Five articles appear below:

1    The Bible Consistent 5
2    Reply to The Bible Consistent 5
3    The Bible Consistent 5 -- Response
4    The Bible Consistent - Final Reply to Anonymous

5    The Bible Consistent 5 - The Resurrection of Jesus



(Investigator 139, 2011 July)


Mr Straughen (Investigator #138) disparages eyewitness testimony and points to "discrepancies" in the New Testament (NT).

If Straughen's disparagement is valid then Australia's justice system needs to be informed and all criminals convicted on eyewitness testimony released. This won't happen, however, because courts are aware of Straughen's worries, and therefore consult multiple witnesses and compare verbal evidence with physical evidence whenever available.

The NT reports events central to human history and life-changing to the witnesses themselves. Who of us cannot recall with accurately-chosen words, events that changed his life?

The Bible, furthermore, lets us be our own eyewitnesses:


For decades I've presented my "test-what-is-testable-and-generalize-the-results" method to investigate the Bible. With this method we examine Bible passages that can be checked today. We seek out Bible statements about biology, archaeology, astronomy, psychology, geography, medicine, history, etc, and check them by consulting scientific literature.

Using this method we personally eyewitness the Bible regularly turning out correct.

For example, the Bible says that crocodiles ("Leviathan" in Job 48) have a tongue, but other sources (even crocodile hunters) denied this as recently as the 1980s. (Investigator 26) But it's now confirmed!

We need, however, to "generalize the results". The results, with present-day people as eyewitnesses, are hundreds of claims proved correct and critics disproved, and by generalizing we expect more of the same.


Besides testing empirical statements we can also test the Bible for discrepancies. Archer (1982) and Haley (1992) do this and have harmonized hundreds of alleged discrepancies. In The Bible Consistent series (#113, #114, #120, #126) I examined some difficult cases and concluded:
Every healthy infant can walk, but the biochemistry of how thoughts move legs remains obscure despite centuries of science. The Bible too is simple in essentials but also amazingly complex. It's as if the Bible's author is a master logician who included lots of intricate logic so that readers might recognize their limitations and learn humility. The contradictions therefore are illusory, the Bible is consistent, and the critics are wrong.
Examination of "discrepancies" produces another body of data that eyewitnesses can generalize! Not all "discrepancies" yet have answers, but hundreds of successes set the trend.

Straughen (#138) thinks he'd believe the Bible if it were composed of an indestructible supernatural substance written by Jesus himself. Critics could, however, explain such a book by postulating alien intelligence or unknown properties of the Universe. The Bible says "The heart is devious above all else" — therefore people who don't want God will always find excuses and won't be convinced by an indestructible substance. (Luke 16:31)

The Bible portrays God as requiring our trust. Hebrews 11 says "Without faith it is impossible to please God." During the infinite future, humanity will often, like Adam and Eve (Genesis 3), need to trust God to avoid disaster. The present world where we test what is testable, generalize the results, and complement this with faith is preparation and practice for eternity.

Let's now examine more "discrepancies".


John's Gospel places the last supper and Jesus' betrayal before the Passover (13:1). Therefore the last supper could not be the Passover meal. Luke, however, calls the last supper the "Passover meal". (Luke 22:8, 13, 15) When was the last supper?

Suppose a detective investigates my activities for a certain day. One neighbour tells him, "Albert walked alone to the bus stop at 9.00 to go to the CBD." Another says, "Albert left at 9.30 for the CBD with another person in a car." Contradictions? The answer is I left home twice. At the bus stop I realized I had forgotten my wallet and returned home whereupon a friend arrived and we left together.

"It happened twice" or "there were two", often explains biblical "discrepancies". Judas, for example, died by hanging himself (Matthew 27:5) but also, "falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out." (Acts 1:18) What happened is that Judas hung himself and the rope broke.

Regarding the Last Supper, Humphreys (2011) argues two calendars were in use, the official Jewish calendar observed at the Temple, also the Samaritan calendar with Samaritans observing the Passover one day earlier. Apparently the last supper was the Passover meal by the Samaritan calendar.


In describing my visit to the Adelaide Showgrounds I might tell one person about the Ferris wheel and fashion parade, and another about the wood chopping and animal judging. Contradiction? No! We all do this — we tell different people different details. Anyone who wants a fuller story needs to combine the separate descriptions.

