As promised, this is Matthew Firth’s (2019) response to my post (the previous one) in which I try to show several places in the Gospels that contain contradictions. Firth does not see a contradiction in any of the five examples I cited, and explains why, contrary to first appearance, the accounts are completely in line with each other. Read him carefully and see what you think (To make sense of his reply you may want to see what he is responding to in the previous post, but … hey, follow your heart.)
Thank-you very much, Bart, for your opening gambit. It has given me a most enjoyable afternoon of delving deeply into the Gospel texts, and I really appreciate the written format of this debate, which allows space for considered reflection, study and learning, rather than the rhetorical tennis of some other formats of debate which, while they produce spectacle, rarely achieve deep insight either for the proponents or the onlookers.
I will now take the cases in the order in which you proposed them.
1. The case of Jairus’ daughter can, I think, be usefully looked at in terms of the Greek Text, Matthew’s practice of ‘telescoping’ stories about Jesus, and the emotional reality of the situation.
In Mark 5.23 we see that Jairus says ‘thugatrion mou eschatos echei.’ A wooden translation of this would be ‘my little daughter is at the end.’ In Matthew 9.18 we see that Jairus says ‘thugater mou arti eteleutesen.’ A wooden translation of this would be ‘my daughter just now died.’ But, the word ‘arti’ is not as rigid as one might think. It can mean ‘just now’ (immediate past), ‘now’ (immediate present), and it can also be used to suggest a sense of inevitable impending reality, as is the case in Matthew 3.15. This being the case, the word can be rendered ‘even now’. Also, while the word ‘eteleutesen’, being in the aorist tense, can simply be rendered ‘died’, it can also be used to create a sense of being at the very point of death, as is the case in Hebrews 11.22. So, a possible rendering of the sentence is ‘my daughter just now was at the point of death.’ So it seems to me that the Greek in both Mark and Matthew can be seen as creating a sense of impending inevitability.
Even if this is not the case, Matthew’s common practice of ‘telescoping’ or abbreviating the stories about Jesus (a common and very acceptable practice among ancient writers) can help us to see what is going on. Mark has Jairus pleading with Jesus to restore his daughter, then there is the intervening healing of the woman subject to bleeding, then messengers come to report that the daughter is dead, then Jesus goes to restore the daughter. Matthew abbreviates the story by cutting out the arrival of the messengers, and has, in one reading of the Greek, Jairus reporting his daughter’s death. Thus a two stage process has been trimmed down to one stage. Given that this was an acceptable ancient practice, and given that both accounts would have been circulating at the time, there is no sense of a particular problem here.
Firth makes some intriguing arguments to resolve these apparent problems. Blog members can see what they are. Join the blog and you can too! Click here for membership options