Monday, May 11, 2009

Part 6: Do the Gospel Writers Contradict the Response of the Women in their Accounts?

This is the final posting in this series of specific challenges to the Garden Tomb accounts in the four gospels.  This last one is rather interesting because each of the gospel writers present a unique picture of the responses that came from the women following the dialogue with the angel(s) at the tomb.

Setting up the Challenge from the Skeptic

Our skeptic confronting the passages tells us that in Matthew's gospel, the "women run away and did tell the disciples."  In Mark's gospel it is alleged that the "women run away and didn't tell anyone."  It is also alleged by our antagonist that the "women tell the disciple what they saw, but the disciples all say, (essentially) "Oh you did not"(Luke's gospel). Finally, over in John's gospel our challenger states that Mary Magdalene "gets curious and goes back to the tomb, right behind the two men, and she stays after they’re gone. Then she sees two angels in white, plus she sees Jesus, but she thinks he’s a gardener.
Are these all contradictory accounts?  If you take the tone of a Bart Erhman or any other new skeptic, it might look rather contradictory.  But what you have to do is look at the big picture of all these accounts all put together.  To do this let me bring in the passages themselves.  

What Do the Passages Say?

To get the big picture, before coming to the response, I have provided the passages for yours and my reference.

Matthew 28:8  And they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy and ran to report it to His disciples.

Mark 16: 7"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.'"  8They went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had gripped them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

Luke 24: 8 And they remembered His words, 9and returned from the tomb and reported all these things to the eleven and to all the rest.  10Now 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. 11But these words appeared to them as nonsense, and they (K)would not believe them.

John 20:10So the disciples went away again to their own homes.  11 But Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping; and so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb;  12and she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying. 13And they said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" She said to them, "Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him."

Response to the Challenge

What I will do here is summarize the challenge by responding to each of the points made.  Some may be combined and brought into play with other gospel accounts.  So here we go.

First allow me the privilege of dealing with the passage in Lukes gospel.  We are told by the skeptic that the "women tell the disciple what they saw, but the disciples all say, (essentially) "Oh you did not".  First off let me say that the women were not told the way that our challenger's bias presents it.  They do bring in a very interesting point.  Why weren't the women believed by the disciples when they told the men that they had seen the empty grave and seen the Lord?  

Let the record state that it is pretty common knowledge that in a patriarchal culture like Israel at that time, that a woman's testimony was not worth its weight in a court of law.  So if it is not worth a plug nickel in the minds of the Jewish men, why did the writers include it?[1]  

Skeptics do not like this principle as they try to put a limitation on it in this passage. But if you don't believe a woman in a court, and they are all testifying that a dead man has come to life, you cannot throw out the testimony unless they are proven to be liars.  Otherwise you believe them, whether they are women or not.  This is one of the reasons why these passages give the New Testament the credibility and authenticity that it has.  No one trying to make their case, during this time period, would dare bring in the women’s testimony to what they saw into account, unless what they were testifying to was true!

Now we turn to Matthew and Mark's accounts. Our skeptic friend tells us that Matthew's gospel, the "women run away and did tell the disciples" and Mark's gospel tells us that the "women run away and didn't tell anyone."  However in order to get the full picture of this, all three synoptic gospels must come into the picture here.

Both Matthew and Luke bring to the forefront that the women do testify that the LORD had risen, while Mark’s gospel states that the women were silent.  This is interesting because there are two gospel writers who bear witness to a testimony, and another gospel that gives a different look to the resurrection witness (John’s gospel).  Is there anything to be gleaned from this?  Yes.

Mark is the transcriber of the gospel bearing his name, but he is also Peter’s “secretary” to the events of the gospel account.  Peter is mentioned in John’s gospel as having been there with John.[2]  

While Mark’s gospel states that the women did not say anything, the question now is for how long did they not say anything?  The disciples had to have known something about the grave being empty.  How did they find out if the women were there first and they didn't say anything (Mark).[3]

To get the whole picture, allow me to paint it so that we can see it in its clarity. Remember these accounts are narrative historical accounts.

The women go to the tomb, and when they get there, they see the stone rolled away.  The gospel writers are pretty consistent that the women eyewitnessed the empty grave, and the body of Jesus no longer in that grave.

Finding this absolutely astounding, (after all, they SAW HIM DIE), emotions start stirring around.  Shock, fear of the unknown about a dead man coming to life, amazement and a whole plethora of other emotions take over.  Matthew and Luke say that the women reported what they had seen to the disciples.  Luke brings out that their testimony was not believed until Luke 24:12 when Peter gets up and high tails it to the grave to see for himeself.  Peter’s connection to the Mark’s gospel is his narrative to what he saw.  He knows the women said somethings but I think it is safe to say that though Mark states they did not say anything, he has meant this to mean it to be a momentary silence, because how can one keep from shouting “He’s Alive!”[4]  

Put all this in one big package, and it is clear that the events recorded by all four gospel writers are not in contradiction to the other(s).  

