Today’s post will tackle another question that the Skeptic Annotated Bible asked: What did the Centurion call Jesus when he died?
Here are the two answers which the skeptic believes shows a Bible contradiction:
The Son of God.
When the centurion, who was standing right in front of Him, saw the way He breathed His last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39)
Now the centurion, and those who were with him keeping guard over Jesus, when they saw the earthquake and the things that were happening, became very frightened and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:54)
A righteous man.
Now when the centurion saw what had happened, he began praising God, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent.”
(All Scriptural quotation comes from the New American Standard Bible)
Here’s a closer look at whether or not there is a contradiction:
- One quick word about translation: Luke 23:47 in the NASB translated the word “innocent” but in the Greek it is more often translated righteousness.
- When dealing with skeptics’ claim of Bible contradictions it seems one can never be reminded enough of what exactly is a contradiction. A contradiction occurs when two or more claims conflict with one another so that they cannot simultaneously be true in the same sense and at the same time. To put it another way, the claims found in the Bible must be mutually exclusive in order for there to be a contradiction.
- Building from the first point we ask if the two claims here are mutually exclusive. Is it possible to be called a Son of God and a righteous man? Of course one can be called both because they are not mutually exclusive. So it’s hard to see the two claims here mentioned by the skeptic as being necessarily contradictory.
- We see Scripture itself makes it clear that righteousness and the Son of God are not contradictory. Hebrews 1:8 states “But of the Son He says, “YOUR THRONE, O GOD, IS FOREVER AND EVER, AND THE RIGHTEOUS SCEPTER IS THE SCEPTER OF HIS KINGDOM.” Here the Son of God is in view, who in the context the writer sees the Son of God as referring to Jesus. Using the language of “throne” and “scepter” the verses teaches that the Messianic Son of God will rule forever and rule “righteously.” Obviously in order for Jesus the Son of God to rule righteously Jesus must be righteous. Thus Hebrews 1:8 is an example that Jesus being the Son of God and rightoues are not incompatible; so its hard to see a contradiction.
- It is possible that in a short period of time after Jesus died that the Roman centurion said Jesus was the Son of God and also Jesus was Righteous. With all the amazing thing that happened why should we not be surprised that a Roman Centurion making sense of what’s going on would have stated Jesus was innocent and righteous, while also seeing that He’s the Son of God?
- Another way of thinking through and coming to the conclusion that what we have here is not a contradiction is to think what must be true in order for there to be an actual contradiction. Take the first premise as an example. To contradict the first premise, that “the Centurion call Jesus the Son of God,” the other claim would be “the Centurion did not call Jesus the Son of God.” We must be remember that Scripture doesn’t state that the Centurion did not call Jesus the Son of God. Another way of making a contradictory claim to the claim “the Centurion did not call Jesus the Son of God” is to supply the second proposition “the Centurion ONLY called Jesus righteous.” But the claim “the Centurion call Jesus righteous” is not the same thing as “the Centurion ONLY called Jesus righteous.”
We don’t have a contradiction. This should be filed under “silly attempts by the critics.”