I need help with an apparent contradiction in the gospels, because the disciples’ call is reported differently. In the synoptics they were called one way, and in John another.  I would like to know why this discrepancy actually happened? The passages I am having difficulty understanding are in relation to Matthew 4:18-22 (Jesus calls the First Disciples) Mark 1:16-20 and Luke 5:1-11, which are different accounts from those in John 1:35-42.  In the synoptics, Jesus approaches the disciples, but already in John it is said that they left John the Baptist and follow him. This seems like a silly question, but I really would really like to understand what actually happened, thank you very much for your attention!


When we compare John 1:35-42 to the synoptic recalling “the calling of the first disciples” we have a perfect example of what is so common in the New Testament.  We have independent accounts which, when taken together, make the entire story make more sense than if we only had one account.  People say that John 1:35-42 “contradicts” the synoptic accounts, when the exact opposite is the case. The two accounts complement and explain one another.  If we look at Mark 1:16-20 the fact that Peter, James, John and Andrew followed Jesus immediately seems very odd.  Why would these young men, who had just met Jesus, seemingly on a whim, leave everything right then and there to follow Jesus?  But then we look at John 1:35-42 and then Mark 1:16-20 (and the other synoptics) makes a lot more sense.  What we learn from John is that when Jesus called Peter and Andrew in Mark 1:16, part of the reason that they followed him immediately is that they already knew Jesus!!  They had met Jesus earlier, and had been taught by John the Baptist even before that.

If we consider John and the synoptics, then the seemingly sudden decision of Peter, Andrew, James and John in Mark 1 makes more sense.  They already knew much of Jesus, had heard him teach before, had been prepared by John the Baptist, and had even witnessed Jesus performing a sign (John 1:46-49).   When we consider John, what these young men did in Mark 1:16-20 makes more sense.  The purpose of John was not to explain the synoptics and the purpose of the synoptics was not to explain John, but in fact, that is exactly what they do.  This is not a silly question, but it is an example of how, when we take the four gospels together, we find, not contradiction, but complementary inspired accounts of the life of Jesus.

John Oakes

Comments are closed.