Conflict #15 Are there inconsistencies in the women’s departure from the tomb as they went to inform the disciples?
All four Gospels tell of the women, after receiving the angelic command to go and tell the disciples, that the women departed to fulfill this command. However, Matthew reveals that it is on the way to inform the disciples that the women met the risen Yeshua. Mark and Luke say nothing of this encounter. John only focuses on Mary Magdalene’s experience. There is no problem if a piece of information is omitted. Such an occurrence does not represent a conflict. The problem is that Mark’s Gospel states,
kai exelqousai efugon apo tou mnhmeiou, eicen gar autaV tromoV kai ekstasiV: kai oudeni ouden eipan, efobounto gar.
“And after coming out, they fled from the tomb, for fear and amazement seized them: and nothing to no one they spoke, for they were afraid.” Mk.16:8
This verse does seem to contradict the rest of the Gospels, but only if one makes an assumption that the women upon arriving back to their residences remain silent. This assumption contradicts what the other Gospels reveal and common sense. There is a way to interpret this verse which removes all inconsistencies.
Is it possible that this verse is not speaking about the women in regard to their behavior upon arriving back to their residences, but only describing their behavior as they were rushing to do exactly what the angelic proclamation had instructed them to do? That is, the women who were seized fear and amazement did not say a thing to each other as they rushed to tell the disciples. Mark’s purpose is not to inform the reader that the women remained silent, but to reveal emotional condition due to what they had witnessed.
It could very well be that after traveling some distance as Matthew reveals, that the women did in fact encounter Yeshua, Who confirmed the words of the angel and also told them to tell the disciples. Mark ignores this, not because it did not happen. Rather he is led to inform the reader that the first appearance of Yeshua was not to the group of women who departed the tomb seized with fear and amazement, but to Mary Magdalene as John’s Gospel writes. Hence all Gospels can be reconciled to each other.
Conflict #16 Is Mary Magdalene permitted to touch Yeshua?
This conflict arises because Yeshua clearly commands Mary not to touch Him (see Jn.20:17), while in Matthew’s account the women do in fact touch Yeshua. The problem is that Yeshua seems to have no problem with the women clinching His feet and does not instruct to stop (see Mt.28:9). This apparent conflict is most easy to explain. It has already been stated in this study several times that the Gospels do not reveal one event in regard to the women visiting the tomb that morning but many. It is clear that Yeshua appeared first to Mary Magdalene and after that to the women who Matthew says “held Him by the feet and worshipped Him” (Mt.28:9).
Hence time elapsed from first appearance with Mary Magdalene and the second with the women. It is clear from the context that this time may have only been a few minutes, but this would have been enough time for Yeshua to accomplish various activities. If one fully reads the verse in which Yeshua commands Mary not to touch Him, then one would find that a reason was given why Mary should not do this.
legei auth ihsouV, mh mou aptou, oupw gar anabebhka proV ton patera…
“Yeshua says to her, ‘Do not touch me, for I have not ascended to the Father…”Jn.20:17a
This statement clearly implies that after Yeshua ascended to the Father the prohibition would be removed. Therefore when Yeshua appeared to the women, He must have already ascended to the Father and had returned. *
* Please note: this ascension is not referring to Yeshua’s final ascension at the end of forty days. In regard to His final ascension a different Greek word is used, anefereto.
This is supported by the fact that there were other instances where not only did people touch Yeshua, He invited them to do so (see Jn.20:27, Lk.24:39).
Those who attack the New Testament witness based on this issue (and many like it), fail to allow that time can alter prohibitions and even do away with them altogether.
For example, a police officer tells an individual that he is forbidden to drive a car because he has no license. This individual obtains a license later that same day and the same officer upon hearing this information tells the individual to drive safely. Is it legitimate for one to say the officer’s statements an unexplainable conflict? Of course not! However those who attack the credibility of the New Testament do so, without allowing for the possibility that events could have transpired that reconcile to two opposing conflicts.
The remaining conflicts involve the resurrection appearance of Yeshua.
