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Quintus: Theological Polemic > Difficulties in John's Gospel account?

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Rod | 2063 comments I realize that there are indeed huge challenges when comparing the 4 Gospel accounts. Everything from Jesus' genealogy to his last words on the cross.

Are there reasons for this? You bet there is. If someone does not want the Gospel accounts to be true - then at first glance they will be easy to discard. On the other side: if the Bible is really that poorly written then chuck the whole thing in the garbage and move onto the Quran or Buddhist writings. Or just dedicate yourself to the foolishness of Richard Dawkins (many people think his ramblings are equal to Einstein.)

But the other possibility is: God is up to something. And the Truth is present yet somewhat hidden. How dare God do this to our pathetic simple minds. Or How dare he NOT? If God thinks this is a good idea - then I'm with him.

Now onto John's difficulties.


Rod | 2063 comments We will probably have to jump around through some translations to get through these. AS we all know: Translations are not perfect. But they are useful.

Question 1)
The timing of the Passover.

So timeline are the problem it seems. This is not the answer but just to get the ball rolling:

John 13:1 Now BEFORE the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart...during supper...

My question would be: is supper actually the Feast of the Passover? or something else? Another meal perhaps.?

John 12:1 Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was...
(six days before the Passover most likely refers to Saturaday...since Passover began Friday event at sundown)

John 18:1 When Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the Kidron Valley, where there was a garden...

Luke 22:39 And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives...
(Garden of Gethsemane/Mount of Olives/Greater Jerusalem)

Luke 22:1-14
Matthew 26:17-29
Mark 14:12 Mark 14:12-32
John 18:1

So there's lots going on here. Houses, meals, discussions, arrangements, locations.
What exactly is the problem with this timeline? Some people don't realize there are a few different meals, gatherings, discussions.


I do not claim to have all the answers. I don't even consider myself a good scholar or thinker. I'm just a guy who likes questioning things.
So I would love some input from the rest of you.


Lee Harmon (DubiousDisciple) | 2447 comments Best not to get too messy, here, and just discuss when Jesus died.

John 18:28, Then the Jews led Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness the Jews did not enter the palace; they wanted to be able to eat the Passover.

So the Passover hadn't come yet. This is probably the most obvious verse in John that indicates Jesus was crucified before the passover. There are others. Crucifixion followed directly from the trial by Pilate, that very day.

If there is any question that the Synoptics indicate Jesus was alive during the Passover celebration, I'll post verses about that.

This is a very well-known contradiction that every Johannine scholar is aware of. John's account just differs from the other three. I personally have no problem with this difference. IMO this is just a difference, not a "difficulty" as the OP suggests. It's only a "difficulty" if we think the Bible is supposed to be a history book.

Perhaps the Bible's authors remembered the story differently or, more likely, the authors had different theological meaning to impart, but for whatever reason, they told different stories.


Rod | 2063 comments Thanks Lee. I was making a mess. I was trying to rethink about 4 discussions i've had with atheists dealing from the Passover to Jesus' death and resurrection timeline.

Interesting issue this official feast of Passover in John 18:28

So did they eat the official ONE meal already? Or is this Feast a week long celebration from 15th to the 21st of Nisan.
The Passover was the opening-day Feast of the sevenday Feast of Unleavened Bread.

Leviticus 23: 4-8 seems to lay out the feast schedule.
"...in the first month, on the 14th day of the month at TWILIGHT, is the Lord's Passover."

So, do some eat at twilight and others later on that day? I'm not sure. Does it depend on the COOK? Did Jesus eat the meal early? Did Jesus say that the supper they were having was officially Passover? Mostly yes.
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I'm depending on the Bible to be an exact history book. But exact is a tricky word: exactly by the minute, hour, day, week, season, year? As long as the original author is in full agreement with reality there's no problem.
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A thought hit me while reading this: Is Jesus the Passover lamb? If so, was he being prepared for the meal rather than the gathering? Was his meal different than everyone else's. Did he offer himself as the lamb or the host of the dinner?
Did Jesus ate at twilight? Is it possible the rest of society ate within the 24 hour period? Probably not. Jesus was the Lamb being prepared for the meal. Does that change things?

