Written summer of 1991; last edit 2-12-2001
|Matt.19:27 Then answered Peter, and said unto Him, Behold, we have left all, and followed Thee: what shall we have therefore?|
|Mark 10:28 Then Peter began to say unto Him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed Thee.|
|Luke 18:28 Then Peter said, Lo, we have left all, and followed Thee.|
We are about to go rushing in, dear Reader, to a place and a subject, where most men fear to tread. Those who invest in preaching and writing about Christianity usually find it necessary to assert that The Bible is inspired, and that it’s contents have been faithfully preserved by God through the centuries unmutilated and unchanged. At the same time, these same men find it necessary to obscure and conceal some things in that Holy Bible, because these things appear to contradict their concept of inspiration. Now what we are talking about here, is what Theology calls, “The Synoptic Problem“.
The 3 verses quoted above are 3 different accounts of the same conversation between Peter and Jesus. The events immediately preceding this conversation are fundamentally THE SAME in all 3 Gospel accounts. They must be, and have always been regarded as, separate accounts of THE SAME CONVERSATION.
First, notice that the 3 verses are not identical: if a TV camera had recorded this scene, we would know EXACTLY WHICH words came out of Peter’s mouth. Consider what is before you………. If “inspiration ” is supposed to give us an “instant replay” of EXACTLY what happened and EXACTLY what was said, then at least 2 of the Gospels are NOT “inspired”; and then, since we are not able to determine which one is actually correct, then all 3 Gospels become suspect. In the end, the “instant replay” concept of inspiration denies that any of the Gospel Accounts can be trusted.
YOU MIGHT SAY, then, that DESPITE the various “wordings”, there are no fundamental differences in what we understand from these 3 “versions” of what Peter said. YOU’RE RIGHT: but such an assertion does NOTHING to rescue a definition for inspiration that requires that the Bible report to us EXACTLY who said WHAT, WHEN and WHERE they said it, and EXACTLY HOW they said it, DOES IT?
There is no where to go from here, dear Reader: except to either doubt the accuracy and faithfulness of our Bible; or to understand HOW and WHY these variations are actually marks of the Divine Genius, and are no less inspired than any other part of the Bible. THIS IS ABSOLUTELY CRUCIAL! For as we go on to examine how the Lord Jesus answers Peter, we shall encounter FUNDAMENTAL differences between the 3 accounts of the Lord’s answer. I say, a concept of inspiration that will accommodate variations in the Gospels is ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY; for if you obtain a Harmony of The Gospels, and begin to compare the accounts; you will find DIFFERENCES, DISAGREEMENTS, and even APPARENT CONTRADICTIONS that are so numerous and SO OBVIOUS, that every presumption that the Bible contains an “instant replay” of the Life and Teachings of Jesus Christ will be destroyed forever.
It will be impossible for me to describe to you the LONELY AGONY I suffered over 20 years ago when I discovered these variations. I cannot help but wonder what all the scholars of the past must have thought when they stumbled over these problems. They certainly must have noticed these variations – but God only knows how they accounted for them, for in all my research, I have not found a single attempt by anyone to resolve these difficulties that did not end up making the problem worse. They think to prop up the truth by ignoring the problem, or by offering explanations which imply that the text of the Bible is vague and sloppy. It JUST CANNOT BE, that these “Bible scholars” NEVER noticed that there are two demoniacs in Matthew 8:28-34, and only ONE demoniac in Mark 5:1-17 and Luke 8:26-39. These 3 accounts are substantially the same; the events just before and just after all 3 accounts are the same. The fact that Matthew has Gergesa as the location, instead of Gadara, as in Mark and Luke, does little to solve the problem. In the first place, it is difficult to locate a separate “time slot” for the Matthew account to take place as a separate event. In the second place, some of the Greek Originals from which we have obtained The Gospel of Matthew plainly give the name of this place as Gadara. In the third place, other than in the number of demoniacs and in the name of the location as given in the KJV, these 3 accounts agree substantially in every major detail. The substitution of Gergesa for Gadara in the Matthew account does nothing to resolve the problem, but only increases the potential for confusion: for if you make the Matthew account to be a separate event that occurred in a different location, you have to convince yourself that this very strange and unique event could have been nearly duplicated in two separate locations on the same day. I suspect that this was the case, and there are some hints of this in the accounts, but so far, neither I nor anyone else has been able to unravel this problem so as to make the sequence plain.
