Last time in this series, we discussed the common accusation that the Bible is “full of contradictions” and exposed how these alleged contradictions are based on ignorance, malice and misunderstanding. Using an atheist website that alleges to demonstrate “194 Contradictions in the New Testament”, we looked at each one in sequence and debunked every single alleged contradiction; not a single one was valid. Furthermore, we explained what a contradiction is and how it is different from a “difficulty.” We also opined that those who publish this kind of nonsense are not motivated by any desire to find out what the Biblical text actually means, but rather to debunk Christianity. Do I have a bias in favor of Christianity? Of course I do, but at least I am seeking to find out what these texts actually mean. Today, I present you with the next installment in this series, looking at 65 more alleged contradictions in the Bible. If you would like to review Part 1 before reading this essay, you can do so here.
Remember, for two phrases to be contradictory, it is necessary that two things are affirmed that are mutually exclusive. For it to be a true contradiction, there must be this mutual exclusivity; without it, we may have difficulties, open questions, or unproven theories, but we do not have a contradiction.
In this series of “contradictions” we have a lot which depend upon the fallacy of the unspoken companion. This occurs when because a Gospel does not mention a particular person that another Gospel does, it is erroneously inferred that the person was not present. For example, in one Gospel it is mentioned that Jesus healed a blind man named Bartimaeus. In another Gospel, it is mentioned that Jesus healed two blind men. Because the former Gospel does not specifically mention that second blind man, it is alleged that there is a contradiction. This is not true, of course, so long as the first Gospel does not positively deny the existence of the second blind man. The obvious truth is that there were two blind men, but the Gospel of Mark records the name of only one of them, the one who happened to speak to Jesus. Most of the contradictions in this post are just ignorant accusations based on a hyper-literal interpretation of language that no one would ever apply in any other context in real life.
Let’s dig in, shall we?
66. Jesus said that John the Baptist was a prophet and Elijah. Mt.11:9; Mt.17:12,13.
John said that he was not a prophet nor was he Elijah. Jn.1:21.
The Pharisees ask John if he is “the” Prophet. This is a reference to Deut. 18:15, in which Moses promises that God will one day send Israel “a prophet like me.” John is not this Prophet. This refers to Jesus Himself, as St. Peter says in Acts 3:17-26. In Matthew 11, Jesus does not say that John is “the” Prophet, but that he is “a” prophet. Regarding Elijah, the Pharisees and subsequent Jewish tradition have looked for a kind of fleshly, physical return of Elijah. John was right in denying that he was Elijah in the physical sense. When Jesus called John Elijah, He did so in a metaphorical sense, the same sense in which Luke says of John: “And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah” (Luke 1:17). John was not Elijah after the flesh, but he did fulfill the prophetical role of one who comes “in the spirit and power of Elijah”, which is the sense in which Christ refers to him, without, however, denying a physical appearance of Elijah at the end of time (see Matt. 17:11).
67. Jesus said that he was meek and lowly. Mt.11:29.
Jesus makes whips and drives the moneychangers out from the temple. Mt. 21:12; Mk.11:15,16; Jn.2:15.
To be meek and lowly is not the same thing as to sit idly by and tolerate evil. Meekness is patience between man and man. It is related to the cardinal virtue of temperance, and is opposed to the sin of anger. Anger is a sin when it is unjustified or when it leads to other sins; righteous indignation is not the same thing as anger, and the acts of Christ at the Temple are attributed not to unrighteous anger, but to righteous zeal (John 2:17). Furthermore, the fact that Jesus says that He is meek does not mean to preclude that He could exercise any other characteristic besides gentleness. It is as if because we say “Bob is happy person” means we are asserting he can never be sad. Clearly Bob can still be sad while the statement “Bob is a happy person” is also true generally. Jesus’ disposition is one of meekness, but this does not mean He is a pushover; He is still aroused by righteous indignation at sacrilege, as should we.
68. Jesus said, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees”. Lk.12:1.
Jesus said, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees”. Mt.16:6,11.
Jesus said, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Herod”. Mk.8:15.
Then I presume we should beware the leaven of all of them? This would not be a contradiction unless He had said something like, “Beware the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees” but in another verse said, “Beware the leaven of the Pharisees but not the Sadducees.” The fact that He lists other persons as well as the Pharisees does not mean He is contradicting Himself.
69. Jesus founds his church on Peter. Mt.16:18.
Jesus calls Peter “Satan” and a hindrance. Mt.16:23.
At least these atheists recognize that the Church is in fact built on Peter. Jesus of course does not mean Peter is Satan in a substantial sense, but that in opposing the will of God that Christ died on the cross, Peter is acting as God’s adversary – and the word Satan literally means “adversary.” The disciples often got it wrong, especially since Peter and the Apostles had not yet received the Holy Spirit.
70. The mother of James and John asks Jesus to favor her sons. Mt.20:20,21.
They ask for themselves. Mk.10:35-37.
Jesus responds that this favor is not his to give. Mt.20:23; Mk.10:40.
Jesus said that all authority is given to him. Mt.28:18; Jn.3:35.
