A. THE TRIALS
Before listing the contradictions regarding the trials of Jesus, it should be stated that the whole episode is quite obviously a fabrication. Anyone familiar with Jewish law recognizes the impossibility of the chief priests and scribes arresting Jesus and assembling to question him during the most holy of Jewish festivals.Now, before setting forth any evidence, our objector pontificates once again: the whole episode is quite obviously a fabrication. Obvious is in the eyes of the beholder and, so far, what is obvious to our objector is not at all obvious to those of us who can see beyond his limited understanding of language, history, and reason. Anyone familiar with the way the chief priests and scribes externalized Jewish law would have no problem at all seeing that they would do whatever was handiest in order to accomplish their objective. Our objector assumes the leadership of Israel was all very godly and very much conscience driven to do what was right in every situation, but never in history has this been the case of any group that was in power. Obviously, if the leadership of the nation was committed to carrying out the true intent of the Law in the details of their lives, they would not have done what the records say they did. But, since there is no evidence of that kind of godliness on their part, the possibility that they did exactly as they have been accused is more than mere possibility. To say that the whole episode is obviously a fabrication is mere bias cloaked in dogmatism that floats upon a non-foundation. Believe it if it makes you feel better, but know that your faith has nothing beneath it.
1. Where was Jesus taken immediately after his arrest?a. Matthew, Mark and Luke say that Jesus was taken directly to the high priest (Matthew 26:57, Mark 14:53 and Luke 22:54).b. John says that Jesus was taken first to Annas, the father-in-law of the high priest (John 18:13) who, after an indeterminate period of time, sent Jesus to the high priest (John 18:24).
Reader of mine, I trust that you have read Matthew 26:57. Nowhere in that text does it say that Jesus was taken directly to the high priest. If I wanted to be as foolish and literal as our objector, I would point out that the word "directly" means "not roundabout", or "in a straight line" and then I would claim that he has fabricated his material because everyone knows that the chances of there being a road straight from the garden in which Jesus was arrested to the high priest's house is more than remote. Thus, because we cannot tolerate any meaning that is not hyper-literal, we must reject our objector because he has now lied to us.
I also hope that you read Mark 14:53 and Luke 22:54. Neither of them say that they led Jesus directly to the high priest either. They only record that Jesus was led to the house of the high priest. This statement is neither a denial, nor an affirmation, that other real events took place in the meantime. In other words, as long as they eventually got Jesus to the house of the high priest, there is no lie recorded. There is only incomplete historical recording, which, if you give it a moment's thought, is inevitable because it is impossible for a recorder of history to record what happens in every minute of the time frame which he covers. He only records what is applicable to his argument. As long as the other things that occurred are not contradictory to his argument, he has not deceived us one iota if he leaves out big blocks of time and any number of intervening events. This is a non-argument put forward by an overzealous antichrist.
2. When did the priests and scribes gather together to question Jesus?a. Matthew 26:57 says that on the night Jesus was arrested the priests and scribes were gathered together prior to Jesus being brought to the high priest.The interpretation that the priests and scribes were gathered together prior to Jesus being brought is built off of an aorist passive verb. That is not the normal meaning of an aorist passive, but, rather, forces the meaning of the aorist passive to become, in effect, a perfect passive. A perfect passive would have been translated "had been gathered" and would have contained the notion of "prior". The aorist passive only indicates that the group was gathered there. When they gathered is not defined.b. Mark 14:53 says the priests and scribes gathered together on the night of Jesus' arrest after Jesus was brought to the high priest.This text actually uses a present tense, middle voice, indicative mood verb that gives the picture that the group was in the process of assembling themselves together. This is highly likely since a summons by the high priest would have been responded to as individuals always respond to such things--in their own time, some arriving earlier and some later as time, distance, and other issues decree. There is no contradiction here; there is only a more vivid accounting of the process itself.c. Luke 22:66 says the priests and scribes assembled the day after Jesus was arrested.This text does indeed say that there was a gathering of the leadership of the nation after the morning had arrived. It does not affirm or deny any of the other events of that long night except Peter's denial and the beating and mockery of Jesus at the hands of those who held Him. There is no contradiction here with Matthew and Luke. There is simply a different focus in the recording of the many things that happened that night. I am convinced we still do not know even half of the things that happened because the record of them would have taken a rather long scroll to record and there is no particular need that we know every detail of the events of that time frame.d. John mentions only the high priest--no other priests or scribes play a role in questioning Jesus.Finally our objector inadvertently tells us a truth: what John mentions. He doesn't seem to understand that what John mentions does not purport to be an exhaustive record; it is only a true record. It does not matter if 1,000 priests asked questions that night, it is still true that what John records did happen. There is no contradiction; there is only a different selection of true events recorded by different men with a different message in mind.