I am willing to become “a fool for Christ’s sake”, but Jesus said, The truth will make me free (John 8:32): not some painted over and corrected for public consumption VERSION of The Truth. I went in fear and trembling to my “elders” with this problem 20 years ago; they were unable to help me, and were obviously embarrassed by their own confusion. They did not attempt to solve the problem or to console me; but rather, they implied that I WAS IN DANGER for “challenging God’s Word”. They LEFT ME ALONE to face the facts in my fear and confusion ……..I spent many long hours groveling around on the floor, crying out to God from a state of gut-wrenching, grim horror; I was afraid that somehow, my new found faith in Jesus Christ would prove to be a fraud: just the last desperately hopeful fantasy of a young man drowning in his own fears and corruption.
AND NOW, dear Reader, you know what I knew: and what are YOU going to do about it? You can “duck and cover” if you want; but you will NEVER forget about what you have just read, NO, never. The concept of inspiration that is popularly acknowledged in Christendom today, ends up DENYING that The Bible is inspired: for The Bible does NOT conform to that description of the products of inspiration! Now either we must find another description for the products of inspiration that will vindicate the variations in the Gospels, or we will have consigned The Bible to being a somewhat vague and inaccurate recollection of religious legends. Of course, there are many who want it to be this way, so that they may intrude their own opinions on the rest of us as being equal to the testimony of The Holy Scripture.
A partial resolution to this perplexing dilemma may be found by inquiring into why we have 4 Gospels instead of just 1. If we only had 1 Gospel, we would know nothing of these variations. The fact that all 4 Gospels have survived the centuries WITH these variations is a testimony to the fact that we have received them WITHOUT alteration. Certainly, those who made copies of the Gospels were interested in seeing Christianity perpetuated, and there can be no doubt that they noticed these variations. If there had been any historic conspiracy to “correct” the Gospels in order to hide these variations for the sake of a doctrine of inspiration, these differences would have been “adjusted ” to agree with each other centuries ago.
So, we are left to contemplate the FACT, that we cannot know the exact and particular words that were spoken by Our Lord Jesus Christ on any occasion in which the Gospels disagree with each other; and then of course, if these variations are taken as evidence of actual error, the rest of the Bible becomes doubtful as well.
So, we again must ask ourselves if the purpose of Special Divine Inspiration was to provide us with a precise record of words and events: for if this is what “inspiration” means, then The Bible is NOT inspired. Many, will then define inspiration in terms of “myth”, or “epic”: in which it does not matter whether the events took place or not, as long as the “story” supports The Truth. In this view, the particulars and details of the text have no significance, and may even be misleading. Words and phrases are “generalized” and “homogenized” to fit in with “the big picture”; and thus, the 1000 plus pages of the Bible are reduced to an endless and somewhat boring redundancy, whose only purpose is to say things like “Believe in God” and “Stop sinning” over and over gain. It is no surprise that those who take such a view see little benefit in prolonged and meticulous Bible study; they presume that they “already got the point”, and so there is no reason to go on reading the same things over and over again.
It is only when you can see WHY these variations were intentional, that you can believe that The Bible is infallible. There are even what we COULD call “mistakes” in the Bible, as in Matthew 27:9, where a quotation from Zechariah is attributed to Jeremiah. Even in this, there is an inspired message: that the knowledge of what God SAID is the important thing: not the ability to quote “chapter and verse”. There is such a thing as “vain scholarship”.
We are “in” up to our neck, now, are we not?
The reality of these matters will certainly separate those whose professed belief in The Bible is only a concession to popular superstition from those who are betting their life on it. The Apostle is recorded as saying, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Tim.2:15)”; and for many, such a study will only lead them to the conclusion that The Bible is chock full of errors. On the other hand, those who believe that God has indeed provided us with a reliable Bible, and that God wants them to study it, CAN, by persistence and sober regard for every word in it, discover the resolution to these apparent problems; and even find greater confirmation that the Bible was both inspired, and faithfully preserved, by the act of God.
The most well known explanation for why we have 4 Gospels, instead of just 1, is, that since everything else in the Bible pales in significance next to the incarnation of Christ, God would have us read His story four times in a row. No other single subject or character receives as much attention in the Bible as Our Lord Jesus Christ. But this does not explain why there are such great differences in the Gospels.
Another popular reason for why we have 4 Gospels, instead of just 1, is that each of the Gospels looks at Jesus Christ from a different point of view, and focuses on a different aspect of His character: thus presenting the unity of His personality as seen from four perspectives. This difference accounts well enough for the fact that each of the Gospels contains or omits matter which is contained or omitted in the others. But this does not explain why there are such notable differences between the Gospels where they contain variant accounts of the same event or conversation.
