New Testament Problems

Last updated 9/12/99

Responses to these problems are invited. The best of these will be posted along with the problems listed below. Please note that references to specific works should be provided, if these are used to defend a position.

Internal Inconsistencies

The genealogies of Matthew and Luke contradict each other
Where did Joseph take Jesus from Bethlehem?
Where did Jesus go after his baptism?
Did Jesus speak to the Centurion?
Where did Jesus heal the maniac?
Was Jairus' daughter dead?
Staves or no staves?
Sign or no sign?
When was Jesus transfigured?
 When did Jesus cleanse the Temple?
When did the Fig tree wither?
When was the Last Supper?
Did Jesus say he would destroy the Temple?
Did Jesus teach in secret?
How many times did the cock crow?
What was written on Jesus' Cross?
What were Jesus' final words?
Who saw Jesus after his resurrection?
How did Judas die?
Was Abraham justified by faith or works?

Contradictions and Inconsistencies with the Old Testament

Matthew incorrectly attributes a prophecy by Zechariah to Jeremiah
Matthew confused two Old Testament characters
Matthew refers to an unknown prophecy
Matthew misunderstood an Old Testament prophecy
Matthew misapplied an Old Testament passage
When was the First Temple Built?
When did Terah die?
Where was Jacob buried?
 Does God cause confusion?
Can God be seen?
How many sons did Abraham have?
Was Jesus the first to ascend into Heaven?
Was Jesus the first to rise from the dead?
What was Balaam's error?
Hebrews incorrectly quotes the Psalms
Mark incorrectly attributed a prophecy
Abiathar and Ahimelech

Historical Problems

There is no external support for Herod's murder of the children
When was Jesus born?
Did Jesus return in the first century?

Bibliography and Sources

The genealogies of Matthew and Luke contradict each other

Matthew's genealogy of Jesus is recorded in Matthew 1:1-16, and Luke's is recorded in Luke 3:23-38. It has long been known that these two records do not agree with each other. Specifically, they diverge after Solomon, converge at Shealtiel (the father of Zerubbabel), diverge after Zerubbabel and do not converge again until Joseph, the father of Jesus. (See Table).

Note that this also means that the genealogy of Zerubbabel is contradictory. Matthew makes him a descendant of Solomon, David's son. Luke makes him a descendant of Nathan, also a son of David. Since Solomon and Nathan were full blood brothers (I Chronicles 3:5) they cannot both be paternal ancestors of Zerubbabel.

In fact, both genealogies are pointless, since both Matthew and Luke then go on to claim that Mary was impregnated by the Holy Spirit, not by Joseph. Since Mary was probably of the tribe of Levi (see Luke 1:5 in conjunction with Luke 1:36), it is therefore impossible for Jesus to have been the 'Son of David' as was required for the Messiah (Matthew 22:42).

There is another problem with Matthew's list. Matthew includes Jeconiah (Matthew 1:11), even though the Old Testament records that God cursed Jeconiah, and prophesied that he would never have a descendant upon the throne of Judah. (Jeremiah 22:28-30)

Bible scholars have, over the centuries, proposed several solutions to this difficulty. Among these are -

Where did Joseph take Jesus from Bethlehem?

While recording the birth of Jesus, Matthew states that Joseph and his family left Bethlehem and headed for Egypt in order to escape Herod.

Matthew 2:13,14,15 And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt: And was there until the death of Herod...

From Egypt, Joseph and his family travelled to Nazareth.

Matthew 2:21,23 And he arose, and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel...And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth...

The only other gospel that records Jesus' birth, that of Luke, not only fails to mention the flight to Egypt, but specifically states that Joseph travelled to Jerusalem (to the Temple) from Bethlehem, and then to Nazareth.

Luke 2:22 And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord...
Luke 2:39 And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth.

The reference to the Law refers to the ceremonial cleansing required of Jewish women after giving birth. This would have required a period of about forty days. There is simply no time in Luke's narrative for a journey to and from Egypt, and an extended stay in that country.

Click here for a longer analysis of the birth narratives.

Where did Jesus go after his baptism?

The three synoptic gospels are unanimous in recording that Jesus went into the wilderness for forty days, immediately following his baptism.

Mark 1:12,13 And immediately the spirit driveth him into the wilderness. And he was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted of Satan; and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered unto him.

John's gospel, on the other hand, has Jesus in Galilee following his baptism, and in Cana two days later.

John 1:32,35,36 And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him...Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples; And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God!

In fact, John never mentions the temptation in the wilderness at all. In fairness, it should be noted that the wording in John is vague enough to allow for the possibility that John the Baptist was referring to an earlier time, although this does seem to be stretching the text a little.

Did Jesus speak to the Centurion?

Matthew 8 records the miracle of Jesus healing a Roman Centurion's servant. The Centurion visits Jesus personally to ask for a healing.

Matthew 8:5,6 And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him, And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented.
Matthew 8:13 And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour.

In the parallel passage in Luke 7, the Centurion sends a group of Jewish elders to represent him.

Luke 7:2,3 And a certain centurion's servant, who was dear unto him, was sick, and ready to die. And when he heard of Jesus, he sent unto him the elders of the Jews, beseeching him that he would come and heal his servant.
Luke 7:10 And they that were sent, returning to the house, found the servant whole that had been sick.