3. Was Jesus questioned by Herod?a. Luke says that Pilate sent Jesus to Herod who questioned Jesus at length and then returned Jesus to Pilate (Luke 23:7-11).b. Matthew, Mark and John make no mention of Herod. This, in itself, means nothing, but it brings about another contradiction later.Here our objector shoots his foot off (he doesn't merely wound himself in the foot, he blows the entire thing into oblivion!). He admits that the differences in the records "in itself, means nothing". He claims that it brings about another contradiction later, but this hasn't been shown yet.
4. Who was responsible for Jesus' death, Pilate or the Jews?
The gospel writers go to every conceivable length to absolve the Romans in general, and Pilate in particular, of Jesus' crucifixion and to blame it on the Jews.This is pure nonsense! No one who reads the Gospel records of Pilate's behavior absolves him or the Romans of the guilt that was theirs. Pilate comes out of the records as a political wimp who cannot stand on principle and who, by the power of Rome, determines to destroy a man he knows is innocent. This is not absolution! Our objector is so bent on creating an animus against the biblical writers that he really cannot see the stretch he has taken on this one. That's what having an ax to grind does to one's mind: it clouds it.
The reason, of course, was that Christianity was going to have to exist under Roman rule for many years, which is why the New Testament contains nothing critical of the Romans, even though they were hated for their heavy taxation, and Pilate was hated for his brutality. For the church, the Jews made an appropriate scapegoat because the Jews were a thorn in the side of the early church. The Jews, of course, had far greater knowledge of Jewish laws and traditions than the largely gentile church, and were able to call attention to some of the errors being taught by the church. The Biblical account of Pilate's offer to release Jesus but the Jews demanding the release of Barabbas is pure fiction, containing both contradictions and historical inaccuracies.A careful reader will again notice the "of course" reasoning here. Nothing of substance to validate it. Historically, the Roman rule put forth an extreme amount of effort to destroy Christianity, so it was not an effort to not be critical that resulted in the records. The fact is that the people who inherited the writings of the New Testament were often guilty of hating the Jews, but that doesn't mean that the writers of the Gospels did. True Christianity doesn't hate its enemies because its Founder commanded love for them. But there are many who claim to be Christian who are not obedient to Christ; that doesn't make His Word a book of lies. Our objector is so full of aggression against Christ that he cannot see that he has done as much or more in his writings as he accuses the Gospels writers of doing. So, he is the pot calling the kettle black. And, in his attack, he resorts to another dogmatic "pure fiction" label without substance.a. What had Barabbas done?1. Mark 15:7 and Luke 23:19 say that Barabbas was guilty of insurrection and murder.2. John 18:40 says that Barabbas was a robber.b. Pilate's "custom" of releasing a prisoner at Passover. This is pure invention--the only authority given by Rome to a Roman governor in situations like this was postponement of execution until after the religious festival. Release was out of the question. It is included in the gospels for the sole purpose of further removing blame for Jesus' death from Pilate and placing it on the Jews.c. Pilate gives in to the mob.
