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Author Topic: Contradiction of the two thieves crucified with Christ.  (Read 1351 times)

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ZekeSr

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Contradiction of the two thieves crucified with Christ.
« on: May 07, 2021, 11:43:12 AM »

While reading Matthew, I was reminded of how Iíve often wondered about the apparent contradiction concerning the gospel accounts of the two thieves who were crucified alongside Christ. I know this has often been a point of contention brought up by those who wish to dismiss the validity of the bible.

Matthew and Mark have both of the thieves mocking our Lord:
Mat 27:38  Then were there two thieves crucified with him, one on the right hand, and another on the left.
Mat 27:41  Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said,
Mat 27:42  He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him.
Mat 27:43  He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God.
Mat 27:44  The thieves also, which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth.
Mar 15:31  Likewise also the chief priests mocking said among themselves with the scribes, He saved others; himself he cannot save.
Mar 15:32  Let Christ the King of Israel descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe. And they that were crucified with him reviled him.


Meanwhile, Luke has one thief rebuking the other for his blasphemy and asking Jesus to remember him:
Luk 23:39  And one of the hanged criminals blasphemed Him, saying, If you are Christ, save Yourself and us.
Luk 23:40  But answering, the other rebuked him, saying, Do you not fear God, since you are in the same condemnation.
Luk 23:41  And we indeed justly so, for we receive the due reward of our deeds, but this Man has done nothing amiss.
Luk 23:42  And he said to Jesus, Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.


I couldnít find anything from Ray, (please let me know if there is) so I looked up some ďmainstreamĒ explanations. And they were all, in my opinion, weak and cheap rationalizations that only skirt around the problem. They were anything from: 'Who knows what conversations may have occurred between Jesus and the thief that changed his heart.'óAll the way to other unknown possibilities such as this quote concerning whether or not the thief had been baptized: ďHereís a thoughtful question. Isnít it possible that he had been exposed significantly to information about Jesus earlier in his life, had been impressed by it, and later regressed into a life of crime?... It is entirely feasible that this criminal had absorbed some earlier teaching concerning the Master. If the foregoing is possible, isnít it also possible that this man could have been a disciple of John the Baptist, or of the Lord himself, or of one of Christís disciples as they went forth teaching during the preceding years? If such were the case, the man might well have already been immersed for the forgiveness of his sins on some past occasion."

None of this stuff made any sense to me, so I researched some of the words. In doing so, it seems to me that the explanation may simply be nothing more than improper translation (dogma) starting with the word thieves (G3027). It doesnít have to be plural and is used in the singular a number of other places.

For example: Mat 27:38 Then were there two thieves (G3027) crucified with himÖ  (PLURAL)
But in Mat 26:55In that hour Jesus said to the crowds, Have you come out in order to take Me with swords and clubs, as against a thief (G3027)?  (SINGULAR)

And then there is G4957: to impale in company with (literally or figuratively) is also used both in the plural and singular.

For example: Gal 2:20  I have been crucified (G4957) with Christ, and I live; (SINGULAR)
So, I donít believe that the plural is necessarily proper concerning the crucifixion account.

Mat 27:44  is translated: And also the thieves (G3027) who were crucified (G4957) with Him reviled Him, saying the same. 
But it could have just as easily been translated : And also the (or a) thief (G3027) who was crucified (G4957) with Him reviled Him, saying the same. 

Joh 19:32  Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who was crucified (G4957) with Him. 

This is my belief in how the account should read:

Mat 27:38  Then two thieves were crucified with Him, one off the right, one off the left.
Mat 27:41  Ö the chief priests mocked, with the scribes and elders, saying,
Mat 27:42  He saved others, but he cannot save himself. If he is the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him.
Mat 27:43  He trusted in God, let Him deliver Him now, if He will have Him. (For He said, I am the Son of God.)
Mat 27:44  And also a thief who was crucified with Him reviled Him, saying the same.


Mar 15:31  And also the chief priests mocking, with the scribes, said to one another, He saved others but he cannot save himself.
Mar 15:32  Let Christ the King of Israel now come down from the cross, so that we may see and believe. And one who was crucified with Him insulted Him.


Now when you compare Matthew and Mark to Lukeís account, it all makes sense:

Luk 23:32  And two others, two criminals, were led with Him to be put to death.
Luk 23:33  And when they came to the place which is called Calvary, they crucified Him and the criminals there, one on the right, and one on the left.
Luk 23:39  And one of the hanged criminals blasphemed Him, saying, If you are Christ, save Yourself and us.
Luk 23:40  But answering, the other rebuked him, saying, Do you not fear God, since you are in the same condemnation.
Luk 23:41  And we indeed justly so, for we receive the due reward of our deeds, but this Man has done nothing amiss.
Luk 23:42  And he said to Jesus, Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.
Luk 23:43  And Jesus said to him, Truly I say to you, Today you shall be with Me in Paradise.


Any thoughts?

