Reading the Bible – part 4
Today, I am continuing the series on, Reading the Bible. This time we are looking at discrepancies in the Gospels.
In the New Testament, Jesus’ life is recorded in four different ways by the Gospel writers. Some are concern about the discrepancies between these accounts. Often different numbers of people are recorded and we see this particularly on resurrection morning when various women are mentioned by the different authors. Yet, the core events remain the same and the differences in secondary incidents actually verify their authenticity.
If we were to ask four people who witnessed a major traffic incident to give us an account, it would result in the same basic facts, but with minor differences. Some people would remember things that others didn’t see, or didn’t think important, or forgot, maybe even reordering the events to highlight the main problem. Some would share a broad overview abbreviating and omitting details, others would include minute details.
Likewise in the Gospels, we find four accounts which highlight different aspects of Jesus’ ministry. There are minor discrepancies but they don’t alter its message or our understanding of Jesus’ ministry. The Bible has come down to us via many eyewitnesses describing events. The minor differences in the text are exactly what historians expect from this process.
We also see this in Jesus’ time at Capernaum. “That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. The whole town gathered at the door” (Mark 1:32-33).
However, in the next chapter, we read,” A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum” and we’re told of the healing of a paralysed man brought to Jesus by his friends (Mark 2:1-12).
Obviously, this man had been overlooked on Jesus’ first visit, despite the use of the word “all”. Yet this doesn’t make the Bible erroneous. The Bible isn’t a textbook, rather it reflects the way ordinary people express themselves.
Over centuries scribes have had the opportunity to fix minor discrepancies. Why didn’t they? It actually means the manuscripts are more accurate. As I wrote previously, If the manuscripts were perfect we would suspect someone had tampered with them.