14 votes, average: 2.21 out of 514 votes, average: 2.21 out of 514 votes, average: 2.21 out of 514 votes, average: 2.21 out of 514 votes, average: 2.21 out of 5 (14 votes, average: 2.21 out of 5)
You need to be a registered member to rate this post.
Loading...

Contradictions in the Gospels – Rev Matthew Firth’s Second Response

Thanks very much, Bart, for these interesting responses. I will get straight into explaining why I still don’t think you have shown that the examples you have offered are genuine contradictions.

In the case of Luke 24 you say that the grammar of the Greek indicates that ‘Luke is extremely careful to date the entire sequence of chapter 24, at the beginning of each major paragraph. It all happens on the day of the resurrection.’ But we know from Acts, Luke’s sequel, that Luke certainly does not think that all of Luke 24 happened on the day of the resurrection. He says in Acts 1:3 and the following verses that after Jesus’ suffering and resurrection, Jesus appeared to the apostles over a forty-day period, and after that he was taken up. This means that Luke is well aware that Luke 24:50-53 did not happen on the day of the resurrection, despite your assertion that the grammar makes it clear that all of the events of Luke 24 did happen on the day of the resurrection.

What this indicates is that the Greek grammatical usage here is much more flexible and much less rigid than you make out in relation to what it is saying about the temporal chain of events. It also indicates that Luke is happy to leave out descriptions of intervening events which he knows to have happened. The implication of this is that there are a number of places in the flow of Luke 24 where an intervening trip to Galilee could have occurred. Given that the Greek is much more flexible than you make out, I still maintain that the excursion could have happened between Luke 24:35 and Luke 24:36. But it is also possible that it happened between Luke 24:43 and Luke 24:44. There is therefore no necessary contradiction.

To see my responses to the rest of Bart’s comments, you will need to subscribe to the blog. It’s all really interesting. If you want to see it, join the blog.

You need to be logged in to see this part of the content. Please Login to access.


Contradictions and Contradictions: Final Response to Matt Firth
Are These Really Contradictions? My Response to Matt Firth

26

Comments

  1. Avatar
    Euler  April 27, 2019

    Rev Matthew Firth is an alumnus of Cambridge and Oxford? The syntax and grammar are so poor, and the arguments are so convoluted.

    4
    5
  2. Avatar
    Stephen  April 27, 2019

    “Luke is well aware…”

    Seems to me any explanation for these discrepancies predicated on knowing the intentions of these authors would be a non-starter simply because their “intentions” are completely occluded to us. How could we possibly know what “Luke” was aware of? This idea of “telescoping” strikes me as a rationalization. What we have before us are two accounts of the same events that differ in the details. The fact that these differing accounts were written by the same author is interesting but not unique. I remember the differing details in the accounts of Paul’s conversion in Acts.

    10
  3. Avatar
    godspell  April 27, 2019

    Why would God allow all these apparent contradictions? If we’re supposed to believe that flawed fallible men with their own agendas and authorly eccentricities, wrote these works unaided by divine providence, then we have to admit that contradictions would exist, given the long period of time that had elapsed, and that it’s quite impossible any of the gospel authors witnessed all of the events described. If they are all telling the same story, it is in fact a miracle. So why is the miracle so–inconsistent?

    If you’re determined to say there are no contradictions, you can always find a loophole, rationalize them away, as Bart predicted would be the case.

    I do note, Reverend, that you are no longer defending the contradiction between the two Nativity stories, which is surely the most significant of all the ones mentioned here–why would Luke not go into the Slaughter of the Innocents and the Flight to Egypt? Why would Matthew fail to mention Jesus and John the Baptizer were cousins? Why have they chosen two opposing routes to establish his birth in Bethlehem, when it’s clear that everyone knew of him as being from Nazareth, and nobody at any time in the four gospels (including Jesus) ever mentions he was born in Judea? He’s always referred to as being from Galilee. Which for most Jews, discredits any claim of his being Messiah.

    I respect your faith, and your erudition, but true faith needs no such arguments to sustain it. Blessed are they who have not rationalized and yet believe. 🙂

    14
  4. Avatar
    Leovigild  April 27, 2019

    But we know from Acts, Luke’s sequel, that Luke certainly does not think that all of Luke 24 happened on the day of the resurrection. He says in Acts 1:3 and the following verses that after Jesus’ suffering and resurrection, Jesus appeared to the apostles over a forty-day period, and after that he was taken up. This means that Luke is well aware that Luke 24:50-53 did not happen on the day of the resurrection, despite your assertion that the grammar makes it clear that all of the events of Luke 24 did happen on the day of the resurrection.

