Problem: Jesus fed five thousand in Bethsaida or a desert
Verses: Mark 6:30-44, Luke 9:10-17; Status: Minor

A famous incident in the gospels is the feeding of the five thousand. Matthew and Mark both say this occurred in a "desolate place". On the other hand, Luke places it in the town of Bethsaida. This is Luke 9:10-12:

On their return the apostles told him all that they had done. And he took them and withdrew apart to a town called Bethsaida. When the crowds learned it, they followed him, and he welcomed them and spoke to them of the kingdom of God and cured those who had need of healing. Now the day began to wear away, and the twelve came and said to him, "Send the crowd away to go into the surrounding villages and countryside to find lodging and get provisions, for we are here in a desolate place." (ESV)

Luke does not describe any journey to a "desolate place". He does, however, have the apostles say that they are in such a place.

Luke is contradicting himself - are we in the town of Bethsaida or a desolate place? The reason for this is that Luke's account is based on Mark's. Mark's account occurs in the desert all along, and thus the apostles' comment makes sense.

An inerrantist will say that the journey to the desolate place is implicit in Luke, and so I file this as Minor, but it's obvious what has actually happened - Luke has altered the setting of the story, but also copied the line from Mark, not noticing that it contradicts the change he made earlier.

Updated: 2016-11-03

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