If you would like to review these installments they are listed here below:


[1]  This is known as the Principle of Embarrassment.The Principle of Embarrassment is a principle applied to
historical documents to evaluate their trustworthiness, authenticity, and veracity. Briefly stated, the Principle is statements by authors which tend to disparage their own agenda are more trustworthy.  Applying this to the Bible, this principle implies the veracity of the historicity of events described in the BIble.  

[2]  I don't know whether you have noticed it or not, but there is an interesting parenthetic written by John about his and Peter's speed in getting to the tomb.  Check out John 20:3-7.  Who got to the tomb first? 

[3] It looks like Mark gives only part of the details, where the other three Evangelists tell more of the details.  You have to look at the whole context of the event when all the possible passages show part or all of the event.  The event in this scenario is the Resurrection of Christ. 

[4] Mary Magdalene's eyewitness testimony falls in line with all that the other women had experienced.  The timeline of the full event is not given, but this does not sacrifice the truthfulness of the texts.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Part 5: Are the Accounts of What the Angels Told the Women in Conflict with One Another? No.

We have seen up to this point that the Garden Tomb accounts demonstrate very clearly that the gospel writers' personalities were in tact toward what the Spirit superintended each of their writings.  For skeptics like the one who is catalyst to this my posting a response to this series, this next posting is going to reinforce my previous point even stronger.

Setting up the "Problem"

As you will see from the charges made by the skeptic, at least in this instance, that there is much neglect to the context of the entire event.  Here is what is challenged:

#1:  In speaking to Matthew's gospel it has been alleged that the angel invited the two women into the tomb and told them to inform the disciples that he would be showing up in Galilee. (Matt 28:1-8)

#2:  In Mark's gospel the person states that the "man in white tells them to inform the disciples that he’ll be showing up in Galilee." (Mark 16:1-8)

#3:  It is challenged that the "two men in white don’t speak." (Luke 24:1-12) and 

#4:  Our skeptical friend asserts that Mary Magdalene "finds Peter and tells him the stone is rolled away and that she also informs the “beloved disciple.”" (John 20:1-13)

What Do the Passages Say?

So that there is no question to the texts that are being challenged, I am going to quote the passages so that we can review them in the response.

Matthews gospel: 5The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. 6"He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying. 7"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."

Mark’s gospel: 6And 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. 7"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.'"

Luke’s gospel: 5and 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?  6"He is not here, but He has risen Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, 7saying that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again." (Please be reminded that our skeptic stated that the angels/men in white do not speak)

John’s gospel: 13And they said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" She said to them, "Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him."

Response to the Challenge.

The common message that was told the women here in these passages is that “He is not here” (Mt 28:6; Mark 16:6; Luke 24:6).  John’s gospel gives us a totally different perspective of the empty tomb through the persons that he chose to record under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  

The challenger of these passages makes the statement that Luke’s gospel that the angels (men) did not say anything (#3).  In all actual fact, the words of the angels (men) are recorded for us in 24:6, “He is not here, but He has risen.”  This shows us that the challenge is demonstrating a lack of looking at the entire context of the account before presenting this challenge to the text.

Given that we have these facts in hand, it is very clear that while the writers wrote different words, and that they had different audiences, it still remains clear that these passages are not in contradiction to any of the others in this instance.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Part 4: Angel, Young Man/Men? Was what was recorded a contradiction?

We return back to the gospel records for our fourth out of six postings on whether or not the accounts of the Garden Tomb have contradictions to them. The fourth one deals with the angel or angels/young man/young men and what they did and said.

Setting up the problem.

In Matthew's gospel (28:1-8), states that an angel sat on the stone (v. 5). Mark's gospel (16:1-8) tells us that they saw a young man sitting wearing a white robe, and they were amazed (v.5). In Luke's gospel, we read that there are two men in dazzling clothing (24:3,4). Finally John's gospel gives a total different picture, with Mary Magdalene who was expected to go inside the tomb, but she leaves. In all of this though we see that there are two angels sitting in the tomb, one at the head and one at the feet of the stone-bed.

Now, is there a problem with whether these were human men or supernatural beings? What were doing and was it in conflict with the other accounts? Let's take a look.


If we look at each of the gospels in their contexts, we can see that there is really not a problem. Remember that the gospel writers record what they do with their personalities in tact and still under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Two angels (Luke), one angel (Matthew). One or two angels is no problem, because wherever you have two, you have one. This is not a problem. One young man in dazzling clothing or two angels in white clothing again, there is no problem.

