As the day began to dawn there was a great earthquake; and an angel of the Lord, descending, rolled away the stone from the door of the sepulchre, and sat upon it. For fear of him, the soldiers became as dead men. Immediately after came Mary Magdalene, and other women, to embalm the body. As they approach the sepulchre, Mary Magdalene, beholding the stone rolled away, and supposing that the body had been removed by the Jews, runs to find Peter and John, to inform them. The other women proceed to the sepulchre, and there meet an angel, (or angels,) who tells them of the Lord's resurrection, and gives them a message to the disciples.
Soon after they had departed, Peter and John, who had heard the story of Mary Magdalene, come in haste to see what had occurred; and Mary follows them. Entering the sepulchre, they find it empty, and the grave clothes lying in order; and John then believes. They leave the tomb to return, but Mary remains behind weeping. Looking into the sepulchre, she sees two angels, and immediately after, the
Matt, xxviii. 2-4.
Matt, xxviii. 1.
Mark xvi. 1.
Luke xxiv. 1.
John Xx. 1, 2.
Mark xvi. 2-8.
Luke xxiv. 2-8.
Matt, xxviii. 5-8
John Xx. 3-10.
Luke xxiv. 12 & 24.
John Xx. 11-18.
Lord appears to her, and gives her a message to bear Matt, xxviii. 9, 10.
to the disciples. The accounts of the women seem Mark xvi. 9-11.
to the disciples as idle tales, and are not believed. Luke xxiv. 9-11.
Upon the return of the soldiers from the sepulchre
into the city, the priests and elders, learning what Matt, xxviii. 11-15.
had taken place, bribe them to spread the report
that the disciples had stolen the body away.
In our attempts to put in order the events from the resurrection to the ascension, it is necessary to bear constantly in mind that the Lord now appears under newphysical conditions. Up to His death He had been under the usual limitations of our humanity. 'Now He is the Risen One. Without entering into any inquiries as to the nature of His body after the resurrection, it is certain that it was in many respects unlike what it had been before. During this period of forty days, He came and went, appeared and disappeared, in a most mysterious and inscrutable manner. He passes, seemingly in an instant, from place to place; He is seen by His disciples, and converses with them, and yet is not recognized; He enters the room where they are assembled while the doors are shut. Hence, in examining the narrative of His various appearances during this period, we must remember that He is no more under the ordinary laws of nature; and that we are in the highest sense in the region of the supernatural. Also the angels, of whose modes of existence we know so little, now appear as His attendants, and manifest themselves from time to time to the disciples.
Before attempting to form a connected and complete narrative, let us examine the statements of the several Evangelists separately, and critically compare them with each other. We begin with John. This Evangelist mentions that early on the first day of the week, when it was yet dark, Mary Magdalene came to the sepulchre. He speaks of her only, but his silence respecting others is no certain proof that she was alone. Incidental evidence that others were with her, is found in the use of the plural, (xx. 2,) " We know not where they have laid Him."1 How many constituted the party, must be learned from the Synoptists. Seeing the stone taken away from the door of the sejDulchre, she naturally supposed that the body of Jesus had been removed by the Jews; and in her alarm, without entering it, runs to announce the fact to Peter and John. It is not said where she found them; but hearing her message, they hasten with all speed to the tomb, and entering it, see that it is empty, except the linen clothes and napkin. It is said by John of himself, (v. 8,) " And he saw, and believed." By many this is understood as meaning no more than that he believed what Mary had said about the removal of the body;a but this is inconsistent with the general use of this word by John, and with the context, which clearly implies that he believed that Jesus was risen.3 The two apostles return home, or go to find others of their number. Mary Magdalene, who had followed them back to the sepulchre, remains to weep. Bending down and looking into it, but not entering it, she sees two angels, who address her, asking why she weeps. Absorbed in her grief, she does not seem to have noticed the strangeness of their appearance in such a place, and hastily answers them. Turning backward she sees Jesus, but supposes Him to be the gardener, and not till He calls her byname is He recognized. His words, (v. 17,) " Touch me not, for I am not yet ascended to my Father," seem to point to some movement on her part to embrace Him, which He forbids. (See Matt, xxviii. 9.) He then gives her a message to His brethren; and she, returning to the disciples, told them of all that had occurred.
1 Compare v. 13, where the singular is used ; so Norton, Luthardt, Stier.
2 Ebrard, Stier, Newcome. 3 Townson, Luthardt, Robinson.
Townson (121) regards this message, which is very unlike that given by Matthew, (xxviii. 10,) as a voucher to the apostles that Mary Magdalene had actually seen Him, for He had spoken these very words to them on the evening before His death, (John xvi. 16, 11.) Hearing them repeated from her lips, they could not doubt that He had appeared to her; but, notwithstanding this, her testimony was not at first believed, (Mark xvi. 11.)
This narrative presents several questions that demand examination. Was this appearance to Mary Magdalene the first after Christ's resurrection ? Was she alone when He appeared to her ? With what intent had she gone to the sepulchre ? These questions will be answered as we examine the accounts of the Synoptists.
