An Examination of the Alleged Contradictions in the Resurrection Narratives-Part 4 | John Ankerberg Show

An Examination of the Alleged Contradictions in the Resurrection Narratives-Part 4

By: The John Ankerberg Show
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By: Dr. John Ankerberg, Dr. John Weldon; ©2005
In this article we will examine the fourth alleged contradiction: Do Jesus’ Resurrection appearances conflict with one another?

ALLEGED CONTRADICTION NUMBER FOUR:

Do Jesus’ Resurrection appearances conflict with one another?

31. Was Mary Magdalene the first person to visit the tomb as John implies or did the other women accompany her as Matthew and Mark state?

The seeming contradiction between John and Matthew and Mark can be resolved by assuming all the women were to meet together at the tomb and were on their way when the events happened. Therefore, Matthew and Mark are correct in referring to them as a group on their way to the tomb. If Mary arrived a bit earlier than the rest, then John’s account is correct. If the stone was rolled away and Mary looked in and found the tomb empty, it would be reasonable to conclude that she would leave immediately to tell Peter and John. This is what the Apostle John says happened.

After Mary left, her other companions arrived at the tomb. The angels ap­peared to them, delivered their message, whereupon they left and ran to tell the disciples. So Mary was the first person to reach the tomb.

32. If Jesus appeared to Mary first (Mark 16:9), why is it that after informing Peter and John, she stays at the tomb and begins to weep?

(See Q. 33)

33. If Mary were the first to see Jesus, why does she tell the angel, “They have taken my Lord and I don’t know where they have laid Him”?

These questions are answered if we follow Mary’s journey after she meets Peter and John. When Mary finds John and Peter, they start off for the tomb (John 20:3). Mary lags behind. Peter and John reach the tomb, look in, see the grave clothes lying where Jesus’ body was laid. John believes. They both leave the tomb (John 20:10). Finally, Mary reaches the tomb.

By the time she arrives, the disciples have already left, and she has not been told what Peter and John have concluded. Up to this point she has not seen any angels or the Lord. So she stands by the tomb all alone and in frustration begins to weep.

She looks into the tomb. At that point, the angels appear to Mary and ask her why she is weeping. She replies, “They’ve taken the Lord out of the tomb and we don’t know where they’ve put him.”

Jesus then appears to Mary and in her confusion, she thinks He is the gar­dener. Jesus makes Himself known to Mary in the conversation and she recog­nizes Him as her Lord. So Mary is probably the first one that Jesus appeared to. She then leaves to go and tell the good news to the disciples.

34. Do Mark and Luke conflict in their reports about the disciples on the road to Emmaus?

Luke records the appearance of Jesus on the road to Emmaus seven miles away from Jerusalem (Luke 24:13-36). The two men in his account return to Jerusalem only to discover the people present already believe in the Resurrec­tion. The people are saying, “It is true! The Lord is risen and has appeared to Simon” (Luke 24:34). At that point the two men who had just returned tell of their own experience with the risen Jesus on the road to Emmaus.

The critics, however, claim Luke contradicts Mark who says, “And they [the men on the road to Emmaus] went away and reported it to the others, but they did not believe them either” (Mark 16:12-13).[1]

Which account is correct? Did the disciples believe in the Resurrection or not believe it? First, we need to understand that the persons exclaiming, “The Lord has risen and has appeared to Peter” were not the apostles themselves. They were the “others who were with them” who came to inform the apostles that Christ was resurrected (Luke 24:33). These other individuals had believed in the Resurrection because they had just witnessed Christ personally. But the ones they were telling this to in the room had not yet seen Jesus and therefore did not believe them.

Mark’s appendix agrees with the Apostle John that Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene (Mark 16:9; John 20:14). Mark then records Mary went and reported to the disciples that she had been with Jesus while she was mourning and weep­ing at the tomb.