Similarly with Paul's accounts of his conversion:

In Acts 22:10-11 Paul reports that a voice speaking out of a bright light told him: "Go to Damascus. There you will be told what you have been assigned to do."

But in Acts 26:15-18 Paul seemingly says the voice told him immediately about his assignment, not in Damascus. The answer is to combine both reports:
I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?'
The Lord answered, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But get up and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you…to appoint you to serve and testify… I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles — to whom I am sending you to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.' (26:15-18)
Here Paul has recalled what Jesus said he (Jesus) will do — "I will rescue you… I am sending you…" These are future events; but Paul wanted to know what he (Paul) should do before all that happens. 26:15-18 was not the whole conversation.

 In 22:10 Paul recalls what was spoken next:
‘What am I to do, Lord?' I asked.
The Lord said to me, ‘Get up and go into Damascus. There you will be told everything that you have been assigned to do.' (22:10)

In Damascus the Christian Ananias learns that: "He [Paul] is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel. I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name." (9:15-16)

Ananias tells Paul: "The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear his own voice; for you will be his witness to all the world of what you have seen and heard. And now why do you delay? Get up, be baptised and wash your sins away…" (22:14-16)

In Damascus, therefore, Paul got extra information not revealed in 26:15-18. Galatians 1:15-17 adds more extras — that Paul left Damascus and went to Arabia for 3 years, then returned to Damascus and then went to Jerusalem.

Rather than seek "discrepancy" we needed to combine Paul's two reports. Overeagerness to criticize left critics blind to fulfilled prophecy, namely, "you will be his witness to all the world..." Besides preaching by mouth Paul also wrote letters which now impact "all the world" in hundreds of languages.


Mark 16:14-20 reports that Jesus appeared to 11 apostles while they ate and:
After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven…
Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.

Critics claim that here Jesus ascends to heaven from a supper, which contradicts that he ascended from Mount Olivet. (Acts 1)

To explain this, consider how much time is meant by "After" and "Then".

I've heard America's role in Hitler's War described as: "In 1942 the Americans invaded North Africa; after that they invaded Sicily, then Italy, then France and then Germany." From this description a naive person might think these events happened on 5 consecutive days. For better understanding he needs to study further.
 Acts 1:3 says that Jesus ascended after 40 days, and Mark's words "preached everywhere" commenced at Pentecost or 50 days. (Acts 2) Therefore Mark's "After" and "Then" refer to 40 and 50 days.

Short descriptions are not discrepancies, especially if further reading provides the omitted details.


Investigator 138 has a table of "discrepancies" in the Gospel reports of Christ's resurrection. The Internet has similar charts by Jewish apologist Rabbi Tovia Singer and by Curt van den Heuvel who claims, "The contradictions and inconsistencies…are indicative of the process of mythmaking."

Glenn Miller (the Internet) cites ten explanations, ten tries at harmonising the resurrection reports. Google under "Resurrection Accounts" turns up more. My attempt begins by noting the following:

(1) The earthquake, the angel rolling back the stone, and guards paralysed with fear occurred before the women arrived. Matthew 28:2-4 mentions these events non-chronologically, i.e. after mentioning the women (28:1) because these events are explanatory and he wants the emphasis on the women.

(2) The different timing — "still dark" (John), "early dawn" (Luke), "at dawn" (Matthew), and "after sunrise" (Mark) — reflect the presence of different women. If we obtain two books about war, one 1914 and the other 1939, we would not list all differences and call them "discrepancies", since different dates imply different wars! Similarly different times imply different visits or visitors.

(3) Mary Magdalene and another Mary set out together "while it was still dark" and found the stone already rolled away. John 20:1-10 names only Mary Magdalene, but her words to Peter and John "we do not know where they have laid him" implies another person with her. The two apostles inspect the tomb and conclude Christ's body was removed. Mary Magdalene arrives at the tomb again, this time looks inside, and sees "two angels in white" and tells them: "They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him." (20:13) Mary's "I" (not "we") implies that her companion has been left behind.

(4) At least five women (Luke 24:10) interacted, and the four writers are citing different details of their testimonies. Each woman, in her testimony, mentions the two Mary's who went to the tomb first, and thereafter her own experience.

(5) John gives Mary Magdalene's experience; Matthew is based on the other Mary's testimony; Mark probably on Salome's; and Luke on Joanna's. (Luke 24:10)

(6) Luke (28:1-9) combines the experience of both Mary's because he has not questioned them but relies on Joanna.

