ABC:Acts 1

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Verse 12[edit]

TheThinkingAtheist.com claims the Bible is wrong about the following passage in their section "Where Did Jesus' Ascension Take Place?", and makes the following comments:[1]

Mark 16:19 ¶ So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God.
20 And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.

The ascension took place presumably from a room while the disciples were together.

Luke 24:50 ¶ And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them.
51 And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven.

The ascension happened outside, at Bethany, near Jerusalem.

Acts 1:12 ¶ Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day's journey.

The ascension happened at Mt. Olivet

Matthew 28:16 ¶ Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them.
17 And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted.
18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.
19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

Matthew makes no mention of the ascension at all, an undoubtedly noteworthy event.

First of all, the 'ThinkingAtheist' commits a typo in the verse reference, it is Mark 16:19-20, not Mark 19:20 as they erroneously list. And with their first comment, the key word is "presumably" because it does not say what they presume. Mark 16:19-20 does not say the ascension occurred while the disciples were eating in a room, indeed this is rather illogical since ascending up to Heaven would be rather odd if having to go through a ceiling first. All the verse says is that Jesus ascended after the event in question, not that it was immediately after, or where it occurred. The ThinkingAtheist makes that presumption because they want to see a contradiction in the Bible, not because there is one.

Secondly, as most could probably guess, the Mount of Olives is located at Bethany and near Jerusalem, so the 2nd and 3rd passages likewise do not contradict. As observed by Bible History Online, "Bethany 'house, place of unripe figs' is a village located on the E slope of Mt. Olivet, about one and one-half miles from Jerusalem."[2]

"The mountain ridge which lies East of Jerusalem leaves the central range near the valley of Sha`phat and runs for about 2 miles due South. After culminating in the mountain mass on which lies the 'Church of the Ascension,' it may be considered as giving off two branches: one lower one, which runs South-Southwest, forming the southern side of the Kidron valley, terminating at the Wady en Nar, and another, higher one, which slopes eastward and terminates a little beyond el-`Azareyeh (modern Bethany)." - E.W.G. Masterson[3]

This leaves the 'ThinkingAtheist' with only one complaint, that Matthew does not mention the ascension, as though ever single Gospel should mention every single major event, rather than complementing one another with different levels of detail. Ultimately there is clearly no contradiction here, just an ignorance of cartography and dearth of critical thinking on the part of the critic.

Verse 18[edit]

Infidels.org's Meritt claims a contradiction exists here.[4] TheThinkingAtheist.com also claims a contradiction while making the following comments:[1]

Matthew 27:3: Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders,
4 Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that.
5 And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.
6 And the chief priests took the silver pieces, and said, It is not lawful for to put them into the treasury, because it is the price of blood.
7 And they took counsel, and bought with them the potter's field, to bury strangers in.
8 Wherefore that field was called, The field of blood, unto this day.

Judas hanged himself

Acts 1:16: Men and brethren, this scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus.
17 For he was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry.
18 Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out.
19 And it was known unto all the dwellers at Jerusalem; insomuch as that field is called in their proper tongue, Aceldama, that is to say, The field of blood.

Judas bought a field, fell down and his intestines spilled out.

There is no reason the verses need to contradict. Judas could have hanged himself from a high area in the field. Hanging literally involves "falling down" after all. The rope could have broken from the stress or been cut after the hanging, so that his body fell onto some rocks and burst open. It could have been hanging there for weeks as it rotted until a buzzard perched on it and it fell apart onto the ground for all we know. Whatever the scenario was, the verses appear complementary in relating it with no clear reason for assuming contradiction.

Verse 19[edit]

Infidels.org's Meritt claims a contradiction exists here in the section "Who bought potter's field." (sic)[4]

Acts 1:18-19: Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out. And it was known unto all the dwellers at Jerusalem; insomuch as that field is called in their proper tongue, Aceldama, that is to say, The field of blood.

Matthew 27:6-8: And the chief priests took the silver pieces, and said, It is not lawful for to put them into the treasury, because it is the price of blood. And they took counsel, and bought with them the potter's field, to bury strangers in. Wherefore that field was called, The field of blood, unto this day.

In essence Judas did purchase the field with the cost of his betrayal, he attempted to return the silver for Jesus' freedom, was refused, killed himself, and the Pharisees bought for his burial ground the place where he hanged himself. The Pharisees essentially bought the field on Judas' behalf, since they had refused his return of the silver. Ultimately speaking, Judas' reward for Jesus' betrayal ended up being a land where he killed himself and was buried, so in that sense he did purchase a field in exchange for betraying Jesus.

Verse 24[edit]

The EvilBible claims a contradiction exists here, and makes the following comments.[5]

God knows the hearts of men

Acts 1:24 And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen,

Psalms 139:2-3 Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways.

God tries men to find out what is in their heart (sic)

Deuteronomy 13:3 Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the Lord your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

Deuteronomy 8:2 And thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no.

Genesis 22:12 And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.

Why the critic thinks there is a contradiction here I'm not sure. Yes, God knows the hearts of men, but this is because God tests them to find out what's in their hearts. They are compatible, not contradictory concepts. In fact, the quoted Psalms 139:2-3 even specifically indicates this by explaining that God knows our thoughts because He examines our paths while acquainting Himself with our ways.

Verse 26[edit]

Jim Meritt of Infidels.org states a contradiction exists here and queries "How many apostles were in office between the resurrection and ascension?"[4]

1 Corinthians 15:5 And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:
6 After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.
7 After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.
8 And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.

Matthew 27:3 Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders,
4 Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that.
5 And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.

Acts 1:26 And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

Matthew 28:16 Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them.

Meritt is trying to say Paul should have said there were eleven instead of twelve at the time. However, Paul was writing after the fact when there were once again twelve apostles (now including Mathias, who had replaced Judas). Therefore Paul was justified in using the phrase "the twelve" after the fact, since Mathias doubtless saw the risen Lord as well, even if Mathias was not considered one of the twelve yet.

The term "the twelve" was likely a common way of referring to the twelve apostles at the time Paul wrote that, just as the Beatles frequently were referred to as the "Fab Four" when they were alive. Yes, Paul was referring to a time Mathias wasn't yet considered one of "the twelve" but at the time Paul was writing Mathias had become one of "the twelve."

Even if one really wanted to nitpick like this, Judas didn't technically stop getting considered one of "the twelve" until Acts 1:26, so even if he died a few days before Peter saw Jesus (compare Matthew 27:3-5 and 28:7) he was still considered one of "the twelve." Meritt assumes Judas just stopped being considered one of "the twelve" upon dying which the Bible never states.

Sources[edit]

  1. 1.0 1.1 TheThinkingAtheist. Bible Contradictions. Retrieved from http://www.thethinkingatheist.com/page/bible-contradictions.
  2. Cities of Ancient Israel: Bethany. Bible History Online.
  3. Masterson, E.W.G. Mount of Olives. BibleAtlas.org.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Meritt, Jim (1992). A list of Biblical contradictions. Retrieved from http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/jim_meritt/bible-contradictions.html.
  5. Thiefe, Chris. Biblical Contradictions. EvilBible.com.