Busted (14): Mark’s “Error” Regarding Jewish Handwashing Rituals

Washing-handsCritics are fond of claiming that the gospels are full of historical errors, and that they are therefore unreliable as historical documents.  Today’s article focuses on an alleged error in Mark’s gospel.  Let’s get started by allowing biblical scholar, Bart Ehrman, to enlighten us regarding Mark’s ineptitude as an historian:

Mark 7:3 indicates that the Pharisees ‘and all the Jews’ washed their hands before eating, so as to observe ‘the tradition of the elders.’ This is not true: most Jews did not engage in this ritual.1

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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

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

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

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

Undesigned Coincidences 5:  More Feeding of the 5,000

Sea of Galilee

Bethsaida and Chorazin near the shores of the Sea of Galilee (Tiberias)

This is the fifth 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.

More Feeding of the 5,000

In this article, we’ll consider several undesigned coincidences that are spread across three gospels that provide an even more complete picture of the feeding of the 5,000.

Let’s get started with Matthew 11:21 (NIV), in which Jesus is castigating some unrepentant towns: Continue reading

Undesigned Coincidences 4: Herod’s Private Conversations

Jesus Before Herod Antipas, Albrecht Durer, 1509

Jesus Before Herod Antipas, Albrecht Durer, 1509

This is the fourth 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.

Herod’s Private Conversations

In this article, we’ll consider the undesigned coincidence in Matthew 14:1-2 and Luke 8:3.

Let’s start with Matthew 14:1-2, in which Herod Antipas, the Jewish king—and Roman puppet—was fretting about this man, Jesus: Continue reading

Undesigned Coincidences 3: Feeding of the 5,000

feeding 5000This is the third 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.

Feeding of the 5,000

In this article, we offer you a two-for-one deal.  Continue reading