DID JESUS RISE FROM THE DEAD? WHAT IS THE EVIDENCE FOR THE RESURRECTION? - Page 5

 

The argument completely collapses in John’s account because according to the fourth Gospel, this is precisely what Mary thought had occured. Mary clearly didn’t feel as though the scenario of Jesus’ body being removed was unlikely. In fact, according to John, that was her only logical conclusion. Clearly, Matthew’s guards didn’t dissuade John’s Mary from concluding that someone had taken Jesus’ body because Roman guards do not exist in John’s story.

To further compound the problem of the conflicting resurrection accounts, John’s Gospel continues to unfold with Mary returning to the tomb a second time, only to find two angels sitting inside the tomb. Mary is still unaware of any resurrection as she complains to the angels that someone had removed Jesus’ corps. As far as John’s Mary is concerned, the only explanation for the missing body was that someone must have removed it, and she was determined to locate it.

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying12 , one at the head and the other at the feet. 13They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”

(John 20:11-13)

Although in Matthew’s account the angel emphatically tells Mary about the resurrection (Matthew 28:5-7), in John’s Gospel the angels do not mention that anyone rose from the dead. The angels only ask Mary, “Woman, why are you weeping?” Mary responds by inquiring whether the angels removed Jesus’ body. Then, Mary turns and sees Jesus standing before her, but mistakes him for the gardener. Mary is still completely unaware of any resurrection, and therefore asks the “gardener” if he was the one who carried away Jesus’ body. It is only then that Mary realizes that she was speaking to the resurrected Jesus.

When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” which means Teacher.

(John 20:14-16)

It is at this final juncture of the narrative that the accounts of Matthew and John become hopelessly irreconcilable. The question every missionary must answer is the following: When Mary met Jesus for the first time after the resurrection, had the angel(s) already informed her that Jesus had arisen from the dead? According to Matthew, the angels did inform Mary of the resurrection, but in John’s account they did not. As we survey the divergent New Testament accounts of the resurrection, we are not just looking at contradictory versions, we are simply gazing at two entirely different stories.

Christian apologists frequently argue that the inconsistent resurrection accounts are analogous to a traffic accident viewed by four different witnesses – each who sees it conveys a distinct 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 40-70 years after it allegedly took place. Moreover, inconsistencies in the resurrection narratives, e.g. date, time, and place cannot be dismissed as differences in perspective.

Philo of Alexandria (20 B.C.E.-50 C.E.), a renowned philosopher and a contemporary of Jesus, wrote extensively about his time. Yet, nowhere in his entire corpus of works does Philo mention a word about Jesus or his alleged resurrection. Josephus’ silence on this matter is deafening as well. Consequently, the only information we have of this 2,000-year-old tale is the New Testament. However, the moment our finger begins to navigate its verses, we are confronted and appalled by the plethora of glaring irreconcilable inconsistencies. Every element of the resurrection narrative is recklessly contradicted by another.

There is, however, a more significant issue here – the source. When a number of people in different places and at different times write a description of an event that occurred in the significant past – whether a year ago, a decade ago, or a half a century ago – we expect many contradictions. Why would we anticipate conflicting accounts? Because humans are fallible, and are therefore likely to make all sorts of errors for a variety of reasons. Accordingly, when we read descriptions of what transpired during a historical event, such as the assassination of JFK, disparities will inevitably exist among the accounts. Therefore, when various individuals witness a traffic accident and then attempt to clearly transmit the information they saw, errors will be made. This is what we expect from imperfect humans!

The Church, however, does not make this claim. Its authors and those who promoted the Christian religion claim that its content was divinely inspired, i.e. every word is from God! Christendom insists that the authors of the Christian Bible were inspired by the Holy Ghost. With this assertion, we must hold the Gospels to an entirely different standard of accuracy – that of perfection. Well over a half century passed from the time that Paul wrote his first letters until the last words of the Book of Revelations were penned. Moreover, these books were written from one end of the Roman Empire to the other. Thus, if we are to assume they were written by mere mortals, without Heavenly inspiration, mistakes and inconsistencies are expected. God, however, is inerrant.

There is another significant difference between conflicting accounts of a traffic accident and contradictory stories of the resurrection narratives. The testimonies of a traffic accident are believable because they are likely to have occurred, and make sense in our world. The resurrection story, on the other hand, is a biological and scientific impossibility. Thus, the only reason for believing the numerous fantastic claims of miraculous occurrences in the New Testament – defying all natural laws – is the believer’s total reliance on the credibility of the divine author. Since the stunning contradictions clearly establish the human origins of the resurrection stories, we can no more accept their testimony than we can that of the Book of Mormon. Moreover, the resurrection story is a self-serving rationalization to account for a messianic failure.

I know that many frantic attempts have been made to explain away some of the countless inconsistencies that exist in the four canonical Gospels. These answers, however, are so plainly contrived that even a perfunctory examination of these rationalizations cast serious doubt on the claim that they were divinely inspired. God doesn’t suffer from human fallibility and certainly wouldn’t present such a garbled account of what Christians consider the most crucial event in world history.

Very truly yours,

Rabbi Tovia Singer

 

CLICK HERE FOR THE CRUCIFIXION/RESURRECTION CHART

 

  • Matthew 26:20-30. <-
  • Mark 14:17-25. <-
  • Luke 22:14-23. <-
  • The synoptic Gospels are those of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The word synoptic comes from two Greek words that mean “the same view.” Matthew, Mark, and Luke are referred to as the synoptic Gospels because these three Gospels tell a similar story, and there is a strong literary relationship among them. <-
  • Suggesting that the Last Supper might have been the second Passover Seder would not hold true in the land of Israel, but only in the Diaspora where it is customary to hold two Seders. Secondly, a second Seder would create a 48-hour problem instead of a 24-hour problem. <-
  • Kohanim, priests, avoided entering the homes of gentiles because it was a common practice for non-Jews to bury their dead in their homes. <-
  • This is particularly true of the pagan god Mithras. Belief in this deity flourished throughout the Roman Empire during the second and third centuries C.E. Similar to Christianity, Mithra was called the “Mediator” (see I Timothy 2:5), and one Mithraic hymn begins, “Thou hast redeemed us too by shedding the eternal blood.” <-
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