Instigator / Pro

The Bible is internally consistent.


The debate is finished. The distribution of the voting points and the winner are presented below.

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After 1 vote and with 1 point ahead, the winner is...

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Three days
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Contender / Con

I (pro) will be arguing that the bible is internally consistent in all significant ways. with significant being defined as a "contradiction" that can't be reasonably attributed to a translation error.

My opponent (Con) will attempt to prove that the Bible contradicts itself in a significant way.

1. Forfeit=autoloss
2. No new arguments from either side in the final round
3. The translation we'll be using is the "New Revised Standard Version" without the Apocrypha.

R1: pro waives the first round Con provides a constructive
R2: pro's rebuttal, Con's rebuttal
R3: Pro and Con rebuttals
R4: Final Focus and Summary.

Round 1
Waived. Per my description.
Thank you, Patmos. As per the rules, all scripture will be from the NRSV. 

Contradictions 1 and 2: Where was Jacob buried and where did Abraham buy the tomb?

A. Jacob was buried in Machpelah, bought from Ephron the Hittite

Genesis 50:13
They carried him [Jacob] to the land of Canaan and buried him in the cave of the field at Machpelah, the field near Mamre, which Abraham bought as a burial site from Ephron the Hittite.

B. He was buried in Shechem, bought from the sons of Hamor

Acts 7:15-16
15 so Jacob went down to Egypt. He himself died there as well as our ancestors, 16 and their bodies[a] were brought back to Shechem and laid in the tomb that Abraham had bought for a sum of silver from the sons of Hamor in Shechem.

These two contradictions are quite significant. If you ever visit Israel and ask where the patriarchs are buried, they will tell you they are buried in the Cave Machpelah. In Acts 7, Stephen gives a long speech to the Sanhedrin where he is "filled with the Holy Spirit." If he's filled with the Holy Spirit, how could he get his history so wrong? 

Contradiction 3: Who was Jesus' grandfather?

There are a plethora of issues within Jesus' genealogy. Both Matthew and Luke give his genealogy, but they are both hopelessly contradictory. Let's start by asking "Who was Jesus' grandfather?" In Matthew, it is Jacob, but in Luke, it is Heli. 

A. Jesus' grandfather was Jacob

Matthew 1:16
and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah

B. Jesus' grandfather was Heli

Luke 3:23
Jesus was about thirty years old when he began his work. He was the son (as was thought) of Joseph son of Heli

Contradictions 4: What time was Jesus crucified?

A. 9 in the morning

Mark 15:25
“It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him..”

B. Noon

John 19:14
“Now it was the day of Preparation for the Passover, and it was about noon. He said to the Jews, “Here is your King!.” 
Christian apologists have tried to reconcile this by arguing that Mark is using the Jewish reckoning while John is using the Roman reckoning. This, however, distorts John’s theology. John wants Jesus to be the Passover sacrifice, thus he times Jesus’ death precisely when the Passover lamb was being offered. This, therefore, is the most theologically significant. 

Contradiction 5: Was it still dark when the women came to visit the tomb?

A. The sun rose

Mark 16:2 
And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb

B. It was still dark

John 20:1
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb


There are many more I can come up with, but these are the most significant. I'll keep the number at 5 to avoid gish galloping. 

Good luck. 

Round 2
Thank you to Virtuoso for accepting this debate.

Where was Jacob buried and where did Abraham buy the tomb?

First, he makes the claim that the burial place of Jacob constitutes a contradiction. It has the appearance of being one because we are 2,000 years removed from the culture of the time. It's important to remember that Luke was not making this claim himself in Acts. Rather, he was remembering a sermon delivered by a man named Stephen. It's equally important to remember who Stephen was speaking to. He was speaking to Hellenized Jews who would have expected and understood Hellenic modes of speech that are alien to us. Most scholars agree that Stephen was using a Hellenic rhetorical strategy called "Telescoping" where he consolidated all of the stories of the burial of the patriarchs into one short story. This would have been immediately understood by the audience at Stephens sermon. They would have recognized the device and filled in the missing information. Since we aren't Hellenic ourselves, we perceive the product of the device as being errant. When in fact, it is not.

so, 1. Luke is giving an accurate account of the sermon by Stephen in the book of Acts.
and 2. Stephen was using a rhetorical strategy in his sermon that is often misunderstood by the layman in modern times.

