Alleged Bible Contradictions Non Christians often talk about (New Testament)

Did Jesus descend from Solomon (Matthew 1:6) or from Nathan (Luke 3:31), both of whom are sons of David?CSL047

(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.

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.

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)

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.

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.

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.

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:

    • Jairus’s daughter had a fatal illness.
    • All that could have been done would already have been: she was as good as dead if not already dead.
    • 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.’

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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)

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)

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)

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.

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.

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.

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).

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)

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’.

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.

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)

When Paul saw the light and fell to the ground, did his traveling companions fall (Acts 26:14) or did they not fall (Acts 9:7) to the ground?

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

There are two possible explanations of this point. The word rendered ‘stood’ also means to be fixed, to be rooted to the spot. This is something that can be experienced whether standing up or lying down.

An alternative explanation is this: Acts 26:14 states that the initial falling to the ground occurred when the light flashed around, before the voice was heard. Acts 9:7 says that the men ‘stood speechless’ after the voice had spoken. There would be ample time for them to stand up whilst the voice was speaking to Saul, especially as it had no significance or meaning to them. Saul, on the other hand, understood the voice and was no doubt transfixed with fear as he suddenly realized that for so long he had been persecuting and killing those who were following God. He had in effect been working against the God whom he thought he was serving. This terrible realization evidently kept him on the ground longer than his companions.

(Haley p.359)

Did the voice tell Paul what he was to do on the spot (Acts 26:16-18), or was he commanded to go to Damascus to be told what to do (Acts 9:7; 22:10)?

(Category: misunderstood the historical context)

Paul was told his duties in Damascus as can be seen from Acts 9 and 22. However in Acts 26 the context is different. In this chapter Paul doesn’t worry about the chronological or geographical order of events because he is talking to people who have already heard his story.

In Acts 9:1-31 Luke, the author of Acts, narrates the conversion of Saul.

In Acts 22:1-21 Luke narrates Paul speaking to Jews, who knew who Paul was and had actually caused him to be arrested and kept in the Roman Army barracks in Jerusalem. He speaks to the Jews from the steps of the barracks and starts off by giving his credentials as a Jew, before launching into a detailed account of his meeting with the Lord Jesus Christ and his conversion.

In Acts 26:2-23 Luke, however, narrates the speech given by Paul, (who was imprisoned for at least two years after his arrest in Jerusalem and his speech in Acts 22,). This was given to the Roman Governor Festus and King Herod Agrippa, both of whom were already familiar with the case. (Read the preceding Chapters). Therefore they did not require a full blown explanation of Paul’s case, but a summary. Which is exactly what Paul gives them. This is further highlighted by Paul reminding them of his Jewish credentials in one part of a sentence, “I lived as a Pharisee,” as opposed to two sentences in Acts 22:3. Paul also later in the Chapter is aware that King Agrippa is aware of the things that have happened in verses 25-27.

Did Judas die by hanging himself (Matthew 27:5) or by falling headlong and bursting open with all his bowels gushing out (Acts 1:18)?

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

This alleged contradiction is related to the fact that Matthew in his Gospel speaks of Judas hanging himself but in Acts 1:18 Luke speaks about Judas falling headlong and his innards gushing out. However both of these statements are true.

Matthew 27:1-10 mentioned the fact that Judas died by hanging himself in order to be strictly factual. Luke, however in his report in Acts1:18-19 wants to cause the feeling of revulsion among his readers, for the field spoken about and for Judas, and nowhere denies that Judas died by hanging. According to tradition, it would seem that Judas hanged himself on the edge of a cliff, above the Valley of Hinnom. Eventually the rope snapped, was cut or untied and Judas fell upon the field below as described by Luke.

Is the field called the ‘field of blood’ because the priest bought it with blood money (Matthew 27:8), or because of Judas’s bloody death (Acts 1:19)?

(Category: misunderstood the wording)

Once again, looking at the same two passages as the last two apparent contradictions Shabbir asks why the field where Judas was buried called the Field of Blood? Matthew 27:8 says that it is because it was bought with blood-money, while, according to Shabbir Acts 1:19 says that it was because of the bloody death of Judas.

However both passages agree that it was due to it being bought by blood-money. Acts 1:18-19 starts by saying, “With the reward he got for his wickedness, Judas bought a field”. So it begins with the assumption that the field was bought by the blood-money, and then the author intending to cause revulsion for what had happened describes Judas bloody end on that piece of real estate.

How can the ransom which Christ gives for all, which is good (Mark 10:45; 1 Timothy 2:5-6), be the same as the ransom of the wicked (Proverbs 21:18)?

(Category: misunderstood how God works in history)

This contradiction asks, ‘Who is a ransom for whom?’ Shabbir uses passages from Mark 10:45 and 1 Timothy 2:5-6 to show that it is Jesus that is a ransom for all. This is compared to Proverbs 21:18 which speaks of “The wicked become a ransom for the righteous, and the unfaithful for the upright.”

There is no contradiction here as they are talking about two different types of ransom. A ransom is a payment by one party to another. It can be made by a good person for others, as we see Christ does for the world, or it can be made by evil people as payment for the evil they have done, as we see in the Proverbs passage.

The assumption being made by Shabbir in the Mark and 1 Timothy passages is that Jesus was good and could therefore not be a ransom for the unrighteous. In this premise he reflects the Islamic denial that someone can pay for the sins of another, or can be a ransom for another. He must not, however impose this interpretation on the Bible. Christ as a ransom for the many is clearly taught in the Bible. Galatians 3:13-14 and 1 Peter 2:23-25 speak of Jesus becoming a curse for us. Therefore Jesus has fulfilled even this proverb.

Again Shabbir’s supposition relies upon quotations being taken out of their context. The Mark 10:45 passage starts off by quoting Jesus as saying, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” This was spoken by Jesus because the disciples had been arguing over the fact that James and John had approached Jesus about sitting at his right and left side when Christ came into his glory. Here Jesus is again prophesying his death which is to come and the reason for that death, that he would be the ransom payment that would atone for all people’s sin.

In 1 Timothy 2:5-6 Paul is here speaking, saying,

“For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men-the testimony given in its proper time.”

This comes in the middle of a passage instructing the Early Church on worshiping God. These two verses give the reason and the meaning of worshiping God. The redemptive ransom given by God, that through this mediator Jesus Christ’s atoning work on the Cross, God may once again have that saving relationship with man.

The Proverbs 21:18 passage speaks however of the ransom that God paid through Egypt in the Exodus of Israel from Egypt, as is highlighted in the book of Isaiah, but particularly in Chapter 43:3;

“For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour; I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Seba in your stead.”

This picture is further heightened in verses 16 and 17 of the same Chapter. This also has some foundation from the book of Exodus 7:5; 8:19; 10:7; 12:33. Chapters 13 and 14 particularly point to this. As history records for us in the Bible it was through this action that the Old Covenant was established between God and the Kingdom of Israel.

Is all scripture profitable (2 Timothy 3:16) or not profitable (Hebrews 7:18)?

(Category: misunderstood how God works in history)

The accusation is that the Bible says all scripture is profitable as well as stating that a former commandment is weak and useless, and therein lies the contradiction. This is a contextual problem and arises through ignorance of what God promised to do speaking through the Prophets, concerning the two covenants which He instituted.

Due to space this wonderful issue cannot be looked at in depth here. However, some background information will have to be given in order for a reader, unfamiliar with the Bible, to understand what we are saying here. In order to illustrate I will draw a parallel from question #92 which speaks of the wealth behind many of the Hebrew words used in the Bible; in that particular case the ability we have to interpret the word ‘niham’ as either changing one’s mind, repenting, or to be aggrieved (refer to the question for a further understanding of the context).

God’s word obviously originates from Him alone, and is indeed useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training as 2 Timothy states. That is a general statement which refers to all that which comes from God.

Hebrews chapter 7 speaks of a particular commandment given to a particular people at a specific time; the sacrificial system in the Tabernacle and later the Temple in Jerusalem. God established in His covenant with His people Israel a system where they would offer sacrifices, animals to be killed, in order for God to forgive them of their sins; particularly what God calls in Leviticus chapters 4 to 6, the “sin offering” and the “guilt offering”.

This concept of substitutional death is foreign to Islam, but is fundamental to Biblical Judaism and Christianity. Atonement must take place for sin. The penalty of sin is death, and someone has to pay that price. There is no forgiveness for sin without the shedding of blood, for God demands justice. He cannot just ignore it for that would not be just.

God indeed established this system of atonement as the Old Testament shows by referring to the need for atonement 79 times! However, it also records God saying “The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand and led them out of Egypt” [i.e. at Mount Sinai where He gave the first covenant to the people of Israel just after God saved them from Egypt] (Jeremiah 31:31-33). The reason God gives is that the people did not remain faithful to it. Thus the new covenant will be different as God says, “I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts” (vs. 33). He says also that this new covenant will necessitate a once-for-all payment for their sins, unlike the previous covenant (Jeremiah 31:34, Daniel 9:24-25).

God also speaks in the Old Testament of the Messiah who would bring this about. A Messiah not from the Levitical priesthood, but a perfect man from the tribe of Judah who would be a priest unto God. He, the Messiah would be the sacrifice that would pay for all sin in one go, and approach God not on the merit of his ancestry (as with the Levitical priests), but on his own merit, being like God, perfect. If people follow this Messiah and accept his payment of the penalty for sin for them, then God will write the law on their minds and hearts, and God can be merciful to them as His justice has been satisfied. Then they too can draw near to God, for God wants to be in relationship with His creation (Genesis 3:8-11) and it is only sin which stops that.

