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The Resurrection: What is the Evidence?

If you were the judge presiding over murder case, you would want to be absolutely certain before convicting the defendant.  If the prosecutor calls his key witnesses, but each tells a different story, his case would be very shaky.  The defense attorney will argue for the acquittal of his client by demonstrating the weakness of the prosecutor's case.  He will impeach the state's witnesses by showing how their accounts are contradictory.

The resurrection narratives in the Gospels may be convincing testimony for people who have not read them very carefully.  As a responsible judge, though, you can't be satisfied with just a casual examination of the evidence.  The stories told in the New Testament are so inconsistent, that the resurrection story collapses under careful scrutiny.  The conflicting testimony of the evangelists is so unreliable, it would not stand up to critical cross-examination in any court of law.  Yet, the entire Christian faith is based upon this story.

This study has been prepared to help you critically evaluate the case of the alleged resurrection of Jesus.  There is a holy spark in your soul that is crying out for clarity and truth.  Prayerfully examine the evidence - this is one of the most important decisions in your life.

 

Matthew

Mark

Luke

John

Who carried the cross?

Simon of Cyrene (Mw. 27:32)

Simon of Cyrene (Mk. 15:21)

Simon of Cyrene (Lk. 23:26)

Only Jesus himself carried the cross! (Jo. 19:17)

At what time was Jesus crucified?

Not discussed

9:00 am – “It was the THIRD HOUR when they crucified him.” (Mk. 15:25)

Not discussed

12:00 noon – Jesus was not crucified until after the SIXTH HOUR! (Jo. 19:14-15)

On which day was Jesus crucified?

On the first day of Passover* (Mw. 26:1-19)

The first day of Passover* (Mk. 14:12-23)

The first day of Passover* (Lk. 22:7-20)

The day BEFORE Passover (Passover-eve) (Jo. 19:14)

Did Jesus drink?  What was in the drink?

Yes, wine mixed with gall (Mw. 27:34)

No, Jesus was offered wine mixed with myrrh (Mk. 15:23)

Don’t know, Vinegar (sour wine) (Lk. 23:36)

Yes, Vinegar (sour wine)

(Jo. 19:29-30)

Did either one of the two thieves believe in Jesus?

Neither one believed in Jesus (Mw. 27:44)

Neither one believed in Jesus (Mk. 15:32)

Only one does not believe, but ONE DOES! (Lk. 23:39-41)

Not discussed

What were the Jesus’s last dying words on the cross?

“My G-d, my G-d, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Mw. 27:46)

“My G-d, my G-d, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Mk. 15:43)

 “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.” (Lk. 23:46)

“It is finished.” (Jo. 19:30)

When did Mary prepare the spices?

Not discussed

After  the Sabbath was over (Mk. 16:1)

Before the Sabbath started (Lk. 23:56)

Nicodemus, NOT Mary, prepared the spices BEFORE the Sabbath. (Jo. 19:39)

Had the sun yet risen when the women came to the tomb?

It was toward dawn of the first day of the week. (Mw. 28:1)

YES – “They came to the tomb when the sun had risen.” (Mk. 16:2)

At early dawn they went to the tomb.  (Lk. 24:1)

NO – “Mary came early to the tomb, WHILE IT WAS STILL DARK.” (Jo. 20:1)

How many days, and how many nights, was Jesus in the tomb?

3 days and 2 nights (Mw. 28:1)

3 days and 2 nights (Mk. 16:2)

3 days and 2 nights (Lk. 24:1)

2 days and 2 nights (Jo. 20:1)

Jesus prophesied that he would be in the tomb for 3 days and 3 nights. (Matthew 12:40)

How many people came to the tomb?

Two (Mw. 28:1)

Three (Mk. 16:1)

Four+ (Lk. 24:10)

One (Jo. 20:1)

Who were they?

Mary Magdalene and the other Mary (Mw. 28:1)

Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Salome (Mk. 16:1)

Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, Joanna and other woman (Lk. 24:10)

Only Mary Magdalene came to the tomb (Jo. 20:1)

Was the stone removed when Mary arrived at the tomb?

NO – After Mary arrived at the tomb, an angel rolls back the stone. (Mw. 28:1-2)

YES – When they arrived, the stone had already been rolled away. (Mk. 16:4)

YES – When Mary arrived, the stone had already been taken away. (Lk. 24:2)

YES – When Mary arrived, the stone had already been taken away. (Jo. 20:1)

How many angels were at the tomb?

