Jesus: Contradictions in Resurrection and Ascension

Jesus Tomb in Holy land
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Christians point to Jesus’ resurrection as one of the things which distinguish Christianity from all other religions. After all, the founders of other religions (like Muhammad and Buddha) are all dead; Jesus conquered death. Or did he? For something so important and central to the message, theology, and very nature of Christianity, it’s curious that the gospel authors would all have such radically different stories about what happened.

Jesus’ First Resurrection Appearance

The resurrection of someone dead is an important event, but the Gospels don’t seem to know where and when Jesus first appeared.
Mark 16:14-15 - Jesus appears to Mary Magdalena, but it’s not clear where (in older endings of Mark, he didn’t appear at all)
Matthew 28:8-9 - Jesus first appears near his tomb
Luke 24:13-15 - Jesus first appears near Emmaus, several miles from Jerusalem
John 20:13-14 - Jesus first appears at his tomb

Who Sees Jesus First?

Mark - Jesus appears first to Mary Magdalena then later to “the eleven”
Matthew - Jesus appears first to Mary Magdalena, then to the other Mary, and finally to ”the eleven”
Luke - Jesus appears first to “two,” then to Simon, then to “the eleven”
John - Jesus appears first to Mary Magdalena, then the disciples without Thomas, then the disciples with Thomas

Women’s Reactions to the Empty Tomb

The gospels agree that the empty tomb was found by women (though not which women), but what did the women do?
Mark 16:8 - The women were amazed and afraid, so they kept quiet
Matthew 28:6-8 - The women ran away “with great joy.”
Luke 24:9-12 - The women left the tomb and told the disciples
John 20:1-2 - Mary told the disciples that the body had been stolen

Jesus’ Behavior After His Resurrection

If someone rises from the dead, his actions should be significant, but the gospels don’t agree on how Jesus first behaved
Mark 16:14-15 - Jesus commissions “the eleven” to preach the gospel
Matthew 28:9 - Jesus lets Mary Magdalene and another Mary hold his feet
John 20:17 - Jesus forbids Mary to touch him because he hasn’t ascended to heaven yet, but a week later he lets Thomas touch him anyway

Doubting Jesus’ Resurrection

If Jesus rose from the dead, how did his disciples take the news?
Mark 16:11, Luke 24:11 - Everyone doubts and is scared or both at first, but eventually they go along with it
Matthew 28:16 - Some doubt, but most believe
John 20:24-28 - Everyone believes but Thomas, whose doubts are eliminated when he gets physical proof

Jesus Ascends to Heaven

It wasn’t enough that Jesus rises from the dead; he also had to ascend to heaven. But where, when, and how did this happen?
Mark 16:14-19 - Jesus ascends while he and his disciples are seated at a table in or near Jerusalem

Matthew 28:16-20 - Jesus’ ascension isn’t mentioned at all, but Matthew ends at a mountain in Galilee
Luke 24:50-51 - Jesus ascends outside, after dinner, and at Bethany and on the same day as the resurrection
John - Nothing about Jesus’ ascension is mentioned
Acts 1:9-12 - Jesus ascends at least 40 days after his resurrection, at Mt. Olivet

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Your Citation
Cline, Austin. "Jesus: Contradictions in Resurrection and Ascension." Learn Religions, Jan. 26, 2021, Cline, Austin. (2021, January 26). Jesus: Contradictions in Resurrection and Ascension. Retrieved from Cline, Austin. "Jesus: Contradictions in Resurrection and Ascension." Learn Religions. (accessed March 31, 2023).