Do the Accounts of the Healing of the Centurion’s Servant in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke Contradict?
by Peter Salemi
Mat 8:5And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him,
Mat 8:6And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented.
Mat 8:7And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him.
Mat 8:8The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed.
Mat 8:9For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.
Mat 8:10When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.
Mat 8:11And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.
Mat 8:12But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Mat 8:13And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour.
Luk 7:1Now when he had ended all his sayings in the audience of the people, he entered into Capernaum.
Luk 7:2And a certain centurion's servant, who was dear unto him, was sick, and ready to die.
Luk 7:3And when he heard of Jesus, he sent unto him the elders of the Jews, beseeching him that he would come and heal his servant.
Luk 7:4And when they came to Jesus, they besought him instantly, saying, That he was worthy for whom he should do this:
Luk 7:5For he loveth our nation, and he hath built us a synagogue.
Luk 7:6Then Jesus went with them. And when he was now not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to him, saying unto him, Lord, trouble not thyself: for I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof:
Luk 7:7Wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee: but say in a word, and my servant shall be healed.
Luk 7:8For I also am a man set under authority, having under me soldiers, and I say unto one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.
Luk 7:9When Jesus heard these things, he marvelled at him, and turned him about, and said unto the people that followed him, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.
Luk 7:10And they that were sent, returning to the house, found the servant whole that had been sick.
Many critics claim that this is an alleged contradiction. Matthew seems to suggest that it was the centurion himself who was seeking Jesus. While Luke claims that he sent “elders” and “friends” (Luke 7:3, 6) to talk to Jesus. Is this a contradiction?
What Matthew did
What we see in Matthew is a compacted version of the incident between Jesus and the centurion. “St. Matthew’s, which is not only compressed, but, if taken by itself, gives a wrong idea of what appears to have actually taken place.” (Pulpit Commentary, emphasis added). This is of course is what most people have done, and believe that these accounts contradict-they do not!
One must realize the purpose behind each Gospel and the message they are trying to convey. In summary the Gospel message in each one are:
· Gospel of Matthew-The Gospel of the King (Audience -The Jews)
· Gospel of Mark-The Gospel of the Servant (Audience-The Gentiles)
· Gospel of Luke-The Gospel of the Humanity of Christ (Audience-Greeks & Romans)
· Gospel of John-The Gospel of the Divinity of Christ (Audience- All People)
Why we see many times Matthew leaves out certain phrases, words events, etc… whereas Luke or Mark do not (or vice versa), is not because there is a contradiction in their stories; the Gospel writes are just sticking to their message and audience.
In Matthew’s Gospel the message is, “It teaches there the dispensational lesson, that the Gentiles would enter the kingdom and the children of the kingdom would be cast out into the outer darkness. As Luke writes for another purpose he omits Matthew 8: 11-12” (Gaebelein’s Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible p.819, emphasis added).
The “account given by Matthew is more fully explained by Luke.” The purpose of Luke’s Gospel is showing the humanity of Christ, “‘Speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed,’ is a marvelous utterance of faith. The centurion owned Him as Lord of all, with power over all. To him He is the Creator with omnipotent power. And the Lord marveled at him. It is an evidence of His true humanity.” (ibid, p.819, emphasis added).
One must understand context, purpose, custom, and the audience the Gospel writers are putting forth to the people. Matthew has a certain purpose for his Gospel, and Luke has another with totally different audiences.
But why the discrepancy when it comes to who Jesus spoke with? This source writes:
“Both Matthew and Luke are correct. In the 1st century, it was understood that when a representative was sent to speak for his master, it was as if the master was speaking himself. Even in our day this is still the case. When the Secretary of State meets individuals from other countries, he goes out in the name of the President of the United States. In other words, what he says, the president says. Therefore, Matthew states that a centurion came entreating Jesus about his sick slave, when in fact the centurion sent others on his behalf. So, when Matthew declares that the centurion was speaking, this was true, even though he was (as Luke indicated) speaking through his official representative.” (When Critics Ask, by Geisler & Howe, p.334, emphasis added).
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