The other gospels say that only ONE of the robbers mocked Jesus, while the
other praised him. This is contrary to what Matt. 27:44 says which is that
both robbers mocked the Lord. Please explain.

One thing to bear in mind is that with the four gospels we have four
independent accounts. Two of them are eye-witness accounts (John and
Matthew) to most of the events. Mark was present for some of the events,
and presumably got the rest of his information from Peter. Luke put
together his gospel upon careful interview of eye-witnesses. If you have
ever been involved in a jury, as I have, you will know that separate
witnesses notice and report different details. Upon first glance, such
testimony can appear to contradict, when in fact it does not. This is what
we have with the gospel accounts. If Matthew and Luke were not
independent accounts, their details would be identical, but then we would
not have the added evidence of independent accounts. My experience with
being on a jury tells me that in order to understand an event, one must
find a way to combine the details of the different witnesses to put
together a fuller story. This approach will solve a great proportion of
the supposed inconsistencies in the gospel accounts.

Getting to the particular example you ask about, let us see how the
different accounts, when taken together, give a fuller understanding of
what happened with the thieves. Matthew says that the robbers hurled
insults at Jesus while they were on the cross. However, Matthew does not
report the incident of one of the robbers repenting. Does this mean that
it did not happen or does it mean that Matthew chose to focus on other
details? Obviously, if the eye-witness Matthew had reported everything he
saw, this part of his book would take up many pages. Mark reports
virtually the same information as Matthew. Luke provides more
information. He tells us that one criminal hurled insults at Jesus, while
the other, seeing the amazing character of Jesus, repented and rebuked his
fellow criminal. John mentions both criminals, but does not inform us
about them mocking Jesus at all. I assume that the writer of John was
aware of the other gospels and felt he did not need to repeat all the
information found in the previous accounts.

Here is how I see these accounts working together. Obviously, Jesus was
crucified between two criminals. I believe that both of them, like
the crowd and the soldiers mocked Jesus. However, one of them, when he
saw the love of Jesus and his miraculous response to his tormentors,
realized that Jesus was who he claimed to be. He repented right there on
the cross. It bears remembering that the torture of Jesus on the cross
continued for at least three hours. There was plenty of time for this to
occur. Unfortunately, his fellow-criminal did not see fit to humble
himself before the Son of God. Luke did not mention that the criminal who
repented had begun by joining the crowd in their jeers. John did not
mention any of this at all, for his own reasons.

In summary, if we accept that the gospels are independent but accurate
accounts of what happened in the ministry of Jesus, we discover that the
four accounts never contradict. In fact, when taken together, they give a
fuller perspective on the life of the most wonderful person who ever
walked the earth, Jesus of Nazareth.

John Oakes, PhD

Comments are closed.