Did John contradict himself about the order of Jesus’ miracles?
In John’s Gospel, Jesus performs his 1st miracle in ch 2. When he turns water into wine, (a favorite miracle on college campuses) and we’re told that ‘this was the first sign Jesus did’ (John 2:11) Later in the chapter we’re told that Jesus did ‘many signs in Jerusalem’. (John 2:23) And then, in chapter 4, he heals the son of the centurion, and the author says “This was the second sign that Jesus did. (John 4:54) Huh? One sign, many signs, and then a second sign? (Jesus, Interrupted pp. 8-9).
Bart apparently thinks John can’t count. But Dr. Ehrman selectively cut off the last part of the passage in John 2. Let’s quote it in more detail: “this, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee…” Now let’s read John 4:54 for ourselves: “This was now the second sign that Jesus did when he had come from Judea to Galilee.”
Jesus did one sign in Galilee, then many signs in Jerusalem and then the second sign in Galilee. This is not a contradiction at all. It feels like Bart is trying to fleece an unsuspecting audience.
Let’s give Bart another shot. Here’s a quote from his debate on the resurrection with William Lane Craig:
Who went to the tomb on the third day? Was it Mary alone or was it Mary with other women?
Here’s the text in John that Bart is referring to: “On the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark. She saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb.” (John 20:1)
The other three gospels all include other women (Mt. 28:1, Mk 16:1, Lk 24:1,10).
John said that Mary Magdalene came to the tomb, but he doesn’t say others were not present. All we need to do is read the next verse and we see that she had company. “So she went running to Simon Peter and to the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said to them, “They’ve taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they’ve put him!” (John 20:2)
Wait for a second! Where did “we” come from? Mary Magdalene’s words say that there were others present. John reporting this implies that he’s well aware that there were other women at the tomb. As Greg Koukl says, “never read a Bible verse.” This feels like some hoodwinkery is going on here.
[As COVID-19 lockdown extends many people are home, alone, with time on their hands which could spell dangerous times. A period in which new addictions are created and old ones encouraged. The thought here is ‘What Are You Reading?’…]
If I haven’t read God’s Word for a few days what have those days been spent reading; liquor bottles, porn sites, stock markets, social/news feeds? If I’ve been reading these how have those days been lived? Drunk! In self-gratification! Greed! Deceived!
Each day is a battle and each day mimics what I’ve been reading. When I don’t read God’s Word then Satan will place an attractive alternative in front of me, and he has many at his disposal. If I choose to read Satan’s materials then those days will be lived via his playbook—in unrighteousness and ungodliness
[Be careful little eyes what you read!]
When asked on his blog if there was a “slam-dunk” contradiction that would be impossible to defend, Bart’s reply was this: “I don’t have one that is a slam-dunk. But there are dozens that are pretty good. Here’s one: Jairus came to Jesus to ask him to help his daughter: was the girl dead already and he wanted Jesus to do something about it? Or was she very sick and he wanted him to heal her before she died? (See Mark 5:21-43 and Matthew 9:18-26) I don’t see how it could be both!”
If you read those passages side-by-side, Bart looks like he has a point. But if we look deeper at Matthew’s account compared to Mark’s, we notice that it’s a lot shorter. Matthew tells us the story in just 8 verses, Mark takes 22. Here’s a list of omissions in Matthew’s version:
- Jairus is a ruler of the synagogue. Matthew calls him a ‘ruler’.
- The crowd following Jesus and pressing him.
- The second stage of the story where someone comes and tells him that his daughter is dead.
- Jesus takes Peter, James, and John with him.
- Jesus takes the girls’ parents into the room with him to raise her.
- Jesus’ direction to give her something to eat.
- Jesus’ command to keep silent.
That’s a lot of details left out, but Matthew does include the most important parts of the story: Jairus’ daughter died, Jesus said she was sleeping, people laughed Jesus to scorn, and Jesus raised her.
Reducing a piece of literature in terms of time or length to include only its necessary elements is a literary device called compression. Ancient writers used it all the time. As do many modern authors. Matthew has to intimate somewhere that the daughter is dead and not just sick. He shows this in the short summary of Jairus’ interaction with Jesus’ intentions rather using his exact words.
