There are two chief reasons I do not believe that the resurrection happened in history. First of all, because I believe that supernatural/miraculous claims require supernatural/miraculous forms of evidence to support them. The second reason is because the only supposed evidence that we do have, the canonical New Testament resurrection narratives are errant. Let me explain my two reasons here in greater detail. But, before doing so, I must explain what I mean by natural and the "supernatural" as well as the logical axiom that I operate under, that "supernatural" claims require "supernatural" forms of evidence.
The Natural and the Supernatural
I believe that the only honest way of conducting investigations for any historian is use to what is known as the "critical-historical" method. We must use the tools of critical history when assessing claims about the past and events that are recorded in works claiming to narrate history. The critical-historical method must be based on what I call the "Principle of Uniformity". This principle states that the universe operates today in very much the same way as it operated yesterday and will operate tomorrow. The laws of physics will operate the same today as they did yesterday and will operate tomorrow. Each event in our life has a natural cause, is governed by natural laws, and is contingent upon the physical world of cause and effect. When I go to read a newspaper describing today's events, I assume that the laws of motion and gravity work today as they did yesterday and the day before and since the world began. If I go to read the Histories of Herodotus or any of the works of Livy, I assume that these same laws worked in their time and that they were subject to and contingent upon the same forms of matter and energy for their existence as I am today and I assume people will be tomorrow and the next day and as long as human being exist to observe the world around them in the indefinite future.
This axiom, that there is an objective world external to me and that it operates in a orderly and uniform fashion, is what I use when I study history, science, or philosophy. This principle of uniformity is to me a necessary axiom that underlies all scientific, historical, and philosophical study. It underlies all rationality and to exercise any rational judgment or use of reason necessarily relies on this principle. This axiom, the principle of uniformity, is one that I assume a priori in my approach to studying history but it must be recognized that it is an axiom that is probabilistic in nature. That is, the principle of uniformity is about the uniformity of probability. The sun rose from my vantage point, today, as it did yesterday and as it will do tomorrow. The probability that the earth will continue to revolve around the sun, creating the appearance of sunrise has the same probability of happening tomorrow as it did today, as it did yesterday. Likewise, the laws of gravity, inertia, motion, thermodynamics, enthalpy, and other physical laws that govern the operation of our cosmos, have the same probability of operating today as they did yesterday, years ago, from eternity past as they will tomorrow and forevermore into the future. Likewise, I attribute history to the actions of men, whether individually or collectively, acting upon their nature as human beings, with their nature contingent upon the processes that operate in this world and the laws that govern these processes. Thus the founding of the United States of America, to me is an event that I attribute solely to the actions of mere men acting collectively as I do the founding of the Roman Republic, Egyptian dynasties, the victories of certain battles fought in war. None of this do I attribute to the actions of any divine, angelic, or spiritual beings.
I should point out that I do not rule out the possibility of the "supernatural" or the "miraculous" but I do feel that it is necessary for me to define what I mean. What I mean by "supernatural" is an entity or beings of some sort that are alleged to exist, whose existence is not subject to or contingent upon the physical cosmos, it's processes or the laws that govern these processes. These beings/entities are believed to transcend the physical cosmos and their existence is believed to be independent of the cosmos and was not caused by anything in the cosmos. I take "supernatural" to refer to any causal agent whose existence is not dependent or contingent upon the cosmos, it's laws, properties, and processes, and lacks the material composition (such as being made up of atoms or molecules, for instance). I assume that most, if not all, supernatural beings are conscious and intelligent beings and are meant to be understood as such. I therefore take any supernatural explanations as explanations involving these causal, conscious beings. I don't see the logical necessity of the principle of uniformity of ruling out the existence of anything regarded as "supernatural".
Supernatural Claims and Supernatural Evidence
However, I do operate on a further axiom: that claims being made about history need evidence in proportion to the strength of any such claims being made. If a chemist tells me that a certain chemical reaction that he can perform in the laboratory has a natural cause such as individual atoms exchanging electrons in their outer valence shells, with the addition of chemical energy to affect this change and set it into motion, I can accept it. Such a chemical reaction has a perfectly natural explanation to it and I take it as axiomatic that we live in an objective, real world, which is governed by laws of motion, inertia, gravity, enthalpy, and thermodynamics, and that the material composition of this world consists of atoms, the particles that make up atoms, and the ways that atoms combine to form molecules, ions, molecular and ionic compounds. Atomic theory provides an explanation for why this world operates as it does and helps to understand why we observe these physical laws operating the way that we do. These laws were discovered and atomic theory and molecular kinetic theory were proposed and experimentally verified based on the principle of uniformity. These are natural laws (gravity, inertia, thermodynamics, enthalpy, motion), natural processes (chemical reactions, physical systems undergoing change), natural causes (atoms exchanging electrons, chemical bonds dissolving and new ones forming) which operate in our world with uniform probability.
