Was there one or two angles at the tomb? How many angels were there?
(This discrepancy actually proves the truth of the Bible about the Resurrection!)
First do you notice that Mark describes the angel as a "young man" and Matthew says that "an angel" appeared to the women but Luke says that "two men whose clothes gleamed like lightening" appeared to the women.
Well I think that the description of "two men whose clothes gleamed like lightning", whose clothes lit up the dark tomb is a pretty good description of an angel. Luke, being a doctor and a scientist, was trying to be careful in describing what the women saw. Most of the time that angels appear to men - they appear as men. That makes common sense. There appearance scares people enough even when they appear as men. Even so - such appearances are quite spectacular, "whose clothes gleamed like lightening" as Luke describes so we should not consider this a discrepancy in these accounts. Also describing an angel as a "young man" would also make sense because angels certainly would like innocent, strong, beautiful and healthy. But these definitively were messengers of God, they were angels whose clothes lit up the dark tomb.
Now Marks’ Gospel only mentions one angel inside the tomb who talks to the women, also Matthews’ Gospel only mentions one angle rolls back the stone and scares the guards away and talks to the women, Luke’s gospel mentions two men inside the tomb whose clothes gleamed like lightening and who talked to the women, and John’s Gospel does not mention the angels.
The quick answer is that there were at least two angels and there is nothing in the 4 gospels to contradict that statement that there were 2 angels. This small discrepancy is very easy to explain. Only one of the angels talked to the women in all Gospel accounts; hence, Mark and Matthew only mentions about the one angel in the tomb who talked with the women while Luke being thorough in his description of events mentions that there were two angels but only one spoke to the women.
[and Matthew only mentions the one angel on top of the stone who talked to the women.]
We do the same thing ourselves. If you and your wife met my wife and me down at the beach over the weekend and if I talked about my research on the resurrection, you may go back to work the next day and tell your fellow workers that you talked with Johnny about my research on the Resurrection. You may not even mention my wife who was also there at the beach. We only tend to mention who say what. We may not mention who else was there at the time.
Your wife on the other hand may call her friend and mentioned how she met me and my wife at the beach and how I talked about the Resurrection.
And your wife may not even mention anything about you, her husband being there! So this is how we all describe events differently but we would cover the most important facts about who said what and what was said.
So that is the most simple and common sense answer to why Matthew and Mark only mention and quote the angel who spoke to the women at the tomb. There is no significant discrepancy here in the 4 gospels.
Actually this question about whether there was one or two angels, is one of the many discrepancies that strengthened my faith rather than weaken it. It just proved to me that the Bible is so honest and true; particularly about this most important event of the Resurrection.
Let me explain, if these stories as reported by these 4 evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were a conspiracy; if the Resurrection was a made-up story, then the story written down would be almost exactly the same.
Instead the Bible honestly and truthfully records the impressions and what each writer remembered and what each writer of the Gospel thought was important to report and write in his Gospel account.
Let me tell you about is a story about Solomon in the Catholic Bible but which is not in the Jewish Bible nor the Protestant Bible. But I like the story. There were lots of stories about Solomon’s wisdom that may or may not have originated with Solomon. This particular story is about a woman who was raped by two men in her garden. The case comes before Solomon and he does a very wise thing. After hearing the women’s story, Solomon does not begin to question the men together. Instead, he separates the men so that neither man knows what his partner in crime is saying nor does the woman. Solomon questions each man this way separately. By doing so he first notices that the stories they tell are exactly the same but when he starts questioning them about details, they are reluctant to answer and when they do, Solomon notices those discrepancies between the two men. When he then questions them together they cannot offer any plausible explanation for their discrepancies. Hence, Solomon proclaims that the woman is telling the truth and punishes the two men.
So it’s the same with the 4 stories about the resurrection, if they were too much alike, that would make me more suspicious than the natural differences we see in these accounts. Now if there was some major discrepancy that cannot be explain, then that would raise an alarm.
We should also be thankful that we have 4 versions of these important events not just one or two. Right! And we have seen that the Resurrection stories are not so similar that their story would be suspicious and yet on the other hand, there are no major discrepancies between the accounts. Instead we see how honest and truthful the Bible is.
All four Gospels report the story correctly in the important facts: a group of women visited the tomb early Resurrection Sunday, they found the stone rolled away, the tomb was empty and the angels told them that Jesus had risen and that they would all see him in Galilee and the most amazing event that risen Jesus appeared first to Mary Magdalene and then to the other women.
Let me also tell you a personal story. I grew up in the slums of a large city. I thank the Lord that I stayed out of major trouble while I was a teenager for many of my friends did not. Some died young, some were arrested and put in reformed school or prison depending on their age. I knew several of the local policemen; how I knew them is a another story sometime. But the older veteran police officers were people to be respected. From their training but primarily from their years of experience on the streets and handling all kinds of problems with people, they were very wise about human personalities and foibles. One thing that impressed me was their interrogation techniques. Many of them were either Italian or Irish Catholics so maybe they read this story about Solomon; because the veteran police officers would also make a point to separate the alleged criminals and also separate the witnesses and they would always question the criminals and witnesses separately. Now the policeman would keep everyone separated to reduce the tension but also to prevent everyone from knowing what questions they asked the criminals or the witnesses or what answers they received. By using such an interrogation techniques, the veteran police officers were amazing, they were almost always able to determine who was telling the truth and who was lying! Isn't that interesting.
The more I study the Bible I am amazed how truthful and honest it is. You can depend on it. "You can bet your life on it!" Now how about you? Have you come to the same conclusion? The resurrection of Jesus is a true story. It really happened! So repent of your sins and turn to the Messiah, who is God himself, who offers you his free gift of salvation which is the greatest gift of love you will ever receive. Do it today.
Simply say. Lord save me. Lord Jesus I repent of my sins. I change my mind. I want to do what is right in your eyes oh Lord not in mine eyes. Forgive me and I forgive any and all who have hurt me because if you can love me so much as to forgive all my sins, then I am so willing and happy to forgive others. And let Your spirit infuse my soul to protect me from the Evil one and evil people and to encourage me and to help me discern how to live my life in a manner that is pleasing to you and to me. Thank you Lord.
That concludes my program today about the Resurrection. If you have any questions or comments, call me on my answering machine at any time with your questions or comments or visit my website justcallmejohnny.com.
Thank you and have a good day.
The guards and the angel (only mentioned in Matthew)
The two men walking back to their home town of Emmaus (Mark and Luke)
Two additional appearances of Jesus are mentioned in the bible: Jesus later appeared to his brother James and then later to Paul on the road to Damascus.