Chapter 1
How Reasonable is it to Believe
in the Resurrection of Jesus?


Our first task is to examine just how believable the stories about the resurrection of Jesus are. The New Testament presents us with a variety of accounts of the resurrection, and the ones that will most concern us are those found in the four Gospels and the list of appearances in St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. 

Two Ways of Reading the Resurrection Stories

There are two very different ways to read to resurrection stories that follow. The first is a normal and natural Christian reading, whether in the Christian community or in private, in which the stories are read in faith with a desire to draw closer to the resurrection which is already accepted as true. Let’s say that this is like reading the columns that follow vertically one at a time, and if we notice the differences that exist among them, we instinctively tend to harmonize them.

The second way, which we are going to employ here, is to read the columns through the lense of the historical-critical method so that we become literary archaeologists, if you will, and scrutinize the differences between the texts and their internal seams with the desire of discovering how they were composed with the hope of glimpsing behind and beneath the texts what actually happened. Here there can be no initial presumption of truth, for that is what we are trying to discover. Let’s say that we are going to try to read the columns horizontally and intensively.

We will start with the chart presenting the resurrection stories beginning with the witnesses to the crucifixion of Jesus, and then we will examine individual events.1


The Resurrection Narratives

Mark 15

40There were also women looking on from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of the younger James and of Joses, and Salome. 41These women had followed him when he was in Galilee and ministered to him. There were also many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem.


Matthew 27

55There were many women there, looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him. 56Among them were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.


Luke 23

49but all his acquaintances stood at a distance, including the women who had followed him from Galilee and saw these events.


John 19

25Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala

26 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.”


42When it was already evening, since it was the day of preparation, the day before the sabbath. 43Joseph of Arimathea, a distinguished member of the council, who was himself awaiting the kingdom of God, came and courageously went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 44Pilate was amazed that he was already dead. He summoned the centurion and asked him if Jesus had already died. 45And when he learned of it from the centurion, he gave the body to Joseph. 46Having bought a linen cloth, he took him down, wrapped him in the linen cloth and laid him in a tomb that had been hewn out of the rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance to the tomb. 47Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses watched where he was laid. 

57When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea named Joseph, who was himself a disciple of Jesus. 58He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be handed over. 59Taking the body, Joseph wrapped it (in) clean linen 60and laid it in his new tomb that he had hewn in the rock. Then he rolled a huge stone across the entrance to the tomb and departed.

61But Mary Magdalene and the other Mary remained sitting there, facing the tomb.


50Now there was a virtuous and righteous man named Joseph who, though he was a member of the council, 51had not consented to their plan of action. He came from the Jewish town of Arimathea and was awaiting the kingdom of God. 52He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 53After he had taken the body down, he wrapped it in a linen cloth and laid him in a rock-hewn tomb in which no one had yet been buried. 5 It was the day of preparation, and the sabbath was about to begin. 55The women who had come from Galilee with him followed behind, and when they had seen the tomb and the way in which his body was laid in it, 56they returned and prepared spices and perfumed oils. Then they rested on the sabbath according to the commandment.


38After this, Joseph of Arimathea, secretly a disciple of Jesus for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate if he could remove the body of Jesus. And Pilate permitted it. So he came and took his body. 39Nicodemus, the one who had first come to him at night, also came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes weighing about one hundred pounds. 40They took the body of Jesus and bound it with burial cloths along with the spices, according to the Jewish burial custom. 41Now in the place where he had been crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had yet been buried. 42So they laid Jesus there because of the Jewish preparation day; for the tomb was close by.



62The next day, the one following the day of preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate 63and said, “Sir, we remember that this impostor while still alive said, ‘After three days I will be raised up.’ 64Give orders, then, that the grave be secured until the third day, lest his disciples come and steal him and say to the people, ‘He has been raised from the dead.’ This last imposture would be worse than the first.” 65Pilate said to them, “The guard is yours; go secure it as best you can.” 66So they went and secured the tomb by fixing a seal to the stone and setting the guard





Mark 16

1When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go and anoint him. 2Very early when the sun had risen, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb. 3They were saying to one another, “Who will roll back the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” 4When they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back; it was very large.
5On entering the tomb they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a white robe, and they were utterly amazed. 6He said to them, “Do not be amazed! You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Behold the place where they laid him. 7But go and tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you.’”

8Then they went out and fled from the tomb, seized with trembling and bewilderment. They said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.


Matthew 28

1After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. 2And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, approached, rolled back the stone, and sat upon it. 3His appearance was like lightning and his clothing was white as snow. 4The guards were shaken with fear of him and became like dead men. 5Then the angel said to the women in reply, “Do not be afraid! I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified. 6He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ Behold, I have told you.”

8Then they went away quickly from the tomb, fearful yet overjoyed, and ran to announce this to his disciples.



Luke 24

1But at daybreak on the first day of the week they took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. 2They found the stone rolled away from the tomb; 3but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.
While they were puzzling over this, behold, two men in dazzling garments appeared to them.
5They were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground. They said to them, “Why do you seek the living one among the dead? 6He is not here, but he has been raised. Remember what he said to you while he was still in Galilee, 7that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners and be crucified, and rise on the third day.”





8And they remembered his words.
Then they returned from the tomb and announced all these things to the eleven and to all the others. 10The women were Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James; the others who accompanied them also told this to the apostles, 11but their story seemed like nonsense and they did not believe them.

John 20

1On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb.




12But Peter got up and ran to the tomb, bent down, and saw the burial cloths alone; then he went home amazed at what had happened.


3So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb. 4They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first; 5he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in. 6When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, 7and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. 8Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed. 9For they did not yet understand the scripture that he had to rise from the dead. 10Then the disciples returned home.

Markan Appendix

9When he had risen, early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons. 10She went and told his companions who were mourning and weeping. 11When they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe.



9And behold, Jesus met them on their way and greeted them. They approached, embraced his feet, and did him homage. 10Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”




11But Mary stayed outside the tomb weeping. And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb 12and saw two angels in white sitting there, one at the head and one at the feet where the body of Jesus had been. 13And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken my Lord, and I don’t know where they laid him.”
14When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there, but did not know it was Jesus. 15Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” She thought it was the gardener and said to him, “Sir, if you carried him away, tell me where you laid him, and I will take him.” 16Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,” which means Teacher. 17Jesus said to her, “Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’“ 18Mary of Magdala went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and what he told her.


11While they were going, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had happened.
12They assembled with the elders and took counsel; then they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers,
13telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him while we were asleep.’
14And if this gets to the ears of the governor, we will satisfy (him) and keep you out of trouble.”
15The soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has circulated among the Jews to the present (day).





Markan Appendix

12After this he appeared in another form to two of them walking along on their way to the country. 13They returned and told the others; but they did not believe them either.




13Now that very day two of them were going to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus, 14and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred. 15 And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them, 16but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him. 17He asked them, “What are you discussing as you walk along?” They stopped, looking downcast. 18One of them, named Cleopas, said to him in reply, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know of the things that have taken place there in these days?”
19And he replied to them, “What sort of things?” They said to him, “The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20how our chief priests and rulers both handed him over to a sentence of death and crucified him. 21But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel; and besides all this, it is now the third day since this took place.
22Some women from our group, however, have astounded us: they were at the tomb early in the morning 23and did not find his body; they came back and reported that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who announced that he was alive. 24Then some of those with us went to the tomb and found things just as the women had described, but him they did not see.”
25And he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke! 26Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”
27Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the scriptures. 28As they approached the village to which they were going, he gave the impression that he was going on farther. 29But they urged him, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.


First Corinthians

3For I handed on to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures; 4that he was buried; that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures;
5that he appeared to Cephas,


30And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. 31With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight. 32Then they said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning (within us) while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?”

33So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem where they found gathered together the eleven and those with them 34who were saying, “The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!” 35Then the two recounted what had taken place on the way and how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.




First Corinthians

then to the twelve.


Markan Appendix

14(But) later, as the eleven were at table, he appeared to them and rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart because they had not believed those who saw him after he had been raised. 15He said to them, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature. 16Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages. 18They will pick up serpents (with their hands), and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them. They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”



36While they were still speaking about this, he stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
37But they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost.
38Then he said to them, “Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts?
39Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.”
40And as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.
41While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed, he asked them, “Have you anything here to eat?”
42They gave him a piece of baked fish;
43he took it and ate it in front of them.
44He said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.”
45Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures.
46And he said to them, “Thus it is written that the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day
47and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
48You are witnesses of these things.
49And (behold) I am sending the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”


19On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
20When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
21(Jesus) said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
22And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the holy Spirit.
23Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”
24Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.
25So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
26Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”
27Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”
28Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
29Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”
30Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of (his) disciples that are not written in this book.
31But these are written that you may (come to) believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.


First Corinthians

6After that, he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at once, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7After that he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.



16The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them. 17When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted. 18Then Jesus approached and said to them, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”


John 21

1After this, Jesus revealed himself again to his disciples at the Sea of Tiberias. He revealed himself in this way. 2Together were Simon Peter, Thomas called Didymus, Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, Zebedee’s sons, and two others of his disciples. 3Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We also will come with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
4When it was already dawn, Jesus was standing on the shore; but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.
5Jesus said to them, “Children, have you caught anything to eat?” They answered him, “No.” 6So he said to them, “Cast the net over the right side of the boat and you will find something.” So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in because of the number of fish.






7So the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord.” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he tucked in his garment, for he was lightly clad, and jumped into the sea.  8The other disciples came in the boat, for they were not far from shore, only about a hundred yards, dragging the net with the fish. 9When they climbed out on shore, they saw a charcoal fire with fish on it and bread. 10Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you just caught.” 11So Simon Peter went over and dragged the net ashore full of one hundred fifty-three large fish. Even though there were so many, the net was not torn. 12Jesus said to them, “Come, have breakfast.” And none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they realized it was the Lord. 13Jesus came over and took the bread and gave it to them, and in like manner the fish. 14This was now the third time Jesus was revealed to his disciples after being raised from the dead.
15When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16He then said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” (Jesus) said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.”
19He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when he had said this, he said to him, “Follow me.” 20Peter turned and saw the disciple following whom Jesus loved, the one who had also reclined upon his chest during the supper and had said, “Master, who is the one who will betray you?” 21When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about him?” 22Jesus said to him, “What if I want him to remain until I come? What concern is it of yours? You follow me.” 23So the word spread among the brothers that that disciple would not die. But Jesus had not told him that he would not die, just “What if I want him to remain until I come? (What concern is it of yours?)” 24It is this disciple who testifies to these things and has written them, and we know that his testimony is true. 25There are also many other things that Jesus did, but if these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written.










First Corinthians

8Last of all, as to one born abnormally, he appeared to me.

Markan Appendix

19So then the Lord Jesus, after he spoke to them, was taken up into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God. 20But they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word through accompanying signs.



50Then he led them (out) as far as Bethany, raised his hands, and blessed them. 51As he blessed them he parted from them and was taken up to heaven. 52They did him homage and then returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53and they were continually in the temple praising God.






The Women Witnessing the Crucifixion

Let’s start our horizontal critical reading with the women witnessing the crucifixion. After we read the accounts of the incident in the columns above we can divide them into units of thought starting with Mark, and adding new numbers for new units as we go in order to facilitate their comparison.