Obviously this is quite involved and only a comprehensive reading of the Old Testament will explain it adequately. All scripture is profitable, including that concerning the sacrificial system. However, God also promised in the Bible to make a renewed covenant with His people. In this the original system was replaced with the perfect sacrifice of the Messiah, Jesus.

Many scriptures describe this Messiah who would bring about this new covenant. In this God “makes his life a guilt offering” and we are told “Surely he took up our infirmities [sins] and carried our sorrows, he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace [with God] was upon him.” See Isaiah chapter 53.

You can pay the price for your sin if you wish – it will cost you your life eternally. You will die for your own sin and go to hell. Or, because of the love of God, the Messiah can pay that price for you, and be “pierced” in substitution for you, which will bring you peace with God. Then God will permit you to enter heaven for eternity as His justice is satisfied. For as John the Baptist when seeing Jesus mentioned, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the word!” He also said, “Whoever believes in the Son [Jesus] has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.” John 1:29, 3:36.

God teaches that He will do this. It was fulfilled in the death and resurrection of the Messiah, Jesus, EXACTLY as the Old Testament said it would happen, and the new covenant was established. Sin was paid for once for all by the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” as John the Baptist announced upon seeing Jesus (see #34 and #44). He is the one God promised. So through his death the old system of sacrifices, offering animals over and over again, became unnecessary. God’s alternative, which is vastly superior and comprehensive, rendered by God himself the previous system useless (Hebrews 8:7-13).

So, like clarification #92, God did not change His mind on His plan for enabling people to be right with Him. God is not a man that He should change His mind. It was His intention and plan all along to bring in this new covenant as a fulfilment of the old, as the Old Testament shows. A further point needs to be addressed a here. These ceremonial laws were required of the Israelites alone, as they were the ones who operating within the stipulations, ordinances and decrees of the Mosaic covenant. Any Gentile, or non-Israelite, who wished to convert to Judaism, was obligated to observe these covenantal ordinances as well. But Christians are not converts to Judaism. They are believers in Jesus, God’s Messiah, the Savior. They operate within the context of a “new covenant,” the one established in Jesus’ blood by his atoning sacrifice, not the old covenant which God made with Israel at Sinai. Within this new covenant, Christians too have commandments, and in one manner or another they all relate to what was written in the Old Testament, but now in an entirely new context, that of fulfilment. So there is a clear line of continuity, revelation and renewal between the covenants, new and old – because both Israel and Christianity have the Messiah in common, and it was the Hebrew Scriptures that he fulfilled. Therefore all those Scriptures are profitable for studying, to know where we have come from, and where we are going. But not every commandment, ordinance or decree in the Old Testament is applicable to Christians in the same way it was (or is) to Israel. Though we have much in common, we have distinct covenants, a new covenant, which present Jews need to read about and acquiesce to, as it fulfills all that they look for and continue to hope for.

Note: a parallel to this, although an imperfect one, can be draw for the Muslim from the Qur’an. Sura 3:49-50. Jesus comes and says to the people of Israel “I have come to you to affirm the Law which was before me. And to make lawful to you what was before forbidden to you”, or “to make halal what was haram”. According to this he came and confirmed the law which God had given to them, but he made some things permissible for them which God had previously prohibited. This is not true according to the Bible in the context of this “contradiction” and cannot be said for Judaism and Christianity. It is just a parallel to show that the Qur’an testifies of such things too.

Was the exact wording on the cross, as ( Matthew 27:37, Mark 15:26, Luke 23:38, and John 19:19) all seem to have different wordings?

(Category: misread the text)

This seeming contradiction takes on the question, ‘What was the exact wording on the cross?’ It is argued that Matthew 27:37, Mark 15:26, Luke 23:38, and John 19:19 all use different words posted above Jesus’s head while hanging on the cross. This can be better understood by looking at John 19:20 which says;

“Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek.”

It is interesting that Pilate is said to have written the sign and may have written different things in each of the languages according to Pilate’s proficiency in each of the languages. The key charge brought against Jesus in all of the Gospels is that he claimed to be ‘King of the Jews’. If this had been missing from any of the accounts then there may have been a possible concern for a contradiction here; but this is not the case. For a further explanation of this see Archer’s explanation.

(Archer 1982:345-346).

Did Herod want to kill John the Baptist (Matthew 14:5), or was it his wife Herodias (Mark 6:20)?

(Category: misunderstood the author’s intent)

The supposed contradiction pointed out by Shabbir is, ‘Did Herod want to kill John the Baptist?’ The passages used by Shabbir to promote his conjecture are Matthew 14:5 where it appears to say that Herod did and Mark 6:20 where Shabbir suggests that Herod did not want to kill him. However the passages in question are complimentary passages.

When we look at the whole story we see that Matthew 14:1-11 and Mark 6:14-29, as far as I have been able to see nowhere contradict each other. This seems to be a similarly weak attempt to find a contradiction within the Bible to that of contradiction 50. In both passages Herod has John imprisoned because of his wife Herodias. Therefore it is the underlying influence of Herodias on Herod that is the important factor in John’s beheading. Mark’s account is more detailed than Matthew’s, whose Gospel is thought to have been written later, because Matthew does not want to waste time trampling old ground when it is already contained within Mark’s Gospel. Notice also that Mark does not anywhere state that Herod did not want to kill John, but does say that Herod was afraid of him, because of John’s righteousness and holiness, and, as Matthew adds, the factor of John’s influence over the people.

Was the tenth disciple of Jesus in the list of twelve Thaddaeus (Matthew 10:1-4; Mark 3:13-19) or Judas, son of James (Luke 6:12-16)?

(Category: misunderstood the historical context)

Both can be correct. It was not unusual for people of this time to use more than one name. Simon, or Cephas was also called Peter (Mark 3:16), and Saul was also called Paul (Acts 13:9). In neither case is there a suggestion that either was used exclusively before changing to the other. Their two names were interchangeable.

Was the man Jesus saw sitting at the tax collector’s office whom he called to be his disciple named Matthew (Matthew 9:9) or Levi (Mark 2:14; Luke 5:27)?

(Category: misunderstood the historical context)

The answer to this question is exactly the same as the previous one in that both scriptures are correct. Matthew was also called Levi, as the scriptures here attest.

It is somewhat amusing to hear Mr Ally drawing so much attention to this legitimate custom. In the run-up to a debate in Birmingham, England in February 1998, he felt free to masquerade under an alternative name (Abdul Abu Saffiyah, meaning ‘Abdul, the father of Saffiyah’, his daughter’s name) in order to gain an unfair advantage over Mr Smith, his opponent. By disguising his identity he denied Mr Smith the preparation to which he was entitled. Now here he finds it a contradictory when persons in the 1st century Palestine either use one or the other of their names, a practice which is neither illegal nor duplicitous.

There are perfectly legitimate reasons for using an alternative name. However, in the light of Mr Ally’s unfair and deceitful practice outlined above, there is a ring of hypocrisy to these last two questions raised by him.

Was Jesus crucified on the daytime after the Passover meal (Mark 14:12-17) or the daytime before the Passover meal ( John 13:1, 30, 29; 18:28; 19:14)?

(Category: misunderstood the historical context)

Jesus was crucified on the daytime before the Passover meal. The reason why Mark seems to say it was after is one of culture and contextualising.

The evidence from the Gospels that Jesus died on the eve of the Passover, when the Passover meal would be eaten after sunset, is very solid. Before we delve (albeit briefly) into this issue, it is worth noting that Mark 14 records that Jesus does not eat the Passover with his disciples.

Luke 14:12 says it was “the Feast of Unleavened Bread”, which is also called “Passover”. As the name suggest states, part of the Passover meal was to eat bread without yeast. It is a commandment which Jewish people keep even today for the meal, for God makes it extremely clear, “eat bread without yeast And whoever eats bread with yeast in it must be cut off from the

community of Israel. Eat nothing made with yeast. Wherever you live, you must eat unleavened bread “. See also Exodus 12:1-20.

The Greek word for “unleavened bread” is ‘azymos’. This is the word used by Mark in “the Feast of Unleavened Bread”, chapter 14 verse 12. The Greek word for normal bread (with yeast) is ‘artos’. All the Gospel writers, including Mark, agree that in this last meal with his disciples the bread they ate was artos, in other words a bread with yeast. “While they were eating, Jesus took bread [artos], gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying Take it; this is my body.” Mark 14:22. It is highly probably therefore that this meal was not a Passover meal. The use of the different words in the same passage strongly suggests this. For it would be unthinkable to them to eat something that God had commanded them not to eat (bread with yeast – artos), and not to eat something that they were commanded to eat (unleavened

bread – azymos).

Therefore, as this is true, what does Mark mean in verses 12-17? Firstly, we read, “when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb”. Exodus 20:1-8 says that this must happen on the 14th day of the Jewish month of Nisan. However, there was dispute as to when this day was, due to the debate on separate calendars which were used for calculating feast-days. It is possible that separate traditions were in vogue in Jesus life. So, indeed it may have been “customary” to sacrifice the lamb on that day for some, although many, probably most, recognized the Passover as being the next evening.

Secondly, the disciples ask Jesus “Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?” They had no idea that Jesus was going to give his life for the sins of the world like the Passover lamb of Exodus 20 did to save the Israelites from God’s wrath upon Egypt. Jesus had explained to them, but they did not grasp it for many reasons, including the hailing of Jesus by the people as Messiah in the Triumphal Entry, which was still ‘ringing in their ears’. He does not state that he would eat it with them. He wanted to, but he knew he would not. There is no room for any dogmatic statement that the Passover must be eaten on the same day the room was hired or prepared. Indeed, Jewish people, because of Exodus 12, thoroughly prepared their houses for the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

Thirdly, in some ways the Gospels couch the last supper in terms of fulfillment. i.e. Luke 22 records Jesus saying that he had longed to eat “this” Passover meal with them. So, does Luke say it was the Passover meal? It is doubtful, due to the same use of artos and azymos, amongst other reasons. Jesus did make this last supper a sort of Passover meal (but not the real one). He wanted to have this special fellowship with his disciples, his friends, being painfully aware of the agony he would go through, only a few hours later. He also wanted to show his disciples that the Passover spoke of him; that he was the sacrifice that would bring in the New Covenant God promised (see questions #64 and #34) just like the lambs that was killed 1500 years earlier to save the people if Israel from God’s wrath. He illustrated through the meal that he is the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” as John the Baptist called Jesus (John 1:29). He wanted to eat it with them for he says, “I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the Kingdom of God” (Luke 22:16). His coming death was its fulfillment, “For Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed” (1 Corinthians 5:7).

