When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. 2 And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb.
—Gospel of Mark
After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb.
—Gospel of Matthew
But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared.
—Gospel of Luke
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb.
–Gospel of John
Gary: Skeptics have looked at these passages and said, “Aha! A contradiction! One passage says that the sun was already up when the women arrived at the tomb and one passage says it was still dark.” Conservative Christians have countered, “Big deal. The women probably arrived sometime in the time period between when it was just becoming light but the sun had not yet risen on the horizon.”
I have to agree with conservative Christians. If this is the correct interpretation of these passages, I don’t think this should be labeled a contradiction. The English word “dawn” can have a variety of interpretations.
But wait! Is this the correct interpretation of these passages? Mainstream, Roman Catholic scholar Raymond Brown says, no.
Even though the Jewish calendric day began in the evening, popular parlance could be affected by a way of thinking in which a day is seen to start with sunrise—something that is still true today when the calendric day begins at midnight. This has left its mark in the use of “dawning” for the evening-beginning of a Sunday in Matt. 28:1 and Gospel of Peter 9:35: Neither writer is thinking of Sunday around 5 A.M.; both are thinking of Saturday just after sunset. Notice that Matthew has omitted Mark’s (16:2) “very early” and “when the sun had risen”; and in Gospel of Peter 11:45, after the events happen, it is still night. –The Death of the Messiah, p. 1353
Gary: Wow! If this is true, then there isn’t a difference of five or ten minutes between the four Gospel accounts, there is a whopping TWELVE hours! In Mark, the women show up at approximately 5 AM on Sunday morning, but in Matthew, the women show up Saturday evening at approximately 5 PM, just after sunset!!! Our Saturday evening (after sunset) is the “dawn” of the Jewish Sunday!
Dear conservative Christians: How could eyewitnesses have written such very discrepant accounts of when the women arrived at the tomb? Do you really expect us to believe that eyewitnesses could not remember whether this earth-shattering event occurred at sunrise or sunset???