Matthew 20:20 (cf. Mark 10:35)—Who came to talk with Jesus, the mother of James and John or James and John?

Problem: In Matthew, the mother of James and John made a request of Jesus. However, Mark states that it was James and John who came to Jesus to make their request.

Solution: It is clear that both the mother and her sons came to Jesus to make the request, since the text declares “the mother ... came to Him with her sons” (v. 20). It is possible that the mother spoke first with the two sons closely following to reiterate the request. This is supported by Matthew’s account because when Jesus responds “are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” the Bible says “they said to Him, `we are able’ ” (v.22). So, there is no unsolvable conflict here. The two accounts are harmonious.

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This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.