Consequently, supernatural claims require supernatural forms of evidence. If I was told by a friend of mine that my friend saw a being coming out of the sky and claiming that it was "Ahura-Mazda" (the Zoroastrian god of light) and that it had a warning that a nuclear war was going to happen in the year 2015 between the United States and Iran and that it could be averted if all Americans in the state of California prayed to Ahura-Mazda asking that it be averted, I would be skeptical of my friend telling me this. This is a supernatural claim being made by my friend and it would be indeed, be in need of supernatural evidence to verify it. I would assume that my friend was under some kind of delusion or sincerely mistaken unless I had reason to question my friend's honesty. I would have to verify that my friend was being honest somehow and not lying. If I could rule out the possibility of dishonesty, I would have to investigate the possibility of sincere delusion and investigate many different causes and sources for my friend's delusion. Is my friend under the influence of some intoxicating substance? Is my friend going insane, perhaps the sad victim of a hallucinatory mental disease? Is my friend's mind being affected somehow by an external cause such as radiation, poison, or some substance that is causing my friend to hallucinate and seriously believe that a Persian deity visited him with this apocalyptic message?
Ruling out natural causes of these sorts would not impel me to believe that a supernatural cause is responsible for it. If I concluded that all known natural causes that I could conceive of were not plausible, I would have to seriously consider investigating the possibility that my friend was the subject of a prank of some sort. Perhaps my friend was fooled by a very clever and sophisticated prank. My question would be the source of this deliberate delusion caused by pranksters. Perhaps my friend saw a vision of what appeared to be "Ahura-Mazda" but was fooled by some kind of very advanced holographic projection system. Perhaps my friend's drink was drugged or my friend was hypnotized by someone or multiple people acting in concert. Maybe someone is trying to convince my friend that s/he is going crazy and these people are working to have my friend committed- what better way than to have my friend convinced that s/he was the recipient of a divine message? But if I was to rule out the possibility of delusion whether by natural or human means, I'd then have to consider the possibility that my friend is suffering a delusion that is paranormal in origin. If the cause is not natural or human, then perhaps it is superhuman in some sense. Perhaps my friend is being subjected to testing by alien visitors who are doing experiments on human brains for their scientific curiosity, or perhaps it is a mean or amusing prank being carried out by alien visitors who are infatuated with the idea of making human beings think that they're crazy.
In order for me to believe that a supernatural agent, whether a divine being, an angelic being, or some other kind of supernatural agent is responsible for my friend believing that s/he is a divine messenger, I would have to have a supernatural form of evidence for it. If Ahura-Mazda revealed himself/herself/itself to my friend, I would have to have this same deity reveal himself/herself/itself to me and persuade me that s/he/it revealed him/her/itself to my friend. I would, of course, demand that I be supplied evidence of some sort that I wasn't, myself, hallucinating in some way or that I wasn't the victim of a prank or scientific experiment. But if I was to receive such a "revelation", I would seek to confirm that it really took place. I would write up the event as I believe I experienced it and I would submit it to scientists, historians, and philosophers, to Skeptics and skeptical organizations and scientific organizations. I would submit such a report to the Scientific Community for the Investigation of the Paranormal and I would ask that any such supernatural being reveal him/her/itself to these scientific and skeptical organizations and be willing to provide any such proofs that they request of him/her/it that I would. I would ask that any such being be willing to provide adequate proofs of some sort that I and others are, indeed, the subjects of any supernatural revelation.
This axiom, that supernatural claims require supernatural forms of evidence, is a necessary axiom for the critical study of history in my opinion. If I read Livy's history of the founding of Rome and I read that Rome was founded by the twins Romulus and Remus, who had the Roman deity Mars as their father, I will indeed be skeptical of such a claim. The claim is a supernatural claim and unless Romulus, Remus, Mars, or any other Roman deity appears to me and to modern historians and experts of Roman history and provides supernatural evidence that Romulus and Remus, did, indeed, found Rome as a city, I will not believe it. I find it more credible to believe the naturalistic explanations provided by modern historians specializing in Roman history such as what I read in The Roman Republic by historian Michael Crawford. Likewise, when I read Homer's epic poem The Iliad, I see no reason to believe that Apollo really did come down from heaven or that he was inflicting ills upon the Achaeans. Such is a supernatural claim and requires supernatural forms of evidence to validate it. I would need Apollo or even Zeus to reveal themselves to me and confirm it for me with supernatural evidence and why not set the record straight and validate the story according to Homer for all the rest of the Greek historians and classics scholars alive today?
