Easter Critique: the Bible Can’t Even Get its Punch Line Straight (Infographic)

Easter Critique: the Bible Can’t Even Get its Punch Line Straight (Infographic) April 5, 2015

Christians, what happened on that very first Easter? This is an open-book test, so no pressure. The only requirement is that you must use all of each gospel story. No cherry picking, please—every “fact” claimed from the crucifixion through the resurrection and ascension must be worked into your composite story.

With four accounts inspired by an infallible deity, this should be no problem.

In practice, however, it’s trickier. If you thought harmonizing the two birth accounts (Matthew’s magi and murderous Herod vs. Luke’s census and shepherds) is troublesome, consider the chart below. It lists every claim from each gospel. They harmonize like bickering children.

(Chart reprinted with permission of Atheists and Agnostics of Wisconsin.)
Jesus crucifixion resurrection Bible

Image credit for chart: Atheists and Agnostics of Wisconsin (used with permission)

Image credit for lamb: moonjazz, flickr, CC

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  • Charlie Johnson

    The way Matthew and Luke handle Mark’s statements about Galilee is a beautiful example of Markan priority. Matthew picks up on Mark’s hanging statement that Jesus is going to Galilee and has the disciples run out and meet him. Luke alters the statement to remove the itinerary and has the disciples stay in Jerusalem. This is consistent with Luke-Acts’ movement to Jerusalem and then back out. I’m not sure what the significance of Galilee is in Matthew’s account, or why in Luke Jesus walks with the disciples to Bethany.

    • Greg G.

      Matthew has Jesus move to Capernaum to fulfill the vaguest prophecy of all that mentions Galilee as if Matthew has no idea Nazareth was supposed to be in Galilee.

      PS: 11 hours later I realized I was thinking of the wrong chapter.

      • Pofarmer

        Yeah, I never realized Galilee was like a county.

        • Without Malice

          It was also a place that was full of gentiles and had been called Galilee of the Nations (gentiles) since the days of Isaiah. None of the gospels capture the true identity of the area at the time Jesus was supposedly living there.

      • Many have surmised that Matthew wasn’t a Jew, or at least not born in the area, since he gets so many geographical details wrong.

        • Pofarmer

          I think the chances are that all of the Gospel authors are from outside of Palestine.

        • That would make sense, since they wrote in Greek.

    • I’m not sure what the significance of Galilee is in Matthew’s account

      Presumably because Mark 16:7 predicts that Jesus would appear there, so Matthew’s adding a fulfillment of that prediction.

    • Greg G.

      Now that I am on the same page as you, I think Mark was trying to say that the disciples were wiped out when Jerusalem was destroyed. Mark had Jesus wanting the women to tell them to go to Galilee so they could escape but the women were afraid to tell.

  • MNb

    “Chances are the dominant memory you have of it is “Dewey defeats Truman”.
    Really? This is well known in The Netherlands as well.

    • wtfwjtd

      Since I was born in Missouri, and Truman was from Missouri, I definitely know that Truman won his presidential election bid. Maybe it’s different for people from other states, I don’t know for sure.

      • Kodie

        If someone had asked me to sit down and write out everything I know from the 1948 US Presidential election, I wouldn’t even have that much. See, “Dewey defeats Truman” is a rather popular graphic illustration that I am aware of, because the papers jumped the gun, so I also know that it was opposite. But I would not be able to place that in 1948 on the mere prompt of “1948 – go!” Historically, I place Truman around that time, I guess, after FDR, before Eisenhower, and maybe I only know Eisenhower because I watched reruns of M*A*S*H, which was about the Korean War but really about the Vietnam War, and which even though I was alive during the entire run of the series, I only remember seeing it after it had had its finale. I even think I might have seen its historic (for having the highest-viewed telecast of its time) finale, without actually understanding the psychological breakdown of Hawkeye in context with the rest of the series. From my context, Klinger wore dresses and Radar had a teddy bear, and that was the show, until much later.

        Obviously, the point is, 1948 was only a couple decades before I was born, and I know nothing about it. The series M*A*S*H occurred entirely within my lifetime, and I didn’t know what it was until I could watch it when I was older, but it was recorded so the story wouldn’t really change that much – the applicability to an on-going war that was over by the time I got the gist was also different.

        • wtfwjtd

          My knowledge of presidential elections is no doubt atypical; not only was that photo about newspapers jumping the gun, but it was also an important reminder that pollsters didn’t have the methodology thing quite figured out yet. Polling was in its infancy, Gallop was just getting started, and of course became famous later on because his methodology allowed him to predict electoral outcomes with pretty good success. But not in 1948, for sure.
          I know a lot less about M*A*S*H than you do; I’ve watched a few episodes, and could tell you a few things about it, but would likely get several things wrong. That for me would probably be a better example.

        • MR

          And I always thought it was Hewey who defeated Truman…, or was it Louie? I dunno, always got those three mixed up….

