Jesus’ Final Journey to Jerusalem

Much like the difficulties of discerning the Israelites’ journey to the Promised Land (see here), the task of reconciling the four Gospel accounts of Jesus’ final journey to Jerusalem into one coherent itinerary has proven very challenging for Bible scholars. As with many other events during Jesus’ ministry, the accounts of Matthew, Mark, and Luke (often referred to as the Synoptic Gospels) present a noticeably similar account of Jesus’ final travels, while John’s Gospel presents an itinerary that is markedly different from the others. In general, the Synoptic Gospels present Jesus as making a single journey to Jerusalem, beginning in Capernaum (Luke 9:51), passing through Perea (Matthew 19:1-2; Mark 10:1) and Jericho (Matthew 20:29-34; Mark 10:46-52; Luke 18:35-19:10), and ending at Bethany and Bethphage, where he enters Jerusalem riding on a donkey (Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-44). John, on the other hand, mentions several trips to Jerusalem by Jesus (John 2:13-17; 5:1-15; 7:1-13; 10:22-23), followed by a trip to Perea across the Jordan River (John 10:40-42), a return to Bethany where he raises Lazarus from the dead (John 11), a withdrawal to the village of Ephraim for a few months (John 11:54), and a return trip to Bethany, where he then enters Jerusalem riding on a donkey (John 12:1-19). The differences between the Synoptics’ and John’s accounts are noteworthy, but they are not irreconcilable. The Synoptics, after noting that Jesus began his trip at Capernaum, likely condensed their accounts (as occurs elsewhere in the Gospels) to omit Jesus’ initial arrival in Jerusalem and appearance at the Festival of Dedication, thus picking up with Jesus in Perea (stage 2 of John’s itinerary). Then all the Gospels recount Jesus’ trip (back) to Bethany and Jerusalem, passing through Jericho along the way. Likewise, the Synoptics must have simply omitted the few months Jesus spent in Ephraim to escape the Jewish leaders (stage 4 of John’s itinerary) and rejoined John’s account where Jesus is preparing to enter Jerusalem on a donkey.

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