Q&A: Contradictions in Jesus' Early Ministry?

Contradictions in Jesus' Early Ministry?

Question

In John 1, Jesus begins his ministry immediately after his baptism, but in the other accounts he begins his ministry after a period of forty days in the wilderness immediately following his baptism. Is there a way to reconcile these texts? Another apparent contradiction is the manner in which Andrew and Peter were called.

Answer

Actually, John the Evangelist doesn't record Jesus' baptism. He does record, however, that John the Baptist spoke of Jesus' baptism as a past event at the time of the interaction regarding John the Baptist and Jesus recorded in John 1. Thus, while the other gospels record Jesus' baptism and subsequent temptation, John picks up the story some time after that period. In other words, John the Evangelist does not claim that the first things he records regarding Jesus' public ministry were actually the first things Jesus did in his public ministry (though clearly they were early).

Matthew 4:12-18 and Mark 1:14-16 indicate that this particular call of Andrew and Peter took place after Jesus had begun his public ministry, after he had returned to Galilee, and after John the Baptist had been taken into custody. The events in John 1:40ff. took place while Jesus was still in Judea (i.e. before he returned to Galilee) and before John the Baptist had been taken into custody. John 3:22ff. confirms John 1:40ff. by telling us that Jesus already had some disciples (including presumably Andrew and Peter) before John the Baptist was arrested. The best explanation seems to be that prior to the call in Matthew 4 // Mark 1, Jesus' disciples were not dedicated full-time to the task of studying under Jesus. After their time with Jesus in Judea, they returned to their fishing careers. Then sometime after John's arrest, Jesus called them to full-time discipleship, which is the account we read in Matthew 4 // Mark 1 (which also explains why they apparently followed him immediately and without question).

Answer by Ra McLaughlin

Ra McLaughlin is Vice President of Finance and Administration at Third Millennium Ministries.