Jim Meritt of Infidels.org claims a Bible contradiction exists and asks "Whom did they see at the tomb?".
|“|| Matthew 28:2 And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it.
3 His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow:
4 And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men.
5 And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified.
Mark 16:5 And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted.
Luke 24:4 And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments:
John 20:12 And seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.
This is actually one of the more difficult alleged contradictions at first sight because so many diverse events occur in a complex order. There are two good explanations of this that I am aware of.
The first is by Steve Rudd at The Interactive Bible with a chart demonstrating what order the events all occurred in, namely (1) Jesus' resurrection and rolling away of the stone witnessed by the guards only, (2) Mary, Mary, and Salome go to the tomb while it's still dark, (3) They see the stone rolled away but don't enter, (4) Mary Magdalene runs to tell John and Peter, (5) Peter and John go to the tomb, (6) 5 women arrive at the tomb a second time, (7) The women meet the angels, (8) The women except Mary leave to tell the disciples, (9) Mary alone stays and meets Jesus at the tomb, (10) Jesus then appears to the other women, (11) The women meet with the disciples to tell them what happened.
The second is by the Scofield Study Bible III in its note for Matthew 28:1 which presents roughly the same order: (1) Three women go to the tomb, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome; (2) The women find the stone removed by an angel; (3) Mary Magdalene runs to tell Peter and John; (4) Meanwhile Mary the mother of James, Salome, and the other women arrive at the tomb and meet angels assuring them Jesus is risen - they leave to tell the disciples; (5) Peter and John arrive at the tomb, look around, and leave; (6) Mary Magdalene returns to the tomb weeping and meets Jesus; (7) Jesus appears to the other women as they are on their way to meet the disciples.
At any rate, there were multiple arrivals by multiple people at the tomb and this is evident just from reading any one of the Gospel accounts in context.
- Matthew: First the women go to the sealed tomb. (27:61) Then they return a day later. (28:1)
- Mark: First the women go to the tomb to see where Jesus is laid. (15:47) Then they return to annoint Jesus. (16:1)
- Luke: First the women go to the tomb to see where Jesus is laid. (23:55-56) The next day they return to anoint Jesus. (24:1) Then Peter runs to the tomb to look for himself. (28:12)
- John: Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb. (20:1) Peter and John go see for themselves. (20:3) Mary apparently went with them because she stays at the tomb. (20:11)
None of the accounts contradict one another and all can be true. All the accounts except John mention the original arrival of the women to see where Jesus was laid, John doesn't mention it. Then the women all go to the tomb to anoint Jesus, all the accounts mention this, although John mentions only Mary Magdalene and Matthew mentions only her and another Mary. Luke and John mention the visit of Peter and the book of John mentions John and Mary Magdalene went with Peter as well.
It's not a contradiction for four different accounts to mention varying levels of detail about an event, if they all related the same exact detail there would be no need for four accounts, and they'd obviously have copied from one another and conspired to make a single cohesive account, right? Meritt appears to foolishly assume that "contradiction" means simply relating different levels of detail, a definition that makes absolutely no sense.
TheThinkingAtheist.com claims the Bible is wrong about the following passage in their section "Was the Stone Rolled Away?", and makes the following comments (italicized):
|“|| Matthew 28:8-10 And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word. And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him. Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me.
The visitors were overjoyed, and they ran to tell the disciples
Mark 16:8 And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any man; for they were afraid.
They were afraid, and told no one.
Luke 24:9 And returned from the sepulchre, and told all these things unto the eleven, and to all the rest.
They told the eleven and others.
John 20:10-12 Then the disciples went away again unto their own home. ¶ But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre, And seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.
Mary informed Simon and the other disciple about the empty tomb, then she remained at the tomb crying.
In actuality there were two different visits by the women and disciples. Compare Mark 16:8,10, and John 20:2,18 in particular, both of which clearly distinguish between the two visits. The first time only Mary Magdalene ran to tell the disciples, as seen from Mark 16:8 and John 20:2. The Interactive Bible has an excellent chronology of what occurred. The critic is failing to mention crucial verses in Mark 16 and John 20 which reveal there were multiple visits by multiple women who went to tell different people.
|“|| Mark 16:8 And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any man; for they were afraid.
Mark 16:10 And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept.
John 20:2 Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him.
John 20:18 Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto her.
First Visit, Three Women
First Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb early while it is still dark, leaves, and runs to tell Peter and John, who both hurry to see for themselves. Mark 16 describes two other women accompanying her, Mary the mother of James, and Salome. John 20 appears to describe Mary Magdalene's account as verses 1-18 are all clearly from her perspective and she is mentioned by name 4 times in the chapter. Mark 16 on the other hand is the account of the other two women, Mary the mother of James, and Salome, both of whom, unlike Mary, did not go tell the disciples immediately afterward. Thus Mark 16 states that they were afraid and did not tell others right away, while John 20, Mary Magdalene's account, states that she did run to tell others. Observe that John 18:11 like Mark 16:8 describes Mary Magdalene having the same initial impression of fear and sorrow, thinking Jesus' body had been stolen.
|“|| John 20:1 ¶ The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre.
2 Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him.
Mark 16:1 ¶ And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him.
