Gospel Inconsistencies-The Risen Jesus Appears To The Eleven Disciples


Despite fundamentalist Christian claims about the New Testament being the inspired word of God and their constant advertising that the Gospels represent 100% accurate history, the Gospel accounts contain severe inconsistencies that can only be reconciled by applying insertions of subjective qualifiers into the scriptural text.
While virtually any Biblical scriptural inconsistency or contradiction can be reconciled by mentally rewriting the text and then claiming that's what the scripture really meant all along, some scriptural problems require a gross modification in order to make the problem go away.
Although professional apologists are in the business of making scriptural contradictions go away, the remedies they often employ to fix the problems can render Christian advertising about the Bible a mockery. The standard claim by fundamentalists is that the Bible, particularly the Gospels, are the inspired, infallible, perfect word of an all powerful deity, who wants everyone to be "saved" and who provided the Bible to help convince people of the ultimate "truth".

One of the problems which requires an inventive apologetic rewrite is the issue of where the resurrected Jesus first appeared to his inner circle of eleven disciples as a group.
Keeping in mind that the 12 disciples became 11 disciples with the death of Judas, what does the infallible word of God say regarding this issue?

The Gospel of Mark records that a young man(presumably an angel) tells the three women who went to the tomb on the morning of the third day to inform the disciples that a freshly resurrected Jesus was headed to Galilee and that the disciples would see him there. Galilee is over 60 miles from Jerusalem, where the execution of Jesus took place.

Mark 16:7
But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that
he(Jesus) goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you.

The longer version of Mark, which adds verses 16:9-20 to the manuscript, tacks on a bit more information by saying that Jesus appeared to the eleven at a meal, but makes no indication where that occurred.

Mark 16:14
Afterward he(Jesus) appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen.


If verses 16:9-20 were added on to the original manuscript by someone, there is no way to know if that added text was valid or when the alteration was performed.
The NIV Bible has a footnote that says the most reliable early manuscripts do not include Mark 16:9-20.
As an aside, if the most reliable manuscripts don't have Mark 16:9-20, what are they doing in a book that is supposed to represent the most reliable word of God?
However, based on the statement in Mark 16:7, it's fairly clear the eleven disciples were told that they would, as a group, see the resurrected Jesus somewhere in Galilee.
Jesus, prior to his death, even set the stage for this initial appearance by saying:
Mark 14:28
But after that I am risen,
I will go before you into Galilee.

The Gospel of Matthew adds more detail(and subtracts one of the women) to this story by reporting that an angel met two women and told them to tell the disciples that the risen Jesus is going on ahead to Galilee and there they shall see him.
Jesus then appears to the two women and reiterates the same instructions.

Matt 28:7-10
And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold,
he(Jesus) goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you.
And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word.
And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him.
Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid: go
tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me.

It should be clear from the text that Jesus himself leaves instructions that the women are to tell the disciples that they should go to Galilee, where they will see him.
The eleven disciples then do what they are told and meet Jesus at a mountain in Galilee.

Matt 28:16-17
Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them.
And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted.


Any reasonable reading of the Mark and Matthew accounts would conclude that Jesus first appeared to the eleven disciples in Galilee, and not in Jerusalem.

The Gospel of Luke reports that two men(angels) met several(exact number not specified) women at the tomb. Neither of these two angels is recorded as saying anything to the women about telling the disciples that Jesus would be going on ahead to Galilee, where the disciples would see him. These critical instructions are completely absent from the Luke account.
The Gospel of Luke states that Jesus appeared to two believers on a road outside Jerusalem on the day of the resurrection.

Luke 24:13-15
And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about threescore furlongs(about 7 miles).
And they talked together of all these things which had happened.
And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them.


After Jesus went with them to their destination in Emmaus for dinner, he vanishes.
This was so upsetting that the two believers returned to Jerusalem that same hour and found the eleven disciples gathered together with other believers.
As they were telling their story to the eleven, Jesus suddenly appears in their midst.

Luke 24:33-36
And they rose up the
same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them,
Saying, The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon.
And they told what things were done in the way, and how he was known of them in breaking of bread.
And
as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.

