THE SEQUENCE FROM EMPTY TOMB TO JESUS’ APPEARANCE TO THE WOMEN:
(1) BEFORE THE WOMEN ARRIVE:
Scholarly Consensus: Matthew copies Mark and a source unique to him that scholars call M.
The story of Roman guards at the tomb (28:2-3, 11-15) is an independent literary unit from M and originally lacks any mention of the women. Matthew awkwardly splices it with Marcan material and thus creates the false impression that the women experience the earthquake and witness that angel that spooked the guards sitting on the stone. Matthew makes the mistake of equating this angel with the “young man” in Mark 16:5-7. As we sill see, this insight solves the contradiction between 1 (Mark/ Matthew) vs. 2 (Luke/ John at the tomb.
(2) John 20:1-10: The women discover the empty tomb in the "dark (not at dawn) and Mary Magdalene (= MM) volunteers to notify the disciples… The Beloved Disciple (= BD) outruns Peter to the tomb, but lets Peter enter first. Peter apparently accepts MM’s claim that the corpse has been humanly removed and leaves, but the BD remains in the tomb, reflects on the neatly separated funeral cloths, and soon concludes that Jesus is risen…
(3) This is the point where Mark 16:1-8 picks up the story. Assumption: The BD is the unnamed “young man” (Greek: “neaniskos”) inside the tomb. He tells the waiting women that Jesus is alive and asks them to go and tell the disciples and the skeptical Peter that Jesus will “go before” them to Galilee and will appear them there (16:5-7). This is the same unnamed “young man” (again, “neaniskos”) who loses his linen robe in his effort to follow the arrested Jesus (14:51-52). In both contexts, this “young man” is identified by his linen robe. He was present to hear Jesus’ promise of a post-Easter Galilean appearance (14:28), The BD then leaves (John 20;20), perhaps for Galilee, but the women disobey his instructions and wait for MM’s return to the tomb. They doubt the BD’s assurance and have good reason to fear ridicule if they heed his request to tell them Jesus is now alive (16:8).
(4) Luke’s empty tomb account begins at this point (24:2-10), 2 angels now appear to the waiting women and assure them that Christ has risen. This angelic word ends their disobedience and sends them to notify the disciples who ridicule their report just as they feared. Assumption; The humiliated women now rush back to the tomb, hoping the 2 angels are still there to advise them on what to do next.
(5) By now MM has returned from her mission to spread the news of Jesus’ missing corpse. She stands outside the tomb alone and weeps (John 20:11). The same 2 angels appear to her and assure her that Jesus is alive. Indeed, when she turns around, she sees Him, though she initially mistakes Him for the gardener (20:11-18). Assumption: The other women also encounter Jesus “on the way” back to the tomb (Matthew 28:9-10) and rendez-vous with MM. Feeling the sting of the disciples’ rebuff, the other women agree to let MM report their encounter with Jesus alone (20:18). Note that Matthew never tells us that the women tell the disciples that they have encountered the risen Jesus.(see 28:10, 16).
My next planned post will offer my proposed logically consistent sequence for the various appearance to the male disciples in the Gospels and in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8.