Intelligent Design1 of the Gospels

Harold Booher


So far as can be determined, no one has ever proposed scientific evidence of intelligent design (either causal or accompanying human design) of Biblical material. This article reports on a study conducted on the gospels to demonstrate scientific evidence of “inspiration” in the Bible.  As an example from the Gospels the story of Palm Sunday, where Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey and cleansed the temple of merchants, was selected as a representative test bed.  The study determined that the four gospels depicting this event allowed two significantly different portrayals. These two different portrayals of Jesus coming into Jerusalem were compared using the scientific method of “best alternative” to determine which most likely represented the history of “Palm Sunday.” The author provides a complex analysis of the four gospels contribution to the historical event concluding the material of all four gospels is necessary to the full story. Furthermore the specific way the four gospels are integrated to tell the story would have been impossible without the help of an overseeing coordinator i.e., an intelligent designer.  


I. Comparison of Alternatives


The story of Jesus entering Jerusalem on a donkey with the people spreading palm leaves in his path and shouting “Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel who comes in the name of the Lord” is recalled every year on “Palm Sunday” a week before Easter in most Christian churches. Christ casting out all who sold and bought in the temple; overthrowing the tables of moneychangers, and the seats of those who sold doves immediately after the triumphal entry is usually not mentioned on Palm Sunday, but if either of the gospels of Matthew, Mark, or Luke are read a few verses beyond the triumphal entry, one will also hear the story of Jesus cleansing the temple of merchants.  However by comparing the events recorded by each gospel writer, we see some fairly major inconsistencies among the gospel writers in what actually happened the week before Easter. 

Although the story is recorded in all four gospels usually only one gospel version is read at any time. Whenever gospels are presented in a digest of the New Testament typically only one version is selected, most likely from Mark.1 When commentaries are made of individual gospels, the version of that gospel is discussed with no cross references to other gospels.2

I contend there are two very different ways to interpret and understand the gospels stories of Jesus’ Jerusalem entry(s) and temple cleansing(s). These amount to two portrayals of the same events.3

Both portrayals agree in the overall happenings: Jesus came riding into Jerusalem from Mount Olive riding on a donkey (to show his humility). People laid down clothes and tree branches (including palms) in his path while shouting praises to the King, the son of God, the son of David quoting from Old Testament praises to the “daughter of Zion.”4 Sometime later, that day or sometime shortly after, Jesus cleansed the temple ridding it of merchants and saying “My house shall be called the house of prayer but you have made it a den of thieves.”

The first portrayal, which seems to be the preferred one of most Bible scholars, is that each of the four writers wrote their own version, which, depending on their sources and point of view, would have some similarities and some differences. When Gospels share the same incident, event, or story, those parts that are shared are known as “pericopes.”5 In this particular set of two events, the four versions collapse to two versions. One is told by Matthew who indicates Jesus riding on both a female donkey and her foul.6 The other told by Mark, Luke and John as pericopes indicate Jesus riding on a colt.

The second portrayal, one that I propose, has two Jerusalem entries (one on a donkey and a colt, and one on a colt) from Mount Olive.  Each entry has similar response from the people with laying down clothes and branches in the path, while shouting praises to the King, the son of God.  The first triumphal entry recorded by Matthew was on the 6th day before Passover7 and the second entry reported by Mark was two days later with a Sabbath in between.  This portrayal also has two major temple cleansings, Matthew’s on the same day as the first entry and Mark’s the day after the second entry.

These are then two very different historical portrayals given by the gospel writers. In this study I compare the two portrayals concluding that two rather than one Jerusalem entry was the most likely historically. More importantly the study presents a strong scientific argument that the second portrayal could not have been accomplished without the assistance of an intelligent designer.

This study is unique therefore in showing scientific evidence of “inspiration” in the Bible.  The study method cannot be applied to the Bible outside the gospels. This is because only the gospels have multiple authors describing the same or similar events.  The multiplicity of records on the same historical events allows a comparative analysis not possible with one or even two reports on the same events.


The study followed the following steps.

1. Select an event depicted in the gospels which has significant differences in the gospels account.

2. Select an event described (in part or all) by all four gospel writers. This allows the maximum deviation and maximum agreement among the authors.

3. Identify and define all the reasonable portrayals of the event(s) suggested by the four gospels.

4. Compare portrayals through “Evaluation Criteria” to determine the best of the historical alternatives.8

4.1 Portrayal I. Tell stories of all 4 versions

4.2. Portrayal I. Two different accounts required (Matthew vs. Mark)

4.3 Portrayal I. Contradictions among Gospels

4.4 Portrayal II. Information Components of Story

4.5 Portrayal II. No Contradictions among Gospels

5. Select “Best Historical Alternative”

1.&2. Select an event using all four gospels.

The event selected for study is the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. There are many events that have significant differences in gospel writers’ accounts. But relatively few of these are covered by all four accounts. The event of Jesus making an entry on a donkey(s) and cleansing the temple afterwards is covered in at least some aspects in all four gospels.  The event is important, covers a significant portion of the Bible with a wide variety of subevents, and has a large number of discrepancies among the gospel writers. The triumphal entry event is a fair representation of the complexity of stories in the gospels, with a large number of opportunities to show whether the story differences are accidental, dependent on different source material, different memories of the events, or intelligently planned.

3. Identify and define portrayals.

The first portrayal assumes each of the writers wrote independently. It is believed that Mark wrote his gospel first, so it was possible for the other writers to have access to his gospel during their later writings. It is also speculated that another source (Q) was available to Matthew and Luke. Geographically and historically there could have been no collusion between the writers. Each writer author writes from the sources available to him. In the case of Mark his sources are presumed most likely coming from the disciples themselves, especially Peter. For Matthew and Luke, their primary sources are assumed to be Mark and “Q”.9 John supposedly would have all three synoptic gospels, “Q,” and a variety of other sources.

The second portrayal assumes the best historical account would use all four gospels together to determine the sequence and details of each event.  In defending this portrayal of history for the triumphal entries and temple cleansings I have identified “information components”10 which are used by the four writers to tell the full story without contradiction.  For this particular example we find some components have three gospel writers, others two gospel writers, but most (more than half) have only one gospel writer.


4. Compare portrayals

Portrayals I and II are compared on presentation of distinct events.

