By Hoyt Houchen
Question: On November 29, 1980 someone wrote into our local newspaper (copy enclosed) claiming that the Bible has at least one contradiction in it and, therefore, is not the exact word of God. To substantiate this claim he used Jesus’ cursing of the fig tree from the accounts of Matthew and Mark, and showed that one account had Jesus cleansed the temple before He cursed the fig tree (Matt. 21) and the other had Jesus cleansing the temple after the cursing of it (Mark 11).1 would appreciate any help you could give me.
Reply: There is no contradiction in the accounts of Matthew and Mark, although there appears to be on the surface. The explanation is simple when we consider the two narratives from the standpoint of chronological order. Matthew records the event as one complete account. Mark records the event in actual chronological order. He presents the same account, but in two separate parts. Matthew lumps both the curse and the result of the curse into one narrative (Matt. 21:18-22), both the curse and result appearing to be after the cleansing of the temple. He does not attempt to give the event in its chronological order. Mark gives the order of what took place in exact detail as to time. The curse was placed upon the fig trees before the cleansing of the temple (Mk. 11:12-14), but the result of the curse is after the cleansing of the temple (Mk. 11:20-24). Jesus obviously cursed the fig tree on the day after the triumphant entry into Jerusalem as He and His disciples were on their way to Jerusalem. He entered into the temple and cleansed it on that day and returned to Bethany that evening. The next day as they were on their way into the city they saw the results of the curse which had been pronounced the day before. Matthew combined these events into one narrative. Mark divided them, putting them in their chronological order.
Those who would discredit the Bible as the word of God and would relegate it to having human error, fail to make any attempt at harmony. They are more anxious to discredit the Bible than to accept it as the infallible and inerrant word of God.
Guardian of Truth XXV: 23, p. 354
June 4, 1981