What is Apologetics?

Apologetics may be simply defined as the defense of the Christian faith. The word “apologetics” derives from the Greek word apologia, which was originally used as a speech of defense or an answer given in reply. In ancient Athens it referred to a defense made in the courtroom as part of the normal judicial procedure. After the accusation, the defendant was allowed to refute the charges with a defense or reply (apologia). The word appears 17 times in noun or verb form in the New Testament, and both the noun (apologia) and verb form (apologeomai) can be translated “defense” or “vindication” in every case.

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:







Notes:

[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.

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