The mother of James and John initiates this request and puts them up to it. She approaches Jesus with the sons, makes the request, and the sons echo their mother’s petition and encourage Jesus to grant it. Matthew emphasizes the mother’s role in initiating the request while Mark emphasizes the sons’ desires. Regarding authority, Jesus has all authority insofar as He is Second Person of the Trinity. But in becoming Man, He laid aside much of this authority and took the form of a servant. While He was on this earth, He did only those things and said only those things commanded Him by the Father (John 5:19). So while He has all authority, He does not always exercise it as man, like when He was being arrested and stated that He had the authority to call ten legions of angels, if He so chose – but He chose not to (Matt. 26:53). He exercises this fullness of authority only after the Resurrection, which is where the quote from Matthew 28 is taken from.
71. Jesus heals two unnamed blind men. Mt.20:29,30.
Jesus heals one named blind man. Mk.10:46-52.
Matthew chose not to include the name of one of the blind men, while Mark does record the name of one. How is this a contradiction?
72. Jesus healed all that were sick. Mt.8:16; Lk.4:40.
Jesus healed many that were sick – but not all. Mk.1:34.
Well first of all, St. Mark does not say that He did not heal all. The word “all” and “many” are very fluid terms, words that we do not use strictly in our own day to day speech. For example, “The parish festival was wonderful; all the kids from the parish were there.” When we say such a sentence, do we mean to be understood literally that every single child was present? In practice, we use words like “all”, “many”, “everybody” and “everyone” very generally. Since this is how humans talk – and since the Bible was written by humans – we should not demand an exactness of definition that is we do not expect of our own language. The fact is that both Gospel writers are affirming that Jesus healed tons of people; every single sick person in the region may not have come out, but everyone who did encounter Jesus was healed.
73. The council asks Jesus if he is the Son of God. Lk.22:70. The high priest asks Jesus if he is the Christ, the Son of God. Mt.26:63.
The high priest asks Jesus if he is the Christ the Son of the Blessed. Mk.14:61.
The high priest asks Jesus about his disciples and his doctrine. Jn.18:19.
Jesus was asked about His disciples and doctrine prior to being questioned about His identity as Son of God, which ended the interview. The word “Blessed” is a rabbinical word (in Greek, eulogētos) that is a synonym for “God”; it is used only to refer to God and serves as a theonym, a proper noun that refers to God but allows the speaker to refrain from saying the sacred name. The word can be translated as “blessed” or as “God” because they functionally mean the same thing. The high priest asked Jesus is He was barbarukh, translated into Greek as eulogētos. Matthew and Luke chose to render this word as “God”, while Mark chose the more literal translation “blessed.”
74. Jesus answers to the effect of “You said it, not me”. Mt.26:64; Lk.22:70.
Jesus answers definitely, “I am”. Mk.14:62.
What Jesus said in response to the question of the high priest was to use an Aramaic idiomatic expression that is commonly translated as “You have said it!” Modern translators have had a hard time with this phrase, as idioms are steeped in the context of a particular culture and don’t always translate well, especially over millennia. For example, suppose you ask me how I like your cooking, respond with the idiom, “It’s the cat’s ass!”, meaning, “I like it a lot.” How would we meaningfully translate “It’s the cat’s ass” into another language while accurately conveying the meaning? What would people 2,000 years from now assume when they read that someone referred to a dinner as “the cat’s ass”? If there was no knowledge of English idioms, one could actually get the opposite meaning from the phrase (i.e., that I thought the food was so horrid that I referred to it as feline anus).
We have the same problem here. Matthew, who did his Gospel in Aramaic, uses the actual Hebrew idiom, which translates as “You say so” or “You have said it,” which is similar to the English response “You got it!” or “You said it!”, and ultimately means, “Yes.” St. Mark, as the secretary of St. Peter, was writing for a Gentile audience who would have no knowledge of the Hebrew idiom. He thus translates this difficult idiom as “I am”, which preserves the actual meaning of Jesus’ words in a way the Gentile audience could understand.
75. At the Mount of Olives, Jesus told Peter he would deny him three times. Mt.26:30-34.
At the Passover meal, Jesus told Peter he would deny him three times. Lk.22:13,14,34.
As we have mentioned before, the Gospels do not necessarily present things in a chronological narrative, the way, say, a police officer writing a report would do. Just because some saying is mentioned earlier or later in a sequence does not mean the Gospel writer is necessarily insisting the statement happened at that time. In this case, the Last Supper and the trip to the Mount of Olives happened one after another, and the discrepancy here probably suggests that Peter and Jesus had this conversation while they were heading from the upper room to the Mountain. Or it is possible that Peter reaffirmed his devotion multiple times and Jesus made the prophecy more than once. At any rate, this is not a true contradiction, because there are a few ways to reconcile it. It would only be a contradiction if Luke denied that Peter said this at the Last Supper, or vice versa. It is sufficient from the Gospels to understand that the affirmations of Peter and Jesus’ prophesy were made sometime between the Last Supper and the going to the garden, which is a time span of only a few hours.
76. Peter was to deny Jesus before the cock crowed. Mt.26:34; Lk.22:34; Jn.13:38.
Peter was to deny Jesus before the cock crowed twice. Mk.14:30.
If the cock has crowed twice, then the cock has crowed.
77. The cock crowed once. Mt.26:74.
The cock crowed twice. Mk.14:72.
This is stupid. Matthew does not say how many times the cock crowed, only that it crowed. If you were to say, “The dog barked,” would the only possible interpretation be that it barked once and only once? Does not the phrase “the dog barked” have a more general meaning that could refer to a single bark, two barks, or five minutes of incessant barking? This is another example of how these people are unwilling to extend the same common usages to words and phrases of the Bible that they expect in their everyday use of language.
