Gospel Discrepancies of Jesus' Crucifixion

Gospel authors were inconsistent in describing what happened

Low Angle View Of Jesus Christ Statue On Cross At Field Against Sky
Elles Voermans/EyeEm/Getty Images

Crucifixion may be one of the most horrible methods of execution ever invented. A person is nailed to a cross or stake and hangs there until their weight suffocates them. The horrors of crucifixion are glossed over by the gospel authors, however, in favor of the deeper theological meanings behind these events. Perhaps that is why the gospel authors were inconsistent in describing what happened.

Who Carried Jesus’ Cross?

In the Passion narratives, did Jesus carry his cross or not?

  • Mark 15:21, Matthew 27:32, Luke 23:26 - Jesus gets help from Simon of Cyrene
  • John 19:17 - Jesus carries his cross the whole way

Inscription on Jesus’ Cross

When crucified, Jesus’ cross had an inscription — but what did it say?

  • Mark 15:26 - The inscription: “The King of the Jews.”
  • Matthew 27:37 - The inscription: “This is Jesus the King of the Jews.”
  • Luke 23:38 - The inscription: “This is the King of the Jews.”
  • John 19:19 - The inscription: “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.”

Jesus and the Thieves

Some gospels say Jesus was crucified with two thieves, though the Romans never crucified thieves.

  • Mark - The two thieves are mentioned, but there is no conversation
  • Matthew 27:44 - The two thieves taunt Jesus
  • Luke 23:39-42 - One thief taunts Jesus and is criticized by the other. Jesus promises the 2nd thief that they would be in Paradise that day, though John and Acts say he did not ascend to heaven until 40 days after his resurrection
  • John - The two men aren’t described as thieves

Does Jesus Drink Wine or Vinegar?:

Jesus is given something to drink while he is on the cross, but what?

  • Mark 15:23 - Jesus is given wine mixed with myrrh, but he doesn’t drink
  • Matthew 27:48, Luke 23:36 - Jesus is given vinegar, but he doesn’t drink
  • John 19:29-30 - Jesus is given vinegar, and he drinks

Jesus and the Centurion

Romans supposedly witnessed Jesus’ crucifixion, but what did they think?

  • Mark 15:39 - A centurion is cited as saying: “Truly this man was the son of God!”
  • Matthew 27:54 - A centurion is cited as saying: “Truly this was the son of God.”
  • Luke 23:47 - A centurion is cited as saying: “Truly this man was innocent.”
  • John - No centurions say anything

Women Watch the Crucifixion:

The gospels describe several women as having followed Jesus around, but what did they do when Jesus was crucified?

  • Mark 15:40, Matthew 27:55, Luke 23:49 - Several women watch Jesus from afar
  • John 19:25-26 - Several women are close enough that Jesus could talk to his mother, contrary to Roman practices

When Was Jesus Crucified?

The crucifixion of Jesus is the central event of the Passion narrative, but the narratives don’t agree on when the crucifixion occurred.

  • Mark 15:25 - Jesus was crucified on the “third hour.”
  • John 19:14-15 - Jesus was crucified on the “sixth hour.”
  • Matthew, Luke - It’s not stated when the crucifixion starts, but the “sixth hour” occurs during the crucifixion

Jesus’ Last Words

Jesus’ last words before dying are important, but no one seems to have written them down.

  • Mark 15:34-37, Matthew 27:46-50 - Jesus says: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (but they use different Greek words for “God” — Matthew uses “Eli, is” and Mark uses “Eloi”)
  • Luke 23:46 - Jesus says: “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit.”
  • John 19:30 - Jesus says: “It is finished.”

Earthquake After the Resurrection:

Was there an earthquake when Jesus died?

  • Matthew 27:51-53 - At the moment Jesus dies, a massive earthquake strikes and opens tombs where dead people rise again
  • Mark, Luke, John - No earthquake is mentioned. No earthquake and no massive influx of formerly dead people are mentioned in any historical records, which is strange given how monumental such an event would be.
mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Cline, Austin. "Gospel Discrepancies of Jesus' Crucifixion." Learn Religions, Jan. 26, 2021, learnreligions.com/contradictions-in-gospel-accounts-of-jesus-crucifixion-250140. Cline, Austin. (2021, January 26). Gospel Discrepancies of Jesus' Crucifixion. Retrieved from https://www.learnreligions.com/contradictions-in-gospel-accounts-of-jesus-crucifixion-250140 Cline, Austin. "Gospel Discrepancies of Jesus' Crucifixion." Learn Religions. https://www.learnreligions.com/contradictions-in-gospel-accounts-of-jesus-crucifixion-250140 (accessed June 1, 2023).