In Luke's account, Jesus never met the Centurion at all.

Where did Jesus heal the maniac?

In Matthew 8, Jesus meets two men possessed by devils in the country of the Gadarenes. He drives out the demons, which then enter into a herd of swine.

Matthew 8:28 (NIV) When he arrived at the other side in the region of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs met him. They were so violent that no one could pass that way.
Matthew 8:32 He said to them, "Go!" So they came out and went into the pigs, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and died in the water.

Mark and Luke both tell the same story, except that they mention only one man, in the country of the Gerasenes.

Mark 5:1,2 (NIV) They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes. When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an evil spirit came from the tombs to meet him.
Mark 5:13 He gave them permission, and the evil spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned.

Although Gadara and Gerasa are both close to Galilee, they are not the same place. Gadara is 10 Km (6 miles) southeast of the Sea of Galilee, Gerasa is 30 Km (19 miles) east of the Jordan, midway between the Dead Sea and the Sea of Galilee. (New Concise Bible Dictionary, pgs 181 and 188).

It seems that various scribes have attempted to harmonize these two passages over the centuries. Some manuscripts read 'Gergesenes' in Matthew 8:28, and 'Gadarenes' in Mark 5:1.

Was Jairus' daughter dead?

The three synoptic Gospels record the familiar story of Jesus restoring the daughter of Jairus to life. The narrative follows the same general structure in each Gospel, but Matthew has a subtle difference. Both Mark and Luke state that Jairus' daughter is at the point of death.

Mark 5:22-23 And, behold, there cometh one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name...And besought him greatly, saying, My little daughter lieth at the point of death...
Luke 8:41-42 And, behold, there came a man named Jairus...and he fell down at Jesus' feet, and besought him that he would come into his house: For he had one only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she lay a dying...

In Matthew's version, however, Jairus is adamant that his daughter is already dead.

Matthew 9:18 ...behold, there came a certain ruler, and worshipped him, saying, My daughter is even now dead...

There is further detail in each narrative which underscores this contradiction. In Mark and Luke, messengers arrive from Jairus' house to inform him that his daughter had died.

Mark 5:35 While he yet spake, there came from the ruler of the synagogue's house certain which said, Thy daughter is dead...
Luke 8:49 While he yet spake, there cometh one from the ruler of the synagogue's house, saying to him, Thy daughter is dead...

This event is not recorded my Matthew, obviously, since it would conflict with Jairus' statement that his daughter was already dead.

Staves or no staves?

When Jesus commissioned his disciples for their first missionary effort, he specifically forbade them to take any staves with them.

Matthew 10:9-10 Provide neither gold, nor silver...nor yet staves...

However, in the parallel passage in Mark, the disciples are commanded to take a staff.

Mark 6:8 And commanded them that they should take nothing for their journey, save a staff only...

Sign or no sign?

According to Mark, when the Pharisees asked for a sign from Jesus, he said that no sign would be given to his generation.

Mark 8:11 And the Pharisees came forth, and began to question with him, seeking of him a sign from heaven...And he...saith, Why doth this generation seek after a sign? verily I say unto you, There shall no sign be given unto this generation.

Matthew and Luke repeat this statement, but add an exception.

Matthew 12:38-39 Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee. But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas...

(See also Luke 11:29) The 'sign of Jonah', as Jesus went on to explain, was the miracle of his resurrection. Thus, in Mark Jesus stated that there would be no sign given, while Matthew and Luke state that at least one sign would be given. The situation gets even more complicated in John and Acts, both of which claim that Jesus performed many signs.

John 20:30 And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book...
Acts 2:22 Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know...

In each of the above cases, the word translated 'sign' is always the same Greek word ('semeion').

When was Jesus transfigured?

In Matthew's Gospel, Jesus takes his disciples up to a mountain (where he is transfigured) six days after making certain statements.

Matthew 16:28-17:2 Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom. And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, And was transfigured before them...

In Luke's Gospel, Jesus speaks the same words, and takes his disciples to the same mountain, but after a different period of time.

Luke 9:27-29 But I tell you of a truth, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God. And it came to pass about an eight days after these sayings, he took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray. And as he prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistering.

Thus, Matthew has the transfiguration taking place six days after Jesus' discourse, while Luke places it eight days after the event.

When did Jesus cleanse the Temple?

Matthew, Mark and Luke all record that Jesus cleansed the Temple at the end of his ministry, shortly after his triumphant entry into Jerusalem.

Matthew 21:12 And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves...
Mark 11:15 And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves...
Luke 19:45 And he went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold therein, and them that bought...

According to John, however, Jesus cleansed the Temple at the start of his ministry, long before he rode into Jerusalem on the donkey.

John 2:15 And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers' money, and overthrew the tables...

When did the Fig Tree wither?

Matthew tells the story of Jesus cursing a fig tree, which immediately withered.

Matthew 21:19-20 (NIV) Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, "May you never bear fruit again!" Immediately the tree withered. When the disciples saw this, they were amazed. "How did the fig tree wither so quickly?" they asked.

In Mark's parallel account, at least a day goes by before the disciples notice the withered tree.