78. Peter makes his first denial to a maid and some others. Mt.26:69,70.
It was only to the maid. Mk.14:66-68; Lk.22:56,57; Jn.18:17.
The maid was the primary individual Peter was speaking to, but there were many others standing around. Even John 18, which is cited above as being in contradiction to Matthew 26, says this plainly: “And the servants and officers stood there, who had made a fire of coals; for it was cold: and they warmed themselves: and Peter stood with them, and warmed himself” (John 18:18). So even if only the maid is recorded as speaking, clearly there were other people around who would have heard Peter’s denial.
79. Peter’s second denial was to another maid. Mt.26:71,72.
It was to the same maid. Mk.14:69,70.
It was to a man and not a maid. Lk.22:58.
It was to more than one person. Jn.18:25.
Mark does not deny that it was the same maid mentioned in Matthew. Luke does not specify who accosted Peter, but presuming it was a man and not a woman, this does not preclude both a maid and a man, and perhaps others, from all making these inquiries. John 18:25 seems to imply this, when it points out that many were standing around Peter asking him if he were a disciple. If we understand that many were there and not just one maid, man, or whatever, then this all becomes very simple.
80. Peter’s third denial was to several bystanders. Mt.26:73,74; Mk.14:69,70.
It was to one person. Lk.22:59,60.
It was to a servant. Jn.18:26,27.
The third denial was primarily addressed to an individual, but an individual who was part of a group of bystanders who all witnessed the denial collectively. See number 77 above.
81. The chief priests bought the field. Mt.27:6,7.
Judas bought the field. Acts 1:16-19.
The statement in Acts is somewhat rhetorical. In saying Judas purchased a field “with the rewards of his iniquity”, it means nothing other than that the money given to Judas was used to purchase a field. Saying “he” purchased it is a rhetorical flourish. Suppose a man robs a bank and flees on foot with the money. But then suppose, in his flight, he drops the money in a field and abandons it. Now suppose the field belongs to a Church, and the pastor finds the bag of money. Now suppose that the pastor uses the money to buy a new bell tower for the Church (notwithstanding everything we have ever heard about giving the money back to the authorities, but just stay with me here). Now we have a new tower built from the funds the bank robber dropped in the field. In this case, we could say rhetorically that the robber built the tower with the funds of his iniquity. Of course, the robber did not build or buy anything; but through his iniquity the money came into the hands of the pastor, and he thus used it for the tower. Similarly, the money of Judas’ betrayal came into the hands of the priests, who used the money of his iniquity to purchase the Field of Blood.
82. Judas threw down the money and left. Mt.27:5.
Judas used the coins to buy the field. Acts 1:18.
See number 81 above.
83. Judas hanged himself. Mt.27:5.
Judas fell headlong and burst his head open. Acts 1:18.
This is one of the most interesting of the alleged New Testament biblical contradictions. Unlike most of them, it does present a real problem for exegetes because, like the question of Jesus’ genealogy, there are two different accounts here, and this cannot be denied.
The traditional reconciliation of these two passages is that Judas hanged himself, and the rope broke and he fell down and burst open. The passage in Acts 1:18 does not say that the act of falling is what killed Judas; it merely notes that he fell and burst open. This could very well be describing what happened to his body after the events described in Matthew 27. This makes a lot more sense if one visits the actual location of Akeldama, which is a field punctuated by jagged rocky walls and precipices. Judas probably hanged himself from a tree on one of these many outcroppings; after he was already dead, the rope broke and his bloated body fell and burst asunder on the ground. This is fully in keeping with tradition and the wording of the two accounts.
Sometimes we get into trouble when something is recorded incompletely that the author presumes everybody knew. For example, take the death of Lincoln. Suppose one reporter covering the events of April 14th, 1865, writes that Lincoln was assassinated in Ford’s Theater on Good Friday. Completely true. Now say another reporter, covering the events at the Peterson House, where Lincoln was taken after being shot, and presuming that his public already knew the now famous sequence of events, writes that Lincoln died in bed at the Peterson House on the morning of April 15th, 1865. Now suppose many centuries go by, such that much precise knowledge about the details of the day are lost; in fact, suppose so much time goes by that these two accounts are the only information we have on the death of Lincoln. Now historians begin to speculate on discrepancies and contradictions in the two accounts. After all, what we are left with is:
Reporter 1: Lincoln was assassinated in Ford’s Theater on April 14, 1865.
Reporter 2: Lincoln died in bed at the Peterson House, April 15, 1865.
If this was all the information we had to go on, the accounts could look contradictory – that is, until we realize that the two accounts are related to each other. Account 1 does not say Lincoln “died” on April 14th, only that he was assassinated on that date. If we know that he lingered on for sometime and was taken across the street to the Peterson House, Account 2 fit perfectly with Account 1. Lincoln was shot on Friday and was taken across the street to another location, where he lingered until the following morning and died in bed.
Similarly, Luke presumes his readership knows of the infamous hanging of Judas, and does not mention it in Acts 1. He does, however, enlighten us as to what happened to the body of Judas after the fact, notifying us that the bursting of the corpse of Judas was appropriate given his treachery. The only way the verses can be seen to be in contradiction is if we make Acts 1 to say not only that Judas burst, but that this bursting caused his death. But it does not say this, and hence we have no contradiction, merely an account of what happened to his corpse after the death that Matthew describes.
84. Jesus did not answer any of the charges. Mt.27:12-14; Lk.23:9.
Jesus answered some of the charges. Mk.14:61,62.
