THE DEATH & RESURRECTION OF JESUS CHRIST:
There were many defining moments in the life of Jesus. Two of them were his baptism
by John the Baptist, and his crucifixion by the Roman authorities. The canonical gospels
(Mark, Matthew, Luke and John) are basically in agreement about the events in Jesus' life
between his baptism and crucifixion. But they differ greatly when describing the events
before his baptism and after his death.
|Some liberal theologians have concluded that the birth, childhood and resurrection stories were pieced together by the
authors of the gospels out of developing legends that were circulating among various
Christian groups at the time. |
|Conservative theologians believe in the inerrancy of the Bible and
that God inspired its authors. Thus they believe that the apparently
conflicting gospel stories can be harmonized into a single coherent picture.
Details of the death and resurrection of Jesus are described in the following Gospel
|Mark 15:33 to 16:8 (Verses 16:9 to 16:20 are a later forgery inserted by an unknown author long after the original book
|Matthew 27:52 to 28:20 |
|Luke 23:44 to 24:12 |
|John 19:29 to 20:18 |
By combining the various gospels' accounts Jesus' death and resurrection, one can
develop a common story that is consistent with most of the Biblical texts: Simon from
Cyrene was pressed into service to carry the cross from Jerusalem to Golgatha, the place
of crucifixion. There, Jesus was offered a drink of wine mixed with a bitter substance. He
refused. He was nailed to the cross through his palms and feet. Two robbers were crucified
with him; one on either side. People passing by hurled insults. From the 6th to the 9th
hour, it became dark. Jesus cried out. He was offered vinegar to drink. He cried out again
and died. The gospels record different final messages. The veil in the temple was torn from top to bottom by an unknown force. Joseph
of Arimathea obtained permission to take Jesus' body to his private tomb. He wrapped the
body in a clean linen cloth, placed it in the tomb and sealed the entrance. On Sunday
morning, an unknown number of women came to the tomb. The stone had been rolled away. They
found that Jesus' body was missing.
But not all of the gospels totally agree with this story. Disagreements abound: 1
|Who carried the cross to the place of execution?
|What was the sign over Jesus' head on the cross?
|Mark: "THE KING OF THE JEWS"|
|Matthew: "THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS"|
|Luke: "THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS"|
|John: "JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS" in Aramaic, Latin and Greek|
|What did the robbers say to Jesus?
|Mark: they both hurled insults|
|Matthew: Same as Mark|
|Luke: One hurled insults; the other said that Jesus' execution was unjust because he was
not guilty of any crime|
|John: Nothing was recorded|
|What were Jesus' last words?
|Mark: Jesus "cried out", but the words (if any) were not recorded|
|Matthew: Same as Mark|
|Luke: "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit."
|John: "It is finished." |
|Who went to the tomb with spices to prepare Jesus' body?
|Mark: 3 women on Sunday morning just after sunrise|
|Matthew: No record|
|Luke: 4 or more women on Sunday morning very early in the morning, presumably while dark|
|John: Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus on Friday before sundown|
|Who visited the tomb on Sunday with Mary Magdalene?
|Mark: Two women: Salome and Mary the mother of James|
|Matthew: One woman: "the other Mary" |
|Luke: Three or more women: Mary the mother of James, Joanna and at
least one other woman|
|John: None; she went alone|
|When did she/they visit the tomb on Sunday?
|Mark: just after sunrise|
|Matthew: at dawn|
|Luke: very early in the morning, presumably while it was still dark|
|John: while it was still dark|
|What happened to the rock that sealed the tomb?
|Mark: The stone had already been rolled back before they arrived|
|Matthew: An earthquake happened; an angel appeared and rolled it away as the women
approached the tomb.|
|Luke: Same as Mark|
|John: Same as Mark|
|Who did she/they find at the tomb?
|Mark: A young man dressed in a white robe was inside the tomb|
|Matthew: An angel sitting on the rock outside the tomb|
|Luke: Two men were inside the tomb, dressed in clothes that looked like lightning|
|Where was Jesus at the time?
|Mark: not at the tomb; he was on his way to Galilee|
|Matthew: same as Mark|
|Did she/they enter the tomb?
|Matthew: Yes. They were invited by the angel to "come see the place where he
|How did she/they react to the news?:
|Mark: They fled, trembling and bewildered|
|Matthew: They fled, fearful and joyous|
|Luke: They left|
|John: She ran to Simon Peter and the disciple that Jesus loved|
|Who did she/they see on the way to the disciples?
|Matthew: They met Jesus, who they immediately recognized|
|How did the disciples react to the news?
|Mark: They didn't; the woman told nobody of the news because they were afraid.|
|Matthew: They believed the women.|
|Luke: The disciples, and "all the others" didn't believe the women.
Peter ran to the tomb anyway.|
|John: They believed Mary.|
|Did the women/woman return to the tomb?
|Mark: No record|
|Matthew: No record|
|Luke: No record|
|John: Yes. Mary saw two angels and Jesus there; but she thought that Jesus was the
|To whom did Jesus first appear?
|Mark: to all the disciples somewhere in Galilee|
|Matthew: to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary as they left the tomb to tell the brethren|
|Luke: to Cleopas and an unidentified person on a road between Jerusalem and Emmaus|
|John: to all the disciples in a house in Jerusalem|
|Paul: to Peter (I Corinthians 15:5)|
Two minor errors seem to have crept into the Gospel account of the crucifixion:
|Jesus would not have carried his cross to the place of execution. Condemned prisoners only carried the crosspiece. The
upright stakes were stored at Golgotha for repeated use. To do otherwise
would not be efficient; and the Roman Army held efficiency at a high
|John 20:25-27 refers to nails having been forced through Jesus'
hands during the
crucifixion. Luke 24:39 and John 20:27 also imply that Jesus'
palms were pierced: This has traditionally been shown in Christian artwork as nail
holes through Jesus' palms. This would not work, because the weight of the victim's body would tear
through the flesh of the hand. When the Romans used nails, they passed them through the wrist between the
two bones of the forearm, not through the victim's palms. Often the Romans
used no nails at all; they tied the victim's arm to the crosspiece.|
- Paul Kurtz, "The Transcendental Temptation", Prometheus, Buffalo NY,
(1986). Pages 153-160.
Copyright © 1998 to 2002 incl. by Ontario Consultants on
Essay last updated: 2002-MAR-30
Written by. B.A. Robinson