What was the reaction of those who heard Mary? Mark tells us in Mark 16:11, “And when they heard that he Jesus was alive, and had been seen by her, they [the disciples] refused to believe it.”

Next, Mark records Jesus’ appearance to the two men walking in the country along the road to Emmaus. These men return to Jerusalem and report to the others. What happened to Mary happened to these two men. Mark records, “They [the disciples] did not believe them either” (Mark 16:13).

If we carefully examine what Luke says about these events, we will see heagrees with Mark. Luke records that after the two men recognized Jesus on the road to Emmaus, “They returned to Jerusalem, and found gathered together the Eleven and those who were with them, saying, ‘The Lord has really risen, and has appeared to Simon.’”

The key issue is: Who is Luke speaking about when he says, “And those who were with them”? This reference must be to Mary (Mark 16:10-11) whom they had earlier refused to believe and probably the other women who had seen the angels and the resurrected Lord (Matthew 28:5-10).

Luke only tells us the Eleven were “listening” to those people who had come to them, who were with them and testifying, “The Lord has really risen.” Nowhere in Luke’s account does he say the Eleven actually believed what the others were telling them. How do we know this?

There is clear evidence that indicates the eleven disciples did not yet believe in the Resurrection. While this entire group is gathered together, Jesus Himself appears to them and rebukes them for doubting His Resurrection. Luke records, “they [the Eleven] were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost” (Luke 24:37). Jesus encourages all of them to “Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.” And even then, Luke records, “They still did not believe it because of joy and amazement” (v. 41).

Mark records these words, “Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to be­lieve those who had seen him after He had risen” (Mark 16:14).

In conclusion, when Mark reports that the disciples in Jerusalem did not be­lieve Mary, nor did they believe the two men from the road to Emmaus, he must be telling the truth. Luke does not contradict Mark’s report concerning the two men on the road to Emmaus.

35. How can most of the alleged conflicts be easily resolved?

By now it should be obvious that most of these questions are answered simply by constructing a plausible sequence of events that shows the accounts do not contradict each other. We would like you to consider this account given by Noval Geldenhuys which is just one of many reconstructions that answers many of these questions:

Very early on the Sunday morning the resurrection took place, the earthquake followed, the angel descended and rolled away the stone (Matthew 28:2-4), and the guards of soldiers fled (Matthew 28:11).
A little later Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Salome hastened to the sepulcher while another group of women followed with the spices. Mary Magdalene reaches the sepulcher first, sees that it is empty and immediately goes to inform Peter and John (John 20:1ff).
The other Mary and Salome approach and see the angel (Matthew 28:5). Thereafter the other women with Joanna among them come along; they see the two angels and receive the message that Jesus has risen (Luke 24:1ff).
In the meantime Mary Magdalene reaches Peter and John, and they hasten to the sepulcher (John 20). Mary also follows them again and arrives at the sepulcher after the others have already departed.
She weeps at the sepulcher (John 20:2ff) and sees the two angels, who ask her why she is weeping. After this she sees Jesus himself (John 20:14).
In the meantime the other women had gone to the other disciples and told them their experiences. But their words were regarded as idle tales (24:11) until Peter and John confirm them.
When the women were afterwards probably again on their way to the sepulcher, Jesus meets them (according to the true text of Matthew 28:9, which simply reads: “And behold, Jesus met them and said…”).
Later in the day the Savior appeared to Peter alone (Luke 24:34 and 1 Corinthians 15:5), toward evening to the men of Emmaus, and a little later to the whole group of disciples, with the exception of Thomas (Luke 24:36-43; John 20:19-24).
A week later he again appeared to the disciples, including Thomas, who was convinced of the certainty of the resurrection (John 21:1-23).
And during the 40 days before his ascension the Lord also appeared in Galilee to the seven disciples at the Sea (John 21:1-23) (obviously the Galilean disciples, especially after Jesus’ command that they should go thither, left Jerusalem after a few weeks for Galilee).
He also appeared to the five hundred of his followers in Galilee (as a result of the command of Mark 16:7 they would probably, after the reports concerning Jesus’ resurrection had been brought to them, have assembled spontaneously in expectation of his appearance). When Paul wrote 1 Corinthians 15:6, most of the five hundred were still alive as living witnesses of the fact of the resurrection.
From Acts 1:3,4, and from the whole history from the commencement of Christianity, it appears that during the 40 days before his ascension Jesus often appeared to his followers and spoke to them about many things in order to prepare them as builders of his church.
Toward the end of the 40 days he no doubt commanded them to go to Jerusalem and to remain there until the promise of the Holy Ghost should be fulfilled.
After their return to Judaea the Savior also appeared to James (1 Corinthians 15:7) and to the apostles (Luke 24:33-53; Acts 1:3-12); and after his ascension he appeared to Paul near Damascus (Acts 9:3-6, 1 Corinthians 15:8) and again in the temple (Acts 22:17-21, 23:11).
Also Stephen, the first martyr, saw Jesus after his resurrection (Acts 7:55). Last of all, the Savior also appeared to John, the gray-haired exile on Patmos (Revelation 1:10-19).
Thus we have a mighty cloud of witnesses that Jesus has indeed arisen as the Conqueror over the grave, death and hell, and lives forever![2]

