New Testament Problems and Answers

Internal Inconsistencies

The genealogies of Matthew and Luke contradict each other
Where did Joseph take Jesus from Bethlehem?
Where did Jesus go after his baptism?
Did Jesus speak to the Centurion?
Where did Jesus heal the maniac?
Was Jairus' daughter dead?
Staves or no staves?
Sign or no sign?
When was Jesus transfigured?
When did Jesus cleanse the Temple?
When was the Last Supper?
Did Jesus say he would destroy the Temple?
Did Jesus teach in secret?
How many times did the cock crow?
What was written on Jesus' Cross?
What were Jesus' final words?
Who saw Jesus after his resurrection?
How did Judas die?
Was Abraham justified by faith or works?

Contradictions and Inconsistencies with the Old Testament

Matthew incorrectly attributes a prophecy by Zechariah to Jeremiah
Matthew confused two Old Testament characters
Matthew refers to an unknown prophecy
Matthew misunderstood an Old Testament prophecy
Matthew misapplied an Old Testament passage
When did Terah die?
Where was Jacob buried?
 Does God cause confusion?
Can God be seen?
How many sons did Abraham have?
Was Jesus the first to ascend into Heaven?
Was Jesus the first to rise from the dead?
Hebrews incorrectly quotes the Psalms
Mark incorrectly attributed a prophecy
Abiathar and Ahimelech

Historical Problems

There is no external support for Herod's murder of the children
When was Jesus born?
Did Jesus return in the first century?

Bibliography and Sources

The genealogies of Matthew and Luke contradict each other

Solution: Luke records the lineage of Mary, and Matthew that of Joseph.

The problem with this solution is that both genealogies explicitly end with Joseph.

Matthew's geneology ends:
"And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ."
Luke's begins:
"And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli,"
So who was Joseph's father - Jacob or Heli? Jacob was his biological father whereas Heli was his father-in-law reckoned as also being his legal father. This would particularly be the case if Mary had no brothers - under the Mosaic law. (Num 27:8) Then upon marriage, the first born son would be reckoned according to the wife's father and receive his inheritance passed down through his mother. (Deut 25:5,6) Such could have been the case with Jesus.
Further, Jewish genealogies were almost always traced via the paternal line.


Today Jewish trace their ancestry via the maternal line. Today if your mother is a Jew, you are reckoned Jewish, but if your father is a Jew, then not. And as I mentioned above, in the case where a man only has daughters, his line would not be cut off, but would be reckoned according to the first born son of the daughters. Jesus was also a special case (after all, how many Jews had no biological father?). So establishing his biological ancestry was important.

Matthew's genealogy of Jesus is recorded in Matthew 1:1-16, and Luke's is recorded in Luke 3:23-38. It has long been known that these two records do not agree with each other. Specifically, they diverge after Solomon, converge at Shealtiel (the father of Zerubbabel), diverge after Zerubbabel and do not converge again until Joseph, the father of Jesus.

Shealtiel probably married the daughter and heiress of Neri, hence is reckoned his son (Luke 3:27).

Note that this also means that the genealogy of Zerubbabel is contradictory. Matthew makes him a descendant of Solomon, David's son. Luke makes him a descendant of Nathan, also a son of David. Since Solomon and Nathan were full blood brothers (I Chronicles 3:5) they cannot both be paternal ancestors of Zerubbabel.

It only takes one instance of a levirate marriage to explain such a divergence in the lines, and such could have occurred with Shealtiel's father, as mentioned above. Then just as Mary and Joseph both had a common paternal ancestor - Zerubbabel, so also Jeconiah and Neri had a common paternal ancestor - David.

In fact, both genealogies are pointless, since both Matthew and Luke then go on to claim that Mary was impregnated by the Holy Spirit, not by Joseph.

Jesus was legally the son of Joseph, as such he was called even by unbelievers during his ministry.

Since Mary was probably of the tribe of Levi (see Luke 1:5 in conjunction with Luke 1:36), it is therefore impossible for Jesus to have been the 'Son of David' as was required for the Messiah (Matthew 22:42).

Who says that Mary belonged to the tribe of Levi? It was true that Elizabeth, her cousin, was of the tribe of Levi, but that doesn't make Mary from the tribe of Levi. For don't forget, we have more than one set of grandparents. And each set, in this case, can come from different tribes. It simply means that Mary's paternal grandparents were not the same as Elizabeth's paternal grandparents. Rather, Mary's paternal grandparents were the same as Elizabeth's maternal grandparents.

There is another problem with Matthew's list. Matthew includes Jeconiah (Matthew 1:11), even though the Old Testament records that God cursed Jeconiah, and prophesied that he would never have a descendant upon the throne of Judah. (Jeremiah 22:28-30)

The term "childless" that Jeremiah uses is explained by the statement taht "no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah." With reference to a lineal successor, he was "childless."

Where did Joseph take Jesus from Bethlehem?

While recording the birth of Jesus, Matthew states that Joseph and his family left Bethlehem and headed for Egypt in order to escape Herod.
The authors simply record certain events and leave out others. If you combine these two accounts what probably happen was:

Where did Jesus go after his baptism?

The three synoptic gospels are unanimous in recording that Jesus went into the wilderness for forty days, immediately following his baptism.

Mark 1:12,13 And immediately the spirit driveth him into the wilderness. And he was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted of Satan; and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered unto him.

John's gospel, on the other hand, has Jesus in Galilee following his baptism, and in Cana two days later.

John 1:32,35,36 And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him...Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples; And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God!

Words like "immediately" are very commonly used in Mark, to stress action and urgency. However one should be careful about inferring the exact timing of the events from a single word. In other words "immediately" in its original context and language may have meant something slightly different than some may assume from its translation 2000 years later.

In fact, John never mentions the temptation in the wilderness at all.

Why should he? It was already recorded in Matthew, Mark and Luke.