Mark 11:13-14,20-21 (NIV) Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, "May no one ever eat fruit from you again." And his disciples heard him say it...In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. Peter remembered and said to Jesus, "Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!"

A further problem involves the sequence of events. In Matthew, the cursing of the Fig tree (21:19) follows the cleansing of the Temple (21:12), while Mark has the cleansing of the Temple (Mark 11:15) following the incident with the Fig tree (Mark 11:14).

When was the Last Supper?

The three Synoptic Gospels are unanimous in placing the Last Supper on the day of Passover.

Luke 22:7,8,15 Then came the day of unleavened bread, when the passover must be killed. And he sent Peter and John, saying, Go and prepare us the passover, that we may eat...And he said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer...

The Gospel of John, however, records that the Last Supper took place before the Passover.

John 13:1,2 Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father...And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him...
John 18:28 Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgment: and it was early; and they themselves went not into the judgment hall, lest they should be defiled; but that they might eat the passover.

Click here for a longer analysis of Jesus' arrest and trial.

Responses

 Did Jesus say he would destroy the Temple?

During Jesus trial, Matthew records that two men brought a false testimony.

Matthew 26:60,61 But found none: yea, though many false witnesses came, yet found they none. At the last came two false witnesses, And said, This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days.

According to John, however, Jesus actually did say these words.

John 2:19 Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.

How could Matthew call these two men 'false witnesses', if they told the truth, according to John?

Click here for a longer analysis of Jesus' arrest and trial.

Did Jesus teach in secret?

During his trial, Jesus claimed that his teachings were well known.

John 18:20 Jesus answered him, I spake openly to the world; I ever taught in the synagogue, and in the temple, whither the Jews always resort; and in secret have I said nothing.

The other gospels, however, do record several occasions when Jesus taught his disciples secretly. Mark notes that Jesus used parables specifically to prevent his hearers from understanding his words.

Mark 4:10-12 And when he was alone, they that were about him with the twelve asked of him the parable. And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them.

Click here for a longer analysis of Jesus' arrest and trial.

How many times did the cock crow?

According to Matthew, Luke and John, the cock crowed atfer Peter had denied Jesus three times.

Matthew 26:74 Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew.
Luke 22:60 And Peter said, Man, I know not what thou sayest. And immediately, while he yet spake, the cock crew.
John 18:27 Peter then denied again: and immediately the cock crew.

This accords with Jesus' prediction, as recorded in each of the Gospels.

Matthew 26:34 Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.
Luke 22:34 And he said, I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, before that thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me.
John 13:38 Jesus answered him, Wilt thou lay down thy life for my sake? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, The cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied me thrice.

Mark, on the other hand, states that the cock crowed twice, the first time after Peter's first denial, and the second time after his third denial.

Mark 14:68 But he denied, saying, I know not, neither understand I what thou sayest. And he went out into the porch; and the cock crew.
Mark 14:71,72 But he began to curse and to swear, saying, I know not this man of whom ye speak.
And the second time the cock crew...

In Mark's Gospel, Jesus makes a slightly different prophecy of Peter's denials.

Mark 14:30 And Jesus saith unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this day, even in this night, before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice.

This means that Jesus' prophecy in Matthew, Luke and John was wrong - according to Mark, the cock did crow once before Peter had denied three times.

Click here for a longer analysis of Jesus' arrest and trial.

Responses

What was written on Jesus' Cross?

All four gospels record slightly different readings for the sign that Pilate placed on the Cross:

Matthew 27:37 And set up over his head his accusation written, This Is Jesus The King Of The Jews.

Mark 15:26 And the superscription of his accusation was written over, The King Of The Jews.

Luke 23:38 And a superscription also was written over him in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew, This Is The King Of The Jews.

John 19:19 And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross. And the writing was Jesus Of Nazareth The King Of The Jews.

It is generally supposed by Bible commentators that no one writer records the full text, which should read 'This is Jesus of Nazareth, the king of the Jews'. While this is certainly possible, it cannot be sustained from the text. None of the gospel authors indicate that they were only quoting a portion of the inscription.

Click here for a longer analysis of Jesus' crucifixion.

What were Jesus' final words?

According to Luke, the last words that Jesus spoke were 'Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit'.

Luke 23:46 And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.

According to John, Jesus' final saying was 'It is finished'.

John 19:30 When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.

Click here for a longer analysis of Jesus' crucifixion.

Who saw Jesus after his Resurrection?

Matthew records that Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were the first to see Jesus after his resurrection.

Matthew 28:1 In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.
Matthew 28:9 And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him.

Mark, however, appears to say that Jesus appeared only to Mary Magdalene.

Mark 16:9 Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.

Luke only complicates the issue. In Luke 24, we read that the two Marys and Joanna (who was not mentioned in Matthew or Mark) went to the Sepulchre and saw the angel, but did not see Jesus. The first recorded appearance of Jesus in Luke is to the two men on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-32). However, Luke then goes on to state that Jesus had already appeared to Peter before this point.

Luke 24:33-34: And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them, Saying, The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon.

John follows Mark in claiming that Jesus appeared first to Mary Magdalene, who was alone at the time. John seems to contradict Mark, however, in recording that Mary went to the sepulchre alone.

