The New Testament authors eyewitness accounts combine to validate the text

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What is an undesigned coincidence? Let’s give a simple illustration

You meet Franki and Jeff for Coffee but you notice Jeff’s shirt is wet

  1. Jeff tells you that his drink fell onto his t-shirt
  2. Franki says it was his own fault 

You go to the bar and the waiter tells you as you order your drink

3. Jeff had an argument with Franki at the bar about splashing their savings on a new fancy car so Franki splashed Jeff with his own drink

What we achieve from this scenario is multiple eyewitness accounts not only attesting, but filling in the blanks other stories have left. There are times where the Gospel of John assumes you know a synoptic story and flies right into the next topic as he doesn’t feel the need to repeat it. In our little created story, Jeff tells us the jist of the story, Franki adds to that picture by stating it was his own fault, however, the waiter informs us of the reason behind the splash. So the waiter explains Jeff and Franki, in the same way many Gospels answer each other. 

If you were going to perpetuate a great forgery, why risk putting in hundreds of tiny details that could easily be verified, challenged and used against you? Details such as mentioning grass, that it’s growing season, feeding of the 5,000 and Passover. In this example you give the event to which you work out the time of year and if grass grew in Jerusalem at that time of year. This is falsifiable and for the miracle, why bother with these details unless you’re recording reliable eyewitness history and are describing what you saw from the important to the insignificant? 

John 3:22

22 After this, Jesus and his disciples went out into the Judean countryside, where he spent some time with them, and baptized. 23 Now John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water, and people were coming and being baptized. 24 (This was before John was put in prison.) 25

Wait, Johns been arrested? Nope. Why insert such a passage when people no nothing about this account? Or perhaps they heard about it prior years before? See Mark 6:17-20

17 For Herod himself had given orders to have John arrested, and he had him bound and put in prison. He did this because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, whom he had married. 18 For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” 19 So Herodias nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But she was not able to, 20 because Herod feared John and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man. When Herod heard John, he was greatly puzzled; yet he liked to listen to him.

So 

  1. Mark here explains John 

John 11:2

Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) 

This is a clarifying comment to distinguish between Mary’s. Though John 1-10 has never mentioned a woman who poured perfume on Jesus prior, Mark helps us out again in chapter 14:3-9

3 While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.
4 Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? 5 It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly.
6 “Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 7 The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. 8 She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. 9 Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

So Mark clarifies the story will certainly be repeated and John’s communities in Ephesus know of the story. 

So 

  1. Mark explains John

John 18:24,28

24 Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.
25 Meanwhile, Simon Peter was still standing there warming himself. So they asked him, “You aren’t one of his disciples too, are you?”
He denied it, saying, “I am not.”
26 One of the high priest’s servants, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, challenged him, “Didn’t I see you with him in the garden?” 27 Again Peter denied it, and at that moment a rooster began to crow.
28 Then the Jewish leaders took Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness they did not enter the palace, because they wanted to be able to eat the Passover

So Annas sends Jesus to Caiaphas? Caiaphas then sends Jesus on…what happened with Caiaphas? Caiaphas takes him back to Pilate, what about the trial before Caiaphas? John is silent. To the rescue Mark again narrates in great detail Mark 14 for us giving us the background information:

53 They took Jesus to the high priest, and all the chief priests, the elders and the teachers of the law came together. 54 Peter followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. There he sat with the guards and warmed himself at the fire.
55 The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death, but they did not find any. 56 Many testified falsely against him, but their statements did not agree.
57 Then some stood up and gave this false testimony against him: 58 “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with human hands and in three days will build another, not made with hands.’” 59 Yet even then their testimony did not agree.
60 Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” 61 But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer.
Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”
62 “I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
63 The high priest tore his clothes. “Why do we need any more witnesses?” he asked. 64 “You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?”
They all condemned him as worthy of death. 65 Then some began to spit at him; they blindfolded him, struck him with their fists, and said, “Prophesy!” And the guards took him and beat him

John often assumes knowledge on behalf of his audience, clearly at least when it comes to the Gospel according to Mark which would support the idea that Mark circulated and was well known in the Christian communities by the time he penned his Gospel, not having to go over every event at length. 

