Celebrating Easter? Which Contradicting Biblical Account of Jesus’ Death and Resurrection Are You Going to Pick?


Author: C J Wereleman

Although pre-Christian religions are replete with the stories of dying and rising gods, the Easter tradition is founded in the Bible’s New Testament. Unfortunately for devotees of the Christian faith, the New Testament is replete with irreconcilable discrepancies.

The question is, which contradicting biblical account of Jesus’ death and resurrection are you celebrating this Easter?

Of the nearly 600 irreconcilable discrepancies and contradictions found in the Bible, a majority are found in the New Testament. This is understandable given the books of the New Testament were written no less than 50-100 years after the purported death of Easter’s central character, Jesus. Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Paul hadn’t even met Jesus, and they hadn’t met the people who had allegedly met Jesus. In other words, the New Testament contains not a single eyewitness testimony, much less even a secondhand account, nor is any account corroborated outside of the Bible.

Without going too far down the theological pathway, Mark, whoever he was, was the first to write a biography of Jesus, some 50 years after the crucifixion. Both Matthew and Luke, whoever they were, copied from Mark’s written account some 20 to 30 years later, each adding their own theological motives with the help of respective external sources, while John wrote his gospel nearly a full half-century after Mark.

“The New Testament is a work of crude carpentry, hammered together long after its purported events and full of attempts to make things come out right,” writes the late Christopher Hitchens.

Without a doubt, the Easter narrative of the New Testament highlights these contradictions better than any other plot line found in the Bible. A cartoon found at russellsteapot.com demonstrates the theological conundrum:

Priest: “Thanks everyone for participating in this year’s Easter Pageant. All right, kids, we need to rehearse the part where it’s Easter morning and the first visitors arrive at Jesus’ tomb. Now who’s in this scene?”

Child 1: “I am! Matthew 28:2-5 says an angel came down from heaven to greet them.”

Child 2: “No, it wasn’t an angel! It was a ‘Young man,’ Just look at Mark 16:5!”

Child 3: “Hello! Luke 24:4 says very clearly it was ‘Two men.’”

Child 4: “Well, according to John 20:1-2, nobody was there.”

Priest: “Children, the contradictions don’t matter! What matters is that we unquestioningly accept the magic of the resurrection even within the face of such glaring contradictions within the story.”

Child 4: “Father, that was the most wonderfully concise summary of Christianity I have ever heard.”

Priest:“Thank you, child. It is blind submission to authority that got me where I am today

The gospels are so at odds with each other they don’t even agree on one of the critical tenets of the Christian faith i.e. the meaning of Jesus’ death.

On the day of Jesus’ crucifixion, Mark presents Jesus as an utterly dejected figure, who having suffered so much, believes God has forsaken him in his darkest hour. In the events leading to his crucifixion, he is betrayed by his friend Judas; denied three times by one of his nearest and dearest, Peter; berated by the Jewish priests; and then condemned by Pilate. He is kicked, whipped and mocked by the Roman soldiers; taunted by criminals on the cross; and during this whole ordeal he utters not a single word. As the shadow of death descends upon him he cries, “Father why have you forsaken me?”

Bart Ehrman, a New Testament scholar and Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina, makes the following observation of Mark’s gospel, “Jesus dies in agony unsure of the reason he must die.”

In Luke’s portrayal, however, the gulf of ideology between himself and Mark couldn’t be greater. Luke has Jesus being led away for crucifixion, but in his account Jesus is not mocked or beaten by the Roman guards. Instead, Jesus walks confidently toward the killing field, reassured by the purpose of his death, as demonstrated by the manner he speaks to the women he sees weeping for him:

“Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.” (Luke 23:28 NIV)

As he is nailed to the cross, instead of denouncing his god, like he had in Mark, Jesus says,

“Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34 NIV)

As his inevitable death approaches, Jesus does not feel forsaken but welcomes the next step of the journey; “Into your arms I commit my spirit.” In Luke, Jesus even has a friendly dialogue with his fellow condemned, and reassures them that:

“Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43 NIV)

“In Luke, Jesus is completely calm and in control of the situation; he know what is about to occur, and he knows it will happen afterward: he will wake up in God’s paradise, and this criminal will be there with him,” writes Ehrman.

