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Chronological contradictions in Jesus' crucifixion

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This article documents chronological contradictions of Jesus Christ's trial, crucifixion, death, and entombment as provided by the Synoptic Gospels.

This event is central to Christianity and belief in Christ. It's also the one for which there should be the most eyewitnesses and written accounts.

And indeed, the main events are the same. Yet each of the four Gospels tells substantially different narratives about who Jesus is and what exactly happened. Read on.

Colors[edit]

1: Events that multiple Gospels agree on are green.
2: Events that only one Gospel mentions are blue.
3: Events that multiple Gospels disagree on are red.

Chronology[edit]

Mark: Matthew: Luke: John: Discussion:
Pilate tries Jesus
Chief priests bind Jesus (15:1) Chief priests bind Jesus (27:2)
Chief priests deliver Jesus to Pilate (15:1) Chief priests deliver Jesus to Pilate (27:2) Chief priests deliver Jesus to Pilate (23:1)
Judas saw that Jesus was captured, tried to return the thirty pieces of silver, and killed himself (27:3-11) Only Matthew and the Acts of the Apostles mention Judas' suicide. In addition, Matthew's account and Acts' account are not consistent.
Chief priests assert Jesus has claimed to be King of the Jews (23:2) Only in Luke do the chief priests explicitly accuse Jesus of claiming to be a king. However, in all Gospels, the chief priests make accusations towards Jesus, and it is not unreasonable that this could be one of those accusations.
Pilate asks Jesus if he is King of the Jews (15:2) Pilate asks Jesus if he is King of the Jews (27:11) Pilate asks Jesus if he is King of the Jews (23:3)
Jesus says: "You said it, not me!" (15:2) Jesus says: "You said it, not me!" (27:11) Jesus says: "You said it, not me!" (23:3)
Pilate tells chief priests that he finds Jesus to be innocent (23:4) Only in Luke does Pilate explicitly states that he thinks Jesus is innocent. However, in all Gospels, Pilate is reluctant to kill Jesus.
Chief priests accuse Jesus of many crimes (15:3) Chief priests accuse Jesus of many crimes (27:12) Chief priests accuse Jesus of stirring up the Jews from Galilee to Jerusalem (23:5)
Jesus says nothing (15:3) Jesus says nothing (27:12)
Pilate asks Jesus if he will defend himself against the accusations (15:4) Pilate asks Jesus if he will defend himself against the accusations (27:13)
Jesus says nothing, Pilate is amazed (15:5) Jesus says nothing, Pilate is amazed (27:14)
Herod tries Jesus
Because of the above question, Pilate asks Jesus if he is Galilean (23:6) Only in Luke does Jesus meet with Herod at all.
Pilate sends Jesus to Herod, who has jurisdiction over Galilee (23:7)
Herod is happy to see Jesus and hopes to see Jesus perform a miracle (23:8)
Herod asks Jesus many questions (23:9)
Jesus says nothing (23:9)
Chief priests [who apparently also traveled to Galilee] accuse Jesus of many crimes (23:10)
Herod and soldiers mock Jesus (23:11)
Herod and soldiers dress Jesus in a gorgeous robe (23:11)
Herod and soldiers send Jesus to Pilate again (23:11)
As a result, Herod and Pilate became friends (23:12)
Passover feast and release of Barabbas
At Passover feast, Pilate would release one prisoner that the people chose (15:6) At Passover feast, the governor would release one prisoner that the people chose (27:15) Pilate gathers the chief priests and the rulers and the people (23:13)
Pilate asks the crowd if they want Barabbas (a rebel & murderer) released (15:7) Pilate asks the crowd if they want Barabbas (a notable prisoner) released (27:16-18)
Pilate sits his judgement chair (27:19) Only in Matthew does Pilate's wife tell Pilate about her dream.
Pilate's wife urges him not to crucify Jesus because she had a bad dream featuring Jesus (27:19)
The crowd wants Barabbas to be killed (15:8) Only in Mark does the crowd explicitly desire Barabbas to be killed in the first place, before being convinced by the chief priests.
Pilate asks the crowd if they want Jesus (King of the Jews) released (15:9-10)
Chief priests convince the people to release Barabbas (15:11) Chief priests convince the people to release Barabbas and crucify Jesus (27:20) There are a bunch of minor chronology issues here. However, if the Gospels were genuine eyewitness events of a crowded, rowdy event, that isn't too absurd.
Pilate asks the crowd who to set free (27:21)
The crowd tells Pilate to release Barabbas (27:21)
Pilate asks crowd what to do with Jesus (15:12) Pilate asks crowd what to do with Jesus (27:22) Pilate asks crowd what crime Jesus has done (23:14-15)
Pilate says he will merely chastise and release Jesus (23:16-17)
