Thursday, December 16, 2010

Comparing the Resurrection Accounts

I don't think it's been established that the gospel accounts are eyewitness testimony. Most of the historical research I've read seems to indicate that they were written decades after the fact by anonymous sources.

But even if you did accept the idea that they were written by contemporaries, all you end up with then is the idea that these four authors have no idea what really happened. They don't know who was there, who they met, where the stone was, or if there was a bloody great earthquake.

I'm working on exacting a confession from a friend of mine that these four accounts contradict each other in very clear ways. You cannot say that any two of them are true, unless you use a new-agey version of "true" that he has been loath to admit.

So are they all "true" in some artistic/poetic sense? Or are they clearly contradictory and therefore at least three of them are fabrications? Which is it?

Matthew 28
1 Now late on the sabbath day, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.
2 And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled away the stone, and sat upon it.
3 His appearance was as lightning, and his raiment white as snow:
4 and for fear of him the watchers did quake, and became as dead men.
5 And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye; for I know that ye seek Jesus, who hath been crucified.
6 He is not here; for he is risen, even as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.
7 And go quickly, and tell his disciples, He is risen from the dead; and lo, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you.
8 And they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring his disciples word.
9 And behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and took hold of his feet, and worshipped him.
10 Then saith Jesus unto them, Fear not: go tell my brethren that they depart into Galilee, and there shall they see me.

Who: Mary Magdalene and the other Mary
Earthquake?: Yes
Stone: Rolled away before their eyes
Angel(s): 1 (sitting on the stone outside)

Mark 16
1 And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices, that they might come and anoint him.
2 And very early on the first day of the week, they come to the tomb when the sun was risen.
3 And they were saying among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the tomb?
4 and looking up, they see that the stone is rolled back: for it was exceeding great.
5 And entering into the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, arrayed in a white robe; and they were amazed.
6 And he saith unto them, Be not amazed: ye seek Jesus, the Nazarene, who hath been crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold, the place where they laid him!
7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter, He goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you.
8 And they went out, and fled from the tomb; for trembling and astonishment had come upon them: and they said nothing to any one; for they were afraid.

Who: Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome
Earthquake?: No
Stone: Rolled away before they arrive
Angel(s): 1 (disguised as a young man sitting inside the tomb)

Luke 24
1 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came unto the tomb, bringing the spices which they had prepared.
2 And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb.
3 And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus.
4 And it came to pass, while they were perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel:
5 and as they were affrighted and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead?
6 He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee,
7 saying that the Son of man must be delivered up into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.
8 And they remembered his words,
9 and returned from the tomb, and told all these things to the eleven, and to all the rest.
10 Now they were Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James: and the other women with them told these things unto the apostles.

Who: Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James
Earthquake?: No
Stone: Rolled away before they arrive
Angel(s): 2 (disguised as a two men standing)

John 20
1 Now on the first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, while it was yet dark, unto the tomb, and seeth the stone taken away from the tomb.
2 She runneth therefore, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we know not where they have laid him.
3 Peter therefore went forth, and the other disciple, and they went toward the tomb.
4 And they ran both together: and the other disciple outran Peter, and came first to the tomb;
5 and stooping and looking in, he seeth the linen cloths lying; yet entered he not in.
6 Simon Peter therefore also cometh, following him, and entered into the tomb; and he beholdeth the linen cloths lying,
7 and the napkin, that was upon his head, not lying with the linen cloths, but rolled up in a place by itself.
8 Then entered in therefore the other disciple also, who came first to the tomb, and he saw, and believed.
9 For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise from the dead.
10 So the disciples went away again unto their own home.
11 But Mary was standing without at the tomb weeping: so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb;
12 and she beholdeth two angels in white sitting, one at the head, and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.
13 And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.
14 When she had thus said, she turned herself back, and beholdeth Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus.
15 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou hast borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.
16 Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turneth herself, and saith unto him in Hebrew, Rabboni; which is to say, Teacher.
17 Jesus saith to her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended unto the Father: but go unto my brethren, and say to them, I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and my God and your God.
18 Mary Magdalene cometh and telleth the disciples, I have seen the Lord; and that he had said these things unto her.

