How Many Angels Were at the Tomb of Christ?

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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 an 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 for 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 a 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 give rise 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 a 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.

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