From Mark Copeland... "THE BOOK OF ECCLESIASTES" Chapter Seven

                      "THE BOOK OF ECCLESIASTES"

                             Chapter Seven


1) To understand what makes for "better living" in this vain world

2) To appreciate the limitations of wisdom in providing answers


In the first six chapters the Preacher has shared with us his search for
meaning (1:1-2:24) and observations gleaned during the course of his
search (3:1-6:12).  He has repeated his conclusions time and again..

   * Life "under the sun" is vanity - 1:2,14; 2:11

   * Yet there is good that one can do, provided one is blessed by
     God - 2:24-26; 5:18-20

In the remaining six chapters the Preacher shares his counsel through a
mixture of proverbs and narration.  He imparts wisdom designed to make
the most of life "under the sun".  In other words, while life under the
sun is "vanity", how then should we live?

The first half of chapter seven offers "counsel for better living" with
a series of comparisons.  For example, honor is better than luxury, your
day of death is better than your day of birth, a funeral is better than
a party, etc.  His estimation of what is better may often sound strange,
but it comes from who has learned from both experience as well as
inspiration (1-14).

The second half of the chapter offers "counsel for balanced living."
There are challenging and difficult statements which should be
understood in their context, and in the context of the Bible as a whole.
It appears the Preacher is mainly warning against extremism, and against
the presumption that one can find the answer to every question in life



      1. A good name is highly valued
      2. Better than precious ointment (representative of luxury)

      1. One's birth is the beginning of sorrows - cf. Job 14:1; 3:1-3;
         Jer 20:14-18
      2. One's death can be the beginning of eternal bliss 
         - cf. Isa 57:1-2; Re 14:13

      1. Better to go to the house of mourning than the house of
         a. For the funeral home is the end of all men
         b. Where the living will take it to heart
      2. Sorrow is better than laughter, for a sad countenance makes a
         heart better
         a. Thus the heart of the wise is in the house of mourning
         b. While the heart of fools is in the house of mirth

      1. For the laughter of the fool is vanity, like the crackling of
         thorn under a pot
      2. Oppression destroys a wise man's reason, and a bribe debases
         his heart

      1. Similar to what we have already seen regarding birth and death
         - cf. Ec 7:1
      2. Not all that starts has an end; in the completion of a task one
         finds satisfaction

      1. The patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit
      2. Do not be hasty to be angry, for anger rests in the bosom of

      1. We should not say "why were the former days better?"
      2. One is not wise in thinking in such a manner

      1. Wisdom along with an inheritance is good, and profitable for
         the living
      2. Wisdom is a defense like money, but wisdom gives life to those
         who have it

      1. There are some things of God we cannot change
      2. God has appointed both the day of prosperity and the day of
         adversity, so man is unable to determine what will happen after
      3. The solution?
         a. In the day of prosperity be joyful
         b. In the day of adversity consider (e.g., what lessons might
            be learned)


      1. The righteous don't always prosper, nor do the wicked always
         a. Avoid extremism in seeking to righteous and wise, lest you
            destroy yourself
         b. Avoid extremism in wickedness and foolishness, lest you die
            before your time
      2. Don't refrain from true righteousness and wisdom
         a. Fearing God will help one escape extremism
         b. Wisdom is a source of strength
         c. But no one is perfect
      3. Don't take to heart everything you hear
         a. You may hear another curse you
         b. Yet you have likely cursed someone at sometime

      1. There are questions wisdom can't answer
         a. Some things are beyond one's ability to find
         b. No matter how hard and long you search
      2. A wicked woman is certainly to be avoided
         a. Which he found out in his search for wisdom
         b. She is more bitter than death
         c. He who pleases God shall escape from her, but the sinner
            shall be taken by her
      3. A good man is hard to find
         a. In his search, he found only one in a thousand
         b. A good woman was even rarer
         c. God made man upright, but man has sought out many schemes


1) What are the main points of this chapter?
   - Counsel for better living (1-14)
   - Counsel for balanced living (15-29)

2) What is better than precious ointment? (1)
   - A good name

3) Which is better, the day of death or the day one's birth? (1)
   - The day of death

4) Why is it better to attend a funeral rather than a party? (2)
   - The funeral house is the end of all men, and the living take it to

5) Why is sorrow better than laughter? (3)
   - By a sad countenance the heart is made better

6) Where does the heart of the wise reside?  The heart of the fool? (4)
   - In the house of mourning
   - In the house of mirth

7) Which is better, to hear rebuke from the wise, or a song from a fool?
   - The rebuke of the wise

8) What is the laughter of the fool? (6)
   - Like the crackling of thorns under a pot; vanity

9) What destroys a wise man's reason?  What debases the heart? (7)
   - Oppression; bribery

10) What other two comparisons are made? (8)
   - The end is better than the beginning
   - Patience is better than pride

11) Why should one not hasten to be angry? (9)
   - Anger rests in the bosom of fools

12) What is not a wise thing to say? (10)
   - Why were the former days better than these?

13) What is good along with an inheritance?  Why? (11-12)
   - Wisdom; it is a defense just as money is a defense

14) What is the value of knowledge? (12)
   - It gives life to those who have it

15) What should we consider about the work of God? (13)
   - No one can make straight what He has made crooked

16) What should we do in days of prosperity?  In days of adversity?
    Why? (14)
   - Be joyful
   - Consider
   - God has appointed both so that man can not find out what will come
     after him

17) What two things had Solomon seen in the days of his vanity? (15)
   - A just man perishing in his righteousness
   - A wicked man prolonging life in his wickedness

18) Against what does Solomon caution? (16-18)
   - Extremism in being righteous and wise, and in being wicked and

19) How strong is wisdom? (19)
   - Stronger than ten rulers of the city

20) Is there anyone who does not sin? (20)
   - No

21) What should one not take to heart? (21-22)
   - Everything people say

22) In his effort to be wise, what did Solomon find? (23-25)
   - There were things beyond his ability to discern

23) What did he find more bitter than death? (26)
   - A woman whose heart is snares and nets, whose hands are fetters

24) Who can escape such a woman? (26)
   - He who pleases God

25) In his search, what had he found, and not found? (27-28)
   - He found one man among a thousand
   - A woman among all those he had not found

26) What else had he found? (29)
   - God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2015

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From Mark Copeland... "THE BOOK OF ECCLESIASTES" Chapter Six

                       "THE BOOK OF ECCLESIASTES"

                              Chapter Six      


1) To reflect upon the Preacher's observations gleaned from his search
   for the purpose of life

2) To understand the limitations of riches, and that the ability to
   enjoy them is a gift from God


The Preacher continues his observations about the vanity of riches in
this chapter (cf. 5:13-20).  He describes a sad, but very common
situation:  a man blessed with riches, wealth and honor so that he has
all that he desires; yet God does not let him have it, and it is
consumed by someone else!  Such a man, even if he has a hundred
children and lives two thousand years, is described as no better than a
stillborn child (1-6).

His reflections on riches lead the Preacher to conclude that man's
labor might feed his mouth, but it does not really satisfy the soul.
It is better to have the sight of the eyes (i.e., to enjoy what you
see), than to have the wandering of desire which is vanity and grasping
for the wind.  Since man cannot change that he is subject to life's
vanities and unable to contend with God, accumulating many things may
only increase vanity in this life.  By asking who knows what is good in
this short life, and who can tell what will happen in this life after
we are gone, the Preacher implies that only God (and not the
accumulation of wealth) provides the answer to the vanity of life
"under the sun" (7-12).



