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The feeding of the 5000 is recorded in all 4 Gospels:

  • Matthew 14:13-22
  • Mark 6:32-46
  • Luke 9:10-17
  • John 6:1-15

In Matthew & Mark they leave town and are in a desert place:

When Jesus heard of it, he departed thence by ship into a desert place apart: and when the people had heard thereof, they followed him on foot out of the cities. (Matthew 14:13)

32 And they departed into a desert place by ship privately.

33 And the people saw them departing, and many knew him, and ran afoot thither out of all cities, and outwent them, and came together unto him. (Mark 6:32-33)


In Luke they are in Bethsaida:

Then he took them with him and they withdrew by themselves to a town called Bethsaida (Luke 9:10b)

*note that later in the story Luke mentions a desert place


In John they are on a mountain:

And Jesus went up into a mountain, and there he sat with his disciples. (John 6:3)


Where did this event take place--a desert place, a town, or a mountain?

Is this a contradiction or is there a location that fits all of these descriptions?

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BETHSAIDA (Βηθσαϊδά, Bēthsaida, בֵּית צַיְדָה, beith tsaydah; “house of fishing”). A fishing village located on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. The hometown of the disciples Philip, Andrew, and Peter. (from The Lexham Bible Dictionary)

So, I don't see a contradiction. It was near the village of Bethsaida.

Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. 46 And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray. (Mark 6:45–46, ESV)

There was more than one hill. The language doesn't distinguish hill from mountain. The context places it near the Sea of Galilee, which Bethsaida is also near. Jesus walked on water afterward (Mark 6:45-52; John 6:16-21).

Of course, one would call it a contradiction if expecting an exactness more than normal for New Testament times. Many see this type of difference in detail as evident for accounts from different witnesses.

CRITERION OF MULTIPLE ATTESTATION

Second is the criterion of multiple attestation. This criterion says that “when a saying appears either in multiple sources (M, L, Q, Mark) or in multiple forms ([e.g.], in a miracle account, a parable, and/or apocalyptic settings)” then it has multiple attestation ... Like the criterion of dissimilarity, this criterion is limited in that it should be used only for positive affirmations of what Jesus said. -- Komoszewski, J. E., Sawyer, M. J., & Wallace, D. B. (2006). Reinventing Jesus: How Contemporary Skeptics Miss the Real Jesus and Mislead Popular Culture (p. 44). Kregel Publications.

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  • Reinventing Jesus - a great book! Commented Feb 4, 2022 at 5:17
  • Good answer +1.
    – Dottard
    Commented Feb 4, 2022 at 10:51

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