Matthew's account of the resurrection stands in close connection with what he had said of the burial, and of the guarding of the sepulchre. He wishes to show how all the efforts of the Pharisees " to make the sepulchre sure," by setting a watch and sealing the stone, were made of no effect by the mighty power of God. He sends His angel, and the guards become as dead men; the seal is broken, and the stone rolled away. Let us examine his narrative in detail.
The two women, "Mary Magdalene and the other Mary," who were left on Friday evening "sitting over against the sepulchre," now reappear at the dawning of the first day of the week, going " to see the sepulchre." Were these two alone ? If we turn to the other Evangelists, we find that Mark mentions Mary Magdalene, Mary mother of James, and Salome. Luke mentions Mary Magdalene, Mary mother of James, and Joanna, " and other with them." John mentions Mary Magdalene only. What shall we conclude from these discrepancies ? Do the Evangelists speak in general terms, giving the names of certain prominent members only of the party, without designing to enumerate all; or do they refer to two or more distinct parties, who visited the sepulchre at different times? The former is much the more probable. A scrupulous exactness in regard to the number of the persons witnesses of an event, is by no means characteristic of the Gospels. The Evangelists do not write as men who are fearful that their statements will be discredited, and therefore anxious to confirm them by heaping up evidence. Each uses the facts connected with the visit of the women to the sepulchre in such manner as will best serve the purpose of his special narrative. How many women went, and who they were— circumstances important indeed in a court of justice—were to them a minor matter, not at all affecting the central fact of the resurrection, which was established by quite other evidence. Each Evangelist mentions certain of the women by name, and passes by others: the grounds of this mention and silence are not known to us, but in no degree affect the truth of the narrative. John mentions Mary Magdalene only; but this does not exclude others; and her language, as has been said, plainly implies that others were present. Matthew had spoken of Mary Magdalene and Mary mother of James as being at the tomb on Friday evening; and he now mentions the same two as going thither on Sunday morning. These two Mark also had mentioned as at the burial; and he now adds to them Salome. Luke had spoken in general of the women from Galilee, as beholding how the body was laid; and now mentions by name Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary mother of James; and adds, " and other women that were with them."
We conclude, then, that of the Galilean women, or those who came up with the Lord from Galilee, and whose number seems to have been considerable, all, or certainly most of them, came on the morning of the first day of the week to assist in embalming the body. That four are mentioned by name, is very probably owing to the fact that they were
especially prominent. Whether all came together to the sepulchre, does not appear; but it is more likely that they lodged in different places, and met near the tomb by agreement.
Matthew speaks of the two Marys as coming " to see the sepulchre;" John does not mention the object for which Mary Magdalene came; but Luke and Mark speak of the women as coming to anoint the body. Beyond question, this was the chief object. Affection, or a melancholy curiosity, might indeed have led them to wish to behold where the Lord was laid; but here was a duty to be performed of a most sacred character. That Matthew passes by in silence the facts that Nicodemus brought spices on Friday, and that the women brought more on Sunday morning, is explained from the scope of his narrative. In pursuance of his purpose to show how vain were all the precautions of the priests and Pharisees, in sealing the stone and setting a watch, he relates, and he only, that there was a great earthquake ; for an angel, descending from heaven, rolled back the stone from the door and sat upon it; and for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men. The connection between the descent of the angel and rolling away of the stone, and of the resurrection of the Lord, is not defined. It was the general opinion of the fathers, that He rose and left the tomb before the stone was rolled away; the object of this act by the angel being, not to give the Lord a way of exit, but to open the way for the women to enter. There is no indication that the soldiers saw Jesus as He left the sepulchre, and their terror is expressly ascribed to the sight of the angel. Still, the general tenor of the narrative makes on us the impression that the Lord did leave the sepulchre at the time when the stone was rolled back, even if the act of revivification was some time earlier.
Whether by the " earthquake," Ctckt/jios, we are to understand a literal earthquake, has been questioned. Some would refer it to the confusion, or commotion, which the sudden appearance of the angel made among the soldiers keeping watch; others to the shock made "by the rolling away of the stone, which was very great; others to a tempest, or tempest and earthquake. If, however, as is most probable, it was a literal earthquake, it is doubtful whether it was felt throughout the city; for such an event, taken in connection with what occurred at the crucifixion, could scarce have passed unnoticed by the disciples. " The first earthquake," says Stier, "extended all over Jerusalem to the temple and graves; the second only moves the stone in Joseph's garden, and scares the guards away."
It has been inferred by some, from Matt, xxviii. 2-5, that the descent of the angel, and rolling away of the stone, were after the women had reached the sepulchre. " ' Behold there was,' " says Alford, " must mean that the women were witnesses of the earthquake, and that which followed."1 But the language does not compel us to this conclusion; and indeed the more natural interpretation is, that these events had taken place while they were on their way, or just before their arrival.2 That Mary Magdalene saw this angel, and the rolling away of the stone, and the opening of the sepulchre, is not consistent with John xx. 1, 2. She obviously saw no more than that the door was open, and was afraid that the Jews had taken the body away. It may be questioned whether any of the women approached the sepulchre so long as the angel, in that terrible glory with which he affrighted the keepers, was still sitting upon the stone. (Compare Mark xvi. 5 and Luke xxiv. 4.) Whether the keepers had departed ere the women came, is uncertain. On the one hand, the angel's address to the latter, v. 5, "Fear not ye," where the "ye" is emphatic, implies their presence. Yet, on the other hand, they would hardly have approached the door if they had seen the Roman soldiers.
