For other posts dealing with Bible contradictions see our Collection of Posts Responding to Bible Contradictions.
Today’s post will tackle another question that the Skeptic Annotated Bible asked: “Where did the women watching the crucifixion stand?”
Here are the two answers which the skeptic believes shows a Bible contradiction:
They stood far away.
Many women were there looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee while ministering to Him.
There were also some women looking on from a distance, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of [a]James the Less and Joses, and Salome. (Mark 15:40)
And all His acquaintances and the women who accompanied Him from Galilee were standing at a distance, seeing these things.
They stood near the cross.
Therefore the soldiers did these things. But standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.” (John 19:25)
(All Scriptural quotation comes from the New American Standard Bible)
Here’s a closer look at whether or not there is a contradiction:
- 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 are mutually exclusive.
- We must ask if the three verses cited by the skeptic as proof that the women were standing far away were cited correctly. All three verses used the same Greek adverb μακρόθεν that is translated “a distance.” This adverb appears 14 times in the New Testament and the usage in other passages do suggests that the adverb μακρόθεν semantic range include the idea of “a distance.” For example in Luke 22:54 we read “Having arrested Him, they led Him away and brought Him to the house of the high priest; but Peter was following at a distance.” Peter following “at a distance” certainly makes sense given the need of safety on the part of Peter after Jesus’ arrest. Thus Matthew 27:55, Mark 15:40 and Luke 23:49 do support the idea that the women watching the crucifixion “stood far away.”
- We must also look at whether the skeptic’s citation of John 19:25 support the premise that the women watching the crucifixion stood near the cross. The verb translated into English “standing by” comes from the Greek verb παρίστημι. It is a compound verb that include the preposition παρα with the verb ίστημι that means “stand.” The preposition παρα is used as a compound 90 times in the New Testament as part of a compound word in which 54 times are with verbs (Murray, Preposition and Theology, 176). These words do have the lexical range of proximity. Thus John 19:25 cited by the skeptic does support the idea that the women watching the crucifixion stood near the cross.
- Now with point two and three here it might seem at first that there is an admission that there’s a Bible contradiction. But remember the definition of a contradiction involves two conflicting truth claims to be claimed to be the case at the SAME TIME. We must emphasize that what would make a Bible contradiction would be if any of the verses taught the women were all the time with no exception standing at a distance while John 19:25 teaches the woman stood near the cross. Or vice versa: John 19:25 teaches that the women were at all times with no exception standing near the cross while the other passages taught that the women at some moment standing afar.
- The crucifixion took hours. Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 23 and John 19 all mentioned time marked by the hour(s). If the crucifixion took hours it is possible to imagine that at times the women were standing afar but also at time the women stood near the cross to be at closer proximity to Jesus.
- The suggestion in point 5 is also made more plausible if one realizes that for hours the women were standing afar from Jesus being crucified and before Christ died they must have been so despondent and in desperation they made their way to be closer to Jesus.
- When I was younger I use to work security for a lot of special events and Red Carpet movie premieres in Hollywood. Controlling the crowd is not easy. Of course that involves pushing back people who were getting close to celebrities. And those were fans in happier situations, one can imagine in more desperate situations what weeping women could do in the case with Jesus dying on the cross. The scenario of Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 23 and John 19 capturing the various aspects of what happened during the last moments of Jesus without contradiction is very plausible.
- There is no Bible contradiction here.