Many Christians believe their bible to be the inspired Word of God, written down by men but free from error and contradiction. The Christians I speak to are so adamant about this that they will not even look at it to find out the truth. I can only speculate as to why this is, but for anyone willing to follow the truth to where it leads during this Easter season, I have a question. Exactly what happened on that hallowed morning? I'm not going to ask anyone to prove the Easter story is true (or not), but simply to tell the story as it is recorded in the bible. In each of the four gospels begin reading at Easter morning and read to the end of the book. Then, without omitting any details, write a simple chronological narrative of the events between the resurrection and the ascension. One of the Founding Fathers of the USA, Thomas Paine, tried to do this two centuries ago in The Age of Reason, and failed (I've included that section of his book with links to the whole book at the bottom of this note). When I tried, I failed as well. Here is a list of 21 questions about the events of Easter morning that became issues to me and the answers from each of the gospels as well as a few that pertaining parts from Acts and 1 Corinthians:
All verses are from the 2011 NIV
What time did the women visit the tomb?
Mathew - At Dawn (28:1)
Mark - Just after sunrise (16:2)
Luke - Very early in the morning (24:1)
John - While it was still dark (20:1)
Who came to the Tomb?
Mathew - Mary Magdalene and the other Mary (28:1)
Mark - Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome (16:1)
Luke - Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others (24:10)
John - The first visit Mary Magdalene (20:1) and the second visit Peter, Simon Peter and the "other disciple" (20:3-8)
What order do the people go to the tomb?
Mathew - The two ladies went to the tomb (28:1), then to the disciples (28:8-11) and then the eleven went to Galilee (28:16)
Mark - The three ladies went to the tomb. (16:1)
Luke - Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others (24:10) Then Peter went alone (24:11-12)
John - The first visit Mary Magdalene (20:1) and the second visit Peter, Simon Peter, Mary and the "other disciples" (20:3-8) The disciples went away to their own homes (20:10)
What was the purpose for going to the tomb?
Mathew - To look at the tomb (28:1)
Mark - To anoint Jesus' body (16:1)
Luke - Took spices (24:1) even though the body had already been wrapped in spices (John 19:39-40)
John - Does not say about Mary's first trip but the second seemed to be because of what Mary said and to find the body (20:2,13 and15)
Was the tomb open when they arrived?
Mathew - There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it (28:2)
Mark - They looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away (16:3-4)
Luke - They found the stone rolled away (24:2)
John - She went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away (20:1)
Who was AT the tomb?
Mathew - The two ladies, an angel dressed in white sitting on the stone that he rolled away and the guards (28:1-4)
Mark - The three ladies and no one else mentioned (16:1)
Luke - The three ladies, the others and no one else mentioned (24:10)
John - First visit Mary and no one else mentioned (20:1) Second visit Peter, Simon Peter and the other disciples (20:3-8)
Who was IN the tomb and where were the messengers situated?
Mathew - The angel was outside and invited the ladies to go into the tomb but it does not say they went in (28:6)
Mark - The ladies and "As they entered the tomb they saw a young man dressed in white sitting on the right side" (16:5)
Luke - When they entered they did not find the body, while the wondered about this, Suddenly two men appeared beside them (24:3-4)
John - No one on the first visit went in or looked in the tomb. (20:1-2) The second visit Peter looked in but did not go in, Simon Peter and the other disciples went in. Also on the second visit Mary looked in but did not go in, at that time she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. (20:3-8)
What did the messenger(s) say?
Mathew - "Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: 'He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee; There you will see him.' Now I have told you." (28:5-7)
Mark - "Don't be alarmed, You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go tell his disciples and Peter, 'He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, Just as he told you." (16:6-7)
Luke - "Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 'The Son of Man must be delivered over to sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.'" (24:5-7)
John - " Woman, why are you weeping? (20:13)
Did the women tell what happened?
Mathew - Afraid yet filled with joy, they ran to tell his disciples (28:8)
Mark - Verse 8 "They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid" (The earliest manuscripts do not have verses 9-20) Verse 10 "She (Mary Magdalene) went and told those that had been with him and who were mourning and weeping."
Luke - They told all these things to the eleven and to all the others (24:9) and the apostles (24:10)
John - Mary told Simon Peter and the other disciple, whom Jesus loved. (20:2)
When Mary returned from the tomb, did she know Jesus had been resurrected?
Mathew - Yes "He has risen from the dead" (28:7-8)
Mark - Yes "She went and told those…when they heard that Jesus was alive" (16:10,11)
Luke - Yes "He is not here, He is risen" (24:6-9) They saw "a vision of angels who said He was alive" (24:6-9,23)
John - No "They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb and we do not know where they have laid Him" (20:2)
To whom and where was the first appearance of Jesus?
Mathew - To the two ladies as the hurried away from the tomb, he suddenly met them. (28:8-9)
Mark - He first appeared to Mary Magdalene but it doesn't say when or where.(16:9)
Luke - To two men (not disciples) on the road to Emmaus, although they did not know him. (24:13-31)
John - To Mary at the entrance of the tomb when she turned around. (20:14)
Did Mary know Jesus when He appeared to her?
