F Rosa Rubicondior: The Easter Challenge

Monday 27 August 2012

The Easter Challenge

Here's a challenge for Christians, especially those who believe the Bible to be the literal, inerrant word of a god, and even those who believe the five accounts of the resurrection of Jesus by Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Paul are an account of an actual resurrection by Jesus.

First, a few words from Thomas Paine:
I lay it down as a position which cannot be controverted, first, that the agreement of all the parts of a story does not prove that story to be true, because the parts may agree and the whole may be false; secondly, that the disagreement of the parts of a story proves the whole cannot be true.

Thomas Paine. The Age Of Reason. 1776
The challenge is to take all five accounts of the events following the supposed crucifixion of Jesus and, starting on Easter morning and, omitting none of the details given in the five biblical accounts, construct a logical sequence of events.

I make no claim of authorship of this challenge which appears in Dan Barker's book 'Godless: How An Evangelical Preacher Became One Of America's Leading Atheists'.

The relevant chapters and/or verses of the Bible are:
  1. Matthew 28
  2. Mark 16
  3. Luke 24
  4. John 20-21
  5. Acts 1:3-12
  6. 1 Corinthians 15:3-8
If the Bible is giving an account of a real sequence of events as seen from the perspective of five different views, these events should line up in their sequence of events and in the important details, and should occupy the same approximate time-span.

It might help if, as you read the 165 verses, you attempt to answer these questions and to reconcile and harmonise the differing accounts:
QuestionThe Bible's Answers
1. What time did the women visit the tomb?
  • Matthew: As it began to dawn - Matthew 28:1
  • Mark: Very early in the morning... at the rising of the sun - Mark 16:2
  • Luke: Very early in the morning - Luke 24:1
  • John: When it was yet dark - John 20:1
2. Who were the women?
  • Matthew: Mary Magdalene and the other Mary - Matthew 28:1
  • Mark: Mary Magdalene, the mother of James, and Salome - Mark 16:1
  • Luke: Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James and other women - Luke 24:10
  • John: Mary Magdalene - John 20:1
3. What was their purpose?
  • Matthew: to see the tomb - Matthew 28:1
  • Mark: had already seen the tomb - Mark 15:47, brought spices - Mark 16:1
  • Luke: had already seen the tomb - Luke 23:55, brought spices - Luke 24:1
  • John: the body had already been spiced before they arrived - John 19:39-40
4. Was the tomb open when they arrived?
  • Matthew: No - Matthew 28:2
  • Mark: Yes - Mark 16:4
  • Luke: Yes - Luke 24:2
  • John: Yes - John 20:1
5. Who was at the tomb when they arrived?
  • Matthew: One angel - Matthew 28:2-7
  • Mark: One young man - Mark 16:5
  • Luke: Two men - Luke 24:4
  • John: Two angels - John 20:12
6. Where were these messengers situated?
  • Matthew: Angel sitting on the stone - Matthew 28:2
  • Mark: Young man sitting inside, on the right - Mark 16:5
  • Luke: Two men standing inside - Luke 24:4
  • John: Two angels sitting on each end of the bed - John 20:12
7. What did the messenger(s) say?
  • Matthew: Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead: and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you. - Matthew 28:5-7
  • Mark: Be not afrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him. But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you. - Mark 16:6-7
  • Luke: Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again. - Luke 24:5-7
  • John: Woman, why weepest thou? - John 20:13
8. Did the women tell what happened?
  • Matthew: Yes - Matthew 28:8
  • Mark: No. Neither said they any thing to any man. - Mark 16:8
  • Luke: Yes. And they returned from the tomb and told all these things to the eleven, and to all the rest. - Luke 24:9, Luke 24:22-24
  • John: Yes - John 20:18
9. When Mary returned from the tomb, did she know Jesus had been resurrected?
  • Matthew: Yes - Matthew 28:7-8
  • Mark: Yes - Mark 16:10-11
  • Luke: Yes - Luke 24:6-9, 23
  • John: No - John 20:2
10. When did Mary first see Jesus?
  • Matthew: Before she returned to the disciples - Matthew 28:9
  • Mark: Before she returned to the disciples - Mark 16:9-10
  • John: After she returned to the disciples John 20:2, John 20:14
11. Could Jesus be touched after the resurrection?
  • Matthew: Yes - Matthew 28:9
  • John: No - John 20:17 and Yes - John 20:27
12. After the women, to whom did Jesus first appear?
  • Matthew: Eleven disciples - Matthew 28:16
  • Mark: Two disciples in the country, later to 11 - Mark 16:12, Mark 16:14
  • Luke: Two disciples in Emmaus, later to 11 - Luke 24:13, Luke 24:36
  • John: Ten disciples (Judas and Thomas were absent) - John 20:19, John 20:24
  • Paul: First to Cephas (Peter), then to the 12. (Twelve? Judas was dead and wasn't replaced until after Jesus had departed.) - 1 Corinthians 15:5
13. Where did Jesus first appear to the disciples?
  • Matthew: On a mountain in Galilee (60-100 miles away) - Matthew 28:16-17
  • Mark: To two in the country, to 11 as they sat at meat - Mark 16:12, Mark 16:14
  • Luke: In Emmaus (about seven miles away) at evening, to the rest in a room in Jerusalem later that night. - Luke 24:31, Luke 24:36
  • John: In a room, at evening - John 20:19
14. Did the disciples believe the two men?
  • Mark: No - Mark 16:13
  • Luke: Yes - Luke 24:34 (it is the group speaking here, not the two)
15. What happened at that first appearance?
  • Matthew: Disciples worshipped, some doubted, Go preach. - Matthew 28:17-20
  • Mark: Jesus reprimanded them, said, Go preach - Mark 16:14-19
  • Luke: Christ incognito, vanishing act, materialized out of thin air, reprimand, supper - Luke 24:13-51
  • John: Passed through solid door, disciples happy, Jesus blesses them, no reprimand - John 21:19-23
16. Did Jesus stay on earth for more than a day?
  • Mark: No - Mark 16:19 (Compare Mark 16:14 with John 20:19 to show that this was all done on Sunday)
  • Luke: No - Luke 24:50-52 It all happened on Sunday
  • John: Yes, at least eight days - John 20:26, John 21:1-22
  • Acts: Yes, at least 40 days - Acts 1:3
17. Where did the ascension take place?
  • Matthew: No ascension. Book ends on mountain in Galilee
  • Mark: In or near Jerusalem, after supper - Mark 16:19
  • Luke: In Bethany, very close to Jerusalem, after supper - Luke 24:50-51
  • John: No ascension
  • Paul: No ascension
  • Acts: Ascended from Mount of Olives - Acts 1:9-12
Barker, Dan (2009-05-01). Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America's Leading Atheists (p. 289). Perseus Books Group. Kindle Edition.

