Is There A Contradiction In Bartimaeus Healing?
One of the pieces of evidence that fully validates the authenticity of the four Gospels, is their singularity as four independent reports. It is important to our comprehension of the New Testament Gospels, that we understand that these men are writing an account from their own perspectives.
As with any group of people who are recounting the same story; some of the witnesses will see things that others did not. These variations in recollection are not contradictions, but great evidence of authenticity. False accounts, and those which are contrived, make certain that all of the witnesses state the same details. Perhaps you have seen a movie where a group of people agree together on exactly what they are going to say to the authorities, before they are questioned, so that their stories match exactly and are found credible.
When we examine the four gospels, we see that very often each of the writers have slightly different recollections of the same event. The accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, are not perfectly matched, for good reason. Genuine accounts that are written by multiple eye witnesses, seldom have precisely the same details.
In the gospels, we see a genuine narrative of four honest men who have told the truth, according to their recollection. These minor differences in their accounts, are evidence of truth.
Courts of law frequently have to deal with multiple testimonies concerning witnesses. It is quite common to see these variations in the story, which does not affect the actual facts of the events. These minor differences are understood by a judge as necessary to a valid testimony and do not invalidate or detract from the material facts of the testimony.
One good example of these slight variations in the accounts of the four gospels, that is alleged as a contradictory by critics of the Bible, is found in Jesus’ encounter with Bartimaeus. Notice that in each of the three accounts of this event, the men who are telling their story, use different ways of explaining where this event took place.
Blind Bartimaeus Healed
Matthew 20:29-34 Mark 10:46-52 Luke 18:35-43
29 And as they departed from Jericho, a great multitude followed him….
46 And they came to Jericho: and as he went out of Jericho with his disciples, a great number of people also followed…
35 And it came to pass, that as he was near Jericho, a certain blind man sat by the road begging…
People who are of a certain disposition to criticize what they see as inconsistencies in the Bible, point out that this account of Blind Bartimaeus displays a contradiction of terms. If we read the four gospels independent of each other, we miss this subtlety. By reading all four gospels together at the same time, we see this variation of terms:
All three agree that this took place at or near Jericho. The event that we are primarily concerned with is the healing of Bartimaeus.
- Matthew states that “ two blind men were sitting by the road…”
- Mark states that “blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the side of the road, begging…”
- Luke states that “a certain blind man sat by the road begging…”
Is it a contradiction that Matthew remembered two blind men, while Mark remembered only Bartimaeus? Luke remembered one blind man, but did not know his name?
If we were reading a myth, or a contrived story, we would not see a variation in recollection. We would see three men who recorded the exact same story.
Consider that these four gospels were not written recently; they were penned nearly two-thousand years ago. The men who were leaders in the early Christian church, knew who Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were. One of the early leaders of the Christian church was Polycarp, who was a direct disciple of John. He had first-hand knowledge of what was written in the four gospels, having heard these things directly from John.
These early church leaders were responsible for the evaluation, authentication, and accuracy of any account for Jesus Christ that was presented. Testimony which was not consistent with the known facts of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, was eliminated from the cannon of scripture. These four gospels were chosen because of their factual integrity and authoritative authorship.
Before the canonization of the New Testament, there were some 30 gospels of Jesus Christ that were under careful consideration. All but Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, which are a part of our New Testament today, were excluded—after having been examined thoroughly for accuracy and authenticity.
These early church leaders knew whether or not these accounts were true or false. They were aware that this account of Jesus’ healing of Bartimaeus and the slight variances in their testimonies was consistent with a truthful recollection. They did not alter or remove any of the text, because these men understood that what was written was genuine. These three narratives were preserved throughout all of church history because they were accurate, authentic, and truthful.
Differences In Where This Event Took Place:
- Matthew begins his testimony with Jesus and the disciples going out of Jericho.
- Mark begins his recollection with the group coming into Jericho and going back out.
- Luke states that these men were coming near Jericho.
The city of Jericho is just five miles west of the Jordan river and about fifteen miles northwest of Jerusalem. We should remember that the old city of Jericho was destroyed, as recorded in Joshua chapter 6, and it was never rebuilt. A new city of Jericho was built to the south of the old city by Herod the Great who had a summer palace at that location. This event that the three Gospel writers record, took place somewhere between the Old City and the New City of Jericho, on the road from Jerusalem. This explains the diversity of their descriptions.