(1) Some women watched from a distance
(2) Mary of Magdala
(3) Mary the mother of James the younger and Joses
(4) Salome
(5) who used to follow him and look after him in Galilee.
(6) Many other women who had come up to Jerusalem with him


(6) Many other women
(1) watching from afar
(5) who had followed Jesus from Galilee and looked after him
(2) Mary of Magdala
(3) Mary the mother of James and Joses
(7) the mother of Zebedee’s sons


(8) all his friends
(5) the women who had accompanied him from Galilee



(9) near the cross
(10) his mother
(11) his mother’s sister
(12) Mary of Clopas
(2) Mary of Magdala
(13) the beloved disciple




Matthew’s account appears to follows Mark’s, or Mark’s source, although he has rearranged the material. Luke condenses the story of the women, and adds that all his friends were there, while John has his own story which includes the presence of Mary of Magdala. Mark’s (5) “in Galilee” is slightly different from Matthew and Luke’s (5) “from Galilee.” While Matthew follows Mark, does (7) “the mother of Zebedee’s son” indicate he had a separate source, or is she identical to (4) Salome? Luke has “all his friends,” that is, the male disciples, while John has the “beloved disciple” there with the women. Is there a source common to them both? More importantly, Mary of Magdala appears in two quite different contexts in Mark and John, suggesting that they had different traditions about her presence. Therefore we have as possible sources: Mark, Matthew’s “mother of Zebedee’s sons,” Luke’s “all his friends,” perhaps linked to the presence of the beloved disciple in John, and a common tradition, or two distinct traditions, about the presence of Mary of Magdala in John and Mark.

The interrelationship among the different accounts of the same event is therefore more complex than we first realized. To say that something is a possible source is to say that one evangelist is not simply copying another, and this merits a new number. But did the new thought unit come from another source or did the evangelist simply invent it? Our presumption is that the evangelists were writing for the community within the context of a living tradition and this would have restrained unbridled invention. As we go along we will gain a sense of how reasonable this presumption is.

Joseph of Arimathea

Did the Gospel writers embellish the character of Joseph of Arimathea in order to make the burial of Jesus appear more honorable, as some scholars have hypothesized or, as some other scholars suggest, was Joseph, himself, a fabrication to cloak a dishonorable burial, or no burial at all? As Joseph Fitzmyer puts it: “To claim, as had been done in modern times, that Jesus’ body was either left lying on the ground or thrown into a common grave for criminals is a preference for speculation that goes against the multiple attestation of NT witnesses about the burial (Synoptics, John, Paul).”2

 The charge of sheer fabrication is not based on any evidence, nor does it appear plausible. Why invent someone like Joseph, making him a prominent person, complete with birthplace, and indeed, the whole story of the burial, and thus open yourself to refutation when all you had to do was be quiet and let people imagine that Jesus’ relatives buried him?3

But did the evangelists progressively embroider the story of Joseph? Let’s look at the texts themselves. Again it is best to read the actual accounts in the columns above, and then look at how they logically break down.


(1) a prominent member of the Council
(2) who lived in the hope of seeing the kingdom of God
(3) who boldly went to Pilate


(4) a rich man
(5) a disciple of Jesus


(1) a member of the Council
(6) an upright and virtuous man
(7) who had not consented
(8) Arimathea, a Jewish town
(2) lived in hope of seeing the kingdom of God


(5) a disciple of Jesus
(9) but a secret one




While Matthew follows Mark, he adds two attributes to the description of Joseph not mentioned by Mark, but he ignores the three positive things Mark had to say about Joseph instead of simply keeping them to make the most positive picture possible of Joseph. Luke follows Mark, as well, and mentions two of the positive attributes Mark gave Joseph, but tones (1) down. He adds two positive characteristics of his own, and one neutral one (8) that Arimathea was a Jewish town. There was no point in inventing such a detail if his purpose was to make Joseph look good. It has been suggested that Arimathea, itself, was a fabrication of Mark in order to make a theological point. But this is not likely. More probably it was an actual Jewish town. The real problem appears to be not the possibility of fabrication, but the abundant real-life choices for where Arimathea was located. Fitzmyer, for example, mentions among the possibilities Ramathaim-zophim (I Sam 1:1), (Remphis or Remfthis in Eusebius), and Ramallah.4

Of the eight points made by the other three evangelists, John mentions only one of Matthew’s and modifies it. This makes it a possibility that he had access to the same, or a similar tradition, as Matthew, which said that Joseph had been a disciple of Jesus. Are, then, the evangelists simply embellishing the accounts of the previous Gospel writers? It does not appear that way. There is no evidence that Luke knew Matthew, or John is following one or all of the other evangelists. (3) is unique to Mark, (4) to Matthew, (6) (7) (8) to Luke, and (9) to John. Matthew and Luke know Mark, but add new points, possibly from other traditions they had access to. John might have had a version of the same tradition (5) as Matthew. Therefore we have potentially the following sources: (1) (2) (3) = Mark, (4) = Matthew, (5) = Matthew/John, (6) (7) (8) = Luke, (9) = John, which would make Joseph of Arimathea a well-attested historical figure, and therefore make the honorable burial of Jesus more credible.5

This conclusion meshes nicely with the early date we can give to Paul’s mention of the burial in First Corinthians. Joseph goes to Pilate, and asks for and receives the body of Jesus. Mark is alone in having Pilate verify that Jesus is dead. If this was an apologetic embellishment of Mark to demonstrate that Jesus was actually dead, it is strange that Matthew and Luke do not follow him in this unless we hypothesize that Mark’s story (15:44, 45a) was inserted later, and so Mark and Luke did not know it.6

We can take a conclusion of Raymond Brown drawn from his analysis of the relation of the passion in John to the Synoptics and transfer it to the resurrection stories, and generalize it. “Where the various pre-Gospel sources agree, we are in the presence of a tradition that had wide acceptance at a very early stage in the history of the Christian Church and, therefore, a tradition that is very important in questions of historicity. However, the historical value of details peculiar to one or the other pre-Gospel tradition is not to be discounted quickly, although there is greater possibility that such details stem from the theological or apologetic concern of the respective tradition.”7


The Burial


(1) Joseph bought a shroud
(2) wrapped the body of Jesus in the shroud
(3) laid it in a tomb
(4) hewn out of rock
(5) rolled a stone against the entrance, the stone was very big (16:4)


(2) wrapped the body
(6) in a clean shroud
(7) put it in Joseph’s own
(8a) new tomb
(4) hewn out of a rock
(5) rolled a large stone


(2) a shroud
(3) a tomb
(4) hewn in stone
(8b) no one had yet been laid


(9) Nicodemus
(10) mixture of myrrh and aloes
(11) spices in linen cloths
(12) tomb in a garden
(8a), (8b) new tomb in which no one had been laid
(13) tomb near at hand



Matthew again follows Mark, but makes his own addition (6) which might be no more than a rewording of (1): bought = clean. Only Matthew says it is Joseph’s tomb, (7). Luke follows Mark, but has a variant or part of a tradition used by Matthew, (8b) vs. (8a). John goes his own way except that he also knows the same traditions, (8a), (8b). Matthew and Luke agree about the newness of the tomb against Mark, and John also notes its newness, pointing to an earlier oral tradition.8

Despite these variants the basic story is the same, but has different sources: Mark (1), (2), (3), (4), (5), Matthew (7), (8a), Luke (8b), John (9), (10), (11), (12), (13), and (8a), (8b). We have as possible sources Mark, Matthew, Luke, John with John/Matthew (8a) and John/Luke (8b), unless we argue that (8a), (8b) in John is a later insertion from Matthew and Luke. Again, what is most important is that John knows of the burial in the tomb, just as he knew of Joseph, from what appears to be a separate tradition than Mark. While sheer invention on the part of one or more of the evangelists cannot be ruled out, e.g. Matthew asserting that it was Joseph’s tomb, what we are faced with appears like the result of a complicated interplay of earlier oral traditions.




The Crucifixion
(1a) Mary of Magdala
(2a) Mary the mother of James the Younger, and Joses
(3a) Salome

The Burial
(1b) Mary of Magdala
(2b) Mary of Joses

The Tomb
(1c) Mary of Magdala
(2c) Mary of James
(3c) Salome


(1a) Mary of Magdala
(2a) Mary the mother of James
(4a) the mother of Zebedee’s sons

(1b) Mary of Magdala
(2b) the other Mary

(1c) Mary of Magdala
(2c) the other Mary








(1c) Mary of Magdala
(9c) Joanna
(2c) Mary the mother of James



(6a) the mother of Jesus
(7a) Jesus’ mother’s sister
(8a) Mary of Clopas
(1a) Mary of Magdala

(1c) Mary of Magdala




Scholars have attempted to identify these women with each other. Here are the possibilities which are admittedly enough to make our eyes cross:9

(1) Salome = the mother of Zebedee’s sons, (3a) = (4a).

  A likely and often made identification, but then why would Matthew leave her out of the climatic scene at the empty tomb?

(2) Salome = Jesus’ mother’s sister, (3a) = (7a).

(3) Salome = the mother of Zebedee’s sons = Jesus’ mother’s sister, (3a) = (4a) = (7a).

(4) Salome = the sister of Jesus.

Early Church sources named one of the

sisters of Jesus Salome, but Salome was a

common name. 

(5) Mary the mother of James and Joses = Jesus’ mother’s sister, (2a) = (7a).

  Then the brothers of Jesus, James and Joses, (Mark 6:3) would be, in fact, his cousins. But Mary the mother of Jesus would have a sister named Mary. 

(6) Mary the mother of James and Joses =  Mary of Clopas, (2a) = (8a).

(7) Mary the mother of James and Joses = Mary of Clopas = Jesus’ mother’s sister, (2a) = (8a) = (7a).

(8) Mary the mother of James and Joses = the mother of Jesus, (2a) = (6a).

But that is hardly how Mark would refer to

Jesus’ mother.

(9) The mother of Zebedee’s sons = Jesus’ mother’s sister, (4a) = (7a).

  Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, would be the cousins of Jesus, which would make it easier to understand their special role among the apostles, and their mother’s expectation that they would have an exalted role in the coming kingdom. It would also help explain why John, if we identify him with the beloved disciple, would be chosen by Jesus to care for his mother. 

(10) The mother of Zebedee’s sons = Mary of Clopas, (4a) = (8a).

(11) The mother of Zebedee’s sons = Mary of Clopas = Jesus’ mother’s sister, (4a) = (8a) = (7a).

(12) Mary of Clopas = the wife of Cleophas.

  Cleophas of the Emmaus story was identified by Hegesippus, the early Church historian, as the brother of Joseph, and therefore the uncle of Jesus, as well as the father of Simeon, the second bishop of Jerusalem. Then Mary of Clopas would be at the cross of Jesus as another one of Jesus’ relatives.

(13) Mary of Clopas = Jesus’ mother’s sister, (8a) = (7a).

While the Greek of John’s Gospel allows this

possibility, then Mary the mother of Jesus would

have a sister named Mary.


While some of these identifications are intriguing, we simply don’t have enough evidence to make any of them with certitude. As Brown puts it, “Obviously, while such speculation about Jesus’ family and friends is interesting, it is most uncertain. However, our very difficulty in deciding whether the women mentioned by John are the same as the women mentioned by the Synoptics is eloquent argument against the thesis that John’s list of the women was borrowed from the Synoptic lists.”10

 And this rather bewildering maze of possibilities should not obscure one important conclusion. Even if we don’t, the early church knew who these people were, and the Gospel writers gave them a central role as the witnesses to the death, burial, empty tomb and resurrection. Given the marginal place that women had as witnesses in the Jewish world, can we really imagine that men would have written these stories the way they did if they were later fabrications? No. They were compelled to write them in this way because that is what they believed happened.

The one constant in these various namings is Mary of Magdala. She appears two other times in the Gospels: in Luke 8:2 as one of the women who followed Jesus after being healed by him, and she was described as the one “from whom seven demons had gone out.” She also appears in the Markan appendix: “He appeared first to Mary of Magdala from whom he had cast out seven devils.” She is likely to have been called “of Magdala” from the village of Magdala on the Sea of Galilee. Except for John’s crucifixion scene, she is always mentioned first, and in John’s tomb scene and his first resurrection appearance of Jesus, she stands alone, perhaps representing all the women. Just as a person fabricating these stories would not have likely chosen the women to play the central role of witnesses in the first place, neither would they have singled out Mary of Magdala from whom seven demons had been expelled for a leading role. The conclusions we reached about possible sources under the heading of the women witnessing the crucifixion still hold here. It is clear that Luke had his own source, (9) to which we can add Mark, (1) (2) (3), Matthew (4), John (6) (7) (8), John/Mark, (1). Are these distinct sources, or editorial additions of the evangelists? Again there is no way to be certain, yet it is more likely they would have selected different women for their own reasons than they would have inserted women who were absent from the traditions they were working with.