The gospels have Pilate giving in to an unruly mob. This is ridiculous in light of Pilate's previous and subsequent history. Josephus tells us that Pilate's method of crowd control was to send his soldiers into the mob and beat them (often killing them) into submission. Pilate was eventually recalled to Rome because of his brutality.There is, indeed a lot of pure invention here, but it is not in the records of the Gospels; it is, rather, in the writing of our objector. Mark, Luke, and John are not in contradiction; they simply record different facets of the truth. The easy dismissal of Pilate's "custom" is another fabrication with no substance in historical reality. Our objector does not know enough to be able to dismiss a local custom, nor does he understand the ways Roman law worked under various governors and rulers. Josephus' record of Pilate's behavior is not thorough, nor does it take into account the particulars of Pilate's political danger in the spring of A.D. 33. So, all of the above paragraph is only wishful dreaming by our objector who has nothing of substance with which to make his charge.5. Who put the robe on Jesus?a. Matthew 27:28, Mark 15:17 and John 19:2 say that after Pilate had Jesus scourged and turned over to his soldiers to be crucified, the soldiers placed a scarlet or purple robe on Jesus as well as a crown of thorns.b. Luke 23:11, in contradiction to Matthew, Mark and John, says that the robe was placed on Jesus much earlier by Herod and his soldiers. Luke mentions no crown of thorns.This is simply another refusal to recognize the inevitability of the partial recording of history by those who chose to write it down. There is nothing in this paragraph that can stand the scrutiny of any thoughtful person who doesn't have the aggressive mindset of our objector.
B. THE CRUCIFIXION
1. Crucified between two robbers
Matthew 27:38 and Mark 15:27 say that Jesus was crucified between two robbers (Luke just calls them criminals; John simply calls them men). It is a historical fact that the Romans did not crucify robbers. Crucifixion was reserved for insurrectionists and rebellious slaves.Note the absence of any evidence? It may have been the norm for Rome to use crucifixion for certain kinds of crimes, but norms are often violated, and there is nothing in any of the texts that say that the men were only robbers and guiltless of anything else.
2. Peter and Mary near the cross
When the gospel writers mention Jesus talking to his mother and to Peter from the cross, they run afoul of another historical fact--the Roman soldiers closely guarded the places of execution, and nobody was allowed near (least of all friends and family who might attempt to help the condemned person).This is pure fabrication. Roman soldiers didn't have to keep people far enough away that no conversation could take place in order to do their job and it wasn't hard at all to tell if someone posed a threat or not. Besides, the text nowhere tells us that Jesus spoke to Peter from the cross. This is just another example of sloppy reading by our objector in his enthusiasm to make up examples of contradictions in the Bible.
3. The opened tombs
According to Matthew 27:51-53, at the moment Jesus died there was an earthquake that opened tombs and many people were raised from the dead. For some reason they stayed in their tombs until after Jesus was resurrected, at which time they went into Jerusalem and were seen by many people. Here Matthew gets too dramatic for his own good. If many people came back to life and were seen by many people, it must have created quite a stir (even if the corpses were in pretty good shape!). Yet Matthew seems to be the only person aware of this happening--historians of that time certainly know nothing of it--neither do the other gospel writers.This paragraph is just another kind of scoffing. It validates no contradiction and it rests upon one thing: our objector doesn't believe the record. Scoffing is easy to do. That doesn't make its foundations solid. Each of us is free to believe or disbelieve whatever we want, but our choices are not necessarily rooted in fact; they are necessarily rooted in heart-felt antagonism or love. For our objector to persuade us that we should not believe the claim of Matthew, he ought to give us something that proves his record is not true--and this he cannot do even though he has tried and tried and tried.
C. THE RESURRECTION
1. Who found the empty tomb?a. According to Matthew 28:1, only "Mary Magdalene and the other Mary."b. According to Mark 16:1, "Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome."c. According to Luke 23:55, 24:1 and 24:10, "the women who had come with him out of Galilee." Among these women were "Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James." Luke indicates in verse 24:10 that there were at least two others.d. According to John 20:1-4, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb alone, saw the stone removed, ran to find Peter, and returned to the tomb with Peter and another disciple.The fact of the selective recording of historical events destroys this entire paragraph. It proves nothing except that different writers wrote of different persons and saw the same events with a different sense of what needed to be included in what they wrote. Most of the stuff we have had to plow through to get this far is of this same kind of error--the dogmatic refusal to admit that no one records every event of history in any given time frame.