Personally, for a story so central to the Christian faith and upon which the entire religion rests, I'd be astounded if this exercise is not a regular feature of Bible study, Sunday School and church services so it shouldn't be a problem at all for true believers. So, you have all the material you need, and links to an on-line edition of the Bible to check that everything stated above is a true and accurate account of all the known accounts of the supposed resurrection of Jesus, just in case you don't have your own Bible.

All you have to do is produce a logical sequence of events from Easter morning to Jesus' claimed ascension bodily into Heaven which includes all the facts stated and following the sequence of events given in the Bible.

Otherwise, please explain why Thomas Paine was wrong to conclude that the whole story cannot be true and why the myth of Jesus should not be consigned to the dustbin of history along with the myth of the goddess Eastre (aka Ishtar aka Astarte) after whom the pagan festival of Easter was named before it was plagiarised by Christianity for the Jesus myth.

Ten Reasons To Lose Faith: And Why You Are Better Off Without It

This book explains why faith is a fallacy and serves no useful purpose other than providing an excuse for pretending to know things that are unknown. It also explains how losing faith liberates former sufferers from fear, delusion and the control of others, freeing them to see the world in a different light, to recognise the injustices that religions cause and to accept people for who they are, not which group they happened to be born in. A society based on atheist, Humanist principles would be a less divided, more inclusive, more peaceful society and one more appreciative of the one opportunity that life gives us to enjoy and wonder at the world we live in.

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  1. As any lawyer knows, witness accounts are subjective and can vary, which is why the second part of Paines' proposition fails. The first part, however, stands true.

    As far as the Christ myth goes, though, one would think the early Church might have done a better job of rewriting the "gospels" to iron out the many, many, many contradictions. Lazy! Or maybe they thought that since only priests and nobility could read anyway, it didn't really matter.

    1. Paine's second point was that the totality can't be true if parts of it contradict, therefore the Easter story as told in the Bible can't all be true.

      And so the Bible falsifies it's own claim to be inerrant.

      This then raises a question over the entire story. If we know some of the accounts were false, the possibility that they all were can't be discounted.