There are also times when John explains something that doesn’t appear to need an explanation unless you’ve read the synoptics. Because of this, dating any Gospel later than John is seen as absurd in all instances.

Mark 14:58; 15:29

“We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with human hands and in three days will build another, not made with hands.’”

  • Mark 14:58

Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days

  • Mark 15:29

Is Jesus is going to destroy a temple? He is also mocked for failing to destroy a temple later on. What is the plausibility of this accusation against Jesus? Though it could be assumed or worked out, nothing generally in the synoptic gospels provides a pretext for this accusation.

John helps us out

The Jews then responded to him, “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?”

Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”

  • John 2:18-19

Jesus is referring to THE physical temple of his body, he would die and rise three days later. John gives us the original statement of Jesus but not its use as an accusation; the synoptics give us the accusation but not the original statement. Neither of these is copied from the other. You have to put them both together.

So 

  1. John explains Mark

Matthew 8:16-17 

16 When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:

If Jesus could heal the sick why did they wait till evening? Matthew gives no explanation for the delay Why would you wait?

Well, Mark 1:21, 29-32. 

They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach.

Devout Jews followed the law, they didn’t want to break the Sabbath and the Sabbath ends at sundown. So this explains why they interconnect 

these accounts are not copying each other, they interlock, they fill in each other’s voids. These are natural subtle details.

So 

  1. Mark explains Matthew.

Luke 9:36

When the voice had spoken, they found that Jesus was alone. The disciples kept this to themselves and did not tell anyone at that time what they had seen.

Why did they tell no one?

As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.

  • Mark 9:9 

so it says that Jesus told them to tell no one. Mark gives us the command but doesn’t tell us whether they obeyed it. Luke records their obedience but omits the command.

So 

  1. Mark explains Luke

Matthew 14:1-2

At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the reports about Jesus, and he said to his attendants, “This is John the Baptist; he has risen from the dead! That is why miraculous powers are at work in him.

Why is Herod talking about this matter with his servants? And how would Matthew know what Herod had said to his servants? How did he find out what happened in the privacy of his own home?

Luke 8:3 to the rescue. 

Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.

A passing remark in Luke feeds into how Matthew possessed knowledge of Pilate’s affairs, Joanna here is the key. This is important to show the historical interlocking, how the Christian community got their information. Does it look like Luke’s trying to force this line of text? No it just looks like truthful reporting of details that just happen to interlock with each other.

So 

  1. Luke explains Matthew.

John 21:15

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

Why does Jesus ask Peter whether he loves him more than the others do? Why does Jesus says something as tough as this. We find the answer in the synoptics, specifically, Matthew 26:33.

Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.”

Peter begins to get boastful, he says “he’ll never fall away”… and then he goes onto deny Jesus 3 times. Just like in John where Jesus asks 3 times, restoring him through these questions

  • so Matthew explains John

Luke 23:2-4

And they began to accuse him, saying, “We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Messiah, a king.”  So Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?” “You have said so,” Jesus replied. Then Pilate announced to the chief priests and the crowd, “I find no basis for a charge against this man.”

There are accusations towards Jesus, opposing taxes, claiming to be a king, yet Pilate appears to want to let him off, what’s happened?

  1. The Jews make a grave accusation
  2. Pilate questions Jesus on this very point
  3. Jesus admits the charge
  4. Pilate declares him innocent!

What’s missing from Luke’s summary that we’d like to know?

John 18:33-38 helps us out. 

33 Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

34 “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”

35 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”

36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate.

Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

38 “What is truth?” retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him.

Luke has compressed the interview compared to John. Pilate sees Jesus as some spiritual king, no physical king. This makes perfect sense now, and Pilate sees no threat from a spiritual guru. In John’s account there is no accusation, yet Pilate asks if he is a king. We learn about the accusation from Luke. Who copied who? John or Luke? No..it didn’t happen like that. This is the way real history is written, this is the way historical testimony fits. So we conclude here that:

  1. Luke explains John 
  2. John explains Luke

John 18:10 

10 Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.)

