“A plausible harmony of the accounts and sequence of events” of the resurrection

From Craig Blomberg’s Jesus and the Gospels, p. 413:

(1) A group of women come to the tomb near dawn, with Mary Magdalene possibly arriving first (Matt 28:1; Mark 16:1-3; Luke 24:1; John 20:1).

(2) Mary and the other women are met by two young men who in reality are angels, one of whom acts as the spokesman and announces Jesus’ resurrection (Matt 28: 2-7; Mark 16: 4-7; Luke 24: 2-7).

(3) The women leave the garden with a mixture of fear and joy, at first unwilling to say anything but then resolving to report to the Eleven remaining apostles (Matt 28: 8; Mark 16: 8). Mary Magdalene may have dashed on ahead, telling Peter and John in advance of the arrival of the other women (John 20: 2).

(4) Jesus meets the remaining women en route and confirms their commission to tell the disciples, with the reminder of his promise of meeting them in Galilee. The women obey (Matt 28: 9-10; Luke 24:8-11).

(5) Peter and John meanwhile have returned to the tomb, having heard the report by Mary Magdalene, and discover it to be empty (John 20: 3-10; Luke 24: 12).

(6) Mary also returns to the tomb after Peter and John have left. She sees the angels and then Jesus, although at first supposing him to be a gardener (John 20: 11-18).

(7) Later that afternoon, Jesus appears to Cleopas and his unnamed companion on the road to Emmaus and, in a separate incident, to Peter (Luke 24: 13-35).

(8) That same Sunday evening, Jesus appears to the Ten (the Eleven minus Thomas) behind locked doors in Jerusalem (Luke 24: 36-43; John 20: 19-23).

(9) A week later he appears to the eleven at the same venue, with Thomas now present (John 20: 24-29).

(10) Further appearances take place over a forty-day period, including in Galilee, with over five hundred seeing him altogether (Acts 1: 3; John 21; 1 Cor 15: 6).

(11) A climactic commissioning in Galilee instructs the disciples to spread the news throughout the world (Matt 28: 16-20).

(12) Perhaps only shortly thereafter, Jesus gives his parting instructions to await the coming Holy Spirit and ascends into heaven (Luke 24: 44-53; Acts 1: 4-11).

Keys to harmonizing the resurrection accounts (my thoughts, not Blomberg’s).

  • Mary Magdalene separates from other women at some point. Either on the way to the tomb, or at the tomb (before the angels are encountered), or on the way to tell the disciples (before Jesus appears to the women).
  • Matthew 28:2-4 is a flashback. The earth quakes and angel descends earlier in the morning, frightening the guards. By the time the women arrive, an angel is inside the tomb. It is from within that he says, “See the place where they laid him” (Mark 16:6).
  • The women initially don’t tell anyone (Mark 16:8), but then decide to (Luke 24:10).
  • Parts of the story are simplified or consolidated. Simplification: one angel is noted instead of two otherwise specified. Consolidation: the women “told these things to the apostles” (Luke 24:10). This consolidates Mary Magdalene reporting to Peter and John, and the other women reporting to the rest of the disciples.
  • “The sun had risen” (Mark 16:2) could anciently mean essentially: at dawn.