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Resolving “Contradiction” by Understanding the Nature and Length of Jesus’ Earthly Mission


Atheists and other critics of Christianity
often list Biblical contradictions as one of their top objections to Christianity. But does this claim hold up to scrutiny? Today I will examine this question by looking
at a third strategy for resolving alleged contradictions in the Bible. This video is part of a collaborative series
between myself and Cole from Practical Faith. Each video stands on its own, but if you are
not already doing so, you may want to watch from the playlist to see them in order. Then subscribe to both our channels to make
sure you don’t miss future installments in the series. Links to the playlist and Cole’s channel are
found in the video description box. So far in this series, we’ve looked at what
Christian understand inspiration and then gone over two strategies for resolving alleged
contradictions: reading the passage in context and realizing that omission is not the same
as contradiction. Now I turn to a third strategy: realizing
that Jesus’ ministry lasted several years. If you add up all the days depicted in the
Gospels you may come up with a couple weeks, maybe a month of days. Yet, Jesus’ public ministry lasted 3 years. What happened to all the rest of the time? The answer is obvious: lots of uninteresting
stuff was left out. As John notes at the end of his gospel: Now there are also many other things that
Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose
that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. All biographies must be selective, as even
a single day’s activity could fill a book, and the gospels are no exception. Jesus, no doubt, taught the same basic message
everywhere He went. He probably even worked similar miracles on
multiple occasions. Yet, critics ignore this and always attribute
similarity to a Gospel writer taking the words of Jesus from another Gospel and moving them
to a different context. In reality, the historical Jesus no doubt
actually said similar things on different occasions, so there is really no reason to
assume re-appropriation by anyone. Additionally, quotes are not intended to be
exact (this should be obvious from the fact they are likely translations from Aramaic),
but rather convey the ideas Jesus taught. Let’s take a look at an example. Matthew records a story involving talents,
a type of Roman coin: “For it will be like a man going on a journey,
who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two,
to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went
at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. (skipping ahead…) He also who had received the one talent came
forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow,
and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent
in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked
and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown
and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with
the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to
him who has the ten talents.” Luke records a similar story, but talks about
minas, a different type of coin: “A nobleman went into a far country to receive
for himself a kingdom and then return. Calling ten of his servants, he gave them
ten minas, and said to them, ‘Engage in business until I come.’ (skipping ahead…) Then another came, saying, ‘Lord, here is
your mina, which I kept laid away in a handkerchief; for I was afraid of you, because you are a
severe man. You take what you did not deposit, and reap
what you did not sow.’ He said to him, ‘I will condemn you with
your own words, you wicked servant! You knew that I was a severe man, taking what
I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow? Why then did you not put my money in the bank,
and at my coming I might have collected it with interest?’ And he said to those who stood by, ‘Take
the mina from him, and give it to the one who has the ten minas.’” In Matthew there are 8 talents, divided unequally. In Luke there are ten minas,
apparently divided equally. The stories are framed differently and contain
different details. A critic might call this blatant contradiction,
but to my mind, it is far more likely that Jesus told similar parables on different occasions
than that one of the Gospels changed most the details or that both stories reflect inaccurate
memories of the same event. Let’s take another example. Jesus famously fed a large crowd with a tiny
amount of food, but different gospels contain different details. In Matthew, for example, we read: Then Jesus called his disciples to him and
said, “I have compassion on the crowd because they have been with me now three days and
have nothing to eat. And I am unwilling to send them away hungry,
lest they faint on the way.” And the disciples said to him, “Where are
we to get enough bread in such a desolate place to feed so great a crowd?” And Jesus said to them, “How many loaves
do you have?” They said, “Seven, and a few small fish.” And directing the crowd to sit down on the
ground, he took the seven loaves and the fish, and having given thanks he broke them and
gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up seven baskets full of the
broken pieces left over. Those who ate were four thousand men, besides
women and children. John’s gospel contains a similar story: Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that
a large crowd was coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread,
so that these people may eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew
what he would do. Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii
worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s
brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but
what are they for so many?” Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand
in number. Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had
given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted. And when they had eaten their fill, he told
his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up and filled twelve
baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten. So we have a discrepancy on the number of
people fed – was is 4,000 or 5,000? We also have different amounts of fish and
bread at the start, and different amounts of leftovers. What is going on? Have one or both authors changed things for
their own purposes, or simply got things wrong? If some of the details matched, this might
be a reasonable conclusion. As a side note, even if this was the conclusion
reached, it would actually increase the historical reliability of the event in question because
it would indicate two independent accounts of the same event. However, I think in this case there is a clearly
superior explanation: two different events are described. If you think that sounds ad hoc, think again. Matthew himself records a separate feeding
of 5,000 men, indicating that he himself saw the feeding of the 4,000 read previously as
a different event than John’s feeding of the 5,000. He writes: Now when it was evening, the disciples came
to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away
to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” But Jesus said, “They need not go away;
you give them something to eat.” They said to him, “We have only five loaves
here and two fish.” And he said, “Bring them here to me.” Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on
the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said
a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to
the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the
broken pieces left over. And those who ate were about five thousand
men, besides women and children. Here we see that the details match up nicely
with John’s narration: 5,000 men fed, five loaves and two fish, twelve baskets of leftovers
and so on. Since we know that two different events are
described here, we can justifiably conclude that some other differences between the Gospels
are due to the same phenomenon of narrating different events. We’ve now seen three solid strategies for
resolving apparent contradictions, but there are still many more. I hope you are finding these videos rewarding
and are learning to think through Bible difficulties for yourself. If you are watching from the playlist, and
the next video has been released, it will start momentarily. If not, click the icon to my left or the link
in the video description. Thanks for watching!