The Empty Tomb


(1) When the Sabbath was over
(2) Mary of Magdala, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices to anoint him
(3a) very early in the morning
(4) on the first day of the week
(5a) just as the sun was rising
(6) they were saying, “Who will roll the stone away?
(7) They looked, and the stone which was very big had been rolled away.
(8) on entering
(9) they saw a young man
(10) in a white robe
(11) seated on the right hand side
(12) They were struck with amazement.


(1) After the Sabbath
(5b) towards dawn
(4) on the first day of the week Mary of Magdala and the other Mary went to visit the tomb.
(13) there was a violent earthquake
(14) an angel descended from heaven
(15) and came a rolled the stone away
(16) his face was like lightning
(10) his robe white as snow
(17) the guards, frightened, were like dead men.

Luke I

(4) on the first day of the week

(5c) at the first sight of dawn

(2) They went to the tomb with the spices they had bought (on Friday night, 23:56)

(7) They found the stone rolled away

(8) They entered.

(8a) They discovered the body of Jesus was not there.

(12a) Terrified, the women lowered their eyes

(18) two men

(10) in brilliant clothes

Luke II (Emmaus) 

(4a) Two whole days since he was crucified.
(2) some women from our group went to the tomb
(3b) in the early morning
(8a) They did not find the body.
(19) They came back to tell us they had seen a vision of angels.



(3c) very early
(4) on the first day of the week
(2a) Mary of Magdala came to the tomb.
(7) She saw the stone had been moved.
(20) She came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple.


 Mary of Magdala’s second visit to the tomb

(21) Mary stayed outside near the tomb
(22) weeping.
(23) She stooped to look inside
(19) and saw two angels
(10) in white
(24) sitting where the body of Jesus had been, one at the head, the other at the feet.




Differences abound in the accounts of the empty tomb. Mark has the three women back on the scene, Matthew two, and Luke sticks with a general description, while John has Mary of Magdala alone. Mark has the women saying, “Who will roll away the stone?” Matthew continues the story of the guarding of the tomb in which there is no need for that comment. In Luke they find the stone moved and the body missing. In Mark the women enter and see a young man in a white robe seated on the right-hand side, and are struck with amazement. In Matthew it is an angel with a face like lightning and a robe as white as snow who has moved the stone and sat upon it. In Luke it is two men.

Mark tells us that the women had bought spices in order to anoint the body of Jesus. Matthew makes no mention of a reason for the visit, while Luke appears to follow Mark by saying that the women obtained spices and ointments, but while Mark appears to put their purchase on Saturday evening, Luke puts it on Friday evening, making it possible he had another source.11  John has only Mary of Magdala going to the tomb, and it is Nicodemus who brings the myrrh and aloes.

In regard to the stone at the entrance of the tomb, Mark has the women wondering who will move the stone, and then finding the stone already rolled back. In Matthew an angel rolls the stone away, apparently when the women arrive, and sits on it. For Luke, the stone is already rolled away, and for John, Mary of Magdala sees that the stone has been moved away.

In Mark the women enter and see a young man in a white robe. In Matthew there is no mention about the women entering. In Luke they enter and find the body missing, and two men in brilliant clothes suddenly appear, and in John, Mary of Magdala runs to tell Simon Peter and the beloved disciple about the empty tomb. For the most part scholars take the young man in Mark and the two men in Luke to be equivalent to the angel in Matthew, and the two angels who will later appear in John’s account.

For some exegetes, “when the Sabbath was over,” (1) is taken as meaning Saturday evening, but it is hard to imagine the women going to the tomb in the dark. “Very early in the morning,” (3) is taken by others as long before dawn so as to be in opposition to (5), and therefore an indication of Mark editing the tomb tradition that he received, but again, would we expect the women to travel to the tomb in the dark? In any event, we should not be distracted by these apparent time variances from the overriding insistence of the evangelists on marking the time of this extraordinary event. Would they have done this if the women had simply found the tomb empty?

Let’s look at what these mysterious figures have to say to the women.




Don’t be amazed.

You seek Jesus, the Nazarene, who has been crucified.

He has risen. He is not here.

Behold, the place where they laid him.

But go, tell his disciples and Peter,

He goes before you into Galilee.



There you will see him, as he said to you.

8They went out, and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had come on them. They said nothing to anyone; for they were afraid.


Don’t be afraid

I know that you seek Jesus, who has been crucified.

He is not here, for he has risen, just like he said.

Come, see the place where the Lord was lying.

Go quickly and tell his disciples,

He has risen from the dead, and behold, he goes before you into Galilee;


there you will see him.’ Behold, I have told you.

8They departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring his disciples word.



Why do you seek the living among the dead?

He isn’t here, but is risen.




Remember what he told you when he was still in Galilee, 7saying that the Son of Man must be delivered up into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again?”

8They remembered his words, 9returned from the tomb, and told all these things to the eleven, and to all the rest.




Mark writes: “He has risen. He is not here,” and Matthew alters it:  “He is not here, for he has risen, just like he said.” The “just as he said” reflects Jesus’ earlier predictions of the resurrection found in Matthew’s Gospel. Later Mark says, “There you will see him, as he said to you,” reflecting Jesus’ prediction in his Gospel, and Matthew alters this to “there you will see him. Behold, I have told you.” It is as if Matthew has a copy of Mark before him and when Mark says, “He is not here,” this reminds Matthew of the prediction of the resurrection, and he adds, “just like he said.” Then when he reaches Mark’s, “as he said to you,” he realizes that he can’t simply copy Mark without repeating himself, or going back and correcting what he wrote, so he alters Mark’s, “as he said to you” to “Behold I have told you.”

But this alteration, if indeed this is what happened,12 is minor in comparison to what Luke does. He takes Mark’s, “He goes before you into Galilee,” and turns it into,” Remember what he told you when he was still in Galilee.” Luke therefore is exercising a remarkable degree of freedom in regard to Mark’s text, likely because he wants to have the resurrection story play out completely in Jerusalem for his own theological reasons.13

The responses of the women to the message differs. In Mark the women run away frightened and say nothing. In Matthew they are filled with joy, and they quickly run to tell the disciples, and in Luke the women return and tell the eleven and the others.14

Mark’s Gospel ends here. Exegetes agree that the resurrection appearances in Mark, though written early, were added later by someone else. But they do not agree whether Mark intended for his Gospel to end here, or whether he was somehow prevented from continuing, or the ending he wrote was lost. Good arguments can be advanced for either position.15 In regard to the first possibility there is no trace among the surviving manuscripts, admittedly few, that Mark continued his Gospel. On the other hand, the present ending is abrupt, and it is reasonable to imagine that Mark would have given some account of the resurrection appearances that he had the young man predict. Therefore, very early there were attempts to complete his Gospel, and some scholars believe that it could have continued and been similar to what we find in Matthew.16

The Male Disciples Visit the Tomb

In both Luke and John there is a response to the news that the women bring about the tomb.



Luke I

(1) Peter runs to the tomb
(2) Peter bends down
(3) and sees the burial cloths
(4) and goes away amazed

Luke II (Emmaus)

(1) Some of our friends went to the tomb



(1) Peter and the beloved disciple run to the tomb
(2) the beloved disciple bends down
(3) and sees the burial cloths
(5) and believes
(4) Peter goes into the tomb and sees the cloths and the head cloth in a place by itself.




Luke I and John seem to share a common tradition, but tapped into it at different stages of its development, or altered it to suit their purposes. Is Luke II a summary of Luke I, or does it reflect another tradition? In (3) Luke uses the same word for burial cloths (othonia) as John does, in contrast to what Luke used before.17 Brown feels that the beloved disciple believed in the resurrection at the tomb.18

Then Matthew’s story departs significantly from those of the other evangelists, and takes a very graphic and dramatic turn. It is as if he has engaged his theological imagination, drawing on Old Testament images and texts. The Apocalyptic language used to describe the crucifixion carries over to the account of the resurrection and recalls Ezekiel 37:13-14, and Donald Hagner feels that Matthew is “making a theological point rather than simply relating history.”19  We are not used to what appears to be a coloring outside the historical lines, and it can make us uncomfortable. Is it likely that the chief priests and Pharisees would remember Jesus’ prediction of the resurrection when his own disciples did not? And how would Matthew have been privy to the conversation between them and Pilate, and later between them and the guards? Yet what is at stake is not the resurrection, itself. Neither the Sadducees who denied the resurrection nor the Pharisees who believed in it would have believed that Jesus would actually rise from the dead. What the Jewish authorities feared was the theft of his body.20

While Matthew departs from the other evangelists with his story of the guarding of the tomb, this does not prevent him from having the women visit the tomb on Sunday morning, although the theme of the anointing of the body is absent in his telling. Let’s compare Matthew’s account of the death of Jesus to the way he tells the story of the opening of the tomb.



the death of Jesus

(1) darkness over the land
(2) the veil of the temple split
(3) the earth quaked
(4) rocks split
(5) tombs opened
(6) bodies rose from the dead
(7) and after Jesus’ resurrection these dead entered Jerusalem and appeared to a number of people
(8) the centurion and the guards were terrified
(9) many women were watching

the opening of the tomb

(9) the women at the tomb
(3) the violent earthquake
(1) the angel with a face like lightning and robes white as snow
(5) the stone rolled away
(8) the guards like dead men
(6) the angel announces “He has risen”
(7) Jesus appears to the women (28:9)




Matthew appears to be partially patterning the story of the guarding of the tomb after his account of the death of Jesus. The darkness is contrasted with the angel with a face like lightning (1). In both stories we find earthquakes (3), tombs open (5), all the Roman witnesses are terrified (8), the dead rise and appear (6) (7), and the resurrection of the dead from the tombs is an anticipation of the resurrection of Jesus so they do not appear until after his resurrection. We might well take these dramatic touches in both cases as Matthew’s graphic way of describing the manifestation of God’s power. But what about the whole guarding of the tomb episode? Is there a historical basis to it, or is it a dramatization intended to refute the later charge that the disciples stole the body of Jesus? It is hard to say. Does the extracanonical Gospel of Peter follow Matthew here, or does it share the same source that Matthew utilized? At the very least we can say that there were probably accusations that the disciples stole the body, which demonstrate that neither the disciples nor their opponents believed the body was still in the tomb. Matthew’s tendency to dress up the story of the resurrection in these apocalyptic terms makes us aware that most of the resurrection stories are unadorned in this fashion.

The Resurrection Appearances

Matthew gives us an account of Jesus appearing to the women as they leave the tomb.




(1) and coming to meet them was Jesus
(2) and the women came up to him, and falling down clasped his feet
(3) Jesus said to them, “Don’t be afraid”
(4) Go and tell my brothers.
(5) They must leave for Galilee.
(6) They will see me there.

the message of Matthew’s angel



(3) There is no need for you to be afraid.
(4) Go quickly and tell the disciples.
(5) Now he is going before you to Galilee.
(6) It is there you will see him.


(1) Mary of Magdala turns around and sees Jesus there.
(2) Do not cling to me.
(3) Why are you weeping?
(4) Go find the brothers.
(5) Tell them I am ascending.
(7) So she went and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord. 

Markan appendix

(1) He appeared first to Mary of Magdala
(7) She went to his companions who were in mourning and tears, but they did not believe her.





There is enough resemblance between Matthew and John to make us wonder whether they shared a common or similar tradition of the women seeing Jesus at the tomb.21 Do we have another version of Jesus’ appearance to Mary of Magdala in the appendix to Mark’s Gospel? Scholars are divided on whether the appendix is simply a summary based on the events reported in the Gospels, or whether it is a report of early traditions so that it would give us another source for some of these events.22 While Matthew appears to know a tradition similar to the one that John develops, he, himself, or someone else, developed it or conflated it with the angel’s message.

Mark knows of a Galilean appearance of Jesus to the disciples and Peter. Matthew knows of the same appearance since he is following Mark, and because he will go on to recount that Galilean appearance or a similar one, but he alters the message of the angel by leaving out Peter, perhaps because he knew that his account of the Galilean appearance did not make an explicit mention of him. But as we have just seen, Matthew also knows of a Jerusalem appearance to the women.