Easy harmonization would imply collusion and deception. The result that we have suggests reality.


Archer, G.L. 1982 Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, Regency
Haley, J.W. 1992 Alleged Discrepancies in the Bible, Whitaker
Humphreys, C. J. 2011 The Mystery of the Last Supper, Cambridge.

Reply to The Bible Consistent 5

Kirk Straughen

(Investigator 140, 2011 September)

I have read Anonymous' response (No. 139, page 50) to my examination of the gospels in No. 138, page 32, and am unable to find anything in it that could be considered sound evidence for their reliability.

Although Anonymous has constructed a variety of explanations that attempt to resolve the discrepancies in the gospel accounts of the resurrection, he hasn't presented any solid evidence that these explanations are true. As an illustration of what I mean consider the less emotive scenario of a discussion between a believer in Martians (B) and a sceptic (S).

B: There is intelligent life on Mars.
S: But we've sent space probes to Mars. There isn't any sign of life, let alone intelligent life.
B: The Martians live in vast subterranean cities.
S: But these cities would produce emissions that we could detect - electromagnetic radiation from electrical equipment, nuclear radiation from atomic power plants and so on.
B: We haven't detected any emissions because Martian cities are so well shielded that they don't leak out.

As we can see the believer in Martians constructs a series of assumptions whose sole purpose is to defend the belief from criticism. However, what needs to be established in the first place is the actual existence of Martians, and this cannot be done by merely positing conjectures. What is needed is sound evidence.

Where is the evidence that the gospel writers consulted eyewitnesses and used the same rigorous procedures employed in modern courts of law to test their claims? How many eyewitnesses did they consult? Were the eyewitnesses reliable and what evidence is there that they were? These are just a few of the questions that haven't been adequately addressed.

The best evidence, as I have previously suggested, would have been for the resurrected Jesus to write an autobiographical gospel in the form of an indestructible book composed of an unmistakably supernatural substance.

Anonymous' claim that sceptics would explain the book away as an alien artifact is untenable for the simple reason Jesus wouldn't portray himself as an alien. His suggestion that doubters doubt because they don't want God is also unsustainable. It's similar to claiming that people who don't believe in fairies are sceptical because they don't want fairies. I don't believe in God for the same reason most people don't believe in fairies - namely, lack of evidence for their existence.

I don't have a problem with people believing that the stories in the gospels are true. That's their right and I respect it. What I object to is them claiming they have proof when they don't.



(Investigator 141, 2011 November)

In reply to my article "The Bible Consistent 5" (#139) Mr Straughen in #140) compares my comments about the resurrection reports to Martians of whom we have no evidence and asks, "Where is the evidence that the gospel writers consulted eye-witnesses."

I nowhere stated that the Easter Sunday eye-witnesses are confirmed. We've all read novels about crimes, witnesses and detectives. If we try to find the "witnesses" named in the novels we won't find them because novels are fiction. Similarly, to argue for Christ's resurrection solely from claims of alleged witnesses is insufficient without proof the witnesses were genuine. Six witnesses who were close to the Easter events, however, are genuine — we have their writings. Matthew and Luke, for example, are so accurate they even state some scientific points confirmed 2000 years later (#140 pp 48-49), and Luke also names over 100 geographical locations and gets all correct.  

In The Bible Consistent 5 I did not declare the resurrection stories true but considered whether they can be harmonized. For a reported event to be credible the report about it (if there is only one report) must be free of serious contradiction, and if there are multiple reports they must substantially agree. Demonstrating that a report is free of contradiction does not, however, suffice by itself to prove it true. For example the statement "Mr Straughen flies around on a broomstick" is without contradictions, yet is false.

If, however, critics think they discern contradictions and claim the "contradictions" as their reason for disbelieving something, and the "contradictions" are subsequently cleared up, then their reason for disbelief is removed. The honest critic, genuinely seeking information, would then concede, "I was wrong, the Bible is more consistent than I imagined." Perhaps Straughen would like to make this concession, since a number of "contradictions" he supplied were cleared up! It is in this spirit that my "Bible Consistent" series is written.

As stated in #139 I use the "test-what-is-testable-and-generalize-the-results" method to investigate claims of the Bible. This method involves consulting scientific literature to check whatever statements in the Bible can be checked. In doing this we become our own eyewitnesses. Evidence that allows people to be their own eyewitnesses is the soundest evidence possible — it's the basis of science.