John 20:1 The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre.
John 20:14 And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus.

Note also that John says that it was still dark, while Matthew records that it was dawn.

The earliest post-resurrection account is found in I Corinthians 15, and further perpetuates the confusion. Paul states that Jesus first appeared to Peter (corroborating Luke), but never mentions the women at all.

I Corinthians 15:5-7 And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.

Click here for a longer analysis of the resurrection accounts.

Responses

How did Judas die?

According to Matthew, Judas committed suicide by hanging himself.

Matthew 27:5 And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.

The Book of Acts, however, records that Judas fell in his field and burst open.

Acts 1:18 Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out.

Some apologists have suggested that these events can be reconciled by assuming that Judas hung himself in his field, and after several days slipped off the rope and fell to the ground. While this is certainly possible, it cannot be supported by either text, and is little more than a speculative theory.

Note that these two passages also seem to contradict each other in the matter of the owner of the Potter's field. Matthew records that the field was purchased by the Pharisees.

Matthew 27:6,7 And the chief priests took the silver pieces, and said, It is not lawful for to put them into the treasury, because it is the price of blood. And they took counsel, and bought with them the potter's field, to bury strangers in.

The Book of Acts, on the other hand, explicitly states that Judas purchased the field.

Acts 1:18 Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity...

Another discrepancy between the stories points to the fact that we are dealing with two separate traditions concerning Judas' demise. This discrepancy deals with the name of the field. Both stories record that it was called 'the field of blood', but differ as to why. Matthew says that it was so called because it was purchased with blood money (Matthew 27:8), while the book of Acts claims that it was due to the fact that Judas burst open therein (Acts 1:19).

Was Abraham justified by faith or works?

In the book of James, we read that Abraham was justified by his (attempted) sacrifice of Isaac.

James 2:21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?

Paul, however, specifically states that Abraham was not justified by works.

Romans 4:2,3,6 For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness...Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works...

Matthew incorrectly attributes a prophecy by Zechariah to Jeremiah

Matthew 27:9 Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was valued, whom they of the children of Israel did value...

Actually, this prophecy is found in Zechariah.

Zechariah 11:12-13 And I said unto them, If ye think good, give me my price; and if not, forbear. So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver. And the Lord said unto me, Cast it unto the potter: a goodly price that I was prised at of them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the Lord.

Response 1
Response 2

Matthew confused two Old Testament characters

Matthew 23:35 That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.

The incident that Jesus is alluding to is recorded in II Chronicles.

II Chronicles 24:20-21 And the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest, which stood above the people, and said unto them, Thus saith God, Why transgress ye the commandments of the Lord, that ye cannot prosper? because ye have forsaken the Lord, he hath also forsaken you. And they conspired against him, and stoned him with stones at the commandment of the king in the court of the house of the Lord.

However, the Old Testament records that this Zechariah was the son of Jehoidah, not Berechiah. Berechiah was actually the father of the prophet Zechariah, who lived several decades after the death of his namesake.

Zechariah 1:1 In the eighth month, in the second year of Darius, came the word of the Lord unto Zechariah, the son of Berechiah...

When Luke quotes this event, Jesus does not give the name of the father of Zechariah.

Luke 11:51 From the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias which perished between the altar and the temple: verily I say unto you, It shall be required of this generation.

Matthew refers to an unknown prophecy

Matthew 2:23 And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.

This prophecy is not recorded anywhere in the Old Testament.

Some have speculated that Matthew may have been referring to a passage in Isaiah.

Isaiah 11:1 And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots...

The Hebrew word translated 'branch' is the word 'netzer', and may have been the root of the name 'Nazareth'. If this is true, it raises an interesting possibility. The location and even existence of the town called Nazareth has long been problematic. (The place that is called 'Nazareth' today has not been verified by archaeology, and in fact does not fit the description of the town given in the Gospels). The name is never referred to in the Old Testament, nor by any of the contemporary historians. Even the early church fathers, such as Origen and Eusebius, who were familiar with the area, could not point out the location of Nazareth.

This has led some to speculate that there never was a place called Nazareth. The theory is that Jesus was called 'Jesus the Branch' by the early Christians, as a reference to Isaiah 11:1. In the years between Christ's death and the writing of the Gospels, the origin of the phrase was confused, and some thought that 'netzer' referred to a location, thus 'Jesus of Nazareth'. If correct, this theory would explain the lack of any historical witness to the town called Nazareth, and Matthew's puzzling reference to a nonexistent prophecy. (See this link for more information on Gospel geography problems.)

Response

Matthew misunderstood an Old Testament prophecy

In Matthew 21, Jesus tells his disciples to fetch an ass and a colt, to fulfill and Old Testament prophecy.

Matthew 21:2,4,5,7 Saying unto them, Go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them unto me. All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass. And brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set him thereon.

In actual fact, the prophecy that Matthew quoted only refers to one animal.

Zechariah 9:9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.

The word 'and' in this sense means 'even', and should be translated as an interpretation of the first object.

Zechariah 9:9 (NIV) Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Zechariah 9:9 (RSV) Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on an ass, on a colt the foal of an ass.

Matthew misunderstood the meaning of the passage, and has Christ riding on two animals. The other gospel writers only mention one animal.

