Saturday, January 08, 2011

Richard Carrier Replies on Lydia's Blog

With some concessions and apologies. The fundamental disagreements, of course, remain.

41 comments:

Anonymous said...

I suppose even when fellow atheists who'll normally buy into Christ mythicism and other crap are jumping ship, one can only hold out so long.

awatkins69 said...

^ Huh?

Blue Devil Knight said...

Charity might say read/ analyze his Christian delusion chapter...polished vs his internet exposition on math. Might be fun to do here.

Mr Veale said...

BDK

Would I have to buy the book, or is it available on line?

Graham

Blue Devil Knight said...

MrVeale...unfortunately I am not aware of an online copy...too bad it isn't in ajournal.

Victor Reppert said...

I think some of this stuff does have to get hashed out in peer-reviewed journals. Another example would be the OTF. I have been thinking of working up a paper on the OTF for a secular, even secularist philosophy journal. Then it will have to be discussed in accordance with the rules.

Tim said...

BDK,

I have a lot of criticisms of that chapter, which I have read pretty carefully (including the notes). Unfortunately, I'm short on time here at the beginning of the semester; I'm up after midnight hundreds of miles from home tweaking my Powerpoint slides and thinking about all the packing I'll have to do tomorrow in order to get back just before midnight ... to teach a class at 10 a.m. Tuesday morning.

But in due course I might find time to say some things about that paper. Let's just say that tour de force is not the first phrase coming to mind.

Walter said...

"Would I have to buy the book, or is it available on line?

Graham"

Here is one small excerpt from Carrier's chapter in the TCD.

http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=11338

Blue Devil Knight said...

I will try to track down a copy, I'd like to see how it is.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Note I realize I'm being very (perhaps overly) charitable to Carrier, but only because he's getting plenty of bashing. If everyone were defending him I'm sure I'd be taking the other side. :)

Mr Veale said...

BDK
"It don't seem democratic less someone objects"
(-;

steve said...

Tim said...

"Let's just say that tour de force is not the first phrase coming to mind."

Perhaps tour de farce would be more apt.

Mr Veale said...

I read that excerpt from Carrier.

Does it get better or worse in the book?

Because worse would count as some sort of diabolical miracle.

I have read challenging critiques of the Resurrection. (Crossley springs to mind, and Casey. Goulder to some extent.)

This ain't going on the list.

Graham

Walter said...

@Mr. Veale

Care to explain what your objections are to what Carrier wrote in that excerpt?

Mr Veale said...

Walter
It's 0.34 am in my time zone. I've just noticed your question, and I was hoping someone would ask. So thank-you. I'll get back to you tomorrow evening.
For now, it's a brief sanity check on Lark News, and sleep!
Graham

John W. Loftus said...

Vic, before you go writing on the OTF you'd better read my next book, "The End of Christianity." And I'm planning on writing a whole book on it in the future.

Mr Veale said...

;-)

Right. We can't critique the OTF because you have a secret weapon, John, and you're not afraid to use it.

It's like Saddam's WMD. The true irrefutable OTF is out there somewhere. We just need a bit more time to find it.

Graham

Mr Veale said...

Keep in mind that I write as an interested observer who can make no claim to expertise on any issue whatsoever. All I can do is call it as I see it.

My problem is that Carrier’s argument (as Muelhauser describes that argument) can be summarised “The Resurrection sounds a bit improbable, doesn’t it?” Or perhaps “The Resurrection sounds very improbable, doesn’t it?” Beyond that, Carrier (or Muelhauser) is setting up a straw man.

