Resolving the different gospel accounts of Christ’s resurrection
Throughout the centuries, there has been an ongoing debate regarding the authenticity of Jesus’ resurrection as recorded in the Bible. Skeptics see serious irreconcilable differences and some Biblical scholars deny the actuality of the resurrection. The scholars state that Christ’s resurrection account must have been the “easter faith” of the disciples, but not a historical fact. For Christians who believe the whole Bible to be true, how do they respond to the historical reliability of the New Testament due to the apparent conflict between the resurrection accounts between the four gospels?
In the Bible, there are six eyewitness accounts of Jesus’ Resurrection (Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, John 20-21, Acts 1:1-11 and 1 Corinthians 15:1-11). Each one agrees that there was an empty tomb and that a significant number of people saw the risen Christ. However, upon reading the accounts, you are left with some questions. For instance, was there one angel or two? Or, did Christ first appear to the women or to the Apostle Peter?
I have read two books that go into this question in great detail. One man, John Wenham, wrote a book entitled “The Easter Enigma.” Here, he did some extensive research and even visited the Holy Land. He came up with a very impressive and detailed account of the resurrection story and some very plausible reasons to the apparent conflicts.
There was also a very interesting step-by-step attempt to harmonize the resurrection account in the classic book, “The Gospels: Synopsis and Harmony” by Johs. Ylvisaker. The book was written in the early 20th century. Again, his reasoning regarding the resurrection accounts are very plausible.
Those who express disbelief regarding the resurrection accounts in Scripture is nothing new to Christianity. In fact, during the second century, a man by the name of Tatian attempted to write a substitute to the gospels by harmonizing all of them into one story. His attempt was rejected, because the church fathers knew the gospels were inspired by God.
The fact that Jesus died and rose again from the grave is the essence of Christianity and based on the truth that Jesus visited so many people. The resurrection appearances of Jesus are clearly at the heart of early Christian belief. From the disciples in the room, to the two men on the road to Emmaus, and to the 500 people referred to in the Bible, a person can confidently believe that the resurrected Christ was indeed, a true event.
The Gospels were written by honest men whom the Lord inspired to record the truth. Any differences on the details of the eyewitness accounts do not bother me, because it doesn’t take from the central truth that there was a Jesus who died and rose again to save all mankind from their sins.