Saturday, September 3, 2011

Bible difficulties Answered (Part 13)

By: Jay Smith, Alex Chowdhry, Toby Jepson, James Schaeffer

"The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him." (Proverbs 18:17)

37. Simon Peter finds out that Jesus was the Christ by a revelation from heaven (Matthew 16:17), or by His brother Andrew (John 1:41)?

(Category: too literalistic an interpretation)

The emphasis of Matthew 16:17 is that Simon did not just hear it from someone else: God had made it clear to him. That does not preclude him being told by other people. Jesus' point is that he was not simply repeating what someone else had said. He had lived and worked with Jesus and he was now clear in his mind that Jesus was none other than the Christ (Messiah), the Son of the Living God.

Jesus did not ask, "Who have you heard that I am?" but, "Who do you say I am?" There is all the difference in the world between these two questions, and Peter was no longer in any doubt.

38. Jesus first met Simon Peter and Andrew by the Sea of Galilee (Matthew 4:18-22), or on the banks of the river Jordan (John 1:42-43)?

(Category: misread the text)

The accusation is that one Gospel records Jesus meeting Simon Peter and Andrew by the sea of Galilee, while the other says he met them by the river Jordan. However this accusation falls flat on its face as the different writers pick up the story in different places. Both are true.

John 1:35 onwards says Jesus met them by the river Jordan and that they spent time with him there. Andrew (and probably Peter too) were disciples of John the Baptist. They left this area and went to Galilee, in which region was the village of Cana where Jesus then performed his first recorded miracle. "After this he went down to Capernaum with his mothers and brothers and disciples. There they stayed for a few days." John 2:12.

Peter and Andrew were originally from a town named Bethsaida (John 2:44) but now lived in Capernaum (Matthew 8:14-15, Mark 1:30-31, Luke 4:38-39), a few miles from Bethsaida. They were fishermen by trade, so it was perfectly normal for them to fish when they were home during these few days (for at this time Jesus was only just beginning public teaching or healing).

This is where Matthew picks up the story. As Peter and Andrew fish in the Lake of Galilee, Jesus calls them to follow him - to leave all they have behind and become his permanent disciples. Before this took place, he had not asked them, but they had followed him because of John the Baptist's testimony of him (John 1:35-39). Now, because of this testimony, plus the miracle in Cana, as well as the things Jesus said (John 1:47-51), as well as the time spent with the wisest and only perfect man who ever lived etc., it is perfectly understandable for them to leave everything and follow him. It would not be understandable for them to just drop their known lives and follow a stranger who appeared and asked them to, like children after the pied piper! Jesus did not enchant anyone - they followed as they realized who he was - the one all the prophets spoke of, the Messiah the son of God.

39. When Jesus met Jairus, his daughter 'had just died' (Matthew 9:18), or was 'at the point of death' (Mark 5:23)?

(Category: too literalistic an interpretation)

When Jairus left his home, his daughter was very sick, and at the point of death, or he wouldn't have gone to look for Jesus. When he met Jesus he certainly was not sure whether his daughter had already succumbed. Therefore, he could have uttered both statements; Matthew mentioning her death, while Mark speaking about her sickness. However, it must be underlined that this is not a detail of any importance to the story, or to us. The crucial points are clear:

    Jairus's daughter had a fatal illness.
    All that could have been done would already have been: she was as good as dead if not already dead.
    Jairus knew that Jesus could both heal her and bring her back from the dead. As far as he was concerned, there was no difference.

Therefore it is really of no significance whether the girl was actually dead or at the point of death when Jairus reached Jesus.'

40. Jesus allowed (Mark 6:8), or did not allow (Matthew 10:9; Luke 9:3) his disciples to keep a staff on their journey?

(Category: misunderstood the Greek usage)

It is alleged that the Gospel writers contradict each other concerning whether Jesus allowed his disciples to take a staff on their journey or not. The problem is one of translation.

In Matthew we read the English translation of the Greek word "ktesthe", which is rendered in the King James (Authorized) translation as "Provide neither gold, nor silver nor yet staves". According to a Greek dictionary this word means "to get for oneself, to acquire, to procure, by purchase or otherwise" (Robinson, Lexicon of the New Testament). Therefore in Matthew Jesus is saying "Do not procure anything in addition to what you already have. Just go as you are."

Matthew 10 and Mark 6 agree that Jesus directed his disciples to take along no extra equipment. Luke 9:3 agrees in part with the wording of Mark 6:8, using the verb in Greek, ("take"); but then, like Matthew adds "no staff, no bag, no bread, no money". But Matthew 10:10 includes what was apparently a further clarification: they were not to acquire a staff as part of their special equipment for the tour. Mark 6:8 seems to indicate that this did not necessarily involve discarding any staff they already had as they traveled the country with Jesus.

However, this is not a definitive answer, only a possible explanation. This trivial difference does not effect the substantial agreement of the Gospels. We would not be troubled if this were, or is, a contradiction, for we do not have the same view of these Gospels as a Muslim is taught about the Qur'an. And if this is the pinnacle of Biblical contradictions when the Bible is said to be "full of contradictions" and "totally corrupted", then such people are obviously deluded. If indeed Christian scribes and translators had wished to alter the original Gospels, this "contradiction" would not have been here. It is a sign of the authenticity of the text as a human account of what took place, and is a clear sign that it has not been deliberately corrupted.

41. Herod did (Matthew 14:2; Mark 6:16) or did not (Luke 9:9) think that Jesus was John the Baptist?

(Category: misread the text)

There is no contradiction here. In Luke 9:9, Herod asks who this incredible person could be, as John was now dead. In Matthew 14:2 and Mark 6:16 he gives his answer: after considering who Jesus could be, he concluded that he must be John the Baptist, raised from the dead. By the time Herod actually met Jesus, at his trial, he may not have still thought that it was John (Luke 23:8-11). If that were the case, he had most probably heard more about him and understood John's claims about preparing for one who was to come (John 1:15-34). He may well have heard that Jesus had been baptised by John, obviously ruling out the possibility that they were the same person.

42. John the Baptist did (Matthew 3:13-14) or did not (John 1:32-33) recognize Jesus before his baptism?

(Category: misunderstood the author's intent)

John's statement in John 1:33 that he would not have known Jesus except for seeing the Holy Spirit alight on him and remain, can be understood to mean that John would not have known for sure without this definite sign. John was filled with the Holy Spirit from before his birth (Luke 1:15) and we have record of an amazing recognition of Jesus even while John was in his mother's womb. Luke 1:41-44 relates that when Mary visited John's mother, the sound of her greeting prompted John, then still in the womb, to leap in recognition of Mary's presence, as the mother of the Lord.

From this passage we can also see that John's mother had some knowledge about who Jesus would be. It is very likely that she told John something of this as he was growing up (even though it seems that she died while he was young).

In the light of this prior knowledge and the witness of the Holy Spirit within John, it is most likely that this sign of the Holy Spirit resting on Jesus was simply a sure confirmation of what he already thought. God removed any doubt so that he could be sure that it was not his imagination or someone else's mistake.


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