      1. To receive riches, wealth, and honor from God, all that one
      2. Yet not be able to enjoy it
         a. Because God does not give him the ability or power to do so
         b. Instead a foreigner consumes it
      -- This is vanity, and an evil (grievous) affliction

      1. Unless the soul is satisfied with goodness, a stillborn child 
         is better off even though...
         a. It may come in vanity and depart in darkness
         b. It's name may be covered with darkness
         c. It has not seen the sun or known anything
      2. For the stillborn child has more rest than one who suffers 
         this affliction
         a. Even if he lives two thousand years
         b. For they all eventually go to the same place


      1. They can be consumed, but don't really satisfy
      2. They don't make the wise any better than the fool
      3. They don't make one better than the poor who knows how to 
         conduct himself properly - cf. Pr 15:16; 19:1; 28:6
      -- Indeed, better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of
         desire, which is vanity and grasping for wind

      1. No matter what one becomes, he is still "man", unable to 
         contend with God
      2. Man is still subject to many things which increase the vanity 
         of life
         a. Who knows what is good for man?
            1) All the days of his vain life?
            2) Which he passes like a shadow?
         b. Who can tell a man what will happen after him "under the 
         -- Unless it be God, no one!


1) What are the main points of this chapter?
   - A sad situation (1-6)
   - Reflections on riches (7-12)

2) What does the Preacher see as a common affliction among men? (1-2)
   - Someone is given riches, wealth and honor
   - But God does not give him the ability to enjoy it

3) How is a stillborn child better than one who suffers such an
   affliction? (3-6)
   - The stillborn has more rest, never having seen the sun nor the
     turmoil of this life

4) What is not satisfied by all the labor of man? (7)
   - The soul of man

5) What is better than the wandering of desire? (9)
   - The sight of the eyes (i.e., enjoying the present, the good that 
      one has)

6) What is unchangeable about man? (10)
   - He cannot contend with Him (i.e., God) who is mightier than he

7) Why is man no better by accumulating riches alone? (11)
   - Because many things increase vanity

8) What is man unable (without help from God) to determine? (12)
   - What is good in this life, which is passes like a shadow
   - What will happen after him in this life

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2015

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From Mark Copeland... "THE BOOK OF ECCLESIASTES" Chapter Five

                       "THE BOOK OF ECCLESIASTES"

                              Chapter Five      


1) To reflect upon the Preacher's observations gleaned from his search
   for the purpose of life

2) To notice the proper way to approach God in worship, and the danger
   of foolish vows

3) To appreciate the limitations of riches, and how the ability to
   enjoy them is a gift from God


Having observed much folly during his search for the purpose of life,
the Preacher in this chapter offers counsel on such things as
worshipping God, making promises, seeing injustice in high places, and
properly using riches.

He urges caution when one goes to the house of God.  It is better to
draw near to hear than to offer the sacrifices of fools.  Therefore be
careful what you say (cf. Jm 1:26).  When you do make a vow or promise,
don't delay to pay it.  It is better not to vow, than to vow and not
keep it.  Do not let your mouth get you into trouble, thinking you can
simply excuse your way out of promises you have made.  The righteous
anger of God is to be feared (1-7).

Returning to a theme discussed earlier (cf. 3:16-17; 4:1-3), he says
not to marvel when you see the oppression of the poor, or the
perversion of justice and righteousness.  Remember that every one
answers to someone higher.  Even the king is dependent upon those who
serve him, implying that he too will be held accountable (8-9).

Another theme recurrent throughout the Preacher's observations is the
proper use of riches.  Here he discusses the vanity of loving riches,
and the evil of hoarding riches to one's hurt.  Riches in of themselves
do not satisfy, they can be the source of much anxiety, and can easily
perish through misfortune (10-17).

It is fitting to enjoy the good in one's labor, but the ability to
enjoy is a gift from God.  God will keep one who is so blessed busy
with the joy of his heart (18-20).



      1. When you go to house of God, draw near to hear
      2. Do not give the sacrifice of fools, for they do evil

      1. Do not be rash with your mouth
      2. Do not be hasty with your heart may utter before God
      3. Let your words be few
      4. Dreams (misleading?) come through much activity
      5. A fool is known by his many words


      1. When you make a vow, do not delay to pay it
      2. God has no pleasure in fools, pay what you have vowed
      3. It is better not to vow, than to vow and not pay

      1. Do not let your mouth lead you to sin
      2. Don't think you can excuse your rash statements and avoid 
         God's anger
      3. The multitude of dreams and many words are vanity; fear God!


      1. When you see the oppression of the poor
      2. When you see violent perversion of justice and righteousness

      1. High officials must answer to even higher officials
      2. As the profit of the land is for all, even the king is served 
         by the field


      1. He who loves silver and riches will not be satisfied with 
      2. As goods increase, so does one's appetite; there is little 
         profit (satisfaction) other than to see them
      3. While the sleep of a laboring man is sweet, the abundance of 
         the rich troubles his sleep

      1. A severe evil seen is riches kept (hoarded) to the hurt of the
      2. Such riches can perish through misfortune, leaving the 
         a. With nothing for one's descendants
         b. To go as naked as he came into this world
         c. Eating in darkness, with much sorrow, sickness, and anger


      1. It is good to eat, drink, and enjoy the good of one's labor
      2. This is one's heritage from God

      1. Riches, and the ability to enjoy them, are a gift from God
      2. One whom God has so blessed will not reflect unduly on his 
         life, because God keeps him preoccupied with joy and gladness


1) What are the main points of this chapter?
   - The worship of God (1-3)
   - The taking of vows (4-7)
   - The injustice of men (8-9)
   - The vanity of riches (10-17)
   - The proper use of riches (18-20)

2) How should one conduct themselves when they seek to worship God? (1)
   - Walk prudently
   - Draw near to hear, not offer the sacrifice of fools

3) What two principles concerning vows are given by the Preacher? (4,5)
   - When you make a vow, do not delay to pay it
   - It is better not to vow, than to vow and not pay

4) Why should we not marvel when we see oppression, and perversion of
   justice and righteousness? (8)
   - For those in positions of authority have authorities watching over

5) Why is it vanity to love riches? (10)
   - Those who love riches will never be satisfied

6) What is a frequent consequence of having an abundance of wealth?
   - Troubled sleep caused by worrying about wealth

7) What is described as "a severe evil under the sun"? (13-17)
   - Riches kept (hoarded) to one's own hurt
   - Riches lost through misfortune, leaving one in sorrow, sickness, 
     and anger

8) What does the Preacher see as good and fitting for one to do? (18)
   - To eat, drink, and enjoy the good of one's labor under the sun

9) What is described as "the gift of God"? (19)
   - To be given riches and wealth, to be able to eat of it, and 
     rejoice in one's labor

10) Why will a person blessed by God not dwell unduly on the days of
    his life? (20)
   - Because God will keep him busy with the joy of his heart

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2015

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From Mark Copeland... "THE BOOK OF ECCLESIASTES" Chapter Four

                       "THE BOOK OF ECCLESIASTES"

                              Chapter Four


1) To reflect upon the Preacher's observations gleaned from his search
   for the purpose of life under the sun

2) To consider the vanity of skillful work, isolation, and popularity

3) To appreciate the value of friendship and working together


The Preacher continues to share his observations gleaned during the
course of his search for the purpose of life under the sun.  Earlier he
related the injustice he saw (cf. 3:16).  Now we are told how he
considered those who were oppressed with no comforter.  In such a
state, he concluded the dead were better than the living, and better
than both was to never be born (1-4).

The Preacher then describes what he saw as the vanity of toil and
skillful work, especially when one is alone.  While one who does 
nothing is a fool and consumes his own flesh, it is better to have a 
little with quietness than a lot with much toil.  A grave misfortune is
the person with no companion, son, nor brother, who labors endlessly 
for riches that do not satisfy and does not consider who will receive 
that for which he deprives himself of much good in life.  On the other 
hand, the Preacher saw great value in friendship.  He illustrates the 
principle of synergy in their work and how they can help one another in
times of need (5-12).

The chapter closes with an illustration of the vanity of popularity.  
While a young and wise man who becomes king may be popular at first,
with the passing of time he is not appreciated by those who come along 
later (13-16).



