101 Cleared-up Contradictions in the Bible Pt. 2

This is a continuation from the previous segment: 101 Cleared-up Contradictions in the Bible.

26. Was Jacob (Matthew 1:16) or Heli (Luke 3:23) the father of Joseph and husband of Mary?

(Category: misunderstood the Hebrew usage)

The answer to this is simple but requires some explanation. Most scholars today agree that Matthew gives the genealogy of Joseph and Luke gives that of Mary, making Jacob the father of Joseph and Heli the father of Mary.

This is shown by the two narrations of the virgin birth. Matthew 1:18-25 tells the story only from Joseph’s perspective, while Luke 1:26-56 is told wholly from Mary’s point of view.

A logical question to ask is why Joseph is mentioned in both genealogies? The answer is again simple. Luke follows strict Hebrew tradition in mentioning only males. Therefore, in this case, Mary is designated by her husband’s name.

This reasoning is clearly supported by two lines of evidence. In the first, every name in the Greek text of Luke’s genealogy, with the one exception of Joseph, is preceded by the definite article (e.g. ‘the’ Heli, ‘the’ Matthat). Although not obvious in English translations, this would strike anyone reading the Greek, who would realize that it was tracing the line of Joseph’s wife, even though his name was used.

The second line of evidence is the Jerusalem Talmud, a Jewish source. This recognizes the genealogy to be that of Mary, referring to her as the daughter of Heli (Hagigah 2:4).

(Fruchtenbaum 1993:10-13)

27. Did Jesus descend from Solomon (Matthew 1:6) or from Nathan (Luke 3:31), both of whom are sons of David?

(Category: misunderstood the Hebrew usage)

This is directly linked to ‘contradiction’ 26. Having shown that Matthew gives Joseph’s genealogy and Luke gives that of Mary, it is clear that Joseph was descended from David through Solomon and Mary through Nathan.

28. Was Jechoniah (Matthew 1:12) or Neri (Luke 3:27) the father of Shealtiel?

(Category: misunderstood the Hebrew usage)

Once again, this problem disappears when it is understood that two different genealogies are given from David to Jesus, those of both Mary and Joseph (see #26). Two different genealogies mean two different men named Shealtiel, a common Hebrew name. Therefore, it is not surprising to recognize that they both had different fathers!

29. Which son of Zerubbabel was an ancestor of Jesus Christ, Abiud (Matthew 1:13) or Rhesa (Luke 3:27), and what about Zerubbabel in (1 Chronicles 3:19-20)?

(Category: misunderstood the Hebrew usage)

As with #28, two different Shealtiels necessitates two different Zerubbabels, so it is no problem that their sons had different names.

It should not surprise us that there was a Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel in both Mary’s and Joseph’s ancestry. Matthew tells us that Joseph’s father was named Jacob. Of course, the Bible records another Joseph son of Jacob, who rose to become the second most powerful ruler in Egypt (Genesis 37-47). We see no need to suggest that these two men are one and the same, so we should have no problem with two men named Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel.

The Zerubbabel mentioned in 1 Chronicles 3:19,20 could easily be a third. Again, this causes no problem: there are several Marys mentioned in the Gospels, because it was a common name. The same may be true here. This Zerubbabel would then be a cousin of the one mentioned in Matthew 1:12,13. A comparison of Matthew and 1 Chronicles gives the following possible family tree:

    |                                   |
Zerubbabel                   Zerubbabel----Shimei----...
    |                            |
  Abiud                       7 sons
    |   (1 Ch. 3:19,20)

30. Was Joram (Matthew 1:8) or Amaziah (2 Chronicles 26:1) the father of Uzziah?

(Category: misunderstood the Hebrew usage)

This answer is of a similar nature to that in #24. Just as the Hebrew bat (daughter) can be used to denote a more distant descendant, so can the Hebrew ben (son). Jesus is referred to in Matthew 1:1 as the son of David, the son of Abraham. Both the genealogies trace Jesus’ ancestry through both these men, illustrating the usage of ‘son’. Although no Hebrew manuscripts of Matthew’s gospel are extant today, it is clear that he was a Jew writing from a Hebrew perspective and therefore completely at home with the Hebrew concept of son ship.

With this in mind, it can easily be shown that Amaziah was the immediate father of Uzziah (also called Azariah). Joram/Jehoram, on the other hand, was Uzziah’s great-great-grandfather and a direct ascendant. The line goes Joram/Jehoram – Ahaziah – Joash – Amaziah – Azariah/Uzziah (2 Chronicles 21:4-26:1).

Matthew’s telescoping of Joseph’s genealogy is quite acceptable, as his purpose is simply to show the route of descent. He comments in 1:17 that there were three sets of fourteen generations. This reveals his fondness for numbers and links in directly with the designation of Jesus as the son of David. In the Hebrew language, each letter is given a value. The total value of the name David is fourteen and this is probably the reason why Matthew only records fourteen generations in each section, to underline Jesus’ position as the son of David.

