The Nail in the Coffin of Biblical Inerrancy

A couple of years ago I decided to read the New Testament from beginning to end.  As I read through the Gospels, I noticed that each time that the Resurrection story was told, alot of the details were different.  I shrugged it off as insignificant, and kept reading.  “The Bible is inerrant,” I said to myself.  “God doesn’t make mistakes.  Humans just don’t have all the details.”

But have you ever read the six Resurrection accounts in the New Testament, side by side so that you can compare them?  Well, here is your opportunity.  But be warned:  If you believe that it is impossible for the Bible to contain errors, you are in for the greatest shock of your Christian life!

Mark 16 (ESV)

When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

[Some of the earliest manuscripts do not include 16:9–20.]

Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene

[[Now when he rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons. 10 She went and told those who had been with him, as they mourned and wept. 11 But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it.

Jesus Appears to Two Disciples

12 After these things he appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country. 13 And they went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them.

The Great Commission

14 Afterward he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at table, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. 15 And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

19 So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. 20 And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs.]]

Summary of Mark’s account:

1.  Early Sunday morning (the sun has risen), Mary Magdalene, Mary, and Salome go to the tomb.
2.  They ask each other who will roll away the large stone from the entrance.
3.  They look up and see the stone rolled back.
4.  They enter the tomb.
5.  A young man, dressed in a white rob, is sitting in the tomb.
6.  The young man tells them not to be alarmed.
7.  He tells the women that Jesus of Nazareth has risen and that he is not there.
8.  He tells them to tell Peter and the other disciples that Jesus is going “before you” to Galilee.
9.  He tells the women that they will see Jesus in Galilee, as Jesus had said.
10.  The women flee from the tomb in fear and tell no one anything.

Beginning in verse 9 we have a questionable addition to Scripture.  Was this section of Mark an addition by a later scribe, making it a non-inspired embellishment, or had all the oldest copies of the original, which had included these passages, been lost or destroyed?  We don’t know.  However, this addition dramatically changes the story! 

1.  Jesus appears to Mary.  (What?  There is no mention in the first part of the chapter about Jesus appearing to Mary.  All she saw was “a young man in a white robe.”  Was this Jesus??)
2.  Mary goes to tell “those who had been with him” as they are mourning and weeping.  (Wait!  I thought Mary and the other women told “no one”, at least according to the true author of Mark, as stated in the first eight verses of Mark chapter 16!)
3.  Whoever she told (the disciples, most likely) did not believe her.
4.  After this Jesus appears to two of them in the country.
5.  These two then tell “the rest” who did not believe them.
6.  Jesus then appears to the eleven while they are at dinner, chastises them for their disbelief, proclaims the Great Commission, gives them the power of the Keys (and the power to pick up snakes and to drink poison), and then ascends into heaven.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t need a doctorate degree in New Testament studies to see that whoever wrote the last half of Mark chapter 16, was not the same person who wrote the first half of that chapter!  The last part of Mark chapter 16 is a later non-inspired addition to the text; most likely added because someone wanted to “tidy up” Mark’s story!

28 Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he[a] lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”

The Report of the Guard

11 While they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place. 12 And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers 13 and said, “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ 14 And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” 15 So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story has been spread among the Jews to this day.

The Great Commission

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[b] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Summary of Matthew’s account:

1.  Toward dawn on Sunday, Mary Magdalene and Mary (what happened to Salome?) go to the tomb.
2.  There is a great earthquake (why didn’t Mark mention this “great” earthquake?).
3.  An angel (with an appearance of lightening) descends from heaven, rolls back the stone, and sits on the stone.  (Huh?  In Mark’s account the angel is in the tomb.)
4.  The guards are so fearful that they become like dead men.
5.  The angel tells the women not to be afraid and that he knows that they are looking for Jesus who was crucified.
6.  The angel tells the women that Jesus is not there, he has risen from the dead, and that he is going before them to Galilee, where they will see him.
7.  As they prepare to go and tell Jesus’ disciples the news, Jesus appears to them and says, “Greetings”.  (Why did the angel just tell them that Jesus would see them in Galilee, but in the next minute, Jesus appears to them?  Do angels get their “wires” crossed?)
8.  The women take hold of Jesus’s feet and worship them.
9.  Jesus tells the women to go and tell the disciples to go to Galilee and that Jesus will meet them there. (Wait.  Mark, at least in the first half of Mark chapter 16, says that the women kept their mouths shut and told no one.  If that is true, it means that these women had just touched and talked to a walking, talking corpse who they believed to be Jesus, but according to Mark, they are so afraid of this corpse, that they don’t tell anyone…anything!)
10.  The disciples obey Christ’s command to go to Galilee and there they meet him at the appointed place, on a mount, where Jesus gives them the Great Commission.

