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Matthew 28 versus John 20.
12-09-2009, 08:31 AM
Post: #1
Matthew 28 versus John 20.
Matthew 28:1-10 says that when Mary Magdalene went to the tomb that she was told by an angel that the Messiah had risen and would be seen in Galilee. Matthew then says that she ran "with great joy" to tell the disciples and while on the way that she met the Messiah (this occurred before she got to the disciples).

However, John 20:1 and 2 say that when she came to the tomb and didn’t find the Messiah there, that she ran to the disciples and told them that He had been taken away and that she didn’t know where He was. In Matthew she knew where He was (or at least had been) and where He would be, but in John she didn’t.

How can this be reconciled?
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12-09-2009, 12:11 PM
Post: #2
RE: Matthew 28 versus John 20.
Easily. Look at each book in the context to which it was written. Keep in mind the earliest gospel, Mark, was not written until A.D. 70, decades after Jesus (and not be a direct disciple of Christ either). Later gospels used Mark as a reference it seems, due to similar stories, but each author was trying to say a specific thing to a specific audience.

I'm sure Parousia could do a better job than I on explaining why John's perspective and message led to the disciples discovering the resurrected Christ, while Matthew had Mary discovering it. I'm still researching some of this stuff. But I'd imagine a good google search would turn up a lot of pages on it.

The important thing is to realize that the gospels were written by men, and not necessarily the disciples listed in the titles, decades after the fact. Each had a different agenda and a different audience. That explains the discrepancies.

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12-09-2009, 11:10 PM (This post was last modified: 12-09-2009 11:18 PM by Parousia.)
Post: #3
RE: Matthew 28 versus John 20.
(12-09-2009 12:11 PM)GTseng3 Wrote:  Easily. Look at each book in the context to which it was written. Keep in mind the earliest gospel, Mark, was not written until A.D. 70, decades after Jesus (and not be a direct disciple of Christ either). Later gospels used Mark as a reference it seems, due to similar stories, but each author was trying to say a specific thing to a specific audience.

Very good points! A gold star for an ‘A’ student!

(12-09-2009 12:11 PM)GTseng3 Wrote:  I'm sure Parousia could do a better job…

Translation: “I double dog dare ya!”

Unfortunately I do not have the time for a full scholarly treatment of this topic but here are some quick notes. To understand the differences between Matthew and John it is necessary to look at the treatment of the Resurrection in all four Gospels.

Mark

Mark, the first Gospel written, is a problem. Mark 16 starts with Mary Magdalene and some other women going to the tomb to anoint the body as is customary. (They could not do it on the Sabbath, from sundown Friday evening to after dark on Saturday.) They get there and the stone that they were worried about is already rolled back. A young man, presumably an angel, tells them that Jesus is risen from the dead. He instructs them to go tell Peter and the others about it. But “The women fled from the tomb, trembling and bewildered, and they said nothing to anyone.”

It appears that this was the original ending or that the original ending was lost. Verse 8, above, is the end of the oldest manuscripts. Verses 9-20 show clear signs of being added later. Verse 9 even sounds like a ‘reboot’ of the story. “After Jesus rose from the dead early on Sunday morning, the first person who saw him was Mary Magdalene.”

It seems clear to me, and to various ‘real’ scholars, that Mark had written or at least intended to write more. Verse 8 cannot be the real end of the story, not after the foreshadowing Mark does of events involving Jesus after the Resurrection. (See especially Mark 14) Not when it is the ‘punch line’ of the story, the definite verification of a risen Jesus, as promised. But analysis of vv 9-20 show that is was not written by Mark. The ‘real’ end of Mark may have been lost, removed or never written down, and the obvious gap backfilled from the same oral or written sources used by Matthew and Luke or deliberately constructed to be compatible with them.

In any case, the Mark you will find in the Bible tells the familiar story, all in a very compressed form. Mary Magdalene tells Peter and the others, who don’t believe her. Jesus appears to two other followers who also go tell Peter. Later Jesus appears to all the Apostles and rebukes them for their disbelief. Jesus tells them about the need for belief and the miraculous signs believers will be able to accomplish. Then he goes up into heaven. The disciples go out and preach and perform signs. All of this in a mere dozen verses.

Matthew

The next Gospel written was Matthew. He has Mary Magdalene and one other woman (slight detail difference) go to the tomb, just like in Mark. But Matthew has to make it more dramatic than plain spoken Mark. There is an earthquake and an angel rolls the stone aside. The guards all faint at this. (I bet those centurions never lived that down!) The angel tells the women that Jesus has risen. (When? Before the stone was rolled aside? Could be that the angel rolled the stone aside to prove to the women that there was no body inside. Maybe Jesus miraculously passed through the stone.) We may note that Matthew was trying to safeguard his community against the encroachments of the new rabbinic Judaism and uses dramatic events and miracles as much as possible to justify the superiority of Jesus.