31. Was Josiah (Matthew 1:11) or Jehoiakim (1 Chronicles 3:16) the father of Jechoniah?

(Category: misunderstood the Hebrew usage)

This question is essentially the same as #30. Jehoiakim was Jeconiah’s father and Josiah his grandfather. This is quite acceptable and results from Matthew’s aesthetic telescoping of the genealogy, not from any error.

32. Were there fourteen (Matthew 1:17) or thirteen (Matthew 1:12-16) generations from the Babylonian exile until Christ?

(Category: misunderstood the Hebrew usage)

As Matthew clearly states (1:17), there were fourteen. In the first section there are fourteen names, in the second fifteen and in the third, fourteen. Perhaps the simplest way of resolving the problem is to suggest that in the first and third sections, the first and last person is included as a generation, whereas not in the second. In any case, as Matthew has clearly telescoped his genealogy with good reason, a mistake on his part is by no means shown conclusively. If by some chance another name or two has been lost from the list in the originals, by scribal error, we cannot know. Whatever the real situation, a simple explanation can be afforded, as above.

33. Who was the father of Shelah; Cainan (Luke 3:35-36) or Arphaxad (Genesis 11:12)?

(Category: misunderstood the Hebrew usage)

Although a conclusive answer is not possible, plausible explanations can be found. The most probable answer to this is that the genealogy in the Masoretic text of Genesis telescopes the generations as does Matthew in his list. When we look at the Septuagint (LXX), we find the name of Cainan included as the father of Shelah, echoing what we find in Luke. Luke, writing in Greek, would have used the Septuagint as his authority.

On that same note, if we refer to the Septuagint, when we look at Genesis 11:12 we find that Apharxad was 135 years old, rather than 35 (which would allow more time for him to be Shelah’s grandfather).

34. John the Baptist was (Matthew 11:14; 17:10-13) or was not Elijah to come (John 1:19-21)?

(Category: misunderstood the historical context)

Matthew records Jesus saying that John the Baptist was the Elijah who was to come, while John seems to record John the Baptist denying it. The reason for this apparent inconsistency is a lack of contextualization by readers.

The priests and Levites came to John the Baptist and asked him if he was Elijah. Quite a funny question to ask someone, unless you know the Jewish Scriptures. For God says through the prophet Malachi that He will send Elijah to the people of Israel before a certain time. Therefore as the Jewish people were expecting Elijah, the question is quite logical.

John was about 30 years when he was asked this question. His parents were already dead; he was the only son of Zechariah from the tribe of Levi. So when asked if he was Elijah who ascended up into heaven about 878 years earlier, the answer was obviously “No, I am not Elijah.”

Jesus also testifies, albeit indirectly, to John not being Elijah in Matthew 11:11 where he says that John is greater than all people who have ever been born. Moses was greater than Elijah, but John was greater than them both.

So what did Jesus mean when he says of John “he is the Elijah who was to come”? The angel Gabriel (Jibril in Arabic) speaks to Zechariah of his son, John, who was not yet born, saying “he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous – to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (Luke 1:17)

The Angel refers to two prophecies, Isaiah 40:3-5 (see Luke 3:4-6 to see this applied again to John the Baptist) and Malachi 4:5-6 mentioned above, which says “See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers”.Gabriel unmistakably says that John is the “Elijah” whom God foretold through Malachi the prophet.

So, was John Elijah? No. But had the priests and Levites asked him, “Are you the one the prophet Malachi speaks of as ‘Elijah’?” John would have responded affirmatively.

Jesus in Matthew 17:11-13 says that the prophecy of Malachi is true, but Elijah had already come. He says that this “Elijah” suffered, like he, Jesus will suffer; “the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist“. Therefore, once we understand the context it is clear; John was not the literal Elijah, but he was the Elijah that the prophecy spoke of, the one who was to (and did) prepare the way for the Messiah, Jesus, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”, John 1:29.

35. Jesus would (Luke 1:32) or would not (Matthew 1:11; 1 Chronicles 3:16 & Jeremiah 36:30) inherit David’s throne?

(Category: misunderstood the Hebrew usage)

This answer follows on directly from that to #26. Having shown that Matthew’s genealogy is that of Joseph, it is obvious from Jeremiah 36:30 that none of Joseph’s physical descendants were qualified to sit on David’s throne as he himself was descended from Jeconiah. However, as Matthew makes clear, Jesus was not a physical descendant of Joseph. After having listed Joseph’s genealogy with the problem of his descendance from Jeconiah, Matthew narrates the story of the virgin birth. Thus he proves how Jesus avoids the Jeconiah problem and remains able to sit on David’s throne. Luke, on the other hand, shows that Jesus’ true physical descendance was from David apart from Jeconiah, thus fully qualifying him to inherit the throne of his father David. The announcement of the angel in Luke 1:32 completes the picture: ‘the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David’. This divine appointment, together with his physical descendance, make him the only rightful heir to David’s throne.

(Fruchtenbaum 1993:12)

36. Jesus rode into Jerusalem on one colt (Mark 11:7; cf. Luke 19:35), or a colt and an ass (Matthew 21:7)?

(Category: misread the text & misunderstood the historical context)

The accusation is that the Gospels contradict about how many donkeys Jesus rode into Jerusalem on. This accusation is based on not reading the text of Matthew properly and ignoring his full point about this event.

