Were They Blind or Could They See (resolving a difference between Matthew 14:33 and Mark 6:52)

Matthew 14:32-33 says: And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Mark 6:51-52 says: And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, 52 for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.

So, which is it? Did they worship Jesus as the Son of God, or did they miss it?

First, before we discuss the issue, we must clarify what the issue actually is.

Jesus is presented the same in both accounts. In both Matthew 14:22-33 and Mark 6:45-52, Jesus is presented as the sovereign ego eimi — Greek for “I am!” — from the Old Testament in Exodus 3:14, and Isaiah 41:4, 43:10, 46:10.

The disciples are presented as basically the same in both accounts. Matthew focuses in on Peter’s lack of faith, and Jesus’ rebuke of him (14:31). Mark notes the general stubbornness of their hearts.

The issue, then, is not if Matthew and Mark viewed Jesus and the disciples differently. The issue is if Matthew and Mark contradict each other on a certain detail. This becomes the rub, where some might say, like someone told me once, “The fingerprints of broken humanity are all over the Bible; but that doesn’t in any way affect the truth of it.” I can see where this is an attractive option; it’s the easy way out. It is harder to reconcile things that are hard to reconcile.

I want to take the latter, narrow path.

A contradiction only exists if we take Mark’s description, “they were utterly astounded” and Matthew’s description, “those in the boat worshiped him” as being exactly parallel. How do these two descriptions of this event relate? A couple possible options:

Option 1: “They were utterly astounded” is exactly parallel to “Those in the boat worshiped him…”
Implication of Option 1:

Option 2: “They were utterly astounded” is paralleled in Matthew more specifically by Peter’s lack of faith, which Christ rebukes. “Those in the boat worshiped him” is reported by Matthew but not by Mark for different reasons.
Implication of option 2: Difference of perspective and emphasis.

Under Option 2, the combined accounts of Matthew and Mark would go something like this:

–Disciples see Jesus (Matthew and Mark)
–Jesus speaks comfort to them (Matthew and Mark)
–Peter comes to Christ on the water (Matthew only)
–Jesus rebukes Peter’s doubt (Matthew only)
–When Jesus gets into the boat, the wind stops (Matthew and Mark)
–Disciples astounded and hardened (Mark only)
–Disciples then recognize and worship (Matthew only)

Obviously, this brief post doesn’t answer all the questions; but hopefully it shows that it is not necessary to take the easy and wide path of assuming that the Bible contradicts itself.


About Danny Slavich

I am a Christian husband, father, pastor, and poet. I lead Pembroke Road Baptist Church a multi-cultural, multi-generational church in urban South Florida.
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One Response to Were They Blind or Could They See (resolving a difference between Matthew 14:33 and Mark 6:52)

  1. Anne Waite says:

    After reading a wellknown commentator on how to reconcile Matt 14:33 and Mark 6:52, I think he clarifies this more:
    The “their hearts were hardened” refers to when the loaves and fish were multiplied, not when they saw Jesus walking on the water. Now, when they saw this amazing sign, their hearts were softened and they recognized Him as the son of God.

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