as secure as you know how." And they went and made the grave secure, and along with the guard they set a seal on the stone. (Emphasis Added).

That the guards were Jewish Temple guards is further supported by the fact that they went to the chief priests to report all that had happened (Matthew 28:11-15).

    Now while they were on their way, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all that had happened. And when they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, and said, "You are to say, 'His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we were asleep.' "And if this should come to the governor's ears, we will win him over and keep you out of trouble." And they took the money and did as they had been instructed; and this story was widely spread among the Jews, and is to this day. (Matthew 28:11-15 NASB)

Considering that execution was the punishment for Roman soldiers who fell asleep on their watch how likely is it that Roman guards could be bribed to say they were asleep when Jesus' body was stolen away by the disciples. No money would be enough for a Roman guard to confess to falling asleep on duty. It is far more likely that the Pharisees bribed their own people to lie to the Roman Governor who would not have been pleased (he was ultimately responsible for what happened in his province) but would not have sentenced them to death.

Additionally the chief priests told the guards that they would keep them out of trouble if this came to the governor's ears. How in the world would the priests have any influence in a matter of Roman discipline?

Another point in favor of the guard being Jewish is that when the women came to the temple that morning they would have known that they themselves could not possibly move the stone. Perhaps they hoped Jews, who would have understood what it was the women wanted to do, would move the stone long enough for them to anoint Jesus' body with spices. Roman guards would not have made any such concessions.

     Note: As a by-the-way, it is interesting to note that the Jewish leaders never denied the tomb was empty but tried to explain it away. In other words, Jesus' earliest opponents bore witness to the fact that the tomb was empty.

How Many Women Went To The Sepulcher That Morning?
Matthew names two women - Mary Magdalene and another Mary. Mark adds Salome to the list. Luke mentions Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James. John only mentions Mary Magdalene.

    Matthew: Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave. (28:1)

    Mark: When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices, so that they might come and anoint Him. (16:1)

    Luke: Now they were Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James; also the other women with them were telling these things to the apostles.  (24:10) (Emphasis Added)

    John: Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene *came early to the tomb, while it *was still dark, and *saw the stone already taken away from the tomb.  (John 20:1 NASB)

What we need to remember that additional information is not necessarily contradictory information and none of them intended to give us a comprehensive list of of all the early morning visitors.

The three synoptics indicate that there were at least two other women with Mary Magdalene that morning. Luke only named three women adding that there were "other women with them." John only named Mary Magdalene but indirectly acknowledges the presence of additional women (Mary Magdalene used the plural pronoun "we" in her report to the disciples - "They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him." John 20:2 NASB). Although Matthew clearly had a specific reason for naming only two women (below)he did not say "only Mary Magdalene and the other Mary visited the tomb'

So how many women made the journey that morning? We have absolutely no idea.

However, if you read Luke 8:1-3 and Mark 15:40-41, it is clear that quite a few women not only followed Jesus from Galilee and, as Matthew 27:55-56 and Luke 23:27 point out, many of them were present at the crucifixion. (See Footnote I) Since it is quite unlikely that most of the women who were mourning and lamenting at the cross lost interest in Jesus in a matter of a day or two many, or even all, of them could have gone to the tomb that morning to anoint Jesus' body with spices.

Why Matthew Only Named Two Women
Matthew not only mentioned Mary Magdalene and another Mary as being at the tomb where Jesus was buried but very significantly he also makes it a point to say that these same two women watched to see where Jesus was buried.

    And Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary, sitting opposite the grave. (27:61 NASB)

    Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave. (28:1 NASB )

In other words, he particularly mentions that two women (Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses) were present at both the burial and the tomb when Jesus was resurrected. Was this just one of those things or did Matthew, writing as he did to a primarily Jewish audience, have a very specific reason for doing so?

He did!

In fact, it was deeply significant. Note that he said nothing about them wanting to anoint Jesus' body but that they came to "see" the sepulcher (Matthew 28:1). In other words, not only were they witnesses to his burial, but also witnesses to the fact that He was no longer where they had laid Him.

Two witnesses!
From the very beginning a minimum of two witnesses were required to confirm facts.

    A single witness shall not rise up against a man on account of any iniquity or any sin which he has committed; on the evidence of two or three witnesses a matter shall be confirmed.  (Deuteronomy 19:15 NASB)

    But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. (Matthew 18:16 NASB)

    This is the third time I am coming to you. Every fact is to be confirmed by the testimony of two or three witnesses. (2 Corinthians 13:1 NASB)

    Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. (Hebrews 10:28 NASB)

And the pattern will continue through the end of days.

