The purpose of this argument is merely to establish that the events described in the four canonical Gospel resurrection accounts can be construed as a coherent event. Atheists are always harping on the many differences in the accounts. They seem to feel that these amount to insurmountable contradictions, marking a totally contradictory story. But I will argue that we can pull together the events described in all four Gospels to create a unified harmony which shows that there was a single coherent event taking place.This may not mean that call differences vanish away, but most of them can be explained by the process of eye witness testimony and story telling based upon the accounts of eye witnesses. There may be a couple of loose ends, but I will argue that these are not important when one considers the over all agreement and ensuing harmony,(for harmony table click here)*
My theory is that the Gospel evangelists each spoke with different groups of witnesses at different times. I believe that the witnesses fanned out into the different communities which produced the Gospels. Scholars no longer think of a single author producing a single gospel, but see each work as the product of a whole process that centered around a community. Each Gospel is the product of a community. Matt for example is the work of a "Matthew community." These communities would have been much like schools or communities. It is my contention that the witnesses broke up and fanned about among these communities, and each Gospel bears the unique perspective of that communities band of witnesses. This explains why John focuses on Mary Magdeline, she was probably one of the most illustrious witnesses who went to live in the Johaninne community. That is crucial to my theory, because it means that John followed the exploits of that eye witness,and as John shows Mary departing at the fist sign of the stone being rolled away, that backs the theory I argue for. These groups create a jumbled picture when one looks at all four accounts because the accounts are coming from different perspectives. Some accounts, such as Mark and Matthew indicate that the original event was a confusing and frightening event. Nevertheless, it was a real event and as such most of the "contradictions" can be harmonized.
I will pull together material from all four gospels to make a coherent story. I will only concern myself withe events that happen around the actual discovery of the empty tomb. I will not concern myself with the matters pertaining to epiphanies or sittings of the risen Christ after the women leave the tomb area. The reasons for this are as follows: (1)Koseter says that all four Gospels and GPete follow a single early pre-markan source up to and including the empty tomb, but after that the epiphanies are compiled form different sources. That being the case, we can expect some contradiction in those sources.
(2)atheist claims of contradiction as to where Jesus was and whom he appeared to after that point are unimportant. Jesus was God and he could be in two places at once, what difference does it make if he appeared to two guys on a road somewhere and then to the 11 in an upper room at the same time?
My senerio is this:
An undisclosed group of women (we can only be sure that Mary Madeline was one of them, maybe Mary of Nazareth, Joanna,and Salome, maybe others, we can't be sure) came to the tomb early un Sunday morning. They saw the stone moved, Mary Madeline felt certain that the body had been moved, probably to desecrate it. She immediately ran back to tell the others, while the rest of the women ventured into the tomb, where they encountered angels telling them that Jesus had risen. On their way out of the tomb they saw Jesus himself. Meanwhile, Mary arrived at the place where the disciples waited. She brought back with her Peter and John. While Peter and John went inside and examined the empty tomb, Jesus appeared to Mary outside; while the other women were at this time arriving back at the place where the disciples were waiting.
See page where I use all four canonical texts to mold one harmoniums reading
This senerio hinges upon one assumption about a verse that is not stated explicitly in the text. One must assume that the angle and the earthquake and the rolling of the stone in Matt.28:2-4 are a "flash back" or sorts, an expatiation of what happened the night before, and that the women did not see this event. For this reason, when the angels begins to speak to the women in v5 this is after a gap of undisclosed time, and it could be either before or after they went into the tomb. The text does no specify where the angle was in relation to the women or the tomb when he begins to speak.
The reason this is important is because if Mary was with the women and if then had seen the angel roll the stone away and the risen Christ leave the tomb, then it makes no sense of Mary M. to run back to John and say "they've taken away the lord and we don't know where they have laid him!" That is a significant problem and it can only be resolved if Mary didn't see the angel roll back the stone.
The senerio described and the interpretation of Matt 28:2-4 as a flashback is justified based upon several facts:
(1) The most important is the Greek verb for "come down" in the v2 phrase "an angel of the Lord had come down." This verb is Katabas from the base from Kantabino which means to come down. The form it is in here is the inflected tense aroist. That tense is a description of past time, but it is different form the regular past tense. The past tense in Greek is usually formed by the imperfect tense, which is continuous action in past time. "She was going to the store." But the Aorist is completed action in past time, "she went to the store." So the imperfect is like a film of the past, while aroist is like a snapshot of the past. Since this snap shot is place d in the middle of the "film" of the woman's experience, it is clear that the angel had already come down, already moved the stone; this is an explanation of what happened the night before. Some English translations hint at this: NAS says "an angel of the Lord had come down" in other words, this has already happened.
Reasons supporting MM's Early Departure
(1)The Greek Text of Matt.28:2-4 supports "Flashback."
The Greek term Katabas (which means "an angel had come down") is aorist tense. This is completed action in past time. The angel had come, had rolled away the stone, there had been an earthquake, the guards had fallen like dead men. All of these events had already occurred when the women got there. Here is an inflection of the verb katabas.
Katabas from Katabaino , Tense is Aorist, its a verb, active, participle, nominative,singular,Masculine.
(2) All other accounts, including Peter, say that the stone was had been moved already when the women got there.
4 "Looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away."
2 "And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb..."
55 "And they went and found the sepulchre open."
(see John 20:1-2 below).
(3) John says that Mary departed as soon as she saw the stone had been moved.
1 Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came early to the tomb, while it was still dark,and saw the stone already taken away from the tomb. 2 So she ran and came to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved,and said to them, "They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him."
(4) "We" don't know in John 20:2 indicates Mary was not alone.
One major apparent contradiction is that Mary seems to go alone in John, and with several different people in the other accounts.But what she says in John indicates that she was with other people, but John just chooses to focuss on her alone, for reasons explained below. Moreover, that is also added reason to assume the flashback-departure theory, since the text of John validates the idea that Mary left the others as soon as she saw that the stone had been moved.
(5) The focuss of John upon just the actions of Mary is expalined by the ancient legend that says Mary Magdalene helped John care for Jesus' mother and that she was associated with his ministry after the asscention.
New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia
"The Greek Church maintains that the saint retired to Ephesus with the Blessed Virgin and there died, that her relics were transferred to Constantinople in 886 and are there preserved. Gregory of Tours (De miraculis, I, xxx) supports the statement that she went to Ephesus."
This actually does link her with the John community, see my Gospel of John page to find out how.
Thus, there is reason to believe that the tradition of John preserves a nuance of the original event not covered by the others. The "flashback" idea harmonizes the chronological sequence of the stone being moved with the other sources, and Mary's early departure explains why she went to John and said "we don't know where they laid him." Because even if the women had seen the angel and the rolling back of the stone, Mary didn't, she was already gone. I further content that The other women didn't see it either, it had happened the night before. After Mary left, the other women went inside the tomb where they saw the angel, or angels.
There is a charge of contradiction between the Matt account where the angels begins speaking in v5 and is sitting on top of the stone. That necessitates that the women saw him outside the tomb before going in, which contradicts all other accounts. But this assumes that the events of v2-4 are immediate and that the women this action. If the flash back idea is right, there is an undisclosed gap of time between v4 and 5, the span of which we are not told. So the angel begins talking to the women in v5 we are not told if they had already gone in the tomb or if this is outside the tomb.