Did Jesus speak to the Centurion?

Matthew 8 records the miracle of Jesus healing a Roman Centurion's servant. The Centurion visits Jesus personally to ask for a healing.

Matthew 8:5,6 And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him, And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented.
Matthew 8:13 And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour.

In the parallel passage in Luke 7, the Centurion sends a group of Jewish elders to represent him.

Luke 7:2,3 And a certain centurion's servant, who was dear unto him, was sick, and ready to die. And when he heard of Jesus, he sent unto him the elders of the Jews, beseeching him that he would come and heal his servant.
Luke 7:10 And they that were sent, returning to the house, found the servant whole that had been sick.

In Luke's account, Jesus never met the Centurion at all.

Matthew, writing in a condensed style, could be speaking of the centurion as himself doing that which he really accomplished by proxy. Still, it is possible that the centurion first sent the elders, and then, in the intensity of his anxiety and distress, went in person to the Saviour.
Similar examples of this are:

Where did Jesus heal the maniac?

In Matthew 8, Jesus meets two men possessed by devils in the country of the Gadarenes. He drives out the demons, which then enter into a herd of swine.

Matthew 8:28 (NIV) When he arrived at the other side in the region of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs met him. They were so violent that no one could pass that way.
Matthew 8:32 He said to them, "Go!" So they came out and went into the pigs, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and died in the water.

Mark and Luke both tell the same story, except that they mention only one man, in the country of the Gerasenes.

Mark 5:1,2 (NIV) They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes. When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an evil spirit came from the tombs to meet him.
Mark 5:13 He gave them permission, and the evil spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned.

Although Gadara and Gerasa are both close to Galilee, they are not the same place. Gadara is 10 Km (6 miles) southeast of the Sea of Galilee, Gerasa is 30 Km (19 miles) east of the Jordan, midway between the Dead Sea and the Sea of Galilee. (New Concise Bible Dictionary, pgs 181 and 188).

They don't have to be the exact same place, for the authors are merely referring to a general geographical designations which apply to the territory in which both Gadara and Gergesa were situated.

Was Jairus' daughter dead?

The three synoptic Gospels record the familiar story of Jesus restoring the daughter of Jairus to life. The narrative follows the same general structure in each Gospel, but Matthew has a subtle difference. Both Mark and Luke state that Jairus' daughter is at the point of death.

Mark 5:22-23 And, behold, there cometh one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name...And besought him greatly, saying, My little daughter lieth at the point of death...
Luke 8:41-42 And, behold, there came a man named Jairus...and he fell down at Jesus' feet, and besought him that he would come into his house: For he had one only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she lay a dying...

In Matthew's version, however, Jairus is adamant that his daughter is already dead.

Matthew 9:18 ...behold, there came a certain ruler, and worshipped him, saying, My daughter is even now dead...

There is further detail in each narrative which underscores this contradiction. In Mark and Luke, messengers arrive from Jairus' house to inform him that his daughter had died.

Mark 5:35 While he yet spake, there came from the ruler of the synagogue's house certain which said, Thy daughter is dead...
Luke 8:49 While he yet spake, there cometh one from the ruler of the synagogue's house, saying to him, Thy daughter is dead...

This event is not recorded my Matthew, obviously, since it would conflict with Jairus' statement that his daughter was already dead.

The verb used in Matthew is in aortist tense, which doesn't necessarily mean that it is a past event, but could mean "is in the final process of dying", which resolves the problem - simply an incorrect translation.

Staves or no staves?

When Jesus commissioned his disciples for their first missionary effort, he specifically forbade them to take any staves with them.

Matthew 10:9-10 Provide neither gold, nor silver...nor yet staves...

However, in the parallel passage in Mark, the disciples are commanded to take a staff.

Mark 6:8 And commanded them that they should take nothing for their journey, save a staff only...M

Matthew is talking about not procuring anything for the journey, but simply to "Go, just as you are." If they happen to have a staff at the time, they can take it, but not to "go to the store to buy one".

Sign or no sign?

According to Mark, when the Pharisees asked for a sign from Jesus, he said that no sign would be given to his generation.

Mark 8:11 And the Pharisees came forth, and began to question with him, seeking of him a sign from heaven...And he...saith, Why doth this generation seek after a sign? verily I say unto you, There shall no sign be given unto this generation.

Matthew and Luke repeat this statement, but add an exception.

Matthew 12:38-39 Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee. But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas...

(See also Luke 11:29) The 'sign of Jonah', as Jesus went on to explain, was the miracle of his resurrection. Thus, in Mark Jesus stated that there would be no sign given, while Matthew and Luke state that at least one sign would be given. The situation gets even more complicated in John and Acts, both of which claim that Jesus performed many signs.

John 20:30 And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book...
Acts 2:22 Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know...

In each of the above cases, the word translated 'sign' is always the same Greek word ('semeion').

The solution is that the same word "sign" has different connotations

The Mark passage is referring "sign" as the Pharisees would have it, as if Jesus hadn't already demonstrated plenty of signs by his miracles.

Whe can see a clear example of this in John 6:30 where, after Jesus did a miracles by multiplying the loaves, the crowd asks (the rather stupid question): "What miraculous sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do?" As if he didn't just do a miracle.

In the Matthew passage, Jesus changes the meaning of "sign" from what would satisfy the crowd to what would be the ultimate legitmate "sign" of him being the Son of God - his resurrection from the dead.

The John Passage is using "signs and miracles" as connoted so be the apostles, which would include many things that the "crowds" had rejected as signs.

When was Jesus transfigured?

In Matthew's Gospel, Jesus takes his disciples up to a mountain (where he is transfigured) six days after making certain statements.

Matthew 16:28-17:2 Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom. And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, And was transfigured before them...

In Luke's Gospel, Jesus speaks the same words, and takes his disciples to the same mountain, but after a different period of time.