Luke gives us the wonderful story of the two disciples on the way to Emmaus, and among the Gospel writers he is the only one to do so, but the Markan appendix, if it is not just a summary of Luke, tells us, “After this he showed himself under another form to two of them as they were on their way to the country. These went back and told the others, who did not believe them either.” Luke’s account has some interesting features.

(1) He is very precise about where the two disciples are going – a village called Emmaus seven miles from Jerusalem.

(2) And he tells us that one of the disciples was called Cleophas.

(3) He gives us another report within his Emmaus story about the empty tomb, and the male disciples visiting the tomb.

(4) When they return, they find the eleven assembled with their companions, and are told, “Yes, it is true. The Lord has risen and appeared to Simon.”

We will look at (1) and (2) in the next chapter. (3) Do Luke’s remarks in the Emmaus story tell us anything that he has not already told us about the empty tomb and the visits of the women and men disciples? It was two whole days since the death of Jesus, he writes, and if we take that literally, that would make the trip to Emmaus taking place on Sunday afternoon. The women have seen a vision of angels confirming that Luke’s two men at the tomb were, indeed, heavenly messengers. His remark, “some of our friends went to the tomb,” adds to his earlier story of Peter, alone, going to the tomb, and brings his account closer to John’s. There is no mention of any appearance to the women near the tomb. The Emmaus travelers knew nothing about such an occurrence. Did Luke not know about this event, or did he want to start his account of the resurrection appearances with the Emmaus story? (4) The two disciples arrive back in Jerusalem and find the eleven disciples assembled with their companions, who say to them, “Yes, it is true. The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” What is true? The simplest explanation is that the two disciples told the assembled group of disciples, “We have seen the risen Lord,” and they responded, “Yes, it is true. The Lord has risen and appeared to Simon.” The use of Simon instead of Luke’s customary “Peter” leads scripture scholars to surmise that Luke is reporting an early tradition.23 

First Corinthians

This supposition is only strengthened when we recall Paul’s I Corinthians. Exegetes have intensively examined this passage, and while many differences of opinion exist, a consensus about a significant number of points has emerged. Paul’s “I taught you what I had been taught myself” is taken to be customary language used to describe the passing on of a tradition, and the content of that tradition is summarized in: “Christ died for our sins. He was buried. He was raised to life.” Similar early summaries can be found embedded in the Acts of the Apostles. Does Paul by mentioning the burial and the resurrection of Jesus imply that the tomb was empty? Many scholars deny that he had this in mind, but in final analysis it would be hard to make a case that Paul could have conceived of the resurrection of Jesus if he knew that the body of Jesus was still in the tomb. More about this in a moment. Paul goes on to say, “He first appeared to Cephas and then to the twelve.” This, too, is often taken as part of the original tradition that Paul received, and the mention of Cephas points to the same or to a similar appearance to the one we saw in Luke. It is striking that nowhere in the Gospels or anywhere else in the New Testament do we have an account of the appearance of Jesus to Peter unless as some scholars propose it appears in a disguised form, an issue we will take up shortly. If there is, in fact, no account of the appearance of Jesus to Peter, it argues a certain soberness and restraint on the part of the Gospel writers since they did not create a story to illustrate this important event.


The Appearances to the Twelve




(1) Sunday night in Jerusalem. They were still talking.
(2) The eleven assembled with their companions.
(3) He stood among them.
(4) and said, “Peace be with you.”
(5) Agitation and doubts
(6) Look at my hands and feet.
(7) Touch and see I am no ghost.
(8) He showed his hands and feet.
(9) They still could not believe for joy.
(10) He eats the fish before their eyes.


(1) Evening on the first day of the week in Jerusalem. The doors were closed.
(2) The disciples
(3) Jesus came and stood among them
(4) and said, “Peace be with you.”
(8) He showed them his hands and side.
(9) They were filled with joy.


(2) The eleven disciples.
(12) set out for Galilee.
(13) to the mountain where Jesus had commanded them to go
(14) When they saw him they fell down before him.
(3) Jesus came up and spoke to them.


Markan appendix

(2) to the eleven
(8) He showed himself
(10) at table.
(5) incredulity






The points of similarity: (1), (2), (3), (4) and (9), and (6) = (8), make it likely that Luke and John are reporting different versions of the same tradition.24 Fitzmyer thinks that another form of this tradition is found in the Markan appendix.25

But what about Matthew? Matthew’s story is quite different. Matthew’s use of the phrase “which Jesus had commanded them” which does not appear elsewhere in his Gospel, may indicate that he was using an earlier source.26  

The Farewell




(1) Jesus opens their minds to understanding the scriptures
(2) about his death and resurrection
(3) and the forgiveness of sin
(4) to be preached to all nations beginning from Jerusalem
(5) You are witnesses.
(6) I am sending what the Father promised. Stay in the city until then.
(7) The ascension.


(8) “Peace be with you.”
(9) as the Father sent me
(10) He breathed on them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
(3) the forgiveness of sins


(11) All authority is given to me
(12) Make disciples of all nations.
(13) Baptize.
(14) Teach them to observe the commandments.
(15) I am with you always.


Markan appendix

(12) Go out to the whole world; proclaim the good news to all creation
(13) Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.
(16) signs: cast out devils, tongues, snakes, poison, and healing
(7) Jesus taken up to heaven




The three Gospel accounts are quite distinct. For Luke the Spirit will be sent, while for John he is given on that Sunday evening, (6) vs. (10). The Markan appendix has similarities with Matthew, but recalls the ascension with Luke, but has its own material, e.g., (16), leaving us to wonder once again where it came from. Here the Gospels of Matthew and Luke end. John goes on to tell us the story of doubting Thomas, and then his Gospel appears to end, as well, only to add an epilogue of the story of Jesus on the Sea of Galilee. Scripture scholars are divided about the authorship of this addition. Some feel that on the basis of an examination of its vocabulary it was written by the author of the Gospel. Others think that there were two different authors from the same community of St. John. The appearance of Jesus on the Sea of Galilee we will look at in the next chapter.

Paul’s “he appeared first to Cephas and then to the twelve” matches the chronology we find in Luke, but Paul goes on to list more appearances: to the 500, to James, and to the apostles, none of which are clearly related to the Gospel resurrection stories. These seem to be early traditions, as well. Paul tells us that he did not go up to Jerusalem after his conversion, but off to Arabia and then to Damascus. Then “even when after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and stayed with him for fifteen days. I did not see any other apostles; I saw only James the brother of the Lord. And I swear before God that what I have written is the literal truth.” (Galatians 1:17-20) If we date the death of Jesus to the year 30, and Paul’s conversion a couple of years later, then Paul visited Peter and James around 35 AD. The initial lines of the passage we are examining, “Christ died for our sins” and so forth, could be taken as representative of what Paul received, perhaps at the time of his conversion in Damascus. “He appeared first to Cephas and to the twelve” might be part of that original message, as well, and in any event should not be dated any later than his visit to Jerusalem. The same must be said of his knowledge of the appearance to James. The events of the appearances to the 500 and to the apostles, while they could have come from a later period, are more likely to be no later than Paul’s visit to Jerusalem, as well.

But if Paul was talking to Peter and James in Jerusalem around 35 AD, how likely would it be that he would not have visited the major sites in the life of Jesus, especially the place of his crucifixion and his tomb? Therefore, he would have known whether the tomb was empty or not. While scholars debate whether the first Christians held liturgical celebrations at the tomb, it would be surprising if they did not visit and cherish the site of the Lord’s resurrection.

Clearly the written Gospel stories are later than the traditions found in First Corinthians. A moderate view of the date of Mark’s Gospel, for example, would place it around 65 AD during the first Jewish war. For Craig Evans, for example, the “most prudent position” for the date of Mark is in the late 60s.27 And naturally Matthew and Luke’s Gospels, since they are following Mark, would have been later. A date of 65 AD for Mark would put it some 35 years after the death of Jesus, and that is not an excessively long time in the memories of individuals, still less in that of a community which would have talked about and treasured its memories of the events in the life of Jesus, especially in a culture where the oral transmission of information was valued and practiced. Though Paul’s summary antedates the written Gospel stories, the stories, themselves, show indications, as we have already seen, that they are based on earlier oral traditions, and perhaps even some written sources. Further, while summaries like those found in First Corinthians or in the Acts of the Apostles might be set down in writing before more extensive narratives, that does not mean that the resurrection stories did not circulate before the summaries and give birth to them. Put in another way, summaries don’t give rise to stories. Rather, events give rise to stories which, in turn, give rise to summaries even though the summaries may be written down first. As A. Denaux puts it: “In short, the fact that the resurrection narratives only appeared a few decades later in our extent gospel tradition does not necessarily mean that they were not already present earlier. The quite early existence of the kerygma of Jesus’ death and resurrection (which is apparent from the quote of Paul A.D. 55) points to the fact that the narrative proclamation of the Jesus event must have been almost immediately after Jesus’ death. In initio erat narratio: the proclamation narratives already existed from the beginning!”28 We might go further and say that in the beginning was the event which inevitably gave rise to its description, as well as summary statements.

We have been trying to glimpse the sources behind the Gospel resurrection stories, and while our reconstruction of them is problematical, it does add up to one important conclusion. The Gospel stories were not late creations made out of whole cloth. There is a complex history of development underlying them. It is as if we are looking at a piece of elaborate embroidery and notice that parts of the design clash pointing to different designers. Then we flip the cloth over and are amazed at that tangle of different colored threads joining one part of the design with another. Mark, Matthew, Luke and John appear to have their own sources to which we can add First Corinthians and the Markan appendix. Even if we take just the sources used by one of the synoptic gospels, and by John, we can reconstruct the basic resurrection story.




Mary of Magdala witnessing the crucifixion

Joseph of Arimathea asking Pilate for the body of Jesus and burying him.

Mary of Magdala and the women visit the empty tomb



Joseph a secret disciple of Jesus

a new tomb

the appearance to Mary of Magdala or the women near the tomb





a tomb in which no one had been laid

Two men or two angels at the tomb

Peter running to the empty tomb 

the appearance to the twelve in Jerusalem



What this chart tells us is that the main features of the story of the resurrection that we find in the Gospels are based on traditions common to two Gospels, pointing to traditions that therefore preceded the writing of the Gospels.

An Intensive Reading of the Resurrection Stories

In addition to the normal Christian vertical reading of the resurrection stories, and the critical horizontal reading that we have been engaged in, there is also what could be called a critical intensive or in-depth reading of a particular Gospel’s story to see if the sources out of which it was composed can be discerned. This by its very nature tends to be more precarious than a comparative or horizontal reading simply because of the lack of comparative material. But it is intriguing because it confronts us with the question of whether it is possible to go behind the Gospels and glimpse the events that gave birth to them.

When exegetes, for example, read the end of Mark’s Gospel, the repetition of the women’s names in 15:47 and 16:1 makes them pause:



Mary of Magdala
Mary of Joses


Mary of Magdala
Mary of James


Mary of Magdala
Mary the mother of James the younger and Joses

Why would Mark repeat the name of the women like this? Some scholars reason that this repetition indicates that the story of the empty tomb starting in 16:1 was once a separate story that is joined here to the burial story, and Mark, faced with the traditional mention of the women in 15:47 and 16:1, harmonized these lists in 15:40 by calling Mary the mother of James and Joses when, in fact, they might have been two separate people.29

Unfortunately, the matter is not that straight-forward. How would Mark, or whoever wrote 15:40, have gone from Mary of Joses in 15:47 and Mary of James in 16:1 to Mary the mother of James the younger and Joses? If the author of 15:40 had found 15:47 and 16:1 as they presently read, and knew no more about the matter than that, then the logical step for him to have taken would have been for him to have written Mary (the wife) of Joses and Mary (the wife) of James. Instead, he calls Mary the mother of James and Joses, and James the younger, making it even more likely that he knew who was being referred to because there is no way he could have deduced this new information from what he read in those two verses. And this distinctive and somewhat unwieldy way of describing her makes it likely that she was someone known to Mark and the early Christian community. If this is true, then it is possible that both the Mary of Joses of 15:47 and the Mary of James of 16:1 could be shorthand ways of referring to Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the same person could have written both verses, first describing her one way, and then the other so that the renaming of the women would be deliberate as if to emphasize that while two women witnessed the burial, three went to the tomb on Sunday morning, and thus the women are being carefully named as the witnesses to the crucifixion, burial and empty tomb.30 But even if we allow that the author of 15:40 was correct in turning Mary of James and Mary of Joses into Mary the mother of James and Joses, it is still possible that the two different ways of referring to her in 15:47 and 16:1, rather than being stylistic, point to two earlier traditions of the burial and the empty tomb that Mark joined together in his Gospel.