      1. He considered the oppression done under the sun
      2. He saw the tears of the oppressed, who had no comforter
      3. He observed power on the side of the oppressors

      1. He praised the dead more than the living
      2. Better than both is the person who:
         a. Has never existed
         b. Has not seen the evil work done under the sun


      1. He saw that toil and skillful labor is envied by others
      2. This too is vanity and grasping for wind

      1. The fool does nothing, and consumes his own flesh
      2. It is better to have a little with quietness


      1. He saw more vanity under the sun
      2. A person who was alone, without companion, son, or brother
         a. With no end to his labors, with no satisfaction with his
         b. Who does not consider for whom he labors and deprives
            himself of good
      3. This was vanity and a grave misfortune

      1. Two are better than one, for they have good reward for their
      2. If one falls, the other can lift him up
      3. Their combined body heat can keep them warm
      4. They can withstand one who would seek to overpower them
      5. A threefold cord is not quickly broken


   A. A TALE OF TWO MEN (13-15)
      1. It is better to be a poor and wise youth, than an old and
         foolish king who will not accept criticism
      2. For the young man, though born poor, comes out of prison to
         become king and the living were with him

      1. The young king might rule over a populous nation
      2. But another generation will arise that will not rejoice in him


1) What are the main points of this chapter?
   - The oppression of men (1-3)
   - The vanity of toil and skillful work (4-6)
   - The vanity of isolation (7-12)
   - The vanity of popularity (13-16)

2) What did the Preacher observe regarding oppression? (1)
   - Power was on the side of the oppressor, the oppressed had no

3) What did this observation prompt the Preacher to do? (2-3)
   - Praise the dead more than the living
   - Reason that better than both was never to be born

4) What did he observe about toil and skillful work? (4)
   - It prompted envy from one's neighbor
   - It too was vanity and grasping for the wind

5) How does he describe the fool who doesn't work? (5)
   - As one who folds his hands and consumes his own flesh

6) What is better than both hands full, but with toil and grasping for
   the wind? (6)
   - A handful with quietness

7) What is described as vanity and a grave misfortune? (7-8)
   - One who is alone, who labors endlessly for riches that do not
   - Who never considers for whom he is toiling and depriving himself
     of much good

8) How does the Preacher illustrate the value of friendship? (9-12)
   - Two working together accomplish more (the principle of synergy)
   - Having someone to help you if you fall
   - Surviving a cold night by sharing body heat
   - Two can withstand one
   - A threefold cord is not easily broken

9) How does the Preacher illustrate the vanity of popularity? (13-16)
   - With the example of a youth who becomes king, but as he gets older
     he is not appreciated by the people who come afterward

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2015

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From Mark Copeland... "THE BOOK OF ECCLESIASTES" Chapter Three

                       "THE BOOK OF ECCLESIASTES"

                             Chapter Three


1) To reflect upon the Preacher's observations gleaned from his search
   for the purpose of life under the sun

2) To understand why God's ways are sometimes inexplicable, and why
   injustice along with wickedness are allowed to exist

3) To be reminded as to what is best for man to do in life under the


In the first two chapters, the Preacher described the extent of his 
search for the purpose of life under the sun.  In this chapter, and the
three to follow, he shares observations gleaned during the course of
his search.

In a well-known passage, we are told that to everything there is a
season, a time for every purpose under heaven.  The Preacher has seen
that God has given man the task to seek out God's purpose by putting 
eternity in man's heart.  But then he also saw that no one is able to
find out what God does from beginning to end, and no one can change
what He decides to do.  Why does God act this way?  Why are His
purposes often incomprehensible?  The Preacher offers that God does
this so man might fear before Him, seeing that God will require an 
account for what is done.  This prompts the Preacher to state again 
(cf. 2:24-26) what he believes is the best one can do:  to rejoice, do
good, to eat and drink, enjoying the good in their labor.  This he
concludes is the gift of God (1-15).

Next he describes what he saw "under the sun".  In places were there
should have been judgment and righteousness, he saw wickedness and 
iniquity!  Why does God allow it?  He reasoned in his heart that God 
will judge the righteous and wicked, and that there must be a time for
every purpose and for every work.  He told himself that God tests men,
to help them see that they are little different from beasts.  Both man 
and beasts die, and both return to the dust.  From a purely earthly 
perspective, there is no advantage of man over beasts, for one cannot 
see whether the spirit of man goes upward (but cf. 12:7) while the
spirit of animals goes downward to the earth.  This led him to the 
perception stated once again (cf. 2:24-26; 3:12-13), that it is best
for a man to rejoice in his works.  This is man's heritage, for who can
bring one (back) to see what will happen (on the earth) after him 



      1. To everything there is a season
      2. A time for every purpose under heaven
         a. A time to be born, and a time to die
         b. A time to plant, and a time to pluck what is planted
         c. A time to kill, and a time to heal
         d. A time to break down, and a time to build up
         e. A time to weep, and a time to laugh
         f. A time to mourn, and a time to dance
         g. A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones
         h. A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing
         i. A time to gain, and a time to lose
         j. A time to keep, and a time to throw away
         k. A time to tear, and a time to sew
         l. A time to keep silence, and a time to speak
         m. A time to love, and a time to hate
         n. A time of war, and a time of peace

      1. God has put it in man to seek out what he cannot find
         a. Again, the Preacher asks what profit there is in one's
         b. He sees that God has:
            1) Given man the task with which to be occupied
            2) Made everything beautiful in its time
            3) Put eternity in man's heart
         c. Yet no one can find the work that God does from beginning
            to end
      2. What the Preacher concludes is best for people to do
         a. Rejoice, and do good in their lives
         b. Eat, drink, and enjoy the good of all their labor
         c. It is the gift of God (cf. 2:24-26)
      3. What the Preacher offers as God's reason for the way He works
         a. He knows that what God does, man cannot change
         b. God acts the way He does, that men should fear before Him
         c. For God requires an account of what is past (done)


      1. In the place of judgment, there was wickedness
      2. In the place of righteousness, there was iniquity

      1. God will judge the righteous and the wicked
      2. There must be a time for every purpose and for every work
      3. God evidently allows injustice to test the hearts of men
         a. That they may see that they are like beasts
         b. That what happens to beasts will happen to them
            1) As one dies, so dies the other
            2) Man has no advantage over beasts
            3) All return to the dust
         c. Who knows that the spirit of man goes upward, and the
            spirit of the beast goes downward?

      1. There is nothing better than rejoicing in one's own works,
         which is his heritage
      2. For who can bring man to see what will happen after him?


1) What are the main points of this chapter?
   - The inexplicable purpose of God (1-15)
   - The injustice and wickedness of men (16-22)

2) What does the preacher say about everything under heaven? (1)
   - There is a season, a time for every purpose

3) List some examples of how he illustrates "a time for every purpose"
   - A time to be born, and a time to die
   - A time to weep, and a time to laugh
   - A time to keep silence, and a time to speak
   - A time of war, and a time of peace

4) What question does the Preacher restate? (9, cf. 1:3)
   - What profit has the worker from that in which he labors?

5) What four things has he seen? (10-11)
   - The God-given task with which the sons of mean are to be occupied
     (cf. 1:13)
   - God has made everything beautiful in its time
   - God has put eternity in man's heart
   - No one can find out the work God has done from beginning to end

6) What does the Preacher conclude is best for people to do?   Why?
   - Rejoice, and do good in their lives
   - Eat, drink, and enjoy the good of all their labor
   - It is the gift of God (cf. 2:24-26)

7) Why has God made what He does unchangeable? (14)
   - That men should fear before Him

8) What will God require? (15)
   - An account of what is past

9) As the Preacher looked in places where there should have been
   judgment and righteousness, what did he see? (16)
   - Wickedness and iniquity

10) What did he reason in his heart about this? (17)
   - God shall judge the righteous and the wicked
   - There shall be a time for every purpose and for every work

11) What did he tell himself was the reason God allowed such things?
   - God tests men, that they may see that they are like beasts

12) What does man have in common with beasts? (19-20)
   - They both die
   - They both return to the dust

13) What is different between man and beast? (21)
   - The spirit of man goes upward  (cf. 12:7)
   - The spirit of the beast goes down to the earth

14) What did the Preacher perceive was best for man to do?  Why? (22)
   - To rejoice in his own works, for that is his heritage
   - Who can bring him to see what will happen after him?