    And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for twelve hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.  (Revelation 11:3 NASB)

According to Old Testament requirements Matthew's two witnesses established the truth of Christ's death, burial, and resurrection.

Thus it is hardly surprising that Matthew's account also counters the story of Jesus' body being stolen telling us that the guards colluded with the chief priests to say that the disciples stole the body while they were asleep (Matthew 28:11-15). All of which is perfectly in line with the overarching purpose of Matthew's Gospel which was to prove that Jesus is the Messiah.

When Did The Women Arrive?
Critics often accuse the Gospel authors of not even knowing when the women came to the tomb.

    Matthew: "after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave."

    Mark: "Very early on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen."

    Luke: "But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared."

    John: "Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came early to the tomb, while it was still dark."

The supposed discrepancy has a lot to do with Mark who is believed to have said the women came to the tomb "when the sun had risen". However, Mark uses that often troublesome aorist tense that does not necessarily mean past time. An article in Wikipedia says

    Because the aorist was not maintained in either Latin or the Germanic languages, there have long been difficulties in translating the Greek New Testament into Western languages. The aorist has often been interpreted as making a strong statement about the aspect or even the time of an event, when, in fact, due to its being the unmarked (default) form of the Greek verb, such implications are often left to context. Thus, within New Testament hermeneutics, it is considered an exegetical fallacy to attach undue significance to uses of the aorist. [05]

Gleason Archer Jr. was a biblical scholar, theologian, educator and author (See Credentials in Footnote II). As he wrote,

    They [the women] apparently started their journey from the house in Jerusalem while it was still dark (skotias eti ouses), even though it was already early morning (proi) (John 20:1). But by the time they arrived [at the tomb], dawn was glimmering in the East (te epiphoskouse) that Sunday morning (eis mian sabbaton) (Matthew 28:1). (Mark 16:2, Luke 24:1, John 20:1 all use the dative: te mia ton sabbaton.) Mark 16:2 adds that the tip of the sun had actually appeared above the horizon (anateilantos tou heliou — aorist participle;) implying "while the sun was rising"). [06]

Unfortunately Rabbi Tovia Singer can be counted among those who base their conclusions on a very shallow reading of the text and are seemingly disinclined do to any serious thinking for themselves. Those who refuse to believe anything other than what is taught in their own traditions will endeavor to pick holes in anything that contradicts what they have already decided to believe with little or no regard for legitimacy. In his words, 

    This account in the Book of John could not have occurred in Matthew's post-resurrection narrative. How could Mary have not known that Jesus' body was not laid anywhere? In Matthew's story, the angel had already revealed to her that Jesus rose from the dead and had gone to the Galilee. It would have been preposterous for her to think that someone had moved the body when the angels had already informed her that Jesus' resurrection had occurred. Moreover, if the angel's instructions to her were not convincing enough, Matthew claims that Mary also met the resurrected Jesus himself immediately after leaving the tomb (Matthew 28:9) – and all this transpires before Mary ever sees the disciples! [07 ]

Based on her comment about not knowing what had happened to the Lord's body we can be certain that Mary Magdalene was not among the group of women who were told by angels that He had risen from the dead. Although the Bible does not specifically mention she was separate from the other women, it does not disallow the idea. There is more than one possibility here ...

I have no idea why it is assumed that all the women arrived at the tomb at the same time. Although all the synoptic Gospels mention the dawn John is the only one that says Mary Magdalene "came early to the tomb while it was still dark". This could very well mean that she and the other Mary (the two witnesses) were the first to arrive on the scene ahead of some of the others and well before sun up. Seeing the stone out of it's place and assuming that the tomb had been rifled, she ran to tell the disciples. She had no contact with an angel at that point.

This does not contradict Matthew's account that says the angel spoke to the women without specifically mentioning which women. Other women did arrive and they could have been the ones who heard what the angel had to say.

Peter, John and Mary Magdalene
John does not mention the other Mary at all but as said earlier, his narrative was only concerned with when and how he heard the tomb was empty and what he (and Peter) did next (as said earlier). Mary Magdalene was named because she was the one who told them that Jesus' body was missing. Note: The "we" in Mary's statement probably indicated the other Mary.

    "So she *ran and *came to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and *said to them, "They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him."  (John 20:2 NASB)

As soon as they heard what Mary had to say all three of them returned to the tomb. His Gospel says that he and Peter ran but he was faster. Very possibly, Mary Magdalene followed them back at a slower pace not arriving until after they had left.

