Busted (12): Mark’s Alleged Geographical Ignorance

In this article, we tackle an alleged error in the Gospel of Mark.  Critics point to this “error” as clear evidence that Mark’s gospel was not actually written by Mark.  Let’s see if the argument is persuasive.

The passage in question is Mark 7:31, which describes the route that Jesus took on one of his travels.  Here’s the verse:

Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis.

Figure 1

Figure 1

Before we dive into the alleged error, it would be helpful to view Jesus’ route on a map.  As you can see in figure 1, Jesus would have left the vicinity of Tyre, then travelled north, seemingly about 15-20 miles out of his way, before turning south and heading towards the region of the Decapolis. Continue reading

Busted (11): The Nazareth Myth

A scene from modern-day Nazareth

A scene from modern-day Nazareth; Source – Wikimedia Commons

To some people, the very idea of Jesus is apparently so threatening, that they will go to great lengths to pretend he never even existed.  Some of the shoddiest biblical “scholarship” I have ever read defends the so-called “Jesus Myth” theory:  The idea that Jesus never existed—or that he was just a normal guy around whom great myths were developed after his death.  From Richard Carrier to Acharya S (a pseudonym for author Dorothy Murdock, apparently meaning “guru”), we get treated to numerous varieties of the Jesus myth.  One element of the Jesus myth is the idea that Nazareth, Jesus’ home town, did not exist in his day.  As this fringe argument goes:  Nazareth didn’t exist, and so Jesus didn’t either.  As evidence, they tell us that Nazareth is not mentioned in the Old Testament, the Talmud, or in other early rabbinic literature. Continue reading

Contradictions (6):  Jairus’ Daughter

“Raising of Jairus’ Daughter” by Vasily Dmitrievich Polenov, 1871

“Raising of Jairus’ Daughter” by Vasily Dmitrievich Polenov, 1871

Continuing with our series on gospel “contradictions,” today we look at the account of Jairus’ daughter.  Jairus was a Jewish elder whose daughter became very ill and died.  Immediately, Jairus asked Jesus if he could heal her.  According to both gospel accounts, Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter back to life.  However, critics point out an apparent contradiction between the accounts in Mark and Matthew.  This alleged contradiction is extremely minor, but it seems to be important to some people.  So, here goes… Continue reading

Contradictions (5):  Thaddeus & Judas, Son of James

Anthonis_van_Dyck_088 Thaddeus

The Apostle Judas Thaddeus, Anthony van Dyck, ca 1619-21. (Wikimedia Commons)

Pretty much everyone knows that Jesus had 12 original disciples.  All three synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) provide a list of the original 12.  John’s gospel offers no list, but still refers to many of the disciples by name.  The lists of the 12 are highly consistent within the gospels.  However, there is one apparent contradiction that some critics like to highlight.

The Apparent Contradiction and Its Solution

The lists in Matthew (10:2-4) and Mark (3:16-19) each include a disciple named Thaddeus.  In Luke (6:13-16), no Thaddeus is listed.  A disciple named Judas, son of James is listed instead.  The book of Acts (1:13) also omits Thaddeus and includes this person, Judas son of James.  What’s going on, here?  Continue reading

Contradictions (4):  The Centurion

Contradictions Title ImageIn this article, we take a close look at an account in the New Testament that critics love to share as evidence that the gospels are unreliable and contradictory.  It’s the story of the centurion, shared in chapter 8 of Matthew and chapter 7 of Luke.  In this account, a centurion asks Jesus to heal one of his servants.

The Alleged Contradiction

Here’s the relevant part of the story in Matthew 8: 5-8 (ESV): Continue reading

Busted (10): Mark’s Bad Geography?

Image credit: Map adapted from one created by Ralph F. Wilson, pastor@joyfulheart.com

Image credit: Map adapted from one created by Ralph F. Wilson, pastor@joyfulheart.com

Throughout our ongoing Busted series, we’ve been exploring critics’ claims that the gospels are full of historical and geographical errors, and are therefore untrustworthy sources of information.  So far, the gospel writers are coming out looking pretty good.

In today’s short article, we tackle a totally nit-picky, never-should-have-been-made accusation against Mark. The verse in Question is Mark 11:1 (ESV): Continue reading

Quick Book Review: Sean McDowell’s The Fate of the Apostles

fate of apostlesAny Christian case-maker will tell you that we should thank God for the hard lives and brutal deaths of the apostles.  Why?  Because they provide such a strong testimony for the truth of the gospels.  As the reasoning goes, the apostles were in a unique position:  They claimed to be first-hand witnesses of the resurrected Jesus, and they would have known if their claims were true or false.

Given their actions from the resurrection onward, they must have truly believed that they had personally witnessed the risen Jesus—and that he was the Messiah—or they never would have dedicated their lives to spreading the gospel at extreme personal risk and for no earthly gain.  Therefore, the lives and martyrdoms of the apostles provide a powerful collective testimony to the truth of the gospel. Continue reading

Busted (9): The Census

Census

Byzantine Mosaic (c. 1315) showing Joseph and Mary registering for the census before Quirinius. This demonstrates a common misunderstanding of what Luke’s text intended to communicate. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

As I write this article, Christmas is just a few days away.  So, it’s only fitting that we study a part of the Christmas story that critics love to attack:  The census.  According to Luke’s gospel, Joseph and a very pregnant Mary travelled from Nazareth to Joseph’s home town of Bethlehem to be “registered” as part of a census decreed by Caesar Augustus.  Here is the relevant passage, Luke 2:1-3 (ESV): Continue reading

Undesigned Coincidences 8: Malchus Loses an Ear

The Ear of Malchus by James Tissot, circa 1890

The Ear of Malchus by James Tissot, circa 1890

This is the eighth installment in our series on undesigned coincidences in the gospels, based on a presentation by Dr. Tim McGrew.  For an introduction to undesigned coincidences and this series, go here.

Peter Fights to Defend Jesus

In this short post, we’ll look at an undesigned coincidence between the gospels of John and Luke.  The gospel of John tells us that when the temple guards came to arrest Jesus, his disciple Peter drew a sword and attacked one of the high priest’s servants, cutting off his ear.  Here’s the account in John 8:10-12 (NIV): Continue reading

Undesigned Coincidences 7:  Are You the King of the Jews?

Jesus being interviewed privately by Pontius Pilate by William Brassey Hole

Jesus being interviewed privately by Pontius Pilate by William Brassey Hole

This is the seventh installment in our series on undesigned coincidences in the gospels, based on a presentation by Dr. Tim McGrew.  For an introduction to undesigned coincidences and this series, go here.

In this article, we consider a pair of undesigned coincidences in Luke and John.  Let’s dive in with Luke 23:2-4 (NIV), as Pilate is hearing accusations against Jesus: Continue reading