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The Impossible Task of Reconciling the Resurrection

Updated on August 10, 2013
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The Gospel Problem

The four gospels are the only accounts in existence that depict (in great and contradictory detail) the life, death and resurrection of the man known world-wide as Jesus Christ. These accounts are not cohesive, and they contain multiple contradictory accounts. What's important to realize is that the authors of these gospels are NOT the people whose name currently resides on the heading of the book. In fact, almost all biblical scholars will admit that the authorship of the gospels is uncertain and impossible to determine. Most bible introductions admit outright that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John did not write these stories. Out of the four gospels, only two could have been written by eyewitnesses, although none claim to be. The fact of the matter remains that the gospel accounts of Jesus' life, death and resurrection from the grave were written long after the fact - and by people that had no first-hand knowledge of the events that they depicted at all.


Contradictory or Comprehensive?

Christian apologists claim two contradictory statements about the four gospels. Either they claim that they are completely cohesive and have no discrepancies at all or they claim that the known discrepancies are understandable, since they are from four different author's point of view. You cannot have it both ways. You also run into the synoptic problem. The gospel of Mark was written first, and both Matthew and Luke copy from it - yet they disagree. Why? Matthew was clearly familiar with Jewish scripture. He "corrected" Mark's account and literally every step that Jesus takes is "in fulfillment of the scriptures" The problem with this logic is that Matthew gets a lot of "prophecies" wrong - for example, the triumphant entrance into Jerusalem. Matthew has Jesus riding simultaneously on the back of a donkey - and a foal. This is a misinterpretation of a Jewish prophecy that is not messianic at all - it's about a warlord that saves the Jewish people from captivity - who will enter Jerusalem with a conquering army. Luke copies both Matthew and Mark and adds his own take on things.


The Last Gospel


John breaks the mold of its predecessors. He has Jesus dying on a different day entirely. What this hub is most concerned about, however, is the conflicting and mutually exclusive resurrection accounts. It is simply impossible to reconcile them. At the bottom of the table is a link to Dan Barker's Easter challenge. Dan Barker is a former Pentecostal minister turned atheist. He has issued this challenge to noted Christian apologists and laymen alike - and none have risen to the task successfully. The challenge is simple - reconcile the events depicted in the four resurrection accounts in chronological order without leaving anything out or contradicting yourself. It seems easy, but it's not. There is a reward on the line - a reward that has gone unclaimed for years.

The Gospel Resurrection Stories

(click column header to sort results)
   
Matthew  
Mark  
Luke  
John  
Who went to the tomb?
Mary Magdalene & the "other" Mary
Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of Jesus and Salome
the women: Mary Magdelene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James and the others
Mary Magdaline
why did they go?
to look at the tomb
to anoint the body with spices
to anoint the body with spices
not provided
When did they go?
at dawn
just after sunrise
very early in the morning
while it was still dark
what happened?
a violent earthquake
stone was already rolled away
the stone was already rolled away, and the body missing
stone already removed and the body missing
who met them at the tomb?
an angel of the lord, who rolled the stone away
a young man, dressed in white was sitting in the tomb
two men with faces like lightning
no one initially
what were they told?
Jesus has risen. See where he lay, go and tell the disciples that he is going into Galilee
he has risen, tell the disciples and Peter that he is going to meet them in Galilee
why search for the living among the dead?
 
what did they do?
Ran to tell the disciples. Jesus came to meet them & reiterated that he was going into Galilee
the women were terrified and told no one
they told the apostles. peter disbelieved and ran back to the tomb to see for himself & wondered what happened
Mary ran back to tell the disciples who went to see it for themselves. Then Jesus himself appears to Mary Magdalene, although she did not recognize him
As obvious from the four varying accounts, these are not simple differences in interpretation and/or storytelling. These are describing different events altogether, and the descriptions are mutually exclusive. You cannot have different people going

Dear Christian

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    • Joseph041167 profile image

      Joseph Mitchell 3 years ago from Nashville TN 37206.

      Once again JMcFarland does great, knocking it out of the ball park, home run, bases loaded. For everyone anywhere please check out the desrepancies in the genealogical records at the start of, I think it was Luke and Matthew, which are extremely different, as well as mathematically problematic when you count avg. lifespans, children, and avg. age for giving birth in that era. The church has never yet come up with a decent explanation for these desrepancies.

    • profile image

      newenglandsun 3 years ago

      Ah, a Baptist background. My grandparents are Baptists. I was raised Evangelical Protestant. Taught Biblical inerrancy too. So I can relate to a lot of your pain.

