Getting the facts wrong but the message right…

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Luke 23:44 It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, 45 while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last. 47 When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, “Certainly this man was innocent.” 48 And when all the crowds who had gathered there for this spectacle saw what had taken place, they returned home, beating their breasts. 49 But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.

Luke is the third gospel writer to tell this story so far in the New Testament. And, as you know, John will go next giving the fourth and final version of the passion of Christ. What I’m noticing this morning are the differences in the gospel accounts.

For instance, Luke says in v.49 that the women who had followed Jesus stood at a distance from Jesus along with the other followers. John’s gospel says the women stood close to the cross. Matthew mentions that, at the moment Jesus died, a number of tombs were opened and some of the dead were actually raised. There are several more examples but you get the point.

In our fact-based understanding of narrative in Western culture we would expect agreement between the gospel writers as evidence of authenticity and accuracy. But I actually think the differences in the gospels underscores authenticity. Different people who witnessed the same thing would likely recall the events differently, particularly if several decades had passed between the given events and their documentation in writing. If all four gospels lined up perfectly that would strike me as evidence the stories had been doctored. The fact they are different lends credibility in my view.

All of this reminds me that the bible was not a cohesive document sent directly from the hand of God, but is a collection of documents inspired by God and written by human beings. The scriptures don’t have to be 100% factually cohesive in order to communicate the eternal truth of Jesus Christ, Son of God, who came that all people might believe in him and be saved.

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