It first should be noted that all four Gospel writers refer to this event, the missing reference above being John 12:14-15. Mark, Luke and John are all in agreement that Jesus sat on the colt. Logic shows that there is no “contradiction” as Jesus cannot ride on two animals at once! So, why does Matthew mention two animals? The reason is clear.

Even by looking at Matthew in isolation, we can see from the text that Jesus did not ride on two animals, but only on the colt. For in the two verses preceding the quote in point (b) above by Shabbir, we read Matthew quoting two prophecies from the Old Testament (Isaiah 62:11 and Zechariah 9:9) together. Matthew says:

Say to the Daughter of Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gently and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey’.”

Matthew 21:5

By saying “a donkey” and then “on a colt, the foal of a donkey” Zechariah is using classic Hebrew sentence structure and poetic language known as “parallelism”, simply repeating the same thing again in another way, as a parallel statement. This is very common in the Bible (i.e. Psalm 119:105 mentions, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path,” yet says the same thing twice in succession). It is clear that there is only one animal referred to. Therefore Matthew clearly says Jesus rode only on a colt, in agreement with the other three Gospel writers.

So why does Matthew say that the colt and its mother were brought along in verse seven? The reason is simple. Matthew, who was an eyewitness (where as Mark and Luke were quite possibly not) emphasizes the immaturity of the colt, too young to be separated from its mother. As the colt had never been ridden the probability was that it was still dependent on its mother. It would have made the entry to Jerusalem easier if the mother donkey were led along down the road, as the foal would naturally follow her, even though he had never before carried a rider and had not yet been trained to follow a roadway.

Here again we see that there is no contradiction between the synoptic accounts, but only added detail on the part of Matthew as one who viewed the event while it was happening.

This is just one of many of the prophecies that Jesus fulfilled. He fulfilled ones that were in his control as well as ones which he could not manipulate, such as the time and place of his birth (Daniel 9:24-26, Micah 5:1-2, Matthew 2:1-6), and his resurrection (Psalm 16:10, Acts 2:24-32) to name but two.

Some Muslims believe that in the Taurat there is reference to the prophecy which the Qur’an speaks of in Sura 7:157 and 61:6 concerning Muhammad. However, these Muslims yet have to come up with one, while Jesus is predicted time and time again.

37. Simon Peter finds out that Jesus was the Christ by a revelation from heaven (Matthew 16:17), or by His brother Andrew (John 1:41)?

(Category: too literalistic an interpretation)

The emphasis of Matthew 16:17 is that Simon did not just hear it from someone else: God had made it clear to him. That does not preclude him being told by other people. Jesus’ point is that he was not simply repeating what someone else had said. He had lived and worked with Jesus and he was now clear in his mind that Jesus was none other than the Christ (Messiah), the Son of the Living God.

Jesus did not ask, “Who have you heard that I am?” but, “Who do you say I am?” There is all the difference in the world between these two questions, and Peter was no longer in any doubt.

38. Jesus first met Simon Peter and Andrew by the Sea of Galilee (Matthew 4:18-22), or on the banks of the river Jordan (John 1:42-43)?

(Category: misread the text)

The accusation is that one Gospel records Jesus meeting Simon Peter and Andrew by the sea of Galilee, while the other says he met them by the river Jordan. However this accusation falls flat on its face as the different writers pick up the story in different places. Both are true.

John 1:35 onwards says Jesus met them by the river Jordan and that they spent time with him there. Andrew (and probably Peter too) were disciples of John the Baptist. They left this area and went to Galilee, in which region was the village of Cana where Jesus then performed his first recorded miracle. “After this he went down to Capernaum with his mothers and brothers and disciples. There they stayed for a few days.” John 2:12.

Peter and Andrew were originally from a town named Bethsaida (John 2:44) but now lived in Capernaum (Matthew 8:14-15, Mark 1:30-31, Luke 4:38-39), a few miles from Bethsaida. They were fishermen by trade, so it was perfectly normal for them to fish when they were home during these few days (for at this time Jesus was only just beginning public teaching or healing).

This is where Matthew picks up the story. As Peter and Andrew fish in the Lake of Galilee, Jesus calls them to follow him – to leave all they have behind and become his permanent disciples. Before this took place, he had not asked them, but they had followed him because of John the Baptist’s testimony of him (John 1:35-39). Now, because of this testimony, plus the miracle in Cana, as well as the things Jesus said (John 1:47-51), as well as the time spent with the wisest and only perfect man who ever lived etc., it is perfectly understandable for them to leave everything and follow him. It would not be understandable for them to just drop their known lives and follow a stranger who appeared and asked them to, like children after the pied piper! Jesus did not enchant anyone – they followed as they realized who he was – the one all the prophets spoke of, the Messiah the son of God.