When this same kind of intensive reading is applied to the empty tomb story, itself, one of the chief questions that emerges is whether the young man and his message was originally part of it. Why not imagine that the women went to the tomb, found it empty, and ran away with no mysterious encounter taking place? Then Mark would have had a source similar to the one that John employed when he had Mary of Magdala go to the tomb, see that the stone had been moved, presumably look inside, and then run to tell Simon Peter and the other disciple that the body of Jesus had been taken away. Then the disciples would have run to the tomb, themselves, and found it empty and gone off wondering what had happened. Such a reconstruction of what the early sources of the Gospels may have been like appeals to our modern minds because then the story becomes readily believable, for we don’t have to deal with the legendary-sounding account of the encounter with the young man. Yet this reconstruction is not without its problems. For example, when we continue reading the Gospel of John, we see that two angels appear when Mary of Magdala returns to the tomb, although their appearance and the message they give her have been reduced to the vanishing point. But John must have known a story of the angelic encounter at the tomb. Is he imitating the synoptic Gospels here? If so, we can certainly wonder why, since he has removed the substance of the story. Or has he a similar source that he has altered to fit into his own story line? Whatever the case may be, it is not clear that the story of the visit to the tomb once stood free of any mention of an angelic encounter. An even stronger objection is raised against this kind of streamlined tomb story by exegetes who ask how likely it is that such a story would have circulated without any mention of the resurrection. What would its point have been?31

But even exegetes who defend the presence of the angel and his message in the original tomb story don’t necessarily see it as a report of an actual heavenly encounter. They subject the language of the young man to intensive scrutiny. To their ears, “you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified. He has risen.” sounds like a proclamation of the beliefs by the early church rather than the kind of thing a heavenly messenger would say to the women on Sunday morning. And why would the young man continue? “He is not here. See here is the place where they laid him.” Isn’t this redundant if the women are in the tomb and can see for themselves? Couldn’t these words rather be a reflection of early liturgical celebrations at the tomb in which the presider said, in recalling the first Easter morning: “He is not here. See here is the place where they laid him”?32

This is an intriguing possibility, and if it is true, then it points to the early nature of the source that Mark was using. As Pheme Perkins puts it, the many differences among exegetes about Mark editing his sources should not obscure the most important fact that he most likely had ancient sources.33  If we conservatively put the writing of Mark’s Gospel around 65 A.D., then such a liturgical celebration would likely antedate it considerably, and we can imagine that the disciples gathered around the tomb each Easter, or more frequently, to celebrate the breaking of the bread and to recall the resurrection of Jesus. Then the empty tomb story, itself, is very early, for it had to be born, then circulate, then give rise to the liturgical celebration in which the message of the angel became codified. It is even likely that the choice of Sunday as the Lord’s day stems from the discovery of the empty tomb on that early Sunday morning. As fascinating as such a possibility is, the only evidence we have for such a gathering is the analysis of the words of the young man, himself. Nor is it clear that the tomb with its limited space inside and its limited visibility from the outside is a likely spot for such a celebration.

One of the most consistent results, at least for a time, of this kind of intensive reading of Mark’s Gospel was the belief among scholars that verse 16:7 is an insertion of Mark: “But you must go and tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going before you to Galilee; it is there you will see him, just as he told you.’”34 The possibility of such an insertion introduces us to the difficult question of where the resurrection appearances of Jesus first took place. Did Mark know of an appearance to Peter and the disciples in Galilee that he is announcing here before cryptically ending his Gospel in the next verse, or, on the premise that his Gospel was meant to continue, did he intend to write about these appearances later? And is Mark indicating that these Galilean appearances were to be the first? Verse 7 can certainly be taken that way, and we could argue that it makes no sense for the angel to give the women a message about a meeting in Galilee if the disciples were to see the risen Lord in Jerusalem that very day. Yet Matthew, following Mark, repeats the angel’s message, and then goes ahead and recounts that the women encountered Jesus upon leaving the tomb. Obviously he didn’t feel that the two events were incompatible. Perhaps he felt that the message referred just to the male disciples, and not to appearances in general. We saw how Luke altered the young man’s message under the imperative of his Jerusalem-centered salvific geography, so it is not impossible that if Mark is indicating that the appearances were to take place in Galilee, he, himself, might be working out of a Galilean-centered salvific geography, but given the controversy about Mark’s ending we can hardly be sure what he intended.

Let’s address the question of the location and chronology of the resurrection appearances from another direction. Paul places at the head of his list in First Corinthians the appearances to Peter and to the twelve, and Luke inserts a mention of the appearance to Peter at the end of his Emmaus story. Given the importance such an appearance would have had to the early church, it is striking that Luke gives us no story. Could it be that the story was so linked to Galilee that he avoided it for that reason? Mark appears to have known about appearances to Peter and the disciples in Galilee, and while Matthew omits the reference to Peter, he recounts in compressed fashion an appearance of Jesus to the disciples on a mountain in Galilee. Then we come to John who reports the appearance of Jesus to the disciples on that first Sunday, and another on the following Sunday, but the epilogue to his Gospel gives us an appearance to Peter and the disciples on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, and some scripture scholars like Raymond Brown suggest by way of hypothesis that this story is really the first appearance of Jesus to Peter and the disciples.

Let’s explore how likely this is. The epilogue to John’s Gospel, whether it is by the author of the Gospel or someone intimately acquainted with the Gospel writer’s thought and language, clearly looks like an afterthought, for the Gospel appears to end at 20:31. Its author made an effort to link the epilogue to the body of the Gospel by saying in 21:14 that this was the third time that Jesus showed himself to the disciples. We will look at this heart-warming story, itself, in the next chapter, but to anticipate our results we can say that there is no reason to imagine it had been transported to the Sea of Galilee from a setting in Jerusalem, and it is reasonable enough to ask, following Brown, if Jesus had appeared twice to the disciples in Jerusalem and had commissioned them to do their apostolic work, then what were they doing fishing on the Sea of Galilee, and why would they have had any difficulty recognizing him?

The problem of recognition we will look at later, but it may represent in regard to the appearance on the Sea of Galilee nothing more than the general difficulty in recognizing Jesus we find in the other Gospels. Need we imagine that if Jesus was appearing again to his disciples at a distance in the uncertain light of dawn on the lakeshore, he would be readily recognizable by them?

Why would the disciples have returned to the Sea of Galilee to fish if they had already seen Jesus in Jerusalem? It could hardly have been comfortable for them in Jerusalem. They kept the doors of the place they were staying closed for fear of the Jews. (John 20:19) And is it unreasonable to imagine that Jesus would have wished to spend time with his disciples in Galilee in a more tranquil setting in those very places that were so familiar to them even if he had already appeared to them in Jerusalem?

But let’s suppose the first appearance of Jesus did take place on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. How much would this disrupt Luke and John’s own accounts which unfold in Jerusalem? The disciples were probably in Jerusalem at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion, and on that fateful Sunday morning that followed it. Even a minimalist version of the women visiting the empty tomb would have them going off and telling the disciples that the tomb was empty, something the disciples would not have left uninvestigated. Under these conditions, if there had been no message about Galilee, would they have left town with the question of what had happened to the body of Jesus unresolved? Now let’s suppose that there was a message about Galilee transmitted to the disciples through the women. Such a story must have come from something more than the empty tomb. It is not likely it would have been taken seriously. It would have seemed like nonsense, as Luke puts it. So it is entirely possible that the disciples were in Jerusalem that Sunday evening. To imagine that the first appearances of Jesus took place in Galilee is to make more problematical any appearance to the women and/or Mary of Magdala. And more importantly, it is to go against the insistence of both Luke and John that the first appearances took place in and around Jerusalem. While the hypothesis that the first appearance was in Galilee does not fail to raise interesting points, the case for it is not so strong that we are compelled to go against the chronology that Luke and John present.

Just as we have been seeing in Mark 16:1-8, John’s resurrection stories have undergone their own intensive analysis in which exegetes have tried to discern beneath the surface of the text the various sources from which it had been composed. For Raymond Brown, John 20:1-18, that is, the story of Mary of Magdala going to the tomb, and the similar story of Peter and the beloved disciple, and Mary’s encounter with Jesus, contains “an extraordinary number of inconsistencies that betray the hand of an editor...”35 Mary of Magdala, for example, comes to the tomb alone, but verse 2 says we. In verse 12 she sees the angels rather than the burial cloth, and she turns to Jesus twice. (verses 14 and 16) Therefore, Brown divides up this material into three types – that closest to the Synoptics (Mary goes to the tomb and sees the angels and reports to Peter), another type similar to the shorter notices in the Synoptics (Peter goes to the tomb in Luke, and the women encounter Jesus near the tomb in Matthew), and a third type proper to John alone (the words of Mary to Peter, the beloved disciple going with Peter, and Mary’s conversations with the angel and with Jesus).

As we might now expect, scholars differ in how these strands came to be assembled in John’s text. For Brown, there were three original stories: the visit of the women to the tomb, the visit of the male disciples, and Mary of Magdala’s encounter with Jesus. In the story of the women discovering the empty tomb the angels were added later in light of the resurrection appearances, Brown tells us, to interpret the deeper significance of the empty tomb. John may have let Mary stand for all the women who went to the tomb, and divided the original story between verses 1-2 and 11-13 in order to insert the story of Peter and the beloved disciple going to the tomb. In the second story the male disciples visit the tomb. Luke’s version of this story may represent an earlier stage of the tradition that John used so that we would, in fact, have two versions of the same source.36  Luke’s other account of this visit in 24:24 was an independent version of this story, and may have been part of Luke’s Gospel before he knew that one of those who went to the tomb was Peter, himself. If Luke has the earlier version, then is the addition of the beloved disciple the result of the editorial work of the author of John? Perhaps not. Luke, as we have just seen, knew a tradition that spoke of “some of us” going to the tomb, and it is even possible that John knew that one of those persons was the beloved disciple.38  But to Brown’s mind John added a theological interpretation of the story in the form of the beloved disciple coming to belief to bring out the meaning of the empty tomb. The third story of Mary of Magdala encountering Jesus at the tomb is found in different ways in Matthew 28:9-10 and in the Markan appendix which Brown considers not totally dependent on the Gospels. The fact that John and Matthew in this particular instance alone used the word “brothers” for the disciples also points to a link between these two accounts. Thus, we have three accounts of what may well be an ancient source, and John’s version of Mary alone encountering Jesus may reflect the oldest version of this source.38

For Pierre Benoit the story that is reflected in John’s Gospel of the women discovering the empty tomb and then going away is probably the most primitive version. Mark 16:1-8 is more theologically developed with the angel interpreting what the empty tomb means. If the angel was added later, Benoit feels that this shows that the original story was not invented to prove the resurrection, for it was first told by itself, and therefore is a well-attested ancient source.39 The appearance of Jesus to Mary of Magdala is also, he feels, an ancient tradition and is earlier than Mark 16:1-8 and Matthew 28:9-10.

