There are some people who reject the Bible, saying that it contradicts itself. This argument is based on the premise that the Bible is one book, written by one author. It fails to acknowledge the fact that the Bible is a library of books, letters, and documents written by humans over a period of thousands of years.
But by far the most popular discrepancies cited are those that are found in the gospels. Critics and doubters are quick to point out discrepancies found within Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
There are plenty of voices that address this. There are plenty of people who argue that there are no discrepancies. So I’m not even going to go there.
But let’s say that there are! Do minor discrepancies within the gospels completely discredit the whole story?
Is it possible that even eyewitnesses of certain events have minor differences in their testimonies?
When the Titanic sunk, there were numerous survivors – eyewitnesses, that contradict one another.
For example, one said that the ship broke in two. The other argued that it didn’t. They both saw the ship sink. There were both eyewitnesses.
Eyewitnesses have also argued over which song the band played last.
And don’t forget that the media at the time reported many differing stories, and published many different death-toll counts. In fact, even today we are not 100% sure exactly how many people actually died in the tragedy.
BUT, one thing we know beyond a reasonable doubt – in spite of all the discrepancies, all of the witnesses agree on this point: the Titanic sank!
In the same way, the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John may differ slightly on various subjects. But none of the discrepancies differ on the central doctrine of the Christian faith – that Jesus came, did wonderful works, opposed and angered many, died, and rose again.
Generally speaking, people don’t throw out the entire story of the Titanic because eyewitnesses disagreed on certain aspects of the story. So why would anyone throw out the entire story of Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection because there are some discrepancies between the witnesses?
In a court of law, during a trial, it is common for witnesses to be called to testify. If such witnesses are true and honest, and if there were no prior collusion or conspiracy, you will most certainly get discrepancies. Humans are humans. Mistakes are made, even by eyewitnesses. Two people could look at the same painting and see totally different things.
I recently followed a murder trial in which one of the pieces of evidence presented used to identify the killer was a tattoo. One witness got up on the stand and said that tattoo had the word “ambition” within a box tattooed on the killer’s wrist. The other witness testified that the killer had the word “ambition” tattooed on his wrist – without a box around it.
The two witnesses both agreed on the location of the tattoo, and that it read “ambition”. But they disagreed as to whether or not there was a box around it.
The jury agreed unanimously that they had the right guy nonetheless.
Within court trials, witnesses are expected to disagree on some points. That’s human. Everyone sees or hears something a little bit different than the other. Discrepancies are what make the whole thing very real, and honest.
If during a trial in a court of law, there are four witnesses, and their testimonies are in perfect agreement regarding all details – then a “red flag” of suspicion immediately arises! If all witnesses have their stories too perfect, it is filed as “too good to be true”. That is almost always a clear sign of collusion. It makes it much more difficult to believe.
So we need to ask, what are the gospels?
They are but ancient biographies of Jesus, written by four different human beings.
Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are witnesses. Nothing more. Nothing less.
If Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John agreed 100% in every word, and sentence, THAT would make the story unbelievable. In that case, I can just imagine how many doubters would come out of the woodwork saying that their stories are too perfect, and most certainly a product of collusion.
If Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were in perfect tandem agreement, then surely the critics would object to that saying that it was most certainly a product of collusion.
But, no. We have four accounts of four different human beings, all reporting on what they know about Jesus. If there are discrepancies, that makes it even more believable.