But even though most of the apparent problems can be resolved by supplying a chronological sequence of events, we must remember there are times when this is impossible simply because we do not have sufficient information.

As Geldenhuys observes, the Gospels are primarily accounts of the apostles’ preaching about Jesus. They are not complete biographies. Because of this fact, we are not entitled to demand that they supply us with an exact, detailed, and chronologically connected narrative of all the various events they discuss. Geldenhuys writes:

When we are faced with assertions (sometimes of a very arbitrary character) that the Gospels contradict one another as regards the particulars of the resurrection-appearances, we should bear in mind that the Gospels give such a condensed and selective account of the resurrection that no one knows whether the episodes described in one Gospel are the same as those mentioned in one or more of the others…. And because we know so little of the less important particulars of those events, we are unable to see how the various narratives fit into one another. In any case, all the Gospels proclaim the main facts and leave no doubt as to the certainty that Jesus did arise.[3]

36. Did Jesus appear in Jerusalem or only on a mountain in Galilee?

We must remember that there were at least twelve separate appearances of Jesus after His Resurrection from the dead. Michael Green succinctly outlines the major Resurrection appearances for us:

The Gospels profess to give us only a selection of events in the Jesus story (John 21:25) but even so there is an impressive list.
  • Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene (Mark 16:9; John 20:1-18),
  • to the two Marys (Matthew 28:1-10),
  • to Simon Peter (Luke 24:34; 1 Corinthians 15:5),
  • to the disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-31),
  • to the Eleven and other disciples (Matthew 28:16-20; Luke 24:36-49;

John 20:19-23; 21:1-14; Acts 1:3-9; 1 Corinthians 15:5-6),

  • to Thomas (John 20:24-29),
  • to James (1 Corinthians 15:7),
  • to Joseph and Mathias (Acts 1:22ff),
  • to five hundred people at once (1 Corinthians 15:6),
  • to Peter and John together (John 21:15-24),
  • to Nathanael and some other disciples on the lake (John 21:1-14),
  • and to Paul (Acts 9:4ff; 1 Corinthians 9:1; 15:8).
Taken together, these appearances to individuals and to groups, to men and to women, in country and in town, in the upper room and by the open lake, on the road and on the hillside, constitute testimony to the resurrection that needs to be taken very seriously indeed.[4]

Now in answering the critics’ questions concerning these Resurrection appear­ances, let us remember that the mere fact that Jesus appears in different places to different people is hardly a contradiction in itself. On any given day, each one of us appears in different places to different people. Given these twelve Resur­rection appearances which took place in various locations to numerous individu­als and groups, it should not be surprising that four independent writers would select some details and not others.

