Do the Biblical Accounts of Easter Contradict Each Other?

Is the Bible full of contradictions? At some point every Bible reader, whether they’re a skeptic or a believer, must come to terms with perceived differences and contradictions in the Bible text. And these questions naturally assume a particular urgency around Easter.

Why is that? Because the events of Easter—Jesus’ arrest, crucifixion, and resurrection, as well as the events leading up to them—are among the most precisely detailed stories in the Bible. But more than that, the events of Easter are described by four different biblical authors. And four different perspectives make for four slightly different accounts. What should we make of these differences? Are these accounts truly contradictory? Do they weaken the trustworthiness of the Bible?

If you’re troubled by, or simply curious about, alleged Bible contradictions in the Easter accounts or other Bibles stories, here are some reflections to help you think through the issue:

Posted by Andy

New York Times Bestseller ‘The Daniel Plan’ Now a Weekly Newsletter

The Daniel PlanHow are you progressing on your New Year’s resolution to slim down and get in shape? Don’t lose heart if you’ve already abandoned it.

Reignite your fervor by signing up to receive the free newsletter The Daniel Plan every Wednesday in your email inbox.

Every week a very brief message will give you a Bible verse and one healthy tip from the national bestselling book The Daniel Plan: 40 Days to a Healthier Life by Rick Warren, Daniel Amen, and Mark Hyman. The newsletter will quickly and regularly encourage you in your commitment to achieve a well-balanced, healthier life.

The book The Daniel Plan teaches simple ways to incorporate healthy choices into a person’s current lifestyle. It helps readers understand the kind of foods God created to keep them fit and strong. The book is categorized around five key concepts for optimal health that promote success: faith, food, fitness, focus, and friends. These concepts encourage readers to deepen their relationship with God and offer inspiration as they make positive choices each and every day.

Go to our subscription page and sign up today for The Daniel Plan newsletter. While there, be sure to sign up for any other of our more than 60 free Bible reading plans and devotional newsletters.

Posted by Jonathan

The Gift of Unanswered Questions (Guest Post by Jennifer Dukes Lee)

My oldest daughter asks her hardest questions at bedtime, when we flop open the pages of Scripture atop her flowered quilt.

We flip through pages of her Bible, rustling like onion skins between our fingers. We land on the story of David and Goliath, and I read aloud the story of a heroic boy who felled a giant with one smooth stone.

In the bluish light of her bedside lamp, I can see on her face what’s coming next. She wears the hard questions in her knitted brow and tilted head.

“Mom?” she asks. “Why would God think it’s OK to kill Goliath? Isn’t all murder wrong?”

Instead of groping for a theologically sound answer to a reasonable question, I look straight into her eyes and give her my usual response: “That is a really good question, Lydia. What do you think?”

Some parents might consider this a cop-out – answering a nine-year-old girl’s question with a question. But the way I figure, the most important part of this bedtime ritual isn’t the answer, but the freedom to ask the questions. I pray, even, that she and I might find joy in the questions.

Under the quilt most nights, my daughter and I trade theories and exchange hypotheses, which produce even more questions. I watch how our detective work lights up her hazel eyes — eyes that look like mine. People say this daughter is my “mini-me,” but here’s the big difference between us. She has the courage to ask the questions that I never dared ask at her age. Questions like:

  • How do we know that Jesus is real?
  • Are people just robots, and is God pushing the buttons, or do we decide how to live?
  • Why did God let Adam and Eve eat that apple?
  • If God loves us, why would he let bad things happen?

Even when I don’t have answers, I can give her the gift of a safe place to wonder. I pull her in closer to me, cradling her in the crook of my arm.

On this night, I tell her again how I found Jesus right in the middle of my questions, when I finally got around to admitting that I had them. I tell her about the five words highlighted in the study notes of my own Bible, right beside the story of the world’s most famous doubter, Thomas. The words are these: “Silent doubts rarely find answers.”

And I tell her how when I quit running from my questions, I found some of the answers in the most unlikely places: the tarnished stories of our faith heroes.

