New Testament Bible Difficulties

Discrepancies and claimed conflicts that are asserted against the text of the Bible are always the result of a variety of problems that reside with the person who brings the accusation.

  • Supposed contradictions due to a misunderstanding of the historical text of the Bible.
  • Claimed contradictions due to the text being misread.
  • Occasions where a contradiction is imagined, due to a misuse of the original Hebrew language.
  • Contradictions claimed by an adversary which are not, in fact, contradictions.
  • Asserted contradictions due to the reader not understanding the intent of the verse in which they are reading.
  • Imagined contradictions due to an error in the copying of the text.
  • Contradictions that are claimed because the reader did not have a complete awareness of the ancient history of Israel and the nations mentioned by the Bible.
  • Occasions of claimed contradictions due to a misuse of the Greek language.
  • A contradiction that was imagined because the entire context of the verse was not read and taken into consideration.
  • Supposed contradictions due to a literalist interpretation rather than the contextual interpretation that the verse demands.
  • Misunderstandings because of a false conclusion that too place due to the hostile evaluation and bias of the commentator.
  • Claimed contradictions due to confusion between one event and another.
  • Contradictions that were claimed due to the usage of an unreliable translation of the Bible.

See the end of this page for a complete list of New Testament Bible Difficulties

Discrepancy Surrounding Judas’ Death

An important point that actually serves greatly to authenticate the New Testament as a valid account of the life of Jesus Christ is the difference in testimony between Matthew and Peter’s narrative of Judas suicide. Matthew describes Judas as hanging himself in a tree after his betrayal of Jesus. Peter, in Acts chapter 1, describes Judas—falling head first into a field—with his intestines spilling out. Some critics of the Bible see this difference in the description of Judas death as a discrepancy that casts doubt on the reliability of the New Testament.

Judas, Hanged

Then Judas, His betrayer, seeing that He had been condemned, was remorseful and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” And they said, “What is that to us? You see to it!” Then he threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself.  —Matthew 27:3-5

Then Judas Fell Head First Into the Field, His Stomach Bursting Open.

And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples (altogether the number of names was about a hundred and twenty), and said, “Men and brethren, this Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke before by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus; for he was numbered with us and obtained a part in this ministry.” (Now this man purchased a field with the wages of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his entrails gushed out. And it became known to all those dwelling in Jerusalem; so that field is called in their own language, Akel Dama, that is, Field of Blood.)  —Acts 1:15-19

  • Matthew says that Judas, “Hanged himself”. 
• Peter says that Judas “falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his entrails gushed out…”
We must remember that the words of the New Testament are the eye witness accounts of those who were either there when the events took place, or were recorded by others from the testimony of those who saw the events take place.

The accounts of Matthew and Peter do not conflict with each other, they are the record of the events which took place, as each of these men described different parts of the same event.
Matthew recounts how Judas hanged himself. Peter describes further details of this event where the rope that was used, apparently snapped and Judas fell into the rocks of the field below. This fall ruptured his stomach area, spilling out his intestines onto the ground. This is the reason the field was later called the “Field of Blood.”

When people are at the scene of an incident, they will often remember different details of the same event. It is common for a person who is interviewing eyewitnesses to hear added details that others who were present did not think of or say. These differences are understood by experts as consistent with the true events which took place.

As we observe this phenomenon in Matthew and Peter’s descriptions of Judas death, we understand that this brings great internal evidence to their testimony as valid and authentic accounts of the same event. There are no discrepancies between these two narratives; there are simply additional details given by Peter, which Matthew did not mention. If the story was a fabrication, those who wrote the fabrication would be careful to make sure that the accounts of all witnesses were the same, so as to remove any doubts about their authenticity.

Discrepancy Regarding The Thirty Pieces Of Silver

Matthew records the prophecy of the Messiah’s betrayal coming from the prophet Jeremiah. The actual prophecy that Jesus fulfilled is from Zechariah.

Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the value of Him who was priced, whom they of the children of Israel priced, 10 and gave them for the potter’s field, as the LORD directed me.”  —Matthew 27:9-10

…And the LORD said to me, “Throw it to the potter”—that princely price they set on me. So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the LORD for the potter. —Zechariah 11:13b

The division for each scroll of the Old Testament into individual books did not take place until much later; after Matthew and Peter quoted from Zechariah and Jeremiah. At the time that the gospel of Matthew was recorded; the writings of Zechariah were included in the larger scroll of Jeremiah.

Jeremiah, being the more important of the two prophets—Matthew simply quoted from the scroll of Jeremiah where Zechariah’s prophecy was located.

When Matthew was trying to remember where the prophecy was written, he was doing so from memory and mistakenly thought it was in Jeremiah’s writing.

Very often as a pastor and Bible teacher, I will make this same mistake without realizing my error while I am teaching from the pulpit. I have often stated that a particular verse of scripture is located in a certain book, when in fact the verse came from a different book of the Bible. The text of the verse I am quoting was correct; I simply described the wrong book.
The fact that we observe this occurring in the gospels gives us a great reason to believe that the New Testament scriptures are genuine.

If a person was seeking to fabricate a lie and write a story to convince us, he would make sure that the details of his accounts were consistent with known sources. However, if a person was simply trying to recount the verse of scripture that he believed were fulfilled—much as I do when teaching on a Sunday morning before the congregation, he might miss quote the wrong book. This tells us that the details, which are written in Matthew 27:9, are a genuine account of what actually took place. This so-called “discrepancy” is not a valid reason to doubt the New Testament; in reality, it is a great reason to believe it.

