August 22, 2016; Revised august 23, 2016

My next book is scheduled for relax this December: Why space There distinctions in the Gospels: What We have the right to Learn from old Biography (New York: Oxford university Press, 2017—available December 1, 2016). This publication is the culmination the seven and a half years of study that seek to obtain a fresh knowledge pertaining come why the Gospels regularly differ indigenous one another in your details as soon as reporting the exact same story. Throughout my research, I read through the Gospels eight times in their initial language and compiled a list of the differences I observed. (The differences are more clearly seen in Greek 보다 in English.) The list grew to roughly 50 pages. Ns now encouraged that once one reads the Gospels in see of your biographical nature, an ext than 90 percent the the distinctions melt far without having to resort to the type of hermeneutical gymnastics the are occasionally performed in harmonization efforts.

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The Problem

I’m often asked if over there are any kind of differences in the Gospels that ns don’t think have the right to be solved by reading them in irradiate of the compositional gadgets I observe being work by other ancient historians and biographers. The prize is yes. There space a few. Yet, for most of them, I doubt the author had a great reason for reporting the occasion as the did; that is, he provided a literary machine of which i am unaware. I cite these examples in my book. In this write-up I will certainly touch ~ above the one that ns regard as the most an overwhelming to resolve and for which the usage of a compositional machine is no evident: The place of the feeding that the 5,000.

In bespeak to monitor this story, the is useful to acquire an idea that the proximity of specific locations discussed in it. If you imagine the Sea the Galilee, i m sorry is actually a big lake, gift a clock, Bethsaida is located about 12:30 when Capernaum is about 11:00 and Gennesaret is around 10:00. Luke 9:10 informs us the feeding

developed at or near Bethsaida. The various other three Gospels perform not tell us where the occurred. However, Matthew and John show up to be in concert v Luke, since they report the Jesus and also his disciples overcome the lake immediately after the feeding and also landed top top the northwest next (Matt. 14:34—Gennesaret; john 6:16-17, 21—Capernaum). Man adds the they landed wherein they had intended. So, according to Luke, Matthew, and also John, Jesus fed the crowd at or near Bethsaida (12:30), then the disciples overcome the lake instantly after and also landed in the area of Gennesaret/Capernaum (10-11:00).<1>

The challenge appears after the feeding as soon as in mark 6:45 we check out that Jesus said his disciples to cross end the lake to Bethsaida. This seems difficult to reconcile with Luke’s report that the feeding had emerged at or close to Bethsaida. So, what is walking on here?

Possible Solutions

Scholars have long wrestled with the tension and also have do a number of solutions v nothing near a agreement emerging.<2> countless conservative commentators posit there were 2 towns named “Bethsaida.” We understand there was a Bethsaida ~ above the northeast next of the lake. So, once John 12:21 speak of “Bethsaida of Galilee,” these scholars posit the this was a different Bethsaida and also that that was located on the northwest side of the lake.<3> when the two-town hypothesis is possible, that is purely speculative and without any solid supporting data.<4>

R. T. France rejects the two-towns hypothesis and also instead argues Luke is mistaken around the ar of the feeding gift in or near Bethsaida and posits that Jesus instructed his hands-on worker to go to Bethsaida, and also that they to be blown turn off course and landed in Gennesaret.<5> but this see does no bode well through John’s report the the disciples landed in Capernaum wherein they had actually intended (John 6:17, 21).

James Edwards suggests that the feeding arisen somewhere northwest the the lake and also west of Bethsaida. Matthew and also John omit the cite of Bethsaida since it would have actually been a “trivial voyage” from the site of the feeding.<6>

William roadway opts to omit “to the other side” in note 6:45, citing a various manuscript tradition.<7> However, this walk not resolve the tension, since it is the prepositional expression “to Bethsaida” that introduces it fairly than “to the various other side.”

