I find it strange that no names of any witnesses are mentioned and also that God’s test of the truth being established by two or more witnesses is ignored. As a matter of fact, almost every testimony is in dispute in all of these accounts. This type of testimony would not prove anything in a court of law despite what Lee Strobel1 says.
If three eye witnesses testified in court that an accident happened on Monday, you might believe that it did happen on a Monday but if a fourth witness testified that it was Sunday when the accident occurred, there would be a problem. You would probably say that the fourth eyewitness was wrong. This is similar to what is going on here in the gospels with one big difference that Christian apologists would like you to forget. The difference being that not one of these authors claims to be an eyewitness.
Most Christians don’t realize that we don’t know who actually wrote these books. It is only Church tradition that assigns names to the four gospels. Remember, John has Jesus crucified while the lambs are being slaughtered the day before the passover but the other gospels have Jesus eating the Passover and crucified the day after. Someone is lying. I find it even more strange that the author of the gospel that teaches outright that Jesus is God, John, is also the one gospel that differs the most from the other three. Mark, as well as Matthew, and Luke have the disciples and the women standing far off but John again stands alone. He has them standing close enough to have a polite conversation. All this is recorded in the passages at the beginning of this section. Read them again for yourself. All this time, Christians have had in the back of their minds that all the gospels contain all of the truth when it comes down to the crucifixion, but when you really compare them the problems jump out at you. I really hate to beat a dead horse but these books are all we have when it comes to knowing anything about the life of Jesus. If we had four and only four accounts of Adolf Hitler’s or Winston Churchill’s life that contained discrepancies and contradictions like these gospels do, would we be sure that we knew anything about his life at all? Most people would say the accounts couldn’t be trusted but with the gospels, Christians, of course, are ecstatic to make an exception.
It seems that the god of the Christians didn’t do such a thorough job here in his revelation. There is more. Mark has darkness cover the earth and the curtain of the temple is torn, of course. Matthew and Luke agree but not John. John doesn’t mention any darkness or the curtain. John is too busy stretching Hebrew scriptures like Spandex to make them fit Jesus. Mark also has Joseph of Arimathaea ask Pilate for Jesus’ body. He buys fine linen, takes Jesus down, wraps him in the linen, and put him in the sepulchre. Matthew, again, agrees and also Luke. John again is the odd man out. He has Joseph along with Nicodemus also put a hundred pounds of spices on Jesus with the linen.
There is one more strange detail about this part of the story. Mark says,
“when the even was come, because it was the preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath, Joseph of Arimathaea, an honourable counsellor, which also waited for the kingdom of God, came, and went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus”
and Luke says,
“When the even was come, there came a rich man of Arimathaea, named Joseph, who also himself was Jesus’ disciple: He went to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus.”
These passages indicate that Jesus is still hanging on the cross when the evening comes. This means that Jesus is hanging on the cross, dead, on the Sabbath. When the evening comes so does the Sabbath because the Jewish day begins at sundown. Here is the problem. This means that Jesus was not in the tomb before nightfall. John’s account says the following regarding this,
“The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day).”
John’s portrayal seems to be indicating that Jesus was placed in the tomb before the evening. I say this because of John’s extra detail about buying the spices and applying them. If Joseph had waited til he had permission to take the body he would have had to purchase them before sundown and the beginning of the Sabbath. To back up this idea, I submit that Luke also states that the women,
“returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the sabbath day according to the commandment.”
This is the reason why they were returning to the tomb as we will see in the next section. This is because, supposedly in the synoptic gospels, Jesus’ body had not been anointed with spices because of the hurry to put his body in the tomb. They must anoint him to complete the ritual.
This is a contradiction because a hundred pounds of spices were wrapped up with the linen in John’s account. Because of the fact that the women rested the day after the crucifixion proves there is no doubt the day Jesus was crucified on was followed by the evening of a Sabbath. It seems that Mark and Matthew both have Jesus on the cross on the Sabbath but Luke and John have him in the tomb before the Sabbath. Up to this point in our analysis, it had seemed that John couldn’t get his story straight but now it seems that two of the synoptic gospels have a new problem to deal with but we will not discuss this Resurrection Dilemma until we are well into the next section.
Matthew is the only gospel to contain the story of the guards posted at the tomb. It is hard to overlook that this is missing in the other narratives. Perhaps Matthew was trying to show rumors that Jesus’ body was stolen couldn’t have been true. Another element that Matthew is the only one to tell us about is an earthquake.
Matthew is the only gospel to say anything about this strange occurrence,
“And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.”
We are told here that many bodies of dead saints arose but evidently they hid in their graves for three days and nights until Jesus arose. Who is among them? We know the name of the man that had his ear cut off by Peter. We know the name of the man that carried Jesus’ cross but nobody thought to get the name of one of these risen saints? This certainly would have been recorded by someone but not even Peter mentions this in his sermons to the great crowds to whom he preached. What I also find strange is that Jesus is considered the first fruits of the resurrection by Paul. He makes no indication in the least that he knows anything regarding this zombie uprising as many have called it.
But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. (1 Corinthians 15:20)
But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. (1 Corinthians 15:23)
Luke has Jesus have a lucid conversation with one of the thieves. He also has Jesus say more than in any other gospel. He doesn’t question God as he does in Mark and Matthew or seem to be in any type of mental anguish. John follows Luke’s lead here. There is no calling on God, asking why he has forsaken him. John doesn’t have Jesus do this either.
John’s account has Jesus only say a couple of things while on the cross. He says, “Woman, behold thy son!”, “Behold thy mother!”, “I thirst”, and “It is finished.” John which throughout his gospel has Jesus giving incredibly long discourses has Jesus offer only these four short utterances.
Can you trust these accounts? If you think that you can, I urge you to go back and read them again.
This is an excerpt from my book, “Leaving Jesus.” It is available as an ebook ($4.99), an audiobook ($6.00) or a paperback ($7.49) at the link below.