Who: Mary Magdalene (plus Simon Peter and the other disciple whom Jesus loved)
Earthquake?: No
Stone: Rolled away before they arrive
Angel(s): 2 (sitting inside the tomb; plus Jesus in disguise outside)


  1. Okay.
    Why must four accounts be the same?
    We can say that someone was there to see the tomb empty.
    We can say either there was or wasn't an earthquake
    The stone was rolled away at some point
    An angel or angel or at least some one who could have been an angel was their at the tomb.

    What is the main issue they all agree on.
    Jesus was not in the tomb. He was raised and many people saw him.

    That is the point.

  2. Four people are involved in a robbery. All of them agree there was a robbery and three of them say there were four robbers. The other guy was not sure. one of them says they were all wearing black the others say it was something different. But the main point is they agree on that the place was robbed. All they all wrong because they disagree about the details. Is one or two of them right.
    That is what I believe we are dealing with here with the four gospel accounts.
    find holes in that analogy but i hope you can at least see my point.

  3. "find holes in that analogy but i hope you can at least see my point."

    I see a big hole in that analogy. In your example of a robbery, we would have other evidence. We would have broken glass, bullet casings, security camera footage, and a whole lot of missing money.

    If we didn't have any of this other evidence, we'd have to consider the possibility that the four witnesses staged the robbery.

    Now add in another detail. The witnesses are claiming something as unlikely as "Bigfoot robbed the store". Conveniently, they are all Bigfoot worshippers.

  4. I would like to see you post with that the translation you used. There is also the point you made earlier that, historically, these accounts were written not by the disciples (who were there presumably) but by someone generations later.

  5. Aaron. Sure my analogy has holes in it. It is not perfect. I was expressing one aspect. Four people can have different stories but agree on the essential point. Jesus lived, He died and he rose from the grave.
    The different in details do not take away from the main thing.
    I dont' know to say about the Bigfoot thing you said.

    The main evidence is the Gospel accounts. But there is more.
    Other writers of the New Testament do not discount the resurrection.
    What has Jesus said about his resurrection
    What does historians outside the bible say about it.
    What do Christians say from 100ad onward. The testimony of the early church fathers.
    What is the story of the Romans guard who where suppose to watch the tomb.
    There are many questions surrounding this.
    There is a lot of other evidences you may not have looked at or perhaps you understood it differently. We can look at each part, all the evidence there is surrounding the resurrection.

  6. Yeah I was curious what translation you used.
    Yeah my question too. Who did write them if not the disciples?

  7. Okay, what you're saying is that it is ok for the witnesses to disagree about the details, as long as they get the main story the same.

    But the main story is still something very unlikely. A big unlikely event needs big evidence to support it. Four inconsistent stories from cult followers don't sound like the sort of evidence to justify a resurrection.

    Do you disagree?

  8. I used the American Standard Version from

  9. Why must it be unlikely? It does need evidence and I believe it is there. As we said earlier you and I see same evidence and story but you say crazy and unlikely and I believe it makes sense. To be this does not discount evidence. Just the way you and other look at it.
    Sure it sound crazy. For someone to rise from the grave. Sure the main source of the evidence comes from an old book called the Bible.
    Sure other stories have been written and believed that sound crazy.

    How do they stack against Christianity? If we measure Christ against other known beliefs how is it more reliable?
    But if this is about the resurrection as written in the Gospels then the difference in details between the four writers is not a reason not to believe.

    I agree that the details are not enough to say the whole story is false.

    Would you be more inclined to believe the resurrection if all the Gospels had all the details the same?

    Why do you say the main story of Christ rising from the grave is unlikely?
    It is not a science issue. It is a history issue.
    What standard of historical testing or reliability do we have?
    How can we judge if something is historical accurate?
    What can we agree on about the resurrection story?

    Is the main reason you disagree because of your understanding of the scientific evidence?
    What took place in much of the bible and the things done by Jesus can not be reproduce. They can not be observed in our world. Is this your sole reason for discounting the story?

    And yes. My belief in Jesus does play into my understanding of the resurrection. I can not explain it. I don't think I could if I tried. At least not in a way you can understand. I believe God's power and ability is often times out of mans realm of reasoning.
    I am okay with that. It looks as thou you are not.