When the two men got to the tomb they saw the linen wrappings lying there and the face cloth that had been on Jesus' head rolled up in a place by itself (20:6-7)/ They did not seem to realize that if someone had made off with the body in all probability they would not have stopped to unwrap it but would have hauled it off - grave clothes and all. They certainly would not have bothered to re-wrap the face cloth.

All evidence pointed to the fact that Jesus' had simply passed through all those layers of cloth leaving them undisturbed. However, at that point the two disciples did not "understand the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead". So probably thoroughly perplexed and upset they left and went home (John 20:9-10). John immediately returned to Mary Magdalene's story telling us that she stayed behind and was the first one to see the risen Christ.

Note that Luke only mentions Peter as being at the tomb. However, it is obvious that Peter went there twice, the first time after he and John heard Mary Magdalene's initial report that Christ's body was gone. However, because Peter's second visit occurred after the other women relayed the angel's message that Jesus had risen, he understood the significance of the undisturbed linen wrappings and 'marveled'. 

    But these words appeared to them as nonsense, and they would not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he *saw the linen wrappings only; and he went away to his home, marveling at what had happened. (Luke 24:11-12 NASB)

How Could Mary Magdalene Not Have Recognized The Risen Lord?
Now back at the sepulcher and still very upset, Mary stood outside weeping, But when she stooped down to look into the tomb she "saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet where the body of Jesus had been lying". (John 20:11-12). One of them asked her why she was crying, Her response was 'because they had taken away her Lord and she did not know where they had laid Him" (20:13). This is exactly what she said to Peter and John just a little earlier in V. 2.   

We do not know why but after she spoke, for some reason Mary turned around and, as John wrote, "saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus".  (John 20:14 NASB)

Much is made of the fact that she did not recognize Him. How could Mary Magdalene, who was healed of demon possession by Christ and who subsequently followed Him everywhere, not know who He was? Although it is possibly that Mary's vision may have been obscured by her tears it was the prophet Isaiah that gives us a clue as to what was going on. Referring to Jesus he wrote,

    "...His appearance was marred more than any man And His form more than the sons of men. (Isaiah 52:14 NASB)

In other words, Jesus had been badly beaten even on the face (Luke 22:63-64) to say nothing of the fact that He had just emerged from three days in a tomb - all factors that had to have played a part in His disfigurement.  It is not easy to recognize someone who has a badly bruised and probably very swollen face. As the NIV says, His appearance was disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness.

However, Mary recognized His voice when He called her name and turned in what was probably total amazement and said "Rabboni".

    Jesus 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." Jesus *said to her, "Mary!" She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, "Rabboni!" (which means, Teacher). (John 20:15-16 NASB)

John then tells us that Mary Magdalene then went and announced to the disciples that she had "seen the Lord," and that "He had said these things to her".  (John 20:18 NASB). 

However I do not believe that a marred countenance is the reason the Emmaus travelers mistook Jesus for a stranger to the area (Luke 24:13-18). The account says "But their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him".  (Luke 24:16 NASB). Later on when they invited Him to stay the night as it was late, at supper when Jesus took and blessed the bread "Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and He vanished from their sight".  (Luke 24:31 NASB)

For reasons unknown to us Jesus' identity was hidden from the two men for quite some time.

Had the disciples been making up stories, it seems counter-productive that they would have mentioned so many of them not recognizing Christ simply because it swung the door wide open to charges that they were mistaken and did not actually see Jesus at all. They wrote of not recognizing Christ simply because that was exactly what happened.

Do not Touch
Incidentally, although John 20:17 has Jesus telling Mary not to "touch" Him as He had not yet ascended to the Father, just ten verses later the Savior instructs Thomas (who doubted it was Him) to put his hand into Jesus' side and be convinced (John 20:27). Then Matthew 28:9 relates how the women who had fled the sepulcher met Jesus and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him without censure.

 As said by the Cambridge Greek Testament Commentary for Schools and Colleges

    The translation 'touch Me not' is inadequate and gives a false impression. The verb (haptesthai ) does not mean to 'touch' and 'handle' with a view to seeing whether His body was real; this Christ not only allowed but enjoined ( v . 27; Luke 24:39 ; comp. 1 John 1:1 ): rather it means to 'hold on to' and 'cling to.' Moreover it is the present (not aorist) imperative; and the full meaning will therefore be, ' Do not continue holding Me ,' or simply, hold Me not. [08]

The verse should be read so - Jesus *said to her, "Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, 'I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.'"  (John 20:17 NASB)

The Angels At The Sepulcher
Were They Angels or Men?
One objection that does nothing but demonstrate a lack of Biblical knowledge is when skeptics bring up the fact that Mark and Luke say a man (or men) spoke to the women, but Matthew and John say they were angels. 

