Reconciling the Resurrection?

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Reconciling the Resurrection?

#1  Postby jerome » Feb 27, 2010 5:45 pm

On another board I was given Dan Barker's Easter Challenge to reconcile the gospel accounts of the resurrection... and a very good challenge it was too, to reconcile the four Gospel accounts of the Tomb. Well I am happy to say it can be done - several ways have been suggested, most involving the women making two separate journeys to the tomb, and Mary not talking about her previous experiences...

I think that may to do so may do violence to the narrative, so I'll not try a full harmony -- I will however try and reconstruct the story, so you can see the similarities and differences plainly for yourself...

Saturday Night/Sunday Morning - pre-dawn: An earthquake terrifies guard, angel rolls away the stone blocking tomb mouth. Jesus rises.

Matthew 28:2-4
2There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.




Now already we are taking stuff out of order - Matthew puts the women arriving first. Still this makes sense - you will see why in a moment -

Matthew28:1 The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: 'He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.' Now I have told you." So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. "Greetings," he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshipped him. Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me."



John 20 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. 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 have put him!"



Mark 16 When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus' body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, "Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?" But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. "Don't be alarmed," he said. "You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, 'He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.' Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.




Luke 24 On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, "Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 'The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.' " Then they remembered his words."




So far so good. Mary runs and tells Peter & 'the other disciple'. The other women say nothing to anyone at this point, presumably scared. I think that the accounts here are within acceptable variation of testimony - maybe you can point out some differences? The obvious one is whether the 'angel' spoke - but that may be confused with the account later -- and i think considering the accounts, John seems most probable!

John 20 So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus' head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.)




Luke 24 When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.




There is a curious agreement here between Luke and John.

I actually have always favoured John's account of the Passion, for reasons we can discuss another time. For now Peter & the other disciple head home, and Mary remains --

John 20 10 Then the disciples went back to their homes, 11but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus' body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.
13They asked her, "Woman, why are you crying?" "They have taken my Lord away," she said, "and I don't know where they have put him." 14At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.
15"Woman," he said, "why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?" Thinking he was the gardener, she said, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him." 16Jesus said to her, "Mary."
She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, "Rabboni!" (which means Teacher). 17Jesus said, "Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, 'I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.' "


Mark agrees with this --

[quote=Mrk 16:9]When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons.[/quote]



However this is from the 'late' ending of Mark, and not a reliable early tradition.

Mary M now rushes to tell the other disciples - maybe she can't find Peter & John?

John 20 wrote: 18Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: "I have seen the Lord!" And she told them that he had said these things to her.




The disciples are not very impressed by her testimony

Mark 16:10 wrote:10She went and told those who had been with him and who were mourning and weeping. 11When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it.



Again, this is from the late ending.

Then we have this curious passage

Matthew 28 wrote:While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, "You are to say, 'His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.' If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble." So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.



Now that passage suggests to #me that plenty of people believed that the tomb was empty, and that the disciples were involved. There follow many more resurrection appearances, and then they all head off back to Galilee to meet Jesus as instructed -- though I need to try and understand the appearances next.

However, the very rough outline is absolutely clear - the women go to the tomb, they inform the disciples, some of the women see Jesus, or talk to an angel - I rather wonder if the angel was meant to be Jesus in glory anyway - there is considerable scepticism and dismay - Peter (and another disciple) decide to check it out, run over (Peter arrives second,a curious, almost incidental detail) and find the grave clothes still in the tomb - not what one would expect if you stole the body...

Yes there are every obvious differences. You can harmonise them by having the women make two separate visits, with Mary M going along the second time but not telling the others what to expect, possibly wanting them to experience it for themselves, or not trusting her senses - but really I think the accounts are acceptably confused versions of the same story. Maybe tomorrow if i have time I will discuss there literary relationship (Mark is the basis for Matthew and Luke) etc, but for now I need to go to bed. Was interesting to check it out!
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Re: Reconciling the Reusrrection?

#2  Postby Paul Almond » Feb 27, 2010 5:55 pm

That is a good start; however, the biggest problem still faces you: reconciling the resurrection with our experience that resurrections don't happen.
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Re: Reconciling the Resurrection?

#3  Postby leighshryock » Feb 27, 2010 6:14 pm

The primary points of contention have been pointed out. All of which need to be resolved in order to complete the easter challenge.

http://www.ffrf.org/legacy/books/lfif/?t=stone near the bottom.

Edit: I'd like to point out some issues with your version.

You state that the matter of who visited the tomb can be cleared up by asserting that multiple trips were made. However, this isn't backed up by the bible, nor is it easily reconcilable by asserting that. See the following passages:
Matthew wrote: 1After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.