Crowd tells Pilate to crucify Jesus (15:13) Crowd tells Pilate to crucify Jesus (27:22) Crowd tells Pilate to crucify Jesus and release Barabbas (23:18-19)
Pilate asks crowd what crime Jesus has done (15:14) Pilate asks crowd what crime Jesus has done (27:23) Pilate asks crowd what crime Jesus has done (again) (23:20)
Crowd tells Pilate to crucify Jesus (again) (15:14) Crowd tells Pilate to crucify Jesus (again) (27:23) Crowd tells Pilate to crucify Jesus (again) (23:21)
Pilate asks crowd what crime Jesus has done (again) (23:22)
Crowd tells Pilate to crucify Jesus (again) (23:23)
Pilate literally washes his hands of the business (27:24-25) Only in Matthew does Pilate wash his hands.
Pilate abides by the will of the crowd (15:15) Pilate abides by the will of the crowd (27:24-25) Pilate abides by the will of the crowd (23:24)
Pilate releases Barabbas (15:15) Pilate releases Barabbas (27:26) Pilate releases Barabbas (23:25)
Pilate scourges Jesus (15:15) Pilate scourges Jesus (27:26)
Pilate sends Jesus to be crucified (15:15) Pilate sends Jesus to be crucified (27:26) Pilate sends Jesus to be crucified (23:25)
Soldiers mock Jesus
Soldiers lead Jesus to Praetorium (15:16) Soldiers lead Jesus to common hall (27:27)
Soldiers put Jesus into a purple robe (15:17) Soldiers strip Jesus and put him into a scarlet robe (27:28) Soldiers put Jesus into a purple robe (19:2) Purple and scarlet are distinct colors. Luke merely mentions that Jesus wore a "gorgeous" robe.
Soldiers crown Jesus in thorns (15:17) Soldiers crown Jesus in thorns (27:29) Soldiers crown Jesus in thorns (19:2)
Soldiers put a reed in Jesus' right hand (27:29) Only in Matthew does Jesus receive a reed.
Soldiers mockingly salute Jesus, saying "Hail, King of the Jews" (15:18) Soldiers mockingly bow to Jesus, saying "Hail, King of the Jews" (27:29) Soldiers mockingly say "Hail, King of the Jews" (19:3)
Soldiers smack Jesus with a reed (15:19) Soldiers smack Jesus with a reed (27:30) Soldiers smack Jesus with their hands (19:3)
Soldiers mockingly bow to Jesus (15:19)
Soldiers remove Jesus from robe (15:20) Soldiers remove Jesus from robe (27:31)
Soldiers take Jesus to be crucified (15:20) Soldiers take Jesus to be crucified (27:31) Soldiers take Jesus in front of Pilate (19:5) In Mark, Matthew, and Luke, Jesus is tried before he is mocked. In John, Jesus is tried after he is mocked. The only reconciliations to this problem are to assert that Pilate tried Jesus and Barnabbas twice (in the exact same way), that the soldiers mocked Jesus twice (in the exact same way), or that the chronologies of the story are inconsistent -- which would admit that the Bible, at least partially, is inconsistent.
Pilate tries Jesus (again?)
Chief priests tell Pilate to crucify Jesus (19:6)
Pilate tells chief priests to crucify Jesus themselves (19:6)
Jews tell Pilate Jesus should die because he called himself Son of God (19:7)
Pilate becomes afraid (19:8)
Pilate goes into judgement hall (19:9)
Pilate asks Jesus who he is (19:9)
Jesus says nothing (19:9)
Pilate asks whether Jesus understands that he (Pilate) can crucify him (19:10)
Jesus says only God has power over him (19:11)
Pilate wants to release Jesus (19:12)
The Jews assert that anyone who claims kinghood is against Caesar (19:12)
Pilate sits on judgement chair to think (19:13)
Pilate tries to turn Jesus over to the Jews (19:14)
The Jews reject this and tell Pilate to crucify Jesus (19:15)
Pilate asks chief priests whether he should crucify Jesus (19:15)
Chief priests assent (19:15)
Pilate agrees to crucify Jesus (19:16)
Jesus goes to be crucified
Soldiers compel Simon to carry the cross (15:21) Soldiers compel Simon to carry the cross (27:32) Soldiers compel Simon to carry the cross (23:26) Jesus carries the cross (19:17) This is a straightforward contradiction. In Mark, Matthew, and Luke, Roman soldiers compel another man to carry Jesus' cross. In John, Jesus carries the cross himself.
Many people followed Jesus, including women (23:27) Jesus addresses his followers only in Luke.
The people lamented Jesus (23:27)
Jesus told the people not to cry (23:28-32)
Jesus goes to Golgotha (15:22) Jesus goes to Golgotha (27:33) Jesus goes to Calvary (23:33) Jesus goes to Golgotha (19:17)
Jesus is crucified
Soldiers give Jesus wine mixed with myrrh; he didn't drink it (15:23) Soldiers give Jesus wine mixed with gall; he didn't drink it (27:34)
Soldiers crucify Jesus at the third hour (15:25)[note 1] Soldiers crucify Jesus (27:35) Soldiers crucify Jesus (23:33) Soldiers crucify Jesus (19:18)
Soldiers part Jesus' garments and cast lots for it (15:24)[note 1] Soldiers part Jesus' garments and cast lots for it (27:35) In Mark and Matthew, Jesus' clothes are parted before the criminals are crucified; in Luke and John, Jesus' clothes are parted after the criminals are crucified.