The appearance of Jesus to the twelve in Jerusalem also shows a complex interaction between John’s account and Luke’s. Both, for example, mention Jesus showing his hands, and then Luke adds showing his feet while John has showing his side, leading some scholars to think that instead of John changing Luke’s feet to side, the original source mentions hands only.40  Further, Luke’s “peace be with you” and the showing of the hands may have come to him from an earlier Johannine tradition, and the basic accounts of John and Luke reflect an underlying original Jerusalem tradition.41

By way of summary, let’s look at the various units of the story of Jesus’ resurrection. The story of the women going to the tomb is much as we would expect, irregardless of whether Joseph and Nicodemus had buried the body with spices. The women could have been determined to pay homage to Jesus one last time.

The fact that the women find the tomb empty is reasonable, as well. If the tomb had not been empty, there would, of course, have been no story.

Our difficulties start with the question of whether they encountered an angel or angels. Many exegetes consider the encounter with the angels a creation of the early Christian community as it reflected on the empty tomb from the perspective of the resurrection appearances, and tried to demonstrate that position by seeing in the speech of the angel resonances with early liturgical ceremonies at the tomb, but these resonances don’t directly prove that there was no mysterious encounter at the tomb. If there was such an encounter, it would be likely that the language in which it would be expressed would be taken from the life of the early church. Further, as other exegetes argue, the empty tomb story would have been unlikely to have ever circulated without an announcement of the resurrection, but that still leaves open the question of whether this announcement came from an event at the tomb or from a retrospective interpretation of the empty tomb.

It is interesting to note that the angels appear not only in Matthew and Luke, who can be said to be following Mark, but in John, as well. Is it unreasonable to imagine that the women went to the tomb as day was breaking, discovered the tomb empty, and had some sort of mysterious encounter by which they glimpsed that the empty tomb meant the resurrection of Jesus?

If we remove the angels from the story of the tomb, will we take the next step and imagine that Jesus did not appear to the women near the tomb? For A. Descamps the verses in Matthew describing Jesus’ appearance to the women, despite the problems because of the form in which they are presented, point to an appearance “whose memory imposed itself on the evangelists...”42  This same event is recorded in a different way in John, and is found a third time in the Markan appendix. But if we take this appearance to be on good historical ground, how does it effect our view of the events that preceded it, like the angels at the tomb, and the events that follow it in Luke and John’s Gospels? Does it make it more likely there was a mysterious encounter at the tomb, or that Jesus appeared to the eleven that evening?

Exegetical Conclusions

As complicated as all this might first appear, it is no more than a sketch of the intense scrutiny that these texts have undergone, but it has yielded some important conclusions. Despite the many differences we find among the Gospel accounts, there is no reason to imagine that the women as witnesses, the burial by Joseph of Arimathea, the discovery of the empty tomb, and the appearances, themselves, are later fabrications of the early church. The evidence points in the opposite direction. The followers of Jesus believed from the beginning that Jesus was buried by Joseph of Arimathea, the tomb was found empty, and he appeared to them.

This general conclusion, however, does not conjure away the many and varied differences that exist among the texts not only in regard to minor details, but extending to the location and chronology of the resurrection appearances themselves. What, then should be our attitude towards those differences? We could, driven by our particular understanding of biblical inspiration, insist that these differences can and ought to be harmonized, but while some harmonization is reasonable – e.g., Mary of Magdala first went to the tomb with a group of women – a program of what could be called hyper-harmonization, runs the risk of setting impossible goals and even of doing violence to the texts, themselves, in terms of what they are trying to tell us and how they are going about it.

At the opposite extreme we could claim that the differences themselves are clear proof that the resurrection narratives are not credible, and therefore an attempt at a more critical reading of these stories has already rendered its negative judgment. But once again this rejection appears to rest on a particular view of inspiration, one that we now are rejecting. It is as if we have discovered that up until now we have been reading these texts in the normal Christian way, and now find that there is a more critical way of reading them and so feel deceived and reject them.

The differences, themselves, suggest a more nuanced view of inspiration, one that avoids making the evangelists the passive recipients of what God is whispering in their ears, and allows them to be genuine writers struggling to express the mysterious reality they were confronted with. Such a view of inspiration and the differences, themselves, support the legitimacy of a critical reading of the Gospel stories. If they are the result of very human processes of composition and transmission – which in themselves do not oppose the notion of genuine inspiration – then it is legitimate to attempt to unravel the present texts in terms of how it came to be and what historical truths might lie under them.

That being said, we are still faced with the limits of the historical-critical method when applied to the resurrection narratives. Despite the energy and ingenuity that exegetes have expended, they are still far from unanimity on many points. Indeed, we can find someone somewhere who supports just about any point we would wish to make. This is due to the limited evidence we have to work with. Most often this evidence consists of the New Testament texts, themselves, and little else. And evidence stands in inverse proportion to free-wheeling imagination and ideology that leaps to fill in the blanks. Thus, the rather modest conclusions that history can draw about the resurrection accounts often become dwarfed by extravagant theories erected on the slimmest historical foundations. Further, the historical-critical method has often been coupled with presuppositions that rule out the resurrection before the historical evidence is evaluated. This is the way that Pannenberg puts it: “The negative judgement on the bodily resurrection of Jesus as having occurred in historical fact is not a result of the historical critical examination of the Biblical Easter tradition, but a postulate that precedes any such examination.”43

As a picture emerges of a complex interplay of sources in the Gospel resurrection accounts, we cannot completely avoid the question of chronology. If we take Evan’s “prudent” dating of Mark to the late 60s, then Matthew, Luke and John would be later, and so the resurrection stories would have been written down from the late 60s onward, or some 40 years or more after what they purport to describe. Even 40 years is not an extraordinarily long time in the memory of a community when it deals with its most significant event, and especially when we see the Gospels written in the context of the traditions in that community. Such traditions which we have been seeing beneath the written text point to the fact that these sources were closer, of course, in time, to the events themselves.

But the dating of Mark to the late 60s is not on particularly firm ground. It cannot be established either on the basis of extrinsic evidence or an examination of the texts themselves, nor is there any consensus among exegetes for it. Mark could have been written well before the eve of the First Jewish War, perhaps as early as the beginning of the 50s. J.A.T. Robinson makes such an argument, and goes on to date the other Gospels, as well, before 70 AD. The controversy over whether a fragment of Mark (7Q5) was found at Qumran still goes on with no resolution in sight. The latest date for such a fragment would have been the occupation of Qumran by the Romans in 68 AD, but the style in which the document was written could have come from the 50s.

Basically what this amounts to is to say that one cannot argue on certain chronological grounds that the resurrection stories were composed so late that they are necessarily disconnected from the events they purport to describe. Rather, it is more probable that they relied on prior oral traditions rooted in the first years after the resurrection.

Therefore we can already begin to see how disastrous it would be if Christians began to imagine that reading the resurrection stories critically is the only way to read them if one wishes to have a “scientifically” founded faith. Not only would Christians be cast adrift on an ever shifting sea of conjectures, but faith, itself, would no longer be possible. What a critical reading has to offer is something valuable, but much more modest. By a convergence of probabilities it can point to the processes by which the resurrection stories were formed, and render a judgment on whether they were the result of long after the fact fabrications, or embody early traditions that originated within striking distance of the events themselves. History then can tell us something about what the disciples of Jesus believed in terms of the resurrection of Jesus, and whether it was reasonable to believe it. It can’t, however, compel faith, itself.


The Credibility of the Resurrection


But let’s try to deepen our answer to the central question of how credible these accounts are. We can test them by trying to drive a wedge of doubt into some critical point of the inner armature of this resurrection story so that it fractures, and we can see that it is unreasonable to believe in it. The overall structure of the story in its broadest strokes looks like this: the disciples of Jesus went from being demoralized and frightened by his death on the cross to proclaiming he had risen from the dead. Something must have caused this transformation. What was it? They said it was because they witnessed his death and burial, and then discovered that the tomb was empty. Then he bodily appeared to them. Somewhere in the unfolding of the story of the life, death, burial, empty tomb and resurrection appearances, we have to see if there are negative arguments that can be advanced to show that the conclusion that his followers reached, that he had bodily been raised from the dead, was unwarranted.

To use an extreme example, if we could demonstrate that Jesus did not die on the cross, or a fortiori, he never existed, but was the mythical creation of the first Christians, there would naturally be no question of a resurrection. But to demonstrate either proposition would be extremely difficult. If we claim that Jesus never existed, we have only intensified the question of where the first Christians came from, not to mention of how, when, where and why they created the writings of the New Testament. We would have an effect, which is the first Christian community preaching the risen Jesus, springing out of nowhere, an effect without a cause.

It is extremely difficult, as well, to claim that Jesus did not die on the cross, for he died in plain sight in the middle of the day outside of Jerusalem in front of not only his followers, but the Roman soldiers who had crucified him, people passing by, and very likely the people who had engineered his condemnation. Further, if we give any credence to Mark’s story that Pilate was amazed that Jesus had already died, and checked with the centurion, we have a sense of how difficult it would be for someone under such scrutiny to come down alive from a Roman cross when it is a question not of a mass crucifixion of hundreds, but of three men with the principal attention focused on Jesus. After that extreme improbability, we would have to imagine that the mortally wounded Jesus managed to escape from his closed tomb, or was carried away by his followers who then convinced themselves that he was, in fact, their risen Lord. In further flights of fantasy we might imagine that persons unknown nursed Jesus back to health, and then he appeared to his disciples and convinced them of his risen nature, but these kinds of things belong more to the realm of fiction than credible history. No. Our wedge of doubt will have to be inserted elsewhere.

What about denying that Jesus was buried in the tomb, but instead he was placed in an unknown grave, but this is only a little less improbable. It would require that the granting of the body to Joseph of Arimathea, his burial in Joseph’s tomb, and the women watching are all fictional creations of the later Christian community, and even more tellingly, that when Jesus’ followers found the tomb empty, instead of becoming more deeply disappointed and depressed, they somehow imagined that Jesus was actually alive. No, again.

The first likely place to attack a critical link in the resurrection stories is not here, but at the tomb, itself. We can say that early on Sunday morning the body of Jesus was in the tomb, or it was not. Let’s imagine first that the tomb was empty, and that either some of his followers, or parties unknown, had taken the body of Jesus. But if some of his disciples stole the body of Jesus from the tomb, and then pretended that he had risen from the dead, what would have motivated them to do this, and if they committed this fraud, what did they expect to gain from it, and would they have put themselves in harm’s way, suffered and died for something they knew to be a lie?

The other alternative that persons unknown stole the body of Jesus is not any more likely. Who would have done this, and for what reason? The Romans who crucified him? The Jews who condemned him? And what would the followers of Jesus’ response to the empty tomb alone have been? Would it be to believe he had risen from the dead when they had no practical expectation of such a thing happening or, much more reasonably, that the tomb was empty because someone had stolen the body, and thus added to their already overwhelming grief? This is the reaction of Mary of Magdala, for example. Certainly we need to do better than this.


Two Alternative Scenarios to the Resurrection


Let’s try to create two more plausible scenarios. In the first, we can imagine that Jesus’ body was in the tomb early on Sunday morning, and his followers knew it. For them the resurrection was a spiritual phenomenon in which God had taken Jesus’ spirit to himself, but later Christians transformed this spiritual belief into the notion of a bodily resurrection, and then created the resurrection stories to bolster this new belief. By this time the body of Jesus had decayed, and his bones had been gathered up and put in an ossuary, and then, with the expansion of Jerusalem with Agrippa’s wall in 41-44 AD, the tomb of Jesus was emptied along with the other tombs in the area because the graves could not be within the city, and the bones of Jesus were placed elsewhere. Therefore later Christians could point to the now empty tomb as a proof of their belief in a bodily resurrection, and spin tales about that, as well.

Or, in another scenario, the followers of Jesus discover that the tomb is empty, and then some of them have some sort of subjective experiences of Jesus. These are accepted by the other members of the community, and they become the root from which grow the resurrection narratives we have now in which, in virtue of a materializing tendency, common in the history of religious phenomena, the resurrection of Jesus is turned into an outer objective bodily event.