1) No one is suggesting that we use the historical method of Herodotus to infer to the Resurrection.
2) No one is suggesting that the eyewitness testimony of a generally credible witness is enough to warrant belief in a miracle (as Muelhauser should know from his interview with Lydia McGrew. She explicitly told Muelhauser that Chesterton was wrong to cite the general credibility of a witness as evidence for the truth of a report of a miracle. It’s on the highlights at the beginning of the interview!
3) The Resurrection of Jesus is not as improbable as a mass resurrection of cooked fish.
4) Everyone is agreed that miracles would be rare compared to miracle-reports. That does not excuse the historian, or the philosopher, from rejecting good evidence for a miracle. Most scientific theories have been replaced over time; that does not mean that we should believe that the majority of our current scientific theories will be replaced. We may have (and quite often do have) better evidential support for our current theories than for past scientific theories.
5) The miracle-reports of Matthew 27 are not compared to similar texts of the time. This is sloppy historical methodology. Compare Matthew 27 to Dio Cassius' account of Claudius' death, or his account of Egypt's enslavement by Caesar. Or you could compare it to Jospehus' account of the Temple's Fall. Wondrous signs often accompanied historically significant events in ancient writing. Evidence from Lucian suggests that this was widely recognised as symbolic language; whatever the case, Matthew reads as positively restrained in comparison.
6) Should we reject Josephus’ account of the factions in the Jewish War? Should we believe that the Temple never fell to Titus’ forces? Hardly. The core event reported is part of our Historical Bedrock (events that should be considered ‘very probable’ or ‘probable’). Similarly, the events that I’ll list in my next post should be considered part of the Historical Bedrock.
7) The apocalyptic imagery of Matthew 27 reveals that Matthew considers these events to be of cosmic importance. We do need to ask why the public execution of a failed prophet would gain such importance in the minds of First Century Palestinians. This interesting question – examined by historians of all convictions in various ways – is glossed over with “people believe the funniest things!” Yes, they do. But why did the beliefs of the First Christians take such an unexpected form? Why did any of Jesus’ followers believe anything about Jesus at all? after the crucifixion, when no-one followed Theudas or Bar-Kochba after their death?

Mr Veale said...

8) We are told that we know nothing about Mark or his sources, or about the eyewitnesses. You can say that, but it would be nicer if you backed it up with an argument – or even the sketch of an argument. Maurice Casey, who rejects the Empty Tomb and the Resurrection, has described the appearance tradition, including the appearance to the women, as “unimpeachable”. And we know quite a bit about First Century Palestinians like Peter, James and Paul.
9) We also know that an oral tradition (or more accurately an ‘oral history’) linked Jesus to the movement that came after him. How reliable that traditioning process was can be debated. But every competent scholar, Carrier’s caricatures aside, agrees that some reliable information reached the Early Church. Discussion of these issues is dismissed with a “oh, everyone knows the Gospel writers just made stuff up!”. No, everyone doesn’t. The Gospels are literary units. But they are composed of oral traditions that circulated in the Early Church. The evidence clearly indicates that many of these units began to circulate during Jesus' ministry, and were then written down in the Gospels.

Mr Veale said...

The case for the Resurrection depends on explaining the historical bedrock. It does not rest on accepting Mark or Matthew's word.

The Bedrock

1. Jesus was put to death by crucifixion – he was publicly shamed in an honour culture. He is remembered as questioning YHWH, not proclaiming his eventual vindication as the Maccabean Martyrs. This was not an ideal start for a martyr-cult.
2. Death at the hands of Roman authorities ended every other Messianic movement of that period
3. Jesus’ body was honourably buried in a tomb.
4. A few days later several of his female followers claimed to find that tomb empty.
5. The male disciples all initially disbelieved the women’s account; they were not expecting Jesus’ Resurrection
6. Later Jewish apologetic, which claimed that the disciples stole the body, implicitly agreed that the Tomb was identifiable and empty, and followers of Jesus had been at the Tomb.