Mark 11:2,7 And saith unto them, Go your way into the village over against you: and as soon as ye be entered into it, ye shall find a colt tied, whereon never man sat; loose him, and bring him. And they brought the colt to Jesus, and cast their garments on him; and he sat upon him.

Luke 19:30, 35 Saying, Go ye into the village over against you; in the which at your entering ye shall find a colt tied, whereon yet never man sat: loose him, and bring him hither. And they brought him to Jesus: and they cast their garments upon the colt, and they set Jesus thereon.

John 12:14,15 And Jesus, when he had found a young ass, sat thereon; as it is written, Fear not, daughter of Sion: behold, thy King cometh, sitting on an ass's colt.

Matthew misapplies an Old Testament passage

Matthew 1:23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.

Firstly, the Old Testament passage that Matthew referred to (Isaiah 7:14) does not contain the word 'virgin' in Hebrew. It uses the Hebrew word almah, which simply denotes a young female, and does not necessarily connote sexual purity. The Hebrew word for 'virgin' was bethulah, which is used by Isaiah in 62:5. Matthew followed the lead of the Greek Septuagint in mistranslating almah. (More information)

Although Fundamentalist scholars assert that almah is never used in a sense which does not connote sexual purity, a quick survey of the Old Testament reveals a different story. Whenever we find the word, it is always used to denote a young female. Often, the question of whether the woman was a virgin or not is not relevant to the issue. In at least one instance, however, a good case could be made for the position that almah does not imply sexual purity. This is in Proverbs 30:19, which reads as follows:

Proverbs 30:19 The way of an eagle in the air; the way of a serpent upon a rock; the way of a ship in the midst of the sea; and the way of a man with a maid.

The word translated 'maid' in the King James Version is the Hebrew almah. Many scholars understand the phrase '...the way of a man with a maid' as a euphemism for the sex act, especially in the light of the context of Proverbs 30 (see especially verse 20, which speaks of adultery).

Even if Proverbs 30:19 does not speak of the sex act, there is still another issue to consider. This is the fact that whenever the Old Testament speaks unambiguously of a sexually pure woman, it consistently uses the word bethulah, not almah. Consider the following two examples:

Genesis 24:16 And the damsel was very fair to look upon, a virgin, neither had any man known her...
Judges 21:12 And they found among the inhabitants of Jabeshgilead four hundred young virgins, that had known no man by lying with any male...

In both cases, the word translated 'virgin' is bethulah. Thus, had Isaiah intended to claim that the woman who would give birth to the child was a virgin, he should have used bethulah. The word that he did use, almah, is ambiguous in this context.

The second point about this alleged prophecy is that it has immediate application in its own context. Isaiah used the sign of a young, pregnant woman, whom both he and King Ahaz knew. He prophesied that before the child reached the age of accountability (7:16) both Syria and Israel would be conquered. Isaiah thus limited the time span of his prophecy to no more than eight years. There is no indication in the text that this prophecy would have a future fulfillment.

Finally, Jesus was never called 'Emmanuel' by his parents, nor anyone else.

Response

When was the First Temple built?

I Kings explicitly states that Solomon began building the Temple 480 years after the Israelites left Egypt.

I Kings 6:1 And it came to pass in the four hundred and eightieth year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon's reign over Israel, in the month Zif, which is the second month, that he began to build the house of the Lord.

In Acts 13, Paul delivers a sermon during which he gives a chronology of Israelite history after the Exodus.

Acts 13:18-22 And about the time of forty years suffered he their manners in the wilderness...And after that he gave unto them judges about the space of four hundred and fifty years, until Samuel the prophet....And afterward they desired a king: and God gave unto them Saul the son of Cis, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, by the space of forty years...And when he had removed him, he raised up unto them David to be their king...

Paul thus puts the start of the reign of David at 530 years after the Exodus. David reigned forty years (II Samuel 5:4), and work began on the Temple in the fourth year of Solomon (I Kings 6:1). This puts the start of the temple at 573 years after the exodus, according to Paul. This is almost a century later than the date given in the Old Testament.

When did Terah die?

In Acts 7, Stephen claimed that Abraham left Haran after his father, Terah, died.

Acts 7:4 (NIV) So he left the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran. After the death of his father, God sent him to this land where you are now living.

According to Genesis, Terah was about seventy years old by the time he had Abraham.

Genesis 11:26 And Terah lived seventy years, and begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran.

Abraham was seventy-five when he left Terah, at God's command.

Genesis 12:4 So Abram departed, as the Lord had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran.

This means that Terah was, at most, 145 years old when Abraham left Haran. However, Genesis states that Terah lived much longer than that.

Genesis 11:32 And the days of Terah were two hundred and five years: and Terah died in Haran.

Thus, according to Genesis, Terah lived at least sixty years after Abraham left Haran. Stephen (or the author of Acts) may have been misled by the fact that Genesis records the death of Terah before the story of Abraham's departure, and simply assumed that Terah was dead by this time, without stopping to check the math.

Where was Jacob buried?

According to a sermon given by Stephen in the book of Acts, Jacob and Joseph were buried in Shechem.