Furthermore, according to Bible commentator G.A. Chadwick, Matthew’s phrase “has died even now” (ἄρτι ἐτελεύτησεν) is very close in meaning to Mark’s “at the point of death” (ἐσχάτως ἔχει).
A worried dad of a sick daughter might say “she’s dead by now” and mean what we’d convey by saying “she’s at the point of death.” Jairus knew that his daughter was at death’s door when he went looking for Jesus. He may have used words to express that his worst fears already came to pass. Both explanations are plausible.
So after taking a deeper look, this isn’t a hopeless contradiction at all. This was supposed to be Bart’s go-to and it’s pretty weak sauce.
Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care. 1 Peter 5:2 (NIV)
Imagine a woman who has been part of a local church all her adult life. She has many problems.
She writes “anonymous” letters to
the pastor, suggesting that she be asked to sing solos on Sunday. When
people at church get sick, she says to them, “Glad it’s you, not me!”
She even occasionally takes money out of the offering plate when it is
Over the years, she has invited
many visitors to lunch. She takes them to a nice restaurant, and when
the check comes, she says, “Oh no, I’ve forgotten my handbag.” It seems
the elders are always busy dealing with some problem related to this
This elderly lady doesn’t have a
single living relative. So if it were not for the faithful kindness of a
few in her church, she would be completely isolated, without a friend
in the world. No social institution would put up with her. Only the
church has the grace and the patience to love and forgive, confront, and
persevere. It is easy to say that we care about people. But the first
test is whether we care about the difficult person inside the church.
Now picture a believer in heaven saying, “I love you, Jesus.”
Christ says to him, “If you love me, then why did you fail to care about the body of which I am the head?”
He says, “Well, you are wonderful, Jesus, but the body is sometimes very unattractive.”
“If you knew anything about me,” says Jesus, “You would learn to love what is sometimes unattractive.”
How do you respond to difficult people in the church?
~ Colin Smith
In 2013, Ryan Smith wrote in The Wall Street Journal about the reality that awaits women in combat. Smith illustrates the problem by describing his own experience as a Marine during the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Readers should be warned that what you are about to read is not for the faint of heart. But I think it is important for people to consider the reality of what is required of female infantrymen.
Many articles have been written regarding the relative strength of women and the possible effects on morale of introducing women into all-male units. Less attention has been paid to another aspect: the absolutely dreadful conditions under which grunts live during war…
We rode into war crammed in the back of amphibious assault vehicles. They are designed to hold roughly 15 Marines snugly; due to maintenance issues, by the end of the invasion we had as many as 25 men stuffed into the back. Marines were forced to sit, in full gear, on each other’s laps and in contorted positions for hours on end. That was the least of our problems.
The invasion was a blitzkrieg. The goal was to move as fast to Baghdad as possible. The column would not stop for a lance corporal, sergeant, lieutenant, or even a company commander to go to the restroom. Sometimes we spent over 48 hours on the move without exiting the vehicles. We were forced to urinate in empty water bottles inches from our comrades.
Many Marines developed dysentery from the complete lack of sanitary conditions. When an uncontrollable urge hit a Marine, he would be forced to stand, as best he could, hold an MRE bag up to his rear, and defecate inches from his seated comrade’s face…
When we did reach Baghdad, we were in shambles. We had not showered in well over a month and our chemical protective suits were covered in a mixture of filth and dried blood. We were told to strip and place our suits in pits to be burned immediately. My unit stood there in a walled-in compound in Baghdad, naked, sores dotted all over our bodies, feet peeling, watching our suits burn. Later, they lined us up naked and washed us off with pressure washers.
What kind of a society puts its women on the front lines to risk what only men should be called on to risk? In countries ravaged by war, we consider it a tragedy when the battle comes to the backyards of women and children. Why would we thrust our own wives and daughters into that horror? My instinct is to keep them as far from it as possible. I know I’m not alone.
~ Denny Burk
The welfare of our mothers, wives and daughters is a test of our nation’s character. How willing are we as people to pretend that there are no differences between men and women? It is one thing to stand and applaud as Bruce “Caitlyn” Jenner receives an ESPY award. But how many people would be willing to continue the gender charade when their daughters are carried off to war?