4.1 Portrayal One: Four independent writers

1. Matthew

a. Jesus leaves Jericho, heading for Jerusalem (Matthew 20:29-34; 21:1)
b. Passes through Bethphage near Mount of Olives, gets a donkey and colt to ride upon (Matthew 21:2-7)
c. Triumphal march through Jerusalem (Matthew 21:8-11)
d. Cleanses the Temple (Matthew 21:12-16)
e. Returns to Bethany (Matthew 21:17)
f. Comes to Jerusalem [on foot] one morning (Matthew 21:18)
g. Curses a fig tree (Matthew 21:19-20)

2. Mark

a. Jesus visits Jericho [heads toward Jerusalem] (Mark 10:32, 46]
b. On way to Jerusalem, passes through Bethphage and Bethany near Mount of Olives; gets a colt to ride upon (Mark 11:1-7)
c. Triumphal march through Jerusalem (Mark 11:8-10)
d. Jesus enters the temple, looks around and returns to Bethany (Mark 11: 11)
e. Comes back to Jerusalem [on foot] the next day (Mark 11:12)
f. Curses a fig tree (Mark 11:13-14)
g. Cleanses the Temple (Mark 11:15-17)
h. Returns to Bethany (Mark 11:19)

3. Luke

a. Jesus visits Jericho [heads toward Jerusalem] (Luke 18:35)
b. Passes through Bethphage and Bethany near Mount of Olives; gets a colt to ride upon (Luke 19:29-35)
c. Triumphal march through Jerusalem (Luke 19:36-38)
d. Cleanses Temple (Luke 19: 45-47)

4. John

a. Jesus comes to Bethany six days before the Passover (John 12:1)
b. Jesus stays with Mary, Martha and Lazarus for a day (John 12:2-11)
c. On the next day [after Sabbath] Jesus came to Jerusalem (John 12:12)
d. Triumphal march through Jerusalem on a colt (John 12:13-15)


The four versions of Jesus’ entry and temple cleansing vary considerably on distinct events. Mark lists the most distinct events with Matthew a close second.  Luke mentions some of the same events, but leaves out several listed by Mark. John seems to follow Mark’s version in much shortened form but interestingly adds some new information of his own. Unique to John is his discussion of what Jesus was doing the day before the Jerusalem entry.

The first portrayal cannot be captured by just one view of the events. Two different versions are needed: the one presented by Mark and the one presented by Matthew (as illustrated in Table 1). Mark has the support of Luke and John for a one colt entry. Mark also has the support of Luke for the temple cleansing the day after the entry. Matthew’s version is considerably different from Mark’s. John’s unique information showing Jesus was in Bethany the day before the entry gives credence to Matthew’s version.


4.2 Portrayal I: Two Versions

4.3 Contradictions Between Versions

Two glaring differences appear in the two versions.  Matthew has Jesus riding a donkey and a colt whereas Mark has only a donkey.  Matthew shows Jesus going into the temple the same day as entry, but Mark reports cleansing the temple the day after the entry.

Modern scholarly tradition assures us that a major source for Matthew is Mark.  Matthew tends to get information from Mark, just as Luke does.

So why would Matthew insist on such glaring differences as Jesus riding a donkey and a colt into Jerusalem, when he must know that Mark reports riding only a colt?  The same question applies with the cleansing of the Temple. Matthew must have known Mark rid the temple of merchants one day after the entry, yet he insists the cleansing was the same day of the entry.


4.4 Portrayal II: Full Version Triumphal Entries and Temple Cleansing. Appendix A presents the New Full Version of Jesus’ Jerusalem entries and Temple cleansings.  It integrates all the individual gospel verses and places them in chronological order. Where more than one gospel presents the same event one is selected and the other is referenced.


4.5 Information Components Portrayal II required a special analysis to present all the information on the two major events (Jesus’s Jerusalem Entries and Temple Cleansings) from the four gospels (NT Sources) into two matrices: Matrix A for the Triumphal Entries and Matrix B for the Temple Cleansings. First the Chronology of the New Testament Gospels11 was consulted to acquire the relevant verses of the story comprising the two major events. Then all the significant “Information Components” were identified from each of the four gospels and from the Old Testament Prophecies, identified as Sources. Table 2 and Table 3 present Matrix A and Matrix B respectively.


A. Triumphal Entries12  

Table 2 shows the information components and narrative contributions of each gospel writer that makes up the portion of the story related to the two Jerusalem entries.


1. Sixteen unique information components make up the portion of the story related to the Jerusalem entries.


2. The writers have 23 narrative pieces to fit the 16 components. Matthew has 5 of the pieces that fit 5 of the components.  Mark has four narrative pieces; two he shares with Luke and two he shares with Luke and John. Luke has 5 narrative pieces, 2 of which he shares with Luke, 2 with Luke and John, and one with John alone.  John has the most narrative pieces (9); 6 are his alone, one he shares with Luke and two he shares with Mark and Luke.


3. Matthew’s five pieces all relate to the first Jerusalem entry. He does not contribute to the second entry and neither Mark nor Luke contribute to the first entry. John provides some connecting information between the first and second entries but the first Jerusalem entry would be missed altogether without the Matthew narratives.


4. Mark and Luke provide four critical components information and report them in the same way for the second entry. It is interesting that if Mark were actually the first gospel writer (as Portrayal I assumes) and Luke copied from him we would only have a piece of a story hanging without context. We would know nothing of the first entry; we would have no idea when this celebrated Christian event happened; we would not know what Jesus was doing leading up to the Jerusalem entry. Mark and Luke even overlook the importance of this event fulfilling Old Testament prophecy. They do however provide a most colorful story of how the colt was acquired for the second entry.13

5. John has the shortest description of the 2nd Jerusalem entry, yet he provides more unique information components than any of the other writers.  Not only does he provide the only narratives for six of the information components, but four of them are critical to the full story. With John’s contribution, we know the colt entry was fulfilling prophecy; we know the dates of both entries and we know where Jesus was and what he was doing the day between entries.

6. From a top level view, Matthew focuses on the first entry; Mark and Luke focus on the second entry; and John provides the connecting narrative between the two entries.


B. Temple Cleansings

A second matrix was developed for the temple cleansing events. These are listed in Table 3.

Table 3 shows the information components and narrative contributions of each gospel writer that makes up the portion of the story related to the two temple cleansings.


1. Nine unique information components make up the portion of the story related to the Temple cleansings.


2. The writers have 11 narrative pieces to fit the 9 components. There is very little redundancy between gospels.  Matthew has 3 of the pieces, 2 of which provide the only information on the first temple cleansing.  His other piece is an extremely critical piece which he shares with Mark related to the second temple cleansing. This piece (fig tree cursing) is the crucial link between Matthew and Mark to the second temple cleansing.


3. Mark has five narrative pieces; three are his alone, two of which are critical to showing the dates for more than one cleansing. The first one shows Jesus on the day between the two cleansings just “entering and looking around, and then returning to Bethany.” In another one Mark indicates Jesus returning again to Bethany the day of the 2nd cleansing. In the two he shares, one is with Matthew (the fig tree episode) and the other is with Luke describing the 2nd temple cleansing.


4. Luke has three narrative pieces. One is the one he shares with Mark on the second cleansing, but two are his alone.  The first is the only place where a narrative is provided about Jesus “weeping over Jerusalem.” The second is the last event of the full story stating “Jesus taught daily in the temple” during Passover week. 