The current disagreement with Mr Straughen began when Straughen (in #138) disparaged eyewitness testimony and pointed to alleged "discrepancies" in the New Testament (NT). I responded: "If Straughen's disparagement is valid then Australia's justice system needs to be informed and all criminals convicted on eyewitness testimony released. This won't happen, however, because courts are aware of Straughen's worries, and therefore consult multiple witnesses and compare verbal evidence with physical evidence whenever available."

In agreement with this I regard the alleged testimonies of the Eater Sunday "witnesses" mentioned in the NT as insufficient unless supplemented with "physical evidence".

To test the resurrection narratives I would do similarly as with the virgin birth (#140). I would show the resurrection was prophesied (which I have already done in #120), mention whatever details are confirmed by history or science, and check whether any predictions the NT makes about the consequences of the resurrection have come true. After doing all of this, I might conclude, as I did with the virgin birth, "This whole scenario surpasses human ingenuity and smacks of supernatural oversight." (#140 p. 49) The virgin-birth evidence would actually be part of the resurrection evidence since both stories are part of the same continuum — each story is pointless without the other. The NT's Easter-morning-witnesses reports would be only a small portion of the total evidence.

A comment now about early Christians suffering execution rather than denying their beliefs: Critics claim that dying for a belief does not prove that belief to be true, and they point to suicide-bombers who commit murder and simultaneously suicide. There is, however, a world of difference between citizens who lead lawful, peaceful lives and murderers. Whether innocent victims are more objective and reliable in their statements than murderers is probably testable. However, the circumstances under which ordinary citizens would die rather than deny their testimony would be only one line of investigation.

Straughen claims, "The best evidence…would have been for the resurrected Jesus to write an autobiographical gospel in the form of an indestructible book composed of an unmistakably supernatural substance." What I do is rely on science and induction to investigate the truth of the Scriptures. An argument that starts off "The best evidence would have been" and then demands something scientifically unavailable is a formula for rejecting every discovery every made, every truth ever proved, and every evidence that ever convinced. It's a formula for making one's prejudices impervious to facts, science and observation while pretending to be reasonable.

Perhaps another time I'll investigate in more detail whether the Easter-Sunday resurrection narratives are consistent.


The Bible Consistent — Final Reply to Anonymous

Kirk Straughen

(Investigator 142, 2012 January)

In No. 141, page 58 Anonymous suggests that I should concede that the Bible is consistent because he has resolved (in his opinion) various contradictions inherent in the account of the resurrection.

I'm unable to make this concession for the simple reason that the various scenarios has constructed as a means of solution are not supported by sound evidence. Anyone can construct a scenario that can solve a contradiction. However, it is one thing to construct a scenario and quite another to prove that the scenario is true, and it is here that Anonymous has been unsuccessful.

Now, if people want to believe that the stories in the gospels are true then they may do so. I have no objection to that, and I respect their decision and don't think that they are in any way foolish. However, it is clear to me that these beliefs must be held by faith alone as the evidence for their veracity is sorely lacking.

The Bible Consistent 5 — The Resurrection of Jesus


(Investigator 144, 2012 May)


The resurrection narratives of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are harmonized if "dark", "dawn" and "after sunrise" is when different women arrived at Jesus' tomb and joined those who arrived earlier. Each gospel writer interviewed a different woman who described what happened when she got there.

Bible quotes below are italicized, and MM refers to Mary Magdalene.

"As the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb." (Matthew 28:1)
MM was a disciple from whom Jesus had "cast out seven demons". The "other Mary" is the mother of James and Joses. (Mark 15:40; 16:1) Although Jesus had brothers named James and Joses (Mark 6:3) the other Mary is probably not Jesus' mother.
There was an earthquake; an angel in white clothing rolled back the stone and sat on it. The guards became like dead men. (Matthew 28:2-4)
The earthquake occurred before any women came to the tomb. Matthew mentions it non-chronologically, i.e. after he mentions the women (28:1) because the earthquake and the stone being rolled back are explanatory and he wants the emphasis on the women.

Now to John's Gospel:

Sunday morning, while it was still dark, i.e. before dawn, MM with another woman ["we" John 20:2] came to the tomb and saw the stone had been moved. (John 20:2-10)

MM ran to tell Peter and John, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him." (John 20:1-2) The two disciples ran to the tomb, entered separately, and saw the linen wrappings, and the cloth that had been on Jesus' head. They returned to their homes. (John 20:3-10)

John's Gospel evidently gives John's role in the events combined with what MM would have told him.

