Reprinted with Permission from: Veritas Domain - The Domain for Truth
Today’s post will tackle another question that the Skeptic Annotated Bible asked: “Who asked for the best seats in heaven?”
Here are the answers which the skeptic believes shows a Bible contradiction:
James and John
“James and John, the two sons of Zebedee, *came up to Jesus, saying to Him, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You.” 36 And He said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?” 37 They said to Him, “Grant that we may sit, one on Your right and one on Your left, in Your glory.”” (Mark 10:35-37)
The mother of James and John
“Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to Jesus with her sons, bowing down and making a request of Him. 21 And He said to her, “What do you desire?” She *said to Him, “Say that in Your kingdom these two sons of mine shall sit, one at Your right, and one at Your left.”” (Matthew 20:20-21)
(All Scriptural quotation comes from the New American Standard Bible)
Here’s a closer look at whether or not there is a contradiction:
- When dealing with skeptics’ claim of Bible contradictions it seems one can never be reminded enough of what exactly is a contradiction. A contradiction occurs when two or more claims conflict with one another so that they cannot simultaneously be true in the same sense and at the same time. To put it another way, a Bible contradiction exists when there are claims within the Bible that are mutually exclusive in the same sense and at the same time.
- One should be skeptical of whether this is a Bible contradiction given the Skeptic Annotated Bible’s track record of inaccurately handling the Bible. See the many examples of their error which we have responded to in this post: Collection of Posts Responding to Bible Contradictions. Of course that does not take away the need to respond to this claim of a contradiction, which is what the remainder of this post will do. But this observation should caution us to slow down and look more closely at the passages cited by the Skeptic Annotated Bible to see if they interpreted the passages properly to support their conclusion that it is a Bible contradiction.
- The skeptic tries to pit Mark 10:35-37 as affirming the claim “James and John asked for the best seats in heaven” against Matthew 20:20-21 as affirming “The mother of James and John asked for the best seats in heaven.”
- It is important to ask what is going on in the passages the skeptics cited to see if the passages were properly interpreted to support the skeptics’ claims.
- Mark 10:35-37 does affirm the claim “James and John asked for the best seats in heaven.” “James and John” are mentioned in verse 35. Verse 37 record the question that these two asked Jesus which was about sitting in the right and left side of Jesus, which the skeptics called the best seats.
- Matthew 20:20-21 does affirm the claim “The mother of James and John asked for the best seats in heaven.” The mother is mentioned in verse 20 and in verse 21 she asked the question to Jesus if her two sons can sit in the right and left side of Jesus, which the skeptics called the best seats.
- Even with the skeptics citing the two passages correctly to support the two truth claims we still do not have a logical contradictions since the claims themselves are not mutually exclusive.
- Since the claim in Mark 10:35-37 is “James and John asked for the best seats in heaven” in order for Matthew 20:20-21 to contradict Mark 10:35-37 it means Matthew 20:20-21 has to assert either “James and John did not asked for the best seats in heaven” or “only the mother of James and John asked for the best seats in heaven.” But Matthew 20:20-21 does not assert these two truth claims. That is Matthew 20:20-21 does not deny the possibility of James and John asking for the best seats in heaven nor does it say it was the mother of James and John exclusively who asked for the best seats in heaven.
- Since the claim in Matthew 20:20-21 is “The mother of James and John asked for the best seats in heaven” in order for Mark 10:35-37 to contradict Matthew 20:20-21 it means Mark 10:35-37 has to assert either “The mother of James and John did not asked for the best seats in heaven” or “only James and John themselves asked for the best seats in heaven.” But Mark 10:35-37 does not assert these two truth claims. That is Mark 10:35-37 does not deny the possibility of the mother of James and John asking for the best seats in heaven nor does it say it was the James and John themselves exclusively who asked for the best seats in heaven.
- One can also see how Mark 10:35-37 can be synthesized with Matthew 20:20-21. Given how competitive the disciples were with each other it would seem that James and John wanted to take any advantage to be on top of the other disciples. I mean they intiated asking Jesus to be on His left and right side in heaven. Also they brought their mother over to do the asking as an extra person who can petition Jesus for favor. Why would one be surprised if simultaneously while their mother was begging Jesus that they themselves would also ask Jesus for these favored seats in heaven?
- There is no contradiction here. Seems the skeptic needs to learn of How to Handle Bible Contradictions.
- We shouldn’t miss that worldviews are at play even with the skeptic’s objection to Christianity. The worldview of the author of the Skeptic Annotated Bible actually doesn’t even allow for such a thing as the law of non-contradiction to be meaningful and intelligible. In other words for him to try to disprove the Bible by pointing out that there’s a Bible contradiction doesn’t even make sense within his own worldview. Check out our post “Skeptic Annotated Bible Author’s Self-Defeating Worldview.”