Conflict #17 Unto whom does Yeshua appear first?
Mark’s Gospel explicitly states that Yeshua appeared first to Mary Magdalene (see Mk.16:9). There is nothing in John’s Gospel to contradict this. Matthew’s Gospels records both Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to the tomb that morning and it is while the women are responding to the angelic command to go and tell the disciples that they encounter Yeshua. Therefore, there are those who see a conflict because John clearly writes that Mary Magdalene was at the tomb when she met Yeshua and Matthew has the women in the midst of their journey to tell the disciples.
Two observations must stated, first there is no reason to assume that when Matthew speaks of the women encounter Yeshua on their way from the tomb to tell the disciples that Mary Magdalene had not already met Yeshua previously. The account in Matthew and Mark is similar and Mark tells the reader that Mary’s experience was indeed separate from that of the other women.
Rabbi Singer writes in regard to this,
“Mark’s story does not indicate where this appearance takes place. It is quite clear, however that it occurs sometime after Mary fled the tomb. (16:8-9)“
Rabbi Singer makes this comment because if he did not say that Mark alludes to a different location then Matthew, Mark and John would pose no difficulty at all. The problem is that although he makes this bold statement, “It is quite clear,…” he does not provide any reason to support it.
The text Rabbi Singer quotes is inserted into the account by Mark in order to inform the reader that the women who encountered the angel and rushed to tell the disciples were not the ones who first encountered Yeshua. Mark gives no additional information about Mary Magdalene’s experience that is, when or where. Therefore Rabbi Singer’s statement is without foundation.
Thus far this study has not commented on Luke’s account in regard to this issue. Once again Rabbi Singer attacks the Gospels as presenting information which are contradictory. This time Rabbi Singer does offer support for his claim. He states that whereas Matthew, Mark, and John have Mary Magdalene as the one who encountered Yeshua first, Luke’s Gospel has Cleopas and the another individual meeting Yeshua first (see Lk.24:13, 18).
Rabbi Singer also states,
“Contradicting Mark’s resurrection tale, Luke asserts (24:34) that when the two followers who met Jesus on the road to Emmaus returned to Jerusalem and told the eleven about their encounter, the disciples declared ‘It is true!’, whereas Mark insist that when the two reported their encounter, the disciples did not believe!-Mark16:13“
(see page 95)
Does Luke’s account really represent a conflict? No. Luke does not state that it was the two followers who first met Yeshua. In fact whereas the other accounts have Yeshua appearing to the women early in the morning, Luke records that Yeshua appeared to the two travelers much later in the day.
“And they drew near unto the village, where they were going, and He (Yeshua) made it as though He would have gone further. But they constrained Him saying, “Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent…” Lk.24:28-29
Luke does not have Yeshua revealing His identity to the men until they ate the evening meal.
It is not reasonable to conclude that this was in fact the first encounter that anyone had with the risen Messiah. Whereas the other Gospels record their encounter very early in the morning, Luke records his some twelve hours later. Luke simply chooses not to record what the other three Gospels do, rather he focuses on an account to which only Mark briefly alludes. It is within Mark’s brief statement about the two travelers Rabbi Singer finds another conflict.
Rabbi Singer claims that in Luke’s account the disciples believed the two’s report, while he states that in Mark the disciple did not believe.
Rabbi Singer travels throughout the world speaking to large groups of people, he has a radio show and one can find him in newspaper columns even in Israel. He is always referred to as an expert on the New Testament and is the one that many other rabbis turn to in order to discourage Jewish individuals from accepting the claims of the New Testament. Although Rabbi Singer is called a New Testament “expert”, he fails to disclose that he often attribute statements incorrectly.
If one checks out what is actually recorded in the Gospels in regard to this issue, Rabbi Singer’s claim is not only without foundation, but is the opposite of what is recorded. He states that in Luke’s account that “the disciples declared ‘It is true!”
