How many Angels were present at the tomb of Jesus?
We read in the gospel accounts that Mary Magdalene, the other Mary, and Salome were making their way to the tomb of Jesus, talking along the way about how they were going to remove the stone. Continue reading . . .
We read in the gospel accounts that Mary Magdalene, the other Mary, and Salome were making their way to the tomb of Jesus, talking along the way about how they were going to remove the stone. They probably reassured themselves with the recollection that Joseph of Arimathea had a gardener or possibly a night watchman. When they arrived, they were astonished to see the tomb opened and no guards present. Mary Magdalene immediately jumped to the conclusion that someone had stolen the body and she ran off to tell Peter and John.
About this time Joanna and Susanna arrived, as they had agreed on the previous Friday, to join them to anoint the body of Jesus. The four women then boldly entered the tomb and stood off to the left, looking to the right where the body of Jesus had been laid, waiting anxiously for their eyes to adjust to the light.
What they saw is reported differently by the gospel records. Matthew says they saw one angel. Mark says they saw one young man. Luke says they saw two men in dazzling apparel. Is there a contradiction here? No.
In the first place, angels are almost always depicted in Scripture as men. Thus it was an angel in the form of a man that they saw.
But how many were there? Remember this: if there were two then there was one. It would be a contradiction only if the writer had said there was only one. But he doesn’t. We often encounter two or more people but later only mention the one with whom we actually conversed.
Also, we are dealing with two descriptions of an event and not with two witnesses in a court of law replying to cross examination. If we were in a courtroom and an attorney asked the witnesses, “Precisely how many men were present?” and the first said, “There was only one,” and the other said, “I saw two,” then we would have a contradiction. But the gospel writers are not answering the question “How many?”, but are giving incomplete descriptions of a complex event.
My conclusion is that although the gospel accounts are different, they are not contradictory. The inerrant word of God stands true yet again!