Some may think that John’s gospel might be in conflict with the other three but this is not the case since John opts to record more details before telling us that there were “these two angels present”, than some of the other gospel writers. Again the problem that skeptic needs to remember not to do in reading the texts is that they do not need to impose upon the text how things really should be, but take the texts at face value. In so doing, there is no contradiction as the writers personalities and what they chose remained in tact while they were writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Part 3: Contradictions about What Was Seen Regarding the Stone at Jesus' Tomb? NO!

As you recall, this is Part 3 in a series of responses to one skeptical challenge regarding the gospels' accounts speaking about the tomb of Jesus.  If you want a more elaborated response to these, I will be presenting them this Fall in a course that I am currently writing and will be teaching that will be focused on the defense of the Resurrection of Christ.  For now, let's move to this entry's issue:  Are there any contradictions toward what was seen at the Jesus' tomb regarding the stone?  In this entry, it can be clearly seen that there are no contradictions.

Setting Up the Problem

Mattew's gospel records for us that there was an earthquake and an angel rolled away the stone, and there were guards that were trembling watching this happen (28:2,3). Mark's, Luke's and John's gospels record for us that the stone was already rolled back (Mk. 16:2-4; Luke 24:1-2).  The only difference between John and the other two is that John uses language that the "stone had already been taken away (20:1,2).

The question comes from the skeptic is that since Mark, Luke and John record that the stone was already rolled away, and Matthew does not, there must be a problem with Matthew's gospel.  Is this true?
Response to the Issue.

This is really not a problem.  The only problem is found in the challenge's lack of understanding of the fact that writers of each gospel account have their personalities in their writing and had the freedom to record what the Spirit of God guided them to write.  Again, the inspiration that came to the writers of Scripture was not 100% dynamic dictation.(1)  The writers personalities were totally in tact.

This being said, we know that Mark, Luke and John all agree that the stone was already rolled away before the women got to the tomb.  Remember they SAW the stone rolled away as they were arriving at the tomb site.  So, what's the deal with Matthew, why does he not say the same thing?

Well, if you look at the passage first thing we see is that Matthew provides with WHAT HAPPENED TO THE STONE.  There was an earthquake, "for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, came and rolled back the stone, and sat on it."(2)  Matthew is essentially giving us more information than the other two, which is usually an indicator of authenticity rather than being in-genuine.

If one is so inclined to challenge Matthew, a couple things should be remembered.  First is that Matthew is not bound to record the exact same things as the other gospel writers.  He gives us more information and he jumps from the earthquake and trembling guards to the angel speaking to the women.  Writing with his mind totally in tact was supervised by the Holy Spirit, which brings me to the second point.

Second, we have a little enemy attestation in this same chapter(3). Where is this testimony from the enemy?  Right in the same chapter, 

11While they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place. 12And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers 13and said, "Tell people, 'His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.' 14And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble." 15So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story has been spread among the Jews to this day.

So we have more details from one of the gospel writers which confirm how the stone was rolled away and we have some rough tough Roman guards that fell like dead men when the supernatural event of an earthquake and an angel that could whip up on an entire Roman legion came down and rolled the stone away.  

Sounds like no contradictions to me.  If there are any problems, they are with the person looking for the contradictions ignoring the context of the accounts as they fall together.  This in most cases is due to a lack of understanding of the Bible.  

If you have lost track of these entries, please refer to the previous entries in this series.(4)  After reading this and the other postings in this series, what do you think?


(1) Rob Bradshaw notes that Dictation Theory means that God dictated the Scriptures to the writers and that the men who penned the Scriptures acted like typewriters taking the dictation while God spoke.  In other words, God took over by totally overriding their minds and personalities - hit the right keys. This theory has been consistently rejected over the centuries and no respected theologian or church leader has ever held it.  For more on the subject of inspiration you may go to Rob Bradshaw's Biblical Studies page found at

(2) Matt. 28:2; Usually when the presence of God shows up, and an angel is present, you see the earthquake occurring with the event.  All through the Scripture whenever you see the presence of God, the earth is trembling.

(3) Habermas and Licona have a great section on this in their book, The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus.  Enemy attestation simply stated, is when there is "testimony affirming an event or a saying is given by a source who does not sympathize with the person, message, or cause that profits from the account we have an indication of authenticity" (Gary R. Habermas and Michael R. Licona, The Case of the Resurrection of Jesus, Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2004: 37,38).

(4)  Other postings in this series:

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Part 2: What Time of the Morning Did the Women Go to the Tomb? No Contradictions

Picking up where I left off with the challenge of answering the challenge to so called contradictions in the Garden Tomb accounts of the gospels, the next one deals with the time of the morning that the women arrived at the tomb of Jesus.

