There is a difference between a difference and a contradiction. A difference can be reconciled; a contradiction cannot. The trick is figuring out which is which.
That’s obviously a big issue when it comes to reading the Gospels of the New Testament. There are many, many differences, and there are also contradictions. Some readers claim that all the contradictions are merely differences – that everything can be reconciled in one way or another. These readers are almost always committed Christians who simply do not think there can be any actual contradictions, since that would mean that one of the writers (or more than one) made a bona fide mistake. Given these readers’ particular doctrine of inspiration, well, that just ain’t right.
On the other hand there are skeptical readers of the New Testament who find contradictions simply everywhere. And, somewhat more surprising to me over the years, there are a lot of critical scholars who assume there is a contradiction in a place where in fact there is simply a difference. I know this because I sometimes ask friends in the field: what do you think is an intriguing contradiction? And they’ll name something that, so far as I can see, isn’t a contradiction at *all*. My sense is that since these scholars aren’t much bothered by contradictions, they don’t spend a lot of time thinking about them.
But some of us do. And the problem is determining which differences are reconcilable and which aren’t (so that these differences are contradictions), and different people have different sensitivities. My personal perspective is
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