2. Who did they find at the tomb?a. According to Matthew 28:2-4, an angel of the Lord with an appearance like lightning was sitting on the stone that had been rolled away. Also present were the guards that Pilate had contributed. On the way back from the tomb the women meet Jesus (Matthew 28:9).b. According to Mark 16:5, a young man in a white robe was sitting inside the tomb.c. According to Luke 24:4, two men in dazzling apparel. It is not clear if the men were inside the tomb or outside of it.d. According to John 20:4-14, Mary and Peter and the other disciple initially find just an empty tomb. Peter and the other disciple enter the tomb and find only the wrappings. Then Peter and the other disciple leave and Mary looks in the tomb to find two angels in white. After a short conversation with the angels, Mary turns around to find Jesus.The records are pretty straight-forward. They do not contradict each other. Many things can happen within three or four hours. The records are there to be believed or rejected, but they do not give any foundations for the kind of argument that our objector has put forth. His arguments all along the way have been nothing more than a personal justification for his own antipathy for Christ and Christians and at least the New Testament portion of the Bible. He is free to be an unbeliever. He is free to even hate those of us who believe. He is free to try to fog our understanding of his antagonism and unbelief by trying to make it look like the records are the reasons he doesn't believe. But the truth is, he doesn't believe because he doesn't want to. The issue is not evidence, and he really doesn't have any. The issue is antagonism, and he has a lot of that. Reader, beware the person who has a lot to say about how things were 2000 years ago if he is aggressively inclined to believe Josephus but not Matthew. There is a reason for this aggression and it does not find its roots in "the facts". It finds its roots in the natural antipathy that men have toward the God Who made them and proved His love for them by sending His Son into the world to tell them the Truth and to die in their place under the wrath of God.
3. Who did the women tell about the empty tomb?a. According to Mark 16:8, "they said nothing to anyone."b. According to Matthew 28:8, they "ran to report it to His disciples."c. According to Luke 24:9, "they reported these things to the eleven and to all the rest."d. According to John 20:18, Mary Magdalene announces to the disciples that she has seen the Lord.Not even Mark intended us to believe that his record that they said nothing to anyone was to be understood as never having said anything at all at any time. This is just another reach for an "example" that doesn't exist. There is no contradiction here.
According to Luke 24:51, Jesus' ascension took place in Bethany, on the same day as his resurrection. According to Acts 1:9-12, Jesus' ascension took place at Mount Olivet, forty days after his resurrection.I suppose if Jesus was barely the Son of God and only had enough power to ascend once, this might make some sense, but as it is, there is nothing here as an argument for contradiction. Multiple ascendings and descendings are clearly possible and reasonable. Besides, Luke wrote Luke 24:51 as well as Acts 1:9-12, so we would have to assume he was more stupid than stupid to deliberately contradict himself in two places so closely recorded together.
And now we go into our objector's objections about many other things... I know, my reader, that you are tired of this already. I am weary also, but I will pursue it to its conclusion. Fortunately, our objector has pretty much already exposed his hand and we already know there is nothing in it.
A. THE UNCHANGEABLE LAW
According to Matthew 5:18, Jesus said that not the tiniest bit of the Law could be changed. However, in Mark 7:19 Jesus declares that all foods are clean, thereby drastically changing the Law. The church tries to get around this obvious contradiction by artificially separating the Mosaic Law into the "ceremonial" law and the "moral" law, a separation which would have abhorred the Jews of Jesus' time. The Mark passage and similar ones like Acts 10:9-16 were added to accommodate the teaching of Paul regarding the Law (which was diametrically opposed to the teaching of Jesus on the Law) and to make the gospel palatable to the Gentiles.Unfortunately for our objector, Matthew 5:18 does NOT say that Jesus said that the Law would never be changed. He simply said that it would stand until it was fulfilled. Paul and Jesus were not diametrically opposed to each other, nor was Paul particularly interested in making his message palatable to people who have no use for it. Our objector is a classic example of one who has no use for it and nothing Jesus or Paul said would make any difference in his case because of this.