Jesus answered all of the charges. Jn.18:33-37.
The trials of Jesus before Herod Antipas, Caiaphas and Pilate are all jumbled together and confused here. Jesus did not speak at all to Herod (Luke 23:9). Before Pilate, he did not answer the charges of the Jews, but that does not mean he did not speak at all. He spoke to Pilate about the nature of His kingdom, but did not enter into debate about the specific charges. Similarly, he did not argue with the Jews about the charges against him, but that does not mean He did not speak. When abjured by Caiaphas, He clearly proclaimed that He was the Messiah. When Scripture says He did not “answer charges” it does not mean He did not speak, but rather that He did not make a defense. Thus, when Caiaphas charges Him to answer whether He is the Christ, Jesus proclaims the truth freely, but He does not make a defense or try to absolve Himself. The Scriptures are simply telling us that He made no effort to free Himself. This is what it means to “answer charges” in a legal context.
85. Jesus said that eternal life would be given to all that were given to him. Jn.11:27-29; Jn.17:12.
Jesus released Judas in order to keep this promise. Jn.18:5-9.
This one doesn’t even make sense. Jesus did not “release” Judas. And the “life” that Jesus mentions in John 18 is referring to preserving the physical life of the disciples, while the life in John 11 and John 17 is eternal life.
86. The chief priests and elders persuade the people. Mt.27:20.
Only the chief priests persuade the people. Mk.15:11.
The chief priests and the people persuade themselves. Lk.23:13-23.
The elders are among the entourage of the Chief Priests. When the Bible mentions the Chief Priest, it is implied that his entourage is with him; like when we say, “The President visited Pittsburgh”, this means the President and his whole staff and entourage. Mark does not mention the entourage; Matthew does. In Luke, the Chief Priests and the entourage are lumped together with the people. This is because Luke is addressing Gentiles, for whom the Chief Priests, the elders and the people are all collectively “Jews”.
87. Jesus is given a scarlet robe. Mt.27:28.
Jesus is given a purple robe. Mk.15:17; Jn.19:2.
Jesus is given a gorgeous robe. Lk.23:11.
How is there a contradiction between the color of the robe and whether or not it was gorgeous? At any rate, the robe was a deep scarlet with a purple shade; it was purple enough to denote royalty but still scarlet enough to be somewhat red. Given the location of Judea, the robe was probably a color known as Tyrian Purple, which was a medium between scarlet red and royal purple. It was extremely common in 1st century Judea, as Tyre was only a little ways up the coast. But anyway, aren’t colors prey to a certain degree of subjectivity? Would we really say two witnesses were contradicting each other of one said a shirt was indigo and one said it was purple?
88. The sign says, “This is Jesus the King of the Jews”. Mt.27:37.
The sign says, “The King of the Jews”. Mk.15:26.
In three languages, the sign says, “This is the King of the Jews”. Lk.23:38.
In the same three languages, the sign says, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews”. Jn.19:19,20.
We have noted before how Mark summarizes events that are given more description in the other Gospels. Because John was the only witness to the Crucifixion, his description is the fullest. The other three Gospels offer summaries. Suppose a sign says, “Do not feed, approach, touch, shout at, aggravate or tantalize the bears in anyway.” Then suppose, when asked what the sign says, I reply, “It says leave the bears alone.” I have offered a summary of what the sign says, but I have not contradicted what the sign says. Similarly, John, as an eye-witness, preserves the actual text of the sign, while the other evangelists offer summaries.
It is also possible that, since the sign was written in three languages, Mark, Luke and John might be quoting from different signs, Mark reporting the Aramaic, Luke the Greek, and John the Latin. In any sense, this is not a contradiction.
88. Jesus asks God, The Father, why he has forsaken him. Mt.27:46.
Jesus said that he and The Father were one and the same. Jn.10:30; Jn.17:11,21,22.
Jesus is one in being with the Father. In Matthew 27, He is quoting Psalm 22, a Messianic psalm which prophesies the Crucifixion. He is in effect saying, “Look in your Scriptures and you will see that what you are doing to me right now was prophesied in the Psalms.
89. The centurion says, “Truly this was the son of God”. Mt.27:54.
The centurion says, “Truly this man was the son of God”. Mk.15:39.
The centurion says, “Certainly, this was a righteous man”. Lk.23:47.
There was no centurion. Jn.19:31-37.
First of all, John 19 does not deny there was a centurion, so I am not sure where that objection came from. It mentions the presence of soldiers, and a centurion is a soldier. The passage from Luke does not contradict the passages from Mark and Matthew. The centurion says that Jesus was a dikaios anthrōpos, which has a double-connotation. In Greek, to be faultless or innocent was akin to being holy or blameless before the gods and was somewhat idiomatic. When the centurion proclaims Jesusdikaios, he in effect says that He is a holy one, or a holy man, with innocence interpreted as holiness before the gods. When this phrase is taken from Greek to Aramaic or Hebrew, it becomes “Holy One” or “Holy Man”, which are similar to the Aramaic titles for the Messiah (for example, Mark 1:24). There is thus some relation between the literal wording of the Greek with the Aramaic meaning. As we have seen before, we have a situation where Matthew and Mark give us the meaning of the words filtered through the idiomatic language, whereas Luke gives us what is probably closer to the centurion’s actual verbiage. See number 73 above.
Another explanation is that the centurion said both of these phrases; Luke, writing to Gentiles, records the phrase that would be best understood by the Gentiles. Matthew and Mark, writing to Jews, include the passage about the Messiah, which might have been lost on Gentiles not familiar with Jewish prophecy.