39. When Jesus met Jairus, his daughter ‘had just died’ (Matthew 9:18), or was ‘at the point of death’ (Mark 5:23)?

(Category: too literalistic an interpretation)

When Jairus left his home, his daughter was very sick, and at the point of death, or he wouldn’t have gone to look for Jesus. When he met Jesus he certainly was not sure whether his daughter had already succumbed. Therefore, he could have uttered both statements; Matthew mentioning her death, while Mark speaking about her sickness. However, it must be underlined that this is not a detail of any importance to the story, or to us. The crucial points are clear:

  1. Jairus’s daughter had a fatal illness.
  2. All that could have been done would already have been: she was as good as dead if not already dead.
  3. Jairus knew that Jesus could both heal her and bring her back from the dead. As far as he was concerned, there was no difference.

Therefore it is really of no significance whether the girl was actually dead or at the point of death when Jairus reached Jesus.’

40. Jesus allowed (Mark 6:8), or did not allow (Matthew 10:9; Luke 9:3) his disciples to keep a staff on their journey?

(Category: misunderstood the Greek usage)

It is alleged that the Gospel writers contradict each other concerning whether Jesus allowed his disciples to take a staff on their journey or not. The problem is one of translation.

In Matthew we read the English translation of the Greek word “ktesthe”, which is rendered in the King James (Authorized) translation as “Provide neither gold, nor silver nor yet staves”. According to a Greek dictionary this word means “to get for oneself, to acquire, to procure, by purchase or otherwise” (Robinson, Lexicon of the New Testament). Therefore in Matthew Jesus is saying “Do not procure anything in addition to what you already have. Just go as you are.”

Matthew 10 and Mark 6 agree that Jesus directed his disciples to take along no extra equipment. Luke 9:3 agrees in part with the wording of Mark 6:8, using the verb in Greek, (“take“); but then, like Matthew adds “no staff, no bag, no bread, no money”. But Matthew 10:10 includes what was apparently a further clarification: they were not to acquire a staff as part of their special equipment for the tour. Mark 6:8 seems to indicate that this did not necessarily involve discarding any staff they already had as they traveled the country with Jesus.

However, this is not a definitive answer, only a possible explanation. This trivial difference does not effect the substantial agreement of the Gospels. We would not be troubled if this were, or is, a contradiction, for we do not have the same view of these Gospels as a Muslim is taught about the Qur’an. And if this is the pinnacle of Biblical contradictions when the Bible is said to be “full of contradictions” and “totally corrupted”, then such people are obviously deluded. If indeed Christian scribes and translators had wished to alter the original Gospels, this “contradiction” would not have been here. It is a sign of the authenticity of the text as a human account of what took place, and is a clear sign that it has not been deliberately corrupted.

41. Herod did (Matthew 14:2; Mark 6:16) or did not (Luke 9:9) think that Jesus was John the Baptist?

(Category: misread the text)

There is no contradiction here. In Luke 9:9, Herod asks who this incredible person could be, as John was now dead. In Matthew 14:2 and Mark 6:16 he gives his answer: after considering who Jesus could be, he concluded that he must be John the Baptist, raised from the dead. By the time Herod actually met Jesus, at his trial, he may not have still thought that it was John (Luke 23:8-11). If that were the case, he had most probably heard more about him and understood John’s claims about preparing for one who was to come (John 1:15-34). He may well have heard that Jesus had been baptised by John, obviously ruling out the possibility that they were the same person.

42. John the Baptist did (Matthew 3:13-14) or did not (John 1:32-33) recognize Jesus before his baptism?

(Category: misunderstood the author’s intent)

John’s statement in John 1:33 that he would not have known Jesus except for seeing the Holy Spirit alight on him and remain, can be understood to mean that John would not have known for sure without this definite sign. John was filled with the Holy Spirit from before his birth (Luke 1:15) and we have record of an amazing recognition of Jesus even while John was in his mother’s womb. Luke 1:41-44 relates that when Mary visited John’s mother, the sound of her greeting prompted John, then still in the womb, to leap in recognition of Mary’s presence, as the mother of the Lord.

From this passage we can also see that John’s mother had some knowledge about who Jesus would be. It is very likely that she told John something of this as he was growing up (even though it seems that she died while he was young).

In the light of this prior knowledge and the witness of the Holy Spirit within John, it is most likely that this sign of the Holy Spirit resting on Jesus was simply a sure confirmation of what he already thought. God removed any doubt so that he could be sure that it was not his imagination or someone else’s mistake.

43. John the Baptist did (John 1:32-33) or did not (Matthew 11:2) recognize Jesus after his baptism?

(Category: misread the text)

In the passage of John 1:29-36 it is abundantly clear that John recognised Jesus. We should have no doubt at all about this.

Matthew 11:2 takes place later on, and many things have happened in the interum. John’s original knowledge of Jesus was limited and it seems that subsequent events had disillusioned him somewhat. He did not know exactly what form Jesus’ ministry would take. We are told from Matthew 3:11,12 some of what John knew: “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing-floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” This is the classic portrayal of the Messiah as the conquering king who would bring God’s judgement on all those who reject him, bringing peace and justice to those who follow him. John obviously understood this.