Jean Kelley

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18 COMMENTS

  1. Reasoned Answers apologetics videos Posted on March 22, 2020 at 3:37 am

    Watch the whole series from the playlist here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tBRmpeop5CM&list=PLy8uZd3mOZSr1TMa0-BqNQt5FHzn1zg9S&index=2

    Subscribe to Cole's channel here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC56VKCWIexgk7n85kx09pGw
    My sincere thanks to my Patreons! https://www.patreon.com/ReasonedAnswers

    Texts cited:
    (John 21:25, ESV) Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.

    (Matthew 22:14-16, 24-28) For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more…
    He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents.

    (Luke 19:12-13, 20-24) “A nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return.  Calling ten of his servants, he gave them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Engage in business until I come.’ …
    Then another came, saying, ‘Lord, here is your mina, which I kept laid away in a handkerchief; for I was afraid of you, because you are a severe man. You take what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.’ He said to him, ‘I will condemn you with your own words, you wicked servant! You knew that I was a severe man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow? Why then did you not put my money in the bank, and at my coming I might have collected it with interest?’ And he said to those who stood by, ‘Take the mina from him, and give it to the one who has the ten minas.’"

    (Matthew 15:32-38) Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion on the crowd because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.” And the disciples said to him, “Where are we to get enough bread in such a desolate place to feed so great a crowd?”  And Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven, and a few small fish.”  And directing the crowd to sit down on the ground, he took the seven loaves and the fish, and having given thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds.  And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up seven baskets full of the broken pieces left over.  Those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children.

    (John 6:5-13) Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?” Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number. Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted.  And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten.

    (Matthew 14:15-21) Now when it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” But Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.” And he said, “Bring them here to me.” Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

    Reply
  2. I am Medikool Ducktoor Posted on March 23, 2020 at 1:43 pm

    Been waiting for this..🙏

    Reply
  3. Alpha Beta Posted on March 23, 2020 at 1:53 pm

    Atheism is just as false as Islam.

    Reply
  4. Clark Steve Posted on March 23, 2020 at 2:09 pm

    Thank You..

    Reply
  5. I am Medikool Ducktoor Posted on March 23, 2020 at 2:16 pm

    Two different events…🤔
    Jesus looked up when he prayed??? 3 yrs ministry would fill several books???? My mind is on overload with questions.
    It is reasonable to think Jesus repeated many miracles over 3 years. How many times has he fed multitudes? How many times has he cast out demons, healed the crippled, restored sight to the blind…etc, etc.
    3 years travelling from place to place but we have just a speck of his ministry recorded in the Bible. Maybe that's all we need.
    But looking up to pray? Is that how a good "muslim" would pray?
    He was a muslim…right?
    RIGHT???
    Not bloody likely…🤣

    Reply
  6. Candance Posted on March 23, 2020 at 2:18 pm

    The first time I ever read the Bible, it occurred to me that there were two different fish incidents. Some people have too much time on their hands to sit around thinking up gotchas.

    Reply
  7. 777 300 Posted on March 23, 2020 at 2:22 pm

    Did Jesus travel to India ?

    Reply
  8. DELILAH ROSE⚘SILAS. Posted on March 23, 2020 at 2:23 pm

    allah is just another name for SATAN.

    JEHOVAH YAHWEH is GOD for both the CHRISTIANS and JEWS.
    ABRABIC BIBLE EXODUS 6:3;
    ISAIAH 12:2;
    ISAIAH 26:4;
    PSALM 83:18.

    Reply
  9. Markus Tanbeck Posted on March 23, 2020 at 2:27 pm

    This is what we need, bridging the gap, and providing sourced explanations. Thank you Thaddeus, I am sure this will help others to understand better.

