Question from a reader:
Could you please help us to answer one of the question below? We often take help from your website in the area of Bible study.
Could you please defend the consistency of the synoptic gospels, including a defense against those who would point to various seemingly inconsistencies. Please give some examples of these in your explanation.
Thank you for your question. I have found the synoptic gospels to be 99.9% consistent in our modern-day translations, and I believe that they were 100% consistent in the original manuscripts. For me, this is amazing consistency, which, rather than dissuading me with a few possible, discrepancies, only strengthens my faith in the canon of Scriptures. The beauty of having the synoptic gospels is that this more completely paints the picture of Jesus for us, through the various viewpoints and writing styles of different men, while the question of writing style one of the most subjective criterion for canonicity. For example, Mark’s writing style manifests itself in somewhat short and choppy sentences, and lacking some elaboration as found in Matthew and Luke. I personally prefer this concise writing style, while others prefer the more expressive styles.
I offer the following two examples of what seem to some as discrepancies across the synoptic gospels:
1) Matthew 10:9-10, and Mark 6:8, and Luke 9:3:
It sounds like Matthew and Luke are saying that Christ told the disciples not to take a staff and sandals, but Mark says they can.
Probable solution: Reading closely, Matthew 10:9-10 says, “… take no bag for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals, or a staff; …” Luke 9:3 says, “Take nothing for the journey–no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra tunic.” While Mark 6:8 says, “Take nothing for the journey except a staff–no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra tunic.” Again, the only apparent discrepancies here concern the staff and the sandals. The Matthew passage could be interpreted to mean that no extra tunic, extra sandals or extra staff are to be taken. This would imply that it is permissible to take a staff and to wear sandals, as the Mark passages says, but it would not be permissible to take an extra staff or an extra pair of sandals. Since the passage in Luke does not reference sandals at all, the only remaining discrepancy is that Luke sounds pretty adamant about not taking a staff. I would just have to chalk this one up as a transcription error made by some scribe by misapplying the appropriate grammatical rules of the Greek language concerning items in a list. I feel certain that the original manuscripts agreed.
2) Matthew 20:29-34, Mark 10:46-52, and Luke 18:35-43:
The passage in Matthew says that two blind men were healed, while Mark and Luke say that one blind man was healed (and Mark calls him Bartimaeus.)
Possible solution: These could be referring to two different events.
Probable solution: I lean on my analytical / mathematical argument. I believe that two blind men were healed, but Mark and Luke are only documenting one. Mark and Luke do not say that ONLY one blind man was healed, so (mathematically speaking) if two were healed, then it is also true that one was healed, so there is no contradiction. It is just that Matthew tells us more about the event. So, this doesn’t appear to be a valid discrepancy.
I hope this helps.