By the testimony of all three men, it appears that the healing of Bartimaeus took place somewhere outside the new city of Jericho. Each of the three men who recorded this event, saw this event taking place from a slightly different perspective. This is what we would expect to see, if we read the testimony of any three individuals who were asked to write what they saw.
In any event, whether this all took place while going out of the old city of Jericho, coming into the new city of Jericho or while they were near the new city of Jericho, it does not affect the validity of the story which describes Jesus healing a man who was blind. There very well may have been two or more blind men; as they would often travel together to gain as much attention from those who would pass by. The focus of the story is on Jesus healing a blind man; in this, all three writers agree.
The fact that we see three different descriptions of the location from the same event, in which Bartimaeus was healed by Jesus, leaves us with a great deal of evidence in support of this account as genuine. These three narratives do not conflict with each other, they simply record the perspectives of each individual writer in remembering what took place. All three men record that Jesus healed Bartimaeus, and this is the point of the entire story. The principle importance of this event is that Jesus has the power to cause a man who was born blind, to see again; signs that can only be attributed to a work of God, as the Messiah.
Comparison With The Centurion’s Son Conflict
When we read the entire Chronological sequence of events that took place in the life of Jesus, as one story, we see many important details that would otherwise be unknown to us. For example, the controversy over the Roman Centurion who requested that Jesus heal his servant.
Luke’s account of this event appears to some critics of the Bible, as contradictory to Matthew’s account. Matthew describes the Centurion coming to Jesus personally with a request; Luke speaks of the elders of the Jews being sent on behalf of the Centurion, to ask for help from Jesus.
Luke 7:1-4 After he had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. 2 Now a centurion had a servant who was sick and at the point of death, who was highly valued by him. 3 When the centurion heard about Jesus, he sent to him elders of the Jews, asking him to come and heal his servant. 4 And when they came to Jesus, they pleaded with him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy to have you do this for him…”
Matthew 8:5-6 Now when Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, pleading with Him, saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, dreadfully tormented.”
What we observe here is not a contradiction but a common writing method used by Matthew to abbreviate certain events. Matthew simply reports what the Centurion said to Jesus through his friends in the Jewish authority.
A second observation is that two people are recounting the same event by their own recollection. As was previously stated in the account of Bartimaeus, this is quite common amongst eye witnesses who see the same incident. Witnesses will tell similar stories, with slightly different versions. Police officers who interview witnesses who were present at an accident or the scene of a crime, often report a similar phenomenon. Witnesses who were clearly at the same event, but saw and heard slightly different details.
These are not conflicts; they are a common occurrence in recording eye witness testimony.
The fact that we see a slight variation of the same event, as recorded by Matthew and Luke, gives greater credibility to the authenticity of what is written. As with the example of blind Bartimaeus, contrived stories almost always take special care to make certain that their testimonies match exactly, whereas genuine testimony almost always consists of similar versions of the same events, told from a slightly different perspective.
A key in understanding the two different versions of Matthew and Luke’s testimony is that in both instances, the Centurion himself reports that he understands the principle of imputed authority. It was understood during this time that a man who is in authority, when he sends his servant, that servant carries with him the authority of his master.
When the Centurion sent one of his servants with a request, it was as if he was speaking these words directly. The servant who carried his masters words also carried his master’s authority.
Confirmation of Authenticity
A notable aspect of this One Gospel, is the principle that reading all four writers at the same time, allows the reader to see something that is otherwise, unknown. By reading all four at once, we see that the writing style of each of these four men is unique from the others. The way that each man frames their statements; the manner in which they express what they are saying, is different in all four writers. This becomes clear as we read their accounts all together at once. This is an indication that these men are writing genuine details that they have first-hand knowledge of. Contrary to the assertion that is put forth by critics of the New Testament, that the four Gospels are fabrications and never actually took place. When we read the four Gospels together at once, we see that this is not possible.
As we line up the text of each man who recorded his recollection of what happened, we see that each of these four men have different writing styles. This tells us that these are not fabricated stories, but were actually written by four different men, who are telling the truth. This is extremely important to our acceptance that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is true and accurate.
 Kellum, L. Scott; Köstenberger, Andreas J.; Quarles, Charles L (2009-08-01). The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown (Kindle Locations .739-742 B&H Publishing. Kindle Edition.
 Map by Rob Robinson, From Google Maps, Used by Permission, Fair Use Policy