Another plausible reason for why God gave us 4 Gospels, is so that the most important aspects of the Life of Christ would be emphasized by repetition. Some conversations and events only occur one time in one Gospel; some occur in two; some occur in three; and some are reiterated in all four. It is easy to conclude that whatever is found in all 4 Gospels is the most important, because the Bible gives those things the greatest emphasis. But this, too, will not explain why there are variations in the accounts that appear to contradict or confuse each other.
The necessity of finding a reason why God gave us a Bible with these apparent disagreements about WHAT was said and HOW it was said becomes a matter of infinitely critical necessity when we read the teachings of Jesus Christ; FOR, if we do not have a totally reliable report of EXACTLY what Jesus wanted us to understand, then we may as well throw the Bible way and forget the whole thing.
There is nothing in all the world that is more important than WHAT JESUS SAID.
|Matt.24:35 Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.|
|Mark 13:31 Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.|
|Luke 21:33 Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.|
Here we have the only instance in which a particular statement made by Our Lord Jesus Christ is repeated word-for-word in three separate Gospel accounts.
Nothing prevented God from seeing to it that the teachings of Jesus would be thus duplicated precisely in all 4 Gospels; and there is, in this particular instance, strong evidence that God intended for the words of Jesus to be preserved faithfully: for those words shall NOT pass away!
|Matt.4:4 But He answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.|
|Luke 4:4 And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.|
And here, we have an occurrence of the extremist rarity (maybe even the only occurrence), in which a particular statement is reiterated in separate Gospel accounts, in the exact same chapter number and verse number! Perhaps you can already see some of the Divine Genius in the construction of the Bible; since this too, goes to the surety and imperishability of The Word of God. There are differences in the quotations, but they do not in any way contradict or confuse each other. Just as we will often say some things in several different ways, in order to avoid being misunderstood; many of the teachings of Jesus are presented to us in several different ways for the same reason.
However, in many of the teachings of Jesus, you will find differences between the Gospels: not only in HOW things are said, but even in WHAT was said.
Let us return to the consideration of Peter’s question: he said, Behold, we have left all and followed Thee: what shall we have therefore? The events just before and after Peter asks this question make all 3 accounts to be records of the same conversation. Yet, as you shall see, each account of how Our Lord answers this question is so different from the other accounts, that they are actually DIFFERENT answers. ANY ONE of these “3” answers, if taken alone, will lead you to conclusions that you cannot derive from the other “answers”. In order for us to assert that all “3” answers are equally inspired by the Holy Ghost, we will have no choice but to presume that all “3” answers represent what Jesus WOULD SAY, and what He MUST HAVE SAID to the Apostles at some time. The Holy Ghost, in “designing” the Bible, chose to have these “3” distinct answers recorded AS IF they were variant accounts of a single answer: this caused great difficulty in understanding the answer.
1. The “confusion” that was caused by the “combining” of the answers, was NO MISTAKE; but rather, it was intentional: God planned and purposed for it to be this way.
2. God’s purpose in combining the answers was to prevent “some people” from being able to come to any clear and final conclusions about WHO GETS WHAT, and WHEN THEY GET IT.
If we are to remain convinced, that God inspired and preserved the Bible for us, we must conclude that these variations were INTENTIONAL: and that God has a good and specific reason for giving us a Bible with these apparently conflicting accounts. Now I know that my assertion that God “inspired” each of these apparently contradictory accounts, seems like an exercise of “the theology of necessity”: in which a groundless assertion is presented as a conclusion; after which begins the desperate scramble to assemble arguments in order to make the “conclusion” look reasonable. So, we shall begin with an examination of the evidence, and you will plainly see why I am convinced that God inspired these variations.
Remember, Peter’s question is about REWARDS: he wants to know what “we” shall receive in return for what we “give up for God”: a question we would all like to have answered. The Holy Ghost has chosen to supply us with “3” answers to “1” question.
“3” ANSWERS TO “1” QUESTION
|Matt.19:28-29 And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of His glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
29 And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive AN HUNDRED FOLD, and shall inherit eternal life.
These words of Our Lord Jesus Christ prove beyond all doubt that there will be a Millennial Kingdom of Christ upon the earth; and that the resurrected and raptured saints will be ON THE EARTH to participate in it. The word translated to regeneration is PALIN-GENESIA, which means AGAIN-BEGINNING, or RE-BEGINNING. PALIN-GENESIA is used in only one other place in the New Testament: Titus 3:5, where it clearly refers to SPIRITUAL REBIRTH. A man who has been born again (John 3:3) does NOT at THAT TIME receive a new body, but only a NEW NATURE. He still has the same body, but that body begins to reveal the influence of a NEW AND IMPROVED CHARACTER. So it is with the Millennial Earth: it’s the “same old earth”, but the governing principles of nature have taken on a new and improved character. The earth will return to Edenic conditions, where fruit trees and beautiful flowers will “grow like weeds”, and all of the useless and harmful plants will begin to die off.
