33 … There was a landowner who planted a vineyard and put a wall around it and dug a wine press in it, and built a tower, and rented it out to vine-growers and went on a journey.
NASBu  Matthew 21:33

1 … A man planted a vineyard and put a wall around it, and dug a vat under the wine press and built a tower, and rented it out to vine-growers and went on a journey.
NASBu  Mark 12:1

9 … A man planted a vineyard and rented it out to vine-growers, and went on a journey for a long time.
NASBu  Luke 20:9

Sleeping Bible Contradiction

It seems to be a sleeping Bible Contradiction that we possess three parables of the wicked tenants in three different variations told to the Chief priests and their retinue. This problem is not mentioned among the SAB contradictions, as far as I know. Usually one supposes that the three variants developed within the so called oral tradition, after Jesus’ departure. But if one follows this point of view one has to confess: So the original words of Jesus are lost. I’m sorry to say, but that would be a greater loss than all Bible Contradictions together. And yet, the explanation that the oral tradition is responsible for the differences between the gospels is leading within evangelical theology. Of course we will never accept this point of view. Let’s look at the accurate reports of Jesus’ stenographers. 

How it began

When Jesus entered the temple, the day after the Glorious Entry, for the second time he expelled the dealers from the temple square, who had again settled there early in the morning, as Mark tells us (11:15-18). Time for the authorities – the chief priests and the elders – to approach Jesus with the question of why he acted in this way and from where his power of attorney came: ‘By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?’ (Matthew 21:23) Standing face to face with the representatives of the authorities, Jesus proposed a deal: ‘I also will ask you a question; and if you tell me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven or from men?’ Under open scrutiny of the public, the chief priests and the elders could not escape answering, and when they said that they did not know the answer, Jesus started to teach them with a parable.

First time

The priests and the elders were offered the chance to recover from their ignorance before the public. He told them a riddle parable, to which they were supposed to reply after a final question. The parable was that of the wicked tenants, (the Matthew variant), and the question was: ‘When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do with those tenants [who had killed his son]?’ That was easy and the priests and the elders answered: ‘He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their season.’ A few moments later they discovered that they had judged themselves and they became angry. They wanted to arrest Jesus instantly, but the multitude was too large and so they followed a different strategy. That day they would come back with a much stronger delegation.


Jesus had blamed them with a verse from scripture: ‘The very stone which the builders rejected, has become the head of the corner; …’ Jesus blamed them as bad builders, they who were lawfully chosen as defenders of the temple and the traditions of Israel. Wasn’t that blasphemy? And blasphemy meant the death penalty. They needed scribes to establish Jesus’ accusation in writing, then they had a case against him: to challenge the owners of the temple and to question their authority might be enough to arrest Jesus.


After the siesta, the chief priests and elders returned, but now prepared, as they were accompanied by a group of scribes, (Mark and Luke). Rabbinic discussions followed vast structures. Statements of a rabbi once made were binding, in contrast to the words of a disciple. A Rabbi could not allow himself to give answers which contradicted former ones. It was quite easy for the weighty delegation to repeat the discussion of that morning (living pattern: repetition in rabbinic teaching). They started immediately questioning Jesus’ authority. (Mark 11:28, Luke 20:2) From there they came to Jesus counter-question about John the Baptist and their reaction: ‘We don’t know.’ Would Jesus now come with the parable to question their authority? Yes he did, but in an unexpected way.

Second time

Jesus turned to the people and started to loudly tell them the parable, over the heads of the authorities, a short variation of the parable of the wicked tenants. (Luke) Arriving at the quote from scripture he finished with the harsh statement that this stone will ‘crush any one’ on whom it falls. This was a relentless warning that all authority is from God and therefore that nobody will automatically keep a once-received authority. With this absolute statement, Jesus imposed silence on the delegation of the priests and their scribes.

Third time

Because of their silence Jesus started to tell the parable in the variation of Mark, with a lot of additions: the hedge around the vineyard was of course the strong wall around Jerusalem; the wine press was certainly the central point in Jerusalem, the altar where the offerings were pledged; the tower to look over the vineyard was the white temple with golden roof on mount Zion and visible from every spot in town.

Not very happy

There is no question that the scribes of the chief priests had collected much information with which to prosecute Jesus. But it is highly questionable whether they were happy with it. And yes: It is very reasonable to maintain that Jesus told the parable of the wicked tenants three times to the Chief Priests in one day. Thanks to the stenographers of Jesus.


No Bible Contradiction