Friday, April 24, 2009

How Many Angels Were at the Tomb of Christ?

I found myself virtually screaming out the words, “Will someone please help Professor Bart Ehrman figure out how many angels were at the tomb!” It is a problem he brings up ad nauseum and ad infinitum as his way of showing the Bible is riddled with discrepancies. This problem is cited in his book Jesus Interrupted and involves again the angels at the tomb of Christ.



After reading the synoptic gospels, Ehrman was unable to figure out whether the women saw a man, as Mark says (Mark 16:5), or two men as Luke says (Luke 24:4), or angel as Matthew says (Matt. 28:2).[1] I’m left to wonder why one of professor Ehrman’s students didn’t pause for a brief moment to unpack the mystery from him because as Professor Ehrman himself has figured out wherever there are two angels there is also one angel[2], always, always, always, without exception. The fact that Mark only references the angel, who addressed the women, shouldn’t be problematic for someone who has made an virtual art form out of exploiting discrepancies and secondary details of the Gospels.



Furthermore, even though Luke does not specifically refer to the two men as angels; the fact that he describes these beings as “men in clothes that gleamed as lighting” should have been a dead give away. Moreover, as a historian addressing a predominately Gentile audience, Doctor Luke—no doubt—measured his words carefully so as not to rise give unnecessarily to pagan superstitions.



Finally, as with Mark, the fact that Matthew only references one angel does not preclude the fact that two angels were present. After reading the accounts of Matthew, Mark, and Luke or John, for that matter, there is ample data by which a real historian can determine that the man described by Mark was indeed an angel and that “men in clothes that gleamed as lighting” were angelic, and that though Matthew only mentions an angel, he clearly does not preclude the possibility that another was present.



Contra Ehrman then, what credible scholars look for is core set of reliable facts that either validate or invalidate historical accounts. Here, as elsewhere in the Gospels, one can objectively conclude that the core set of facts presented by the Gospel writers are authentic and reliable.
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[1] Bart D. Ehrman, Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And Why We Don’t Know About Them) (New York, Harper One, 2009), 8.

[2] Ibid.

14 comments:

Boris said...

These resurrection stories have more discrepancies in them than just the number of angels the women saw at the tomb. How many women came to the tomb and when did they go exactly? In John 20:1 Only one woman went, Mary Magdalene. In Matthew 28:1 Mary Magdalene and the "other Mary" (Jesus’ mother) went. In Luke at least five women went to the tomb.
Mark 16:2 says that it was sunrise when the two women went to the tomb. John 20:1 It was still dark (before sunrise) when Mary Magdalene went alone to the tomb.

If one compares reports of miracles from the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke), one will find that, as one moves from earlier to the later gospels, some of the miracles become more exaggerated. Consider the Following passage from Mark’ the earliest gospel:

Mark 1:32-34 and at even, when the sun did set, they brought unto him all that were diseased, and them that were possessed with devils. And when the city was gathered together at the door. And he healed many that were sick of divers diseases, and cast out many devils: and suffered not the devils to speak, because they knew him.

Matthew 8:16 When evening was coming, they brought unto him many that were possessed with devils: and he cast out the spirits with his word, and healed all that were sick.

Luke 4:40 Now when the sun was setting, all they that had any sick with divers diseases brought them unto him; and he laid hands on every one of them, and healed them.

According to Mark, all were brought to Jesus and many were healed; according to Matthew many were brought and all were healed; and according to Luke all were brought and all were healed. The miracles keep getting better all the time. As A. Robertson observes, “We are witnessing the progressive growth of a legend.” (Archibald Robertson, The Origins of Christianity, New York; International Publishers 1954 p.82) The number of angels going from one to two is perfectly in line with the way the stories just keep getting better as we move from the earlier to the later Gospels.

When did the Holt Spirit descend on Jesus? For Paul it was at his resurrection. (Roman 1:4)
And who came to be known as the Son of God with power and with the Holy Spirit, because he arose from the dead, and he is Jesus Christ our Lord.

For Mark it was at his baptism (Mark 1:10-11)
And immediately he came up out of the water, he saw the sky was wide open, and the spirit, like a dove came down upon him. And a voice came from heaven, you are my beloved son and I am pleased with you.

For Matthew it was at conception. (Matthew 1:18)
The birth of Jesus was in this manner. While Mary his mother as acquired foe a price for Joseph, before they came together she was found with child of the Holy Spirit.

For Luke it was at conception. (Luke 1:35)
The angel answered said to her, the Holy Spirit will come, and the power of the highest will rest upon you; therefore the Who is born of you is holy, and he will be called the son of God.

For John Christ was identified with pre-existent and eternal logos, who was incarnated into human life via birth (John 1:14).
And the word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we saw his glory, a glory like that of a first born of a father, full of grace and truth.

Interestingly for Paul Jesus never rises from the dead. Always it is God who raises him (Rom 4:24, 6:9, 10:9; Cor 15:4, 13, 14, 20; Phil 2:9). God was one holy and sovereign for Paul. The idea of a coequal trinity of persons in the Godhead had not yet been born. To Paul, Jesus was a human. Romans 1:3 Concerning his son who was born in flesh of the seed of the house of David.

mc said...

Hank...I have been a big fan of your show and writing for a long time and it is remarkable the amount of knowledge I have gleaned from you. Thank you!! I am a student here in Nashville and I am writing an Honors paper for my World Religions class. I have quoted you and some of your books and I am wondering if you might be willing to take a look at my paper. I really want to make sure that not only do I not misquote you but also that I am getting the subject matter. So? What do you think. I know you are busier than a gopher in soft dirt, but it would mean so much to me to have your thoughts on my thoughts :) Thanks so much. MC Potts

Anonymous said...

