Errors in the Gospels

If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true. (John 5:31 NKJV)

Even if I bear witness of Myself, My witness is true (John 8:14 NKJV)

Both statements cannot be true. The Bible is in error.

THE DEFENSE

The Bible has no errors; if the Bible is true, both statements MUST be true. How can we explain this? Simple. They both are true. Naturally, skeptics pounce on this as illogical rhetoric in order to claim the Bible is without errors. How can such apparently opposite statements be true?

In John 5:31, Jesus says His testimony by itself is not valid. This is what the law said - by two or more witnesses is testimony confirmed. The Pharisees are bringing up this point as Jesus speaks; they know what He said a few chapters earlier. So when Jesus speaks on His own authority, they pounce on Him as any good skeptic would; He is contradicting Himself. The modern day skeptic/cynic still jumps on this issue.

We must remember the whole counsel of God; it explains this apparent problem. If Jesus speaks on His own, His testimony is not valid, as John 5:31 says. How then can His testimony be valid, as He says in chapter eight? Simple. He doesn’t speak on His own, since Jesus and the Father are one. Reading just a few verses later in John provides the answer.

It is also written in your law that the testimony of two men is true. I am One who bears witness of Myself, and the Father who sent Me bears witness of Me.” (John 8:17-18 NKJV)

I and My Father are one. (John 10:30 NKJV)

It’s the trinity that explains how both statements are true. Yes, according to the law it takes two witnesses to establish the facts; that’s the point of John 5:31. But since Jesus and the Father are one, we have two witnesses - separate yet one God. Far from a contradiction, these two verses show the deity of Jesus and a confirmation of the trinity. To firmly establish the idea of the trinity, remember the events during the baptism of Jesus.

When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”(Matthew. 3:16-17 NKJV)

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Three distinct persons, yet one God.

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! (Deuteronomy. 6:4)

In conclusion, If Jesus speaks on his own, His testimony is not valid (John 5:31). But He doesn’t speak alone (John 10:30, 8:17-18), therefore His testimony is valid. (John 8:14).

THE PROSECUTION

So they came to Jerusalem. Then Jesus went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. And He would not allow anyone to carry wares through the temple. Then He taught, saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’” (Mark 11:15-17 NKJV) (Also Matthew 21:12-13, Luke 19:45-48)

Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the moneychangers doing business. When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables. And He said to those who sold doves, “Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!” Then His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up.” (John 2:13-17 NKJV)

The Synoptic Gospels (Mathew, Mark and Luke) record this late in the ministry of Jesus, while John records it early. This is a contradiction in the chronology of the life of Jesus.

THE DEFENSE

So, let’s get this straight. The synoptic Gospels record this event late in Jesus’ ministry, and John records it early - the prosecution admits that. But that’s only a problem if you think these are referring to the same event. But there is no reason to believe they are the same event. Matthew, Mark and Luke all mention Jesus speaking about a “den of thieves”, yet John speaks of a “house of merchandise”. And we’ve already established they are recorded at two different places in Jesus’ ministry. Why would you try and make them the same event? They are not presented that way.

These are two different events, and are presented as such in the Gospel accounts. You must force these to be the same event (in spite of evidence to the contrary) in order to fabricate a contradiction. But just reading the four accounts shows they are NOT presented as the same event, and there is no logical reason to believe they are the same event.

But as we shall see, this is a common tactic of the prosecution - forcing things into the text that aren’t there (as well as omitting things when convenient).

THE PROSECUTION

Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. (Matthew 28:1 NKJV)

Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. (Mark 16:2 NKJV)

Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. (Luke 24:1)

Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. (John 20:1 NKJV)

When did they go to the tomb? Was it “at dawn” or “Very early in the morning” or “while it was still dark”?

THE DEFENSE

As they saying goes, “six of one, half a dozen of the other”. All these words mean the same thing (just expressed differently) and refer to the same period of time. As the day dawns, it’s dark, and also very early in the morning - nobody would dispute that. It takes considerable imagination to conjure up a contradiction here.

The skeptic/cynic has to reach to believe this is a contradiction - all the terms used refer to the same part of the day, just as 50 cents, 2 quarters and 5 dimes refer to the same amount of money.

THE PROSECUTION

Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. (Matthew 28:1 NKJV)

Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, that they might come and anoint Him. (Mark 16:1 NKJV)

Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. (Luke 24:1 NKJV)

Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. (John 20:1 NKJV)

Who went to the tomb? Was it Mary and Mary (Matthew), Mary, Mary and Salome (Mark), or Mary Magdalene alone (John)?

THE DEFENSE

This is another case of reading into the text what is not there - by forcing each writer to say this was a complete list of the people who went to the tomb. But no Gospel writer claims that. Let’s put them together and see what comes of this “error”.

  • Matthew - Mary Magdalene and the other Mary
  • Mark - Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome
  • Luke - unspecified - in previous verses, the “they” is referred to as “women who had come with Him from Galilee” (Luke 23:55)
  • John - Mary Magdalene

Put them all together and we get Mary Magdalene, the other Mary, Mary the mother of James, Salome, and “women come from Galilee”. Take this list and go back through all accounts to see if there really is a contradiction.

  • Matthew - no error. He doesn’t mention Salome, but it’s not a problem for he never said ONLY those two went to the tomb.
  • Mark - Mark presents the most complete list, so there is no problem.
  • Luke - “women from Galilee” - Certainly all the names are women, so no problem here.
  • John - Just like Matthew, he doesn’t give an entire list, but there is no problem since he doesn’t say ONLY Mary Magdalene. John is emphasizing Mary for a particular reason found later in the chapter; the fact he omits the others is because he is focusing on a particular event between Mary Magdalene and Jesus.

This is another case of an imagined error. Just reading the text and taking it at what it says you realize there is no error. It’s only a problem if you read something that isn’t there (that each writer claims his list is the complete and exclusive list). Actually, all four writers are in agreement.

THE PROSECUTION

Now it came to pass, about eight days after these sayings, that He took Peter, John, and James and went up on the mountain to pray. (Luke 9:28)

Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; (Matthew 17:1)

Was this six days or eight days?

THE DEFENSE

Here is a case of the skeptic/cynic conveniently leaving out part of the text in order to find an error in the Bible. But read carefully. Luke says “about eight days”. Matthew says “after six days”. After six days is at least seven days, or about eight days. Luke adds the phrase “after these sayings” and likely is referring to teaching given by Jesus over several days.

CONCLUSION

In these so-called “errors”, we notice three errors made frequently in order to claim contradictions in the Bible:

  1. Errors in theology. Certainly, we shouldn’t expect a non-Christian to understand the finer points of theology anymore than we would expect Einstein to explain quantum mechanics to a 5 year old. Nevertheless, an open-minded person should be able to understand some theology - even if they don’t accept it.
  2. Reading into the text beyond what the text says. God says what He means and means what He says. Don’t add claims the writers of the Gospels didn’t say.
  3. Ignoring parts of the text. This can happen either overtly by ignoring a word, or ignoring other passages or facts that illuminate the point in question.

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