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How do we reconcile Jesus' appearance in the Luke & John passages relating to Thomas:

  • Matthew 27 - Judas killed himself before Jesus' resurrection
  • Luke 24 - Jesus met the rest of the disciples eleven & 51) Jesus ascended to heaven on the same day
  • John 20 - Thomas story eight days later - but Jesus has already seen Thomas in Luke

If Judas killed himself already, there are only 11 Apostles often called disciples left, and Luke says Jesus met the eleven (include Thomas) & Jesus ascended to heaven on the day. Yet eight days later we have the Thomas story in John.

Matthew 27:3-5

3 Then Judas, who betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, 4 saying, I have sinned in that I betrayed innocent blood. But they said, What is that to us? see thou to it. 5 And he cast down the pieces of silver into the sanctuary, and departed; and he went away and hanged himself.

Luke 24:33-36 & 51 (ASV)

33 And they rose up that very hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven (when written like this it clealr refers to The Apostles) gathered together, and them that were with them, 34 saying, The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon. 35 And they rehearsed the things that happened in the way, and how he was known of them in the breaking of the bread. 36 And as they spake these things, he himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.

51 And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he parted from them, and was carried up into heaven.

John 20:24-26

24 But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe. 26 And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them. Jesus cometh, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you.

Note:

  1. John is the only one that mentions this story Clearly, one passage has to be wrong.

  2. Luke 24:40 "And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet." - it is astonishing that Luke does not even mention anything about Jesus' marks/injuries or any one else.

  3. Twelve - some say it is a general term used for the Group and not a specific count - there doesn’t appear to be any passage to support this. if anything the passages show the opposite, some examples;

John 20:24

But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.

Matthew 26:14

Then one of the twelve, named Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests

Matthew 26:47

While He was still speaking, behold, Judas, one of the twelve, came up accompanied by a large crowd with swords and clubs, who came from the chief priests and elders of the people.

Mark 14:43

Immediately while He was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, came up accompanied by a crowd with swords and clubs, who were from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders.

Luke 22:3

And Satan entered into Judas who was called Iscariot, belonging to the number of the twelve.

Luke 22:47

While He was still speaking, behold, a crowd came, and the one called Judas, one of the twelve, was preceding them; and he approached Jesus to kiss Him.

1 Corinthians 15:5

and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.

Finally, why would Thomas not believe when in, Matthew 10:7-8 he and the disciples had the power to raise the dead.

7 As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give."

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  • 3
    'One of the twelve' is a designation that does not cease because Judas is deceased. He 'was' 'one of the twelve' for several years.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Jul 5, 2022 at 17:11
  • 3
    Maybe I'm missing something obvious, but I don't understand this question. If it's what Nigel J pointed out the question seems far too elaborate. But if not, what are the two facts that need to be reconciled? Commented Jul 5, 2022 at 18:44
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    I second the motion of @RayButterworth—what exactly, precisely, has to be reconciled? How aren't 'Judas killed himself before the resurrection' and 'Jesus appeared to the 11' reconcilable? Both John and Luke affirm Thomas saw the resurrected Christ. Commented Jul 8, 2022 at 18:06
  • @SolaGratia, I see what it being asked now. The main problem is that there is far too much extra information in the question (e.g. Judas and heaven). Luke says the eleven (implying Thomas too) were gathered together; John explicitly says Thomas was not there. Commented Jul 9, 2022 at 12:23
  • This probably doesn't count as reconciling them... but one way of dealing with differing accounts is to assert that eyewitnesses do not always agree; and the Holy Spirit moved the authors to include varying accounts. When God looks through Luke's eyes he gets a different perspective than when he looks though Matthew's. Commented Oct 13, 2022 at 13:38

6 Answers 6

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Chronology

The timing of the ascension is the easy part of this question to answer - the ascension did not take place the same day as the resurrection; Luke himself acknowledges this in Acts chapter 1.

One of the known, narrative features of Luke's Gospel is that he is not providing a play-by-play narrative, and skips around chronologically a number of times. Some object to this because Luke says he's writing an orderly account (Luke 1:3), but it is our western eyes that see "orderly account" and demand that must mean "chronological order".

Much of Luke's Gospel is arranged geographically, not necessarily chronologically. Luke will relate the key events, people, etc. in this town, then that town, and so on. Luke regularly name-drops key witnesses. It is as if Luke is challenging his readers to fact-check him: here's where to go and here's who to talk to, you can validate this story for yourself.