    Reply
  10. Sír Knëukel Posted on March 23, 2020 at 2:30 pm

    Maybe you can talk about Mythist theory? I heard that atheists are not the only ones believing this. I heard that some muslims believe it as well

    Reply
  11. Betsy Ross Posted on March 23, 2020 at 2:46 pm

    Thanks, Thaddeus. Your videos are always instructive and edifying.

    When 9/11 occurred, most newspapers covered the events. But, none of them described every event in an exact manner, and when coverage was published, it was easy to understand that individual perspectives printed what was most important to them and their audience. You could glean a fuller picture by reading several articles. I had no problem with that, and I've never felt my faith in Christ shaken by various "reporting" of what we know about Jesus. The Gospel accounts also targeted different audiences, so Matthew's Gospel to Jews seems to stress Jesus as "King", Mark's to the Romans focused on Jesus the "Servant", etc. Paul's general epistles read differently than his specific epistles to distinct audiences. I'm also not tied to the civic and/or ceremonial laws of the Torah, but I am bound by God's moral laws which do not change. If I'm wrong, the Living God of Holy Writ has had decades to correct me, but I've never been admonished by Him, the One I must strive to please.

    Understanding is in the Bible, even when we need to excavate it.

    Reply
  12. Sír Knëukel Posted on March 23, 2020 at 2:47 pm

    😗❤️🕋 ❌

    😗❤️🙎🏿 ✔️

    Reply
  13. Sír Knëukel Posted on March 23, 2020 at 2:55 pm

    Pork good. 🥓

    Reply
  14. Sír Knëukel Posted on March 23, 2020 at 2:59 pm

    What are your thoughts on Christ's grave in Japan?

    Reply
  15. Qui Creva Sp Posted on March 23, 2020 at 4:37 pm

    Nicely done and timely. I knew that these were not real contradictions through lifelong devotion to understanding the Bible, but many Christians are upset when skeptics point out these apparent contradictions. Thank you.

    Reply
  16. Kevin Robinson Posted on March 24, 2020 at 12:21 am

    I used to help some eccentric friends to run a comedy club. It was a small affair. Sometimes we had to bulk up the audience to get the place working. After a year or so we would see the same comedians coming back two, three even four times. We got to know them. Each time I would recognise their act and remember the material but they would rework the stuff each time. It would come out quite differently with different effects. With different people in a different moment the material would subtly change, develop and become more effective. The audience would react differently. The comedian and his/her repertoire would grow and expand or perhaps be completely jettisoned for a new set while the act still remained basically the same encounter. A few are now on TV, while most have disappeared back to their day jobs. Jesus was a very engaging man. I don't want to say he was an "entertainer" but an afternoon spent in his company would be an unforgettable event. Why would someone like Zacheus climb a tree just to catch and snapshot? He must have felt like a plonker when the Lord fetched him down in front of everybody.
    Anyone who stands up in front of 5000 people and throws out an opening line such as "There were TEN Virgins" is asking for trouble. The crowd responded "Oh No there weren't" JC "Oh yes there were" Crowd "There ain't ten virgins in Capernaum" JC "Five were sensible" Crowd "Boo we don't believe this one! " "and FIVE were foolish" Crowd "Now were listening!" This is how random public crowds engage with a speaker. They weren't all pious as if they were in the synagogue. As the travelling road show increased there would have been pickpockets working unseen and vendors making a quick buck on the side. Besides, if we are correct in accepting that his ministry was for three years he must have worked in seasons. That would have been between sowing and reaping (hence numerous parables) when there would have been less activity demanded from the people and they had time to spend elsewhere. I suppose the Last Supper was the penultimate scene with a private audience before the curtain finally came down literally (Matthew 27:51) and publicly for the last time .
    But then there was an encore to top all encores and we are all part of the lineup.
    There are loads of instances where you can see the Lord's repertoire developing. I am sure that the brief parable of the Two Sons in Matthew 21:28-32 is the kernel to the Prodigal Son which could also be called the story of the two sons Luke 15:11-32. Not only this but the Gospel writers clearly make use of the same material but handle it differently just like our comedians. (Redaction and Form Criticism) eg I am sure that the Blind man at the pool of Bethsaida (Galilee) Mark 8:24 &// is the same incident as the blind man in John 9 except the event has been deliberately transferred by John from Bethsaida to Siloam/Bethesda emphasising that we need to open our eyes to the unfolding events in Jerusalem if we want to understand Christ. This is what Catholics cherish as "Holy Week"

    Reply
  17. Abdoulie Jatta Posted on March 24, 2020 at 1:42 am

    Te extraño muchísimo! So good to watch you again! God bless you.

    Reply
  18. Benn Pick Posted on March 24, 2020 at 7:07 am

    I always believed these were separate events. If the critics actually bothered to read the thing through, there'd be none of this "contradiction" nonsense

    Reply
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