The problem is that no such statement is found in Luke’s Gospel. Notice that Rabbi Singer gives no citation as where such a statement can be found. Even if one gives Rabbi Singer the benefit of the doubt and allows this statement (It is true!) to be a general statement summarizing Lk.24:32, “And they said, one to the other, Did not our heart burn within us, while He talked with us by the way, and while He opened to us the scriptures?”
The problem is that this verse is speaking about the two travelers and the citation that Rabbi Singer provides as evidence of a conflict is about the eleven disciples (Mk.16:13).
There is no conflict if one Gospel account says that the two individuals who were traveling to Emmaus believed after Yeshua appeared to them, and the other Gospel account in speaking about the eleven disciples who were told by these two travelers about their experience with the risen Messiah did not believe.
Hence there is no conflict in regard to whom Yeshua appeared first.
Conflict #18 Inconsistencies about the Post-Resurrection appearances of Yeshua
Does the New Testament state conflicting accounts of the post-resurrection appearances of Yeshua? The answer is clearly no. Then why do many people attack the New Testament citing there are conflicts in regard to the number of times Yeshua appeared, what He said to those He appeared to, and the order of these appearances?
The answer is simple, a belief that the New Testament presents events chronologically and all four Gospels must reveal the same information. That is, if one writer is inspired to include additional information and events, while omitting other events this represents a conflict. It is interesting to note that the rules of evidence in a court of law has no problem with such testimony and does not discredit those who provide such accounts. As has been presented in this study, the Gospel writers did not set out to write an all inclusive historical account of the events of Yeshua’s life.
Rabbi Singer and those who share his comments need to consider what John writes,
“And there are many other things which Yeshua did, the which, if every one should be written, I (John) suppose that even the world itself could not contain the book that should be written. Amen” Jn.21:25
It is with this verse that the four Gospels are concluded. John’s statement has great hermeneutical value. In summarizing the Person and Work of Yeshua, John states that many things were omitted by the Gospel writers. In the previous verse John labels the Gospel accounts as testimony not historical narrative. Testimony is different in many ways to a historical narrative. While a historical narrative does have chronological concerns, testimony is compilation of one or more individuals who testify to what was seen. Perception is a key consideration. Although the Gospels contain testimony and
is able to withstand any form of criticism, it should not be merely considered as testimony in the sense of a deposition.
It must be strongly emphasized that the primary concern of the New Testament is revelation. That is, the revealing of spiritual truth that the man of G-d is fully equipped to know G-d and serve Him properly.
In returning to the issue of Yeshua’s post-resurrection appearances the following guidelines must be presented.
– Do the Gospel accounts ever state that they are revealing the order of His appearances?
– Do the Gospel accounts ever state that there is a precise number of appearances?
The answer to these questions are no. This being the case, can one then state without knowing the exact order and number that there is a conflict in where these appearances took place? Once again the answer is no. The reason for this is that the reader cannot be sure that the same appearance is being referred to by more than one Gospel writer.
The Gospel of Matthew records two post-resurrection appearances * .
The first is as the women are on the way to tell the disciples and encounter Yeshua (see Mt.28:9-10).
The second is after the eleven disciples departed from Jerusalem and entered into the Galilee. They met Yeshua at a mountain that He had appointed for them to meet Him (see Mt.28:16-20).
* Please note that Matthew concludes the second appearance with words that Yeshua may have said at His ascension. It is common for Scripture to be used in a different context than it appeared originally. Matthew places this authentic statement of Yeshua at the conclusion of Yeshua appearance in Galilee. This does not necessary mean that Yeshua said these words at this time. Rather it was after the Galilee appearance that Matthew was inspired to conclude his Gospel. In doing so the Holy Spirit inspired Matthew to leave his readers with the some of Yeshua’s final instructions for His disciples. Hence these words may reveal a third post-resurrection appearance within Matthew’s Gospel.
The Gospel of Mark records four post-resurrection appearances.
The first is when the reader is informed about Mary Magdalene’s experience (see Mk.16:9).
The second is when Mark mentions the two travelers, most likely the Emmaus Road appearance (see Mk.16:12-13).
The third is when Yeshua scolds the eleven for their unbelief and hardness of heart (see Mk.16:14).