However, the Messiah was also portrayed in the scriptures as a suffering servant who would suffer on behalf of God’s people. This is shown clearly in Isaiah 53, especially verse 12: “For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors”. John also understood this, as shown by his statement in John 1:29: “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

What was sometimes not so well understood was how the two portrayals of the Messiah interacted. Many thought that the Messiah would bring his terrible judgement as soon as he came. In fact, this will occur when he returns again (his return is alluded to in Acts 1:11, for example). Some were confused, therefore, by Jesus’ reluctance to act as a military leader and release the nation of Israel from Roman oppression at that time.

This confusion is illustrated by Luke 24:13-33, where Jesus spoke with two of his followers on the road to Emmaus after his resurrection. They were initially kept from recognising him (v.16). They told him how they “had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel” (v.21). They were correct in this hope, but failed to understand the first stage in God’s redemptive process. Jesus corrected their misunderstanding in v. 25,26: “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” (emphasis added)

It is most likely that a similar misunderstanding prompted John’s question in Matthew 11:2. Despite having been so sure of Jesus’ identity as the Messiah of Israel, further events had clouded his certainty. After expecting Jesus to oust the Romans and restore the kingdom of Israel as in the days of king David, instead he had seen Jesus ‘teach and preach in the towns of Galilee’ (Matthew 11:1), with no mention of a military campaign. John surely wondered what had gone wrong: had he misunderstood the Messiah’s role, or perhaps he had made a bigger mistake in thinking Jesus was the Messiah. Jesus’ answer in Matthew 11:4-6 makes it clear:

“Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.”

These activities were Messianic prerogatives, as foretold by Isaiah 29:18; 35:5,6; 61:1-3. Although John’s disillusionment was a natural human reaction, he had been right the first time. Jesus ended his reply with an exhortation to John not to give up hope. The Messiah was here without a doubt and all would be revealed in its proper time.

44. When Jesus bears witness to himself, is his testimony not true (John 5:31) or is his testimony true (John 8:14)?

(Category: misunderstood the historical context)

If I testify about myself, my testimony is not valid” (John 5:31) compared with “Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid” (John 8:14). It appears to be a contradiction, but only if the context is ignored.

In John 5 Jesus is speaking about how he cannot claim on his own to be the Messiah nor the Son of God, unless he is in line with God’s revealed word. That is, without fulfilling the prophecies spoken in the Old Testament. But as Jesus did fulfil them and was proclaimed to be the Messiah by John the Baptist who the prophets also spoke of as heralding the way for the Messiah (see #34), then Jesus was indeed who he claimed to be, the Son of God. Jesus says of the Jewish scriptures which his listeners studied diligently, “These are the Scriptures that testify about me”.

We read of a somewhat different setting however in John 8. Jesus has just once again claimed to be the Messiah by quoting Old Testament Messianic prophecies and applying them to himself (John 8:12, Isaiah 9:2, Malachi 4:2). “Then some Pharisees challenged him, ‘Here you are, appearing as your own witness; your testimony is not valid’.” Verse 13.

It is to this statement that Jesus responds “Yes it is”. Why? Because the Pharisees were using a law from Deuteronomy 19:15 which says “One witness is not enough to convict a man accused of any crime or offense he may have committed. A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If a malicious witness takes the stand.”

Therefore they broadened the law to mean more that it does actually say. Indeed, the testimony of one man was valid – however not enough to convict, but enough when used in defense to bring an acquittal. This law is not speaking about anyone making a claim about himself, only in a court when accused of a crime.

So when Jesus says in reply to them “Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid” he is right to do so as what the law referred to did not directly apply. He also says that he knew exactly who he was, whereas they did not. He was not lying to them; he was the sinless Messiah of God. Therefore his word could be trusted.

However, it is a good principle not to believe just anyone who claims to be the Messiah. Any claimant must have proof. Therefore the second thing Jesus goes on to state in John 8 is that he has these witnesses too, the witnesses that the Pharisees were asking for. “I am one who testifies for myself; my other witness is the Father who sent me.” Verse 18. The same proclamation as in John 5 that he was fulfilling the prophecies that they knew (see just before this incident in John 7:42 for further proof of this point).

There is no contradiction, simply clarity and great depth which can be seen when Jesus’ is viewed in context, in his fertile Jewish culture and setting.

45. When Jesus entered Jerusalem he cleansed (Matthew 21:12) or did not cleanse (Mark 11:1-17) the temple that same day, but the next day?

(Category: misunderstood the author’s intent)

The key to understanding may be found in Matthew’s use of narrative. At times he can be seen to arrange his material in topical order rather than strict chronological sequence. See the next question (#46) for more details.

With this in mind, it is probable that Matthew relates the cleansing of the temple along with the triumphal entry, even though the cleansing occurred the next day. Verse 12 states that ‘Jesus entered the temple’ but does not say clearly that it was immediately following the entry into Jerusalem.. Verse 17 informs us that he left Jerusalem and went to Bethany, where he spent the night. Mark 11:11 also has him going out to Bethany for the night, but this is something that he did each night of that week in Jerusalem.

