A Harmony of the Resurrection Accounts

Albert Barnes: “I. The Resurrection: As much difficulty has been felt in reconciling the accounts of the different evangelists respecting the resurrection of Christ, and as infidels have maintained that they are utterly irreconcilable, it may be proper, in closing the notes on Matthew, to give these accounts at one view. One thing should always be borne in mind by all who read the Gospels, namely, that the sacred narrative of an event is what it is declared to be by all the evangelists. That a thing is omitted by one does not prove that another is false because he has recorded it, for the very object of the different Gospels was to give the testimony of independent witnesses to the great facts of the life and death of Jesus. Nor does it prove that there is a contradiction because one relates facts in a different order from another, for neither of them professes to relate facts in the precise order in which they occurred. The object was to relate the facts themselves. With these principles in view, which are conceded to profane historians always, let us look at the accounts which are presented in the sacred narrative respecting the resurrection, appearance, and ascension of Christ.

1. Jesus was laid in the tomb on Friday evening, having been wrapped in linen with myrrh and aloes in a hurried manner, Joh_19:39-40. The women, not apprised of that, or desiring also to testify their regard for him, prepared spices on the same evening to embalm him, Luk_23:56. As it was too late that night to complete the preparation, they deferred it until the first day of the week, resting on the Sabbath, Luk_23:56.

2. On the first day of the week, early, the women completed their preparation, purchased more spices, and properly mixed them to make an unguent to anoint the bandages in which the body was rolled, Mar_16:1. Or this may refer to the purchase which is mentioned by Luke, meaning that they had bought them – that is, on Friday evening.

3. They came to the grave just as the day began to dawn, or just as the light appeared in the east, yet so dark as to render objects indistinct. It was “in the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week,” Mat_28:1. “Very early in the morning, at the rising of the sun,” or as the sun was about to rise, Mar_16:2. “Very early in the morning,” Luk_24:1. “Early, while it was yet dark,” Joh_20:1.

4. Those who came were Mary Magdalene, Mat_28:1; Joh_20:1; Mary the mother of James and Joses, Mat_28:1; Luk_24:10; Mar_15:40; Salome, the wife of Zebedee, and mother of James and John, compare Mat_27:56; Mar_15:40; Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, compare Luk_24:10; Luk_8:3; and certain others not specified, Luk_24:1, Luk_24:10.

5. The objects of their coming were:
(1) To see the grave, Mat_28:1.
(2) To embalm him, or to finish embalming him, Mar_16:1; Luk_24:1.

6. While on the way they inquired who should roll away the stone for them, that they might have access to the body of Jesus, Mar_16:3.

7. When they arrived they found that there had been an earthquake or shaking of the tomb, so that the stone was rolled away, Mat_28:2; Mar_16:4.

8. The angel who rolled the stone away had sat down on it, and had appeared to the keepers and frightened them; though he did not appear in this place to the women, but only to the keepers, Mat_28:2-4. At that time, probably our Saviour had risen how long before the women came is not known and cannot be ascertained.

9. When they came there, Mary Magdalene, greatly agitated with the appearance of things, and probably supposing that the body had been stolen, left the other women, and ran to the city, at the distance of half a mile, to inform the disciples, Joh_20:2.

10. While Mary was gone, the others probably looked around the garden in search of the body, and then came and examined the grave to see if it was not there. The tomb was large, and they entered into it. There “the angel spake unto them,” Mat_28:5. “They saw a young man” – that is, an angel in the appearance of a young man – “sitting on the right side,” Mar_16:5. When they entered he was sitting; as they entered he rose and stood, Luk_24:4. Luke adds that there was another with him, Luk_24:4; this other one was not seen when they entered into the grave at the time mentioned by Mark, but was seen when they had fully entered in, as mentioned by Luke.

11. The angel charged them to go and tell the disciples and Peter, Mat_28:7; Mar_16:7; and to assure them that he would see them in Galilee. He also reminded them of what Jesus had said when they were in Galilee, Luk_24:6-7.