1 So Meyev.
a " There was (syevero) a great earthquake," is translated by Campbell and Norton, " there had been," &c. See De Wette in loco. Ellicott supposes that " they beheld it partially, and at a distance."
Mark says that the women " entering into the sepulchre, saw a young man sitting on the right side." Did they see two angels, one without and one within ? This is affirmed by Greswell, and also that each addressed them in the same terms. But this is intrinsically improbable. There is nothing in Matthew's narrative that forbids us to suppose that the angel, whose first appearance had special reference to the soldiers and the opening of the door, was not seen by the women at all till they were about to enter, or had actually entered, the sepulchre. Then he addresses them, and invites them " to come and see the place where the Lord lay." It may be that the sepulchre had a porch or entrance, from which all the interior could be seen. " There is no allusion in the Scripture to a vestibule or outer cave; but, on the other hand, there is nothing to contradict its existence; and the common arrangement of the Jewish sepulchres make it probable that there was one."1
The mention of the two angels by Luke (xxiv. 4) will be considered when his account comes before us.
After receiving the message, Matthew adds that the women "departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy: and did run to bring His disciples word." This is seemingly at variance with Mark's statement, (xvi. 8,) that "They went out quickly and fled from the sepulchre, for they trembled and were amazed; neither said they any thing to any man, for they were afraid." Alford affirms that the two accounts cannot be reconciled. But the discrepancy is more apparent than real.
i Willis in Holy City, ii. 196 ; see Townson, 80; Lichtenstein, 466. The distinction sometimes taken between juvrj/xeiov and ratyos—the former as the name of the whole sepulchre, including the porch, or anteroom; the latter as the place where the body was deposited—does not seem well supported.
According to Mark, the women were afraid and amazed, or, more literally, " trembling and ecstasy held them ; " a form of expression nearly parallel to Matthew's, " with fear and great joy." They said nothing to any one. What does this mean ? That they never told any one what they had seen ? This is contrary to Luke xxiv. 9, and intrinsically improbable. The obvious meaning is, that they did not tell it to any one but the disciples. They said nothing to the strangers whom they met by the way, but hastened to find those for whom their message was intended. That on finding the apostles they continued silent, is neither implied in the narrative, nor supported by the circumstances of the case. No such overpowering fear seized them at the sight of the angel as seized the keepers, and yet the latter, speedily recovering themselves, went to the city and showed to the priests all that had been done.
Matthew adds, (vs. 9, 10,) "Behold Jesus met them, saying, All hail.1 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." When, and with whom, was this interview ? Apparently the Lord met the women as they were going from the sepulchre into the city to find the disciples. But this has been often questioned. Newcome, and many, suppose that the women bore to the disciples the message of the angel, (v. 7,) and then returned to the tomb, and that upon their second departure Jesus appeared to them.2 Greswell puts this meeting several days after the day of the resurrection.
1 The received text lias, "And as they went to tell His disciples/' &c, but this clause is omitted by Teschendorf; so Alford and Meyer.
2 SeeEllicott, 390, note, who says: " After the delivery of the first tidings to the apostles, they directed their steps back again to the sepulchre, and that it was on their way there that the Lord vouchsafed to appear to them."
Rejecting these constructions as forced, we hold to the obvious tenor of the narrative, and place this meeting while the women were returning from the sepulchre, soon after the vision of the angel. But who were these women? Apparently MaryMagdalene and the other Mary. Were there then two appearances the same morning to Mary Magdalene; or, are this and that mentioned by John (xx. 14-18) one and the same ? The point is one of importance, and needs careful examination.
While from John's language it would appear that Mary Magdalene visited the sepulchre alone, from the Synoptists it appears that she was accompanied by others. Leaving these, she ran to call Peter and John, and followed them back to the sepulchre; and here Jesus appeared to her. Was she now alone ? This is the natural construction of the language. Every circumstance indicates that she alone saw him. This is confirmed by Mark's words, (xvi. 9,) "He appeared first to Mary Magdalene." If she had not been alone, this could not have been said. Taking then as certain that Jesus appeared first to Mary Magdalene, and that no others were present, can the account of Matthew be referred to this appearance ? We have seen that the mention of the two, Mary Magdalene and Mary mother of James, does not show that others did not accompany them to the tomb. If Mary Magdalene separated herself from this party, and, returning to the sepulchre after the others had left it, then beheld Jesus, could Matthew speak of it in the general terms which he uses? From his words it would appear that more than one were present. The plural is used throughout: " ye," " they," " them " ; but this is not conclusive, since we may say, with Krafft, that the plural is here rather a generic than a numerical designation. Also, the circumstances mentioned by Matthew seem in many points unlike those mentioned by John, both as to the place where Jesus appeared, the words which He spake, and the demeanor and language of the women. Still, the tenor of the narrative leads us to the result that Matthew states in general what John gives in detail. The purpose of the latter leads him to give special prominence throughout his Gospel to the words of Jesus ; and His words here to Mary Magdalene are of. peculiar interest, and are therefore recorded. The former, whose account is adapted to meet the report current among the Jews, that the disciples had stolen the body away, contents himself with saying generally that the Lord first appeared to certain women, and that they held Him by the feet and worshipped Him. The important facts in Matthew's account are, that to the women a vision of angels appeared, announcing the Lord's resurrection; and that afterward the Lord himself appeared to them. How many there were of the women, and whether the two whom he mentions as having seen the angels, saw also the Lord, are but incidental and unimportant circumstances.
