Gospel Contradictions: Blind Men and Demons

There are four gospels and they are all slightly different because they were written by different people who either witnessed or talk to witnesses of the same events. Some variation is natural so it should be expected, however, the bible is still spiritually inspired so minor variations are not contradictions and yet some bible skeptics will make a big deal out of them. The story of Jesus exorcising the legion of demons is one of the more famous stories of Jesus. There are two men possessed by a legion of demons in Matthew 8:28-34, but only one demon-possessed man is mentioned in Mark 5:1-20 and Luke 8:26-39. Also, there are two blind men in Matthew 20:29-34 but only one blind people mentioned in Luke 18:35-43, and he is named (Bartimaeus ) in Mark 10:46-52. Is this a contradiction?

If I had a box facing down on a table and I told one group of people that there were two balls in that box and another group that there was a blue ball in the box, then flipped the box over to reveal a red and blue ball in the box, did I lie? Was there a contradiction between what one group heard and what another heard? No, I said there were two balls to one group and there were, and I said there is a blue ball in the box to the other group and there was. Matthew mentions the full picture, remember he is an apostle so he had both eyewitness testimony and direct access to Jesus, as well as inside info from the other apostles. Meanwhile, Mark and Luke were not apostles and used testimony from others so they wouldn’t have had as many details. In addition, each gospel writer had their own motives for writing their accounts so some of them left out what they considered unnecessary details, that other writers considered necessary enough to expound upon. There are two men in both stories but only one is mentioned in two of the gospel accounts because the one did most of, if not all of, the talking in both cases. Mark even has more information than Luke about the blind men because he even knows the name of one of them, which was Bartimaeus. Perhaps he had an encounter with a Bartimaeus or a relative of Bartimaeus who told him one of the blind men’s names. Meanwhile, Luke only knew of the blind man that spoke. In the case of the demoniacs, it’s likely only one of the two spoke, but all the demons were exorcised from both. Since Matthew was a tax collector, meaning he was likely a numbers guy since he handled money, it seems natural that he focuses on those kinds of details and makes a point to accurately record the numerical details. Meanwhile, the other gospels are focusing on the theological implications or the personal reactions of the people in the stories.

One may notice that in Matthew’s version of many gospel events, there is usually a more straight-to-the-point summarization. He doesn’t usually get into the details of people’s back-and-forth conversations. For example, in the story of the synagogue leader Jairus who asked Jesus to revive his daughter. In Matthew’s account, he simply asked Jesus to heal his dead daughter (Matt 9:18-26). However, in Mark and Luke’s account, the daughter’s death is not known by Jairus yet because he learns about it from his servants while Jesus is talking to the bleeding woman after she was healed (Mark 5:21-43, Luke 8:40-56). Matthew’s account of that story is only 8 verses long, whereas Mark’s is 22 verses long and Luke’s is 16 verses long, so Matthew is summarizing which is why leaves out the minute details about the Jairus servants telling him that his daughter is dead after Jesus heals the woman. A unique thing about Mark’s account is that he sometimes leaves words and phrases untranslated perhaps for some kind of linguistic effect. For instance, when Jesus revived Jairus’ daughter he said “Talitha koum,” which means “Little girl, get up!” in Mark 5:41, but neither Luke nor Matthew left the Aramaic untranslated.

Jesus called Levi (Matthew) the tax collector to join him, after his encounter with the demoniacs in Gadarenes, so Matthew didn’t witness it but got the info from the source or those that did witness it. However, would have been there for the blind men at Jericho since that even is after his call. Mark and Luke were not apostles and their accounts were built on the testimony of various eyewitnesses. Luke admits this in the beginning since his Gospel account is written to an audience of one, a man named Theophilus. He gathered eyewitness testimony to clarify some things for Theophilus about the other Gospels, like the Christmas story, filling in the gaps in Matthew’s account. Mark and Luke would have heard of these stories from one of the apostles or others and used that information to write the details. Meanwhile, John would have been a witness to both of these events but he did not focus on that in his gospel, his gospel was not meant to be a chronological retelling but rather a revelation of some things Jesus did and said and the significance of these things for believers in the future. It’s no wonder that John also wrote the book of Revelation.

One may wonder why are there four gospels anyway, wasn’t one enough? Each gospel author is writing from a different perspective and for their own reasons. There are four different perspectives on the story of Jesus’ ministry. Plus two of these (Mark and Luke) accounts are not single eyewitness accounts, but rather a collection of eyewitness accounts. John’s gospel is unique and picks out specific moments from Jesus’ ministry that reveal that Jesus and God are interconnected. As well Jesus’ fulfillment of the law was revealed through his teaching during specific holidays and conversations with specific people. Meanwhile the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) are more of a chronological telling but Mark is the shortest and Luke has extra parables and sermons that are not in any particular chronology. Despite being different in how much they tell, they all complete one another. Luke presents Jesus from the perspective of his humanity and features a genealogy that goes back to Adam. Luke also wrote the book of Acts to Theophilus as a sequel to his account of the Gospel. Meanwhile, Matthew focuses on Jesus as a new Moses since he is ushering in a new covenant, and Matthew lays out his account in 5 major sections like the Torah. Lastly, Mark is about the coming of the Kingdom and focuses more on Jesus as the redeemer delivering people from sickness and oppression from dark spiritual forces. That’s why the extending ending of this account says “these signs will follow those that believe”, in reference to the gifts of the spirit being used to exorcise and heal people by believers in the new covenant, which is recorded in the book of Acts. There may be more in-depth reasons for the differences in the purpose of their writings but these are some simple observations.

On the two blind men
Another article on the two blind men
On the two demonic men
On Contradictions in the Bible