5. John does not contribute to the temple cleansings during Passover week.


4.6 Portrayal II No Contradictions.

Portrayal II has no contradictions as shown in presenting the sequence of events, in using the information of all the gospels and conducting an analysis of what contribution is made by each gospel writer and in reconciling small differences.


A. Sequence of Events.  (See Appendix B)

1. The story works completely if every verse of all four gospels is used. The story flows with no contradictions.

2. Dating of all events is relative to “days before Passover” which are provided in the gospels.

3. Matthew tells of the first entry with a donkey and a colt and first temple cleansing (Mat 21:1-17) on the 6th day before Passover (John 12:1).

4. Jesus spent the Sabbath with his friends, Mary, Martha and Lazarus in Bethany (John 12:2-11).

5. On the 4th day before the Passover, the day after the Sabbath (John 12:12), Jesus makes the 2nd entry into Jerusalem on a colt only (Mark 1-10; Luke 19:29-44); weeps over Jerusalem, enters the temple but just looks around before returning to Bethany (Mark 1:11).

6. The following day (the 3rd day before Passover) Jesus first curses a fig tree as he enters the temple and chases away the merchants a 2nd time, much the same as after the first triumphal entry, but there is no mention of healing this time or children crying “Hosanna.” On this second cleansing He adds a rule that no one is to carry any vessel through the temple. (Mark 15-17)  Jesus then returns to Bethany. (Mark 11:19)

7. The next day (the 2nd day before Passover) Jesus teaches most of the day in the temple, but by eventide he was back in Bethany, this time in the house of Simon the leper (Matthew 26:6).

Jesus enters the temple four times the week before Passover. Twice he rids the temple of merchants and once he just enters the temple. The fourth and final time he proclaims many great sayings all reported in the synoptic gospels. The two temple cleansings are separated by two days and the events leading up to each are significantly different. In the first, Jesus has just completed his first triumphal entry on a donkey and a colt. After this entry he also does healing and speaks of children crying “Hosanna” in the temple. The second cleansing comes after the fig tree cursing but this time there is no mention of healing or children, but he adds a new rule about not carrying vessels.

When the various critical information components are assigned to the four gospels, we see a full, accurate, and colorful story of two triumphal entries into Jerusalem (6th and 4th days before Passover) and four temple entries all spread over five days with his returning to Bethany on the late afternoon of each day. On the 6th and 3rd days before Passover Jesus thoroughly cleanses the temple of merchants.


B. Information Components Analysis

When we combine the triumphal entries and temple cleansing information components illustrated in Tables 2 and 3 we see the four gospels narrative can be told with 25 discrete information components; events like “one colt entered,” or “Jesus cursed the fig tree.” The actual narrative pieces come from a total of 34 pieces distributed among the four writers.

Combining the information of both tables reveals that each writer had nearly the same number of narrative pieces (Matthew 8; Mark 9; Luke 8; and John 9), but used his pieces primarily to tell a specific portion of the full story.

Matthew exclusively tells the portion that contains the first entry and first temple cleansing on the 6th day before Passover. His only other contribution is to bridge the first to second entry with the “cursing of the fig tree” told only by him and Mark. The cursing of the fig tree is part of Mark’s portion covering the second temple cleansing on the 4th day before Passover.

Mark takes the lead in reporting the 2nd entry on the 4th day before Passover and is joined by Luke and John for the “colt only” entry. Mark also is the one who tells us that Jesus only entered the temple and looked around on that day. Mark and Luke then describe the 2nd temple cleansing on the following day, the 3rd day before Passover.

Although similar to Mark on the major events and the colorful event of acquiring the donkey and the colt, Luke’s portion adds a couple of Jesus’ events that would otherwise not be known. The first was Jesus weeping over Jerusalem before he entered the temple quietly on the day of the 2nd entry. The other is the fact that Jesus taught in the temple every day that Passover week. He did much more than overturn merchants’ tables in the temple. Luke also adds most of the special color of the 2nd entry showing the people’s (Jesus, disciples, crowd, Pharisees) attitude concerning Jesus triumphal entry. 

Surprisingly it is John (supposedly the last writer) who adds the essential information needed to determine the daily sequence of events before Passover and also to indicate Jesus’ stay in Bethany over the Sabbath with Lazarus and his sisters.

The full story can be told without any contradictions using the four gospels narratives as provided in the order shown in the information components tables.

When this is done we find that all four gospels are needed to present the story. It has been calculated only about 28% of the story would be known from reading one gospel. As the number of gospels read increase, the amount of the full story unveils another portion until with the fourth gospel the story is complete.


C. Reconciling small differences

The entries introduce small differences in the gospels that are easily missed. Figure 1 illustrates examples with “towns” and “prophecies.”


Figure 1. Special Issues:  Towns and Prophecies

Towns: It is easy to miss certain special features contained in some of the information components which allow the reader to assume only one entry.  Two of these in particular are the towns that Jesus leaves from before making triumphal entries and the prophetic quotes from Zechariah. The town Bethphage is mentioned in Matthew, Mark and Luke.  Bethphage and Bethany are mentioned together in Mark and Luke.14 To the casual reader the only significant information is the two entries are starting from Mount Olive. The two entries do start from Mount Olive but the towns mentioned are significant. The first entry is directly from Bethphage without any mention of Bethany. The second entry mentions Bethany, Jesus having been there the night before.

Prophecies: The process for prophecy and its fulfillment is as follows: A prophecy is first recorded in the Old Testament (the prophets and psalms are noted most frequently).  The event prophesied is then recorded in the New Testament as a “formula-quotation.”15 In the full story being examined here quotes from Zechariah 9:9 are noted by both Matthew and John. The subtle difference is Matthew quotes stanzas 5 and 6 from Zechariah, which mentions both a donkey and a colt, whereas John quotes only stanza 6 that mentions only a colt.16,17



5.  “Best Historical Alternative”

The Criteria for selecting best of the alternatives are:

1. Fewest contradictions among the four gospels

Š      Portrayal I has a number of contradictions, but the two major ones are different number of entry animals and inconsistent dates for temple cleansing.

Š      Portrayal II has no identifiable inconsistencies. The two major contradictions of Portrayal are resolved.

Š      Portrayal II even finds small apparent inconsistencies to be accurate and resolvable without contradiction.

2. Best fit for validating dates of events historically

Š      Portrayal I seems to ignore any information that lays out the sequence of events

Š      Portrayal II provides specific day by day references for the sequence of events

3. Most logical; events are consistent and make sense one to the other.

Š      Portrayal I has logical events within each gospel, but the four gospels are not consistent with one another so much of the story is confusing and somewhat unreliable because of contradictions.

Š      Portray II has all events from all four gospels presented logically and consistent. With no contradictions the full story and each portion make sense.

4. Occam’s razor. Occam’s razor states the simplest explanation that explains all the facts is the preferred one.

Š      Portrayal I explains only a broad overview of the events and has a large number of contradictions because it is not able to reconcile its two different versions.