We conclude then that, although a number of women visited the sepulchre, and several of them saw the angels, or an angel, to Mary Magdalene alone did Jesus himself appear. We thus make the accounts of Matthew and John refer to the same event.1
There are some, who, making two appearances of the Lord to the women, attempt to avoid the difficulty that, according to Matthew, the women must have reached the disciples before Mary Magdalene returned to the sepulchre, and therefore could not have seen Jesus at this time, by denying that the first appearance was to Mary Magdalene, as is generally assumed. It is said that the words of Mark, (xvi. 9,) " Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene," do not mean that His first appearance, absolutely speaking, was to her, but that the first of the appearances related by Mark was to her. It is remarked by Robinson three, and only three, appearances of our Lord; of these three that to Mary Magdalene takes place first, and that to the assembled disciples the same evening occurs last."8: " Mark narrates
1 So Lightfoot, Krafft, Lichtenstein, Wieseler, Da Costa, a Har. 232.
Thus interpreted, the Lord may have appeared first of all to the Women departing from the sepulchre, and then, a few minutes later, to Mary Magdalene. But the great body of commentators interpret Mark's words as referring to His first appearance to any one after His resurrection.1
In immediate connection with the departure of the women to announce the resurrection to His friends, Matthew relates the departure of the soldiers to announce it to His enemies. The latter incident will be considered by and by.
From Matthew's narrative we turn to that of Mark.3 The main points in which the two differ have been already noticed, but Mark adds some interesting particulars. The subject of conversation with the women as they approach the sepulchre, is, how the stone shall be rolled away; but advancing, they see that it is already rolled away.3 In mentioning the fact that Jesus appeared first to Mary Magdalene, Mark adds, " out of whom He had cast seven devils." This may be to designate her in distinction from others, but more probably is explanatory of the high honor that was given her. Her faith had been great, and here was her reward.
* So West, Greswell, Newcome, Krafft, Ellicotfc, Wieseler; Alexander is undecided.
2 Many regard the latter portion of the sixteenth chapter of this Evangelist, vs. 9-20, as not his own, but as added by another at a later period; so Teschendorf, Alford, Meyer. Some, as Ebrard, make it a later addition of Mark himself. Alexander defends the present conclusion as the original one of the Evangelist.
3 Lewin (159) infers from the narratives that the stone was a large circular one, moving in a groove, cut laterally in the front of the sepulchre. A specimen of this kind of etone door is still to be seen at the " Tombs of the Kings," at Jerusalem.
We turn now to Luke. He had related (xxiii. 55, 56) that the women which came with Jesus from Galilee, followed His body to the tomb, and beheld the sepulchre, and how the body was laid. Returning, they prepared spices and ointments, and, resting the Sabbath, went early thenext morning, (xxiv. 1,) taking the spices they had prepared.1 The names of these women were, (v. 10,) Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary mother of James; but others were with them, whose names are not mentioned.2 In what relation does this visit stand to that of Matthew and Mark? Some have supposed them to be wholly distinct.3 It is said that there were two parties of women; the first of which consisted of the two Marys and Salome, the second of Joanna and others, among whom was probably Susanna. In proof that there were two parties, several points of difference in the narrations of Matthew and Mark on the one hand, and of Luke on the other, are made prominent: 1st. That, according to the former, the women prepared their spices after the Sabbath; according to the latter, before the Sabbath. 2d. That, according to the former, they saw but one angel; according to the latter, they saw two ; and also that the angelic messages are unlike. 3d. That, according to the latter, Peter, hearing the report of the women, runs to the sepulchre; but of this the former makes no mention.
Before considering these points of difference, let us note the character of Luke's narrative. Is he giving a particular account of what happened to a certain party or number of women; or is he summing up what happened to the women generally, without distinction of parties or individuals ? The latter is most probable.
