Coincidence? I Think Not.

Coincidence? I Think Not.

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Above Image by Evgeni Tcherkasski from Pixabay

David Bokovoy on shared, “It doesn’t take too careful a read to determine that from start to finish, the Gospels contain inaccurate historical reconstructions—stories about Jesus’ life and ministry that simply could not have taken place the way they’re depicted.”

An online blogger I came across stated, “I believe the Bible was a collection of stories and nothing more. Kinda like our modern-day sci-fi.”

Richard Carrier from Columbia University wrote, “We have no trustworthy evidence of a physical resurrection, no reliable witnesses. It is among the most poorly attested of historical events.”

Separate Confirming Accounts

Over the years, New Testament scholars have noted instances of ‘undesigned coincidences’ within scripture. What are undesigned coincidences? They are gaps within one writer’s account of an event that are filled in by another writer’s account.

Stealing From God by Christian apologist Frank Turek, lists three examples I will share.

Pilate Enters the Stage

In Luke 23:2-4, the Jews led Jesus to Pilate and accused him of perverting the nation, not paying taxes, and claiming to be Christ the King. In Luke’s account, Pilate asked Jesus directly, “Are you King of the Jews?” and Jesus replied, “It is as you say.” Pilate then turns to the accusers and says, “I find no fault in this Man.”

What? How is it that Jesus admits His guilt, but then Pilate turns and says, “I find no fault in this Man.”? He just admitted it to Pilate’s face. Image in a court of law, the accused admits to stealing, then the judge slams the gavel and says, “Not guilty, case dismissed!”

Take a moment and read John’s account of this event. John 18:33-38

Pilate entered the governor’s courtroom (Praetorium) and asked Jesus if he was King of the Jews. Jesus asked if Pilate wanted to know this or if others had told him. Pilate replied, probably with some disdain, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered You to me. What have You done?” Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary put it this way, “Jewish questions I neither understand nor meddle with.”1

Jesus explained that His kingdom is not of this world and was not from here. Pilate asked if he was a king, and Jesus answered, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” Pilate replied somewhat rhetorically, “What is truth?” and went outside announcing, “I find no fault in Him at all.”

Frank Turek writes, “John offers information not provided by Luke: Since Jesus said His kingdom is not of this world, He was not challenging Caesar’s rule as accused. Therefore, Pilate found no guilt in Him.”2

Why Fear Archelaus?

Another example of undesigned coincidence is found in Matthew’s account of Joseph’s dream, and when he returned to Israel from Egypt. We will find that Josephus, the Jewish rebel who turned Roman historian, shed light on this some 40 years later.

Matthew 2:22-23 explains that after Herod died, Joseph had a dream while in Egypt to return home to Israel. Joseph heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea, and he was afraid to go there. Then he was warned in a dream and turned to the area of Galilee, settling in a town called Nazareth. So why was Joseph afraid of Archelaus? 

Archelaus is only mentioned this single time in all of scripture, so we have no way to answer this question unless we explore outside the Bible.

In the Antiquities of the Jews, written by Josephus, we find in book 9, section 3, that Archelaus sent a regiment of armed men to put down a disturbance. But unfortunately, these men were all attacked, and most were stoned to death by the Jews. 

A few of these men escaped to report what happened, so Archelaus then sent a much larger force, “Now Archelaus thought there was no way to preserve the entire government…so he sent out the whole army upon them, and sent the horsemen to prevent those that had their tents without the temple from assisting those that were within the temple…”3 Josephus writes that 3,000 Jews were killed in this attack to put down a rebellion.

Considering the turmoil and the number of Jews killed by Herod’s son Archelaus, it should be no surprise that Joseph did not want to return there and was afraid of Archelaus.

Philips Stomping Grounds

Another example of an undesigned coincidence involves the feeding of the 5000. Read John 6:5. Jesus and his disciples were near the Sea of Galilee when a great crowd began to follow them. This is because of the miracles Jesus had been performing on those who had diseases. Sitting with His disciples, Jesus asked Philip where they could purchase bread for the crowd to eat. Why would Jesus ask Philip? He had a dozen disciples, and He could have asked them all that question, as He had done before, but John records He specifically asked Philip. Why?

Earlier in John 1:44, we learn that Philip was from Bethsaida. What is significant about Bethsaida? In Luke and only Luke, we find that Bethsaida is where the feeding of the 5000 took place. So, of course, Jesus would ask Philip because Philip was in his own stomping grounds. When you put together the accounts of John and Luke, you see another coincidence that would only have occurred if these historical narratives had been written by men who not only knew Jesus but knew each other. Men who ate together worked together and lived together.

Did John the Baptist Rise Again?

The final example comes from Lydia McGrew and her book titled Hidden In Plain View. In Matthew, we find Herod had been hearing about Jesus and was concerned it was John the Baptist who had returned from the dead. Not only may he had been feeling guilty, but his fear got the best of him. Matthew wrote, “At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the reports about Jesus, 2 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.'” Matthew 14:1-2

I can remember reading this passage as a young Christian and thinking to myself, how is it that Matthew would know what King Herod had been saying to his servants. This passage is similar to Mark 6:16, where Mark wrote that King Herod was concerned that Jesus was John who had risen from the dead. 

The answer to this is found in Luke 8:1-3 “After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, 2 and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; 3 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.”

Joanna, the wife of Herod’s manager, was a close follower of Jesus and obviously shared some of the things Herod had said or was saying about Jesus, and she heard these things through her husband who was Herod’s household manager.((McGrew Lydia. Hidden In Plain View. Chillicothe: DeWard, 2017. Print.))

These examples and so much more point to the reliability of the Gospel accounts. Undesigned coincidences score high in giving authentic accounts of the life and times of Christ. These overlapping isolated facts from the disciples and others point to an accurate representation of Jesus and His followers. 

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Undesigned coincidences by James W Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

  1. Jamieson, Robert., Fausset A.R., Brown, David. Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown’s Commentary on the Whole Bible. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999. Print. []
  2. Turek, Frank. Stealing From God. Colorado Springs: Navpress, 2014. Print. []
  3. Josephus, Flavius. The Antiquities of the Jews. Trans. William Whiston. Blacksburg: Unabridged Books, 2011. Print. []

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