The four accounts of the empty tomb seem to differ as follows:
- Matthew 28:1-8 says that when the two women, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, went to visit the tomb, there was an earthquake and an angel came down from heaven, rolled back the stone and sat on it. He told them Jesus was risen, so they left quickly and apparently without entering the tomb, so that they could tell the disciples.
- Mark 16:1-8 says that when the three women, Mary Magdalene, the other Mary and Salome, went to visit the tomb, they saw the stone already rolled away. They entered the tomb and saw a young man, who told them Jesus was risen and that they should go and tell the disciples and Peter. They left and told no one of this, for they were afraid. Verse 16:9 is generally believed to be an interpolation that begins a separate tradition.
- Luke 24:1-12 says that when a group of women, including Mary Magdalene, another Mary and Joanna, went to visit the tomb, they saw the stone already rolled away. They entered the tomb and saw two men in shining garments, who explained that Jesus was risen. When they went to tell the apostles, Peter ran to the sepulchre and looked inside, seeing only the linen cloths laid by themselves.
- John 20:1-14 says that Mary Magdalene went alone to visit the tomb but as she approached, she saw the stone rolled away. She ran back, apparently without entering the tomb, and told of this to Peter and the disciple who Jesus loved. The two disciples both ran to the tomb and looked inside, but it was the beloved disciple who understood and believed. Mary Magdalene must have returned to the tomb, because she looked inside and saw two angels, then saw Jesus standing outside next to her.
Since these are descriptions of the same event, can the four accounts be harmonise and, if so, how?