There is a post on The Warfare Journal’s site that lists “contradictions” in the Gospels, then he goes on to rectify these differences by explaining that there were five crosses instead of three. He lists the reasons that lead him to this conclusion and I will examine these in detail.
Note: I don’t claim to know everything, I certainly have NO credentials whatsoever and frankly, I’ve got a lot to learn. So the following is what I believe based on my study all morning. (and boy do I need a break!) I am in no way attacking The Warfare Journal – in fact I really enjoy his blog. I think he speaks a lot of truths and has good insight into things and it’s just a joy to be there. So even though I disagree with him in this one post, it in no way changes my view of him or his blog. In fact I recommend his blog!
Ok, here we go…
First, he compares Matthew and Luke’s account of the other crucified criminals and because different words were used, “robber”, “thieves” in Matthew, and “criminal” in Luke, he surmises that there are two different groups represented. (making the total number 4 excluding Jesus)
He first points out that Matt 27:38 used the word “robbers” (Young’s Literal Translation) but says later on that “thieves” were used (and Luke 23:32 uses the word “criminal” but I’ll get to that later)
Then crucified with him are two robbers, one on the right hand, and one on the left, (Young’s Literal Translation)
Before I get into the definitions of these words, please note that ‘robbers’ is not the only word used in Matthew but “criminal” and “thieves” are also used depending upon the translation.
“robbers” – NASB
“robbers” – ASV
“robbers” – Darby Bible Translation
“robbers” – English Revised Version
“thieves” – KJV
“thieves” – (American King James Version)
“thieves” – (Bible in Basic English)
“thieves” – (Douay-Rheims Bible)
“criminals” – (God’s Word Translation 1995)
“thieves” – Tyndale New Testament
“thieves” – Webster’s Bible Translation
Now let’s read Luke…
Luke 23:32 (see also vs. 33, 39, 40)
Two others also, who were criminals, were being led away to be put to death with Him. (NASB)
Yes it says “criminals”, but so does Matthew. Furthermore, the following words are used in Luke in addition to “criminals”:
“Malefactors” – KJV
“Malefactors” – American King James Version
“Malefactors” – ASV
“evil-doers” – Bible in Basic English
“malefactors” – Darby Bible Translation
“malefactors” – Webster’s Bible Translation
“evil-doers” – Young’s Literal Translation
and the list goes on.
As you can see (and see for yourself, don’t take my word for it), “robbers” & “thieves” are not the only words used in Matthew but “criminals” is also used. And “criminals” is not the only word used in Luke like he claims but also “malefactors” & “evil-doers”. It seems that he has focused on one or two differing words from each book to change a detail of an event. But as you can see this is not so. These words are interchangeable. Which brings us to the next subject…
He states that there are different words used which is supposed to solidify his claims that there are two different groups of criminals, making it four. Just because different words were used does not change the meaning or event. Pick a word and use your thesaurus and see how many choices you have. Also, it is to be expected that differing words were used because there are two different authors.
So let’s make sure these words are interchangeable and that these differing words are not speaking of two different groups of criminals…
From Matthew – “Thieves” – Lestes (3027) robber, one who plunders openly and by violence
From Luke – “Criminal” – Kakourgos (2557) evil-doer, criminal, malefactor
Is not a robber and a thief also a criminal and an evil-doer? Of course they are. There is no reason to conclude that ‘robbers’ and ‘thieves’ and different from ‘criminals.’ And the fact that different words were used does not change the event – the two authors simply chose to use different words to describe the same people. And if that doesn’t convince you, just read all the other translations and you will see that they all agree that there were two others criminals crucified with Jesus in the middle. There is no contradiction in this anywhere.
Another point brought up, and it was a very good one…..
Did the Both Thieves Revile Christ or Just One?
Luke 23:39,40 39One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!”
40But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
Matt 27:44 44In the same way the robbers who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him.
Mark 15:31 32Let this Christ, this King of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him.
John doesn’t mention the thieves.
Both Matthew and Mark says that the criminals insulted Jesus while Luke says one criminal rebuked the other one. This is a valid objection. I’m glad he brought this up because I didn’t notice this before so I had to search this out for myself today. So I thank you for bringing this up.
So why did Matthew and Mark indicate the thieves insult Jesus while Luke said only one insulted Him?
It’s quite possible that initially, both thieves reviled Jesus, but then one of them repented. Perhaps after hearing Jesus’ words on the cross and seeing His forgiving attitude, the one thief may have been driven to acknowledge that Jesus was indeed the Messiah. How many times have we said something bad and then retracted it after new information?
It could be as simple as a figure of speech called synecdoche. (pronounced si-nek’-duh-kee)
Definition: Rhetoric – a figure of speech in which a part is used for the whole or the whole for a part, the special for the general or the general for the special, as in ten sail for ten ships or a Croesus for a rich man. (from dictionary.com)
In other words…
A whole can be put for the part.
A part may be put for the whole.
Time might be put for part of a time.
The singular can be put for the plural.
And the plural can be put for the singular.
It’s possible that Matthew and Mark were using the plural in place of the singular when speaking of the thieves (plural) reviling Christ. Other examples where this is used is…
Genesis 8:4 indicates that Noah’s ark rested “on the mountains of Ararat.” Question: Did the ark rest on one of the mountains of Ararat, or did it rest on all of them at the same time? Although the ark was a huge vessel, it obviously did not rest on the many mountains of Ararat; rather, it rested on one.
In Genesis 21:7 Sarah asked, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? For I have borne him a son in his old age.” Anyone who remembers the story remembers that Sarah had but one child. In certain contexts, however, one might use a synecdoche and speak of one child (as did Sarah) by using the word children.
Everything that I’ve said above are just my attempts to harmonize the Gospels without changing it or the surrounding events. I am not claiming that I have all the answers either. This is just the best way I know how to interpret Scriptures without leaving any opposing verses so that everything harmonizes beautifully and without changing the crucifixion account.
The Soldiers Skipping Jesus
First I have to say that I believe in the archeological findings of Ron Wyatt and Jonathan Gray. I was a huge skeptic at first but I’ve been reading about their findings for years and comparing it with the Bible and not only do they match up perfectly, but it has given me a greater understanding of those Biblical events. So my reason for the soldiers skipping Jesus is based on the crucifixion site itself. When the crucifixion site was excavated, they uncovered a center hole which was raised above the other holes. The reason is believed to be because whoever was crucified there was the “star attraction”, a person to be made an example of and we know that passersby were able to walk past Jesus and shake their heads and mock Him. So if you have one guy on the left in easy reach, Jesus up higher and harder to reach (which in itself says something about His position being ‘higher’) and another guy on the right who is also in easy reach, then it makes perfect sense to skip the person in the middle. For more info on this click here.