Problem: One or both of the crucified bandits taunted Jesus
Verses: Matthew 27:44, Mark 15:32, Luke 23:39-43; Status: Minor

The synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) agree that Jesus was crucified alongside two other criminals (see e.g. Mark 15:27). They disagree, however, on whether they both taunted Jesus. Here is Mark 15:31-32:

So also the chief priests with the scribes mocked him to one another, saying, "He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe." Those who were crucified with him also reviled him. (ESV)

Matthew 27:44 agrees with Mark. By contrast, this is Luke 23:39-43:

One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, "Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!" But the other rebuked him, saying, "Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong." And he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." And he said to him, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise." (ESV)

It certainly seems that Luke has altered the story which he found in Mark. The depiction of the repentant thief in Luke comes at exactly the same point as the depiction of the unrepentant thieves in Mark and Matthew. In all three synoptic gospels, we have just been told that the priests mocked Jesus, saying "why can the King of the Jews not save himself?" or words to that effect. In all three synoptic gospels, the next sentence (after the thieves) tells us that darkness came over the land, from noon till three.

This is hardly conclusive though - it's not impossible that Luke was aware of a different aspect of the story and chose to go against Mark for that reason. Such alterations do not have to be seen as "making things up". The Apologetics Press suggests that the man at first reviled Jesus, but later repented. If Luke was aware of this, it would explain the discrepancy and there would be no errors here.

Updated: Summer 2008

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