Acts 7:15,16 (NIV) Then Jacob went down to Egypt, where he and our fathers died. Their bodies were brought back to Shechem and placed in the tomb that Abraham had bought from the sons of Hamor at Shechem for a certain sum of money.

However, it was in fact only Joseph and his sons who were buried in Shechem. Jacob was buried in Machpelah, near Mamre, with his fathers.

Genesis 50:13 For his sons carried him into the land of Canaan, and buried him in the cave of the field of Machpelah, which Abraham bought with the field for a possession of a buryingplace of Ephron the Hittite, before Mamre.

Furthermore, it was Jacob who bought the field from the sons of Hamor, not Abraham.

Joshua 24:32 And the bones of Joseph, which the children of Israel brought up out of Egypt, buried they in Shechem, in a parcel of ground which Jacob bought of the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for an hundred pieces of silver: and it became the inheritance of the children of Joseph.

It appears that Stephen (or, more likely, the author of Acts) has confused these two incidents, and has Abraham buying the wrong field. The transaction wherein Jacob bought the field of Shechem is recorded in Genesis 33:19.

Genesis 33:19 And he bought a parcel of a field, where he had spread his tent, at the hand of the children of Hamor, Shechem's father, for an hundred pieces of money.

Abraham was already dead by this time (Genesis 25:8), and thus could not possibly have purchased the field, as Stephen claimed.

 Does God cause confusion?

Writing to the Corinthians, Paul claimed that God does not cause confusion.

.I Corinthians 14:33 For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace..

This quote takes place in the context of speaking in tongues, i.e. speaking in a foreign, or unknown language. However, the Old Testament, while relating the myth of the Tower of Babel, states that God did indeed cause confusion.

Genesis 11:9 (NIV) That is why it was called Babel --because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world...

This passage contains a play on words. 'Babel' in the ancient Babylonian language means 'the gate of God', while in Semitic it means 'confusion'.

Can God be seen?

John 1:18 is quite emphatic that God has never been seen.

John 1:18 No man hath seen God at any time...

Later in John's Gospel, Jesus is even more explicit.

John 5:37 And the Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape.

The Old Testament prescribed dire consequences for anyone who saw God's face.

Exodus 33:20 And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.

However, earlier in the same chapter, Exodus contradicts itself (and John) by claiming that Moses did indeed see God's face.

Exodus 33:11 And the Lord spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend.

It seems that Moses was not the only person to be granted this privelege.

Isaiah 6:1 In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne...
Job 42:5 I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee.

How many sons did Abraham have?

According to the Old Testament, Abraham already had one son, Ishmael, when he had Isaac.

Genesis 16:15 And Hagar bare Abram a son: and Abram called his son's name, which Hagar bare, Ishmael.
Genesis 21:3 And Abraham called the name of his son that was born unto him, whom Sarah bare to him, Isaac.

However, the book of Hebrews refers to Isaac as Abraham's 'only-begotten' son.

Hebrews 11:17 By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son...

The Greek word here translated 'only-begotten' (monogene) is the same word that John used of Christ (John 1:18, John 3:16). Therefore, any re-interpretation of the word to allow for more than one son in Hebrews 11:17 can also be applied to Christ.

A close examination of the Old Testament sources will reveal that the author of Hebrews cannot really be faulted for claiming that Abraham had only one son. The book of Genesis itself repeatedly refers to Isaac as Abraham's 'only son' (Genesis 22:2, 12, 16), despite having recorded the birth of Ishmael only a few chapters earlier.

These sort of side-by-side contradictions occur with some frequency in the earlier historical part of the Old Testament (i.e. Genesis through Judges). It was this phenomenon that led to the Documentary Hypothesis, which states that the early part of the Old Testament was pieced together from a collection of separate narratives by a number of unknown editors. Often, these stories contradicted one another, but the editors nonetheless included them with a minumum of rewriting, a practice which has resulted in a large number of confusing and contradictory statements in the Old Testament.

Was Jesus the first to ascend into Heaven?

Speaking to Nicodemus in John 3, Jesus claimed that no man had ascended into Heaven before him.

John 3:13 And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.

However, the Old Testament records that Elijah was taken to Heaven in a fiery chariot.

II Kings 2:11 And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.

The Old Testament (and the New) also seem to imply that Enoch was taken directly to Heaven although this is not explicitly stated. (Genesis 5:24, Hebrews 11:5)

Was Jesus the first to rise from the dead?

During a sermon delivered before king Agrippa, Paul claimed that Jesus was the first to rise from the dead.

Acts 26:23 That Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead...

In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul repeated this claim.

I Corinthians 15:20 But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.

It appears, however, that Paul was not very well versed in his Old Testament history at this point. The Old Testament records several incidents of people being raised from the dead.

In I Kings 17, the prophet Elijah restored a dead boy to life in Zarephath.

I Kings 17:20-22 ...hast thou also brought evil upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by slaying her son? And he stretched himself upon the child three times, and cried unto the Lord, and said, O Lord my God, I pray thee, let this child's soul come into him again. And the Lord heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived.

The second book of Kings records an incident of an unintentional resurrection.