12. They went immediately toward the city, yet taking a different way from the one that Mary had taken, or going in such a way that they did not meet her when she was returning from the city with Peter and John, Mat_28:8, Mar_16:8. “They said nothing to any man,” Luk_24:9-10. In Luk_24:10 it is said that it was Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, that told these things to the disciples. Not that Luke affirms that they were together when they told them, but that the information was given by them, though perhaps at different times.

13. While they were gone Mary Magdalene returned to the grave, following Peter and John, who came running, Joh_20:2-9. They examined the grave, and found that the body was really gone, but as yet they did not know the reason, not having seen the other women to whom the angel had told the cause, and Mary Magdalene having left the women before the angel had spoken to them. As yet, therefore, she was ignorant of the reason of his removal.

14. Peter and John then left the grave, returned to the city, and left Mary alone, Joh_20:10.

15. While Mary was there alone she looked into the grave, and saw two angels, probably the same that had appeared to the other women, Joh_20:11-13.

16. Jesus appeared to Mary while she sat alone at the grave, Joh_20:14-18. Thus, according to Mark Mar_16:9, he appeared to Mary Magdalene “first.”

17. Mary then went to tell the disciples that she had seen him, but they did not fully believe her, Joh_20:18; Mar_16:10-11.

18. Afterward Jesus appeared to the other women, Mat_28:9; “As they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail.” This would seem, in Matthew, to be immediately after they left the grave the first time; but many critics observe that the words “to tell his disciples” are missing in many manuscripts, and of doubtful authority. It may be further said that the words “as they were going” might have been rendered “after they were gone.” They do not imply of necessity that the appearance took place immediately, but only after they were gone, without specifying the time. Probably it was not long after he had appeared to Mary Magdalene. They would naturally return to the disciples, and linger around there, that they might ascertain what had become of him, or learn whether he had been seen by anyone. It was, then, probably after they had been away and returned, and after he had been seen by Mary, that they saw him.

II. Appearances of Jesus after the Resurrection

1. To Mary Magdalene, Joh_20:14; Mar_16:9.

2. To the other women, Mat_28:9.

3. To Peter, 1Co_15:5; Luk_24:34.

4. To two disciples as they were going to Emmaus, Mar_16:12-13; Luke 24:13-32.

5. The same day, at evening, to the apostles, in the absence of Thomas, 1Co_15:5; Mar_16:14; Luk_24:36; Joh_20:19, Joh_20:24.

6. To the apostles when Thomas was present, Joh_20:24-29.

7. In Galilee, at the Sea of Tiberias, to Peter, Thomas, Nathaniel, James and John, and two others, Joh_21:1-14. This is said to be the third time that he showed himself to the disciples – that is, to the apostles when they were assembled together, Joh_21:14.

8. To the disciples on a mountain in Galilee, Mat_28:16.

9. To more than 500 brethren at once, 1Co_15:6.

10. To James, one of the apostles, 1Co_15:7.

11. To all the apostles assembled together, 1Co_15:7. He was seen by them forty days after he rose – probably conversing with them familiarly.

12. To the apostles at his ascension, Luk_24:50-51; Act_1:9-10.

13. To Paul, 1Co_15:8; Act_9:3-5; Act_22:6-10.

III. The Ascension
1. It was forty days after his resurrection Act_1:3.

2. He ascended from the Mount of Olives, near Bethany, Luk_24:50; Act_1:12.

3. It was in the presence of all the apostles, Luk_24:50; Act_1:9-10.

4. He was received into a cloud, and ascended to heaven, Act_1:9, Act_1:11; Luk_24:51; Eph_1:20-22.

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2 thoughts on “A Harmony of the Resurrection Accounts

  1. So why did Peter go back to the tomb after he had already seen it was empty and left and gone back to his house? (John 20:10) (Luke 24:10-12)

  2. Hi brother,

    The accounts, like this one, that have Mary running off early don’t really work. Luke reports that it was the women, including Mary Magdalene, that retold the account with the angels…

    Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles,
    Luke 24:10 ESV

    Would love to reconcile these accounts!

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