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Easter Enigma: Are the Resurrection Accounts in Conflict?— John Wenham

May 4, 2015

TEE2The author is responsible for teaching many of us The Elements of New Testament Greek.

He neatly harmonises the gospel and Pauline resurrection accounts, rather like Morrison’s ‘Who moved the stone?’ — reminds one that the idea of resurrection of a subjective kind, e.g. in Marxen, is more mirac­ulous that the orthodox view. Common sense and human occurrences enable Wenham to patch the accounts together — the cleverness of scholars overlooks common sense?


“The most obvious point of difficulty [in harmonizing the Resurrection accounts] concerns the events of the first Easter morning, where Luke mentions at least five women at the tomb, while Mark refers to three, Matthew to two, John to one and Paul to none at all… Mark’s and Luke’s messengers are men (Mark one, Luke two). Mark, Luke and John locate them inside the tomb, while Matthew’s angel starts outside the tomb and finishes inside. Matthew tells of an appearance of Christ to a number of women who held his feet unrebuked, while John tell of an appearance to one woman who is forbidden to touch him. As to appearances to the Eleven, Matthew only records one in Galilee, while Luke only records an appearance in Jerusalem. It is by no means easy to see how these things can be fitted together while remaining faithful to what the writers say.”

TEE“The placing of the guard was ‘next day AFTER the day of Preparation’… In other words, it was on Saturday that the members of the Sanhedrin took such alarm that, even though it was sabbath, they sent a deputation of Pharisees and Sadducees to Pilate. How are we to account for this remarkable move?… the Gospel of Peter may shed some light… This gospel says that there was great disquiet among the people at the crucifixion of Jesus … [and] a crowd gathered at the sepulchre on Saturday morning. If the authorities sensed a growing public sympathy for Jesus … the prospect of what might happen when the restraint of the Sabbath observance was removed would alarm them.”

“The story of the setting of the guard is one of the most extraordinary pieces of Christian apologetic ever written. As we have said, it bristles with improbabilities at every point: the sabbath visit to the governor, the great earthquake, the flashing angel rolling back the stone, the reporting to the chief priests, the bribe to the soldiers to tell the tale that THEY WERE ASLEEP ON DUTY—everything invites, not belief, but incredulity. And how stupid, having introduced the useful apologetic idea of a closely guarded tomb, to give a handle to the opposition by even hinting that the guards did not do their job! It is a worthless piece of Christian apologetic… unless it happens to be undeniably true!”

Or the appearances at the tomb in the synoptics, he notes, “When these stories are compared it is clear that Luke’s account is strikingly different from those of Matthew and Mark, especially in the record of the angels’ message. There is no ‘Fear not,’ no invitation to see where he was laid, no command to tell the disciples, no promise of seeing him in Galilee… The different reference to Galilee is particularly noteworthy. Whereas Matthew and Mark look forward to Jesus about to go ahead of them to Galilee, Luke looks back and refers to what Jesus told them while they were together in Galilee… there is nothing to suggest that the wording has a common source, oral or literary… There is nothing in any of the three messages which is contradictory to anything in either of the others, the matter is complementary. All that is recorded could have been uttered without hurry in a couple of minutes.”

“So ends an investigation which we believe has shown that the charge of irreconcilability brought against the resurrection stories has not been proved. Rather it has shown that these records exhibit the characteristics of accurate and independent reporting, for superficially they show great disharmony, but on close examination the details gradually fall into place… Maybe there are problems not fully solved and problems given a wrong solution, but when every effort has been made to give the details of the narratives their full weight, they add up to a consistent story.”

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From → Biblical

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