by Rob Lundberg
Christian apologetics has many facets to it. It can engage the philosophical ideologies to take on questions coming from worldviews competing with the Christian faith. It can even address the realm of the scientific to show how intelligent design tackles the objections coming from the evolutionist. However there are some times where apologetics has to take on the challenges from those who say that the Scriptures contradict one another. This is known as biblical apologetics.
In this series we are going to be doing some biblical apologetics and address a handful of objections coming from those who have an issue with the resurrection of Jesus and what happened that first Resurrection Sunday.
Some of these objections will be very easy to tackle. However there are a few that will require a little bit of digging to solve the “puzzle.” However one thing you can be rest assured of: there are no contradictions in the gospel accounts when it comes to that first resurrection morning.
Our approach will be simple. First I will set up the problem or the objection. And then I will move to unpack the objection to show where the objection fails and why it fails. This first one has to do with the question of who were the ones that really went to the grave. First let’s set up the problem.
Setting up the objection.
In Matthew’s gospel, it is recorded that two women went down to the tomb. Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary.” (Matt 28:1-8) Mark’s gospel states that three women go down to the tomb, “Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome. And they have spices. (See Mark 16:1-8).
If we go to Luke’s gospel (24:1-12), we see that Luke records a group of women go down to the tomb, including Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James, and they have spices. Joanna’s name is added to the list of women that went as well. So why does John tell us that Mary Magdalene shows up at the tomb alone (John 20:1-13)?
Really this is not a problem at all if one understands inspiration and textual transmission. Let us first remember that all four of the gospel writers are writing their gospels (historical narratives), under the leading and guidance of the Holy Spirit with their personalities in tact. What we see recorded are at least two of the women going to the tomb:
(1) Matthew: two women (the other Mary and Mary Magdalene;
(2) Mark: accounts for Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James (i.e., the other Mary and Salome);
(3) Luke tells us in 24:1, that “they came” to the tomb. But he doesn’t give us any more details as to who the “they” are. This comes in verse 10, “Now they were Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James; also the other women with them were telling these things to the apostles.”
The common woman among all the gospels is Mary Magdalene. Though she is the lone woman in John’s gospel, all four gospel writers give us her name as an eyewitness at the empty tomb. So John’s mentioning her in his gospel is not an issue.
What do see in the gospel records is pretty clear. that Mary the mother of James was there. Since Luke gives us a clue that a group of women went to the tomb, Salome is mentioned as one of the women, as is Joanna.
The gospel writers, John included were not stripped of their liberties in recording for us what the Holy Spirit led them to pen down for us. When Peter tells us that the writers of Scripture were moved by the Holy Spirit does not mean that the Spirit was dragging their hands to write what they wrote.
They were given the full liberty of their personalities in their writings. So if one writer records only part of the whole, it is not a problem. When critics assume that all the gospel writers were required to include the same list of the women is a faulty demand.
Making an assumption like this, gives a picture of the critic of Scripture (skeptic) making a pronouncement that they know better than the God they don’t believe in about what should be included in the Scripture narrative. The gospel writers had corroborative eyewitness testimony, which is something that the modern day critic of Scripture seems to overlook.
So with reference to what women went to the tomb, there is no conflicts in the passages. To smuggle in one’s prejudices in the attempt to refute the authenticity of this account is nothing more than cherry picking and pigeon holing one’s prejudice and displaying a false sense of authority regarding the text.
Rob is a blogger, writer and public speaker on a mission to equip the believer to think and articulate what they believe and to communicate the message of the gospel to a confused culture in a confused, chaotic, “brave new world.” He is available to come and speak to your church, college club, or group. Find out what people are saying.
If you would like to book Rob for a speaking event, you can do so by emailing him at email@example.com If you have other questions about apologetics or doing apologetics, or if you are looking for apologetics resources, contact this ministry by email.