Sunday, January 22, 2012

Backwards Thinking

           Lefty Clock 
Photo by RBerteig

I used to be really worried if should I find a difference of accounts in the Bible, even the tiniest. Yet the more I consider it, the more it doesn't bother me, regarding it's truth. In fact it strengthens me.

I remember hearing a situation where one guy lost his faith in the God because of a "contradiction" (there had to be more to the story, no doubt). The difference was here:

Mark 10 says:
And they came to Jericho. And (B)as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, (C)a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. 47 And when he heard that it was (D)Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”  And many (E)rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49 And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, (F)“Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.” 50 And throwing off his (G)cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. 51And Jesus said to him, (H)“What do you want me to do for you?”And the blind man said to him, (I)“Rabbi, let me recover my sight.” 52 And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; (J)your faith has(K)made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way.


Luke 18 says:
As he drew near to Jericho, (B)a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. 36 And hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what this meant. 37 They told him, (C)“Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” 38 And he cried out, “Jesus, (D)Son of David, have mercy on me!” 39 And those who were in front(E)rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 40 And Jesus stopped and commanded him to be brought to him. And when he came near, he asked him, 41 (F)“What do you want me to do for you?”He said, “Lord, let me recover my sight.” 42 And Jesus said to him, “Recover your sight; (G)your faith has (H)made you well.” 43And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him,(I)glorifying God. And (J)all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.

Before I begin what I wanted to write about, I want to share this; when it comes to Bible differences, there is often and if not always an explanation for many of them. Here is a link to an explanation for this one if you are interested. 

So what is the potential difference here? Well, Mark says that this story happened as Jesus was leaving Jericho and Luke says that it happened as he was drawing near Jericho. Mark and Luke may not have understood completely what they were talking about.

There would have been a time in the past when this situation could have threatened my faith.

When I consider it now it strengthens my faith - but why? Well, the way I understand it now is...

1. If Mark and Luke had got together and planned how they would write a novel about the Messiah there would be no differences, wouldn't there? It is clear they didn't write this together since the accounts vary slightly. So in theory there would be no conspiracy between them to deceive the world about the Christ.
2. Even though the two passages don't agree on one point, they do agree on pretty much every other detail. If I remember correctly I think Mark got his gospel from Peter, an eye witness of the accounts of Jesus. Both Luke and Mark agree on other details - this shows that truth must have occurred because there are two different accounts from two different people.
If I were a juror hearing testimonies from people I would be more willing to accept the truth about a situation if the witnesses clearly differ on a small/insignificant detail and yet on the whole agreed. It is in the truth's favour to have complete agreement on the main facts, but small discrepancies on some minor details. It means:
     a. They didn't conduct a plan
     b. They are telling what they saw or remembered.

I grew up thinking that God wrote every word of the Bible. Yet I am not certain that He did, otherwise (in regards to the passages in Mark and Luke) could He be classed as lying? But we know that God cannot lie (Hebrews).

Could have God breathed the Bible in similar ways to this situation where I ask my wife to write a letter for me: 

1. Do I look over her shoulder and point all the grammar mistakes? (I am not sure whether God was interested in grammar since Revelation was written quickly and roughly apparently.)

2. Should I tell her to write my exact words? but then the letter would be all in my style wouldn't they? (The different writers of the Bible clearly had their own style)

3. Could I tell her to write key topics in the letter but let her choose the style and make sure she includes certain words?

4. Could I just tell her to write on a topic exactly what I say about the topic, but in her own words?

5. Could God have inspired what He wanted in His Word and yet not have written every detail?

Peter claims that God "breathed" out scripture, does this claim every word? Look at the styles of the writers - clearly they had their own style, their own choice of word phrases and yet God guided them and worked through them. The Bible is God's message to us through people. I am quite confident that the overall message that God has given us in His word is from Him and is not contradictory. One of the reasons why I believe the Bible is the Word of God is simply because it is amazing how it is so coherent with itself in doctrine, prophecy and many historical accounts. 
Could it be that when there is a slight difference, it doesn't mean God is lying, it is simply because the writer has made a mistake or remembers a different account? I remember asking my old pastor about a difference between Joshua and Judges I think it was, and he gave me a passage in 1 Chronicles 4:22. Right after listing a genealogy or similar the writer said, "Now the records are ancient."

I thought it was quite funny how the writer "sounded" like he was unsure about the accuracy of the records he had just written lol.

Could God only really be concerned about making sure the doctrine, prophecy and major historical accounts were accurate? 
Could He possibly not be really that concerned about the style of writing, or whether He walked into or out of Jericho first, or whether there really were armies of 65,000, 30,000 and not 65,004 or 30,005?
Could God have purposefully allowed differences to occur to show that the accounts of the gospel were not fraud or man inspired?

In summary, I believe that difference of accounts is more evidence to a truth than if it were all totally agreed. Could God possibly have not written every word?

I do thank you Father God for giving us your Word, please help us to not believe pre-conceived ideas about You or Your Word but teach us Your truth! 


  1. Good on you Dan for posting about this :)

    We need to understand that the authors were fallible, and had imperfect personalities and understandings of God which CLEARLY come out in Scripture, meaning that individual words and sentences (and even whole books) do not give a completely true revelation of God.

    And yet the Scripture makes it clear that God has power to directly control the exact words that men write, that He did (somehow) 'breathe' the words that are written in the Bible. So despite the authors' individual fallibility, God's words will carry out their intended purpose.

    The message the authors were trying to give in the particular passages in Scripture, is exactly what God wanted to give. Taken as a message, the words do not lie (although the Bible teaches that they can be difficult to understand, and God does deceive some people who are not seeking Him). Even the parts that AREN'T key to the intended message, were deliberatly allowed and placed there by God.

    Specifically regarding this situation, I've heard another potential explanation. I have heard that Luke wrote his gospel after the others, and took time to gather as accurate a story as possible. Therefore if the disciples could not properly remember (or agree on) minor aspects of stories, he probably made a 'best guess' or wrote it in an ambiguous way. It is possible that 'drawing near to Jericho' simply meant that it happened during the time period when he had come to Jericho, without being too specific (remember he was passing through, so the period was fairly short between arriving and leaving.) He then goes on to tell what he knew specifically had happened while inside Jerrico.

  2. Yeah, I'm not entirely convinced, but I'm thinking more and more that it is possible for God to deliberatly allow individual words/phrases into the Scripture which are not entirely accurate, while still being entirely true (even if slightly lopsided) in the message intended by the author. And any lopsidedness will disappear when considered in the light of the rest of Scripture.

    HOWEVER, as a cautionary note: I believe that we can get extremely specific about the authors' 'intended messages'. Meaning that there are very few places left in Scripture where God would actually allow this to happen without corrupting the message. We should never actually have to decide if something is accurate or not in order to learn about God - if it could influence our view of Him, He will not allow that message to be corrupted.

    In the few places that are left, I do not personally think this has ever actually occurred. I have yet to see somewhere where this needs to be applied as an explanation. But I think I concede to it as a possibility ;)