It’s the Easter season, and at this time of year, we always see the usual articles calling into question the resurrection of Christ. Most times these articles cite contradictions in the resurrection accounts.
Did Jesus appear in Galilee (Matthew’s and Mark’s Gospel ) or Jerusalem (Luke’s and John’s gospels) ? One angel or two? Angel outside the tomb or inside? Can all the appearances be harmonized, or are they hopelessly contradictory?
What you have here are four writers with different perspectives and emphases.
•Matthew (Matt. 28:16 ) records only an appearance to disciples in Galilee-but doesn’t say they left immediately for Galilee. Neither did he say this was the only appearance of Christ. Mark lets out that he knows about appearance in Galilee in Mark 16:7.
•Luke’s narrative appears to cover only the Jerusalem appearances, but his account is also condensed at end: (Luke 24:36-53 telescopes several appearances together- but expands this out in his second book (Acts 1:3-11). The “ands” in this narrative are not necessarily continuous in the Greek as they are in English, so it looks superficially like one appearance when it is probably referring to several occasions. This is confirmed when you look at Luke’s account in Acts 1, where he relates that Jesus appeared many times over 40 days ( Acts 1:3).
•John shows by two appearances listed ( John 20:19-23, John 20:24-29) that the disciples probably stayed in Jerusalem for the feast at least eight days.
Here is a rough harmonization of the various appearances:
•Appeared to the women first: Matt 28:1-10, Mark 16:1-8, Luke 24:1-12, John 20:1-2, 11-18
•Appeared on road to Emmaus: Luke 24:13-32, Mark 16:12-13
•1st appearance to disciples: Jerusalem: Luke 24:36-43, John 20:19-23, 1Cor 15:5, Mark 16:14
•2nd appearance to disciples: Jerusalem: John 20:24-29
•3rd app.: John 21-fish breakfast-possibly at Galilee
•4th app.: Galilee: Matt 28:16-20, Mark 16:15-19,Luke 24: 44-49, 1Cor 15:6 –The Great commission (also see Acts 1:3-8) This large gathering of 500 was probably at Galilee, and not a chance gathering! ( They met “where Jesus directed them” as in Matt. 28:16)
• 5th app.: 1 Cor 15:7 to James
•Others not listed: see Acts 1:3 , also to Paul later on.
As far as the angel sightings by the women, in Matthew 28 first the earthquake took place before the women arrived at the tomb, and the angel sat on the stone as the frightened guards ran away. The tenses in the Greek are less precise about relative time, so some sigificant time could have elapsed before the women got there, (“the angel had descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone…”) by which time the angel or angels had gone into the tomb. This makes sense for otherwise the women might have been frightened away as the soldiers had been.
When they went in, one angel was probably the spokesman even if there were two. This is simple math. If there were two angels, then there was at least one! No irreconcilable contradictions here.
These are but a sample of the many ways these so called “contradictions” in the resurrection accounts can be neatly resolved.
•For a good reference on this subject see John Wenham, Easter Enigma, 2005 Wipf & Stock ,Eugene OR