Two major differences in accounts are the number of women and the number of angels. These are differences in the reporting style and the confusion of the moment more than real contradictions. Mark mentions three women: Mary Madeline (MM) Marty the Mother of James (Not "Jesus" but "James" indicating the account is from a period probably just after James was at his height of fame, maybe soon after his death?). Matt only mentions the two Mary's, John only MM. Peter just says "she took with her, her friends" (13:55). Luke, trying to be the historian, investigating and harmonizing all accounts, opens the door to any number of women:
24:10 Now they were Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James; also the other women with them were telling these things to the R1041 apostles.
So the company of women definitely included MM, at least, probably Mary the Mother, and probably Salome and Joanna, and maybe others unnamed by any account (like the professor and Maryann, "the rest"). Is this a major contradiction? Hardly, the truth of it is it was probably never certain exactly who was there. The frightening and confusing nature of the original event is preserved in Mark the supposedly oldest account. It is still chilling to read, becasue the "angel" is not an angel but is presented as a sort of mysterious and creepy "young man in a white robe." Was this part of Jesus' secret society of followers who became the Gnostic (I this with tongue in cheek of course). But the confusion and amazement still clings to the account. Matt tries to bring that sense of chill to the telling by including the flashback of the angel coming down,and amazing the reading with power and might, rather than Mark's suspense. Luke gives us a rational portrait of an event which can be harmonized and understood. While John gives us a psychological and theological portrait, and existentialist to the very end; he focuses on just one woman. Perhaps the one woman he knew best in life?
Gospels are not meant to be tv docudramas or court room transcripts.They did not have a concept of forensic proof as we do today. It did not dawn on them that the events of the resurrection were clues which might lead future readers to figure out the truth in Sherlock Homles or Josh McDowell fashion. They were writing sermons to address the needs of their communities. The most theologically minded and closed in community was the one which produced the Gospel of John. Koster, in Ancient Christian Gospels says that the John material is the most redacted. It had been gone over and over and over, as though the community debated it endlessly. It is also probably that community which produced the first Gnostic break away sect (see my page on Gospel of John). So this is not a history being written, it is a sermon meant to sum up the debate of a very contentious community,and a sermon addressed to heal the needs of that community. But we can glean from, some clues which might help us to understand the original events.
The atheists always make a big thing out of the differences in the accounts. They often assume that if two eye witnesses disagree on any point, no matter how trivial, that disproves the whole case. I've seen atheists on message boards say this many times. But that is so foolish. Eye witnesses never agree on everything, and if they do it always assumed they are in collusion.
What is the first thing the police do when they interview witnesses? Do they put them all together and ask them to get their story straight? No, they take them separately and compare differences. They assume there will be differences, but they look for those differences which truly contradict and cannot be harmonized.
These are not major contradictions, these are legitimate differences that result from the jagged edges of eye witness accounts. Eye witness accounts always fudge on details and eye witnesses always contradict each other.
Admissibility of Expert Testimony Concerning
Eyewitness Evidence in Washington
By Brett Trowbridge, Ph.D., J.D.
This article supported by The Trowbridge FoundationOriginally presented at the American College of Forensic Examiners, April 26, 2001�
The vagaries of eyewitness identification are well-known; the annals of criminal law are rife with instances of mistaken identification.� So wrote Justice William Brennan in the U.S. Supreme Court case U.S. v Wade, 388 U.S. 218, in 1967. However it was not until the advent of DNA evidence that the fallibility of eyewitness identification became well-accepted and well publicized. In 1999 the Innocence Project reconstructed cases in the United States to determine what factors had been prevalent in causing wrongful convictions. Mistaken eyewitnesses were a factor in 84 percent of the wrongful convictions. See Scheck, B, Neufeld, P, & Dwyer, J, (2000). Actual Innocence; Five days to Execution and Other Dispatches from the Wrongly Conducted, Doubleday, New York, pp. 246. The now established fact that so many innocent people have been convicted based on mistaken eyewitness testimony has led the Department of Justice to recommend a number of reforms in the criminal justice system, mostly having to do with mug-shots, composites, live-ups, and show-ups. National Institute of Justice (1999), Eyewitness Evidence; A Guide for Law Enforcement, Washington D.C. There is an extensive body of research on the fallibility of eyewitness identifications. It is not the purpose of this article to describe or analyze this research; it has been summarized in several excellent books. See Cutler, C & Penrod, S (1995), Mistaken Identification, The Eyewitness, Psychology, and the Law, Cambridge University Press, New York; Sporer, S, Malpass, R, & Koehuken, G C, Eds. (1996), Psychological Issues in Eyewitness Identification, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Inc., Mahwah, New Jersey; Ross, D, Read, J, & Toglia, M, eds. (1994), Adult Eyewitness Testimony; Current Trends and Developments, Press Syndicate of the Univ. of Cambridge, New York; Geiselman, R. (1994), Eyewitness Expert Testimony (2nd Ed.), ACFP Press, Balboa Island, CA; Loftus, E (1996), Eyewitness Testimony, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA. This body of research has suggested a number of conclusions about eyewitness testimony that may be helpful to a jury in considering the credibility of an eyewitness. �These include the findings that (1) people tend to be less accurate observers in stressful situations, (2) people have difficulty making cross-racial identifications, (3) people focus on weapons rather that faces, (4) the memory of a perception begins decaying immediately, (5) gaps in memory are easily and often unconsciously replaced by perceptions about what must have happened or by suggestions implanted by subsequent accounts, the police, or other external forces (�unconscious transference�) and as a result of all this, (6) there is no necessary correlation between the level of certainty evinced by the eyewitness and accuracy.� Melton, G, Petrila, J, Poythess, N & Sologin, C (1997), Psychological Evaluations for the Courts (2nd Ed.), Guilford Press, New York, p. 179.
If we look at the list above, we see that details such as who was in the party aside for the more important women, how many angels they saw, and weather the angels began to speak insdie or outside the tomb are the kinds of differences that eye witnesses might really muddle.Perhaps the witnesses themselves were not clear about some of those details owing to the nature of the event, which was confusion and scary. What if two unnamed women took Mary the Mother back home after they saw Jesus? They did not go to the eleven, so the others never knew exactly who they were, thus they remain 'the rest.'
The important thing is the agreement. These accounts agree on more things than they disagree upon, or at least they do not really mention any actual conflict but omit certain detials that others include. That is the only real source of conflict not out and out contradiction. Real contradiction would be if one source said he was burred in Jerusalem and one said Capernium, or if one source said the Apostles found the empty tomb first, then the women (even that coudl be due to the confusion of the moment). They all agree the women (MM) were at the tomb first, it was empty, they saw him alive, he spoke to them, told them to go to the others and the others saw him alive too.