Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter: A Story that Needed an Editor

Easter is remarkable in many ways, not the least of which is the complete implausibility of the story, and the extremely poor quality of the evidence supporting it. Practically every substantive aspect of the four gospel versions of the resurrection story, from the morning the woman (women) went to the tomb, contradict one or more of the others in nonsubjective and irreconcilable ways. The stories are relatively short and it takes little effort to mark each and flip between them. Here's a brief list of questions one might ask, and how the four Gospels answer them:

1) At what time did the visitors arrive at the tomb?

Mark: at the rising of the sun
John: when it was still dark

2) Who went?

John: Mary Magdelegne
Matthew: Mary Magdelegne and the other Mary
Mark: Mary Magdelegne, Mary the mother of James, and Salome
Luke: Mary Magdelegne, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and other women.

Who can resist the feeling when looking at this that we are watching a story grow?

3) Was the Tomb Open?

Luke: open
Matthew: closed

4) Who was found there?

Matthew: an angel
Mark: a man
Luke: two men
John: two angels

Many of the attempts to reconcile these contradictions is to brush them off as the inevitable differences one would expect from multiple witnesses writing their stories independently and making different choices as to who to name (say Joanna in Luke's story) or not (all the others). This situation with the men and/or angels blows that argument completely out of the water. For while it is plausible that one writer might mention Joanna, while another leaves her out and mentions Salome, it is not at all plausible that a writer might choose to mention meeting men at the tomb, but choosing not to mention angels. Even then, angelic appearances were not so common as to lack newsworthiness.

5) Was there an earthquake that morning:

Matthew: a great one
Mark: no
Luke: no
John: no

This is my personal favorite, and really seals the deal. There's just no way to rationalize missing a great earthquake. Someone is clearly making shit up.

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