90.Jesus was crucified at the third hour. Mk.15:25.
Jesus was still before Pilate at the sixth hour. Jn.19:13,14.
The Jews and Romans had different systems for reckoning the hours of the day. The Jewish hours were very approximate; the “third hour” of the Jewish day encompassed 6am-9am. According to Mark, Jesus is crucified somewhere between 6-9am. John writes in the Roman style, and the Roman hours were marked precisely as modern English hours are. Thus for the Romans, the “sixth hour” is the sixth hour past midnight, or 6am. So in John’s account, Jesus is crucified somewhere between 6-7am, which brings it into harmony with Mark. We also do not know whether these times refer to when Jesus was actually nailed to the cross or when he began his walk to Golgotha. Tradition tends to view the crucifixion as occurring near midday, which would mean Mark and John are describing when Jesus was sentenced to death rather than when He was actually put to death. A further confirmation that John is using the Roman system comes from John 4:52, when John mentions a “seventh hour.” There was no seventh hour in the Jewish reckoning, but there was in the Roman.
91. The women looked on from “afar”. Mt.27:55; Mk.15:40; Lk.23:49.
The women were very close. Jn.19:25.
This is clear from anyone who ever watched a Jesus movie. The woman were near the Cross, as close as they could be, but they were still “afar” in the sense that the soldiers maintained a perimeter that prevented them from going right up to it. They were as close as they could be, closer than anyone else, but still kept “afar” behind the boundary set by the soldiers.
92. The last recorded words of Jesus were:
Version 1: “Eli, Eli …My God, My God why have you forsaken me” Mt.27:46.
Version 2: “Eloi, Eloi…My God, My God why have you forsaken me” Mk.15:34.
Version 3: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit”. Lk.23:46.
Version 4: “It is finished”. Jn.19:30.
Just because one phrase was the last recorded in any one Gospel does not mean it was the last in an absolute sense. There is no contradiction here, unless one of the Gospels were to say, “and these were Jesus’ last words, and He said nothing else after this but died immediately.” None of the Gospels state this; Jesus said many things before He died, and each Gospel writer chose to report that statement which he wished, without intending to deny that Jesus said anything more or less.
93. A guard was placed at the tomb the day after the burial. Mt.27:65,66.
No guard is mentioned. Mk.15:44-47; Lk.23:52-56; Jn.19:38-42.
The fact that no guard is mentioned does not mean that no guard was there. Mark, Luke and John do not deny a guard was there, they simply are silent on the matter, and silence is not a contradiction.
94. Only those keeping the words of Jesus will never see death. Jn.8:51.
Jesus’ disciples will be killed. Mt.24:3-9.
All men die once. Heb.9:27.
John refers to eternal life, which the faithful of Christ will inherit. Matthew and Hebrews refer to physical death. A very cursory reading of the verses would make this painfully obvious, even to a child.
95. Upon their arrival, the stone was still in place. Mt.28:1 2.
Upon their arrival, the stone had been removed. Mk.16:4; Lk.24:2; Jn.20:1.
This is incorrect. Matthew does not say the stone was still in place. It says the stone was rolled back and there was an angel sitting on it.
96. There was an earthquake. Mt.28:2.
There was no earthquake. Mk.16:5; Lk.24:2-4; Jn.20:12.
The latter three Gospels do not deny there was an earthquake, they just fail to mention one. An omission is not a contradiction. See number 92.
97. The visitors ran to tell the disciples. Mt.28:8.
The visitors told the eleven and all the rest. Lk.24:9.
The visitors said nothing to anyone. Mk.16:8.
I don’t see how Matt. 28 and Luke 24 are in contradiction, unless “the disciples” are different from “the eleven and all the rest.” The implication in Mark 16 is that the women said nothing to anyone publicly (as for example, the Apostles did after the Resurrection), but they did speak to the disciples privately, as the other Gospels affirm.
98. Jesus first resurrection appearance was right at the tomb. Jn.20:12-14.
Jesus first resurrection appearance was fairly near the tomb. Mt.28:8,9.
Jesus first resurrection appearance was on the road to Emmaus. Lk.24:13-16.
The distinction between “right at the tomb” and “fairly near the tomb” in John and Matthew is too subjective to be meaningful. Both Gospels affirm that the appearance occurred in the vicinity of the tomb; whether right next to the door or twenty feet away the door is irrelevant, as in actual speech nobody really insists on distinctions that specific. The Gospel of Luke never asserts that the appearance at Emmaus is the first one, so there is no contradiction or even an apparent contradiction.
99. One doubted. Jn.20:24.
Some doubted. Mt.28:17.
All doubted. Mk.16:11; Lk.24:11,14.
These verses refer to three different times; John refers to Thomas, when all the eleven except him had seen the risen Lord; Matthew refers to after all had seen Him, but who doubted is not specified. It does not imply it was any of the eleven. Mark and Luke refer to the initial reports of the Resurrection given by the women, before any disciples had seen Jesus. Thus, what happened was this: After the Resurrection, the women relate the story to the disciples, who are inclined to disbelieve them. After the Resurrection is confirmed by the empty tomb and the post-Resurrection appearances, the disciples believe, except for Thomas, who was not present – we know Thomas will later believe. Finally, all of the eleven, plus the other disciples (there were hundreds), came with Jesus to the Mount of Olives. The eleven believed, but some of the other unnamed believers still harbored doubt.
