Contradictions within the miracles of Jesus

The Bible records thirty-seven miracles performed by Jesus. Recorded by the four Gospel writers, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, these miracles show us the divine power of Jesus. Critics point to possible contradictions within these miracles, and even in which miracles were recorded. Do these claims of contradiction hold any merit? 

Some people see the different miracles recorded in the Gospels as a possible contradiction. Why would the writers not record the same miracles in each of the Gospels? This is not a contradiction at all and in fact the differences should be expected. Each Gospel writer had a wide variety of miracles to choose from for inclusion in their writings. This could be compared to a person who compiles a sports highlight film. If they are to select the greatest plays from a weekend of professional football, there would be more than a dozen games with perhaps thousands of plays to consider. Some of the truly remarkable plays may be included in all of the different highlight reels. Others will depend on the personal taste and opinion of the person compiling the highlights. With so many plays, miracles, to choose from, we should not expect the same highlights in each of the Gospels.

Original audience for each of the Gospels

Matthew - Was written for a primarily Jewish audience to show Jesus was indeed the Messiah.

Mark wrote his Gospel for a Roman audience. By the middle to late first century Christianity had spread to Rome and many believers wanted more information.

Luke was written from a Historian's viewpoint.

John was written to a very broad audience to show everyone could have a life in Christ if they put their faith in Him.

We must remember the gospel writers did not include all of the miracles Jesus preformed. In the gospel of Matthew (9:35-36) he tells us Jesus went through all the towns and villages teaching and healing every disease and sickness. Saint John also tells us he left out a great deal of what Jesus did during His brief time on Earth.

“Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.”  John 21:25 

Enough of His miracles were recorded to show us His power and authority here on earth. Of the thirty-seven miracles, nineteen of them are recorded in only one of the Gospel accounts. Seven are recorded by two of the Gospels writers while ten are recorded by three of the four Gospels. Only a single miracle, The Feeding of the Five Thousand, is recorded in all four Gospel accounts.

The first of two miracles in which critics point out contradictions is when Jesus raised Jairus's daughter from the dead. This miracle took place in Capernaum in Galilee. It was just one of several miracles Jesus performed on this day. He also restored sight to the two blind men, healed the woman with the bleeding problem and possibly healed a mute man on this day as well. The contradiction revolves around the question of was Jairus's daughter dead, or just very ill. At first reading it is easy to see how the critics can be confused.

In the Gospel of Matthew Jesus is told “My daughter has just died” while in Mark Jesus is told “My little daughter is at the point of death.” Obviously, both of these cannot be accurate, so critics insist it is a clear contradiction and is evidence the Bible cannot be trusted. As with most supposed contradictions, a closer examination of the scripture reveals the truth.

The major problem here is that Matthew devotes only 9 versus to the story while Matthew writes 22 verses. Matthew’s version is much shorter, and some details are left out. The major difference is that Matthew does not include the information that while Jesus and Jarius were on their way to the house someone comes to them and tells them the girl has just died.

“While he was still speaking, people came from the synagogue ruler’s house saying. “Your daughter is dead. Why bother the Teacher anymore?” – Mark 5:35

The facts of the story are the same, just one author leaves out a few details. The ruler approached Jesus to help his daughter. When the ruler first approached Jesus, she was still alive, but she passed before Jesus could reach her. There is no contradiction, just a difference in the author’s point of view and how they reported the events.

The second contradiction is said to occur when Jesus restores the eyesight of Bartimaeus. The miracle takes place in Jericho and happened very near the end of Jesus' earthly ministry. In the gospel of Mark, we are told of how Jesus cured Bartimaeus of his blindness. It is interesting that in a parallel version of this miracle, Matthew tells us there were two blind men begging by the side of the road. Were there two men, or just the one?

"And as they went out of Jerichoa great crowd followed him. And behold there were two blind men sitting by the roadside." Matthew 20:29-30

It seems evident Mark decided to focus on just one of the men. It is considered highly probably that Bartimaeus was better known to the local people. For this reason, Mark focused on the man who the people knew and would relate too best. Again, this should not be seen at a contradiction, just a different telling of the same story. Mark focused on just Bartimaeus, but that does not mean there was not a second man who went unmentioned.

Once the writings are looked at more closely and kept in the proper context, it is obvious there are no contradictions in the text. The differences we do see rather than taking away from the biblical texts can actually strengthen our confidence in the Bible. With four people writing separately we should expect slight variations in how they viewed the same events and how they recorded these events. These slight variations in how they recorded the individual events show us the writers worked independently and while they did occasionally see things differently, the core elements of the story remain accurate and consistent. 

