All the Gospel accounts disagree with one another!
by Steve Wimmer
Sometimes when I’m speaking with people who are moderately to well-informed about the New Testament, they bring up some of the seeming discrepancies in the Gospel accounts. The objection is raised by pointing to two Gospel accounts of the same narrative and noting the differences. This is sometimes easily explainable and sometimes very difficult to make sense of. I am convinced that there are no actual contradictions in these accounts and that those who wish to invest the time studying them will come to a similar conclusion. These examples will specifically focus on the Resurrection narratives in homage to Easter – but the idea holds for all of the Gospels.
I won’t tackle every single issue that exists because that is beyond the scope of this blog. Instead I’ll cover some of the basic types of objection as well as a general response when dealing with this sort of thing.
X mentions _____ and Y doesn’t!
Someone might mention that Jesus appears to two disciples on the road then to the eleven in Luke’s account, but he appears to women at his tomb in all the other accounts. Luke records the women encountering the empty tomb just like everyone else, but choses to describe Jesus’ appearance on the road to Emmaus instead of his appearance at the tomb. We can’t be sure why he does this, perhaps for theological reasons, but it doesn’t exclude a tomb appearance by Jesus. In the same vein, if I mention that Bobby, Joe and Suzy were at the party, that doesn’t mean LeBron and Dwyane weren’t at the party unless I also claim that my list of attendees is exhaustive.
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X mentions ____ and Y mentions _____ (different thing!)
Who saw Jesus first? Mary Magdalene, the eleven, the eleven minus Thomas, and two disciples on the road are all options. This variation falls prey to the same response as our last objection. The Gospel authors focused on different aspects of the same narrative, sometimes for theological reasons and sometimes in order to communicate more effectively with their intended audience…
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