I’ve heard a lot of skeptics claim that the accounts of Christ’s Resurrection in the Gospels of Matthew (28:1-10), Mark (16:1-11), Luke (24:1-12), and John (20:1-18) are hopelessly contradictory and it is impossible to accurately harmonize them. I recall hearing a claim that thereare 25 alleged contradictions or discrepancies between them, though I’m not too sure about the accuracy of that.For example, I came across this article called "Easter Quiz":http://www.godlessgeeks.com/LINKS/EasterQuiz.htmThe actual purpose of the "Quiz" is to demonstrate the alleged "contradictions" between the Gospel accounts. It lists 18 supposed discrepancies between them. Another site has an essay entitled "The Sad Case of Mary Magdalene’sAmnesia"(http://www.illustratedbiblestories.ca/Mary_Magdalene_amnesia_com_1.htm)which it calls "a most glaring and obvious contradiction in the Resurrection accounts." How can these claims be countered?
Actually, it is not hard at all to "harmonize" the accounts in a way which is in complete agreement with every detail recorded for the resurrection accounts. This claim of hopeless contradiction is a tired, old charge which only works for those who simply have no interest whatsoever in thinking about the possibility that the gospels are accurate but independent witnesses to the events. Such people read the accounts with the willful purpose to find supposed contradictions of fact where there are none. I will admit that on first reading, there are some facts which on the surface seem to be hard to reconcile, but simply thinking logically about it solves every problem. To save me time, I hope you will forgive me if I steal a "harmonization" of the gospel accounts I found at the web site http://www.jesuswalk.com/resurrection/resurrection-harmonization.htm The harmonization was produced by George Ladd. It is by no means the only possible scenario which can reproduce all the facts we have. Here is what I found at this web site: (Go to the end for more comments)
My esteemed Biblical exegesis professor at Fuller Theological Seminary, George Eldon Ladd, didn’t really recommend a harmonization approach to the resurrection accounts. However, to answer his own question of whether the accounts could be harmonized, he worked out the following harmonization, he said, "for my own amusement."1 Later he found a nearly identical harmonization by Michael C. Perry.2 Here is George Ladd’s approach to a harmonization:
The earthquake and removal of stone occurs before dawn. A group of four women come early to the tomb, wondering who will move the stone. As they approach, they are amazed to see that the stone has been rolled away. Mary rushes off to tell Peter and John that the body of Jesus has been stolen (John 20:2). The other women stay in the garden. They enter the tome and are met by two angels, who tell them to carry the word of the resurrection to the disciples.3 The women rush away from the garden, filled with mingled emotions of fear and joy, speaking to no one about the vision of the angels at the empty tomb (Mark 16:8). Later in the day, Jesus met them. (Matthew 28:9 does not say that this meeting occurred in the garden.) They had to run away from the tomb. Jesus tells them to bear the word to the disciples; they depart to find the disciples, who are not together but scattered (Matthew 26:56). Peter and John, having been informed by Mary, come to the tomb after the women have left. They see the clothes; vague comprehension dawns on John. they rush off to gather the disciples. Mary returns to the tomb after Peter and John have left; they had run to the tomb (John 20:4), leaving Mary behind. She still thinks the body has been stolen. She is weeping outside the tomb, knowing nothing of the experience of the women she had left in the garden. She sees the two angels, then Jesus (John 20:11-17).4 After the first shock of amazement had worn off, the women find some of the disciples; the disciples cannot believe the fanciful story (Luke 24:11). The disciples have gathered together. Mary arrives and tells her experience (John 20:18). That afternoon, the walk to Emmaus. Sometimes that afternoon, an appearance to Peter (Luke 24:34). That evening, the disciples are all together in the closed room. They had been scattered, but the testimony of the women, of Peter and John, then of Mary, serves to bring them all together. Thomas was absent. A second appearance to the eleven, including Thomas. Galilee (Matthew 28:16). The appearance by Tiberias (John 21) and to the 500 brethren (1 Corinthians 15:6). Return to Jerusalem; the final appearance and ascension.Ladd concludes, "This harmonization does not mean that the author intends to suggest that the events actually happened in this order. We cannot know."
I believe that the scen
ario listed above explains almost all the supposed contradictions. The best I can see, most of the other ones not addressed here are simply the authors reading in a difference where there is absolutely no difference. Let me give you an example.
6. The greeter(s) a. was sitting on the stone outside the tomb (Matt 28:2) b. was sitting inside the tomb (Mark 16:5) c. were standing inside the tomb (Luke 24:3-4)
If you go to the passages in question, Luke 24:3-4 does NOT say that the angels were standing inside the tomb. It simply says that they went into the tomb. After that, while they were wondering about this (whether inside or outside the tomb, we do not know) the angels apppeared to them. Not only that, but Mark 16:5 does NOT say that they were sitting inside the tomb. It does say that when they entered the tomb, they saw a "man" (who was apparently an angel) on the right side. Whether this was inside or outside the tomb we do not know. Matthew 28:2, like the author says, does seem to imply that the angel was outside the tomb, which does not contradict with Mark or Luke. I could go through the list like this. In every case, you will see that a person is bent, not on discovering what happened, but on finding an excuse to claim that this did not happen. The problem with this is that it is a historical fact that the tomb was empty. The tomb of Jesus was empty! That is the central fact which must be dealt with, but making bogus claims of irreconcilable contradictions is a good way to avoid the issue of the resurrection of Jesus. I have not answered every question in this quiz, so if there is one still bothering you, please let me know.