Second Visit, Women, Peter, and John
Mary Magdalene, unlike Mary the mother of James and Salome, has run to tell everyone. Presumably the other two women are there, and upon hearing her story, end up telling what they had been afraid to before. (cp. Mark 16:8, Luke 24:10) On hearing all of this, both Peter and John come to see for themselves. The rest of the eleven do not believe, but Mary Magdalene and other women come with Peter and John.
Mary Magdalene, Peter, and John all encounter the risen Lord on this second trip. Mary Magdalene, having come to the sepulchre a second time with the disciples, stays after they leave, crying. She meets Jesus, and then runs a second time to tell more disciples what has happened. (John 20:11-20) Peter and John while returning from the sepulchre are puzzling over the disappearance of Jesus' body when Jesus accosts them and gives them a verbal thrashing for their lack of belief. (Luke 24:25-26) Other women also apparently went as well, and encountered Jesus on the way also. (Matthew 28:8-10)
|“|| John 20:3 Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre.
4 So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre.
5 And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in.
6 Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie,
Mark 16:9 ¶ Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.
Luke 24:10 It was Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women that were with them, which told these things unto the apostles.
Matthew 28:8 And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word.
|“|| Matthew 28:1 In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.
Mark 16:1 And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him.
Luke 24:10 It was Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women that were with them, which told these things unto the apostles.
John 20:1 The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre.
That this is not a contradiction should of course be patently obvious. None of the verses remotely appear to contradict one another. Matthew 28 mentions two of the three present, Mary Magdalene and another Mary. Mark 16 mentions all three, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Jesus, and Salome. John 20 mentions only Mary Magdalene. Luke 24 mentions Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Jesus, Joanna (who may be the same as Salome and/or the mother of Zebedee's children in Matthew 27:56), and other women.
Rather than a contradiction, it is a proof multiple perspectives were being recorded, a proof against the erroneous claim the Gospels were produced from a single source (Q hypothesis). If one author was aware of one person present, another of two people, and another that three were there, it is in no way a contradiction. Or one writer may see fit to mention only one, another two, and yet another writer to mention all persons present.
In no way does it contradict, it simply means less detail was provided about those present by different writers. Had the Matthew or John passages said "ONLY X persons were at the sepulchre" than that would be a contradiction, but to put words in the mouth of the writers when that is not what they said is to falsely accuse the Bible of a contradiction that does not in fact exist.
TheThinkingAtheist.com claims the Bible is wrong about the following passage in their section "Where Did Jesus' Ascension Take Place?", and makes the following comments:
|“|| Mark 16:19 ¶ So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God.
20 And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.
The ascension took place presumably from a room while the disciples were together.
Luke 24:50 ¶ And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them.
The ascension happened outside, at Bethany, near Jerusalem.
Acts 1:12 ¶ Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day's journey.
The ascension happened at Mt. Olivet
Matthew 28:16 ¶ Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them.
Matthew makes no mention of the ascension at all, an undoubtedly noteworthy event.
First of all, the 'ThinkingAtheist' commits a typo in the verse reference, it is Mark 16:19-20, not Mark 19:20 as they erroneously list. And with their first comment, the key word is "presumably" because it does not say what they presume. Mark 16:19-20 does not say the ascension occurred while the disciples were eating in a room, indeed this is rather illogical since ascending up to Heaven would be rather odd if having to go through a ceiling first. All the verse says is that Jesus ascended after the event in question, not that it was immediately after, or where it occurred. The ThinkingAtheist makes that presumption because they want to see a contradiction in the Bible, not because there is one.
Secondly, as most could probably guess, the Mount of Olives is located at Bethany and near Jerusalem, so the 2nd and 3rd passages likewise do not contradict. As observed by Bible History Online, "Bethany 'house, place of unripe figs' is a village located on the E slope of Mt. Olivet, about one and one-half miles from Jerusalem."
|“||"The mountain ridge which lies East of Jerusalem leaves the central range near the valley of Sha`phat and runs for about 2 miles due South. After culminating in the mountain mass on which lies the 'Church of the Ascension,' it may be considered as giving off two branches: one lower one, which runs South-Southwest, forming the southern side of the Kidron valley, terminating at the Wady en Nar, and another, higher one, which slopes eastward and terminates a little beyond el-`Azareyeh (modern Bethany)." - E.W.G. Masterson||”|
This leaves the 'ThinkingAtheist' with only one complaint, that Matthew does not mention the ascension, as though ever single Gospel should mention every single major event, rather than complementing one another with different levels of detail. Ultimately there is clearly no contradiction here, just an ignorance of cartography and dearth of critical thinking on the part of the critic.
- Meritt, Jim (1992). A list of Biblical contradictions. Retrieved from http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/jim_meritt/bible-contradictions.html.
- Rudd, Steve. Matthew 28:1 sequence of events at the tomb with Mary and the apostles. The Interactive Bible. Retrieved from http://www.bible.ca/b-alleged-bible-contradictions-refuted.htm.
- Scofield, C.I. (2006). The Scofield Study Bible III. p. 1308. Oxford University Press. Retrieved from http://books.google.com/books?id=fpu-Pl7W_UIC&pg=PA1308.
- TheThinkingAtheist. Bible Contradictions. Retrieved from http://www.thethinkingatheist.com/page/bible-contradictions.
- Rudd, Steve. Matthew 28:1 Sequence of Events at the Tomb with Mary and the Apostles. The Interactive Bible.
- Cities of Ancient Israel: Bethany. Bible History Online.
- Masterson, E.W.G. Mount of Olives. BibleAtlas.org.