Proof of Jesus from outside the Bible

People of faith accept the teachings of Jesus as told in the Bible as fact. It may come as a surprise to some that critics of the Bible and Christianity dispute the fact Jesus was even a real person. These critics will tell you Jesus is not mentioned by any early historians. Because of this, they claim Jesus was not a real person and was created centuries later, nothing more than a fictional character to support a fictional belief system. These critics dismiss the Bible authors as unreliable and argue it is circular reasoning to use the Bible to prove the Bible. Are these critics correct? Did early historians ignore Jesus because He never lived? Is it right to dismiss the Bible as an historical document? The facts are, these critics ignore a great many facts, and outright deceive people by saying there are no historical records of Jesus outside of the Bible. There are in fact, many.
While we have several external mentions of Jesus, let us begin with the Bible. The word 'Bible' comes from the Latin word biblia, which means little books. The modern Bible is seen as a single book which is why critics cry foul when one section of the Bible is used to support another. The Bible is in fact a collection of smaller books that have been brought into a single collection. The original books of the New Testament were written by eight individual authors over a period of several decades. If these had not been brought together as a collection, it is possible they would be viewed differently by critics. Given how these critics ignore other historical evidence, this is doubtful.
If you believe the critics, there are no historical documents outside of the Bible that mention Jesus. This is completely untrue. 

We will look at several of these from a number of different sources. The first is perhaps the most impressive. Tacitus was a first century Roman historian. Most scholars consider Tacticus as one of the greatest and most important of the Roman historians. While Tacticus was certainly not a Christian and had no interest in confirming Jesus was an actual person, his writings do just that. In recording events concerning Nero, Tacticus mentions Jesus and Christianity when telling the back story for what he is reporting.

Nero fastened the guilt...on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of...Pontius Pilate, and a most mischievous superstition, this checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome...  (Tacticus)

Tacticus gives us confirmation of Jesus (Christus), the method of His execution, and even who ordered the execution. Tacticus was obviously no fan of Jesus or His followers, but he did not deny they existed. In fact, he helps to confirm historical details from the Bible. Tacticus lived from 56 A.D. to 120 A.D. so the events he was recording were well known to many of his time.

The second example we will examine is from Pliny the Younger who was a lawyer, author and Magistrate. He also lived in the first century which eliminates the possibility that Jesus was a legend created in either the third or fourth century. As with several of the non-biblical sources, Pliny the Younger was no fan of Jesus or His followers. In this letter he is writing to a friend asking for advice and legal guidance concerning the Christians. To explain his situation, Pliny the Younger gives a number of details about the group causing him difficulty.

They were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ, as to a god, and bound themselves by a solemn oath, not to any wicked deeds, but never to commit any fraud, theft or adultery, never to falsify their word, nor deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up; after which is was their custom to separate, and then reassemble to partake of food - but food of an ordinary and innocent kind. (Pliny the Younger)

Next we will see the words of Josephus who was a first century Jewish historian. Josephus was a Roman sympathizer and betrayed his fellow Jews during the siege of Jerusalem. There is some debate over the possibility Josephus' works were edited by later Christians. While some edited is possible, most scholars agree to the following elements as having been written by Josephus, who was certainly no Christian.

About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he...wrought surprising feats...He was the Christ. When Pilate...condemned him to be crucified, those who had... come to love him did not give up their affection for him. On the third day he appeared...restored to life...and the tribe of Christians... has...not disappeared. (Josephus)

The Jewish leaders had Jesus put to death, so any mention of Jesus by these leaders must be given some merit. In the Babylonian Talmud, which is the central text of Rabbinic Judaism, it mentions Yeshu, which traditionally is assumed to be a reference to Jesus.

On the eve of the Passover Yeshu was hanged. For forty days before the execution took place, a herald...cried, "He is going forth to be stoned because he has practiced sorcery and enticed Israel to apostasy. (Babylonian Talmud)

In this reference they confirm Jesus was crucified, hung on a cross, and as shown in other writings, they admit Jesus performed miracles but they attributed them to sorcery or black magic.

The next reference comes from Lucian, a Greek writer who is best known for his criticism of superstition and religious practices which he often poked fun at. While clearly not a follower of Jesus or a man a faith, Lucian does give a strong reference, all be it a negative one, of Jesus being an actual first century man and gives us several historical details that confirm the Biblical texts.

