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.

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