The fourth is when Yeshua appeared to them and then ascended into the heavens (see Mk.16:19).
The Gospel of Luke records three post-resurrection appearances.
The first is the Emmaus Road appearance (see Lk.24:13-35).
The second is while the two individuals whom Yeshua had appeared to on the Emmaus Road were explaining to the disciples what had happened to them (see Lk.24:36-48).
The third is when He instructed them and then ascended from Bethany (Lk.24:50-52).
The Gospel of John records four post-resurrection appearances.
The first is when Mary Magdalene meets Yeshua early in the garden (see Jn.20:14-17).
The second is still on the first day of the week, but in the evening when the disciples were behind lock doors and Yeshua appeared (see Jn.20:19-23). Please note that Thomas was not present at this appearance.
The third is eight days after the second appearance. Thomas is with the rest of the disciples and Yeshua invites Thomas to examine His hands and His side as proof that He has risen (see Jn.20:26-29).
The fourth is set in Galilee on the Sea of Tiberias. The entire twenty-first chapter of John is dedicated to this appearance.
Luke continues his account of Yeshua in the book of Acts. He writes,
“To whom (the apostles) He (Yeshua) showed Himself alive after His suffering, by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the Kingdom of G-d.” Acts 1:3
Luke also writes about Yeshua’s ascension in to heaven (see Acts 1:4-11).
The Apostle Paul also provides a brief list of post-resurrection appearances,
“And that He was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve. After that, He was seen by more than five-hundred men at one time; of whom most are still alive today, but some are fallen asleep (dead). After that, He was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen by me also, as one born out of due time.” 1Cor.15:5-8.
Inconsistencies about the Post-Resurrection appearances of Yeshua:
Is there a problem in the number of disciples who saw Yeshua after His resurrection?
-Matthew says that Yeshua appeared to the eleven disciples in Galilee (see Mt.28:16).
-Mark says the Yeshua appeared to the eleven disciples (see Mk.16:14). This appearance most likely occurred in the Galilee or in Jerusalem. The text does not specify. Mark also tells of another appearance when Yeshua ascended into the heavens (see Mark 16:19). The text is not clear the number of disciples who were present.
-Luke says the Yeshua appeared to the eleven disciples while in Jerusalem (see Lk.24:33). Luke also records a latter appearance which took place in Bethany on the day Yeshua ascended into the heavens (see Lk.24:50-51). There is no way of knowing how many disciples were present.
-John says that Yeshua appeared to the disciples three times. One of those times Thomas was not present. This fact would mean that the most disciples that could have been present on Yeshua’s first appearance * with His disciples ten.
Many see the fact that only ten disciples being present when Matthew, Mark, and Luke record eleven as an inconsistency. This is not the case.
* This is the first appearance that John records.
When Matthew speaks of the eleven disciples he is referring to an appearance which took place in the Galilee,
“Then the eleven disciples went away into Galelee…” Mt.28:16
When Mark speaks of the eleven disciples he is referring to an appearance which the text is unclear as to when it took place (see Mk.16:14). Therefore there is no reason to assume that this is the same appearance as the one which John has only ten disciples present.
When Luke writes of the eleven disciples it is when the two travelers returned to Jerusalem and began to tell how Yeshua appeared to them (see Lk.24:33). It is during that evening that Yeshua appears to them. The point which must be stressed is the possibility that Thomas was present when the two travelers arrived, but sometime later departed before Yeshua appeared to them. There is textual support for this view in John’s account of this event.
When John states that Thomas was not present he qualifies the time period when Thomas was not there.
qwmaV de eiV ek twn dwdeka, o legomenoV didumoV, ouk hn met autwn ote hlqen ihsouV.