Hank a "real historian" would know a story involving either one or two angels is not a historical narrative but a fictive one.

ChrisB said...

It's worth noting that Luke, who calls the angels "men" records the Emmaus disciples as calling them "angels" only a few lines later.

Don Sullivan said...

Just a small example of why Boris' logic may be a little wooden and flawed in the interpretation of his bible passages:

Paul said nothing about the Holy Spirit descending on Jesus at His resurrection. You are reading into the text something that simply isn't there. Also, Matthew and Luke are both talking about the conception of Christ, as they are the only two gospels that cover His nativity. The Holy Spirit descended upon Mary, not Jesus. In Mark, at His baptism, the Holy Spirit descended to Him like a dove, but we are given no indication that the Holy Spirit entered Him, as He would not need the Holy Spirit, since He was God in flesh.

As for the interpretation of the healing of people in the synoptics, I find it odd that you would complain about the use of hyperbole in the text, considering I am almost sure that if they all said the same thing, you and every other textual critic this side of Bart Ehrman would scream that they were all fabricated.

Also, if you feel that Paul thought of Jesus merely as a human, read Philippians, one of the Pauline epistles, where Paul even goes so far as to say that Jesus had equality with God.

Boris said...

Don,
I am saying the healing stories as well as the rest of the Gospels are fictions. As far as anything wooden about my logic there is. For one thing, by definition a son cannot be his own father and a father cannot be his own son. One cannot use either word to describe such a being since neither word does. There is one word that does describe this being. That word is fraud.

Don Sullivan said...

Boris,

It would go well with you if you understood the ideas of person and essence. The Father and the Son are one in essence, separate in person/entities. It's not unlike saying I am a Sullivan as well as my son being a Sullivan. Qualitatively, the Father and the Son are both God in essence, yet two distinct persona.

I also am intrigued as to why, if you feel so confident that the gospels are fiction, would you not address my comments regarding the Holy Spirit?

You need to understand the difference between a contradiction and differing points of view. The gospels never actually contradict even though they read differently. For example, one gospel says that 1 angel was present at the tomb. The other says there were two. Have you noticed that when you have two of something, you most assuredly have one?

Diane Vera said...

Hi. Please see my comment here.

Diane Vera said...

Hi again. You might be interested in the post I just now wrote on my Wordpress blog: Hank Hanegraaff.

Diane Vera said...

P.S. to my blog post, mentioned in my previous comment above:

A question to Hank Hanegraaff:

What are your views on economics (capitalism vs. socialism), war, and the death penalty?

Boris said...

Don,
You said: It would go well with you if you understood the ideas of person and essence. The Father and the Son are one in essence, separate in person/entities. It's not unlike saying I am a Sullivan as well as my son being a Sullivan. Qualitatively, the Father and the Son are both God in essence, yet two distinct persona.

Boris says: Okay if you want to talk theology I take the side of the early adoptionists and say the Jehovah’s Witnesses of today who claim the Bible says Jesus was the son of God, though it certainly doesn’t say Jesus is an angel. The whole idea that God would pray to himself, sacrifice himself to him self is absurd.

You said: I also am intrigued as to why, if you feel so confident that the gospels are fiction, would you not address my comments regarding the Holy Spirit?

”And who came to be known as the Son of God with power and with the Holy Spirit, because he arose from the dead, and he is Jesus Christ our Lord” (Roman 1:4)

Boris says: And who came to be known as the Son of God with power and with the Holy Spirit, because he arose from the dead, and he is Jesus Christ our Lord. (Roman 1:4). I am confident that the gospels are fiction because they contain all the elements of ancient fiction writing and none of history writing of the day. The biggest give away is the dialog between people speaking in complete sentences. First of all people don’t speak like that but more importantly historical narratives were never written containing dialog between people. Not just people but demons and people, angels and people, Satan and Jesus – there are no historical narratives like this anywhere from any time.

You said: You need to understand the difference between a contradiction and differing points of view. The gospels never actually contradict even though they read differently. For example, one gospel says that 1 angel was present at the tomb. The other says there were two. Have you noticed that when you have two of something, you most assuredly have one?

Boris says: That’s probably one of the lamest arguments I’ve ever heard. Plus it ignores the fact that different women and numbers of women came to the tomb as I pointed out. What is your response to that may I ask? Where there are five women there is also one? Don’t use Hank’s arguments. They’re ridiculous. They’re full of logical fallacies and can all be turned on their heads and used against him.

Anonymous said...

Why would anyone think that the Bible is made up of 'facts' only?
It is thousands of years of literary forms combined in the writing of the inspired authors.
This includes allegory, and poetry, and songs, and apocalyptic writings, and proverbs and prayers, and canticles, and some geneology, and some history, and reports of the Words of Jesus and His actions, and parables, on and on. Some claim to believe that all is to be taken literally, until they get to a passage that they don't want to take literally.
So much for integrity.

Literalists, in their blindness, miss much of the meaning of scripture and make up a lot of nonsense to 'explain' what something means.

Boris said...

The problem for Christians is that there is no such thing as angels. These stories in the Bible are just retarded.

chbrown said...

So, question:

Mark claims that when the women enter the tomb, "they saw a young man sitting on the right side".

Luke claims that two men appear, standing near them.

I honestly have a difficult time harmonizing these two statements, "...and entering the tomb they saw a young man sitting on the right side..." (Mark 16:5) with "when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling appearance." (Luke 24:3-4)

Actually, I have not yet found a harmonization of this, despite all of my searching.