If this understanding is correct (one of two feasible explanations I opted for due to my current research), then there is no contradiction. Jesus died before the Passover meal.

Did Jesus both pray (Matthew 26:39; Mark 14:36; Luke 22:42) or not pray (John 12:27) to the Father to prevent the crucifixion?

(Category: misread the text)

This apparent contradiction asks: ‘Did Jesus pray to the Father to prevent the crucifixion?’ Matthew 26:39; Mark 14:36 and Luke 22:42 are supposed to imply that he does. John 12:27, however, seems to say that he doesn’t.

This is a rather weak attempt at a contradiction and again wholly relies upon the ignorance of the reader for it’s strength. Matthew 26:39, Mark 14:36, and Luke 22:42 are parallel passages which take place in the Garden of Gethsemane just before the arrest of Jesus. In all of these passages Jesus never asks for the Crucifixion to be prevented but does express his fears of the difficulties, pain and suffering that he is going to encounter over the next few hours, in the form of his trials, beatings, whippings, loneliness and alienation from people and God on the Cross, the ordeal of crucifixion itself and the upcoming triumph over Satan. He does, however, more importantly ask for God’s will to be carried out over the next few hours knowing that this is the means by which he will die and rise again, and by doing so atone for all the sins of the world.

John 12:27 is from a totally different situation, one which takes place before the circumstances described above. It is said while Jesus is speaking to a crowd of people during the Passover Festival at the Temple in Jerusalem (in fact even before the gathering of the Twelve with Jesus at the Upper Room). On this occasion Jesus again says something very similar to the other passages above;

“Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father save me from this hour’? No it was for this very reason that I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!”

Again we are reminded that he is feeling troubled. He knows events are fast unfolding around him. Yet, this statement is said in reply to some Greeks who have just asked something of Jesus through his disciples. Were they there to offer him a way out of his upcoming troubles? Perhaps, but Jesus does not go to meet them and indeed replies to their request to meet him in this way. Is it really conceivable that this man wants to prevent the crucifixion from taking place! I think not!

Did Jesus move away three times (Matthew 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42) or once (Luke 22:39-46) from his disciples to pray?

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

Shabbir asks how many times Jesus left the disciples to pray alone at the Garden of Gethsemane on the night of his arrest. Matthew 26:36-46 and Mark 14:32-42, show three but Luke 22:39-46 only speaks of one. However once again there is no contradiction once you realize that the three passages are complementary.

Note that the Luke passage nowhere states that Jesus did not leave the disciples three times to go and pray. Because he does not mention all three times does not imply that Jesus did not do so. Obviously Luke did not consider that fact to be relevant to his account. We must remember that Luke’s Gospel is thought of as the third Gospel to have been put to paper chronologically, therefore it would make sense for him not to regurgitate information found in the other two gospels.

When Jesus went away to pray, were the words in his two prayers the same (Mark 14:39) or different (Matthew 26:42)?

(Category: imposes his own agenda)

This apparent contradiction comparing Matthew 26:36-46 with Mark 14:32-42, and in particular verses 42 and 39 respectively, is not a contradiction at all. Shabbir asks the question: ‘What were the words of the second prayer?’ at the Garden of Gethsemane. It relies heavily once again upon the reader of Shabbir’s book being ignorant of the texts mentioned, and his wording of the supposed contradiction as contrived and misleading.

Shabbir maintains that in the passage in Mark, “that the words were the same as the first prayer (Mark 14:39).” Let’s see what Mark does say of the second prayer in 14:39;

“Once more he went away and prayed the same thing.”

Nowhere in this verse does Mark say that Jesus prayed the same words as the previous prayer, but what he does imply by the words used in the sentence is that the gist of the prayer is the same as before, as the passage in Matthew shows. When we compare the first two prayers in Matthew (vss. 39 and 42) we see that they are essentially the same prayer, though not exactly the same wording. Then in verse 44 Matthew says that Christ prayed yet again “saying the same thing!” Yet according to Shabbir’s thinking the two prayers were different; so how could Jesus then be saying the same thing the third time?

It seems that Shabbir is simply imposing a Muslim formula of prayer on the passages above which he simply cannot do. You would expect this to be the case if this was a rigidly formulated prayer that had to be repeated daily, as we find in Islam. But these prayers were prayers of the heart that were spoken by Jesus because of the enormity of the situation before him. Ultimately that situation was secondary to the gravity, power, and loving bond that Jesus had with the Father.

Did the centurion say that Jesus was innocent (Luke 23:47), or that he was the Son of God (Mark 15:39)?

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

The question being forwarded is what the centurion at the cross said when Jesus died. The two passages quoted are Mark 15:39 and Luke 23:47. However as has been said before with other apparent contradictions these passages are not contradictory but complementary.

Matthew 27:54 and Mark 15:39 agree that the centurion exclaimed that Jesus, “was the Son of God!”. Luke 23:47 however mentions that the centurion refers to Jesus as, “a righteous man.” Is it so hard to believe that the centurion said both? Nowhere in any of the Gospel narratives do the writers claim that was all that the centurion had to say. Therefore, let’s not impose on the writers what we would have the centurion say.

Matthew and Mark were more interested by the declaration of divinity used by the centurion, whereas Luke is interested in the humanity of Jesus, one of the main themes of his Gospel. Thus he refers to the corresponding statement made by the centurion.

(Archer 1982:346-347).

Did Jesus say “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” in Hebrew (Matthew 27:46) or in Aramaic (Mark 15:34)?

(Category: misunderstood the Hebrew usage)

The question of whether Jesus spoke Hebrew or Aramaic on the cross is answerable. However, the reason for Matthew and Mark recording it differently is probably due to the way the event was spoken of in Aramaic after it happened, and due to the recipients of the Gospel. However, the whole issue is not a valid criticism of the Bible.

Mark 15:34 is probably the most quoted Aramaism in the New Testament, being “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabakthani.” However, it is doubtful that Jesus spoke in the language that Mark records them in. The reason is simple; the people hearing Jesus’ words thought he was calling Elijah (Matthew 27:47 and Mark 15:35-36). In order for the onlookers to have made this mistake, Jesus would have to have cried “Eli, Eli,” not “Eloi, Eloi.” Why? Because in Hebrew Eli can be either “My God” or the shortened form of Eliyahu which is Hebrew for Elijah. However, in Aramaic Eloi can be only “My God.”

It is also worth noting that lama (“why”) is the same word in both languages, and sabak is a verb which is found not only in Aramaic, but also in Mishnaic Hebrew.

Therefore Jesus probably spoke it in Hebrew. Why therefore is it recorded in Aramaic as well? Jesus was part of a multilingual society. He most probably spoke Greek (the common language of Greece and Rome), Aramaic (the common language of the Ancient Near East) and Hebrew, the sacred tongue of Judaism, which had been revived in the form of Mishnaic Hebrew in Second Temple times. Hebrew and Aramaic are closely related Semitic languages. That Hebrew and Aramaic terms show up in the Gospels is, therefore, not at all surprising.

That one Gospel writer records it in Hebrew and another in extremely similar Aramaic is no problem to Christians, nor is it a criticism of the Bible. The simple reason for the difference is probably that when one of them remembered and discussed the happening of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, this phrase may well have been repeated in their conversation as Aramaic, which would be perfectly normal. So he wrote it down as such. Secondly, Mark may have written it in Aramaic due to the fact that he was the original recipients of the Gospel.

However, both these reasons are simply speculation. If Mark recorded his words in Arabic, then we would worry!

(Bivin/Blizzard 1994:10)

Were the last words that Jesus spook “Father into thy hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46), or “It is finished” (John 19:30)?

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

‘What were the last words of Jesus before he died?’ is the question asked by Shabbir in this supposed contradiction. This does not show a contradiction any more than two witnesses to an accident at an intersection will come up with two different scenarios of that accident, depending on where they stood. Neither witness would be incorrect, as they describe the event from a different perspective. Luke was not a witness to the event, and so is dependent on those who were there. John was a witness. What they are both relating, however, is that at the end Jesus gave himself up to death.

It could be said that Luke used the last words that he felt were necessary for his gospel account, which concentrated on the humanity of Christ (noted in the earlier question), while John, as well as quoting the last words of Jesus, was interested in the fulfilment of the salvific message, and so quoted the last phrase “it is finished”.

John 17:4 records Jesus’ prayer to the Father in the light of Christ’s forthcoming crucifixion, stating that He had completed the work of revelation (John 1:18), and since revelation is a particular stress of the Gospel of John, and the cross is the consummation of that commission (John 3:16), it is natural that this Gospel should centre on tetelestai. At any rate, if Jesus said ‘It is finished; Father into your hands I commit my spirit’ or vice versa, it would be quite in order to record either clause of this sentence, his last words. Luke-Acts reaches its conclusion without any climax, because the continuing ministry of the exalted Christ through the Holy Spirit and the Church has no ending prior to the Parousia, and to record tetelestai might have undermined this emphasis, or it could have been taken the wrong way. At any rate, no contradiction is involved; purely a distinction of emphasis.

