Dr. Rebecca Bradley On the Resurrection of Jesus

It’s Easter Sunday, the day when Christians of various (but not all) sorts celebrate the resurrection of Christ– or some version of it. Of course, just as Christ’s birth is recounted differently in the four gospels, the tales of his resurrection are also inconsistent in all kinds of awkward details. Who was it who first arrived at the empty tomb? What or whom did they find inside? Whom did Jesus appear to next? What did he say to them? What did they say to the others? All of these differ from gospel from gospel. So is this a problem for people who believe the Bible is divinely inspired, inerrant, and literally true in every jot and tittle?

Not a problem! The name of the game is harmonization, and here’s how it works. Each different account is treated as absolutely true, but only part of the story – therefore, if the details seem to disagree, it is only because they are about different parts of the same picture. If one gospel says it was Mary Magdalene who first visited the tomb, and another gospel says it was three other women, then both versions are true, but they refer to two different visits. Therefore, all one has to do is manipulate the conflicting details until they form a consistent story – or, to put it another way, until they harmonize.

So how do the harmonizers harmonize the discords among the four gospel accounts of the resurrection? In a word, hilariously. [To read the rest of her essay, click here.]