Matthew 21:23 states: “Jesus entered the temple courts” in a similar fashion to verse 12, yet Luke 20:1 says that the following incident occurred “one day”, indicating that it may not have been immediately after the fig tree incident.

According to this possible interpretation, Jesus entered the temple on the day of his triumphal entry, looked around and retired to Bethany. The next morning he cursed the fig tree on the way to Jerusalem (at which time it started to wither) and cleansed the temple when he got there. Returning to Bethany that evening, probably as it was getting dark, the withered fig tree may not have been noticed by the disciples. It was only the following morning in the full light of day that they saw what had happened to it.

(Archer 1994:334.335)

46. Matthew 21:19 says that the tree which Jesus cursed withered at once, whereas Mark 11:20 maintains that it withered overnight.

(Category: misunderstood the author’s intent)

The differences found between the accounts of Matthew and Mark concerning the fig tree have much to do with the order both Matthew and Mark used in arranging their material. When we study the narrative technique of Matthew in general, we find (as was noted in #45 above) that he sometimes arranges his material in a topical order rather than in the strictly chronological order that is more often characteristic of Mark and Luke.

For instance, if we look at chapters 5-7 of Matthew which deal with the sermon on the Mount, it is quite conceivable that portions of the sermon on the Mount teachings are found some times in other settings, such as in the sermon on the plain in Luke (6:20-49). Matthew’s tendency was to group his material in themes according to a logical sequence. We find another example of this exhibited in a series of parables of the kingdom of heaven that make up chapter 13. Once a theme has been broached, Matthew prefers to carry it through to its completion, as a general rule.

When we see it from this perspective it is to Mark that we look to when trying to ascertain the chronology of an event. In Mark’s account we find that Jesus went to the temple on both Palm Sunday and the following Monday. But in Mark 11:11-19 it is clearly stated that Jesus did not expel the tradesmen from the temple until Monday, after he had cursed the barren fig tree (verses 12 to 14).

To conclude then, Matthew felt it suited his topical approach more effectively to include the Monday afternoon action with the Sunday afternoon initial observation, whereas Mark preferred to follow a strict chronological sequence. These differences are not contradictory, but show merely a different style in arrangement by each author.

(Archer 1982:334-335 and Light of Life III 1992:96-97)

47. In Matthew 26:48-50 Judas came up and kissed Jesus, whereas in John 18:3-12 Judas could not get close enough to Jesus to kiss him.

(Category: misquoted the text)

This is rather an odd seeming discrepancy by Shabbir, for nowhere in the John account does it say (as Shabbir forthrightly maintains) that Judas could not get close enough to Jesus to kiss him. Not being able to get close to him had nothing, therefore, to do with whether he kissed him or not. It seems that Shabbir imagines this to be the problem and so imposes it onto the text. The fact that John does not mention a kiss does not mean Judas did not use a kiss. Many times we have seen where one of the gospel writers includes a piece of information which another leaves out. That does not imply that either one is wrong, only that, as witnesses, they view an event by different means, and so include into their testimony only that which they deem to be important.

(Light of Life III 1992:107)

48. Did Peter deny Christ three times before the cock crowed (John 13:38), or three times before the cock crowed twice (Mark 14:30, 72)?

(Category: discovery of earlier manuscripts)

This accusation is that Jesus says to Peter “the cock will not crow till you have denied me three times” (John 13:38) and also “Before the cock crows twice you will deny me three times” (Mark 14:30). However, as the King James translation has it the cock crowed prior to Peter’s third denial in Mark, while the prediction in John failed. This problem is one of manuscript evidence.

Matthew 26:33-35, 74-75 “before the cock crows you will disown me three times

Luke 22:31-34, 60-62 “before the cock crows today, you will deny three times that you know me

John 13:38 “before the cock crows, you will disown me three times

Mark is therefore the odd one out. This is probably due to the second crow being a later addition to the original Gospel for some unknown reason. Some early manuscripts of Mark do not have the words “a second time” and “twice” in 14:72, nor the word “twice” in 14:30, or the cock crowing a first time in verse 14:68 as in the King James translation. Therefore an erroneous addition is spotted by the clarity of having 4 accounts of the event and many early manuscripts of the Gospel of Mark.

However, another explanation is plausible if the first crow verse (68 in the King James) was not in the original but the others (“twice” in 30 and 72) were, as in the New International translation. For as a cock can (and often does) crow more than once in a row, there would be no contradiction (the first and second crows being together, with Peter remembering Jesus’ prediction on the second crow), for since we may be very sure that if a rooster crows twice, he has at least crowed once. Mark therefore just included more information in his account than the other gospel writers.

Although I am not an expert on the manuscripts used for the King James translation and do not know a great deal about why later, more accurate translators had enough manuscript evidence to omit verse 68 but not the others, I think that the first reason is more likely.

49. Jesus did (John 19:17) or did not (Matthew 27:31-32) bear his own cross?

(Category: misread the text or the texts are compatible with a little thought)

John 19:17 states that he went out carrying his own cross to the place of the skull. Matthew 27:31,32 tells us that he was led out to be crucified and that it was only as they were going out to Golgotha that Simon was forced to carry the cross.

