Celebrating Easter? Which Contradicting Biblical Account of Jesus’ Death and Resurrection Are You Going to Pick?
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Although pre-Christian religions are replete with the stories of dying and rising gods, the Easter tradition is founded in the Bible’s New Testament. Unfortunately for devotees of the Christian faith, the New Testament is replete with irreconcilable discrepancies.
The question is, which contradicting biblical account of Jesus’ death and resurrection are you celebrating this Easter?
Of the nearly 600 irreconcilable discrepancies and contradictions found in the Bible, a majority are found in the New Testament. This is understandable given the books of the New Testament were written no less than 50-100 years after the purported death of Easter’s central character, Jesus. Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Paul hadn't even met Jesus, and they hadn’t met the people who had allegedly met Jesus. In other words, the New Testament contains not a single eyewitness testimony, much less even a secondhand account, nor is any account corroborated outside of the Bible.
Without going too far down the theological pathway, Mark, whoever he was, was the first to write a biography of Jesus, some 50 years after the crucifixion. Both Matthew and Luke, whoever they were, copied from Mark’s written account some 20 to 30 years later, each adding their own theological motives with the help of respective external sources, while John wrote his gospel nearly a full half-century after Mark.
“The New Testament is a work of crude carpentry, hammered together long after its purported events and full of attempts to make things come out right,” writes the late Christopher Hitchens.
Without a doubt, the Easter narrative of the New Testament highlights these contradictions better than any other plot line found in the Bible. A cartoon found at russellsteapot.com demonstrates the theological conundrum:
Priest: “Thanks everyone for participating in this year’s Easter Pageant. All right, kids, we need to rehearse the part where it’s Easter morning and the first visitors arrive at Jesus’ tomb. Now who’s in this scene?”
Child 1: “I am! Matthew 28:2-5 says an angel came down from heaven to greet them.”
Child 2: “No, it wasn’t an angel! It was a ‘Young man,’ Just look at Mark 16:5!”
Child 3: “Hello! Luke 24:4 says very clearly it was ‘Two men.’”
Child 4: “Well, according to John 20:1-2, nobody was there.”
Priest: “Children, the contradictions don’t matter! What matters is that we unquestioningly accept the magic of the resurrection even within the face of such glaring contradictions within the story.”
Child 4: “Father, that was the most wonderfully concise summary of Christianity I have ever heard.”
Priest:“Thank you, child. It is blind submission to authority that got me where I am today
The gospels are so at odds with each other they don’t even agree on one of the critical tenets of the Christian faith i.e. the meaning of Jesus’ death.
On the day of Jesus’ crucifixion, Mark presents Jesus as an utterly dejected figure, who having suffered so much, believes God has forsaken him in his darkest hour. In the events leading to his crucifixion, he is betrayed by his friend Judas; denied three times by one of his nearest and dearest, Peter; berated by the Jewish priests; and then condemned by Pilate. He is kicked, whipped and mocked by the Roman soldiers; taunted by criminals on the cross; and during this whole ordeal he utters not a single word. As the shadow of death descends upon him he cries, “Father why have you forsaken me?”
Bart Ehrman, a New Testament scholar and Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina, makes the following observation of Mark’s gospel, “Jesus dies in agony unsure of the reason he must die.”