This is one of the chief reasons I disbelieve that miracles have occurred in history. If I read in the New Testament that Jesus rose from the dead, that he was transfigured on a mountain in front of his disciples, that he walked on water, that he raised Jairus' daughter or that he healed folks who were blind, I see no reason to believe that such events occurred because they are supernatural events and to claim such events occurred requires supernatural forms of evidence to validate them. Thus I assign a mixture of natural and human causes to events in history where human forces are at work and operation. The founding of nations, empires, the writings of books, the battles fought, the wars won, I attribute entirely to human and natural causes. To claim that Moses really did receive two stone tablets from Yahweh, that an angel really did appear to Mohammed, or that Jesus appeared to Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus or that the Virgin Mary did appear to people at Fatima are supernatural claims that require supernatural forms of evidence to validate them. If Yahweh really did appear to Moses, then for me to believe that this happened, I would require that Yahweh appear to me as well and provide me with supernatural evidence that he really does exist and really did appear to Moses. If an angel from Allah really did reveal himself to Mohammed, then that is a supernatural claim in need of supernatural evidence to validate it. Why doesn't Allah himself appear to me, or likewise, send an angel to me to provide me with supernatural evidence that s/he/it really did appear to Mohammed. That Jesus Christ appeared to Saul of Tarsus is a supernatural claim and I would have to have supernatural evidence to validate such as the risen Jesus appearing to me to provide supernatural evidence for this claim. Likewise, the same is true for the Virgin Mary appearing at Fatima, Romulus and Remus founding Rome, Moses receiving tablets from Yahweh, or Ahura-Mazda appearing to Zoroaster in any visions he might have had.
I don't see any miracles happening today. Nor do I have any evidence that miracles happened yesterday nor do I have any evidence a miracle will happen tomorrow. That any miracles happened is a supernatural claim requiring supernatural evidence to validate it. I do not believe that miracles are impossible nor do I believe that they are violations of any natural laws that govern our cosmos. Laws will operate as they normally do under certain conditions which have to be met and in my experience are daily met. If I observe a apple fall from a tree and hit the ground, I assume that is because of the law of gravity. If I see an apple fall from a tree and I swoop it with my hand and stop if from falling to the ground, I have not violated the law of gravity. The intervention of my hand changed the boundary conditions in which the law of gravity operates. I merely altered the conditions in which gravity affects the motion of the apple. The alteration in the conditions was intelligently caused by me. Now if an alien visitor were to use some kind of means to make an apple stop in mid-air once it fell from a tree so that it didn't hit the ground, perhaps using some kind of energy or mechanism that I am not aware of, I would simply conclude that the alien visitor had used an energy source or mechanism that altered the conditions in which the law of gravity operates under and stopped it from happening. The law of gravity wasn't violated by any means; the conditions under which it normally operates, were altered by intelligent causation.
If a deity or angelic being were to intervene in the course of history and cause something to happen that would have no ordinary, natural cause, then we can conclude that a miraculous event happened and it is in need of a supernatural explanation. This would not be a violation of natural law, if a supernatural being such as a god or an angel altered the conditions by which a law operates and changed the conditions so that the law doesn't operate in a certain circumstance at a particular time and place as it normally would if the conditions by which the law operates had remained unfettered and uninterrupted. But that such an alteration in the conditions by which natural laws operate has occurred, being intelligently caused by a supernatural agent, is a supernatural claim requiring supernatural forms of evidence. I have never seen one happen all of my life and so I conclude with a uniform degree of probability that such, in all likelihood has not happened, and probably will not happen. I have not seen any miraculous events in my life yet I have heard some miraculous claims but never the miraculous forms of evidence needed to verify them. I have heard several supernatural claims in my life, but never seen the supernatural events in my life, their causal agents, nor have I ever been supplied with supernatural evidence that they have, indeed, occurred as claimed.
This discussion is summarized by saying that I operate as a historian using the axiomatic principle of uniformity and it's corollary axiom: supernatural claims require supernatural forms of evidence.