        • MNb

          OK. Roosevelt: big crisis, entered WW-2.
          Truman: nuclear bombs.
          Eisenhower: liberated my parents from the nazis in 1945, saved me from the commies in 1944 and thus became president later.
          Kennedy: fucked Marilyn Monroe and got shot.
          Johnson: murderer.
          Nixon: Watergate.
          Ford: did nothing, but sounds like a car.
          Carter: the best American president of the entire list.
          Reagan: voodoo economics, Star Wars.
          Bush sen: Quweit.
          Clinton: everyone in the west got rich and he got sucked by Monica and some others.
          Bush jun: can’t count to three.
          Obama: they say he’s black and muslim, but he’s neither. He’s dogla (Surinamese for 50%), bounty (white from the inside, black at the outside) and he’s christian.

          I can’t even name all Dutch Prime Minister’s since 1930 …. only since 1970.

        • TheNuszAbides

          one nit about Ford: “nothing” overlooks pardoning Nixon. “did nothing at all surprising” would work.

          Bounty! as in chocolate-coated coconut? i know those from Australia, in the U.S. it’s ‘Mounds’ (such poetry) but not for the euphemism, which is instead “Oreo [cookie]”. it was always amusing to hear doubts voiced as to his ‘validity’ or relevance or whatever, since he’s more strictly-literally ‘African-American’ than most.

          i still have huge gaps in my recall of heads of state other than US prez and UK monarch.

    • I think the point is that the headline (which was wrong) sticks in people’s minds easily. If you asked Americans, “Did Dewey defeat Truman?” that photo would pop to mind as the only bit of relevant evidence and many would answer incorrectly.

      http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/2/28/Deweytruman12.jpg

      • Kodie

        Differ differ differ! That photo is practically indelible in the minds of most Americans (I hazard to speculate) as an example of the papers going to print before they had an actual result.

        I would be surprised if anyone thought there was a President Dewey, especially if you juxtaposed the name next to Truman.

        • katiehippie

          I’d be surprised if most people could name all the presidents in the last 100 years or even the last 25.

        • Greg G.

          I used to be able to name all the presidents in order but they keep changing the list and making it harder. I could probably give the loser of the election for the last 55 years. If the question was to name the loser in a presidential election prior to your birth, my first answer would be Dewey.

        • wtfwjtd

          Well, let’s see, there’s William Jennings Bryan, Alfred Landon, Mr. Smith, Herbert Hoover(of course), Adali Stevenson, Richard Nixon, Hubert Humphrey…I would assume most folks could name the most of the later ones, so that’s a good list to start from back in the olden days.

        • MNb

          No, not last 100 years, but from Roosevelt on piece of cake.

        • I hope you’re right. My opinion of the knowledge of Americans could be inappropriately low.

        • wtfwjtd

          “My opinion of the knowledge of Americans could be inappropriately low.”

          I doubt it.

        • RichardSRussell

          “Think about how stupid the average person is, then reflect on the fact that half the population is dumber than that.”

          —George Carlin

        • Greg G.

          Didn’t Winston Churchill say something like “The best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with an average voter.”

      • MNb

        Yeah, but that’s sort of my point. This picture is very famous in The Netherlands exactly because of its irony.

        • TheNuszAbides

          a free press isn’t all it’s cracked up to be…

  • Ron

    There is one thing that remains consistent throughout all four accounts: not a single person lays claim to having witnessed the actual resurrection event (i.e. seeing Jesus’ dead body coming back to life) itself.

  • How about the fact John’s gospel says in John 19.14 that the crucifixion took place on ‘the day of preparation’ for Passover (i.e. the Thursday) whereas Mark says it was the day following the Passover meal (Jesus’ ‘last supper’) on Friday morning (Mark 15.25).
    This makes a difference to how long he was in the tomb before his supposed ‘resurrection’ – two and a half days in John, only about 40 hours in Mark, neither of which fulfills his prophecy in Matthew 12.38 of three days and three nights.

    • Good catch. That’s one of my favorite contradictions.

      I think the idea behind this infographic was to start slightly later in the story. But it did miss that one, unfortunately.

      • wtfwjtd

        There’s plenty of other stuff that could go in that chart–the naked young man, Peter/the sword/cutting off ear episode, who exactly witnessed the prayer of Jesus in Gethsemane, and so on and on. It’s a great chart though, I like how when you are reading the top of the chart you’re thinking, “well, that’s not so bad”, but by the time you get to the bottom, it’s quite apparent that there is some serious hanky-panky going on.

    • curtcameron

      “Thirty-six hours, tops. Thirty-five if we do it on the weekend that the time changes!”
      – Mr. Deity

      • Greg G.

        Glad I swallowed my coffee before I read that.

  • katiehippie

    Looks like the only consistency is joseph of Arimathaea. He took the body and put it in a tomb. Is this the only place he is ever mentioned?
    Ah, wikipedia says other gospels mention him as well.

