Back From The Dead!? According to the New Testament, Christ was crucified on the eve of Passover and shortly afterward rose from the dead. The Easter festival as we know it commemorates Christ’s (alleged) resurrection.
The Easter Narrative Problems with Easter contradictions in the New Testament are insurmountable. In fact, skeptics have long offered cash prizes to anyone who can resolve these contradictions and present a Bible-based narrative of Jesus’ resurrection that is free of self- contradiction.
Church of Christ Minister-Turned-Atheist: Farrell Till “That the resurrection narratives in the gospel accounts contain inconsistencies and contradictions is recognized by all except biblical inerrantists, who cling to their discredited belief that the Bible is inerrant.” http://theskepticalreview.com
Till’s “Mary Magdalene Problem” The main thesis: –The depiction of Mary Magdalene in Matthew 28:1-10 is inconsistent with her depiction in John 20:1-18. Till has debated this issue at length and in excruciating detail. No one has been able to resolve this textual problem.
The Synoptic Version Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb of Jesus. She sees one or more persons at the tomb. The persons announce that Jesus has been resurrected. Mary Magdalene leaves the tomb and encounters Jesus himself. She worships Jesus. She then runs to tell the disciples what has happened. Synoptic: “seen together,” referring to the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, which have a similar view, unlike John.
The Gospel of John Mary Magdalene finds the tomb empty: no one is in it. She then runs to Peter and another disciple and says that the body of Jesus has been stolen. (Jn 20:1-2). Only after the disciples inspect the tomb and leave, with Mary crying about the stolen body, does she encounter angels and Jesus.
The Contradiction In the synoptics, Mary is told that Jesus is risen upon arriving at the tomb—and she meets Jesus before reporting to any disciples. In John, she arrives to find the tomb empty, and then reports the body stolen. Why would Mary say that Jesus’ body had been stolen if angels have told her that Jesus is resurrected—and she met Jesus?
The “Extra Visit” Hypothesis Many inerrantists try to resolve this contradiction by claiming that Mary Magdalene panicked when she saw the empty tomb and ran to Peter before the announcement that Jesus had risen, so she thought the body had been stolen. Later, she returned and learned that Jesus had risen. This "explanation," however, is completely incompatible with Matthew's account.
Matthew: Mary Magdalene Didn’t Leave the Tomb Until After the Announcement by an Angel Matthew 28:1-6: “Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, MARY MAGDALENE AND THE OTHER MARY came to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men. But the angel answered and said to THE WOMEN, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.’” Matthew mentions only two women, one of which is Mary Magdalene. So “the women” mentioned must include Mary Magdalene. This is all in the same visit!
Matthew: Mary Magdalene Encountered the Risen Jesus Before Talking to the Disciples Matthew 28:7-10 [The angel said] “’And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.’ So THEY went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word. And AS THEY WENT to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met THEM saying, ‘Rejoice!’ So THEY came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him. Then Jesus said to THEM ‘Do not be afraid. Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me.’" Mary Magdalene meets Jesus after leaving the tomb and before talking to the disciples This is all in the same visit!
Other Women? Irrelevant! Mark and Luke mention up to five other women, but since Matthew's narrative mentioned only two women, "the women" in Matthew’s narrative grammatically has to refer to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary. Hence, “the women,” including Mary Magdalene, heard of Jesus’ resurrection and met Jesus before reporting to the disciples. There is no room in Matthew’s narrative for an extra trip to the tomb between first learning of the resurrection and then meeting the disciples.
Another Trip Before? Some inerrantists say that Mary entered the tomb, saw it empty, left, and returned later to hear the announcement. This would look like this: –Mary visits tomb and sees it empty. –Mary leaves. –Mary returns with other women. –Mary re-enters tomb with the women and hears the announcement. –Mary leaves again, etc.
Mark Precludes the Extra Visit Mark’s gospel rules out an earlier trip: –"And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they [Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome] went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?’ When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back.“ (Mark 16:2-4) On this same trip, they enter the tomb, find someone in there, and also hear that Jesus is risen. (Mark 16:5-6) If this had been Mary’s second trip into the tomb, they would have known that the stone was already rolled away. Mary and the other women would not have been wondering who would roll away the stone.
An Unassailable Contradiction Farrell Till’s “Mary Magdalene Problem” is a New Testament contradiction no one has been able to resolve. You can see Till debate this issue, and others, at his website: theskepticalreview.com The problem remains: Mary reports that Jesus’ body has been stolen, but angels have already told her that Jesus is resurrected— and she has just met the resurrected Jesus!
Other Contradictions How many women were the first to visit the tomb on the morning of the resurrection? –John: One. "Mary Magdalene" (Jn. 20:1). –Matthew: Two. "Mary Magdalene and the other Mary" (Mt. 28:1). –Mark: Three. "Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome" (Mk. 16:1-2). –Luke: Five or more. "Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women" (Lk. 24:1-10).
