“If we assume that the pre- or postdawn timing depends on whether one gives the time of the women starting their trip or their arrival at the tomb, if we assume that the earthquake and angelic decent happened before the women arrived at the tomb, if we merge what the angels say into one account, if we assume that the angels moved around, and if we assume that Mary Magdalene remained behind at the tomb while the others went and reported (and thus had a separate meeting with Jesus), one can make a single coherent account out of the various stories.” (“Hard sayings of the Bible”, pp. 506ff)
There there have been various questions posed of the resurrection accounts:
1. What time of day did Mary Magdalene go to the tomb? A) While it was still dark. B) Between darkness and sunrise. C) After sunrise. D) Other (please specify).
John says it was yet dark. Matthew says it was beginning to dawn and Luke says it was early dawn. Mark says the sun had already risen.
D: All of the above, they got up before sunrise, took some time getting ready, and walking, and got there after the sun had risen. We need not insist that all these events happened at the same time, or that each writer will tell us the time of day of each event he is describing.
2. Who went to the tomb besides Mary Magdalene? A) No one. B) Only the other Mary. C) Only Mary the mother of James, and Salome. D) All of the above and Joanna and others. E) Other (please specify).
John only mentions Mary Magdalene. Matthew says Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went. Mark says Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome. Luke says Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them.
D: To quote Mr. Kaiser et al again: “Not every writer has to report all of the details another mentions.”
3. Who did Mary Magdalene see at the tomb at the initial visit? A) No one. B) One angel. C) Two angels. D) Other (please specify).
Mark says a man, presumably an angel. Matthew says an angel. Luke says two angels. John says no one (Mary later sees two angels when she returned to the tomb after speaking to the disciples).
This is the most difficult question. John says he and Peter saw no one, after Mary came to tell them the tomb was empty. So maybe Mary made a visit on her own first, when it was still dark, found the tomb empty, came back with the other women, saw the angels, didn’t apparently believe them, and then stayed at the tomb, and saw Jesus.
4. When was the stone rolled away? A) Before Mary Magdalene arrived. B) After Mary Magdalene arrived. C) Other (please specify).
Mark, Luke, and John say the stone was moved away already. Matthew says that after they arrived there was an earthquake and then the angel rolled it away.
A: I think Matthew refers to a prior event, not to one that follows in the sequence of the narrative.
5. What message was Mary Magdalene taking to the disciples? A) The joyful news that Jesus had resurrected. B) The sad news that the body of Jesus had been stolen. C) Other (please specify).
Matthew and Luke say the women, including Mary Magdalene, went to tell the joyful news that they had heard the angelic announcement that Jesus had resurrected. John says that Mary Magdalene went to tell them the sad news that someone had taken the body away (she had seen no angel).
A: First Mary thought the body was stolen, then she saw Jesus! Thus she would then have had good news for the disciples…
6. Who did Mary Magdalene meet on the way to the disciples? A) No one. B) Jesus. C) Other (please specify).
Matthew says they met Jesus, touch his feet, and worship Him. Luke and John don’t indicate that anyone was met.
B: It seems Mary stayed behind, thus the accounts of meeting Jesus may differ here.
7. Was it permissible for Mary Magdalene to touch Jesus at this time? A) Yes. B) No. C) Other (please specify).
Matthew says yes (the women, including Mary Magdalene, touch His feet). John says no (Mary Magdalene is told not to).
B: Again, there can be two different meetings, if Mary stayed behind.
8. When Mary Magdalene saw Jesus did she recognize Him? A) Yes. B) No. C) Other (please specify)
Matthew says yes (the women including Mary Magdalene meet Him on their way to the disciples). John says no (Mary Magdalene thought He was the gardener).
B: Two different meetings works here, too, the Matthew account doesn’t say Mary was with the other women.