I’ve just read this “Contradictions in the Resurrection Accounts?” post at the Saints and Sceptics blog. I have followed their apologetics ministry for a while and, to their credit, they do seem to set out to address the objections people will bring up when they consider the Christian faith.
But this post really brought home to me the extent of the mental gymnastics which must be performed to ignore and dismiss the inconsistencies and variations that are contained within Christian scriptures.
The Resurrection is the central concept of the Christian faith. It institutes the age of salvation and sets up Christ as the ultimate sacrifice. But, as is clear from the blog post above, the variation in how this absolutely essential doctrine is recorded in the 4 different gospels is – when you stop and truly, honestly analyse it – utterly staggering.
I am really mindful of how I would have reacted to this post maybe 2 years or so ago. I know that it would have eased my concerns over how this story can be so different in different place, yet so pivotal. It would have given me a confidence that I was OK with what I believed and that there was justification for it. And it would have reenforced my views that people who cited all the inconsistencies and contradictions in scripture were just misguided secularists with their own agenda.
But my goodness, things are very different now. On reading the content of that post, you can only admire the determination of the writer in setting out their stall and sticking with it to the bitter end.
And I know that David Glass has no doubts over the acceptability and accuracy of what he has written. I don’t believe it’s intended but there’s a haughty dismissiveness in the tone of the post which seems slightly ignorant of the subject matter and the raised eyebrows caused by reading it.
However, the logic and explanations contained just flabbergast me now. I can think of no other way of putting it.
What always strikes me when you get into this level of analysis over what are clear differences is the way people abandon any concern for the original writings or language. There is so much work required to get the English texts to make any sense that context and history generally disappears. And the fact that books were not written and structured as they are in our King James-driven editions nowadays.
Let’s do the courtesy of actually looking at the arguments put forward:
- Women at the tomb:
“The Gospels differ in terms of the women who went to the tomb on the Sunday morning… A contradiction? Hardly.”“…provided we permit the authors to be selective, there’s really not much of a problem.”
Really? If we’re being utterly semantic about the meaning of the word “contradiction”, perhaps we have something to stand on. OK then. The issue is the specifics of exactly who was there and why the gospel writers made their particular selections of reporting the different attendees. I cannot comprehend why the stories need to be different – why did God inspire the writers in such a way as to raise so many questions? How did the writers settle on the women they did? Only Mary Magdalene has any further role in any version of the story, so why include or exclude any of the others?
- Reaction of the visiting women:
“Mark says they fled from the tomb and ‘said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid’… Apart from Mark there is agreement that the women go to tell the disciples. Does Mark contradict these accounts? No. It seems fairly clear that all he means is that they didn’t speak to anyone on the way because they were afraid…”“There certainly is a significant difference between John’s account… But it is hardly a contradiction. A plausible reconciliation…[word salad]”
No. I’m sorry. Mark clearly contradicts the other accounts. Mark also records that the visitors were told by the angel to go and tell the disciples, but apparently they wouldn’t disobey that command. So Mark’s record contradicts itself never mind the other 3! Working this round to anything other than a contradiction is a true feat of linguistic acrobatics.
- Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances:
This whole section is a long collection of ifs, buts and maybes. Luke’s records were always meant to be followed up by Chapter 2 (i.e. the book of Acts). But the book states quite clearly that Jesus did lots to prove He was alive, so that’s alright. Luke has simply been selective over what he has decided to include in his narrative.
I can’t force myself to buy these explanations. There is too much effort required to make the components add up.
But the most striking and worrying aspect is that these 3 points are simply the tip of the iceberg with regards to resurrection inconsistencies and a proverbial drop in the ocean with regards to similar problems within the whole of Scripture. Yes, I know there are many with proposals for answers from many experts and scholars much more qualified than I, but there is a consistent requirement for hard work to get to the required destination.
And I mean no disrespect to either Saints and Sceptics or David Glass in particular – reading this just caused enough of a irritation in me to feel the need to articulate my thoughts.