Peter cuts of the ear of the high priest’s servant, John 18:36, Jesus says his kingdom is not of this world of his servant would have been fighting. What’s going on here? Pilate could say…err your “servant” cut off the ear of one of the Jewish leaders soldiers, why isn’t this brought up? Luke tells us

Luke 22:51

But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him.

What happened just after the ear was cut off? Jesus puts the ear back on. Where’s the physical evidence of the struggle? It’s gone! John just doesn’t bother to tell us that Jesus healed him

So 

  1. Luke explains John

John 18:10-11 

Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?”

Why does Jesus use this cup imagery here? The expression “Shall I not drink the cup that the father has given me?” Appears in no other gospel accounts of this event. The Gospel of John never anywhere else portrays Jesus as using the metaphor of a cup to describe his crucifixion. So why does he use this metaphor here? The synoptics tell us that Jesus prayed that night in these very terms, asking that the father would take from him the necessity of suffering crucifixion, calling it “the cup” After this and the soldiers came to arrest Jesus, Jesus accepted this as the father’s decision to give him the cup. This is like a hand in glove fit or undesigned coincidence which supports the veracity of this saying.

So

  1. The Synoptics explain John

Mark 15:42-45

42 It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath). So as evening approached, 43 Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. 44 Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. 45 When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph. 

Why might Mark take particular note of Joseph’s courage in this passage? There is good evidence that the Gospel of Mark is based off the evidence from Peter’s testimony. Who, of course had a lack of courage at the at this point in time of the crucifixion denying Jesus three times. So he may have had great respect for Joseph who stepped forward in Courage. 

Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds.

  • John 19:38-39

John tells us about the same event but he doesn’t emphasise the courage of Joseph like Mark does. What he does say is Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus but secretly for fear of the Jews asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus and pilate gave him permission so he came and took away his body

Nicodemus, also in the early accounts comes to Jesus by night and he came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about 75 pounds worth in weight.

So Mark tells us that Joseph was courageous in going to see Pilate but doesn’t mention why that was particularly noteworthy. But John doesn’t mention or doesn’t emphasize the courage of Joseph or give us the reason why Mark will take note of the courage of Joseph that he had a secret Disciple for fear of the Jews.

So 

  1. Mark explains John
  2. John explains Mark

The calling of Peter, Andrew, James, and John 

Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. Going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him. 

  • Matt. 4: 18–22) 

That’s it? Jesus walked up and said, “Follow Me,” and they dropped everything “immediately”? Who would do that? How did they even know who Jesus was or if anything about Him was worthy of that kind of dedication? If Matthew’s account was the only testimony available to us (and for many communities in the ancient world, it was the only testimony available, at least for a number of years), this would remain a mystery. There is a clue in Matthew’s version of events (the mending of the nets), but the questions raised by Matthew aren’t answered for us until we hear from Luke: 

Now it happened that while the crowd was pressing around Him and listening to the word of God, He was standing by the lake of Gennesaret; and He saw two boats lying at the edge of the lake; but the fishermen had gotten out of them and were washing their nets. And He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little way from the land. And He sat down and began teaching the people from the boat. When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” Simon answered and said, “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets.” When they had done this, they enclosed a great quantity of fish, and their nets began to break; so they signaled to their partners in the other boat for them to come and help them. And they came and filled both of the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus’ feet, saying, “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!” For amazement had seized him and all his companions because of the catch of fish which they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men.” When they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him. 

  • Luke 5: 1–11

The disciples didn’t just jump in with Jesus on a whim after all. Matthew was interested in describing how the disciples were called, but Luke was interested in providing a bit more detail. When the testimony of all the witnesses is considered in unison, we get the complete picture. The disciples heard Jesus preach and saw the miracle of the abundant catch of fish. This harvest of fish was so impressive and large that it broke their nets. Only after returning to the shore (and while James and John were mending their torn nets) did Jesus call them to follow Him. They left their lives as fishermen on the basis of the things Jesus taught and the miracle Jesus performed.