So does this constitute a contradiction? No, it does not. (1)

Who was Jesus' grandfather?

Next, my opponent claims that the varying genealogies of Jesus are a contradiction. In truth, Matthew and Luke were tracing different things and so came to different conclusions. Matthew was tracing the legal heirs to the Throne of David while Luke was tracing a more physical genealogy. In the succession of the Throne of David, if a king died without an heir of his own then he would posthumously adopt a close relative who would then become king. On the occasions that this happened, the line of the Throne of David would diverge from the physical, biological line that leads to Jesus. 

In summary, Matthew and Luke were not tracing the same thing. Luke was showing the biological line of Jesus, while Matthew was proving that Jesus was the legal heir to the Throne of David. One was tracing a biological succession while the other was tracing a monarchical succession which is not necessarily biological. They can't contradict each other if they aren't tracing the same thing or asking the same question. (2)

When was Jesus Crucified?

The main problem with my opponent's argument here is that he's quoting the wrong part of John. the part he quotes saying that the time was around noon is before Jesus was handed over by Pilate to be crucified. They still had to go to the place of execution which was a time-consuming journey. Plus, crucifixion itself was a time-consuming method of execution. A condemned man could be on the cross for hours, even days before they would die. So his argument that John timed the time of Jesus' death to the time that the lamb was sacrificed makes no sense if he's claiming that the part about noon is the contradiction. Because John doesn't claim that Jesus died at noon. In fact, John never says exactly when Jesus died. Nor does he say when the crucifixion started. Therefore, the argument about the differences between Roman and Jewish time remains valid. 

To explain that argument in full to the voters, Christian scholars point out that  John reckoned time in the Roman style while Matthew, Mark, and Luke all reckoned time in the Jewish style. This leads to differences between them when they say when certain events happened even though they are talking about the same objective time. Also, note that Mark and John weren't even talking about the same event. Mark was talking about when the crucifixion started and John was talking about when Jesus was handed over to be crucified. These events would have been hours apart

Was it still dark when the women went to the tomb?

There are a number of answers to this question.
1. It depends on what you mean by "dark." At dawn, one can say that the sun has risen but it can still be dark in effect. These two things are not mutually exclusive.
2. Perhaps the women traveled to the tomb at separate times before sunrise and after sunrise.
3. Ancient Greek does not always translate perfectly into English. Some Biblical scholars argue that a more accurate translation is that they left for the tomb before dark. There is always going to be some disagreement on how to best translate Ancient Greek to English but fortunately, those instances are very minor and unimportant. (3)


(2) Piper, John. “Who Was Jesus' Grandfather?” Desiring God, 29 Jan. 2020,

(3) “The Resurrection of Jesus: A Harmonization and Answers to Contradictions.” Rational Christianity - Christian Apologetics,
Thank you, Patmos. 

Where was Jacob buried and where did Abraham buy the tomb?

First, even if the author of Acts is simply quoting Stephen's words, it fails to address the point that he was supposedly "filled with the holy spirit." If he was filled with the holy spirit, then he should not be getting history so wrong. Second, my opponent claims that Stephen is talking to Helenized Jews. He is actually speaking to the Sanhedrin, a group of Pharisees that are well versed in Torah. The story begins in Acts 6:

8 Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. 9 Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and others of those from Cilicia and Asia, stood up and argued with Stephen. 10 But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit[c] with which he spoke. 11 Then they secretly instigated some men to say, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.” 12 They stirred up the people as well as the elders and the scribes; then they suddenly confronted him, seized him, and brought him before the council. 13 They set up false witnesses who said, “This man never stops saying things against this holy place and the law; 14 for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth[d] will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses handed on to us.” 15 And all who sat in the council looked intently at him, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.

The elders, scribes, and the council are learned men, not Hellenize Jews. Let's look at the end of the story.

54 When they heard these things, they became enraged and ground their teeth at Stephen.[j] 55 But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 “Look,” he said, “I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” 57 But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. 58 Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he died.[k]
So there are a few interesting points to take. The first point is that the Sanhedrin has accused Stephen of speaking against the Torah. When he finished his speech, the Sanhedrin became enraged and stoned him. It is easy to see why they would be enraged. Stephen shows woeful ignorance of their history and shows that he was speaking against the Torah. 

