Problem: Jesus healed the blind before entering or after leaving Jericho
Verses: Mark 10:46, Luke 18:35-19:1; Status: Serious

The three synoptics (that is: Matthew, Mark, and Luke) all tell us that, during his final journey to Jerusalem, Jesus healed a blind man (or two) near Jericho. Matthew and Mark both tell us that this occurred after he left Jericho. This is Mark 10:46:

And they came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. (ESV)

Matthew 20:29-30 is similar. On the other hand, this is Luke 18:35:

As he drew near to Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. (ESV)

For the avoidance of doubt, Luke is clearly talking about the same incident as Mark, because in both cases, the man shouts out "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" and in both cases, the crowd was irritated. (Compare Mark and Luke.) Matthew's account also contains these details, though with two blind men rather than one. So, did this happen as Jesus left Jericho, or as he approached it?

A reply that doesn't work...

Looking Unto Jesus argues that our English translations are wrong, and that the verse in Luke is only saying that Jesus was near Jericho, which could mean he had just left it. However, this response ignores what Jesus does immediately after healing the blind man. This is Luke 19:1:

He entered Jericho and was passing through. (ESV)

So Luke's account puts the healing of the blind man before, not after Jesus "entered Jericho".

The strongest reply

The NIV Study Bible states that there were two different cities called "Jericho", Old Jericho (largely abandoned) and New Jericho, and suggests that Luke was thus talking about a different "Jericho" from Mark and Matthew. I don't find this very convincing. None of these writers makes any effort to distinguish between two different cities; they all seem to assume that there's one place that is unambiguously referred to as "Jericho".

But this is probably the strongest reply open to an inerrantist.

Why the error?

Luke used Mark's gospel as a source, so why does his order not agree? I'm guessing it's just a simple mistake.

Updated: 2009-12-24

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