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2015

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Black Muslims and the Nation of Islam by Brad Bromling, D.Min.


Black Muslims and the Nation of Islam

by Brad Bromling, D.Min.

Ever since entering the spotlight of public attention (about 1984), Louis Farrakhan has been a controversial figure. He thrills the hearts of some, scares the daylights out of others, and offends many more. When he called the African-American community to participate in a "Million Man March" on Washington, D.C., 400,000 responded—twice the number who walked with Martin Luther King Jr. in 1963. Unlike Dr. King, everything Farrakhan said was dedicated to Allah.
Few people have reminded Americans of Islam’s presence on this continent more pointedly than Farrakhan. But what many people do not know is that Farrakhan does not represent Islam. He is the leader of the Nation of Islam, a distinctly American invention that has its roots in the opening years of the twentieth century (see Bijlefeld, 1993; Gudel and Duckworth, 1993; Ahlstrom, 1972; Morey, 1992).
In 1930, a Detroit clothing merchant named Wallace D. Fard (a.k.a. Wali Farad Muhammad) began preaching an Islamic-flavored message among blacks. Fard had been a follower of the “Noble Prophet Ali Drew,” founder of the Moorish Science Temple of America. Drew’s message was a mixture of Christian principles, Islamic ideals, and black nationalism that offered hope to an oppressed community of people. After Drew’s assassination in 1929, Fard, claiming connections with Mecca, began calling black Americans to renounce Christianity (a “white man’s religion”), and to embrace Islamic ideals. He founded the Temple of Islam in Detroit, and by 1934 had a following of 8,000. After Fard mysteriously disappeared in 1934, his most famous disciple, Elijah Muhammad (born Elijah Poole), carried the movement forward.
Elijah Muhammad claimed that Allah had appeared in the person of Fard, and that he himself was a prophet of Allah. He saw white people as devils and preached against integration. In his view, the black man would win ultimate victory over the white man in the battle of Armageddon. He offered the impoverished and persecuted black community a sense of dignity. Blacks were not simply the white man’s equal, but someday would rule the Earth.
In 1947, Elijah Muhammad’s message was heard and believed by the imprisoned Malcolm X (born Malcolm Little) who, upon his release in 1952, joined the Black Muslims. He was an outspoken minister of the group until 1963, when he became disillusioned with Muhammad. After a trip to Mecca a year later, Malcolm X converted to orthodox Islam and no longer endorsed racial antagonism. Eleven months later he was assassinated.
When Muhammad died in 1975, he was succeeded by his son, Wallace Deen, who sought unification between the Black Muslims and orthodox Islam. This trend was unacceptable to Louis Farrakhan, who preferred the teachings of Elijah Muhammad. So, in 1977 Farrakhan broke from the Black Muslims, returned to his mentor’s teaching, and started the faction that bears the name “Nation of Islam” (a name also used by Elijah Muhammad).
Without Farrakhan, Wallace Deen Muhammad led Black Muslims to full unification with orthodox Islam. This group is not to be confused with the Nation of Islam, which still is considered heretical by Islam worldwide.
Some of the more troubling views of Elijah Muhammad that are evident in current Nation of Islam rhetoric are well summarized by Sidney Ahlstrohm:
[Their] eschatology teaches that God has come; there is no life after this life; heaven and hell are only two contrasting earthly conditions; the hereafter (which will begin to appear aboutA.D. 2000) is but the end of the present "spook" civilization of the Caucasian usurpers, including the Christian religion. It will be followed by the redemption of the Black Nation and their glorious rule over all the earth (1972, p. 1068).
Ostensibly, the message of the Nation of Islam (as presented by Farrakhan at the Million Man March) is one of social atonement and reconciliation; it is a call for the black community to strive for moral and ethical superiority. Farrakhan called the audience to give up drugs, prostitution, and violence, and to commit to improving themselves “spiritually, morally, mentally, socially, politically, and economically” (1995). These are laudable concerns that should transcend race. If lower crime rates, higher economic productivity, and an over-all improvement in the quality of life for African-Americans result from the efforts of Farrakhan, then all people will have reason to rejoice.
The problem with the Nation of Islam, however, is at least two-fold: (1) it is not the religion of Jesus Christ; and (2) it is preoccupied with “white supremacy.” In his Million Man March speech, Farrakhan argued that the United States is rotten at its very foundation because it has been characterized from the beginning by white supremacy. For example, He said:
The Seal and the Constitution [of the United States—BB] reflect the thinking of the founding fathers, that this was to be a nation by White people and for White people. Native Americans, Blacks, and all other non-White people were to be the burden bearers for the real citizens of this nation (1995).
Clearly, anyone with a cursory understanding of American history can respect (even if only to a limited degree) the sense of anger and frustration that minorities feel about their position in this society. Prejudice is a dangerous and painful thing. Its effects have not disappeared, and the wounds it has inflicted still are very fresh in many places (and in many lives). But the answer is not found in the Qur’an or the doctrines of Elijah Muhammad. Cornel West succinctly stated:
...one’s eyes should be on the prize, not on the perpetuator of one’s oppression. In short, Elijah Muhammad’s project remained captive to the supremacy game—a game mastered by the white racists he opposed and imitated with his black supremacy doctrine (1993, p. 100).
The only hope for a world torn by racial hatred is Jesus Christ—not a black Jesus or a white Jesus, but the Jesus of Scripture—Who like all of us is the Son of Adam, but unlike us, is also the Son of God. By His self-sacrifice for all humanity, He offers to break down the walls of enmity that sin erects between us (Acts 10:34; Ephesians 2:14; Galatians 3:28).


Ahlstrom, Sidney E. (1972), A Religious History of the American People (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press).
Bijlefeld, Willem A. (1993), “Black Muslims” The New Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia [CD-ROM].
Farrakhan, Louis, (1995), Transcript from Minister Louis Farrakhan’s remarks at the Million Man March [Online], URL http://www3.cnn.com/US/9510/megamarch/10-16/transcript/index.html.
Gudel, Joseph P. and Larry Duckworth (1993), “Hate Begotten of Hate,” The Christian Research Institute [Online], URL http://www.iclnet.org/pub/resources/text/cri/cri-jrnl/crj0010c.txt.
Morey, Robert A. (1992) The Islamic Invasion (Eugene, OR: Harvest House).
West, Cornel (1993), Race Matters (Boston, MA: Beacon).

Alleged Chronological Contradictions by Eric Lyons, M.Min.


Alleged Chronological Contradictions

by Eric Lyons, M.Min.

