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May 10, 2011 / Daniel

Bin Laden and the Historicity of the Resurrection Accounts

A still of 2004 Osama bin Laden video

Image via Wikipedia

It’s interesting to watch how the story of the raid on Bin Laden’s compound continues to develop in the aftermath of his death last week.   Discrepancies and inconsistencies abound.   He was armed.  He wasn’t armed.  He resisted.  He did not resist.   It was a capture mission.  No, it was a kill mission.  And yet, in spite of all these problems in the telling of the story, it is evident that Bin Laden is dead.

According to Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, the reason for these differences comes from the desire to spread the information concerning Bin Laden’s death as fast as possible.  And since this event was witnessed by just a “handful of people,” it is not surprising that there are differences in the accounts of the event.  The differences in accounts do not undermine the reality of the event.  Instead they demonstrate the significance of the occasion.  The death of Bin Laden is a key moment in the history of our nation.

The development of this story sheds light on the differences that exist in the various gospel accounts of the resurrection.   How many angels were there?  Did the disciples first meet Jesus in Galilee?  Or was it in Jerusalem?   Each gospel gives a different list of women that went to the tomb.  Matthew says that there was an earthquake.  None of the other gospels mention the earthquake.   And so on.  To some people, these differences undermine the credibility of the resurrection.  However, in actuality these differences give credence to the historicity of the resurrection.  The differences in the gospel accounts reveal to us that something of colossal importance happened that first Easter morning.  Hence it was vital that the witnesses spread the news of the occasion as fast as possible.

As NT Wright writes in Surprised by Hope, “Surface discrepancies do not mean that nothing happened.  Indeed, they are a reasonable indication that something remarkable happened, so remarkable that the first witnesses were bewildered into telling different stories about it.”



Leave a Comment
  1. Dustin Schledewitz / May 10 2011 6:28 pm

    Great connection. It also made me wonder about how the connection of the theological purpose and the audience of the Gospel accounts could be connected with the purpose and audience of the Bin Laden accounts. Great analogy.

  2. Matthew Reese / May 11 2011 4:59 pm

    I love the comparison, But at the same time, I think it is awesome and important to remember that the varying details in the Resurrection accounts do not constitute discrepancies. Just differing recollections about the import of those details.

  3. Daniel / May 11 2011 6:24 pm

    Good point, Matt. I like how Wright calls them “surface discrepancies.”

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