Friday, 1 October 2010

The Burial & the Empty Tomb of Jesus (a.s.) according to the Gospels

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

Looking at the various Gospel accounts of the burial and resurrection of Jesus (a.s.), there are inconsistencies.  From a Muslim pint of view, the crucifixion never took place and therefore there is no discussion of the burial and resurrection.  A look at the Gospels easily shows that the greatest amount of inconsistency lies in the accounts of the crucifixion, burial and resurrection.  For a Muslim, this only creates greater certainty that these were fabricated.


That they said (in boast), “We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah”; ― but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was Made to appear to them and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not. ― Nay, Allah Raised him up unto Himself; and Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise. (Surah an-Nisa’:157-158)

The alleged burial of Jesus (a.s.) is historically implausible if there was a crucifixion.  Crucifixion was intended as a shameful execution which included allowing the bodies to remain nailed up until they rotted off.  It would have been inconceivable that Pontius Pilate would have agreed to turn the body over to anyone for any reason.  The Gospel accounts disagree on the length of time that Jesus (a.s.) was supposed to be in the tomb.

Mark 10:34
34 who will mock him, and spit upon him, and scourge him, and kill him; but on the third day he will rise again.

Matthew 12:40
40 Jonas was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea-beast, and the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

However, no resurrection narrative describes Jesus (a.s.) as being in a tomb for three full days, or for three days and three nights.  The Gospels also disagree on whether the Romans guarded the tomb.

Matthew 27:62-66
62 Next day, the next after the day of preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered in Pilate’s presence, 63 and said, “Sir, we have recalled it to memory that this deceiver, while he yet lived, said, ‘I am to rise again after three days.’  64 Give orders, then, that his tomb shall be securely guarded until the third day; or perhaps his disciples will come and steal him away.  If they should then say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead, this last deceit will be more dangerous than the old.’”  65 Pilate said to them, “You have guards; away with you, make it secure as you best know how.”  66 And they went and made the tomb secure, putting a seal on the stone and setting a guard over it.

There is no similar account in the Gospels according to Mark, Luke or John.  In the Gospels according to Mark and Luke, the women who approach the tomb do not appear to expect to see any guards.

It was a Jewish tradition to anoint a person’s body after they died but who anointed Jesus (a.s.) and when?

Mark 16:1-3
1 And when the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome had bought spices, to come and anoint Jesus.  2 So they came to the tomb very early on the day after the sabbath, at sunrise.  3 And they began to question among themselves, “Who is to roll the stone away for us from the door of the tomb?”

Luke 23:55-56
55 And the women who had come with him from Galilee followed, and saw the tomb, and how his body was buried; 56 so they went back, and prepared spices and ointments, and while it was the sabbath they kept still, as the law commanded.

In the Gospel according to Matthew, Joseph of Arimathea wrapped the body and the women come the next morning, but no mention is made of the anointing of Jesus (a.s.).

John 19:39-40
39 and with him was Nicodemus, the same who made his first visit to Jesus by night; he brought with him a mixture of myrrh and aloes, of about a hundred pounds’ weight.  40 They took Jesus’ body, then, and wrapped it in winding-cloths with the spices; that is how the Jews prepare a body for burial.

The women visiting Jesus’ (a.s.) tomb is central to the resurrection story, but again, the Gospel accounts differ as to who visited.

Mark 16:1
1 And when the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome had bought spices, to come and anoint Jesus.

Matthew 28:1
1 On the night after the sabbath, at the hour when dawn broke on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came near to contemplate the tomb.

Luke 24:10
10 It was Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, who told the apostles this;

John 20:1-2
1 Early in the morning on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb, and found the stone moved away from the tomb door.  2 So she came running to Simon Peter, and that other disciple, whom Jesus loved;

Whoever visited and however many there were, it is also not clear when they arrived.

Mark 16:2
2 So they came to the tomb very early on the day after the sabbath, at sunrise.

Matthew 28:1
1 On the night after the sabbath, at the hour when dawn broke on the first day of the week ...

Luke 24:1
1 And at very early dawn on the first day of the week …

John 20:1
1 Early in the morning on the first day of the week, while it was still dark …

Further, it is not clear what the women saw when they arrived at the tomb.

Mark 16:4
4 Then they looked up, and saw that the stone, great as it was, had been rolled away already.

Luke 24:2
2 and found the stone already rolled away from the door of the tomb.

John 20:1
1 Early in the morning on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb, and found the stone moved away from the tomb door.

Matthew 28:2
2 And suddenly there was a great trembling of the earth, because an angel of the Lord came to the place, descending from heaven, and rolled away the stone and sat over it

The women are also not alone for long, but it is not clear who greets them.

Mark 16:5
5 And they went into the tomb, and saw there, on the right, a young man seated, wearing a white robe; and they were dismayed.

Matthew 28:2
2 And suddenly there was a great trembling of the earth, because an angel of the Lord came to the place, descending from heaven, and rolled away the stone and sat over it.

Luke 24:3-4
3 They went into it, and could not find the body of the Lord Jesus.  4 They were still puzzling over this, when two men came and stood by them, in shining garments.

John 20:12
12 Only Peter rose up and ran to the tomb, where he looked in, and saw the grave-clothes lying by themselves, and went away full of surmise over what had befallen.

Despite the miracle, the Gospels are inconsistent as to how the women react.

Mark 16:8
8 So they came out and ran away from the tomb, trembling and awe-struck, and said nothing to anyone, out of fear.

Matthew 28:8
8 Whereupon they left the tomb, in fear and in great rejoicing, and ran to tell the news to his disciples.

Luke 24:9
9 and returned from the tomb bringing news of all this to the eleven apostles and to all the rest.

John 20:10-11
10 It was Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, who told the apostles this; 11 but to their minds the story seemed madness, and they could not believe it.

Of this, many Christians would never ponder and this is something that will be made clear with the return of Jesus (a.s.) as the Messiah.

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