100. Jesus said that his blood was shed for many. Mk.14:24.
Jesus said his blood was shed for his disciples. Lk.22:20.
The “you” mentioned in Luke 22:20 has never, in the whole history of Christianity, been taken to refer to the disciples only. It refers to humanity in general.
101. Simon of Cyrene was forced to bear the cross of Jesus. Mt.27:32; Mk.15:21; Lk.23:26.
Jesus bore his own cross. Jn.19:16,17.
Jesus did carry His own cross for most of the way. John simply omits to mention Simon, perhaps because by the time he wrote the story was already so well known. Again, an omission is not a contradiction, because John does not deny that anyone helped Jesus carry the cross at any point; it merely affirms that Jesus Himself did carry it, which Matthew, Mark and Luke also affirm.
102. Jesus was offered vinegar and gall to drink. Mt.27:34.
Jesus was offered vinegar to drink. Jn.19:29,30.
Jesus was offered wine and myrrh to drink. Mk.15:23.
There is some ambiguity on the word “vinegar” here. The word used in Matthew is oxos, which means “sour wine” but can also mean “vinegar.” It also refers to a specific drink made of sour wine and vinegar together which the Roman soldiers were accustomed to drink, so either “vinegar” or “wine” are appropriate terms; different translations will render this word differently. The word “gall” is a very vague term, cholē, which simply refers to any bitter drink. Myrrh, because it is so bitter, would be a sort of gall. The myrrh (smyrnizō, in Mark) would have been mingled with the oxosto give it a more agreeable flavor. A good English comparison would be the word swill, which can refer to the leftovers of any drink. So, if one statement says, “They gave him swill to drink”, and another “They gave him beer to drink”, it would be understood that the swill he was given consisted of beer. Similarly, Jesus was given cholē, andsmyrnizō refers to the sort ofcholē it was.
103. Jesus refused the drink offered him. Mk.15:23.
Jesus tasted the drink offered and then refused. Mt.27:34.
Jesus accepted the drink offered him. Jn.19:30.
We know that Jesus drank some of the drink, but also refused some of it. As Matthew states, He drank some, but then refused any more. So it is right to say He drank, but also right to say He refused. Matthew mentions the whole episode, while Mark and John record only parts of it.
104. Both “thieves” mocked Jesus on the cross. Mt. 27:44; Mk.15:32.
One “thief” sided with Jesus on the cross. Lk.23:39-41.
The fact that the whole is mentioned does not mean a part could not have dissented; for example, when it says “All the people yelled, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” this does not mean to deny that there were some in the crowd who were not yelling this, or who may have been yelling something different. Similarly, when it says that those crucified with Him mocked Him, it cannot be taken as a denial that one of the thieves may have also defended Him. One thief attacked him for certain, and that one thief was certainly included in the statement “those crucified with Him.” We might also remember that the crucifixion lasted for several hours; it is certainly possible that both thieves mocked Him at first, but that the second thief came to repentance and changed His disposition towards our Lord.
105. Joseph of Arimathaea boldly asked for the body of Jesus. Mk.15:43.
Joseph of Arimathaea secretly asked for the body of Jesus. Jn.19:38.
Joseph’s boldness in Mark is towards Pilate; his secrecy in John was towards the Jews. Joseph boldly requested an audience with Pilate to request the body, but he went out of his way to keep this meeting secret from the Jews.
106. Jesus was laid in a nearby tomb. Mk.15:46; Lk.23:53; Jn.19:41.
Jesus was laid in Joseph’s new tomb. Mt.27:59,60.
Joseph’s tomb mentioned in Matthew was nearby. How is this a contradiction?
107. A great stone was rolled in front of the tomb. Mt.27:60; Mk.15:46
There was nothing in front of the tomb. Lk.23:55; Jn.19:41.
The passage in Luke says only that the woman watched Jesus laid in the tomb. Of course there was no stone when He being buried. Prior to the internment, the tomb was open (John 19, Luke 23). After the buried Him, they rolled a stone in front of the tomb (Matt. 27, Mark 15). That’s just common sense.
108. Nicodemus prepared the body with spices. Jn.19:39,40.
Failing to notice this, the women bought spices to prepare the body later. Mk. 16:1; Lk.23:55,56.
Nicodemus preparation occurred on the day of the crucifixion, that of the women several days later. In Jewish tradition, it was custom for the body to be anointed, prepared with spices and have the linens changed for several days successively after death during the traditional mourning period. This is why the women were so anxious to get the Jesus early Sunday morning; they had not been allowed to buy spices and do the work on the previous day’s Sabbath, and hence they had missed one of the obligatory days of caring for the body. This is no contradiction, just ignorance of Jewish customs.
109. The body was anointed. Jn.19:39,40.
The body was not anointed. Mk.15:46 to 16:1; Lk.23:55 to 24:1.
The passages from Mark and Luke do not deny there was an anointing; they simply do not mention it. Next.
110. The women bought materials before the sabbath. Lk.23:56.
The women bought materials after the sabbath. Mk.16:1.
Given the vast amounts of spices that could be used in these burial preparations (Nicodemus alone contributed seventy-five pounds according to John 19:39-40), it is likely that the women had some on hand before the Sabbath but needed to go out and purchase more, which they could not do until after the Sabbath.
111. Jesus was first seen by Cephas, then the twelve. 1 Cor.15:5.
Jesus was first seen by the two Marys. Mt.28:1,8,9.
