A Possible Harmonization of the Resurrection Accounts

My esteemed Biblical exegesis professor at Fuller Theological Seminary, George Eldon Ladd, didn't really recommend a harmonization approach to the resurrection accounts. However, to answer his own question of whether the accounts could be harmonized, he worked out the following harmonization, he said, "for my own amusement."1 Later he found a nearly identical harmonization by Michael C. Perry.2 Here is George Ladd's approach to a harmonization:

  1. The earthquake and removal of stone occurs before dawn.
  2. A group of four women come early to the tomb, wondering who will move the stone. As they approach, they are amazed to see that the stone has been rolled away.
  3. Mary rushes off to tell Peter and John that the body of Jesus has been stolen (John 20:2).
  4. The other women stay in the garden. They enter the tome and are met by two angels, who tell them to carry the word of the resurrection to the disciples.3
  5. The women rush away from the garden, filled with mingled emotions of fear and joy, speaking to no one about the vision of the angels at the empty tomb (Mark 16:8).
  6. Later in the day, Jesus met them. (Matthew 28:9 does not say that this meeting occurred in the garden.) They had to run away from the tomb. Jesus tells them to bear the word to the disciples; they depart to find the disciples, who are not together but scattered (Matthew 26:56).
  7. Peter and John, having been informed by Mary, come to the tomb after the women have left. They see the clothes; vague comprehension dawns on John. they rush off to gather the disciples.
  8. Mary returns to the tomb after Peter and John have left; they had run to the tomb (John 20:4), leaving Mary behind. She still thinks the body has been stolen. She is weeping outside the tomb, knowing nothing of the experience of the women she had left in the garden. She sees the two angels, then Jesus (John 20:11-17).4
  9. After the first shock of amazement had worn off, the women find some of the disciples; the disciples cannot believe the fanciful story (Luke 24:11).
  10. The disciples have gathered together.
  11. Mary arrives and tells her experience (John 20:18).
  12. That afternoon, the walk to Emmaus.
  13. Sometimes that afternoon, an appearance to Peter (Luke 24:34).
  14. That evening, the disciples are all together in the closed room. They had been scattered, but the testimony of the women, of Peter and John, then of Mary, serves to bring them all together. Thomas was absent.
  15. A second appearance to the eleven, including Thomas.
  16. Galilee (Matthew 28:16). The appearance by Tiberias (John 21) and to the 500 brethren (1 Corinthians 15:6).
  17. Return to Jerusalem; the final appearance and ascension.

Ladd concludes, "This harmonization does not mean that the author intends to suggest that the events actually happened in this order. We cannot know."5



  1. George Eldon Ladd, I Believe in the Resurrection (Eerdmans, 1975), pp. 91-93.
  2. Michael C. Perry, The Easter Enigma (London: Faber and Faber, 1959), pp. 65, 70.
  3. Ladd says, "The problem of "a young man" of Mark 16:5, "two men" of Luke 24:4, "angels" of Luke 24:23, is one of the "'ordinary' Synoptic divergencies of detail" (p. 92).
  4. Ladd notes that Mark's longer ending, 16:9 here, is not authentic (p. 92).
  5. Ladd, p. 93.

Copyright © 2022, Ralph F. Wilson. <pastor@joyfulheart.com> All rights reserved. A single copy of this article is free. Do not put this on a website. See legal, copyright, and reprint information.

Sign up now!To be notified about future articles, stories, and Bible studies, why don't you subscribe to our free newsletter,The Joyful Heart, by placing your e-mail address in the box below. We respect your privacy and never sell, rent, or loan our lists. Please don't subscribe your friends; let them decide for themselves.
Country(2-letter abbreviation, such as US)
Preferred FormatHTML (recommended) Plain text