The Sequence of Events after Jesus' Resurrection


#1

I have started this thread to enhance the relevance of ADCs and NDEs to the credibility of both postmortem survival and the historicity of the Gospel resurrection narratives.
Evangelicals embrace the doctrine of biblical inerrancy without confronting the most obvious and important test of that doctrine. So read (1)-(4) and try to create a logically coherent sequence of events that allows the Gospel narrative to be error-free. I will eventually propose my own theory of the sequence of events after the discovery of the empty tomb.

(1) CONFLICTING ACCOUNTS OF THE WOMEN’S FIRST VISIT TO THE TOMB:
a. They find it empty and conclude that someone has removed Christ’s body (John 20:1-2).
b. They find the stone rolled away and encounter an unnamed “young man” sitting inside the tomb (Mark 16:7. This “young man” might be the same “young man” who is identified by his unique robe in Mark 14:41-52.
c. They experience an earthquake and see 1 and only 1 angel roll back the stone and sit upon it outside the tomb (Matthew 28:2).
d. 2 (not 1!) shining angels appear to them only after they discover the empty tomb (Luke 24:2-5).

(2) CONFLICTING ACCOUNTS OF WHAT THE WOMEN DO NEXT:
a. They flee from the tomb and tell no one what happened (Mark 16:8).
b. They promptly report their vision of angels (not of Jesus!) to the disciples (Luke 24:9, 23).
c. They tell the disciples that they have seen Jesus (Matthew 28:10).

(3) CONFLICTING ACCOUNTS OF WHAT THE WOMEN TELL THE DISCIPLES:
a. They relay the instruction of the angel and Jesus to go to Galilee where He will appear to them (Matthew 28:10. 16). The disciples obey by going to Galilee.
b. By contrast, Luke rewords the angel’s instruction to send the disciples to Galilee to remove the command to go there (Luke 24:6). Instead, Luke has Jesus tell His disciples to remain in Jerusalem (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4). If you just had Luke, you would never know that Jesus appeared to His disciples in Galilee or that they ever returned there.

(4) THE PROBLEM OF RECONCILING GOSPEL RESURRECTION NARRATIVES WITH PAUL’S SEQUENCE OF APPEARANCES IN 1 CORINTHIANS 15:3-8:
Where do the Galilean appearances fit into Paul’s sequence? And how can we fit the appearance to over 500 followers and the one to James into Paul’s sequence?


#2

I don’t know. Do you know the answers?

I’ve seen countermissionary Jews point out the contradictions in the Gospels’ resurrection narratives and on that basis conclude Christianity must be false.


#3

Qaz,

My OP was created several weeks ago, and yet, no one has tried to solve the problem of these apparent contradictions. I anticipated this deafening silence, a silence that testifies to a widespread naïve Evangelical willingness to affirm the doctrine of biblical inerrancy without having the integrity to test that doctrine as it applies to one of the most important and obvious biblical examples of apparently conflicting reports. It was my exposure to this lack of intellectual integrity as a young man that drove me to get a Princeton Seminary MDiv and a Harvard doctorate in NT Testament, Judaism, and Greco-Roman religion. Since Jesus’ resurrection is the most important Christian doctrine, The Bible commands us to love God with all our mind as well as with all our heart. I will eventually post my detailed reconstruction of the events after the discovery of the empty tomb. But first I want to wait longer to see if anyone will take up the challenge. This boondoggle of problems illustrates why the evidence for an afterlife from NDEs and ADCs should be very important to Christians.


#4

You’re not the first person to take on the problem - you know that. And you also know that there are many ‘evangelical’ and non-evangelical scholars who have addressed this.
If you have something substantial to add, well and good; but to sling around
naive’ and no ‘integrity’ and ‘no one has tried to solve’ etc. - just be careful. We are not idiots. We are aware of the problems. We don’t have the time to write a book.
I look forward to your timeline.


#5

A nice way to duck the issues, when 3 manageable paragraphs should suffice to point the way to a solution that removes the contradictions. Why do evangelicals on this and other sites where I have posed this issue freeze like Bambi in the headlights instead of grappling with the issues head on posed by the crucial question for Christian apologetics? As already not ed, a professor acquaintance converted during an evangelistic service told me that he rejected the resurrection because of these apparent inconsistencies.


#6

DaveB, what author(s) do you recommend for explaining the contradictions?


#7

So NOW I’m ducking the issues. B, you have a way of just intentionally irritating - why not stop that and just make your case? I’d take you more seriously, at least.
Bambi in the headlights, quotha!!
Qaz, you could worse than taking on NT Wright’s The Resurrection of the Son of God. It’s a big investment in time but worth it.


#8

Thanks!


#9

But that’s just it… you “create” supposed or “apparent inconsistencies” i.e., discrepancies, THEN invent some ingenious solution to resolve such — meh!

I don’t hold to “inerrancy” either but to claim “contradictions” is just more of the same furphy as above. The differences are readily explained in differences of recollection and perspective of said events; like it’s not rocket science.