    I have asked a lot of question. I am sure you have a lot of answer for me.
    I look forward to hearing them and take time to respond.

    The Bible some where in Isaiah "come let us reason together"
    God wants us to understand. But there is a limit to our understanding of God and His ways. Still let us reason with what we can know and understand.

    Thank you my friend for the talk.

  10. Hey Aaron when my post says it is from Nicki I am signed into her gmail account. Nicki has a very simple faith. Which I strong admire. I on the other hand have to ask a lot of question.
    God's way is for us to come with the faith of a child.

  11. You have brought up many questions. I would like to focus on one.

    Deemer: "But the main story is still something very unlikely. A big unlikely event needs big evidence to support it."
    Keller: "Why must it be unlikely?"

    The event in question is a magic resurrection. If you do not think a resurrection is an unlikely event, then I'm not sure where we can go from here. We certainly can't have a conversation based on normal rules of reason. The natural and spontaneous reanimation of a 3-day old corpse is against natural laws.

    But now that you believe that resurrections are not that unlikely, let's talk shop. Lady Xerxes from the Meridian Universe has given me great mystical powers. To prove it, I have killed and resurrected Tia. All I have to prove it is my word (since I also erased Tia's memory of the event) but since resurrections are not that unlikely, that should be enough, right?

    Just to be clear, this last bit was sarcasm. There is no Lady Xerxes, but if resurrections are not unlikely, how can you not accept my statement that I just performed one?

    Things that are likely are simple things that happen all the time. "I went to the bathroom today." Do you believe me? The answer is probably yes, because a human going to the bathroom is a likely event and I have no reason to lie. "I resurrected my wife." I still have no obvious motive to lie, but the claim is not likely.

    Saying that it is a history issue and not a science issue is a copout. The Greek poet Homer wrote a historical account called the Odyssey. Is that a fair historical account? Does it prove the existence of harpies and Poseidon?

    My turn:
    I have a question for you, Keller. What is the root? You have 4 resurrection stories and you believe that they are true, though they contradict one another. So they are not the reason that you believe. There is a reason that you believe in this resurrection that has nothing to do with 4 incompatible stories. What is it? I can have lots of fun slicing away at head after head of this hydra, or we could find the core belief (the one from which the others flow) and tackle it directly.

  12. Yes the question is, can a man rise from the grave. God has the ability to work outside natural laws. If you believe he exist then he created natural law. So nothing is impossible for him. If you except God existence then it is not hard to believe the resurrection.
    Of course your story about raising you wife is a just that a made up story,
    Jesus Christ rising from the grave is not. It is unlikely to you. You don't have faith in the mater. I do. Does this mean I have to disarm all my human wisdom and intellect in order to except the resurrection of Jesus? I don't think so.
    There is evidence you will not except. You will not except the supernatural. Any mention of a soul or spirit you will not except.
    There is are major disagreement. I can believe in things that I can not see. But not everything. I see there is good reasons why I except the resurrection and not other mystical believes. I see Christ, his life and miracles and yes even the resurrection as true. I believe they are historical. If we look at the Odyssey and Jesus Christ side-by-side I have to admit that the Odyssey is a wild story. The account of Christ, sure it may sound farfetched.
    If you interpret all the evidence through the lenses of scientific prove then the historical account of the resurrection will not make any sense.

    The four Gospels are different but I have studied and seen enough to believe that they do not contradict and are not incompatible to one another.

    The whole the Christian faith hinges on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. study it some more in the Bible. With out the resurrection then this faith I have is worthless. If Christ did not rise from the grave our faith is in vain.

    The core belief is simple. Jesus Christ is God in human flesh. Who came to the world he created in order to save his people. I have believed this by faith. Evidence has not proved it to me. Thou I don't see the evidence pointing me away from it.

    We can run around with all kinds of discussion but the core Jesus Christ is my hope and my prove.

    I guess we can talk about him.

  13. I asked about the core, the root of your beliefs. Let me try to explain where I am going with this.

    There is this great question that I have posted about: How do you know that? It is a question for cutting down incorrect, unsupported beliefs. It works so well against them because they cannot answer it without getting into trouble.

    So when you say "Jesus Christ is God in human flesh", I ask "How do you know that?"

