How the Bible Interprets Itself
In The Verse Part 3
[This is An Advanced Teaching]
Now let us proceed to the issue of narrative development. Narrative development means that several passages of Scripture on an identical incident or subject may augment the information given in each other. Each passage of Scripture relating to the same incident may not give the same details but the Scriptures must complement and agree with each other or we do not have the true Word of God.
One pitfall which we must now avoid is that we do not call situations identical that are only similar. For instance, if in one Gospel there are two men coming out of a certain city talking to Jesus and in another Gospel there is one man coming out of the city talking to Jesus, these are not identical situations. Did you have supper today and yesterday? Let us suppose you had a bologna sandwich and tea yesterday and today you had a bologna sandwich and tea again. Was the supper identical or similar? It could not be identical because you did not eat the same sandwich today or drink the very same tea today that you drank yesterday. The timing was different - twenty-four hours apart - so the situations were similar but not identical.
In studying the development of identical situations in various passages of Scripture, it becomes vitally important to observe The Word with a keen eye and perceptive mind to see the depth of it. For example, Matthew may say something regarding a situation; Mark, on the other hand, talking about the identical situation, might not say that which Matthew said, but he could mention other details which Matthew did not give. However, what Mark would add to Matthew would not dare to contradict that which Matthew had said or the situation would not be identical. If the situations are identical, that which is set forth in one Scripture cannot contradict that which is set forth in the other.
Let us observe a highly developed narrative pertaining to the crucifixion of Christ. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John speak of the very same incident, but each record gives different details about the crucifixion. Once all four narratives are put together, we get a total, expansive picture with no flaws in it.
And they crucified him [Jesus], and parted his garments, casting lots: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots. And sitting down they watched him there; And set up over his head his accusation written, THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS. -- Matthew 27: 35-37
Here is the sequence of events according to time: (1) they crucified Jesus, (2) they parted his garments, (3) they set up over his head an accusation. After the soldiers parted the garments, they sat down. In the East when a person sits down, he stays awhile. After sitting for a while, the soldiers put up over his head his accusation. To get this accusation, they may have had to go back to Jerusalem to get permission and then they had to make the sign. All of this takes time. That is exactly what Matthew is pointing out.
Then [after all that] were there two thieves crucified with him, one on the right hand, and another on the left. -- Matthew 27: 38
The King James says "two thieves"; the Greek words are duo lestai of which duo is "two," lestai is "robbers." The Greeks used an entirely different word for a thief, kleptes. A thief is one who acts stealthily while a robber is one who deliberately plans and openly does his dirty work. In legal terms robbery is a worse crime than thievery. Thieves would be punished but not by such an extreme sentence as crucifixion. Robbers could receive a crucifixion sentence because of more extreme actions. Duo lestai, two robbers, were crucified with Jesus after an interim of time.
Matthew tells us that the soldiers took Jesus and crucified Him; they sat down and they watched him; they placed over his head his accusation; and then they crucified two robbers, one on the right hand of Jesus and the other on the left.
There is another interesting observation which should be made about Matthew 27: 44.
The thieves [the robbers, the duo lestai] also, which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth.
The gallery of people at the crucifixion were saying, as the verses before indicate, "He trusted in God, let Him save Himself"; soon the two robbers became involved in the conversation and both of the robbers "cast the same into his [Jesus'] teeth." They said to Jesus, "If you are really the Son of God, why do you not come down off that cross?" Both of the robbers reviled Him. This is the record which Matthew sets forth.
The next Gospel record on the crucifixion is found in Mark 15: 26, 27, and 32. Mark wrote no further information which is not given in the other Gospels. So to conserve time, let us go to Luke 23: 32.