A reasonable reading of the Luke story would conclude that Jesus first appeared to his inner circle of eleven disciples at Jerusalem on the day he rose from the dead. The Gospel of Luke has established that Jerusalem was the place where the initial appearance was made to them.
Note that the eleven were all present when Jesus appeared to them for the first time as a group.
As so noted, this occurred in Jerusalem and not at a mountain in Galilee. Galilee is over 60 miles away.
Jesus also instructs the eleven disciples not to leave the city of Jerusalem until they have received the power of the Holy Spirit.

Luke 24:49-53
And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.
And he led them out as far as to Bethany(which is adjacent to Jerusalem), and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them.
And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven.
And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy:
And were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen.


As the text states, after Jesus lifted off for heaven at Bethany, the disciples returned to Jerusalem where they stayed, continually praising God.
It's also worth noting that at this time Jesus made some claims about the Messiah which he said were written in the scriptures.
Luke 24:46
And (Jesus) said unto them, Thus
it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day:

There isn't anything in the Old Testament scriptures which says the Christ or Messiah was to rise from the dead the third day.
The expected King Messiah was to sit on the throne of David and rule during his lifetime(Jer 23:5-6), something which Jesus never did at any time.
There also nothing in the Old Testament which says an expected King Messiah would require two visits to earth, separated by thousands of years in order to accomplish what he was supposed to do the first time.

The Book of Acts, which is also supposed to have been written by Luke, adds more detail to the story by claiming that Jesus hung around for 40 days before lifting off for heaven.
Jesus also repeated the instructions that the disciples were not to leave Jerusalem until they had received the power of the Holy Spirit.

Acts 1:2-5
Until the day in which he(Jesus) was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen:
To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God:
And, being assembled together with them,
commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me.
For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.

[As an aside, while Acts 1:3 states that Jesus proved he had risen from the dead by giving many infallible proofs to his inner circle, Jesus neglected to keep his promise to the Pharisees and scribes who asked for a sign that he was from God.
Jesus promised them the sign of Jonah, which meant he would be in the grave for three days and three nights and then emerge alive.

Matt 12:38-40
Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee.
But he(Jesus) answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas:
For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.


However, according to the New Testament, the risen Jesus never appeared to these Pharisees or scribes at any time after his death. In his version of the story, the author of Matthew includes Roman guards at the tomb(which aren't mentioned by any other New Testament writer), and these guards never saw the risen Jesus either, as they were unconscious. For the sign of Jonah to mean anything at all, the risen Jesus would have had to appear to the people who requested the sign.
Also along these lines, the promise made by Jesus to provide the sign of Jonah to the Pharisees is only made in the Gospel of Matthew. While Jesus didn't have to be in the grave for exactly 72 hours, he did have to be there on parts of 6 consecutive twelve hour time periods(a minimum of 50 hours). According to Mark, Matthew, and Luke he was only there for three days and two nights, and according to John he was there two days and two nights.
Jesus also told the high priest and the Jewish council that they would see him glorified in power and coming back on the clouds of heaven(Mark14:61-62). Jesus failed to deliver on this promise, which was supposed to have happened within the lifetimes of some of his disciples(Matt 16:27-28).]

The power of the Holy Spirit, which the eleven disciples were supposed to wait in the city for, was given to them on the day of Pentecost, which occurred at Jerusalem 40 days after the resurrection and 10 days after Jesus had ascended to heaven.

Acts 2:1-5
And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.
And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.
And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.
And
they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.


Note that Jesus left earth and had ascended into heaven when the Holy Spirit was given to the disciples.
Jesus did not give it to them while he was on earth.

The Gospel of John reports that one woman(Mary Magdalene) went two the tomb(no angels present), found the body missing, and ran to tell Peter and another disciple. Peter and the disciple inspect the empty tomb and leave, Mary lingers at the tomb and then two angels appear. They give no instructions for Mary to tell the disciples that they should go to Galilee where they would see Jesus.
The risen Jesus then appears to her in the guise of a gardener in much the same fashion as the Greek gods, who would often appear to mortals in disguise. Jesus gives Mary no instructions to tell the disciples that he is headed for Galilee and that the disciples would see him there as the Matthew version of the story so pointedly reports.
Jesus then appears on the same day to the eleven disciples(minus Thomas) at a dwelling or house.
According to John, Thomas wasn't there when the risen Jesus appeared to them for the first time.
Although the precise location of this initial meeting isn't designated, it's reasonable to assume this happened in Jerusalem, where Jesus was crucified, and not at a mountain in Galilee.

John 20:18-21
Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the LORD, and that he had spoken these things unto her.
Then the
same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.
And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the LORD.
Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.


