Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Contradictions?

I have no problem with efforts to harmonize seeming contradictions in the biblical accounts, but as a student of history I have always found this approach persuasive:
The Gospels are full of contradictions. There, I said it. Take, for example, the differing accounts of the resurrection. In Matthew, the two Marys – Magdelene and Jesus’ mom – are at the empty tomb, greeted by an earthquake and an angel. In Luke, Joanna and other unnamed females are added to the mix, and they see two angels, rather than one. According to John, it is Mary Magdelene only, and after running to fetch Peter and John (the author), she sees Jesus, although she mistakes him at first for a gardener. Mark ends most strangely, with the two Marys and someone named Salome speaking to an angel and then fleeing the tomb – trembling, astonished, and afraid.

These contradictions, among others, have been used by some in an attempt to undermine the veracity of the Jesus story, but is that fair? ....

.... I have heard it said that no two eyewitnesses will ever tell the same story (and if they do, they have probably been tampered with)....

In this light, the Gospels suddenly seem astoundingly consistent, though never so much as to suggest collusion. The empty tomb was first discovered by women (itself a stunning detail in 1st century Palestine), angels were seen, but Jesus was not. The very fact that the Gospels have not harmonized their contradictions, but have left them bare, seems to me an act of courage – “here are our stories and we’re sticking to them!” – both on the part of the authors and the compilers of what we now call the New Testament. ....