Have you noticed there are two accounts in the bible of Jesus cursing the
fig tree and when Jesus drove the money changers out? In one account,
Jesus drove the money changers out and then cursed the fig tree the next
day. (Matthew 21:10-22). And in the other account he cursed the fig tree
first and then drove them money changers out the same day (Mark 11:11-26).

Now most fundamental Christians believe in “Divine plenary Verbal
Inspiration” of scriptures. “Plenary” means full and complete, “ALL
scripture” (2 Timothy 3:16). that is all scripture that can be called
“scripture”, critically careful to include minute details. “Verbal” means
that the very words of the scripture were given to the writers, and not
just the ideas they convey. The writers were not left to choose the words.
At the same time God did not destroy or ignore their different
personalities. The writings of Paul may differ in style from the writings
of John or James. However the Almighty God who created the heavens and the
earth with the words of his mouth gave his words through men, using their
individual personalities and traits without changing the doctrine or the
truth that these are the very words that proceedeth out of his mouth. So
if the scriptures have no error and are Divine plenary Verbal Inspired why
is there two different account of cursing of the fig tree which was not
bearing fruit because it was not its season and driving out the money

Thanks for your letter. I would say that, in general, Matthew
created a dramatic description of the ministry and words of Jesus without
giving extreme care to exactly reproducing the order and timing of the
events. Luke, being sort of an amateur historian, created a consciously
more chronological account of the events of Jesus? life. Most likely
(although I cannot prove it) when Matthew presents some of Jesus?
monologues, he is bringing together some of the actual statements from
different times into a single monologue for dramatic effect in order to ex
plain Jesus to his hearers. This is not evidence of a lack of
inspiration, but is simply one way to present the gospel material. The
fact that different witnesses report slightly different aspects of the
same events supports the belief that the four gospels are independent
accounts of the same events. When two witnesses to the same event
describe it in court, they will generally present what seems like a
significantly different picture of the same events, even if they are both
giving an honest account of their recollections. I believe this is ex
actly what we have in the gospels. This is not evidence of a mistake or
of a lack of inspiration, but of truly independent accounts of the life of
Jesus, which is exactly what one would want of multiple gospels. The
point, when one reads Matthew or Mark, is that one is seeing a glimpse of
the words and ministry of Jesus. Every event is recorded with great care
by Matthew and Mark to give an accurate account of what they observed. I
believe that both the general description and the details of his account
are true to what happened, and that is all that I require to view it as
accurate history and as inspired by God.

Nevertheless, this does not make your question go away. It
remains a possibility that one might find unresolveable contradictions in
the gospel accounts. If Matthew said Jesus was killed by beheading and
Mark said that he was crucified, this would clearly bring the accuracy of
the accounts into question! Therefore, the question is whether the
specific example you raise is this type of unresolveable discrepancy.

As I look at Matthew 21 and Mark 11, I simply do not see a
contradiction. Matthew reports Jesus at the temple, driving out the money
changers in vs. 12-15. After that, Matthew has Jesus, “early in the
morning” causing the fig tree to wither. Knowing the fact that Matthew
is not always extremely careful to present every situation in strictly
chronological order, I would not be shocked if it turned out that the
events in Matthew 21, although accurate, are not in the actual order they
occurred. However, when I go to Mark, I see Jesus, after driving out the
money changers, coming across the fig tree, cursing it and the tree
withering. The only significant difference in the two accounts is that
Matthew reports only the second visit to the fig tree, while Mark reports
both the first and the second visit to the tree. My own little
“harmonization” of the accounts, for what it is worth, is that Jesus, on
the day of the temple-clearing, pronounced a curse on the tree for not
bearing fruit, as described in Matthew. Then, on the following day, Jesus
actually spoke to the tree again, causing it to wither before the very
eyes of the disciples. It is possible that Mark was not aware that
Matthew and others actually saw the tree wither before their eyes on that
particular day, and that all he was aware of was the original statement to
the tree and the subsequent withering he saw the next day. Again, what we
have here is independent but non-contradictory accounts of the same
events. Exactly as with separate but honest eye-witness accounts in a
court of law, the stories may appear to contradict at first because the
witnesses have not colluded with one another, but when one brings the two
accounts together and asks how they might actually not contradict, one
comes up with a perfectly reasonable account of the actual events. I hope
this answers your question.

John Oakes, PhD

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