And there were also two other, malefactors [kakourgoi, malefactors, not robbers], led with him to be put to death. Luke 23: 32
When Jesus Christ was led out of Jerusalem toward Calvary, they led with him, Luke tells us, two malefactors. A malefactor is an evil-doer. A robber, for instance, would be a malefactor; but not every malefactor would be a robber. A murderer, for· instance, is an evil-doer; but not every evil-doer is a murderer. When Jesus was led out of Jerusalem, according to the Gospel of Luke, two malefactors were led with Him to be put to death.
And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left. Luke 23: 33
The word "malefactor" is the word kakourgos; the word "robbers "is lestai. Luke uses an entirely different word because entirely different people are involved. They were not two robbers; they were two kakourgoi, malefactors, who were brought at the same time as Jesus to be crucified.
And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. But the other answering rebuked him [the first malefactor], saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? -- Luke 23: 39, 40
Both of the robbers, according to Matthew, "cast the same in his teeth." But in the Gospel of Luke, only one of the malefactors spoke revilingly Jesus; the other said to the malefactor, "You had better be quiet because you are in the same condemnation as he is." How can anybody logically say that the two robbers as recorded in Matthew are the same as the two malefactors in Luke? In Matthew the soldiers crucified Jesus, parted His garments, sat down, put up his accusation, then they brought the two robbers. While according to Luke, the soldiers led the two malefactors with him to be put to death.
Putting together the two records of Matthew and Luke is simple. When Jesus was led out to be crucified, they led two malefactors with him. The soldiers crucified Jesus and the malefactors, one on the right hand and the other on the left. Both of the robbers reviled Jesus, but only one of the malefactors reviled him. To the conscientious malefactor who said to Jesus" ... Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom," Jesus said, "Verily, I say unto thee To day thou shalt [future tense] be with me in paradise. "
According to the accurate Word of God, how many men were crucified with Jesus? Two malefactors plus two thieves makes four people. All the teaching that we have had saying Jesus was on the center cross with one culprit to the right and the other to the left is proven faulty. The reason we have believed this is that rather than reading The Word, we believed the paintings we have seen. When a person goes to the Word of God and sees the narrative development of Matthew and Luke on an identical situation, he sees very plainly that there were four crucified with Jesus.
The crucifixion record from the three Gospels is an example of how the Scripture interprets itself in Scriptural or narrative development. Watch the time and notice the place of action. One Scripture may tell some details and another may tell others; but the one Scripture dares not contradict what the other Scripture says. From Matthew, Mark and Luke one observes that there were four men finally crucified with Jesus.
We have one Gospel record, John, left to consider. Matthew, Mark and Luke were specifically concerned about time while John is concerned about the place of action.
Where they crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst. John 19: 18
Matthew informed us that there were two robbers crucified; Luke informed us that there were two malefactors, which totals four men. But John says, "Where they crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one." If there was only one on either side, one plus one makes two. Now we have an apparent discrepancy.
Remember when there is an apparent discrepancy, the first place we look is in our minds. Do we understand what is written? If we understand what is written, as we do here, then the error can only be at one other place and that is in translation for the true Word of God cannot contradict itself.
John tells us, according to King James, "Where they crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst." One small word from John 19: 18 should immediately attract our attention, and that is the word "midst." It means "middle." The word "midst" is a key word because grammatically one individual would not be crucified in the "midst" of two. With the use of the word "midst," four, six or eight are indicated. When a person is situated with one on either side, he is not in the midst; he is between. A person is between two, but in the midst of four.
An interlinear translation of the Stephens Text, from which the King James was translated, reads in John 19: 18, "and with him, others two on this side and on that side." Then there is the word "one" in English, but no corresponding Greek word is above it. To indicate that the translators added the word "one," it was put in brackets. The King James translators, therefore, also added the word "one." If the word "one" is not in the critical Greek texts, why is it in the King James? Because by 1611 the Western world had been so indoctrinated by a picture showing Jesus on a cross with one evil-doer on either side of him that, when the translators were translating this particular verse of the nineteenth chapter of John, they inserted the word "one."
Take out the commas and the word "one," and read the verse again. "Where they crucified him and two others with him on either side and Jesus in the midst." The same words, enteuthen kai enteuthen, are used in Revelation 22: 2.
