From the Errancy discussion list, 8-26-95:
Roger Eisinger has sent me personal messages about an inconsistency in the resurrection narratives that I believe I posted on this list. Since it pertains directly to the purpose of the list, I am going to post our exchanges here for everyone's consideration. The problem I presented was the one about inconsistencies in Matthew's and John's depiction of Mary Magdalene on resurrection morning. Matthew's narrative has Mary M hearing an angel say that Jesus had risen, but John's had her believing that the body had been stolen. My position is that these are irreconcilable inconsistencies.
I think that some of the difficulties in trying to reconcile those
two gospel accounts can be avoided by considering the possibility that
neither Matthew, Mark or Luke bothered to record the portion of the
resurrection story that the writer of John relates in John, Chapter 20 vs
1-10. In John's account, Mary Magdalene approached the tomb two times.
The first time, she sees only that the stone is rolled away.
This is a common "explanation" that inerrantists use to explain the discrepancy in Matthew's and John's depiction of Mary Magdalene on resurrection morning, but it just won't work. You said that Mary Magdalene approached the tomb twice in John's account, and the first time she saw only that the stone had been rolled away. Well, that couldn't have been all that she saw, because if she did not look inside, then she couldn't very well have known that the body was gone. That, however, is just a minor problem in your explanation, because Matthew said that Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to the tomb on the first day of the week, and "behold there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone from the door and sat on it" (28:2). So Matthew's Mary M didn't just go to the tomb and find it empty as John's Mary M did; she saw the angel remove the stone. The narrative went on to say, "But the angel answered and said unto THE WOMEN..." (V: 5). I asked you to state who these women were, but you didn't do it, so will you do it now: who were these women that the angel spoke to? You have to say Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, because they are the only two women identified in Matthew's narrative. So what did the angel say to THE WOMEN? "Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here: for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord Lay" (verses 5-6). If Mary Magdalene learned that the body was gone, it would have had to have been at this moment, wouldn't it, when the angel invited THE WOMEN to see where the body had lain? If so, she discovered that the body was gone within the context of an angel's telling her and the other Mary that Jesus was gone because he had risen, as he had said he would.
With all of that in mind, please tell me why Mary Magdalene would have left the tomb and then told the disciples that the body had been stolen? Please do not ignore this question. It is crucial to your insistence that the resurrection narratives do not have irreconcilable inconsistencies, so it is something that you must explain.
You further said, It is at the second visit to the tomb that she sees the angels, and perhaps it is this second time that should be compared with the other gospel writers.
No, I beg to differ with you. Matthew clearly said that Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to the tomb on the first day of the week, an earthquake struck, and an angel came down, rolled away the stone, and told THE WOMEN that Jesus was gone because he had risen as he had said he would do. So if Mary M didn't see an angel at this time, then you must show us why Matthew's narrative gives sufficient reason to believe that she was blind. On the assumption that you can do that, you must then show us that Matthew's narrative gives sufficient reason to belief that she was also deaf and could not hear what the angel was saying.
Furthermore, you have made no effort to explain why if Mary Magdalene and the other Mary (the *they* and *them* of Matthew's narrative) ran from the tomb with great joy" (v:8), Mary M would have run and told the disciples that the body had been stolen. This scenario requires one to believe that THE WOMEN ran from the tomb with great joy because they thought the body had been stolen.
Your attempt to have Peter telling about a first visit that Mary M made to the tomb and the other gospel writers of a second visit is so far-fetched that it hardly deserves comment, but here are some things that you must explain in order to make this "solution" even halfway believable. If Mary M had made a first trip to the tomb and found it empty and reported her findings to Peter and the other disciples, then...
(1) She somehow determined that the tomb was empty before the stone was rolled away, because Matthew's narrative (which you say is about Mary's second visit) states that an angel descended after an earthquake and rolled the stone away. How was she able to determine on her first visit that the body was gone?
(2) On Mary's second visit to the tomb (after finding on her first trip that the body was gone), Mary M and the other women with her were discussing how they would roll the stone away because it was heavy (Mark 16:3-4), when Mary M would surely have known that there was some way to get into the tomb with the stone in place; otherwise, she couldn't have determined on her first visit that the body was gone. Furthermore, if this was Mary's second visit to the tomb, why was she talking to the women about rolling the stone away instead of talking about the disturbing news that the body had been stolen?
(3) If Matthew, Mark, and Luke were writing about a second visit to the tomb (as you claim), then you must explain why Matthew had the angel descending to roll away the stone, whereas Mark had the women arriving to find that the stone had already been rolled away.
Quite frankly, Mr. Eisinger, there was nothing in your posting that even comes close to reconciling these discrepancies. I understand how that you could grow up believing what you were taught, because the same happened to me. I believed it so much that I spent 12 years of my life preaching it, but when I saw problems like the ones in the resurrection narratives, I had the personal integrity to admit to myself that I had been misled by people who were probably sincere but, nevertheless, misled. I find it hard to believe that you can make a defense like the one you sent to me and really believe that it has merit worthy of consideration, because it doesn't. If you wish to continue this discussion, I will be happy to do so, but at the moment I am suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome that requires me to type my messages mainly with one hand, so I will have to insist that you face the issues that I have taken the time to lay before you. A good place to begin would be to answer the questions about Matthew's narrative that I included in my first posting. For your information, here they are again:
1. If we assume that the angel was not a "person," who are the only
two people that Matthew identified in this passage (except, of
course, the guards)?
2. Who are THE WOMEN referred to in verse five, where it says, "But the angel answered and said to THE WOMEN..."?
3. To whom do the third-person plural pronouns THEY and THEM
in this passage refer to? (Please designate the antecedents of these
pronouns by name.)