Edited by John Stone



This is a brief analysis of the four appearances of Jesus after his resurrection―to his disciples and other acquaintances.


Matthew, after stating that "Mary Magdalene and the other Mary" left the sepulcher at the behest of the angel to go to tell the disciples that Jesus had gone to Galilee, relates the first appearance thus:

"And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus
 met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the
 feet, and worshipped him. Then said Jesus unto them, Be not
 afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and
 there shall they see me."
(Matthew 28:9, 10)

Mark, after telling how "Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome" had "fled from the sepulchre," and told no one, "for they were afraid," gives this account:

"Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the
week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene. ... And she went
 and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and
 wept. And they ... believed not."
(Mark 16:9-11)

Luke, after relating how "Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women that were with them" had returned from the sepulcher and told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest, and how Peter had then run to the sepulcher alone and seen only the grave-clothes laid by, relates the first appearance very differently, thus:

"And, behold, two of them [disciples] went that same day
to a village called Emmaus. ... And they talked together of
all these things which had happened. And it came to pass,
 that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself

drew near and went with them. ... Then he said unto them, O
fools," etc. "And he went in to tarry with them. ... And he
hid from their sight."
(Luke 21:13-15,25,29,31)

John, after telling of Mary Magdalene's going alone to the sepulcher, and finding the body gone but seeing no one, and of her telling Peter and John, who went and found nothing but the grave- clothes, and saw no one and returned home, and of Mary's seeing two angels sitting where the body had lain, and their asking her, "Woman, why weepest thou?" then declares:

"And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and
 saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus. ... Jesus
 saith unto her, Touch me not. ... Mary Magdalene came and told
the disciples that she had seen the Lord."
(John 20:14,17,18)

Thus we have the four conflicting accounts. Matthew says that Jesus first appeared to the two women as they went to tell the disciples, and they at once recognized him; Mark says that he first appeared to one woman, Mary Magdalene, early the first day; Luke says that Jesus first appeared to the two disciples as they went to Emmaus; John says that Jesus first appeared to Mary Magdalene by the sepulcher, as she turned from speaking with the two angels, and that she did not recognize him. And she said that Jesus forbade her to touch him, "for I am not yet ascended;" Matthew says that his two Marys "came and held him by the feet."


The second appearance is as diversely narrated. Matthew, after saying that Jesus had told the two Marys to tell his disciples to meet him in Galilee, relates the second appearance was thus:

"Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into
 a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. ... And Jesus came
 and spake unto them, saying, ... And, lo, I am with you
 always, even unto the end of the world. Amen."
(Matthew 28: 16,18,20)

Mark, after telling how Jesus "appeared first to Mary Magdalene," on the first day, tells of the second appearance thus:

"After that he appeared in another form unto two of them,
as they walked, and went into the country."
(Mark 16:12)

Luke, after relating how Jesus first appeared to the two on their way to Emmaus, and how he went with them, and took supper with them, says:

"And they rose up the same hour, and returned to
 Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them
 that were with them. ... And as they thus spake, Jesus himself
 stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto
 you. But they were terrified and affrighted and supposed that
 they had seen a spirit. ... He shewed them his hands and his
 feet," and asked for meat, and he ate broiled fish and
 honeycomb before them, and spoke with them at length.
21:33,36,37,40 et seq.)

John, after relating how Jesus had first appeared early on the resurrection day to Mary Magdalene alone at the sepulchre, says of the second appearance:

"Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the
 week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were
 assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in their
 midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. ... Then were
 the disciples glad when they saw the Lord."
(John 20:19-20)

The contradictions as to the second appearance are obvious. Matthew says that it was to the Eleven on a mountain in Galilee, "where Jesus had appointed them." But neither Jesus nor the Eleven went into Galilee; for Luke says that at Jerusalem on the same resurrection day Jesus suddenly appeared out of empty space "and stood in the midst of them," and said:  "Peace be unto you," but that "they were terrified and affrighted." He had supper with them; then "he led them out as far as Bethany" and said unto the Eleven: "Tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem;" and as he spoke, "he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven" (Luke 21:33-51). Mark says that the second appearance was "in another form" (what form he does not say) "to two of them," as they walked in the country. Luke says that it was in Jerusalem, unto the Eleven "and them that were with them," and greatly terrified them all. John says that it was on the evening of the resurrection day, in a closed room; and instead of being terrified, the disciples "were glad when they saw the Lord."


There were other appearances, not recorded by all the gospel historians, the accounts of which are equally conflicting. Matthew relates only the two appearances already credited to him. Mark, after telling of the second appearance, to the two walking in the country, tells of a third:

 "Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at
 meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief."
(Mark 16:14)

Luke is satisfied with his two, which differ entirely from Matthew's two, as we have seen. John, after his account of the second appearance, to the disciples in the closed room, on which occasion he says that Thomas Didymus was not present, and after stating that Thomas, when he heard about it, would not believe, then tells of a third appearance, at which Thomas was convinced:

"And after eight days again his disciples were within,
 and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut,
 and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you."
(John 20: 26)

Thus we see that Matthew and Luke relate only two appearances, and, if we believe Luke, there were no more; Mark and John relate three. All the accounts differ about time, place, persons, and other circumstances; each account renders impossible the others.


John relates a fourth appearance, which he calls the third, to the disciples:

"After these things Jesus shewed himself again to the
 disciples at the sea of Tiberias; and on this wise shewed he
 himself. ... This is now the third time that Jesus shewed
 himself to his disciples, after that he was risen from the
(John 21:1,14)

On this occasion the disciples were fishing, and had caught nothing. Jesus told them to throw their net on the other side of the boat, and they landed 153 "great fishes;" "and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken" (21:11). When they landed, they saw a fire of coals, with fish already broiling thereon, with bread, and they all had breakfast alfresco.

"O what a tangled web we weave, When first we practice to deceive!"   [ Sir Walter Scott, Marmion, A Tale of Flodden Field (1805), xvii ]