IT’S THE BIBLE QUESTION OF THE WEEK.
It comes from Wayne P. Sacchi, a repeat offender when it comes to asking questions. He also gets another free book for this.
I’m going to paraphrase his question because it’s kinda lengthy, with documentation.
Here’s my paraphrase of his question:
Who made the mistake in Matthew 23:35? The Bible writer or Jesus?
What’s happening in the chapter is this: Jesus is tearing into the religion scholars known as scribes and Pharisees. He says they are such nasty people that God is going to hold them accountable for the murder of every righteous person throughout history from “Abel to the murder of Zechariah son of Berekiah,” (Matthew 23:35 NLT).
This is a really cool example Jesus tossed out there, with artistic flair, because he’s accusing the snooty scholars of murder from A two Z: Abel, the first murder of a righteous soul in the Jewish Bible, to Zechariah, the last murder of a righteous soul in the Jewish Bible.
Jews run their Bible in a different order than Christians do. In the Jewish Bible, the last murder takes place in 2 Chronicles 24:20-21. And it’s of Zechariah.
Here’s the apparent mistake: there’s more than one Zechariah in the Bible. The Zechariah who got himself murdered is not the son of Berekiah, as quoted by Jesus. He is the “son of Jehoiada the priest” (2 Chronicles 24:20).
The prophet “Zechariah son of Berekiah” (Zechariah 1:1) was another guy who did not get himself murdered, as far as the Bible reports it. This Zechariah wrote a Bible book named after him.
Wayne comes up with four options for dealing with this puzzle. As he puts it:
- Matthew recorded the wrong prophet.
- Jesus made a mistake – which would be unlikely being the divine Son of God.
- The writing Prophet Zechariah died the same way as Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada.
- Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada the priest had an ancestor named Berekiah.
Far as I can tell, Wayne has pretty well nailed this one. Although it has been my experience that you could add a fifth option: an editor goofed it up royally.
As I checked this Bible puzzle out in my resources, it seems as though the scholars are pitching their tents in one of two main camps.
Open-minded types, which some folks tag as liberals, warm up to option one. The writer got it wrong. Inspired or not, the dude was only human.
Tradition-minded types, which some folks tag as conservative as all get out, seem to like option four. Zechariah had a grandpa named Berekiah.
Let me offer thoughts about the other two options that nobody seems to like.
Concerning the “unlikely” possibility that Jesus could ever possibly make a mistake, some would call our attention to the fact that he predicted people would see “the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven….this generation” (Matthew 24:30, 34). He said that 50 generations ago.
Concerning the possibility that both Zechariahs died the same way – in the words of Jesus “in the temple between the sanctuary and the altar,” (Matthew 23:35), I think a sizable crowd of scholars would respond by saying, “Yeah, right.”
In case anyone is looking for a definitive answer from me, here it is.
Stop wasting your time worrying about stuff like this. Worry about how the heck you’re going to get along with your neighbor.
I’m not saying don’t ask the question or discuss the options. Those are reasonable things to do. But don’t pick something as fragile as a theory and defend it with raised voice and thumping fist as though it’s God’s honest truth and you’re General George Patton holding off the Nazis at the Battle of the Bulge.
Go ahead and say “Beats me. Now can we talk about something that really matters where I live? What am I going to do – short of committing a felony – about that neighbor kid who likes to throw gravel at my dog?”