Luke 9:27-29 But I tell you of a truth, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God. And it came to pass about an eight days after these sayings, he took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray. And as he prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistering.

Thus, Matthew has the transfiguration taking place six days after Jesus' discourse, while Luke places it eight days after the event.

Luke says "about eight days". This could include two "extreme days" in which parts of the first and last days were reckoned as full days. This was a common understanding in the culture at the time and also resolved some of the discrepencies concerning what day Jesus was crucified.

When did Jesus cleanse the Temple?

Matthew, Mark and Luke all record that Jesus cleansed the Temple at the end of his ministry, shortly after his triumphant entry into Jerusalem.

Matthew 21:12 And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves...
Mark 11:15 And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves...
Luke 19:45 And he went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold therein, and them that bought...

According to John, however, Jesus cleansed the Temple at the start of his ministry, long before he rode into Jerusalem on the donkey.

John 2:15 And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers' money, and overthrew the tables...

It's likely that John is not in chronological order. The chronological accounts of the synoptic gospels had already been well established and well known when John wrote the gospel of John. And so the chronology of the events wasn't his main concern.

When was the Last Supper?

The three Synoptic Gospels are unanimous in placing the Last Supper on the day of Passover.

Luke 22:7,8,15 Then came the day of unleavened bread, when the passover must be killed. And he sent Peter and John, saying, Go and prepare us the passover, that we may eat...And he said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer...

The Gospel of John, however, records that the Last Supper took place before the Passover.

John 13:1,2 Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father...And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him...
John 18:28 Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgment: and it was early; and they themselves went not into the judgment hall, lest they should be defiled; but that they might eat the passover.

The term "passover" sometimes comprises the whole paschal festival, or the feast of unleavened bread which began with the passover proper. The term "to eat the passover" may mean "to keep the paschal festival" and "preparation of the passover" for the Sabbath, which occurred in that paschal week.

 Did Jesus say he would destroy the Temple?

During Jesus trial, Matthew records that two men brought a false testimony.

Matthew 26:60,61 But found none: yea, though many false witnesses came, yet found they none. At the last came two false witnesses, And said, This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days.

According to John, however, Jesus actually did say these words.

John 2:19 Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.

How could Matthew call these two men 'false witnesses', if they told the truth, according to John?

It says in John 2:21 "But the temple he had spoken of was his body." Whereas the false witnesses were referring to the building. And thus they also modified his exact words, for he didn't say he would "rebuild" the temple. He said he would raise it up, as he did in his resurrection.

Did Jesus teach in secret?

During his trial, Jesus claimed that his teachings were well known.

John 18:20 Jesus answered him, I spake openly to the world; I ever taught in the synagogue, and in the temple, whither the Jews always resort; and in secret have I said nothing.

The other gospels, however, do record several occasions when Jesus taught his disciples secretly. Mark notes that Jesus used parables specifically to prevent his hearers from understanding his words.

Mark 4:10-12 And when he was alone, they that were about him with the twelve asked of him the parable. And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them.

John is referring to "nothing" seditious or criminal, as can be inferred from the context. Or do you suppose that saying "nothing in secret" meant that whenever he was not in public he would not say anything at all?

How many times did the cock crow?

According to Matthew, Luke and John, the cock crowed atfer Peter had denied Jesus three times.

Matthew 26:74 Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew.
Luke 22:60 And Peter said, Man, I know not what thou sayest. And immediately, while he yet spake, the cock crew.
John 18:27 Peter then denied again: and immediately the cock crew.

This accords with Jesus' prediction, as recorded in each of the Gospels.

Matthew 26:34 Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.
Luke 22:34 And he said, I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, before that thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me.
John 13:38 Jesus answered him, Wilt thou lay down thy life for my sake? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, The cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied me thrice.

Mark, on the other hand, states that the cock crowed twice, the first time after Peter's first denial, and the second time after his third denial.

Mark 14:68 But he denied, saying, I know not, neither understand I what thou sayest. And he went out into the porch; and the cock crew.
Mark 14:71,72 But he began to curse and to swear, saying, I know not this man of whom ye speak.
And the second time the cock crew...

In Mark's Gospel, Jesus makes a slightly different prophecy of Peter's denials.

Mark 14:30 And Jesus saith unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this day, even in this night, before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice.

This means that Jesus' prophecy in Matthew, Luke and John was wrong - according to Mark, the cock did crow once before Peter had denied three times.

The first crowing could have simply not have been recorded in the other gospels, being recorded only in Mark. Furthermore, it seems probable that no one of the evangelists had mentioned all the denials by Peter during that night, as he may have repeated many times the same thing.

What was written on Jesus' Cross?

All four gospels record slightly different readings for the sign that Pilate placed on the Cross:

Matthew 27:37 And set up over his head his accusation written, This Is Jesus The King Of The Jews.

Mark 15:26 And the superscription of his accusation was written over, The King Of The Jews.

Luke 23:38 And a superscription also was written over him in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew, This Is The King Of The Jews.

John 19:19 And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross. And the writing was Jesus Of Nazareth The King Of The Jews.

It is generally supposed by Bible commentators that no one writer records the full text, which should read 'This is Jesus of Nazareth, the king of the Jews'. While this is certainly possible, it cannot be sustained from the text. None of the gospel authors indicate that they were only quoting a portion of the inscription.

They are merely recording parts and not the whole. This form of speech is known as an ellipsis and was quite commonly used in the gospels. They don't need to indicate that they are only making partial quotes here, for they are simply making use of a figure of speech commonly used in the society.

What were Jesus' final words?

According to Luke, the last words that Jesus spoke were 'Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit'.

Luke 23:46 And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.

According to John, Jesus' final saying was 'It is finished'.

John 19:30 When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.

The sense is that these were among the last things he said. The skeptic simply misunderstands this form of speech.

Who saw Jesus after his Resurrection?