Did the Capernaum centurion come personally to ask Jesus to heal his slave (Matthew 8:5), or did he send elders of the Jews and his friends (Luke 7:3,6)?

(Category: the text is compatible with a little thought & misunderstood the author’s intent)

This is not a contradiction but rather a misunderstanding of sequence, as well as a misunderstanding of what the authors intended. The centurion initially delivered his message to Jesus via the elders of the Jews. It is also possible that he came personally to Jesus after he had sent the elders to Jesus. Matthew mentions the centurion because he was the one in need, while Luke mentions the efforts of the Jewish elders because they were the ones who made the initial contact.

We know of other instances where the deed which a person tells others to do is in actuality done through him. A good example is the baptism done by the disciple’s of Jesus, yet it was said that Jesus baptized (John 4:1-2).

We can also understand why each author chose to relate it differently by understanding the reason they wrote the event. Matthew’s main reason for relating this story is not the factual occurrence but to relate the fact of the importance of all nations to Christ. This is why Matthew speaks of the centurion rather than the messengers of the centurion. It is also the reason why Matthew spends less time relating the actual story and more on the parable of the kingdom of heaven. Matthew wants to show that Jesus relates to all people.

Luke in his telling of the story does not even relate the parable that Jesus told the people, but concentrates on telling the story in more detail, thereby concentrating more on the humanity of Jesus by listening to the messengers, the fact that he is impressed by the faith of the centurion and the reason why he is so impressed; because the centurion does not even consider himself ‘worthy’ to come before Jesus. Ultimately this leads to the compassion shown by Jesus in healing the centurion’s servant without actually going to the home of the centurion.

Did Adam die the same day (Genesis 2:17) or did he continue to live to the age of 930 years (Genesis 5:5)?

(Category: misunderstood how God works in history)

The Scriptures describe death in three ways; 1) Physical death which ends our life on earth, 2) spiritual death which is separation from God, and 3) eternal death in hell. The death spoken of in Genesis 2:17 is the second death mentioned in our list, that of complete separation from God, while the death mentioned in Genesis 5:5 is the first death, a physical death which ends our present life.

For obvious reasons Shabbir will see this as a contradiction because he does not understand the significance of spiritual death which is a complete separation from God, since he will not admit that Adam had any relationship with God to begin with in the garden of Eden. The spiritual separation (and thus spiritual death) is shown visibly in Genesis chapter 3 where Adam was thrown out of the Garden of Eden and away from God’s presence.

Ironically Adam being thrown out of the garden of Eden is also mentioned in the Qur’an (Sura 2:36), though there is no reason for this to happen, if (as Muslims believe) Adam had been forgiven for his sin. Here is an example of the Qur’an borrowing a story from the earlier scriptures without understanding its meaning or significance, and therein lies the assumption behind the supposed contradiction.

(for a clearer understanding of the significance of spiritual death and how that impinges on nearly every area of disagreement Christians have with Islam, read the paper entitled “The Hermeneutical Key” by Jay Smith.)

Did God decide that the lifespan of humans was to be only 120 years (Genesis 6:3), or longer (Genesis 11:12-16)?

(Category: misread the text)

In Genesis 6:3 we read:

“Then the LORD said, ‘My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal; his days will be a hundred and twenty years.'”

This is contrasted with ages of people who lived longer than 120 years in Genesis 11:12-16. However this is based, I presume on a misreading or misunderstanding of the text.

The hundred and twenty years spoken of by God in Genesis 6:3 cannot mean the life span of human beings as you do find people older than that mentioned more or less straight away a few Chapters on into the book of Genesis (including Noah himself). The more likely meaning is that the Flood that God had warned Noah about doesn’t happen until 120 years after the initial warning to Noah. This is brought out further in 1Peter 3:20 where we read,

“God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built.”

Therefore looking at the context of the Genesis 6:3 passage it would agree with what we find in chapter 11 of the same book.

(Geisler/Howe 1992:41)

Apart from Jesus there was no-one else (John 3:13) or there were others (2 Kings 2:11) who ascended to heaven?

(Category: misunderstood the wording)

There were others who went to heaven without dying, such as Elijah and Enoch (Genesis 5:24). In John 3:13 Jesus is setting forth his superior knowledge of heavenly things. Essentially what he is saying, “no other human being can speak from first hand knowledge about these things, as I can, since I came down from heaven.” he is claiming that no one has ascended to heaven to bring down the message that he brought. In no way is he denying that anyone else is in heaven, such as Elijah and Enoch. Rather, Jesus is simply claiming that no one on earth has gone to heaven and returned with a message such as he offered to them.

Was the high priest Abiathar (Mark 2:26), or Ahimelech (1 Samuel 21:1; 22:20) when David went into the house of God and ate the consecrated bread?

(Category: misunderstood the Hebrew usage & misunderstood the historical context)

Jesus states that the event happened ‘in the days of Abiathar the high priest’ and yet we know from 1 Samuel that Abiathar was not actually the high priest at that time; it was his father, Ahimelech.

If we were to introduce an anecdote by saying, ‘When king David was a shepherd-boy…’, it would not be incorrect, even though David was not king at that time. In the same way, Abiathar was soon to be high priest and this is what he is most remembered for, hence he is designated by this title. Moreover, the event certainly did happen ‘in the days of Abiathar’, as he was alive and present during the incident. We know from 1 Samuel 22:20 that he narrowly escaped when his father’s whole family and their town was destroyed by Saul’s men. Therefore, Jesus’ statement is quite acceptable.

(Archer 1994:362)

Was Jesus’ body wrapped in spices before burial in accordance with Jewish burial customs (John 19:39-40), or did the women come and administer the spices later (Mark 16:1)?

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

John 19:39,40 clearly states that Joseph and Nicodemus wrapped the body in 75 pounds of myrrh and aloes, along with strips of linen. We also know from the synoptic writers that the body was placed in a large shroud. There need be no contradiction here. The fact that the synoptics do not mention the spices during the burial does not mean that they were not used.

If Mark 16:1 is taken to mean that the women were hoping to do the whole burial process themselves, they would need the strips of linen as well, which are not mentioned. It is likely that they simply wished to perform their last act of devotion to their master by adding extra spices to those used by Joseph.

As Jesus died around the ninth hour (Mark 15:34-37), there would have been time (almost three hours) for Joseph and Nicodemus to perform the burial process quickly before the Sabbath began. We need not suppose that there was only time for them to wrap his body in a shroud and deposit it in the tomb.

Did the women buy the spices after (Mark 16:1) or before the Sabbath (Luke 23:55 to 24:1)?

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

Several details in the accounts of the resurrection suggest that there were in fact two groups of women on their way to the tomb, planning to meet each other there. See question 86 for more details of these two groups.

Now it becomes clear that Mary Magdalene and her group bought their spices after the Sabbath, as recorded by Mark 16:1. On the other hand, Joanna and her group bought their spices before the Sabbath, as recorded by Luke 23:56. It is significant that Joanna is mentioned only by Luke, thereby strengthening the proposition that it was her group mentioned by him in the resurrection account.

Did the women visit the tomb “toward the dawn” (Matthew 28:1), or “When the sun had risen” (Mark 16:2)?

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

A brief look at the four passages concerned will clear up any misunderstanding.

    • Matthew 28:1: ‘At dawn…went to look at the tomb’.
    • Mark 16:2 ‘Very early…just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb’.
    • Luke 24:1: ‘Very early in the morning…went to the tomb’.
    • John 20:1: ‘Early…while it was still dark…went to the tomb’.

Thus we see that the four accounts are easily compatible in this respect. It is not even necessary for this point to remember that there were two groups of women, as the harmony is quite simple. From Luke we understand that it was very early when the women set off for the tomb. From Matthew we see that the sun was just dawning, yet John makes it clear that it had not yet done so fully: The darkness was on its way out but had not yet gone. Mark’s statement that the sun had risen comes later, when they were on their way. It is perfectly reasonable to assume that the sun had time to rise during their journey across Jerusalem.

Did the women go to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body with spices (Mark 16:1; Luke 23:55-24:1), or to see the tomb (Matthew 28:1), or for no reason (John 20:1)?

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

This answer links in with number 81 above. We know that they went to the tomb in order to put further spices on Jesus’ body, as Luke and Mark tell us. The fact that Matthew and John do not give a specific reason does not mean that there was not one. They were going to put on spices, whether or not the gospel authors all mention it. We would not expect every detail to be included in all the accounts, otherwise there would be no need for four of them!

When the women arrived at the tomb, was the stone “rolled back” (Mark 16:4), “rolled away” (Luke 24:2), “taken away” (John 20:1), or did they see an angel do it (Matthew 28:1-6)?

(Category: misread the text)

Matthew does not say that the women saw the angel roll the stone back. This accusation is indeed trivial. After documenting the women setting off for the tomb, Matthew relates the earthquake, which happened while they were still on their way. Verse 2 begins by saying, ‘There was a violent earthquake’, the Greek of which carries the sense of, ‘now there had been a violent earthquake’. When the women speak to the angel in verse 5, we understand from Mark 16:5 that they had approached the tomb and gone inside, where he was sitting on the ledge where Jesus’ body had been. Therefore, the answer to this question is that the stone was rolled away when they arrived: there is no contradiction.

In (Matthew 16:2; 28:7; Mark 16:5-6; Luke 24:4-5; 23), the women were told what happened to Jesus’ body, while in (John 20:2) Mary was not told.

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

The angels told the women that Jesus had risen from the dead. Matthew, Mark and Luke are all clear on this. The apparent discrepancy regarding the number of angels is cleared up when we realize that there were two groups of women. Mary Magdalene and her group probably set out from the house of John Mark, where the Last Supper had been held. Joanna and some other unnamed women, on the other hand, probably set out from Herod’s residence, in a different part of the city. Joanna was the wife of Cuza, the manager of Herod’s household (Luke 8:3) and it is therefore highly probable that she and her companions set out from the royal residence.

