Question

In Luke’s version it says that Jesus was tempted with bread, then control over all the kingdoms in the world, and finally taken to Jerusalem. In Matthew’s account of the story, the order goes bread, Jerusalem, and then the kingdoms. Is there an oversight on my part or is this a contradiction in the inspired word?

Answer

The chronology of many events in the gospels differ, especially between Matthew and Luke. The reason is that Luke tends to write in “consecutive order,” (Luke 1:1-4) as one might in a letter to someone. On the other hand, Matthew organizes his stories more or less into categories: teachings, parables, miracles, etc. You can see this, for example, in the placement of the Sermon on the Mount, where Matthew places it right after the temptation (Matt. 5-7) and Luke places it after Jesus had been going about healing and performing miracles (Luke 6:20-49). The sermon on the mount provides the structure for the rest of that which Matthew says about Jesus: First He teaches, then He demonstrates His teaching. Topical and/or chronological approaches are both common methods of teaching. Matthew’s approach is topical in nature, whereas Luke’s is more chronological. In the temptation for example, Matthew may be showing the progressive intensity of the temptations by emphasizing first the flesh (hunger), then doubt (“let’s see if God will really protect you like He says”) and then the desire for power and glory (rule over the kingdoms). Luke, on the other hand, may simply report the events in the order in which they occurred. The important thing to note is that the events themselves to not contradict each other. Taken together, the gospels form a view of the story of Jesus from many different “angles.” You are on the right path to notice the differences in the accounts and to ponder why these differences exist. True joy will come when you discover WHAT these differences mean. Incidentally, John W. Haley, in a book titled “Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible” deals with many so-called contradictions. There is also a web sight, http://www.ugcs.caltech.edu/cgi-bin/webnews/read/contradictions/468. As with most references, they should be viewed as tools, not ultimate solutions. Contact Doug

Question 2. This is more along the lines of apologetics, but how can the differences between the accounts in the gospels be explained by if they were divinely inspired?

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Answer The “differences” from the gospel writers can easily be reconciled and understood if we recognize that each one of them approaches their writing from a different angle with a different purpose for writing. If we can understand this, then it is not unusual that one writer will write about one event and another will completely omit that event. Or, on the other hand, it will not be unusual to discover that when writing about the same event, two writers might not touch on the same facts. The reason would be that certain facts are no permanent to the purpose of the specific writer.
This being the case, we can examine briefly the reasons why each gospel author seemed to write in a different manner, although all are concerned generally with recounting the life of Jesus.

Matthew – It is generally acknowledged that he wrote from a Jewish viewpoint. That is, he emphasizes that Jesus is the One who was prophesied to come from the lineage of Abraham and David and be anointed as God’s chosen King. Therefore, over and over again, Matthew emphasizes what the prophets had said about Him and how these things had been fulfilled in Jesus.

MAT 1:1 The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

MAT 1:18 ¶ Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows. When His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit.
MAT 1:19 And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her, desired to put her away secretly.
MAT 1:20 But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for that which has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.
MAT 1:21 “And she will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins.”
MAT 1:22 Now all this took place that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled, saying,
MAT 1:23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,”which translated means, “God with us.”

Mark – On the other hand, Mark seems to write more for the Gentiles (those not Jewish and not familiar with the Old Testament). We can conclude this based upon Mark’s habit of explaining words that the Jewish people would be familiar with, but the Gentiles would need them explained.

MAR 7:9 He was also saying to them, “You nicely set aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition.
MAR 7:10 “For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him be put to death’;
MAR 7:11 but you say,’ If a man says to his father or his mother, anything of mine you might have been helped by is Corban (that is to say, given to God),’
MAR 7:12 you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or his mother;
MAR 7:13 thus invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as that. ”

Luke – Luke is concerned with writing a chronological history of what happened to Jesus. He places events in consecutive order and is precise in describing time, place and political officials. His gospel is written as a historian would write about various events.

LUK 1:1 Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us,
LUK 1:2 just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word have handed them down to us,
LUK 1:3 it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus;
LUK 1:4 so that you might know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.

John – John focuses on writing to unbelievers, whether Jewish or Gentile. He provides a substantial amount of eyewitness evidence on which those hearing about Jesus, might have good reason to believe that He was the Christ, the Son of God.

JOH 20:26 ¶ And after eight days again His disciples were inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst, and said, “Peace be with you.”
JOH 20:27 Then He said to Thomas, “Reach here your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand, and put it into My side; and be not unbelieving, but believing.”
JOH 20:28 Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”
JOH 20:29 Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.”
JOH 20:30 ¶ Many other signs therefore Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book;
JOH 20:31 but these have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.

By looking at the gospels together, we see how they fit together, giving us a complete and varied account of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. It is on these things, written and confirmed, that we base our faith and trust in Him.

By Gary Hunt

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