Matthew records that Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were the first to see Jesus after his resurrection.

Matthew 28:1 In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.
Matthew 28:9 And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him.

Mark, however, appears to say that Jesus appeared only to Mary Magdalene.

Mark 16:9 Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.

Luke only complicates the issue. In Luke 24, we read that the two Marys and Joanna (who was not mentioned in Matthew or Mark) went to the Sepulchre and saw the angel, but did not see Jesus. The first recorded appearance of Jesus in Luke is to the two men on the road to Emmaus However, Luke then goes on to state that Jesus had already appeared to Peter before this point.

Luke 24:33-34: And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them, Saying, The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon.

John follows Mark in claiming that Jesus appeared first to Mary Magdalene, who was alone at the time. John seems to contradict Mark, however, in recording that Mary went to the sepulchre alone.

John 20:1 The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre.
John 20:14 And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus.

Note also that John says that it was still dark, while Matthew records that it was dawn. (But "dark" is rather a relative term)

Each author selected those particular events which seemed to him most important, passing by intermediate incidents. Furthermore The most reliable early manuscripts and other ancient witnesses do not have Mark 16:9-20, which is the one the says the Mary Magdalene was the first to see Jesus. The following summary is given by Robinson (Gospel History, pp. 447, 448):

"At early dawn on the first day of the week, the women who had attended on Jesus, viz. Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, Joanna, Salome, and others went out with spices to the sepulchre, in order further to embalm the Lord's body. They inquired among themselves who should remove the stone. On their arrival they find the stone already taken away; for there had been an earthquake, and an angel had descended and rolled away the stone, and sat upon it, so that the keepers became as dead men for terror. The Lord had risen. The women knowing nothing of all this, are amazed; they enter the tomb, and find not the body of the Lord, and are greatly perplexed. At this time, Mary Magdalene impressed with the idea that the body had been stolen away, leaves the sepulchre and the other women, and runs to the city to tell Peter and John. (Peter and John appear to have lodged that night in a place separate from the other apostles - the apostles having "scattered" as the prophecy in Isaiah had foretold). The rest of the women remain in the tomb, and immediately two angels appear, who announce unto them that Jesus was risen from the dead, and give them a charge in his name for the apostles. They go out quickly from the sepulchre, and proceed in haste to the city to make this known to the disciples. On the way, Jesus meets them, permits them to embrace his feet, and renews the same charge to the disciples; but their words seem to them as idle tales; and they believe them not. Meanwhile, Peter and John had run to the sepulchre; and entering in had found it empty; but the orderly arrangement of the grave-clothes and of the napkin convinced john that the body had not been removed by violence or by friends; and the germ of a belief arises in his mind that the Lord had risen. The two returned to the city. Mary Magdalene, who had again followed them to the sepulchre, remained standing and weeping before it; sees Jesus, who gives to her also a solemn charge for his disciples."

The earliest post-resurrection account is found in I Corinthians 15, and further perpetuates the confusion. Paul states that Jesus first appeared to Peter (corroborating Luke), but never mentions the women at all.

I Corinthians 15:5-7 And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.

These verses are true. They're simply not a complete account of everyone who saw Jesus, nor do they claim to be.

How did Judas die?

According to Matthew, Judas committed suicide by hanging himself.

Matthew 27:5 And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.

The Book of Acts, however, records that Judas fell in his field and burst open.

Acts 1:18 Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out.

Some apologists have suggested that these events can be reconciled by assuming that Judas hung himself in his field, and after several days slipped off the rope and fell to the ground. While this is certainly possible, it cannot be supported by either text, and is little more than a speculative theory.

Why can't both of these accounts be true? If we assume they are both true, then what can we infer happened? For example, he could have hanged himself over a cliff and later the rope broke and his "bowels gushed out" from the fall. Or some such scenario.

Note that these two passages also seem to contradict each other in the matter of the owner of the Potter's field. Matthew records that the field was purchased by the Pharisees.

Matthew 27:6,7 And the chief priests took the silver pieces, and said, It is not lawful for to put them into the treasury, because it is the price of blood. And they took counsel, and bought with them the potter's field, to bury strangers in.

The Book of Acts, on the other hand, explicitly states that Judas purchased the field.

Acts 1:18 Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity...

He simply caused it to be purchased. (See E.W. Bullinger "Figures of Speech in the Bible" pg 562) A similar form of speech can be seen in 1Kings 14:16 - Jeroboam "made Israel to sin": i.e., was the cause of Israel's sin by setting up the two calves in Bethel and Dan.

Another discrepancy between the stories points to the fact that we are dealing with two separate traditions concerning Judas' demise. This discrepancy deals with the name of the field. Both stories record that it was called 'the field of blood', but differ as to why. Matthew says that it was so called because it was purchased with blood money (Matthew 27:8), while the book of Acts claims that it was due to the fact that Judas burst open therein (Acts 1:19).

But Acts 1:19 doesn't say specifically why they called it the "field of blood" and thus it could have been the same reason Matthew gives.

Was Abraham justified by faith or works?

In the book of James, we read that Abraham was justified by his (attempted) sacrifice of Isaac.

James 2:21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?

Paul, however, specifically states that Abraham was not justified by works.

Romans 4:2,3,6 For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness...Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works...

Paul is referring to Genesis 15:6 in which Abraham was declared righteous, which occurred long before the incident with Isaac to which James was referring. Paul is referring to being justified in the sight of God, but James is talking about being revealed as being a justified person. Or to put it simply, obtaining righteousness is a matter of faith alone, but revealing that we have obtained righteousness is a matter of performance. A Christian doesn't put faith in his works to save him, but reveals his faith by his works.

Matthew incorrectly attributes a prophecy by Zechariah to Jeremiah

Matthew 27:9 Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was valued, whom they of the children of Israel did value...

Actually, this prophecy is found in Zechariah.