    But then your response is "Evidence has not proved it to me."

    If that's the answer then there's no point talking about reason and evidence in the first place. You believe something for no reason. You don't believe it because of evidence.

    I can't believe in anything this way anymore. It matters to me if my beliefs are correct. And picking them at random without caring if they are supported by evidence is not the way to get correct beliefs.

    Let's take religion out of this for a moment and maybe you can see my point. Imagine I said that there was a diamond buried in my backyard and that I have evidence. We could argue about it for awhile. You could show me that the photos of the diamond were faked with photoshop, and that the sworn affidavits were forged. But if after several hours I said that evidence is not what convinces me that there is a diamond, what point is there in discussing it anymore.

    I have presented a case for the existence of the diamond. The case is built on several pillars of evidence. But when the pillars of evidence are destroyed, the case is still there? Because the evidence was just window dressing. I believe that there is a diamond, just because.

    It gets worse. I think I am justified in believing in the diamond until someone else provides proof that there is no diamond. So you dig up my backyard. No diamond. Well, yes, but that doesn't prove it. The diamond could be deeper. So you dig deeper. No diamond. How deep do you have to dig, till I can stop saying that the diamond could be deeper?

    Originally you said that there were various pieces of evidence that could show that Christianity is true. You cited archeological evidence, textual evidence, etc. I listened and listened and presented my reasons and counter-evidences. But now evidence doesn't matter?

    When trying to establish the truth of a claim, the claimant's (you) job is to present the evidence. If the evidence doesn't support the claim, the claim gets thrown out. That's how reason and evidence work.

    I am not giving up on talking to you yet, Keller. You are a slippery fish. Do you have any suggestions for how we might continue this discussion without relying on evidence?

    If, on the other hand, you'd like to go back to evidence-based reason, how about we go back to your claim that Christianity is supported by evidence. I'll even help you build your case in outline format. I'll write up a new post for making the case for Christ.

  14. I'll need to hear what the claim is you'd like to make. For example: "Jesus of Nazareth was a real person who lived, died and rose from the dead."

    I'll use that one for now, but let me know if you have a different claim you'd like to be showing evidence for instead.

  15. Yes I said I believe by faith. I would be lying to you and my self if
    i said I believe in Jesus Christ only because of the evidence. I also
    said the evidence has not pointed me away from Christ. It has moved me

    With your story about the diamond. If Jesus is this diamond I have
    found him. You say this is not good evidence. He can not be seen or
    heard in an physical way. So the in your view the evidence does not
    fit the claim.

    I know I am not the most articulate person or structured when it come
    to supporting what I believe.

    Read "The case for Christ" and the "Case for a creator" by Lee Stroble.
    In these investigation The author presents evidence. Evidence that
    does not just point to blind faith.
    Michel Behe also presents some strong claims. I don't think Michel is
    a Christian either.

    I don't think evidence is out if the picture. I just think we look at
    it in different ways. We come to different conclusions about the

    My understanding starts with a belief in a highier power. Your claim
    is the highier power is not necessary to explain life.

    We can start with Christ.
    History, archaelogy. I am not sure it will help.
    These aspects if my case do not require a belief in the super natural
    or faith.
    I already know your responce to the claims that can be made in these
    Maybe this time around the discussion will make more sense.

    I would not mind talking about these areas.
    This historical claims of the Christ.

    Another blogg that maybe helpful to us both is a discussion over the
    three books I mentioned. I have enough from these books to understand
    their evidence. Have you heared of the books I mentioned. Perhaps you
    can read them. I can read through them and then we may have more to say.

    Since it looks I am the one who is suppose to give the evidence. I
    would I have stand on the claims supported by these books.

    the Case for Christ, the Case for a creator and Michael Behe's
    Darwims Black Box

  16. Keller, I've read various Christian apologetics in my life. I've even read a book or two on creationism/intelligent design. I haven't been impressed, so far. If you have particular points that you think are valid evidence presented by these books, bring them to my attention. But I probably won't have time to read through these books at length. I've got a lot of other stuff that I'm reading right now.

  17. I know. I am the same. It would sure help to read them. You would see the argument in the contexts. I can look through the books and point out the main points. But if you ever get a chance they would be a good source.