The first thing apparent is that all four accounts do agree that the Resurrection did, in fact, happen. Second, these accounts give every evidence of frank and honest reporting. There is no cover-up, and even the doubts and skepticism of the apostles themselves are laid bare as part of the record. If the disciples had wanted to make up stories, they would have left out these unflattering remarks about themselves.

If four contemporary TV reporters covered similar events, what problems would they face that were also faced by those writing the Resurrection accounts?

If four reporters covered a key battle during the war in Vietnam, or filed reports on the election results and key political speeches made by leaders in East and West Germany, or covered a serious airplane accident involving three airplanes which landed in two different locations (including weather reports), or wrote reports on a Presidential visit to twelve European cities, each of these four re­porters would select different material, emphasize what he thought was really important, and leave out what he did not have time to report or judged was not as important as other material. If this is true for contemporary reporters, why is it that the accounts of the four Gospel writers concerning twelve Resurrection appearances would be any different?

If there merely appeared to be a contradiction between the accounts of our contemporary newsmen, would we not assume that no contradictions existed because of the many different details involved? And finally, wouldn’t we assume our own lack of knowledge of the events covered and in light of that, not accuse them of lying for seeming contradictions merely because we cannot resolve them immediately?

Concerning the different locations in which the accounts say Jesus appeared, how can these be resolved to remove any charge of contradiction or error? Lilly discusses the problem and supplies plausible answers for why Jesus made the appearances He did:

The chief difficulty relative to the recorded appearances is the place or places where they occurred. According to Saint Matthew our Lord appeared to the holy women at Jerusalem, and to the disciples in Galilee at the mountain which he had appointed them….
Mark mentions no appearances at all, but in the appendix there is mention of several appearances which, however, are not localized.
Saint Luke’s recorded appearances all took place in or near Jerusalem, while Saint John tells us of appearances which occurred both at Jerusalem and in Galilee.
Another difficulty is the command of Christ, delivered to the apostles through the holy women, to go to Galilee; that there he would see them. This seems to be inconsistent with the appearances which he granted them the very evening of his resurrection at Jerusalem and at Emmaus.[5]
It is certainly true that Jesus appointed Galilee as a rendezvous for the disciples. His first intention may probably have been to have the Apostles leave the hostile atmosphere of Jerusalem for the much more tranquil territory of Galilee, where he would show himself to them and give them his final commission.
But the holy women delayed to report the direction to the Apostles, and when finally the message did reach them, they remained incredulous, labeled the report contemptuously “idle tales.”
The only way, at least the most effective way, to overcome this incredulity was for Jesus to appear to the Apostles directly, establish faith in their minds as to the reality of his resurrection and prepare them for the final and more important appearances in Galilee. I say more important because it was during these that Jesus imparted the great commission….[6]

Lilly proceeds to discuss the manner in which each apostle’s method and purpose accounts for the material included or deleted:

We must bear in mind the particular method used by each Evangelist. Father Buzy in this connection says: Matthew’s method “is to pass over facts not pertinent to his plan, and to group in a synthetic picture the facts he considers indispensable to his purpose. Since the Evangelist’s purpose is not to recount the doings of the Apostles during Easter week at Jerusalem, he is content with presenting us the disciples back in Galilee.” Thus he omits the Jerusalem appearances entirely but by no means denies that they occurred.
Saint Luke’s plan both in the Gospel and in the Acts, as is well known, is geographical. Accordingly he conducts Jesus and the Apostles through Galilee to Jerusalem. There it concludes the story of Jesus, and there he leaves the Apostles, to present them to us again in his second volume, the Acts…. We understand perfectly well why, according to the geographical plan, he does not concern himself with the Galilean appearances, but sums up and localizes at Jerusalem all the post resurrection utterances of Jesus which the Gospel’s plan and purpose require.
There is therefore no well-founded objection against the historical accuracy and trustworthiness of the Gospel accounts of the events connected with the resurrection. There is a natural and satisfying explanation of each of the pretended inconsistencies in the four-fold record,—satisfying for anyone who is willing to be satisfied and is not obstinately determined to reject the historic reality of the resurrection of Jesus out of blind devotion to a philosophic postulate.[7]

Now we shall examine some of these same criticisms as presented by con­temporary critics.