Š      Portrayal II on the other hand explains all the information presented in all four gospels.  Portrayal II is the simplest explanation of all the facts.

5. Portray Jesus in way consistent with rest of Gospel message and Jesus character.

Š     Portrayal I presents Jesus in way consistent with rest of Gospel message and his character.  Reading any gospel will be seen consistent with the rest of the Gospel message. However if reading only one or two gospels, some of his character and color of the full story will be missed.

Š     Portrayal II presents Jesus in way consistent with rest of Gospel message and his character.  Since all gospels must be read together none of the Jesus’ character and the color of the full story will be missed. We conclude that Portrayal II is a better explanation of the events than Portrayal I. The following outlines the reasons.

With the possible exception of criteria 5, all criteria support Portrayal II as superior. Portrayal II is the Best of the Historical Alternatives that can be envisioned to explain the events of Jesus triumphal entry(s) and temple cleansing(s). 

II. Alternatives to Explain Portrayal II

Portrayal II is “picture perfect.”  There are no discrepancies down to the word level; there are no inconsistencies.  Every verse from all four gospels is utilized to make up the full story.  No verses need to be eliminated to make the story flow consistency.  Clearly it appears that each author understood what portion of the picture he was to present, what portions he was to omit, and what portions he might support one or two of the other writers.  Additionally, each gospel writer presented a complete true short story which fits within his unique gospel.  Matthew for example presents a short story of Jesus coming into Jerusalem on a donkey and a colt, having tree limbs spread on the ground, and people shouting Hosanna.  Jesus then proceeds to cleanse the temple of merchants and goes back to Bethany.

Four alternatives were examined for feasibility to explain this perfect picture.

a. Of all the possibilities for the creation of such a full error free story told here in the gospels the following are possibilities. 1. The writings of the four writers accidentally wrote portions that fit a bigger story. 2. The later writers added their unique pieces and copied the earlier. 3. The writers colluded. 4. The writers were assisted by a higher intelligence.

b. Accident is beyond anything imaginable. The odds of the 77 verses from the 4 gospels coming together in perfect order without discrepancy accidentally is astronomical. Besides the writers weren’t just grabbing verses out of a bag and putting them down randomly. They were written with purpose.  Anything left in or out was not an accident.

c. Any copying was insignificant. 63% of all material for the full story was provided by only one writer. Only about 37% of material had support (with some minor copying possible) from more than one writer. If a first writer writes a portion, than a second writes a second portion and so on, how would this work to give a comprehensive story with each author knowing what or what not to add or leave out?

d. Collusion of writers.  Most critical Bible scholars would not consider such a possibility.  They have Mark first and unknown source Q.  Matthew and Luke would have written their gospels with only those materials outside their own memories and stories of other eyewitnesses. John was someone else altogether and wrote a on a completely different idea than the other three.

Now if the writers were the ones traditionally attributed to the respective Gospels:  Matthew (disciple), Mark (follower of Peter), Luke (physician & historian friend of Paul) and John (disciple) then collusion might have been possible (but only with Matthew, Mark and John). Luke is not a contemporary.   But why would they write in such a way? What possible reason would they have to collude in such a strange way?  And even if they did have a reason, how would they dream up what to write and what not to write from their own pen?  Surely they were not so brilliant on their own to get every fact straight, even into the Old Testament. Finally, If asked why they wrote as they did, they would most certainly say they were “inspired” since that is the claim of the Bible.

e. The only possibility remaining is that the four writers were inspired to write as they did.  “The truth and nothing but the truth as they were led and recalled.  But none of them wrote the “whole truth” It seems this technique of rearranging the gospels is on the one hand “right before our eyes” but yet not recognized as a possible arrangement for presenting the full story.  Although obvious it is “hidden.” Once recognized it seems the purpose of this hidden textural arrangement is for two reasons.  First for people to be able to trace the complete chronological history of Christ in the smallest space across the gospels.  It would become suspicious if all four gospels simply said essentially the same thing.  Second and most importantly is for people when using their strongest secular method to obtain great confidence for acquiring knowledge eventually find can provides overwhelming evidence for the existence of God.

III. Intelligently Designed

The story beginning with Jesus making two triumphal entries into Jerusalem and cleansing the temple of merchants twice the week before Passover is intelligently designed.  This story as told using all the information components of the four gospels is the most historically accurate, complete and colorful of any that can be conceived. Our argument is this story could not have been told by four individual writers without the inspiration of an intelligent designer.

A. All the material from all four gospels fits together like a complex puzzle. No pieces are missing; all pieces are used.

The 4 gospels narrative can be broken into 25 discrete information components. A component might be “one colt entered” or “Jesus cursed the fig tree” (See Tables 2 and 3). When the actual verse for the component is applied it tells a special part (1/26) of the story.

The complete story is told with a total of 34 pieces of narrative information distributed among the 4 writers. Each writer has an assigned number of narrative pieces which he uses to fill in the 26 information components. In composing the story he places his narrative pieces on the information component that fits his piece.

Fitting the pieces

Matthew had 8 narrative pieces, 7 of which his alone fit 7 of the 26 available information components. 1 piece (“fig tree cursed”) was the same as one of Mark’s pieces.

Mark had 9 narrative pieces, 3 of which his alone fit 3 of the 26 information components. The other 6 had the same narrative as 6 from the other authors. As it turns out 3 were with Luke; 2 were with Luke and John; 1 (fig tree cursed) was with Matthew

Luke had 8 narrative pieces, with 3 his alone. The other 5 he shared the same narrative as

            Mark for 3; 2 with Mark and John

John had 9 narrative pieces, 6 his alone. The other 3 he shared 1 with Luke and 2 with Luke and Mark.

B. No one gospel tells more than about a quarter of the story.  Each additional gospel provide another significant portion.  Only by reading all four gospels can the full story be read.

Equal portions

Each author has about the same portion of the narrative (either 8 or 9 pieces)

63% of the story is made up by individuals provided their unique pieces, while only 37% of story comes from multiple authors. 19 of the 26 pieces were from individuals alone.  It has been calculated only about 28% of the story would be known from reading one gospel. (Appendix C)

C. The Narrative of the Overall Story is Planned in such a way that all the information from all writers can be integrated in only one way.

1. Significant differences in details between two entries. Matthew’s entry report shows both a donkey and a colt, whereas Mark’s (with Luke and John) have only a colt. This difference is so precise that Mark and Luke note that the colt for the 2nd entry had not been ridden before. It was therefore not the same colt of the first entry. The first entry had a young colt that still needed its mother. The temple cleansing was on the day of entry according to Matthew but on the day after entry in Mark’s gospel.  The days for entries are also different.  Matthew’s entry is the day before the Sabbath and Mark’s is the day after the Sabbath.

