Text & Twitter Tuesday--Does Acts 2 Contradict John 20?


One of the recurring objections to the Christian faith is that the Bible contradicts itself.  Typically, what I have found is that those who make such a protest cannot identify an alleged contradiction but a handful, usually lapsed church goers, can point out a few difficulties that a believer should be able to answer.  One such example stems from reading John 20:21-22 and Acts 2:1-11.  The pertinent verses read as follows:

21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. (John 20:21-22 ESV)


When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

5 Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6 And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language.7 And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” 12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” (Acts 2:1-12 ESV)

Did the disciples receive the Holy Spirit twice? Is this a contradiction?

First of all, the problem lies with various English translations.  As D.A. Carson points out in his fine commentary on The Gospel of John, the Greek does not state that Jesus breathed "on them" but that he "breathed" and said" Receive the Holy Spirit."  Second, again following Dr. Carson, the disciples show no sign of any real change until Acts 2.  Thus, Carson surmises that Jesus is promising the imminent coming of the Spirit as Luke records in the Book of Acts and, therefore, no contradiction exists.  I hope that helps.  Until next time, God bess!