Jesus asks God to forgive his tormentors only in Luke.
Soldiers sat and watched Jesus (27:36)
Soldiers crucify a person to Jesus' left and right (19:18)
"THE KING OF THE JEWS" was written above Jesus' head (15:26) "THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS" was written above Jesus' head (27:37) "THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS" was written above Jesus' head (23:38)[note 2] Pilate writes "JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS" on the cross in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin (19:19-20)
Chief priests ask Pilate to change wording (19:21)
Pilate refuses (19:22)
Soldiers crucify a thief to Jesus' left and right (15:27-28) Soldiers crucify a thief to Jesus' left and right (27:38) Soldiers crucify a criminal to Jesus' left and right 23:33)
Jesus asks God to forgive the soldiers (23:34)
Soldiers part Jesus' clothes and cast lots for it (23:34) Soldiers part Jesus' clothes into 4 parts (1 per soldier), refused to tear it, and cast lots for it (19:23-24)
Passerby mock Jesus, ask him to remove himself from the cross (15:29-30) Passerby mock Jesus, ask him to remove himself from the cross (27:39-40) Passerby mock Jesus (23:35)
Chief priests mock Jesus, say he cannot save himself (15:31-32) Chief priests and scribes and elders mock Jesus, say he cannot save himself (27:41-43) Rulers mock Jesus, say he cannot save himself (23:35)
Soldiers mockingly give Jesus wine and ask him to save himself (23:36-37)
Both thieves hate on Jesus (15:32) Both thieves hate on Jesus (27:44) First criminal asks Jesus to save himself and save both criminals (23:39) In Mark and Matthew, the criminals both hate Jesus. In Luke, one criminal hates Jesus and the other asks for Jesus' salvation.
Second criminal rebukes first criminal for failing to fear God (23:40)
Second criminal asks Jesus to admit him into Heaven (23:41-42)
Jesus promises the second criminal admission to paradise(23:43)
Shit gets spooky (part I)
Darkness covers the land from the sixth to the ninth hour (15:33) Darkness covers the land from the sixth to the ninth hour (27:45) Darkness covers the land from the sixth to the ninth hour (23:44)
The veil of the temple tears in two from top to bottom (23:45) In Luke, the veil of the temple tears in two before Jesus dies. In Mark and Matthew, the veil of the temple tears in two after Jesus dies (see below).
Jesus speaks from the cross
Jesus' mother Mary, Jesus's mother's sister, Mary wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene wait by the cross (19:25) In John, Jesus' followers wait right by the cross, and Jesus talks to both a disciple and his mother. In Mark, Matthew, and Luke, they wait far from the cross and Jesus never talks to them (see end of this section).
Jesus sees his mother Mary and a disciple that he loved (19:26)
Jesus tells his mother Mary: "Woman, behold thy son!" (19:26)
Jesus tells his disciple: "Behold thy mother!" (19:27)
Disciple takes Jesus' mother Mary to his house (19:27)
Jesus asks for a drink (19:28) Jesus asks for a drink only in John.
At the ninth hour, Jesus asks: "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (15:34) At the ninth hour, Jesus asks: "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (27:46)
Bystanders say: "Behold, he calleth Elias." (15:35) Bystanders say: "This man calleth for Elias." (27:47)
Bystander fills a sponge with wine, puts it on a reed, gives it to Jesus (15:36) Bystander fills a sponge with wine, puts it on a reed, gives it to Jesus (27:48) They[note 3] give Jesus a sponge of wine and hyssop (19:29) It's not clear whether the bystander of Mark and Matthew is the unnamed person of John.
Jesus drinks the wine and hyssop (19:30) Jesus actually drinks only in John.
The generous bystander says: "Let alone; let us see whether Elias will come to take him down." (15:36) The other bystanders say: "Let be, let us see whether Elias will come to save him." (27:49)
Jesus states: "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit." (23:46) Jesus talks to God prior to his death only in Luke.
Jesus dies and shit gets spooky (part II)
Jesus dies (15:37) Jesus dies (27:50) Jesus dies (23:46) Jesus dies (19:30)
The veil of the temple tears in two from top to bottom (15:38) The veil of the temple tears in two from top to bottom (27:51) In Mark and Matthew, the veil of the temple tears in two after Jesus dies. In Luke, the veil of the temple tears in two before Jesus dies (see above).