II Kings 13:21 And it came to pass, as they were burying a man, that, behold, they spied a band of men; and they cast the man into the sepulchre of Elisha: and when the man was let down, and touched the bones of Elisha, he revived, and stood up on his feet.

The New Testament, too, records a number of resurrections that preceded that of Jesus. Mark 5, for example, records that Jesus himself raised to life a young girl. And, of course, John writes that Jesus restored Lazarus to life after he had been dead for four days.

John 11:43,44 And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth...

What was Balaam's error?

The Canaanite prophet Balaam seems to have come in for some heavy criticism in the New Testament.

II Peter 2:15 Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness;
Jude 1:11 Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core.
Revelation 2:14 But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel...

It is a little difficult to see what all the fuss was about, however, because the Old Testament reveals a completely different story.

The story of Balaam is recorded in Numbers 22 through 24. The Moabite King Balak, concerned about the impending Hebrew invasion, asks Balaam to curse the Israelites. Despite numerous pleas, and promises of great reward, Balaam refuses, and instead obeys God, and blesses the Israelites.

Numbers 24:10-11 And Balak's anger was kindled against Balaam, and he smote his hands together: and Balak said unto Balaam, I called thee to curse mine enemies, and, behold, thou hast altogether blessed them these three times.
Therefore now flee thou to thy place: I thought to promote thee unto great honour; but, lo, the Lord hath kept thee back from honour.

Note that all three of the New Testament passages cited claim that Balaam accepted a large reward to curse the Israelites. The Old Testament tells a completely different story, however.

Numbers 22:16-18 And they came to Balaam, and said to him, Thus saith Balak the son of Zippor, Let nothing, I pray thee, hinder thee from coming unto me: For I will promote thee unto very great honour, and I will do whatsoever thou sayest unto me: come therefore, I pray thee, curse me this people. And Balaam answered and said unto the servants of Balak, If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the word of the Lord my God, to do less or more.

The Old Testament indicates that Balaam refused the reward, and instead said that he would say only that which God commanded him to speak. Does this sound like the same person who was so roundly abused in the New Testament?

Hebrews incorrectly quotes the Psalms

In Hebrews 10, the author appeals to one of the Psalms while arguing that Jesus was sacrificed for the sins of mankind.

Hebrews 10:5-7 Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God.

The problem is that the verse does not appear in the Psalms as quoted.

Psalms 40:6 Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire; mine ears hast thou opened: burnt offering and sin offering hast thou not required. Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God...

Note that the crucial phrase '...a body hast thou prepared me...' does not appear in the Hebrew version of Pslam 40:6. The author of Hebrews depended on this phrase for his argument.

Hebrews 10:10 By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

The phrase quoted in Hebrews 10:5 actually comes from the Septuagint, the Greek version of the Old Testament. This raises the troubling question of textual reliability. We now have no idea which text (Hebrew or Greek) is supposed to be reliable. If the Hebrew reading is correct, then the argument produced here in Hebrews 10 is invalidated; if the Septuagint version is correct, it casts a shadow on the reliability of the entire Hebrew Old Testament.

Mark incorrectly attributed a prophecy

Early in Mark's gospel, he quotes an Old Testament verse when introducing John the Baptist:

Mark 1:2 (NIV) It is written in Isaiah the prophet: "I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way"...

Actually, the phrase comes from Malachi, not Isaiah.

Malachi 3:1 Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me...

It seems that the ancient scribes who copied the New Testament manuscripts were aware of this problem, because a number of later Greek manuscripts remove the reference to Isaiah, and simply substitute "the prophets" (as in the KJV).

Response

Abiathar and Ahimelech

While responding to a charge of profaning the Sabbath, Jesus referred to an incident from David's life, recorded in the Old Testament:

Mark 2:25-26 And he said unto them, Have ye never read what David did, when he had need, and was an hungred, he, and they that were with him? How he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and did eat the shewbread, which is not lawful to eat but for the priests, and gave also to them which were with him?

This incident is recorded in I Samuel 21. However, the story indicates that Ahimelech was the high priest, not Abiathar.

I Samuel 21:1,6 Then came David to Nob to Ahimelech the priest...So the priest gave him hallowed bread: for there was no bread there but the shewbread, that was taken from before the Lord, to put hot bread in the day when it was taken away.

Abiathar was in fact Ahimelech's son, who is referred to as a priest some time after this event.

I Samuel 22:20 And one of the sons of Ahimelech the son of Ahitub, named Abiathar, escaped, and fled after David.

There is no external support for Herod's murder of the children

In Matthew 2:16, Matthew records that Herod ordered the execution of all children under two years of age in Bethlehem. This event is not recorded in secular history. The Jewish historian Josephus, in his book Antiquities of the Jews, has a long history of Herod and his crimes. The massacre at Bethlehem is not among them.

Click here for a longer analysis of the birth narratives.

When was Jesus born?

Matthew places Jesus' birth in Bethlehem, when Herod was still king.

Matthew 2:1 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king...

Matthew goes on to record how Joseph fled with Mary and Jesus to Egypt, where they remained until the death of Herod. He also states that Archelaus, Herod's son, was the ruler of Judaea when they returned from Egypt.

Matthew 2:19 But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt...
Matthew 2:22 But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judaea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee...

