NTBDC: Matthew 27:44 How can we harmonize Matthew who says both thieves reviled Jesus while Luke says one thief reviled and the other defended Jesus?

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What these Bible critics, skeptics have are pebbles, each representing minute inferences and implications [circumstantial evidence at best] that they place on one side of a scale. These are weighed out against the conservative evidence of the trustworthiness of God’s Word, the absolute inerrancy, inspired Word of God. As unsuspecting readers work their way through the books and articles written by these critics and skeptics, the scales seem to be tilted all to one side, as if there were no evidence for the other side. Thus, like a jury, many uninformed readers; conclude that there is no alternative but to accept the idea that there are mistakes, errors, and contradictions in the Word of God. These perceived discrepancies set off an alarm for the critical skeptic, and then he rushes off with his pebble like some child to add it to what he desires to be the side of the scale that supports mistakes, errors, and contractions.

Would any Christian living in the 18 century have ever doubted the authenticity and trustworthiness of God’s Word? Hardly! So how did the biblical criticism become some supposed fact? All it took was for some leading professors at major universities to plant seeds of doubt within their students. Being at the entrance of the era of higher criticism and skepticism of the nineteenth century, this criticism of the trustworthiness of God’s Word had a well-cultivated field in which to grow. It created a domino effect as a few scholars produced a generation of students, who would then be the next generation of scholars, and so on.

The Epistle to the Hebrews Paul PAUL AND LUKE ON TRIAL

As we moved into the twentieth century, these questions had become “facts” in the eyes of many; in fact, it became in vogue to challenge the Bible. Leading schools and leading scholars of higher criticism were the norms, and soon the conservative Christian was isolated. The twentieth-century student received a lean diet from those few scholars who still accepted God’s Word as just that, the Word of God, fully inerrant, with 40+ authors of 66 books over a period of about 1,600 years. No, these students would now be fed mostly liberal theology, and any who disagreed were portrayed as ignorant and naïve. This planting of uncertainty or mistrust, with question after question bringing the authors of the Bible into doubt and what they wrote into doubt, with most literature focusing on this type of propaganda, would create the latest generation of scholars, and today they dominate the world of scholarship.

How did this progressive takeover come off without a hitch? The conservative scholarship of the early twentieth century saw these liberal naysayers as nothing more than a fly at a picnic. Most did not even deem it necessary to address their questions, so by 1950–1970, the biblical criticism machine was in full throttle. It was about this same time that the sleeping giant finally awoke to find that conservative scholarship had taken a backseat to this new creature, liberal scholarship. It is only within the last 30–40 years that some very influential conservative scholars have started to publish books in a move to dislodge this liberal movement. Is it too little, too late?

REASONING FROM THE SCRIPTURES APOLOGETICS CONVERSATION EVANGELISM

It is possible to displace higher criticism, but many factors stand in the way. For one, any opposition is painted as uninformed and inexperienced regarding the subject matter. Moreover, the books that tear down the Bible with all their alleged critical analysis sell far better than those that encourage putting faith in God’s Word. In addition, many conservative scholars tend to sit on the sideline and watch as a few leading scholars attempt to do the work of the many. In addition, there are liberal scholars continually putting out numerous articles and books, dominating the market. Unlike the conservative scholars in the first part of the twentieth century, these liberal scholars in the first part of the twenty-first century are not slowing down. Moreover, they have become more aggressive.

Now that we have had a very brief overview of how we go here, let us take a moment to look at the pebble of a Bible difficulty that we have here concerning just how many thieves reviled Jesus and see which side of the scale they are to be placed on.

Jesus Paul THE EVANGELISM HANDBOOK

Matthew 27:44 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
44 And the robbers who were crucified with him also were reproaching him in the same way.

Mark 15:32 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
32 Let the Christ, the king of Israel, come down now from the cross, so that we may see and believe! Even those who were crucified with him were reproaching him.

Luke 22:39 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
39 One of the criminals who were hanged was insulting[134] him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!”

A reasonable, rational, logical explanation would be that at in the beginning both reviled Jesus. However, as time passed went on, hours, one of the thieves took note of what was occurring and observed how Jesus unwearyingly endured injustice and callous, ruthless cruelty. Throughout these passing hours, this thief might have easily changed his mind about Jesus, and, though reviling at him at first, as Matthew tells us, later he defended Jesus, as Luke informs us.

