Friday, August 12, 2016

From Bethsaida To Bethsaida?

In a live webinar Mike Licona addresses an apparent contradiction regarding the circumstances of the feeding of the 5000. He discusses it for about 5 minutes HERE. Basically Mike Licona points out two problems:

1. in Mark 6:45 it says that after the feeding of the 5,000 get onto a boat heading for Bethsaida. However, Luke 9:10 states the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 occurred at or near Bethsaida. The apparent contradiction is that the apostles were already at Bethsaida, so how could they be leaving Bethsaida and crossing the lake in order to arrive at Bethsaida.

2. The gospels seems to be confused as to where they intended to land and/or where they actually did landed. Was it Bethsaida? Gennesaret? Capernaum?

[UPDATE: Mike Licona has an article on the topic at his website HERE. It's uncertain when it was posted, but I suspect it was after the webinar mentioned above]

Regarding the apparent contradiction, I looked up Luke 9:10; Mark 6:32, 45; and John 6:17 in (admittedly dated) commentaries like those of John Gill, Adam Clarke and Jamieson Fausset and Brown commentary.

JFB says in John 6:17 "toward Capernaum — Mark says (Mar_6:45), “unto Bethsaida,” meaning “Bethsaida of Galilee” (Joh_12:21), on the west side of the lake. The place they left was of the same name (see on Mar_6:32)."

John Gill in his commentary on John 12:21 also speculates on two "Bethsaida"s. One of which was distinguished by calling it "Bethsaida in Galiliee" (John 12:21).

Gill writes:

"which was of Bethsaida of Galilee; See Gill on Joh_1:44. This place may be interpreted, "the house of hunting", or "of fishing"; for it is not easy to say which it has its name from, since צידא, "saida", signifies both hunting and fishing: and seeing it was in or near the tribe of Naphtali, where was plenty of deer, and a wilderness was near it, where might be wild beasts, it might be so called from hunting: and as it was situated near the lake of Gennesaret, it might have its name from the fishing trade used in it; for Peter and Andrew, who were of it, were both fishermen: but it is yet more difficult to determine, whether this is the same with, or different from the Bethsaida Josephus (s) speaks of, as rebuilt by Philip, and called by him Julius, after the name of Caesar's daughter, as I have observed in See Gill on Luk_9:10, See Gill on Joh_1:44; since this was in Galilee, of which Herod Antipas was tetrarch, and where Philip could have no power to rebuild places, and change their names; and besides, the city, which he repaired, and called Julian, according to Josephus (t) was in lower Gaulonitis, and therefore must be different, unless that, or any part of it, can be thought to be the same with Galilee: wherefore the learned Reland (u) thinks, that there were two Bethsaidas, and which seems very probable; and it is likely, that this is here purposely called Bethsaida of Galilee, to distinguish it from the other, which, by some persons, might still be called Bethsaida, though it had got a new name. Moreover, this Bethsaida is mentioned in other places along with Capernaum and Chorazin, Mat_11:21, which were in Galilee. And Epiphanius says (w), that Bethsaida and Capernaum were not far distant one from another: and according to Jerom (x), Chorazin was but two miles from Capernaum; and who elsewhere says (y), that Capernaum, Tiberias, Bethsaida, and Chorazin, were situated on the shore of the lake of Gennesaret. It is said to be fifty six miles from Jerusalem:........

(s) Antiqu. l. 18. c. 2. sect. 1. Ed. Hudson. (t) De Bello. Jud. l. 2. c. 9. sect. 1. (u) Palestina Illustrata, l. 3. p. 654, 655. (w) Contra Haeres. l. 2. Haeres. 51. (x) De locis Hebraicis, fol. 90. 6. (y) Comment. in Esaiam, c. 9. 1."

John Gill commented on Luke 9:10:

"into a desert place belonging to the city called Bethsaida; the city of Andrew and Peter, Joh_1:44, and which, as Josephus (r) says, was by the lake of Gennesaret, and by Philip called Julias; and this desert place was the desert of Bethsaida, a lonely, wild, uncultivated, and desolate place, not far from it. Hither Christ went with his disciples, that they might be retired and alone, and have some refreshment and rest from their labours, and where they might privately converse together; and he give them some fresh instructions, and directions, and comfort.

(r) Antiqu. l. 18. c. 3."

So, it may be possible that they left Bethsaida (or the area near it) to Bethsaida OF GALILEE (or the area near it). In which case there is no contradiction.

John 6:17 says they "got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum." Mark 6:53 and Matt. 14:34 on the contrary says they arrived at Gennesaret. However, it's not clear whether they intended to get to Capernaum specifically, or whether it was to go in that general direction. Even the KJV and Webster translates it "toward Capernaum" rather than "to Capernaum". Capernaum may or may not have been their intended final stopping point.

When Mark 6:53 and Matt. 14:34 say they arrived at Gennesaret it's not clear (at least to me) whether they mean the LAND of Gennesaret or that side of the lake of Galilee called Gennesaret (i.e. the LAKE of Gennesaret). Though, in the original Greek it might be clear. Since I don't read Koine, I can't determine it either way. It also must be remembered that they may have stopped by various points along the lake (even possibly walking on land temporarily) before they arrived at their final destination and stayed on land.

Even in modern times when one is running errands getting from point A to point E you might stop by point B, C, and D. For example, taking context into consideration, it's no contradiction for someone to say in conversation 1. he arrived at O'Hare Airport, in conversation 2. he got to Office Depot, and in conversation 3. arrived at some hotel in Chicago. That's because he had to get there by plane and so landed at O'Hare. But also dropped by Office Depot to get materials to help him give his lecture at the hotel. His leaving home and FINALLY arriving at the hotel doesn't entail he didn't also arrive at O'Hare and Office Depot.

See also Lydia McGrew's blogpost on this subject:

But wait! There's more! Refuting a claim of discrepancy in the gospels

See also Jonathan McLatchie's blogpost on this subject:

Is Mark "Confused" About the Location of the Feeding of the Five Thousand?

See also Steve Hays' blogpost on this subject:

Was Mark confused?

See also Norman Geisler's article on this subject:

Was Mark Confused or was it Mike Licona?

Was Mark Confused? Birth Narratives? Original Readings?
by James White

See these other podcasts by James White:

Supposed Bible Contradiction #15 (The Feeding of 5000?)


1 comment:

  1. Mark and Matthew both say the feeding miracle took place in a desolate unidentified place, and they add that the people would have to leave there and go to many towns, plural, to be fed. They both avoid connecting the miracle with a particular town. And those are the earliest versions. It is only Luke who connects the miracle story with a specific town. And Luke even copies Mark and Matthew by stating the miracle took place in a desolate place and that the people would need to go to surrounding villages, plural, to be fed.