Were the Gospel Writers Really Geographically Inept?

Skeptics say that Mark and the other Gospel writers knew little about Palestinian geography. They made grave geographical gaffes. Had the Gospel writers knew their stuff, they wouldn’t make such blatant mistakes. Therefore, we can’t trust them as reliable historical documents.  For Matthew’s Gospel, this is especially problematic. A real Judean local like Matthew wouldn’t borrow from someone as geographically incompetent as Mark. Some critics have concluded from this that whoever wrote Matthew, it couldn’t be Matthew the disciple.  I want to look at three times the Gospel writers supposedly flunk at Palestinian geography and see if these objections really carry any weight. Is There a Blunder in Mark 7:31? Here’s the text: “Then he … Read more

Video: Would the Gospel Authors Flunk a Palestinian Geography Test?

Skeptics say that the Gospel writers make serious geographical errors, making them unreliable. Here I answer several examples that the critics provide. I also make the case that the Gospel writers were intimately familiar with Palestinian geography. This shows that they were not likely to be written by authors who were from far away or at least had no access to those very familiar with the land where the events reportedly happened. For the podcast version, you can listen and subscribe here: Sources and helpful links: Can We Trust the Gospels?, Peter J Williams, Alleged Historical Errors in the Gospels by Tim McGrew Part 1 Part 2 The Gospel Writers Knew Palestinian Geography, Ryan Leasure … Read more

Did Herod Really Order the Massacre of the Innocents, or Did Matthew Just Make Up a Story?

When we think of the Christmas story, our minds go to some dingy, yet warm and cozy places. We picture Mary, Joseph and a swaddling baby in a manger. We see angels, shepherds and the Magi bearing gifts. I can almost hear “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing” now. But smack dab in the middle of the Christmas story is a grim and gory tale. In Matthew 2:16 we read of Herod learning of the Messianic king’s birth, feeling threatened and then ordering the slaughter of all the male children 2 and under in Bethlehem. It’s a grizzly story, but it’s a part of the account of the birth of Christ nonetheless. But not everyone believes … Read more

Did Jesus cleanse the temple twice? Was he throwing a temper tantrum?

Noted biblical scholar and critic Bart Ehrman says that the gospels have hopelessly irreconcilable differences. Therefore they can’t be trusted as reliable documents. One big difference would be the story of the cleansing of the Temple when you compare John and Mark (and the other synoptic gospels). Here’s Bart:  The Gospel of Mark indicates that it was in the last week of his life that Jesus “cleansed the Temple” by overturning the tables of the money changers and saying, “This is to be a house of prayer…but you have made it a den of thieves” (Mark 11), whereas according to John this happened at the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry (John 2). Some readers have … Read more

Did the author of Luke make a geographical blunder in Luke 4:29?

Let’s just say that Jesus’ first sermon in his home city of Nazareth did not go over big. Reading out of Isaiah 61, Jesus announces that he’s the long-awaited Messiah that the prophet predicted. Rather than becoming a hometown hero, this offended the people who watched Jesus grow up to no end. Jesus then irritated them further, pointing to two different scenarios in the Books of Kings where rejected prophets healed and helped Gentile sinners before helping their fellow Israelites. (Luke 4:16-31) Luke tells us that this was the result: “And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built so … Read more

Did the author of Matthew’s Gospel make a donkey out of himself when telling the story of Jesus’ Triumphal Entry?

The writer of Matthew is quick to connect Jesus to the Old Testament. You can’t read Matthew for long before he drops a reference from the prophets. But some critics say that’s he’s too quick to connect the dots, to the point where he makes himself out to be a dumb…well, I made the pun once as click-bait and this isn’t a Shrek movie, so we’ll leave it at that. One way Matthew allegedly parades his ignorance of the Old Testament texts in his version of the Triumphal Entry. To help me state this objection here’s Kristin Swenson of The Huffington Post: Mark and Luke agree that Jesus rode on a donkey, and that’s the … Read more

Does Mark make a historical blunder regarding the ritual of Jewish handwashing?

Critics love to say the gospels aren’t trustworthy because they’re full of historical blunders. One such alleged error that often gets brought up is that Mark goofs regarding ritual purification, namely the Jewish custom of handwashing. Here’s biblical critic Bart Ehrman: “Their ignorance of Palestinian geography and Jewish customs suggests they composed their works somewhere else in the empire…Mark 7:3 indicates that the Pharisees ‘and all the Jews’ washed their hands before eating, so as to observe ‘the tradition of the elders.’ This is not true: most Jews did not engage in this ritual.” Jesus, Interrupted p 287 Bart has a point. If you read the Mosaic law, this was to be practiced by the … Read more