We need to stop imposing what we want, desire, or expect from the authors when it is their individual intent that matters. Yes, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John cover similar things in their Gospels, especially the synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. But these are individuals writing from their perspective, with their intended meaning in mind. What Matthew and Mark may be trying to convey may not be what Luke is trying to convey. That historical narrative that has no real impact on the author’s message other than background information will be similar and the other part of the historical narrative that does have an impact may be slightly different because each author is making a different point. When the author is describing he may have certain parts of the same events that he highlights or details that are important to his message that the other authors do not.

Thomas Howe and Norman L. Geisler,

MATTHEW 27:44 – Did both robbers revile Christ, or did only one do this?

PROBLEM: Matthew says here, “even the robbers who were crucified with Him reviled Him.” However, according to Luke, only one reviled Him (Luke 23:39) while the other one believed in Him, asking, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom” (Luke 23:42).

SOLUTION: This difficulty is easily resolved on the supposition that at first both reviled the Lord, but that later one repented. Perhaps, he was so impressed hearing Jesus forgive those who crucified Him (Luke 23:34) that he was convinced that Jesus was the Savior and asked to be part of His coming kingdom (v. 42).[1]

The Apologetics Study Bible,

23:39–40 Both Mt 27:44 and Mk 15:32 state that the criminals crucified with Jesus mocked Him. Only Luke tells us of one’s repentance. Over the course of a crucifixion that lasted for several hours, the second criminal apparently became impressed with Jesus’ demeanor and speech and changed his view of Him.[2]

Christians why should we not give the Word of God to all skeptics equally? Why should we not always correct the skeptical ridiculer? In what ways has Satan blinded the minds of the skeptics? Why should we get answers now? If insidious doubts ever begin to creep into our minds, a spiritual shipwreck is on the horizon. “The Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith.” (1 Tim. 4:1) Why? How? Why should it trouble us?

Without historical reliability, there is no faith to be had or at best it is a shallow faith that will eventually crash and burn. The integrity, authenticity, and authority of God’s Word hang on the trustworthiness of God’s Words. You claimed in your initial post that we would have to do contortions and gymnastics to harmonize the text. Then, we offer the true harmonization of the text quite simply and your reply is a bit of wordsmithing in order to cling to your philosophical skepticism.

The Following three are needed by Christians, and none of the three can be missing.

(1) Knowledge
(2) Belief
(3) Obedience

To become a well-grounded Christian, one must

(1) obtain a real, broad knowledge of Bible truth (1 Timothy 2:3-4),
(2) put faith in the things we have learned (Hebrews 11:6),
(3) repent of your sins (Acts 17:30-31), and
(4) turn around in your course of life. (Acts 3:19);
(5) Then our love for God should move us to dedicate ourselves to Christ. (Matt. 16:24; 22:37)
(6) Finally, baptism (Matt. 28:19-20; Mark 1:9-10; Acts 8:36)

If one is missing the foundation of knowledge because it is full of mistakes, errors, and contradictions, he cannot continue to believe in something he has no real foundation of knowledge.

Luke 21: 15 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

15 for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict.

The Bible has many SEEMING contradictions. A contradiction is an inconsistency or discrepancy, which may give the appearance of an error.

A contradiction is a combination of statements, ideas, or features of a situation that are opposed to one another. You have a person, thing, or situation in which inconsistent elements are present. The statement in Luke’s Gospel (58-60 C.E.) says that only one robber reviled Jesus a position opposite to one already made by Matthew’s Gospel which was the first to be written (40-45 C.E.).

There are logical, rational, reasonable explanations of these seeming contradictions in the Bible.

If You Think You Have Found a Bible “Contradiction,” Might It Be That You Have Found:

  • You are lack knowledge of certain historical facts or ancient customs?
  • You are ignoring literary styles?
  • Your interpretation is mistaken?
  • You have not read things through carefully?
  • You have not investigated the context?
  • You have missed the author’s point of view?
  • You are not seeing considering the intended meaning of the author?
  • You mistakenly equate unexplained as unexplainable?
  • You start with the presumption that the Bible is guilty?
  • You are trying to resolve misinterpreted religious ideas with what the Bible really says?
  • You are using an inaccurate or an older Bible translation?

See also Beware As Most Skeptics are Seeking to Feed their Doubt Not Their Faith

Skepticism, Ambiguity, and Uncertainty Versus Ascertained Certainty and Faith

Selective Skepticism When It Comes to God and the Bible

[1] Thomas Howe; Norman L. Geisler. Big Book of Bible Difficulties, The: Clear and Concise Answers from Genesis to Revelation (Kindle Locations 4224-4225). Kindle Edition.

[2] Ted Cabal et al., The Apologetics Study Bible: Real Questions, Straight Answers, Stronger Faith (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007), 1561.

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