“That’s how we know the stories are real, Lydia,” I said, “These aren’t fairy tales. The characters in the Bible are real and weak and broken. They made mistakes, just like we do.”

I lean across her side of the bed to switch off the lamp. We say our night prayers, and somewhere in the darkness of the room, the unanswered question about Goliath still hangs in the air.

But tonight, neither of us is haunted by the question mark.

Because we both know there’s one thing worse than the question that can’t be answered. It’s the question that was never asked.

Jennifer Dukes LeeBIO: Jennifer Dukes Lee (@dukeslee) is an award-winning storyteller and a grace dweller, blogging about faith at JenniferDukesLee.com. She is author of the book, Love Idol: Letting Go of Your Need for Approval–and Seeing Yourself Through God’s Eyes (Tyndale House Publishers, 2014). Jennifer and her husband live on the Lee family farm near Inwood, Iowa, with their two daughters.

Posted by Jonathan

Your Light (Guest Post by Annie Downs)

This is the fourth and final post in a series; in part 3, Annie discussed what it means to be a “lamp on a stand.”

When you look in the mirror, what do you say?

No, that’s not a typo. I’m not asking what you see, I’m asking what you SAY. What do you say to yourself when you look at your own reflection? As a young adult, I struggled with self-esteem, with understanding that God had made me on purpose. And when I would look in the mirror, the venom I would spew in my own direction was dark and hateful. Yet, as a Christian teenager, I served and loved God and wanted to impact those around me on His behalf.

I thought I knew how to be a light, the way Jesus mentions in Matthew.

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16 (NIV)

Jesus was always intentional with His words, and this portion is no different. He starts turning our gaze to the world, then to our own cities and then into our own homes. But He didn’t end the conversation there- He finished with reminding us that each of us, individually, is a light.

If we want to be a light, we have to speak love to ourselves. We have to see ourselves the way God sees us- bright, shiny, clean, worthy. Only then can you be the light He wants you to be. How you speak to yourself, how you use words in your own mind, the lies you choose to fight and the truth you choose to believe, it all is meant to make you shine brighter and brighter in a dark world.

Call it like it is. YOU ARE A LIGHT. God has chosen to shine through you. And then? He wants you to shine in your home, a lamp on a stand. And as you do that, and your family does too, and the families and friends around you join in, y’all become a city on a hill—you light up your community in ways you never knew. And then? Then you become a light to the world. And the dark places aren’t dark anymore—they see Jesus.

Annie Downs is an author who loves helping young people—especially teen girls and young women—overcome the challenges that life puts in the way of their spiritual development. Her most recent book is Speak Love. Follow Annie at her blog, or on Facebook and Twitter.

Posted by Andy

Raising Teens With Enduring Faith (Guest Post by Alex Chediak)

“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

Preparing Your Teens for CollegeAs our teens grow up and head out to college, one of our most pressing concerns is about their faith. We’ve heard about the party scene, the atheistic professors, the pressure to fit in and make new friends. Maybe we’ve known a student who has lost the way. It’s only natural to wonder, Will our teens’ faith be strong enough to withstand the tests of college?

God has placed us in the lives of our children to be their primary spiritual influence. The good news is that—believe it or not—our influence is profound and long-lasting. God saves people through their hearing the gospel (see Romans 10:14). The Scriptures are able to make our children “wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15). Raising teens to have an accurate understanding of the biblical message is often what God uses to bring them into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. An August 2013 Focus on the Family study found that among those who came from a home where a vibrant faith was taught and practiced, and who had a very strong Christian faith as children, almost nine out of ten (89 percent) remained practicing Christians into adulthood.

What practical steps can we as parents take to model a vibrant faith to our children?

1. Consider what you model. It’s not a question of whether we’re modeling; it’s what we’re modeling. By the way we spend our time and money, do our teens see us storing up treasures on earth or in heaven? Do they see us approaching work with a godly attitude? Making sacrifices for others? Keeping a clean conscience? Making time to commune with God in His Word and through prayer?