7. Several individuals had experiences which convinced them that Jesus had been raised from the dead by YHWH.
8. One of the first appearances was to Mary of Magdala.
9. Peter and Jesus’ brother James had similar experiences.
10. A group of Jesus’ inner circle claimed to have similar experiences.
11. The Christian movement started in Jerusalem, where Jesus had been crucified, shortly after the crucifixion.
12. The message of the early Christians focussed on the death and resurrection of Jesus.
13. The concept of Resurrection always included the revivification of corpses.
14. The early Christians met on the first day of the week, not the Sabbath, breaking with Jewish custom.
15. The first Christians probably worshipped Jesus – and at the very least had a remarkably High Christology. (I’d like John Loftus to provide *any* concrete evidence for a 1st Century Church with a “low” Christology. Rewriting “Q” to suit you purposes doesn’t count.)
16. The disciples (including at least some of the first witnesses) were willing to die for their faith
.
17. Jews had many ways of conceptualising life after death and “visions” of dead people – (eg. Translation into heaven, being made an angel or a star)Yet the first Christians chose “Resurrection” which was meant to happen to all the righteous at the end of history - not to the Messiah in the middle of history.

18. The Early Church grew fastest in a Hellenistic context which would have been hostile to the idea of bodily Resurrection.

19. Jesus’s tomb was not honoured.


I think that historical study renders each of those propositions as “probable” or “very probable”.

Mr Veale said...

it is impossible to explain why these traditions mention Mary of Magdala if she did not exist, and if she was not an eyewitness. She is associated with demon possession, so she is not the ideal witness. Clearly identifying a witness when anonymous witnesses could have been used by preachers, or when reliable male witnesses could have been invented, points to Mary's existence and role as an early eye witness.
11) The hypothesis of “legendary development” encounters significant difficulties. The idea that a bodily resurrection developed over time suggests that the Churches traditions became more Palestinian-Jewish exactly when the Church was becoming more Hellenistic. (The idea that Paul did not preach a physical resurrection seems to have been thoroughly debunked BTW).
12) The hypothesis of “legendary development” also faces the problem of the texts themselves. There is no apologetic force in Mark 16, as this theory requires. Instead there is a note of fear, which Mark normally uses to exhort his readers. Both Mark and Matthew are forced to include embarrassing details, such as the primary witness of women, and the accusation of grave robbery (equivalent to an accusation of witchcraft!)
13) The legendary-development hypothesis depends on the argument that the narratives of empty tomb and resurrection appearances that we have in the Gospels developed out of the kergyma: first the summary, then the narratives formed to illustrate the kerygma in preaching. But there is at least one problem here: Paul's list of appearances in 1 Corinthians and the resurrection narratives in the Gospels are remarkably illmatched. The wrong "legends" appear in the Gospels. We have no narrative for the appearance to Peter, or for the appearance to James. The lack of correspondence between the kerygmatic summary that Paul quotes in 1 Corinthians, and the resurrection narratives in the Gospels “strongly suggests that we are dealing with two fundamentally independent forms in which the Easter events were transmitted in the first Churches.” (R Bauckham)

Mr Veale said...

14) We are told to be suspicious of Mark and Matthew’s theological agenda. But, in the minds of the first Christians, the Gospels theology depended on their historicity. So they must make every effort to be faithful to the traditions.
15) “some wild miracle tales written decades after the fact by unknown persons who never even say how they know anything they claim to know” suggests a lack of respect for, and empathy with, the Early Church. This is, according to Richard Evans and John Tosh, essential for good history. The dismissive attitude of “moderns know best” has no place in historical methodology according to two prominent historians. Given Carrier’s comparative ineptitude in historiography, I’ll be siding with those scholars who are prepared to recreate the past on its own terms.
16) Quite frankly, as a trained historian, Carrier should know better. Therefore I am suspicious of his motives. Does he really believe what he writes, or is he seeking to carve out a career as a big historical fish in the small pool of internet infidels?

Graham

Walter said...

A few responses to your bedrock facts.

Point 3) Jesus body was honorably buried in a tomb.

Do you have evidence for this outside of the gospel stories? J.D. Crossan believes Jesus body was dumped in a common grave for criminals and probably eaten by dogs. Why was Jesus' tomb not venerated in the first few centuries A.D.? I think it is because no one knew where it was.

