Easter: Contradictions in the Gospel Narratives
Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem
بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ ,
Easter has arrived again, the Christian narrative of Jesus being arrested, crucified, dying and then ascending all occurs from Good Friday to Sunday morning, these few days are the foundation for the Christian religion. The Gospels account for this episode, giving us details which are rather unique and quite puzzling, or so to speak. In this article, I’m not going to try to offend anyone and I do apologize if I do, but as a Muslim, these questions are pertinent to the narrative given to these events by the Christian faith. We need to examine the foundation, for if the foundation is based on falsehood, all that is derived from it, will also have falsehood in contained within. Therefore, in an attempt to seek answers for these dogmatic conundrums, let’s ask some questions that should by now, some 2000 years or so years later, should have answers prepared.
Here we have an account in Matthew 27:51-53, where apparently the dead come back to life, and in their large numbers, roam through the streets of Jerusalem. There’s a slight problem with this claim however. Dead people have crawled out of graves in Jerusalem, seen by ‘many people’, and yet the only account of it, is some 50 or so years later in a religious scripture from a new faith, fishing for miracles to get converts. So let’s see what the scripture claims:
At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.
So dead people came back to life. This is a miracle proving Jesus’ resurrection, this miracle is apparently witnessed by many people and yet we have some serious discrepancies here. No other Gospel of Epistles even references or mentions explicitly, what is arguably the greatest miracle one can observe, dead people returning to life. No Jewish historian or religious figure ever mentions that dead people came back to life and roamed their holiest city’s streets. Not even the Romans, the largest Empire, most powerful nation at that time, records that dead people came back to life and roamed their streets. Yet somehow, a person not from that time, 50 or so years later (33AD, Ascension, Matthew written between 75 AD – 99 AD), mentions this maybe two or three lines and then it turns into a historical fact. Call me skeptical, but I’m needing evidence here. I find it hard to believe, that dead people, came to life and no one at that time, not even heretical early Christian sects, nor Paul who documented the vast prayers, actions and beliefs of the early Church some 14 years later, remotely mentions or references it.
Yet, us Muslims are not to be blamed, a famed Christian Exegete, Adam Clarke in his exegesis on these verses states:
It is difficult to account for the transaction mentioned Matthew 27:52,53. Some have thought that these two verses have been introduced into the text of Matthew from the gospel of the Nazarenes; others think that the simple meaning is this:-by the earthquake several bodies that had been buried were thrown up and exposed to view, and continued above ground till after Christ’s resurrection, and were seen by many persons in the city. Why the graves should be opened on Friday, and the bodies not be raised to life till the following Sunday, is difficult to be conceived. The place is extremely obscure.
Perhaps there is someone willing to validate, verify this claim or if not, admit it really did not occur and is a fanciful dream of some scribe wanting to give the masses some alleged miracle to convert to Christianity for.
Conflicting Post-Crufiction Narrative:
This question stems from reading the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, evidently, if one picks up a Bible, the New Testament begins with Matthew and then we’re introduced to Mark. The problem here however, stems from an incident that presents a problem. In Matthew 28:5-10, we read:
The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.” So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
So from this, we deduce that:
- Some women met an angel.
- They don’t worship the angel.
- They were afraid, yet they ran to tell the disciples.
- They meet Jesus who tells them to go to Galilee.
Yet, we read in Mark, a successive Gospel, a completely different story, Mark 16:5-8:
“As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’ Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.“
- Some women met a young man in white clothes and not an angel.
- They don’t worship the young man.
- They were afraid and said nothing to anyone.
- Never met Jesus, instead the angel tells them to go to Galilee.
In fact, if we read the next Gospel in succession, that is, Luke, we have another completely different account. We read from Luke 24:4-8:
While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” Then they remembered his words. When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others.
- Some women did not meet an angel, nor a young man, but instead two men in clothes as bright as lightning.
- Instead of not worshipping the angel or a young man, they worship two men.
- They were afraid, but instead of telling no one, they told everyone.
- Never met Jesus, but instead two men tell them to go to Galilee.
Continuing to the final Gospel, that of John, in Chapter 20, Verses 11-19, we read:
Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”). Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her. On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”
- One woman, Mary, did not meet an angel or a young man or two men but instead two angels.
- She did not worship the two angels.
- She told everyone what she saw, in contrast to the other Gospels.
- Met Jesus who does not tell her to go to Galilee.
- Jesus does not meet them at Galilee but at a house in/ near Jerusalem.
Some like to say that we’ve misunderstood their scripture, some say we’ve distorted and manipulated the truth, but all we’ve really done is read the Gospels, as they are laid out. Anyone can pick up a Bible and read these contradicting narratives. In fact, I’ve linked all the relevant chapters to a popular Christian Bible website and I do hope that anyone who comes across this article, tries to investigate it for themselves.
In conclusion, I’d like to give a quote which sums up the Muslim perspective of this incident, Mary and the other female disciples go to tell the men what has happened, this quote being from the Gospel of Luke:
It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles.
As is the Muslim view, the men’s response is practically priceless:
But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.
As we end, one more relevant quote from the same Gospel:
Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.
Which fulfills the Islamic narrative, from the Qur’an which states:
“And because they denied and spoke dreadful calumnies of Mary; and for saying: “We killed the Christ, Jesus, son of Mary, who was an apostle of God;” but they neither killed nor crucified him, though it so appeared to them. Those who disagree in the matter are only lost in doubt. They have no knowledge about it other than conjecture, for surely they did not kill him, But God raised him up (in position) and closer to Himself; and God is all-mighty and all-wise.”
wa Allaahu Alam.
[and God knows best.]