“Why Do the Gospel Accounts Contradict Each Other?”

image_pdfimage_print

I understand that if 4 people saw an accident, they would each have a different story. You said that was why Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John had slightly different accounts of the resurrection. But isn’t all of the Bible inspired by God? Didn’t He tell those four guys what to write? And also, some parts still seem a bit different… like inside of the tomb… how many angels were there and did they sit or stand? I know that’s probably not very significant, but it still bothers me.

Yes, the four gospel writers are inspired of God and provide different but not contradictory details of the life of Jesus. Inspiration does not mean they must have identical accounts. Inspiration means they have different but not contradictory accounts. When put together, they complement nicely and fill in details the others leave out. Let’s consider the example of an accident. If one witness stands to the north side of the accident, he sees the accident from his vantage point. Now the other witness stands on the south side, the opposite side of the street, he sees different details because of his angle. Now would both men have identical accounts? Of course not, the one on the south side cannot see what happens on the north side of the accident nor can the man on the north side see what happens on the south side. However, when you put the two accounts together, you get a more complete picture of the accident. Both men include different details but they should not be contradictory.

That is what we have in the gospels. The writers include different, but not contradictory, details. Inspiration does not mean the four gospels must be identical in every way. That would be quite boring to read four accounts tht are exactly the same. Each writer includes details he feels are necessary for the audience he is addressing. Matthew, writing to the Jews, must include all the Old Testament prophecies, while Mark, writing to the Greeks, does not include many prophecies but writes on the action of Jesus’ life. Is that a contradiction? No, it’s just that each writer included details he felt were necessary and left out others he felt would not be necesary for his audience. Alleged contradictions are explained when one studies the accounts and puts each event of Christ in its chronological order.

Matthew records one angel, Luke and John record two. The answer is this. Where there are two there must be one. Get it? There were two angels at the tomb but Matthew only writes about one in his account. Is this a contradiction? No, because where there are two, there must be at least one. Luke includes two, but Matthew only includes the one that spoke with Mary. He keyed in on that one and left the other angel out. Luke and John include the other one. We do that in our reporting. If Clinton and Gore appear on the podium but only Clinton talks and Gore says nothing, some newspapers will say “Clinton appeared and said such and such” and not mention Gore. Other papers will say, “Clinton and Gore appeared and Clinton stated ….” Is there a contradiction? No, just some reporters mentioned one person while another chose not to.

Hope this helps. Keep studying the word!

Patrick Zukeran
Probe Ministries

Dr. Patrick Zukeran

Dr. Patrick Zukeran, former Probe staffer, is the founder and Executive Director of Evidence and Answers, a research and teaching ministry specializing in Christian apologetics, the defense of the Christian faith. He is the host of the radio show Evidence and Answers (www.evidenceandanswers.org). Pat is the author of several books including The Apologetics of Jesus co-authored with Norman Geisler; God, Eternity, and Spirituality (ed.); and Unless I See . . . Is There Enough Evidence to Believe? Pat is a popular conference speaker and he also serves as an adjunct faculty for several colleges and institutes worldwide. He earned a B.A. from Point Loma Nazarene University, a Master of Theology (Th.M.) from Dallas Theological Seminary, and a Doctorate of Ministry (D.Min.) in Apologetics from Southern Evangelical Seminary. Pat lives in Honolulu, Hawaii and can be reached at pat@evidenceandanswers.org.

About Probe Ministries

Probe Ministries is a non-profit ministry whose mission is to assist the church in renewing the minds of believers with a Christian worldview and to equip the church to engage the world for Christ. Probe fulfills this mission through our Mind Games conferences for youth and adults, our 3-minute daily radio program, and our extensive Web site at www.probe.org.

Further information about Probe's materials and ministry may be obtained by contacting us at:

Probe Ministries
2001 W. Plano Parkway, Suite 2000
Plano TX 75075
(972) 941-4565
info@probe.org
www.probe.org

Copyright/Reproduction Limitations

This document is the sole property of Probe Ministries. It may not be altered or edited in any way. Permission is granted to use in digital or printed form so long as it is circulated without charge, and in its entirety. This document may not be repackaged in any form for sale or resale. All reproductions of this document must contain the copyright notice (i.e., Copyright 2019 Probe Ministries) and this Copyright/Limitations notice.

3 Comments
  1. June 1 year ago

    Thank you for explaining this. I’m not saying the gospel is wrong. It’s not contradictory either. But it’s a bit different having a completely different account of the same event that you were present for with three other people. I know people may forget major details or even interpret certain things differently.

