Is Matthew 26:59-61 contradictory?

IS MATTHEW 26:59-61 CONTRADICTORY?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Matthew 26:59-61 is a burdensome passage if we are not careful with it: “[59] Now the chief priests, and elders, and all the council, sought false witness against Jesus, to put him to death; [60] But found none: yea, though many false witnesses came, yet found they none. At the last came two false witnesses, [61] And said, This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days.” Verse 60 says opens with, “[they] found none.” The middle part of verse 60 says, “though many false witnesses came, yet found they none.” Finally, verse 60 concludes with, “At the last came two false witnesses….”

Did they find false witnesses? Verse 60 says “no,” then “yes,” then “no,” and finally “yes.” Superficially, this verse is a mess. Some conclude that Matthew had a tough time reporting exactly what happened, as he reported two affirmatives and two negatives in the same verse. Friend, whenever there are ambiguities or “difficulties” in one of the Four Gospel Records, all we have to do is look to the other three Books for insight. We should always let the Bible interpret itself. There is nothing wrong with the King James Bible here.

Mark 14:55-59, the parallel passage, is now consulted: “[55] And the chief priests and all the council sought for witness against Jesus to put him to death; and found none. [56] For many bare false witness against him, but their witness agreed not together. [57] And there arose certain, and bare false witness against him, saying, [58] We heard him say, I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands. [59] But neither so did their witness agree together.” Notice how Mark actually furnished us with details that Matthew omitted in his account. Mark 14:56 is most helpful: “For many bare false witness against him, but their witness agreed not together.”

The chief priests, elders, and all the council members were desperate to find any unified testimony that could be used to justify the death penalty they wanted to force upon the Lord Jesus. (As per the Mosaic Law, at least two witnesses were necessary to condemn a man to death—Deuteronomy 17:6.) Many false witnesses present wanted to say something to condemn Jesus. No doubt, He had many enemies who wanted Him dead. You can imagine them speaking all at once, offering to be a “witness,” yet saying various things. These flimsy, contradictory testimonies obviously would not hold up in a courtroom. Israel’s religious leaders would need to be sneakier. They had to quickly find two testimonies that agreed as close as possible.

We must remember here that the Bible is talking about false witnesses.” As in any case of lying, various holes, conflicts/discrepancies, unintentionally arise. You can imagine one person claimed that Jesus said or did one thing, while another stated that Jesus said or did another. Matthew and Mark actually identify these two different testimonies. One false witness said, “This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days” (Matthew 26:61). Another false witness declared, “We heard him say, I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands” (Mark 14:58). While they appear similar, their witness agreed not together(Mark 14:56).

Using Mark to interpret Matthew, we re-read Matthew and provide commentary in brackets: “[59] Now the chief priests, and elders, and all the council, sought false witness against Jesus, to put him to death; [60] But found none [that is, no witnesses who agreed]: yea, though many false witnesses came, yet found they none [that is, no witnesses who agreed]. At the last came two false witnesses, [61] And said, This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days.”

Concerning these “two false witnesses,” Mark provides something that Matthew did not. Mark wrote: “[58] We heard him say, I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands. [59] But neither so did their witness agree together.As stated earlier, the two final witnesses did not actually agree either, but it was the best Israel’s religious leaders could do. Jesus Christ was completely innocent, so His words would have to be twisted someway or another before He could be presented in a bad light. One false witness twisted Jesus’ words one way, and the other false witness distorted Jesus’ words another way.

SUPPLEMENTAL: TWO ADDITIONAL FALSE WITNESSES

In an interesting parallel, just astwo false witnesses” were used to condemn the Lord Jesus Christ, the Living Word of God, so “two false witnesses” are used to criticize the Holy Bible, the Written Word of God. Codices Vaticanus and Sinaiticus are ancient Greek manuscripts used in “scholarly” circles to challenge the King James Bible Greek manuscripts (Textus Receptus, or Majority Text). As the two false witnesses against Jesus presented lies, disagreeing with each other, so the two false witnesses against the preserved Bible text disagree with each other. Vaticanus (Roman Catholic Church property) and Sinaiticus, in addition to disagreeing with the King James Greek New Testament, have been documented to disagree with each other over 3,000 times… in the Four Gospels alone! “But neither so did their witness agree together” (Mark 14:59).

Also see:
» Does it matter what Bible version I use?
» Do Matthew 17:1, Mark 9:2, and Luke 9:28 contradict?
» Do Matthew 10:10, Mark 6:8, and Luke 9:3 contradict?

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