Mohd Elfie Nieshaem Juferi (MENJ) tries to present another irreconcilable contradiction, but has once again only demonstrated that he is incapable of accurately reading the Holy Scriptures. He claims:
In Matthew 2:14, we are told that Joseph took Mary and Jesus to Egypt:
"When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt."
Yet in Luke 2:39, they went to Nazareth after Jesus' birth:
"And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth."
It does not need a rocket scientist to inform us that these verses are contradictory and hence irreconcilable. (Source)
A careful reading of the respective contexts help resolve this alleged discrepancy:
"After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him. When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people's chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. In Bethlehem in Judea, they replied, for this is what the prophet has written: "But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel." Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him. After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route. When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. Get up, he said, take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him. So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: "Out of Egypt I called my son. When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity WHO WERE TWO YEARS OLD AND UNDER, IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE TIME HE HAD LEARNED FROM THE MAGI After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child's life are dead. So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: He will be called a Nazarene." Matthew 2:1-16, 19-23
Matthew provides enough data to help us reconcile the two accounts. Herod's order to kill all children two years old and under is a strong indication that the Magi did not arrive immediately after the birth of Jesus, but some time afterwards. Otherwise it would have been quite foolish for Herod to issue such a command if Jesus were only an infant. We are not told how old Jesus was at the arrival of the Magi. He may have been a one-year-old or even 18 months. Whatever the age, it seems clear, that the Magi's visitation didn't occur only days after Christ's birth.
Luke, on the other hand, states that Jesus was still an infant when Joseph and Mary returned to Nazareth:
"On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise him, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he had been conceived. When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: a pair of doves or two young pigeons ... When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him." Luke 2:21-24, 39-40
Comparing two reports about different events that took place nearly two years apart, would anyone expect these two reports to be identical?
In light of the preceding considerations, it does certainly not take a rocket scientist to see that these verses are not at all contradictory or irreconcilable. It becomes rather easy to resolve Menj's alleged error.
Joseph and Mary went to Jerusalem to present the new born infant in the temple. From there, they went back to their home in Nazareth. A short time later, the holy family decided to return to Joseph's ancestral hometown and Jesus' birthplace, namely Bethlehem in Judea. This is where Matthew picks up. When the Magi found the child Jesus, he was already up to two years old. Being told in a dream about Herod's desire to kill the child, Joseph left his home and took his family to Egypt until the death of Herod. Fearing that Herod's son Archelaus would search them out if they returned to Bethlehem, the holy family once again returned to Nazareth and settled there.
In the service of our risen Lord and eternal Savior Jesus Christ for ever and ever. Amen. Come Lord Jesus, come. We love you forever, risen Lord of eternal glory.
P.S.: MENJ had posed the crucial question whether Jesus, Mary and Joseph went either to Egypt or to Nazareth after the birth of Jesus.
A careful reading of the Bible leads to the conclusion that it is not an "either-or", but a "both-and" situation. We would like to leave the following, and certainly more important question with master critic MENJ and all our Muslim readers:
How do you explain that in the Quran the person of Mary's husband Joseph as well as the towns of Nazareth, Bethlehem and the journey to Egypt all disappeared? MENJ complains that he cannot immediately understand two verses in the Bible (because he really does not WANT to understand them), but has it ever bothered him that the Quran is lacking so much information?
This is all the more striking in this case, since the vast majority of all verses in the Quran speaking about Jesus deal with his miraculous birth. [In consequence, the Quran has even less to say about the life and teaching of Jesus, see the article The Quest for the Lost Jesus.] Yet, so many details are omitted even about his birth.
Never shall they be satisfied ...
MENJ seems to suffer under a serious form of "attention deficit". For some reason, he does not consider it of any importance to respond to our actual arguments, but instead responds by quoting opinions of other people who happen to agree with him, but who have not read our article and do not answer to our arguments. For two other recent articles by MENJ that exhibit the same syndrome, see Six or Eight Days of Creation? and "Six or Eight Days of Creation" Visited Again.
