If the Gospels Are Inerrant, Why Do They Contain Discrepancies?

Do the discrepancies contained in the gospel accounts point to collaboration or corroboration?


00:00 Christians claim that the gospels are inerrant or without error, yet the

00:04 gospels don't agree with each other. Is this a problem?

00:07 Let's take a look.

00:12 Anyone who has read through the gospels knows that there are

00:15 variations, or discrepancies, in the four accounts. The gospel writers don't all

00:20 record the exact same thing. There are differences. For example, how many women

00:25 went to the empty tomb? It seems to depend on which gospel you read. John

00:29 names Mary Magdalene, Matthew tells us it was Mary Magdalene and the other Mary,

00:34 Mark says it was Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome,

00:38 whereas Luke says it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the

00:43 other women with them. So no one disputes that there are differences in the four

00:49 gospel accounts. The question is, do these kinds of differences call into question

00:54 the doctrine of inerrancy? Well, I actually don't think so. There's nothing

00:59 about the differences, as far as I can tell, that point to a genuine error or

01:04 contradiction in the text. In fact, most of these discrepancies, or alleged

01:09 contradictions, can be easily reconciled. There are some tough ones, sure, but none

01:15 of them are a slam-dunk contradiction. Now, I want to say something that might

01:19 surprise you. The differences in the gospel accounts actually strengthen my

01:24 confidence in their authenticity and reliability. What we find in the four

01:29 Gospels is exactly what you would expect if they are eyewitness testimony or

01:34 reporting eyewitness testimony. Eye witnesses never give the exact same account. In

01:40 fact, no two eyewitnesses will report the same event in the same way. Well, why not?

01:45 Well, they bring their own interests, and experiences, and perspective to the

01:50 account. This speaks to their authenticity. If all four gospels lined

01:56 up perfectly in every detail, then we would know that these aren't four

02:00 independent eyewitness testimonies. The similarity would point to collaboration.

02:06 It's the differences in the gospel that point away from collaboration and

02:10 towards corroboration. These different accounts

02:15 support each other. The differences actually fill in missing details. So in

02:19 our example, John says that Mary Magdalene went to the tomb, but he

02:23 alludes to other women in John 20 verse 2. Apart from John's gospel, we wouldn't

02:30 know who these women are, but Matthew, Mark, and Luke actually fill

02:33 in the detail. This speaks to their reliability. So it's the differences in

02:38 the four gospels that actually point to their authenticity and reliability.

video |
Tim Barnett