1 Teschendorf omits, " And certain with them," which is in the received text; so Alford.
2 The form of expression, at Aonrcu, seems to embrace all the Galilean women.
3 West, 50; Greswell, iii. 264.
If, as it is claimed, there were two distinct parties, what happened to one did not to the other; and the account here must refer to one party only. But if this relates merely to what Joanna and her companions saw and heard, why is the name of Mary Magdalene mentioned? She was not present with them, and did not see these angels, or hear their message. The mention of her name shows that Luke is giving a summary of what occurred, a general statement of the facts, without distinction of witnesses. A number of women go to the sepulchre; find the stone rolled away, and the tomb empty; are in perplexity to know what has become of the body; see a vision of angels, who give them a message; return and tell the disciples, and are not believed, only Peter and others (see xxiv. 24) go to see for themselves: this is the substance of Luke's narrative. It is an outline of what occurred in the early part of the day to the women, but without entering into any details. Why he omits all mention of the fact that Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene, and narrates His appearance to the two disciples on their way to Emmaus, as if it were the first, we can but conjecture. That he does not mention it here, may be explained as springing from the scope of the narrative, which represents that the two disciples, leaving the city before the appearance to her was known, had heard only of the angelic announcement that He was alive.
If this be a correct view of Luke's narrative, all the supposed discrepancies between him on the one side, and Matthew and Mark on the other, are readily removed. The first, in regard to the time of the preparation of the spices, has already been considered. The second, in regard to the number of angels, finds its explanation in the fact that if the women in Matthew and Mark saw but one, according to John, Mary Magdalene saw two; and Luke gives the greater number. He simply says that " two men stood by them (^ir^r^av) in shining garments," but without any details. The message given by them is substantially the same in the three Evangelists. The third) in regard to the running of Peter to the sepulchre, is a brief statement of the same fact that John (xx. 3, 4) relates more at length. That Luke was aware that Peter was not alone appears from v. 24 : " And certain of them which were with us, went to the sepulchre." There is no necessity to say, as West and Townson do, that Luke refers to another and later visit.
No notice has yet been taken of the time when these various events are said by the several Evangelists to have taken place. For the sake of convenience we bring together here their statements. Our main inquiry concerns the time when the women first visited the sepulchre. In Matthew, (xxviii. 1,) it is spoken of as "In the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week." * As the Sabbath ended at sunset, this may be understood, as by Patritius, of its last hours, or those just before sunset.3 But most agree that the natural day, commencing at sunrise and ending at sunset, is spoken of; and that the coming of the women was at the dawn of the day following the Sabbath.3 Mark (xvi. 2) says: " And very early in the morning, the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre, at the rising of the sun," araT€i\ai/Tos Tov ^Xtov. Luke (xxiv. 1) says: "Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, opOpov /Wfeos, they came," &c. John (xx. 1) says: "The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark," 7r/xoi, o-Kortas crt ovo-rjs. Let us note the exact force of each of these statements.
1 This is translated by Greswell: "Now late in the week, at the hour of dawn, against the first day of the week." By Norton: " And the Sabbath being over, in the dawn of the first day of the week."
2 See Luke xxiii. 54, where the Greek term €irt<p<txrKa> is the same.
3 See Alford and Meyer in loco.
"The beginning of the dawn," in Matthew, was about 5 o'clock A.m., it being then early in April.1 The " very early " of Mark is somewhat indefinite. If 7rpa)i be taken here as in xiii. 35, for the "morning watch," it would embrace 3-6 A. M. ; if used indefinitely, it denotes simply the early morning. Taken in connection with Ataj/, " very," as here, it is parallel to the " day dawn " of Matthew, or " while it was yet dark" of John.
But how can this be reconciled with that further note of time which Mark gives, " at the rising of the sun," or " the sun having arisen " ? If both expressions be strictly taken, the Evangelist is inconsistent with himself.2 Various solutions have been proposed. Townsend would make a period at sepulchre, and connect the " rising of the sun " with the clause following, making it to read: "At the rising of the sun they said among themselves," &c. But this is indefensible. West, (42,) followed by Greswell, would make the women to have reached the sepulchre at the rising of the sun, but to have left their homes much earlier. This, however, does not meet the difficulty, the verb " they came" being qualified by both marks of time. Ewald (vi. 73, note) regards " at the rising of the sun" an addition to the original Gospel. This is to cut the knot. Newcome would change the reading, but without authority. But, in truth, no solution is necessary. It is most unreasonable to suppose that Mark should not know what he designed to say, and contradict himself in the compass of a single sentence. He evidently speaks in general terms. If, then, " very early" be understood as the dawning day, as is most probable, the phrase " at the rising of the sun " denotes the same period which we designate as the sun-rising, or that period from the first illumination of the sky till the sun is above the horizon.3
1 Winer, ii. 560. 2 So Meyer, Alford.
3 See Robinson, Har. 230, who cites several passages from the Old Testament in which a like form of expression is used: Judges ix. 33; Psalms civ. 22; 2 Kings iii. 22. So Hengstenberg and Alexander.
Thus Mark is both in harmony with himself, and with the other Evangelists. The "very early in the morning" of Luke, the early morning twilight, or deep dawn, is plainly identical with " the dawning " of Matthew, and the " very early" of Mark. The " early " of John is more exactly defined by the addition " when it was yet dark," or before it was yet clear day. It was at least sufficiently light for Mary Magdalene to see that the stone was rolled away.