2. Stay in the game. Keep pursuing a deeper relationship with your teens. Pray for them. Invest in them. They’re paying more attention than you think! Be interested in how their day went and in the details of their lives. Be interested in what they’re interested in, for their sake.

3. Welcome questions about the faith. Part of teens’ journey to adulthood is determining their worldview, what they will build their life upon. Some will “kick the tires” to see if Christianity can handle the tough questions. Welcome this process, because our faith—historically rooted, intellectually credible, and experientially satisfying—can withstand as much honest inquiry as any teen can muster. Those who feel they can express their doubts while in high school often go on to experience stronger faith and greater spiritual maturity in college.

Bringing up our children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord is an awesome privilege and responsibility. Through His Word and by His Spirit, may God equip us for this vital work.

Alex ChediakBIO: Alex Chediak (@chediak) is a professor of engineering and physics at California Baptist University and the author of Preparing Your Teens for College (Tyndale House Publishers, 2014) and Thriving at College (Tyndale House Publishers, 2011). Learn more about Alex’s work at his website.

Aspects of this article were adapted from Preparing Your Teens for College by Alex Chediak. © 2014 by Alex Chediak. Used with permission from Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.

Posted by Jonathan

What Twitter is Giving Up for Lent

Are you giving up something for Lent? So are thousands of Twitter users—and Stephen Smith has crunched the data to show us the top 100 things Twitter users are giving up during Lent. Here are the top twenty, followed by the number of tweets mentioning each one this week); as you can see, there are a few joke items in the list, but most are in line with expectations:

  1. chocolate (6,313 tweets)
  2. twitter (5,643)
  3. school (4,638)
  4. alcohol (3,782)
  5. swearing (3,620)
  6. social networking (3,032)
  7. soda (2,840)
  8. sweets (2,432)
  9. fast food (2,238)
  10. lent (1,597)
  11. coffee (1,558)
  12. junk food (1,545)
  13. meat (1,517)
  14. chips (1,442)
  15. homework (1,299)
  16. sex (1,289)
  17. bread (1,263)
  18. facebook (1,162)
  19. you (984)
  20. pizza (888)

Stephen’s been tracking this data for several years; historical data (and a comparison of Lent trends over the years) can be found at OpenBible.info.

Any surprises on that list? Are you giving up something on that list during Lent? Head over to our page on Facebook to discuss!

Posted by Andy

Interview: Bible Scholar Confirms 50 Real People in the Bible

adamHas archaeology confirmed the existence of any of the people mentioned in the Bible? In his article “Archaeology Confirms 50 Real People in the Bible” in the March/April 2014 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR), Purdue University scholar Lawrence Mykytiuk identifies 50 figures from the Old Testament that he says have been confirmed archaeologically. An accompanying chart lists Israelite kings, Mesopotamian monarchs, and lesser-known figures who are both mentioned in the Bible and present in the archaeological data.

Bible Gateway interviewed Dr. Mykytiuk about his findings:

Bible Gateway: What is your experience in biblical archaeology?
Dr. Mykytiuk: I enjoy learning about it, but I am not an archaeologist. I am a scorekeeper. I analyze inscriptions to see if they refer to biblical persons and “keep score” when strong identifications can be made and when there are uncertain but reasonable “candidates.”

Bible Gateway: Why did you set out to associate biblical people with secular history?
Dr. Mykytiuk: At first I was simply fascinated—charmed—by one Hebrew bulla (a lump of clay normally used to seal official documents). The inscription across the face of the bulla, impressed by a stone seal or signet ring, named a real king who seemed to be the same real person as one named in the Bible. As I ran across similar inscriptions, it became fun to try to figure out whether the person in the inscription was the one in the Bible.

I had that experience in 1992, when a few scholars began to attract attention by rejecting the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) as a source of historical facts, except in very few instances. I felt that they were rejecting perfectly good historical data in ancient writings just because those scrolls happened to be gathered, later on, by other people, into the collection known as the Hebrew Bible. I countered that strongly prejudiced approach by using a constructive approach to see if strong identifications of biblical people—not eagerly made, flimsy or speculative matches—could be made in inscriptions of their era.