Zechariah 11:12-13 And I said unto them, If ye think good, give me my price; and if not, forbear. So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver. And the Lord said unto me, Cast it unto the potter: a goodly price that I was prised at of them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the Lord.

However according to Jewish writers, Jeremiah was reckoned the first of the prophets, adn was placed first in the book of the prophets (which included Zechariah) and thus by saying "Jeremiah", he was referring to the book of the prophets, which indeed has that quote.

The other possibility is an abridgment of names. In the Greek, Jeremiah, instead of being written in full, might stand thus, "Iriou"; Zechariah thus, "Zriou." By the mere change of Z into I, the mistake could have been made.

Matthew confused two Old Testament characters

Matthew 23:35 That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.

The incident that Jesus is alluding to is recorded in II Chronicles.

II Chronicles 24:20-21 And the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest, which stood above the people, and said unto them, Thus saith God, Why transgress ye the commandments of the Lord, that ye cannot prosper? because ye have forsaken the Lord, he hath also forsaken you. And they conspired against him, and stoned him with stones at the commandment of the king in the court of the house of the Lord.

However, the Old Testament records that this Zechariah was the son of Jehoidah, not Berechiah. Berechiah was actually the father of the prophet Zechariah, who lived several decades after the death of his namesake.

Zechariah 1:1 In the eighth month, in the second year of Darius, came the word of the Lord unto Zechariah, the son of Berechiah...

When Luke quotes this event, Jesus does not give the name of the father of Zechariah.

Luke 11:51 From the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias which perished between the altar and the temple: verily I say unto you, It shall be required of this generation.

Jesus is not referring to 2Chron 24:20-21. He's not referring to Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada. It seems rather he is bracketing a time frame for which they will be held responsible having killed righteous people from Abel to Zechariah. But the son of Jehoiada lived almost 870 years before Jesus spoke. More like Jesus is referring to a more recent, or even future event. It is interesting to note that there was a Zechariah, the son of Baruch, who was martyred some 36 years afterward (A.D. 69), immediately before the destruction of Jerusalem, as recorded by Josephus (Wars, iv. 5,4).

Matthew refers to an unknown prophecy

Matthew 2:23 And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.

This prophecy is not recorded anywhere in the Old Testament.

Not all prophecies were written. Some were simply spoken, as in this case. (Notice he says "spoken by the prophets") So this is not necessarily referring to any Old Testament verse.

Matthew misunderstood an Old Testament prophecy

In Matthew 21, Jesus tells his disciples to fetch an ass and a colt, to fulfill and Old Testament prophecy.

Matthew 21:2,4,5,7 Saying unto them, Go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them unto me. All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass. And brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set him thereon.

In actual fact, the prophecy that Matthew quoted only refers to one animal.

As also does Matthew, for in the phrase "upon an ass, and a colt", the greek word for "and" is "kai" which can mean "even". Thus "upon an ass, even a colt" referring to the same animal, just as in Zechariah 9:9.

Matthew misapplies an Old Testament passage

Matthew 1:23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.

Firstly, the Old Testament passage that Matthew referred to (Isaiah 7:14) does not contain the word 'virgin' in Hebrew. It uses the Hebrew word almah, which simply denotes a young female, and does not necessarily connote sexual purity. The Hebrew word for 'virgin' was bethulah, which is used by Isaiah in 62:5. Matthew followed the lead of the Greek Septuagint in mistranslating almah.

It is true that the word "almah" is a general term for "young female". "Virgins" would be consider a subset of these. Therefore "almah" can refer to a young virgin girl. Should we infer such a meaning from the prophecy. Here is the prophecy:

"Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel." Isaiah 7:14

Would it be a miraculous sign if a young woman who is not a virgin had a child? Obviously (to those who have ears) he is indeed referring to a the subset of "almah" who were virgins. And thus Matthew was accurately translating the meaning.

The second point about this alleged prophecy is that it has immediate application in its own context. Isaiah used the sign of a young, pregnant woman, whom both he and King Ahaz knew. He prophesied that before the child reached the age of accountability (7:16) both Syria and Israel would be conquered. Isaiah thus limited the time span of his prophecy to no more than eight years. There is no indication in the text that this prophecy would have a future fulfillment.

As with many prophecies, there was a double meaning and a double fulfillment. For many of the events of the Old Testament were really shadows of New Testament events as the book of Hebrews mentions. There was a partial fulfillment in Isaiah's time - but such was not miraculous but only a forerunner of what was to come. Kind of like Elijah being the forerunner of John the Baptist.

Finally, Jesus was never called 'Emmanuel' by his parents, nor anyone else.

But is it referring to his literal name, which is merely a shadow of the person, or to the substantive meaning "God with us", which he actually represented.

When did Terah die?

In Acts 7, Stephen claimed that Abraham left Haran after his father, Terah, died.

Acts 7:4 (NIV) So he left the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran. After the death of his father, God sent him to this land where you are now living.

According to Genesis, Terah was about seventy years old by the time he had Abraham.

Genesis 11:26 And Terah lived seventy years, and begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran.

Abraham was seventy-five when he left Terah, at God's command.

Genesis 12:4 So Abram departed, as the Lord had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran.

This means that Terah was, at most, 145 years old when Abraham left Haran. However, Genesis states that Terah lived much longer than that.

Genesis 11:32 And the days of Terah were two hundred and five years: and Terah died in Haran.

Thus, according to Genesis, Terah lived at least sixty years after Abraham left Haran. Stephen (or the author of Acts) may have been misled by the fact that Genesis records the death of Terah before the story of Abraham's departure, and simply assumed that Terah was dead by this time, without stopping to check the math.

In Genesis 11:26, Abraham may be mentioned first, simply on account of his theocratic importance; as Moses is usually named before Aaron, who was the elder. So that Abraham may have been the youngest son, born when Terah was 130 years old. It would then follow that Abraham left Haran at the age of 75, his father having previously died, at the age of 205 years.