    • wtfwjtd

      Strangely, JoA is in all four accounts, but the details of exactly who he is and what he does gets contradictory. It would appear he is the lynch pin that holds the whole story together; only he would know exactly where Jesus was buried, and apparently he was the sole witness to this burial(although he gets anonymous assistance in John). One would think, if all this were actually eyewitness accounts, the story writers would have him verify that yes, indeed, this was the dead man that he had embalmed and put in the ground a few days (or hours, depending on which account you take) earlier. Notice, the disciples are in no position to verify any of this account, since they had long since abandoned the scene. Only this one man, Joseph of Arimathaea, could do this. Strangely though, this most important of all characters in the story simply vanishes, never to be seen or heard from again.
      It’s just another clue that he was a convenient literary device in a made-up tale.

      • Pofarmer

        I wound up going to church this morning with my middle boy to the Church I grew up in and my parents still attend. Just being nice and kind of keeping up social appearances. Anyway, the verse the preacher brought up was Mark 16 1-8. This is where the women go back to the tomb and a “Man in a white robe” tells them that Jesus has risen and gone, and then they run away and tell no one. And I’m thinking, I wonder what kind of a literary device this is?
        It was also kind of interesting, that the preacher in this rural Presbyterian Church, preached a very literal sermon about Jesus rising from the dead, and the miracle, and all that, rather than taking the more spiritual generic tack of rebirth and renewal and all that. Anyway, we both survived it. It’s interesting, I can still go to these services and be O.K. But a Catholic service absolutely gives me the vapors. Ah, well, off to haul a load of cattle.

        • Kodie

          Don’t hurt your back.

        • Pofarmer

          Lol. Sometimes I’m too nice.

        • wtfwjtd

          Was that preacher a younger guy? I’ve found that the younger generations in general have more of a tendency to be a bit softer around the edges, so to speak, and don’t usually get too literal. Not always, but most of the time I find them more palatable than some of the old-timers.

        • Pofarmer

          I’d guess early 40’s.

        • Pofarmer

          The other thing that surprised me is that he preached a bodily ressurection at the end times. Had never heard that in either a Presbyterian or Methodist church before.

        • wtfwjtd

          That reminds me of a comment Neil Carter made the other day, how many Christians cling to the belief that their faith can somehow help them escape death. I think this is why the “Jesus is returning any day now” nonsense is so popular, it gives the faithful a false sense of hope that they won’t have to personally face their own death.

        • Greg G.

          That sounds like a bunch of bull. The last sentence, that is.

    • Greg G.

      Joseph of Arimathea seems to be an invented character by Mark. He is based on Joseph who buried his father, Jacob, at a special tomb per the OT. Richard Carrier points out that “ari” means “best, as in “aristocrat”, “mathe” for “disciple”, and the ending indicates a place. So, he is Joseph of “Bestdiscipleville”.

      • Giauz Ragnarock

        Perhaps “The Best of our Desciples” would best reflect what is meant given that “The Kingdom of God” seems to not refer to an actual place but the ideology of the Gospels’ writers. So Josef of the best of our desciples… shot in the dark that perhaps makes sense?

        • Greg G.

          That could be. I should have added that a part of JoA might be from King Priam asking for Hector’s body for burial in The Iliad .

  • 50 – 100 years? More like 30 – 60, AFAIK.

    • Greg G.

      Luke has many passages that are borrowed from Josephus, including the story of Jesus teaching at the Temple when he was at the mythified age of 12 while Josephus’s autobiography has a story about himself discussing the law with his elders at the Temple at age 14. That writing is estimated to have been produced near the end of the first century, which makes Luke more like 70 years after the supposed crucifixion. But Luke seems to have been edited by Marcion by 140 AD so Luke could be over 100 years afterward.

      Who dates the gospels to within 30 years without a religious bias?

      This was only the first of many occasions in which I came to find that the holding of religious belief proved an obstacle to the impartial evaluation of evidence. –Michael Goulder

      • Who dates the gospels to within 30 years without a religious bias?

        earlychristianwritings.com gives a lower limit of 65AD for Mark. So stating 30 years as the lower limit isn’t really going beyond the bounds of sanity, especially if it’s rounded to the nearest decade. It’s pushing it a bit, but I wouldn’t say it’s reaching apologetics-level craziness.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Those who argue for a later date say that Mark was able to include the prophecy about the destruction of the Temple because it had already happened.

          The Temple was destroyed 70 AD. Some make the claim that the author of Mark could have guest some bad shit was going to happen in Jerusalem if he was writing after the revolt began, he could have been writing as early as 66 AD, but that’s a bit of a stretch. Early dating is also needed to make room between Mark and the writing of Matthew and Luke, both of which they also date early —as early as 80 or 85 AD. But if those can be pushed back like scholars posit, Matthew to 90 and Luke even later, there is no issue with a late dating of Mark. Which makes more sense.