Robert Guelich, Paul Achtemeier, and also Adella Yarbro Collins imply that the original tradition had Jesus send his disciples to Bethsaida whereby he would heal a remote man instantly after the feeding (Mark 8:22-26). However, a pre-Markan redactor broke up the initial chronological progression and also inserted a variety of other stories in the break, consisting of the story the Jesus wade on water. This created a Markan sandwich.<8> However, this would be an exceedingly awkward relocate on Mark’s part, given all that transpires in 7:1-8:21. Moreover, it calls for that man was adhering to Mark together a source, a place that is garbage by the bulk of scholars.

R. C. H. Lenski and James White indicate that the Greek pros Bethsaidan in mark 6:45 should be analyzed “toward Bethsaida” instead of “to Bethsaida.” Lenski claims this would certainly fit well, since the town was a suburb of Capernaum.<9> However, note goes on come say that they landing in the region of Gennesaret. And while Gennesaret and Capernaum could be said to belong come the same region, consisting of Bethsaida would certainly be a stretch. Moreover, over there are factors that imply “toward Bethsaida” is not the finest translation for pros Bethsaidan in this context. Let’s consider a few.

White contends the the feeding developed on the levels of Bethsaida (1:00-2:00), that Jesus instructed his practical worker to cross the lake, and also that they would certainly pass “by” or go “toward” Bethsaida in the process. This would certainly fit with mark 6:53 which states they crossed over and also came to Gennesaret. When pros can mean “by” or “toward,” if that were the an interpretation here, consisting of the expression would it is in unnecessary. Imagine being one of Jesus’ disciples when he instructs girlfriend to obtain in a boat and also cross the lake towards Bethsaida. Wouldn’t some of you have wanted come say, “Okay, Lord. And then what? the a large lake. Where carry out you want for united state to go?” ns live in the Atlanta area. So, it would be similar to me speak to my wife Debbie, “Please acquire in the car and drive toward/by Buckhead.” She would certainly say, “Okay. You’ve given me a direction in which to proceed. But where perform you want me come go?” currently one might reply, “Jesus may have told them to go toward/by Bethsaida ~ above their means to Gennesaret” (literally “Cross over to the various other side by/toward/passing Bethsaida and arrive in Gennesaret”) and also Mark skipping the section about Gennesaret. However, in this instance the phrase “toward/by Bethsaida” would certainly be completely unnecessary to add if she going from 1:00-2:00 to 10:00-11:00, due to the fact that it’s directly across the lake. Surely few of the disciples would have thought come themselves, “Does the think we’re stupid? We’re anglers who make our living on this lake. The course, we’ll be happen by Bethsaida! Does that think us were going to go all the method down come 6:00 then as much as 10:00?”

Indeed, over there is an also stronger reason for preferring “to” end “toward” or “by.” There are 65 incidents of pros in Mark, 42 in Matthew, 166 in Luke, and 102 in John. It nearly always appears in the accusative case in the Gospels, exceptions being wherein it appears as an infinitive (Mark 13:22 Luke 18:1; Matt. 5:28; 6:1; 13:30; 23:5; 26:12) and also in the dative case (Luke 19:37; john 20:11, 12 <2x>).<10> Pros can have nuanced meanings when the is associated to nouns appearing in different situations (e.g., pros + genitive; pros + dative; pros + accusative).<11> once accompanied v the accusative that refers to a place together we observe in mark 6:45, it generally signifies walking to that place. Exceptions have the right to be cited. However that is the most common definition by far.<12> and we deserve to focus also further because that a much more precise meaning when we consider the details grammatical building in note 6:45:

And immediately, the compelled his hands-on worker to acquire in the boat and also go front to the other side (eis + accusative) come Bethsaida (pros + accusative). –Mark 6:45

Here us observe a verb the going, “to go ahead” (proagein), an unified with a location described by two prepositions adhered to by accusatives: to the various other side (eis + accusative), to Bethsaida (pros + accusative). eis + accusative and pros + accusative.> This grammatical construction shows up 10 time in the brand-new Testament, seven of which space in the Gospels, one in Acts, and two in Paul’s letters. Lets look in ~ a few:

And when they attracted near come Jerusalem (eis + accusative), to Bethphage and Bethany (eis + accusative), to the mount of Olives (pros + accusative), he sent two the his disciples. –Mark 11:1

This exact same construction shows up in the parallel message in Luke:

And having actually said this things, he continued ahead going approximately Jerusalem (eis + accusative). And it came around as he attracted near come Bethphage and Bethany (eis + accusative), come the mount dubbed ‘Olives’ (pros + accusative), he sent out two of his disciples. –Luke 19:28-29<13>

Bethphage and also Bethany are located on the eastern slope of the mountain of Olives.<14> Thus, pros + accusative is below used come provide second description the the place mentioned in relation to eis + accusative.

Lets look at at one more example. ~ Jesus cure a demoniac, he claimed to the man,

Go to your house (eis + accusative), come your human being (pros + accusative) and announce come them the great things the Lord has actually done for you and had mercy top top you. –Mark 5:19

The pros + accusative further describes the man’s residence (eis + accusative).

Here’s another example:

And Jesus went as much as them (pros + accusative) into the watercraft (eis + accusative). –Mark 6:51

As v the vault examples, the pros + accusative and eis + accusative room descriptions the the same location. Remaining instances in the new Testament include Matt. 26:18, Luke 4:26, plot 20:6, Gal. 1:17; Titus 3:12.

In every instance, when a verb of going is complied with by 2 accusatives of ar (eis + accusative and pros + accusative), the two prepositional phrases are providing descriptions that the very same location. These messages weigh heavily in favor of knowledge Mark 6:45 to it is in reporting that Jesus instructed his disciples to walk “to Bethsaida” and also is one more reason why that rendering is to be wanted over “toward Bethsaida.” most translators agree. Of 28 English translations, only three render pros Bethsaidan as “near Bethsaida” or “toward Bethsaida” (New Jerusalem Bible, new American Bible, common English Bible).<15>

One can posit the the prepositional phrase “to Bethsaida” in mark 6:45 was a scribal error later added but was not in the “original” Mark. Yet that would certainly be totally ad hoc, due to the fact that there are no manuscripts the omit the phrase.

Finally, we might posit that note was confused. This is an initial suggested through the truth that Luke locates the feeding in Bethsaida, the northeast side of the lake, and Matthew and John then educate us the disciples crossed over to the northwest side of the lake and also landed, through John including they landed in Capernaum wherein they had intended. However Mark has actually them rather intending come cross end to Bethsaida but landing on the northwest side. Second, the tension would no exist if Mark had actually said, “And immediately, he urged his hands-on worker to get into the boat and go ahead of him come the various other side” and had not included “to Bethsaida” (6:45). Matthew may have actually known this and also omitted “to Bethsaida” (see Matt. 14:22) in stimulate to prevent the stress and anxiety it created.

However, it’s also possible that part simplification might be emerging with Matthew and John. Return Luke 9:10 states Jesus and his disciples checked out Bethsaida, 9:11-12 appear to indicate that they had gone outside the town when Jesus fed the five thousand, due to the fact that the disciples inquiry Jesus to send the civilization away to the bordering villages and also countryside because that lodging and also food, since they were in a desolate place. Since Bethsaida is top top the east banks of the Jordan River, that is feasible that Jesus and also his disciples had actually retreated to the western banks of the river and also that is whereby the feeding had occurred. Jesus climate instructed his disciples to go back to Bethsaida for supplies or because that some other reason before proceeding to the northwest side of the lake. In that case, Matthew and John simplified the story by omitting the brief stop in Bethsaida. Matthew, in fact, regularly simplifies by omitting these kind of details and John simplifies elsewhere, too.<16>