Who was Jesus' grandfather?

My opponent's attempt to reconcile this falls flat. In Jewish law, a person is determined to be Jewish by the status of their mother. If your mother is Jewish, then you are Jewish regardless of who your father is. However, the tribal status of the person is passed down from father to son. Let's suppose a Levi marries a person from Judah. The child of that person would be considered from the Tribe of Levi and would have no claim to the throne. Similarly, if a person from Judah marries a Levite, then the child would be from Judah and would not be allowed to be a priest. 

The idea that they are tracing two different things is not supported in the text. Both texts are clearly showing his genealogy passed down from father to son. Indeed, Luke 3:23 states, "Jesus was about thirty years old when he began his work. He was the son (as was thought) of Joseph son of Heli" And Matthew starts with "An account of the genealogy[a] of Jesus the Messiah,[b] the son of David, the son of Abraham." There is no indication in either text that they are tracing anything but the legal, i.e. halachic, lineage of Jesus. 

Moreover, if Luke is providing the biological line of Jesus, then this is highly problematic and disqualifies Jesus to be the Messiah. In order to be King, the person must be a descendant of both David and Solomon. In Luke (3:23), Jesus descends from David's son Nathan, which means he cannot be the messiah. See the following verses:

2 Samuel 7:14-15
14 I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me. When he commits iniquity, I will punish him with a rod such as mortals use, with blows inflicted by human beings. 15 But I will not take[a] my steadfast love from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you.

1 Chronicles 28:5-7
5 And of all my sons, for the Lord has given me many, he has chosen my son Solomon to sit upon the throne of the kingdom of the Lord over Israel. 6 He said to me, ‘It is your son Solomon who shall build my house and my courts, for I have chosen him to be a son to me, and I will be a father to him. 7 I will establish his kingdom forever

Thus if a king dies without a son, the person who comes after him must come from both David and Solomon. Thus if Jesus is biologically a descendant of Nathan, he cannot be the Messiah. 

When was Jesus Crucified?

My opponent's attempt to reconcile these two differences fall flat. Let's look at the text again. 

Mark 15
21 They compelled a passer-by, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross; it was Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus. 22 Then they brought Jesus[d] to the place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull). 23 And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh; but he did not take it. 24 And they crucified him, and divided his clothes among them, casting lots to decide what each should take.

25 It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him. 26 The inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.” 27 And with him they crucified two bandits, one on his right and one on his left.[e] 29 Those who passed by derided[f] him, shaking their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, 30 save yourself, and come down from the cross!” 31 In the same way the chief priests, along with the scribes, were also mocking him among themselves and saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. 32 Let the Messiah,[g] the King of Israel, come down from the cross now, so that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with him also taunted him.
The Death of Jesus

33 When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land[h] until three in the afternoon. 34 At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”[i] 35 When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “Listen, he is calling for Elijah.” 36 And someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” 37 Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. 38 And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. 39 Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he[j] breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”[k]

John 19:13-24
13 When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus outside and sat[b] on the judge’s bench at a place called The Stone Pavement, or in Hebrew[c] Gabbatha. 14 Now it was the day of Preparation for the Passover; and it was about noon. He said to the Jews, “Here is your King!” 15 They cried out, “Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!” Pilate asked them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but the emperor.” 16 Then he handed him over to them to be crucified.

So they took Jesus; 17 and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew[d] is called Golgotha. 18 There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them. 19 Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth,[e] the King of the Jews.” 20 Many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew,[f] in Latin, and in Greek. 21 Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’” 22 Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.” 23 When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier. They also took his tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. 24 So they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it.” This was to fulfill what the scripture says,

I have in bold the obvious problems. First, who actually carried the cross? In Mark, Simon did, but in John, it explicitly states that Jesus carried the cross by himself. Another obvious problem with my opponent's reconciliation attempt is that it's clear in Mark that Jesus was already on the cross at 9 AM. Sow how could John, and my opponent, be right by saying it was about noon when he was given over to Pilate. In John's Gospel, he isn't even on the cross until another 3 hours. 

But it gets worse. Mark and John have Jesus crucified on two different days. Let's look at Mark 14

14 It was two days before the Passover and the festival of Unleavened Bread. The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to arrest Jesus[a] by stealth and kill him; 2 for they said, “Not during the festival, or there may be a riot among the people.”

