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Jesus cured Simon Peter's mother-in-law after he cleansed the leper. Mt.8:1-15. Jesus cured Simon Peter's mother-in-law before he cleansed the leper. Mk.1:30-42; Lk.4:38 to 5:13. Peter's mother-in-law was healed before Peter was called to be a disciple. Lu.4:38,39; 5:10. Peter's mother-in-law was healed after Peter was called to be a disciple. Mt.4:18,19; 8:14,15; Mk.1:16,17,30,31.

How does we explain this chronological contradiction found in the Gospels? Or is there some other explanation to this

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  • Please quote the passages so that we can more easily see the alleged contradiction.
    – curiousdannii
    Apr 12 at 13:25
  • Are you asking why [Matthew 8:14-15] does not declare the events took place immediately after leaving the synagogue on Shabbat - in contrast to Mark 1:29 & Luke 4:38? Apr 12 at 13:37
  • You need to show directly the two contradictory propositions explicitly.
    – Tony Chan
    Apr 12 at 13:51
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The Synoptic Gospels present numerous events in different sequences. Why?

The Argument from Order

The argument from order is used by students of the Synoptic Problem, but it may also be applicable here. The argument compares the order in which individual pericopes (“stories” for our purposes) are presented in each of the Synoptic Gospels in order to try to determine which author used which as a source.

It’s worth pointing out that if presenting material in a different order is a “chronological contradiction” then there are literally scores of chronological contradictions in the Synoptic Gospels alone. Their passion narratives are more closely aligned (though not perfectly) in terms of what happened after what, but the ministry portions of the Synoptic Gospels differ wildly.

My own study of the argument from order has led me to 4 conclusions that have bearing on the question in the OP:

  1. None of the Synoptic authors were trying to present the material in a strictly chronological sequence
  2. Matthew principally organizes his Gospel by topic (like an encyclopedia)
  3. Luke principally organizes his Gospel by geography (like an atlas)
  4. Mark borrows from Matthew & Luke, sometimes following the order of one and sometimes the other (like somebody telling stories from memory)

A more extended discussion of these points in the context of the argument from order, with whiteboard drawings of relative order, is found in this video (disclaimer: I made this video).

An answer from our earliest source

That the Synoptic Gospels do not present their material in the same order has been known and discussed for more than 1900 years.

Our earliest written discussion of the subject comes from Papias, Bishop of Hierapolis, writing about the Gospel of Mark in the very early 2nd century, discussing what he had learned in the 1st century from first generation Christians. His words, as recorded by Eusebius:

The Elder used to say: Mark, in his capacity as Peter’s interpreter, wrote down accurately as many things as he recalled from memory—though not in an ordered form—of the things either said or done by the Lord. For he neither heard the Lord nor accompanied him, but later, as I said, Peter, who used to give his teachings in the form of chreiai, but had no intention of providing an ordered arrangement of the logia of the Lord. Consequently Mark did nothing wrong when he wrote down some individual items just as he related them from memory. For he made it his one concern not to omit anything he had heard or to falsify anything. (see HE 3:39, translation by Bauckham)

Conclusion

If we expect the Gospel authors to write in a 21st century style, we will be disappointed. They were not trying to present a day-by-day travel log, but a collection (from what must have been a much larger pool of material) of the teachings and sayings of Jesus they believed were most important for the audiences they had in mind (even Luke, who tells us in his prologue he is writing an orderly account, doesn’t specify what “orderly” means).

The exact sequence of events surrounding the healing of Peter's mother-in-law is not 100% certain. The Synoptic Gospels do not present their material in the same order, because the authors never intended them to do so.

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The leper was healed first, after Jesus came down from the mountain where he gave the sermon on the mount(ch. 5-7, Matthew 8:1); Mark simply places the story at the end of his first chapter(1:40-45), giving no immediate context thereto.

As for the second question, Luke essentially backtracks in ch. 5 vss. 1-11 from Jesus' first visit to Capernaum(as recorded in the synoptics) to a time before he gave his sermon on the mount, which is not anything surprising in Luke(there are notable exceptions), also given that he doesn't mention the specifics of the sermon on the mount until ch. 6 vss. 20-49; so Matthew and Mark are correct in saying that Peter was 'called' before he entered Capernaum to heal his mother-in-law(which is fairly logical), though it were, according to John 1, not the first time he had met Peter.

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