Are there Contradictions about Jesus’ Burial?

by Edwin Crozier

At the end of Luke 23, we learned some women, having seen where Jesus was buried, prepared spices and ointments for His burial. Then in Luke 24:1, they were coming to the tomb early on the first day of the week with those prepared spices, presumably to perform the Jewish burial customs on Jesus’s body. Wait! Is this a contradiction? According to John 19:39-40, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus bound Jesus’s body in linen cloths and prepared it with spices and ointments as was the burial custom of the Jews. Can the Bible authors not get it straight?

What a great place for us to see how the Bible works. Granted, any time you have eye-witnesses recalling past events, you will find that they emphasize different aspects, one person will leave out details someone else includes, they tell the story from different perspectives based on what was important to each author. Further, when ancients were writing history, their goal was not to give us a moment by moment breakdown of what happened but to get across what was the important takeaway from what happened.

In any event, this is not a contradiction at all. Allow me to explain. Each of the gospel authors includes different bits of this burial and resurrection event. Luke records that Jesus was buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. He even mentions Joseph wrapped Jesus in a linen shroud. Luke doesn’t mention Nicodemus or the spices. Is that a contradiction? Not at all. Leaving out information is not the same as providing contradictory information.

Jesus Buried in a Tomb (Matthew 27:60)

I think a key bit of information found in Mark 16:3 removes the worry of contradiction here. In Mark 16:3, the women on the way to the tomb were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us?” This reveals the women were not cooperating with Joseph of Arimathea. Had they been working together with him, they would have had him there to remove the stone and they wouldn’t have worried about it at all. As it is, they had followed along and seen where Jesus was buried, but they had not communicated with Joseph or Nicodemus. They didn’t know what the men had done regarding Jesus’s body. It seems they assumed the men had not had time to properly prepare Jesus for burial. Therefore, early on the first day of the week, they were coming to take care of that custom. Their preparations were, it turns out, unnecessary, not because the men had already taken care of it, but because Jesus rose from the tomb and wasn’t even there.

No, it is not a contradiction. Don’t let people distract you from the truth of God’s Word with false claims about contradictions. Keep reading. Keep studying. Keep learning. Jesus arose: Praise the Lord!

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