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: