Thanks for several comments below to my previous post, at least one of which is hilarious! I did not point out that 'sensible' here was about the historicity of the resurrection rather than the pastoral or evangelistic implications of it.
I have no doubt that the resurrection occurred and no doubt that by that I do not mean the disciples suffered hysteria.
What is difficult is pinning Scripture down to what is historical about this event given that there are discrepancies in its accounts (e.g. no women and no empty tomb in 1 Corinthians 15), inconsistencies (think location: Mark is definite encounters will take place in Galilee; Matthew contradicts himself about this; Luke has every encounter occurring in and around Jerusalem; and John gives us both locations). Anyone care to tell us where the historical location of the disciples' encounters with Jesus took place?
My general hunch is that the consistencies in the accounts are clues to the historical bits of their narratives: the gospels agree on the tomb being empty, agree on the day, agree there were female witnesses to the empty tomb, and agree with Paul that there were multiple appearances to individuals and to groups.
But already a few remarks like that lead us into questions about what 'history' means in relation to an event such as the resurrection, so the questions multiply and, on the face of it, only a massive tome seems plausible to deal with them all! But I am trying to write a small article only ...
What is difficult is pinning Scripture down to what is historical about this event given that there are discrepancies in its accounts (e.g. no women and no empty tomb in 1 Corinthians 15), inconsistencies (think location: "Mark is definite encounters will take place in Galilee; Matthew contradicts himself about this; Luke has every encounter occurring in and around Jerusalem; and John gives us both locations). Anyone care to tell us where the historical location of the disciples' encounters with Jesus took place?"
I don't know what you mean by "Matthew contradicts himself about this". 'contradiction', like 'discrepancies', has a number of menaings, including formal and substantial. See Gary Habermas's website on the appearances. The William Lane Craig 'Defenders' podcasts 13-20 deal with the different ways the resurrection is understood, including subjective and objective visions theories. See also the Q& A section toward the end of the video of Peter Williams' lecture at the Lanier Theological Library, where he deals with the multiple sources/witnesses in the appearances.
I had not really noticed it before but the angel says to the women that they will encounter Jesus in Galilee. As they leave the tomb they then encounter Jesus (which, at least on the face of it, is a contradiction of the Galilee direction). To rescue the situation Jesus then says to them that the male disciples will see him in Galilee. At the very least Matthew is trying to be faithful to Mark (his source). Is he also trying to bear witness to what Luke and John know, that Jesus did appear in and around Jerusalem?
Although Paul doesn't explicitly state in 1 Corinthians 15 that the tomb was empty, he does state that Jesus died and was buried and that on the third day he rose again. From this one can infer that there was a tomb, which became empty after Jesus rose from the dead. As for why Paul's account is less detailed than the gospel accounts, perhaps it's because his letter is addressed to a group of people (the Christian community in Corinth) who already knew the story of the crucifixion and resurrection. Just like you wouldn't have to explain NZ cultural references in a letter or email to a fellow Kiwi the way you do on a blog whose readership comes from all over the world.
Apparently the way to tell if several different witnesses are telling the truth is if their accounts differ slightly! Memory is a deceptive thing! If they all tell exactly the same story, then they've got together and concocted a "perfect" lie. So, the fact that the accounts differ is an argument for the integrity of the writers and the authenticity of the accounts.
Where's the problem?
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