Mike
« Last Edit: May 07, 2021, 12:46:24 PM by ZekeSr »
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Extol

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Re: Contradiction of the two thieves crucified with Christ.
« Reply #1 on: May 08, 2021, 12:07:23 AM »

Hi Mike,

Even if you're incorrect about the translation, there's no need for this to be a contradiction. Critics of the Bible assume too much when they point to this and other passages as contradictions. The following would be contradictory:

Matthew: The thieves did not repent.

Luke: One thief repented and one did not.

This is not what we are told. Two evangelists say the thieves reviled Jesus; a third tells us one thief asked Jesus to remember him. How is that contradictory? Did not Paul revile Jesus and later repent? Have not we reviled Jesus and asked Him to remember us? The critics assume Matthew and Luke are talking about the same exact instant in time, when in fact it takes hours to die of crucifixion. The thief had plenty of time to revile Jesus, listen to Jesus speak (either preaching to the thief directly, or an overheard conversation with John, Mary, etc), think about what was said, and change his mind. We don't have to know precisely what happened--we can't know, because it doesn't say--but it's not difficult to see that both can be true.

Matthew says Judas hanged himself and the chief priests bought a field with the 30 pieces of silver (27:5-6). Luke says Judas bought the field, fell down in the field, and burst open (Acts 1:18). These likewise can both be true. The priests paid for the field, but with Judas's money (so they both can be considered the buyer); and the rope could have broken during (or after) the hanging.

There are other examples we could find, and I believe they can all be harmonized, because they do not absolutely contradict. It's only a contradiction if account A uses the adverb "not" while B says the thing did happen which A said did not happen. This does not happen anywhere in Scripture as far as I know. Matthew does not write "Judas hanged himself, and THE ROPE DID NOT BREAK," or "Judas hanged himself, and DID NOT BURST OPEN." If the writer does not completely rule it out, then it can be harmonized, even if we don't know the details. If a skeptic insists we must know the details to prove its non-contradiction-ness, it's unlikely providing such details would do anything to convince him.
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ZekeSr

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Re: Contradiction of the two thieves crucified with Christ.
« Reply #2 on: May 08, 2021, 11:14:19 AM »

Hi Mike,

Even if you're incorrect about the translation, there's no need for this to be a contradiction. Critics of the Bible assume too much when they point to this and other passages as contradictions. The following would be contradictory:

Matthew: The thieves did not repent.

Luke: One thief repented and one did not.

This is not what we are told. Two evangelists say the thieves reviled Jesus; a third tells us one thief asked Jesus to remember him. How is that contradictory? Did not Paul revile Jesus and later repent? Have not we reviled Jesus and asked Him to remember us? The critics assume Matthew and Luke are talking about the same exact instant in time, when in fact it takes hours to die of crucifixion. The thief had plenty of time to revile Jesus, listen to Jesus speak (either preaching to the thief directly, or an overheard conversation with John, Mary, etc), think about what was said, and change his mind. We don't have to know precisely what happened--we can't know, because it doesn't say--but it's not difficult to see that both can be true.

Hello Extol,

I understand your point and I truly appreciate your input to make me think deeper about these things, but personally I don't particularly like he idea of "filling in the blanks" to make comparative Scriptures that don't seem to fit..... seem to "fit". Especially when, upon examination of the translated words in Mat 27:44 and Mar 15:32, I see no reason why the translators used the plural 'thieves' in the first place. I prefer to look for the explanation in the words of Scripture themselves, which is not always easy and not always within my present ability. But sometimes it does seem to come into the light and I pray that I'm not being heretical in my 'discovery'. Yes, Paul reviled Jesus, but we know how, when and why he changed his mind. And yes, we too reviled Jesus, but once again, we know how, when and why our minds have been changed or are changing. There is no "filling the blanks" to overcome contradiction.


Matthew says Judas hanged himself and the chief priests bought a field with the 30 pieces of silver (27:5-6). Luke says Judas bought the field, fell down in the field, and burst open (Acts 1:18). These likewise can both be true. The priests paid for the field, but with Judas's money (so they both can be considered the buyer); and the rope could have broken during (or after) the hanging.

There are other examples we could find, and I believe they can all be harmonized, because they do not absolutely contradict. It's only a contradiction if account A uses the adverb "not" while B says the thing did happen which A said did not happen. This does not happen anywhere in Scripture as far as I know. Matthew does not write "Judas hanged himself, and THE ROPE DID NOT BREAK," or "Judas hanged himself, and DID NOT BURST OPEN." If the writer does not completely rule it out, then it can be harmonized, even if we don't know the details. If a skeptic insists we must know the details to prove its non-contradiction-ness, it's unlikely providing such details would do anything to convince him.

Once again, I understand your point. And in this case, I think you are helping to make my point. When the Scriptures are examined closely, they do harmonize. They do not contradict. They only appear to contradict on a cursory level.