As in Mark, the angel instructs the women to go tell the disciples. They are frightened (as in Mark) but they go do it anyway. On the way, Jesus meets them and wants them to tell the disciples that he will meet them in Galilee. This is a fulfillment of the promise made in Mark 14, something that Mark himself fails to provide.

Matthew then inserts this bit about the Jewish priest and elders making up a story about the body of Jesus being stolen by his followers. “Their story spread widely among the Jews, and they still tell it today.” This is Matthew’s rebuttal to what his Jewish competitors are saying. (Note that Matthew has the tomb being guarded, something not mentioned by anyone else.)

The Apostles go to Galilee as they were told, even though some of them doubted, that point being only the briefest mention in Matthew. Jesus meets them and tells them to go preach to “all nations”. There is no mention of Jesus ascending to heaven. One gets the impression from both Mark and Matthew that this part of the tradition they were drawing on was quite sketchy.

Luke

Next up is Luke. Luke elaborates much on the story as is his style. He was commissioned by someone named Theophilus to write his Gospel and later Acts and I guess he needed to deliver something substantial.

Luke starts off similarly to Mark and Matthew but again with detail differences. Several women (a different list from Mark and Matthew) go to the tomb with spices on Sunday morning. Why is it a different list of women? Why does Luke use a different genealogy than Matthew? Why does he tell a different Nativity story? My theory, not supported by any scholars as far as I know, is that Luke is signaling that he is telling a different story than Matthew. Matthew was talking to a community with a mostly Jewish background. Luke is talking to a community of gentile converts and gives various points a different slant.

Anyway…

The stone is already rolled back and the tomb is empty. Two men appear “clothed in dazzling robes”. (Not one but two! Luke loves to use angels!) They tell the women that Jesus is risen and emphasize that this is in accordance with the prophecies. Luke will do this again momentarily. Matthew could get away with passing references to the Jewish scriptures because his audience knew something about them. (Of course his references are a bit on the torturous side, but no matter.) Luke needs to first point out to his gentile audience that there were prophesies and then use their fulfillment to justify their importance. The prophecies and their fulfillment sort of mutually support each other’s validity.

The women go tell the Apostles but of course they do not believe it. But Peter nonetheless runs to the tomb and sees that it is empty. He goes home wondering what happened but apparently still not convinced.

Then comes a lengthy section about Jesus appearing to two men on the road. There is only the briefest mention of this in Mark. But Luke has a field day with a long conversation between the three recapping all that had happened, including explaining all about prophesy fulfillment yet again, and ending up with Jesus rebuking them for not believing. Remember, Luke is asking his audience to believe this story he is telling them, so he must emphasize again and again the importance of belief by faith alone. When they finally realize who they are talking to, he disappears. They go back to tell the disciples. As they are recounting the story, Jesus appears among them. They think he is a ghost until they touch him and look at his wounds and see him eat some fish. Proto-Gnosticism was just beginning to appear at this time. Is Luke emphasizing a physical rather than a spirit-only Jesus as the Gnostics held?

Aside: This last part is one of the passages removed by Marcion in the 2nd century who tried to establish a quasi-gnostic alternative to proto-orthodox Christianity. To Marcion, Jesus was a spirit and not human. Much of Luke is compatible with that notion. The parts that were not got cut out. It was probably in reaction to Marcion that the “sweating blood” verse was inserted into Luke to make Jesus more human sounding.

Back to Luke’s story…

As with the other Gospels, Jesus tells the disciples to spread the word and ascends to heaven. But of course Luke stretches the story out a bit more.

John

The Gospel of John was written much later than the others. By that time, the story was quite familiar to Christians. So John does not spend much time rehashing it, preferring to expand on the ideas of what constitutes Christianity. Except of course for the all-important Last Supper and Passion parts, but even then he puts his own spin on them.

John tells a Resurrection story that borrows from both Matthew and Luke. He tells it in the briefest way – after all it is familiar to his audience – but adds some interesting details. Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb, apparently alone, finds it open and empty and runs to tell Peter. Peter and the disciple “whom Jesus loved” run to the tomb to see. Interestingly the “beloved disciple” gets there first but does not go inside, only looks through the door. He does not enter until Peter first goes in and determines that there is no body. Was this disciple perhaps a kohen, of the priestly caste who were forbidden to go near a corpse? Is this the explanation of this part of John 18?

