Was the stone moved away before Mary arrived at Jesus' tomb or not?

by Matt Slick

Some critics of Christianity assert that there is a contradiction in the gospels of the New Testament regarding the chronology of the arrival of the women at Jesus' tomb and when the stone had been moved away.  Was the stone moved before or after the women arrived at the tomb. Let's take a look at the four gospels that record this event:  Matthew 28:1–2; Mark 16:1–4; Luke 24:1–2;John 20:1  

I have arrange the Scripture on the right with the analysis of the verses on the left. 

Analysis Scripture
No definitive declaration of when the stone was rolled away in relation to the arrival of the women. It just says that the stone was rolled away.  But the implication is that the stone was moved prior to their arrival since it says an "earthquake had occurred" (v. 2) which is past tense. Matthew 28:1–2, "Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave. 2 And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it."
The stone was already rolled away when they arrived at the tomb (v. 4). Mark 16:1–4, "When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices, so that they might come and anoint Him. 2 Very early on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. 3 They were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” 4 Looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away, although it was extremely large."  
The stone was already rolled away when they arrived at the tomb (v. 2). Luke 24:1–2, "But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. 2 And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb,"
The stone was already rolled away when they arrived at the tomb (v. 1). John 20:1, "Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came early to the tomb, while it was still dark, and saw the stone already taken away from the tomb."  

In Matthew, it says that Mary Magdalene and Mary went to the grave on the first day of the week. The same thing is said in Mark 16:2, Luke 24:1, and John 20:1. The first day of the week is, of course, Sunday, which, incidentally, is why Christians worship on Sunday, the Lord's day, the first day of the week.

The first day of the week. As mentioned in several places in the New Testament.

  • Mark 16:9, "Now after He had risen early on the first day of the week, He first appeared to Mary Magdalene, from whom He had cast out seven demons."
  • John 20:19, "So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.”"
  • Acts 20:7, "On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking to them, intending to leave the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight."
  • 1 Corinthians 16:2, "On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come."

Conclusion

No information exists that gives us a specific chronology of the stone being moved other than that when when the women got to the tomb, the stone had already been moved away.  Therefore, there is no contradiction in the gospels regarding the chronology of the moving of the stone which occurred on the first day of the week, Sunday.

 

 

 

 

 
 

About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.