    • JMcFarland profile image
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      Julie McFarland 3 years ago from The US of A, but I'm Open to Suggestions

      While I understand privacy concerns, you have to admit that it leads to scepticism when a random guest user start commenting on one's work after following a trail from an unrelated comment on another author's hub and starts making baseless assumptions that amount to little more than name calling. Your approach leaves much to be desired, and until this point I had little reason to take your posts overly seriously - for reasons that I think are abundantly clear.

      I think I stated in this hub that either the gospels are cohesive or they're not - but they can't be both. I was responding to specific apologist arguments, not arguing for whether the bible was inerrant. Since I was raised a baptist, biblical inerrancy is what I was raised with. This hub was not directed at those who don't see the bible as inerrant or mistake-free, and I think the hub itself mentioned that on more than one occasion. If you want to argue with my points or arguments, fine - but building up a straw-man case against things that I didn't say is a logical fallacy and it doesn't lead to further conversation.

    • profile image

      newenglandsun 3 years ago

      If you must attribute a name to me, my first name is Daniel. I don't give my real name for privacy issues.

      As for the Easter Challenge, I see no real reason to respond to it. Each gospel offers a different theological perspective. It's similar to the seven creation accounts in the Bible.

      They're contradictory. Dan Barker wins. But I'm not a Biblical inerrantist :) This is not important to the resurrection in my opinion. What is important to the resurrection for defending it is the emphasis placed on it.

      Hence, the Easter Challenge must assume that the theist holds to Biblical inerrancy in the first place.

    • JMcFarland profile image
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      Julie McFarland 3 years ago from The US of A, but I'm Open to Suggestions

      In addition, this hub assumes nothing. It talks about one specific area of contradiction, regardless of additional revelation. If you can complete the easter challenge, go for it. There's a prize and everything, and no one has claimed it.

    • JMcFarland profile image
      Author

      Julie McFarland 3 years ago from The US of A, but I'm Open to Suggestions

      And you have some logical debate practices to understand, mr/ms pseudonym. Play politely and avoid straw man arguments, etc or your comments will be denied. I may disagree with you, but that doesn't mean that I'm entitled to belittle you.

    • profile image

      newenglandsun 3 years ago

      Your argument is typical of atheistic arguments. It assumes a-priori Biblical inerrancy is the issue central to all of Christianity. The problem is that the MAJORITY of Christians (Eastern Orthodox and Catholics) are NOT Sola Scriptura. You have some fact-checking to do yourself, "Bible scholar".

    • JMcFarland profile image
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      Julie McFarland 4 years ago from The US of A, but I'm Open to Suggestions

      Fslov- while I understand your right to believe such things, saying them does not make them true. Why don't you prove it?

    • FSlovenec profile image

      Frank Slovenec 4 years ago from San Francisco, CA

      Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead ...He fulfilled over 300 prophecies in His time on earth..it was His love for you and I that He was slaughtered ... He will come again as a warrior, Every knew will bow adn every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord..

    • SeanBrook profile image

      Sean Brookfield 4 years ago from Vancouver, BC, Canada

      Thank you JM! Sorry I'm new at this (blogging/posting) and new to the website from Mary but it did suddenly answer a lot of questions and I was quite amazed. I've been having quite a few new revelations lately.

      I did enjoy your article and Astral and Freeway's comments...checked out

      Freeway's Christmas article and Astral's profile..interesting.

    • JMcFarland profile image
      Author

      Julie McFarland 4 years ago from The US of A, but I'm Open to Suggestions

      I'm going to approve your comment, but my hub is not a commercial for you to promote anexternal website. I would be more than happy to discuss the topics found in my hub or the historical Jesus in general, but please refrain from further external promotion.

    • SeanBrook profile image

      Sean Brookfield 4 years ago from Vancouver, BC, Canada

      Brayan22, I liked JMcFarland's article and his research too.

      From your comments I feel you may like the above mentioned website as well.

    • SeanBrook profile image

      Sean Brookfield 4 years ago from Vancouver, BC, Canada

      For many years I doubted it as along time agnostic/atheist ( mostly due to religion)...then I personally "crashed" 11 years ago (and survived ..grin) , rehabilitated myself

      thru dedicated spiritual seeking and came to know there were several great spiritual teachers over many thousands of years, Jesus (also known in other lands as St Issa and Yeshua) being one of them. This site is new to me but resonates strongly. I shall be pursuing it.

    • JMcFarland profile image
      Author

      Julie McFarland 4 years ago from The US of A, but I'm Open to Suggestions

      Sean, what makes you think that there is a "true Jesus" at all?

    • SeanBrook profile image

      Sean Brookfield 4 years ago from Vancouver, BC, Canada

      Thanks for this amazing website Mary!!!.....this looks like a resurrected goldmine.

      I spent a lot of time on this site (made my wife suspicious..grin)..gotta read it slowly...it explains things a lot differently, I like it.