This time, MENJ has decided to "respond" to our harmonization by appealing to Brown, as if Brown will somehow prove his point. He quotes our explanation and then comments:
We do not accept this explanation, simply because the two narratives in Matthew and Luke are vastly different in a number of details. As Brown himself notes,
MENJ's first error is to assume that "vast" differences equate to contradictions. It seems to have never dawned on MENJ that just because two accounts differ in details does not mean that they are necessarily contradictory. As we have already seen, the accounts can be easily harmonized to show that no real contradictions exist. In fact, the differences only show that they are independent accounts that are complementary. To state that "We do not accept this explanation" is the expression of a personal decision by MENJ but it does not by itself constitute proof in our discussion.
As we will see again in the following, nothing stated by either MENJ or Brown proves that these accounts contain contradictions.
...the two narratives are not only different - they are contrary to each other in a number of details. According to Luke 1:26 and 2:39 Mary lives in Nazareth , and so the census of Augustus is invoked to explain how the child was born in Bethlehelm, away from home. In Matthew there is no hint of a coming to Bethlehem, for Joseph and Mary are in a house at Bethlehem were seemingly Jesus was born (2:11). The only journey that Matthew has to explain is why the family went to Nazareth when they came from Egypt instead of returning to their native Bethlehem (2:22-39); this is irreconcilable with Matthew's implication (2:16) that the child was almost two years old when the family fled from Bethlehem to Egypt and even older when the family came back from Egypt and moved to Nazareth...one must be ruled out, i.e., that both accounts are completely historical.
In other words, only one of these narratives can be accepted as factual, and not both at the same time.
Based on this quotation, it appears that Brown may never have heard of the particular harmonization we have presented. Certainly in this paragraph he does not exhibit any awareness of it, since Brown does not respond at all to the scenario that we have suggested. As such, MENJ has earned the merit of copying a paragraph from Brown's book, and informing his readership of Brown's personal opinion on the matter, but it has no relevance as a response to our argument.
Both MENJ and Brown have failed to show, let alone prove, that "only one of these narratives can be accepted as factual." Brown essentially argues from silence in order to establish his conclusion as well as taking for granted that his underlying assumptions are true. It is not surprising that in light of his presuppositions Brown concludes that these accounts are contradictory. Yet as we will now show, it is Brown's methodology which is in error, not the Gospel records.
Brown apparently assumes that since Matthew doesn't tell us how and when Jesus arrived at Bethlehem this therefore must be taken as a contradiction with Luke's account. Yet, all this proves is that Matthew has decided to omit the circumstances that caused the holy family to travel to Bethlehem where Christ was born. It is Luke who provides additional details which give us the reason for the holy family's travel to Bethlehem. If anything, these details help to clarify Matthew's account. It does nothing to contradict it.
Also notice that Brown concedes our original point that the holy family's flight to Egypt took place when Jesus was about two years old. This candid admission serves to strengthen our harmonization, while refuting both MENJ and Brown.
Also, commenting upon the story in Matthew, Brown noted the following, that
[t]here is no remembrance in the accounts of the ministry of Jesus of such an extraordinary event in this background [the flight to Egypt and massacre at Bethlehem - Ed.], and a journey to Egypt is quite irreconcilable with Luke's account of an orderly and uneventful return from Bethehem to Nazareth shortly after the birth of the child. An attempt has been made to detect independent support for an Egyptian sojourn in the Jewish stories of the second century which have Jesus going to Egypt...However, these stories introduce Egypt as a place where Jesus or his mother sought refuge because of the scandalous (adulterous) character of his birth and as a place where he became adept in black magic which he then used to decieve people. Most likely this is a Jewish polemic against the Gospel picture of Jesus (including the Matthean infancy narrative) and can scarcely be invoked as independent support for the historicity of that picture.