Luke 24  (ESV)

The Resurrection

24 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” And they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, 11 but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12 But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.

On the Road to Emmaus

13 That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles[a] from Jerusalem, 14 and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 19 And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. 22 Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, 23 and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” 25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

28 So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, 29 but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” 33 And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, 34 saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.

Jesus Appears to his Disciples

36 As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. 38 And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish,[b] 43 and he took it and ate before them.

44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance for[c] the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

The Ascension

50 And he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. 51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple blessing God.

Summary of Luke’s Account:

1.  At early dawn on Sunday, “they” went to the tomb.
2.  They found the stone rolled away.  (No earthquake.  No angel sitting on the stone.)
3.  They go into the tomb and do not find Jesus’s body.
4.  Suddenly two men are standing by them in dazzling apparel. (Mark said that there was one man and that he was seated.)
5.  The two men tell them that, “He is not here, he is risen”.
6.  “They” leave the tomb and tell the eleven (disciples). (No appearance by Jesus?  No holding his feet?  No command to go to Galilee??)
7.  Now we are told who it was that told the disciples the news of the resurrection: Mary Magdalene, the Joanna (we haven’t heard of her before), the other Mary the mother of James, and other women with them. (I guess Salome was in this group, but Luke chooses to mention Joanna, and not her.)
8.  The disciples do not believe the women’s story.
9.  But Peter runs to the tomb, stoops and looks in, sees the linen cloths by themselves, and goes home marveling at what had just happened.  (He goes home??  He doesn’t go and confirm the story to the other disciples who are weeping in anguish?  I guess Peter thought it could wait until the next day…)
10.  That same day, two “of them” see and talk to Jesus in Emmaus, although at first their eyes are “kept from recognizing him”.
11.  Cleopas, one of these two disciples, then gives a detailed account of the recent events in Jerusalem.  He includes the details of the women finding the empty tomb, that the women had a vision of angels (Plural angels.  Only one angel mentioned in Mark and Matthew), and that “some of us” went to the tomb and found it empty, as the women said (I thought that just Peter went to check out the tomb?).
12.  Jesus sits at a table with them, blesses the meal, and breaks the bread.
13.  The eyes of the two disciples are opened and they recognize Jesus.
14.  Jesus disappears.
15.  That same hour they go to Jerusalem, they find the eleven and those with the eleven.  They tell the disciples that Jesus is risen and has appeared to Simon.  (Simon??  Simon Peter??  The account above says nothing of Jesus appearing to “Simon”.)
16.  They tell the disciples what happened on the Emmaus Road.
17.  As they were talking, Jesus appears among them.  They are frightened because they think he is a ghost.
18.  Jesus shows them his hands and feet.
19.  Jesus asks for something to eat.
20.  Jesus eats a piece of broiled fish in front of them.
21.  Jesus opens their minds to understand the Scriptures.
22.  Jesus tells them to stay in Jerusalem until they are “clothed with power from on high” (Pentecost?).
23.  Jesus then leads them to Bethany.
24.  Jesus is carried up into heaven.
25.  The disciples return to Jerusalem and are continually in the temple.

What happened with going to Galilee?? 

According to Luke, the very same day that the women find the empty tomb, Jesus appears to two disciples on the Emmaus Road, and then later that same day, he appears to all the disciples in Jerusalem, and “then” (the same day?) he leads them out to Bethany and ascends into heaven!  I thought he spent forty days with them??  I thought he appeared to some of these very same eleven in Galilee while they were fishing??

John 20 (ESV)

The Resurrection

20 Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’[a] head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples went back to their homes.

Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene

11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic,[b] “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her.

