Series Part 4: Angel/Angels, or Young Man/Men at the Tomb? Which gospel writer has it correct?

empty-tomb-jesusby Rob Lundberg

One of the common factors that skeptics miss is that the mind and personalities of the writers of the gospels remained in tact when the wrote their particular accounts. Such is the case with this fourth objection from a skeptic about what happened at the tomb of Jesus.  This fourth one addresses the question of who the women were greet by at the tomb. Was it an angel or angels or young man/young men? What did they do and what did they say?  

As it has been the practice of the previous three posts, I am going to remain consistent in setting up the objection. Then I will move into a response. What we will find as in the previous three objections, and the ones that follow this one, there is no conflict or contradiction whatsoever.

Setting up the problem.

In Matthew’s gospel (28:1-8), states that an angel sat on the stone (v. 5). Mark’s gospel (16:1-8) tells us that they saw a young man sitting wearing a white robe, and they were amazed (v.5). In Luke’s gospel, we read that there are two men in dazzling clothing (24:3,4).

Finally John’s gospel gives a total different picture (20:11-13), with Mary Magdalene who was expected to go inside the tomb, but she leaves. In all of this though, we see that there are two angels sitting in the tomb, one at the head and one at the feet of the stone-bed.

Now, is there a problem with whether these were human men or supernatural beings? One angel, two angels, one man or two? What were they doing?  Was it in conflict with the other accounts? Let’s move to my response.


Context and audience is king.  If we look at each of the gospels in their contexts, we can see that there is really not a problem. Remember that the gospel writers record what they do with their personalities in tact and still under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

It is also a matter of basic math. Wherever you have two angels (Luke), it is not a problem.  Matthew records one. So what? Wherever you have two, you always have one. This is not a problem. One young man in dazzling clothing or two angels in white clothing again, there is no problem.

More details in one gospel does not nullify the ones with minimal information. Some may think that John’s gospel might be in conflict with the other three but this is not the case since John opts to record more details before telling us that there were “these two angels present”, than some of the other gospel writers.

Again the problem that skeptics impose upon the texts, and moralize on how the texts should read. If we look at the writers writing to a particular audience, the rendering of each has no problem being taken at face value. Therefore, there is no contradiction as the writers personalities and what they chose to write are what they were inspired to  write under the leadership of the Holy Spirit.

cropped-562652_10151004082787891_176468518_nRob 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    If you have other questions about apologetics or doing apologetics, or if you are looking for apologetics resources, contact our ministry by email.


Author: roblundberg

I am a blogger, writer, equipper, and public speaker on a mission to equip the believer to think and articulate what they believe and then take it and communicate it to a confused culture in a "brave new world." My mission involves evangelism undergirded by apologetics, and training; and equipping you to walk in the spiritual disciplines. I currently serve as the local Chapter Director and Community Apologist for Ratio Christi in Fredericksburg, VA.

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