Could you help me to understand this apparent contradiction? Did Jesus ascend to heaven Easter evening (Luke 24:13-52) or forty days later (Acts 1:3-9)? This is one of the apparent bible contradictions which has led many skeptics to say the Bible is not the word of God. But I believe there must be a way to harmonize Luke and Acts about the time of the ascension.


You should remember that Luke wrote both Luke and Acts, so if there were a contradiction (there definitely is not!), then it would be Luke contradicting himself!  This is not likely.  In Luke 24:50-52 we have a record of the ascension of Jesus in “the vicinity of Bethany,” which is very close to Jerusalem, not far from the Garden of Gethsemane.  This was not “Easter evening.”  It was several weeks after Jesus was killed.  In the book of Luke, the author does not tell us how much time had elapsed between the resurrection, which happened in the beginning of chapter 24, and the ascension, which happened toward the end of the chapter.  Several events intervened, such as the women meeting him on the road to Emmaus and the appearance to the disciples in 24:36-49.  John and Matthew record other events as well.  We are not told how long a time intervened before the events in Luke 24:50-52, but we can assume that Luke knew, as he supplied more information in Acts chapter 1.  Here we learn that the ascension in Luke 24:50-52 happened a few weeks later, as it seems to have occurred fairly close to the time of the Pentecost. We are not told the exact location of the ascension in Acts, but it is near Jerusalem, as in this account Jesus told his apostles to wait in Jerusalem to receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4).  Luke did not tell us how much time intervened between the ascension in Acts 1 and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2, but we get the impression that the ascension was closer to Pentecost than to the ascension on the Day of Fristfruits, seven weeks before Pentecost.

There is no contradiction here.  As far as I can see, it is questionable to even call it an “apparent contradiction.”

John Oakes

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