John 19:41-42

At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

Only Matthew mentions that Joseph of Arimathea was rich and that Joseph laid Jesus in his own tomb. Although Matthews wording and details about the burial are similar to Marks (e.g.  The linen sheet, the tomb being cut out of the Rock, mention of Joseph rolling the stone across the entrance, and the two Marys who saw where Jesus was laid), Matthews unique material illuminates Johns account, and reveals that Matthew has access to material independent of Mark concerning Jesus burial.

In addition to explaining John, Matthew also explains Luke. Luke and John both leave the reader to conjecture that the tomb may have belonged to Joseph. While Matthews says that the tomb was new, he does not use the expression “in which no one had yet been laid”, where as both Luke and John do. Luke strongly emphasizes the goodness of Joseph, which makes it surprising (if he were copying from Matthew)  that he doesn’t also mentioned that it was Joseph’s own tomb. Other features Luke mentions whereas Matthew does not are the facts that Joseph was a member of the Sanhedrin and that he was waiting for the Kingdom.

Luke’s sufficiently independent of Matthew to conclude that it is unlikely he is simply inferring from Matthews word “new” that no one had previously been laid in the tomb. John’s unique material on the burial include: The character Nicodemus; Joseph’s previous secret discipleship; the nearness of the tomb to the place of the crucifixion; the fact that the tomb was in a garden: the quantity of spices used in the burial. John agrees with Luke on the claim that no one had used the tomb previously, Matthew alone explains how it came about that Joseph had access to the never used to.

So there’s a lot of interlocking here

  1. Matthew explains John
  2. Matthew explains Luke
  3. Luke helps explain Matthew
  4. John and Luke help explain Matthew

Matthew 26:67-68

Then they spit in his face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped him and said, “Prophesy to us, Messiah. Who hit you?”

In this scene, describing Jesus’s examination before Caiaphas, Matthew told us that the chief priests and the members of the council struck Jesus and slapped Him when he “blasphemed” by identifying Himself as the “Son of Man”. 

This question posed by members of the council seems odd. Jesus’s attackers were standing right in front of Him; why would they ask Him, “Who is the one who hit You?” It doesn’t seem like much of a challenge, given that Jesus could look at His attackers and identify them easily. Luke told us more, however:

Now the men who were holding Jesus in custody were mocking Him and beating Him, and they blindfolded Him and were asking Him, saying, “Prophesy, who is the one who hit You?” And they were saying many other things against Him, blaspheming. 

  • Luke 22: 63–65

Matthew’s narrative makes sense once we read in Luke’s account that Jesus was blindfolded.

So

  1. Luke explains Matthew

Matthew 14: 1-2 Herod

At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the reports about Jesus, and he said to his attendants, “This is John the Baptist; he has risen from the dead! That is why miraculous powers are at work in him.”

Luke also confirms something in Matthew 14:1-2. We’re told Herod was talking with his servants and worrying if Jesus was John the Baptist raised from the dead. The question arises, how did Matthew know what Herod was talking about in his palace? Well Luke unintentionally gives us the answer 

and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.

  • Luke 8:2-3

in a totally different context. Luke tells us a follower of Jesus was Johanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household manager. Thus we have an answer as to how it was possible the Christians were able to get inside information on Herod. 

So

  1. Luke explains Matthew

Undesigned coincidences between the Gospels and external secular sources

Archelaus reigning in Judea

Why was Joseph so afraid of this Herod?  He is only mentioned in the Bible this one time. Josephus’ Antiquities 17.3.1  tells us that the domain of Herod the Great was divided among his sons, with Archelaus having authority in Judea but not in Galilee, which was governed by his younger brother, Herod Antipas.

We also know that Archelaus had acquired quite a bloody reputation (e.g. Antiquities 17.13.1-2 and 17.9.3).  The latter of these references describes how Archelaus slaughtered 3,000 Jews at Passover. Thus, Joseph decides not to return to Judea and, instead, goes further north to the regions of Galilee, governed by Herod Antipas..

Getting the titles right

In Matthew 2:22,  Archeleaus is reigning as king in Judea; in Matthew 27:2, Pilate is governor of Judea: in Acts 12:1, Herod is king of Judea: and in Acts 23:33, Felix is governor of Judea. This becomes extremely confusing.