By comparing this narrative with the history of Judaea, as recorded by Josephus, it is possible to come up with an estimate for the year of Jesus birth. Josephus records that Herod died a short while after an eclipse, which can be dated to about 4 BC (Antiquities, Book 17, Chapter 6:4). Thus, according to Matthew, Jesus was born sometime around the year 3 or 4 BC, when Herod died and Archelaus became ruler of Judaea in his place.

Antiquities 17 8:1. And now Herod altered his testament upon the alteration of his mind; for he appointed Antipas, to whom he had before left the kingdom, to be tetrarch of Galilee and Perea, and granted the kingdom to Archelaus...When he had done those things, he died...

Luke, however, places Jesus' birth in a different time period. According to Luke 2, Jesus was born during the first census under Cyrenius, governor of Syria.

Luke 2:1,2 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

This census was also recorded by Josephus, but it took place quite some time after Herod's death. Josephus records that Archelaus reigned ten years before being banished to Vienna. Cyrenius was appointed governor of Syria at this time, to wrap up the affairs of Archelaus.

Antiquities 17 13:2. But in the tenth year of Archelaus's government, both his brethren, and the principal men of Judaea and Samaria, not being able to bear his barbarous and tyrannical usage of them, accused him before Caesar...Whereupon Caesar, when he heard it, was very angry, and...both banished him, and appointed Vienna, a city of Gaul, to be the place of his habitation, and took his money away from him.
Antiquities 17 13:5 ...So Archelaus's country was laid to the province of Syria; and Cyrenius, one that had been consul, was sent by Caesar to take account of people's effects in Syria, and to sell the house of Archelaus.

Josephus goes on to record that Cyrenius took a census of Judaea at this time.

Antiquities 18 1:1. Now Cyrenius, a Roman senator...came at this time into Syria, with a few others, being sent by Caesar to...take an account of their substance...Cyrenius came himself into Judaea, which was now added to the province of Syria, to take an account of their substance, and to dispose of Archelaus's money; but the Jews, although at the beginning they took the report of a taxation heinously, yet did they leave off any further opposition to it...

Since Archelaus reigned for ten years after the death of Herod, this would put the time of the census at about 6 or 7 AD. Matthew, then, states that Jesus was born when Herod was still alive, no later than 3 or 4 BC. Luke states that Jesus was born when Cyrenius was governor of Syria, which did not take place until at least ten years after Herod's death.

It has been proposed that Luke was referring to an earlier census, and the Luke 2:2 should be translated '...this taxing was first made before Cyrenius became governor of Syria...'. There are several problems with this approach. Firstly, it stretches the plain meaning of Luke 2:2 a little. Secondly, as it stands, Luke 2:2 is in harmony with Josephus, who records no census before this point, and seems to imply that this was, in fact, the first taxation of Judaea by the Romans. Finally, Matthew mentions no census in his birth narrative. Instead, he begins his story in Bethlehem, where Jesus was already born.

In fact, the census conducted by the Roman, Cyrenius, would necessarily have had to be the first. Up to this point, Syria was under the jurisdiction of Herod and his family. It was only after the banishment of Archelaus that Syria became a Roman province. The Roman historian Dio, who wrote about AD 200, independently confirms 6 AD as the year of Archelaus' exile, and the year in which Syria came under direct Roman rule.

Click here for a longer analysis of the birth narratives.

Did Jesus return in the first century?

A number of New Testament passages indicate that Christ was supposed to return before his generation had died. This would have been sometime in the first century AD.

First, there is the testimony of Jesus himself, who explicitly stated that some of his disciples would not die until Jesus instituted the Kingdom, and that his generation would not pass away until all his prophecies of the end of the world had been fulfilled.

Matthew 16:28 Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.
Matthew 23:36 Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation.
Matthew 24:34 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.

It is important to note that Jesus' long discourse on the end of the world, recorded in Matthew 24 and 25, was spoken in private to his own disciples.

Matthew 24:3 And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?

In this discourse, Jesus makes a number of assertions about the fate of his disciples. One of the signs of the end would be the persecution of his disciples.

Matthew 24:9 Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake.

While tradition records that the disciples were persecuted and martyred, this was not followed by the return of Christ, as he promised.

The Apostle Paul, too, seemed to think that Christ would return for his generation.

I Thessalonians 4:15-17 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

Note that Paul twice uses the phrase '...we which are alive and remain...'. This seems to preclude the theory that Paul was speaking of some far future generation. Paul made a similar assertion in First Corinthians.

I Corinthians 15:51,52 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

Note that Paul said that '...we shall not all sleep...'. In other words, he expected that at least some of his generation would not see death. Again, there is nothing in the text to indicate the Paul was speaking about some far future generation.

Paul reiterated his belief in a soon return of Christ in the Book of Romans.

Romans 13:11-12 And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.

The other New Testament writers had similar thoughts about the iminence of Christ's return.

James 5:8 Be ye also patient; establish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.

I John 2:18 Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.

I Peter 4:7 But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.

The Apocalyptic Book of Revelations repeatedly has Christ saying that he would return soon.

Revelation 22:20 He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly....

By no stretch of the imagination can 2,000 years be considered 'quickly'.

Contents Copyright 1997 Curt van den Heuvel


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