Jesus Appears to the Disciples

19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews,[c] Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

Jesus and the Disciples

24 Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin,[d] was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

The Purpose of this Book

30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

John 21 (ESV)

Jesus Appears to Seven Disciples

21 After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way. Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards[a] off.

When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. 14 This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

Jesus and Peter

15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” 19 (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”

Jesus and the Beloved Disciple

20 Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who also had leaned back against him during the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” 21 When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” 22 Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” 23 So the saying spread abroad among the brothers[b] that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?”

24 This is the disciple who is bearing witness about these things, and who has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true.

25 Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.

Summary of John’s account:

1.  Mary Magdalene (is she alone?) arrives at the tomb early Sunday morning.
2.  She sees that the stone has been rolled away.
3.  She runs to Peter and John and tells them that someone has taken the Lord.
4.  Peter and John run to the tomb.  (This is the first time that anyone mentions the “beloved disciple” going to the tomb.)
5.  They look into the tomb and see the linens but no body.
6.  The disciples go to their homes.
7.  Mary stands weeping outside the tomb.
8.  She looks into the tomb and sees two angels, one sitting at the head and one at the feet.  (Luke said that the two angels stood among the women, as the women were inside the tomb…??
9.  The angels ask Mary why she is weeping.
10.  Mary turns around and sees Jesus.
11.  Mary assumes that Jesus is the Gardener and asks what has happened to the body.
12  Jesus tells Mary not to cling to him because he has not yet ascended to the Father. (Didn’t Luke say that the women held onto Jesus’s feet??)
13.  Mary goes to tell the disciples that she has seen the Lord.
14.  That same evening, Sunday, the disciples have locked themselves in a room.  Jesus comes and stands in the middle of them.  He shows them his hands and his side.
15.  Jesus breathes on them and gives them the Holy Spirit.
16.  He gives them the power to forgive sins. 
17.  Eight days later Jesus reappears to the disciples, this time Thomas is with them.  (Wait, didn’t Luke say that Jesus appeared to the “eleven” on the same day as the resurrection?  In this Gospel, Jesus appears to the “ten” on the same day as the resurrection and then eight days later to the “eleven”…??)
18.  Then chapter 20 ends by telling us that Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book.
14.  In chapter 21 Jesus makes his third appearance to his disciples, this time in Galilee, on the shores of the Sea of Tiberias.
15.  The disciples are fishing.
16.  Jesus calls out to them and prepares breakfast for them on the shore.
17.  Jesus has a chat with Peter and John.
18.  No mention of the Ascension.

Summary of the Four Gospels:

What do the four Gospel accounts of the Resurrection have in common?

1.  Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb early Sunday morning.
2.  She sees the stone rolled away.
3.  An angel/angels tell her that Jesus is gone; that he is risen.
4.  At some point in time later, Jesus meets with the eleven.

Other than that, the facts vary considerably between the four accounts.

Acts 1 (ESV)

The Promise of the Holy Spirit

In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.

And while staying[a] with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with[b] the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

The Ascension

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

Summary of the account in Acts:

1.  Jesus presented himself alive to his disciples after his “suffering”.
2.  He appeared to them for forty days.
3.  He ordered his disciples not to depart from Jerusalem, but wait there for the gift of the Holy Spirit.  (I thought he told them to go to Galilee??)
4.  When the disciples had “come together” Jesus was lifted up and a cloud took him out of their sight.
5.  Two men in white robes then appear and tell the disciples that Jesus will come back in the same manner.  (That is pretty important information to know for people who are seeing their leader float away into the clouds, never to be seen again for thousands of years, don’t you think?  Why did Luke mention it here, but not in his Gospel, and why didn’t the other Gospel authors mention a word about it??)

1 Corinthians 15 (ESV)

The Resurrection of Christ

15 Now I would remind you, brothers,[a] of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

Summary of Paul’s account in I Corinthians 15:

1.  Christ died for our sins.
2.  He was buried.
3.  He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.
4.  He appeared to Cephas.
5.  He then appeared to the “twelve”.
6.  He then appeared to more than 500 brothers at one time.
7.  He then appeared to James.
8.  He then appeared to “all the apostles”.
9.  Lastly, he appeared to Paul.


