Controversy 4 - Who was at the tomb?

Contradiction #4 – Who was at the tomb?

Matthew 28:1 – Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb.

Mark 16:1 – When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him

John 20:1 – Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.

Answer – Luke 24:10. There were several other women with Mary. Leaving some of them out doesn’t classify as a contradiction.

While this is in my opinion a clear cut case. I will take some time to discuss the difference between biblical inaccuracy and biblical contradictions.

Let’s first start with biblical inaccuracy. Our first challenge is to acknowledge that as a result of living 1000’s of years removed from the biblical culture we will never fully appreciate the customs and traditions of our biblical heroes. This extends to not having an instinctive appreciation for the things that were primarily important to them. An example is ‘Hebrew Numerology’. In a 21st century context it is not considered important to put hidden meanings into numbers, like 7, 12, 14, 1000, etc. Yet these numbers are scattered through the bible because it was highly important to the author and original reader, these numbers hold a very significant meaning. The opposite of this also applies. In a technological, information crazed society we 21st century humans crave accuracy. We place a high emphasis of the grammar, format, spelling of a document. We are a precise and controlling society that demands perfection in everything that we see, buy and want. If we go and buy a new car, the tiniest imperfection will cause us to rethink the value. How can we expect an author, writing some 2-5 thousand years before us to be writing to accommodate us? Isn’t it a little absurd to expect Matthew, Mark and John to change their perspective of importance to meet our needs. Further, isn’t it a bit irreverent to expect God to rethink what’s important to Him when inspiring these people to write the bible.

Now jumping to the alleged contradictions. Using some material from BibleGateway.com I learnt that a contradiction is something that both confirms and denies the same thing at the same time. Eg. I say the apple is red, you say the apple is green. We have contradicting opinions.

This inaccuracy in the bible doesn’t point to a contraction. Rather it shows us what was important to the people of that day and age.

If you were sitting in a restaurant and a customer pulled out a gun and shot the chef. And afterwards you were interviewed by the Police. You would probably remember what the man was wearing. What colour his skin was. You might even be able to identify the gun. But would you be able to remember these same things about the people who were sitting at his table? If the police asked all the people in the restaurant about his table… do you think they would all answer the same?

To the disciples of Jesus; who was with Mary was not really important; what was important was that Jesus’s body should have been in the tomb, and it wasn’t. Just like what the people were wearing on the table isn’t important compared to finding the man who shot the chef. In order to understand the word of God, I encourage you to read it deeper than the surface. Look for the supporting evidence before looking for the contradiction.

Could someone you know benefit from seeing this?

2 thoughts on “Contradiction #4 – Who was at the tomb?

  1. I don’t know that I’d even go so far as to call it inaccurate (a loaded term today for sure). The writers weren’t writing a textbook, a report, or a history. They were writing a gospel. It accurately reflects the historical event, but isn’t comprehensive. By the same token, nothing today is totally comprehensive either. We value different things. For instance, if a mugging occurs on the street in broad daylight during rush hour, we are probably not concerned with the identity of everyone in the vicinity possibly only those (and only a few of those) who can act as “witnesses.” We also probably don’t care what the man had for lunch directly prior to the mugging, and so it is omitted, while it is conceivable that there is a culture that would take this as a vital piece of information. For instance we can assume such a culture had certain superstitions related to certain foods. They might conclude that, “well of course he got mugged, he had a hotdog without relish for lunch.” This may be a slightly absurd example, but it highlights that what different cultures (or even different people within a culture) consider important facts varies. The exact identity of every person present (beyond the fact that they were women and mary was among them) did not seem to be a pressing issue for those writers in that culture.

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    1. thanks Trey. put it better, in fewer words, than I did. In reflection I think you are right that ‘inaccurate’ is too strong and leads to a place I wasn’t trying to go. Trying to find other words to get help my point… imprecise, undetailed, indeterminate, vague, inexact? Any suggestions? I think we are always stepping on dangerous ground when venturing down this path. Definitely going to give this one more thought and you’ll probably find an edit to the post… thanks again Trey 🙂

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