    What made personally question why there were differences was that in the gospel of Mark it is said when Jesus was being mocked before her was crucified the Scribes and Pharisees parted his garments and put him in a purple robe and began mocking him. Then they took the robe off him and put his own clothes back on him. Later his clothes were removed and he was crucified naked.

    They book of Luke says that Pilot sent him to Herod who was happy to see Him and wanted him to perform some miracle but Jesus would not. Then Herod put him in a purple robe and sent him to Pilot to be crucified. So who put him in the robe? Was it the Scribes and Pharisees who did it to mock Him because He told them he was a King? Or was it Herod doing it out of respect? It gets a bit confusing there.

    It also says in the book of Mark that BOTH thieves hanging next to Jesus began to revile him. But the book of Luke says that one of them reviled him and the other told him(to paraphrase) ‘Why do you mock God when we are receiving the same punishment as he is? Yet we ARE guilty of what we’re being executed for.’ He then asked Jesus to remember him when he returned in the Kingdom and Jesus told him ‘This day you will wake up with me in paradise.’

    I understand the added details that one may have remembered while another may have unintentionally left out. But some of the accounts are totally different. However, I still love and believe the word of God is true and is no lie. God’s promises are still coming to pass in my life as we speak.

  2. June 1 year ago

    Thank you for explaining this. I’m not saying the gospel is wrong. It’s not contradictory either. But it’s a bit different having a completely different account of the same event that you were present for with three other people. I know people may forget major details or even interpret certain things differently.

    What made me personally question why there were differences was that in the gospel of Mark it is said when Jesus was being mocked before her was crucified the Scribes and Pharisees parted his garments and put him in a purple robe and began mocking him. Then they took the robe off him and put his own clothes back on him. Later his clothes were removed again and he was crucified naked.

    The book of Luke says that Pilot(who did not want to crucify Jesus because he knew Jesus was innocent and not worthy of death) sent him to Herod who was happy to see Him and wanted him to perform some miracle but Jesus would not. Then Herod put him in a purple robe and sent him to Pilot to be crucified. So who put him in the robe? Was it the Scribes and Pharisees who did it to mock Him because He told them he was a King? Or was it Herod doing it out of respect? It gets a bit confusing there.

    It also says in the book of Mark that BOTH thieves hanging next to Jesus began to revile him. But the book of Luke says that one of them reviled him and the other told him(to paraphrase) ‘Why do you mock God when we are receiving the same punishment as he is? Yet we ARE guilty of what we’re being executed for.’ He then asked Jesus to remember him when he returned in the Kingdom and Jesus told him ‘This day you will wake up with me in paradise.’

    I understand the added details that one may have remembered while another may have unintentionally left out. But some of the accounts are totally different. However, I still love and believe the word of God is true and is no lie. God’s promises are still coming to pass in my life as we speak.

  3. Dr. Michael Gleghorn
    Dr. Michael Gleghorn 8 months ago

    Dear June,

    Thanks for your letter. Sorry it has taken so long for us to get back to you. We only have a few people on staff, so responding to email in a timely fashion can often be challenging.

    The New Testament Gospels offer several examples of material that can be difficult to harmonize among the various accounts. Now in your first example, I assume you are talking about the soldiers (not the scribes and Pharisees) dressing Jesus in a purple (or scarlet) robe and mocking him (as an aside, it’s extremely helpful to provide your readers with the appropriate biblical references when corresponding about such things).

    This account is similarly described in the various Gospels (e.g. Matt. 27:27-31; Mark 15:16-19; John 19:1-15). Luke’s account does not picture Herod robing Jesus out of respect (see Luke 23:11), but in ridicule and mockery. And when you look at the order of events described in the Gospels, it seems that the soldiers (in the non-Lukan accounts) may have actually gotten the robe from Jesus’ encounter with Herod. Regardless, however, when each account is read with careful attention to the details, I do not see any difficulty here for the Gospels.

    Concerning the criminals who were crucified with Jesus, I think this is easily explained. Both criminals initially hurled abuse at Jesus (Mark 15:32), but one of them subsequently changed his mind and asked Jesus to remember him when He came into His kingdom (Luke 23:39-43).

    While some of the Gospel accounts can indeed be challenging to harmonize with one another, I do not think that these examples present any insuperable difficulties for the doctrine of inspiration or the trustworthiness of Scripture.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

Protected with IP Blacklist CloudIP Blacklist Cloud

CONTACT US

We're not around right now. But you can send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.

Sending

©2019 Probe Ministries | Designed by Dream Casters Marketing, Website Design Dallas

Log in with your credentials

Forgot your details?