Answering Biblical ‘Contradictions’: Centurion Statements in Mark & Luke

July 6, 2012 § 2 Comments

The critic’s claim:

I’m not saying that the apostles or people who met Jesus altered their testimonies on purpose, I think that the story might [have gotten] misinterpreted by the others and/or by accident.

I consider this to be a good example [of a Biblical contradiction]:

What did the centurion say when Jesus dies?
(a) “Certainly this man was innocent” (Luke 23:47)
(b) “Truly this man was the Son of God” (Mark 15:39)

Of course I don’t know and I can’t know what the centurion really said, but when I look at these two versions then it immediately comes into my mind that the (a) sounds much more like the real world while the (b) is the mythicized one, written by someone who already takes for granted that Jesus is son of God and interprets the centurion’s words in a way that suits his own belief.

It would be really interesting to know more about the sources of the gospels.

Answer:

Your comparison of the centurion’s statement in Mark and Luke is interesting. Neither Mark or Luke are said to have been present at the crucifixion, so they probably would have relied on the testimony of others at the scene for the details. What’s clear from reading the Bible is that although its authors were inspired by God, their individual perspectives and writing styles were allowed to show through. The reason there are four gospels is probably because of the importance of the life of Jesus, and four identical perspectives on His life wouldn’t make sense. So it’s no surprise that the centurion’s response reads a little differently. It’s important to note however that both statements (and he may have even said both) essentially say the same thing. They are in fact interdependent. Mark wasn’t simply asserting his own bias, because the centurion knew that the only way “this man was innocent” of blasphemy was if “this man was the Son of God.” You can’t have one without the other.

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