The Resurrection Accounts
The Gospel stories of the Lord’s Resurrection, viewed from a historical perspective, are difficult to reconcile with one another. Indeed, the differences in detail among them are perhaps more extensive than in any other stories in the Gospels. Matthew and Mark, for instance, seem familiar with no apparitions of the risen Jesus to the apostles except in Galilee, while Luke and John describe such apparitions taking place in Jerusalem. Likewise, just how may angels were there at the empty tomb? And how many times did Jesus appear to Mary Magdalene? Such discrepancies are both numerous and perplexing.
I believe, however, that this inconsistency among the Resurrection reports, far from being an argument against their historicity, tends rather to favor it. That is to say, the jumble and disarray of the post-Resurrection accounts would be even more difficult to explain if those stories were deliberately fabricated to support a fraud. Fraudulent conspiracies are normally better organized. The tangled details in these stories are more readily explained, rather, as the varied responses we might expect among the friends of a man who rose from the dead one morning and came back to tell them about it! The narrative confusion itself indicates an underlying event of bewilderment and disorientation.
These same Resurrection stories, analyzed from a literary perspective, appear to fall into two categories that it is useful to examine more closely.
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Patrick Henry Reardon is pastor emeritus of All Saints Antiochian Orthodox Church in Chicago, Illinois, and the author of numerous books, including, most recently, Out of Step with God: Orthodox Christian Reflections on the Book of Numbers (Ancient Faith Publishing, 2019).
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