The Synoptic Gospels’ Inerrancy: How Many People?

Let’s return to the synoptic Gospels’ reporting of the healing of the demon-possessed men (or man?) from Gadara (Matthew 8:28–34; Mark 5:1–20; Luke 8:26–39). We dealt with the apparent geographical contradiction in our first post. At least one more problem exists when we compare these passages. According to Matthew, two demon-possessed men approached Jesus. However, Mark and Luke only speak of one person. Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe begin their explanation this way, “There is a very fundamental mathematical law that reconciles this apparent contradiction—wherever there are two, there is always one. There are no exceptions!”[1] First, we must notice neither Mark nor Luke say that “only one” came to Jesus. Second, the independent testimony of the Gospel writers allows Mark and Luke the freedom of focusing on the one person they deem more noticeable, prominent, or significant for some reason neither Mark nor Luke explain.

A similar situation occurs with the two blind men (Matthew 20:30) or one blind man (Mark 10:46 and Luke 18:35) whom Jesus healed between Jericho and Jerusalem. Matthew’s report of the event appears to contain more detail. Historically, handicapped (too often considered expendable people) formed their own small group or groups within ancient society (for example, the ten lepers in Luke 17:12 and the many handicapped at the pool of Bethesda in John 5:1–5). As in the previous case concerning the demon-possessed individual(s), Matthew provides more detail, while Mark and Luke focus on just one of the two persons. Remember, Luke was not present. He drew his Gospel account from other reports, which he investigated with care (Luke 1:1–4). We do not know enough about the author of the Gospel of Mark to understand whether he was an eyewitness or, like Luke, depended upon the testimony of eyewitnesses (some scholars have suggested that he recorded Peter’s recollections as an eyewitness). Perhaps Mark focused on the one who did the speaking and his witness remembered Bartimaeus’ name. Mark is the only one to provide the name in his account.

Such differences do not provide us with any real contradictions, discrepancies, or inaccuracies. Therefore, such variations do not comprise any significant challenge to biblical inerrancy.

Notes

[1] Norman L. Geisler and Thomas Howe, The Big Book of Bible Difficulties: Clear and Concise Answers from Genesis to Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1992), 337.

Read also:

“The Synoptic Gospels’ Inerrancy: Geographical Realities”
“The Synoptic Gospels’ Inerrancy: Translation Differences”
“The Synoptic Gospels’ Inerrancy: Authors’ Choices”
“The Synoptic Gospels’ Inerrancy: Misrepresentation of Persons”