Furthermore, those who have suffered the loss of material and family comforts for Christ’s sake, will be recompensed in these same things an hundred fold. Now, an hundred fold is a figure of speech, and was never understood by the Apostles to mean an hundred wives, or an hundred houses: but that they would rewarded in THE SAME THINGS they gave up for Christ’s sake, and rewarded ABUNDANTLY. This is when the meek shall finally inherit the earth (Matt.5:5): this is the resurrection of the just; when those who gave up material and family comforts during this life for Christ’s sake shall be recompensed (Luke 14:14).
Judging is a Bible term for GOVERNING: the Apostles do not sit as “Judges” over who goes to heaven or hell at The Last Judgement; they are governing the restored nation of Israel during the Millennium.
I will, for now, REFUSE to dignify that lecherous and adulterous question about the wives; in which some hope that God will forget all about the 7th Commandment; or they presume that God cannot distribute all these rewards according to righteousness and holiness because of the many past sins committed by many in these matters.
ANSWER # 2
|Mark 10:29-30 And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for My sake and the Gospel’s,
30 But he shall receive an hundred fold NOW in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world (Grk. AGE) to come eternal life.
In this answer, those who have given up earthly blessings for the sake of Jesus and His Gospel are getting their reward HERE and NOW in this time. But note: in the list of what you may lose for Christ’s sake, there are the words WIFE and FATHER. In the list of what you shall receive an hundred fold NOW in this time; the words wife and father are missing! This is because in this same chapter, Jesus has already said that Whosoever shall put away his wife (or, her husband) and marry another, committeth adultery (Mark 10:11-12). Jesus is not about to offer as a reward, what He just got done condemning as a sin! The word father is also missing from the list of rewards that you may receive NOW in this time. This also agrees with something Jesus said elsewhere; for in Matthew 23:9, He says, Call NO MAN your father upon the earth; for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Once again, Jesus does not offer as a reward NOW in this time, what He has forbidden elsewhere!!
Those who receive these earthly rewards NOW in this time, shall, with AND BECAUSE of these rewards, be persecuted. In other words: persecutions are guaranteed to every Christian who will receive all these material and family comforts NOW, in this present time. The world can well endure an impoverished and downtrodden Christian: he represents no threat to their Godless hopes and ambitions; but a righteous man who is also comfortable, surrounded by loved ones, and prosperous, leaves them with no excuse for their lack of religious devotion.
Furthermore, any True Christian who has been prospered will always spend his money and use his influence for the promotion of The Truth, just as it is found in the Bible: and this will certainly outrage those who are condemned by That Truth! And then, every self-righteous and bitterly envious person that makes a religion out of reminding everyone else of their obligations, will be enraged if the “rich Christian” has little or no sympathy for their concerns. This promise of persecutions to prosperous “Christians” also allows us to distinguish the True Believer from among the Phony Religious Pretenders. Any prosperous and influential man who claims to be a Christian, and yet remains the “darling” of THE WORLD, is a phony. The True Believer will always use his wealth to bless The Righteous and preach The Truth; and these things will always draw down the wrath of the ungodly. Jesus said, Woe unto you when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets (Luke 6:26).
ANSWER # 3
|Luke 18:29-30 And He said unto them, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God’s sake,
30 Who shall not receive manifold more (Grk. POLLA-PLASION) in this present time, and in the world (Grk. AGE) to come everlasting life.
In this answer, there is a reward in this present time for those who have sacrificed material and family comforts for the kingdom of God’s sake: but that reward is NOT an hundred fold of the same things that were left. Manifold more means NUMEROUS, OR multiple forms. An hundred fold means a great abundance of what is the same: manifold more means a great abundance of what is NOT THE SAME.
The whole character of this answer is addressed to those who embrace impoverished or lonely lifestyles for the Kingdom of God’s sake: such as missionaries, or those who volunteer to live and labor in taxing circumstances, that they may represent Christ where He would otherwise not have an “agent “. The very life they have chosen to live makes it IMPOSSIBLE for them to enjoy the comforts of house or family, and so, they are recompensed in OTHER WAYS. They receive special consolations or blessings, such as peace of mind, supernatural experiences, or good health. They may have a more fulfilling experience in their prayers and worship; they may get to travel extensively and live many adventures. Paul the Apostle is a perfect example of these manifold more rewards.
