1. Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave.
2. And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it.
3. And his appearance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow.
4. The guards shook for fear of him and became like dead men.
5. The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified.
6. He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying …”

Matthew 28:1-6  NASB


1. [And] when the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices, so that they might come and anoint Him.
2. [And] very early on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen.
3. [And] they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?”
4. [And] looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away, although it was extremely large.
5. [And] entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting at the right, wearing a white robe; and they were amazed.
6. {And} He said to them, “Do not be amazed; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified. He has risen; He is not here; behold, here is the place where they laid Him.

Mark 16:1-5  NASB


1. But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared.
2. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb,
3. but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.
4. [And] while they were perplexed about this, behold, two men suddenly stood near them in dazzling clothing;
5. {and} as the women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living One among the dead?
6. He is not here, but He has risen. Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, 
7. saying that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again."
8. And they remembered his words.
Luke 24:1-6  NASB


SAB Contradiction 236


Conflicting Resurrection stories?

Reading the texts about Jesus’ resurrection according to the synoptic gospels we may feel a little bit confused when we try to compare the contents. We have to do with extremely short messages leaving many questions unanswered. And it is pretty easy to turn these questions into Bible Contradictions. E.g. were there two (as in Matthew) or three (Mark, Luke) women near the tomb? Were there two (Luke) angels or only one (Matthew)? The SAB critic has taken as a contradiction the question: Were the angels that spoke to the women, inside or outside the tomb when the women arrived? Of course an interesting question, especially for us who are so far from these events of the past.


Nature of the resurrection stories

In answering this question we have to remember the nature of these stories.
They are in the first place reports of events around one main occurrence: Jesus’ resurrection. They are in no way stories made up long after the events. They are in the tradition of Jesus’ shorthand writers who made their reports soon after what had happened, using written materials made during the events.

Matthew used a teaching report intended to serve the close circle of Jesus’ twelve disciples.
Luke used a public report intended to serve the wider circle of Jesus’ followers.
Mark used a remnant report with additional materials.


Matthew was shaken

Secondly each gospel writer had his specific interest in telling this. Apart from the wonderful resurrection of Jesus, Matthew gives at the end of his gospel for the Jewish ears astonishing information that Jesus was worshipped by those who saw him: the women (verse 9) and later the eleven (verse 17). Worship means: He is God. But nobody will see God and remain alive according to Jewish presuppositions. This turned Matthew's Jewish mind-set upside down; and so this adoration of Jesus at the end of his gospel was nearly as dramatic as Jesus’ resurrection. Matthew was not interested in a fine and eloquent story about Jesus’ coming back to life, he himself was absolutely shaken. With that in mind we can read his report properly.


Method of reporting

In the quoted Bible passages (above) I have underlined some words where a Greek sentence has a de-construction. The Greek word de is usually in the second position of a sentence and express adversative information in relation to the previous assertion. It is often not possible to translate this aspect properly, but in the discussion of the resurrection stories it gives a clear insight in the interruption of events in three occasions (verse 1, 4 and 5).

Matthew gives four starting points:
1. Two women went to the grave (Greek: erchomai = to come, to go); that means they picked up the third woman (Salome also named Joanna). This is functional in his report: later these two women worshipped Jesus which suggests Salome to be the shorthand writer of the event. As she was writing, she could not fall on her knees and worship.
2. The earth quake connected with the angel and the rolling away of the stone, followed by side information about the image of the angel. This new starting point of the story is introduced with “And behold”.
3. The guards became (as) dead men. Later on Matthew takes up this story line, when they inform the chief priests.
4. The women met the angel who communicated with them.

We know from the gospel of John that a lot happened earlier. When the women arrived at the garden they didn’t see an angel but they saw the stone rolled away. Leaving behind the other women at the entrance of the garden Mary Magdalene went to the disciples to tell them that the body of Jesus was stolen; a premature conclusion as she had not entered the grave.
Then Peter and John inspected the grave and returned without having seen the angels. Now the women decided to enter the grave (Luke 24:3). They didn’t found the body and just as Peter and John did earlier, they left the tomb. Then things began to change. An angel addressed them, who invited them to see the place where he was lying (Matthew 28:5). A second angel completed his words with the remark that Jesus had predicted his death (Luke 24:7). Entering the grave again one of the angels invited them to inspect the place where he was laid (Mark 16:6).



There were no men or angels inside or outside the tomb when the women arrived at the garden! A general consideration is that Jesus rose from the dead and was followed by the angels when he left the tomb to say his morning prayer. During that short period nobody was there when the women arrived at the garden. After the inspection by Peter and John the women also entered into the tomb. When the women left the tomb the angels revealed themselves to the women. (Apparently Jesus had sent back the angels to reassure the women.) Then the women were invited to again inspect the tomb while the angels accompanied them. When the women left the tomb for the second time Jesus revealed himself to them.


No Bible Contradiction


Additional remark

1. There are five instances in Mark 16:1-5 where the NASB translation is missing the word 'And'. We have put it five times in square brackets […]. The Greek has there Kai, meaning And. This is important for the fine tuning. The word 'And' at the beginning of a sentence indicates usually that there is no succession of events. In other words, more or less events have been omitted, where we read And. Curly brackets {…} are used if there is no Greek equivalent. So Kai is missing in Mark 16:6. Compare also the instances of Luke 24:1-6.

2. See also the article: Were the men or angels inside the tomb sitting of standing?