    2. Well first of all, the writers were not even writing the Gospels since they didn't even know that the church later on would even have a Bible. So the writers were not writing to no church leaders so they can read. The accounts of the resurrection of Jesus we have to ask first, which Book was first written? For any Scholar, there's no questions asked, it was indeed Mark followed by Matthew, Luke, and John. Mark associated with both the apostles Peter and Paul, and Luke accompanied Paul. Mark's Gospel focus is on the crucifixion of Jesus, Matthew on a mixed church under persecution, Luke on promoting Christianity in the Greco-Roman world at large, and John in believing in Jesus for eternal life. And now the question arises. Did Jesus rise from the dead?

      The evidence can be summed up in three independently established facts:
      1) Jesus' empty tomb
      2) Jesus' appearances alive after His death, and
      3) The origin of the disciples' belief in His resurrection.

      The best explanation of these three facts is "God raised Jesus from the dead." I'll call this the resurrection hypothesis. The signigicance or meaning of Jesus' resurrection will be given by the context in which it occurs: It comes as God's vindicication of Jesus' radical personal claims for which He was condemned as a blasphemer.

      Resurrection: In Jesus' day it was clear what the various Greek, Aramaic, etc. words for resurrection did not mean. Resurrection did not mean life after death in some disembodided form, it did not mean the immortality of the soul in either torment or paradise, and it did not mean reincarnation. It mean the reversal of death, restoration to some kind of bodily immortality. Many pagans believed in disembodied life after death, but they considered resurrection impossible. Some (not all) Jews expected resurrection for the righteous at the end of days - not for anybody before then. A resurrected body might differ from our bodies, but it had to be a body. Neither a ghost nor a disembodied soul nor a spirit on a higher plane of consciousness would have been called "resurrected."

      The Evidence fof Jesus' Resurrection:

      If the three facts mentioned above - the empty tomb, the postmorem appearances, and the origin of the belief in Jesus' resurrection - can be established, and if no plausible, natural explanation can account for them as well as the resurrection hypothesis, then we're justified in inferring Jesus' resurrection as the best explanation of the facts.

    3. >The evidence can be summed up in three independently established facts:
      1) Jesus' empty tomb
      2) Jesus' appearances alive after His death, and
      3) The origin of the disciples' belief in His resurrection.<

      None of which are established facts, of course. They are merely assumed to be true because someone wrote about them. They are no more established facts than are the Harry Potter stories. The fact that the different accounts differ so radically - which is the point of the Easter Challenge - establishes quite the opposite - that these are not established facts coming, as they do, from demonstrably unreliable sources.

      Can I suggest you actually take the Easter Challenge instead of making up excuses not to need to, whilst trying to give the impression you could if you wanted to? That might be a little more convincing.

    4. >The best explanation of these three facts is "God raised Jesus from the dead."<

      No. The best explanation is that the stories were legendary and mostly made up. This explanation fits all the available 'evidence', none of which exists outside a book known to be wrong about many other things, and does not need to postulate an unproven supernatural entity of infinite complexity, hence, by Occam's Razor, should be pared away as an unnecessary multiplication of entities.

    5. "Christ myth"? The 2nd Coming of the Christ has now proven that Y'shua ben Yosef was God-incarnate. Please see http://7seals.blogspot.com .

    6. See my reply to your gibberish below.

      Any chance you could try the Easter Challenge as explained above or is this diversion intended to cover the fact that you can't because the Bible stories are mutually incompatible?

  2. First I heard about how accounts Jesus' last words defer, I was quite intrigued how the church would explain this, in either theologically (philosophical?) or historically. Some churches argue Jesus must have said all of accounted, therefore has said 7 last words. It came clear to me, which C.S. Lewis must have been right about Jesus on some psychological analysis; unless whoever wrote this story wanted to make their savior mad man. Jesus must have had schizophrenia, spitting words that have no connection to each other at all and contradicting himself from a second ago.

    1. CS Lewis 'forgot' to include a fourth, far more likely option in his 'trilemma' - mythical.

  3. God doesn't need to prove anything to you and God doesn't need to be famous. If you say he is powerless well it is your point of view and time takes everything even your opinion.

    1. >God doesn't need to prove anything to you<

      I didn't ask 'God' to; I asked you to.

      Is it significant that you conspicuously avoided taking the simple Easter Challenge? Why would you do that if you were confident in your faith?

      Oh ye of little faith...