Point 5) The male disciples all initially disbelieved the women’s account; they were not expecting Jesus’ Resurrection

The male disciples had just witnessed the resurrection of Lazarus, yet they were not expecting Jesus to return after he said he would? At this same time the Pharisees were making sure there were guards at the tomb because Jesus claimed he was coming back. So why did the Pharisees understand that Jesus meant to resurrect yet the disciples did not believe the reports from the women? This just sounds like dramatic storytelling. It boggles the mind to think of these mighty men of God as being that dense. If I just witnessed my Master bring a man back from death who was dead for four days, I would certainly believe him when he said that he himself was coming back after three or less days.

Walter said...

Point 15). The first Christians probably worshipped Jesus – and at the very least had a remarkably High Christology. (I’d like John Loftus to provide *any* concrete evidence for a 1st Century Church with a “low” Christology. Rewriting “Q” to suit you purposes doesn’t count.)

I can refer you to the work of Dr. James McGrath who argues in his book The Only True God that early Jewish Christians worshiped God through Jesus as Yahweh's supreme agent, not as an incarnation of God himself. Sacrificial worship was never offered to Jesus, just the Father.

Walter said...

Point 17) Jews had many ways of conceptualising life after death and “visions” of dead people – (eg. Translation into heaven, being made an angel or a star)Yet the first Christians chose “Resurrection” which was meant to happen to all the righteous at the end of history - not to the Messiah in the middle of history

Early Christians did not believe that they were in the "middle" of history, they believed they were right at the end of history--like most Christians have believed ever since.

Mr Veale said...

Walter

Thank you for reading that so thoroughly and responding so rapidly. You raise several points. A few I think I can answer; but you have spotted two flaws in my presentation which I need to correct. So thank you!

Mr Veale said...

In response to your objections:
"Jesus body was honorably buried in a tomb. Do you have evidence for this outside of the gospel stories?"
The honourable burial does not seem that controversial. Crossan's reconstruction of Jesus' last week seems high on creativity, and low on evidential support.
(a) The Jewish counter polemic in Matthew would have mentioned Jesus' dishonourable burial, thereby neatly accounting for Jesus' missing body.
(b) Crossan's theory demands that Mark 16 be a late apologetic construction. But Mark 16 does not seem anything like an apologetic legend. No theological or prophetic signifcance is attached to the burial. The discovery by women undermines apologetic value. The Empty Tomb, minus an appearance of Jesus in the same narrative, raises the possibilty of grave robbery and further dishonour.
(c) The introduction of Joseph of Arimathea into the narrative is inexplicable if he was not an historical figure who paid an important role in Jesus' burial. (i)Mark has no reason to start painting the Sanhedrin in a positive light.It runs against the flow of his narrative.(ii) It would make more apologetic sense to make Pilate, or another Roman, responsible for an honourable burial if one was being invented. (iii) As Raymond Brown puts it "the fixed designation of such a character as 'from Arimathea,' a town very difficult to identify and reminiscent of no scriptural symbolism, makes a thesis of invention even more implausible"
(d) There was no need to invent an honourable burial. (i)It adds nothing of theological or dramatic note.(ii) It would be easier to develop a story about a missing body if it lay in a place where it could not be identified. (iii) If the Resurrection could overcome the shame of a crucifixion it could overcome the shame of a dishonourable burial.
(e) The pre-Pauline creed mentions the burial.

"The male disciples had just witnessed the resurrection of Lazarus"

The disciples did not witness a resurrection, but a revivification or resuscitation. Lazarus was still mortal. He would die (again) one day. Jesus would not.

This just sounds like dramatic storytelling.

