I frequently come across the argument that we cannot trust the gospels because the differences between them make them unreliable as eyewitness accounts. At first this can feel like a powerful argument, however something happened recently which can show at least how this argument is not as strong as might first appear …
On the run up to the wedding anniversary of some good friends of ours, we talked about making sure we got a card out so that we could write in it and post it in good time. We did get the card out and we wrote in it.
Neither of us remembered to post it in time, and after last post the day we should have posted it, we remembered and decided to deliver it by hand on the day. We also decided that as our friends lived in Cheddar which was on the way to the Mendips, we would take our dog up into the hills and give him a walk as well.
We duly delivered the card. By hand.
Later that day we received a message from our friend “thanks for the card”
We both independently responded without referring to the other.
I wrote: “You’re welcome guys! We miss you lots. I was a numpty and forgot to post it in time, so we did a round trip to walk Bonkers and made sure we dropped by to deliver it to you. Hope you have a fabulous day today.”
My wife wrote: “You’re welcome. I was cross with myself for missing the post, but hand delivering gave us an excuse to go and find a pond on the top of the hills I’ve been meaning to visit for ages. Bonks had a great swim xx”
Wow – can you see the discrepancies?
Did I forget to post the card or did Wendy?
Did we go out to post the card and then take the dog for a walk? Or did we take the dog for a walk and use it as an opportunity to post the card?
In any case what is the dog’s name? If we can’t agree on what his name is, does he even exist?
How can they both be true? We must have made the whole thing up!
But were either of us lying? No we just saw the day slightly differently, and that was revealed in how we responded to our friend. None of the discrepancies change the facts of what happened, nor do they throw any doubt at all on the essential facts, that we forgot to post the card, that we delivered it by hand and that we took the dog for a walk in the Mendips.
This is a trivial example in many ways, but it does show that even in the trivial, we can differ in our perception and description of events – less than a few hours after it happened.
Don’t believe the twaddle on wikipedia about the late dating of the Gospels. There are good reasons to believe that they were written by eyewitnesses well within the lifetimes of other eyewitnesses of the events they record. They are accurate accounts. We must expect some discrepancies in them, but don’t be phased by them!