    2. God doesn't need to prove anything, but he can't then condemn man to Hell for not believing in him due to no other reason than lack of proof - it's his burden, not ours. Indeed, if he will prove nothing, we have no reason to believe in him, and every right to ridicule those that do believe, since they're going against the grain of solid evidence.

  4. I don't have a complete answer - just a few things I'd like to point out:
    Question 11 - John actually does not say no (the king james version is quite vague in its wording) - the verse reads "Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father."". The exact words vary according to translation of course.
    q12 - Paul is counting the 12 as the apostles, rather than the disciples (they elected a twelth member sometime in that period)
    q16 - Luke 24:50-52 gives absolutely no indication of time, no reason to believe that the events of v50-52 occurred on that sunday
    q17 - John finishes before the Ascension. Acts then continues directly from the end of John (same author, acts is the "sequel"). This does not mean that John claims there is no ascension.

    I haven't answered the question, just pointed out some fallacies in the table. I also personally believe that God allows small errors in the bible as an emphasis on our own importance. (I had biblical evidence for this, but I forgot what it was).

  5. The Synoptic Gospels & John were written down from oral stories 40-70 years after the estimated time of Jesus of Nazareth's execution in 29 or 30CE. Each community had there own collection of writings. Since they believed Jesus' promise to return before their generation passed away there wasn't any concern about getting the oral stories down on paper because if the Kingdom Come why do you need a written record? The very troubling delayed parousia caused these communities to reconsider when those who were alive at the time of Jesus died off and no return. How did these communities deal with the very real and ugly reality that Jesus didn't return in the promised time? Each community wrote down their oral sayings. They were written pseudonymously and later redacted. We do not have any extant NT texts until the 3rd Century. So there should be no surprise that when the early Catholic Church decided to establish a New Testament Canon you'd have conflicting and contradictory claims being made. These individual community texts were never meant to be placed into a book with sayings and letters from other communities. The NT Canon was formed by committee under orders from Emperor Constantine to get it done ASAP. Once you learn the origins of the NT it is easy to see why it is so riddled with errors, contradictions and blatant myth-making propaganda.

  6. I think I can answer this quandary.

    The books were all independently written before editing was a concept, and based on hearsay and wishful thinking. That the "facts" are all internally self-contradictory is best explained by a total lack of ACTUAL factual basis for the story.

    The problem was then exacerbated by creative additions, omissions, postdiction, and complete fabrications as the works were variously transcribed and "translated" over two millennia.

    In essence, the whole thing reeks of the kind of inaccuracy and on-the-fly improvisation that would clue in any investigator worth his salt to a completely made-up narrative.

  7. Y'shua ben Yosef was lashed and nailed on the Cross on the 1st day of Passover Friday April 7, 30 AD / 7.4.748 AUC / 14 Nisan 3790 HC. Jesus was born on April 17, 6 BC / 17.4.748 AUC / 3755 HC. The Jewish Messiah was born and crucified under the sign of Aries the Ram/Lamb, and the King of the Judeans is known as the "Lamb of GOD". Note the birth 17.4.748 AUC and crucifixion 7.4.783 AUC, when connected with...


    the King=74=T20+H8+E5+K11+I9+N14+G7
    nailed on=74=N14+A+I9+L12+E5+D4
    Good Friday=G7+O+O+D4+F6+R18+I9+D4+A1+Y25



    Using 'the key'(74) of A=1,B=2...Z=26 is Simple6,74 English7,74 Gematria8,74 (google that). Why do all these like terms/names converge(74) on 7_4? It's a product of the GOD=7_4 algorithm/code (google that).

    1. Well done for showing how you can start from the answer you want, make up facts to support it, then claim to have proved something. I don't know if you've been fooled by it or whether you are trying to fool us by this trick.

      There is, of course, absolutely nothing to corroborate your assertions about the date of either Jesus' birth or death, and the Bible contradicts you anyway in the Matthew places his birth at a time when Herod was king. Herod was king between 12 and 4 BCE. Moreover, Mathews account can be seen as an account of an event when Jesus was 2 years old, not when he was born. Luke, on the other had places the birth at a time when Cyrenius was governor of Judea. Cyrenius was governor of Judea between 6 and 10 CE. Clearly they can't both be right but neither of them gives the exact date and there are no other known sources for these claims.

      Sorry, but you have either been lied to or are lying to us.

  8. I decided to take the Easter Challenge. http://thereforegodexists.com/2015/04/the-easter-challenge/

    1. Well, it would be truer to say you avoided it and gave lots of excuses for having done so. My reply is in the comments.


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