The geographic arrangement of much of Luke's Gospel facilitates this kind of fact-checking.

In Luke 24 there are several apparent discontinuities, where Luke jumps seamlessly from one set of contiguous events to another (he also does this throughout the passion narrative, e.g. compare the passion account of Mark to that of Luke - Mark is careful to log every day; Luke is less concerned with telling us what day it happened than he is about telling us that it happened).

  • There may be a chronology break between verses 43 & 44 (two different post-resurrection appearances)
  • There is probably a chronology break between verses 48 & 49 (initial teaching vs. later teaching, as further elaborated upon in Acts 1)
  • There is almost certainly a chronology break before verse 50. Jesus appeared to the disciples in the evening; the trip to Bethany for the ascension is almost certainly not that evening (and, according to Acts, is 40 days later)

So the ascension does not happen the same day as the resurrection; this becomes more apparent when we see how Luke has structured his account.

--

Where was Thomas?

The answer to this portion of the question is less clear. 3 possibilities present themselves:

  • It's a genuine contradiction: Luke says Thomas was there the first time the apostles (as a group) saw Jesus; John says Thomas was not there
  • "The eleven" was used the same way "the twelve" is used elsewhere -- it's the way the apostles as a quorum were referred to, even if not exactly 11 or 12 are present at the moment. That is, "the eleven" is a term that was used to refer to "the apostles" during the interval between Judas' death & Matthias' call, but it does not actually tell us how many of the 11 were present
  • Thomas was present in verse 33 but has gone somewhere else prior to verse 36. If the apostles were gathered together and significant news such as this had reached them, it is not unreasonable that one of their number would have hurried to share the news elsewhere (or perhaps even to check the tomb for himself).
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I dont think there is a chronological contradiction here.

The issue is that Thomas did not think Jesus was truly ressurected in body and flesh.

He was convinced that Jesus had only appeared as a spirit.

When Jesus appeared to the eleven, Thomas saw that, but he didnt believe that Jesus was ressurected in body. This was an important distinction, appearing as a ghost versus being ressurected body, as Jesus prophesized about himself.

Essentially, simply appearing as a ghost would not qualify as truly being ressurected in body.

So Jesus appeared to Thomas and showed him he was truly ressureccted in body.

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  • Your answer could be improved with additional supporting information. Please edit to add further details, such as citations or documentation, so that others can confirm that your answer is correct. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
    – Community Bot
    Commented Jul 10, 2022 at 22:24
  • @ supercube - Jesus was quite clear that he was not a spirit - Luke 24:39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” & he didn't just come and disappear - Luke 24:43 and he took it and ate before them. Commented Jul 11, 2022 at 9:57
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When the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, returned to Jerusalem reporting their encounter with Jesus, "They found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together" (Luke 24:33). So there were a lot of people there, and I am sure they were more eager to tell their happy encounter, instead of identifying who were in the room. Luke collected the details from witnesses, likely never from John, who could provided accurate details in his Gospel on that particular night, as he could recall exactly a week later, Jesus reappeared to strengthen Thomas.