The Resurrection is a Supernatural Event
The first reason I disbelieve that the resurrection happened is because supernatural/miraculous claims such as the resurrection of Jesus Christ would require supernatural/miraculous evidence today as well as from history. This, is something, I have never been presented with. I have never had any kind of revelation or theophany from the Christian God telling me that he is real and that he rose Jesus from the dead. If I was to have such a audio-visual theophany, in which God or the risen Jesus was to appear to me, face-to-face, this would be a step in the right direction or providing this standard or quality of evidence and meeting the epistemological requirement. Yet even if I did have such a theophany, God or the risen Jesus would have to somehow validate that what I am experiencing is, indeed, some authentic theophany or Christophany, and that I wasn't the victim of some kind hallucination (whether environmentally and chemically caused/induced) or that I wasn't the victim of some kind of deliberate hoax perpetrated very clever human beings or perhaps even extraterrestrial beings. Yet I have never had any kind of theophany/Christophany. I have never had one today or any other kind of supernatural/miraculous form of evidence.
Not only have I not been provided with such evidence today in the modern world but I have never been provided any such evidence from history. In the 1st century Mediterranean, we do have a number of historians, of differing quality. If the Supreme Being, and Almighty Creator of this universe did in fact raise Jesus Christ of Nazareth from the dead and the resurrection was an historical event- such a supernatural/miraculous event, being the greatest and most significant event in human history, would be thoroughly and exhaustively documented by the most widely-respected, top-notch, best educated, and highly trained historians of the day, being recorded with the highest caliber of critical inquiry in terms of historical documentation and narration. Yet I don't see any of this. I don't see historians on the scene during the life and ministry of Jesus Christ in ancient Palestine. I don't see historians following Jesus Christ around, documenting his miracles, recording his words, interviewing him personally, his disciples, the people who witnessed his miracles, his critics in the Jewish leadership, or any skeptics. I know of no attestation from the highest-ranking, world-class, reputable historians of antiquity, be they Jewish, Greek, Roman, religious and secular, providing a wealth of highly detailed, critically examined, detailed narration to provide the supernatural/miraculous evidence to verify such a claim. Where is such historical narration and documentation at? Where are such highest-ranking, world-class reputable, reliable, and honest historians who witnessed any such miracles of Jesus, witnessed and verified that he died of crucifixion, interviewing people present at such an event, witnessed the earthquake and tearing of the temple curtain, witnessing and verifying that he was indeed buried by Joseph of Arimathea and whoever might've helped Joseph, interviewing Joseph and whoever else was present, witnessing, describing, and interviewing the angels at the tomb, the women who came to the tomb that morning, witnessing, describing the empty tomb, interviewing anyone else at the tomb, the guards, Pilate, the disciples as they looked at the tomb. Why weren't any historians like these also witnessing, describing, and interviewing the risen Jesus, verifying that he was indeed Jesus and that he had indeed risen, witnessing, describing the meetings of Jesus with his disciples, conducting interviews, critically examining the witnesses, watching and documenting Jesus as he supposed ascended into heaven, and the meetings of the disciples and the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost?
Such historians could also write histories of early Christianity, witnessing the events as they unfolded, interviewing converts for reasons that they had converted, cross-examining them for their reliability and trustworthiness, interviewing skeptics to see if they were trying to make up excuses to rationalize away embarrassing observations. After all, if God had intervened and caused what was the greatest miracle of history, an historical event of such significant and profound consequence, never to have such a profound miracle duplicated to this very day, one would expect, as I do, as I submit any sane and rational person would, expect the highest caliber, world-class, honest and reputable historians of antiquity to witness, document, and exhaustively verify that all of this took place. I don't see why any sane and rational person would ask for anything less. But this is not what I have seen. I know of no such historians, their works, their histories, or any such documentation or narration of such an event. This would definitely be a step in the right direction towards providing supernatural/miraculous evidence if any such miracle occurred in the course of human history! What we have today is not at all the kind of profound critical history or documented narration in the kind of detail necessary to provide such supernatural/miraculous evidence.
