3 Tips to Sort Out Contradictory Research

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by Mesu Andrews

On our recent Israel tour, I was reminded that archaeologists and scholars are incredibly smart—but they can’t know everything for certain. Shouldn’t they know where Jesus was crucified and buried?

The Christian Conundrum

Our Catholic brothers and sisters begin winding their way through Jerusalem along the Via Dolarosa—the Way of the Cross—starting at Herod’s Antonia Fortress. At each of the fourteen “stations,” there’s an explanation of another stage of Jesus’ suffering on his way to crucifixion. The final five stations are housed within the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. It’s breath-taking.

However, a second location is held by Protestants to be the location of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial, and resurrection. Secluded outside the Old City, the Garden Tomb is quiet and unassuming, a simple hole next to a skull-shaped cliff (Golgotha = means skull).

Some very smart men have disagreed for centuries about these two locations, and if you delve into much research for your current WIP, you’ll likely find experts who argue about something.

What do we do when good resources contradict?

Research Like a King!

“It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out.” Proverbs 25:2 (ESV)

I’m not a king and you’re probably not either, but it’s a glorious feeling to search something out and find a way to weave choppy facts together with great fiction! Let me share three ways I’ve discovered to work with the contradiction dilemma…because it will happen if you research deeply.

#1 – Read Until Your Eyeballs Fall Out

Of course, you shouldn’t really read that much, but I suggest gathering a large quantity and variety of resources: books, online articles, photos, maps, scholarly papers (if applicable), etc. If writing biblical fiction, read different versions of the Bible, and study the original language of your passage if possible (I use www.blueletterbible.org).


#2 – Find a Golden Thread

While reading, check bibliographies in books and articles to see who the experts deem as experts. It’s those brainiacs at the top of the geek-pile that should guide your plot decisions. You’ll begin to see a golden thread, usually from one or two voices. If possible, follow a single resource for specific dates to make plotting simpler.


#3 – Make Our Decision With Grace

As long as humans read our books, opinions will vary about the research decisions we’ve made. Stand by your well-thought-out decisions, but concede that YOU WRITE FICTION. Keep a good bibliography, and be ready to site specific resources for the controversial information you use. Then thank your readers for being diligent when they challenge you. It means they’re passionate about your topic, and they’ll become your fiercest supporters if you win their trust!

So Which Tomb Was It?

Let’s set aside paring down research and good writing and address the effects of contradictions on our faith. Do the wheels on your trust-bus wobble because there are two proposed places for Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection?

Ask yourself:
  • Does the place of His Passion change the Truth of Scripture?
  • Does the place of His Passion change the eyewitness testimony of Paul and Jesus’ disciples? (1 Cor.15:3-8)
  • Does the place of His Passion change your salvation?


Let essentials guide your faith, and use research contradictions to fuel a more fascinating story!

Let essentials guide your faith, and use research contradictions to fuel a more fascinating story! @MesuAndrews #ACFWBlogs #writetips Click To Tweet

Mesu Andrews is the Christy Award-winning, best-selling author of Isaiah’s Daughter, and has received numerous accolades for her newest release, Isaiah’s Legacy. Through her deep understanding of and love for God’s Word, the biblical world comes alive for readers. Mesu lives with her family in the beautiful mountains of North Carolina.

Comments 3

  1. There’s much in the Holy Land
    that’s designed to soothe and please us,
    come look here, at your left hand,
    and see the Tomb of Infant Jesus!
    So many places for the Cross;
    one, of course, must be correct!
    But if you are at a loss,
    see them all and genuflect.
    Where did John baptize the Lord?
    Where did the Dove come to abide?
    It’s so easy to afford;
    come to the Baptist’s Water Slide!
    Give your shekels, come with me,
    come and buy your history!

  2. Very good advice. Although I’m a history major, I’ve never felt comfortable tackling historical fiction for fear of getting it wrong. I admire people who have the tenacity to conduct thorough research.

  3. Great points!

    I’ve visited both sites, and while I don’t have a view on which is the “correct” site, I will say the Garden Tomb looks and feels a lot more like the Jerusalem Jesus knew. It also wasn’t overrun by tourists and tour guides 🙂

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