Josephus attests to the accuracy of every single one of these titles just giving here

  1. Herod the Great was made king of Judea by Mark Anthony.  
  2. Archelaus was deposed in the year 6AD,  after only a 10 year reign, and a series of procurators ruled over Judea (of whom pilate was fitth).  
  3. The Herod of Acts 12 is a Agrippa I.  
  4. He was made King by Claudius Caesar.  After his death, Judea was, once again, placed under the government of procurators (one of them being Felix).

The Proconsuls

When Luke tells us of the people in Ephesus, he reports that the city clerk tells the crowd that “There are proconsuls”. A proconsul is a Roman authority to whom a complaint may be taken. normally, There was only one proconsul.

Just at that particular time, however, there seems to have been to as a result of the assassination of Silanus (the previous proconsul)  by poisoning in the fall of 54AD, by the to Imperial stewards at the urging of Nero’s mother. So there appears to be multiple Proconsuls in the void of this assignation. 

This event is independently documented by Tacitus in his annals (13.1)

Luke’s accuracy has allowed historians to date the event which Luke narrates with incredible precision since we know when Silanus was poisoned.

The death of John the Baptist

According to Mark 6:27,  Herod Antipas sent a military officer to execute John the Baptist. Why would he not send a civil executioner? The answer is found in Josephus Antiquities 18.5.1. Herod was at war with his former father-in-law, Aretas IV, King of the Nabataeans. This explains why he had a military officer carry out the execution: he was at Machaerus on a military campaign, not at home in his palaces in Galilee.

A high priest from among the sadducees

Acts 5:17—Luke here intimates that the high priest was a Sadducee; which is a character one would not have expected to meet within that station. This circumstance, remarkable as it is, was not without examples. 

Josephus, Antiquities 13.10.6-7, tells us. “John Hyreanus, high priest of the Jews, …the pharisees upon a discussed, and joined himself to the party of this sadducees

Antiquities 10.8.1 tells us,

“This Ananus the younger, who, as we have just now, had received the high priesthood,  was fierce and haughty in his behaviour, and, above all men, hold and daring, and, moreover, was of the sect of the sadducees.” (this high priest lived only a little more than 20 years after the events recorded in Acts). 

The office of the high priest

According to Matthew 26:3 ” then the chief priests and the Elders of the people gathered in the palace of the high priest, whose name was caiaphas…”

Wasn’t there only supposed to be one high priest? According to John 11:49, ” but one of them, confess, who was high priest that year, said to them”. Wasn’t the office of high priest a lifelong occupation? 

That Caiaphas was high priest, and the high priest throughout the reign of Pontus Pilate and consequently at this time, appears in Josephus’ Antiquities 18.2.2.

Caiaphas was made high priest by Valerius Gratus, predecessor of Pontius Pilate and was removed from his office by Vitellius, President of Syria, after Pilate was sent away out of the province of Judea (antiquities 17.5.3).

“Gratus deprived him of it, and gave the high priesthood to Simon, the son of Camithus; and when he had possessed that dignity no longer than a year, Joseph Caiaphas was made his successor”. – Antiquities 18.2.2.

After this, Gratus went away from Rome, having been 11 years in Judea: and Pontius Pilate was his successor. Of the removal of Caiaphas from his office, Josephus likewise afterwards informs us, and connects it with a Circumstance which fixes the time to a date subsequent to the determination of Pilate’s government.

“Vitellius ordered Pilate to repair to Rome and after that, went up himself to Jerusalem, and then gave directions concerning several matters. And having done these things he took away the priesthood from the high priest Joseph, who is called Caiphas”

Acts 23:4-5: “Those who stood by said, ” would you rivile God’s high priest?”  And Paul said, ” I did not know, brothers, that he was the high priest”

It turns out that Ananias, of whom this is spoken, was, in truth, not the high priest, though he was sitting in judgement in that assumed capacity.

The case was, that he had formerly held the office, and had been deposed; and the person who succeeded him had been murdered; that another was not yet appointed to the station; and that during the vacancy, he had, of his own authority, taken upon himself the discharge of The Office. (Josephus’ Antiquities 1.20. c.5, Sect. 2; c. 6, sect. 2; c. 9, sect 2. ).