Thus it appears that the only discrepancy in regard to the time of the women's visiting the sepulchre, arises from Mark's statement that they came " at the rising of the sun." If this phrase should be pressed to the letter, as skeptical critics for the most part do, he would not only contradict himself, but also the statement of John that Mary Magdalene came " while it was yet dark." It should, however, be noted, that some interval must have elapsed between the departure of the women from their homes and their arrival at the sepulchre, and that the Evangelists may speak of one or the other period without special discrimination.
We may, without violence, take Mark's expression in the large sense, as embracing the whole period from early dawn till actual sunrising. The women, however early they may have left their homes, could scarcely expect to begin their work of embalming the body till it was broad daylight. Lightfoot (on Mark xvL 2) mentions a fourfold distinction of twilight among the Rabbins: 1st. uThe hind of the morning, or first appearance of light." 2d. " When one may distinguish between purple color and white." 3d. "When the east begins to lighten." 4th. " Sunrise." He would apply these four periods to the statements of the four Evangelists—the first to Matthew, the second to John, the third to Luke, the fourth to Mark. There seem no good grounds for this.
All the Evangelists imply that the Lord's resurrection
was very early, for the women find the sepulchre empty; but none give any note of time except Mark (xvi. 9:) " Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week," &c. Here it is seen that Mark speaks only indefinitely, for the Lord arises " early," 7rpcoi, whilst the women came " very early," Atav Trpm. Some, however, would make this define the time when the Lord appeared to Mary.1
This examination of the several narratives shows us how many of the data are wanting which are necessary to enable us to form a regular, harmonious, and complete history of this eventful morning. Each of the Evangelists gives us some particulars which the others omit, but no one of them aims to give us a full and connected account; and for us to supply the missing links in the chain, is impossible. To a superficial examination there seem many discrepancies, not to say contradictions, but a thorough investigation shows that the points of real difference are very few; and that in several ways even these differences may be removed. Whilst thus we cannot say of any order which we can frame that it is certain, we can say of several that they are probable; and if they cannot be proved, neither can they be disproved. This is sufficient for him who finds in the moral character of the Gospels the highest vouchers for their historic truth.
To bring before the reader some of the many possible arrangements of these events, and to show what the special difficulties in the way of the harmonist are, we select the following, which have found many adherents. It will be noted that the point which chiefly determines the order, is whether Jesus appeared.once or twice to the women. We begin with—
Lightfoot. 1. Earthquake, and resurrection of Christ. 2. Visit of Mary Magdalene and other women to the tomb, which they reach just as the sun is up.
1 See Meyer in loco.
They are told of His resurrection by the angels, and-go back to the disciples. 3. Peter and John go to the sepulchre, followed by Mary Magdalene. They return, and she remains. 4. Christ appears to her, and she takes Him for the gardener. She afterward embraces His feet, kissing them. Thus Matthew xxviii. 9 and John xx. 14 refer to the same appearance.
Lardner. 1. The women, with Mary Magdalene, go to the sepulchre and find it empty. 2. Mary, with others, goes to the apostles Peter and John. 3. They come to the tomb, and then return home. 4. Mary Magdalene and the others follow the two apostles back to the tomb, and remain there after Peter and John are gone. 5. Jesus appears to them all there. 6. Mary Magdalene and the others go and announce all to the disciples. 7. Jesus appears to the two disciples. 8. He appears to Peter. 9. He appears to the Eleven. Here, also, the appearance to Mary Magdalene mentioned by John, and that to the two Marys mentioned by Matthew, are made the same.
West. 1. The two Marys and Salome visit the tomb, the angel having before rolled away the stone, and the guards being gone. 2. Mary Magdalene, seeing the stone rolled away, runs to find Peter and John. 3. Mary, mother of James, and Salome, remaining, see an angel, and receive his message. Greatly terrified, they depart. 4. Peter and John visit the sepulchre, and depart. 5. Mary Magdalene, having followed them, sees the two angels, and then the Lord himself. 6. The Lord appears to the other Mary and Salome. 7. Joanna and her party of women come to the sepulchre, see two angels, and hear from them that Jesus is risen. They depart and announce to the disciples that they had seen a vision of angels. 8. Peter runs a second time to the sepulchre, but sees only the linen clothes. 9. The two disciples having heard the report of Joanna and her party, set out for Emmaus. Here the appearances mentioned by John and Matthew are distinguished.
Townson. 1. The two Marys and Salome go to the tomb, and while they are on the way the angel descends and rolls away the stone. They reach it at the rising of the sun. 2. Mary Magdalene goes for Peter and John. 3. The other Mary and Salome enter the porch of the sepulchre, see an angel, receive his message, and depart in great fear. 4. Peter and John come and visit the tomb. 5. Mary Magdalene returns and sees first the angels, and then the Lord. 6. Mary Magdalene departing, falls in with the other Mary and Salome, and to them together Jesus appears the second time. 1. Joanna and her party now come, and, entering the tomb, see two angels. They return, and confirm to the disciples what the other women had already reported. 8. Peter goes a second time to the sepulchre, and finds only the clothes. 9. The two disciples set out for Emmaus. 10. The Lord appears to Peter. Here are made two successive appearances to Mary Magdalene : first when alone, second to her in company with the other Mary.