It gets worse. The respective gospels even contradict their own writings. Mark gives the following account of the Last Supper:

“Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again” (Mark 8:31)

The big question here is why would Jesus think God had forsaken him if he knew he had to suffer in such a manner in order to fulfill the purpose he was sent to fulfill? Of all the events that account for the Easter narrative, the four Gospels agree on only two points:

  1. That on the third day after Jesus’ crucifixion and burial, Jesus’ tomb is found empty.

  2. Mary Magdalene is one of those who discover the empty tomb.

On just about every other component of the Easter narrative, the Gospels disagree as to what transpired, and often irreconcilably so. On Jesus’ ascension, not only do the gospels disagree who Jesus’ spirit spoke to first, but also the location.

Mark: Jesus ascends while he and his disciples are seated at a dinner table in Jerusalem. (14-19)

Matthew: Doesn’t mention the ascension at all.

Luke: Jesus ascends after dinner in Bethany, on the same day as the resurrection. (24:50-51)

John: Doesn’t mention the ascension.

These contradictions must trouble those with even the deepest sense of faith. Notwithstanding the fact that Matthew alone writes that zombies roamed the streets of Jerusalem at the moment of Jesus’ death (Matthew 27:51). Suddenly, the Easter Bunny seems a little more plausible. Happy Easter.

CJ Werleman is the author of “Crucifying America,” and “God Hates You. Hate Him Back.”

Emphasis Mine

See: http://www.alternet.org/belief/bible-one-big-mess-contradictions-about-easter?akid=11733.123424.BSMX1D&rd=1&src=newsletter983505&t=5

Is ‘Easter’ manifestly evil?

Easter is the Christian implementation of the Spring Equinox festival, celebrated by most cultures who happen to inhabit the Northern Hemisphere of our planet.  In the Christian instantiation, it is based on accepting the dogma that ‘god’ sacrificed his ‘son’ to suffer for the ‘sins’ of the entire human population.

Issues I have include:

o A completely pre modern, anthropomorphic religious view (son of god).

o Venerating the barbaric, superstitious  practice of seeking supernatural favors with the sacrifice of any living creature – let alone a Human being!

o Disconnecting Humans from responsibility for their own actions (died for our ‘sins’).

As Humans, we celebrate the spring as a manifestation of the rebirth of life, and perhaps as a fresh start: that alone is sufficient.

What to do when one hears: “Happy Easter, Merry Xmas”, etc.

How might a Free Thinker deal with such a statement which constitutes a presumption of a specific religious belief?  If we are rude, arrogant, or too emotional, we don’t enhance our position.

My current reply is: “Thank you, but that is not a holiday which I chose to celebrate.”

Goal: To politely indicate that not everyone has those beliefs.

Reactions: Embarrassed; apologetic; and contrite.

“Thank you…” – polite.

“…I chose to celebrate” – individual choice.


Result: Politely indicated that not everyone has those beliefs.

Easter for the rest of Us

On Wednesday March 11, 2009, CFI Northeast Ohio’s regular monthly meeting hosted Dr. Rick Rickards, licensed humanist minister, long time contributor to the causes of humanism and freethought, and one of the treasures of our local community.

In “Thoughts about Easter”, Dr. Rick, as he is known, gave us the Christian definition of Easter: “it celebrates that Christ was crucified, died for our sins, and was ressurected from death”.  The ‘sins’, of course, are a legacy of Adam and Eve eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, aka ‘original sin’.  (N.B.: To those charges, I enter a plea of Not Guilty.)

What Easter is Not:

 o The word ‘Easter’ is not mentioned in the New Testament.

 o Not mentioned in the early church, and was formalized in 325 CE.

 o Entirely Christian: it is yet another Spring equinox celebration, with traditions in other religions.

Dr. Rick covered the etymology of the word, and that it  is related to ‘pagan’ practices.  

N.B.: this is confirmed in http://christianity.about.com/od/holidaytips/qt/whatiseaster.htm: 

“Because of Easter’s pagan origins, and also because of the commercialization of Easter, many Christian churches have begun to refer to it as Resurrection Day.”

As with Christmas, the four Gospels have different and often contridictory descriptions about the events which now comprise Easter.  Dr Rick traversed through the various stories, observing how rediculous  they often appear to a thinking person.  He also raised into question the historical validity of the Jews turning over one of their own to civil authority.  

He gave us many reading recommendations, spoke – as a veterinarian – with authority on euthanasia, and concluded with answers to questions.

Maturity, sincerity, and serenity define his presentation style, and it was an evening of entertainment and enlightenment for all of the capacity crowd in attendance.