Note that there is nothing mentioned anywhere about Jesus going on ahead to Galilee nor are there any instructions for the disciples to do so. The explicit instructions found in the Mark and Matthew accounts are completely absent in Luke and John.
The Gospel of John also states later in the passage that Thomas was missing at the initial meeting.
This is another element not found anywhere in the accounts of Mark, Matthew, or Luke.

Another glaring difference is that according to John, Jesus gave the power of the Holy Spirit to the disciples at the initial meeting and not 50 days later at Pentecost.

John 20:22-23
And when he(Jesus) had said this,
he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost:
Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.
But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.

The Holy Spirit was directly given to ten of the eleven disciples when Jesus breathed on them.
There are no instructions to wait in Jerusalem after his ascension in order for them to receive the Holy Spirit.
According to John, at least ten of the disciples had already received the Holy Spirit at the first meeting with the risen Jesus.
This is a serious problem as it conflicts with the Luke account.
Naturally, an apologist can combine the two stories into one and say that ten of the disciples received their doses of the Holy Spirit when Jesus first appeared to them and Thomas and other followers received their doses later at Pentecost, but God makes no notes in the Bible that support such a speculative scenario. Such speculation is based on human whimsical preference and desire, and not on the scripture.
It makes little sense for Jesus to tell all the disciples not to leave Jerusalem until they received the Holy Spirit when he gave it to ten of them when he first appeared to them. Trying to combine the two accounts into one, as a way to reconcile the conflicting accounts, plugs one hole and opens another in its place.
Such a contrived rationalization also paints the picture of inspired Gospel writers who obfuscate their reports rather than to edify what are supposed to be historical facts.
The author of Luke states in the preamble of his Gospel that his story represents the facts as they happened.
Luke also admits that he wasn't an eyewitness, but he investigated everything carefully and has a perfect understanding of all the actual events.

Luke 1:1-4
Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us,
Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word;
It seemed good to me also, having had
perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus,
That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed.

Note that Luke says he wrote his history so that his reader might know the certainty of the things he had been taught.
If his reader had been taught that Jesus first appeared to the eleven disciples at a mountain in Galilee(as Matthew claimed) and that Jesus gave his disciples the Holy Spirit before he ascended(as John claimed), the history provided by Luke would be a source of confusion and not a source of edification.
The Bible tells us that God is not the author of confusion(1 Cor 14:33), so it makes little sense for someone who is truly inspired by God to leave out key events and to record history that contradicts the testimony of others.
Yet, that's the scenario that presents itself here.
Keep in mind that Luke says absolutely nothing that instructs his reader to seek outside sources for more details or for a different spin on the story.
Luke's writings are the source his reader should use for accurate facts concerning Jesus.
The Bible warns people to stay away from false teachers and those who seek to spread information contrary to the official party line.(Rom 16:17)(2 Peter 2:1).
At the time Luke was supposed to have written his inspired history of actual events, he probably didn't anticipate that future councils(~360 C.E. to 1563 C.E.) of clerics would decide which writings would make it into the official word of God.
The logic for including only four Gospels(out of many) into the official "Bible" or church canon is often attributed to St. Irenaeus of Lyons(late second century), who was supposed to have deemed four the appropriate number because there were four corners of the earth and four divine winds.
It was clerical men who defined which stories were inspired by God, and there is nothing whatsoever that proves they were inspired by God when they selected or voted.

The Gospel of John then records a second meeting(eight days later) with Jesus, which was probably in the dwelling at Jerusalem. This time Thomas was present.

John 20:26
And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you.


There is no reason to think that this meeting happened at a mountain in Galilee, as the doors of the house or dwelling were closed as they were for the first meeting, because of fear of the Jews.
The context of the story takes place in Jerusalem, with no mention of Galilee at this point.

The third meeting, according to John, occurred at the Sea of Tiberias/Galilee.

John 21:1-2,14
After these things Jesus shewed himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias; and on this wise shewed he himself.
There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two other of his disciples.
This is now the third time that Jesus shewed himself to his disciples, after that he was risen from the dead.

Note that while this did occur in Galilee there is no mention of any mountain as the place of this meeting.
As the text states, it occurred by the Sea of Galilee.
Also note that there are only seven disciples present at this meeting, not the full group of eleven.
The text also explicitly states that this was the third time Jesus made an appearance to his disciples.

