Saturday, September 3, 2011

Bible difficulties Answered (Part 19)

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)

65. Was the exact wording on the cross, as ( Matthew 27:37, Mark 15:26, Luke 23:38, and John 19:19) all seem to have different wordings?

(Category: misread the text)

This seeming contradiction takes on the question, 'What was the exact wording on the cross?' It is argued that Matthew 27:37, Mark 15:26, Luke 23:38, and John 19:19 all use different words posted above Jesus's head while hanging on the cross. This can be better understood by looking at John 19:20 which says;

"Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek."

It is interesting that Pilate is said to have written the sign and may have written different things in each of the languages according to Pilate's proficiency in each of the languages. The key charge brought against Jesus in all of the Gospels is that he claimed to be 'King of the Jews'. If this had been missing from any of the accounts then there may have been a possible concern for a contradiction here; but this is not the case. For a further explanation of this see Archer's explanation.

(Archer 1982:345-346).

66. Did Herod want to kill John the Baptist (Matthew 14:5), or was it his wife Herodias (Mark 6:20)?

(Category: misunderstood the author's intent)

The supposed contradiction pointed out by Shabbir is, 'Did Herod want to kill John the Baptist?' The passages used by Shabbir to promote his conjecture are Matthew 14:5 where it appears to say that Herod did and Mark 6:20 where Shabbir suggests that Herod did not want to kill him. However the passages in question are complimentary passages.

When we look at the whole story we see that Matthew 14:1-11 and Mark 6:14-29, as far as I have been able to see nowhere contradict each other. This seems to be a similarly weak attempt to find a contradiction within the Bible to that of contradiction 50. In both passages Herod has John imprisoned because of his wife Herodias. Therefore it is the underlying influence of Herodias on Herod that is the important factor in John's beheading. Mark's account is more detailed than Matthew's, whose Gospel is thought to have been written later, because Matthew does not want to waste time trampling old ground when it is already contained within Mark's Gospel. Notice also that Mark does not anywhere state that Herod did not want to kill John, but does say that Herod was afraid of him, because of John's righteousness and holiness, and, as Matthew adds, the factor of John's influence over the people.

67. Was the tenth disciple of Jesus in the list of twelve Thaddaeus (Matthew 10:1-4; Mark 3:13-19) or Judas, son of James (Luke 6:12-16)?

(Category: misunderstood the historical context)

Both can be correct. It was not unusual for people of this time to use more than one name. Simon, or Cephas was also called Peter (Mark 3:16), and Saul was also called Paul (Acts 13:9). In neither case is there a suggestion that either was used exclusively before changing to the other. Their two names were interchangeable.

68. Was the man Jesus saw sitting at the tax collector's office whom he called to be his disciple named Matthew (Matthew 9:9) or Levi (Mark 2:14; Luke 5:27)?

(Category: misunderstood the historical context)

The answer to this question is exactly the same as the previous one in that both scriptures are correct. Matthew was also called Levi, as the scriptures here attest.

It is somewhat amusing to hear Mr Ally drawing so much attention to this legitimate custom. In the run-up to a debate in Birmingham, England in February 1998, he felt free to masquerade under an alternative name (Abdul Abu Saffiyah, meaning 'Abdul, the father of Saffiyah', his daughter's name) in order to gain an unfair advantage over Mr Smith, his opponent. By disguising his identity he denied Mr Smith the preparation to which he was entitled. Now here he finds it a contradictory when persons in the 1st century Palestine either use one or the other of their names, a practice which is neither illegal nor duplicitous.

There are perfectly legitimate reasons for using an alternative name. However, in the light of Mr Ally's unfair and deceitful practice outlined above, there is a ring of hypocrisy to these last two questions raised by him.

69. Was Jesus crucified on the daytime after the Passover meal (Mark 14:12-17) or the daytime before the Passover meal ( John 13:1, 30, 29; 18:28; 19:14)?

(Category: misunderstood the historical context)

Jesus was crucified on the daytime before the Passover meal. The reason why Mark seems to say it was after is one of culture and contextualising.

The evidence from the Gospels that Jesus died on the eve of the Passover, when the Passover meal would be eaten after sunset, is very solid. Before we delve (albeit briefly) into this issue, it is worth noting that Mark 14 records that Jesus does not eat the Passover with his disciples.

Luke 14:12 says it was "the Feast of Unleavened Bread", which is also called "Passover". As the name suggest states, part of the Passover meal was to eat bread without yeast. It is a commandment which Jewish people keep even today for the meal, for God makes it extremely clear, "eat bread without yeast And whoever eats bread with yeast in it must be cut off from the

community of Israel. Eat nothing made with yeast. Wherever you live, you must eat unleavened bread ". See also Exodus 12:1-20.

The Greek word for "unleavened bread" is 'azymos'. This is the word used by Mark in "the Feast of Unleavened Bread", chapter 14 verse 12. The Greek word for normal bread (with yeast) is 'artos'. All the Gospel writers, including Mark, agree that in this last meal with his disciples the bread they ate was artos, in other words a bread with yeast. "While they were eating, Jesus took bread [artos], gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying Take it; this is my body." Mark 14:22. It is highly probably therefore that this meal was not a Passover meal. The use of the different words in the same passage strongly suggests this. For it would be unthinkable to them to eat something that God had commanded them not to eat (bread with yeast - artos), and not to eat something that they were commanded to eat (unleavened bread - azymos).

Therefore, as this is true, what does Mark mean in verses 12-17? Firstly, we read, "when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb". Exodus 20:1-8 says that this must happen on the 14th day of the Jewish month of Nisan. However, there was dispute as to when this day was, due to the debate on separate calendars which were used for calculating feast-days. It is possible that separate traditions were in vogue in Jesus life. So, indeed it may have been "customary" to sacrifice the lamb on that day for some, although many, probably most, recognized the Passover as being the next evening.

Secondly, the disciples ask Jesus "Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?" They had no idea that Jesus was going to give his life for the sins of the world like the Passover lamb of Exodus 20 did to save the Israelites from God's wrath upon Egypt. Jesus had explained to them, but they did not grasp it for many reasons, including the hailing of Jesus by the people as Messiah in the Triumphal Entry, which was still 'ringing in their ears'. He does not state that he would eat it with them. He wanted to, but he knew he would not. There is no room for any dogmatic statement that the Passover must be eaten on the same day the room was hired or prepared. Indeed, Jewish people, because of Exodus 12, thoroughly prepared their houses for the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

Thirdly, in some ways the Gospels couch the last supper in terms of fulfillment. i.e. Luke 22 records Jesus saying that he had longed to eat "this" Passover meal with them. So, does Luke say it was the Passover meal? It is doubtful, due to the same use of artos and azymos, amongst other reasons. Jesus did make this last supper a sort of Passover meal (but not the real one). He wanted to have this special fellowship with his disciples, his friends, being painfully aware of the agony he would go through, only a few hours later. He also wanted to show his disciples that the Passover spoke of him; that he was the sacrifice that would bring in the New Covenant God promised (see questions #64 and #34) just like the lambs that was killed 1500 years earlier to save the people if Israel from God's wrath. He illustrated through the meal that he is the "Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world" as John the Baptist called Jesus (John 1:29). He wanted to eat it with them for he says, "I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the Kingdom of God" (Luke 22:16). His coming death was its fulfillment, "For Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed" (1 Corinthians 5:7).

If this understanding is correct (one of two feasible explanations I opted for due to my current research), then there is no contradiction. Jesus died before the Passover meal.


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