Mathew - Yes (28:9)
Mark - It appears yes. (16:9)
Luke - She is not mentioned as seeing him in this version
John - No, she does not know him "she supposed him to be the gardener" (20:15)
What did Jesus say at he tomb?
Mathew - "Greetings" and "Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me." (28:9-10)
Mark - Jesus appeared to Mary but nothing is said, neither does it say where they were when he appeared. She only relays to the others that He is alive but not that He said anything. (16:9-10)
Luke - He was not said to be at the tomb.
John - "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?" (20:15) After not knowing him he says "Mary" she recognizes Him and he says "Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them 'I am ascending to My father and your father and to My God and your God." (20:17)
After the women, to whom did Jesus first appear?
Mathew - Eleven disciples (28:16)
Mark - Two disciples in the country, later to eleven (16:12,14)
Luke - There were no women in this version so after the two men in Emmaus He appeared later to the eleven and those with them (24:13,36)
John - Ten disciples (Judas and Thomas were absent) (20:19, 24)
Paul - First to Cephas (Peter), then to the twelve. (Twelve? Judas was dead) Then to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, then to Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. And last of all he appeared to me (Paul) (I Corinthians 15:5-7)
Could Jesus be touched after the resurrection?
Mathew - They clasped his feet (28:9)
Mark - Does not say, although he did appear "in a different form" to two men in the country so one of them may have not been touchable? (16:12)
Luke - Yes, Jesus said "touch me and see" (24:39)
John - No , Jesus said "do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father." (20:17) AND yes "Reach your finger here" (20:27)
Where did Jesus first appear to the disciples?
Mathew - On a mountain in Galilee (60-100 miles away) (28:16-17)
Mark - To two in the country, to eleven "as they were eating" (16:12,14)
Luke - In Emmaus (about seven miles away) at evening, to the rest in a room in Jerusalem later that night. (24:31, 36)
John - In a room, at evening (20:19)
Did the disciples believe the story of the resurrection?
Mathew - Yes/No "They worshiped Him; but some doubted"(28:16)
Mark - No In verse 8 Mark says that the women did not tell anyone but then in verse 10 "She went and told those… they did not believe" Then later Jesus appeared to two of the men "She" told and when they reported back to the others they still did not believe.
Luke - Yes (24:34--it is the group speaking here, not the two) But then when He appeared to them directly, they doubted (24:36-43)
John - John does not say if they believed when Mary told them.
What happened at the appearance?
Mathew - The eleven worshipped, some doubted, Then Jesus gave the great commission there on the mountain (28:17-20)
Mark - Jesus reprimanded them for doubting and then gave a very different version of the great commission where they were eating, Then "He was taken up to heaven and sat at the right hand of God" (16:14-19)
Luke - Jesus walks unrecognized on the road the once recognized at dinner disappears then reappears later Where the eleven were gathered, reprimands then for doubting, shows them his hands and feet and then eats a piece of fish. Then he opens their minds and reveals the scripture to them. Then Jesus "led them out to the vicinity of Bethany" and "was taken up into heaven" (24:13-51)
John - On the day of the resurrection, Jesus appeared to 10 disciples (As Thomas was not there and Judas was dead) inside a locked room and showed them His hands and His side and the disciples were glad to see the Lord He breathes on them and said "Receive the Holy Spirit" (20:19-23) Then 8 days later Jesus appeared again in a locked room, showed himself to Thomas, blessed them and "did many other signs" (20:24-30) Then Jesus eats breakfast with some people, restores Peter and does so "many other things" that if written "even the world itself could not contain the books" (21:1-25)
Did Jesus stay on earth for a while?
Mathew - Does not say
Mark - No (16:19) Compare 16:14 to John 20:19 to see this was all done on the same day as the resurrection
Luke - No (24:50-52)
John - Yes, at least eight days (20:26)
Acts - Yes, At least 40 days "He appeared to them over a period of forty days" (Acts 1:3)
Where and when did the ascension take place?
Mathew - He does not ascend
Mark - Jerusalem On the day of the resurrection (16:19)
Luke - The vicinity of Bethany on the same day as the resurrection (24:50-51)
He does not ascend
Acts - From the Mount of Olives (Acts 1:9-12) after at least 40 days (Acts1:3) Paul Does not mention the ascension at all in 1 Corinthians
What did Jesus say when he appeared to the eleven (or the ten respectively)?