(Regarding John chapter 21: There are some schools of opinion that contend chapter 21 was added to the Gospel of John at some later date. Since there really isn't any way to know one way or the other, the possibility of this is left to be determined by the individual.)

The key points of inconsistency presented in the Gospel and Book of Acts are summarized as follows:

Regarding the Galilee/Jerusalem meeting conundrum; professional Christian apologists will often attempt to reconcile the problem of where the risen Jesus first appeared to his disciples by claiming that Jesus had 40 days in which to conduct a meeting with his disciples at a mountain in Galilee.
In other words, because(according to Luke in Acts 1:3) the resurrected Jesus was on earth for 40 days, he could have met with the eleven disciples at a mountain in Galilee at any time in that 40 day period to satisfy the stipulations given by the Gospel of Matthew.
However, such a rationalization requires a glaring rewrite of the scripture.
The key lines in the original text of Mark and Matthew state:

Mark 16:7
But go your way,
tell his disciples and Peter that he(Jesus) goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you.

Matt 28:10,16-17
Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid:
go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me.
Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee
, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them.
And when
they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted.

The original text indicates that the next stop for the resurrected Jesus will be in Galilee and that his disciples are to meet him there, where they will see him for the first time after his crucifixion.

The apologetic rationalization of this problem requires the following changes, which are in upright bold letters:

Matt 28:10,16-17(revised to fit Christian apologetics)
After Jesus appeared to the eleven in Jerusalem, he met with the women again and said Jesus unto the women, Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me again.
Sometime after the disciples had seen Jesus in Jerusalem, but before Jesus ascended to heaven, the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them.
And when they saw him
again, they worshipped him: but some still doubted.

This is the type of rewrite that's required to reconcile the text so that apologists can claim that the Bible contains no contradictions and is the inspired word of an infallible tribal deity.

Since the resurrection of Jesus is supposed to be the most important event that ever happened in the universe, and represents a "fact" upon which the entire Christian doctrine of salvation rests, one would expect God to see to it that this event was precisely and clearly recorded.
God had no problem taking time to inspire a high level of precise detail and information in the following areas:

*God devotes 36 verses of specific detail on how to decorate and furnish an important ceremonial tent in Exo 26.
*God devotes 42 verses of specific detail on how he wants priests to dress in Exo 28.
*God devotes 46 verses of specific detail on how priests are to be consecrated in Exo 29.
*God devotes 85 verses of specific detail on how offerings are to be made in Lev 1-Lev 4.
*God devotes 38 verses of specific detail on how to deal with mildew(yes, mildew) in Lev 13:47-59 and Lev 14:33-57.
*God devotes 39 verses of specific detail on how the Temple was furnished in 1 Kings 7:13-51.

It's certainly reasonable to expect that God would see to it that a far, far, more important topic than any of these would be recorded without gross inconsistencies and a confusing timeline.
That's what would be expected of God if the Gospels were really his holy word. If they aren't, then that opens up a can of worms that fundamentalists don't want opened under any circumstances.
Professional apologetics are part of the industry which is set up to ensure that believers and potential converts will accept the industrial manual(the Bible) as the inspired word of an infallible deity.
Fundamentalist Christians don't really have any other option than to turn to aggressive sermonizing and acrobatic apologetics in order to expand their kingdom. Since they already have the absolute truth from God, there are no other avenues or shades of gray for them to investigate or consider. Fundamentalism is so rigid by nature that it leaves itself only one approach, which is to claim Biblical texts are 100% accurate and the epitome of written truth.

The all powerful, invisible tribal God that fundamentalists claim to work for also created job security for his followers because his holy word requires legions of ministers and professional apologists to explain and clarify what his original alleged word can't seem to present without displaying gross inconsistencies.
Apologists in effect become God's editors, generously adding qualifiers/words to the scriptures and creating scenarios in order to reconcile contradictions and explain to the masses what God really meant to say all along.
However, if all this edification and adding of words and qualifiers to scripture are really what God wanted people to do with his word, then apologists routinely and conveniently ignore one of God's rules.

Prov 30:5-6
Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him.
Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.

Would an all powerful deity really need human help to rationalize and mentally rewrite his scriptures about such an important event in his plan for the universe?
Is this the type of product an all powerful deity would put forth in order to convince people of a vital truth?
Perhaps the Gospels aren't really what fundamentalist Christians say they are.


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