My Thoughts. . .
Monday July 15, 2019
“And when he was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit” (Mark 5:2).
“And when he went forth to land, there met him out of the city a certain man, which had devils long time, and ware no clothes, neither abode in any house, but in the tombs.” (Luke 8:27).
“There met him two possessed with devils, coming out of the tombs, exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way.” (Matthew 8:28).
All three passages are about the same event. Matthew mentions two men. Mark and Luke reveal only one. So, what is the correct number? One or two? If there were two, why do Mark and Luke say “one”? If it was only one man, why does Matthew tell us it was two? Which is guilty of writing an account from his fallible memory rather than from the Spirit’s inspiration? How can all three be correct if there is a contradiction in the total? If all three are correct, why doesn’t the Spirit explain to the reader how this was possible? Did God leave a logical explanation up to us? If so, what if the wrong explanation sounds more logical that the one that is the truth?
Some attempt to harmonize these three entrees by:
1). Ignoring Matthew and accepting Mark and Luke. Others ignore Mark and Luke and accept Matthew.
2). Some believe a later scribe mistakenly putting “two” rather than “one.”
3). Some believe Mark, Luke, or a scribe mistakenly entered one rather than two.
4). Some think two writers outweigh one, because two inspired writers are better than one.
5). Some believe Mark and Luke focused upon the fiercer of the two and mentioned only him because it suited their purpose and those being written to.
6). Some understand that it was a common practice to leave out details when addressing a specific audience. This also included focusing on a specific number.
Matthew wrote to a Jewish audience. Luke addressed a Greek population. Mark penned his account to Roman readers. John wrote to the Jew and Gentile, completely leaving out this event.
Even in these three accounts, details in one are not given in another. The demons are asked their name in Mark and Luke, but not in Matthew. Matthew refers to both men being “exceeding fierce” but the expression is not found in the other two. Mark mentions the individual cutting himself with stones which is not given in Luke or Matthew. Mark mentions the man worshiping Jesus, the other two do not do so. If we find majority details that are lacking in one or both of the others, do we write it off as error?
In the Old Testament Moses informs us that the Jews left Egypt after four hundred and thirty years (Exodus 12:40-41). When Stephen made his defense before the Freedmen synagogue, he said “four hundred.” Inspired writers saw no problem with rounding off those numbers. Stephen left off “thirty years,” yet he was not killed because of that subtraction. It was a known way of speaking. Paul, in one of his speeches gives the number four hundred and fifty years about another subject. Yet, in the Old Testament the numbers are different. The difference in count is over the beginning place taken by each writer. If this is not known by the reader, he thinks there is a contradiction, or a mistake has been made by someone.
When Luke writes about the responses on Pentecost day in Acts 2:41, he says “about three thousand.” Although no one knows the exact number, someone else could have said, “just over three thousand,” or about that number. Such numbering did not result in readers accusing the author of introducing error. First century writers didn’t seem to be as number conscience as we are.
– To be continued.