I am not defending the historicity of the guard at the tomb (although I do not think that it is as improbable as many scholars argue) or the historicity of the raising of Lazarus. And I am not arguing that everyone should accept every part of the narrative in the Gospels at face value. I would need to offer theological arguments for that proposition; and we do not agree on enough premises for me to get a theological argument off the ground.
I am suggesting that you should approach the Gospels critically like any other historical document. Assess each unit in the Gospels critically. You might reject some units ('traditions' or 'pericopes') and accept others. Even then the 'core facts' of a pericope might be accepted rather than all the details. Then see if there are propositions, some "historical bedrock" that could be described as "very probable" or "probable". Then explain that bedrock.

At this same time the Pharisees were making sure there were guards at the tomb because Jesus claimed he was coming back. So why did the Pharisees understand that Jesus meant to resurrect yet the disciples did not believe the reports from the women?

William Lane Craig neatly summarises the flaw with this objection
"the prophecies are not as strongly attested historically as the empty tomb itself. Indeed, they’re often regarded as having been written after the fact. So if you accept their authenticity, there’s no basis remaining for the even more strongly attested fact of the empty tomb."

Mr Veale said...

However, on two points you have, as I mentioned, helpfully spotted two flaws in my presentation. I don't think that correcting them substantially weakens my case, but I do need to revise two parts of my "bedrock"

"I can refer you to the work of Dr. James McGrath"

This seems like a fair complaint. I only know Dr McGrath's work by following his exchange with Dr Larry Hutardo. He seems fair and learned. You're probably also aware that James Dunn would not agree with my statement either.
What does not seem controversial is that Jesus rapidly became an important figure in Early Christian worship, and that the first Christians described Jesus using terms normally reserved for YHWH.
Or: High Christology was central to Christian Worship from the beginning.

Early Christians did not believe that they were in the "middle" of history
Another fair comment. My point is that Resurrection was meant to happen to all the righteous on the last day. Things were not playing out according to plan! You should see my point, but I need a pithier and more accurate way of stating it.

Many thanks again
Graham

Walter said...

The Jewish counter polemic in Matthew would have mentioned Jesus' dishonourable burial, thereby neatly accounting for Jesus' missing body.

We don't have an independent counter polemic written by a hostile Jewish source. We have "Matthew" adding a little flourish to the story as a reaction to "stolen body" accusations that were probably being leveled at Matthew's faith community. The biggest reason that I am skeptical of any empty tomb is the total lack of tomb veneration. Craig's argument that the tomb was not venerated because it was found empty simply sounds unbelievable to me. I believe that early Christians would be flocking to the spot where their messiah beat death.

Walter said...

The disciples did not witness a resurrection, but a revivification or resuscitation. Lazarus was still mortal. He would die (again) one day. Jesus would not.

Call it what you will, the disciples supposedly just witnessed a man dead for four days return back to life by their Master merely calling him out. If the Master at some point claimed that he was going to resurrect on the third day, I would certainly believe him after that show of power. It boggles the mind that the eleven disciples would not be expecting their master to return. Of course, if we assume that the Lazarus pericope is not historical, then that argument is off the table.

Walter said...

William Lane Craig neatly summarises the flaw with this objection
"the prophecies are not as strongly attested historically as the empty tomb itself. Indeed, they’re often regarded as having been written after the fact. So if you accept their authenticity, there’s no basis remaining for the even more strongly attested fact of the empty tomb."


I did not say that I accepted their authenticity; I was performing an internal critique with the assumption that you considered the third-day prophecies, guards at the tomb, and Lazarus story as literal history.

I will say that the minimal facts methodology of Craig, Licona, and Habermas is somewhat persuasive, although I still remain fairly skeptical about many things. as Agrippa told Paul: Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian :)

Mr Veale said...

Walter

Interesting that you find the lack of tomb veneration to be an obstacle to belief in the Empty Tomb. I'm nearly sure that Gerd Thiessen mentions an objection to that effect.
Jews may have venerated the tombs of their ancestors, given the importance of family and land, and the hope of future Resurrection. Did Jews venerate places where significant events took place? The Temple was built on the location of Arunah's threshing floor, where Isaac was to be sacrificed. But it was not built to commemorate that event; and that event was not as important as YHWH's covenant renewals with Abraham.
There is also a difference between remembering a location of a famous event, and honouring the grave of a dead ancestor or honoured leader.
But maybe I (we?) should dig into this a little more, and see what the cultural practices were. It seems to be an interesting question.