When Did the Mary/the Women Visit the Tomb That Morning? Mark: “Just after sunrise" (Mk. 16:2). John: "While it was still dark" (Jn. 20:1). New International Version (NIV) translation.
Where Was The Tomb Stone When Mary/the Women Arrive? Matthew 28:2: It was still in place. The women see an angel descend and roll away the stone. Mark 16:4: It was already rolled away. Luke 24:2: It was already rolled away. John 20:1: It was already rolled away.
Stories of the empty tomb show signs of legendary development. –Mark 16:5: "A young man" –Luke 24:4: "Two men" –Matthew 28:2-5: "The angel" –John 20:12: "Two angels" Who was found at the tomb?
Was the Person(s) Encountered Inside or Outside the Tomb? Matthew 28:2: Outside the tomb. Mark 16:5: Inside the tomb. Luke 24:3: Inside the tomb. John 20: 11-12: Inside the tomb.
Did Jesus Allow Himself to be Touched When Met at the Tomb? Matthew 28:9: Yes. –"They [Mary Magdalene and her companion] came and held him by the feet and worshiped him." John 20:17: No. –"Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not, for I am not yet ascended to my father…”
Did the Resurrected Jesus Appear to Any Women before his Ascension? Luke 24: No. –The women at the tomb never see Jesus, who appears to his male disciples later. Matthew 28: Yes. John 20: Yes. Mark: No.* *In fact, the Gospel of Mark originally had no resurrection appearances at all. The last 12 verses, which include appearances, were added later.
Who First Saw the Resurrected Jesus? Matthew 28:1,9: Mary Magdalene and the other Mary. Mark 16:9: Mary Magdalene alone. John 20:14-18): Mary Magdalene alone. Luke 24:13-31: Cleopas and his friend. Paul (I Cor. 15:5): Cephas (Peter).
How Many Disciples Were Present When Jesus First Appeared To Them as a Group? Matthew 26:16-17:Eleven. Mark 16:14:Eleven. Luke 24:33-36: Eleven. John 20:19-24: Ten. (Thomas was absent.) Paul (I Cor. 15:5): Twelve.
When Jesus Appeared to the Disciples and First Said “Peace Be Unto You,” What Effect Did This Have on Them? Luke 24:37: “… they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit.” John 20:20: “Then were the disciples glad.”
Did Jesus Teach Ahead Of Time That He Would Be Resurrected? Matthew 16:21; Mark 16:31; Luke 9:22): Yes. "From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.“ (Mt. 16:21) John 20:9: No. After the resurrection, John says: “For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead.” (John says Jesus did not teach this, but Matthew 27:62-64 says that even the Pharisees and chief priests knew that Jesus had taught that he would be raised from the dead.)
How Long Did the Resurrected Jesus Stay on Earth Before the Ascension? Luke 27: One day. John 20:21: About ten days. Acts 1:3: 40 days.
From Where Did Jesus Ascend into Heaven? Mark 16:14-19: Indoors, from a room in Galilee, after a meal. Luke 24:50-51: Outdoors, in Bethany (a city near Jerusalem, but not in Galilee). Acts 1:9-12: Outdoors, from Mt. Olivet (in Jerusalem).
Many Others There are a number of other contradictions about the resurrection. There are many other contradictions in the New Testament. There are loads of contradictions in the Old Testament.
The Easter Challenge: $1,000 REWARD! Tell us exactly what happened on the first Easter and win $1,000! Read: Matthew 28 ▪ Mark 16 Luke 24 ▪ John 20 & 21 Acts 1:3-12 ▪ 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 Then, without omitting a single detail from these accounts, write one consistent narrative with scriptural citations of the events from the Resurrection to the Ascension of Jesus Christ. If you can do this, you can win $1,000. Send your entry to the Fayetteville Freethinkers at: email@example.com (Based on an offer originated and popularized by Dan Barker of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, whose challenge offers an additional $500.)
Why Contradictions? The point of showing contradictions in this narrative are many: –It shows that at least some details must be incorrect, since contradictory accounts cannot all be true. –It refutes the contention that the Bible is free of error. –It shows the obviously human origin of these narratives. –It brings up issues of why the narratives differ. Why were they changed?
So What Happened to Jesus’ Body? If Jesus really was crucified but he did not come back to life, what became of his corpse? "[The gospel accounts] are a poetic rendering of a devout wish but certainly not an authentic record... since the Crucifixion was conducted by Roman soldiers,... Jesus' body was most likely left on the Cross or tossed into a shallow grave to be eaten by scavenger dogs, crows or other wild beasts.“ --Bible scholars Robert Funk & John Dominic Crossan, TIME magazine, 4/10/95, pg. 70.