“But Thomas one of the twelve, the one called Didumos, he was not with them when Yeshua came.” Jn.20:24
One must ask why John emphasizes the fact the Thomas was not there when Yeshua came ouk hn met autwn ote hlqen ihsouV ? The reason is simple, for when the Gospel writers (Mark and John) begin their narrative of this event Thomas was present,
“Then the same day at evening, being the first (day) of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled…” Jn.20:19
John clues the reader into the fact that when Yeshua appeared Thomas was not with them. This is the reason for the Greek word ote (when) and why John adds the phrase “when Yeshua came”. If Thomas was not there at all that evening John could have simply written,
But Thomas one of the twelve, the one called Didumos, was not with them .
G-d inspired every word included in Holy Scripture. There are no words which do not serve a purpose. This being the case, John was inspired to write this verse (Jn.24:20) in this manner in order to remove any conflict between the recorded number of disciples present when Yeshua appeared that evening.
Many have pointed out another inconsistency related to the number of disciples to which Yeshua appeared. Paul writes in 1Cor.15.5,
“And that He was seen of Cephas, then by the twelve.”
How could Yeshua appear to the twelve disciples the critics ask? Skeptics of the validity of the New Testament mock Paul by asking whether Paul knew that Judas had committed suicide (see Mt.27:5 and Acts 1:18)?
Once again this is another example of individuals attacking a book to which they are not that familiar. Long before Paul every became a follower of Yeshua the eleven disciples selected by lot Matthias (see Acts 1:26),
“And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.”
Matthias was selected before the first Pentecost, i.e. within fifty days after the resurrection. Another incorrect assumption that critics make is that Paul in 1Cor.15:5 is stating that Yeshua had to appear to the “twelve” at one time. This is not the case. As long as Yeshua during his forty days was seen by Matthias it is a correct statement for Paul to make. Paul writes in the next verse, 1Cor.15:6 that five hundred men saw Him at one time. It is not possible that Matthias was present in that number? Maybe all twelve disciples were at that appearance? For critics to pose 1Cor.15:5 as a “serious inconsistency” as many do (Rabbi Singer being one, page 95 of his Study Guide) demonstrates a serious deficiency in basic New Testament content.
It is well established fact that before should attempt to interpret the Word of G-d, one should have a strong understanding of its content.
The final inconsistency that this study will examine in regard to the post-resurrection appearances of Yeshua relates to when the Holy Spirit was received by the disciples?
Critics cite Luke in the book of Acts (Acts 2:1-4) who states it was on Shavuot (Pentecost) that the Holy Spirit was given, while John seems to say that the Holy Spirit was bestowed upon the disciples on the evening following Yeshua’s resurrection (see Jn.20:22).
These separate events had two distinct purposes. The occurrence in John was not the giving of the Holy Spirit upon all who believe in Him. This is what took place in Acts chapter two. In John Yeshua was commissioning His disciples not as disciples any longer, but they had graduated becoming the ones He now ordained to continue His ministry. Yeshua came to reconcile man to G-d. His death provided the propitiation for sins (see 1Jn.2:2). This is why immediately after breathing the Holy Spirit upon them, Yeshua said in the next verse,
“Whomever sins you forgive, they are forgiven unto them; and whomever sins you retain, they are retained.” Jn.20:23
Hence, the event recorded in John 20:22 is similar to when the prophet anointed to new king and pour oil upon his head and the spirit came upon him. John is revealing that the fact that the disciples received the Holy Spirit first is proof they had been called to this position in the same way the descending of the Holy Spirit upon the kings, showed their selection as Israel’s leader.
In summary of the eighteenth conflict, there is not any testimony in regard to the post-resurrection appearances of Yeshua revealed in the Scripture which cannot be reasonably explained.
In conclusion after nearly two thousand years of criticism, the Gospel witness of the New Testament has stood the attacks of it critics. One can be assured that trusting in the revelation of both the Old and New Testaments is G-d’s complete and final written revelation to man.
The author of this brief study is of the utmost conviction that the words which John was inspired to conclude the Book of Revelation are also most appropriate for all of Scripture,
“For I testify unto every man that hears the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that were written in this book:
And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.
He which testifies these things says, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.
The grace of our Lord Messiah Jesus be with you all. Amen .” Rev. 22:18-21
Author: Dr Baruch Korman