2.  Slight differences in entry description. Matthew, Mark and Luke all mention Jesus starting his entry from the Mount of Olives.  Matthew and Mark also mention Jesus headed toward Jerusalem. But the slight difference between Matthew and the Mark/Luke versions is the town Bethany. When Jesus made his first entry Bethany was not yet in the picture. But on the second entry, Jesus had been staying with his friends in Bethany.  A very tiny clue, but consistent with two entries on two different days.  Bethphage is mentioned in all three of the synoptic gospels, apparently because that was where the donkeys were housed.

3. Clear Distinctions between 1st and 2nd Cleansings.  Only in the first temple cleansing does a writer mention Jesus healing the blind and the lame. Only in the 2nd Temple cleansing does the writer mention Jesus adding a new rule of no vessels to be carried in the temple. Mark is very specific about Jesus not entering the temple on the day of the 2nd entry.  Cleansing the temple on different days with respect to entry is a clear distinction so there should be no mistake these writers are talking about different entries.

4. Each writer has some corroboration from other writers to indicate truthfulness of major events.  Mark, of course has both Luke and John support his one colt entry. Mark also has Luke mention the 2nd temple cleansing. Although one could argue that Luke was only copying Mark, Mark does corroborate the entry and temple cleansing of Luke as well. Moreover, Luke adds much material of his own which shows he did more than copy Mark.  John is corroborated by both Mark and Luke, but John shows his originality by e.g., unlike Mark and Luke, citing the prophecy of Zechariah.

5. Each writer provides certain material necessary for sequence and special happenings.  Only Matthew provides special information on the first entry – the donkey and the colt; the temple cleansing on first day; the prophecy regarding Jesus coming in “on an ass and the foal of an ass” Only Mark provides both the fig tree cursing and the second temple cleansing. Only Luke provides the part where Jesus, “weeps over the city.”  And only John provides the details where Jesus spent the Sabbath, the day between the two Jerusalem entries.  Only Mark provides a note on Jesus stating a rule about not carrying vessels in the temple during the 2nd cleansing.  Only John notes that the first day of entry was the 6th day before the Passover.

6. Writers leaving out material covered by others. An excellent example is Matthew leaving out the 2nd cleansing.  We know he purposely left it out because Mark’s fig tree cursing came immediately before Jesus went into the temple to do the 2nd cleansing. Matthew reports the fig tree cursing with as much detail as Mark. Having Mark’s gospel in his hands he purposely left out the 2nd cleansing.  Why does only John report Jesus visiting his friends in Bethany? At least one other gospel notes Jesus is a friend of Lazarus. Both Mark and Luke refer to Bethany on the day Jesus makes his 2nd entry. Why not also note he had been with Lazarus the day before? How could each of the writers know what to leave out and still be sure they are not omitting critical parts of the story? They had to know others would cover those portions left out. This is very important since each writer left out at least 60% of the full story.

Different colorful pieces allocated to different gospels. Mark and Luke get to tell the manner in which the colt was picked out. “Go into the village opposite you; and as soon as you have entered it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has sat.” They report all the details of how the colt caretakers were aware of its need for the Lord.  Matthew alone tells with interest the similar way the donkey and colt were acquired together.  Matthew and Mark tell the curious story of Jesus cursing the fig tree, whereas Luke conveys the great sadness Jesus felt for the city of Jerusalem as he wept over it. John tells us of the Sabbath day where Jesus spent time with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus in Bethany and how the curious onlookers were still amazed of Lazarus being raised from the dead. Luke and John bring in the Pharisees complaint leveled at Jesus.

D. Writers purposely leave out material that they would not had they been providing all they knew of the story.  They write their piece as if it were assigned.

1. Fig tree cursing by Jesus in Matthew and Mark. This event shows Matthew would have had Mark’s gospel for that part of story.  Matthew would not have missed seeing Mark’s 2nd temple cleansing if (as assumed) Matthew copied the fig tree cursing event from Mark.  Luke (who is also assumed to have Mark to read) certainly saw Mark’s report of temple cleansing and writes about it in his version.

2. Matthew showing a donkey and a foal used Jesus’s entry. If Mark were the first writer and Matthew supposedly gets his version from Mark, how could he make such a mistake as to have Jesus entering Jerusalem on both an ass and the foal of an ass. Matthew goes to great length to let us know that a mother donkey and its colt were ridden by Jesus. Again Luke gets it right from his reading of Mark, so why not Matthew.

3. Matthew claiming temple cleansing was the day of entry.  Assuming Matthew read Mark’s report of Jesus cleansing the temple the day after the entry, why would he make the mistake of having Jesus clean the temple the same day of entry.

4.  Both Mark and Luke report that the colt had not been ridden before. Why would Mark and Luke interject such dribble?  If the “colt alone” entry is the only entry, then whether it had been ridden before was both unnecessary and uninteresting.  If each writer is writing independently, it is not a comment worth making. It would be like “the colt had healthy teeth.” If the gospels are anything they are conservative of scripture.  Appendix C shows only 37% of the verses devoted to the story had common material among two or more writers. Why would both Mark and Luke spend any portion of their common material on something so trite? But with two entries it is very useful information and an interesting side conversation. The donkey people are telling the disciples “You know that colt with its mother you used on Saturday? Well you won’t be using it. We have a fresh colt, never been ridden before that you can have today.”

5. Luke 19:44 appears to run directly into Luke 19:45.  The problem is that these two verses appear as though they are telling about events happening on the same day.  Actually Luke 19:44 ends on one day and Luke 19:45 speaks of a temple cleansing on the following day after the 2nd triumphal Jerusalem entry. We know this because Mark 11:19 tells us Jesus just went into the temple on the entry day and then went back to Bethany. It was the next day after cursing the fig tree that Jesus cleansed the temple.  A full 24 hours separates Luke 19:44 from 19:45. How could Luke mistakenly lose a whole day between verses, when Mark clearly indicated the extra day in his writing?

6. None of the gospel writers presents two entries and two temple cleansings. It seems at least one of the writers would have made some indication to verify a second entry and cleansing.  Matthew would have had Mark to show the 2nd entry, yet he chose to ignore it. Mark and Luke both report a 2nd entry. Why so careful to omit anything about the 1st ?  John would have had all three synoptic gospels, so why omit anything specific about the first. He obviously could have connected the two since it was he who gave the primary information showing there were two days between the two entries.

E. The numerous sources of easily misinterpreted material had to be provided intentionally

1. Confusing prophecy. Zechariah 9:9 provides three prophecy possibilities under Hebrew prophecy rules. Only after fulfilled could it be determined which of the three were fulfilled. In the story we see that two of the three were fulfilled. To the casual reader of the gospels this prophecy distinction would be obviously missed.

2. Both first and second entries mention Jerusalem, common towns and Mount Olive. To the casual reader, any of the gospels that contained some of these locations would be assumed to be stating the same entry.

3.  Prophecy fulfillment of colt or donkey and colt sound similar. To the indiscriminating reader, it would be assumed one writer or another had made a mistake.