    I’m afraid that I have to call shenanigans on this argument. First, while we could perhaps conclude that when Luke wrote Acts, he felt that 40 days elapsed between Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, we can’t conclude that he thought the same was true when he wrote his Gospel, which may have been years or decades earlier.

    Second, this is a classic example of begging the question. You are assuming Luke can’t contradict himself, when that is the very question under consideration. One could just as easily use these passages as evidence Luke does contradict himself. Other authors, even good historians, contradict themselves at times.

    16
  5. Avatar
    iangod2  April 28, 2019

    Luke’s account of Jesus appearing to the disciples in 24:36-49 is remarkably similar to that in John 20:19-21. The latter account is explicitly dated as Resurrection Sunday. If Firth’s extraordinary theory that the Luke appearance followed the Galilee appearance is correct, then the Luke appearance was at least the third to the disciples. It is extremely hard to understand the disciples being startled and frightened or the need to show the wounds again if that was the case.

    • Avatar
      jogon  April 29, 2019

      John numbers all his resurrection accounts, so Matthew’s Galilee appearance would need to be fourth and the appearance in Luke the fifth!

    • Avatar
      AstaKask  April 30, 2019

      Yeah, it seems to me that a lot of resolving contradictions come at the price of the disciples not acting like human beings, or the authors not writing like they are.

  6. Avatar
    AstaKask  April 28, 2019

    The thing is, the more flexible you can be in your interpretation the less impressive it is that the Gospels tell the same story. A broader point: Christians sometimes say how miraculous it is that the Bible doesn’t contradict itself, despite being written by so many authors over so long a time. Three things

    1) The books were selected from a larger corpus, with noncontradiction being a criterion.
    2) Apparently the languages of the ancient world were extremely flexible in how they could be interpreted.
    3) It still contradicts itself. It really does.

    12
    • Avatar
      VEndris  April 29, 2019

      I never thought about it in these terms, but you’re right. If you have to play with the text so much, then really any book could be inherent. It would be remarkable if the inherency were so clear everyone could see it. The further away you get from ‘so clear’, the less remarkable it becomes. Put simply, even in Mr. Firth is correct, once you resort to this level of interpretation, is it really remarkable at all? Good insight!

    • Avatar
      jbskq5  April 30, 2019

      Incredibly well stated.

  7. Avatar
    Phil  April 28, 2019

    Rev Firth, with the genealogies you seem to be suggesting either that there was frequent remarrying and name changing in the family tree to an extreme extent, or you don’t have a solution,but because you cannot accept the possibility of error you ask us to go along with your thought that there must be a solution out there and one day it will turn up.
    That really is not a tradeable rebuttal. You do not have an answer and need really to acknowledge that this is a discrepancy.
    Otherwise this whole debate becomes pointless because you may well say the same thing every time we come to a crunch point.

  8. Pattycake1974
    Pattycake1974  April 28, 2019

    “But we know from Acts, Luke’s sequel, that Luke certainly does not think that all of Luke 24 happened on the day of the resurrection.”

    Luke wrote Jesus’s resurrection, instructions to his disciples, and ascension as happening on the same day in chapter 24. Not only that, but Luke emphasizes his point that it’s all on the same day. Luke contradicts himself in Acts 1, and there’s no getting around it.

    I expect more out of Rev. Firth with the level of education he’s received.

    8
    1
  9. Robert
    Robert  April 28, 2019

    Rev Matthew Firth: “But we know from Acts, Luke’s sequel, that Luke certainly does not think that all of Luke 24 happened on the day of the resurrection. He says in Acts 1:3 and the following verses that after Jesus’ suffering and resurrection, Jesus appeared to the apostles over a forty-day period, and after that he was taken up. This means that Luke is well aware that Luke 24:50-53 did not happen on the day of the resurrection, despite your assertion that the grammar makes it clear that all of the events of Luke 24 did happen on the day of the resurrection.”

    You and Bart are discussing two different texts. As a text critic, Bart has presented a persuasive (to some) argument that the ascension of Jesus is not original to Luke 24.

    You could try to come to agreement on Luke’s original text or the earliest recoverable version of Luke’s text.

    Or you could try and justify a supposedly inerrant text that can only be tentatively reconstructed by fallible humans.

    Or … you could give up this whole charade of a magically perfect collection of texts that has no human contradictions. One hopes the God you believe in is not merely a magical miracle worker with ancient texts.