With this in mind, it is clear that the first angel (who rolled away the stone and told Mary and Salome where Jesus was) had disappeared by the time Joanna and her companions arrived. When they got there (Luke 24:3-8), two angels appeared and told them the good news, after which they hurried off to tell the apostles. In Luke 24:10, all the women are mentioned together, as they all went to the apostles in the end.

We are now in a position to see why Mary Magdalene did not see the angels. John 20:1 tells us that Mary came to the tomb and we know from the other accounts that Salome and another Mary were with her. As soon as she saw the stone rolled away, she ran to tell the apostles, assuming that Jesus had been taken away. The other Mary and Salome, on the other hand, satisfied their curiosity by looking inside the tomb, where they found the angel who told them what had happened. So we see that the angels did inform the women, but that Mary Magdalene ran back before she had chance to meet them.

Did Mary Magdalene first meet the resurrected Jesus during her first visit (Matthew 28:9) or on her second visit (John 20:11-17)? And how did she react?

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

We have established in the last answer that Mary Magdalene ran back to the apostles as soon as she saw the stone had been rolled away. Therefore, when Matthew 28:9 records Jesus meeting them, she was not there. In fact, we understand from Mark 16:9 that Jesus appeared first to Mary Magdalene, which was after she, Peter and John had returned to the tomb the first time (John 20:1-18). Here, we see that Peter and John saw the tomb and went home, leaving Mary weeping by the entrance. From here, she saw the two angels inside the tomb and then met Jesus himself.

As all this happened before Jesus appeared to the other women, it appears that there was some delay in them reaching the apostles. We may understand what happened by comparing the complementary accounts. Matthew 28:8 tells us that the women (Mary the mother of James and Salome) ran away ‘afraid yet filled with joy…to tell his disciples’. It appears that their fear initially got the better of them, for they ‘said nothing to anyone’ (Mark 16:8). It was at this time that Jesus suddenly met them (Matthew 28:9,10). Here, he calmed their fears and told them once more to go and tell the apostles.

There are several apparent problems in the harmonization of the resurrection accounts, a few of which have been touched on here. It has not been appropriate to attempt a full harmonization in this short paper, as we have been answering specific points. A complete harmonization has been commendably attempted by John Wenham in ‘Easter Enigma’ (most recent edition 1996, Paternoster Press). Anyone with further questions is invited to go this book.

It must be admitted that we have in certain places followed explanations or interpretations that are not specifically stated in the text. This is entirely permissible, as the explanations must merely be plausible. It is clear that the gospel authors are writing from different points of view, adding and leaving out different details. This is entirely to be expected from four authors writing independently. Far from casting doubt on their accounts, it gives added credibility, as those details which at first appear to be in conflict can be resolved with some thought, yet are free from the hallmarks of obvious collusion, either by the original authors or any subsequent editors.

Did Jesus instruct his disciples to wait for him in Galilee (Matthew 28:10), or that he was ascending to his Father and God (John 20:17)?

(Category: misread the text)

This apparent contradiction asks, ‘What was Jesus’ instruction for his disciples?’ Shabbir uses Matthew 28:10 and John20:17 to demonstrate this apparent contradiction. However the two passages occur at different times on the same day and there is no reason to believe that Jesus would give his disciples only one instruction.

This is another contradiction which depends upon the reader of Shabbir’s book being ignorant of the biblical passages and the events surrounding that Sunday morning resurrection. (I say Sunday because it is the first day of the week) The two passages, in fact, are complementary not contradictory. This is because the two passages do not refer to the same point in time. Matthew 28:10 speaks of the group of women encountering the risen Jesus on their way back to tell the disciples of what they had found. An empty tomb!? And then receiving the first set of instructions from him to tell the disciples.

The second passage from John 20:17 occurs some time after the first passage, (to understand the time framework read from the beginning of this Chapter) and takes place when Mary is by herself at the tomb grieving out of bewilderment, due to the events unraveling around about her. She sees Jesus and he gives her another set of instructions to pass on to the disciples.

Upon Jesus’ instructions, did the disciples return to Galilee immediately (Matthew 28:17), or after at least 40 days (Luke 24:33, 49; Acts 1:3-4)?

(Category: didn’t read the entire text and misquoted the text)

This supposed contradiction asks when the disciples returned to Galilee after the crucifixion. It is argued from Matthew 28:17 that they returned immediately, and from Luke 24:33 and 49, and Acts 1:4 that it was after at least 40 days. However both of these assumptions are wrong.

It would appear that Jesus appeared to them many times; sometimes individually, sometimes in groups, and as the whole group gathered together, and also at least to Paul and Stephen after the Ascension (see 1 Corinthians 15:5-8, and Acts 7:55-56). He appeared in Galilee and Jerusalem and other places. Matthew 28:16-20 is a summary of all the appearances of Christ, and it is for this reason that it is not advisable to overstress chronology in this account, as Shabbir seems to have done.

The second argument in this seeming contradiction is an even weaker argument than the one I have responded to above. This is because Shabbir has not fully quoted Acts 1:4 which says;

‘On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.”‘

Now the author of Acts, Luke in this passage does not specify when Jesus said this. However in his gospel he does the same thing as Matthew and groups together all the appearances so again it would be unwise to read too much chronologically into the passage of Luke 24:36-49. However it is apparent from the Gospels of Matthew and John that some of the disciples at least did go to Galilee and encounter Jesus there; presumably after the first encounter in Jerusalem and certainly before the end of the forty day period before Christ’s Ascension into Heaven.

Did Jesus appear to twelve disciples after his resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:5), or was it to eleven (Matthew 27:3-5; 28:16; Mark 16:14; Luke 24:9,33; Acts 1:9-26)?

(Category: misread the text)

There is no contradiction once you notice how the words are being used. In all the references given for eleven disciples, the point of the narrative account is to be accurate at that particular moment of time being spoken of. After the death of Judas there were only eleven disciples, and this remained so until Matthias was chosen to take Judas’ place.

In 1 Corinthians 15:5 the generic term ‘the Twelve’ is therefore used for the disciples because Matthias is also counted within the Twelve, since he also witnessed the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, as the passage pointed out by Shabbir records in Acts 1:21-22.

Did Jesus go immediately to the desert after his baptism (Mark 1:12-13), or did he first go to Galilee, see disciples, and attend a wedding (John 1:35, 43; 2:1-11)?

(Category: misread the text)

This apparent contradiction asks: ‘Where was Jesus three days after his baptism?’ Mark 1:12-13 says he went to the wilderness for forty days. But John ‘appears’ to have Jesus the next day at Bethany, the second day at Galilee and the third at Cana (John 1:35; 1:43; 2:1-11), unless you go back and read the entire text starting from John 1:19. The explanation about the baptism of Jesus in John’s Gospel is given by John the Baptist himself. It was “John’s testimony when the Jews of Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was” (vs. 19). It is he who is referring to the event of the baptism in the past. If there is any doubt look at the past tense used by John when he sees Jesus coming towards him in verses 29-30 and 32. While watching Jesus he relates to those who were listening the event of the baptism and its significance. There is no reason to believe that the baptism was actually taking place at the time John was speaking, and therefore no reason to imply that this passage contradicts that of Mark’s Gospel.

Did Joseph flee with the baby Jesus to Egypt (Matthew 2:13-23), or did he calmly present him at the temple in Jerusalem and return to Galilee (Luke 2:21-40)?

(Category: misunderstood the historical context)

This supposed contradiction asks: ‘Was baby Jesus’s life threatened in Jerusalem?’ Matthew 2:13-23 says yes. Luke 2:21-40 appears to say no.

These are complementary accounts of Jesus’ early life, and not contradictory at all. It is clear that it would take some time for Herod to realize that he had been outsmarted by the magi. Matthew’s Gospel says that he killed all the baby boys that were two years old and under in Bethlehem and its vicinity. That would be enough time to allow Joseph and Mary the opportunity to do their rituals at the temple in Jerusalem and then return to Nazareth in Galilee, from where they went to Egypt, and then returned after the death of Herod

When Jesus walked on the water, did his disciples worship him (Matthew 14:33), or were they utterly astounded due to their hardened hearts (Mark 6:51-52)?

(Category: didn’t read the entire text)

This seeming contradiction asks: ‘When Jesus walked on water how did the disciples respond?’ Matthew 14:33 says they worshiped him. Mark 6:51-52 says that they were astounded and hadn’t understood from the previous miracle he had done when he fed the 5000.

This again is not a contradiction but two complementary passages. If Shabbir had read the entire passage in Matthew he would have seen that both the Matthew account (verses 26-28) and the Mark account mention that the disciples had initially been astounded, thinking he was a ghost. This was because they had not understood from the previous miracle who he was. But after the initial shock had warn off the Matthew account then explains that they worshiped him.

Conclusion:

In conclusion, once we have weighed the evidence, many if not all of the seeming contradictions posed by Shabbir Ally can be adequately explained.

When we look over the 101 supposed contradictions we find that they fall into 15 broad categories or genres of errors. Listed below are those categories, each explaining in one sentence the errors behind Shabbir’s contradictions. Alongside each category is a number informing us how many times he could be blamed for each category. You will note that when you add up the totals they are larger than 101. The reason is that, as you may have already noticed, Shabbir many times makes more than one error in a given question.

