Can you help me with this supposed contradiction?  [Editor’s note: As you will see below, this is a claim that there is a contradiction between the resurrection accounts in Luke/Acts and Matthew with regard to where and when the apostles went to Galilee and Jerusalem.]


The claim is that the post-resurrection accounts are in contradiction with regard to where the apostles were instructed to go by Jesus.  In Luke 24:49 Jesus tells the disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they are “clothed with power from on high.”  This is rather obvious reference to what Luke later reports in his second book–Acts, when the Holy Spirit falls on the apostles in chapter two of Acts.  Similarly, In Acts 1:4, Jesus tells the apostles, “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.”

The claimed contradiction comes from Matthew (the author claims that Mark has the same apparent discrepancy, but the original Mark ends at 16:8 and does not include the ascension, so I will not deal with Mark).  In Matthew 28:16 we are told that “the eleven disciples went to Galilee to the mountain Jesus had told them to go.  Matthew does not record the ascension, but he gives us the “Great Commission,” which was given by Jesus on a mountain in Galilee.

There are other details in the article that deserve mentioning, but before I get to this, let me explain what I believe happened.  In Acts, Luke does not tell us where the ascension took place, but he does tell us that Jesus told them to wait in Jerusalem.  In Luke we are told that the ascension took place at Bethany, near Jerusalem.  Matthew does not mention the ascension at all.

Here is how claimed discrepancies should be handled.  The benefit of the doubt goes to the witnesses.  An apparent contradiction is only an actual contradiction if there is no way that both can be true.  The author at this web site is trying to claim that there is no way that both can be true.  Well, he is wrong.  Most likely what happened is that Jesus did tell his disciples to go to Galilee.  In fact, in John we find them in Galilee.  Luke tells us that Jesus appeared multiple times over a 40 day period, including multiple appearances in Jerusalem.  So, what apparently happened is that Jesus appeared to the apostles at least twice in Jerusalem, once without Thomas and later with Thomas (John 20:24-29).  Later the apostles went to Galilee, where the scene with the fish (John 21) and the closing scene in Matthew occurred.  However, Jesus told his followers to return to Jerusalem and wait there for the coming of the Holy Spirit, which happened on the Day of Pentecost.  Jesus ascended after about 40 days (Acts 1) from Bethany (Luke 24), which is very close to Jerusalem–just a few hundred yards, but the outpouring of the Holy Spirit happened after 50 days (Acts 2).  Where is the contradiction?

Again, the benefit of the doubt has to lie with the ones who were either there (Matthew, John) or who interviewed those who were there (Luke).  If there is a reasonable scenario by which all can be true, then there is no contradiction.  Period.

Now, the author claims that there is a contradiction, but to do so he makes some unwarranted assumptions.  For example, he assumes that all the account in Luke  24, in other words, all the post-resurrection accounts happened on the day Jesus rose from the dead.  What is his authority?  He quotes from a commentator who says that they all happened on the same day.  OK, but what if that one commentator is wrong?  He tells us that the New American Bible Revised Edition, in the footnotes says that all of this happened on the same day.  OK, again, so what?  This is an opinion, and I believe it is an incorrect opinion.  He points out that man PhDs helped in putting together the NABRE. True, but this does not make their conclusion true.  In fact, I have to say that when I simply read Luke 24 it is pretty obvious (to me, anyway) that there is a significant amount of time between Luke 23:49 and Luke 23:50. How much time?  I do not know.  Actually, I do know because I can read about it in Acts.  Go ahead and read it for yourself.  Then read Acts 1 and tell me what you think.  What I do know is that later in Acts 1 the same author, Luke, tells us that Jesus met with the apostles a few times over a 40 day period. So, why does the author at this web site assume that it all happened on one day?  Because one author said so?  Isn’t it more likely that Luke knew what he was talking about, since he wrote both Luke and Acts?  Or is it because then his claim that there is a contradiction is “proved,” which it is not.

Here is the bottom line.  The author’s entire argument is based on an unproved assumption–an assumption that, when I read Luke, does not even appear to be likely, never mind flat out for sure true.  The fact that certain 21st century commentators believe this assumption to be true proves nothing.  In fact, it is far more reasonable and likely that those who lived back then would know what happened than modern commentators.

The one thing that all accounts have in common is that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the first gospel sermon happened in Jerusalem.  All accounts agree that the disciples were to be in Jerusalem when this happened.  This does not prove that Jesus also had them go to Galilee between the time he told them to wait in Jerusalem and the actual event in Jerusalem.  Let’s say that I told you to wait in (fill in the blank) so that I could give you a present on your birthday two weeks from now.  Does that mean you have to stay there the entire two weeks, or just the time near your birthday?  What if you were there at the appointed time, but also went to a neighboring city in the meantime.  Would that be a contradiction?

Again, the benefit of the doubt has to go to those who  said that these events happened.  Presumably, they knew what actually happened.  I doubt very much that anyone ever forgot where the ascension happened!!!!   It happened in Bethany.   I also doubt that anyone ever got the site of the first gospel sermon wrong.  Such details could not be mistaken within the first couple of generations of the events.  So, the likelihood that either Matthew or John or Luke would get it wrong is remotely small.  So, unless there is incontrovertible proof that Jesus could not both meet the apostles in Galilee and also tell his apostles to wait for a later event (10 days later) in Jerusalem, then there is no discrepancy.  That is the end of the story, and nothing this gentleman says which says anything different.

John Oakes

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