  10. Avatar
    fedcarroll77  April 28, 2019

    Honestly this response is worse than your initial response. I’m getting the vibe of assuming way too much here. I understand our information is very limited, but let us take our limited information at the face value. If an apologist like yourself has to tell us what it really means then apologize for the confusion, how can one believe this book to be god’s word? Makes total sense?!

    Well o to the genealogy response….still don’t buy your proposal. You still leave out factors such as where did Luke and Matthew get their records? Could not of been from any of the public office buildings or the temple those were destroyed well before they composed. How do you account for one going back to Nathan and the other Solomon? The messianic line was only to be through Solomon. How do you respond to further reading in Deuteronomy 25 where the brother does not have to marry the widow? And it’s only contingent on if the two brothers reside in the same house together. Unless that is to mean same blood line and if so the Hebrew should of been clearer by defining it differently. You still have way too many questions left unanswered in your proposal. That does shoot holes in it.

    My proposal….oral tradition was a common practice. So in the tradition of Jesus’ birth they wanted to add a lineage to give providence to the story. But they could not find any record of Jesus and his mother and father lineage, well they had to scout through the Hebrew Bible and piece together a makeshift lineage by taking mines from the Hebrew Bible and possibly other works then adding Jewish sounding names in there for good measure. This proposal is just as plausible and goes match the style at the time of oral tradition. We all can come up with our own ideas of what it should of said, but that does not mean that it is correct. By us doing this we are creating our own gospels., and not letting the writers words speak for themselves.

    Just my thoughts on this matter. No response necessary.

  11. Avatar
    VEndris  April 28, 2019

    It seems that all arguments like this are really based on probability not possibility. Assuming a multiple universe paradigm, it is possible that Luke recorded events from one universe and Matthew from another. An all powerful God could have also rewound time in order to do these same things 2 or 4 times, thus making every gospel exactly correct. But these solutions don’t seem plausible. The key, I guess, is to try and convince someone that they are going out of their way to uphold their preconceived notions. I’m not sure how you do this. Especially since, in my experience, to a fundamentalist, admitting an error in the historicity of the bible is tantamount to destruction of faith or even destruction of God.

    Are there criteria historians use to debate plausibility?

  12. Avatar
    Hngerhman  April 28, 2019

    Consider two accounts –

    Account 1: At time T, event A has not yet happened

    Account 2: At time T*, event A has already happened

    If time T = time T*, Accounts 1 and 2 are contradictory.

    If accounts 1 and 2 explicitly state that time T and time T* are the same (namely, the point in time when Person A speaks to Person B), by their own lights the accounts are in contradiction.

    Any proposed solution scenario that posits that time T and time T* aren’t actually the same, whether years or milliseconds apart – contradicting the accounts themselves – such a proposal only serves to explain why the contradiction exists, but it does not alleviate the contradiction and is therefore irrelevant to the thesis question. And if one were to still insist that the proposed solution does somehow resolve the contradiction in the accounts, it only does so by uncovering a material flaw in one or both of the accounts.

    Further, even if the solution scenario that explains the contradiction is a well-known and acknowledged scenario by its audience, this does not alleviate the contradiction in the accounts – it only says that readers of such accounts are familiar with / tolerant of such contradictions.

    A contradiction that is explained, known and tolerated is, nonetheless, still a contradiction.

    The Jairus contradiction has little to no bearing on deep theological issues – it’s a small datum that only shades the emotion of a much larger miracle story. That one or the other got something small wrong (Mark, doing an amazing job with the Jesus story, nonetheless did messed up constantly with geography, names, etc.) doesn’t impact the bigger point. If one wrote a phenomenal exposition on the synthesis of general relativity and particle physics that happened to get the conceptual understanding correct but had a small calculation error in it, it would still win the Nobel and profoundly change the world for all future generations. The gospel message can remain in itself intact while the messengers can be moderately fallible. Slippery slope arguments aren’t best defended against by denying the existence of the slope.

  13. Avatar
    sjh0278  April 28, 2019

    It would be interesting to do an experiment about this. Let people witness certain event and write about it. They witness one event but they may write differently. Do they contradict one another because they write differently or there is no contradiction because they write about the same event?
    The definition of contradiction seems to become more of an issue than whether there are contradictions or not.

