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: “What did the sign over Jesus’s head say?”
Here are the two answers which the skeptic believes shows a Bible contradiction:
THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS
And above His head they put up the charge against Him [a]which read, “THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS.”
THE KING OF THE JEWS
The inscription of the charge against Him [a]read, “THE KING OF THE JEWS.” (Mark 15:26)
THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS
Now there was also an inscription above Him, “THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.” (Luke 23:38)
JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS
Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It was written, “JESUS THE NAZARENE, THE KING OF THE JEWS.” (John 19:19)
(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.
- All four Gospel accounts vary slightly concerning what was written as the inscription above Jesus during the crucifixion. However variation does not necessarily entail there is a contradiction as we shall see in this post.
- While noting what are the differences we must also ask what is the same in all four verses. In the Greek all four verses from all four Gospels in the New Testament had the exact Greek phrase “Ο ΒΑΣΙΛΕΥΣ ΤΩΝ ΙΟΥΔΑΙΩΝ.” Ο ΒΑΣΙΛΕΥΣ ΤΩΝ ΙΟΥΔΑΙΩΝ translated means “the king of the Jews.”
- Both Matthew 27:37 and Luke 23:38 record Οὗτός while both Mark 15:26 and John 19:19 account does not mention the word Οὗτός. The Greek word Οὗτός is a demonstrative pronoun meaning “this.” However Matthew 27:37 and Luke 23:38 does not contradict Mark 15:26 and John 19:19 even though Mark 15:26 and John 19:19 does not mention “this.” Mark 15:26 and John 19:19 would be contradicting Matthew 27:37 and Luke 23:38 if the former mentioned that there were not Οὗτός in the inscription. But Mark 15:26 and John 19:19 doesn’t say that. If I can put it in a way that the skeptic might understand the absence of Οὗτός in both Mark 15:26 and John 19:19 should not be taken as evidence of the absence of Οὗτός in the inscription especially when other accounts mentioned it.
- The same reasoning in point 4 applies to the Greek word ΙΗΣΟΥΣ. ΙΗΣΟΥΣ is the Greek word for “Jesus.” “Jesus” appears in both Matthew 27:37 and John 19:19 but does not appear in Mark 15:26 and Luke 23:38. Again we do not actually have a contradiction here for the absence of the name of Jesus does not mean it is an evidence of absence of the name in the inscription when other accounts mentioned it.
- In contrast to the Synoptic Gospel only the Gospel of John mentioned that the inscription mentioned Jesus was from Nazareth. Again, remember the reasoning explained in point 4 that the silence of some verses is not the same thing as a denial that the inscription does not contain the word “Nazareth,” which would be the requirement that needs to be fulfilled in order for it to actually be a Bible contradiction.
- Just because some of the writers of the Gospels shortened the inscription that does not mean it is a problem. People today do the same thing all the time in summarizing what is written.
- Per point 7 further proof that this shortening summary of the inscription is understood as a legitimate convention can be seen within the narrative itself. Recall that John 19:19 gives an account that the inscription says “JESUS THE NAZARENE, THE KING OF THE JEWS.” Two verses later in John 19:21 we see the narrative tells us that the chief priests of the Jews objected to the signs to Pilate for having the sign stating “The King of the Jews.'” No one in their right mind would say the Pharisees were contradicting what the sign actually said but instead we would say they were summarizing and shortening what the sign said and focused on the essence of the message of the sign. Clearly there is no doubt the priests were witnesses of the sign and offering their perspective that the sign said “King of the Jews.” But that’s exactly what Mark did in Mark 15:26 by saying “King of the Jews.” In their own varying way that is also true with what Matthew, Luke and John did.
- John 19:20 also mentioned that the inscription above the crucified Jesus was written in “Hebrew, Latin and in Greek.” There’s nothing that demanded the Roman soldiers to write each language exactly the same. For instance there might not have been a Latin term for a small town like Nazareth at that time or they did not know how to spell it out so the Latin might not have mentioned “Nazareth.” Latin also as a language do not have the article so its not going to be a one for one correspondence exactly across the languages. Hebrew also do not have the verb “is” to convey the idea of “is” as with most other languages. I bring this all up to make the point that it is possible that there are further reasons why we do not have Bible contradictions going on here since the four Gospels might have reported on the inscriptions as written in different languages. Thus we would not be surprised that some passages have the stative verb “is” while others do not, and other verses mentioned Nazareth while others do not, etc.
There are no Bible contradictions here when we examine things more carefully.