A Possible Chronology of the Gospels’ Resurrection Events

Reconciling the gospel accounts on the events of the resurrection is a somewhat difficult task, especially for people who struggle with chronology like I do. It’s hard for me to keep timelines and details straight in my head. When you study the gospel accounts about the events surrounding the resurrection, you’ll notice that some details are different. Why is that? Some will say the gospels contradict, however, those who believe in Biblical inerrancy and infallibility are not so easily satisfied; we must search for another answer. How do we reconcile the accounts? Is there a vantage point that sufficiently reconciled the accounts?

Dr. Tim Chaffey, from Answers in Genesis, provides a reasonable explanation of the events. You can read his article titled “Christ’s Resurrection—Four Accounts, One Reality” to better understand one possible solution to the varying details. Below are some thoughts based on Dr. Chaffey’s suggestions.

At least five women went to the tomb. Luke names three and then says “other women”; three plus at least two is at least five. Though John mentions only Mary Magdalene, Mary eventually said, “and we do not know where they have laid him” (Jn. 20:2).

Tomb rolled away prior to women arriving (Mk. 16:4; Lk. 24:2; Jn. 20:1). Matthew suggests the women were on their way when the earthquake happened. It was finished before they got there. Matthew is inserting what had happened before they arrived at the tomb.

There were two angels. The one who spoke is prominent. Matthew focused on him. Matthew and Mark do not say only one angel.

Dr. Tim Chaffey offers a reasonable explanation:

  1. Mary Magdalene travels with other women from Bethany to the tomb
  2. As the women near the tomb, they notice the stone is rolled away. Mary Magdalene leaves the group to tell Peter and John who were staying in Jerusalem (Jn. 20:2 – Mary Magdalene didn’t know where they put the body nor did she mention angels); the other women continue to the tomb.
  3. The women (less Mary Magdalene) encountered the angels and left to tell the disciples (Matt. 28:8-9). They returned to Bethany via Jerusalem where they told Cleopas and other disciples that he had risen. Luke 24:22–24, “Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, 23 and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.”
  4. Mary Magdalene returns to the tomb with Peter and John from Jerusalem.
  5. Peter and John return to the house after seeing the empty tomb.
  6. Jesus appears outside the tomb to Mary who stayed behind.
  7. Jesus appears to other women as they return to Bethany.
  8. Women return to tell the eight disciples of them meeting Jesus (Matt. 28:9-10 – which seem to suggest that they had left the tomb); then the eight travel to John and Peter (no Thomas).
  9. Jesus appears to Cleopas and other disciple on the road to Emmaus
  10. Jesus appears to Peter
  11. Jesus appears to John, Peter, and other eight disciples (no Thomas)

It seems like Peter and John stayed together in Jerusalem (Peter was around to see what would happen; John was at the cross); perhaps the other disciples fled to stay in Bethany where Jesus often stayed.

Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. May not copy or download more than 500 consecutive verses of the ESV Bible or more than one half of any book of the ESV Bible.

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Jonathan Shirk

Welcome to the online home of Jonathan Shirk, family man, Reformed pastor, author, podcaster, and small town theologian. Whether you're from a small town or big city, may this website help you find deeper comfort and joy in the gospel.

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