Since the Bible begins at the Creation with Genesis—the book of beginnings—and ends with the book of Revelation (which many scholars believe was the last recorded book of the Bible), students of the Scriptures often assume that the Bible was compiled chronologically. Many students approach their reading of the Bible with the mind-set that everything in Scripture is arranged “from A to Z.” Since Genesis records what took place at the beginning of time, and it is the first book of the Bible, then the rest of the Bible follows suit, right? Actually, what the diligent student eventually finds is that the Bible is not a book of strict chronology. All sixty-six books of the Bible are not arranged in the order in which they were written. Furthermore, all of the events contained within each book also are not necessarily recorded chronologically.
Consider the following arrangement of some of the books in the Bible:
  • Although the books of Haggai and Zechariah have been placed near the end of the Old Testament, these men prophesied while the events in the book of Ezra were taking place (cf. Ezra 5:1; 6:14). Twenty books separate Haggai and Zechariah from the book of Ezra, yet the events recorded in each book were occurring at the same time. Obviously, these books are not arranged in chronological order.
  • Even though 2 Chronicles appears before the book of Job, the events recorded in Job took place long before those that are recorded in 2 Chronicles. In fact, if the Bible were a book of strict chronology, the events recorded in Job would be placed somewhere within the book of Genesis, likely somewhere after chapter nine (cf. Job 22:15-16; 42:16-17).
  • In the New Testament, one might assume that since 1 Thessalonians comes after the book of Acts, that Luke penned Acts earlier than Paul penned his first letter to the church at Thessalonica. The truth is, however, 1 Thessalonians was written years before the book of Acts was completed.
In addition to the sixty-six books of the Bible not being arranged chronologically, inspired writers did not always record information in a strictly chronological sequence within each book. Making the assumption that the entire Bible was written chronologically hinders a proper understanding of the text. As you will see throughout this article, several alleged contradictions are resolved simply by acknowledging that many times Bible writers did not record events in a strict sequential order.


According to some skeptics, Genesis 10 verses 5, 20, and 31 contradict what is stated in Genesis 11:1. Supposedly, since Moses recorded that the descendants of Shem, Ham, and Japheth spoke different languages in Genesis 10, and yet he indicated that “the whole earth had one language and one speech” in Genesis 11:1, then a discrepancy exists. Obviously, before the dispersion of man at Babel, the whole Earth could not have both many languages and only one language at the same time.
The explanation to this “problem” is that the events recorded in Genesis 10-11 were not written chronologically. Genesis 10 is more of an overview, while Genesis 11 speaks of one event within Genesis 10. Some of the things recorded in chapter 10 occurred before the tower of Babel, while others occurred sometime later. Consider that Genesis 2:5-25 does not pick up where chapter 1 left off; rather, it provides more detailed information about some of the events mentioned in chapter 1. (Whereas Genesis 1 is arranged chronologically, Genesis 2 is organized topically.) Several of the events in Genesis 38 involving Judah and Tamar occurred while the things recorded in chapter 39 (and those that follow) took place. Similar to a teacher who is telling her class a story, and inserts information about something the main character did in the past or will do in the future, Moses “jumped” ahead of himself at times by inserting parenthetical material like that found in Genesis 10.
Aside from the languages mentioned in Genesis 10, there is another “clue” in the text that reveals the events recorded in chapter 11 occurred before the descendants of Noah began speaking different languages and spreading throughout the Earth. Genesis 10:25 mentions a man named Peleg (meaning “division”) who received such a name because “in his days the earth was divided.” More than likely, this is a reference to the confusion of languages at the tower of Babel described in chapter 11. The “Earth” (i.e., people; cf. 11:1) divided when God confused the languages (11:7-8). Thus, the division in Peleg’s day is linked contextually to the linguistic segregation at Babel (Genesis 11:1-9).
When Genesis 10 and 11 are read with the understanding that not all events are recorded chronologically, one sees clearly how the events revealed in these chapters are entwined tightly with one another—so tightly in fact that those who seek contradictions are doomed to fail. Linguistically speaking, there was no pre-Babel confusion; only one language was in existence (Genesis 11:1).


Following the account of Samuel’s visit to Bethlehem to anoint David as the future king of Israel, the book of 1 Samuel indicates that David became the harp player and armor bearer for King Saul (16:14-23). Subsequent to this information, the reader is told of David’s magnificent triumph over Goliath (1 Samuel 17), which then is followed by an “interrogation” by King Saul, who asked David, “Whose son are you, young man?” (17:58). A general reading through the text of 1 Samuel 16-17 has led some Bible believers to question why Saul (it seems) knew David, then did not know David, and then got to know him again. Skeptics, likewise, have inquired about the consistency of this story (see Morgan, 2003; Wells, 2001; “Inerrancy,” n.d.). Paul Tobin, in an article titled “Internal Contradictions in the Bible,” summed up the skeptic’s argument by stating that 1 Samuel 16 “clearly shows that David...was known to Saul. Yet a little later, after David’s fight with Goliath, Saul is made to inquire from his chief captain as to the identity of the giant slayer (I Samuel 17:56). And he is again made to inquire from David who he is, when he should have known this all along” (2000). Allegedly, the Bible’s portrayal of Saul’s ignorance of David after Goliath’s death is proof of the Bible writers’ imperfection when penning the Scriptures.
First, it is imperative for one to recognize that, as with other Bible passages, nowhere in 1 Samuel 16-17 are we told that all of these events occurred in chronological order. Although throughout 1 Samuel, there is a general, sequential progression, such does not demand that every event recorded in the book must be laid out chronologically. In fact, within chapter 17 there is evidence that this is not the case. For example, the events recorded in 17:54 (i.e., David putting his armor in his tent, and taking the head of Goliath to Jerusalem) postdate the conversations mentioned in verses 55-58 (as verse 57 makes clear). More precisely, verses 55-56 synchronize with verse 40, while events recorded in verses 57-58 correlate well with the end of verse 51 (Youngblood, 1992, 3:703). And, regarding chapter 16, who can say for certain that David was not already playing the harp for Saul before Samuel anointed him? First Samuel 17:15 indicates that “David occasionally went and returned from Saul to feed his father’s sheep at Bethlehem.” Perhaps it was during one of these furloughs that he was anointed as the future king of Israel (16:1-13). Unless the text clearly distinguishes one event as occurring before or after another, a person cannot conclude for certain the exact chronology of those events. Just because one historical event recorded in the Bible precedes another, does not mean that it could not have occurred at a later time (or vice versa). Truly, the ancients were not as concerned about chronology as is the average person in twenty-first-century America.
Aside from the fact that one cannot be certain about the exact sequence of events recorded in 1 Samuel 16-17, several possible explanations exist as to why Saul appeared not to recognize David after his triumphal victory over Goliath. First, enough time could have lapsed so that David’s appearance changed significantly since the last time he appeared before King Saul. William M. Thomson, a missionary in Syria and Palestine for nearly half of the nineteenth century, once described the sudden changes in the physical development of Eastern youths in his book titled The Land and the Book.
They not only spring into full-grown manhood as if by magic, but all their former beauty disappears; their complexion becomes dark; their features hard and angular.... I have often been accosted by such persons, formerly intimate acquaintances, but who had suddenly grown entirely out of my knowledge, nor could I without difficulty recognize them (1859, 2:366).
Few would deny that young men can change quickly over a relatively short period of time. Facial hair, increased height and weight, larger, more defined muscles, darker skin, a deeper voice, as well as the wearing of different apparel, may all factor into why a person may say to someone that he or she knows, but has not seen for some time, “I hardly recognized you. You’ve changed.” Surely, it is more than possible that between the time David served Saul as a harpist, and the time he slew Goliath, he could have experienced many physical changes that prevented a “distressed” king from recognizing his former harpist.
A second reason Saul might have failed to recognize David is because he may have lapsed into another unreliable mental state. Saul’s intermittent deviation from normalcy is seen throughout the book of 1 Samuel (cf. 16:14-23; 18:9-12; 19:22-24; 22:6-19), and it is possible 17:54-58 is another allusion to his defective perception. In his discussion of 1 Samuel 17, biblical commentator Robert Jamieson mentioned this possibility, saying, “The king’s moody temper, not to say frequent fits of insanity, would alone be sufficient to explain the circumstance of his not recognizing a youth who, during the time of his mental aberration, had been much near him, trying to soothe his distempered soul” (1997).
Third, it could be that Saul did, in fact, remember David, but because of jealousy over David’s momentous victory (cf. 1 Samuel 18:8-11), and perhaps on hearing that Samuel had been to Bethlehem to anoint him as the next king (1 Samuel 16:1-13), Saul simply wanted to act like he did not know David. Such a scenario is not difficult to envision. Today, a teacher or coach might inquire about a student whom he or she already knows, yet in hopes of instilling more submission into the arrogant teen, the faculty member acts somewhat aloof. One textual indication that such may be the explanation of 1 Samuel 17:54-58 is that Saul still referred to David, the bear-killing, lion-slaying, Goliath-demolisher, as a “stripling” (Hebrew ‘elem—17:56, ASV) and “young man” (Hebrew na’ar—17:55,58). Although these two words do not necessarily carry a belittling connotation, neither designation seems very appropriate for a man who had just tried on the armor of King Saul—a man once described as “shoulders upward... taller than any of the people” (1 Samuel 9:2)—and had just killed one of the fiercest enemies of Israel. Truly, Saul’s supposed ignorance of David and his family may well have been a “performance” instigated by what physician Herman van Praag once called, “haughtiness fed by envy” (1986, 35:421).
Finally, one must realize that the text does not even actually say that Saul did not know David. It only records that Saul asked, “Whose son is this youth?” (1 Samuel 17:55; cf. vss. 56,58). It is an assumption to conclude that Saul did not recognize David. The king simply could have been inquiring about David’s family. Since Saul had promised to reward the man who killed Goliath by giving “his father’s house exemption from taxes in Israel” (17:25), Saul might have been questioning David in order to ensure the identity of David’s family. Furthermore, 18:1 seems to presuppose an extended conversation between the two, which would imply that Saul wanted even more information than just the name of David’s father.
Truly, any of these possibilities could account for Saul’s examination of David. The burden of proof is on the skeptic to show otherwise. As respected law professor Simon Greenleaf concluded regarding the rule of municipal law in relation to ancient writings:
Every document, apparently ancient, coming from the proper repository or custody, and bearing on its face no evident marks of forgery, the law presumes to be genuine, and devolves on the opposing party the burden of proving it to be otherwise (1995, p. 16, emp. added).
Until skeptics logically negate the above possible solutions to the questions surrounding 1 Samuel 16-17, and are able to prove beyond doubt that the Bible writer made a genuine mistake, no reason to doubt the integrity of the biblical text exists.