Angels are described as appearing in the form of men on more than one occasion in the Old Testament. For example, see Genesis 18:1–2 when the Lord Himself, apparently accompanied by two angels, visited Abraham. Also See Has Anyone Ever Seen God?

Luke says it was the angel Gabriel who appeared and spoke to Zacharias (Luke 1:5-20) and to Mary, the mother of Jesus (Luke 1:26-79). However, Daniel described Gabriel as "one who looked like a man."

    When I, Daniel, had seen the vision, I sought to understand it; and behold, standing before me was one who looked like a man. And I heard the voice of a man between the banks of Ulai, and he called out and said, "Gabriel, give this man an understanding of the vision." .... while I was still speaking in prayer, then the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision previously, came to me in my extreme weariness about the time of the evening offering. (Daniel 8:15-16, 9:21 NASB)

In summary the visitors to the sepulcher that morning were greeted by angels in the form of men.

Was There One Angel Or Two

    Matthew tells us that when Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the grave, "behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it...The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. (Matthew 28:2,5 NASB)

    Mark says that when the women entered the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right wearing a white robe. (Mark 16:5)

    Luke wrote that when the women entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men suddenly stood near them in dazzling clothing; and as the women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, "Why do you seek the living One among the dead? "He is not here, but He has risen. Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, (Luke 24:3-6)

John did say that when Mary Magdalene stooped to look into the tomb; she saw two angels in white, one sitting at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying. (John 20:12). However, we can eliminate John's account from the problem because Mary saw the angels on her second visit to the tomb.

But is there any explanation for the fact that both Mark and Matthew speak of one angel but Luke says there were two.

Remember that neither Mark nor Luke were present at the tomb that morning which means that they must have heard about the events from someone who was. Although Luke's account says "they" asked the women why they sought the living among the dead, it is very unlikely that both angels spoke in unison. One of the two was probably the 'spokesperson', which could be why Mark (or whoever told him about the incident) only mentioned the one angel who spoke to them.

Perhaps a modern day example would better serve to show how two people can relate the same incident differently. If I were to relate what happened when a friend and I went by the bank this morning, I could say,

    "We could not get any business done at the bank this morning because, as we were walking up to the door, two officers suddenly showed up and told us the bank was closed due to a security breach but it would probably open later on in the day".

My friend, on the other hand, could say something to the effect of

    "We needed to withdraw some money from the bank this morning. However, when we got there a police officer informed us that because there had been a cyber attack on the bank the previous night, the bank would remain closed for a few hours".

What Did They Say?
it should be noted that all three of the accounts agreed on the angel's primary message - Jesus had risen. However, both Matthew and Mark mention that the angel invited the women to see where Jesus had been laid, instructed them to tell the disciples that Jesus had risen and that He would go ahead of them to Galilee. Luke on the other hand adds another detail -  The angels told the women to remember the Savior's words words regarding how He would be killed but rise again - and that the women remembered Him saying this.

    The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who has been crucified. "He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying. "Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going ahead of you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you." And they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy and ran to report it to His disciples. (Matthew 28:5-8 NASB)

    And he *said to them, "Do not be amazed; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified. He has risen; He is not here; behold, here is the place where they laid Him. "But go, tell His disciples and Peter, 'He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see Him, just as He told you.'" They went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had gripped them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. (Mark 16:6-8 NASB)

    Note: It is possible that Mark the author of the Gospel that bears his name, was Peter's protégé. In 1 Peter 5:3, the disciple referred to a Mark calling him his "son". If this is the case, then Mark who was not an eyewitness was relating what Peter told him making it not at all surprising that he particularly mentions Peter in his account.

    and as the women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, "Why do you seek the living One among the dead? "He is not here, but He has risen. Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, saying that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again." And they remembered His words, and returned from the tomb and reported all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. (Luke 24:5-9 NASB)

    Note: Luke was also not an eyewitness. A very interesting yet often overlooked detail is that Luke's gospel is the only one of the four to focus on the events surrounding Jesus' birth from Mary's perspective.  In chapter 2, Luke twice tells us that Mary "treasured" some things in her heart (The shepherd's account of the angelic visitation in verses 8-19, and Jesus sitting in the temple as a young boy talking to the teachers in verses 41-51). Since no one else could have known what Mary was thinking and feeling, either Luke spoke to Mary who recalled her thoughts to him, or he had to have spoken to someone very close to her whom she had confided in.

