Do the Gospels according to Matthew, Mark and Luke contradict each other when describing Jesus healing the blind near Jericho?
In the gospel according to Saint Matthew there is the story of Jesus healing two blind men after he had departed from Jericho. "And as they departed from Jericho, a great multitude followed him. And, behold, two blind men sitting by the way side, ... So Jesus had compassion on them, and touched their eyes: and immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed him." Matthew chapter 20, King James
While in the gospel according to Saint Mark the story tells of Jesus healing one blind man after he departs from Jericho. "And they came to Jericho: and as he went out of Jericho with his disciples and a great number of people, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the highway side begging. ... And Jesus said unto him, Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole. And immediately he received his sight, and followed Jesus in the way." Mark chapter 10, King James
And yet in the gospel according to Saint Luke the story seems to be that Jesus healed one blind man as he approaches Jericho. "And it came to pass, that as he was come nigh unto Jericho, a certain blind man sat by the way side begging: ... And Jesus said unto him, Receive thy sight: thy faith hath saved thee. And immediately he received his sight, and followed him, glorifying God: and all the people, when they saw it, gave praise unto God." Luke chapter 18, King James
All three gospels seem to record the same event differently. Which gospel, if any, is providing the correct account? Did Jesus heal one blind man or did he heal two blind men? Was Jesus approaching Jericho when the healing took place or was he departing Jericho? Are the gospel writers contradicting each other?
Let us begin with whether Jesus was approaching Jericho are departing Jericho. Both Matthew and Mark clearly record that Jesus healed the blind as he was departing from Jericho. Luke, however, uses the phrase ‘come nigh unto Jericho' in his recording of the account. When Luke uses this phrase is he stating that Jesus was approaching Jericho?
This is not the only place where Luke's account of an event appears to be in direct conflict to how Matthew and Mark describe the same event. Another account that appears to contain a discrepancy is the timeline for the transfiguration.
Matthew's account is as follows: "Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom. ... And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, and was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light." Matthew chapter 16 &17, King James
Mark's timeline is in complete agreement with Matthew's account: "And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power. And after six days Jesus taketh with him Peter, and James and John, and leadeth them up into an high mountain apart by themselves: and he was transfigured before them. And his raiment became shining, exceeding white as snow; so as no fuller on earth can white them." Mark chapter 9, King James
Luke's timeline is described differently: "But I tell you of a truth, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God. And it came to pass about an eight days after these sayings, he took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray. And as he prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistering." Luke chapter 9, King James
Both Matthew and Mark are very precise. The transfiguration of Jesus occurred six days after Jesus taught that there would be some that would not taste death until they saw the kingdom of God. Matthew, having traveled with Jesus as a disciple, would be writing from personal experiences. Mark, as a companion of Peter, would have Peter's personal experiences to draw from. Luke would have no vantage point to base his writing from. Luke would have learned his information after the fact. Luke may have even talked to witnesses that gave slightly conflicting times as to when an event occurred. When recording the events, Luke may have used general terms for times or places so as to not take away from the accuracy of the event itself.
When Luke writes of the transfiguration he states it occurred about eight days after Jesus taught there would be some listening ‘which shall not taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God'. A term that would be more familiar for someone of our time would be ‘on or about'. ‘On or about eight days ...' places Luke's account of the transfiguration within the time frame as Matthew's and Mark' precise ‘six days'.
Luke could also be using a general term for time and place when writing of the event at Jericho. When Luke writes ‘that as he was come nigh unto Jericho', it could be interpreted near Jericho. A term that someone of our time would be more familiar with would be ‘in or around'. ‘In or around Jericho ..." places Luke's account of the healing of the blind within the same area as Matthew's and Mark's precise ‘departing' Jericho.
But what about the apparent discrepancy between the number of blind men that were healed? Matthew recounts the healing of two blind men as Jesus departs Jericho while Mark focuses on one blind man, Bartimaeus. Bartimaeus is the son of Timaeus. Timaeus is apparently a prominent person and the healing of his son would naturally draw more attention than the healing of someone who was not well known. It does not make the healing of someone from a lesser known family any less of a miracle, events that happen to the prominent will always receive more attention.
Identifying one of the blind men that was healed does not take away from the fact that there were two blind men that were healed. Matthew recounts the fact that there were two blind men while Mark focuses in on the identity of the son of the more prominent person. When Luke researches the events, the story of the son of someone prominent may be more prevalent while the healing of the other person may have faded.
All three gospels are in complete harmony with each other and the recording of the events are exactly as one would expect, someone writing as a disciple and eye witness would provide more detailed information than someone who conducted research after events had occurred. In looking at what may be an apparent discrepancy between the gospel accounts it may be easy to overlook a simple observation.
Mark's account of Jesus healing the blind as he departs Jericho not only reveals the name of one of the blind men, Bartimaeus, it also reveals that Bartimaeus cast his coat aside when Jesus called for him. The gospels tell us that there were many people that witnessed Jesus healing the blind on this occasion and if Bartimaeus did not believe in his heart that Jesus would heal him then how did he expect to go back and find his coat?
Blind Bartimaeus, tell me, what do you hear?
Is that the Saviour of the world that has come passing near?
It's been reported that the Lord is traveling with a crowd,
so if you want to get His attention you had better shout out loud.
The Lord has the power to cure diseases of every kind,
so if you do get His attention He can surely cure the blind.
Blind Bartimaeus, tell me, can this really be true?
The Saviour of the world has stopped and He's calling for you.
If you want to have sight then ask and you shall receive,
for the Lord is performing miracles on those who truly believe.
Bartimaeus had enough faith in Jesus that he left his coat behind
and from that day forward he would no longer be blind.