Categories of the errors evidenced by Shabbir in his pamphlet:

-he misunderstood the historical context – 25 times
-he misread the text – 15 times
-he misunderstood the Hebrew usage – 13 times
-the texts are compatible with a little thought – 13 times
-he misunderstood the author’s intent – 12 times
-these were merely copyist error – 9 times
-he misunderstood how God works in history – 6 times
-he misunderstood the Greek usage – 4 times
-he didn’t read the entire text – 4 times
-he misquoted the text – 4 times
-he misunderstood the wording – 3 times
-he had too literalistic an interpretation – 3 times
-he imposed his own agenda – 3 times
-he confused an incident with another – 1 time
-we now have discovered an earlier manuscript – 1 time

It must be admitted that we have in certain places followed explanations or interpretations that are not specifically stated in the text. This is entirely permissible, as the explanations must merely be plausible. It is clear that the gospel authors are writing from different points of view, adding and leaving out different details. This is entirely to be expected when four authors write independently. Far from casting doubt on their accounts, it gives added credibility, as those details which at first appear to be in conflict can be resolved with some thought, yet are free from the hallmarks of obvious collusion, either by the original authors or any subsequent editors.

This testifies to the honesty and openness of the scribes and translators (both Jewish and Christian). Although it would be easy to change this recognized error, this has not been done in favour of remaining true to the manuscripts. Although it leaves the passage open to shallow criticism as Shabbir Ally has shown, it is criticism which we are not afraid of.

In Shabbir’s booklet, he puts two verses on the bottom of each page. It would seem appropriate that we give an answer to these quotes, which are:

  1. 8. “God is not the author of confusion…” (1 Corinthians 14:33)

True, God is not the author of confusion. There is very little that is confusing in the Bible. When we understand all the original readings and the context behind them, the confusion virtually

disappears. Of course we need scholarship to understand everything in there, as we are 2,000 – 3,500 years and a translation removed from the original hearers.

But this is no different to the Qur’an. On first (and tenth) readings of the Qur’an there are many things which are not apparent. Take the mysterious letters at the beginning of the suras. It seems that after 1,400 years of scholarship, people can only take a good guess at what on earth they might be there for. Or take the many historical Biblical characters whose stories do not parallel the Bible but seem to originate in second century Talmudic apocryphal writings. This is indeed confusing. However, it is because we can go to the historical context of those writings that we now know that they could not have been authored by God, but were created by men, centuries after the authentic revelation of God had been canonized.

  1. 9. “…A house divided against itself falls” (Luke 11:17)

The Bible is not divided against itself. Jesus was talking about a major division, i.e. Satan destroying his own demons. This is far removed from the Bible. A book four times the size of the Qur’an, with the remaining problems able to be counted on your fingers and toes, a 99.999% agreement! That indeed is remarkable!

We conclude with two quotes of our own:

“The first to present his case seems right… till another comes forward and questions him” (Proverbs 18:17)

“…our dear brother Paul also wrote to you with the wisdom that God gave him….His letters contain some things that are hard to understand which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction” (2 Peter 3:15-16)

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6 Responses to Alleged Bible Contradictions Non Christians often talk about (New Testament)

  1. ollda97 says:

    Thank you for this post. It is important to explain these contradictions of meanings. Sometimes the smallest of human errors in translation others use as grounds to break others’ faith.

  2. Thanks very much for your encouragement.

    Defend the word

  3. Jeff says:

    Funny to me that you have to try to prove that everything harmonizes in the Bible no matter to what extent you have to go. Just like the rest of the Bible is up for interpretation, and is indeed interpreted in many different ways, so is the interpretation of the harmonization. Just on trying to harmonize Mary going to the tomb I found multiple different interpretations that don’t agree with each other, and each person thinks they are right. Oh, thats right, you have all the answers and they are wrong. Better start another denomination for the correct harmonization of the Bible. Lets not forget about Matthew leaving out a few generations in his 14,14,14, oops, I mean 14,14,13 count between generations. Of course if you count David twice, stand on your head, and tap your toes it’s all good.

  4. From which liberal Bible College do you come from? First of all if you are claiming that no truth can be known you are already contradicting yourself as you are making a truth statement! And if you can’t understand what I’m saying then I have to question your ability to reason. You seem so self-assured and that can be your biggest obstacle to learning the truth. Remember if you claim that no truth is known then what is the point in debating and how do you know that your view point is correct. Fact that in one classroom you may have 25 students who could not work out simple mathematical formula does not mean that one of the bright students should be condemned to same category of bad students he/she could in fact be able to give you a correct answer. Or has that option never crossed your mind?

    Truth is knowable and through Textual criticism we can work out what is and what is not correct. We can also work out if someone is being genuine about knowing the truth or simply being a smarty-pants. I do not want to argue for the sake of arguing if you have a question then shoot, otherwise why are you wasting your and my time?

    When you have many different people saying different things then why not choose to work out for yourself what is the Bible saying, alternatively do some analysis’s yourself and you should hopefully manage to work out which statements are not reasonable and unsupported by evidence. And that is the key, can people back up their hypothesis or have they been only making generalised statements just like you did in your comment. As an Evangelical Christian I believe that Bible does not contradict itself and that any “anomalies” are associated with translation inaccuracies or use of limited manuscripts, if you are a Bible student you would know that that means that some translations limited themselves to small number of manuscripts.

    If you are really interested in finding more, could I suggest you go to this web site and look at the NET Bible you can download it for free.

    http://bible.org/netbible/

    Many of the issues that you raised will be well explained by the experts (Yes I’m talking linguists and theologians) look at the commentary sections at each part of the text in question, they are honest without any hidden agendas clearly explaining what is and what is not likely to be part of the original text.

    Best of all at the same place you can find other free bibles and commentaries that could help you if you are truly interested. Otherwise if genuine, please send me your questions and I will be glad to try and help out. But please no sarcasm and pretence that you know the truth and trying to make us all look stupid. We can you know judge for ourselves if things are logically sound and scientifically acceptable.

    And just remember before you go anywhere with this, defending is much harder, attacking can be easy especially if we do it injustice by superficial questioning that is more in common with 5 year old child. So if you have counter argument why not give us your view and I can then be given same opportunity but hopefully with more respect and structure to answer and build my argumentation case. I.e. Why I think your reasoning may be faulty and what could be offered as an alternative to your view point. Remember we should base our arguments on the documentary evidence and not just “I heard this or I read this somewhere” or my professor said this.
    One of the best things you can do for yourself is to challenge not only others but also yourself. Is your motivation to disprove something or find the truth?

    Kind regards

    Defend the Word

  5. Grant says:

    Grant: Please help. I am leading a discussion this Sunday on Luke 16:18…”Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.” I don’t understand how to explain is why Luke (and Mark) record this differently from Matthew. In Matthew 5 and 19, Jesus makes the allowance for divorce when sexually immorality occurred. In Luke, it states “everyone” regardless of circumstance. How can both be true? Why doesn’t he make this allowance Luke (and Mark)? I sincerely appreciate the help in understanding the differences in these accounts. Thank you.

    Defend the Word:
    Here are some good questions you should use when constructing questions for discussion groups / house groups. Ask them always and you will be half way there to resolving the question why something was said.

    Who said it: Was it Jesus did he attack or justify previous dogmatic teaching?
    Why was this said:? Was Jesus confronted by people, did he react to their ridicule etc.
    When was this said:? Sequence of events is also important, for example Jesus said “There is no God” but then he concludes by adding “Fool said in his heart”. This will help in understanding what precedes the text in question and what follows it.
    What was said:? Exact statement must be examined in details and considered if they contradict each other or those the second one simply clarifies the first one.
    Where was this communicated:? Location is just as important though sometimes this information may not be readily available.
    In short, look for context, location, audience that receives the saying, teaching structure by considering complete topical subject; ie look all the references to this subject in this case Divorce.

    In Luke Jesus addresses hypocrisy of educated religious teachers, and is proving himself to be different from them. It should be noted that these religious Jews introduced many rules that are not necessarily Biblical but are extra canonical books that were used to clarify the law.

    In Matthew 19 Jesus is clearly harassed by Pharisees who thought that they knew best and could catch Jesus out in breaking the law.
    What Jesus is doing is basically saying go and do the extra mile. Legally they could divorce the wife this in generally could cause loads of issues of inheritance and sustainable living standards for the wife. There were no laws in place as we have today where things are generally split 50 / 50.

    What Jesus is saying if you have promised to love someone and care for them it is not then right to change your mind for any old reason, infidelity issues can best be understood that if situation is salvageable and marriage can be restored then that would be the right action to take but when we come to irreconcilable differences due to unfaithful relationship then non guilty side has every right to separate.

    What Jesus is saying scrap your old laws, stay faithful to your wife (Jesus is being pro women here) and rather than looking after your own interests Jesus is asking us to look after the interest of others that will be directly affected by our own actions.

    Many commentaries have explored the idea that Jesus was possibly trying to show that their attempt to catch Jesus out and get him killed in the same way John the Baptist was because he objected to the fact that King had married his brother’s ex-wife. And was executed as a result of it, in other words Jesus dealt with the heart of the matter rather than the finer points of law. It is however clear from other texts that if my wife is unfaithful to me or me to her she is free to divorce me and marry better partner but as per Christ’s example forgiveness and reconciliation are always first most preferred choice where possible.

    I have included Bible readings from the NET bible web page and have also copied their notes that deal specifically with the cross references and textual differences.
    I hope that this helps. Sorry if my reply is too late I was on holiday and have not checked my blog page for the last few weeks.

