Saturday, September 3, 2011

Bible difficulties Answered (Part 15)

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)

46. Matthew 21:19 says that the tree which Jesus cursed withered at once, whereas Mark 11:20 maintains that it withered overnight.

(Category: misunderstood the author's intent)

The differences found between the accounts of Matthew and Mark concerning the fig tree have much to do with the order both Matthew and Mark used in arranging their material. When we study the narrative technique of Matthew in general, we find (as was noted in #45 above) that he sometimes arranges his material in a topical order rather than in the strictly chronological order that is more often characteristic of Mark and Luke.

For instance, if we look at chapters 5-7 of Matthew which deal with the sermon on the Mount, it is quite conceivable that portions of the sermon on the Mount teachings are found some times in other settings, such as in the sermon on the plain in Luke (6:20-49). Matthew's tendency was to group his material in themes according to a logical sequence. We find another example of this exhibited in a series of parables of the kingdom of heaven that make up chapter 13. Once a theme has been broached, Matthew prefers to carry it through to its completion, as a general rule.

When we see it from this perspective it is to Mark that we look to when trying to ascertain the chronology of an event. In Mark's account we find that Jesus went to the temple on both Palm Sunday and the following Monday. But in Mark 11:11-19 it is clearly stated that Jesus did not expel the tradesmen from the temple until Monday, after he had cursed the barren fig tree (verses 12 to 14).

To conclude then, Matthew felt it suited his topical approach more effectively to include the Monday afternoon action with the Sunday afternoon initial observation, whereas Mark preferred to follow a strict chronological sequence. These differences are not contradictory, but show merely a different style in arrangement by each author.

(Archer 1982:334-335 and Light of Life III 1992:96-97)

47. In Matthew 26:48-50 Judas came up and kissed Jesus, whereas in John 18:3-12 Judas could not get close enough to Jesus to kiss him.

(Category: misquoted the text)

This is rather an odd seeming discrepancy by Shabbir, for nowhere in the John account does it say (as Shabbir forthrightly maintains) that Judas could not get close enough to Jesus to kiss him. Not being able to get close to him had nothing, therefore, to do with whether he kissed him or not. It seems that Shabbir imagines this to be the problem and so imposes it onto the text. The fact that John does not mention a kiss does not mean Judas did not use a kiss. Many times we have seen where one of the gospel writers includes a piece of information which another leaves out. That does not imply that either one is wrong, only that, as witnesses, they view an event by different means, and so include into their testimony only that which they deem to be important.

(Light of Life III 1992:107)

48. Did Peter deny Christ three times before the cock crowed (John 13:38), or three times before the cock crowed twice (Mark 14:30, 72)?

(Category: discovery of earlier manuscripts)

This accusation is that Jesus says to Peter "the cock will not crow till you have denied me three times" (John 13:38) and also "Before the cock crows twice you will deny me three times" (Mark 14:30). However, as the King James translation has it the cock crowed prior to Peter's third denial in Mark, while the prediction in John failed. This problem is one of manuscript evidence.

Matthew 26:33-35, 74-75 "before the cock crows you will disown me three times"

Luke 22:31-34, 60-62 "before the cock crows today, you will deny three times that you know me"

John 13:38 "before the cock crows, you will disown me three times"

Mark is therefore the odd one out. This is probably due to the second crow being a later addition to the original Gospel for some unknown reason. Some early manuscripts of Mark do not have the words "a second time" and "twice" in 14:72, nor the word "twice" in 14:30, or the cock crowing a first time in verse 14:68 as in the King James translation. Therefore an erroneous addition is spotted by the clarity of having 4 accounts of the event and many early manuscripts of the Gospel of Mark.

However, another explanation is plausible if the first crow verse (68 in the King James) was not in the original but the others ("twice" in 30 and 72) were, as in the New International translation. For as a cock can (and often does) crow more than once in a row, there would be no contradiction (the first and second crows being together, with Peter remembering Jesus' prediction on the second crow), for since we may be very sure that if a rooster crows twice, he has at least crowed once. Mark therefore just included more information in his account than the other gospel writers.

Although I am not an expert on the manuscripts used for the King James translation and do not know a great deal about why later, more accurate translators had enough manuscript evidence to omit verse 68 but not the others, I think that the first reason is more likely.

49. Jesus did (John 19:17) or did not (Matthew 27:31-32) bear his own cross?

(Category: misread the text or the texts are compatible with a little thought)

John 19:17 states that he went out carrying his own cross to the place of the skull. Matthew 27:31,32 tells us that he was led out to be crucified and that it was only as they were going out to Golgotha that Simon was forced to carry the cross.

Mark 15:20,21 agrees with Matthew and gives us the additional information that Jesus started out from inside the palace (Praetorium). As Simon was on his way in from the country, it is clear that he was passing by in the street. This implies that Jesus carried his cross for some distance, from the palace into the street. Weak from his floggings and torture, it is likely that he either collapsed under the weight of the cross or was going very slowly. In any case, the soldiers forced Simon to carry the cross for him. Luke 23:26 is in agreement, stating that Simon was seized as they led Jesus away.

Thus the contradiction vanishes. Jesus started out carrying the cross and Simon took over at some point during the journey.

50. Did Jesus die before (Matthew 27:50-51; Mark 15:37-38), or after (Luke 23:45-46) the curtain of the temple was torn?

(Category: misread the text)

After reading the three passages Matthew 27:50-51, Mark 15:37-38 and Luke 23:45-46, it is not clear where the apparent contradictions are that Shabbir has pointed out. All three passages point to the fact that at the time of Jesus' death the curtain in the temple was torn. It does not stand to reason that because both Matthew and Mark mention the event of Christ's death before mentioning the curtain tearing, while Luke mentions it in reverse order, that they are therefore in contradiction, as Matthew states that the two events happened, 'At that moment', and the other two passages nowhere deny this.

They all agree that these two events happened simultaneously for a very good reason; for the curtain was there as a barrier between God and man. Its destruction coincides with the death of the Messiah, thereby allowing man the opportunity for the first time since Adam's expulsion from God's presence at the garden of Eden, to once again be reunited with Him.


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