Similarly, when Luke wrote that the women "remembered His words" he could very well have spoken to one or more of the women who told him that when the angel spoke to them they recalled what Jesus had previously said.

Did The Women Report what They Had Seen and Heard, or Not?

Luke and Mark appeared not to agree whether the women who encountered an angel at the sepulcher told the disciples what they had seen and heard - or whether they kept silence out of fear.

It is entirely likely that the women fled the tomb in terror and shock and, as Mark said, told no one what had happened - that is until Jesus Himself appeared and instructed them to go and tell the others.

Matthew's account that tells us that when Jesus met and greeted the women on the road, He told them not to be afraid then reiterated the angels' command, i.e. they were to tell the disciples to leave for Galilee where they would see Him.

    And they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy and ran to report it to His disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him. Then Jesus *said to them, "Do not be afraid; go and take word to My brethren to leave for Galilee, and there they will see Me." (Matthew 28:8-10 NASB)

I see no other reason for Jesus to repeat the angel's instructions other than as Mark said the women left the tomb too afraid to do say anything and they needed reassuring.

Chronology Of Events
There is little question that an initial reading makes the chronology of the events surrounding Jesus' resurrection sound contradictory. However, on careful investigation most of the details gradually fall into place, with very little conjecture necessary.

Because they did not really understand everything that the Lord had said, from their point of view everything was normal one day, but confusing and heart breaking the next when their beloved leader was arrested and crucified. They were probably too stunned and grief stricken to even think straight. On top of which they were hit over the heads with shocking news - someone had stolen Jesus' body.

This was quickly followed by some of the women who had visited the tomb that morning reporting that an angel had told them that the reason the tomb was empty was because Jesus was no longer there - not because someone had  made off with His body but because He had come back to life - He had risen from the grave. I would imagine that this roller coaster of news caused the disciples much confusion and disbelief. I wouldn't be surprised if at least some of them believed that grief and exhaustion had taken its toll on the women to the point they were delusional.

However, there was one common factor in the chaos. Everyone who heard the story hurried down to the burial site to see for themselves. In fact, the road to the tomb probably saw more activity on that morning than it had the rest of the year.

What makes it difficult is that none of the four authors gave us the precise order in which the events unfolded, nor did any claim to do so. None of them told us who did exactly what and in what order they did it. Neither did any of them try to reconcile or integrate the actions of one person or group with anyone else's actions on that day. Each of them gave us small pieces of information which takes time, effort and, above all, patience to sort through and is much like putting a jigsaw puzzle together.

However, it is possible to reasonably and logically construct a non-contradictory chronological time line of the events of the resurrection, while remaining faithful to what Matthew, Mark, Luke and John wrote.

    In summary, sometime before dawn Jesus rose from the dead literally passing through the grave clothes. An angel of the Lord showed up at the tomb, rolled the stone away then sat on it which, quite obviously, scared the dickens out of the guards who apparently, fainted. When they came to, they took off to tell the chief priests what had happened. The priests bribed the guards to tell everyone that Jesus' disciples came by night and stole Christ's body away when the guards fell asleep. (Matthew 28:1-15)

    Back at the sepulcher the angel whose purpose it seemed to be to intimidate the guards/move the large stone and ensure that no one tried to replace it, left.

    Mary Magdalene and 'the other' Mary arrived at the tomb and saw that it was open. It is possible that either one or both of them glanced or stepped inside and seeing that the tomb was empty, took off to tell the disciples that someone had taken Jesus' body away (John 20:1-2).

    In the mean time, the other women arrived at the sepulcher and had an encounter with two angels who told them that Jesus had risen from the dead, which they were to go and tell His disciples along with the fact that He was going ahead of them to Galilee (Matthew 28:5-7, Mark 16:6-7). Luke does not mention the women's charge, but says they reported "all these things" to the disciples (Luke 24:5-9).

    After hearing what Mary Magdalene said about Jesus' missing body, Peter and John took off running to the tomb with Mary Magdalene following more slowly. By the time they got there, it is likely the other women who had spoken with the angels had left. Peter and John were probably as despondent as Mary was because they did not yet understand the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead. There was nothing left for them to do, but go home, which they apparently did. (John 20:1-10)

    Mary Magdalene following more slowly arrived at the tomb after Peter and John had left.  Still thoroughly undone she stood outside crying. It is likely that she stooped to look into the tomb one again to make sure she hadn't been imagining that Jesus' body was missing. When she did so, she saw two angels in white who asked her why she was crying, to which she told them exactly what she had told Peter and John - her Lord was missing and she did not know where He had been laid.

