Defending the Christian Worldview, Creationism, and Intelligent Design
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Defending the Christian Worldview, Creationism, and Intelligent Design

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Defending the Christian Worldview, Creationism, and Intelligent Design » Bible / Christian faith / Apologetics » Contradictions in the Bible & the gospels: How to respond to the critics

Contradictions in the Bible & the gospels: How to respond to the critics

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Contradictions in the Bible & the gospels: How to respond to the critics

SAB Contradictions 1 – 492 tested and falsified

Ham, Ken Demolishing Supposed Bible Contradictions Volume 1 2010

Ham, Ken Demolishing Supposed Bible Contradictions Volume 2

Greg Vanden Berge Bible Contradictions 2011

Bible Contradictions Explained: 4 Reasons the Gospels “Disagree” September 19, 2017  1

When you realize that the gospels were written in Greek, the fact that Jesus probably spoke Aramaic becomes very significant. This means that most of his words had to be translated into Greek—making every quote an interpretation. Languages don’t necessarily have equivalent words or phrases to make translating one vocabulary into another a trouble-free endeavor. Each gospel writer had to interpret Jesus’ words and sayings in order to find equivalents in an entirely different language. Translation is interpretation.

This is one of the reasons that scholars have long held that we have Jesus’ “authentic voice” (ipsissima vox) rather than his “exact words” (ipsissima verba). We can trust the essential meaning of the words attributed to Jesus in the gospels even though we can’t know precisely what words Jesus used.

The gospel writers’ authority as interpreters of Christ’s story meant that their translation or paraphrase of Jesus’ words would focus on the theological implications.

In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus is quoted as saying “Blessed are the poor” (Luke 6:20), but Matthew records him saying, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Matt. 5:3). Now it could be that Jesus said both of these things at different times, but it’s also likely that Matthew felt it was extremely important to clearly communicate the spiritual significance of Jesus’ words.

We can see another example of this at the foot of the cross. Both Matthew and Mark quote the centurion as saying “Surely this man was the Son of God!” (Matt. 27:54, Mk. 15:39), but that’s not how Luke records it. In Luke 23:47, the centurion says, “Surely this was a righteous man.” This translation make sense in light of each author’s focus. Both Matthew and Mark are focused on emphasizing Jesus’ position as the Son of God, but Christ’s innocence and righteousness is a recurring theme in Luke’s gospel. The two iterations of the centurion’s comment don’t contradict each other, they simply focus on different theological implications.

If we expect that each other gospel writers are going to give us Jesus’ words verbatim, we’re holding the gospels to a historical standard that no other historical document would be able to meet—classical or modern. Remember, no one was standing around Jesus with a tape recorder.

We see also Matthew omitting details in the story of the centurion’s servant. In Luke’s telling of the story, the centurion sends a contingent of Jewish elders to Jesus (Lk. 7:1–10), but Matthew reports it as the centurion himself coming to Jesus (Matt. 8:5–13). Is that a contradiction? From Matthew’s point of view, the centurion was speaking directly to Jesus through the elders. In the first century, there was no functional difference between a centurion telling you something face-to-face or through an emissary.

What about when one gospel mentions two individuals while another only speaks of one?

Two demon-possessed men (Matt. 8:28) vs. one (Mk. 5:2)
Two blind men (Matt. 20:30) vs. one (Mk. 10:46)
Two angels at the tomb (Lk. 24:4) vs. one (Mk. 16:5)

It’s important to note that Mark never insists that there’s only one person present. He simply shines a spotlight on one individual. It’s very likely that he’s highlighting the most important player and ignoring the other. But ultimately, we should see little discrepancies like these as proof of the accounts’ veracity. After all, they didn’t get together to make sure their stories were entirely free of conflict.


Last edited by Otangelo on Thu Apr 07, 2022 8:49 am; edited 3 times in total



Dimitrios Fanourios Pischinas Most Striking Contradictions in the Gospels among the Four Evangelists 2

Who was Joseph’s father?
Matthew 1:16 …and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.

Luke 3:23: Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age, being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, the son of Heli,

Both Matthew and Luke give us very early in their gospels the genealogy of Jesus’s father (or step-father, or whoever he was anyway… it’s not clear). The two accounts differ from each other in nearly every generation, even including the very first preceding Joseph. Apparently, Jesus didn’t like much to speak to them about his grandpa.

Response:  3
(Matthew 1:16; Luke 3:23)

Matthew 1:16: "And Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ."

Luke 3:23: "Now Jesus Himself began His ministry at about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, the son of Heli"

In order to solve this alleged discrepancy, it must be understood that Matthew's account is giving the genealogy of Joseph while Luke gives the genealogy of Mary. This is borne out by the fact that in Matthew's account the virgin conception account is told from Joseph's perspective in Matthew 1:18-25; while Luke, who most likely gathers much of his information from eyewitnesses (including Mary) told the virgin conception account from Mary's perspective (Luke 1:1-4).

Why then is Joseph mentioned in both lists of genealogies (Matthew 1:16; Luke 3:23)? First, Matthew is giving the genealogy of Joseph and Luke is following the Hebraic, traditional form of genealogies by listing only the male names in which Mary is designated by her husband's name.

Furthermore, the Hebrews used the word "son" in different senses, referring to...

One generation (example: Solomon was the "son of" David - Matthew 1:6)
A remote descendant (such as a grandson, great-grandson, etc. - Matthew 1:1; 21:9; 22:42)
A son-in-law (cf. 1 Samuel 24:16; 26:17) [This makes sense in the context that Joseph was the "son" (son-in-law) of Heli.]
The Levirate marriage law (Deuteronomy 25:5-10; Matthew 22:24-26)
A step-son who took on the legal status of his step-father (which is what Jesus was to Joseph - Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3; Luke 3:23; 4:22; John 6:42)
Another reason why Matthew and Luke's lists vary is because Matthew's purpose is to prove to the Jews that Jesus is the Messiah. The Jews would have recognized from this genealogical list that Jesus had the legal right to inherit the throne of David (Isaiah 9:6,7; Matthew 22:41-45; Luke 1:32), which was an essential component if Jesus was truly the Messiah. Luke's purpose was to show from Mary's genealogy that she came from the blood-line of David which showed that Jesus was a blood-line descendant of David (see 2 Samuel 7:12-14).

When was Jesus born?
Matthew 2:1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem,

Luke 2:2-3 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.  This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria.
Matthew and Luke, while discussing the events related to Jesus’s birth, give us slightly different accounts with regard to the public circumstances of the time. Logically, one of the two must be wrong, as Quirinius was appointed legate of Syria in 6 AD, a whole decade after Herod’s death in 4 BC; and only after Herod’s son, Herod Archelaus’s banishment, in the anyway contextually absurd case one might argue that he was the one Herod referred to.

Response: 4
Sufficiency of Biblical data In the past not infrequently one has tried to handle the historical data we know about Quirinius to prove that he represented the Roman power in Syria during different periods. A noble approach, but it is quite difficult to handle the extra biblical data as they are not at all clear. E.g. Wikipedia – Quirinius: “From 12 – 1 BC, he led a campaign against the Homonadenses, a tribe based in the mountainous region of Galatia and Cilicia, around 5 – 3 BC, probably as legate of Galatia.” The use of the word probably is much too weak to conclude that Quirinius wasn’t governor of Syria-Cilicia around 5 – 3 BC, the time of the first census under Herod (according to clear Biblical information). The Biblical data (in combination with Josephus) are enough to settle the matter: it is absolutely improper to claim a Bible Contradiction here.


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