B. NO SIGNS, ONE SIGN, OR MANY SIGNS?
At one point the Pharisees come to Jesus and ask him for a sign.
1. In Mark 8:12 Jesus says that "no sign shall be given to this generation."
2. In contradiction to Mark, in Matthew 12:39 Jesus says that only one sign would be given--the sign of Jonah. Jesus says that just as Jonah spent three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so he will spend three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. Here Jesus makes an incorrect prediction--he only spends two nights in the tomb (Friday and Saturday nights), not three nights.
3. In contradiction to both Mark and Matthew, the gospel of John speaks of many signs that Jesus did:I don't suppose that we should ever keep anything in the context of its origins! Does our objector not realize that anyone can take words out of context and sew them together with meanings they never contained to make a case for "contradictions"? There is no evidence given here that there was only ONE time when Jesus was asked for a sign that would go beyond what He had already done. That He gave different answers to different people on different occasions does not mean that He was contradicting Himself. It only means that He said some things to some folks and other things to other folks and He did it because of what was presently true of them at the time.a. The miracle of turning water into wine at the wedding in Cana is called the beginning (or first) of the signs that Jesus did (John 2:11).b. The healing at Capernaum is the "second sign" (John 4:54).c. Many people were following Jesus "because they were seeing the signs He was performing" (John 6:2).
In regard to the objection of an incorrect prediction, unless our objector can prove that Jesus was using "three days and three nights" to literally mean a 72 hour, three-day/night period, his objection is rooted in a clear misunderstanding of the words. There is only one scenario that would allow the words to stand literally. That scenario would be for Jesus to die precisely in the moment of transition between night and day (precise dawn), or precisely in the moment of transition between day and night (precise dusk), and then rise at precisely the same moment three days later. The reason? Everyone often uses the terms day and night more loosely than with exact precision. That being the case, if Jesus died at any point other than the exact moments of transition, He would have frustrated His own words. If He died before the moment of transition in the evening, He would have been in the heart of the earth for at least parts of four days, and if He died after the moment of transition in the evening He would have been in the heart of the earth for parts of four nights. The reverse is true for a death at dawn. Only by dying at exactly the transition moment could He have been in the heart of the earth for exactly three days and three nights. There is no reason to expect that He was speaking with that kind of precision, and, thus, there is no reason to think that His "three days and three nights" was anything more than a figure of speech to indicate that His time in the heart of the earth would be like unto Jonah's time in the belly of the great fish. Figures of speech are only "contradictions" in the minds of children who have not yet learned how language works, or in the minds of the aggressively antagonistic who wish that the rest of us don't know how language works.
C. SON OF DAVID?
Matthew, Mark and Luke all contain passages which have Jesus quoting Psalm 110:1 to argue that the Messiah does not need to be a son of David (Matthew 22:41-46, Mark 12:35-37 and Luke 20:41-44).Jesus no where quoted Psalm 110:1 to prove that Messiah did not need to be a son of David. Our reader has plainly missed Jesus' point altogether. Jesus never got into any kind of trouble at all by claiming to be David's son. What He got into trouble over was claiming to be God's Son. His reason for appealing to Psalm 110:1 was to validate his claim that Messiah was both son of David and Lord of David, i.e., man and God at the same time. Jesus could have lived a long life and died an old man if He had been willing to settle for being David's offspring. But, in addition to being David's son through Mary, He was God's Son and Psalm 110:1 proved from the Old Testament that David's son was also David's Lord. There is only one way that could be: David's son had to be deity so that He could be David's Lord. Besides, David's theology held a multiplicity of personality within the Godhead because he said "The Lord said unto my Lord...", which indicates that he worshiped a Lord that was different from The Lord, whom he also worshiped.
