A Contradiction in Luke?

13 Feb

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Some scholars believe the Gospel of Luke contradicts Matthew and Mark concerning where Jesus healed the blind beggar near Jericho. Notice that Luke tells us when Jesus “was come neigh unto Jericho” a blind beggar sat by the wayside (Luke 18:35). The text seems to have Jesus approaching Jericho when he meets the blind man, but both Matthew and Mark have Jesus leaving Jericho when he sees the beggar (cf. Matthew 20:29-30; Mark 10:46). The Synoptics tell us that the blind beggar sat by the wayside (Luke 18:35; cf. Matthew 20:30; Mark 10:46). Mark identifies him as Bartimaeus, son of Timaeus. The Greek word translated wayside or highway side (G3598) seems to indicate the man sat just outside the city gate, but was he healed while Jesus approached Jericho or as he left the city?

Several explanations have been offered to account for the differences between Luke and the other Synoptics. For example, one solution offered was there was more than one blind beggar (cf. Matthew 20:29-30) and one was healed on the approach to Jericho, while the second was healed as Jesus left Jericho. Another explanation is that Luke spoke of the new city built by Herod, while Matthew and Mark spoke of the old city, Jericho. So, while Jesus left the old city, but while he was approaching new Jericho, he healed the blind beggar. Nevertheless, I am not content with either of these explanations or with others that have been offered. So, what else can be said about these things?

Since this was the Passover season, it seems more logical to find the beggar just outside Jericho on the highway that approaches Jericho from Jerusalem. This is because more people would be available to him there than at the gates approaching Jericho from Samaria or Peraea. Positioning himself at the highway going toward Jerusalem would avail the beggar of anyone journeying to Jerusalem from either Samaria or Peraea, as well as anyone who lived in Jericho. This seems to be the most logical position for the beggar to take his place.

If it is true that the beggar was located just outside the southern gate of Jericho, i.e. the gate whose road went toward Jerusalem, Jesus could not have been approaching the city when he saw the beggar by the wayside. Either the text is wrong at Luke 18:35 or the translators are wrong, or the beggar doesn’t have a good grasp as to how his position near the city relates to the funds he is apt to receive. However, this last reason doesn’t seem plausible. Certainly the beggar, or his family who placed him along the highway, would know which one of the gates would be the most advantageous place from which to seek alms.

The Greek word Luke uses (G1448) is usually translated approaching (cf. Luke 7:12; 19:41), but it can be translated near or at hand. For example, both the time of Jesus’ betrayal and Judas were near or at hand in Matthew 26:45-46. The publicans and sinners came near to Jesus (Luke 15:1). Jesus was near Bethany but he didn’t approach that town (Luke 19:29). So, the Greek word can mean Jesus was near a city, whether or not he was approaching the city itself, because, as Jesus approached Jerusalem, he was also near to Bethany, which he did not approach (Matthew 21:1-2; cf. Mark 11:1).

Therefore, if Jesus encountered the blind beggar just outside the southern gate of Jericho, as the way went toward Jerusalem, he would still be near (G1448) Jericho, and there would be no contradiction in Luke with either Matthew or Mark on this point.


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Posted by on February 13, 2018 in Gospel of Luke


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