Some Jewish interpreters, however, think that Abraham actually left Haran sixty years before his father's death. On this theory, Stephen, in asserting that Abraham left after his father's death, simply followed the then commonly received though inaccurate chronology.

Where was Jacob buried?

According to a sermon given by Stephen in the book of Acts, Jacob and Joseph were buried in Shechem.

Acts 7:15,16 (NIV) Then Jacob went down to Egypt, where he and our fathers died. Their bodies were brought back to Shechem and placed in the tomb that Abraham had bought from the sons of Hamor at Shechem for a certain sum of money.

However, it was in fact only Joseph and his sons who were buried in Shechem. Jacob was buried in Machpelah, near Mamre, with his fathers.

Genesis 50:13 For his sons carried him into the land of Canaan, and buried him in the cave of the field of Machpelah, which Abraham bought with the field for a possession of a buryingplace of Ephron the Hittite, before Mamre.

Whose to say these were not the same place, but simply called different names.

Furthermore, it was Jacob who bought the field from the sons of Hamor, not Abraham.

Joshua 24:32 And the bones of Joseph, which the children of Israel brought up out of Egypt, buried they in Shechem, in a parcel of ground which Jacob bought of the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for an hundred pieces of silver: and it became the inheritance of the children of Joseph.

It appears that Stephen (or, more likely, the author of Acts) has confused these two incidents, and has Abraham buying the wrong field. The transaction wherein Jacob bought the field of Shechem is recorded in Genesis 33:19.

Genesis 33:19 And he bought a parcel of a field, where he had spread his tent, at the hand of the children of Hamor, Shechem's father, for an hundred pieces of money.

Abraham was already dead by this time (Genesis 25:8), and thus could not possibly have purchased the field, as Stephen claimed.

 Does God cause confusion?

Writing to the Corinthians, Paul claimed that God does not cause confusion.

.I Corinthians 14:33 For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace..

This quote takes place in the context of speaking in tongues, i.e. speaking in a foreign, or unknown language. However, the Old Testament, while relating the myth of the Tower of Babel, states that God did indeed cause confusion.

Genesis 11:9 (NIV) That is why it was called Babel --because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world...

This passage contains a play on words. 'Babel' in the ancient Babylonian language means 'the gate of God', while in Semitic it means 'confusion'.

The point of 1Cor 14:33 is that God is not the ultimate source of such confusion, rather sin is, which is the point of Genesis 11:9. God caused people to speak different languages, but was that the source of the confusion? No, it was their sin. So, though God causes bad things to happen, He is not the author of evil.

Can God be seen?

John 1:18 is quite emphatic that God has never been seen.

John 1:18 No man hath seen God at any time...

Later in John's Gospel, Jesus is even more explicit.

John 5:37 And the Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape.

The Old Testament prescribed dire consequences for anyone who saw God's face.

Exodus 33:20 And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.

However, earlier in the same chapter, Exodus contradicts itself (and John) by claiming that Moses did indeed see God's face.

Exodus 33:11 And the Lord spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend.

This is simply an expression, not meant to be taken literally. It simply means that God spoke to Moses directly and Moses could carry on a conversation with God, as one would a friend.

It seems that Moses was not the only person to be granted this privelege.

Isaiah 6:1 In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne...
Job 42:5 I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee.

In the case of Job, once again the term "mine eye seeth thee" is simply a figure of speech. Do you see? The word "see" is often used to mean "perceive" and not necessarily physically see. Jesus often used such a play on words.

The case of Isaiah is a vision, once again not physically seeing.

How many sons did Abraham have?

According to the Old Testament, Abraham already had one son, Ishmael, when he had Isaac.

Genesis 16:15 And Hagar bare Abram a son: and Abram called his son's name, which Hagar bare, Ishmael.
Genesis 21:3 And Abraham called the name of his son that was born unto him, whom Sarah bare to him, Isaac.

However, the book of Hebrews refers to Isaac as Abraham's 'only-begotten' son.

Hebrews 11:17 By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son...

The Greek word here translated 'only-begotten' (monogene) is the same word that John used of Christ (John 1:18, John 3:16). Therefore, any re-interpretation of the word to allow for more than one son in Hebrews 11:17 can also be applied to Christ.

A term such as "only-begotten" had been commonly used at the time, not only in Israel, but all the way back to the Hamurabi code of ancient Babylon to refer to the son who has a special status. It was well understood that it didn't mean that the person had only one son, but that this son had a special superior status.

God does have many sons, but only one "only-begotten" Son.
So essential "Christians" are brothers of Christ:
Though only adopted and not of the same nature as Christ

Was Jesus the first to ascend into Heaven?

Speaking to Nicodemus in John 3, Jesus claimed that no man had ascended into Heaven before him.

John 3:13 And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.

However, the Old Testament records that Elijah was taken to Heaven in a fiery chariot.

II Kings 2:11 And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.

The Old Testament (and the New) also seem to imply that Enoch was taken directly to Heaven although this is not explicitly stated. (Genesis 5:24, Hebrews 11:5)

In the first text Jesus, setting forth his own superior authority, says, substantially, "No human being can speak from personal knowledge, as I do, who came down from heaven." "No man hath ascended up to heaven to bring back tidings." So we, speaking of the secrets of the future world, should very naturally say: "No man has been there to tell us about them." In saying this, we do not deny that any one has actually entered into the eternal world, but merely that any one has gone thither, and returned to unfold its mysteries.

Was Jesus the first to rise from the dead?

During a sermon delivered before king Agrippa, Paul claimed that Jesus was the first to rise from the dead.

Acts 26:23 That Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead...

In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul repeated this claim.

I Corinthians 15:20 But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.

It appears, however, that Paul was not very well versed in his Old Testament history at this point. The Old Testament records several incidents of people being raised from the dead.

