Skip to comments.Making Sense of the Resurrection Accounts – Are there Discrepancies? [Ecumenical]
Posted on 04/29/2011 8:32:25 AM PDT by Salvation
When we read the various accounts of the Resurrection in the four Gospels, Acts and Pauline Epistles we can easily be puzzled by some apparent discrepancies in the details.
The Pope in his recent book, Jesus of Nazareth (Vol II) says, We have to acknowledge that this testimony [of Scripture] considered from an historical point of view, is presented to us in a particularly complex form and gives rise to many questions. (P. 242)
The Pope goes on to explain what he considers to be the reason for this complexity and apparent divergence in some of the details.
What actually happened? Clearly for the witnesses who encountered the risen Lord, it was not easy to say. They were confronted with what, for them, was an entirely new reality, far beyond the limits of their own experience. Much as the reality of the event overwhelmed them and impelled them to bear witness, it was still utterly unlike anything they had previously known. (p. 242).
The Pope then reminds us that Jesus resurrection was experienced by them as something far beyond the resuscitation of a corpse. Rather, Jesus had taken up a wholly new and transformed humanity that was beyond anything they could fully describe or had ever experienced.
With all this in mind we are better able to appreciate the ecstatic qualities of the resurrection accounts and appreciate why all their details do not perfectly line up. The accounts have a rather crisp, lets get to the point quality; especially the accounts of the first day of the appearances. Frankly, one would be surprised if every detail in the account of an astonishing event were exactly the same. One might even suspect a story that was too controlled and wonder as to a kind of brainwashing or conspiracy having taken place. But as they are, these accounts have every hallmark of the accounts of people who experienced the events truly, but, due to their ecstatic and disorienting quality, recall the details differently or emphasize different facets.
It is important to recall that the Scriptures record the things Jesus actually said and did but they are not written like history is today: Today we attempt or think we write history as an exact chronological and comprehensive analysis of an event or era. But the Scriptures are selective, story based accounts rather than our modern journalistic approach to history. They will often collect the sayings and deeds of Jesus around certain theological themes, rather than follow an exact time line. They do not intended to be an exhaustive account of everything Jesus said and did in exact detail (cf Jn 20:30; 21:25). Rather the Evangelists select what is suited to their theological purpose. And yet, despite these distinctions we must be clear that the gospels are historical accounts, in that they recount the things Jesus actually said and did.
Now, for the record, there are some apparent, and also real discrepancies in the accounts. The word apparent is important though, because not all the discrepancies are real or substantial if we take a closer look at them. Some who wish to cast doubt on the historicity of the Resurrection often wish to make more of these differences than necessary. Many, if not most of the differences can be dealt with quite easily and we are able to ultimately stitch together a reasonably clear account of the resurrection, if we are disposed to do so.
So, lets consider some of the apparent conflicts that emerge in the accounts:
At one level some react that some of these details are picky. Who cares really who many women went or how many angels? Perhaps but it does not seem wise to simply dismiss the differences this way. Some of the differences ARE quite significant. For example, did Jesus appear to them first in Jerusalem? Luke and John are quite clear that he did. But why then do Mark and Matthew completely ignore this and tell the angel instruct the women to have the disciples go to Galilee where they will see him? Now, as has been stated, these differences can be addressed in a thoughtful manner but they should not be simply dismissed as of no account.
In what follows I propose to address these difference and give possible resolutions. I am also aware and expect to hear from some who consider any attempts to resolve these matters simplistic. But I and others who have pondered these matters are not simpletons and would prefer if those who might have a different explanation or view would avoid dismissive, demeaning or ad hominem argumentum. If something seems wrong state why and give evidence or an alternative point of view. So, on to possible solutions.
So here then is a short tour of some of the apparent discrepancies and possible ways to resolve them.
In the end we simply have to accept that the Gospels do not record history in the same systematic and strictly chronological manner we moderns prefer. But they DO record history. It is for us to accept the evidence and accounts as they are given. The fact is that to develop a precise time frame and blow by blow chronological description may not be fully possible. However, careful study of the texts can help somewhat in this regard.
In tomorrows blog I would like to propose a somewhat chronological account that attempts to weave the many strands into one narrative. Such an attempt as we will see involves some speculation given the nature of ancient historical accounts. But it can help us to sort our the many details by trying to order them. So stay tuned for tomorrow.
I’ll post the follow-up article tonight.
Law of averages says the Pope has to get something right here and there and he's right on this one.
There are at least three basic stories in the Bible about somebody being seen and heard from after he died i.e. Jesus, Lazarus, and Samuel (the tale of the 'Witch of Endor'). All of those stories involve paranormal things; none involve anything supernatural, magic, or in violation of any sort of a basic law, and none of them involve anybody re-using a dead body. If you want violations of physical and mathematical and probabilistic laws, particularly if you need them in wholesale lots, you need to be speaking to the evolutionites, they specialize in that sort of thing.
"Today we attempt or think we write history as an exact chronological and comprehensive analysis of an event or era. But the Scriptures are selective, story based accounts rather than our modern journalistic approach to history."
Is it not possible that the intervention of Divine Providence in "history" leaves mere "historians" without the appropriate tools for "writing" it?
Of such incidents in human history, Dr. Ralph Sockman once observed that "when we examine [these] things, we must put away our little finite measuring rods."
Americans have a more recent example of how such "chronological and comprehensive" "writing" of history has missed the real essence of its own remarkable story and may be threatening the future liberty of millions.
America's history books have focused on names, dates, battle, places, and such, and have failed to tell the remarkable story of the real "miracle" of America and what its Founders called the "hand of Divine Providence" in America's appearance as a place of liberty and opportunity for oppressed individuals from all over the globe. As a result, its citizens have not been excited about the "light of liberty" which burst upon the world, and liberty's underlying essential principles.
One historian, Richard Frothingham, decided to write such an ideas-based history in 1886, tracing America's rise among the nations, not by the usual means, but by the ideas and principles revealed to those who participated in the framing of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution. His remarkable work now can be read on line.
Hopefully, this post does not take this discussion too far afield. The Resurrection story, however, as a purely "historical" event, unaccompanied by the relationship of that event to the Creator of life and the Providential hand of that Creator in the ongoing story of civilization, like the story of America, would be robbed of its real significance.
In Mark’s Gospel, there is two accounts, a new short one and a older longer one as well.
Just wow. Did the pope personally write this? I am impressed and thoroughly enjoyed the logical mind of the author. The different accounts offer proof that these accounts were real events written by real people. People remember things slightly differently. If all gospels perfectly agreed then that would be suspect.
Does this look Catholic or Orthodox to you?
The Bible is a love story about God and His people. It’s true, it’s history. It was not written with charts and footnotes and such, however. So don’t expect rigorous consistency in factual detail when the emphasis is on God and His People, and how Christ saved us.
Sounds like Hillsdale College.
Testimony in court by different witnesses, events that take place in war, ant event where people are under great emotional stress —are all instances in which participants give different accounts of the same event.