Q: Do The Gospel Accounts Contradict Each Other?
The short answer is no. But we need to know why it doesn't. For example if we are not careful we can tell our kids what to believe without telling them why. Then when contrary voices come they will be easily pushed back and forth by any wind and wave of teaching or skepticism. The same is true for us as adults. We need to know the reasoning behind what we do and believe and
we need to know how to answer the questions. We know that the bible is God’s inspired Word to
us. 40 authors, over 1,500 years in 3 languages and it is one cohesive whole. The Bible is God inspired, God breathed, it is his words to us. God used humans to write it. You still see the authors personalities come out, but clearly what they wrote were the very words of God to us.
2 Peter 1, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
Jesus prayed in John 17:17, Sanctify them in the truth, your word is truth. You would expect if it is God’s Word that it would not contain contradictions, because God would never contradict himself, God is truth.
When someone tells you the Bible contradicts itself, first thing to do is hand them your Bible and say, “Can you please show me where?” Very likely they are only parroting what they have heard others say. There is no point talking abstracts, let them show you a concrete concern. If you know the answer, tell them; if not, then tell them it is a good question and you will research it and get back to them.
One of the biggest so called contradictions I have heard is the question “How did Judas die?”
Matthew 27:5 states, 5 And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself.
Acts 1:16-18 says, 16 “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. 17 For he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.” 18 (Now this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness, and falling
headlong he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out.
So which is it? Was he hung or did his bowels spill open when he fell headlong in a field? Look at Acts. Notice it doesn’t state that he wasn’t hanged. The two passages do not contradict each other. In fact how did he fall headlong into a field and burst open. We have all tripped and fallen, we don’t burst open. We are taking about a substantial fall onto some sharp rocks. Judas, as Matthew faithfully recorded, hung himself. In that area there are large cliffs. It seems that he hung himself up over a cliff and either the branch snapped under his weight or someone cut the rope and he fell and his bowels burst open on the sharp rocks below. There is no contradiction, there is just further detail recorded in Acts. Maybe you have read the Bible and you noticed one gospel mentioning two people and the other mentioning one by name. So you wonder which was
it. But notice it doesn’t say “only one.” In some cases, the gospel account is focusing in on one
particular person maybe the dominant spokesman. I came across this in my research.
Suppose you talk to the mayor of your city and the chief of police at city hall. Later, you see your friend, Jim, and tell him you talked to the mayor today. An hour after that, you see another friend, John, and tell him you talked to both the mayor and the chief of police. Your friends compare notes, and there seems to be a contradiction but there is not. Since you had not told Jim you talked only to the mayor, you did not contradict what you told John. The statements you made to Jim and John were different, not contradictory. Many biblical statements fall into this category, and people sometimes think they find errors in passages when actually they simply do not read 1 the passages correctly.
You will remember when Jesus was on the cross there were two criminals crucified next to him. In the Gospel of Mark 15:32 we read, 32 Those who were crucified with him also reviled him.
But Luke says - Luke 23:39-42 39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at
him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him,
saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your
So which is it? Did both criminals reject Christ or did one of the two accept him? Both gospels are correct. Matthew faithfully records that both thieves were mocking Jesus. That seems to be the first response of these bitter suffering men. But we see that over the hours of suffering one thief had a change of heart. As he looked at how Jesus responded to those saying hateful things to him, he who knew no sin said, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” As he watched Jesus, there was a transformation that took place and Luke records the results of the transformation when he tells us that one believed. You will notice that none of the accounts claim to be comprehensive. What I mean by that is, none of the accounts say this is all that happened. Each account faithfully records certain details, but doesn’t necessarily list all the details. Taken together we often get a more total picture of everything that took place in a certain event. Each report is sufficient in and of itself, but the passages put together help us gain further insight.
Reading Mark and Luke help us to see that the thief had a change of heart. If all we had was Mark we might think that both thieves died and went to hell. With both accounts we are given the further details of how this man’s heart was changed during the last hours of his life. The gospel of Luke gives certain details about Jesus’ early life that we don’t read elsewhere. Some accounts lists further details then other accounts, that isn’t a contradiction rather it is complementary. Often times, if someone says a passage contradicts another, that can be easily solved by just a more careful reading with the entire context of the chapter in mind. Someone may read of the feeding of the 4,000 and think, “I thought it was 5,000?” But as they read they will discover that Jesus fed a large crowd more than once that they are two separate accounts mentioned.
If there is a passage that seems to contradict another one, prayerfully study it more. Research it. Pick up some good commentaries on it. Sometimes the passage will clear up with more reading or background on culture of the day. Or sometimes it is a Greek or Hebrew Word that has a few possible meanings. Perhaps the translator could have chosen a clearer word. You can pick up a Strong’s Concordance and look up the word in the original language.