Part 3 of 4: Islamic Accusations Concerning Biblical/Scriptural Contradictions Answered

Posted By Thomas Perez. June 20, 2011 at 12:10am. Copyright 2011.

51. Did Jesus say anything secretly?

No. I have said nothing secretly (John 18:20)

Yes. He did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything (Mark 4:34). The disciples asked him Why do you speak to them in parables? He said, To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given (Matthew 13: 1 0-11)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

52. Where was Jesus at the sixth hour on the day of the crucifixion?

On the cross (Mark 15:23)

In Pilates court (John 19:14)

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

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

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

(Archer 1994:363-364)

53. The gospels say that two thieves were crucified along with Jesus. Did both thieves mock Jesus?

Yes (Mark 15:32)

No. One of them mocked Jesus, the other defended Jesus (Luke 23:43)

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

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

54. Did Jesus ascend to Paradise the same day of the crucifixion?

Yes. He said to the thief who defended him, Today you will be with me in Paradise (Luke 23:43)

No. He said to Mary Magdelene two days later, I have not yet ascended to the Father (John 20:17)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

55. When Paul was on the road to Damascus he saw a light and heard a voice. Did those who were with him hear the voice?

Yes (Acts9:7)

No (Acts22:9)

Answer: 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)

56. When Paul saw the light he fell to the ground. Did his traveling companions also fall to the ground?

Yes (Acts 26:14)

No (Acts 9:7)

Answer: 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)

57. Did the voice spell out on the spot what Paul’s duties were to be?

Yes (Acts 26:16-18)

No. The voice commanded Paul to go into the city of Damascus and there he will be told what he must do. (Acts9:7;22: 10)

Answer: 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.

58. When the Israelites dwelt in Shittin they committed adultery with the daughters of Moab. God struck them with a plague. How many people died in that plague?

Twenty-four thousand (Numbers 25:1 and 9)

Twenty-three thousand (I Corinthians 10:8)

Answer: This apparent contradiction asks how many people died from the plague that occurred in Shittim (which incidentally is misspelt ‘Shittin’ in their attack). Numbers 25:1-9 and 1 Corinthians 10:8 are contrasted. They are referring to the wrong plague here.

If he had looked at the context of 1 Corinthians 10, he would have noted that Paul was referring to the plague in Exodus 32:28, which takes place at Mt. Sinai and not to that found in Numbers 25, which takes place in Shittim, amongst the Moabites. If there is any doubt refer to verse 7 of 1 Corinthians 10, which quotes almost exactly from Exodus 32:6, “Afterwards they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.”

Now there are those who may say that the number killed in the Exodus 32 account were 3,000 (Exodus 32:28) another seeming contradiction, but one which is easily rectified once you read the rest of the text. The 3,000 killed in verse 28 account for only those killed by men with swords. This is followed by a plague which the Lord brings against those who had sinned against him in verse 35, which says, “And the Lord struck the people with a plague because of what they did with the calf Aaron had made.” It is to this plague which Paul refers to in 1 Corinthians 10:8.

(Geisler/Howe 1992:458-459)

59. How many members of the house of Jacob came to Egypt?

Seventy souls (Genesis 4 & 27)

Seventy-five souls (Acts 7:14)

Answer: This apparent contradiction asks how many members of the house of Jacob went to Egypt. The two passages contrasted are Genesis 46:27 and Acts 7:14. However both passages are correct. In the Genesis 46:1-27 the total number of direct descendants that traveled to Egypt with Jacob were 66 in number according to verse 26. This is because Judah was sent on ahead in verse 28 of Chapter 46 and because Joseph and his two sons were already in Egypt. However in verse 27 all the members of the family are included, including Joseph and his sons and Judah making a total number of 70, referring to the total number of Jacob’s family that ended up in Egypt not just those that traveled with him to Egypt.

In the older Septuagint and Dead Sea Scroll manuscripts the number given in verse 27 is 75. This is because they also include Joseph’s three grandsons and two great grandsons listed in Numbers 26:28-37, and in at least the Septuagint version their names are listed in Genesis 46:20. Therefore the Acts 7:14 quotation of Stephen’s speech before his martyrdom is correct because he was quoting from the Septuagint.

60. What did Judas do with the blood money he received for betraying Jesus?

He bought a field (Acts 1: 18)

He threw all of it into the temple and went away. The priests could not put the blood money into the temple treasury, so they used it to buy a field to bury strangers (Matthew 27:5)

Answer: This apparent contradiction asks, ‘What did Judas do with the blood money he received for betraying Jesus?’ In Acts 1:18 it is claimed that Judas bought a field. In Matthew 27:5 it was thrown into the Temple from where the priests used it to buy a field. However, upon closer scrutiny it appears one passage is just a summary of the other.

Matthew 27:1-10 describes in detail the events that happened in regard to Judas betrayal of Jesus, and their significance in terms of the fulfillment of the Scriptures. In particular he quotes from the prophet Zechariah 11:12-13 which many think are clarifications of the prophecies found in Jeremiah 19:1-13 and 32:6-9.