One (Mw. 28:2)

One young man (Mk. 16:5)

Two men (Lk. 24:4)

No one was seen at the tomb on her first approach.  When Mary comes the second time, she finds two angels; one sitting at the head & one sitting at the feet. (Jo. 20:1-2-12)

What were they (was he) doing?

Sitting (Mw. 28:2)

Sitting (Mk. 16:5)

Standing (Lk. 24:4)

Where were they (was he)?

On the stone, which he rolled away from the tomb (Mw. 28:2)

One the right side, inside the tomb (Mk. 16:5)

By them, inside the tomb (Lk. 24:4)

What are the angels’ instructions to Mary and the others** at the tomb?

“He is not here; for he has risen…go quickly and tell his disciples he is going before you to the Galilee!” (Mw. 28:6-7)

“Do not be amazed…he has risen…But go tell his disciples and Peter he is going before you to Galilee” (Mk. 16:6-7)

In Luke’s story (Lk. 24:5-7), they’re specifically not instructed to go to the Galilee, but to “Stay in Jerusalem!” (Lk. 24:49).  See also – “He commanded them that they should not leave Jerusalem!” (Acts 1:4).  Luke must have the apostles stay in Jerusalem for the Pentacost. (Acts 2:1)

The two angels only ask, “Why are you weeping woman?”  As Mary responds, she turns around and sees Jesus standing there.  Completely contradicting all three Synoptics, John’s story has Jesus, NOT the angels, instruct Mary about the resurrection! (Jo. 20:13-17)

 

Luke contradicts Matthew and Mark, whose resurrection tale has the apostles depart Jerusalem, and go to the Galilee, which is about an 80-90 mile journey, whereas Luke insists that the apostles were never told to, and never did, leave Jerusalem! (Luke, 24:5-7, 49, Acts 1:4)

Does Mary wish to tell the disciples what had happened?

YES – “They departed quickly…and ran to tell the disciples.” (Mw. 28:8)

NO – “They said nothing to anyone; for they were afraid” (Mk. 16:8)

YES – “Returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven.” (Lk. 24:9)

YES – Mary Magdalene tells the disciples, “I have seen the Lord.” (Jo. 20:18)

After seeing the angels, whom does Mary meet first, Jesus or the disciples?

Jesus (Mw. 28:9)

Jesus (Mk. 16:9)

The disciples (Lk. 24:4-9)

Jesus (Jo. 20:14)

Entirely contradicting Luke’s post-resurrection story, Matthew, Mark and John all insist that Mary met Jesus before she was able to tell any of the disciples what had happened (Matthew 28:8, Mark 16:9, John 20:14), whearas Luke asserts that Mary revealed all to the disciples before ever encountering Jesus! (Luke 24:4-9)

To whom does Jesus make his first appearance?

The two Marys (Mw. 28:9)

Only Mary Magdalene (Mk. 16:8-9)

Cleopas and another (Lk. 24:13,18)

Only Mary Magdalene (Jo. 20:1,11-14)

Paul – 1 Corinthians

Cephas (Peter) 15:5

Where does this appearance take place?

On the way to Jerusalem, after leaving the tomb (Mw. 28:9)

Mark’s story does not indicate where this appearance takes place.  It is quite clear, however, that it occurs sometime after Mary fled the tomb (Mk. 16:8-9)

Emmaus (Lk. 24:13,18)

At the tomb (Jo. 20:1,11-14)

*** Contradicting Mark’s resurrection tale, Luke asserts (Lk. 24:34) that when the two followers who met Jesus on the road to Emmaus returned to Jerusalem and told the eleven about their encounter, the disciples declared “It is true!”, whereas Mark insists that when the two reported their encounter, the disciples did not believe! – Mark 16:13

Is Mary permitted to touch Jesus after the resurrection?

Yes- “…they came and held him by his feet, and worshipped him.” (Mw. 28:9)

Not discussed

Yes – “Behold my hands & my feet, …handle me & and see;” (Lk. 24:39, 1 John 1:1)

No – Jesus said to her, “Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father” (Jo. 20:17)

How many times does Jesus appear after the resurrection?