What we have today are four canonical gospels. Each of the gospels are anonymous although names have been subsequently attached to them. Our gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John do not claim to be critical histories written by the highest-ranking, world-class, top-notch, best educated, reputable historians of antiquity, nor do the gospels discuss their methodology in any detail as such reputable historians would. No interviews of Jesus, his disciples, or anyone else is conducted, no reputable historians of any such high caliber is on the scene witnessing the resurrection of Jesus, the encountering of angels by women, or the disciples as they meet and gather around the risen Jesus. No interview of James, the brother of Jesus, or of Saul of Tarsus, before they converted, although they are fondly cited by Christian apologists as examples of a skeptic and enemy who were converted. No interviews or direct eyewitness descriptions by the actual authors. I have never read Matthew writing in his narrative "I, Matthew, a disciple of Jesus Christ, went to the tomb today, following the women where I saw them talking with angels". I have never read Luke as writing "I, Luke, was in the room with the disciples when Jesus came. I asked him if he was really there. Could he prove it to us and that we were not all imagining it or hallucinating?" John doesn't write "I was with Peter and the disciple whom Jesus loved and Mary Magdalene came unto our house and she was crying and she told us that the body had been removed and I asked her if she had seen anyone at the tomb, perhaps the gardner or even any angels there?" I have never read John writing "There is another story in which Mary Magdalene and some of her companions went to the tomb and saw a vision of angels but when I interviewed her, she told Peter and the disciple whom Jesus loved that the body had been taken and neither she or her companions knew where it has been taken to. I interviewed her and asked her why she had told me that she had seen a vision of angels and told Peter a different story. She then replied that she had serious doubts and didn't think anyone would believe her and so she decided to tell a story that sounded less crazy. This is the story that the body had been taken by the gardener".
The gospel authors don't say how they know that Joseph of Arimathea buried Jesus or how any of them knew that women watched as Joseph and any companions buried Jesus. They don't record any interviews that they might have conducted with Joseph of Arimathea, with Simon Peter, with Mary Magdalene, or Jesus himself. They don't say who they got their traditions from, how they were able to determine that their traditions were reliable, who witnessed the miracles that Jesus and his disciples allegedly performed if they did, not, themselves witnessed it. Was Mark on the scene when Jesus multiplied the fish and loaves of bread? If so, why didn't he say so in his gospel? Was Matthew on the scene watching as Jesus was transfigured along with Moses and Elijah? Why didn't Matthew personally identify himself as a eyewitness to such a miraculous event? Did John personally watch the water as it was being turned to wine at the wedding in Cana? Why did John write in it his gospel that he personally got to witness this? A bigger question, that I would like to ask, is this: why do we not have a gospel from Jesus himself? Why didn't Jesus write his own gospel, with his own words, teaching, narrating the miracles himself and what he said and did. Why don't we have a resurrection narrative from Jesus, detailing his meetings with the disciples in Galilee, Jerusalem, the women's encounter with angels, or showing himself to doubting Thomas. One would think that before he supposedly ascended into heaven, he would have more than enough time to write it in the 40 or so days from the eve of the first Easter Sunday until the time of his ascension. Imagine a gospel from the risen Jesus himself, from the perspective of the risen and exalted Christ, with his message for mankind, the gospel written out in detail, with instructions on how to be saved, how all believers everywhere are to pray, on what it means to have faith, what it means to have Jesus as one's Lord and Savior. This would be the gospel of all gospels, giving the needed evidence to verify that Jesus, did, indeed, write it as God's Son, the risen Messiah! Imagine what such a gospel would look like, would read like! The Christian God, Yahweh, could provide all the supernatural/miraculous evidence for anyone at all who ever needed any such evidence.
Yet I have never seen any evidence of this sort. No critical historiography in the New Testament writings, the gospel themselves, or any of the epistles, Acts, or Revelation. No such supernatural or miraculous evidence is provided. But Christian apologists believe otherwise. They might argue that the necessary supernatural and miraculous evidence need not be contained in any critical historiography in the New Testament corpus itself, in any of the gospels, epistles, any narration whatsoever. Christian apologists might argue that the New Testament is inerrant and its inerrancy is strong evidence of its divine inspiration and so the inerrancy should provide anyone with the necessary requirements of supernatural/miraculous evidence, surpassing any need for otherwise critical historiography or documentation from either biblical sources or extra biblical attestation. I reject the claim that the Bible, both Hebrew Bible and Christian New Testament are inerrant documents of any kind. This is the second reason I reject the resurrection. I believe that the New Testament resurrection narratives, along with 1st Corinthians 15, are, juxtaposed together, are errant and fallible. Let me explain my reasoning here with examples.