As if the spelling and pronunciation of Ahasuerus and Artaxerxes were not problematic enough for the average Bible student, one must also consider these Persian kings in light of the order in which they are mentioned in the book of Ezra. According to history, the Persian kings reigned in the following order: Cyrus (560-530 B.C.), Cambyses (530-522), Smerdis (522), Darius I (522-486), Ahasuerus (486-465), Artaxerxes I (465-424), Darius II (423-405), and Artaxerxes II (405-358) [see Cook, 1983, p. 350]. The difficulty that presents itself in the book of Ezra is that events surrounding letters which King Artaxerxes received from, and wrote to, the enemies of the Jews (see Ezra 4:7-23) are mentioned before the reign of Darius I (Ezra 4:24-6:15). If it is a proven fact that Darius served as king before Artaxerxes, why is the kingship of Darius recorded in the book of Ezra subsequent to the reign of Artaxerxes?
First, it needs to be pointed out that the Darius of the book of Ezra was in fact Darius I and not Darius II. The second Darius lived too late in history to have been contemporary with the rebuilding of the temple. Thus, one cannot solve the question at hand simply by suggesting that the Darius cited in Ezra was really Darius II, who lived after Artaxerxes I.
Second, some may attempt to solve this difficulty by alleging that Artaxerxes II was the king who reigned during the days of Ezra and Nehemiah’s return to Jerusalem, while Artaxerxes I was the king mentioned prior to Darius’ reign (Ezra 4:7-23). This solution is unacceptable, however, since Artaxerxes II lived several years after the events recorded in Ezra and Nehemiah.
So what is the answer? Why is the kingship of Darius recorded in the book of Ezra following events connected with the kingship of Artaxerxes—a king who is thought to have reigned after Darius? One possible solution to this difficulty is that Ahasuerus and Artaxerxes of Ezra 4:6,7-23 were respectively Cambyses (530-522) and Smerdis (522)—kings of Persia (listed above) who reigned before Darius I. Since Persian kings frequently had two or more names, it is not unfathomable to think that Cambyses and Smerdis also may have gone by the names Ahasuerus and Artaxerxes (see Wilson, 1996; see also Fausset, 1998).
Another explanation to this perceived dilemma is that the information concerning the kings of Persia in Ezra 4 is grouped according to theme rather than by chronology. Instead of having a record where everything in chapter four is in sequential order, it is reasonable to conclude that verses 6-23 serve as a parenthetical comment and that Ahasuerus and Artaxerxes (4:6-7) are indeed Ahasuerus (486-465) and Artaxerxes I (465-424) of history (rather than the aforementioned Cambyses and Smerdis).
Bible students must keep in mind that just as there is more than one way to write a book in the twenty-first century, ancient writers frequently recorded events chronologically while occasionally inserting necessary non-sequential material. It would have been natural for the writer of the book of Ezra to follow a discussion of the problems related to rebuilding the Jerusalem temple (4:1-5) with information on a similar resistance the Jews encountered while rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem (4:6-23). Although the details in verses 6-23 initially may puzzle our chronologically preconditioned mind-set, they actually fit very well in their arrangement with the overall theme of the chapter. In verse 24, the story picks up where it left off in verse 5. The writer then returns to his focus on the problems with the rebuilding of the temple, which lingered until “the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia” (Ezra 4:24).


One of the most popular alleged Bible discrepancies pertaining to chronology—and one that skeptics are fond of citing in almost any discussion on the inerrancy of Scripture—is whether or not Jesus cleansed the temple early in His ministry, or near the end. According to Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Jesus cleansed the temple during the final week leading up to His death on the cross (Matthew 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-17; Luke 19:45-46). John, however, places his record of the temple cleansing in chapter 2 of his gospel account, between Jesus’ first miracle (2:1-12) and His conversation with Nicodemus (3:1-21). How should John’s gospel account be understood in light of the other three writers placing the event near the end of Jesus’ ministry? Skeptics question, “Did Jesus enter the temple and drive out the money changers early in His ministry, or near the end?”
Most often, it seems, the explanation heard regarding this difficulty is that there was only one temple cleansing—near the end of Jesus’ life—and John’s placement of this event at an earlier time is the result of his “theological,” rather than “chronological,” approach to writing his account of the life and teachings of Jesus. The problem with this explanation is that, although overall John may have been a little less concerned with chronology than were the other writers, a straightforward reading of the text favors the position that this particular clearing of the temple was not something that occurred near the end of Jesus’ life. The record of Jesus’ first miracle, beginning in John 2:1, begins with the phrase, “On the third day....” This section ends with John writing the words, “After this...” (2:12, Greek meta touto). Following verse 12, John then begins his account of the temple cleansing saying, “Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand...” (2:13). It certainly would appear to be “out of the ordinary” for John to jump ahead nearly three years in the life of Jesus to an event that occurred in Jerusalem during the last week of His life, only then to backtrack to a time prior to “the second sign Jesus did when He had come out of Judea into Galilee” (John 4:54). Admittedly, John would not have erred in writing about the temple cleansing early in his gospel account if the Holy Spirit saw fit to mention the event at that time. (Perhaps this would have been to show from the outset of Jesus’ ministry that He “repudiated what was central to the Temple cults, and further that his death and resurrection were critically important”—Morris, 1995, p. 167.) A better explanation of this alleged contradiction exists, however: There were two temple cleansings.
Why not? Who is to say that Jesus could not have cleansed the temple of money-hungry, hypocritical Jews on two separate occasions—once earlier in His ministry, and again near the end of His life as He entered Jerusalem for the last time? Are we so naïve as to think that the temple could not have been corrupted at two different times during the three years of Jesus’ ministry? Jesus probably visited the temple several times during the last few years of His life on Earth (especially when celebrating the Passover—cf. John 2:13,23; 6:4; 11:55), likely finding inappropriate things going on there more than once. Do churches in the twenty-first century sometimes have problems that recur within a three-year span? Have church leaders ever dealt with these problems in a public manner multiple times and in similar ways? Of course. (“How soon men forget the most solemn reproofs, and return to evil practices”—Barnes, 1956, p. 196.)
What evidence does a person possess, which would force him to conclude that Jesus cleansed the temple only once? There is none. While Matthew, Mark, and Luke recorded a temple cleansing late in Jesus’ ministry, much evidence exists to indicate that John recorded an earlier clearing of the temple. It is logical to conclude that the extra details recorded in John 2 are not simply supplemental facts (even though the writers of the gospels did supplement each others’ writings fairly frequently). Rather, the different details recorded by John likely are due to the fact that we are dealing with two different temple cleansings. Only John mentioned (1) the oxen and sheep, (2) the whip of cords, (3) the scattering of the money, (4) Jesus’ command, “Take these things away,” and (5) the disciples’ remembrance of Psalm 69:9: “Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up” (2:17). Furthermore, John did not include Jesus’ quotation of Isaiah 56:7, which is found in all three of the other accounts, and stands as a prominent part of their accounts of the temple cleansing.
In view of the major differences in wording, in setting, and in time, as well as the fact that, apart from the work of John the Baptizer, nothing in the first five chapters of John’s gospel account is found in Matthew, Mark, or Luke, “we will require more evidence than a facile assumption that the two similar narratives must refer to the same event” (Morris, 1995, p. 167). There is no chronological contradiction here.