4. Last stop was Jericho. For both entries, the reader would assume the same Jerusalem entry being told by all three synoptic gospels, directly from Jericho.

5. “House of prayer, den of thieves” same in all three synoptic gospels. The reader would assume only one temple cleansing.

6. A day is missed on purpose.  Luke 19:44 and Luke 19:45 appear to the casual reader to present events on the same day.  Mark and Luke tell essentially the same story about the 2nd temple cleansing which happens on the 3rd day before Passover.  Mark tells us that after the entry, Jesus just goes into the temple and looks around before heading back to Bethany.  Luke 19:44 ends a statement about the destruction of Jerusalem that Jesus makes after the entry.  But at Luke 19:45 Luke immediately starts to tell us about the 2nd temple cleansing which (if he believes Mark) doesn’t happen until the next day.  The discerning reader will see there had to be a day between verses 44 and 45 because Mark makes it clear Jesus does not enter the temple on the day of entry.


Intelligent Design Summary

The manner in which the four gospels are interwoven with one another to make a complete and accurate story requires an overseer. All the examples indicate the hand of an intelligent coordinator. Some of the large differences described in the gospels for both the entry and the temple’s cleansing are obvious if one reads all four gospels. But since the major differences are between Matthew and Mark, it is clear that Matthew did not get his highly divergent version from Mark. We suggest it was by intelligent design that Matthew and Mark were coordinated to show two entries and two temple cleanings.

Several very slight differences between Matthew and Mark/Luke are significant enough to show differences in entry and temple cleansing, but not so large that the average reader might pick up on the differences. When they are discovered one cannot find any good reason for the small clues except for the aid of intelligent designer.

Each writer must have some way of corroborating with the other writers -- for providing special material necessary for sequence and special happenings; for routinely leaving out material covered by others. This could only be possible with special knowledge of what the other gospel writers were writing. It all begs a special oversight coordinator, an intelligent designer.

Each gospel is assigned different colorful, special interest pieces of the story for each of the four writers to tell. How could this sidebar information be done so interestingly and so precisely among the writers without intelligent design?

No competent writer would have made such obvious omissions as Matthew with the 2nd entry after recording the fig tree incident. If he were able to copy other important parts from Mark why leave out such critical information? It seems apparent in these situations the writer is purposefully avoiding material he knows is being provided by other writers. The writer is somehow being guided by a coordinating intelligence telling what information to leave in and what to leave out in a way that has a meaningful link to the others’ writings.


The provision of easily misinterpreted small facts (e.g. Figure 1) easily misinterpreted indicate they must have been put in on purpose. The writers could have written their material in better ways so that the reader would not make false assumptions. Certainly God could write the Bible in more comprehensible language. But apparently God has written much of the Bible in a way that the skeptic can find things to support her view that the Bible is not inspired because of so many errors and inconsistencies. However, as we see here with careful and faithful study, the apparent errors and inconsistencies all disappear. All the easily misinterpreted or supposed erroneous information can be resolved with a minimum of effort provided one considers it inspired. These kind of “tests” do not affect the gospel message so seem only to disguise some of the Word.18


Given the overwhelming evidence for an intelligent coordinator for the gospels there is only one possibility I can think of other than God.  That would be if the apostles Matthew, Mark, Luke and John gathered together and conspired to write their portions as they did.  But if we were to ask them how they could have produced such a coordinated work, they would answer. “We were inspired.”


End Notes

1. The Story (2008) Grand Rapids: MI: Zondervan; Metzer, Bruce M. (Ed.) (1982) The Readers Digest Bible, Pleasantville, NY: Readers Digest.

2. Church, Leslie F (Ed.) (1961) Matthew Henry’s Commentary, Grand Rapids: MI Zondervan;     France, Matthew

3.  A third portrayal is possible but adds nothing beyond the two being studied for comparison purposes. This portrayal is the “traditional” view where each gospel is assumed written by the apostles Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. In this case each writer wrote his own version as he was inspired by God. A fourth portrayal is a possible imaginary scenario as well. These apostles (except for Luke) likely knew each other and could have conspired and compared views.  No one believes that to be true, but it is a possible scenario. The scholarly view does not believe the gospels were written almost contemporaneously. Those who accept the traditional view do not (so far as I know) allow for two Jerusalem entries and two temple cleansings. Other than the belief that each gospel version is inspired, this third portrayal differs little (so far as capturing the complete story) from Portrayal I. The fourth portrayal is impossible logistically and no motivation for such a meeting can be postulated.

4. Relevant OT quotes from Isaiah and Zechariah are addressed to the “daughter of Zion.”

Isaiah 62:11 Say ye to the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy salvation cometh; behold his reward is with him, and his work before him.

Zechariah 9:9 “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion: shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: Behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass. (Zechariah 9:9 is Hebrew poetry with alternating verses.) 

John states “as it is written” the King comes riding upon only an ass’s colt.

John 12:15    “Fear not, daughter of Sion: behold thy King cometh, sitting on an ass’s colt.”

Whereas Matthew claims Jesus comes riding on both an ass and it colt “that it may be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet.”

Matthew 21:5 “Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold thy King cometh unto thee, Meek, and sitting upon an ass and a colt, the foul, of an ass.”

5. Pericopes are incidents, stories shared (seeing together) between gospels. They need not have the same wording, but be obvious that they refer to the same incidents, stories, etc.  The substantial sharing in Matthew, Mark, and Luke is the basis for them being called “synoptic” 

6. France, R.T., (1985) Matthew, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. Leicester, England: Intervarsity Press, p.299.

7.  John establishes that the 2nd triumphal march was the day after Jesus had spent the Sabbath in Bethany (John 12:12)


8. This scientific method is secondary to the experimental method, but it is appropriate when the experimental method cannot be used.  The “best of alternatives” is scientifically applied when several possibilities exist to explain the evidence. This is frequently used in forensics where a decision has to be made, but cannot be replicated by experiment.  It is also the scientific approach to any historical question where more than one possibility exists.

9.   The two-source hypothesis proposes that the authors of Matthew and Luke drew on the Gospel of Mark and a hypothetical collection of sayings of Jesus known as Q.


The Two-source hypothesis (or 2SH) is an explanation for the synoptic problem, the pattern of similarities and differences between the three Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. It posits that the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke were based on the Gospel of Mark and a hypothetical sayings collection from the Christian oral tradition called Q.

The Existence of Q

The 2SH explains the double tradition by postulating the existence of a lost "sayings of Jesus" document known as Q, from the German Quelle, "source". It is this, rather than Markan priority, which forms the distinctive feature of the 2SH as against rival theories. The existence of Q follows from the conclusion that, as Luke and Matthew are independent of Mark in the double tradition, the connection between them must be explained by their joint but independent use of a missing source or sources. (That they used Q independently of each other follows from the fact that they frequently differ quite widely in their use of this source).