Another possibility is that this verse does not specifically state that the prophecy was written in the scroll of Jeremiah; it says that it was “spoken by Jeremiah the prophet…” Zechariah may have recorded the words of Jeremiah who had originally spoken them.

When we investigate the New Testament in great detail, we find that the internal evidence which the writers have provided, gives us an abundance of clues to validate the authenticity of their narratives. The differences between Matthew and Peter’s account of Judas death, the mistaken quote of Matthew in describing Jeremiah as the source of Zechariah’s prophecy, all tell us that we have a true account of the events which they describe. We can have confidence that the life of Jesus Christ has been recorded for us—truthfully, by the actual people who saw and heard Him—witnessed His crucifixion and resurrection three days later; and testified that He is the fulfillment of all the Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah.

A Discrepancy As Jesus Is Offered Bitter Wine

Matthew and Mark using different terms to describe the event where Jesus is given wine to drink while on the cross.

And when they had come to a place called Golgotha, that is to say, Place of a Skull, they gave Him sour wine mingled with gall to drink. But when He had tasted it, He would not drink.   —Matthew 27:33-34

Then they gave Him wine mingled with myrrh to drink, but He did not take it.  —Mark 15:23

The gospel of Matthew describes this drink as a mixture of wine and gall; Mark describes it as wine and myrrh. There is no discrepancy here; both writers are correct.

The word “gall” in both the Hebrew and Greek languages is translated as “bitter” or “poisonous.”

  • Hebrew: “ros”
• Greek: “chole”
The wine that the Roman soldiers offered Jesus, contained a bitter gum resin called myrrh. Wine that has turned bitter in the process of becoming vinegar was the common drink of Roman soldiers because it was cheap and readily available. It was common during a crucifixion that Hebrew women would mix myrrh with wine and give it to the dying as a sedative—to ease their suffering.

Give strong drink to him who is perishing, And wine to those who are bitter of heart.  —Proverbs 31:6

We see confirmation in the use of the word gall as bitterness from an Old Testament prophecy of the Messiah found in Psalms 69:21. David wrote that when the Messiah is given wine at His crucifixion, it will be mixed with gall. The translators could have chosen either gall or myrrh here, in which both mean the same thing: “bitterness.”

Vinegar to Drink: At the crucifixion of the Messiah, He will be given wine mixed with gall.

“They also gave me gall for my food, And for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.”  —Psalms 69:21

  • Myrrh is known to have analgesic or pain-relieving effect.
  • Wine contains alcohol, which can also ease pain.

The effects of mixing the sour wine of the Roman soldiers with the bitter myrrh, acted as a pain killer for those who were dying.

On this first occasion, when the soldiers offered Jesus soured wine with myrrh; He would not drink from it. At this point, Jesus had not completed the full payment that was required for our sins. For this reason, He would allow nothing to diminish His suffering. Jesus would bear the full wrath of God for all of us, and He would do so while fully sober and conscious of every affliction placed upon His body. Had Jesus taken the wine mixed with myrrh, some might have claimed later that He did not take the full punishment that our sins required, and thereby His sacrifice was not compete.

Sidebar: The fact that these details are included in the gospels of the New Testament, is an internal evidence of authenticity. There were many specific details that the men who wrote the narrative of Jesus life and death, were unaware of—regarding their significance in fulfilling the prophecies of the Messiah. It would not be until many years later that these facts that Mark 15:23, and Matthew 27:33-34, record; would be understood as fulfillments of Hebrews Prophecies that Jesus accomplished. These men did not understand, at the time they wrote their narrative, that Jesus would be offered a drink that would ease His suffering on two occasions. The first, Jesus would refuse, because He had not complete His sacrifice for our sins; the second, He would accept—after our sins were fully paid.
On the second and later occurrence—when Jesus said from the cross, “I thirst,”—He knew that “all things were now accomplished.” It was at this point that He accepted the wine mixed with myrrh.

After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I thirst!” 29 Now a vessel full of sour wine was sitting there; and they filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth. 30 So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.   –John 19:28-30

Notice that immediately after Jesus received the wine mixture; He dismissed His Spirit and died. There would not have been sufficient time for the effects of wine and myrrh to have diminished any of His suffering on the cross. It is my opinion that this is an important difference between Jesus’ rejection of the wine on the first occasion and His acceptance of the wine on the second occasion. Jesus was fully in control over everything that happened during His crucifixion and death.

…I lay down My life that I may take it again. 18 No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.  —John 10:17

We learn, in this example, why these Old Testament prophecies are so crucial to our understanding of the events that are described in the New Testament. The chapter; Vinegar to Drink, speaks of the Messiah being given “gall” and “wine” to drink in anticipation of the Crucifixion. Since myrrh was commonly added to the sour wine that the Roman soldiers drank, it is certain that when Jesus “tasted” the wine that was first offered to Him before He finished His sacrifice—He determined that this mixture was not proper for Him at that juncture, while still dying for our sins on the cross. He may have tasted it to see if it was water, which He could have drank. The fact that He refused the wine with the myrrh and would not drink—is a significant point. Jesus would not diminish His suffering by the effects of the wine and myrrh, while He was bearing the horrors of the cross. Jesus wanted to take all the pain and suffering that the cross would bring and receive the full wrath of God that was deserved for all the sins of the world. He did this so that He could proclaim from the cross: “It is finished,” our debt for sins have been fully paid.

Other New Testament Difficulties