Contradictions (7): Cleansing the Temple

Driving of the Merchants from the Temple, Scarsellino, 1580-1585

Driving of the Merchants from the Temple, Scarsellino, 1580-1585

The gospels relate a key event in which Jesus cleansed the Jewish temple in Jerusalem, kicking out the money changers and merchants who he felt were defiling that sacred place.  In the synoptic gospels (Matthew 21, Mark 11, and Luke 19), this event is portrayed as taking place at the end of Jesus’ ministry, shortly before his crucifixion.

However, John’s gospel (chapter 2) tells us that this event took place at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.  Critics cite this as an example of contradiction between the gospels, and assert that it demonstrates the gospels’ unreliability as historical documents. 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

Contradictions (3): Angels or Men?

Contradictions Title ImageAll four Gospels describe the events that happened when female followers of Jesus discovered his body was missing from the tomb on Easter morning.  The four accounts are quite similar to one another and agree on the major points.

However, there are some differences between them, and there appear to be slight differences recorded in the order of events on that momentous and confusing morning.  Critics over the years have seized upon these differences, claiming that the accounts contradict one another.  Such contradictions, they add, are evidence of the gospel accounts’ historical unreliability. Continue reading

Contradictions (2): Which Women Visited Jesus’ Tomb?

Contradictions Title ImageThe gospel accounts of what happened at Jesus’ tomb on Easter Sunday are another favorite target of Bible critics.  They point to several inconsistencies in the accounts’ details to illustrate that the gospels are inaccurate and contradictory.

In fact, a close reading of the text shows neither inaccuracy nor contradiction.  Those who use this as a means of tearing down the text’s credibility do so either because they’re biased and have never actually read the text, or because they are intentionally attempting to deceive others into believing that these accounts are contradictory. Continue reading

Contradictions (1): On Which Day Did Jesus Die?

Contradictions Title ImageCritics point to alleged errors and contradictions in the Bible to show that it is neither inspired nor the work of eyewitnesses.  These critics claim that if the biblical writers can’t agree on even the simplest details, how can we possibly believe what they have to say about important spiritual matters?  One such charge is that the gospel writers cannot even agree whether Jesus was crucified on the first day of Passover or the day before Passover. Continue reading

Ben Witherington Critiques Bart Ehrman’s Book, Jesus Interrupted


Dr. Ben Witherington

Below is the description from of Bart Ehrman’s book, Jesus, Interrupted:  Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And Why We Don’t Know About Them):

The problems with the Bible that New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman discussed in his bestseller Misquoting Jesus—and on The Daily Show with John Stewart, NPR, and Dateline NBC, among others—are expanded upon exponentially in his latest book: Jesus, Interrupted.  This New York Times bestseller reveals how books in the Bible were actually forged by later authors, and that the New Testament itself is riddled with contradictory claims about Jesus—information that scholars know… but the general public does not.  If you enjoy the work of Elaine Pagels, Marcus Borg, John Dominic Crossan, and John Shelby Spong, you’ll find much to ponder in Jesus, Interrupted.

Continue reading

Dealing with the Bible’s Apparent Contradictions

The Scribe, George Cattermole, 1800-1868, from The Cooper Gallery

The Scribe, George Cattermole, 1800-1868, from The Cooper Gallery

Critics have tried for at least 2,000 years to discredit the biblical texts.  One of their most common charges is that the Bible is full of contradictions that prove it is neither “divinely inspired” nor “inerrant.”  Rather, it is just another example of fictional literature, produced by primitive people trying to explain the world around them.  Is the Bible really “full of contradictions” as some claim?  Or are there reasonable explanations for these textual difficulties that can maintain the Bible’s credibility and authority?  Let’s take a look. Continue reading