That other disciple was acquainted with the high priest, so he was allowed to enter the high priest’s courtyard with Jesus. Peter had to stay outside the gate. Then the disciple who knew the high priest spoke to the woman watching at the gate, and she let Peter in.”

The subtext in John is that “the beloved disciple” is in fact the narrator of the story, an eyewitness who is vouching for its authenticity. John was written long after the events it purports to describe. A living eyewitness who was even a participant would go a long way toward securing its credibility.

Moving on…

John mentions the prophecies being fulfilled but only briefly. A familiar story, remember? Peter and the disciple go home, like in Luke. But Mary Magdalene is still there. She apparently came with them but did not leave with them. She also apparently does not understand the prophecy fulfillment business, still thinking the body was stolen. But as in Luke, two angels then appear to her - but not to Peter and the disciple! - but do not tell her anything. (Up to this point it is a conglomeration of Matthew and Luke in a slightly incoherent form.) Jesus himself then appears to Mary, a unique feature of John, and after some confusion about who he is, tells Mary to go tell the others. (Peter and the disciple won’t?) Again we see an idea lifted from the prior Gospels but not integrated coherently.

Then we have John’s version of Jesus appearing to the Apostles (twice!) and having words with them about not having believed by faith alone. This includes the reference to the wounds as in Luke, again emphasizing a real physical resurrection.


That’s the best I can do off the top of my head.
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12-09-2009, 11:17 PM
Post: #4
RE: Matthew 28 versus John 20.
More than adequate, in my book. Just one note, I have heard it mentioned that some scholars believe "Theophilus" was not a patron, but rather to write a book "To Theophilus" was a literary affectation for writing it to Christians as a whole. Theophilus, after all, means "loved by god," so literally he is writing to the beloved of god, the Christians.

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12-09-2009, 11:39 PM
Post: #5
RE: Matthew 28 versus John 20.
(12-09-2009 11:17 PM)GTseng3 Wrote:  More than adequate, in my book. Just one note, I have heard it mentioned that some scholars believe "Theophilus" was not a patron, but rather to write a book "To Theophilus" was a literary affectation for writing it to Christians as a whole. Theophilus, after all, means "loved by god," so literally he is writing to the beloved of god, the Christians.

Possible, but it seems strained. The language at the beginning of Luke and of Acts sure sounds like it is addressed to a single person.
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12-11-2009, 06:23 AM
Post: #6
RE: Matthew 28 versus John 20.
GTseng3,

re: “Easily. Look at each book in the context to which it was written...the gospels were written by men...That explains the discrepancies.”

I guess I should have prefaced my question by directing it to those who say that scripture is inspired and that there are no contradictions contained in it. Also, I define the word “reconciled” to mean to make the texts consistent and compatible.

I’m not looking for why there are discrepancies, but rather for why there aren’t. And context doesn’t do that.


re: “...John's perspective and message led to the disciples discovering the resurrected Christ, while Matthew had Mary discovering it.”

Actually, both Matthew AND John have Mary as the first person to see the Messiah.
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12-11-2009, 08:45 AM
Post: #7
RE: Matthew 28 versus John 20.
Ah yes. I see. Well in that case, the key there is to live in a fantasy land where contradictory passages are not contradictory, and where obviously biased documents written for specific mortal purposes are actually divinely inspired texts applicable to everyone universally.

Taking drugs helps. So does being raised in a belief and not exposing yourself to alternate beliefs.

Being the sort of person who doesn't think about how to reconcile these statements and instead just believes they are reconciled really helps too.

In other words, not the sort of people who will give you a serious answer to your question.

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03-28-2010, 07:01 AM
Post: #8
RE: Matthew 28 versus John 20.
Anyone? And I refer you to post #6.
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03-28-2010, 07:26 AM (This post was last modified: 03-28-2010 07:31 AM by Stereophonic.)
Post: #9
RE: Matthew 28 versus John 20.
Historians do not need exact correspondence of detail in multiple accounts in order to determine what most probably happened. In fact, when the details correspond exactly, that usually counts as evidence of collusion.

Eyewitness accounts of virtually any important event will vary--some people who watched the Titanic sink thought it split in two before it disappeared beneath the water, other people watching said it didn't split in two. Nevertheless, the Titanic did sink, and people were there to watch it happen.

In the case of Jesus' resurrection, probably if we had all of the earliest witnesses together in the same room, with crack lawyers there to interrorgate and cross-examine each one, we could come up with a neat and tidy account. As it is, what we have instead looks very much like eyewitness accounts as they were written down by those who first heard the eyewitness accounts.

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03-28-2010, 07:37 AM
Post: #10
RE: Matthew 28 versus John 20.
Stereophonic,

My question is actually more directed to those who say that scripture is inspired and that there are no contradictions contained in it.
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