In the Acts 1:18-19 passage however, Luke is making a short resume of something that people already knew, as a point of clarification to the speech of Peter, among the believers (the same situation as we found in question number 57 earlier). This is illustrated by the fact that in verse 19 he says, “Everyone in Jerusalem heard about this”. Also it is more than probable that the Gospel record was already being circulated amongst the believers at the time of Luke’s writing. Luke, therefore, was not required to go into detail about the facts of Judas’ death.

61. How did Judas die?

After he threw the money into the temple he went away and hanged himself (Matthew 27:5)

After he bought the field with the price of his evil deed he fell headlong and burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out (Acts 1:18)

Answer: 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.

62. Why is the field called Field of Blood?

Because the priests bought it with the blood money (Matthew 27:8)

Because of the bloody death of Judas therein (Acts 1:19)

Answer:  Once again, looking at the same two passages as the last two apparent contradictions, they ask 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 them, 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.

63. Who is a ransom for whom?

The Son of Man came…to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). Christ Jesus who gave himself as a ransom for all… (I Timothy 2:5-6)

The wicked is a ransom for the righteous, and the faithless for the upright (Proverbs 21:18)

Answer: 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 them 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 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.

64. Is the law of Moses useful?

Yes. All scripture is…profitable…(2 Timothy 3:16)

No…A former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness…(Hebrews 7:18)

Answer: 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 fulfillment 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 fulfillment. 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.

65. What was the exact wording on the cross?

This is Jesus the King of the Jews (Matthew 27:37)

The King of the Jews (Mark 15:26)

This is the King of the Jews (Luke 23:38)

Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews (John 19:19)

Answer: 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’ 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).

66. Did Herod want to kill John the Baptist?

Yes (Matthew 14:5)

No. It was Herodias, the wife of Herod who wanted to kill him. But Herod knew that he was a righteous man and kept him safe (Mark 6:20)

Answer: The supposed contradiction pointed out by them is, ‘Did Herod want to kill John the Baptist?’ The passages used by them to promote their conjecture are Matthew 14:5 where it appears to say that Herod did and Mark 6:20 where they suggest 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.

67. Who was the tenth disciple of Jesus in the list of twelve?

Thaddaeus (Matthew 10: 1-4; Mark 3:13 -19)

Judas son of James is the corresponding name in Luke’s gospel (Luke 6:12-16)

Answer: 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.

68. Jesus saw a man sit at the tax collectors office and called him to be his disciple. What was his name?

Matthew (Matthew 9:9)

Levi (Mark 2:14; Luke 5:27)

Answer: 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.

69. Was Jesus crucified on the daytime before the Passover meal or the daytime after?

After (Mark 14:12-17)

Before. Before the feast of the Passover (John 1) Judas went out at night (John 13:30). The other disciples thought he was going out to buy supplies to prepare for the Passover meal (John 13:29). When Jesus was arrested, the Jews did not enter Pilates judgment hail because they wanted to stay clean to eat the Passover (John 18:28). When the judgment was pronounced against Jesus, it was about the sixth hour on the day of Preparation for the Passover (John 19:14)

Answer: 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.

70. Did Jesus pray to The Father to prevent the crucifixion?

Yes. (Matthew 26:39; Mark 14:36; Luke 22:42)

No. (John 12:27)

Answer: 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!

71. In the gospels which say that Jesus prayed to avoid the cross, how many times did he move away from his disciples to pray?

Three (Matthew 26:36-46 and Mark 14:32-42)

One. No opening is left for another two times. (Luke 22:39-46)

Answer: They ask 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.

72. Matthew and Mark agree that Jesus went away and prayed three times. What were the words of the second prayer?

Mark does not give the words but he says that the words were the same as the first prayer (Mark 14:3 9)

Matthew gives us the words, and we can see that they are not the same as in the first (Matthew 26:42)

Answer: 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. They ask the question: ‘What were the words of the second prayer?’ at the Garden of Gethsemane. It relies heavily once again upon the reader of them being ignorant of the texts mentioned, and his wording of the supposed contradiction as contrived and misleading.

They maintain 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 (vs. 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 them, thinking the two prayers were different; so how could Jesus then be saying the same thing the third time?

It seems that they are 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.

73. What did the centurion say when Jesus dies?

Certainly this man was innocent (Luke 23:47)

Truly this man was the Son of God (Mark 15:39)

Answer: 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).

74. When Jesus said My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken Me ? in what language did he speak?

Hebrew: the words are Eloi, Eloi ..(Matthew 27:46)

Aramaic: the words are Eloi, Eloi .. (Mark 15:34)

Answer: 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)

75. According to the gospels, what were the last words of Jesus before he died?

Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit! (Luke 23:46)

“It is finished” (John 19:30)

Answer: ‘What were the last words of Jesus before he died?’ is the question asked by them 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 fulfillment 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 center on this.

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 (as seen by some Christians – Full Pretersts) prior to the Parousia, (as also seen by other Christians – Partial Preterists) and to record such 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.

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