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I have recently been in contact with David Austin, in Australia, who has a keen interest in the Resurrection of Jesus and the Gospel accounts thereof. This is his comprehensive offering:

We have no “Originals” of any of the NT documents, only copies of copies with many differences. Our earliest complete books date to around the 4th Century. Earlier than this we have just fragments & part manuscripts. It is generally agreed that Paul was the earliest writer in the NT (c. 50 CE, approx 20 years after the crucifixion). Paul has no mention of an empty tomb; Just Jesus was “buried”. Mark has the first mention of a tomb (written c.70 CE). Normal practice with crucified victims was for their bodies to rot on the cross, and then thrown into a mass grave. It was unusual for them to receive a dignified burial, especially as Pilate was known to have unfavourable attitude towards the Jews.

According to Paul, if the Resurrection had not occurred, then Christians’ faith is in vain. One would, therefore, expect the Resurrection to be the best corroborated event in the NT, but, as you can see, in the above chart, this is NOT the case. If there are contradictions, this means at least one account  (& maybe more) is incorrect. If a text can be incorrect on one point, how many other events were recorded incorrectly? We have no extra-biblical contemporary documents that confirm any events in the Gospels. The four Gospels are anonymous; The “authorship” of these writings was a 2nd Century addition and was merely speculation by the early Church. The gospels were written in Greek, but it is generally agreed that Jesus & the Disciples spoke Aramaic and were “unlettered”.

 It is widely believed that Matthew & Luke share a lot Mark’s material. The original manuscripts of Mark end at Chapter 16 verse 8 (Frightened women run from the tomb and tell no-one).


  1. Matthew & Mark have the women being instructed for the Disciples to meet Jesus in Galilee. Matthew has the Disciples’ one & only sighting of Jesus on a mountain in Galilee. Since the women, in Mark, don’t tell the Disciples about what they were told, we can only speculate whether they ever met Jesus at all.

Luke & John contradict Matthew. Luke has two Jesus meetings with the Disciples, prior to a locked room meeting, (ie. With two Disciples on the road to Emmaus, and a meeting with Peter {time & location unspecified}) followed by a meeting with all Eleven Disciples in a room in Jerusalem. At this meeting, Jesus specifically tells them NOT to leave Jerusalem until “clothed in power from on high” (ie Pentecost). No 2nd meeting in Jerusalem or Galilee meeting.

Unlike Luke, John has the 1st sighting of Jesus by Ten Disciples in a locked room in Jerusalem, followed by two more appearances to them; 2nd in Jerusalem to Eleven and 3rd at the Sea of Tiberias to seven (This appearance specifically noted as the 3rd, hence NO prior visit to Galilee, “Road to Emmaus” or separate meeting with Peter).

  1. Mark & Luke have the women going to the tomb to anoint the body, but John says that Joseph of Arimathea & Nicodemus had already anointed the body. Matthew, Mark & Luke say the women witnessed the burial, so they would have seen Joseph & Nicodemus anoint the body had those two done so. Also, Luke says the women prepared the spices BEFORE the Sabbath, but Mark says they bought the spices AFTER the Sabbath; How can this be?
  2. Assuming the women had gone to anoint the body, how did they expect to gain access to the body with the stone in position, and guards barring the entrance? (Note: Only Matthew mentions guards at the tomb)
  3. Why was stone rolled away if Jesus could enter locked rooms? Maybe for some-one to remove the body?
  4. Why did Matthew have the women grabbing Jesus’ feet at seeing him after his resurrection, but, in John, Mary Magdalene was told by Jesus not to touch him? In Matthew, Mary Magdalene (+ other Mary) meet the risen Jesus outside the tomb, before going to tell the Disciples, but in John, after the Disciples leave the tomb and she meets Jesus, she thinks someone has removed Jesus’ body and not that Jesus has been resurrected (even though she supposedly had met & touched the risen Jesus previously [according to Matthew]). If Mary’s tomb visit (in John) was earlier than the visit in Matthew, why did she not encounter any guards? Matthew & John say the women/woman met Jesus at the tomb, but Mark & Luke says there was NO such meeting.
  5. The women in Luke see two men inside the tomb BEFORE Peter inspects the empty tomb, but John says that Mary Magdalene saw two angels inside the tomb AFTER Peter & Beloved Disciple had inspected the tomb.
  6. The ascension of Jesus is only mentioned in Luke, apparently on the same day as his resurrection (contradicted in Acts [supposedly also written by “Luke”] which says Jesus remained on earth for forty days).
  7. How did the chief priests and Pharisees know that Jesus would be resurrected after 3 days when the Disciples didn’t seem to understand this? Who witnessed this meeting when guards were sent to secure the tomb?
  8. Who witnessed the meeting between the guards and the chief priests when a bribe was suggested?
  9. Paul’s Corinthians 15:3 states that the first appearance of the resurrected Jesus was to Cephas (Peter), but according to the Gospel accounts the first witness(es) would be Mary Magdalene & the other Mary, Mary Magdalene alone, or Cleopas & another un-named Disciple, not Peter. Paul says Jesus appeared to “The Twelve” but if Judas Iscariot was no longer a Disciple, there would be only eleven of them left for Jesus to appear to, not twelve.
  10. Luke contradicts himself in 3 places during this Resurrection account :-
  11. a) Early text states the women meet 2 men inside the tomb, but later says the women met 2 angels there.
  12. b) Early text has “only” Peter inspecting the empty tomb, but later text has “some” Disciples going to the tomb.
  13. c) Early text has Jesus’ body being wrapped in a cloth, but later, the Disciples see cloths in the empty tomb.
  14. Matthew, Mark &Luke say Joseph wrapped Jesus’ body in “a clean linen cloth” (ie one cloth), but John says “linen cloths, as per Jewish tradition. John has the Disciples, when inspecting the empty tomb, seeing a separate cloth that covered Jesus’ head, & Luke mentions the Disciples seeing cloths. NB: Mark has Joseph of Arimathea buying a linen cloth. How could he buy this cloth when all shops were closed for Passover?
  15. John has the disciples receiving the “Holy Spirit” on Resurrection day. Acts 2:2-4 has them receiving it at Pentecost (ie 50 days later).                                                                 © David Austin 2015

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A TIPPLING PHILOSOPHER Jonathan MS Pearce is a philosopher, author, columnist, and public speaker with an interest in writing about almost anything, from skepticism to science, politics, and morality,...

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