So the Big problem is John 18:28
"So that they would not be difiled, but could eat the Passover."

Some scholars say this reference to the Passover may not be to the actual meal but to the Feast. Like in Luke 2:41.

Another fun issue is how the Sabbath plays into all this. If the 14th is the Sabbath - then only Jesus would be willing to break it. I'll research some more. This is not my area of interest.

Hopefully someone smarter than me can jump in.


Lee Harmon (DubiousDisciple) | 2447 comments I'm not trying to change your beliefs, Rod. My point is that people educated about the Gospel of John, and who carefully research the Passover--whether they are christians or atheists--reach the conclusion that John contradicts the Synoptics. Whether right or wrong, the STUDIED opinion is that a contradiction exists, and even christians admit this. Therefore, if you, when serving as an apologist, insist that no contradiction exists, you will be ignored and considered unenlightened. Your apology will have no effect.

It's like the topic of a young earth. The studied conclusion is that the earth is 13.7 billion year old. An apologist who tries to claim the earth is young will be ignored and will be ineffective. Whether right or wrong, most people simply know otherwise.

So there are simply certain topics that, whether you personally believe them or not, an apologist should avoid. IMO scriptural inerrancy is one of those things; people who have studied this think they know better and cannot be convinced otherwise.


Rod | 2063 comments I'm just saying that a discussion is not over until its over. I don't care if millions of People disagree with an issue. (We'd all be Muslims if majority scholarship rules).

Its everyman for himself. If i'm wrong about something: that's great. I love to be corrected and guided.
I used to believe in Old Earth creationism - until I researched it more. Looked at both sides of the story. Stopped just following the majority.

When you use words like: Studied conclusion...I just shake my head. I'm guessing that means you think you just won an argument.
Truth is not about group agreement of any kind.

I recommend you stop reading the Bible now, especially if this is your approach. You will find endless University accredited STUDIED CONCLUSIONS that the entire Bible is not valid.
You will come across millions of Muslims with University education and studied conclusions that the Bible is not valid.

I'm not saying trust me. I'm just saying don't quit so soon. Trust no-one and research thoroughly for yourself. You've shown that you already have chosen who you trust. Okay then - now look for flaws in their foundation.

Of course i'm prepared to be ignored and considered unenlightened. I wouldn't dream of expecting anything else from the world.

Just for clarification: i'm more of a theologian than an apologist. :)

I'm not done with discussing John's Gospel. We've only just begun. Unless you think all questions should be solved in an hour.

fight the Good fight Lee. :)


Lee Harmon (DubiousDisciple) | 2447 comments :) ok, we'll carry on. I'll post some more contradictions in John soon.

Please don't think I'm trying to "win" an argument. But I've heard a squillion times from atheists that they know the Bible better than Christians. It's like a mantra. When you say there are no contradictions in John, they'll laugh and say "see? Doesn't even know about the issue over Jesus' death!" So, if you plan to argue inerrancy, you gotta study long and hard, lol. It's an uphill battle.


Rod | 2063 comments I hear ya lee. I realize we are not fighting or opposing necessarily. Hopefully just exploring possibilities. I enjoy a challenge(and a defeat on occasion).

I have found 5 proposed solutions to our above contradiction in John (vs. the other Gospels). So I have a choice of answers. So as far as i've seen: there are NO contradictions in John that do not have available answers. So they are only contradictions in some people's minds. Not mine.

I'm aware of many many issues in the Bible. Definitely over 100 problems and contradictions that people feel are unresolved. The problem is I keep finding solutions for them. So they cease to be problems.
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I do not plan to ever win any Bible related Battles. Did Jesus win any? Did the religious leaders of Jesus day smack their head and admit defeat? No, they planned how to kill him to shut him up. That is what I am prepared to face. Although ridicule and a light stoning will probably get the job done.