12 On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb is sacrificed, his disciples said to him, “Where do you want us to go and make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?” 13 So he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him, 14 and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks, Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 15 He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.” 16 So the disciples set out and went to the city, and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal.

17 When it was evening, he came with the twelve. 18 And when they had taken their places and were eating, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.” 19 They began to be distressed and to say to him one after another, “Surely, not I?” 20 He said to them, “It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread[e] into the bowl[f] with me. 21 For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.”

And now let's look at the ending of John. 

John 18:28 
28 Then the Jewish leaders took Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness they did not enter the palace, because they wanted to be able to eat the Passover. 29 So Pilate came out to them and asked, “What charges are you bringing against this man?”

John 19:14
13 When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge’s seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha). 14 It was the day of Preparation of the Passover; it was about noon.

“Here is your king,” Pilate said to the Jews.
15 But they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!”
“Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked.
“We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests answered.
16 Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.

My opponent's attempt to reconcile the times fails for the following reasons: First, the two Gospels have Jesus crucified on two different days. Second, Mark has Jesus on the cross before John's Gospel. In John's Gospel, Jesus isn't even on the cross until noon. Finally, there is another contradiction between the two accounts. Since I quoted the full passages, I figured I'd bring it up. Did Jesus carry the cross by himself as John states or did Simon of Cyrene carry it? Both can't be right. My opponent can't argue that Jesus started to carry the cross and then Simon picked it up later on because John clearly states he carried it by himself and there is no indication that someone else picked it up later. 

Was it still dark when the women went to the tomb?
1. What is meant by "dark"? It is obvious that it means it is dark and the sun hasn't risen. It is either still dark or the sun has risen. 
2. There is no indication that the women traveled separate times. 
3. This also is not supported in the text. Again, let's look. 

Mark 16:2 
And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb

John 20:1
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb

So John is clear that Mary came to the tomb (i.e. arrived) while it was still dark. There's no indication in the passage that it was dawn when they got there. Second, Mark is clear that they went to the tomb after the sun rose. 


If these are the best responses that Patmos can come up with, then the Bible is in serious trouble. My opponent's attempt to reconcile these can only be described as apologetic acrobatics by ignoring what the passage actually states and trying to force things into the text that it doesn't say. 

Over to you. 
Round 3
I would like to begin this round by stating the following. The Bible was not written in a vacuum. It was written within history and must, therefore, be viewed in the proper historical and cultural context. Many of the supposed contradictions Virtuoso continues to bring up only appear to be contradictory to modern readers who are removed from the culture of the time and haven't studied their history.

On this point, I will move into addressing the issue of the tomb of Jacob. First, Virtuoso seems to assume that one cannot be a pharisee and also be Hellenic. Being Hellenic does not necessarily mean practicing the Greek or Roman religion. It means taking on characteristics of the Hellenic culture. The Romans conquered Judea around 63 BC while Stephen's speech took place at around 40 AD. That means that these Pharisees had been living under Roman rule for their entire lives. They had Roman governors, Roman laws, and to an extent, Roman culture. My opponent continues to incorrectly claim that Stephen, and by proxy Luke, had their history wrong. No. As I said, Stephen was using an extremely common rhetorical technique of the day that consolidated the story. Had we been alive and living in the region at the time, it would have made perfect sense to us. But being 2000 years removed creates confusion. That's why it's so important to look at this in its proper historical context. Also, let's be perfectly clear. Stephen was not stoned for anything he said about the burial place of Jacob. He was stoned because he was saying that Jesus was the Messiah which the Pharisees continued to claim was blasphemy. The text you provided tells us exactly why the Pharisees wanted Stephen dead. And it had nothing to do with the tomb of Jacob.

As for who Jesus' Grandfather was and the surrounding point about the Messiah, I need to preface my argument with this: the way that even De Jure biological succession was viewed in this ancient culture was highly complex with a lot of rules that seem strange to us in this modern age. If you haven't studied these rules thoroughly then you are going to make mistakes. As Virtuoso has done.