In I Kings 17, the prophet Elijah restored a dead boy to life in Zarephath.

I Kings 17:20-22 ...hast thou also brought evil upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by slaying her son? And he stretched himself upon the child three times, and cried unto the Lord, and said, O Lord my God, I pray thee, let this child's soul come into him again. And the Lord heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived.

The second book of Kings records an incident of an unintentional resurrection.

II Kings 13:21 And it came to pass, as they were burying a man, that, behold, they spied a band of men; and they cast the man into the sepulchre of Elisha: and when the man was let down, and touched the bones of Elisha, he revived, and stood up on his feet.

The New Testament, too, records a number of resurrections that preceded that of Jesus. Mark 5, for example, records that Jesus himself raised to life a young girl. And, of course, John writes that Jesus restored Lazarus to life after he had been dead for four days.

John 11:43,44 And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth...

It is true he was not the first to rise from the dead historically. He was the first to rise from the dead after the justification of sins and the reconcilation with God had been accomplished. Or you could say the first to rise from the dead in the Church age, which was initiated by his resurrection.

He was furthermore the first to be raise who would die no more. All those others who had been raised, died again later on.

Hebrews incorrectly quotes the Psalms

In Hebrews 10, the author appeals to one of the Psalms while arguing that Jesus was sacrificed for the sins of mankind.

Hebrews 10:5-7 Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God.

The problem is that the verse does not appear in the Psalms as quoted.

Psalms 40:6 Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire; mine ears hast thou opened: burnt offering and sin offering hast thou not required. Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God...

Note that the crucial phrase '...a body hast thou prepared me...' does not appear in the Hebrew version of Pslam 40:6. The author of Hebrews depended on this phrase for his argument.

Hebrews 10:10 By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

The phrase quoted in Hebrews 10:5 actually comes from the Septuagint, the Greek version of the Old Testament. This raises the troubling question of textual reliability. We now have no idea which text (Hebrew or Greek) is supposed to be reliable. If the Hebrew reading is correct, then the argument produced here in Hebrews 10 is invalidated; if the Septuagint version is correct, it casts a shadow on the reliability of the entire Hebrew Old Testament.

He's quoting from the Septuagint, which was the Greek translation of the Old Testament accepted by even unbelieving Jew at the time.  But the same idea is in the Hebrew version. It is Obedience and not Sacrifice that is emphasized. And so also with respect to Christ, it was his obedience to death that was the acceptable sacrifice and not mere ritual which justifies. This is a major theme in Hebrews where the Jewish sacrificial system was merely a shadow of what was to come and ineffective in justifying a person.

Mark incorrectly attributed a prophecy

Early in Mark's gospel, he quotes an Old Testament verse when introducing John the Baptist:

Mark 1:2 (NIV) It is written in Isaiah the prophet: "I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way"...

Actually, the phrase comes from Malachi, not Isaiah.

Malachi 3:1 Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me...

It seems that the ancient scribes who copied the New Testament manuscripts were aware of this problem, because a number of later Greek manuscripts remove the reference to Isaiah, and simply substitute "the prophets" (as in the KJV).

Merely a textual variation which some manuscripts have and some don't. Some merely say "prophets" making no reference to which prophet.

Abiathar and Ahimelech

While responding to a charge of profaning the Sabbath, Jesus referred to an incident from David's life, recorded in the Old Testament:

Mark 2:25-26 And he said unto them, Have ye never read what David did, when he had need, and was an hungred, he, and they that were with him? How he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and did eat the shewbread, which is not lawful to eat but for the priests, and gave also to them which were with him?

This incident is recorded in I Samuel 21. However, the story indicates that Ahimelech was the high priest, not Abiathar.

I Samuel 21:1,6 Then came David to Nob to Ahimelech the priest...So the priest gave him hallowed bread: for there was no bread there but the shewbread, that was taken from before the Lord, to put hot bread in the day when it was taken away.

Abiathar was in fact Ahimelech's son, who is referred to as a priest some time after this event.

I Samuel 22:20 And one of the sons of Ahimelech the son of Ahitub, named Abiathar, escaped, and fled after David.

The expression "in the days of Abiathar the priest," may denote merely that Abiathar was acting as his father's sagan or substitute. Or, since Abiathar was, from his long association with king David, much more famous than his father, his name, although he was not a yet high-priest, may be used here by a kind of historical anticipation.

There is no external support for Herod's murder of the children

In Matthew 2:16, Matthew records that Herod ordered the execution of all children under two years of age in Bethlehem. This event is not recorded in secular history. The Jewish historian Josephus, in his book Antiquities of the Jews, has a long history of Herod and his crimes. The massacre at Bethlehem is not among them.

Yes and there were many things that Jesus did that John recorded that hadn't been recorded by Matthew, Mark, or Luke. Most historians do not provide a complete and comprehensive record of history are incomplete.

When was Jesus born?

Matthew places Jesus' birth in Bethlehem, when Herod was still king.

Matthew 2:1 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king...

Matthew goes on to record how Joseph fled with Mary and Jesus to Egypt, where they remained until the death of Herod. He also states that Archelaus, Herod's son, was the ruler of Judaea when they returned from Egypt.

Matthew 2:19 But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt...
Matthew 2:22 But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judaea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee...

By comparing this narrative with the history of Judaea, as recorded by Josephus, it is possible to come up with an estimate for the year of Jesus birth. Josephus records that Herod died a short while after an eclipse, which can be dated to about 4 BC (Antiquities, Book 17, Chapter 6:4). Thus, according to Matthew, Jesus was born sometime around the year 3 or 4 BC, when Herod died and Archelaus became ruler of Judaea in his place.

Antiquities 17 8:1. And now Herod altered his testament upon the alteration of his mind; for he appointed Antipas, to whom he had before left the kingdom, to be tetrarch of Galilee and Perea, and granted the kingdom to Archelaus...When he had done those things, he died...