    Someone Mary took to be the gardener also asked her why she was weeping to which she responded with another question - whether he had taken Jesus' body away. When 'the gardener' called her name, she suddenly realized it was the Lord Himself and turned towards Him, calling Him "Rabboni!"

    At some point he second group of women, who were now somewhere on the road had an encounter with the Lord Himself who reiterated the angel's instructions to take word to the disciples to leave for Galilee where they would see Him (Matthew 28:9-10). By the time the women caught up with the disciples, Peter was among them. Although the women were not believed, Peter got up and ran back to the tomb -this time by himself. On this, what appears to be Peter's second visit to the sepulcher, he seemed to understand the significance of the undisturbed linen wrappings, and 'marvelled' (Luke 24:11-12).

Jesus' Post-Resurrection Appearances
Following their usual pattern, the Gospel authors did not give us a detailed time line of the events that took place after Jesus' resurrection. When Jesus appeared, to whom, and at what time. etc. etc. etc.

Luke wrote in Acts 1:3 that Jesus "presented Himself alive" to the apostles "appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God". Yet, all four of them only describe between one and three of these appearances. Each of the authors may only have mentioned the most prominent of His appearance or the ones that stuck in their own minds. The end goal was the same - to substantiate that Jesus did indeed rise from the dead.

    Luke speaks of Christ walking and talking to the men on the road to Emmaus, then the one appearance to the disciples when He ate with them. Interestingly, between the two accounts Luke says the Lord appeared to Peter, but we do not know when this happened because no other details are mentioned, .

    Mark briefly mentions the men walking to Emmaus and Jesus' appearance to the eleven "as they were reclining at the table".

    Matthew only mentions that the eleven saw the Lord when they went to the mountain in Galilee that Jesus had designated (28:16-17). He does not speak of any other appearance. Since Galilee was at least a days journey away, Jesus' appearance on the mountain top had to have preceded some of the others.

    In keeping with the rest of his Gospel, John's account of Jesus' post-resurrection appearances are unique. He is the only one to say anything about Jesus appearing to ten of the disciples (Thomas was not present) behind locked doors (John 20:19-23), then appearing again eight days later when all eleven were present (John 20:26). Also peculiar to John's Gospel is his description of Jesus appearance to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias including Christ's three questions and exhortations to Peter (Ch. 21)

It is not always clear in what order all of these appearances took place. Nor does it matter one whit. All that matters is that Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to many, many people including Mary Magdalene and some other women at the tomb, His disciples, five hundred brethren at one time, and His brother James. His final appearance was to Paul. (1 Corinthians 15:5-8).

We gleefully assume contradictions just because none of the four chose to recount every single one of Christ's appearances. As said by attorney and congressman Walter M. Chandler in his book The Trial of Jesus from a Lawyer's Standpoint

    Again, an investigation of the charge of discrepancy against the Gospel writers shows that the critics and skeptics have classified mere omissions as contradictions.  Noting could be more absurd than to consider an omission a contradiction, unless the requirements of the case show that the facts and circumstances omitted were essential to be stated, or that the omission was evidently intended to mislead or deceive. Any other contention would turn historical literature topsy-turvy and load it down with contradictions. 

    Dion Cassius, Tacitus, and Suetonius have all written elaborately of the reign of Tiberius. Many things are mentioned by each that are not recorded by the other two. Are we to reject all three as unreliable historians because of this fact? Abbott, Hazlitt, Bourrienne, and Walter Scott have written biographies of Napoleon Bonaparte. Not one of them has recited all the facts recorded by the others. Are these omissions to destroy the merits of all these writers and cause them to be suspected and rejected? 

    Grafton's Chronicles rank high in English historical literature. They comprise the reign of King John; and yet make no mention of the granting of Magna Charta.  This is as if the life of Jefferson had been written without mention of the Declaration of Independence; or a biography of Lincoln without calling attention to the Emancipation Proclamation. Notwithstanding this strange omission, Englishmen still preserve Grafton's Chronicles as valuable records among their archives.