Mark 15:20,21 agrees with Matthew and gives us the additional information that Jesus started out from inside the palace (Praetorium). As Simon was on his way in from the country, it is clear that he was passing by in the street. This implies that Jesus carried his cross for some distance, from the palace into the street. Weak from his floggings and torture, it is likely that he either collapsed under the weight of the cross or was going very slowly. In any case, the soldiers forced Simon to carry the cross for him. Luke 23:26 is in agreement, stating that Simon was seized as they led Jesus away.

Thus the contradiction vanishes. Jesus started out carrying the cross and Simon took over at some point during the journey.

50. Did Jesus die before (Matthew 27:50-51; Mark 15:37-38), or after (Luke 23:45-46) the curtain of the temple was torn?

(Category: misread the text)

After reading the three passages Matthew 27:50-51, Mark 15:37-38 and Luke 23:45-46, it is not clear where the apparent contradictions are that Shabbir has pointed out. All three passages point to the fact that at the time of Jesus’ death the curtain in the temple was torn. It does not stand to reason that because both Matthew and Mark mention the event of Christ’s death before mentioning the curtain tearing, while Luke mentions it in reverse order, that they are therefore in contradiction, as Matthew states that the two events happened, ‘At that moment’, and the other two passages nowhere deny this.

They all agree that these two events happened simultaneously for a very good reason; for the curtain was there as a barrier between God and man. Its destruction coincides with the death of the Messiah, thereby allowing man the opportunity for the first time since Adam’s expulsion from God’s presence at the garden of Eden, to once again be reunited with Him.

51. Did Jesus say everything openly (John 18:20) or did he speak secretly to his disciples (Mark 4:34, Matthew 13:10-11)?

(Category: misunderstood the historical context)

The reason people say that Jesus contradicts himself about saying things secretly or not, especially in relation to parables, is due to a lack of textual and cultural contextualising.

This answer requires significant background information, some of which I hope to give briefly here.

Firstly, what is a parable? It is a story given in order to clarify, emphasize or illustrate a teaching, not a teaching within itself. Jesus was a Jewish Rabbi. In Rabbinical literature there are approximately 4000 parables recorded. It was thought by Rabbis to be good practice to divide their instruction of the people into three parts, the latter third typically being two parables representative to the first two thirds. Jesus carries on in this tradition with just over one third of his recorded instruction being in the form of parables. He drew upon a wealth of images that the Israelis of his day knew, using common motifs such as plants, animals etc. Therefore the point of each of Jesus’ parables was clear to all the listeners, which can be seen from the Gospels too. Parables were so rich and also so subtle that not only could they drive home a clear and simple point to the ordinary listener, but the scholars could turn them over and over in their mind, deriving greater and greater meaning from them. So, Jesus often expanded on the meaning of a parable to his disciples, his close students, in response to their inquiry or to instruct them further as any Jewish Rabbi would.

This can be seen from reading Mark 4:34 in context. For it says, “With many similar parables Jesus spoke the word to them [the crowds], as much as they could understand. He did not say anything to them without using a parable [to clarify, emphasize or illustrate the teaching]. But when he was alone with his own disciples he explained everything [taught them more, for they could understand more than the crowds].”Mark 4:33-34.

Therefore parables were not secret teachings. They are not esoteric knowledge given only to the initiated. It makes no sense (nor has any historical basis) to say that Jesus went around confusing people. He went around in order to teach and instruct people. So when Jesus was asked while on trial in court (John 18:20) about his teaching, he says something to the words of “I taught publicly – everyone heard my words. You know I taught. I did not teach in secret.” He was right.

As all this is true, what are these “secrets of the kingdom of heaven” which Jesus speaks of? The only ‘secret’ (“the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writing by the command of the eternal God, so that the nations might believe and obey him” (Romans 16:25-26) is that Jesus is Lord!

This secret was that Jesus’ mission was foretold by the prophets, that he was the fulfillment of these prophecies and the greatest revelation that would ever be given to mankind. His words were not only for the saving of people, but also for the judging of people because they were “ever hearing but never understanding, ever seeing but never perceiving” (Matthew 13:14) as many of the hearers of the parables were unwilling to repent and submit to God.

Many people enjoyed Jesus’ teaching, came for the nice moral discourses and the excellent parables, but not many followed him as the cost was too great (see Luke 9:57-61, 14:25-27, 33). But it was these things his disciples were beginning to understand because they truly followed Jesus. The secrets of the kingdom of heaven is what he said to his disciples following (and explaining) Matthew 13:10-11:

“But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear [unlike the crowds]. For I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it” [as they did not live during the lifetime of Jesus – all the prophets were before him].

The secret is Jesus is Lord, Jesus is king, Jesus is Messiah, Jesus is the one all the prophets spoke of, the salvation of mankind, God’s greatest revelation, the Alpha and the Omega (Revelation 21:6-8, 22:12-16), the only way to be right with God (John 3:36, Romans 6:23).

52. Was Jesus on the cross (Mark 15:23) or in Pilate’s court (John 19:14) at the sixth hour on the day of the crucifixion?