In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river ....
Enteuthen kai enteuthen is translated "on either side." These are the same words as in the Gospels with the exception that John has the word duo. Duo enteuthen kai enteuthen equals "two on this side and two on that side and Jesus in the midst." What a great accuracy from God's Word.
Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first [one of the robbers], and of the other [one of the malefactors] which was crucified with [The prefix sun means "in close proximity with."] him [meaning the first robber]. John 19: 32
To illustrate how we have been mistaught about how the soldiers went about breaking the legs of the miscalled two thieves: the soldiers broke the legs of the first; then they must have by-passed Jesus and gone around his cross which was really a tree to the second miscalled thief. Finally these soldiers came back to Jesus and said, "My goodness, he is dead already." This type of routine is not very reasonable. As a matter of fact, it is senseless. When you read the accuracy of The Word, the soldiers came and they broke the legs of the first (robber) and of the next (malefactor) progressing in the row; when the soldiers came to Jesus in the third place, they found him already dead.
"Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him." Who was "the other who was crucified with him"? Luke said that when they led Jesus out of Jerusalem, they led two malefactors with Him. " ... The soldiers came and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him," who was the malefactor.
The word "other" in verse 32 - and of the other which was crucified with him" - is another key to add to the proof that four men were crucified with Jesus. There are two different words translated "other" in John 19 and Luke 23. One word is heteros, and the other Greek word is allos. Both heteros and allos are translated "other," but heteros means "other when only two may be involved," while allos means "other when more than two may be involved." The word "other" in John 19: 32 is allos.
Allos is used when more than two may be involved. Two malefactors, two thieves and Jesus are involved, making five. So the soldiers broke the legs of the first
and of the other (allos) of the five involved.
And there were also two other, malefactors, led with him to be put to death. Luke 23: 32
Which Greek word had to be used to have the true Word? The word is heteros because only two categories are involved, Jesus and malefactors. This is the sharp accuracy of God's Word.
When Jesus was led forth, they led two malefactors with him. Later, after the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they parted garments, they cast lots, they sat down, they put up an accusation, then finally they brought two robbers and they crucified them. When the soldiers came, they broke the legs of the first and of the other (the allos, more than two involved); but having come to Jesus, they found that He was dead already. Why? Because the prophets of old had prophesied that no one would ever break the Messsiahs legs. Psalms 34: 20, Exodus 12: 46, Numbers 9: 12). The Judeans and soldiers did not take Jesus' life upon Calvary's cross; he laid it down, he gave up his life. He did not die because they crucified him; he died because he gave himself for you and for me. This is the accuracy with which the Word of God fits, and this is the remarkable usage of the Word as it develops the Scriptures by interpreting itself right where it is written. In comparing Scriptures on an identical incident, the Scriptures can complement each other but never contradict each other if we have the true Word.
While studying how Scriptural passages concerning identical situations develop, we must study the great accuracy of the day Jesus Christ died and arose again from the dead.
Here is a good discussion of the days and night concerning Good Friday and Easter Sunday morning. Look at Matthew 12: 40.
For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. -- Matthew 12: 40
Also, here is another Scripture of interest. I Corinthians 15: 4
And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day, according to the Scriptures: -- I Corinthians 15: 4
How could Jesus be dead three days and three nights from Good Friday to Easter Sunday morning and still rise the third day?
One Scripture doesn't necessarily tell the complete story, but that complementary Scriptures about an identical situation cannot contradict each other.