Jesus was first seen by Mary Magdalene. Mk.16:9; Jn.20:1,14,15.
Jesus was first seen by Cleopas and others. Lk.24:17,18.
Jesus was first seen by the disciples. Acts 10:40,41.
Let’s get all this straightened out. First, the account in Luke does not say Cleopas and the others were the first to see Jesus; this is simply the first account that Luke decides to relate, but it never says it happened first chronologically. Neither does St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:5 assert that Christ appeared first to Cephas (Peter), only that He appeared to Peter before the rest of the Twelve. Mary Magdalene was among the two Mary’s who saw Christ on Easter Sunday, so there is really no conflict between Matthew 28 and Mark 16 or John 20. Acts 10 is extremely vague and gives no hint of chronology other than to say that Christ appeared to the disciples, which could have happened anytime between Easter and the Ascension. Basically, it went down like this: Christ appeared to the two Marys first, Mary Magdalene among them, who appears to have stayed behind and had more interaction with our Lord than the other. She told the disciples, and sometime later that day our Lord appeared to Peter, and near evening, to Cleopas on the road to Emmaus.
112. The two Marys went to the tomb. Mt.28:1.
The two Marys and Salome went to the tomb. Mk.16:1.
Several women went to the tomb. Lk.24:10.
Only Mary Magdalene went to the tomb. Jn.20:1.
Mary Magdalene was among the two Mary’s, but as her encounter with the risen Christ was more profound, John focuses in on her experience, though he does not deny that the other Mary was with her. The same can be said of Salome. It needs to be stressed that failure to mention each and every member of a party does not constitute a denial that they existed. Suppose last summer I led a hiking trip up north with my companions Jon, Brian and Daniel. Now suppose when speaking to one friend who is mutual friends with my acquaintances, I say, “Last summer John, Brian, Daniel and I went hiking up north.” Now suppose I am speaking to another friend who is not mutual acquaintances with my companions. To him, I simply say, “I went hiking up north last summer.” The latter comment does not constitute a contradiction of the former; rather, the amount of detail I choose to include is modified based on the knowledge of the listener. We all understand this simple fact of language. If I were to say, “I went hiking up north,” my friend might ask, “Did you go alone?” because he understands that when I say “I went hiking” it could easily mean I alone or I and some friends. Similarly, the statement that Mary Magdalene went to the tomb does not affirm or deny that she had others with her. It simply states that she went without commenting on anything else. We know from the other Gospels that she was not alone.
113. It was dawn when Mary went to the tomb. Mt.28:1; Mk.16:2.
It was dark when Mary went to the tomb. Jn.20:1.
Dawn means when the sun first begins to come up. It is usually still kind of dark at dawn. Duh.
114. An angel sat on the stone at the door of the tomb. Mt.28:2.
A man was sitting inside the tomb. Mk.16:5.
There was both an angel on the rock and in the tomb. See here for a more lengthy article on this particular question. This is an admittedly difficult question, but remember, for there to be a real contradiction, one account has to specifically deny what is asserted by the other, and that clearly does not happen here.
115. Two men were standing inside the tomb. Lk.24:3,4.
Two angels were sitting inside the tomb. Jn.20:12.
Is it too much of a stretch to imagine that perhaps the angels changed their posture during the appearance? That they either were seated and then rose or else were standing and then seated?
116. Peter did not go into the tomb but stooped and looked inside. Lk.24:12.
Peter did go into the tomb, and another disciple stooped and looked inside. Jn.20:3-6.
Luke does not deny that Peter went into the tomb. It just says that he bent or stooped over to examine the clothes. This very easily could have taken place inside the tomb as Peter stooped over the slab upon which Jesus lay. Taking into account the text of John 20, it appears that this is exactly what did occur.
117. After the resurrection, the disciples held Jesus by the feet. Mt.28:9.
After the resurrection, Jesus told Thomas to touch his side. Jn 20:27.
After the resurrection, Jesus said that he was not to be touched. Jn.20:17.
These are three entirely different occurrences with different circumstances. Jesus never said He was not to be touched, but only told Mary Magdalene not to touch Him right then and there.
118. Mary first saw Jesus at the tomb. Jn.20:11-15.
Mary first saw Jesus on her way home. Mt.28:8-10.
As everyone knows, the tomb was in a large garden enclosure. Mary saw Christ while leaving the grave itself to go home but while still within the garden enclosure. Thus she was still “at the tomb” because she was still in the cemetery, so to speak, although on her way out.
119. The women entered the tomb. Mk.16:5; Lk.24:3.
The women stayed outside the tomb. Jn.20:11.
John 20 does not deny that Mary went into the tomb. It merely says that she happened to be outside the tomb weeping when Jesus appeared to her. As we know from Matt. 28, Mary was already making her way out of the garden, but the fact that she was on her way out is not a denial that she was ever in. If I say, “While standing outside the pizza store, I got a phone call,” I am not denying I was ever in the pizza store, only noting that I got the phone call while outside the store.
120. The disciples were frightened when they saw Jesus. Lk.24:36,37.
The disciples were glad when they first saw Jesus. Jn.20:20.
When the disciples initially saw Christ in Luke 24, they were afraid because they were not certain it was really Him; they thought He may have been a ghost (Luke 24:37). But after seeing convincing proofs that it really was our Lord in the flesh, they rejoiced. After this, their fear turned to “joy and amazement”, as the same account in Luke says (v. 40-41). But consider also, if you witnessed someone you loved rise the dead and appear before, would you be able to easily sum up what sorts of emotions you would be feeling at that moment? Would not you be experiencing joy and fear simultaneously?