Newcome. 1. The two Marys, Salome, Joanna, and others, go to the sepulchre, and, finding the stone removed, enter the tomb. Two angels appear to them, and one gives them a message. 2. They return to Jerusalem, and Mary Magdalene communicates the message to Peter and John, and the other women to the other disciples. 3. Peter and John go to the sepulchre, and return. 4. The two disciples, having heard the report of the women and of Peter and John, depart for Emmaus. 5. Mary Magdalene and the other women follow Peter and John to the tomb. She, arriving before them, or following after them, sees the angels, and afterward the Lord. 6. She joins the other women who were near by, and, as they were returning to Jerusalem, Jesus meets them. 7. He appears to Peter. 8. He appears to the two at Emmaus. Here Mary Magdalene alone first sees the Lord, and afterward she sees Him the second time in company with others.
Da Costa. 1. The two Marys, Joanna, Salome, and others, start before daybreak for the sepulchre, and find the stone rolled away. 2. Mary Magdalene runs to find Peter and John. 3. The other women enter the sepulchre, see the angels, receive their message, and return to the disciples. 4. Peter and John visit the sepulchre and depart home. 5. Mary Magdalene, who had followed them, sees first the angels, and then the Lord, and returns to the disciples. 6. Jesus appears to the two at Emmaus. 7. He appears to Peter. Here the Lord appears to Mary Magdalene only.
Greswell. 1. Two parties of women—one the two Marys and Salome, the other, Joanna and some with her— set out from different quarters to go to the sepulchre. While on their way, the stone is rolled away and the Lord rises. 2. The Marys and Salome arrive first at the sepulchre about sunrise. Mary Magdalene runs to find Peter and John. The other two enter the sepulchre, see an angel, receive a message, and depart. 3. The party of Joanna arrives, sees two angels, and returns to the disciples. 4. Peter and John visit the sepulchre. 5. Mary Magdalene, who had followed Peter and John, sees two angels, and then Christ. 6. The two disciples depart for Emmaus, before Mary Magdalene reports the appearance of Jesus to her. Upon the way the Lord meets them. 7. He appears to Peter. 8. He appears to the Eleven. 9. He appears the second time to the Eleven, a week after. 10. Soon after this He appears to the other Mary and Salome, and perhaps also to Mary Magdalene. Here the Lord is seen first by Mary Magdalene, and does not appear to the other women till a week after.
JEbrard* 1. Mary Magdalene visits the sepulchre early, while it is yet dark. She finds the stone rolled away, and
runs to find Peter and John. 2. Mary, mother of James, Joanna, Salome, and the other women go to anoint the body, and looking into the tomb, see an angel, who gives them a message. They depart, but dare not report to any one what had occurred. 3. Peter and John come to the grave and return home. 4. Mary Magdalene, who had followed them, sees two angels, and then the Lord. She returns, and tells the disciples. 5. The Lord appears to the two on the way to Emmaus. 6. He appears to Peter. Here the appearance to Mary Magdalene of John, and that to the two Marys of Matthew, are identified.
Lange. 1. The two Marys and Salome go to the grave. Another party—Joanna, and others with her—was to follow with the spices and ointments. The former see the stone rolled away, and Mary Magdalene runs to find Peter and John. 2. The other Mary and Salome approach and see one angel sitting upon the stone, and afterward another within the sepulchre, who gives them a message, and they depart. 3. Peter and John visit the sepulchre, and return.
4. Mary Magdalene sees two angels, and then the Lord.
5. Jesus appears to the other Mary and Salome,'on their way to the disciples. 6. These two fall in with Joanna and her party, and together return to the sepulchre and see two angels. 7. He appears to the two disciples. 8. He appears to Peter. Here the Lord appears first to Mary Magdalene, then to the other Mary, and Salome.
Robinson. 1. The two Marys, Joanna and Salome, and others, go to the sepulchre to embalm the body, and find the stone rolled away. 2. Mary Magdalene runs to find Peter and John. 3. The other women see two angels in the tomb, who give them a message to the disciples, and they depart. 4. Jesus meets them on the way, and renews the message. 5. Peter and John come to the sepulchre, and return home. 6. Mary Magdalene sees the two angels, and then the Lord. 1. Jesus appears to Peter. 8. He appears to the two going to Emmaus. Here the Lord first appears to the other women, and then to Mary Magdalene.