This singular situation of the high priest who took place during the interval between the death of Jonathan, who was murdered by order of phoenix, and the accession of Ismael,  who was invested with the high priesthood by Agrippa; and precisely in this interval it happened that the Apostle Paul was apprehended, and brought before the Jewish Council.

Undesigned coincidences: examples from Paul’s letters and Acts

Letters of recommendation

Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you?

  • 2 Corinthians 3:1 

When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers and sisters encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. When he arrived, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed.

  • Acts 18:27

2 Corinthians 3:1 combining with Acts 18:27, We can see the emperor Augustus had made current the capital of Achaia

Paul and Apollos

12 What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.”

6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.

  • 1 Corinthians 1:12; 3:6

Paul’s language here suggest that Apollos came and preached at Corinth after Paul had left the city. This Accords with the timeline in Acts 18:1. 24-28, 19:1

18 After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth.

24 Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. 25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor[a] and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately. 

27 When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers and sisters encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. When he arrived, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed. 28 For he vigorously refuted his Jewish opponents in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Messiah.

19 While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples

  • Acts 18:1. 24-28, 19:1

Paul’s short visit to the apostles

Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Cephas[a] and stayed with him fifteen days.

  • Galatians 1:18

Why such a short visit by Paul? Surely he’d want to spend more time with the apostles who lived and was around Jesus?

The answer is given Acts 9:29.

29 He talked and debated with the Hellenistic Jews, but they tried to kill him.

  • Acts 9:29

When Timothy Comes

1 Corinthians 4:17 “That is why I sent you Timothy”. So Timothy has already been sent? 1 Corinthians 16:10 says “when Timothy comes”

Paul expects this letter to arrive before Timothy does. In Acts 19:21, we see that he did take such a route, going up and around through Macedonia.

After all this had happened, Paul decided to go to Jerusalem, passing through Macedonia and Achaia. “After I have been there,” he said, “I must visit Rome also.”

  • Acts 19:21

If you went through Macedonia this is very much the scenic route. Especially if the letter was sent by Sea it would be basically straight line wherever Timothy is going all the way around following the coast which is a much longer route.

Paul’s ministry change 

and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them. Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks. When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah.

  • Acts 18:3-5 

Was Paul not completely devoted to the word before? So the question is, what caused the shift from Paul’s working all week and doing evangelism on the Sabbath to his devoting himself completely to the work? Apparently it had something to do with the arrival of Silas and Timothy from Macedonia.

The answer is given in 2 Corinthians 11:8-9

I robbed other churches by receiving support from them so as to serve you. And when I was with you and needed something, I was not a burden to anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied what I needed. I have kept myself from being a burden to you in any way, and will continue to do so.

So now we know how he was being financed.

Why did Barnabas want to take Mark with him?

37 Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, 38 but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. 39 They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, 40 but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord. 41 He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.

  • Acts 15:37-41

The answer is in Colossians 4:10

My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. (You have received instructions about him; if he comes to you, welcome him.)

Mark is his relative, this might be reason for wanting him with him.

Paul’s sufferings at Antioch, Iconium and Lystra

You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them.

  • 2 Timothy 3:10-11

The Antioch mentioned was not Antioch the capital of Syria but rather Antioch in Pisidia, to which, we read in Acts 13.

The sufferings mentioned by Paul are described in Acts 13:50-51; 14:1-7, 19-21. Paul seems to imply that Timothy witness these persecutions that happened to him in these cities. According to Acts, Paul missionary journey through the same country. The purpose for his trip is giving it Acts 15:36 and so we learn that the purpose of the journey was to check on those who had been converted during the first journey to see how they were doing.

Acts 16:1-2 we further learn more. 

Paul came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was Jewish and a believer but whose father was a Greek. The believers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him.

We are informed that either Derbe or Lystra was Timothy’s hometown. It is clear from the text that Timothy had already been converted by the time of this visit. And Paul himself refers to Timothy as “my True child in the faith” (1 Timothy 1:2) and “my beloved child” (2 Timothy 1:2). This indicates that Timothy was most likely Paul’s own convert.