Setting up the "problem".

What do the gospel writers tell us. First, Matthew: “it began to dawn the first day…” (v.1). Second there seems to be an issue with what Mark tells us in his gospel, “when the sun had risen”(v. 2). Luke and John fall in line with Matthew, where Luke tells us that they went "at early dawn" (v. 1) and John tells us that they went to the tomb “while it was still dark (v. 1)

Well you might say, "aw shucks, It is at least early in the morning." But what about Mark? Why does it seem that he does not agree with the other gospel writers? Here is the answer.


By definition, dawn is the moment that marks the beginning of the twilight before sunrise. It is recognized by the presence of weak sunlight, while the sun itself is still below the horizon. Dawn should not be confused with sunrise, which is the moment when the leading edge of the sun itself appears above the horizon.

I went and found a Astronomical dawn is defined by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as the moment after which the sky is no longer completely dark, formally defined as the time at which the sun is 18 degrees below the horizon in the morning. (Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "Astronomical Terms")

Bearing these factors in mind, dawn by the given definitions, is definitely before sunup (Matthew’s gospel). Dawn can be considered right at the crack of dawn (Luke’s gospel). John’s gospel states while it was still dark outside. Dawn is not sunrise, so therefore it is safe to consider the setting as still dark.

Now some might have a conflict with Mark’s phrase after sunup. The problem with the English text is that it gives the assumption that the sun is already up, but the Greek NT gives a participial form of the verb Mark 16:2, “at the rising” (anatailantos). This phrase "at the rising” means that the sun is still not completely risen. This then would agree with the other gospel writers and we can conclude that the English translations of Mark 16:2 would be better rendered "at the rising of the sun". Therefore there is no contradiction between any of the Garden Tomb accounts by the gospel writers.

Please feel free to interact with anything that you read in this series or anything else you see on this blog. Please feel free to send any questions you may have as I would enjoy visiting with you and helping you with your questions or your sharing your thoughts.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Part 1: Who are the ones who go to the grave? Do the accounts contradict one another?

Christian apologetics has many facets to it. It can delve into the philosophical to take on questions coming from worldviews clashing with the Christian faith. It can dig into the realm of the scientific to show how intelligent design tackles the issues coming from the evolutionist. One of my favorite angles in the apologetic task is taking on the challenges from those who say that the Scriptures contradict one another.

This is the Resurrection holiday season, and what I would like to share with you is a multi-faceted challenge that came from one skeptic that has to do with the accounts at Jesus' tomb that first resurrection morning.

Some of these will be very easy. There are a few that will have a little bit of challenge to them, but one thing you can be rest assured of: THERE ARE NO CONTRADICTIONS.

Let me set up the "problem" and then unpack it for us. This first one has to do with who were the ones that really went to the grave. Here is how it is set up.


In Matthew's gospel, it is recorded that two women went down to the tomb. Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary.” (Matt 28:1-8) Mark's gospel states that three women go down to the tomb, "Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome. And they have spices. (See Mark 16:1-8). If we go to Luke's gospel (24:1-12), we see that he records a group of women go down to the tomb, including Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James, and they have spices. Joanna's name is added in there as well. Why does John tell us that Mary Magdalene shows up at the tomb alone (see 20:1-13)?


Really this is not a problem at all. Three of the gospel writers, writing under the guise of the Holy Spirit with their personalities in tact, record for us that at least two of the women going to the tomb: (1) Matthew: two women (the other Mary and Mary Magdalene; (2) Mark: accounts for Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James (i.e., the other Mary and Salome); (3) Luke tells us in 24:1, that “they came” to the tomb. But he doesn’t give us any more details as to who the "they" are. That comes in verse 10, "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."

The common woman among all the gospels is Mary Magdalene. Though she is the lone woman in John's gospel, all four Evangelists give us her name as an eyewitness at the empty tomb.

Before speaking to this, let me enter in here that John’s account just tells us that it was Mary Magdalene. John's mentioning her in his gospel does not conflict. It is pretty clear that Mary the mother of James was there. Since Luke gives us a clue that a group of women went to the tomb, Salome is mentioned as one of the women, as is Joanna.

The gospel writers, John included were not stripped of their liberties in recording for us what the Holy Spirit led them to pen down for us. They were given the full liberty of their personalities in their writings. To say anything otherwise handcuffs the writers, and the Holy Spirit of their liberties and places the burden of proof on the shoulders of the critic, who commits that appeal to authority fallacy. These boys had corroborative eyewitness testimony, which is something that the modern day critic of Scripture does not have.

So this is not a conflicting passage. To smuggle in one's prejudices to refute the authenticity of this account is to pigeon hole that prejudice as a false sense of authority on the text.