DO MATTHEW 9:18, MARK 5:23, AND LUKE 8:42 CONTRADICT?
by Shawn Brasseaux
Matthew 9:18: “While he spake these things unto them, behold, there came a certain ruler, and worshipped him, saying, My daughter is even now dead: but come and lay thy hand upon her, and she shall live.”
Mark 5:23: “And besought him greatly, saying, My little daughter lieth at the point of death: I pray thee, come and lay thy hands on her, that she may be healed; and she shall live.”
Luke 8:42: “For he had one only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she lay a dying. But as he went the people thronged him.”
Why did this “certain ruler” in Matthew 9:18 say his daughter “is even now dead?” (This is past tense, something that already happened.) After all, Mark 5:23 says she “lieth at the point of death,” and Luke 8:42 has her “a dying.” (These last two accounts say she is in the process of dying, but not actually dead yet.) Are these errors in the Bible? How do we reconcile these verses?
These subtle variations concerning the same narrative demonstrate the Bible’s reliability. The Four Gospel Records are not meant to mirror each other 100 percent, and this issue is just another case in point. Their writers did not “collaborate” and “fabricate;” otherwise, these interesting disparities would not exist for us to study here. The Four Gospel Records are the earthly life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ viewed from four different angles. Diversity in language and description is acceptable because God chose to give us more than one Gospel Record of Christ’s earthly ministry!
Remember, the easiest explanation is the most likely plausible one. Here is this author’s belief on the subject. The father (who is actually Jairus, a ruler of the local synagogue, according to Luke 8:41) would have said first to Jesus Christ, “My little daughter lieth at the point of death…” (Mark 5:23). After all, Luke 8:42 says she was “a [in the process of] dying.” That dear father, realizing the severity of his daughter’s illness, assumed that, by now, she had most likely died. Moreover, some time had passed since he saw her, left his house, and found Jesus. Such passage of time surely caused her to further weaken and possibly expire. So, Jairus spoke to Jesus once again, “My daughter is even now dead.”
The poor man was under great emotional distress, mind you. That little girl was his “one only daughter,” and she was just about 12 years old (Luke 8:42)—12 being the number of the nation Israel! Jairus was frantic, and could have blurted out many other words not recorded in Scripture. We should not get so bogged down in the conversation that we miss the miracle that took place. Jesus Christ raised that little girl back to life, just as He will raise national Israel from the dead one day! See Matthew 9:18-26, Mark 5:22-43, and Luke 8:49-56. It is apparent from Luke 8:55 that she had indeed died, and Jesus miraculously called her spirit back into her body.)