But these two scenarios run into serious problems. If we say that the body remained in the tomb, we need to make the Gospel stories of the empty tomb later creations of the Christian community, and presume an early belief in a “spiritual” resurrection found in someone like Paul which was gradually materialized into a bodily resurrection. However popular views of this sort have been, they labor under crushing historical burdens. The belief in a “spiritual” resurrection in which the body remains dead and decaying while the spirit is with God has much more to do with modern conceptions than how the Greco-Roman world or the Jewish world, or even the first Christians, understood resurrection.

In the Greco-Roman world there was certainly a belief in some sort of life after death, however shadowy, insubstantial and unsatisfying it was often conceived as, but resurrection meant a bodily resurrection, and this was not thought possible. As N.T. Wright puts it: “The road to the underworld ran only one way.”44 Nor should we imagine the first thing that sprang to people’s minds when they heard the word resurrection were the stories of dying and rising gods of the Mediterranean world. In the celebration of these fertility gods no one imagined that human beings had died and then came back to life, nor did the Jews of the second temple period imagine that their own God underwent cycles of death and rebirth.45

For the Jews, a belief in the resurrection had been evolving so that by the time of Jesus, while there were those who did not believe in the Resurrection like the Sadducees, a larger number, following the Pharisees, believed in some sort of resurrection. But this resurrection was connected with the national restoration of Israel which had come to include the resurrection of the bodies of individuals in the last days. Resurrection was not a description of what life after death might be like, but rather, it was the reversal of death, itself.46 And it was not something that happened now. No one had been raised or would be raised from the dead “in advance of the great last day.”47 There was a belief in the Messiah, and there was a hope in the resurrection, but there was not a belief in a Messiah raised from the dead before the last days.

We might object that this spiritual view of the resurrection need not be rooted in either the Greco-Roman world or the Jewish one, but it is found in Paul, himself. But for Paul, as well as everybody else, resurrection meant bodily resurrection. In his writings, interestingly enough, Jewish ideas on the resurrection moved from the wings to center stage, and were transformed. National restoration and the resurrection of the dead on the last day became the resurrection of Jesus now and all of us later.48 And the body of Jesus is not brought back to life only to die again, but is somehow transformed. And what is at stake is not just national restoration, but holiness.49 What Paul, and in fact the whole first Christian community did, was to come up with – within the context of the spectrum of Jewish thought on resurrection – a new and hitherto undreamed of mutation on the idea of the resurrection, and this new idea was held by Christians uniformly. It is as if there is, within an overgrown flower garden among the many kinds of resurrection flowers we find that the early followers of Jesus are cultivating, one new never before fully imagined flower. The real question that Paul’s teaching about the resurrection, if it is not to be accounted for by prior Jewish or Greco-Roman belief, but rather is something distinctive and consistent, is, where did it come from?50

So a “spiritual” resurrection would not have been a Greco-Roman or Jewish or Pauline Christian conception. What was at stake was not life after death, which all these groups believed in in various forms and manners, but, as Wright puts it, “life after life after death.” So we are faced with just how and when the first Christians would have come up with this sort of non-bodily or non-resurrection resurrection, and how they managed to subsequently erase every trace of it from the Gospel resurrection narratives so that it appeared that a bodily resurrection was the bedrock of the tradition.

But let’s imagine that they did. Let’s say that somehow by some strange process of cultural osmosis these second temple Jews who were to become the first Christians believed in a Platonic view of the relationship between the body and soul, and so the soul of Jesus would go on to live with God, but he would have been well rid of his body, and so it could lie decaying in the tomb without disconcerting them. Such a hypothesis would make more sense if we imagined that this more Platonic conception had developed later after a bodily view of the resurrection as the Christians moved out into the larger Greco-Roman world, and, in fact, it did develop, but not until second century Christianity.51 But what we have here is a Platonic view coming first to be followed later by the stories of a bodily resurrection, a regression, if you will, according to modern standards, a regression that goes against the evidence we have already seen, that the resurrection stories exhibit the hallmarks of being early. The picture, then, looks like this: the proto-Christians have a spiritual view of the resurrection that soars over any idea of concerning itself with bodies, but this soon vanishes, leaving no trace.

But the problems of this scenario are not at an end. There is the body of Jesus in the tomb. If the body was not there it is much less likely that a purely “spiritual” view of the resurrection would have taken hold with no body to explain away. But it is much more likely the tomb was empty. The story of the burial of Jesus is credible. We have the role of Joseph of Arimathea which would have lent itself to early rebuttal by the Jewish authorities if it had not been true, and the burial is mentioned in the early tradition presented in First Corinthians, making it virtually impossible for there to have been enough time for legends to have sprung up to create the story of the burial if there had not been one.

But if the burial is credible, then the empty tomb is, as well, for the site of the burial would soon have become widely known, especially if it was close to the city, and the presence of the body of Jesus would have made the preaching of his resurrection impossible.52 The empty tomb is implied in Paul’s traditional formula of death, burial and resurrection, and thus, again, there is no time for legends to grow. The accusations we find in Matthew that the disciples had stolen the body are unlikely to have been advanced by the followers of Jesus in the form of a preemptive strike, but rather, likely reflect the acknowledgement of the empty tomb by all parties involved.

While historians tell us that there is no evidence that the tomb of Jesus was venerated like other Jewish tombs since the body was not there, that does not mean that the location of the tomb was unknown, or the tomb was unvisited. Given human nature, there is every reason to suppose that the tomb was a place frequented by early Jerusalem Christians and visitors, as well. The empty tomb seems historically well established and it is reasonable to say that the tomb was empty on Sunday morning.

When the tomb was found to be empty the natural response, whether on the part of Mary of Magdala or the Jewish authorities, was to say that someone had stolen the body. Can a case be made that some of the followers of Jesus had taken the body? Why would they do this? To prove that Jesus rose from the dead to their fellow disciples? But that was a message that they had not understood when Jesus was alive. So we are left with saying that after he was crucified and against the current understanding about what the Messiah would be like, they decided that he had, indeed, said he was going to rise, and despite the fact he did not, were going to steal the body and pretend that he did. That does not make much sense. Nor would the Jewish authorities have stolen the body to stir up trouble for themselves, even if we discount Matthew’s story of the guards at the tomb, nor would the Romans have done so for the same reason. Therefore we are left with saying that persons unknown, for motives unknown, stole the body. But how likely is this? They would have had to have known where the body of Jesus was buried, a burial that took place in haste at the end of the day on Friday, and they, themselves, would have had to act in haste before Sunday morning, despite the Sabbath, and we must presume, contrary to Matthew, that the tomb was unguarded, a story we can imagine being refuted by the Jewish authorities if it were not so. Further, we must suppose that they took the body naked, leaving the shroud and burial clothes there, and they managed to do all this in secret and never breathe a word about it later.53 In short, they stole a body they would have believed to be on the verge of decay for reasons unknown, and never said a word about it. Certainly we should be able to do better than this.

It is possible to draw up a list of scholars who do not believe in the empty tomb. That list would include: Marcus Borg, Günther Bornkamm, Gerald Boldock Bostock, Rudolf Bultmann, Peter Carnley, John Dominic Crossan, Stevan Davies, Maurice Goguel, Michael Goulder, Hans Grass, Charles Guignebert, Uta Ranke-Heinemann, Randel Helms, Herman Hendricks, Roy Hoover, Helmut Koester, Hans Küng, Alfred Loisy, Burton L. Mack, Willi Marxsen, Gerd Lüdemann, Norman Perrin, Robert M. Price, Marianne Sawicki, John Shelby Spong, Howard M. Teeple, and John T. Theodore.”54

But it could be exceeded by a list drawn mostly from exegetes who find the historicity of the empty tomb to one degree or another convincing: P. Achtemeier, P. Benoit, I. Bertin, J. Blank, J. Blinzler, E. Bode, R.E. Brown, H. von Campenhausen, Clark, W.L. Craig, J. Delorme, E. Dhanis, Dunn, Ellis, J.A. Fitzmyer, R.H. Fuller, J. Gnilka, W. Grundmann, R.H. Gundry, M. Hengel, Hooke, M. Hooker, J. Jeremias, Klappert, J. Kremer, W. Künneth, Ladd, Lane, Lehmann, X. Léon-Dufour, Lichtenstein, Manek, Marshall, C.M. Martini, C.F.D. Moule, J. Murphy-O’Conner, F. Mussner, W. Nauck, G. O’Collins, W. Pannenberg, P. Perkins, Perry, R. Pesch, K.H. Rengstorff, J.A.T. Robinson, C. Rowland, E. Ruckstuhl, L. Schenke, J. Schmitt, R. Schnackenburg, K. Schubert, Schwank, E. Schweizer, P. Seidensticker, A. Strobel, P. Stuhlmacher, W. Trilling, Vermes, A. Vögtle, and U. Wilckens.55 Jacob Kremer will write: “By far, most exegetes hold firmly... to the reliability of the biblical statements about the empty tomb...” And Schnackenburg will affirm that judgment by writing: “Most exegetes accept the historicity of the empty tomb, so that this question is not the decisive point in the discussion about the resurrection.”56 

In the second scenario, there is an empty tomb, and the disciples have some sort of subjective experience of Jesus, and the two factors work together so that they end up believing that Jesus rose bodily from the dead. This conjunction of empty tomb and appearances makes more sense than either one of them alone. The instinctive response to the discovery of the empty tomb is the thought, “Who took the body?”, but this is counteracted by the encounters with Jesus. But these are subjective encounters, some kind of visions or numinous dreams, or hallucinations brought about by guilt or grief or longing. But this scenario, too, immediately runs into serious obstacles. The first concerns the empty tomb, itself. Just who took the body, and why? But having just reviewed that, let’s go on. The disciples in the face of the empty tomb are led by their turbulent emotions to some kind of subjective experiences of Jesus which they mistake for bodily appearances. But we have already seen the first century Jewish expectations for resurrection did not involve the resurrection of one individual before the last day. Jesus’ followers did not expect him to rise from the dead right after his crucifixion. Therefore we have to say that any subjective experiences of him resurrected would have to supply the content that we see in the resurrection stories, but this is asking a lot of grief or guilt. A subjective experience tends to be a projection of what already exists, consciously or unconsciously, in those who have them. Therefore we would expect that a vision of the resurrected Jesus would be imaginatively clothed in images derived from the popular Jewish ideas about the resurrection then circulating.57 But this is not so. Nor would we expect that these visions, dreams or hallucinations would paint a detailed picture of apparently historical events, namely these particular women went to the tomb that belonged to Joseph of Arimathea and worried about moving the stone blocking the entrance, and so forth. While we can argue here that these stories were created later, and the more subjective elements in them erased, this is not convincing historically if the appearance of Jesus was only subjective. We really would have expected much more of the kind of thing that peeps out here and there in Matthew: an angel with shining garments, earthquakes, and is found more fully in later noncanonical writings.

Further, if we are really dealing with visions, dreams and hallucinations, then we are dealing with very particular kinds of these things because they usually come to individuals, not to many different people at different times and places, and not readily to groups. Nor can we imagine that someone like James, the brother of the Lord – if he had, indeed, been hostile to Jesus’ ministry – or Paul, would have been inclined to project feelings of bereavement, and thus stimulate appearances of Jesus to themselves. Even if we say that guilt drove them to such experiences, it is hard to imagine such guilt reaching such an intensity. And further, still, the supposed recipients of these visions were not unaware of the distinctions between visions and extra-mental events. Paul – despite what reservations we might have about the nature of his encounter with the risen Lord – was personally familiar with visions, but didn’t count the appearance of Jesus to him among them. Peter, too, experienced visions, but doesn’t imagine, either, that the appearances of Jesus should be counted among them.58 But what about those remarkable occasions in which people dream of dying loved ones before they know the person is dead? Certainly, these kinds of dreams seem to have an objective dimension. But they, too, come to individuals, not groups, and the people who appear are not known to be dead. No. If the resurrection appearances are subjective experiences, then they are of a kind not easily placed in any of our familiar categories, a matter we will return to in chapter 4. The people who encountered the risen Jesus took them to be outer bodily events, however mysterious, and they describe them as such.