Paul either doesn’t know that Jesus first appeared to Mary Magdalene (at least he appeared to her in some of the accounts) or he doesn’t feel it is important to mention her.  Mark doesn’t say that Jesus appeared first to Cephas (Peter) before any of the other male disciples.  Matthew never says that Jesus appeared first to Peter.  Luke says that the first men that Jesus appeared to were the two on the Emmaus Road, who then come to Jerusalem and tell the “eleven” that Jesus has appeared to “Simon”.  If these two are telling the “eleven” that Jesus has appeared to Simon Peter…that means that Peter wasn’t with the “eleven” which means that there weren’t eleven present…Peter was missing!  Huh??  John never says that Jesus appeared first to Peter, and neither does Luke in the first chapter of Acts!

Paul has his facts wrong!

Concluding Comments:

So if we are to believe fundamentalist, evangelical, and even some orthodox Christians, that every word in the Bible came directly out of the mouth of God,…except for the translation errors…and except for the blatant scribe alterations and additions… what do we do with all these discrepancies in the retelling of the most important event in the Christian Faith (and if true, the history of the world!)?

I don’t see how any Christian can look at these six different accounts of the Resurrection, as recorded in the New Testament, and hold onto that belief.

Bottom line:  someone, or several “someones”, made mistakes…a lot of mistakes!

There is no evidence that these discrepancies are due to scribe alterations except for the last half of Mark chapter 16, as mentioned above.  And since I don’t believe that God is responsible for these mistakes…because that would mean that God is incapable of keeping his facts straight…it is clear to me that the many mistakes present in the Bible are really and truly errors, and not “apparent discrepancies”, as we have been so repeatedly and so soothingly assured by our fundamentalist, inerrantist pastors and theologians!

I still believe the overall story and message of the Bible, but I cannot believe that the Bible is inerrant, when anyone with a brain and an education can see from the passages above that it definitely is not!  I’m sorry to have to be that blunt.  Biblical inerrancy is false!

And here is more troubling news for the “inerrantists”:  The discrepancies of which women came to the tomb; if the disciples themselves even went to the tomb; how many angels were present at or in the tomb; whether the angels were sitting or standing; whether there were eleven present the first time in the Upper Room or ten or nine,…can probably be explained away by some slick explanation of Dr. Craig Lane or another inerrantist.  But what cannot be explained away, and what is deeply troubling to me, is that the authors of the Gospels can’t even agree on the “when” of Jesus’s ascension (same day or the 40th day?) , and worse, the “where” of his ascension!

Just where did Jesus lift off from the face of the earth and disappear into the clouds in full view of the eleven apostles?  Was it in Bethany?  Was it in the Upper Room in Jerusalem?  Or was it somewhere in Galilee?

Very disturbing, my friends.  Very disturbing, indeed.






End of post.

65 thoughts on “The Nail in the Coffin of Biblical Inerrancy

  1. That is certainly possible…but just how many other explanations can we come up with for why these six accounts are so very, very different?


  2. Dear Bro. Gary and Joseph: I really like Joseph's thoughts and what he says makes sense. Bro. Gary, Joseph's statements are really helpful.

    Thinking about “what ” and “how” each Gospel writer had to get their message out, and the audiences to whom they wrote, can greatly aid us in understand why the Gospels are each different in their layout of the material.

    These Gospels were composed as missionary documents, and were designed to be not merely read in privacy, but moreso to be read publicly and preached. As a preacher myself, when preaching through a book of the Bible, I have to consider how the paragraphs of each book flow from one to the next, and then base my sermon accordingly.

    From a preacher's perspective, the four Gospels are written in such a way as to be preached and read publicly to the people of God. Joseph's statements about John aid us in being reminded of the aim of each author, and why they either included or excluded materials.

    As any good preacher knows, you not only have to take each book as an independent literary work, but also consider the four as a whole, comparing scripture with scripture in formulating a whole and complete picture.


  3. The Social Science Commentary books are written by Bruce Malina if one is looking for them. It is interesting an atheist (me) and a Christian (Joseph Morovich) both recommended them to Gary for reading. I add this comment only to highlight one might want to peruse them if people from such varying perspectives recommend them.