Bible Gateway: How did you go about your investigation?
Dr. Mykytiuk: First I needed to figure out what things made for a strong identification of a biblical person in an inscription from Bible times. By learning from my own mistakes and those of others, I gradually arrived at a set of criteria that could be met only by a strong identification. Then I used anthologies of inscriptions published from 1828 onward to see whether I could find anyone from the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) mentioned in them. When I found a candidate, I “ran the available data through the criteria.”

Bible Gateway: What evidence did you gather to determine your conclusions?
Dr. Mykytiuk: At first I treated inscriptions from 1200 to 539 BC only in Hebrew, Aramaic, Moabite, etc., but not in Egyptian and not in Assyrian or Babylonian Akkadian. I gleaned 94 inscriptions that named 84 persons who seemed potentially to be named in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. (Some persons were mentioned in more than one inscription.) Of these 84 persons, 16 had strong identifications. I withheld judgment on another 4 until this month’s article in BAR, which lists them as strong identifications. Other researchers identified biblical persons in Egyptian, Assyrian, and Babylonian inscriptions down to about 400 BC. If these met the criteria, I included them.

Bible Gateway: Summarize the essence of your findings.
Dr. Mykytiuk: Between King David (ca. 1000 BCE) and Darius II of Persia (ca. 400 BCE), I found 50 strong identifications of people mentioned in the Bible in inscriptions of their times. (Actually, at least 52 persons are eventually to be included.) Another 7 are not certain but quite reasonable.

Bible Gateway: What was the most startling finding in your investigation?
Dr. Mykytiuk: To my knowledge, no one in biblical or classical studies ever formulated standard procedures or widely applicable criteria for establishing potential identifications of ancient figures in ancient inscriptions, until a 1987 essay in modern Hebrew by Nahman Avigad (Eretz-Israel 19 (1987): 235–237).

Bible Gateway: Why is confirming the reality of these biblical figures important?
Dr. Mykytiuk: Because we need to love truth. Simple respect for honest history, fairly presented—as opposed to propaganda, lies, rumors, prejudiced portrayals, and lazily accepted impressions that go unchallenged—is a strong motivation to marshal the evidence for real persons of the past.

Also, many Jews, Christians, and Muslims consider the historical reality of biblical figures an important or even essential aspect of their faith. In view of this subjective wish for persons in the Bible to be historical, if any investigation is to be scholarly, it is crucial to formulate and use objective standards of historicity. I have tried to do that.

Bio: Lawrence Mykytiuk is associate professor of library science and history librarian at Purdue University. He holds a PhD in Hebrew and Semitic Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Most of his published dissertation, Identifying Biblical Persons in Northwest Semitic Inscriptions of 1200–539 BCE (Society of Biblical Literature, 2004), is available via Google Books. A later article, Corrections and Updates to his book, is free online (start at p. 126). This book and article establish the basis for identifying people mentioned in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) in inscriptions of their times. Lawrence enjoys hiking, music, Web surfing, and sitting quietly at home with his wife and their cats. His students report that they enjoy his humor.

Posted by Jonathan

Are You Ready for Lent?

ashwednesdayTomorrow is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent! In many Christian traditions, Ash Wednesday is a day of reflection and repentance. You might even see a few people tomorrow with the symbol of the cross drawn on their foreheads in ash—a common practice in Ash Wednesday worship and prayer services. (Your church might be hosting just such a service!)

While Lent is widely observed throughout the global Christian church, it isn’t as well-known in evangelical circles as it is in Lutheran, Catholic, and other denominations. To help you think through Lent—and decide whether or not to observe it in some way—here are some short articles we’ve posted over the years talking about Lent and Lent observance.