    And the same spirit of generous criticism is everywhere displayed in matters of profane literature. The opponents of Christianity are never embarrassed in excusing or explaining away omissions or contradictions, provided the writer is a layman and his subject secular. But let the theme be a sacred one and the author an ecclesiastic preacher, priest, or prophet – and immediately incredulity rises to high tide, engulfs the reason, and destroys all dispassionate criticism. [09]

Jerusalem or Galilee?
Before He was crucified, Jesus told the disciples that He would go ahead of them to Galilee after He had been raised (Matthew 26:32). After His resurrection, both the angels and Jesus Himself instructed the women to tell the disciples to go to Galilee where they would see Him (Matthew 28:7, Mark 16:7).

However, we need to bear in mind that there is no indication that Jesus intended to meet the disciples in Galilee that very day -  (in any case this would have been impossible because Galilee is some 80 miles away from Jerusalem and the disciples were on foot). Neither does the text say that the first time Jesus would appear to His disciples after His resurrection would be in Galilee. (as we know from the other accounts, He first appeared to them in Jerusalem).

We do know (previous section) that Jesus made numerous post-resurrection appearances. His first and second appearances to the disciples as a group took place in Jerusalem and, as John wrote, the third time Jesus appeared to the disciples was at the sea of Tiberias (aka the Sea of Galilee) (John 21). In fact, there was more than one meeting in Galilee after at some point the other four disciples also made their way there...

    But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. (Matthew 28:16-17 NASB)

    Note: Considering the disciples had seen Jesus at least twice after His resurrection and had even eaten with Him, it seems unlikely that they were among those that doubted when they saw Jesus on the mountain. It is possible, as some believe, that Jesus' appearance on the mountain in Galilee was the same occasion when He appeared to over five hundred people at one time (1 Corinthians 15:6). Since Galilee was some 60-70 miles away, this appearance had to have taken place at least a few days after the resurrection by which time the story of Jesus rising from the dead would have spread along with the fact that He said He would meet the disciples in Galilee. It is, therefore, more than likely that quite a few of Jesus' followers gathered on the mountain. So the "some were doubtful" probably refers to some of the people who had not previously seen Him.

However, there was absolutely no indication of how much time elapsed between Jesus' initial appearances in the Jerusalem area and His appearance in Galilee. Unlike modern historians Matthew, Mark, Luke and John paid little or no attention to chronological sequence and were not particular about exact dates and times. They often went from one subject to the next without any regard to how much time had elapsed between them. We do know that Jesus appeared sporadically over 40 days performing many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book (John 20:30 NASB).

Luke 24:1-43
If you read Luke 24 carefully, verses 1,13,21,29, 33, and 36 make it very clear that all the events recorded from verse 1 to 43 took place on the same day that Jesus was resurrected.

Luke 24: 50-53
However, the ascension recorded in verses 50-53 obviously took place at the end of the 40 day period (Acts 1:3) that Jesus was on earth. See Acts 1:1-12

Luke 24: 44-49
Verse 44 does begin with the Greek word de (variously translated and, now, then, but etc.) but does not necessarily indicate continuation. Even though many twenty-first-century readers assume that the events recorded in Luke 24:44-49 occurred on the very day Jesus rose from the grave, the text actually is silent on the matter.

    Now He said to them, "These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled." Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. "You are witnesses of these things. "And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high." (Luke 24:44-49 NASB)

In fact if you read Acts 1:1-12 (especially the parts that I have underlined it becomes very clear that after appearing t the disciples over a period of 40 days, Jesus' last command to the disciples was to tarry in Jerusalem, which is why the last verses of Luke 24 says "And they, after worshiping Him, returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple praising God. (Luke 24:52-53 NASB)

    (1) The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach,  (2) until the day when He was taken up to heaven, after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen.  (3) To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God. (4)  Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, "Which," He said, "you heard of from Me; (5)  for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now." (6)  So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, "Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?"  (7) He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority;  (8) but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth."  (9) And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. (10)  And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. (11) They also said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven." (12) Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day's journey away.(Acts 1:1-12 NASB)

In other words, Jesus did not instruct His disciples to stay in Jerusalem until they were "clothed with power from on high" the very first time He appeared to them but just before He ascended into Heaven.

    Please Note that Heaven in the New Testament is usually translated form the Greek word ouranos that, like the Hebrew shâmayim, can mean either sky, outer space, or the abode of God. In view of which we have to carefully distinguish which "heaven" was being spoken about. Jesus certainly was. See The Word 'Heaven' in The Bible on THIS page

Why Galilee?
Galilee was a long 80 mile journey from Jerusalem and the disciples were on foot. While we cannot be completely sure as why Jesus wanted to meet them there, we can make some educated guesses.