First, Heli was not Josephs's father. Not in the sense that Heli had sex with Joseph's mother to make him. Rather, Heli was Mary's father and Joseph's Father-in-Law. By some circumstance (either Mary had no brothers,they died or otherwise lost their inheritance) Joseph became the son of Heli in a De Jure sense as he was next in line to continue the bloodline of Heli. Note that this is different from the monarchical succession rules that I talked about in my last post in that Joseph would have been considered to be the heir to the "biological" bloodline of Heli rather than any title of nobility which had separate, yet similar rules. Perhaps bloodline is a better word to use here for clarities sake over biological. The man who actually conceived Joseph was Jacob and Jacob was descended from Solomon.

As for my opponent's argument that there is no evidence that Luke and Matthew were tracing different things. This argument only stands if you totally ignore historical context. The fact remains that Matthews Genealogy perfectly traces the legal heirs to the throne of David while Lukes Genealogy traces the De Jure biological bloodline. You can't ignore this fact simply because that detail was not explicitly given. If they weren't tracing the same thing they can't contradict each other and they very clearly weren't tracing the same thing.

As a final note on this, It's important to remember that this isn't some secular law we're talking about. This is God's Law. So it makes sense that God would recognize his own law in fulfilling the Messianic prophesies.

Moving on to who carried Jesus' cross, Jesus or Simon? The obvious answer is both. Again, my opponent makes the mistake of incorrectly assuming that Mark and John were writing about the same point in time. They were not. John's account leaves off as Jesus was leaving Pilates palace. From there, Jesus would have carried the cross through the streets of Jerusalem and out through the city gates. This is where Mark's account picks up. At this point, Jesus would have been carrying the cross for a good distance. He had also already been severely beaten as such, the likelihood that he would be able to carry the cross all the way to Golgotha is little none. As such, the Romans had Simon pick up Jesus' cross and carry it the rest of the way. As we can see, this actually establishes continuity between John and Mark's accounts,not a contradiction. My opponent argues that because John says that Jesus carries the cross "by himself" that this precludes my argument from being true. This is not accurate. John was not present to witness Jesus when he exited the gates of Jerusalem. Remember, this was near Passover as such the population of Jerusalem had swelled dramatically all of the disciples were not able to follow Jesus the whole way. As far as John saw, Jesus carried the cross away from Pilates Palace by himself. This is why there are multiple gospels. Because no one man saw everything. Between the four gospels,we get the full story. They aren't contradictory though, because they aren't talking about the same time frame.

My opponent makes the argument that the Bible has Jesus being crucified on two different days. This is interesting considering that the Bible never once tells us the specific date on which Jesus was crucified. My opponent tries to say that the various mentions of The Passover allow him to know what day everything went down on. Remember in my last post when I said that Ancient Greek doesn't always work in English? This whole section of the English Bible is full of those little moments. To respond to this in full I would need to post a block of text with every third word being in Ancient Greek. For example, the Greek word for Passover has three possible meanings that all get translated into the word "Passover" in English. This understandably leads to some confusion. But fortunately for all of us, translation errors are not considered in this debate which is what this argument is over. (3) look at the third source for a full explanation if you want.

As for how light out it was when the women went to the tomb, my opponent seems to be mistakenly asserting that the term "dark" is somehow objective and transcendent rather than subjective and existing on a continuum. Anyone who has ever driven at night before sunrise knows that there is a period of time after the sun has come over the horizon when it can definitely still be described as being "dark." All this argument proves is that the two writers had differing ideas on what dark is. Maybe John just wasn't a morning person and described those early hours as "dark" despite the sun being visible in the sky while Mark only noted that the sun was up.

Regarding whether or not the women traveled to the tomb at different times, it's true that we don't know for sure. However, seeing as these women likely didn't live together it is certainly possible, even likely, that they didn't depart for the tomb at the exact same time and it's even less likely that they traveled at the same speed thus one may have arrived before the sun was up and the other arrived after. 

My opponent argues that there is no text evidence for my third point on this. Yes. That's the idea. Point three was that there is disagreement on how exactly to translate the Ancient Greek. So while there may not be any potential text evidence in the NRSV, there is text evidence in the original Ancient Greek texts. If the voters believe that this means that this contradiction can be reasonably attributed to a translation error, then it should be dismissed as non-topical due to my definition of significant.

I would also like to point out that my opponent has completely dropped my argument on Roman and Jewish time as well as the fact that John and Mark weren't talking about the same event relating to the time of Jesus' crucifixion.
I am going to have to waive this round. I misread the debate and thought I had 2 weeks to post. 
Round 4