With the two apostles gone MM stood weeping outside the tomb.
She bent to look into the tomb and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head the other at the feet. They said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" She said to them, "They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him." (John 20:11-14)
MM says "I" not "we" which suggests her companion has been left behind.

MM turned and saw Jesus but supposed him to be the gardener.

Jesus said to her, "Mary!" She turned and said to him in Hebrew, "Rabbouni!" (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, "Do not hold onto me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God." (John 20:14-17)
MM went and told the disciples — the second time. (John 20:18)

It's at this point with Jesus out of sight, that the "other Mary" catches up and Matthew 28:1 starts Matthew's narrative at "dawn". The companion implied by "we" (in John) is therefore the "other Mary". Matthew is using the other Mary's testimony, and therefore omits MM's encounters with two angels in the tomb and Jesus, which the other Mary did not experience.

The angel said to the women "Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly, and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee; there you will see him.'"  (Matthew 28:5-7)

By using the definite article "The angel" Matthew assumes this is the same angel who rolled away the stone.
So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell the disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them and said, "Greetings!" and they…took hold of his feet, and worshipped him. (28:9)
Jesus has moved into view again, this time to both Mary's.

 Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me." (Matthew 28:8-10)

Next consider Luke:
But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they [the women from Galilee 23:55-56] came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. (Luke 24:1)
Luke relies on the testimony of Joanna, wife of Herod's steward (Luke 8:1-3). Joanna and several other women (Luke 24:10) met up with the two Mary's after these had encountered Jesus.
They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, "Why do you look for the living among the dead?… (Luke 24:2-6)
"They" in "they were perplexed" would refer to Joanna and the other new arrivals since the two Mary's already knew.
And returning from the tomb, they [Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them 24:9] told all this to the eleven and to the rest.
The women apparently split up to inform different disciples.

MM went and announced to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord"; and she told them that he had said these things to her. (John 20:18)
MM, here, is by herself again.
But…they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then went home amazed at what had happened. (Luke 24:11-12)
This is Peter's second sprint to the tomb.

Now to Mark:

In Mark's report MM, the other Mary, and Salome "came to the tomb…when the sun had risen." (16:1-2) Salome was a disciple and mother of James and John. Apparently Salome arrived last and the two Mary's took her along and went to the tomb yet again.
They had been [i.e. earlier] saying to one another "who will roll away the stone…?" (16:3) "When they looked up they saw that the stone…had already been rolled back." (16:4)
The two Mary's had seen the open tomb earlier and Salome now saw it too.
As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side… But he said to them, "Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here... But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him…" (Mark 15:5-7)
The "two men in dazzling clothes" reported in Luke were supernatural i.e. angels. But the "young man" in Mark may literally be a young man. The Greek word is the same as in 14:51-52 where a "young man" watched Jesus being arrested. We're left to speculate how much the young man had observed so as to be able to declare "He has been raised…"  

Mark adds that the women "fled from the tomb…and they said nothing to anyone". Saying nothing could be their initial reaction or might mean "anyone except the apostles".


Many other attempts to harmonize the four resurrection accounts are available, notably:
•    A.T. Robertson 1922
•    J.B. McClellan 1875 The New Testament…and Analytical Harmony of the Four Gospels…
In my analysis the two Mary's together went to the tomb before dawn and got separated when running to inform the apostles, and joined together again after MM encountered Jesus, then an angel appeared, after which Jesus appeared to both Mary's.

Other women arrived later which prompted the Mary's to return to the tomb twice more with the new arrivals. When Luke interviewed Joanna, and Mark Salome, these women would have focussed on what happened after they met up with the Mary's. Doubtless the Mary's told these later arrivals what transpired earlier, but Luke and Mark did not want hearsay and summarized only what Joanna and Salome experienced.

I have not proved that Jesus was resurrected — I only, in #141, I outlined the testable evidence we could consult. The main evidence for us today is not the women since skeptics could claim these are part of the myth and demand to see their signed affidavits which we don't have.

  What I've done is demonstrate the four resurrection narratives to be compatible. If alleged contradictions are cleared up then one barrier to belief is removed.

Skeptics, humanists and atheists versus Bible defenders  — on this website