Before we begin, let me remind you that several of our Lent devotionals begin tomorrow—visit our Lent devotions page to sign up. (It’s not the end of the world if you sign up after Lent begins, but if you sign up now, you won’t miss any devotionals.)

  • First, if you aren’t familiar with the church calendar (in which Lent features prominently), here’s a quick primer on the church calendar.
  • What does it mean to observe Lent? Is it required by the Bible? If not, what’s the purpose of observing it? We tackle these questions and more in “How Can You Observe Lent?”
  • Every year during Lent, people write us to ask if observing Lent and Easter is appropriate—after all, aren’t they based on ancient pagan holidays? Pastor Mel Lawrenz answers this in “Is Easter Based on a Pagan Holiday?”

Lastly, for anyone who’s still debating whether or not to observe Lent this year, let me leave you with a video message from author and speaker Sheri Rose Shepherd, who explains what you can gain during Lent:

We’ll be back later this week with more Lent thoughts and resources. In the meantime, whether you plan to observe Lent this year or not, we encourage you to devote some time this week to prayerful reflection and prayer as we look ahead to the miracle of Easter.

Posted by Andy

Google Map Gallery Includes Lands of the Bible

Google has just announced the launching of Google Maps Gallery, a new way for organizations to share and publish their maps online via Google Maps Engine.

One interesting map that caught our eye is Lands of the Bible 1967 Map (© National Geographic Society), which is transparently overlayed on top of a map of the current Middle East.

This unique map was created in 1967 for the National Geographic Magazine and has been reprinted in its original format. Filled with reference information, the map includes insets of: The Holy Land, Walled city of Jerusalem, Traditional route of the Exodus, St. Paul’s four great journeys, and The Crusades.

Click to enlarge map to full screen.

When you zoom in on the map, you’ll notice such annotations as

  • “Beer Sheva: Southern limit of Old Testament Palestine (Judges 20:1). Isaac pitched his tent here and his servants dug a well (Genesis 26:23-25). A modern industrial center today.”
  • “Caesarea: Built by Herod. Headquarters of Pontius Pilate, who visited Jerusalem during major festivals to quell disorders.”
  • “Antioch: Scene of St. Paul’s first ministry, the third largest city of the Roman Empire, outranked only by Rome and Alexandria. Term ‘Christian’ first used here.”

You can also type specific locations into the map for direct searches. Try it and enjoy.

Posted by Jonathan

Just in Time for Lent: Our Easter Devotions Are Here

240px-RabulaGospelsCrucifixionLent is coming! The season of Lent—the weeks leading up to Easter Sunday—begins next week on Ash Wednesday, March 5.

Christians around the world, from many different theological traditions, observe Lent in a variety of ways. Some commit to daily Scripture meditation, devotional reading, or regular prayer. One common practice during Lent is to “give up” something you take for granted as an act of self-denial—and as a way to center our priorities around Jesus Christ.

Bible Gateway has a Lent tradition of its own: our Lent and Easter devotionals! However you choose to observe Lent this year, these email devotionals will help you stay focused on Jesus during the long journey to Easter:

  • Lent Devotions: An eclectic mix of Scripture readings, prayers, and reflections to help you focus your heart on Jesus Christ during the Easter season.
  • The Story of Jesus: Read through the entire life of Jesus Christ, beginning with his birth and culminating in his death and glorious resurrection.
  • Knowing Him: Contemplating the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus is one of the most important spiritual growth experiences you can have. In this short daily devotional, pastor Mel Lawrenz zooms in on the meaning of salvation in Jesus. (Begins on Sunday, March 30.)
  • Readings for Lent and Easter from The Voice: Daily Bible readings to help ground you in Scripture throughout Lent, drawn from The Voice Bible translation.

Sign up for these devotionals here. Most begin on Ash Wednesday, March 5.

Each of these devotionals takes a slightly different reflective approach to the Lent experience. Individually or collectively, they’ll give you something to think, pray, and reflect about as Easter approaches! And as Easter approaches, we’ll have a few additions to that list of Easter devotions, so keep an eye here on the blog.

Posted by Andy