The Resurrection Narratives
1.) Was the tomb rolled away before the women arrived as in Mark, Luke, or John, or after the women arrived as in Matthew. In Matthew 28:2, it says that there was an earthquake and that an angel descended from heaven and rolled away the stone, apparently after all the women arrived. In Mark 16: 2-5, Mary Magdalene and her traveling companions wonder who will roll away the stone, on their way there and find the stone removed when they finally get there (verse 4). In Luke 24:2, the women arrive at the tomb and find the stone rolled away. In John 20:1-2, Mary Magdalene (and whoever else might've been with her) take one good look at the empty tomb and instantly run to get Peter (it doesn't even seem that they entered the tomb at all!) The usual inerrantist explanation for this is that in Matthew 28:2, the Greek word for "was" ("ginomai") in describing the earthquake is translated in the pluperfect sense. Inerrantists like Norman Geisler, the late Gleason Archer, and their cohorts regard the word "was" for the earthquake as being in the pluperfect sense so the verse is best understood as referring to an earthquake and descending angel rolling away the tomb before the women arrived. But there are serious problems with this "resolution". Thus they will argue that Matthew 28:2 should be read as the New American Standard Version or the New International Version translates it, such as the following:
"And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it." (New American Standard Version). Thus Turkel, the late Archer, Geisler, and others will argue the earthquake had occurred while the women were on their way to the tomb, and would've been rolled away as they arrived. I have two major problems with this "resolution".
First of all, not all translations render the Greek word for "was" ("ginomai") as in "And behold, there was an earth, for an angel of the Lord descended..." Matthew 28:2, in the pluperfect sense. Some translations of the Bible, render the Greek word in simple past tense. I list some of the translations below:
"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.(English Standard Version)
"And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled away the stone, and sat upon it." (American Standard Version)
"And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of [the] Lord, descending out of heaven, came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it." (Darby Translation)
In all of these versions, the Greek word for "was" ("ginomai") is not translated in the pluperfect sense. But more importantly, is the Greek word phrase kai idou, which is translated in many versions of the Bible as "And behold!" In Matthew 28:2, this word phrase modifies the statement that an earthquake occurred because of the descending angel who rolled away the tomb. In Matthew's gospel, word phrase "And behold" is used, and Matthew often uses it to state the occurrence of an event in the statement it is grammatically connected to, as having occurred after the events in the proceeding verse. Let's look at some examples of this here. I am going to go through a number of verses, each verse coming from three translations: the New American Standard Version, the English Standard Version, and the American Standard Version (from all three when applicable)
Matthew 3: 16
After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, New American Standard Version
And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him-English Standard Version
I ask readers here- who would believe that the author was trying to narrate that the heavens were opened up and the "Spirit of God" descended upon Jesus before Jesus was baptized? No, the phrase "and behold ( "kai Idou" in Greek) modifies the second sentence to show the event occurring after the baptism and coming up and out from the water.
Then the devil left Him; and behold, angels came and began to minister to Him-New American Standard VersionThen the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him-English Standard VersionThen the devil leaveth him; and behold, angels came and ministered unto him-American Standard Version
I ask readers again- who would believe that the author was narrating the story here as to suggest that the angels came to Jesus and started ministering to him before the devil left him? No, again, the phrase "and behold" suggests that "angels came" and "ministered to him" occurred after the devil left him.
And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being covered with the waves; but Jesus Himself was asleep-New American Standard Version
And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep-English Standard VersionAnd behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the boat was covered with the waves: but he was asleep-American Standard Version
Here, "and behold" suggests that the great storm arose after Jesus and his followers had gotten into the boat and after Jesus had fallen asleep. I don't know of anyone who would seriously understand the author to be telling readers that the storm arose before Jesus and his followers got into the boat and Jesus dozed off.
And behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus; and when they saw Him, they implored Him to leave their region-New American Standard VersionAnd behold, all the city came out to meet Jesus, and when they saw him, they begged him to leave their region-English Standard Version
And behold, all the city came out to meet Jesus: and when they saw him, they besought him that he would depart from their border-American Standard Version
So, did "all the city" come out to meet Jesus and urge him to leave their region before Jesus performed the miracle? Nope. "And behold" modifies verse 34 as to suggest that the people in the city came out to meet Jesus and urge him to leave after Jesus performed the miracle spoken of in verse 33.
And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him-New American Standard VersionAnd behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him.And behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elijah talking with him
Did Moses and Elijah appear before Jesus and his three disciples went up to the mountain and watched as Jesus was transfigured? Or did it occur after Jesus took his followers up the mountain and was transfigured before them.
And behold, one of those who were with Jesus reached and drew out his sword, and struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his ear-New American Standard VersionAnd behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear-English Standard Version
And behold, one of them that were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and smote the servant of the high priest, and struck off his ear-American Standard Version
Did Peter draw his sword before Jesus was arrested? I don't think so! I believe that it was after Jesus was seized for the arrest that Peter drew up the sword and struck the slave of the high priest.