Two times

1st) Mw. 28:9-10  

2nd) Mw. 28:17-20

Three times

1st) Mk. 16:9

2nd) Mk. 16:12 *** (see above right)

3rd) Mk. 16:14-18

Two times

1st) Lk. 24:13-31

2nd) Lk. 24:36-51

Four times (:)

1st) Jo. 20:14-17 

2nd) Jo. 20:19-23

3rd) Jo. 20:26-29   

4th) Jo. 21:1-23

Paul – 1 Corinthians

Six times

1st and 2nd) 1 Cor. 15:5

3rd)             1 Cor. 15:6

4th and 5th) 1 Cor. 15:7

6th)             1 Cor. 15:8

Contradicting Luke’s post-resurrection story entirely, John has the apostles receive the Holy Spirit on the first Easter Sunday (John 20-22), whereas Luke insists that the Holy Spirit was bestowed on the Pentecost, fifty days latter! – Acts 1:5, 8 and 2:1-4

Before whom, and in what chronological order, do the appearances take place?

1st) Mary Magdalene and the other Mary (Mw. 28:9)

2nd) 11 disciples****

1st) Mary Magdalene (Mk. 16:9)

2nd) Two strolling followers (Mk. 16:12) *** (see above right)

3rd) 11 disciples**** (Mk. 16:14)

1st) Cloepas and another unknown follower (Lk. 24:13)

2nd) Eleven disciples**** “and them that were with them.” (Lk. 24:33)

1st) Mary Magdalene

(Jo. 20:14)

2nd) Ten disciples**** (Thomas was not there) (Jo. 20:24)

3rd) Eleven disciples (Jo. 20:26)

4th) Peter, Thomas, the two sons of Zebedee (James and John), Nethanael and two other disciples. (Jo. 21:2)

Paul – 1 Corinthians

1st) Cephas (Peter) 15:5

2nd) All 12 apostles**** 15:5

3rd) 500 people 15:6

4th) James 15:7

5th) All 12 apostles 15:7

6th) Paul 15:8

According to Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus made this appearance to all the eleven surviving disciples.  Paul has this event take place in the presence of all twelve apostles (1 Corinthians 15:5), although Judas had long since died (Matthew 27:5, Acts 1:18).  Contrary to all this, John’s story places only ten disciples at the scene, Thomas being absent! – John 20:24

Where do these appearances take place?

1st) Leaving the tomb, going to the disciples (Mw. 28:8)

2nd) On a mountain in the Galilee (Mw. 28:16)

(but some doubted it! – Mw. 28:17)

1st) After fleeing the tomb (Mk. 16:8-9)

2nd) As they walked to the country (Mk. 16:12)

3rd) At a meal (Mk. 16:14)

1st) Emmaus (Lk. 24:13)

2nd) In Jerusalem (Lk. 24:33, 49), NOT the Galilee as Matthew would have us believe (Matthew 28:6-7,16)

1st) At the tomb (Jo. 20:14)

2nd and 3rd) In Jerusalem, behind closed doors. (Jo. 20:18-29)

4th) The Sea of Tiberias (Jo. 21:1)

* All three Synoptics agree that the Last Supper was a Passover Seder.

** There are no “others” in the book of John

 

 

Questions about the resurrection:

1. How is it possible to reconcile the conflicting accounts of the resurrection story found in the Gospels?  Many Christian apologists have argued that it is similar to a traffic accident that is viewed by four different witnesses – each will see it from a different perspective.  This might be a tenable idea if the evangelists were actually on the scene, and watched the story unfold as the women approached the tomb.  Yet, this was not the case.  Not only were the Gospel writers not eyewitnesses, they didn’t even write their accounts of the story until at least 40 years after it allegedly took place.  Moreover, most of the inconsistencies in the resurrection narratives (i.e. date, time, place) can’t be explained as differences in perspective.

 

There is, however, a more significant issue here: according to II Timothy 3:16, the Gospels are the revealed word of G-d, and not the product of human agents.  G-d doesn’t suffer from human fallibility and certainly wouldn’t present sucha a garbled account  of what Christians consider the most crucial event in the world.

