How the Bible Interprets Itself
According to God's Word Series
Read Time: 10 Minutes
Another essential key in understanding the Word of God is scripture build-up or narrative development. All scripture regarding an identical incident or subject must augment each other. Through thorough examination we must determine if the incidents are identical or similar. Then, passages relating to the same identical incident must complement and agree with each other. Not every verse will give the same details but they will add to the understanding and will not contradict other verses on the same incident. Scripture Build-up is most noticeable in the four Gospels and in I & II Samuel, I & II Kings and I & II Chronicles.
We must study and be diligent to determine if passages are referring to identical or merely similar situations. For instance, in Matthew 14:14-21 Jesus, the disciples and a multitude were in a desert place and the disciples wanted Jesus to send the multitude away so that they may find food. However, Jesus commanded them to feed the 5,000 men plus women and children with five loaves and two fishes. They believed Jesus and distributed the food and when all did eat they took up 12 baskets full of leftovers. If you examine Mark 6:32-44 Jesus and the disciples depart to a desert place and a multitude follows. Jesus commands the disciples to feed the multitude with five loaves and two fishes and they take up 12 baskets of leftovers just like in Matthew. However, more detail is given in Mark and Mark leaves out a few details that Matthew covers. The same incident is covered in Luke 9:10-17 but we see that the desert place is by the city Bethsaida. When looking at time, location and key details we can see that Mark, Matthew and Luke are talking about the same incident and each one adds details without contradicting each other. John 6:1-13 adds three more bits of information that the other Gospels do not contain. Time and place agree with the other Gospels but Jesus also asks Philip how were they to feed this multitude in order to 'prove' him or to see if he would rely on God to feed these people. We also learn that Andrew knew of the lad that had the 5 barley loaves and two small fishes.
The feeding of the five thousand is fairly easy to compile. One that is more complicated is the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. I am not going to handle the entire event but there is matter of the number of criminals crucified with Jesus. Popular belief is that two were crucified with him but then events get out of order and the gospels don't agree with each other and we have apparent contradictions.
The four Gospels all give us information regarding the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Let us compile it.
:35 And they crucified him,
and parted his garments,
casting lots: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet,
They parted my garments among them,
and upon my vesture did they cast lots.
:36 And sitting down they watched him there;
:37 And set up over his head his accusation written,
THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS.
The order of events are :
- They crucified Jesus
- They parted his garments
- They sat down and watched
- They set up the accusation
This all takes time, THEN . . .
:38 Then were there two thieves crucified with him,
one on the right hand,
and another on the left.
This same sequence is reiterated in Mark. The words for two thieves in the Greek is duo lestes which is more accurately translated robbers. Robbers commit a more violent crime, and qualifies for the death penalty. A thief (kleptes in the Greek) merely steals without violence.
:39 And they that passed by reviled him,
wagging their heads,
:40 And saying,
Thou that destroyest the temple,
and buildest it in three days,
If thou be the Son of God,
come down from the cross.
:41 Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said,
:42 He saved others;
himself he cannot save.
If he be the King of Israel,
let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him.
:43 He trusted in God;
let him deliver him now,
if he will have him:
for he said,
I am the Son of God.
:44 The thieves [lestes, robbers] also,
which were crucified with him,
cast the same in his teeth.
Both robbers cast the same in his teeth.
The same record is seen in Mark 15:26-32. Mark reiterates what is recorded in Matthew so we will go to Luke 23 to continue.
:32 And there were also two other,
led with him to be put to death.
There were also two others led with him, malefactors. The Greek word here for malefactor is kakourgos which is an evil doer. This is not the same as a lestes, a thief. Also, Luke mentions that these malefactors were led with Jesus to be put to death, not after the accusation was posted like in Matthew. Let us read on.
:33 And when they were come to the place,
which is called Calvary,
there they crucified him,
and the malefactors,
one on the right hand,
and the other on the left.
:34 Then said Jesus,
Father, forgive them;
for they know not what they do.
And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.
:35 And the people stood beholding.
And the rulers also with them derided him, saying,
He saved others;
let him save himself,
if he be Christ, the chosen of God.
:36 And the soldiers also mocked him,
coming to him, and offering him vinegar,
:37 And saying,
If thou be the king of the Jews,
:38 And a superscription also was written over him in letters of Greek,
THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.
:39 And one of the malefactors
which were hanged
railed on him, saying,
If thou be Christ,
save thyself and us.
:40 But the other answering rebuked him, saying,
Dost not thou fear God,
seeing thou art in the same condemnation?
Here only one of the malefactors railed on him, the other reproved the first. In Matthew both robbers cast the same in his teeth. This is very clear. We now have two malefactors led with Jesus and crucified on each side of Jesus, they parted his garments, set up an accusation, then they crucified two robbers with him, one each side, they all mocked him except one of the malefactors reproved the other malefactor. We have four men crucified with Jesus. When we go to God's Word seeking the truth we should not be swayed by traditions and pictures that have proliferated. People think only two criminals were crucified with Jesus Christ but the Word of God tells us there were four. For the student of the Word, as we study to show ourselves approved of God, we will see the truth.
John is the final gospel record to examine. John's focus us on place.
:19 Where they crucified him,
and two other with him, on either side one,
and Jesus in the midst.
God's Word is precise and says what it means and means what it says. God says that Jesus was crucified in the "midst" not in between. There is a difference. In the midst indicates more than two. When we look at an interlinear we also find that there is no word "one" used. An interlinear translation of the Stephens Text, from which the King James was translated, reads in John 19:18, "and with him, others two on this side and on that side." The word "one" that is in the KJV has no corresponding Greek word above it, it is in brackets which indicates that it was added. Those who translated this portion of the Word of God had been indoctrinated by the pictures they had seen and the erroneous teachings they have heard and included their private interpretation in the text. There were two crucified on each side. Now the Word of God fits.
The phrase in John 18:19 "on either side" (enteuthen kai enteuthen) is also used in Revelation 22:2 and is translated "on either side" but here is John the Greek word duo (two) is added. So, we have "two on either side."
Continuing on in John:
:32 Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first,
and of the other
which was crucified with him.
:33 But when they came to Jesus,
and saw that he was dead already,
they brake not his legs:
The soldiers started at one end of the row and brake the legs of the first man, a robber who was led after the malefactors and the after accusation was put up, and then of the other, a malefactor who was led with Jesus and then they came to Jesus. Now, they didn't break the legs of one guy and pass up Jesus and break the legs of the other guy, they walked down the row. Furthermore the word "other" is the Greek word "allos" which is used when there is more than two involved. There is another Greek word "heteros" used for "other" when only two are involved. Heteros is used when the malefactors were brought in with Jesus because there was only two of them (Luke 23:32). We will see these words used again in I Corinthians 12 in regards to the manifestations of holy spirit. Another is translated "allos" with regard to all but two of the manifestations. For the two "heteros" is used because they are the two manifestations that benefit the Believer individually, the others benefit the Believer and the body of Christ.
Isn't the accuracy of the Word of God wonderful? Now we have the truth.
- When Jesus was crucified two malefactors were led with him
- The soldiers parted Jesus' garments
- An accusation was put up over Jesus
- Two robbers were brought in to be crucified
- All reviled him except one malefactor
- The soldiers broke the legs of one robber and one malefactor and then came to Jesus
There were four crucified with Jesus.
E. W. Bullinger has studied this scripture build up as well and it is published in the Companion Bible in Appendix 164. He includes a photo of five crosses at Ploubezere, near Lannion, Cotes-du-Nord, Brittany.
We must study and be diligent so that we may know the accuracy of God's Word.