Contradictions – The Beatitudes

Another alleged contradiction in the Bible is that Matthew’s account of the Beatitudes (Matthew 5) has eight of them while Luke’s account (Luke 6) only has four.  Isn’t this a contradiction?

Only if you assume that Matthew and Luke are describing the same teaching event.  Many people instinctively want to do this with the Gospels (because it is a long-standing tendency among Christians).  If two Gospels relate a similar thing, it must be the same thing, and therefore any discrepancies in the two recordings becomes problematic.  I think this attempt to overlap the Gospels has grown more fervent because of a popular (though not necessarily correct!) academic assertion that Mark wrote his Gospel first (since it’s shortest), and then Luke and Matthew expanded on his.  Thus similar events actually are the same event.

But look at some of the details provided in the Gospels themselves.  We’ll start with Matthew.  Matthew’s account of Jesus’ teaching occurs on a hilltop – the Sermon on the Mount.  It happens (if we expect Matthew to be recording things chronologically) before Jesus has called all of his disciples.  It is early in Jesus’ ministry.  In Luke’s account, Jesus is teaching in a low, level place – a valley perhaps.  The twelve disciples have already been called and are present.  And Jesus’ fame is such that it has spread beyond Galilee and even Judea to the areas of Tyre and Sidon – non-Jewish settlements, and some of those people have actually come to see and hear Jesus!

It sounds to me like two separate events.  Did Jesus never repeat himself?  Did He never expand on a teaching He gave previously?  Those are big assumptions, assumptions the texts don’t require or even suggest.  I think Jesus taught similar themes on two occasions in two different locations to two different groups of people (which would make more sense than teaching the same lesson twice to the same people!).

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