Contradiction #4 – Who was at the tomb?

Matthew 28:1 – Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb.

Mark 16:1 – When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him

John 20:1 – Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.

Answer – Luke 24:10. There were several other women with Mary. Leaving some of them out doesn’t classify as a contradiction.

While this is in my opinion a clear cut case. I will take some time to discuss the difference between biblical inaccuracy and biblical contradictions.

Let’s first start with biblical inaccuracy. Our first challenge is to acknowledge that as a result of living 1000’s of years removed from the biblical culture we will never fully appreciate the customs and traditions of our biblical heroes. This extends to not having an instinctive appreciation for the things that were primarily important to them. An example is ‘Hebrew Numerology’. In a 21st century context it is not considered important to put hidden meanings into numbers, like 7, 12, 14, 1000, etc. Yet these numbers are scattered through the bible because it was highly important to the author and original reader, these numbers hold a very significant meaning. The opposite of this also applies. In a technological, information crazed society we 21st century humans crave accuracy. We place a high emphasis of the grammar, format, spelling of a document. We are a precise and controlling society that demands perfection in everything that we see, buy and want. If we go and buy a new car, the tiniest imperfection will cause us to rethink the value. How can we expect an author, writing some 2-5 thousand years before us to be writing to accommodate us? Isn’t it a little absurd to expect Matthew, Mark and John to change their perspective of importance to meet our needs. Further, isn’t it a bit irreverent to expect God to rethink what’s important to Him when inspiring these people to write the bible.

Now jumping to the alleged contradictions. Using some material from BibleGateway.com I learnt that a contradiction is something that both confirms and denies the same thing at the same time. Eg. I say the apple is red, you say the apple is green. We have contradicting opinions.

This inaccuracy in the bible doesn’t point to a contraction. Rather it shows us what was important to the people of that day and age.

If you were sitting in a restaurant and a customer pulled out a gun and shot the chef. And afterwards you were interviewed by the Police. You would probably remember what the man was wearing. What colour his skin was. You might even be able to identify the gun. But would you be able to remember these same things about the people who were sitting at his table? If the police asked all the people in the restaurant about his table… do you think they would all answer the same?

To the disciples of Jesus; who was with Mary was not really important; what was important was that Jesus’s body should have been in the tomb, and it wasn’t. Just like what the people were wearing on the table isn’t important compared to finding the man who shot the chef. In order to understand the word of God, I encourage you to read it deeper than the surface. Look for the supporting evidence before looking for the contradiction.

Contradiction #3 – Who is the ‘Father of Joseph’?

MAT 1:16 And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.

LUK 3:23 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.

It seems that even among Christian scholars there is some ambiguity. Most of the timelines, commentaries and recent research show Luke to record the genealogy of Mary. and Matthew records the genealogy of Joseph. There’s a few reasons why people come to that conclusion (some of which are relatively convincing), but it seems that nothing adds up more than speculation.

So what are the speculations? One is that Matthew’s linage stem’s back to King David through Solomon and therefore satisfies the Old Testament prophecy requirements that the Messiah would be an heir of David. This is the legal application.

But actually by blood Jesus came from King David’s other son, Nathan. While this wasn’t the royal line of Kings, Jesus still come from the body of David. This second line is supposed to be recorded through Mary’s genealogy. So the implication of that is Mary and Joseph were in fact related 14 (i think) times removed.

So the question stands “Why didn’t Luke record ‘being the son of Mary, the daughter of Heli’ or ‘being the son of Joseph, the son-in-law of Heli”? The short answer is: it is seemingly unimportant to Christians because the main character of the story is Jesus. No one asks who Neo’s parents are in The Matrix.

But the long answer would involve going to extra-biblical references. It requires an understanding of the importance of genealogies in the first century context.  I think none of the above solutions are adequate, and place things upon the text that aren’t actually there to be read.

Grant Osborne, writes “Examining each genealogy closely reveals the authors’ different purposes. Matthew’s list resembles those used by rulers to justify their rank and status, and by families to determine connections to a common ancestor. Matthew arranges his genealogy into three groups of 14 names each. In Jewish gematria–a kind of numerology stemming from the fact that letters of the Hebrew alphabet were also numbers-names have numerical value. The three consonants for David add up to 14. So Matthew underscores Jesus’ kingly ancestry by working in groups of David, or 14.”

Matthew believed that the most effective and convincing way of recording the genealogy was to engage his audience with things they were passionate about. Matthew’s goal is to portray Jesus as the saviour, by pointing the reader back to Old Testament scripture and prophecy. On the one hand seems trivial to the 21st century reader, and it reminds us of really bad bible interpretation, and we feel that somehow the author is about to predict a date for the end of the world based on numerology. But on the other hand we must realise that for the author and his primary audience it was incredibly important and relevant.

Grant Osborne also observes Luke’s account: “Luke, on the other hand, begins his genealogy with “the Son, so it was thought, of Joseph” (3:23), and concludes with “the son of God” (3:38). At Jesus’ baptism, God declares Jesus “my Son” (3:22), and Jesus’ temptation begins with Satan recognizing him as “the Son of God” (4:3). Placed between Jesus’ baptism and temptation, Luke’s genealogy is meant to proclaim that Jesus is, indeed, God’s only Son.”

He goes on to say that Luke doesn’t group the names like Matthew, so is less concerned with the Jewish traditions. Luke does however place a strong emphasis on Jesus’ humanity by placing more common, unheard of names in the family tree. He also goes back to Adam suggesting that Jesus came for all mankind. Finishing with Adam, he moves straight into the temptation of Jesus. With Adam in the background of the readers mind, it is clear that he is using a literary technique to show that Jesus came to do what Adam could not.

In regards to the contradiction of genealogies, I hope you can see past the shallow view of the sceptic, and see that in accommodating humanity God has given us diversity in the scriptures whilst still remaining faithful to the truth. Mathew is pointing to a saviour, Luke is pointing to the one who can do what the first Son of God (Adam) could not. JESUS!

(Grant Osborne’s full article is: Christianity Today, Dec2009, Vol. 53 Issue 12, p56-56, 1p)