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The Resurrection: Conflicting Accounts?

Pastor and biblical scholar
Updated Jul 07, 2010
The Resurrection: Conflicting Accounts?

Two events in the life of Jesus, while of utmost importance, come down to us with only the scarcest of details: His birth and His resurrection. Far from suggesting these events are legendary, the writers' reverential silence suits their intent to reveal the complete truth of what happened.

In the case of the resurrection, the four accounts—and Paul's letters—unequivocally confirm that Jesus rose physically from the tomb. But, on the other hand, each writer presents limited details from the forty days that Christ appeared to His disciples (Acts 1:3). We can attribute this partly to the limited information each of the writers had about the events and partly to the goal each had in mind with their retelling of the life of Christ.

Luke in particular compresses the narrative so much that the events of forty days excitedly spill from one to the next and distinctions of timing are difficult to pick out. While seeming to have gathered information from a number of sources, he focuses mainly on what happened in and around Jerusalem. Matthew gives us more of a Galilean account—as if he prefers to rush back to the place where he first learned to know Jesus.

With his characteristic brevity, Mark merely provides a short summary, but a summary in accord with one living in Jerusalem at the time. John relates events from both Jerusalem and Galilee but pays particular attention to the moments that reveal Christ as the Son of God. Finally, Paul, who saw Jesus "last of all" (1 Corinthians 15:8), describes the testimonies of the principal eyewitnesses, since he seems to have taken time to become familiar with the facts.

The gospel accounts of the resurrection give only a glimpse of all that happened. Providing a detailed timeline was not the point. Instead, the writers wanted to capture the testimonies of those who saw Jesus alive again so that others might believe.

Adapted from The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah by Alfred Edersheim (Book V, Chapter XVI).


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