In a week when we have been treated to the spectacle of otherwise sane, sensible, well-educated men and women making quite a hash of telling us exactly what went on during an event less than seven days old (as I write - I speak of the ever-chaging story from the White House about how Osama bin Laden died), it is a good time to offer a few more thoughts about the resurrection narratives.
There is no doubt that reading all the gospel narratives together with Paul's handed down account in 1 Corinthians 15, we have either sufficient data to call the whole thing a confusing if not contradictory mish-mash or a genuine puzzle to work through. I prefer the latter - just to be clear about where I am coming from here.
Quite a lot about the coherence of the narratives when taken together hangs on whether what Paul says is consistent with 'raised from the dead' implies 'the body left the tomb'. If that is so then I am not sure that Paul not mentioning appearances to women is a big deal: the gospel narratives do not mention an appearance to 500, to James, and to all the apostles (distinguished from 'the twelve').
I am increasingly moving in my thinking towards trying not to make John's account fit historically with the others. So much in John's Gospel is a rewriting, reframing, and revising of what is in the other gospels, that I am not sure if we can distinguish what in John 20 and 21 is (1) John's theological understanding of the resurrection (2) John's reworking of material from the other gospels (3) historically reliable material known to John and not known to the other gospel writers. In short, working on consistency in the gospel narratives may work best if we agree to set John's gospel aside since where John is consistent with the others that may reflect their influence and where John is inconsistent with the others that may reflect John's intention to say what he wants to say whether or not it fits with others.
One final thought for now: suppose the tomb was not empty. Why then do the gospel writers make the empty tomb a key part of their reports. If this is wishful thinking on their part, why did they think that would help their cause? In testifying to something which even they must have been able to work out could be shown up as false witness ("Oy, Mark, your ending is dodgy. See that gravestone over there. It says, 'Here lies buried Jesus of Nazareth.") what was their motive and what was their goal? Clearly they think they are witnessing to something important about the raising of Jesus from the dead. If the tomb was empty, what propelled the initial momentum to the belief that Jesus rose from the dead and what later on drove the gospel writers to provide the narratives given to us?