First, let us examine traditional teaching concerning the death and resurrection of Jesus. The record in Matthew said that Jesus would be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. Matthew does not say that Jesus would be in the heart of the earth from the time he died, but from the time He was buried. We will give people the benefit of the doubt, though, and grant them from the time He died, which would be from 3: 00 P.M., Good Friday. If time is marked from Friday 3:00 P.M. to Saturday, 3: 00 P.M., we have a day and a night; now if Jesus arose early on Easter Sunday morning - squeezing time for all it is worth - the most we can come up with is three days and two nights. The traditionalists say that Matthew did not literally mean three days and three nights - it means "segments," any portion of a day may be counted as a day. This is fallacious teaching for whenever the Word of God mentions a day and a night, it is not a portion of time; a day and a night or a night and a day is a literal period of twenty-four hours. The reason night comes before day in the Word of God is that Judean reckoning of time started with Judean sunset so the night preceded the daylight hours of a day. Matthew 12: 40 said "three days and three nights" which would mean three periods of twenty-four hours each. How can three days and three nights be figured from Good Friday 3: 00 P.M. until Easter Sunday morning? By early Easter Sunday morning (which would be the third day) Jesus Christ had already risen; so where is the third night? This teaching does not fit. What are we going to do? We are going to study it in the same way in which we researched the men crucified with Jesus. When the Word of God fits, there are no contradictions, no errors. We must go to the Word of God to find the day, the hour and the details involved in Jesus' crucifixion, burial and resurrection to have the Word of God rightly divided.
According to the Word of God, the first day of the Passover was always a holy convocation, a high day, a Sabbath. For instance, if the first day of the Passover came on a Tuesday, that Tuesday was a Sabbath day. If the first day of the Passover came on a weekly Sabbath, on a Saturday, then it still was a high day and it would have pre-eminence over the weekly Sabbath. This is similar to our holidays. For example, if Christmas happens to come on a Tuesday, it is a holiday; but if Christmas comes on a Sunday, the special day of Christmas takes priority over the weekly Sunday. This point has bearing upon the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The first day of the Passover was always on the fifteenth of Nisan.
In the fourteenth day of the first month at even [evening] is the Lord's passover. Leviticus 23: 5
The fourteenth day at even is the fifteenth for the fifteenth of Nisan begins at sunset, the even. The fourteenth is the day before the Passover.
And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of unleavened bread [which is the Passover] unto the Lord: seven days ye must eat unleavened bread. In the first day ye shall have an holy convocation .... -- Leviticus 23: 6, 7
The first day of the Passover, the fifteenth, will always be a holy convocation, a Sabbath day, a high day.
But ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord seven days: in the seventh day is an holy convocation .... Leviticus 23: 8
In other words, the first day of the Passover and the seventh day of the Passover were Sabbath days, holy convocation days.
Let us gather more verses of Scripture to understand the Judean reckoning of time.
This month [Abib or Nisan] shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you. Exodus 12: 12
This day came ye out in the month Abib. Exodus 13: 4
The name of the month of Abib was later, after the Babylonians captivity, changed to the month of Nisan. In Esther 3: 7, which was written after the Babylonian captivity, it says, "In the first month, that is, the month of Nisan .... " The month of Abib, the first month, is the only month God named in the third, the fourth, the fifth, the sixth, the seventh month and so on. When man changed the name of the first month from Abib to Nisan, he also gave names to the other months which God had only numbered. In the first month of the year and on the fifteenth day was the Passover. So the day before Passover was logically the fourteenth day of Nisan or Abib.
There is further documentation of the time of Jesus' death in the Gospel of John.
The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation [the day before the fifteenth of Nisan], that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. -- John 19: 31
The Word plainly states that it was the preparation day, which would be the day before the Passover, the fourteenth of Nisan; the bodies could not remain on the cross on that high day. The greatest point of confusion among scholars has been their not differentiating between the Sabbath day, the first day of the Feast of the Passover, and the weekly Sabbath. The day before the weekly Sabbath was Friday; therefore the teaching has been that Jesus died on Friday. But the Passover was not the weekly Sabbath, as John says. This point is even in parentheses in the King James: "(for that sabbath day was an high day)." Jesus was crucified the day before a special holy convocation, before a special day, the high day, which was the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Passover. On which day of the week Jesus was crucified is yet to be seen.
