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.

SETTING UP THE ISSUE.

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)?


RESPONSE.

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.

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