Men and women have obvious physical differences. On average, women are weaker than men. And you don’t have to be a conservative to acknowledge this. It’s an empirical fact observable by anyone with eyes to see. This puts women at a distinct disadvantage in combat. To illustrate the point, consider this testimony from MMA fighter Tamika Brents who describes what it is like to face a man in the ring:
I’ve never felt so overpowered in my life. I’ve fought a lot of women and have never felt the strength that I felt in a fight as I did that night… I can only say I’ve never felt so overpowered ever in my life, and I am an abnormally strong female.
What happened to Tamika during her fight with this man?
What Brents reportedly experienced at Fox’s hands was a concussion and a broken orbital bone that required staples. In other words, this woman was savaged by an opponent that was genetically advantaged with a thicker bone structure, longer reach, and denser musculature—or, put more simply, was a man. Fox was able to do this despite hormone treatments that made him more feminine in certain aspects.
Can you imagine this experience played out countless times on distant battlefields in places where women are treated as little more than chattel? You need to imagine it because it may be your wife or daughter called up. Can you imagine sending your wife or daughter into the maw of deadly conflict with men who will do much worse to them than what happened to Tamika Brents in the MMA ring?
In a widely circulated letter from 2013, a female Marine named “Sentry” puts a fine point on it:
This country and our military are NOT prepared to see what the enemy will do to female POWs… How is our 24/7 news cycle going to cover a captured, raped, mutilated woman? After the first one, how are the men in the military going to treat their female comrades?… Men in the military will move heaven and earth to protect women, never mind what it does to the mission. I present you with Exhibit A: Jessica Lynch. Male lives will be lost trying to protect their female comrades. And the people of the US are NOT, based on the Jessica Lynch episode, prepared to treat a female POW the same way they do a man.
I know that many women have served admirably in our military. And there are certainly some who are physically exceptional and who may show some aptitude and interest in combat. But that’s just it. They tend to be exceptional. They are not the norm. And opening the draft to all women and potentially exposing all women to combat service is treating the exception as if it’s the norm. This is absurd and dangerous.
~ Denny Burk
We may be able to understand the existence of evil caused by our own free will, but what about the ‘natural evil’ that exists in the world? This question can only be answered by a Christian from within his or her own worldview, and means we must expand our perspective to a cosmic scale.
The apostle Paul states that “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time” (Romans 8:22). The Christian story is that the whole created order is in some sense ‘out of kilter’ at a cosmic level. Some theologians trace this to human rebellion – an outworking of ‘the fall’ which acts both forwards and backwards in time. Others point to the existence of an earlier rebellion in the angelic realm that sparked a ‘cosmic fall’ (hinted at in Revelation 12:9)…
By creating a world of free creatures – both physical and spiritual - God has granted a level of freedom to the whole of the created order. That means that God won’t simply step in and wave a magic wand to take away the suffering in the world. We are part of the problem of evil, and God has chosen us to be part of the solution too.
Throughout the New Testament we are presented with a worldview of spiritual warfare in which God has chosen his people to be fellow combatants waging a war, not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual “principalities [and] powers” (Ephesians 6:12) through our prayer, love and action…
We live in a world where natural disasters, disease and evil are tied up not only with the choices of human being’s but with the freedom exercised by spiritual forces in rebellion against God. Although the war was decisively turned towards victory through the death and resurrection of Jesus, there still remains a world of running spiritual battles…
The Christian story is of a broken and rebellious creation that is awaiting the renewal of all things. We are called to live faithfully for the kingdom that has already come in Jesus, while awaiting the kingdom yet to be in which ‘“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death” or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away’ (Revelation 21:4)…
There are many questions we will never see answered this side of eternity. Sometimes we will come to an end of trying to explain things and can only throw ourselves on the mercy of God, weep with those who weep, and continue to stand up for truth and love wherever we can.
The good news is that, whatever questions remain, we are called to trust in the God of the cross and the resurrection. The One who turned the greatest injustice and defeat in the world into the ultimate triumph. He specializes in turning evil into good.
~ Justin Brierley