There is no reason to imagine that the empty tomb was a later fabrication, for the very texture of the texts point in the opposite direction, nor is it conceivable that the disciples began preaching the resurrection of Jesus while his body was still in the tomb. The body was gone. Their opponents claimed they had stolen it. They claimed they had seen the risen Lord.

After having read the resurrection stories comparatively and intensively, we are now in a better position to look at the normal Christian reading and to see that there is no reason to set it aside as somehow pre-critical and naive. It is certainly not a historical reading, but it is not meant to be one. It is a reading in faith which is grounded in history in the sense that it doesn’t run counter to what history with any degree of probability can tell us. In short, Christians ought not to feel or be made to feel uncomfortable when they read the Scriptures in faith as if a surer, truer reading of the “real Gospel” lay elsewhere.



(1) These texts are from the American Catholic New American Bible: In several places this well done translation suffers from an excessive literalism, e.g. John 20:11 which has Mary of Magdala bending over into the tomb instead of rendering it she bent over to look into the tomb, and in Matthew 28:5 in which the angel replies to the women who have not said anything.

(2) Fitzmyer, p. 1525.

(3) Brown. John. p. 938.

(4) Fitzmyer, p. 1526.

(5) Brown. John. p. 958. Brown thinks it is likely that John is drawing on an independent tradition about Joseph. John calls Joseph a disciple of Jesus, like Matthew, but here and elsewhere in the story of Joseph John’s vocabulary differs. (p. 939).

(6) Evans, p. 515.

(7) Brown. John. p. 791.

(8) Evans, p. liii.

(9) See on the possible identities of the women Bauckham, chapter 1, Brown, John, p. 905-6, and Craig, p. 188 ff. 

(10) Brown. John, p. 906.

(11) Luke’s, “they went to the tomb early” and the next two verses may have come from his own source. Fitzmyer, p. 1565.

(12) Hagner, p. 868, thinks that Matthew’s alteration might be due to his insertion of “just as he said” but considers it more probable that it relates to verse 10 where Jesus repeats the message of the angel.

(13) John’s “who is it that you are looking for” is, to Brown’s mind, a “rare parallel” to the Synoptics’ speech of the angel. John, p. 990.

(14) . Mark’s fear and silence in 16:8 may have nothing to do with the women disobeying the angel, but rather, with Mark’s ideas on discipleship. (Perkins, p. 122)

(15) Evans, p. 539 gives a number of reasons why Mark may have continued after 16:8.

(16) See, for example, Wright, p. 624 on Mark possibly following Matthew.

(17) Fitzmyer, p. 1548 and p. 1541. Luke’s, “Some of those with us” vs. “Only Peter went to the tomb” may be another indication of Luke’s source (p.1565).

(18) Brown, John. p. 987.

(19) Hagner, p. 851.

(20) Hagner, p.862.

(21) The two accounts of the appearance of Jesus to the women in John and in Matthew are independent, according to Fuller, p. 78.

(22) ) Evans argues against the originality of the Markan Appendix (Craig, p. 546) while Brown and Fitzmyer tend to argue for its independence from the Gospels.

(23) Fitzmyer writes “ is always difficult to draw the line between what is “L” (the Lukan source) and what is of Lukan composition.” (Vol. 1, p. 17) Yet if we cannot be sure, that does not mean we cannot reach a certain degree of probability that Luke was using earlier sources. Fitzmyer singles out as Lukan sources: (1) the women prepare the spices on Friday night (2) (23:53c) “where no one had yet been laid” (3) parts of the Emmaus episode (4) the appearance of Jesus to the disciples in Jerusalem, and (5) the final commission. Nor does he think that John knew Luke. (I, p. 88) ( II, p. 1523, p. 1554-55). He also points to indications that Luke in his account of Emmaus is relying on prior traditions: A. the same event appears in the Markan appendix, if the appendix is, indeed, independent. B. Emmaus is likely a real destination. C. If Luke invented Cleophas, why didn’t he invent a name for his companion? D. Verse 34, “The Lord has been raised and he has appeared to Simon.” E. Verses 22-24 may be independent of the story in Mark. F. The traditional eucharistic language of the breaking of the bread.

(24) For example: Luke reworked traditional material for his account of the appearance of Jesus to the twelve. (Perkins, p. 163) The slight difference between Luke having Jesus showing his hands and feet, and John having Jesus show his hands and side may indicate independent sources. (Fuller, 102) The “peace be with you” in Luke and John indicates common material, as does the hands, but each altered the hands in their own particular way, ( Fitzmyer, p. 1575-6).

(25) Fitzmyer, p. 1573.

(26) Perkins, p. 132.

(27) Evans, p. lxiii.

(28) Denaux, p. 124-5. O’Collins makes a similar point, “Any theories about the spontaneous growth of appearance stories deserve repudiation, when they fail to recognize that I Corinthians 15:3-8 could represent a kerygmatic summary of more or less developed Easter stories.” Jesus Risen, p. 27.

(29) For an extensive analysis of this problem see Schenke.

(30) For an argument along these lines see Craig, p. 189.

(31) Benoit, for example, in “Marie-Madeleine” argues for a primitive version without the angel, while Léon-Dufour considers that the story would never have circulated without the angel.

(32) Schenke develops this perspective in detail. See also Kremer, p. 147.

(33) Perkins, p. 124.

(34) See Neirynck.

(35) Brown. John, p. 995.

(36) Brown. John, p. 1000; see also Benoit, “Marie-Madeleine,” p. 142-3.

(37) Brown. John, p. 1001.

(38) Brown. John, p. 1003.

(39) Benoit “Marie-Madeleine,” p. 150.

(40) Brown, John, p. 1022.

(41) Brown, John, p. 1028

(42) Descamps, “La structure des récits évangéliques,” p. 731.

(43) Pannenberg, p. 64.

(44) Wright, p. 81.

(45) For more on dying and rising gods see O’Collins, Jesus Risen (p. 102-3) who writes: “Even with the best will in the world, it is hard to see much of a parallel and connection between the cult of Adonis and the resurrection of Jesus.” (p. 102); See also Habermas, p. 296 note 19, and Wright, p. 80-81.

(46) Wright, pp. 127, 201.

(47) Ibid., p. 205

(48) Ibid., p. 276.

(49) Ibid., p. 681.

(50) Ibid., p. 686-7

(51) Ibid., pp. 480, 547.

(52) Craig, p. 352.

(53) Craig, p. 376-7.

(54) Kirby, p. 256-7.

(55) This list is compiled by using Craig, p. 373, note 29, as well as Gerald O’Collins, The Resurrection, p. 14.

(56) As quoted in Craig, p. 373.

(57) Craig, p. 414.

(58) Craig, p. 68 note 29, p. 70.


Chapter 1 Bibliography 

Bauckham, Richard. 1990. Jude and the Relatives of Jesus in the Early Church. Edinburgh: T&T Clark.

Benoit, Pierre. 1960. “Marie-Madeleine et les disciples au tombeau selon John 20,1-18” in Judentum Urchristentum Kirche. Festschrift für Joachim Jeremias. Edited by Walther Eltester. p. 121-152. Berlin: Verlag Alfred Töpelmann.

Benoit, Pierre. 1969. The Passion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Translated by Benet Weatherhead. NY: Herder and Herder. London: Darton, Longman and Todd.

Bode, Edward Lynn. 1970. The First Easter Morning. The Gospel Accounts of the Women’s Visit to the Tomb of Jesus. Rome: Biblical Institute Press.

Brown, Raymond E. 1970. The Gospel According to John (XIII-XXI). The Anchor Bible. NY: Doubleday.

_____ 1973. The Virginal Conception and Bodily Resurrection of Jesus. NY: Paulist Press.

_____ 1974. “John 21 and the First Appearance of the Risen Jesus to Peter” in Resurrexit. Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

Campenhausen, Hans von. 1968. “The Events of Easter and the Empty Tomb” in Tradition and Life in the Church. Essays and Lectures in Church History by Hans von Campenhausen. Translated by A.V. Littledale. Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press.

Craig, William Lane. 1989. Assessing the New Testament Evidence for the Historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus. Studies in the Bible and Early Christianity, volume 16. Lewiston/Queenston, Lampeter: The Edmin Mellen Press.

Denaux, A. 2002. “Jesus’ Burial and Resurrection (MT 27,57-28,20)” in Resurrection in the New Testament by Festschrift J. Lambrecht, edited by R. Bieringer, V. Koperski & B. Lataire. Leuven University Press.

Descamps, Albert. 1959. “La structure des récits évangéliques de la résurrection” in Biblica, 40 p. 726-741.

Dhanis, Édouard, S.J. 1974. Resurrexit. Actes du symposium international sur la résurrection de Jésus (Rome 1970). Études par B.M. Ahern, J. Blinzler, R.E. Brown, J. Coppens, É. Dhanis, J. Dupont, F. Festorazzi, A. Feuillet, J. Guitton, J. Jeremias, J. Kremer, M.-J. Le Guillou, K. Lehmann, X. Léon-Dufour, C.M. Martini, D. Mollat, C. Pozo, J. Schmitt, K. Schubert, A. Scrima. Bibliographie par G. Ghiberti. Libreria Editrice Vaticana. 

Evans, Craig A. 2001. Mark 8:27-16:20. Word Biblical Commentary. Volume 34B. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Fee, Gordon D. 1987. The First Epistle to the Corinthians. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Fitzmyer, Joseph A., S.J. 1981. The Gospel According to Luke (I-IX). The Anchor Bible. Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, Inc.

_____ 1985. The Gospel According to Luke (X-XXIV). The Anchor Bible. NY: Doubleday.

Fuller, Reginald H. 1971. The Formation of the Resurrection Narratives. NY: The MacMillan Company. London: Collier-MacMillan Ltd.

Habermas, Gary R. and Michael R. Licona. 2004. The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus. Kergel Publications.

Hagner, Donald A. 1995. Matthew 14-28. Word Biblical commentary, Volume 33B. Dallas, TX: Word Books, Publisher.

Kirby, Peter. 2005. “The Case against the Empty Tomb” in The Empty Tomb. Jesus Beyond the Grave. Price, Robert M. and Jeffery Jay Lowder, editors. NY: Prometheus Books.

Kremer, Jacob. 1974. “Zur Diskussion über “das leere Grab”” in Resurrexit. Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

Lane, William L. 1974. The Gospel according to Mark. The English Text with Introduction, Exposition, and Notes. Grand Rapids, MI and Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Léon-Dufour, Xavier. 1974. Resurrection and the Message of Easter. Translated by R.N. Wilson. NY: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

Morris, Leon. 1995. The Gospel according to John. Revised Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Neirynck, F. 1980. “Marc 16,1-8. Tradition et Rédaction” in Ephemerides theologicae lovanienses. p. 56-88. Louvain: Universitas.

O’Collins, Gerald, SJ. 1987. Jesus Risen: An Historical, Fundamental and Systematic Examination of Christ’s Resurrection. NY: Mahwah: Paulist Press.

_____ 1997. “The Resurrection: The State of the Questions” in The Resurrection: An Interdisciplinary Symposium on the Resurrection of Jesus. Edited by Stephen T. Davis, Daniel Kendall, S.J. and Gerald O’Collins, S.J. Oxford University Press. p. 5-28.

Pannenberg, Wolfhart. 1996. “History and the Reality of the Resurrection” in Resurrection Reconsidered. Gavin D’Costa, editor. Oxford: Oneworld.

Perkins, Pheme. 1984. Resurrection: New Testament Witness and Contemporary Reflection. Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, Inc.

Pozo, C. 1974. “Problemática de la teología católica” in Resurrexit. Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

Robinson, John A.T. Redating the New Testament. Eugene Oregon, Wipf and Stock.

Schenke, Ludger. 1969. Auferstehungsverkündigung und leeres Grab. Eine traditionsgeschichtliche Untersuchung von Mk 16,1-8. Verlag Katholisches Bibel Werk Stuttgart. French translation: 1970. Le tombeau vide el l’annonce de la résurrection (Mc 16,1-8. Lectio Divina 59. Paris: Les Éditions du Cerf.

Wright, N.T. 2003. The Resurrection  of the Son of God. Minneapolis: Fortress Press.



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