SUMMARY OF THE “3” ANSWERS
As you can see, these “3” answers to “1” question describe 3 completely different groups of people; and they differ from each other concerning WHO gets WHAT and WHEN they get it. Every man or woman who forsakes “the good things” of this present life out of love and loyalty to Jesus Christ, will be recompensed BOTH now, in this time, AND in the world to come. If you combine all 3 answers, you get a complete description of HOW and WHEN everyone who serves the Lord is rewarded for that service.
Everyone who suffers the loss of earthly comforts as a result of their love and loyalty to Jesus Christ is rewarded HERE and NOW in this present time. If the things they lost or forsook for the Kingdom of God’s sake are RESTORED to them in this present time, they will have to endure persecutions both with and because of their prosperity. If the things they left or forsook are NOT restored to them in this present time, they receive OTHER special consolations, blessings, experiences or comforts, that will MORE than compensate them for their sacrifice. Everyone who has left or forsaken ANYTHING for Christ’s sake is ALSO rewarded in the world to come. These rewards include everything that has to do with material prosperity and the comforts of family and friends. But, when the next age dawns, not everyone receives the same quantity and quality of rewards.
Only the Matthew and Mark “versions” of “the answer” contain direct references to public authority, material prosperity, and the comforts of family and friends: therefore, it should come as no surprise that ONLY the Matthew and Mark “versions” of the answer end with this:
|Matt.19:30 But many that are first shall be last; and (many of) the last shall be first.|
|Mark 10:31 But many that are first shall be last; and the last (will definitely be) first.|
These 2 phrases are NEARLY identical in the Greek; but they are not EXACTLY the same. I have added some words to bring out the precise meaning of each phrase.
The Matthew ending speaks not only of material and family comforts, but also of pre-eminence in the affairs of The Church. This is clearly determined by the context, in which the rewards include sitting upon thrones, and judging other men. Many who are the most pre-eminent NOW, will be the least pre-eminent THEN.
Contrary to popular opinion, the Apostle Paul was NOT “the darling of the churches” in his own lifetime, but was usually treated like an intruder (1 Cor.4:9-13). The Matthew ending does not guarantee that those who were first shall be last, or that those who were last shall be first; but that many from both the first and the last shall have their situations reversed in the world to come.
The Mark ending speaks only to material and family comforts. There is no mention of pre-eminence in the affairs of The Church. In this case, “the last” signifies those who received the least in the way of material and family comforts now in this time. In this case, whoever was last will definitely be first.
The Luke version of the Lord’s answer does not end with ANY discussion of who was last or first in ANYTHING: because the persons who are described there received neither pre-eminence among men NOR material and family comforts in this present time as a compensation for the losses they suffered for the Kingdom of God’s sake. These shall all receive a FULL REWARD in all the things they gave up for the Kingdom of God’s sake, at the resurrection of the just (Luke 14:14).
A PROMISE IS A PROMISE
In the Mark “version” of the Lord’s answer, Jesus says that those who have forsaken material or family comforts for His sake and the gospel’s shall receive an hundred fold, NOW, in this present time. Yet, it is beyond any doubt that NOT EVERYONE who has made such sacrifices has been rewarded an hundred fold DURING THIS LIFE. If you do not see that these 3 answers are meant to be read as answers to different people in different circumstances: then anyone who makes such sacrifices and DOES NOT receive an hundred fold NOW IN THIS TIME, has proved that the Bible has errors in fact; or proved that Our Lord Jesus was a false prophet. A PROMISE IS A PROMISE.
You can now see, that what appeared to be an impossible and irresolvable problem that threatened to discredit the inspiration and accuracy of our present Bible, has been resolved. More than that, you can now see evidence of the Divine Superintendence over the construction of each of the Gospels. You KNOW, that there is JUST NO WAY that Matthew, Mark, and Luke could have CONSPIRED to create this “problem” with the full knowledge of how it would be resolved. What started out looking like a clear proof that there is error in The Bible, has actually become proof that God inspired, designed, and preserved intact, A RELIABLE BIBLE. I am aware that there are other Synoptic Problems that I have not resolved, and may never resolve: maybe you are the one who can, and will, do it. These things are in the hand of God.
The only possible conclusion to these things, is that God has INTENTIONALLY engineered these “apparent problems” into the text of The Bible, in order to conceal some things from those who have no need to know them or are unable to handle them. In the end, those who are able to believe that The Bible is both inspired and reliable, will be able to do so because they need to, and because the Holy Spirit affirms the Bible to them.