Graham

Mr Veale said...

For example - the location of Jacob's well was remembered. But was it venerated? Like I said, I don't think so. But it seems worth a little research.

Also, venerating the scene of Jesus' victory over death would give an odd impression. You would be acting as if the body was present, while claiming it was not.

Also, everyone agrees that the disciples believed that Jesus defeated sin on the cross. But the site of the crucifixion was not visited and venerated!

Graham

Mr Veale said...

I can't see why Matthew would include such a terrible accusation if the Churches Jewish authorities were not making it. This would be a case of Matthew being a witness in spite of himself, which is accepted as an excellent source of historical knowledge, according to John Tosh.
Collingwood made the same point. We should look for the information that sources UNINTENTIONALLY convey - material that reflects the concerns of someone other than the author.
So I think that the Jewish polemic, as described by Matthew, is "very probable".

Graham

Mr Veale said...

Finally, I prefer a "minimalist" approach when discussing the Resurrection.
I get the impression that Tim would prefer to evaluate the Gospels as wholes, rather than break them up into units to sift for the most reliable data.There's more than one way to assess the evidence, and to make a case for the Resurrection.
But I'd bet my last jam doughnut and morning coffee that Tim could make an excellent case looking at the evidence from a different perspective. It would certainly make for interesting reading!

Graham

Walter said...

Loftus did a post about the lack of tomb veneration here:

http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2007/02/why-wasnt-there-any-veneration-of-jesus.html

Mr Veale said...

Walter,
Theissen does mention this objection ("The Historical Jesus"p 484, 500). John Loftus, as is his wont, advances a few odd arguments along with a more substantial objection. But I do not think that he has presented any good reason to doubt Jesus’ honourable burial, especially given the positive evidence for the burial that I outlined above.
“Just the very fact that Christians since the 4th century have “venerated” what they thought was the empty tomb of Jesus is evidence for this.”
Of course the problem with this argument is that it read later 4th Century gentile religious sensibilities back into 1st Century Palestine. (The Bar Kochba revolt devastated the Jewish population of Judaea; the Gentile Churches that grew in Judaea would not have adopted Jewish sensibilities to the dead).
Jews venerated tombs to honour the dead person inside the tomb. It was not, primarily, a way of remembering significant events in Jewish history. To remain unburied meant that one was unlikely to be remembered. To be forgotten was a great dishonour.
A proper burial, and maintenance of the tomb, was also essential to prevent the corpse polluting the land. So veneration of a tomb was intimately connected to Jewish purity codes.
Tombs were also venerated because they had an important connection to Jewish conceptions of the afterlife. In the thought of the Sadducees, to be remembered was as close as one came to immortality. To the Pharisees, one’s bones would be raised up clothed with new flesh on the last day.
If Jesus’ tomb was empty, there simply was no reason left to venerate the tomb. I cannot see why the tomb would have been celebrated as the place where Jesus’ won a great victory. The earliest Christian confession was that God raised Jesus from the dead. And the place of Jesus’ crucifixion was as much part of salvation history as the Tomb. The place of crucifixion was not venerated; yet no one disputes that Jesus was not crucified.

Mr Veale said...