Mathew - "All authority in heaven and on earth had been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing then in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the end of the age." (28:18-20)
Mark - "Go into all the world and preach to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and they will drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people and they will get well" (16:15-18)
Luke - "Peace be with you" they were frightened and he said "Why are you troubled and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have." When they still did not believe he said "Do you have anything to eat?" He ate fish and told them "This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms" then "This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what the father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high." (24:36-49)
John - To the 10 "Peace be with you" then he showed his hands and his side then said "Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you." Then He breathed on them and said "Receive the Holy Spirit, If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained." (20:19-22) 8 days later he said to the 11 "Peace to you" then to Thomas "reach your finger here, and look at my hands; and reach your finger here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing." and then "Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe" (20:24-29)
"I could make this more difficult by asking why stories of people materializing out of thin air, why thousands of corpses crawling out of the graves, why walking through doors and levitating should be given serious consideration at all. Why should modern Christians be more eager to believe than Doubting Thomas who lived during that time? or the other disciples who admitted that the women's report "seemed" to them as "idol tales and they believed them not" But first things first, Christians, either tell me exactly what happened on Easter morning or let's leave the Christian myth buried next to the pagan god Ēostre (pronounced Easter) the goddess of spring after whom this natural holiday was named." From Dan Barker on Freethought Radio
The tale of the resurrection follows that of the crucifixion; and in this as well as in that, the writers, whoever they were, disagree so much as to make it evident that none of them were there.
The book of Matthew states, that when Christ was put in the sepulchre the Jews applied to Pilate for a watch or a guard to be placed over the septilchre, to prevent the body being stolen by the disciples; and that in consequence of this request the sepulchre was made sure, sealing the stone that covered the mouth, and setting a watch. But the other books say nothing about this application, nor about the sealing, nor the guard, nor the watch; and according to their accounts, there were none. Matthew, however, follows up this part of the story of the guard or the watch with a second part, that I shall notice in the conclusion, as it serves to detect the fallacy of those books.
The book of Matthew continues its account, and says, (xxviii. 1,) that at the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn, towards the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, to see the sepulchre. Mark says it was sun-rising, and John says it was dark. Luke says it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women, that came to the sepulchre; and John states that Mary Magdalene came alone. So well do they agree about their first evidence! They all, however, appear to have known most about Mary Magdalene; she was a woman of large acquaintance, and it was not an ill conjecture that she might be upon the stroll. [The Bishop of Llandaff, in his famous "Apology," censured Paine severely for this insinuation against Mary Magdalene, but the censure really falls on our English version, which, by a chapter-heading (Luke vii.), has unwarrantably identified her as the sinful woman who anointed Jesus, and irrevocably branded her.--Editor.]
The book of Matthew goes on to say (ver. 2): "And behold there was a great earthquake, for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it" But the other books say nothing about any earthquake, nor about the angel rolling back the stone, and sitting upon it and, according to their account, there was no angel sitting there. Mark says the angel [Mark says "a young man," and Luke "two men." --Editor.] was within the sepulchre, sitting on the right side. Luke says there were two, and they were both standing up; and John says they were both sitting down, one at the head and the other at the feet.
Matthew says, that the angel that was sitting upon the stone on the outside of the sepulchre told the two Marys that Christ was risen, and that the women went away quickly. Mark says, that the women, upon seeing the stone rolled away, and wondering at it, went into the sepulchre, and that it was the angel that was sitting within on the right side, that told them so. Luke says, it was the two angels that were Standing up; and John says, it was Jesus Christ himself that told it to Mary Magdalene; and that she did not go into the sepulchre, but only stooped down and looked in.
Now, if the writers of these four books had gone into a court of justice to prove an alibi, (for it is of the nature of an alibi that is here attempted to be proved, namely, the absence of a dead body by supernatural means,) and had they given their evidence in the same contradictory manner as it is here given, they would have been in danger of having their ears cropped for perjury, and would have justly deserved it. Yet this is the evidence, and these are the books, that have been imposed upon the world as being given by divine inspiration, and as the unchangeable word of God.
The writer of the book of Matthew, after giving this account, relates a story that is not to be found in any of the other books, and which is the same I have just before alluded to. "Now," says he, [that is, after the conversation the women had had with the angel sitting upon the stone,] "behold some of the watch [meaning the watch that he had said had been placed over the sepulchre] came into the city, and showed unto the chief priests all the things that were done; and when they were assembled with the elders and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers, saying, Say ye, that his disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept; and if this come to the governor's ears, we will persuade him, and secure you. So they took the money, and did as they were taught; and this saying [that his disciples stole him away] is commonly reported among the Jews until this day."
The expression, until this day, is an evidence that the book ascribed to Matthew was not written by Matthew, and that it has been manufactured long after the times and things of which it pretends to treat; for the expression implies a great length of intervening time. It would be inconsistent in us to speak in this manner of anything happening in our own time. To give, therefore, intelligible meaning to the expression, we must suppose a lapse of some generations at least, for this manner of speaking carries the mind back to ancient time.
The absurdity also of the story is worth noticing; for it shows the writer of the book of Matthew to have been an exceeding weak and foolish man. He tells a story that contradicts itself in point of possibility; for though the guard, if there were any, might be made to say that the body was taken away while they were asleep, and to give that as a reason for their not having prevented it, that same sleep must also have prevented their knowing how, and by whom, it was done; and yet they are made to say that it was the disciples who did it. Were a man to tender his evidence of something that he should say was done, and of the manner of doing it, and of the person who did it, while he was asleep, and could know nothing of the matter, such evidence could not be received: it will do well enough for Testament evidence, but not for anything where truth is concerned.