37. Do the Resurrection accounts involve clearly contradictory historical traditions as critics such as John K. Naland maintain?

Why does John K. Naland say that the Gospel writers totally disagree on where they saw Jesus?[8]

In his article on the Resurrection accounts in Free Inquiry Naland refers to the “clearly contradictory historical traditions—one placing all post-crucifixion appear­ances in the Jerusalem area, the other placing them in the region of Galilee.”[9]

In this article, Naland admits that all four Gospel writers agree that someone experienced a risen Jesus. However, “the…thing the sources disagree on is who, when, where, and how—which is quite a bit. They agree on what? That someone experienced a risen Jesus. But they totally disagree on what it was, when it was, where it was….”[10] Naland implies that when Luke says Jesus appeared on Eas­ter in Jerusalem and Matthew says Jesus appeared on Easter in Galilee, then this is a contradiction. Notice he says that Luke places all Resurrection appear­ances in Jerusalem, whereas Matthew places them all in Galilee.[11]

38. Why does Hugh J. Schonfield believe the Gospel writers contradicted each other in citing where Jesus appeared to them?

Hugh J. Schonfield in his book, The Passover Plot, is another critic who claims the accounts conflict. He writes:

According to Luke…the “appearance” to the apostles is in the Judean tradition…. This is at variance with the Galilean tradition followed by Matthew…. In the Judean tradition Jesus positively identifies himself to the apostles in Jerusalem…. We may regard the information as in the highest degree questionable in view of the rival record in Matthew, which suggests that the apostles did not see Jesus in Jerusalem….[12]

Answering the Charges Made by Naland and Schonfield

Should Jesus be limited to appearing in only one location?

The Apostle John records about one of the appearances of Jesus, “This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead” (John 21:14). Luke records in his second book, Acts, that “He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the king­dom of God” (Acts 1:3). From these two authors we can see that there were many separate appearances of Jesus to the disciples. Isn’t it a little absurd to demand Jesus appear in the same location over a 40-day period?

Matthew not only gives a Galilean appearance (Matthew 28:16), but he gives a Jerusalem one as well (Matthew 28:9). John has both Jerusalem and Galilee appearances (John 20 and 21). Luke certainly gives Jerusalem appearances but in his second book, Acts, he shows he is not unaware of Jesus’ other appear­ances in different places over a 40-day period. Mark records the message of the angels, “Go tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going before you into Galilee. There you will see him….’” (Mark 16:7). In brief, the evidence goes against Naland and Schonfield’s assertion that there are rival traditions.

If the critics force Matthew and Luke to say Jesus could only appear in Jerusa­lem or Galilee, then of course, they would contradict each other. But neither of them sets limits on Jesus’ appearances, nor demands by what they say that Jesus cannot appear in some other geographical location.

Michael Green shows that each of the authors did not place Jesus’ Resurrection appearances in only one geographical location:

But are there such major diversions in the accounts? The one most commonly adduced seems to me the weakest of all. It is the claim that in Matthew (and by prediction in Mark 16:7) you get appearances of Jesus in Galilee; whereas in Luke and John you get appearances in Jerusalem. But this objection is totally jejune.
Matthew does indeed give a Galilee appearance, but he gives a Jerusalem one as well, by the tomb itself (28:9f).
Luke certainly gives Jerusalem appearances, but then in his gospel he offers us a continuous narrative from the resurrection to the ascension in highly compressed style, and he has a clear theological emphasis on Jerusalem as the centre from which world mission spreads out until it takes over Rome itself.
Though he selects Jerusalem resurrection material, that does not mean he is unaware or skeptical of Galilean appearances. He tells us that Jesus “presented himself alive after his passion by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days” (Acts 1:3), so he affords plenty of opportunity for appearances to have taken place in both locations.
John has both Jerusalem and Galilee appearances (ch. 20, 21), and both are implied by Paul’s list which includes appearances to Peter and to James (manifestly in Jerusalem), to five hundred (manifestly in Galilee) and to himself (in Syria). Why on earth not?[13]