Without popping anyone’s bubble as to having discovered the amazing secret to solving this apparent mystery, I’d simply suggest by way of example the following:

Any handful of racing commentators will call the same horse race and although similar in given aspects will differ in other described details — are they really contradictions or just variants of the same thing, and as such do they thereby nullify or negate said event? Hardly!


#10

Berserk, as to “The Sequence of Events after Jesus’ Resurrection” being “the most obvious and important test” of the doctrine of biblical inerrancy, to each his own. For myself, variations in that sequence of events have never caused me any concern, although I will be happy to read your suggested chronology.

The Gospels were written and shared among first-hand witnesses. So I doubt that among themselves the authors clashed about details; rather, they each simply noticed and emphasized different details, sometimes supplementing and complementing each other’s narratives, and sometimes repeating (and thus emphasizing) the very same story or point.

And besides, “inerrant” is a non-biblical word. While I believe the Scriptures are inspired, I don’t believe God verbally dictated the Bible, do you? There are many voices heard in the Scriptures besides the voice of God, including Satan, demons, false prophets, pagans, unbelievers, and fools. To be understood correctly, the Bible must be interpreted by the help of the Spirit, and not merely by the letter meeting intellectualism, which can be deadly (John 5:39, 2 Cor. 3:6).

I believe the Bible shows progressive revelation, as I discuss in “Is God Violent, Or Nonviolent?” And since I argue there that God does not kill people, I certainly don’t believe, for example, that Moses was “inerrant” when he editorialized God’s thoughts to Himself in Genesis–that He (and not Satan, who the NT later clarifies actually has the power of death, Heb. 2:14) was fed up and would therefore wipe out the world with a Flood:

So the LORD said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.” Genesis 6:7.

And again, generally speaking, “After-Death Communications” to me smack of spiritism, and I don’t believe, generally speaking, we should seek them, accept them, or promote them today in order to validate or advance the gospel message.

Consider:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. Romans 1:16.

Additionally, this is what I desire to see happen in our day, through people just like us, Berserk:

-God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will. Hebrews 2:4.

-My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power. 1 Cor. 2:4-5.

Blessings.


#11

Agreed! I have always sought to build faith on resurrection apologetics and metaphysics, not “near death experiences”.


#12

I posted this thread simply because I was confident that posters here would duck the question with irrelevant rationalizations: e. g.
(1) Different apostolic recollections produce apparently inconsistent reports. On the contrary, criteria are needed to distinguish outright confabulations from honest errors produced by faulty memories.

(2) The apparent consistencies are in the eye of the beholder. Posters who resort to that desperate expedient are accordingly obliged to create a sequential model that removes the apparent difficulties. In other words, they must respond to my challenge! The expected silence to my challenged is deafening!

(3) Phenomena like NDEs and ADCs should be avoided because they smack of “spiritism.”
First, Christianity rises or falls with the evidence for analogous “spiritism.” We are dependent on conflicting accounts of resurrection sequences which support claims that we are far removed from coherent eyewitness testimony.
Second, why not dismiss resurrection reports as either hallucinations fueled by wishful thinking or as ghostly apparitions no better than modern ghost sitings, which are then embellished to make them more compelling.
Third, the evidence for survival from the best of NDEs and ADCs is far superior to that from our Gospel resurrection narratives. For that very reason, NDEs and ADCs support claims of Resurrection appearances and to ignore them as “spiritism” is therefore absurdly irrational.

I will shortly outline my own solution, which will involve the discipline of redaction criticism. Before I do, let me point to the analogous problem created by Matthew 10:23:

“When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next. For truly I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.”

As a boy, I had a paper route for our town newspaper. I invested all the proceeds in Thompson Chain Reference Bible, which I read through completely. I was not looking to discredit the Bible, but my reading produced obvious questions such as, "Isn’t the obvious explanation of Matthew 10:23 that Jesus expected His 2nd Coming to occur even before the completion of the disciples’ coverage of the towns in Israel? After all, the Son of Man’s future coming is identified with Christ’s 2nd coming in Matthew 16:28. Church leaders merely offered unwarranted speculation that Jesus might be referring to His resurrection. But then why the urgency of fleeing at the slightest resistance before this “coming” occurs? Then I read famed British philosopher Betrand Russell’s book, “Why I Am Not a Christian” and was stunned to note that Russell cites Jesus’ error in Matthew 10:23 as a prime reason why he rejects the Christian faith!

Finally, a Bible School teacher simply told me, “Go to seminary, my son. You’ll get the answer there.” Thus, this Bible school “doctor” tacitly admitted he had no clue about the answer. So I attended Fuller Seminary in Pasadena and asked my question in a course on biblical authority, but Prof. Bromiley (the editor of Kittel’s Theological Dictionary) took offense at my question as coming from an unbelieving heart! So for that and other reasons I transferred to Princeton Seminary, where I could breathe the fresh air of honest and open inquiry. There I figured out the answer through redaction criticism, the method that must be used to solve the puzzle of contradictions within the Gospel resurrection narratives. Before I defend my own resurrection sequence, I will offer my solution to Bertrand Russell’s objection in my next post. How would you solve the puzzle of Matthew 10:23?


#13

By accepting the plainest meaning of it. I’m a preterist.