We have looked at a variety of solutions come the tension developed by the prepositional expression “to Bethsaida” in note 6:45. While some are less ad hoc and much more plausible 보다 others, none of them enjoys something close come a scholarly consensus on what is walk pertaining come that led to the difference. In my research of just how Plutarch speak the very same stories differently, there are a couple of instances because that which I remain puzzled and also do not understand what Plutarch had in mental that caused the differences.<17> I discover myself in a comparable situation through the ar of the feeding that the five thousand. In fact, the puzzle is more facility than I had actually thought. My study of distinctions in Plutarch and also the Gospels notifies me the there is often an ext going top top in history than is clearly shows on the surface when being explained by historians. Ancient authors to be unaware that modern readers would certainly be assessing their works under a microscope as we are doing. So, unless and also until much more data surface that enables us to decision the issue with greater certainty, we cannot understand what actually brought about the distinction in the reports we have examined here. Therefore, I continue to be content come live v an unanswered question.


<1> Luke go not cite the crossing however transitions come a various event and time.

<2> no addressing the anxiety is AYBC, Mark (Joel Marcus), black’s NTC, Mark (Morna D. Hooker), Mark: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Ben Witherington, III).

<3> watch UBS, A Translator’s Handbook: Mark (Robert G. Bratcher & Eugene A. Nida); NAC, Mark (James A. Brooks); ICC, Mark (Ezra P. Gould); Baker NTC, Mark, Baker NTC, John (William Hendriksen); Mark (H. A. W. Meyer); Expositor’s Greek NT, Mark (W. Robertson Nicoll); The Gospel follow to Peter: Mark and also I & II Peter (Bob Utley).

<4> watch Mark (John Peter Lang): the 2 Bethsaidas hypothesis “appears entirely groundless”; Mark (Henry Barclay Swete): “there is no straight evidence because that the existence of 2 Bethsaidas top top the Lake.” neither Lang no one Swete offer a equipment to the tension. NAC, Mark (James A. Brooks) posits the two-town hypothesis yet admits, “No systems is possible on the basis of existing knowledge.”

<5> NIGTC, Mark (R. T. France). See also IVP NTC note (Ronald J. Kernaghan); note (Robert H. Gundry) that posit the the disciples began out for Bethsaida, were blown turn off course and landed in Gennesaret.

<6> Pillar, Mark (James R. Edwards).

<7> NICNT, Mark (William Lane).

<8> WBC, Mark (Robert Guelich); Paul J. Achtemeier, “Toward the Isolation the Pre-Markan wonder Catenae” in JBL 8.9, no. 3; Hermeneia, Mark (Adela Yarbro Collins).

<9> Mark (R. C. H. Lenski). Because that White, watch https://youtu.be/Pgk0don6HEE?t=45m beginning at 48:00.

<10> of 375 occurrences of pros in the Gospels, only 11 (or 3%) space not connected with one accusative.

<11> because that those who carry out not read Greek, the dative situation is often equivalent come the English indirect object, when the accusative instance is often equivalent to the English direct object.

<12> check out the two many authoritative Greek lexicons consulted through today’s scholars: BDAG and also Liddell-Scott.

<13> Matt. 21:1 is a parallel message to Luke 19:28-29. Matthew substitutes eis for pros, reflecting the terms have the right to be provided interchangeably.

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<14> Accordingly, the NASB is mistaken in its calculation of note 11:1, “As castle approached Jerusalem, at Bethphage and also Bethany, close to the mount of Olives, He sent out two of His disciples.”

<15> various other English translations render as “to Bethsaida” (ASV, BBE, HCSB, Darby, Douay-Rheims, ERV, ESV, GWN, Magiera NT Peshitta Translation, McDonald idiomatic Translation, NASB, NET, NIV, NKJV, NLT, NRSV, revised Patriarchal Greek Orthodox NT, RSV, amendment Webster, Webster) and also “unto Bethsaida” (Geneva Bible, KJV, Bishops NT, Tyndale’s NT, Young’s literal Translation).