The Christians...worship a man to this day - the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, and was crucified on that account... [It] was impressed on them by their original lawgiver that they are all brothers, from the moment that they are converted, and deny the gods of Greece, and worship the crucified sage, and live after his laws. (Lucian)

Thallus was a Greek historian who wrote in Koine Greek. While the works of Thallus have not survived, they are referenced in other works, such as those by Julius Africanus, a Christina scholar. In his works, Africanus referenced a report by Thallus when he was attempting to dismiss the darkness which fell upon the earth when Jesus was crucified. He does not say the darkness did not happen, he simply tries to explain it was caused by natural events. (We know that at the time of Jesus' crucifixion a lunar eclipse was not possible.)

"On the whole world there was pressed a most fearful darkness; and the rocks were rent by an earthquake, and many places in Judea and other districts were thrown down. This darkness Thallus, in the third book of his History, calls, as appears to me without reason, an eclipse of the sun." (Julius Africanus)

Ignatius, writing in the early second century, was a follower of Jesus and a man of faith. While his writings will be considered biased by critics, the fact he records these facts in the early second century disputes claims Jesus was a fabrication of Christian writers centuries later. 

Jesus Christ who was of the race of David, who was the Son of Mary, who was truly born and ate and drank, was truly persecuted under Pontius Pilate, was truly crucified and died in the sight of those in heaven and on earth and those under the earth; who moreover was truly raised from the dead, His father having raised Him, who in the like fashion will so raise us also who believe in Him. (Ignatius)

 We will now look at two other entries on our list. These are from Jewish sources who obviously had no interest at all in creating or embellishing any fictional account of Jesus. In these two examples, the writers admit Jesus lived and did great works (miracles) even though they do not attribute His powers to come from God, but from sorcery. 

 Jesus practiced magic and lead Israel astray (Sanhedrin 43a;cf.t. Shabbat 11.15;b. Shabbat 104b)

The insurgents with him replied that if Yeshu was the Messiah he should give them a convincing sign. They therefore, brought to him a lame man, who had never walked. Yeshu spoke over the man the letters of the Ineffable Name, and the leper was healed. Thereupon, they worshipped him as the Messiah, Son of the Highest...Yeshu spoke up: "Madam, I am the Messiah and I revive the dead." A dead body was brought in; he pronounced the letters of the Ineffable Name and the corpse came to life. The Queen was greatly moved and said: 'This is a true sign.' ... the Sages came before the Queen, complaining that Yeshu practiced sorcery and was leading everyone astray...He spoke the Ineffable Name over the birds of clay and they flew into the air. He spoke the same letters over a milestone that had been placed upon the waters. He sat in it and it floated like a boat. When they saw this the people marveled. (The Toledot Yesha)

 Our last example we will list here is from Mara bar Serapion, who was a Stoic philosopher from the Roman province of Syria. This writing, from approximately 70 A.D., he writes about various leaders who had been put to death to stop an uprising or unwanted following. In his list of leaders who were wrongfully put to death, he mentions the Jews who killed their wise king. This reference is to Jesus who when crucified had the sign posted over Him, "Jesus of Nazareth, The King of the Jews."

What benefit did the Athenians obtain by putting Socrates to death? Famine and plaque came upon them as judgment for their crime. Or, the people of Samos for burning Pythagoras? In one moment their country was covered with sand. Or the Jews by murdering their wise king?...After that their kingdom was abolished. God rightly avenged these men...The wise king...lived on in the teachings he enacted. (Mara Bar Serapion)

Here we have ten examples of writings which directly mention Jesus or His followers. These writings confirm Jesus was an actual living person who existed during the first century, not a fictious person created centuries later. While many critics of the Bible still falsely claim there are no historical records of Jesus, most in the scholarly world now admit Jesus was in fact a real person who lived in Israel at the time recorded in the Bible.  While these writings are not scripture, they help to prove the accuracy and reliability of the Bible. 

Some Christians will say this type of evidence is not needed, that we should have faith in Jesus and His holy word, the Bible. While this is true, to a degree, the Bible also tells us to be ready to defend our faith with a logical argument to those who would challenge the truth. This evidence is just one tool which can be used to mount a defense of our faith in Jesus.

"But in your hearts set Christ apart as holy [and acknowledge Him] as Lord. Always be ready to give a logical defense to anyone who asks you to account for the hope that is in you, but do it courteously and respectfully." 2 Peter 3:15


Shroud of Turin - Test Show it is From First Century

 The authenticity of the Shroud of Turin has been hotly debated for many decades. Is the Shroud the burial cloth of Jesus and could it possibly contain an image of Jesus? Some believe this is exactly what the Shroud is, while others insist the Shroud is a fake manufactured sometime during the Middle Ages. A new study in Italy has now given us new reason to believe the Shroud may indeed be from the first century and therefore, could be the actual burial cloth of Jesus.