39. Are the Gospel writers uncertain in detailing where and when Jesus appeared after His Resurrection?

The following citation in the Gospels illustrates that the writers were anything but uncertain saying where and when Jesus appeared. Mark says in 16:9, “Now after He had risen early on the first day of the week, He first appeared to Mary Magdalene.” The Apostle John agrees. John 20:14 says, “She turned around and beheld Jesus standing there….” Verse 18 says, “Mary Magdalene came an­nouncing to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’ and that He had said these things to her.” In brief, both Mark and John agree.

Also, as we have already shown, there is no contradiction between Luke’s account of Jesus’ appearance to the two men on the road to Emmaus and the same event recorded in Mark 16:12-13.

No one contradicts John’s clear depiction of Jesus’ appearance to the Apostle Thomas in John 20:26-31.

Luke in Acts 1:3 asserts Jesus presented Himself over a period of 40 days to His apostles. From reading all of the accounts, Jesus’ appearances fit in well with these words.

In 1 Corinthians 15:5 Paul says, “He appeared to Cephas [Peter], then to the Twelve.” This fits in nicely with Mark 16:2-8 where we find the angels instructing the women to tell Peter and the disciples Jesus “is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, just as He said to you.” Both of these accounts agree with what Luke says in 24:34, “The Lord has really risen, and has appeared to Simon.” Another appearance is recorded in John 21:15, where “Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, Son of John, do you love me more than these?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.’”

Peter himself is adamant in declaring in his own epistle, “For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty” (2 Peter 1:16).

These are just a few of the specific, clear, non-contradictory accounts given of the Resurrection appearances of Jesus. They do not conflict concerning time or place or any other criteria.

40. If Jesus really appeared to the disciples, why did they go fishing? (See Q. 41)

41.If Jesus really appeared to the disciples in Jerusalem, why would He have to appear to them again in Galilee?

John K. Naland represents many critics when he asks, “If Jesus really ap­peared to the disciples in Jerusalem, why would they go back to Galilee and start fishing again?” And why would Jesus appear to the disciples again in Galilee?[14]

Initially, some of the disciples did not believe in the resurrected Jesus, even after He first appeared to them (Matthew 28:17). If some were skeptical and doubted what their own eyes had seen, it is very reasonable to assume that they would have retired to such an activity as fishing to try and sort things out. Even those disciples who saw and believed would be shaken by the implications.

Why would Jesus appear to the disciples in Jerusalem and at other times in Galilee?

There are many possible reasons why. First, perhaps Jesus might simply have had a lot to tell the disciples as the Scriptures imply (John 16:12; Luke 24:27, 45). Second, the disciples might have needed the time between appearances to digest and think through what Jesus was telling them. Third, Jesus may have wanted to appear in other locations to other disciples not present at the time He appeared in geographical areas closer to Jerusalem.

In the four Gospels we are told of eleven apostles and a large number of other disciples of Jesus who lived in other towns and places. It is obvious that not every disciple was in Jerusalem when Jesus first appeared. It seems Jesus appeared to some disciples first in order to instruct them to inform others of the next time and place He would appear. How else would they have known? That’s why some of the disciples who were in Jerusalem may have gone on to Galilee, not only to meet Him there, but to tell others that He would be there.

That’s why the objection over the different appearances in different geographical locations is in fact the weakest objection of all.