And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split-New American Standard Version
And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split-English Standard Version
And behold, the veil of the temple was rent in two from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake; and the rocks were rent-American Standard Version
Did the curtain of the temple tear in half, from top to bottom, before Jesus spoke his last words and die? Or was it after Jesus died, that the curtain tore into two from the top, downward?
Thus, we see from numerous cases that "And behold" modifies the sentence that it attaches to and the sentence which is modified, describes something as occurring, after the event in the previous verse in the gospel of Matthew. This was not always the case with the word "And behold" but there are a few exceptions in Matthew's gospel but Matthew 28:1-2, as I have tried here to show, parallels many of the instances where "And behold" (the Greek word Kai Idou) was used to chronologically link events in order. We can see this in verse 51 of chapter 27, which suggests that the curtain-tearing occurred after 26 which speaks of Jesus' death. We can see that verse 51 of chapter 26 describes Peter as cutting off the ear of the high priest's servant, after Jesus was arrested in verse 50. We can see verse three of chapter 17, in which those present with Jesus at his transfiguration saw Moses and Elijah, after Jesus was transfigured on the mountain in verse two. In verse 16 of chapter three, "and behold" attaches the rest of the verse "the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending..." to "After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water" in a single verse. But since "the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending.." comes after the phrase "and behold" what are readers to conclude but that Matthew meant to say that the heavens opened up after Jesus was baptized and come out immediately from the water? I don't know of anyone who would conclude that Matthew's author meant that the heavens opened up and the Spirit descended on Jesus before he stepped into the water to be baptized.
Readers can then understand why I believe that Matthew 28:2 describes the earthquake and angelic descent as being after the women have arrived at the tomb. It's precisely because "and behold" modifies verse 2 as describing something after verse 1 as it does in the verse cases I have just cited above from different translations. I, therefore, conclude that a contradiction here exists!
2.) Did the women enter the tomb, encounter angels, remember the angels’ words and then run back and convey them to the disciples as all of the synoptic gospels say or did Mary Magdalene and whoever was with her, run to tell the disciples that someone had stolen the body and she had no clue as to where it was as in John 20:1-2.
In Luke, chapter 24, we read the following:
1But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared.
2And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb,
3but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.
4While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men suddenly stood near them in dazzling clothing;
5and as the women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, "Why do you seek the living One among the dead?
6"He is not here, but He has risen Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee,
7saying that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again."
8And they remembered His words,
9and returned from the tomb and reported all these things to the eleven and to all the rest.
10Now they were Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James; also the other women with them were telling these things to the apostles.
11But these words appeared to them as nonsense, and they would not believe them.
12But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen wrappings only; and he went away to his home, marveling at what had happened.
In this passage, the women went to the tomb, found the stone rolled away, encountered angels, they remembered what Jesus said, then departed to tell the disciples what happened. Verse 9 and 10 are of particular importance. The women "returned from the tomb and reported all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. In the next verse it says that "they were Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James.."
Further in the chapter, when Jesus is believed to be walking with the two men on the road to Emmaus, they said this to Jesus:
22"But also some women among us amazed us. When they were at the tomb early in the morning,
23and did not find His body, they came, saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said that He was alive."
So, in other words, Mary Magdalene and whoever went with her, successfully told them what they had seen. When the women told the eleven "all these things", that logically, then, includes "saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said that He was alive", and verse 9 includes Mary Magdalene as one of them out of grammatical necessity here. The problem arises when we try and reconcile this with John 20: 1-2:
1Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came early to the tomb, while it was still dark, and saw the stone already taken away from the tomb.
2So she ran and came to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and said to them, "They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him."
In these verses, Mary Magdalene runs (along with whoever may have been with her) to Simon Peter and the disciple whom Jesus loved, and said to them, "They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him"
Mary Magdalene, then, hasn't seen any angels, hasn't gotten the message, and hasn't relayed the message in clear contradiction to verses 22-23. In fact, we can conclude that Mary Magdalene had not even entered into the tomb but instead arrived at it, took one good look at it, and then left in panic without even having entered into it. If she did enter into it as in the synoptics, particularly Luke, she would've encountered angels, came back with the message, and have told the disciples that they had seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. We can conclude therefore, that Mary Magdalene didn't even enter the tomb and sure as hell didn't encounter any angels. I'd like to see Jason resolve this.
3.) Were there Eleven disciples in the room on the first Easter Sunday in Jerusalem, to which Jesus appeared to (which would’ve included all the original disciples save doubting Thomas) or were there only ten as in John 20?