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  • @ Vicent Wong - your point noted - 1) but Luke seems clear 'eleven' could easily have said disciples or some. 2) No other story of any other disciple meeting Jesus after 3) If so many people gathered it would have been the talk of the town, Thomas still waited 8 days, why? 4) If Luke wrong not very inspired Commented Jul 13, 2022 at 8:30
  • @another theory - Luke was not in the room certainly. His record was based on, as the introduction in his Gospel, "investigation". John was there in the room. So which record is more creditable? I don't take Luke made a mistake for his focus was on Jesus resurrected into a flesh, not a spirit. You may note that Jesus gave the great commission in the room, contrary to Matthew 28:16-20, on the mountain in Galilee. I would accept some discrepancies in the Bible, perhaps God allow it, as a trial to our faith. Commented Jul 13, 2022 at 16:24
  • @another theory - why Thomas waited 8 days? Since the last supper, many names were not mentioned. There was no clue where they went. Thomas might be with the disciples from the 2nd day onward, whereas Jesus came after 8 days. But truly this speculation is unnecessary. It doesn't change the focus of Jesus's resurrection into a fresh, as he ate fish in the room, similar record in John 21, Jesus ate fish with 7 disciples by the sea of Galilee. Commented Jul 13, 2022 at 16:39
  • @ Vicent Wong - noted - Jesus appeared on a number of occasions & yes John arguably would take precedence if John the disciple really wrote the Gospel see link: hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/a/63568/33268 - that would still make Luke incorrect whatever the reason was. Astonishing that Luke nor the others mentions the the mark / injuries to Jesus. God is not going to inspire error. The Resurrected are spirits like the angels which they thought he was, which he cleared - he is not - that's for another Q. Commented Jul 14, 2022 at 9:09
  • @another theory - Thanks for the link. chapter 21 of John is an addendum. It could be written by someone else quite some time later and then annexed to the book. But could chapter 21 deny the previous 20 chapters were not John's witness? Luke 24:39 NIV "Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have." One may wonder why Luke didn't mention the nail wound on Jesus. But if Luke did mentioned, will the focus shift? Bible authors written with a purpose, what to say and what not to say. In the end, who believe will believe. Commented Jul 14, 2022 at 13:16
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Remember that by the time these books were written, the disciples of Christ became a famous and honored group among Christians. Probably the single most important and honored group in all of Christianity.

It was not a casual thing to say that you had met with "the twelve" or in Luke's case, "the eleven".

So I read "the eleven" as the name of a group, not as a count. And in this case, Jesus came upon "the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them", so it was a meeting of the eleven that Jesus came to. Now if we adopt the assumption of the question, then it would be impossible for a disciple to miss a meeting of the eleven, since there wouldn't be eleven if not all were there. But obviously a disciple can be absent from a meeting, and it remains a meeting of the group, just one in which not all were present.

On the other hand if I say "I saw eleven disciples" without the article and a qualification of disciples, it would mean that I had counted and saw eleven disciples. But if I say "I saw the eleven" (with an article and no "disciples" as in the Greek), then I am likely referring to the group, just as a meeting with the Sanhedrin remains a meeting with the Sanhedrin even if a few are absent, or a meeting with the Senate remains a meeting even if some senators are absent.

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  • @ Robert - noted - but is there any passage that quotes them as a collective group "the twelve" that shows it was not always 12 present? Commented Jul 15, 2022 at 8:31
  • @anothertheory - How would we know? The point is that the group is referred to, so to know exactly who was present would require other verses tracking each individual's movement or a statement that X wasn't present/left, and that only happens twice, once with Judas and once with Thomas.
    – Robert
    Commented Jul 15, 2022 at 16:54
  • @ Robert - I have add to my Q - the passages don't show twelve being used as a collective group, if anything the opposite. Commented Jul 18, 2022 at 10:41
  • @anothertheory all of the passages you cite show the twelve being referred to as a group. The very phrase "one of the twelve" and lack of qualifier "disciple" means that it is a group.
    – Robert
    Commented Jul 19, 2022 at 0:04
  • @ Robert - I read it different, 'twelve' means they are talking about a disciple, but it means all are present, unless it clarifies the 'one' they are talking about. So Luke 'eleven' meant they were all present, not talking about one or some. Your points noted. Commented Jul 19, 2022 at 8:31
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Eleven Apostles or Eleven Disciples?

If Judas killed himself already, there are only 11 disciples left, and Luke says Jesus met the eleven (includes Thomas) & Jesus ascended to heaven on the day. Yet eight days later we have the Thomas story in John.

First, the OP states only 11 disciples remained after Judas killed himself. In fact many disciples remained but only 11 of those named as apostles remained after Judas killed himself.

Luke 6:

12 In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God. 13 And when day came, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles: 14 Simon, whom he named Peter, and Andrew his brother, and James and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, 15 and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot, 16 and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.

Jesus called His disciples and chose 12 to be named apostles. Those not chosen remained as disciples. After Judas killed himself 11 apostles remained. There were always more than twelve disciples.

On the day of the resurrection, Luke says Jesus appeared to a group consisting of the two who had spoken to Jesus on the road to Emmaus, and those who had gathered with the eleven.

Luke 24

32 And they said to one another, “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?” 33 So they rose up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, 34 saying, “The Lord is risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” 35 And they told about the things that had happened on the road, and how He was known to them in the breaking of bread. 36 Now as they said these things, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them, and said to them, “Peace to you.”

