After Jesus prophesied during His earthly ministry that some would live to see the
establishment of Gods kingdom, the first two books of the New Testament indicate six days
expired before Peter, James, and John were led up on a high mountain to witness the
transfiguration of Jesus (Matthew 16:28-17:2; Mark 9:1-2). Lukes account, on the other hand,
says that Jesus transfiguration occurred about eight days after Jesus
prophesied of the approaching kingdoms establishment (9:27-29). Skeptics charge that this
difference in the time elapsed between the two events constitutes an obvious error. They profess
that such textual differences should lead the honest person to admit that the Bible contains
contradictions, and thus is not the inerrant Word of God.
Admittedly, at first glance it may seem to the casual reader that Lukes time line
contradicts Matthew and Marks account of the time that elapsed between Jesus prophecy
and His transfiguration. However, a closer examination reveals that Luke never intended for his
readers to understand that exactly 192 hours (i.e., eight 24-hour days) elapsed from the
moment Jesus finished His prophecy to the time He and the others began their ascent to the
mount of transfiguration. Luke recorded that it was about eight days, not
that it was eight days exactly. Although Luke was a physician (cf. Colossians 4:14), he did not
use scientific precision in this case. Rather, he merely approximated the time
separating the two events.
Furthermore, it seems clear that whereas Matthew and Mark excluded the days of the two
terminal events (the prophecy and the transfiguration), Luke included both days, as well as
the six intermediate days, and thus mentioned that the two events were eight days apart.
Even today when people rehearse something they witnessed a few days earlier, they may refer to the
events as happening on different days. For example, if a store was robbed on a Monday
afternoon, and the following Monday morning a witness told friends what he had seen, one could say
truthfully that he recalled the events six days or eight days after they occurred. If one
were counting only full days, then six would be correct (Tuesday through Sunday). But it also
would be correct to speak of the events as occurring eight days earlierif one were including
both full and partial days (Monday through Monday). Whether one uses six or
eight does not discredit the account of what actually happened. Likewise, the time
difference between Matthew, Mark, and Luke in no way represents a legitimate contradiction. Luke
simply used the inclusive method of reckoning time (counting the portion of a day at either end of
the period), whereas Matthew and Mark counted only complete days (Coffman, 1971, p. 261).
Coffman, James Burton (1971), Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew (Abilene, TX: ACU
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