Recall, verse 9 from Luke 24 above. It says that the women told the Eleven what they had seen and heard. Yet in John we read a different story. We read this, in John 20: 19-24:
19So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, "Peace be with you."
20And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
21So Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you."
22And 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, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained."
24But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.
In verse 19, it says that on the first day of the week, when it was evening, Jesus came and stood among them, and verse 24 says that Thomas was not with them originally. Then why the hell does it say in Luke 24:9 that there were Eleven present?
Oh, I think I get it! Judas Iscariot rose from the dead as well! You see, Judas hung himself in Matthew's account, and God raised him from the dead after Jesus rose and Judas hung out with the disciples that very night (one of Luke's "eleven"), and then was present later when Thomas showed up (making Twelve as in the 1st Corinthians 15 creed) and then he fell later in the field and his guts spilled out all over the place! Poor Judas, he died, rose just for some cameo appearances of Jesus, only to pull a Humpty Dumpty and fall, to die again! I get it now! And what textual indicators would exist in the passage to indicate that this, indeed, was the case?
These are all explicit contradictions in the text that are impossible to resolve adequately without far-fetched plausibility scenarios, none of which are logical or remotely likely. Now, however lets shift gears and look at discrepancies which are implicit but nevertheless discrepancies.
4.) How many angels were there? Matthew and Mark record only one angel while Luke and John record two. Now the usual apologist quibble here is that Mark and Matthew only mentioned one but that doesn’t rule out that another angel was simply present. But there is a problem here. When the angel in Matthew speaks, he speaks in a first person singular. He says “For I know what you are looking for”. The problem? Many apologists are fond of pointing out that, for instance, Mary Magdalene wasn’t alone in her trip to the empty tomb in John 20. They will point to the first person plural of what Mary Magdalene says in John 20:2, “For they have taken the body of the Lord and we don’t know where they have put them” Thus, apologists are fond of saying, the text implies that more than one women was present! If this is the case, then, does that mean that the angel’s use of first person singular in Matthew 28: 3 implies then, that only one angel was present? If not, why not?
5.) Did Jesus appear to the disciples first in Galilee or Jerusalem? Matthew and Mark imply that Jesus appeared to them in Galilee first while Luke and John. Jesus appeared to them in Jerusalem. Now apologists will quibble and say that the appearance in Galilee was not immediate but eventual. This is absurd! First of all, notice the verb tenses in Matthew and Mark. In Matthew 28:7 we read the angel saying:
7"Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going ahead of you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you."
Notice we see "is going" not "will go. Let's look at Mark, shall we? In Mark 16: 7, the angel says:
7"But go, tell His disciples and Peter, 'He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see Him, just as He told you.'"
Again, notice the "is going" rather than will go.
Now compare this with the prediction of the resurrection, in which Jesus says that he “will go”.
Matthew 26:32 "But after I have been raised, I will go ahead of you to Galilee."
Mark 14:28 "But after I have been raised, I will go ahead of you to Galilee."
Notice the difference between “will go” and “is going”? If Jesus was going to eventually go to Galilee and not immediately why are the verb tenses not uniform? Why doesn’t the angel say that Jesus “will go” to Galilee and instead of “is going”? For a prediction of Jesus eventually going to Galilee, this seems a bit misleading as to the timing. Secondly, if Jesus only intended to make an eventual trip to Galilee, why have the angels tell the women to relay this message to his disciples? What could Jesus have the angels tell the women, or even he, himself, have the women tell his disciples that he couldn’t have told them himself, since he was going to meet with them, anyways, that very same day? What could the women have relayed to the disciples that he couldn’t have told them himself?
These are excellent examples of errancy in my opinion. These are not the only examples of biblical errancy in the New Testament. But they serve to illustrate why I am skeptical that the resurrection narratives are inspired by Yahweh, and are in fact, God-breathed, as Christian apologists would have us believe. These two reasons, 1.) the lack of any supernatural/miraculous evidence for the resurrection in modern times, in the critical histories of top-notch reputable scholars, Jewish, Greek, Roman, secular, and skeptical outside of the gospels and a lack of such critical historical-narration in the New Testament and 2.) the errancy of the New Testament canonical gospels in general and the resurrection narratives in particular. It is for these reasons that I reject the resurrection hypothesis that God raised Jesus Christ from the dead and that he is who any of the canonical gospels or New Testament epistles say that he is. It is for these reasons I do not believe that the resurrection happened.