Undesigned Coincidences and the Reliability of Scripture

by Dean Meadows

We live in an age where the reliability of the Bible is under attack due to the writings of many New Atheist and even some prominent agnostics. Many apologists reference historiography, archaeology, and appeal to textual criticism in efforts to defend the trustworthiness of the Bible. However, what if we’ve missed a massive piece of the puzzle which has been around since the 1800’s? What if there is a phenomenon within the pages of the Bible that both skeptics and apologist have missed? What if, one of, and arguably the best method of showing Biblical reliability is as simple as noting undersigned coincidences?

What is an undersigned coincidence? An undesigned coincidence occurs when an account of one event omits a piece or pieces of information which is filled in, usually incidentally, by a different recording, which helps to answer inquiries raised by the first. Thus, it is another piece of the cumulative case. As the apologist, Jonathan McLatchie states, “the case is at its strongest when taken as a cumulative whole; In other words, it’s death by a thousand mosquito bites.”[1] There are two types of undersigned coincidences: internal coincidences and external coincidences. Internal coincidences take place within the pages of scripture and external take place outside of scripture.

Internal Coincidence

One of the primary examples of internal undersigned coincidences is seen regarding the trial of Jesus found in John 2:18-20,

18 The Jews then responded to him, “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?”   19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in  three days.   20 They replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?”

In Mark 14:55-59, records the scene of Jesus before the Sanhedrin,

55 The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against               Jesus so that they could put him to death, but they did not find any. 56 Many testified falsely against him, but their statements did not agree.  57 Then some stood up and gave this false testimony against him: 58 “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with human hands and in three days will build another, not made with hands.’” 59 Yet even then their testimony did not agree.[2]

Notice, what we find when we compare the passages; the false witnesses, described by Mark, distort what Jesus said. But how would we know what Jesus stated about the temple? Only when we read the Gospel of John, do we find that Jesus never states that he would destroy the man-made temple but was using the terminology as a metaphor regarding his body. Without John’s details, it is possible that we’d be left wondering what Jesus stated…

Undesigned Coincidences and the Reliability of Scripture