A few years ago, a journal dedicated to revealing (alleged) Bible errors petitioned its readers to submit their “best” biblical questions and arguments that “they have found through actual experience to be exceptionally effective vis-à-vis biblicists...and they will probably be published for all to see and use” (McKinsey, 1988a, p. 6). The first response printed in the journal (two months later) was from a man who listed among his top five “Bible contradictions” a question of whether or not the veil of the temple was torn in two “before” (Luke 23:44-46) or “after” (Matthew 27:50-51) Jesus died on the cross. The skeptic stated that this question was one of his favorites to ask because it elicited “such ludicrous rebuttals from Christian apologists” (McKinsey, 1988b, p. 6).
Before taking the skeptic’s word at face value as to what these scriptures actually say (or do not say), compare the passages for yourself.
And Jesus cried again with a loud voice, and yielded up his spirit. And behold, the veil of the temple was rent in two from the top to the bottom (Matthew 27:50-51, ASV; cf. Mark 15:37-38).
And it was now about the sixth hour, and a darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, the sun’s light failing: and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst. And Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit”: and having said this, he gave up the ghost (Luke 23:44-46).
Do you read anything in either Matthew or Luke’s account that says the veil was torn “before” or “after” Jesus died (to use the skeptic’s own words)? Granted, Luke did mention the rending of the veil before he recorded that Jesus died, and Matthew mentioned it after recording His death, but neither made any direct statements that would indicate exactly when the rending took place. Simply because one Bible writer recorded something before, or after, another writer does not mean that either writer is attempting to establish a chronological time line. Unless the skeptic can point to a verse by both writers that says these events occurred in the precise order in which they are recorded, then no case can be made for these two passages being incompatible.
Consider for a moment the “to do list” that many of us make either daily or weekly. If someone peeked at your list and saw where you crossed off the first four things, but the things that you had marked off were not in the same order in which you accomplished them, would you be guilty of lying (to yourself or to a colleague)? No. Imagine also that you returned home after work one day, and told your children some of the things you had accomplished at the office. Then, you told your spouse the same things you told your children, only in a somewhat different order. Would your children have any right to call you a liar if they overheard this second conversation between you and your spouse? Of course not. The only reason your children might be justified in calling you a liar is if you had told both them and your spouse that every event you rehearsed happened in the precise order in which you mentioned them.
The only way a skeptic could prove that Matthew 27:50-51 and Luke 23:44-46 are contradictory is if he or she could establish that both writers claimed to be writing all of these events in precisely the same order in which they occurred. Since, however, the critic cannot prove such intended chronology, he is left with another alleged and unproven “contradiction.” Interesting, is it not, that this fairly simple “problem” was listed as a “top-five” question with which to “stump” a Christian?


Three times in the gospel of Matthew, the writer recorded where certain disciples of Jesus were instructed to meet the Lord in Galilee after His resurrection. During the Passover meal that Jesus ate the night of His betrayal, He informed His disciples, saying, “After I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee” (Matthew 26:32). Three days later, on the day of Jesus’ resurrection when Mary Magdalene and the other women came to the empty tomb of Jesus, Matthew recorded how an angel told them to notify the disciples of Jesus’ resurrection, and to tell them exactly the same thing they were told three days earlier: “He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him” (28:7). Then, only three verses later, as the women were on their way to inform the disciples of Jesus’ resurrection and the message given to them by the angel, Matthew recorded how Jesus appeared to them and said: “Rejoice!... Do not be afraid. Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me” (28:9-10). Sometime thereafter, “the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them,” and “worshiped Him” (28:16-17).
According to Matthew, Jesus unquestionably wanted to meet with His disciples in Galilee following His resurrection. However, some skeptics and sincere Bible students have asked why, according to Luke, Jesus met with His disciples in Jerusalem (24:33-43), and then commanded them to stay there until they were “endued with power from on high” (24:49)? Does Luke’s account contradict Matthew’s? According to one Bible antagonist,
Matthew, Mark, and John have Jesus saying the disciples are to rendezvous with him in Galilee, northern Israel, about three days journey away. In contradiction to this, Luke’s two books—The Gospel of Luke and The Book of Acts, have Jesus planning to rendezvous in Jerusalem....
In the real world, people cannot be in two places at the same time, and to claim otherwise is to be caught up in a contradiction.... The Bible, like the cheating husband, has been caught in a contradiction, exposed as a liar, and therefore can’t be trusted to tell the truth (Smith, 1995).
Is the skeptic right? Is the Bible at fault in this instance? Does it place the same people in two different places “at the same time”? Where exactly did Jesus intend to meet with His disciples—in Galilee or Jerusalem?
The truth is, Jesus met with His disciples in both places, but He did so at different times. One of the reasons so many people allege that two or more Bible passages are contradictory is because they fail to recognize that mere differences do not necessitate a contradiction. For there to be a bona fide contradiction, not only must one be referring to the same person, place, or thing in the same sense, but the same time period must be under consideration. If a person looks at a single door in the back of a building and says, “That door is shut,” but also says, “That door is open,” has he contradicted himself? Not necessarily. The door may have been shut at one moment, but then opened the next by a strong gust of wind. Time and chronology are important factors to consider when dealing with alleged errors in the Bible.
Consider another illustration that more closely resembles the alleged problem posed by the skeptic. At the end of every year, the professional and managerial staff members at Apologetics Press travel to Birmingham, Alabama, for a two-day, end-of-the-year meeting. Suppose the Executive Director reminds us of this event three days beforehand, saying, “Don’t forget about our meeting in Birmingham beginning Thursday,” and then calls our homes on the morning of the meeting as another reminder, saying, “Don’t forget about our meeting today in Birmingham.” Would someone be justified in concluding that our Executive Director had lied about the meeting if, on that Thursday morning, all of the staff members at Apologetics Press (including the Executive Director) showed up at work in Montgomery, and carried out some of the same tasks performed on any other workday? Not at all. Actually, on the day the staff at Apologetics Press leaves for the end-of-the-year meeting, it is common for everyone to work until about 10:30 a.m., and then depart for the meeting in Birmingham. If someone asked whether we went into work in Montgomery on Thursday, one honestly could say, “Yes.” If someone else asked if we traveled to Birmingham on Thursday for a two-day meeting, again, one could truthfully say, “Yes.” Both statements would be true. We met at both places on the same day, only at different times.
Similarly, Jesus met with His disciples both in Jerusalem and in Galilee, but at different times. On the day of His resurrection, He met with all of the apostles (except Thomas) in Jerusalem, just as both Luke and John recorded (Luke 24:33-43; John 20:19-25). Since Jesus was on the Earth for forty days following His resurrection (cf. Acts 1:3), sometime between this meeting with His apostles in Jerusalem and His ascension more than five weeks later, Jesus met with seven of His disciples at the Sea of Tiberias in Galilee (John 21:1-14), and later with all eleven of the apostles on a mountain in Galilee that Jesus earlier had appointed for them (Matthew 28:16). Sometime following these meetings in Galilee, Jesus and His disciples traveled back to Judea, where He ascended into heaven from the Mount of Olives near Bethany (Luke 24:50-53; Acts 1:9-12).
None of the accounts of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances contradicts another. Rather, each writer supplemented what another left out. Jesus may have appeared to the disciples a number of times during the forty days on Earth after His resurrection (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:1-7), while the New Testament writers mentioned only the more prominent instances in order to substantiate the fact of His resurrection.
But, one may ask, “Why did Jesus command His apostles to ‘tarry in the city of Jerusalem’ on the day of His resurrection until they were ‘endued with power from on high’ (Luke 24:49), if He really wanted them to meet Him in Galilee?” Actually, it is an assumption to assert that Jesus made the above statement on the same day that He arose from the grave. As has been shown throughout this article, Bible writers frequently moved from one subject to the next without giving the actual time or the exact order in which something was done or taught (cf. Luke 4:1-3; Matthew 4:1-11). In Luke 24, the writer omitted the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus in Galilee (mentioned by both Matthew and John). However, notice that he never stated that Jesus remained only in Jerusalem from the day He rose from the grave until the day He ascended into heaven.
According to Luke 24 verses 1,13,21,29, and 33, the events recorded in the first forty-three verses of that chapter all took place on the very day of Jesus’ resurrection. The last four verses of Luke 24 (vss. 50-53), however, took place (according to Luke) more than five weeks later (cf. Acts 1:1-12). But what about verses 44-49? When were these statements made? The truth is, no one can know for sure. Luke gives no indication (as he did in the preceding verses) that this particular section took place “on the first day of the week” (24:1), or on “the third day” since Jesus’ crucifixion (24:21). All we know is that verses 44-49 took place sometime before He ascended into heaven (vss. 50-51). Simply because Luke used the Greek conjunctive particle de [translated “and” (ASV), “then” (NKJV), and “now” (NASV)] to begin verse 44, does not necessarily denote a close connection between the two verses, but only a general continuation of the account and a brief statement of what Jesus said. Even though many twenty-first-century readers assume that the events recorded in Luke 24:44-49 occurred on the very day Jesus rose from the grave, the text actually is silent on the matter.