(Category: misunderstood the historical context)

The simple answer to this is that the synoptic writers (Matthew, Mark and Luke) employed a different system of numbering the hours of day to that used by John. The synoptics use the traditional Hebrew system, where the hours were numbered from sunrise (approximately 6:00am in modern reckoning), making the crucifixion about 9:00am, the third hour by this system..

John, on the other hand, uses the Roman civil day. This reckoned the day from midnight to midnight, as we do today. Pliny the Elder (Natural History 2.77)and Macrobius (Saturnalia 1.3) both tell us as much. Thus, by the Roman system employed by John, Jesus’ trial by night was in its end stages by the sixth hour (6:00am), which was the first hour of the Hebrew reckoning used in the synoptics. Between this point and the crucifixion, Jesus underwent a brutal flogging and was repeatedly mocked and beaten by the soldiers in the Praetorium (Mark 15:16-20). The crucifixion itself occurred at the third hour in the Hebrew reckoning, which is the ninth in the Roman, or 9:00am by our modern thinking.

This is not just a neat twist to escape a problem, as there is every reason to suppose that John used the Roman system, even though he was just as Jewish as Matthew, Mark and Luke. John’s gospel was written after the other three, around AD90, while he was living in Ephesus. This was the capital of the Roman province of Asia, so John would have become used to reckoning the day according to the Roman usage. Further evidence of him doing so is found in John 21:19: ‘On the evening of that first day of the week‘. This was Sunday evening, which in Hebrew thinking was actually part of the second day, each day beginning at sunset.

(Archer 1994:363-364)

53. The two thieves crucified with Jesus either did (Mark 15:32) or did not (Luke 23:43) mock Jesus?

(Category: too literalistic an interpretation)

This apparent contradiction asks did both thieves crucified with Jesus mock him or just one. Mark 15:23 says both did. Luke 23:43 says one mocked and one defended Jesus. It isn’t too difficult to see what it going on here. The obvious conclusion is that both thieves mocked Jesus initially. However after Jesus had said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing,” one of the robbers seems to have had a change of heart and repented on the cross, while the other continued in his mocking.

There is a lesson here which shouldn’t be overlooked; that the Lord allows us at any time to repent, no matter what crime or sin we have committed. These two thieves are symptomatic of all of us. Some of us when faced with the reality of Christ continue to reject him and mock him, while others accept our sinfulness and ask for forgiveness. The good news is that like the thief on the cross, we can be exonerated from that sin at any time, even while ‘looking at death in the face’.

54. Did Jesus ascend to Paradise the same day of the crucifixion (Luke 23:43), or two days later (John 20:17)?

(Category: misunderstood how God works in history)

The idea that Jesus contradicts himself (or the Gospels contradict themselves) concerning whether he had ascended to Paradise or not after his death on the cross is due to assumptions about Paradise as well as the need to contextualize.

Jesus says to the thief on the cross “Today you will be with me in Paradise”. This was indeed true. For the thief was to die that same day on earth; but in paradise “today” is any day in this world, as Heaven is outside of time.

Jesus says to Mary Magdalene, according to the rendering of the King James translation, that he had not yet “ascended” to his Father. However, this could also be rendered “returned” to his Father.

Jesus was with God, and was God, before the beginning of the world (John 1 and Philippians 2:6-11). He left all his glory and became fully God, fully man. Later, God did exalt Jesus to the highest place once more, to the right hand of Himself (see Acts 7:56). This had not yet taken place in John 20:17. Jesus saying “for I have not yet returned to the Father” does not rule out the possibility that he was in heaven between his death and resurrection in “our time” (although Heaven is outside of time). By way of parallel (albeit an imperfect one), I do go to my original home and the area where I grew up without returning there. Returning as in myself being restored to what was.

However, a more likely understanding of the text has to do with the context. Another way to say, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not ascended to my Father. Go instead to my brothers…”, would be, “Do not hang on to me Mary – I have not left you all yet. You will see me again. But now, I want you to go and tell my disciples that I am going to my Father soon, but not yet”.

Both Islam and Christianity believe in the resurrection of the body, and both believe in the intermediate state. In Luke, Jesus dies, and his spirit ascended to Paradise (see vs. 46). In John, Jesus has been bodily resurrected, and in that state, he had not yet ascended to the Father.

The time factor makes this somewhat paradoxical but the texts are not mutually exclusive. There is no contradiction.

55. When Paul was on the road to Damascus he saw a light and heard a voice. Did those who were with him hear the voice (Acts 9:7), or did they not (Acts 22:9)?

(Category: misunderstood the Greek usage or the text is compatible with a little thought)

Although the same Greek word is used in both accounts (akouo), it has two distinct meanings: to perceive sound and to understand. Therefore, the explanation is clear: they heard something but did not understand what it was saying. Paul, on the other hand, heard and understood. There is no contradiction.

(Haley p.359)

We now proceed to the next part: 101 Cleared-up Contradictions in the Bible Pt. 3.

3 thoughts on “101 Cleared-up Contradictions in the Bible Pt. 2

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