    Kind regards

    Defend the Word

    Footnotes from NET Bible

    Luke 16: 14 – 18
    More Warnings about the Pharisees
    16:14 The Pharisees44 (who loved money) heard all this and ridiculed45 him. 16:15 But46 Jesus47 said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in men’s eyes,48 but God knows your hearts. For what is highly prized49 among men is utterly detestable50 in God’s sight.
    16:16 “The law and the prophets were in force51 until John;52 since then,53 the good news of the kingdom of God54 has been proclaimed, and everyone is urged to enter it.55 16:17 But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one tiny stroke of a letter56 in the law to become void.57
    16:18 “Everyone who divorces his wife and marries58 someone else commits adultery, and the one who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.
    Matthew 5 is a Sermon on the mount addressing large group of followers of Jesus who were eager to learn from him and treated his as great teacher.

    Matthew 5:27 – 31
    Adultery
    5:27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’38 5:28 But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to desire her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 5:29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away! It is better to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown into hell.39 5:30 If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away! It is better to lose one of your members than to have your whole body go into hell.
    Divorce
    5:31 “It was said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife must give her a legal document.’40 5:32 But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

    Matthew 19:1 – 12 Questions about Divorce
    19:1 Now when1 Jesus finished these sayings, he left Galilee and went to the region of Judea beyond the Jordan River.2 19:2 Large crowds followed him, and he healed them there.
    19:3 Then some Pharisees3 came to him in order to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful4 to divorce a wife for any cause?”5 19:4 He answered, “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator made them male and female,6 19:5 and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and will be united with his wife, and the two will become one flesh’?7 19:6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” 19:7 They said to him, “Why then did Moses command us to give a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her?”8 19:8 Jesus9 said to them, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because of your hard hearts,10 but from the beginning it was not this way. 19:9 Now I say to you that whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another commits adultery.” 19:10 The11 disciples said to him, “If this is the case of a husband with a wife, it is better not to marry!” 19:11 He12 said to them, “Not everyone can accept this statement, except those to whom it has been given. 19:12 For there are some eunuchs who were that way from birth,13 and some who were made eunuchs14 by others,15 and some who became eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who is able to accept this should accept it.”

    44sn See the note on Pharisees in 5:17.
    45tn A figurative extension of the literal meaning “to turn one’s nose up at someone”; here “ridicule, sneer at, show contempt for” (L&N 33.409).
    46tn Here καί (kai) has been translated as “but” to indicate the contrast present in this context.
    47tn Grk “he”; the referent (Jesus) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
    48tn Grk “before men.” The contrast is between outward appearance (“in people’s eyes”) and inward reality (“God knows your hearts”). Here the Greek term ἄνθρωπος (anqrwpo”) is used twice in a generic sense, referring to both men and women, but “men” has been retained in the text to provide a strong verbal contrast with “God” in the second half of the verse.
    49tn Or “exalted.” This refers to the pride that often comes with money and position.
    50tn Or “is an abomination,” “is abhorrent” (L&N 25.187).
    51tn There is no verb in the Greek text; one must be supplied. Some translations (NASB, NIV) supply “proclaimed” based on the parallelism with the proclamation of the kingdom. The transitional nature of this verse, however, seems to call for something more like “in effect” (NRSV) or, as used here, “in force.” Further, Greek generally can omit one of two kinds of verbs – either the equative verb or one that is already mentioned in the preceding context (ExSyn 39).
    52sn John refers to John the Baptist.
    53sn Until John; since then. This verse indicates a shift in era, from law to kingdom.
    54sn The kingdom of God is a major theme of Jesus. It is a realm in which Jesus rules and to which those who trust him belong. See Luke 6:20; 11:20; 17:20-21.
    55tn Many translations have “entereth violently into it” (ASV) or “is forcing his way into it” (NASB, NIV). This is not true of everyone. It is better to read the verb here as passive rather than middle, and in a softened sense of “be urged.” See Gen 33:11; Judg 13:15-16; 19:7; 2 Sam 3:25, 27 in the LXX. This fits the context well because it agrees with Jesus’ attempt to persuade his opponents to respond morally. For further discussion and details, see D. L. Bock, Luke (BECNT), 2:1352-53.
    56tn Or “one small part of a letter” (L&N 33.37).
    57tn Grk “to fall”; that is, “to drop out of the text.” Jesus’ point may be that the law is going to reach its goal without fail, in that the era of the promised kingdom comes.
    58sn The examples of marriage and divorce show that the ethical standards of the new era are still faithful to promises made in the presence of God. To contribute to the breakup of a marriage, which involved a vow before God, is to commit adultery. This works whether one gets a divorce or marries a person who is divorced, thus finalizing the breakup of the marriage. Jesus’ point concerns the need for fidelity and ethical integrity in the new era.

    38sn A quotation from Exod 20:14; Deut 5:17.
    39sn On this word here and in the following verse, see the note on the word hell in 5:22.
    40sn A quotation from Deut 24:1.

    1tn Grk “it happened when.” The introductory phrase ἐγένετο (egeneto, “it happened that”) is redundant in contemporary English and has not been translated.
    2tn “River” is not in the Greek text but is supplied for clarity. The region referred to here is sometimes known as Transjordan (i.e., “across the Jordan”).
    3tn Grk “And Pharisees.”
    sn See the note on Pharisees in 3:7.
    4tc ‡ Most mss have either ἀνθρώπῳ (anqrwpw, “for a man” [so א2 C D W Θ 087 Ë1,13 33 Ï latt]) or ἀνδρί (andri, “for a husband” [1424c pc]) before the infinitive ἀπολῦσαι (apolusai, “to divorce”). The latter reading is an assimilation to the parallel in Mark; the former reading may have been motivated by the clarification needed (especially to give the following αὐτοῦ [autou, “his”] an antecedent). But a few significant mss (א* B L Γ 579 [700] 1424* pc) have neither noun. As the harder reading, it seems to best explain the rise of the others. NA27, however, reads ἀνθρώπῳ here.
    5sn The question of the Pharisees was anything but sincere; they were asking it to test him. Jesus was now in the jurisdiction of Herod Antipas (i.e., Judea and beyond the Jordan) and it is likely that the Pharisees were hoping he might answer the question of divorce in a way similar to John the Baptist and so suffer the same fate as John, i.e., death at the hands of Herod (cf. 14:1-12). Jesus answered the question not on the basis of rabbinic custom and the debate over Deut 24:1, but rather from the account of creation and God’s original design.
    6sn A quotation from Gen 1:27; 5:2.
    7sn A quotation from Gen 2:24.
    8tc ‡ Although the majority of witnesses (B C W 078 087 Ë13 33 Ï syp,h) have αὐτήν (authn, “her”) after the infinitive ἀπολῦσαι (apolusai, “to divorce”), a variant lacks the αὐτήν. This shorter reading may be due to assimilation to the Markan parallel, but since it is attested in early and diverse witnesses (א D L Z Θ Ë1 579 700 pc lat) and since the parallel verse (Mark 10:4) already departs at many points, the shorter reading seems more likely to be original. The pronoun has been included in the translation, however, for clarity. NA27 includes the word in brackets, indicating reservations regarding its authenticity.
    sn A quotation from Deut 24:1. The Pharisees were all in agreement that the OT permitted a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce his wife (not vice-versa) and that remarriage was therefore sanctioned. But the two rabbinic schools of Shammai and Hillel differed on the grounds for divorce. Shammai was much stricter than Hillel and permitted divorce only in the case of sexual immorality. Hillel permitted divorce for almost any reason (cf. the Mishnah, m. Gittin 9.10).
    9tc A few important mss (א Φ pc) have the name “Jesus” here, but it is probably not original. Nevertheless, this translation routinely specifies the referents of pronouns to improve clarity, so that has been done here.
    tn Grk “He”; the referent (Jesus) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
    10tn Grk “heart” (a collective singular).
    11tc ‡ Some significant witnesses, along with the majority of later mss (Ì25 C D L W Z 078 Ë1,13 33 Ï lat sy samss bo), read αὐτοῦ (autou, “his”) after μαθηταί (maqhtai, “disciples”), but this looks to be a clarifying reading. Other early and important witnesses lack the pronoun (Ì71vid א B Θ e ff1 g1 sams mae), the reading adopted here. NA27 includes the pronoun in brackets, indicating doubts as to its authenticity.
    12tn Here δέ (de) has not been translated.
    13tn Grk “from the womb of the mother” (an idiom).

  6. Grant: Please help. I am leading a discussion this Sunday on Luke 16:18…”Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.” I don’t understand how to explain is why Luke (and Mark) record this differently from Matthew. In Matthew 5 and 19, Jesus makes the allowance for divorce when sexually immorality occurred. In Luke, it states “everyone” regardless of circumstance. How can both be true? Why doesn’t he make this allowance Luke (and Mark)? I sincerely appreciate the help in understanding the differences in these accounts. Thank you.

    Defend the Word:
    Here are some good questions you should use when constructing questions for discussion groups / house groups. Ask them always and you will be half way there to resolving the question why something was said.

    Who said it: Was it Jesus did he attack or justify previous dogmatic teaching?
    Why was this said:? Was Jesus confronted by people, did he react to their ridicule etc.
    When was this said:? Sequence of events is also important, for example Jesus said “There is no God” but then he concludes by adding “Fool said in his heart”. This will help in understanding what precedes the text in question and what follows it.
    What was said:? Exact statement must be examined in details and considered if they contradict each other or those the second one simply clarifies the first one.
    Where was this communicated:? Location is just as important though sometimes this information may not be readily available.
    In short, look for context, location, audience that receives the saying, teaching structure by considering complete topical subject; ie look all the references to this subject in this case Divorce.

    In Luke Jesus addresses hypocrisy of educated religious teachers, and is proving himself to be different from them. It should be noted that these religious Jews introduced many rules that are not necessarily Biblical but are extra canonical books that were used to clarify the law.

    In Matthew 19 Jesus is clearly harassed by Pharisees who thought that they knew best and could catch Jesus out in breaking the law.
    What Jesus is doing is basically saying go and do the extra mile. Legally they could divorce the wife this in generally could cause loads of issues of inheritance and sustainable living standards for the wife. There were no laws in place as we have today where things are generally split 50 / 50.