    • Bart
      Bart  April 29, 2019

      No, different writing styles themselves do not constitute a contradiction. But if they state the facts in ways that cannot be reconciled, then yes, it is definitely a contradiction (whether they were eyewitnesses or not: that’s why in a court case consistent testimony is so important)

  14. Avatar
    gavriel  April 28, 2019

    Rev Firth maintains that the excursion to Galilee may have “happened between Luke 24:35 and Luke 24:36. But it is also possible that it happened between Luke 24:43 and Luke 24:44”.
    In fact, 43/44 is the only possible solution, because the verses following 36 depicts the disciples’ fright and disbelief in a way that is incompatible with Matthews depiction of people who supposedly already have witnessed the Great Commission.
    The remaining option, 43/44 is less illogical, but non the less illogical, in the opposite direction: Having already been convinced by the act of eating a piece of fish, there would be no reason for the doubting expounded in Matt 28:17, which clearly depicts a first time encounter.
    Game over.

  15. Avatar
    nichael  April 28, 2019

    I have to admit that I’m completely bewildered by the following statement:

    > “…given that the genealogies are indeed drastically different at face value, it seems to me
    > somewhat historically arrogant to jump quickly to the assumption that either Matthew or Luke
    > (or both) have made a massive error somewhere. ”

    If two sources give “drastically different” accounts of the same event, what other reasonable initial assumption is possible other than that at least one of the sources has made a serious error?

    One is free to attempt to explain away (or to ignore) an obvious contradiction if one wishes to do so, I suppose. But taking seriously what a source actually says and respecting its clear meaning should surely be the “default” starting position in any serious discussion. And to label that view as “arrogant” seems, well, curious at least.

  16. Avatar
    nichael  April 28, 2019

    > Both genealogies would have been circulating, and yet they both persisted. This indicates
    > to me that people were quite happy with both, with the implication that they were party
    > to a piece of knowledge which was the bridging solution. […]

    But this doesn’t really follow.

    I think everyone agrees that “both versions of the genealogies were circulating”. But the argument here assumes that both versions of the genealogies were circulating in (and accepted by) the same communit[y/ies]; and so far no evidence has been put forward that this was the case (and indeed I would suggest that there is plenty of evidence that such views could have been, and would have been, spread across multiple geographically dispersed communities that we have no reason to believe were in significant contact with each other).

    But more to the point, the suggestion that two contradictory version have both survived is an argument that “everyone was happy with both” doesn’t really hold water. For example, we have the standard Christian view of the life and resurrection of Jesus. But there were contemporary accounts (for instance in Roman sources, or in the Rabbinical literature) that tell quite different versions of these stories.

    Both versions have “survived” among communities that were each happy with their own versions. But I don’t think that we would take seriously anyone whom suggested that this fact proves that it’s OK to accept both as equally true.

  17. Avatar
    Steve Clark  April 29, 2019

    On the different genealogies I researched this once and something like 1/2 dozen different arguments have been proposed by members of the Christian community over past 1500 years or so none of them stuck. This is but one of those 1/2 dozen. Even Christians have never been able to agree on these “explanations” and still don’t.

  18. Avatar
    lobe  April 29, 2019

    Almost anything can be harmonized if you’re willing to work at it hard enough. The trip to Egypt is a great example. If you are highly motivated to do so, you can assume that Luke just didn’t mention a relevant multi-year trip to another nation. Yet if Luke actually did know about the Egypt trip, isn’t it odd that Luke wrote in such a way that the reader of his Gospel gets no indication of that whatsoever? It’s almost like he didn’t know about the trip to Egypt at all!

    It seems like the only way a highly motivated reader would be persuaded that these narratives are in fact contradictory is if Luke said “They went back to Galilee and definitely did not go to Egypt, unlike what that lying scum Matthew said!”.

  19. Avatar
    ddecker54  April 30, 2019

    I was excited when I read that Bart and Rev. Firth were going to conduct a “blog debate”. That excitement diminished completely when I read the reverend’s reply. “But we know from Acts, Luke’s sequel, that Luke certainly does not think that all of Luke 24 happened on the day of the resurrection.” Really??!! We don’t even know who Luke was, and the reverend knows what he was or was not thinking????? I mean, really.

    My question, to the reverend and to all apologists, is: Why is it so important to you to believe that this collection of books written by humans over a span of centuries is inspired? Why is that the foundation of your faith?

  20. Avatar
    jrbaugh  May 3, 2019

    I do not speak Ancient Greek and so cannot comment on the grammar. However, admitting that Luke “telescoped” events is admitting that human authors of the New Testament exercised their own decisions about what to say and how to say it. This is already a step removed from the idea that each passage of the Gospel is “God’s word”. Unless we assume that God sometimes likes to telescope his account and sometimes doesn’t, it means that human authors, not God, decided what the content of the Gospels would be. If we accept this fact, why would we assume that there are no contradictions?

You must be logged in to post a comment.