1. This contradicts many Old Testament passages that indicate that the Messiah will be a descendant of David. It also contradicts official church doctrine.
The only contradiction here is the one our objector creates by misunderstanding both David's psalm and Jesus' use of it.
2. In Acts 2:30-36, Peter, in what is regarded as the first Christian sermon, quotes Psalm 110:1 in arguing that Jesus was the Messiah, a descendant of David.
One would think that Peter's use of Psalm 110:1 would have opened the eyes of our objector, but he has them tightly closed with his fingers in his ears also so that he won't have to deal with the Truth about the Christ.
D. THE FIG TREE
After Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem a sees a fig tree and wants some figs from it. He finds none on it so he curses the tree and it withers and dies (Matthew 21:18-20, Mark 11:12-14, 20-21).
1. Since this occurred in the early spring before Passover, it is ridiculous of Jesus to expect figs to be on the tree.
The text does not say that Jesus expected to find figs on the tree. It only says that He cursed it because it didn't have fruit on it. The entire fig tree episode is profound theology. Jesus didn't expect fruit from the nation of Israel, but He pronounced curses upon it also. If sin had not entered the picture, there would have been fruit on the tree and there would have been fruit in the nation. But, the sins of the nation blocked its fruitfulness. It should have had fruit, but it did not. The fig tree should have been fruitful also, but sin had corrupted creation so that the fruit was only seasonal and could not produce food for its Creator. It was cursed as an illustration.
2. Matthew and Mark cannot agree on when the tree withered.a. In Matthew, the tree withers at once and the disciples comment on this fact (Matthew 21:19-20).This is just another illustration of forced interpretation creating an illusion of dissonance. There is none here. The problem is with the lack of skill in reading. Matthew says the tree "presently withered" and after it had withered the disciples commented on how quickly it happened.b. In Mark, the tree is not found to be withered until at least the next day (Mark 11:20-21).Mark's record is the more precise record and the disciples are just as amazed in his record as they are in Matthew's. This shows that Matthew's "presently withered" has the latitude to mean "over the next 24 hours" and there is nothing our objector can bring forth to deny this meaning.
E. THE GREAT COMMISSION
In Matthew 28:19 Jesus tells the eleven disciples to "go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit."
1. This is obviously a later addition to the gospel, for two reasons:a. It took the church over two hundred years of fighting (sometimes bloody) over the doctrine of the trinity before this baptismal formula came into use. Had it been in the original gospel, there would have been no fighting.b. In Acts, when people are baptized, they are baptized just in the name of Jesus (Acts 8:16, 10:48, 19:5). Peter says explicitly that they are to "Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins" (Acts 2:38).
2. This contradicts Jesus' earlier statement that his message was for the Jews only.And, finally!, we come to the end. This is just more of the same ole, same ole of forcing the text to include more than the author intended to write. If our objector had had his way in the writing, the New Testament would have only needed to have one Gospel and it would have been a very thick book by itself. It didn't take the Church over two hundred years of bloody fighting to come to understand the doctrine of the Trinity! The truth is that for the two hundred years there were people in the visible community that had positions of influence and they used them to contradict the truth because they would not accept what the New Testament declared (like our objector) and it took 200 years for the truth to gain sufficient visible support to quell the arguments. The true Church knew of the Trinity as soon as Jesus taught it to His disciples when He opened their minds and revealed the meaning of the words.
And there you have it! The Bible has no established contradictions in it at all. The vast majority of the examples our objector has put forward could have been answered rather easily by a thoughtful high school student. I am really surprised that our objector never considered the really hard "contradiction" that surfaces in the consideration of Mark 6:8 and Luke 9:3, but, in his zeal to multiply appearances rather than deal with substance, he completely overlooked the best "apparent contradiction" to be found in the entire New Testament!