Problems with Q

A principal objection to the 2SH is that it requires a hypothetical document, Q, the existence of which is not attested in any way, either by existing fragments (and a great many fragments of early Christian documents do exist) or by early Church tradition. The minor agreements are also, according to the critics, evidence of the non-existence of, or rather the non-necessity for, Q: if Matthew and Luke have passages which are missing in Mark (the "Who is it that struck you?" sentence quoted above is a famous example), this demonstrates only that Matthew is quoting Luke or vice versa (Wikipedia Two-Source Hypothesis)


10. An Information Component is a verse, set of verses, or partial verse that describe a unique piece of information necessary or useful in understanding a portion of the incident or story being described.

11. Booher, H.R., Chronology of the New Testament Gospels. (2000) Baltimore, MD

12. Jesus triumphal entry into Jerusalem is described in all four gospels.  However the facts of this event vary considerably in the four different accounts.

Mark, Luke and John all indicate Jesus riding on a colt. Matthew indicates Jesus riding on both a female donkey and her foul. Mark and Luke have Jesus entering from the vicinity of Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives whereas Matthew mentions only Bethany. John shows Jesus was at Bethany with Mary, Martha and the raised Lazarus the night before the entry.

Other small details tell us exactly on what days the two entries to Jerusalem took place. Matthew 21:17 informs us that after Jesus’ first entry, he went back to Bethany and lodged there. John 12:1 specifies that day when Jesus went back to Bethany was “six days before the Passover.” Therefore Jesus first entry to Jerusalem was the sixth day before the Passover.


John 12: 2-11 describes how Jesus spent the 5th day before Passover. He first had supper with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus; then Mary anointed Jesus’ feet with costly ointment. The following day (still the 5th day) people in the neighborhood came to see Jesus and Lazarus.  “The next day” (the 4th day before Passover) [when] “Jesus was coming to Jerusalem” people went out to meet him (John 12:12-13). Therefore Jesus second entry to Jerusalem was the fourth day before the Passover.


Mark and Luke tell the story as a pericope with details almost exactly the same.  Jesus sends two disciples to a village where they will find a pre-arranged colt for the Lord’s use. They cast their garments on the colt and Jesus sits on the colt. As they go into Jerusalem people spread garments and (in Mark) branches from trees on the path. People praised God shouting verses from Isaiah like “Hosanna,” “Blessed is the King that comes in the name of the Lord,” “Glory in the highest.” Matthew has people spreading garments and branches from trees the same as Luke and people praising God with quotes from Isaiah.

Although all four gospels record Psalms shouts of praise (especially Psalm 118:25-26) no one gospel states them in exactly the same way. Mark states “Blessed be the kingdom of our father David that comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.” Luke says “Blessed be the King …….Lord; peace in heaven, and glory in the highest.  John quotes “Hosanna: Blessed be the King of Israel…..Lord.”  Matthew records “Hosanna to the son of David: Blessed is he …….Lord. Hosanna in the highest.    

John adds “branches of palm trees,” which is the only gospel to mention palm branches which were likely Palm shrouds.  

Matthew and John both indicate that Jesus’s riding a donkey (or colt of donkey) is quoted from the OT.

13. Now when they drew near Jerusalem, to Bethphage-Bethany , at the Mount of Olives, He sent two of his disciples; 2and He said to them, “Go into the village opposite you; and as soon as you have entered it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has sat. Loose it and bring it. 3And if anyone says to you, “Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it,’ and immediately he will send it here.” 4 So they went their way, and found the colt tied by the door outside on the street, and they loosed it. 5 But some of those who stood there said to them, “What are you doing, loosing the colt?’


14. The Greek word kai translated “and” appears between Bethphage and Bethany in Mark and Luke. Kai is a special Greek word sometimes meaning and but also is a word which can be used to show apposition. When used to show apposition it falls under a rule known as “Kai Expletive.”  This is the case here where apposition is appropriate. When twin cities is being noted as an area the two cities can use a hyphen to indicate the area. In English we would not use “and” but just the hyphen for an area like Minneapolis-St. Paul. But in Greek we can write Bethphage kai Bethany understanding the two towns constitute an area.  The apposition is important here because Jesus stayed in Bethany the night before and Luke wanted to show “Bethany” as the departure point for the 2nd Triumphal entry.  Bethphage is mentioned in all three gospels apparently because the donkeys are located closer to the Bethphage part of the area.


15. The formula is “this was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet saying ….”, after which comes a quotation from an Old Testament prophet.


16. If any gospel was recording an accurate entry it was Matthew. Zechariah clearly indicates the King will be riding on both “an ass and a foul of an ass.”  Could that mean that Matthew is accurate, but the other three wrong? John claims the same prophecy being fulfilled but with only a colt. Since the Zechariah verse was double verses, the second stanza part of the prophecy is also accurate. He is riding on an ass’s colt. Since the detail of Mark and Luke are so consistent to a colt only, the three gospels describing a colt must be accurate also. We can only conclude Jesus made two entries, the first one from Bethphage on a donkey and a colt (Matthew 21:1-11); the second one from Bethany, only on a colt.

17.  Taking a sentence or even part of sentence is a typical way of dividing prophecy. When Jesus read from Isaiah 61:1-2 on the Sabbath at the synagogue in Nazareth he stated “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing,” having ending his reading of Isaiah with “to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord…” (Luke 4:18-21). Jesus closes the book without reading the immediately following Isaiah phrase “ ---and the day of vengeance of our God.”

18. One could be accused of great “hubris” to so confidently state that God would write the Bible in such a way as to “disguise” his Word so that only the “Student of the Word” would ferret it out.  But scripture is replete with examples of God showing ways to hide His Word from those He does not choose to reveal it.   For example:

a. Peter speaks Paul’s writings of Scriptures that may be hard to understand so some people distort them their own harm.  2 Peter 3:15–16

Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction. 

b. Jesus preferred that his secrets were hidden from the scholars and revealed to the uninitiated.   I thank you Father…that you have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes. Matthew 11:25; Luke 10:21 

c. Quite apt to the problem of God disguising or holding his word from those who may not be qualified, able to appreciate it or who might distort or destroy it is the familiar statement of Jesus not to cast pearls before swine. Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces. Matthew 7:6  

If we take our wisdom and throw it all around without knowing whether it might fall before dogs (an impure or self-righteous heart) or swine (someone who is considered unclean), Jesus warns us that they will likely tear us to pieces (they would twist and distort what is said then come after us). 




Appendix A - Full Version Triumphal Entries and Temple Cleaning


Portrayal II includes the prophecies of the Jerusalem triumphal entries and temple cleansings with the actual fulfillment of these events as recorded in the four gospels.