In light of these evidence, we thus conclude that the birth narratives in Matthew and Luke are undoubtedly contradictory to one another, and this is hence a irreconciliable error.
Labaika Allahuma Labaik, we come to you, O God. For we are in the service of our Rabb, for ever and ever. And it is to Him alone we submit in total obedience, even though the disbelievers may dislike it. Amīn! Amīn! Thumma Amīn!
MENJ somehow thinks that Brown's statements here prove that these accounts contradict. But all this again shows is that it is Brown's underlying presuppositions which do not allow for the possibility of harmonization. We would like MENJ to demonstrate in what way exactly does Matthew's "journey to Egypt" become "quite irreconcilable with Luke's account." Nothing stated by Brown leads one to that erroneous conclusion.
It seems that both MENJ and Brown assume that unless two accounts say the same thing, they must therefore be contradictory. They fail to consider that both Matthew and Luke have given us summary reports, as opposed to exhaustive accounts on the life of Jesus.
Luke provides evidence that the Gospel writers were summarizing their accounts. Take for instance Luke 24:
"When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God." Luke 24:50-53
This chapter gives the impression that Christ ascended into heaven on the very same day he rose again. That is until we read Acts 1:
"In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. HE APPEARED TO THEM OVER A PERIOD OF FORTY DAYS and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit." Acts 1:1-5
It is quite clear that in light of Acts 1, Luke has given a rather condensed summary of the resurrection appearances in Luke 24.
The following is another case of Luke summarizing his reports:
"At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly. One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, Cornelius! Cornelius stared at him in fear. What is it, Lord? he asked. The angel answered, Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God. Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter. He is staying with Simon the tanner, whose house is by the sea. When the angel who spoke to him had gone, Cornelius called two of his servants and a devout soldier who was one of his attendants." Acts 10:1-7
Now compare this to the following:
"Right then three men who had been sent to me from Caesarea stopped at the house where I was staying. The Spirit told me to have no hesitation about going with them. These six brothers also went with me, and we entered the man's house. He told us how he had seen an angel appear in his house and say, Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. He will bring you a message through which you and all your household will be saved." Acts 11:12-14
Peter supplies information about the angel's instruction that Luke omitted in Acts 10.
Luke is not the only one providing evidence that the Gospels are in fact summarized reports. The Apostle John wrote:
"Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, WHICH ARE NOT RECORDED IN THIS BOOK. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name." John 20:30-31
The foregoing examples provide evidence that the Gospel writers were summarizing their accounts. As we have already shown in our original response, these summarized accounts can be easily harmonized and are actually very consistent with each other.
Furthermore, MENJ has spent his time highlighting the differences between Matthew and Luke's birth narratives, but fails to mention the similarities. For instance,
These similarities and agreements are truly remarkable to say the least. When we take these points together along with the fact that the alleged contradictions are easily reconciled, we can truly see how weak and untenable MENJ's case actually is.
Finally, since Menj has problems with differences in the Gospel accounts he may wish to reconsider his position regarding the Quran:
These articles demonstrate that the same story in the Quran is retold with major verbal variations and/or contradictions. The problem with having this occurring in the Quran is that MENJ does not believe that multiple authors wrote it. He erroneously assumes that God authored the Quran by dictating it to Muhammad via Gabriel. Yet, if God were in fact dictating the Quran to Muhammad we would not expect to find major verbal variations and contradictions in these parallel accounts. Instead, we would expect to find God repeating the same event in exactly the same way. That this is not what we find only proves that the Quran is a false book, Muhammad is a false prophet, and that Allah is a false god.
This concludes our rebuttal. Hallelujah and hallelujah. We come to you, O eternally Sovereign and Triune God. For we are in the service of our true Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Father's eternally beloved Son, for ever and ever. And it is to God's Son alone we submit in total obedience, even though the disbelievers may dislike it. Amen! Amen! And then again Amen!
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