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

Matthew 14:1-2  NASB

14 And King Herod heard of it, for His name had become well known; and people were saying, “ John the Baptist has risen from the dead, and that is why these miraculous powers are at work in Him.”
15 But others were saying, “He is Elijah.” And others were saying, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.”
16 But when Herod heard of it, he kept saying, “John, whom I beheaded, has risen!”

Mark 6:14-16  NASB

7 Now Herod the tetrarch heard of all that was happening; and he was greatly perplexed, because it was said by some that John had risen from the dead,
8 and by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the prophets of old had risen again.
9 Herod said, “I myself had John beheaded; but who is this man about whom I hear such things?” And he kept trying to see Him.

Luke 9:9  NASB

SAB Contradiction 216

A true Bible Contradiction?

In two gospels we read that Herod thought Jesus was John the Baptist, but in another gospel we read that he was in doubt about Jesus. Things look pretty bad, don’t they?

Different Christian reactions may be possible

– No problem, it’s just a small difference in the gospels.
– The apostles didn’t seem to make a problem of it, so why should we?
– The apostles were more interested in the central message of the faith, and that is still most important.
– We have to work with what we understand and we should not be worried about what we don’t understand in the Bible.
– Or, a more intellectual reaction may be: This is a typical deviation caused by the oral tradition that was used as a source by the gospel writers. An oral tradition is never inerrant.

These may be understandable reactions, but they do not give real and satisfying answers in the long run. So, let’s follow a saying of St. Paul “Examine everything, and hold fast to that which is good.”

Matthew and Mark reporting

Matthew and Mark gave Herod’s first impression. Matthew: Herod reacted on the fame of Jesus as soon as he “heard the news about Jesus.” Mark (in verse 14 and 16) also referred to the first news about Jesus (verse 15 is to be taken as an interjective or parenthetic clause). In the documentation approach we follow the view that Mark used the so called remnant records of Jesus’ writers. Features of these reports are repetitions as the remnant materials were presented in an unedited form. Here we have a striking example of this phenomenon. In Mark 4:16 we read  “But when Herod heard of it …"  This is a repetition of verse 14 “And King Herod heard of it…”

Luke’s report

It’s also clear that Luke gave a later point of view. In Luke’s account, Herod didn’t give his first impression. By this time he was greatly perplexed, Luke says, because it was said “by some that …”, and “by some that…”, and “by others that..”, and so on. After his first reaction (recorded in Matthew and Mark), he heard the different opinions that went round. And that brought in him great doubt (resulting in Luke’s report).

Bible Contradiction?

We have to understand there are two different opinions of Herod, given shortly after each other. And so: no Bible Contradiction.

Additional Remark 1

In our approach – writers followed Jesus – it is absolutely acceptable that the finest details are preserved in the gospels. There was a close connection between Jesus’ disciples and the court of Herod. Joanna (Luke 8:3), the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, belonged to Jesus’ followers. She can be identified with Salome (Mark 16:1 and Luke 24:10), who delivered the first written report on Jesus’ resurrection (Jesus' Stenographers, p. 97).

Additional Remark 2

The NASBu follows in Mark 16:14 the variant reading “people were saying” (plural form: they said, one said; in vs. 14 an opinion of the people is assumed). This variant is supported by only two manuscripts. The KJV has chosen the variant reading “he said” (singular form, meaning: one of King Herod’s first statements is given in Mark 6:14). The text variant of the KJV is supported by an overwhelming majority of manuscripts and is in my opinion the original reading. Probably modern exegetes don’t choose for it, as it gives a repetition of Herod’s reactions in the narrative. That would be overdone, they probably feel. However, this is no problem; earlier we showed that repetition is the Markan style par excellence.

I hope to write a Background Article in the future about the impact of variant readings with regard to the perfect state of the Word of God. Do the copying errors deny the inerrancy of the Bible?