Friday, May 28, 2010

JTL Series: Revisiting the four resurrection stories

Part 4 of my "Jesus the Letdown" Series.

The four resurrection stories conflict in ways that matter:

Matthew 28: Two Marys go to the tomb. A violent earthquake occurs as an angel of the Lord comes down, rolls back the stone covering the entrance to the tomb, and sits on the stone. "His appearance was like lightning," and his clothes were white. The guards, who had been posted to prevent Jesus' disciples faking a resurrection, shake and become "like dead men". The angel says to the two women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified..."

Mark 16: Two Marys and Salome go to the tomb, finding the stone already rolled out of the way. No mention of earthquake or angel or guards. Inside the tomb, no Jesus, but a man sitting "on the right side" wearing white robes. No mention of his lightning-like appearance. The young man says, "Don't be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified..."

Luke 24: "The women" (apparently two Marys and a Joanna) go to the tomb, finding the stone already rolled out of the way. No earthquake, angel, or guards. Inside the tomb, no Jesus, but suddenly two men in lightning clothes are standing beside them. The men say, "Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen..."

John 20: Mary goes to the tomb, no mention of any other women. She finds the stone "removed from the entrance". No mention of her entering the tomb. She runs to Peter and "the other disciple, the one Jesus loved," and tells them that there's no Jesus. Simon Peter and the other disciple run to the tomb and enter it, observing burial paraphernalia with no corpse attached. These two disciples go back home, leaving Mary apparently still alone. She looks inside the tomb once more and sees "two angels in white, seated where Jesus' body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.' They ask, "Woman, why are you crying?" Suddenly Jesus is there; she turns around and sees him, but does not recognize him. He also asks, "Woman, why are you crying?"

  • All four differ on which woman/women went to the tomb.
  • One account mentions an earthquake and an angel rolling the stone back; the other three mention no earthquake and say that the stone was already away from the entrance when the women got there.
  • One account mentions Roman guards who apparently passed out at the sight of the angel; the other three mention no guards.
  • Two accounts mention only one heavenly being; two accounts mention two heavenly beings; one account mentions two heavenly beings preceding the appearance of the risen Jesus himself.
  • One account mentions Jesus' physical presence at the tomb and his conversation with one of the women while apparently still at the tomb; the other three have the heavenly beings explicitly announcing, "He is not here."
  • Two accounts have the women being instructed to go tell the disciples that Jesus is risen, and that they are to meet him in Galilee; one account has the women receiving a short sermon but no instructions; one account has Mary receiving instructions from Jesus himself, but only to deliver a cryptic message to the disciples and nothing about Galilee.
  • Three accounts have the women returning to the disciples with the Good News; one has the women saying "nothing to anyone, because they were afraid"
  • One account has Jesus appearing to the women after they had "hurried away from the tomb"; one has no Jesus appearing at all (my NIV tells me that Mark 16:9-20 is absent from the most reliable manuscripts); one has no Jesus appearing to anyone until later that day; one has a woman at the tomb, who "turned around and saw Jesus standing there".

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