42. Do the Gospel writers agree they saw the same Jesus or did they see a different Jesus?

Bishop Spong claims the Gospel writers conflict because they do not describe Jesus the same way in every appearance. He asserts:

Was it the resurrected but not yet ascended and glorified Lord who appeared, or was it the resurrected, ascended Lord of heaven that they experienced alive? Paul clearly implies the latter. Mark says nothing but hints that it will be the ascended, glorified Lord they will meet in Galilee. Luke argues that all resurrection appearances ceased with the ascension….
For Luke, it was the risen Lord who, after appearing to his disciples, ascended into heaven; and it was the ascended Lord now united with the Father who poured the Holy Spirit out on the gathered church at the day of Pentecost.
Matthew implies that it was the resurrected but not yet ascended Lord who confronted the women in the garden, but that it was the ascended, glorified Lord who possessed all authority and power who met them and commissioned them on the Galilean mountain top. John says that the resurrected Lord appeared only to Mary Magdalene (“Touch me not for I have not yet ascended.”), but it was the resurrected, ascended, glorified Lord who appeared to the disciples and breathed on them, imparting the Holy Spirit, and inviting Thomas to examine his body….[15]

One sometimes wonders at the extent to which intelligent men will go to find contradictions in the Scriptures. The “issue” Bishop Spong has raised here is not even an issue. There is no reason why Christ could not have gone to heaven several times throughout the 40-day period of His appearances before finally ascending into heaven.

According to John, Jesus told Mary not to keep touching or holding onto Him because He had not yet ascended. Then He adds for her to tell His disciples, “I am returning to my Father and your Father” (John 20:17). The fact that Jesus later invited the disciples to touch Him (Luke 24:39) would indicate He had as­cended to heaven and returned. How many times Jesus did this is not known, but why should anyone imply He couldn’t have done it if He wanted to?[16]

Further, the accounts are in absolute agreement that every appearance of Jesus to every disciple or group of disciples concerned the same resurrected Christ. A few appearances apparently occurred before His first ascension and the remainder apparently occurred before His final ascension 40 days later.

But Spong makes five entirely arbitrary distinctions concerning Jesus: “the resurrected, ascended Lord of heaven” vs. “the resurrected but not yet ascended and glorified Lord” vs. “the ascended Lord now united with the Father” vs. “the resurrected but not yet ascended Lord who confronted the women in the garden” vs. “the ascended, glorified Lord who possesses all authority,” etc.[17] Certainly these words describe the activities of Jesus, but why should we think Jesus became a different person as a result of doing these activities? These are all arbitrary and useless descriptions for the purpose of creating false contradiction in the Gospel accounts.

Notes

  1. It should be noted that Mark’s appendix, 16:9-20, is not found in the earliest manuscripts.
  2. Norval Geldenhuys, Commentary on the Gospel of Luke (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1975), pp. 627-628.
  3. Ibid., pp. 626-627.
  4. Michael Green, The Empty Cross of Jesus (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1984), p. 114, formatting added.
  5. John Lilly, “Alleged Discrepancies in the Gospel Accounts of the Resurrection,” Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Vol. 2 (1940), pp. 109-110.
  6. Ibid., pp. 110-111.
  7. Ibid., p. 111.
  8. John K. Naland, “The First Easter: The Evidence for the Resurrection Evaluated,” Free Inquiry, Spring 1988, pp. 16-17.
  9. Ibid., p. 16, emphasis added.
  10. The John Ankerberg Show, unpublished transcript of a debate between Dr. John Warwick Montgomery and John K. Naland, televised April 1990, p. 43.
  11. Naland, p. 16.
  12. Hugh J. Schonfield, The Passover Plot (New York: Bantam Books, 1969), p. 171.
  13. Michael Green, The Empty Cross of Jesus (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1984), p. 120.
  14. Naland, p. 44.
  15. John Shelby Spong, The Easter Moment (San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row, 1987), pp. 129- 130.
  16. Gleason Archer, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1982), p. 350.
  17. Spong, p. 129.

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