The earth quakes and rocks break apart (27:51) The earth quakes only in Matthew.
Graves open up (27:52) Zombies arise from their graves and wander throughout Jerusalem only in Matthew.
Dead saints wake up from death (27:52)
The zombie saints walk into Jerusalem (27:53)
The zombie saints are seen by many people (27:53)
Onlookers react to Jesus' death
Jews ask Pilate to break the bodies' legs so that they can remove the bodies before the Sabbath (19:31) The criminals' legs are broken and Jesus is stabbed only in John.
Soldiers break the legs of both others crucified (19:32)
Soldiers do not break the legs of Jesus because he is already dead (19:33)
Soldier stabs Jesus in side with spear; blood & water comes out (19:34)
One soldier says: "Truly this man was the Son of God." (15:39) The soldiers say: "Truly this was the Son of God." (27:54) One soldier says: "Certainly this was a righteous man." (23:47) The soldier "saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe" (19:35-37)
Bystanders smite their breasts (23:48)
Mary Magdalene, Mary mother of James, Salome, and many other women from Jerusalem wait afar (15:40-41) Mary Magdalene, Mary mother of James, Salome,[note 4] and many other women wait afar (27:55-56) Many bystanders and many women wait afar (23:48-49) In Mark, Matthew, and Luke, Jesus' followers wait far from the cross and Jesus never talks to them. In John, they wait right by the cross, and Jesus talks to both a disciple and his mother (see above).
On the day before the Sabbath, Joseph of Arimathaea asks Pilate for the body of Jesus (15:42-43) On the day before the Sabbath, Joseph of Arimathaea asks Pilate for the body of Jesus (27:57-58) On the day before the Sabbath, Joseph of Arimathaea asks Pilate for the body of Jesus (23:50-52, 23:54[note 5]) Joseph of Arimathaea asks Pilate for the body of Jesus because he's worried about the Jews taking Jesus' body (19:38)
Pilate wonders whether Jesus is truly dead Pilate is skeptical of Jesus' very short crucifixion (less than half a day in length) only in Mark.
Pilate sends a soldier to confirm that Jesus is dead (15:44)
The soldier confirms that Jesus is dead (15:45)
Pilate gives Jesus' body to Joseph of Arimathaea (15:45) Pilate gives Jesus' body to Joseph of Arimathaea (27:58) Pilate gives Jesus' body to Joseph of Arimathaea (John 19:38)
Jesus is entombed
Nicodemus brings 100 pounds of myrrh and aloes to Jesus (19:39) Nicodemus and his 100 pounds of myrrh and aloes are present only in John.
Joseph of Arimathaea wraps Jesus in the fine linen that he purchased (15:46) Joseph of Arimathaea wraps Jesus in a clean cloth (27:59) Joseph of Arimathaea wraps Jesus in a linen (23:53) Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus wrap Jesus in a linen and 100 pounds of myrrh and aloes (19:40)
Joseph of Arimathaea lays Jesus in a sepulchre (15:46) Joseph of Arimathaea lays Jesus in a clean sepulchre that Joseph excavated (27:60) Joseph of Arimathaea lays Jesus in a clean sepulchre (23:53) Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus lay Jesus in a clean sepulchre in a garden in Golgotha (19:41-42)
Joseph of Arimathaea rolls a rock onto the door of the sepulchre (15:46) Joseph of Arimathaea rolls a rock onto the door of the sepulchre (27:60) In Mark, Joseph rolls a rock against the tomb entrance.

In Matthew, Joseph rolls a rock against the tomb entrance, a group of soldiers seals the tomb, and the group of soldiers guard the tomb.

In Luke and John, none of this is detailed.
Mary Magdalene and Mary mother of James behold Jesus' tomb (15:47) Mary Magdalene and Mary mother of James behold Jesus' tomb (27:61) Many women behold Jesus' tomb (23:55)
Many women bring spices and ointments to the tomb (23:56)
Chief priests and Pharisees warn Pilate that Jesus' followers might steal his body to fulfill a prophecy (27:62-64)
Chief priests and Pharisees ask Pilate to guard Jesus' tomb for three days (27:64)
Pilate assents and grants them soldiers (27:65)
Soldiers sealed tomb and set a watch over it (27:66)

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. 1.0 1.1 This verse is out of order verse-wise because verse 24 uses the past tense ("And when they had crucified him ...").
  2. This verse is out of order verse-wise because it's not clear when, exactly, the text above Jesus' head was written in Mark, Matthew, or Luke.
  3. Unspecified.
  4. "the mother of Zebedees children"
  5. This verse is out of order because it explains previous verses.