When the two returned to Jerusalem they joined a large gathering of disciples. The group is described as many, undoubtedly all of whom were disciples and some apostles.

The question is who did Luke consider as belonging to a select group of eleven. Were they all apostles or were some apostles and one or more disciples?

Apostles
Since there were twelve whom Jesus named as apostles, an obvious assumption is "eleven" refers to the remaining apostles. This group had been twelve; Judas killed himself; eleven remained. However, that group of eleven would include Thomas, who John states was not present and did not see Jesus until eight days after the resurrection.

This conflict between Luke and John may be resolved in one of three ways:

  1. John invented the details, or relied on a different tradition.
  2. Luke was in error.
  3. Luke's "eleven" is referring to a special group of disciples, not apostles.

Either of the first two show John included the Thomas event to offer greater clarity on how at least one of the original apostles responded to seeing the resurrected Christ:

John 20:

26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

John wants the reader to know one of the original twelve immediately recognized the resurrected Chrsit as both his Lord and his God. If John knew this was incorrect or an improper confession, that is, if John had the slightest doubt addressing Jesus as "Lord and God" was wrong, the reader would expect a narrator comment explaining the correct understanding. Instead, John includes Jesus as accepting Thomas' confession and explaining all who do not see what Thomas saw and believed would be blessed.

In this case John's purpose in including the Thomas story is to reinforce the proper understanding is explicitly Jesus is "Lord and God." Not only do the details of the event make this clear, it ends the Gospel with an inclusio recalling the beginning:

In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God
Thomas answered Him, "My Lord and My God."

The Word who was God became flesh who is Lord and God.

If John invented the story, the point is more explicit. Arguably, the reason to include it, is to make it absolutely clear believing Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, means the believer is to call Jesus "Lord and God."

Disciples
Rather than believe Luke or John are erroneous, we can look for an understanding which reconciles the apparent conflict. The eleven are not the remaining apostles. They are a notable group of disciples among the many disciples who had gathered. The group of eleven included some who were called apostles and at least one who was not called as such.

John 19:

25 but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” 27 Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.

The reconciling explanation for Luke's eleven is the group consisted of 10 apostles (Thomas was not present) and the mother of Jesus who came with John, the disciple whom Jesus loved.

Luke 24:33

So they rose up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven, Peter, Andrew his brother, James and John and Mary His mother, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot, and those who had gathered with them.

By omitting the designation of apostle Luke ensures what follows applies to all disciples.

Luke 24:

44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

Both apostles and disciples were given understanding of what was written about Jesus and both were to be witnesses of these things.

Conclusion
There is a reasonable explanation reconciling John's account of the resurrection appearances. The eleven were ten of the remaining apostles and the mother of Jesus. Thomas was not present.

Furthermore, John includes the details of Thomas for the explicit purpose of showing his immediate reaction to encountering the resurrected Christ. What is a clear, unambiguous, intentional declaration that Thomas called Jesus his God, is followed with a promise from Jesus that all who believe without seeing will be blessed.

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  • When it mentions the 'eleven' or 'twelve' it relates to The Apostles, albeit they are often called disciples, maybe I should have been more clear, slightly amended. 1) You mention Luke 24 twice, the second time you seem to have mixed it with a different event in Acts, in an attempt to show Mary was at the first meeting, no evidence. 2) John didn’t bother recording the first meeting nor did the other Apostles. Commented Jan 25 at 11:17
  • You assert “eleven” means apostles but that is speculation. I am not confusing a later event. It is clear what Jesus said in verses 44-49 was spoken to those who were present when the 2 from Emmaus returned to find the 11 and those who had gathered with them. Commented Jan 25 at 14:29
  • evidence points to 'eleven' and 'twelve' as Apostles - I mentioned Mary - where is your evidence she was at the first meeting Luke 24:33, the one you have mixed with Acts the second time you quoted it? Speculation, your whole answer is speculations, assumptions, hope - no evidence. Commented Jan 25 at 14:47
  • Yet if John fabricated the Thomas event, which is your understanding, it means John invented a story so people would believe they would be blessed if they like Thomas called Jesus "my Lord and my God" without seeing Him. Commented Jan 25 at 15:53
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A Word of Caution

Unless one compiles a comprehensive account of things from all the four gospels, one may end up in error. Looking at things from one gospel writer may not be comprehensive.