    What Jesus is saying if you have promised to love someone and care for them it is not then right to change your mind for any old reason, infidelity issues can best be understood that if situation is salvageable and marriage can be restored then that would be the right action to take but when we come to irreconcilable differences due to unfaithful relationship then non guilty side has every right to separate.

    What Jesus is saying scrap your old laws, stay faithful to your wife (Jesus is being pro women here) and rather than looking after your own interests Jesus is asking us to look after the interest of others that will be directly affected by our own actions.

    Many commentaries have explored the idea that Jesus was possibly trying to show that their attempt to catch Jesus out and get him killed in the same way John the Baptist was because he objected to the fact that King had married his brother’s ex-wife. And was executed as a result of it, in other words Jesus dealt with the heart of the matter rather than the finer points of law. It is however clear from other texts that if my wife is unfaithful to me or me to her she is free to divorce me and marry better partner but as per Christ’s example forgiveness and reconciliation are always first most preferred choice where possible.

    I have included Bible readings from the NET bible web page and have also copied their notes that deal specifically with the cross references and textual differences.
    I hope that this helps. Sorry if my reply is too late I was on holiday and have not checked my blog page for the last few weeks.

    Kind regards

    Defend the Word

    Footnotes from NET Bible

    Luke 16: 14 – 18
    More Warnings about the Pharisees
    16:14 The Pharisees44 (who loved money) heard all this and ridiculed45 him. 16:15 But46 Jesus47 said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in men’s eyes,48 but God knows your hearts. For what is highly prized49 among men is utterly detestable50 in God’s sight.
    16:16 “The law and the prophets were in force51 until John;52 since then,53 the good news of the kingdom of God54 has been proclaimed, and everyone is urged to enter it.55 16:17 But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one tiny stroke of a letter56 in the law to become void.57
    16:18 “Everyone who divorces his wife and marries58 someone else commits adultery, and the one who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.
    Matthew 5 is a Sermon on the mount addressing large group of followers of Jesus who were eager to learn from him and treated his as great teacher.

    Matthew 5:27 – 31
    Adultery
    5:27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’38 5:28 But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to desire her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 5:29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away! It is better to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown into hell.39 5:30 If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away! It is better to lose one of your members than to have your whole body go into hell.
    Divorce
    5:31 “It was said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife must give her a legal document.’40 5:32 But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

    Matthew 19:1 – 12 Questions about Divorce
    19:1 Now when1 Jesus finished these sayings, he left Galilee and went to the region of Judea beyond the Jordan River.2 19:2 Large crowds followed him, and he healed them there.
    19:3 Then some Pharisees3 came to him in order to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful4 to divorce a wife for any cause?”5 19:4 He answered, “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator made them male and female,6 19:5 and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and will be united with his wife, and the two will become one flesh’?7 19:6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” 19:7 They said to him, “Why then did Moses command us to give a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her?”8 19:8 Jesus9 said to them, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because of your hard hearts,10 but from the beginning it was not this way. 19:9 Now I say to you that whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another commits adultery.” 19:10 The11 disciples said to him, “If this is the case of a husband with a wife, it is better not to marry!” 19:11 He12 said to them, “Not everyone can accept this statement, except those to whom it has been given. 19:12 For there are some eunuchs who were that way from birth,13 and some who were made eunuchs14 by others,15 and some who became eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who is able to accept this should accept it.”

    44sn See the note on Pharisees in 5:17.
    45tn A figurative extension of the literal meaning “to turn one’s nose up at someone”; here “ridicule, sneer at, show contempt for” (L&N 33.409).
    46tn Here καί (kai) has been translated as “but” to indicate the contrast present in this context.
    47tn Grk “he”; the referent (Jesus) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
    48tn Grk “before men.” The contrast is between outward appearance (“in people’s eyes”) and inward reality (“God knows your hearts”). Here the Greek term ἄνθρωπος (anqrwpo”) is used twice in a generic sense, referring to both men and women, but “men” has been retained in the text to provide a strong verbal contrast with “God” in the second half of the verse.
    49tn Or “exalted.” This refers to the pride that often comes with money and position.
    50tn Or “is an abomination,” “is abhorrent” (L&N 25.187).
    51tn There is no verb in the Greek text; one must be supplied. Some translations (NASB, NIV) supply “proclaimed” based on the parallelism with the proclamation of the kingdom. The transitional nature of this verse, however, seems to call for something more like “in effect” (NRSV) or, as used here, “in force.” Further, Greek generally can omit one of two kinds of verbs – either the equative verb or one that is already mentioned in the preceding context (ExSyn 39).
    52sn John refers to John the Baptist.
    53sn Until John; since then. This verse indicates a shift in era, from law to kingdom.
    54sn The kingdom of God is a major theme of Jesus. It is a realm in which Jesus rules and to which those who trust him belong. See Luke 6:20; 11:20; 17:20-21.
    55tn Many translations have “entereth violently into it” (ASV) or “is forcing his way into it” (NASB, NIV). This is not true of everyone. It is better to read the verb here as passive rather than middle, and in a softened sense of “be urged.” See Gen 33:11; Judg 13:15-16; 19:7; 2 Sam 3:25, 27 in the LXX. This fits the context well because it agrees with Jesus’ attempt to persuade his opponents to respond morally. For further discussion and details, see D. L. Bock, Luke (BECNT), 2:1352-53.
    56tn Or “one small part of a letter” (L&N 33.37).
    57tn Grk “to fall”; that is, “to drop out of the text.” Jesus’ point may be that the law is going to reach its goal without fail, in that the era of the promised kingdom comes.
    58sn The examples of marriage and divorce show that the ethical standards of the new era are still faithful to promises made in the presence of God. To contribute to the breakup of a marriage, which involved a vow before God, is to commit adultery. This works whether one gets a divorce or marries a person who is divorced, thus finalizing the breakup of the marriage. Jesus’ point concerns the need for fidelity and ethical integrity in the new era.

    38sn A quotation from Exod 20:14; Deut 5:17.
    39sn On this word here and in the following verse, see the note on the word hell in 5:22.
    40sn A quotation from Deut 24:1.

    1tn Grk “it happened when.” The introductory phrase ἐγένετο (egeneto, “it happened that”) is redundant in contemporary English and has not been translated.
    2tn “River” is not in the Greek text but is supplied for clarity. The region referred to here is sometimes known as Transjordan (i.e., “across the Jordan”).
    3tn Grk “And Pharisees.”
    sn See the note on Pharisees in 3:7.
    4tc ‡ Most mss have either ἀνθρώπῳ (anqrwpw, “for a man” [so א2 C D W Θ 087 Ë1,13 33 Ï latt]) or ἀνδρί (andri, “for a husband” [1424c pc]) before the infinitive ἀπολῦσαι (apolusai, “to divorce”). The latter reading is an assimilation to the parallel in Mark; the former reading may have been motivated by the clarification needed (especially to give the following αὐτοῦ [autou, “his”] an antecedent). But a few significant mss (א* B L Γ 579 [700] 1424* pc) have neither noun. As the harder reading, it seems to best explain the rise of the others. NA27, however, reads ἀνθρώπῳ here.
    5sn The question of the Pharisees was anything but sincere; they were asking it to test him. Jesus was now in the jurisdiction of Herod Antipas (i.e., Judea and beyond the Jordan) and it is likely that the Pharisees were hoping he might answer the question of divorce in a way similar to John the Baptist and so suffer the same fate as John, i.e., death at the hands of Herod (cf. 14:1-12). Jesus answered the question not on the basis of rabbinic custom and the debate over Deut 24:1, but rather from the account of creation and God’s original design.
    6sn A quotation from Gen 1:27; 5:2.
    7sn A quotation from Gen 2:24.
    8tc ‡ Although the majority of witnesses (B C W 078 087 Ë13 33 Ï syp,h) have αὐτήν (authn, “her”) after the infinitive ἀπολῦσαι (apolusai, “to divorce”), a variant lacks the αὐτήν. This shorter reading may be due to assimilation to the Markan parallel, but since it is attested in early and diverse witnesses (א D L Z Θ Ë1 579 700 pc lat) and since the parallel verse (Mark 10:4) already departs at many points, the shorter reading seems more likely to be original. The pronoun has been included in the translation, however, for clarity. NA27 includes the word in brackets, indicating reservations regarding its authenticity.
    sn A quotation from Deut 24:1. The Pharisees were all in agreement that the OT permitted a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce his wife (not vice-versa) and that remarriage was therefore sanctioned. But the two rabbinic schools of Shammai and Hillel differed on the grounds for divorce. Shammai was much stricter than Hillel and permitted divorce only in the case of sexual immorality. Hillel permitted divorce for almost any reason (cf. the Mishnah, m. Gittin 9.10).
    9tc A few important mss (א Φ pc) have the name “Jesus” here, but it is probably not original. Nevertheless, this translation routinely specifies the referents of pronouns to improve clarity, so that has been done here.
    tn Grk “He”; the referent (Jesus) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
    10tn Grk “heart” (a collective singular).
    11tc ‡ Some significant witnesses, along with the majority of later mss (Ì25 C D L W Z 078 Ë1,13 33 Ï lat sy samss bo), read αὐτοῦ (autou, “his”) after μαθηταί (maqhtai, “disciples”), but this looks to be a clarifying reading. Other early and important witnesses lack the pronoun (Ì71vid א B Θ e ff1 g1 sams mae), the reading adopted here. NA27 includes the pronoun in brackets, indicating doubts as to its authenticity.
    12tn Here δέ (de) has not been translated.
    13tn Grk “from the womb of the mother” (an idiom).

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