I don't plan to argue inerrancy. I just plan to show it. The rest is up to God.

Its funny that almost everytime I discuss Biblical issues with atheists: its the exact same issues by the same scholars word for word. Incredible. It seems that all atheists go to the same website or single book for their arguments. Which assures me that they DO NOT know the Bible. They just know the same site where all these complaints keep coming from.


Lee Harmon (DubiousDisciple) | 2447 comments Some contradictions off the top of my head:

1. John says Jesus lured his first disciples away from John the Baptist. The others say he lured them away from fishing up in Galilee.

2. John says Jesus' anointing took place precisely seven days before the crucifixion. Mark is equally adamant that it was two days. I think I have this right, not totally sure.

3. John says the Baptizer was doing his thing down by Jericho. The synoptics say up closer to the sea of Galilee. Scholars tend to side with John on this one.

4. Here is the big one, of course--so big that Christians HAVE to merge them somehow: Matthew/Luke say Jesus was born of the offspring of God and Mary. John says Jesus existed pre-eternally.


Lee Harmon (DubiousDisciple) | 2447 comments oh, here's a fun contradiction that comes to mind now! The Synoptics dress John the Baptist in camel's hair and claim he is the return of Elijah. But in John, the Baptist states outright that he isn't Elijah. I guess he didn't know?

More likely, John felt it was necessary to set the record straight.


Lee Harmon (DubiousDisciple) | 2447 comments Here's a short blog post inspired by this discussion:

http://www.dubiousdisciple.com/2012/0...

ok, enough, lol, right?


Rod | 2063 comments Thanks Lee for posting all these. I love researching these things.
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John the Baptist was not Elijah in any of the Gospels. He was prophesied BY Isaiah. He will be like a prophet from the Old Testament.

Matthew 3:3
For this is he who was spoken of BY the prophet Isaiah when he said,
"The voice of one crying in the wilderness..."

So many cool verses about John the Baptists:
Isaiah 40:3
Malachi 3:12
Malachi 4:5-6

Matthew 11:14 ...Jesus said, and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come.

Matthew 11:11 helps clear this up: John has human parents.
...Jesus said, Truly,I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptists.

Interesting sentence to add to the scriptures. Why would God feel it is necessary to tell us this? Probably because he knew confusion was coming.

Luke 1:17
...and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah.

I don't see a contradiction at all. John the Baptist is a Messenger and prophet in the spirit and power of Elijah. Not in the Flesh of Elijah. If he was Elijah - I don't think the angel Gabriel would of bothered to tell John's Dad that he must name him John (and NOT Elijah).
Luke 1:13 But the angel said to him, "do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer...and you shall call his name John."

All this shows how supernatural the Jews could be in Jesus time. Looking for mysteries and hidden truths - rather than just accepting what is right in front of them. I'm glad Jesus' sorted this mess out.

I'll look into those other ones later. Fascinating.


Lee Harmon (DubiousDisciple) | 2447 comments Matthew 17:11-13 Jesus replied, "To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things. But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands." Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist.


Lee Harmon (DubiousDisciple) | 2447 comments In the Christian ordering of the old testament, it ends with this promise in Malachi: Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD.

That's why it is important for Matthew to indicate that Elijah has come.


Lee Harmon (DubiousDisciple) | 2447 comments lol ... whether literally or not, do you not think Matthew/Jesus was saying the Baptist fulfilled the coming of Elijah? I think Matthew 17:11-13 is pretty clear on the point.


Rod | 2063 comments Good discussion:
I take the Bible more literally than just about anyone.

But I understand the ability to read and cross-reference. The big trick seems to be trying to figure out what God is up to. Is God big or small? Which meaning fits best with the rest of scripture?

Jesus indeed enjoyed Not being clear. Brilliant but tricky. Some good reasons for this. And that's what this was.


Lee Harmon (DubiousDisciple) | 2447 comments I think what you're saying, Rod, is that there are contradictions in the Bible, but it's because Jesus put them there to trick people?