Jerusalem Entry Prophecy:  Zechariah 9:9

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!   Ch.2:10; Isaiah 62.11      Stanza 1

Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem!                                            Stanza 2

Behold, your King is coming to you;     Jer.23.5; 30.9                   Stanza 3

He is just and having salvation,                                             Stanza 4

Lowly and riding on a donkey,                                             Stanza 5

A colt, the foal of a donkey.                                                 Stanza 6


The First Triumphal Entry to Jerusalem (6th day before Passover)

Luke 19

1-5 [Jesus entered and passed through Jericho (on the 7th day before Passover) and stayed with the publican Zacchaeus.]

Matthew 20

  29 [Staying the night, he left Jericho and headed toward Jerusalem (on the 6th day before Passover)]

Matthew 21

1Now when they drew near Jerusalem, and came to Bethphage at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her.  Loose them and bring them to Me. 3And if anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them.’

   4All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying:

    5           Tell the daughter of Zion,        Is. 62:1

‘Behold, your King is coming to you,

Lowly, and sitting on a donkey,

A colt, the foal of a donkey’” 

   6So the disciples went and did as Jesus commanded them. 7They brought the donkey and the colt, laid their clothes on them, and set Him upon them. 8And a very great multitude spread their clothes on the road; others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying:

“Hosanna to the Son of David!

‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!       Psalm 118:26

Hosanna in the highest!”

10And when he had come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying “Who is this?”

11So the Multitudes said, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee.”

Jesus Cleanses the Temple 1st Time

12 Then Jesus went into the temple of God and drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. 13And He said to them “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves.’” 14Then the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them. 15But when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that He did, and the children crying out in the temple and saying, ”Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant 16and said to Him, “Do you hear what these are saying?”

 And Jesus said to them, “Yes, Have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants you have perfected praise?

17Then He left them and went out of the city to Bethany, and He lodged there.

Jesus Stays in Bethany over the Sabbath

John 12

1Then, six days before the Passover a, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was who had been dead, whom He had raised from the dead.

2There they made Him a supper; and Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with Him. 3Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.

 4But one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, who would betray Him, said 5“Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” 6This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it.

 7But Jesus said, “Let her alone; she has kept this for the day of My burial. 8For the poor you have with you always, but Me you do not have always.”

9Now a great many of the Jews knew that He was there; and they came not for Jesus sake, bout that they might see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead.b


a This meant Jesus arrived in Bethany before 6:00 pm.  Sabbath was from 6:00 pm on Friday until 6:00 pm the following day, Saturday.

b John Chapter 11 discusses the raising of Lazarus but does not state specifically what happened during the interval between the raising of Lazarus and the beginning of Chapter 12 where Jesus returns to Bethany.  Some of the time would include his staying in a city called Ephraim (John 11:54), passing through Jericho and staying with Zacchaeus (Luke 19:10), his first triumphal entry and cleansing the temple recorded by Matthew (21:1-11).


The Second Triumphal Entry (4th day before Passover)

12“On the next day a great multitude …had come to the feast…                                                         

Mark 11    [See also Luke 19:29-38]

1 Now when they drew near Jerusalem, to Bethphage-Bethany c, at the Mount of Olives, He sent two of his disciples; 2and He said to them, “Go into the village opposite you; and as soon as you have entered it you will find a colt tied, on which one has sat. Loose it and bring it. 3And if anyone says to you, “Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it,’ and immediately he will send it here.” 4 So they went their way, and found the colt tied by the door outside on the street, and they loosed it. 5 But some of those who stood there said to them, “What are you doing, loosing the colt?’

6And they spoke to them as Jesus had commanded. So they let them go.

7Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their clothes on it, and He sat on it. 8And many spread their clothes on the road. 9Then those who went before and those who followed cried out, saying:

Hosanna!                                                                                             Ps 118:26

10‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ 

Blessed is the kingdom of our father David

That comes in the name of the Lord

Hosanna in the highest!”                                                                     Ps 148:1


c See Part I Note 10


John 12

12…..when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, 13took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet Him, and cried,

Hosanna!                                                                                           Ps 118:25-26

‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’

The King of Israel!”

14Then Jesus when He had found a young donkey, sat on it, as it is written:

15“Fear not daughter of Zion;                                                              Zech. 9:9

Behold, your King is coming,

Sitting on a donkey’s colt.”

 16His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written about Him and that they had done those things to Him.

17Therefore the people, who were with Him when He called Lazarus out of his tomb and raided him from the dead, bore witness. 18For this reason the people also met Him, because they heard that He had done this sign.

19The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, “You see that you are actually accomplishing nothing. Look, the world has gone after Him!”

Luke 19

 39And some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto Him, Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.”

 40But He answered and said to them, “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.”

 41Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, 42saying, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you on every side, 44and level you and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon the other, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”

Mark 11

.11And Jesus went into Jerusalem and into the temple.  So when He had looked around at all things, as the hour was already late, He went out to Bethany with the twelve.


Jesus Cursing the Fig Tree 

Mark 11 [See also Matthew 21:18-22]

12Now the next day, when they had come out from Bethany, He was hungry. 13And seeing from afar a fig tree having leaves, He went to see if perhaps He would find something on it. When He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. 14In response Jesus said to it, “Let no eat fruit from you ever again.” And His disciples heard it. 


The Second Temple cleansing

Mark 11   [See also Luke 19:45-48]

 15So they came to Jerusalem. Then Jesus went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of money changers and the seats of those who sold doves.  16And He would not allow anyone to carry wares through the temple. 17Then He taught, saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations? But you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’”

18And the scribes and chief priests heard it and sought how they might destroy Him; for they feared Him, because all the people were astonished at His teaching.


Luke 19 [See also Mark 11:15-19]

45 Thend He went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in it, 46 He said to them “It is written, ‘My house is a house of prayer but you have made it a den of thieves’”

47And He was teaching daily in the temple. But the chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people sought to destroy Him, and were unable to do anything; for all the people were very attentive to Him.


d “Then” is Gk kai which can be translated “and,” “when,” “then,” and a number of other ways number of other ways, depending on context. Since this event is the next day following the temple entry of Mark 11:11, the better translation of kai here is “When,” (as in NIV) allowing more clearly that Luke 19:45 did not begin the same day as Luke 19:44 occurred.


Mark 11

19When evening had come, He went out of the city.



Appendix B: The Story Sequence of Events

Appendix C: Statistics of Verses

The statistics of verses allocated to gospels for the story are shown in the table.

Verses allocated to Gospels

The total verses used by the four gospel writers were 77, very evenly distributed (17-22). The total number of unique verses combined from the four gospels to tell this story were 49, or approximately 63%.  In other words the complete story as shown in Portrayal II was presented with 63% of the story told independently by each writer using his own unique verses. Approximately 37% of the complete story had common material among two or more writers.  Roughly if one read only one gospel she would read only about 28% of the complete story; two gospels, approximately 57%; three gospels approximately 85%; four gospels, 100%.  But unless the gospels were read chronologically, she would still have problems appreciating the sequence of events.