Not only was Galilee Jesus' home (Nazareth is in Lower Galilee) but for the most part it was the area in which Jesus preached including 'the sermon on the mount' discourse.

It was the location of Jesus' first miracle turning water into wine, the place where He fed thousands of people, healed the sick and raised the dead. The transfiguration also took place in Galilee.

It was from the shores of the Sea of Galilee that Jesus called Simon and Andrew, to become "fishers of men"(Mark 1:16,17) and, just a little further on, encountered two other brothers- James and John the sons of Zebedee, whom He called them as well (Matthew 4:18-21)

It should not be surprising that the so-called contradictions in the resurrection accounts are trotted out without a single reference to the possible solutions that can very plausibly and naturally explain them. All too many people seem to want the Gospel accounts to be a myth and are very quick to scoff.

And, I might add, that none of the reconciliation attempts on this page are a "frantic" attempt to "explain away some of the countless inconsistencies that exist in the four canonical Gospels" which Rabbi Tovia Singer so confidently proclaims.

Much to the contrary, the claim of contradictions galore only works for those accustomed to having their food pre-chewed for them and are thus disinclined do to any serious thinking for themselves. They make little effort to try and make any sense of the four accounts choosing instead to allow a surface reading dictate their beliefs.

It will be a very expensive mistake. See Chapters The Message of the Bible and The Warning of The Bible

Footnote I

    Many women were there looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee while ministering to Him. Among them was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.  (Matthew 27:55-56 NASB)

    There were also some women looking on from a distance, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the Less and Joses, and Salome. When He was in Galilee, they used to follow Him and minister to Him; and there were many other women who came up with Him to Jerusalem. (Mark 15:40-41 NASB)

    ...He began going around from one city and village to another, proclaiming and preaching the kingdom of God. The twelve were with Him, (2)  and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and sicknesses: Mary who was called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, (3)  and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod's steward, and Susanna, and many others who were contributing to their support out of their private means. (Luke 8:1-3)

    When they led Him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, coming in from the country, and placed on him the cross to carry behind Jesus. And following Him was a large crowd of the people, and of women who were mourning and lamenting Him. But Jesus turning to them said, "Daughters of Jerusalem, stop weeping for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. (Luke 23:26-28 NASB) {PLACE IN TEXT}

Footnote II
Gleason Archer Jr. was Professor of Biblical Languages at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California from 1948 to 1965. He was then Professor of Old Testament and Semitics at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, Illinois from 1965 to 1986. Archer was as one of the 50 original translators of the NASB published in 1971 and was on the team which translated the NIV Bible published in 1978. (his father Gleason Archer Sr. was the founder and first president of Suffolk University and Suffolk Law School in Boston, Massachusetts) {PLACE IN TEXT}

Continue on to Part 10: The Bible, Then and Now
Not only do the number of manuscript copies of the New Testament far surpass the number of copies of any other ancient document, but the New Testaments 6,000 full, or partial, Greek manuscripts, the roughly 8,000 Latin translations, the copies and fragments in various other languages, and the copious quotes by early church writers make the New Testament the best authenticated ancient document... miles ahead of any of the others. Additionally, the length of time between the original Biblical document and the earliest copies is by far the shortest of any ancient writing. CLICK HERE

End Notes
[00] Bruce Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, 2nd edition, (Hendrickson Publishers, 2005), 123.

[01] Herbert C. Casteel. Beyond a Reasonable Doubt. College Press: 1992, 2nd rev.; p. 211. Also quoted in Do the Resurrection accounts HOPELESSLY contradict one another? https://www.christian-thinktank.com/ordorise.html

[02] Stephen Graham . Is Mark 16:8 an Apologetic Challenge? A Reply to SkepticismFirst

[03] Joshua J. Mark. Herodotus. http://www.ancient.eu/herodotus/

[04] Rabbi Tovia Singer. Did Jesus Rise from the Dead? What is the Evidence for the Resurrection?

[05] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aorist

[06] Gleason Archer, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1982), pp. 347- 348.

[07] Rabbi Tovia Singer. Did Jesus Rise from the Dead? What is the Evidence for the Resurrection?

[08] https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cgt/john-20.html

[09] Walter M. Chandler. The Trial of Jesus from a Lawyer's Standpoint. Vol. 1.  New York: 1925, pp. 29-33. Online Here
 http://www.gutenberg.org/files/40966/40966-h/40966-h.htm  AND


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