121. Twelve disciples saw Jesus. 1 Cor.15:5.
Eleven disciples saw Jesus. Thomas was not there. Mt.28:16,17; Jn.20:19-25.
All the disciples did see Jesus. He appeared to the eleven first, and then later, to the eleven plus Thomas. So no matter how you slice it, He appeared to all twelve ultimately, although at first only to the eleven.
122. The disciples doubted that Jesus had risen from the dead. Mt.28:17.
The Pharisees and chief priests believed it possible. Mt.27:62-66.
How on earth is this a contradiction? At any rate, it’s not even true; the Pharisees did not believe He was capable of rising, but feared His disciples might steal the body.
123. Jesus ascended on the third day after the resurrection. Lk.24:21,50,51.
Jesus ascended the same day as the crucifixion. Lk.23:42 43.
Jesus ascended forty days after the resurrection. Acts 1:3,9.
This confuses the Resurrection on the third day with the Ascension on the fortieth day. For one thing, the passage in Luke describes only the appearance on the road to Emmaus, which is hardly the same thing as the Ascension. And it was not the third day after the Resurrection, but on the very day of the Resurrection, as it says in verse 22, “They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body.” The passage cited from Luke 23 refers to the Lord’s words to the thief, “This day, you shall be with me in paradise,” but this does not mean that Jesus ascended bodily into heaven on that day. It simply means that the thief would enter into the beatific vision that day, not that the physical body of Christ would ascend into heaven. The Resurrection occurred on the third day, but Christ did not ascend into heaven until the fortieth day, as stated in Acts 1. Confusing the Resurrection appearance and the beatific vision promised to the thief with the Ascension demonstrates an astonishing degree of ignorance.
124. At the time of the ascension, there were about 120 brethren. Acts 1:15.
At the time of the ascension, there were about 500 brethren. 1 Cor.15:6.
Acts 1 does not deny there were 500 believers who had seen Jesus; it merely states that only about 120 were gathered in the upper room at that particular time. Suppose I say, “My baseball team has about 20 players,” and then later I say, “I went out to eat with my baseball team at Denny’s; there were about 12 of us,” does the latter statement contradict the former? Of course not. It simply means that not all 20 were present. The same applies here.
125. The moneychangers incident occurred at the end of Jesus’ career. Mt.21:11,12.
The moneychangers incident occurred at the beginning of Jesus’ career. Jn.2:11-15.
Many theologians and scholars have commented on this. The traditional explanation is that Christ actually drove the money changers out twice; other modern scholars point to the fact that the Gospels present Christ’s life topically, not necessarily chronologically, and that you cannot infer from John 2 that this was at the beginning of Christ’s life and not at the end just because it comes earlier in the Gospel. At any rate, this would not be a contradiction unless the account that placed it later actually denied it happened earlier and vice versa.
126. Zachariah was the son of Jehoida, the priest. 2 Chr.24:20.
Jesus said that Zacharias was the son of Barachias. Mt.23:35. (Note: The name Barachias or Barachiah does not appear in the OT.)
This alleged “contradiction” forgets that there is more than one Zachariah in the Bible, and that different translations spell names differently. The “Zachariah son of Barachiah” Jesus refers to is not Zachariah son of Jehoida from 2 Chronicles, but the Prophet Zechariah, of whose father was Berekiah. The Book of Zechariah begins, “In the eighth month of the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Zechariah son of Berekiah…” (Zech. 1:1). Apparently it never occurred to these folks that Zacharias and Zechariah are the same name, as are Barachias and Berekiah. Zachariah son of Jehoida was indeed murdered within the temple, but so was Zechariah son of Berechiah son of Iddo. This is written in the Targum gloss on the Book of Lamentations 2:20, which says, “Is it right to kill priest and prophet in the Temple of the Lord, as when you killed Zechariah son of Iddo, the High Priest and faithful prophet in the Temple of the Lord on the Day of Atonement because he told you not to do evil before the Lord?”
127.The coming of the kingdom will be accompanied by signs and miracles. Mt.24:29-33; Mk.13:24-29.
It will not be accompanied by signs and miracles since it occurs from within. Lk.17:20,21.
In Matthew and Mark, Jesus is referring to the definitive establishment of God’s eternal reign at the end of time, the eschaton. In Luke, Christ refers to the kingdom in seed form, that which is planted in the heart of the believer by faith and matures. In the latter, He speaks of the kingdom as the mustard seed planted within, in the former, the kingdom as a fully matured tree in its definitive and final state.
128. The kingdom was prepared from the beginning. Mt.25:34.
Jesus said that he was going to go and prepare the kingdom. Jn.14:2,3.
Then this means that the kingdom is always being prepared, which is in keeping with what Christ says in John 5:17, “My Father worketh until now; and I work.” The whole purpose of man’s creation is to know, love and serve God and spend eternity with Him, and so long as man or the world exists, God is preparing this great kingdom, this great plan, for those who love Him.
Click here for the final installment in this series.
Also, remember if you enjoy this, please purchase The Book of Non-Contradiction from Cruachan Hill Press, from which this essay is taken.
Phillip Campbell, “Contradictions in the New Testament: Part 2 of 3,” Unam Sanctam Catholicam, September 9, 2013. Available online at: www.unamsanctamcatholicam.com/contradictions-in-the-new-testament-part-2-of-3