Biblical Accounts of the Resurrection
Below is a comparison chart showing all the accounts of the resurrection of Jesus and post-resurrection appearances reported in the Bible, particularly the four Gospels. It is presented in general chronological order of the events and arranged by specific aspects of the story to highlight similarities and differences. The books of the Bible are listed in the generally-agreed chronological order in which they were written, from earliest (1 Corinthians) to latest (John). Information and wording is from the NIV (New International Version). The verses after Mark 8 are not included because they are widely regarded as later additions. A dash indicates the event/information is not mentioned in that account.
The biblical accounts of the resurrection are one of the primary topics of debate between non-Christian critics and Christian apologists. The former regard the accounts as contradictory and another reason rational people should reject Christianity, while the latter have presented various theories on how the various accounts might be harmonized. Arguments from both sides can be found in the books and links listed at the bottom of this page.
|Day||third day after the Crucifixion||the first day of the week||the first day of the week||the first day of the week||-||the first day of the week|
|Time||-||very early, just after sunrise||dawn||very early in the morning||-||early, while it was still dark|
|Mentioned at the tomb||-||Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome||Mary Magdalene and the other Mary||Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them||-||Mary Magdalene|
|Number of women mentioned||-||3||2||> 3||-||1|
|Purpose of visit||-||brought spices to anoint the body||they went to look at the tomb||took the spices they had prepared||-||-|
|Conversation on the way||-||"Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?"||-||-||-||-|
|When was the stone rolled away?||-||The stone had been rolled away when they arrived.||After they arrived, an angel appeared, rolled the stone away and sat on it.||The stone had been rolled away when they arrived.||-||The stone had been rolled away when Mary arrived.|
|Mentions an earthquake||-||-||yes||-||-||-|
|Who is mentioned at the tomb||-||one young man||one angel||two men||-||two angels|
|Description of appearance||-||dressed in a white robe||appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow||in clothes that gleamed like lightning||-||in white|
|When appeared||-||waiting inside the tomb when the women entered||came down in front of them to roll away the stone after they arrived||after the women entered the tomb||-||waiting inside the tomb when Mary entered (but were not there earlier when Peter and John looked inside)|
|Where appeared||-||inside the tomb, on the right side||sitting on the stone door outside the tomb||"suddenly they stood beside them"||-||sitting inside the tomb, one at the head and one at the foot of where Jesus' body had been|
|What did he/they say?||-||"Don't be alarmed. 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."||"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.'"||"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 into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.'"||-||They asked her, "Woman, why are you crying?"|
|How did the women feel?||-||Trembling and bewildered||Afraid yet filled with joy||Frightened when the two men appeared||-||Mary thought the body had been stolen. She doesn't seem to be afraid.|
|What did the women do?||-||Fled from the tomb and said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid||hurried away and ran to tell the disciples||bowed with their faces on the ground upon seeing the men, then remembered what Jesus had said, then returned to tell the disciples||-||Stood weeping outside the tomb, then looked in and saw the angels. She told them, "they've taken my Lord away." Replied calmly to the angels.|
|What did the guards do?||-||-||They were terrified and shook like dead men. After the women left, they reported to the chief priests, who bribed them to say the disciples stole the body.||-||-||-|
|Male disciples' reaction to the story||-||-||They went to the mountain in Galilee as instructed.||They did not believe the women, because the story seemed like nonsense. But Peter ran to the tomb, saw empty linens, wondered what happened. Later, Jesus appeared to "Simon" and they believed.||-||Peter and the beloved disciple (presumably John) ran to the tomb and found empty linens. John "saw and believed."|
|First appearance mentioned||To Peter.||-||To the women shortly after they left the tomb. "Suddenly Jesus met them."||To two disciples (one named Cleopas) walking to Emmaus the same day.||-||At the empty tomb, right after Mary spoke to the angels. She turned around and saw him standing there.|
|Reaction||-||-||They ran to him, clasped his feet and worshipped him.||They did not recognize him until they broke bread with him at Emmaus.||-||She thought he was the gardener and asked if he had taken Jesus' body away. After he said, "Mary," she cried out "Teacher!"|
|Jesus' words||-||-||Do not be afraid. Tell "his brothers" to go see him in Galilee||He asked what they were discussing, then explained the prophecies about him. He disappeared as soon as they recognized him.||"After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive."||"Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?"
"Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, 'I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'"
|Second appearance mentioned||And then to the Twelve.||-||Mountain in Galilee||In Jerusalem, he appeared suddenly in a room where the disciples were assembled.||"He appeared to them over a period of forty days..."||That same evening, inside a locked room. He came and stood among them.|
|Reaction||-||-||When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.||They were startled, thinking they had seen a ghost.||-||The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.|
|Jesus' words||-||-||"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all 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 am with you always, to the very end of the age."||He showed them he had flesh and bones and he ate a piece of broiled fish. He opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. "This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high."||"... and spoke about the kingdom of God."||"Peace be with you!" Then he showed them his hands and side. "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you. Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven."|
|More appearances mentioned||"After that, he appeared to more than 500 of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born."||-||-||-||"He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God."||(1) A week later, in the same locked room, to convince "Doubting Thomas." (2) Many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples. (3) Miraculous catch of fish on the Sea of Tiberias, reinstatement of Peter, and discussion of whether the beloved disciple would live until the Second Coming. (4) Jesus did many other things as well.|
|Ascension mentioned||-||-||-||"When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy."||
"He was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 'Men of Galilee,' they said, 'why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.'"
Christian Apologetic Sources
- Gleason Archer, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties (Zondervan, 2001).
- Norman L. Geisler and Thomas Howe, The Big Book of Bible Difficulties: Clear and Concise Answers from Genesis to Revelation (Baker Books, 2008).
- Josh McDowell, A Ready Defense: The Best Of Josh McDowell (Thomas Nelson, 1992).
- Josh McDowell, The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict (Thomas Nelson, 1999).
- Mark D. Roberts, Can We Trust the Gospels?: Investigating the Reliability of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John (Crossway Books, 2007).
- Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ: A Journalist's Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus (Zondervan, 1998).
- R Forster & P Marston (based on), The Resurrection of Jesus: A harmony of the resurrection accounts (1998) - Answering Islam. Includes maps and diagrams of post-Resurrection events.
- Gary W. Jensen, Is it true that the Bible's accounts of Christ's resurrection are full of contradictions? (1998) - ChristianAnswers.net
- Anthony Maas, Resurrection of Christ (1911) - Catholic Encyclopedia. Includes a proposed harmony of the New Testament accounts.
- Glenn Miller, Do the Resurrection accounts HOPELESSLY contradict one another? (1997) - Christian Thinktank
- Dan Barker, "Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?" (Chapter 16) in Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America's Leading Atheists (Ulysses Press, 2008).
- Bart Ehrman, Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And Why We Don't Know About Them) (HarperOne, 2009).
- Michael Martin, "Resurrection" (Chapter 3) in The Case Against Christianity (Temple University Press, 1991).
- David Ramsay Steele, "The Holy Bible Isn't Wholly Reliable" (Chapter 11) in Atheism Explained: From Folly to Philosophy (Open Court Press, 2008).
- Richard Carrier, Why I Don't Buy the Resurrection Story (6th ed., 2006) - Infidels.org
- Robert T. Carroll, The Resurrection - Skeptic's Dictionary (brief atheist perspective)
- Austin Cline, Jesus' Resurrection & Ascension: Contradictions - About.com
- Abdul Haleem, Contractions in the Resurrection Story - Answering Christianity (Muslim perspective)
- Jeffery Jay Lowder, Historical Evidence and the Empty Tomb Story: A Reply to William Lane Craig (2001) - Infidels.org
- Jeffery Lowder, How Not to Argue Against the Historicity and Resurrection of Jesus (2002) - Infidels.org
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