#14

Berserk., LOL, you date yourself. Bromiley supervised my doctoral dissertation, as well as taught my church history classes in 68-71. Few of us challenged the conservative views of this esteemed translator of Barth’s dogmatics, but as stimulating as it all was, I could wish now that I had experienced Princeton instead.


#15

Why?


#16

Because I assume it would have presented and been open to a greater diversity of interpretations, and thus perhaps facilitated a more critical look at the fundamentalist paradigm in which I was raised. Instead, it took many years, especially beyond the duty of the pulpit, for me to process the difficulties I had with the paradigm assumed even at Fuller.


#17

Bob, LOL, we were classmates, though we don’t seem to have known each other. In retrospect, my transfer to Princeton was the right decision for me for 5 reasons:

(1) It gave me the privilege of studying NT under Bruce Metzger, perhaps the top NT text critic in the world, but who was also in general a renowned NT scholar.
(2) At the time, courses at Fuller too often gave assignments that seemed like unfulfilling busy work, whereas at Princeton there seemed to be more opportunity for research papers that helped me answer some important questions for my faith and also to resolve key doubts.
(3) The theological diversity among the Princeton student body made refectory conversations more intriguing and fulfilling, though I made some close friendships at Fuller.
(4) Metzger’s recommendation and Princeton’s name helped me gain acceptance into Harvard’s doctoral program in NT, Judaism, and Christian Origins (together with a couple of other Princeton colleagues). I’m not sure a Fuller degree would have gained me such an admission.
(5) At Fuller there were often remarks ;by faculty and students alike on what historical-critical insights we needed to suppress for the sake of our future congregations. Because I was plagued by doubts at the time, it was crucial for my sense of integrity that I discover an atmosphere of honest and open inquiry, that freed me from pressure to dishonestly conform my theological views to an acceptable orthodoxy. I was even once encouraged to apply for a teaching position at an evangelical college nd to “fudge” my response to their conservative Statement of Faith, so that I could be hired. Over the years, I have become aware of other Bible scholars who masked their true “liberalism” to keep their jobs!

Ket me add this: I’m sorry if some take offense at my tone in this thread. For me this therapeutic (1) because it helps me demonstrate the fruits of the critical mindset I developed over the years in my grad studies and (2) because it helped me understand why so many evangelicals lose their faith unnecessarily as a result of a Domino theory of biblical inerrancy, the theory that if one conclusive error is found, all biblical revelation should be rejected.


#18

Excellent things, both!!


#19

The scholarly consensus is that Matthew and Luke use Mark and Q as primary sources for their Gospels. Q (From the German “Quelle” = “Source”) is basically the sayings collection used by Matthew and Luke, but not by Mark or John. Papias reports that Matthew wrote down the “sayings of Jesus,” not a Gospel! I will now demonstrate n 2 steps how this scholarly consensus helps solve the specified problem of Matthew 10:23. The key phrases are capitalized for easier understanding.

(1) “For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then He will repay everyone for what he has done. Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see THE SON OF MAN COMING IN HIS KINGDOM (Matthew 16:27-28).”

"He who is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels. AND HE SAID TO THEM: “Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until the see THAT THE KINGDOM OF GOD HAS COME WITH POWER (Mark 8:38-9:1).”

Mark uses the introductory phrase “And he said to them” to change the subject from the coming Son of Man to the coming of the kingdom of God with power, a saying that may have come from a difference context in his oral tradition. Mark never otherwise specifies the number of days between events prior to his Passion Narrative. So his note that Jesus’ transfiguration takes place “6 days later” likely means that the Transfiguration fulfills Jesus’ saying about the kingdom coming in power. But Matthew misses the change of subject because he omits Mark’s introductory phrase “And he said to them” and changes Mark’s reference to the kingdom coming in power into a reference to the Son of Man coming in his kingdom, thus making an explicit thematic connection with Matthew 16:27.

Thus, Matthew rewords a Jesus saying to allude to a future coming of “the Son of Man” when no such reference is found in the original saying. Matthew also uses this editorial practice in Q material. The mission instructions to the disciples in Matthew 10 and Luke 10 make use of Q as well as material unique to Matthew’s and Luke’s sources:

(2) “When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly I tell you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel BEFORE THE SON OF MAN COMES (Matthew 10:23).”

“After this the Lord appointed 70 others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place WHERE HE HIMSELF WAS ABOUT TO COME (Luke 10:1).”

The Q original (Luke 10:1) refers to Jesus “coming” to minister to new towns after his followers have made preparations for his arrival through their own ministries. They are to flee from towns that persecute them because there are so many other towns where Jesus might find a more receptive audience and he will not postpone his tour for long. By changing the Q reference to an upcoming earthly tour to a reference to the coming Son of Man, Matthew may (or may not) have construed this “coming” as Jesus’ 2nd coming in much the same way that he changes Mark 8:38-9:1 into a 2nd Coming reference. If there is an error here, the error is made by Matthew’s interpretation, not by Jesus.


#20

Very interesting stuff berserk. You’ve certainly caused me to question my preterism. What do you think are the implications if Matthew was mistaken about two of Jesus’ statements being eschatological?