It then follows that Timothy was almost certainly converted upon Paul’s previous journey through the cities, adjust the time when the Apostle had undergone the persecutions alluded to in his letter to Timothy.

Erastus the City treasurer

  1. 2 Timothy 3:20 –  Erastus remained at Corinth
  2. Romans 16:23 – This is where Erastus is serving as city treasurer
  3. 2 Corinthians 9:4-5 – Paul was awaiting a collection for when he comes
  4. Romans 15:26-28 – The collection is ready to be sent. 

Paul is writing to the church in Rome from Corinth. Which eliminates why in Romans 16:22 he mentions the city treasurer and also more importantly it illustrates in 2 Timothy 3:20 that Erastus remained at Corinth.

Onesimus of Colossae

  1. Colossians 4:9 – “who is one of you” — What does who is one of you mean? 
    1. We can assume Onesimus is from Colossae
  2. Philemon 1:1-2 – Who is Archippus?
  3. Colossians 4:17 – Archippus is form the same place as Philemon so that indicates that philemon must be from Colossae and since Onesimus is the slave of philemon that indicates by extension that Onesimus must be from Collosae which illuminates for us Colossians 4:9

This corroborates the Pauline authorship of Colossians. (This book is challenged in it’s authorship to Paul but the book of Philemon is not. Philiemon proves Colossians details)

A combination of Undesigned Coincidences

How did they know the number of people?

Matthew’s account of the feeding of the 5000 emphasizes that the number refers specifically to males: “and those who ate were about 5,000 men, besides women and children.”. The statement that about 5000 men referred also occurs in Mark 6:44 Luke 9:14 and John 6:10, though these Gospels don’t add “besides women and children.” How did they calculate this??

According to Mark 6:39-40, “Then he commanded them all to sit down and groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups by hundreds and by fifties.”

Similarly, Luke 9:14-15 says, “and he said to his disciples, “have them sit down in groups of about 50 each.” and they did so, And had them all sit down.”

no doubt having the crowd sorted into groups may be easier to distribute food to them, and it also possible to get some idea of how many there were.

But how did they know how many men there were (excluding women and children)? John makes no mention of the groupings, but his account as a crucial piece to the puzzle. In John 6:10-11, it reads “Jesus said, ‘Have the people sit down.’ Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number. Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. so also the fish, as much as they wanted.”

Jesus tells the disciples to have a people sit down in groups (As Mark and Luke say), but it is the men who actually sit down (as John says). This explains how the number of men could approximately be counted.

The people gathered here to hear Jesus would likely be there all day so that’s why they need feeding it was a long day. The children aren’t going to sit down for that long and the mother’s will be in charge of the children looking after them as they run around crazily in fields. As it is Jewish culture, men were there to listen and then pass on the information to their families.

John 6:5: Phillip & the bread

 When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?

In this passage Jesus asked Philip where are they are to buy bread so that these people may eat. It has never explained why of all people Jesus asked Philip. if I you were fabricating the story, the most likely disciple to pick would have been Judas since he held the money (John 12:6). 

However if we begin to connect the dots we see Luke unintentionally explains John. In Luke 9 we find out that the feeding of the 5,000 happened in Bethsaida, which connects with John because later on John tells us Philip was from Bethsaida. But unlike Luke, John doesn’t tell us the event happened in Bethsaida, only with the help of Luke is this loose end tied up in John as to why Jesus sent Phillip of all his disciples.

So

  1. Luke explains John

Matthew 11:21 

“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.

What are the mighty works spoken of? For Chorazin we don’t know..

John 6:5, Why ask Phillip where to get bread? He’s just not a major character after being called. 

Luke 9:10-11, isn’t this the town where the woes were pronounced? Bethsaida?

What were the mighty works done in Bethsaida? This is the setup for the feeding of the 5,000.

John 12:21

In passing some Greeks want to talk to Jesus so they came to Phillip…who was from Bethsaida in Galilee

now the pieces are fitting together.