Are you saying that Jesus fooled Matthew but couldn't fool John?


message 18: by Lee (last edited May 20, 2012 08:06AM) (new)

Lee Harmon (DubiousDisciple) | 2447 comments If you consider the scripture in all ways inerrant, then a difference in details is a contradiction.

If you believe an identical message is preached by all four Gospel writers, then a difference in opinion about JTB is a contradiction.

If you believe the Gospel writers had minds of their own and were conveying their own understanding and brush with the divine, then sidebars like JTB and the anointing and the timing of the crucifixion just serve to enhance and add meaning to their individual stories. We can discuss why Matthew felt Elijah had returned and John felt he hadn't for scholarly pleasure, realizing it does not contradict the personal experience of being a Christian.


Rod | 2063 comments Good stuff lee.

I don't see a contradiction here at all. Or anywhere in the Bible for that matter. I see God speaking with and through people to reach us with the truth.

Its like 4 people describing a car: One is looking at the rear bumper, another is sitting inside, another guy is under the hood, and the other guy is underneath working on the transmission. There are no contradictions. Just a wealth of information that FULLY describes the car.

I realize this makes it sound like I will make any excuse for adjusting Bible verses. That's why I enjoy hearing what numerous scholars say a verse really means. But at the end of the day its truly up to us whether we Give God credit for his brilliance in putting the Bible together.
If it really is God's book. Then it's going to make perfect sense and get to the Heart of God's plan and Truth.

And I believe it does. If there's contradictions in the Bible then God is not God. The Bible is not from God. This book is not really worth reading or trusting.

I enjoy applying this same thought to other religious texts. Like the Jehovah Witness writings, and the Mormons, and the Islamic Quran. New Age literature.
But there is a huge difference.

I find it fascinating that I read the Bible and everything fits together perfectly and yet you don't see that. I notice the 1000's of challenges. But I also see why they are there and what God is up to.
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Cool thought Pastor Jeff. I never thought about the actual mention of Elijah possibly coming back literally as one of the Two Witnesses in Revelation. Although this could be another example of (in the power and spirit of Elijah). Or actually Elijah himself. We'll see who his parents are. That should clarify things.


Lee Harmon (DubiousDisciple) | 2447 comments Rod, I've a friend who takes the same stance, that there are no contradictions in the Bible, and I confess he frustrates me a little because whenever I point something out, he shrugs and says "there's an explanation." At least you approach the issues like a puzzle to be solved.

However, I appreciate that you also seem to have gone a step further. "If there are contradictions in the Bible then God is not God." So, a contradiction isn't a contradiction unless it brings doubt upon the existence of God. The contradictions that should worry us are only those that decrease our faith in the Bible.

In that, we agree. There are no contradictions worth snivelling about in the Bible. Although, I would be tempted to say then that there are also no contradictions in the Quran and the book of Mormon...no contradictory passages in those books seem to disturb their followers in any way.


Rod | 2063 comments Now were getting somewhere.

Actually I think all possibly contradictions are totally worth sniveling over. Mostly because of what they tell us about God and his methods for reaching out to us.

I have of course dealt with the possible option that the entire Bible is a contradiction of existence and should be thrown out. I would be a gullible Newb not to consider this option.
The fun challenge is always in the translation. Does God enjoy the occasional random chaos? Yes, I believe he works through it. Ambiguity does show us some amazing things.

The problem I have with Quran and Mormon scripture is that they both claim to have been written by one person through God. This tells us they should be perfect. Technically this should be easy to accomplish. Just like Lord of The Rings.
However, in the Bible you get 40 authors, over a thousand years apart, from 2 separate religions all saying exactly the same thing. That's God.

Its comical watching Morman's and Muslim's swear to the death that their Holy books have never been tampered with.
Yet Christians claim that our Bible is endlessly tampered with, pieced together, fought over, locked away, massively distributed and altered for understanding. Now that's the God of the Bible I know and love.
If our bible was too perfect - I would think something is wrong.

Weird eh?


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