Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Biblical Truth or Contradictions

I encountered a man who threw away his beliefs in the Bible citing as an example the difference between Matthew and Mark's Gospels with regard to the healing of the blind beggars of Jericho.

How can the differences between Mark and Matthew’s account of the healing of the blind both be true in every detail?

The story of the healing of the blind beggars is one of the stories that skeptics use to discount the accuracy and inspiration of the Bible itself. Here are the two accounts:

Mark 10:46-52 KJV

46 And they came to Jericho: and as he went out of Jericho with his disciples and a great number of people, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the highway side begging.
47 And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out, and say, Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me.
48 And many charged him that he should hold his peace: but he cried the more a great deal, Thou son of David, have mercy on me.
49 And Jesus stood still, and commanded him to be called. And they call the blind man, saying unto him, Be of good comfort, rise; he calleth thee.
50 And he, casting away his garment, rose, and came to Jesus.
51 And Jesus answered and said unto him, What wilt thou that I should do unto thee? The blind man said unto him, Lord, that I might receive my sight.
52 And Jesus said unto him, Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole. And immediately he received his sight, and followed Jesus in the way.

Matthew 20:29-34 KJV

29 And as they departed from Jericho, a great multitude followed him.
30 And, behold, two blind men sitting by the way side, when they heard that Jesus passed by, cried out, saying, Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou son of David.
31 And the multitude rebuked them, because they should hold their peace: but they cried the more, saying, Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou son of David.
32 And Jesus stood still, and called them, and said, What will ye that I shall do unto you?
33 They say unto him, Lord, that our eyes may be opened.
34 So Jesus had compassion on them, and touched their eyes: and immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed him.
Both accounts identify the proximity of the city of Jericho as the site where the miracle took place.
Both accounts record the presence of a large crowd accompanying Jesus and his disciples.
Matthew records that there were two blind men while Mark records only one, and names him as Bartimaeus.
Both accounts say the blind had been sitting by the roadside, begging.
Both accounts say that the blind cried aloud for mercy from Jesus, son of David.
Both accounts tell of the crowds attempt to shut the(m) up.
Both accounts say that Jesus responded with an invitation.
Both accounts say that Jesus asked what the desire of him was.
Both accounts record the same answer to Jesus’ question.
Both accounts record the miracle of the healing of the blind. Matthew adds a detail that Jesus touched the blind while Mark omits the small detail. This is not a problem even for the skeptics.
Mark records Jesus’ dismissal of Bartimaeus by saying, “Go thy way…” Matthew omits that detail—again this is not a problem for both accounts declare that the blind who were healed followed Jesus.
Out of all of the information provided in both gospels, there is only one point of difference, yet some will toss out the plenary inspiration of scripture in total because of this. Strain at a gnat and swallow a camel! But is this the infallible Word of God or not? If so, how does Mark give us the name of one blind man when Matthew tells us of two unnamed blind men?

My answer:

Matthew was there. As he walked along with Jesus that day he witnessed two blind beggars crying out to Jesus. Matthew's eyewitness is not in question. The crowd tried to silence the blind beggars but the blind cried out all the more. Upon hearing them, Jesus stopped and called for them. (Isn't that just like Jesus!) He asked them what they wanted most and they answered, 'that we might see!' He touched their eyes and their blindness was gone, and they could see! Jesus gave them leave to go their own way but they decided to accompany Jesus with the disciples as did many others. This is even more evident later when the disciples were to pick a replacement for Judas Iscariot (Acts 1:21-23), one who followed along with the disciples throughout Jesus' entire earthly ministry, (from the beginning) and there were at least two men who fit that catagory.

Mark (John Mark) wasn’t a witness on the day that the miracle of the healing of the blind took place.
It is commonly said that Mark’s home was the site of the last supper and a gathering place on the day of Pentecost and a place where prayer meetings were held (Acts 12:12) in the early days of the church. Mark happened to be the nephew of Barnabas (Colossians 4:10) and like a son to Peter (1 Peter 5:15) he traveled with Paul who criticised Marks immaturity early on but later desired and received Marks assistance.

The first appearance of Mark in the Bible is believed to be an autobiographical description of himself at the Garden of Gethsemane:

Mark 14:50-52

50 And they all forsook him, and fled.
51 And there followed him a certain young man, having a linen cloth cast about his naked body; and the young men laid hold on him:
52 And he left the linen cloth, and fled from them naked.

The fact that only Mark records this seemingly insignificant incident specifying a particular ‘certain young man’ makes it clear that this curious young man (Mark) was eyewitness if not the participant to whom he referred.
In the days that followed Jesus’ resurrection Mark became familiar with the men who followed Jesus, among whom was Bartimaeus, the blind beggar of Jericho. Listening intently to their stories and testimonies of the miracles of Jesus, Mark wrote them in his gospel account.

Mark’s gospel identifies the story as the healing of blind Bartimaeus, an apparent result of his hearing Bartimaeus’ own testimony from the former blind man's own mouth. Who the second blind man was or when he stopped following Jesus we aren’t told, but they were released by Jesus to go their own way. His name is unknown.

When observed in this likely scenario, there is absolutely no disagreement whatsoever in the stories recounted in the two gospels. The accounts themselves prove the truth of the miracle of the blind beggars of Jericho and the honesty, integrity and credibility of the Bible.

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