Three times in the book of Acts, the Bible student is informed that after Saul’s conversion to Christ in Damascus, he departed for Jerusalem. According to Acts chapter 9, Saul (also called Paul) “increased all the more in strength” following his baptism into Christ, and “confounded the Jews who dwelt in Damascus” (vs. 22). Then, when “many days were past... the disciples took him by night and let him down through the wall in a large basket” for fear of the Jews (vss. 23,25). Immediately following these verses, the text reads: “And when Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple” (vs. 26, emp. added). Add to these verses Paul’s respective statements to the Jerusalem mob (Acts 22:17) and to King Agrippa (Acts 26:20) regarding his journey from Damascus to Jerusalem, and Bible students get the impression that shortly after Paul’s conversion in Damascus, he journeyed to Jerusalem. The problem with this reasoning is that Paul later wrote to the churches of Galatia, and indicated that he “did not immediately...go up to Jerusalem” following his conversion to Christ (Galatians 1:16). Rather, he went to Arabia, back to Damascus, and then after three years he went up to Jerusalem (1:17-18). [NOTE: “Arabia” generally is taken as a reference to the vast peninsula which bears that name. Its northwestern boundaries reached almost to Damascus—Pfeiffer, 1979, p. 203.] Concerned Bible students want to know how these passages are harmonized? Did Paul go straight to Jerusalem shortly after his conversion, or three years later?
Although Acts chapters 9, 22, and 26 all indicate that Paul went from Damascus to Jerusalem after he became a Christian, one must realize that none of these passages specifically says that Paul wentstraight from Damascus to Jerusalem. It only says, “And when Saul had come to Jerusalem....” The writer of Acts gives no time limitations here. In fact, nowhere in the New Testament will a person find a statement denying that three years expired between Paul’s conversion and his first trip to Jerusalem as a Christian. Although rarely emphasized, what the Bible does not say regarding Paul’s journeys is very important—it proves that the alleged contradiction is based only on speculation, and not on a fair representation of the Scriptures.
Some question why Paul did not mention his trip to Arabia to preach among the Gentiles when he spoke to the Jewish mob in Jerusalem, and later to King Agrippa. Was it not a vital piece of information? Did he just “forget” about this part of his life? Actually, Paul had a good reason for not mentioning his trip to Arabia—he was speaking to Jews who were “seeking to kill him” because of his dealings with Gentiles (Acts 21:28-31). As a way of comparison, we can understand why a college football player who transferred from a rival school may not talk to his current teammates about his former college experiences, or why a new sales representative who transferred from a competing company may refrain from talking to current customers and/or coworkers about the three years he spent with the rival company. In a similar way, it did not aid Paul’s cause to mention at the very outset of his speech that some of his first work for the Lord was done among the Gentiles. (The Jews hated Paul for his dealings with the Gentiles. The events recorded in Acts 21 alone are proof of such hatred.) Certain situations simply warrant silence on a subject, rather than an exhaustive detailing of historical facts. Paul did not lie (to the Jerusalem mob or to King Agrippa) about his past experience working with the Gentiles for a time; he merely omitted this piece of information in his efforts to show his fellow Jews that the very people among whom he had been a loyal persecutor were those to whom he now preached.
The twenty-first-century reader must remember that a Bible writer (or a speaker whom a Bible writer quotes) may be writing/speaking from one point of view, and raise a point that may not be made in another situation. Neither Paul in his speeches, nor Luke in penning the book of Acts to Theophilus, saw a need to mention Paul’s journey to Arabia. In his letter to the churches of Galatia, however, Paul was dealing with Judaizers who taught that one had to keep the Law of Moses to be saved, and who wished to discredit Paul as an apostle. Paul thus wrote to tell them that after his conversion, he preached among the Gentiles for an extended amount of time before ever meeting with another apostle. Paul did not hurry off to Jerusalem to get instruction and approval from the Twelve. In defense of his apostolic credentials to the churches of Galatia, Paul mentioned his delayed journey to Jerusalem in order to emphasize (among other things) his genuine apostleship, whose message and authority came from Almighty God, and not from the twelve apostles, or any other person.


The burden of proof is on the Bible critic to verify his allegations. Although one of the skeptics quoted earlier compared the Bible to a “cheating husband” who “has been caught in a contradiction,” one must remember how equally deplorable it is to draw up charges of marital unfaithfulness when there is no proof of such. In reality, the Bible should be likened to a faithful husband who has been wrongfully accused of infidelity by prejudiced, overbearing skeptics whose case is based upon unproven assumptions.
The apologist does not have to know the exact solution to an alleged contradiction; he need only show one or more possibilities of harmonization. We act by this principle in the courtroom, in our treatment of various historical books, as well as in everyday-life situations. It is only fair, then, that we show the Bible the same courtesy by exhausting the search for possible harmony between passages before pronouncing one or both accounts false.


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Greenleaf, Simon (1995), The Testimony of the Evangelists (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Classics).
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