The Rejection of Pascal's Wager
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The Resurrection Appearances

Now that we have determined the resurrection account in Mark is spurious, we will look at the rest of the resurrection accounts in the gospels and the Pauline epistles. The remaining three gospels all give different and often contradictory accounts of the resurrection appearances of Jesus. There is no agreement among the New Testament sources as to: [1]

  • The person who first saw the risen Jesus
    According to Matthew it was the two Marys, according to Luke it was either Peter or the two travelers to Emmaus, John said it was to Mary Magdalene alone and Paul said Peter had that honor.
  • The place of Jesus' appearance
    . Mark implicitly, and Matthew, explicitly state that Galilee was the exclusive location of the resurrection appearances. Luke and John both assert Jerusalem as the place where the resurrected Jesus was first seen.
  • The number of appearances
    Matthew mentioned two, Luke implied three, John said four and Paul counted six.
  • The duration of the risen Jesus' stay on earth
    Luke said it was one day, Acts put it as forty. John and Matthew had it somewhere in between.
It cannot be too heavily stressed that the resurrection appearances is the fundamental sheet anchor of the Christian faith. Without the reality of this, the whole edifice of Christianity (liberal theologians not withstanding) collapse. But here, in a kind of supernatural situation where the burden of proof would be extraordinarily heavy, the gospels and other New Testament sources can't even present us with a harmonious witness to the event surrounding the appearances of the risen Jesus. It goes without saying that no weight can be given to accounts which contradict each other in every major detail.

Who was the First Person to See the Risen Jesus?

Take the simple question: who was the first person to see the risen Jesus? The gospels give contradictory answers to this. According to Matthew, Jesus first appeared to the first two Marys while they were running away from the tomb:

Matthew 28:8-10
So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. "Greeting," he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshipped him. Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me."

According to Luke the women only saw the angels but did not see Jesus. The first persons to see Jesus was two of his followers (not of the eleven). The story (Luke 24:13-35) recounts how later that Sunday two of Jesus' followers met with a stranger on their way from Jerusalem to Emmaus. They told the stranger about the sad events of the past few days. When they reached Emmaus they had supper together. During that supper the two finally realized that the stranger was Jesus. Upon this realization Jesus immediately disappeared from their sight.

According to John Jesus first appeared to Mary Magdalene alone:

John 20:11-18
Mary stood outside the tomb crying...she turned around and saw Jesus standing there...Jesus said to her, "Mary!" She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, "Rabboni!" (which means teacher). Jesus said, "Do not hold me, for I have not yet returned to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God." Mary of Magdala went to the disciples with the news that she had seen the Lord and that he told her this.

And Paul in I Corinthians 15:5 mentioned no appearances to the women but instead said that Jesus appeared first to Peter. This again contradicts all three accounts. [a] There is thus no clear cut answer from the gospel as to who was actually the first to see the risen Jesus.

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Where Did the Apostles First Meet the Risen Jesus?

Another contradiction arises in where exactly did the risen Jesus first meet his eleven apostles. Mark, while not containing any actual account of Jesus appearances (see above), made the angel tell the women that Jesus will meet his apostles in Galilee:

Mark 16:7
"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."

Matthew makes Jesus himself convey that same message to the women (Matthew 28:10-see above). And further adds an episode of the disciples' actual meeting with him on a mountain in Galilee:

Matthew 28:16-20
Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth had been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I will be with you always to the very end of the age."

Matthew made no mention of any meeting of the disciples with the risen Jesus in Jerusalem. Indeed the very flow of his last chapter implicitly excludes that possibility, for he made Jesus command the women to tell the disciple to go ahead and meet him in Galilee.

Luke, on the other hand, made the first appearance of Jesus to his disciples happen in Jerusalem:

Luke 24:33-36
They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem...While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you."

John did not explicitly mention where the meeting took place, but it is quite obvious that Jerusalem was implied, as the appearance took place on that very Sunday evening.

John 20:19
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you."

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What were the Number and Sequence of the Appearances?

The New Testament sources can't even agree on the number and sequence of the appearances. Given below is a list of the number and sequence of the appearances. It can be seen that there is no agreement whatsoever in the numbers and sequence of appearances:

  • Matthew
    1) 28:9-10 To the two Marys
    2) 28:16-17 To the eleven apostles in Galilee

  • Luke
    1) 24:13-32 To the two travelers to Emmaus
    2) 24:34 (Statement) To Peter
    3) 24:33-39 To the eleven apostles in Jerusalem

  • John
    1) 20:14-18 To Mary Magdalene
    2) 20:19-23 To the apostles in a house
    3) 20:24-30 To the disciples and Thomas
    4) 21:1-23 To the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias

  • I Corinthians
    1) 15:5 To Peter
    2) 15:5 To the twelve
    3) 15:6 To five hundred followers
    4) 15:7 To James
    5) 15:7 To "all the apostles"
    6) 15:7 To Paul

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How Long did the Resurrected Jesus Stayed on Earth?

The duration of the resurrected Jesus' stay on earth is also something which the gospels cannot agree on.
  • In Matthew the duration is only a few days needed for the disciples to travel from Jerusalem to Galilee.
  • Luke had the whole resurrection and Ascension occur over that one Sunday. Jesus appeared to the two on the way to Emmaus on Sunday evening (Luke 24:13-12). The two travelled immediately to Jerusalem (Luke 24:33). When they found the eleven it was probably late that Sunday night. There Jesus appeared to them (Luke 24:36). After this Jesus led them to Bethany where he was taken up to heaven (Luke 24:50-53).
  • Acts, ostensible written by the same author, contradicts this by asserting that the duration was forty days (Acts 1:3).
  • John did not explicitly state the duration but made it more than one week (John 21:26).
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a.Luke 24:34 might be taken to support the passage in I Corinthians. This in no way solves the problems for the contradiction of whether it was the women, Mary Magdalene alone or Peter who first saw the risen Jesus remains.


1.Guignebert, Jesus: p511

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