      Astralrose , JMcFarland and Brayan you may be interested in this. I've always known the Roman version of Christianity was altered but this explains so much more.http://thetruejesus.org/mother.html

    • Astralrose profile image

      Astralrose 4 years ago from India

      Yeah, I know! That's why I said "could be".

    • JMcFarland profile image
      Author

      Julie McFarland 4 years ago from The US of A, but I'm Open to Suggestions

      There's simply no evidence to point to the fact that Jesus died and was resurrected - or that he fainted and then was resuscitated afterwards.

    • Astralrose profile image

      Astralrose 4 years ago from India

      Seanbrook, just like how Jesus was portrayed in the movie -The Man From Earth? (I like that movie!)...could be possible though especially because man has the capacity to endure pain...maybe Jesus did endure the pain on the cross, fainted and, well, came back to life!

    • JMcFarland profile image
      Author

      Julie McFarland 4 years ago from The US of A, but I'm Open to Suggestions

      Sean, again - all of the information that is available about Jesus' life, teachings and followers are due to the new testament with little to any reliable confirming extra-biblical evidence.

      Mary - I think that it's impossible to know if any stories about jesus are true if they cannot be corroborated independently.

    • profile image

      Mary_Poppins_29 4 years ago

      Sometimes as we all know that stories are changed and this is what happens when we hear stories from someone other than the source of the story. I have read many beautiful stories about Jesus on this blog and wanted to share a website with supporting info that the story is not correct in our bibles.

      http://thetruejesus.org/mother.html

    • SeanBrook profile image

      Sean Brookfield 4 years ago from Vancouver, BC, Canada

      Jesus and His followers were very adept spiritually as well as very powerful healers. It is a possibility that he did survive the crucifiction .

    • JMcFarland profile image
      Author

      Julie McFarland 4 years ago from The US of A, but I'm Open to Suggestions

      Easy. Self fulfilling prophecies are not prophetic. Neither are quote mined prophecies that were never meant to be prophetic at all, and vague prophecies are common. I could "predict" that the sun will rise tomorrow, but its hardly a prophecy. Similarly, I could "predict" that I will go eat steak for dinner and order a steak. Is that a fulfilled prophecy to you?

    • profile image

      Wallace 4 years ago

      lol if Jesus never existed, then explain us about the many prophecies in OT that matches Him perfectly, as well as the NT prophecies which are fulfilling without any fail :)

      We find endless more problems in Big-Bang and evolution theories, yet, people embrace them as true, infallible, scientific "facts", what a damn mystery!

      papangu1988@gmail.com

    • JMcFarland profile image
      Author

      Julie McFarland 4 years ago from The US of A, but I'm Open to Suggestions

      I'm not entirely certain that it's possible to prove that the person of Jesus ever existed at all. At the very least, it's safe to say that his existence is questioned - a fact that has gained some traction lately with some very notable and reputable historians, and not the typical "myth" traditions. If Jesus did exist, it's impossible to determine what he said, what he taught or what he stood for. It's all been lost to history and the wills of the religious leaders that wanted to drive the church in their favorite direction.

    • profile image

      Brayan22 4 years ago

      So many documents were destroyed during 2.000 years to conceal the truth to people about the true story of Jesus, his marriage with Mary Magdalene, the wonders and wisdom that he has offered to Humanity. Open-minded people who choose Love understand that Religion and Science are not the way to return to God.

    • Freeway Flyer profile image

      Paul Swendson 4 years ago

      I know that we are not supposed to "self-promote" in comments, but since you asked:

      https://hubpages.com/holidays/Which-Christmas-Stor...

      I will read some more of your stuff too when I get the chance when (or if) things get a bit less busy. Thanks.

    • JMcFarland profile image
      Author

      Julie McFarland 4 years ago from The US of A, but I'm Open to Suggestions

      Thanks so much for visiting, and for your feedback

    • Astralrose profile image

      Astralrose 4 years ago from India

      Great hub! The outline of the four books is precise enough for any believers to question their own holy book. But like Freeway said, fundamentalists would not be bogged down by facts no matter how crystal clear these facts are!

    • JMcFarland profile image
      Author

      Julie McFarland 4 years ago from The US of A, but I'm Open to Suggestions

      Thanks for the comment! I perused a few of your hubs (and followed you as a result) and am highly impressed with your way of expressing yourself. I looked for the hub you mentioned, but couldn't find it. What's the title? I look forward to reading more of your work as time permits.

    • Freeway Flyer profile image

      Paul Swendson 4 years ago

      I wrote a similar hub about the contradictions in the two birth stories. It is not simply a matter of random discrepancies. The contradictions often fit a pattern because the four gospels emphasize different themes. They are pieces of literature, not modern historical narratives.

      But as you have probably noticed, fundamentalists don't allow themselves to get bogged down by facts.