Concerning the time of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, all four Gospels clearly agree.
In the end of the sabbath [this is the weekly sabbath], as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week [which you and I know as Sunday], came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. Matthew 28: 1
This is early Sunday morning. In verse 6 the report was that "He is not here: for he is risen .... " It does not say in verse 6 that He arose on what we call Easter Sunday morning. It says that by the time the women got to the tomb, the report of the angel to the women was that Jesus was not there for he had already risen.
Mark 16: 1 and 6:
And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him.
And he [the angel] saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him.
It does not say that He just arose. The declaration of the angel again was, "He is already up."
In Luke 24: 6 the angel declares to those at the sepulchre on Sunday morning, "He is not here, but is risen .... " Again, The Word simply declares that He was already up.
It does not tell in Matthew, Mark or Luke exactly when He got up but it does tell that by the time the women came, which was very early, Christ had already risen. Not one of the Gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke or John - states that Christ arose on Easter Sunday morning. That is tradition, not the Word.
In order to put the pieces together, we are going to have to go other places in the Word to find out precisely when Jesus Christ died and when he arose.
For as Jonas [Jonah] was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. Matthew 12: 40
The Bible occasionally uses the word "day" as an idiom meaning a portion of time; but when "day and night" are used together, the time is to be taken literally. Jesus was to be buried three days and three nights which equals seventy-two hours.
A legal standard is involved in "the three days and
three nights in the heart of the earth."
In Biblical times no one could be officially pronounced dead until he had been
interred for seventy-two hours, three days and three nights.
Why did God not resurrect Jesus immediately after He was buried since God obviously
had the power? The reason God did not
raise the Lord Jesus Christ immediately after His burial is that Jesus Christ
had to fulfill the law; that is, He had to be in the grave three days and three
nights and not just part of it.
Our failure to recognize that the first day of the Passover was a high Sabbath Day, a holy day, a special convocation, and our failure to understand that the Judean day began at 6:00 P.M. or sunset have caused most of the difficulty regarding the time of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Bible says in John 19: 31 that Jesus was crucified and buried on the day of preparation, the fourteenth day of Nisan. The Word tells us that Jesus died about 3: 00 P.M. our time, which is the ninth hour by Judean reckoning. Jesus had to be buried before sunset because sunset began the next day, which was the Passover. It was against the Judean law to be carrying on burial and other servile activities on Passover thus the soldiers had to break the legs of the others crucified with Jesus. The soldiers had to get their work completed before sunset which was the beginning of the fifteenth of Nisan, Passover.
Jesus died at 3: 00 P.M. and was buried before sunset on the fourteenth of Nisan. Jesus had to be buried three complete nights and days to fulfill the law. To get three complete nights and days beginning with sunset on the fifteenth of Nisan, the seventy-two hour duration would end with the afternoon of the seventeenth of Nisan. Jesus had to have been buried between 3: 00 P.M. and sunset on the fourteenth of Nisan. So that was the time He was resurrected on the seventeenth of Nisan - seventy-two hours later. Now we must count backward to see the days of the week. We know that when Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early on Sunday, the first day of the week, the tomb was already empty and Christ had already risen. So Christ had to have arisen sometime between 3: 00 and sunset on Saturday, the seventeenth of Nisan. That means he would have had to have been buried between 3: 00 and sunset on Wednesday, the fourteenth of Nisan, three days and three nights or seventy-two hours previously. Jesus Christ literally fulfilled the law; He carried out the Word of God by being buried on Wednesday afternoon and being raised seventy-two hours later on Saturday afternoon.
Now I am not going to advocate that we change to Good Wednesday instead of Good Friday for the book of Colossians says that we are not to be observers of days or times or special hours. But I am going to stick to the accuracy of God's Word and acknowledge its truth. The pieces of the puzzle fall into place when the days of the months are rightly divided, when the hours of the days are rightly divided, and when the special days are understood. These tie together the whole story of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.