“To stand near the opening would've been to stand on the very ground the resurrected body of Jesus stood, if that's what they believed.”
By this reasoning the Early Christians would have venerated the road to Emmaus!
“this would’ve been a completely new situation, unlike any other shameful burial these Jews had previously known.”
Well, indeed. But the disciples had a rather greater problem than a shameful burial; the shame of the crucifixion. Now whatever happened on Easter Sunday turned the shameful defeat of the cross into an honourable sacrifice in the disciples’ minds. The Christians did remember the location of the Crucifixion. This was the place where Jesus sacrificed himself for his people. Yet the first Christians did not venerate the site of the Crucifixion.
The Jewish people did not make a pilgrimage to the Red Sea, or to Egypt, to remember the Exodus. They remembered God’s actions in the Passover. Christians did not venerate Jesus’ saving acts by visiting or venerating the geographical locations associated with those events. Rather than venerating Jesus’ sacrifice at a place, the first Christians venerated Jesus’ sacrifice in a meal.

Graham

Steven Carr said...

How different Richard Carrier is from Timothy and Lydia McGrew, who , as the records clearly show, have never been wrong about anything.

If only Carrier could obtain the infallibility of a McGrew (either will do, but being as infallible as both would be better), he would be a lot more credible.

Steven Carr said...

I'm curious about background probability.

In Matthew's Gospel, an angel announces the resurrection to the reader.

What is the background probability of an angel lying?

In Luke's Gospel there are (according to the McGrews) two angels announcing the resurrection to the reader.


What is the background probability of two angels lying?

In John's Gospel, Jesus is the first person to announce that a resurrection has happened.



What is the background probability of Jesus lying?

Has Carrier factored in that angels and Jesus do not lie into his probability calculations and that Christians would never make up stories of an angel, or two angels, or Jesus announcing a resurrection?

Gary said...

Matthew is the only Gospel that mentions guards at the tomb. John's Gospel says nothing about guards. If John was an eyewitness, as Christians claim, isn't that a pretty important detail to leave out of your story? The missing Roman guards in the Book of John raises an important issue. Christians often contend that it would have been impossible for anyone to have surreptitiously removed Jesus’ corpse from the tomb because there were guards posted at the tomb who would have prevented such an occurrence. Therefore, they argue, without any possibility for the body to have been quietly whisked away, the only other logical conclusion is that Jesus must have truly arisen from the dead. A stolen body hypothesis is impossible.

This argument completely collapses in John’s account, however, because according to the fourth Gospel, this is precisely what Mary thought had occurred! Mary clearly didn’t feel as though the scenario of Jesus’ body being removed was unlikely. In fact, according to John, that was her only logical conclusion. Clearly, Matthew’s guards didn’t dissuade John’s Mary from concluding that someone had taken Jesus’ body because Roman guards do not exist in John’s story.

To further compound the problem of the conflicting resurrection accounts, John’s Gospel continues to unfold with Mary returning to the tomb a second time, only to find two angels sitting inside the tomb. Mary is still unaware of any resurrection as she complains to the angels that someone had removed Jesus’ corpse. As far as John’s Mary is concerned, the only explanation for the missing body was that someone must have removed it, and she was determined to locate it.

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying12 , one at the head and the other at the feet. 13They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”

(John 20:11-13)

Although in Matthew’s account the angel emphatically tells Mary about the resurrection (Matthew 28:5-7), in John’s Gospel the angels do not mention that anyone rose from the dead. The angels only ask Mary, “Woman, why are you weeping?” Mary responds by inquiring whether the angels removed Jesus’ body. Then, Mary turns and sees Jesus standing before her, but mistakes him for the gardener. Mary is still completely unaware of any resurrection, and therefore asks the “gardener” if he was the one who carried away Jesus’ body. It is only then that Mary realizes that she was speaking to the resurrected Jesus.

When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” which means Teacher.

(John 20:14-16)

It is at this final juncture of the narrative that the accounts of Matthew and John become hopelessly irreconcilable. The question every Christian must answer is the following: When Mary met Jesus for the first time after the resurrection, had the angel(s) already informed her that Jesus had arisen from the dead? According to Matthew, the angels did inform Mary of the resurrection, but in John’s account they did not. As we survey the divergent New Testament accounts of the resurrection, we see that we are not just looking at contradictory versions, we are reading two entirely different stories!