  4. Thanks Dagood. I was just going to correct my posting. It is Bruce Malina and Richard Rohrbaugh who were the authors, not Bruce Metzger. That will teach me at my age to rely on memory. Thanks again for the correction.


  5. Here the links to the books for your review..

    Though they point to “alternate states of consciousness” explanations for the resurrection experiences, they still have some interesting answers to some of your issues, Gary. For example, there is not one ascension for them, but several. the appearances of Jesus after the initial one with Magdalene take place after Jesus ascends to the Father. Subsequent visions occur as Jesus again descends to deal with an issue and then ascends again. The Ascension in Acts being the final and definitive one (probably in fulfillment of Daniels ascension of the son of Man).

    The order in Paul as to the resurrection appearances are probably in order of honor (first to last) as opposed to time, honor being the supreme value in Middle Eastern Culture.

    The rest I leave to you to mine out. As Dagood said, if we both can recommend them from such different perspectives, there should be something there. If nothing else, it helps to get into the minds of those who would have read them before us.


  6. The question is: Should Christians accept any explanation, no matter how far fetched, to maintain Biblical Inerrancy? For example, the answer to whom Jesus appeared first could be: he appeared to all of them at the same time and each of the six accounts in the NT simply reflect the story from each of those persons perspective. And how could Jesus be in Galilee, Jerusalem, and Bethany at the same time on the same day? Easy!He is God. God can do whatever he wants. He is omnipresent.

    But don't you see the problem? If we Christians base our beliefs on the limitless abilities of a supernatural God, there is always an excuse for discrepancies, even to the point of being ridiculous, such as the explanations given by Christian inerrantists regarding “who purchased the Potter's Field”: because the Pharisees used the money they had originally given to Judas to buy the Potter's Field, it is correct to say that Judas bought the field??? Give me a break!

    We could even believe that Jesus was taken from the tomb by angelic stormtroopers sent from heaven in a spaceship. There is no limit to the nonsensical explanations we can make to hold together this story.

    If we are going to appeal to the supernatural for our beliefs, let's stop doing theological gymnastics to explain the many biblical discrepancies in the attempt to make them conform to standards of evidence based on reason, logic, science, and good ol' common sense.

    We believe by faith…not by evidence. We have either been gifted a supernatural gift called faith, causing us to believe…or we are no different than the ignorant peasants of the Middle Ages…who lived terrified by their beliefs in flying witches, ghosts, and evil goblins.


  7. Hubris, thy name is blogger.

    First, I am no stranger to hubris. Because I had an accounting degree, I thought I could make wise financial decisions without consultation, even with my wife. Now at 60 years of age I have debt on my house higher than when i bought it 27 years ago, no savings worth anything, a retirement account barely able to support me for a couple of years (cut in half in 2008), and a fear I will die and leave my wife poor and without any substantial means of support. Soon I will be of the age that I will be unable to afford the term life insurance rates necessary.

    Hubris. With big consequences. And not just to myself.

    I see the same issue here. And with even bigger consequences. Gary, this all started when you took on an Ex-Christian Atheist site, a task to which you were neither appointed or prepared.


    You got trounced. Instead of falling back, seeking counsel, and listening to that counsel without a chip on your shoulder, you lashed out and everything. You even equated those that tried to help with “ignorant peasants of the Middle Ages.. who lived terrified by their beliefs in flying witches, ghosts and evil goblins.” These people who held to the same beliefs you did less than a year ago.


    Instead of halting, shutting up for awhile, and even reviewing everything people here posted to help you out, you nit-picked, criticized, insulted, and kept on your path of slash and burn. I mean, you could not have listed to even the Issues, Etc., posts, much less read the books I (and the atheist) recommended.


    Now you criticize and tear down the LCMS, the congregation that supported you in Word and Sacrament for the last few years. I suppose this is a natural consequence of the way you posted in the past on this site, as you left the Baptists, criticize; as you left the Evangelicals, criticize; now as you leave the LCMS, they get the same treatment.

    At least show gratitude for what those churches provided. No, they pulled the wool over your eyes of which you now proclaim has been taken away.