  1. Jesus is about to feed the 5,000
  2. John doesn’t tell you where it is
  3. Luke tells you the location
  4. John mentions where Philip is from the area, so it makes sense that Jesus would ask him, it’s his familiar area

So we have

  1. The mighty works figured out in Bethsaida
  2. Why Jesus spoke to Philip
  1. So Luke explains Matthew
  2. John supports Luke in explaining Matthew

Mark 6:31, 39: Green Grass

This is the setting for the feeding of the 5,000. Sentences like “Coming and going”; “Sit down in groups on the green grass” are crucial. There isn’t much green grass in Jerusalem.

John 6:4 tells us more information. Passover was at hand, Passover is in the middle of the growing season in Israel. 

Also when talking about the grass, would the grass be green? Yes this is very specific knowledge for this region. You wouldn’t get this hundreds of miles away. 

This chart amplifies the information about the growing season supplied research that can be found in Peter J Williams What are the Gospels and material by Richard Baukham.

With regards to the “coming and going” passage, the roads would also be filled with pilgrims in fact Josephus tell us millions came to Jerusalem every year. Even if it were 500,000 people that’s a lot of traffic! Certainly explains the coming and going

So 

  1. John explains Mark
  2. Mark explains John 
  3. Josephus confirms John
  4. Scientific discovery of weather patterns confirms Mark’s details 

Summary 

The Case for the feeding of the 5,000 from internal evidence indicators are

  1. Mark 6:39; John 6:10; scientific discoveries: There was much green grass
  2. John 6:4; it was Passover time
  3. Mark 6:31 there were many coming and going
  4. John 6:5: Jesus asks Phillip where to buy bread from
  5. John 6:7-8: Phillip and Andrew reply
  6. Luke 9:10: Feeding was near Bethsaida
  7. John 1:44: Phillip and Andrew were from Bethsaida
  8. John 6:9: barley loaves

Tables

I’ve pulled these tables from Lydia McGrew’s book ‘Undesigned Coincidences’ Of Which some are mentioned above, for the rest, go buy her book! These charts give you the verses and you yourself can try and workout the drawn out parallels.

The Synoptic Gospels Explain John


(T) Indicates a coincidences that unique confirms one or more of the synoptics gospels

(L) indicates a coincidence that shows Lukan independence from both Mark and MAtthew and that supports Luke’s reliability in matters on which he is independant

* Indicates a coincidence connected with a miracle

Bold font indicates a passage that provides an explanation. 

Plain font indicates a passage that raises a question

John Explains the synoptic gospels

(T) Indicates a coincidences that unique confirms one or more of the synoptics gospels

* Indicates a coincidence connected with a miracle

(L) indicates a coincidence that shows Lukan independence from both Mark and Matthew and that supports Luke’s reliability in matters on which he is independant

* Indicates a coincidence connected with a miracle

Bold font indicates a passage that provides an explanation. 

Plain font indicates a passage that raises a question

The Synoptic Gospels explain each other

(T) Indicates a coincidences that unique confirms one or more of the synoptic gospels

* Indicates a coincidence connected with a miracle

(M) indicates a coincidence that shows Matthean independence from Mark and that supports Matthew’s reliability in matters on which he is independent from Mark.

(L) indicates a coincidence that shows Lukan independence from both Mark and Matthew and that supports Luke’s reliability in matters on which he is independant

* Indicates a coincidence connected with a miracle

Bold font indicates a passage that provides an explanation. 

Plain font indicates a passage that raises a question
null

Other undesigned coincidences

(T) Indicates a coincidences that unique confirms one or more of the synoptics gospels

* Indicates a coincidence connected with a miracle

(J) indicates a coincidence that involves material unique to John

(L) indicates a coincidence that shows Lukan independence from both Mark and Matthew and that supports Luke’s reliability in matters on which he is independant

* Indicates a coincidence connected with a miracle

Bold font indicates a passage that provides an explanation. 

Plain font indicates a passage that raises a question

Coincidences between Acts and the universally acknowledged Pauline Epistles

Coincidences between Acts and the other Pauline Epistles

Note: Philemon is universally accepted but is relevant for an Undesigned coincidence here



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