Mark wrote: 1When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus' body. 2Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb


Luke wrote:1On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. [...] 10It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles.


John wrote:1Early 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.


The only way that this can be reconciled with your account is if John's account is of the first visit, for the others clearly indicate dawn, and John's indicates "when it was still dark", which is compatible with your version. However, in this account, Mary Magdalene clearly went straight to the other disciples, who returned with her to the tomb. She wouldn't have been able to return with the other girls for the other accounts.

It's a jumbled mess that is hard to reconcile. Let me start over a bit. I'm going to focus on two seemingly incompatible versions, John and Mark. I will exclude 9-20 in Mark, as there is some contention on whether or not these are original.

Mark wrote: 1When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus' body. 2Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb 3and they asked each other, "Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?"

4But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. 5As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.

6"Don't be alarmed," he said. "You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. 7But go, tell his disciples and Peter, 'He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.' "

8Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.


John wrote:1Early 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. 2So 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 have put him!"

3So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. 4Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. 6Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, 7as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus' head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. 8Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. 9(They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.)
Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene
10Then the disciples went back to their homes, 11but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus' body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

13They asked her, "Woman, why are you crying?"

"They have taken my Lord away," she said, "and I don't know where they have put him." 14At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.

15"Woman," he said, "why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?"
Thinking he was the gardener, she said, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him."

16Jesus said to her, "Mary."
She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, "Rabboni!" (which means Teacher).

17Jesus said, "Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, 'I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.' "

18Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: "I have seen the Lord!" And she told them that he had said these things to her.


Even if we call Mark a very abbreviated version, it is incompatible with John. For one, in John, Magdalene immediately runs to the disciples after finding the tomb open and Jesus missing. If your version is to find these compatible, she would have had to have gone to the tomb before or after this event with the other girls. Yet, Mark's version specifically says that they are going there to anoint spices on Jesus's body, so, it could not have been from after this event, for Mary knew already that he would not be there, having seen him gone, and would also know that the stone is no longer there.

If we are to assume that she went with them before the events in John, then we are to assume that she saw the robed man and was told that Jesus returned, yet, she tells the Disciple that "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don't know where they have put him!". Surely, she would have mentioned something about the white-robed man she saw earlier? Then again, when the angels speak to her, she says "They have taken my Lord away, and I don't know where they have put him." Surely, again, she would have mentioned the strange man in the white robe?

This isn't even accounting for the differences within the stories from the other two.

Sidenote: If we assume that the bible has been corrupted by time, and accounts distorted - after all, nothing was written until well after Jesus would have died, then they are a bit reconcilable by the inaccuracy of eye witness testimony and time. Still, one would think that the most important event in history would have been documented in more detail.
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Re: Reconciling the Resurrection?

#4  Postby Shaker » Feb 27, 2010 7:05 pm

the biggest problem still faces you: reconciling the resurrection with our experience that resurrections don't happen.

And that, of course, is the challenge to which nobody can rise.

Not even Jesus ;)
To be boosted by an illusion is not to live better than to live in harmony with the truth ... these refusals to part with a decayed illusion are really an infection to the mind. - George Santayana
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Re: Reconciling the Resurrection?

#5  Postby Emil » Feb 27, 2010 11:36 pm

There are a couple of other things. First, Matthew's assertion that the earthquake opened the tombs of many saints who went into the city where many people saw them. A truly astonishing miracle: only slightly less astonishing than the failure of the other gospels to mention it.

And the fact that the various resurrection appearances int he gospels are all unlike. Each gospel has it's own unique and uncorroborated stories (apart from Mark who has none, unless you include the extra endings).

In other words, I think there's a lot to discourage the reader from trying to work out 'what really happened.' We seem to be in a world of creative story telling. I'm not saying that the accounts are worthless, but that they are not reporting an event.
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Re: Reconciling the Resurrection?

#6  Postby Oldskeptic » Feb 28, 2010 1:30 am

That resurrection stories don’t support each other is telling, but it is not the problem. The problem is with resurrection itself. The only explanation is that it is supernatural, but that is not an explanation at all unless you already believe in this kind of the supernatural.
There is nothing so absurd that some philosopher will not say it - Cicero.

Traditionally these are questions for philosophy, but philosophy is dead - Stephen Hawking
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Re: Reconciling the Resurrection?

#7  Postby Apollonius » Feb 28, 2010 3:35 pm

Another explanation is that he didn't die, which is more probable than a miracle. It would not be the only time someone survived that kind of punishment.

It's not like they had modern doctors that knew for sure if someone was really dead. He could have been konked out and woke up.

People are crazy to try and base a lot of belief on such stories.
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