Luke, however, places Jesus' birth in a different time period. According to Luke 2, Jesus was born during the first census under Cyrenius, governor of Syria.

Luke 2:1,2 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

This census was also recorded by Josephus, but it took place quite some time after Herod's death. Josephus records that Archelaus reigned ten years before being banished to Vienna. Cyrenius was appointed governor of Syria at this time, to wrap up the affairs of Archelaus.

Antiquities 17 13:2. But in the tenth year of Archelaus's government, both his brethren, and the principal men of Judaea and Samaria, not being able to bear his barbarous and tyrannical usage of them, accused him before Caesar...Whereupon Caesar, when he heard it, was very angry, and...both banished him, and appointed Vienna, a city of Gaul, to be the place of his habitation, and took his money away from him.
Antiquities 17 13:5 ...So Archelaus's country was laid to the province of Syria; and Cyrenius, one that had been consul, was sent by Caesar to take account of people's effects in Syria, and to sell the house of Archelaus.

Josephus goes on to record that Cyrenius took a census of Judaea at this time.

Antiquities 18 1:1. Now Cyrenius, a Roman senator...came at this time into Syria, with a few others, being sent by Caesar to...take an account of their substance...Cyrenius came himself into Judaea, which was now added to the province of Syria, to take an account of their substance, and to dispose of Archelaus's money; but the Jews, although at the beginning they took the report of a taxation heinously, yet did they leave off any further opposition to it...

Since Archelaus reigned for ten years after the death of Herod, this would put the time of the census at about 6 or 7 AD. Matthew, then, states that Jesus was born when Herod was still alive, no later than 3 or 4 BC. Luke states that Jesus was born when Cyrenius was governor of Syria, which did not take place until at least ten years after Herod's death.

It has been proposed that Luke was referring to an earlier census, and the Luke 2:2 should be translated '...this taxing was first made before Cyrenius became governor of Syria...'. There are several problems with this approach. Firstly, it stretches the plain meaning of Luke 2:2 a little. Secondly, as it stands, Luke 2:2 is in harmony with Josephus, who records no census before this point, and seems to imply that this was, in fact, the first taxation of Judaea by the Romans.

But then again, do these so called "problems" disqualify such an interpretation?

Finally, Matthew mentions no census in his birth narrative. Instead, he begins his story in Bethlehem, where Jesus was already born.

Yes, and the gospel of John starts with Jesus ministry. Does that mean that John doesn't think that Jesus was born at all, since he didn't record his birth?

In fact, the census conducted by the Roman, Cyrenius, would necessarily have had to be the first. Up to this point, Syria was under the jurisdiction of Herod and his family. It was only after the banishment of Archelaus that Syria became a Roman province. The Roman historian Dio, who wrote about AD 200, independently confirms 6 AD as the year of Archelaus' exile, and the year in which Syria came under direct Roman rule.

You may be referring to the wrong Census. There could have been another census

Did Jesus return in the first century?

A number of New Testament passages indicate that Christ was supposed to return before his generation had died. This would have been sometime in the first century AD.

First, there is the testimony of Jesus himself, who explicitly stated that some of his disciples would not die until Jesus instituted the Kingdom, and that his generation would not pass away until all his prophecies of the end of the world had been fulfilled.

"I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away." Luke 21:32,33

However, within the same context, Jesus had promised, "For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict." Luke 21:15

What I think he was saying was that the words, spirit and influence of that generation of first Century Christians would not pass away until he returns. For their words will be the words Christ speaks through them, which become the New Testament.

And so it has been, the entire history of western civilization from the time of Christ to the present has been strongly influenced by the writings of the apostles. That generation has still not yet passed away. Each generation of Christians has made some attempt to model itself after that first generation.

Matthew 16:28 Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.

He was referring to the Transfiguration, which follows that verse. Peter also refers to this in:

2Peter 1:16-18 For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount.

There are different senses in which the kingdom of God comes. Pentecost, where the Christian church was formed and the Holy Spirit given. Or, here's another sense in which the kingdom of God comes:

Mt 12:28 "But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you."

It is important to note that Jesus' long discourse on the end of the world, recorded in Matthew 24 and 25, was spoken in private to his own disciples.

Matthew 24:3 And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?

In this discourse, Jesus makes a number of assertions about the fate of his disciples. One of the signs of the end would be the persecution of his disciples.

Matthew 24:9 Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake.

While tradition records that the disciples were persecuted and martyred, this was not followed by the return of Christ, as he promised.

The Apostle Paul, too, seemed to think that Christ would return for his generation.

I Thessalonians 4:15-17 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

Note that Paul twice uses the phrase '...we which are alive and remain...'. This seems to preclude the theory that Paul was speaking of some far future generation. Paul made a similar assertion in First Corinthians.

I Corinthians 15:51,52 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

Note that Paul said that '...we shall not all sleep...'. In other words, he expected that at least some of his generation would not see death. Again, there is nothing in the text to indicate the Paul was speaking about some far future generation.

Paul reiterated his belief in a soon return of Christ in the Book of Romans.

Romans 13:11-12 And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.

The other New Testament writers had similar thoughts about the iminence of Christ's return.

James 5:8 Be ye also patient; establish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.

I John 2:18 Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.

I Peter 4:7 But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.

The Apocalyptic Book of Revelations repeatedly has Christ saying that he would return soon.

Revelation 22:20 He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly....

By no stretch of the imagination can 2,000 years be considered 'quickly'.

2Pe 3:8 "But do not forget this one thing, dear friends:
With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day."

So he's been gone a couple of days!

While it is true that the apostles expected Christ's return in their lifetime, they did not consider that possibility as being absolute. For even at the time Christ Himself didn't know the day nor the hour of His return, much less the apostles.

Mt 24:36 "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father."


The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources


Edition: Feb 10,2009