April 7, 2002 / Volume 2, Issue 14
THE ATHEIST'S COMPLAINT:
Who was at the tomb? One or two? Angels or men? Is there a contradiction between Matthew 28:2-5, Luke 24:4 and John 20:12?
In Matthew 28, we are told of an angel who spoke with the women who came to the tomb. In Luke's account, "...two men stood by them in shining garments..." (24:4). John tells us of "...two angels in white..." (20:12). Perhaps the questioner considers Luke's reference to men to be contradictory to the "angel(s)" spoken of in the other accounts. The fact that they are "in shining garments" should indicate that these men were angels. Recall that in Genesis 19:1, "...two angels..." came to Lot in Sodom. However, when the men of the city came to Lot's house, they asked, "Where are the men who came to you tonight?" (19:5). There are other such cases in Scripture where an angel (literally, a messenger) is also referred to as a man (the physical appearance they appeared in).
Perhaps the questioner's trouble is with the fact that Matthew mentions only one angel, while both Luke and John mention two. It is entirely plausible that Mary saw one angel, and then afterward, two. It is folly to say it is necessary for each writer to mention each detail of the events. Two people may speak of the same event without providing the exact same details, and still be without descrepancy.
There is no contradiction.
This article is a response to Skeptic's Annotated Bible