Within the last six months I’ve looked at some alleged Bible contradictions in Luke 9. I’ve considered “Did or did not the Samaritans receive Jesus?” and “Burying and Saying Bye to Parents in Luke 9:59-62.”
Here’s another question that allegedly shows a Bible contradiction: “Did Herod think Jesus was John the Baptist?”
Herod thought that Jesus was John the Baptist reincarnated.
At that time Herod the tetrarch heard of the fame of Jesus, And said unto his servants, This is John the Baptist; he is risen from the dead; and therefore mighty works do shew forth themselves in him. (Matthew 14:1-2)
But when Herod heard thereof, he said, It is John, whom I beheaded: he is risen from the dead. (Mark 6:16)
People were saying that Jesus was John the Baptist who had risen from the dead, or Elijah (Elias), or one of the other prophets. But Herod didn’t believe Jesus was John the Baptist, saying, “John I have beheaded: but who is this?”
Now Herod the tetrarch heard of all that was done by him [Jesus]: and he was perplexed, because that it was said of some, that John was risen from the dead; And of some, that Elias had appeared; and of others, that one of the old prophets was risen again. And Herod said, John have I beheaded: but who is this, of whom I hear such things? And he desired to see him. (Luke 9:9)
Here’s my thought on this Bible contradiction:
- We must admit that formally, the claim “Jesus is John the Baptist” and the claim “Jesus is not John the Baptist” are mutually contradictory.
- But technically, Luke 9:9 does not supply the claim “Jesus is not John the Baptist” that is necessary to make this a case of “Bible contradiction.” A careful look at Luke 9:9 reveal that John the Baptist was asking a question, “but who is this, of whom I hear such things?” To be precise, the question indicated that Herod was wondering who Jesus was; it was not a denial of the possibility that Jesus was John the Baptist. Herod was confused; this is indicated by the fact that in Luke 9:9 it states that “he was perplexed,” Herod’s use of the interrogative pronoun in the Greek to show him asking a question since the people have all kinds of speculations about Jesus and finally, Herod being curious, “desired to see him,” as the end of the verse said. Wondering about the identity about Jesus is not a denial that He was John the Baptist.
- Some might counter point 2 by saying that in Luke 9:9 Herod denied that he thought Jesus was John the Baptist because Herod said “John have I beheaded.” But both Matthew and Mark acknowledges the fact that John was beheaded (Mark 6:16, 6:27, Matthew 14:10). Yet at the same time both Matthew and Mark record Herod believing Jesus was John the Baptist since Herod believed the beheaded John the Baptist was resurrrected/risen. Thus, for Herod to acknowledge that he has beheaded John the Baptist is not contradictory of the belief that Jesus was the risen John the Baptist.
- In light of point 3 that Matthew and Mark record Herod believing that Jesus was the resurrected John the Baptist, our skeptic friend is wrong to say “Herod thought that Jesus was John the Baptist reincarnated.” Reincarnation is not the same thing as resurrection/arisen.
- So Luke 9:9 is not necessarily incompatible with Matthew 14:1-2 and Mark 6:16. It could be phrased in the following manner that shows the statements can be synthesized: “And Herod said, John have I beheaded: but who is this, of whom I hear such things? It is John, whom I beheaded: he is risen from the dead.” Luke 9 record Herod’s wonder while the other accounts record Herod’s conclusion.
- Let’s say for the sake of the argument that Luke 9:9 does contradict Mark 6:16. I don’t think this is the case. Still, we wouldn’t be totally surprised at Herod going back and forth with his beliefs given all that the people were saying; so he couldn’t make up his mind since he doesn’t know first hand (and that’s why Herod wanted to meet Jesus).
- Let’s continue for the sake of the argument that Luke 9:9 does contradict Mark 6:16. What does this mean? That Herod held contradictory beliefs. But that’s not something to fault the Bible per se; it is something to fault Herod. Luke and Mark gave the account of Herod’s contradiction. We typically don’t fault witnesses for reporting someone’s fault. If it is true that someone is at fault, and the witnesses accurately reported it, we don’t blame the witnesses but are glad for the witnesses’ testimonies of the person at fault being inconsistent.
Let this be an example of the importance of Spirit-filled studying the text with diligence, logical precision and doing justice to the context.