Today we are examining the four Gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Many detractors have used supposed inconsistencies in these accounts to punch holes in the validity of the writings. We will attempt to show how harmony is at work in these four accounts of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Do they really contradict each other? Why are they different in places?
The Harmony of the Gospels
First, harmony is not the same as unison. Yet people point to the lack of unison as contradictory. But much like a song written in four part harmony, the differences give us a larger and more complete sound in the song. Soprano, Alto, Tenor, and Bass all sing different notes but it still makes up the same tune.
Likewise hearing the story of Jesus from four different views give us four full distinct aspects of Jesus and helps us to know him better. The writers’ intentions are important to help us understand why they chose the details to include and which ones to leave out. Matthew’s account gives us Jesus, the King and prophesied Messiah (symbolized by the lion). Mark gives us the account showing Jesus’ service and sacrifice (the ox). Luke compassionately details who Jesus was as a man. And John chooses to give us a narrative which leaves us no doubt about Jesus being the very God of the Universe (the eagle). The four symbols of the lion, ox, man, and eagle are not new ideas but have shown up in the symbology of God’s throne room since Moses pitched camp in the wilderness.
The mere Jewishness of these writings lend themselves to interpretation. ie. The way lineages were kept and phrased. Poetic and numerical structures preempt precision of the details. But we will still address some specific arguments often raised including:
The lineage of Jesus
The Sermon on the Mount
Details of his early life
Remember differences do not immediately imply a contradiction.
In these fundamental truths, there are absolutely no contradictions. The so-called variations in the narratives are only the details which were mostly vividly impressed on one mind or another of the witnesses of our Lord’s resurrection, or on the mind of the writers of these four respective Gospels. – Wilbur Smith