What about when the words of Jesus in red in one Gospel, describing a
one-time event do not EXACTLY match other accounts? The temptation of
Christ, for example. I am not upset about this for some reason, and it
doesn’t shake my faith in Christ, but is there a reasonable answer? Just
different ways the gospel writers remembered things? That sounds
subjective and like error. Wouldn’t the Holy Spirit exactly record the
words of Christ verbatim matching in each gospel?

You ask a good question. What we have in the gospels is four
independent accounts which corroborate one another. Each account brings
out different aspects of what happened. In the case of Matthew and John
and perhaps Mark as well, we have separate eye-witness accounts. Although
Luke was obviously not an eye-witness, he was the most careful researcher
of the four. If the gospel accounts were not independent, then you would
expect them to agree exactly in details. However, because they are truly
independent accounts of the events, we get a somewhat different
perspective from all of them. The vast majority of supposed
“contradictions” are simply not contradictions at all, but are different
eye-witnesses (or interviewees in the case of Luke) reporting the part of
the action which got their attention. This gives stronger support to the
gospel’s accuracy rather producing cause for doubt, as when several
witnesses report what they observed, there are always differences of
detail, but there is a common thread. If the four accounts were the same
verbatim, then their testimony would not provide additional support for
the accuracy of the account, as most people would simply assume that each
writer quoted from the first to write, and that they were not
complimentary independent accounts of the events.

I was on a jury last summer. Each witness to the terrible
events in question reported significantly different details. For us in
the jury, we did not feel that anyone was lying, but that they reported
those aspects of what happened which caught their attention. In the end,
we felt that the seemingly contradictory testimony, when taken all
together, produced a fairly clear picture of what happened in the event.
One account says that John and James asked Jesus for something, another
says that it was actually their mother who did the asking for them. These
do not contradict; they compliment one another. John and James asked
Jesus, but they were too proud to do it themselves, so they got their
mother to do it for them. You can assume that the sayings of Jesus are
not necessarily absolutely precise word-for-word quotations of the exact
words said by Jesus, but are a faithful account of the essence of what he
said. Very slight differences in wording are not a sign of lies or a lack
of inspiration, but they reflect the nature of how the eye witnesses were
able to reproduce what they observed to the best of their ability, aided
by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Having said all that, you do not use many specific examples in your
comments, making it difficult to know how to respond to your concerns. If
you can think of any passages that, even after considering the general
comments I have made here, still bother you–that you still see as a
significant contradiction–please send me a question about the specific
case and I will gladly attempt to address the issue. Although, like I
said, the vast majority of supposed contradictions are extremely easily
reconciled, I will admit that there are a differences in the gospel
accounts which are somewhat harder to reconcile at first glance. Some of
the earlier examples of supposed contradictions in the Bible have already
been dealt with in earlier questions. Q#268 Q#209 Q#173 Q#111

John Oakes

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