According to the Apostle Paul, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is of “first importance” (1Cor. 15:3). And yet, if this is such a crucial doctrine, then why are there important differences between John’s version of the story and the Synoptic accounts? How many women arrived at the tomb, and in what order? How many angels did they actually encounter? Shane Rosenthal discusses these questions and more with Lydia McGrew, author of Hidden in Plain View: Unexplained Coincidences in the Gospels and Acts.
Lydia McGrew: This is what we get when have oral history. In oral history, people tell things that stand out in their mind and they don’t always explain everything. If you talk to someone about his memories of the war, you might have to ask him further questions to figure out how it all fits together.
Shane Rosenthal: Which is what we’re going to get into when we talk about harmonizing the accounts of the resurrection. Sometimes it is difficult but the reason you’re saying it’s difficult is because it’s real history.
Lydia McGrew: Absolutely. Exactly. So this is the way people talk in this kind of unpremeditated way.
Term to Learn
“Biblical Account of Resurrection”
Resurrection is the claim that on the third day after He was crucified and buried, Jesus was resurrected from the dead by the power of God for the purposes of testifying to Jesus’ authority to say and do the things He did as the Son of God who would save his people from their sins. There are many points of support for this claim, including the empty tomb being attested by very early and hostile sources, the discovery of the empty tomb by witnesses whose testimony would not be allowed in court, the testimony of the Gospels (which are eyewitness accounts), and the radical change in the disciples after that Sunday.
The earliest Christians believed that Jesus was buried, rose on the third day in fulfillment of messianic prophecy in the Tanakh, and then appeared to numerous people, most of whom, according to Paul, were still alive at the time of his writing. The information about Jesus’ appearances in His resurrected state infers that these people could be questioned. There is no doubt that the earliest Christians believed that Jesus died and was resurrected in bodily form. And this belief remains the best explanation for the events surrounding Jesus’ death, in spite of the various contrary theories.
(Adapted from Doug Powell, “The Biblical Account of Resurrection,” Holman Quick Source Guide to Christian Apologetics, 294-300)