I will not be going through the entirety of the four Gospels to point out how contradictions between one account and another make these texts difficult to use for historical purposes. My previous post briefly summarized the situation with respect to the birth narratives, and similar statements could be made for numerous events of Jesus’ life as narrated in the Gospels. In this post I’ll instead make an overall point about the kinds of problems one finds throughout these books.
Recall: the reason I’m dealing with this matter is that some readers have thought that the only reason biblical scholars identify contradictions in the New Testament is in order to show that these books aren’t inspired. That’s not true at all. My points so far are that New Testament *could* be inspired by God even if it has contradictions (I personally don’t think so, but that’s mainly because I’m an agnostic and so don’t think *anything* is inspired by God; but if I were a believer still I probably would think it is in some sense inspired) and that the contradictions matter for *other* things, not just for themselves. In this case, they matter because two contradictory sources cannot both be right in their historical claims. One could be right and the other wrong (at the point of contradiction), or both could be wrong, but both can’t be right.
Some of the contradictions affecting our understanding of the historical Jesus involve chronology of what happened when. There are lots of picayune details that are at odds from one Gospel to another: Did a man named Jairus come to beg Jesus to come help his daughter because she was sick and in danger of dying and needed to be healed or to come because she had already died and needed to be raised from the dead? Well, what’s it matter? I suppose it doesn’t matter if you don’t care what actually happened.
Did Jesus …
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