    Perhaps this is a consequence of being Lutheran. After all, hubris could be pretty much attributed to Luther in his fight against the RC Church hierarchy. However, even Luther submitted to the authority of the Scriptures (inerrant or not).

    I don't see that with your current path. Now YOU get to decide which are Scriptures or not; what Paul wrote or not, what basically is scripture or not, since it is not inerrant by your definition. What next, your own personal Jesus Seminar where you vote what is from Jesus and what is not?


    I agree you still stand (so far) with Faith Alone. Even with Christ Alone. But Scripture Alone is almost lost. Without that third leg, your faith will not seat you or support you for long.

    I advise you stop writing and “airing your dirty laundry” as my mom would say. Get to a pastor. Maybe several. Maybe even contact those who sent you that document. Work through this with them. Read, study, those who wrote the Book of Concord. Read and study the resources others have provided you here; and especially those the pastors will advise. Believe it or not, people have read those passages before you and noted their discrepancies. Some before this century even. Check them out.

    Repent. Not of your questions or even questioning. Repent of hubris. It can shipwreck your faith just as it shipwrecked my finances, my future, and my family.


  8. If seeking the truth is hubris…so be it.

    Luther submitted to Holy Scripture, not the printed “Bible”. Luther questioned the canonicity of several books in the Bible, OT and NT. Shall we call on Luther to repent?

    It is the Message that is inerrant, not the human words that presented that Message.


  9. Gary,

    I could not agree with you more. Bravo for thinking for yourself and searching
    for your own truth. We were never allowed to do that. It does sound like LCMS
    Fundamentalists are cousins to Independent Baptist Fundamentalists if not twins.


  10. “Seek you own truth” Do I have to scream any louder?

    Gary, I won't bother you any more.. I will check this website in a few months. My guess is it will be gone or renamed.

    And that saddens me to no end.


  11. Unless someone digs up the bones of Jesus of Nazareth, I won't be abandoning HIM. I will remain a follower of the risen Christ.

    What I am abandoning is the veneration of a man-made book.


  12. Gary,

    Of course the basic claim of Jesus rising from the dead is throughout Christian writings—it is the defining characteristic differentiating Christianity from the other religious beliefs of the time. This is a bit like saying all the stories regarding alien abductions disagree on the various individual facts, but the basic fact aliens are abducting is consistent throughout the stories.

    Of course it is—it is how we define an alien abduction story! Or bigfoot. Or Mormonism.

    Imagine if 5 people all testified you murdered me. Now the various details are different amongst the witnesses—one says you did it with a lead pipe in the Conservatory, another says you used a candelabra in the Library, another says you used a rope in the Kitchen…and so on. But the “basic fact” Gary murdered me remains intact. And we have no body.

    We would never accept even the mundane claim of murder in such varying tales—yet we are to accept the far more extraordinary claim Jesus raised himself from the dead with equally varying details?

    I am unclear what you mean by “independent.” If you are claiming there was a “Q” “M” and Mark, then Matthew is not independent—the very theories of “Q,” “M” and the Synoptic Problem require Matthew’s lack of independence. Likewise the solution utilizing “Q” in the Synoptic problem require Luke’s lack of independence.

    Mark has no actual resurrection (although one is implied.) Q, even under the theory it exists, has no resurrection—it was a saying’s gospel. “M” is simply Matthean additions to Mark. So really, your list should be 1 Cor. Tradition, Matthew, Luke, John and Peter.

    All disagreeing as to important details and giving those proposing hypothetical solutions migraines.


  13. I do not believe that any of the four Gospels were written by eyewitnesses. I believe that they were written by persons who wrote down the version of the story that each one of them heard from multiple sources.

    I believe that the authors of the Gospels wrote their stories probably 40 years after the fact, so therefore, a story whose details changed in small ways every time it was retold over 40 years, was eventually written down by the four authors of the Gospels, and Paul, who also was not an eyewitness, giving us very differing details but with these basic facts intact: The tomb of Jesus of Nazareth was found empty on the first day of the week, and at some point in time thereafter he appeared to his disciples.

    I believe this to be a true story due to the conversion of hundreds if not thousands of Jews at the risk of persecution and even death for their belief in a dead then resurrected Messiah, something that no Jew in that time period would have ever imagined.


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