A Case:- How many of us would know that the ladies in the morning, on the first day after the Resurrection, went twice to the place where the Apostles were staying?

First when they saw the tomb empty and before meeting the angels (John 20:2) and later when they saw the risen Jesus (John 20:18).

Also Peter ran twice that day to the empty tomb first with John (John 20:4) when the ladies reported about the empty tomb and later alone when the ladies reported that they saw the risen Jesus (Luke 24:12).

Why did Peter run a second time to the empty tomb?

The reason is given by Mark in 16:7. The angel told them to “go, say to His disciples, and Peter”.

Yes, Peter was specifically mentioned by the angels to be informed and hence Peter again ran to the tomb.

Now the OP Question

“it is astonishing that Luke does not even mention anything about Jesus' marks/injuries or any one else.” – OP

If all the 4 writers said the same thing, then we need only 1 gospel as the other 3 would be simply copies.

“Twelve - some say it is a general term used for the Group and not a specific count - there doesn’t appear to be any passage to support this.” – OP

That is a good question. And it is always better to seek support from the Scripture itself. (I always try to do it).

But two passages show that “it is a general term used for the Group and not a specific count”. (These two passages thankfully I found in the OP itself).

John 20:24:

“But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.”

At that time, when John wrote “one of the twelve”, there were actually only eleven, as Judas Iscariot had already gone from the scene committing suicide.

Yet John wrote “Twelve” showing clearly that it was “a general term used for the Group and not a specific count”.

1 Corinthians 15:5:

“and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.”

2 things here:

  1. Was not Cephas (Simeon Peter) a part of the Twelve? Or were there Thirteen? The fact is, Cephas was part of the Twelve.

This shows clearly that the term “Twelve” was a generic term to show the inner circle of the closest disciples (Apostles).

  1. Again, soon after the Resurrection when Jesus appeared to Cephas and the Twelve, Judas Iscariot was not there because he had committed suicide.

This shows clearly that the term “Twelve” was a generic term for the Group and not a specific count.

Conclusion

So, it becomes clear that when Luke 24:33 talks about “the Eleven”, it is a generic term like the “Twelve” and not a specific count.

We can confirm this because John says that Thomas was not there (John 20:24).

Also:

  • Luke 24 doesn’t say that Jesus ascended to heaven on the same day.

  • (OP last question): Thomas wanted to believe but he wanted first to confirm with his own eyes that his Lord was indeed risen. This depends on the personality differences. Remember, none of them had yet received “Power” from above. This shows that they were weak and always doubted. But things changed on the day of the Pentecost.

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  • Well presented A and no definitive evidence either way IMO, some observations if you don’t mind; 1) not sure the Peter / tomb story is the best example, has a number of issue – but point noted. 2) No need for ‘4 writers’ to say the same thing – they do a lot of the same things & such an important event at the first meeting no ne mentions the holes / marks etc… 3) John 20:24 & 1 Corn, IMO don’t prove ‘group’ and these passages could be taken a different way. Commented Jan 26 at 11:18
  • 4) the Apostles ‘were weak’ - Matt 10:8 – ‘Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay…….’ They could do all this yet didn’t believe Jesus could be raised from the dead! Commented Jan 26 at 11:18
  • Thank you for the feedback. As part of my learning, I would like to know: 1) “number of issues” in the Peter/tomb account; 3) “a different way” the ‘group’ passages could be taken. Regarding 2) yes, the gospels say mostly the same incidents, after all they all provide the life sketch of the same Person. But I meant the details vary in them. Commented Jan 26 at 12:59
  • The apostles were humanly weak before they received Power from above. The miracles they did because they were temporarily and exclusively given “power and authority over all the demons, and to heal diseases” (Luke 9:1). But later, they couldn’t do any miracles (Matt 17:16) upsetting Jesus! So they were weak without the Holy Spirit. (The people, who saw the Red Sea parted and walked through, are the same people who made the cast image of the golden calf!) Commented Jan 26 at 13:00
  • @ Nephesh Roi - 1) Not directly Peter, but the 'tomb' events. See hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/a/62629/33268. Mark 16:8 says the women said nothing to anyone. John 20:4 – doesn’t say Peter ran with John, only another disciple. 2) No mention at all by the others (not variance). 3) arguable contradictions 1 Corn also see link as to who Jesus appeared to first Commented Jan 29 at 12:39

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