Let us now attempt to frame a continuous narrative from the accounts of the several Evangelists. Very early in the morning the women from Galilee, to the number of five or more, who had been present at the crucifixion and burial, start for the sepulchre to embalm the body. Whether all went from one place, and at the same moment, is uncertain ; but under the circumstances it is more probable that they came from different parts of the city, and met by agreement. Perhaps Mary Magdalene alone, or with the other Mary and Salome, may have a little preceded the others. They knew, for some at least were eye-witnesses, that a great stone had been rolled to the door of the sepul- • chre, and it wTas therefore a question with them how they could roll it away. But they did not know of the sealing of the stone, and the setting of the watch, which took place at the eve of the Sabbath. As they approach the sepulchre they see that the stone is rolled away; and Mary Magdalene, who naturally inferred that the Jews had removed the body, in deep excitement runs to inform the two chief apostles, Peter and John, of this fact. The other women continue to approach the sepulchre. That the angel was not now sitting upon the stone, and visible to them, and that the guards were not lying as dead men before the door, seem most probable, as otherwise their fears would have deterred them from advancing. Seeing nothing, they enter the sepulchre, or its vestibule. An angel now appears to them, and, after bidding them not be afraid, shows them the empty niche where the body was laid, and gently reproves them for coming to find the Lord there, the living with the dead. He proceeds to announce to them that He is risen, and will meet the disciples in Galilee, as He had said to them while He was with them there. Greatly agitated by
what they had seen and heard, fear contending with joy, they leave the sepulchre.
Soon after their departure—but how soon is uncertain, as we do not know where Mary Magdalene found Peter and John—the two apostles come running with all speed to determine the truth of her account. John, who reaches the tomb first, only looks in, but Peter enters, and is followed by John. The body is gone ; but, examining carefully, they see the grave clothes arranged in order, and the napkin lying by itself. John is convinced, by all that he sees, that the Lord is indeed risen ; but Peter only marvels. They seem to have departed very quickly again, perhaps to inform the other disciples that the body was truly gone; or perhaps they were afraid lest they should be found by their enemies at the tomb. Mary Magdalene, who had followed them back to the sepulchre, did not depart with them, but remained standing without, weeping. It is plain from the whole narrative that she was under the power of most intense grief, believing that the body of her Lord had been borne away by His enemies. Whilst weeping, she stoops down to look in, as if a faint hope still lingered that she should see Him there. She sees two angels sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body had lain. Unlike the other women, who had been greatly terrified at the angelic apparition, she seems scarce to have noticed them; and to their question, " Woman, why weepest thou ? w she answers in words showing how wholly her heart was filled with her one great sorrow. Lifting her head, for she was now looking into the tomb, she sees Jesus, but does not recognize Him. He addresses her with the inquiry, " Woman, why weepest thou ? " Supposing Him to be the gardener, probably because it was natural that he should be there, and thinking that he might possibly have taken away the body, she asks Him, in words full of passionate earnestness. The Lord's reply, " Mary," spoken in His own familiar voice, recalls her to herself. She recognizes Him, and, prostrating herself, would hold Him by the feet to worship Him. He forbids her to touch Him, and gives her a message to His brethren. She departs, and tells the disciples, but they believe not.
Thus we find most probable that there were two visions of angels, the first to the women, the second to Mary Magdalene ; and one appearance of the Lord, that to Mary Magdalene; all closely following each other. As yet, these supernatural manifestations were vouchsafed only to the women. Peter and John saw at the sepulchre neither angels nor the Lord. They found, indeed, the sepulchre open and the body gone; but the fact that He had risen rested solely on the testimony of the women. It is not, in one point of view, at all strange that all their words should have seemed to the disciples as idle tales; for it is plain that, notwithstanding His most explicit declarations that He would rise on the third day, none were expecting, or even hoping for, His resurrection. The women went to the grave to anoint the body, and Mary Magdalene's grief was caused by the thought that she could not show it the last sad tokens of regard. She does not once allude to His resurrection as if it were possible. Perhaps the fact that He had not appeared to any of the apostles, had something to do with the incredulity of the latter, for it was natural to suppose that He would first manifest Himself to them, (Mark xvi. 11.) Accordingly, we find that it was the testimony of Peter that he had seen Him, that convinced them, (Luke xxiv. 34,) though even then they seemed to have doubts whether it was a real resurrection.
Rumors that the sepulchre was empty, must have become current among the disciples early in the day, and probably most or all of them, or at least of the apostles, visited it, though we have no record of their visits.
The historical accuracy of the account of the bribing of
the soldiers by the priests and elders, has been often questioned,1 but on insufficient grounds. The watch came, reporting what had taken place at the sepulchre, and that Jesus had actually risen. The priests and elders may have believed this or may not, but they doubtless ascertained to their own satisfaction that the body was actually gone. What should they do? Arrest and punish the soldiers? But to what end ? since all the facts of the affair must thus necessarily come to the ears of Pilate, and become more generally known. As it could not be concealed that the body was gone, some plausible explanation must be given. What could answer the purpose so well as to admit this fact, and affirm that the disciples had done what they attempted to guard against when they set the watch—had stolen away the body. But this the soldiers would naturally contradict, as exposing them to military punishment. They therefore must be bribed to admit that the story set afloat by the priests, was true. They would not affirm the absurdity that they knew what the disciples wrere doing while they were sleeping; but merely keep silence as to what they had actually seen, and not deny that they might have been asleep, and that what the rulers said, might have occurred. Of course this report would soon become current, and by most of the Jews be believed.2
1 See Meyer in loco.
2 See the excellent observations of Jones, Notes, 483.