Mat 27:3  Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders,
Mat 27:4  Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that.
Mat 27:5  And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.
Mat 27:6  And the chief priests took the silver pieces, and said, It is not lawful for to put them into the treasury, because it is the price of blood.
Mat 27:7  And they took counsel, and bought with them the potter's field, to bury strangers in.
Mat 27:8  Wherefore that field was called, The field of blood, unto this day.
Mat 27:9  Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, And I took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was valued, whom they of the children of Israel did value;
Mat 27:10  And gave them for the potter's field, as the Lord appointed me.
Act 1:18  Indeed, then, this one purchased a field with the reward of unrighteousness. And falling headlong, he burst apart in the middle, and all his bowels gushed out.

Look closely at the words. He cast the money down, but the money could not be taken back, so it still belonged to Judas regardless of his attempt to return it. Now look closely at Mat 27:9-10 which is referencing prophesy in which Judas is speaking about himself.

Mat 27:9  Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, And I [some translations use the word they (the chief priests) instead of I] took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was valued, whom they of the children of Israel did value;
Mat 27:10  And gave them for the potter's field, as the Lord appointed me (G3427). Even though the word 'me' is fine, G3427 can also be translated as 'mine' which makes it even more clear.  Mat 27:10  And gave them for the potter's field, as the Lord appointed MINE. The Levitical priests could not own property. They used Judas' blood money to buy the field for Judas which is confirmed by Act 1:18 Indeed, then, this one purchased a field with the reward of unrighteousness...

There is nothing wrong with combining Scripture. Mat 27:5 and Act 1:18 together very graphically depict Judas' mortal fate.

Mat 27:5  And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself. Act 1:18  ....And falling headlong, he burst apart in the middle, and all his bowels gushed out.

I can attest to the accuracy of this depiction as I once had the unfortunate privilege of tracking down a foul odor in the building that I worked only to find an individual who had hung himself several days earlier with a belt. The belt had broken, his swollen body had fallen to the floor and indeed burst open.

I'm going to stop there on that rather gruesome note as I'm afraid I've gotten long winded enough for now.

Mike
« Last Edit: May 08, 2021, 12:51:07 PM by ZekeSr »
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Dave in Tenn

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Re: Contradiction of the two thieves crucified with Christ.
« Reply #3 on: May 08, 2021, 08:31:34 PM »

Mike, I think that is pretty good scholarship.  I'm wondering if there are any translations that make that distinction? 

Saying that, there is also merit in not assuming that one account with it's details contradicts simply because another account with its details does not say the same thing, as Extol points out.  A lot of times what is reported as "contradiction" is no more than the two blind men describing the elephant.  Throw pop-religious assumptions into the mix, and a lot of pointless confusion arises.  And that may well be the point.  Pointless confusion.

As for me, though, I'm more likely to be swayed/informed by your argument about translation issues.  That's always my first in-road into understanding a (difficult) passage.  I'm not a professional translator, but that kind of study has been helpful to me.  It clearly was to Ray.

Now off to "think" on the spiritual ramifications of this fresher view of the passage.   
« Last Edit: May 08, 2021, 08:40:58 PM by Dave in Tenn »
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Heb 10:32  But you must continue to remember those earlier days, how after you were enlightened you endured a hard and painful struggle.

Extol

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Re: Contradiction of the two thieves crucified with Christ.
« Reply #4 on: May 09, 2021, 01:38:58 AM »

Dear Mike,

There is nothing heretical about this "discovery" of yours, even if you're not correct.  8) Maybe the thief reviled Jesus before repenting, or maybe Matthew and Mark only meant one thief reviled Jesus, as you suggest. But either way, it's good that you are thinking about it and trying to better understand the scriptures. I think your suggestion of the singular thief rather than thieves is as good an explanation as any, and since we can't know for sure, I wouldn't worry too much about being wrong. That may not be satisfactory to you, but I believe God purposely gives us some passages where we can't know for sure--passages where "filling in the blanks" may be required--in order for us to a) trust in God, and b) search the scriptures more diligently.
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ZekeSr

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Re: Contradiction of the two thieves crucified with Christ.
« Reply #5 on: May 09, 2021, 11:35:30 AM »

Thank you, Dave, for the kind words and encouragement. I find myself energized, yet fearfully humbled and circumspect whenever I perceive another small veil has been lifted from my eyes.  Also, your analogy concerning the two blind men describing an elephant is well taken as good advice.
You too, Extol. Thank you. Itís the polite and diplomatic exchange of personal understanding that is productive. And yes, it really does boil down to trusting in God while searching the Scriptures diligently.

Mike
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indianabob

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Re: Contradiction of the two thieves crucified with Christ.
« Reply #6 on: May 09, 2021, 11:51:10 PM »

The secrets that God has kept from the many are reserved to be revealed by God's spirit according to God's purpose for each individual.
We are truly blessed to have received the gift of understanding in part even though we haven't worked for it as many have.
Indiana Bob


The Purpose of the Parables
Mat 13:10  And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? 
Mat 13:11  He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries (secrets) of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. 
Mat 13:12  For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. 
Mat 13:13  Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. 
Mat 13:14  And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: 
Mat 13:15  For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. 
Mat 13:16  But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear. 
Mat 13:17  For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them. 
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