 

2. Why would the compilers of the New Testament allow contradictory accounts to remain if they were responsible for the story?  Could they have been so careless?  Perhaps – it is certainly possible.  We’d certainly be naďve to accept testimony as reliable in spite of the fact that it is riddles with inconsistencies.

 

3. A solid case can only be built on the testimony of witnesses who provide very clear testimony.  If they can with 100% certainty pick a suspect out of a lineup, their testimony inspires confidence.  If they view the suspects and don’t recognize any of them, and later change their minds, the defense counsel will certainly bring this up at the trial.  One would think that the witnesses to history’s greatest event would have no doubts about what they saw.  However, in the Gospel accounts, the post-resurrection Jesus is not even recognized by his closest disciples (Luke 24:16,37); John 20:14, 21:4).

 

4. If, as Paul claims, the resurrection of the Messiah is the most important concept in the Bible, isn’t it strange that in the entire Tanach, there isn’t one clear reference to it?  An indication of this conspicuous absence is that none of Jesus’ disciples were aware that he was supposed to be resurrected.  Not only were they not expecting Jesus to be resurrected (Matthew 16:21-22, 17:23; Mark 8:31-32, 9:31-32; Luke 18:33-34), but when they find the empty tomb, they assume that someone moved the body (John 20:2).  Subsequently, they refuse to believe early rumours about the resurrection (Mark 16:11-13, Matthew 28:17, Luke 24:11, and John 20:3, 13).  Is it possible that the predictions of crucifixion and resurrection were put into Jesus’ mouth by the Gospel writers to give more credibility to their belief that he rose from the dead?

 

5.Matthew 27:52-53 claims that at the time of Jesus’ passion, the graves of Jerusalem were opened and the bodies of many righteous Jews were resurrected, appearing to many people.  If this actually happened, it would have been one of the greatest news stories of the day.  If Matthew’s story took place as reported, it’s strange that Josephus, who wrote a detailed history of that time, failed to mention it.  Not only does it not appear in any contemporary Jewish sources, but this fantastic occurrence isn’t mentioned by other Gospels.  Is it possible that Matthew fabricated the entire story?

 

6. In Matthew 12:38-40, the scribes and Pharisees are said to have asked Jesus for a sign.  He said that the only sign they would receive would be the sign of Jonah: he would rise after being in the grave for three days (Cf. Mark 8:11-12).  If the resurrection was supposed to be a sign for the Jewish religious leaders, why didn’t Jesus appear to them?  Isn’t it convenient that he only appeared to people who were his followers?  Joseph Smith also claimed that there were witnesses who saw the golden plates used to write the Book of Mormon.  Of course his story would be more credible if he would have showed the plates to people other than his best friends.

 

7. What should our reaction be to the reports that Jesus appeared to 500 people after his resurrection?  What is our reaction to the thousands of Catholics who yearly claim to see the Virgin Mary?  People claim many things; that in itself doesn’t mean it is true.

 

8. Was Jesus resurrected in the flesh (John 20:17,26-27; Luke 24:39-43; Acts 2:31, 13:35) or was only a spirit resurrected (I Corinthians 15:44,50; I Timothy 2:5, I Peter 3:8)?  One wonders why there is such a fundamental disagreements over such a critical element of the story.

 

9. If the guards weren’t sent to the tomb until sometime on Saturday (Matthew 27:62-66), how do we know that the body wasn’t removed on Friday night or early Saturday morning?

 

10. Shouldn’t a red flag go up when we realize that the idea of a divine saviour who suffers a brutal death and ascends to heaven was very common among Pagan and Gnostic religions at the time of Paul?  (This was especially true for the regions around Tarsus, his hometown.)  Roman mythology had a widespread belief that notable mortals returned from the dead.  See accounts of Romulus, Apollonius of Tyana, Drusilla, Claudius, Dionysus-Bacchus, Tammuz-Adonis, Mithra, Osiris, Krishna, and Buddha.

 

11. Why would the disciples willingly die for their belief in the resurrection if it wasn’t true?  Every religion has martyrs who are killed for the beliefs they hold.  Scores of Muslims enthusiastically blow themselves up each year in their hope to join their prophet Mohammed, who they believe ascended to heaven in the presence of many witnesses.  The willingness to suffer doesn’t substantiate a false belief.

 

“And if Christ be not raised, your faith is in vain, ye are yet in your sins!” – I Corinthians 15:17