In a book purporting to reveal “hidden contradictions in the Bible,” the infamous professor Bart Ehrman is unable to figure out whether the women at Jesus’ empty tomb saw “a man, as Mark says, or two men (Luke), or an angel (Matthew).” One is left to wonder why one of Professor Ehrman’s students didn’t pause to unpack the mystery for him.

First, wherever there are two angels, there is also one! The fact that Mark only referenced the angel (“man”) who addressed the women shouldn’t be problematic even for someone who has made a virtual art form out of exploiting “discrepancies” among the secondary details of the Gospels. The fact that Matthew only referenced one angel does not preclude the fact that two angels were present.

Furthermore, even though Luke did not specifically refer to the two men as angels, the fact that he described these beings as “men in clothes that gleamed like lightning” (Luke 24:4) should have been a dead giveaway. Moreover, as a historian addressing a predominantly Gentile audience, Luke no doubt measured his words carefully so as not to unnecessarily give rise to pagan superstitions.

Finally, after reading the accounts of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, or John for that matter, a historian has ample data to determine that the “man” described by Mark was an angel; that the “men in clothes that gleamed like lighting” were angelic; and that Matthew’s mention of only one angel does not preclude the possibility that another was present.

Contra Ehrman and his ilk, what credible scholars seek is a core set of reliable facts that either validate or invalidate historical accounts. And here, as elsewhere in the Gospels, one can objectively conclude that the core set of facts presented is authentic and reliable.

Behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it.

Matthew 28:2 NKJV

Entering the tomb, [Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome] saw a young man clothed in a long white robe sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed.

Mark 16:5 NKJV

And it happened, as [the women who had brought spices to the tomb] were greatly perplexed about [not finding Jesus’ body], that behold, two men stood by them in shining garments.

Luke 24:4 NKJV

For further study, see “Do the gospel accounts contradict one another?” 

***Note the preceding text is adapted from The Complete Bible Answer Book: Collector’s Edition: Revised and Expanded (2024). To receive for your partnering gift please click here. ***