- He lived in first century Palestine.
- He travelled through Galilee and Judea.
- He worked miracles.
- He taught.
- He was crucified in Jerusalem at the time of Passover during the administration of Pontius Pilate.
- He rose from the dead.
- And so on.
All that’s obvious.
Contradictions Among the Gospels?
Critics of the Gospels therefore tend to focus on lesser matters—various differences among the Gospels on matters of detail.
The charges of contradictions among the Gospels tend to vanish, however, if one reads the texts carefully and if one understands the way ancient narrative texts worked and the freedom that authors had in how they presented their material.
They were, for example, free to paraphrase, they were free to place events in non-chronological order for literary effect, they were permitted to simplify and streamline events to just the main facts, and they were free to draw out different implications.
Defenders of the Gospels sometimes point out that these kinds of differences are what we would expect of Gospels written by eyewitnesses or based on eyewitness testimony.
After all, in a courtroom you expect eyewitnesses to see things from different perspectives, to not all say exactly the same things, to paraphrase, and to alternately overlap and omit detail.
If the witnesses have too much harmony in their testimony—if they all say exactly the same things in exactly the same words, with no variation of detail—then it’s a sign that the witnesses have been rehearsed and their testimony becomes suspect.
They may be colluding with each other instead of telling what they really experienced.
Signs of Credibility
When evaluating testimony, lawyers (and juries!) look for signs of credibility in the testimony of the witnesses.
One sign of credibility is when tiny details do line up, but they’re the kind of details that the witnesses would not have thought to conspire about.
At first, these details don’t leap out at you. They’re hidden until you do a closer study of the testimony.
But when they harmonize, they give added evidence that you’re hearing the truth.
Are there such hidden harmonies among the Gospels?
A Question for Philip
Here’s a hidden harmony between the material recorded in John’s Gospel and Luke’s Gospel.