The primary area of controversy surrounding the Shroud is the age of the fabric. If the fabric is from the first century, or earlier, then it opens the door for the Shroud to be authentic. If the fabric was produced in the Middle Ages, then obviously the Shroud is a fake and all but worthless.  For years the church would not allow testing of the Shroud because the testing would require the destruction of a small piece of the Shroud. While the church does not official say the Shroud is genuine or fake, they have always held the position that since it is possibly the real thing, no part of it should be destroyed.

Shroud of Turin 

The church had a change of heart and finally allowed the Shroud to be scientifically tested. Many people felt the controversy would be put to rest in 1988 when the results of Carbon 14 testing on a small section of the Shourd were revealed. According to the test, the fabric of the Shroud was from the Middle Ages, the fabric was only 700 years old, it could only be a fake. Almost immediately critics began to voice their objection to the results. They claimed the Carbon 14 testing was done on a section of the Shroud that had been repaired and was not a part of the original Shroud but was in fact a patch. Combined with the fact the Shroud had been exposed to smoke and extreme high temperatures when the church where it was kept burned, critics claimed the Shroud could not be properly tested using Carbon 14. It was also pointed out that there have been numerous instances of errors when attempted to use Carbon 14 testing on fabrics. The porous nature of the fabric makes it difficult to get accurate test results, according to some.

Now in Italy a new, non-destructive test, was performed on the Shroud.  The test was supervised by Doctor Liberato de Caro who is with Italy’s Institute of Crystallography of the National Research Council. The institute used a test known as WAXS or Wide-Angle X-ray Scattering, in an effort to find the age of the fabric. The tests measure the structural degradation which is the result of the natural ageing process of the cellulose in the linen threads. These measurements are then compared to a number of samples of fabric which the exact age is known.

After comparing the WAXS results with a number of fabric samples, a close match was found. The results for the Shroud of Turin closely matched a piece of fabric that is known to be from the siege of Masada in Israel. The sample fabric was believed to be from between 55 and 74 A.D.  The siege of
Masada took place near the end of the first Jewish-Roman war. The siege took place during the years of 73 and 74 A.D. so the fabric could be older than 74 A.D. but not any younger. These results, if found to be accurate, show the fabric of the Shroud of Turin is indeed from the first century and thus removes a major reason for doubting the authenticity of the image on the Shroud.

It was also reported the WAXS test indicate that fabrics and textiles can become contaminated over time, making Carbon 14 dating unreliable. Doctor De Caro stated that molds and bacteria along with dirt or carbon containing elements can distort the Carbon 14 dating process. In effect you cannot be certain if you are testing the original fabric, the contaminants, or a combination of both. Doctor De Caro cautioned against being to excited about the findings. He insisted the results needed to be confirmed by other laboratories in an effort to replicate the findings. One of the benefits of the WAXS testing is that it is non destructive and multiple tests can be performed on the exact same sample to compare and confirm results.

De Caro pointed out there was also pollen found on the fabric which could only have originated in the ancient region of Palestine and not Europe. The pollen does not prove the Shroud is authentic, but it does show the Shroud spent a good deal of time in the Middle East before being brought to Europe.

Additional Notes concerning the Shroud of Turin

  • In the 1970's the Shroud of Turin Research Project reported the stains on the fabric were real human blood.
  • The image on the Shroud, which many claim to be Jesus, depicts a muscular man who stood between 5'7" and 6'2"
  • The Shroud was first discovered in a church in Lirey in north central France. The church was founded by French Knight Geoffroi de Charny.
  • One theory on how the image on the Shroud was formed is that solar rays reflected by the damp shining body of Jesus were immediately imprinted on the damp inner side of the burial cloth Jesus was wrapped in.
  • In 1502 the Shroud was moved to the Sainte-Shapelle in Chambery.
  • The Shroud has been in the Royal Chapel of the Cathedral of San Giovanni Battista in Turin Italy since 1578.
  • In 1532 a fire broke out in the chapel where the Shroud was housed. The fire was so intense it melted a part of the silver frame protecting the Shroud. The molten silver burned through sections of the Shroud. These burn marks and the water stains from firefighters extinguishing the flames are still visible of the Shroud.
  • Carbon 14 testing was done on the Shroud in 1988 and showed the fabric to be approximately 700 years old. - These findings have bene challenged by a number of critics.
  • After the fire in 1532, nuns patched some of the burn marks and stitched the Shroud to a reinforcing cloth which is known as, "The Holland Cloth".
  • The Shroud of Turin in 14'3" long by 3'7" wide.
  • The Shroud was moved to a remote monastery in southern Italy during World War II to protect it from danger and from being stolen by the Nazis.

Bible Archaeology

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