What is the popular story of Easter, and how does it differ from what is known historically? The chart below is an excerpt from "How Did Easter Originally Happen?" by Thomas Sheehan.
Sunday, April 9, 30 c.e.
The Jerusalem Area
1. Jesus rises from the dead early in the morning (Mark 16:9). Mary Magdalene, alone or with other women, discovers the open tomb. Either she informs Peter and another disciple, who visit the tomb and find it empty (John 20:1-10); or she and the others meet one or two angels inside, who announce the resurrection (Mark 16:5-6; Luke 24:4-6); or the women flee and say nothing to anyone (Mark 16:8).
2. Later, outside the tomb, Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene alone, who at first mistakes him for a gardener. He tells her to inform the disciples that he is ascending at that moment to his Father (John 20:17; Mark 16:9).
3. Jesus also appears to Mary Magdalene and another Mary, who grasp his feet and worship. Jesus tells them to send the brethren to Galilee, where they will see him (Matthew 28:10).
Afternoon and early evening
4. Sometime during the day Jesus appears to Simon Peter (Luke 24:34).
5. Jesus walks incognito through the countryside for almost seven miles with two disciples. He starts to eat dinner with them in Emmaus but disappears as soon as they recognize who he is (Luke 24:13-31; Mark 16:12-13).
6. Back in Jerusalem, Jesus appears to the disciples in a room even though the doors are locked. He tries to overcome their doubts by showing them his wounds and by eating broiled fish and honeycomb. He either gives them the Holy Spirit and the power to forgive sins (John) or does not (Luke), and either sends them out into the whole world (Mark) or tells them to stay in Jerusalem for a while (Luke). The disciple Thomas either is present (Luke and Mark, by implication) or is not (John). (Luke 24:36-49; John 20:19-23; Mark 16:14-18)
7. Jesus ascends into heaven that night from Bethany (Luke 24:51; Mark 16:19).
Sunday, April 16, 30 c.e.
Still in Jerusalem
8. Jesus appears again to the disciples behind locked doors, and invites Thomas, who now is present, to put his fingers and hands into the wounds (John 20:26-29).
Over the next weeks
9. Jesus offers the disciples many other proofs and signs, not all of which are recorded in the Gospels (John 20:30).
Late April or early May, 30 c.e.
10. Early one morning Jesus makes his "third appearance" (sic, John 21:14), this time to Simon and six others on the shore of Lake Galilee. He miraculously arranges for them to catch 153 large fish and invites them ashore for a breakfast of broiled fish and bread, which he has prepared. Jesus instructs Simon, "Feed my lambs, feed my sheep," and discusses how Simon and the Beloved Disciple will die (John 21:1-23).
11. Jesus appears to the eleven disciples on a mountain, but some still doubt. He commissions them to baptize all nations and assures them, "I am with you always, to the close of the age." He does not ascend into heaven (Matthew 28:16-20).
Thursday, May 18, 30 c.e.
Back in the Jerusalem area
12. Jesus appears again and tells the disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they receive the Holy Spirit (even though, according to John, they had already received the Spirit on April 9: John 20:22). Then he ascends into heaven from Mount Olivet, just west of Jerusalem (Acts 1:1-12).
Sunday, May 28, 30 c.e.
13. God sends the Holy Spirit upon the twelve disciples, Mary, the mother of Jesus, and about 107 other people (Acts 2:1-4; cf. 1:13-15, 26).