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About the Book

Table of Contents

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

Part VI


Part II: The Necessity of the Four Gospels

Chapter 1

The Nature of Contradictions

     IT IS MY purpose in this chapter to set forth the nature of the evidence that contradictions really do exist, that statements are made in one part of Scripture which cannot by the ordinary laws of logic be made to agree with other statements made in Scripture. But I also want to show that these contradictions--far from undermining the claim made by Paul when writing to Timothy that "all Scripture is given by inspiration of God" (2 Timothy 3:16) -- actually confirm the fact of inspiration in a unique and undeniable way in every instance, except for one class which we shall consider briefly under the first heading.

 1. Contradictions which appear to have arisen because of errors in transcription.
      The majority of contradictions in this category have to do with numbers. Despite all the research by Hebraists from early Christian times to the present, we are still not absolutely certain that we understand fully the system of enumeration used in the Old Testament. The New Scofield Bible states, in commenting upon I Chronicles 11:11, that there are barely twenty-five cases where numbers in one part of the record do not agree with those repeated elsewhere. Sometimes this is clearly due to our failure to understand the system of reckoning employed. Thiele's study, The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings,
(1) is an excellent example of how a proper understanding can bring reconciliation where it had previously been thought impossible.
      But some contradictions remain. For example, in II Samuel 10:18 David is credited with having destroyed 700 enemy chariots. In I Chronicles 19:18 the record of the same event credits him with

1. Thiele, Edwin R., The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings, University of Chicago Press, 1951.

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having destroyed 7000 enemy chariots. On this, H. P. Smith proposes that the difference resulted from the desire on the part of a later chronicler to enhance the extent of David's victory. On the other hand, of course, since the Scriptures were copied by hand, the original could have been misread. It could, in other words, be simply a copyist's error. Curiously, people who have a low estimate of inspiration are much more willing to attribute errors of this kind to ulterior motives than to simple, unintentional mistakes. It is ironic that Dr. Smith himself, when dealing with the text of 2 Samuel 10:6 lists the number of Tob's fighting men as 1,200, whereas the actual text says that there were 12,000! Was this due to ulterior motives? Or was it perhaps not even Dr. Smith's error at all, but the error of a typesetter? (2)
     There are some extraordinary cases of typesetting errors even in modern Bibles. I have an older edition of the Scofield Bible. One day I noticed a typographical error in the printing of Psalm 119; it has been corrected in the newer edition. The reader will recall that this psalm is divided into as many sections as there are letters in the Hebrew alphabet. Each section is then headed with a Hebrew letter followed by a conventional spelling-out in English of the way this letter is pronounced. Curiously, in the older Scofield Bible, the section headed by the word Yod (vv. 73-80), lacks the Hebrew character! This is interesting because it is the one letter in the Hebrew alphabet to which the Lord made specific reference in Matthew 5:18 when assuring his listeners that the Scriptures should never fail. The jot of Matthew 5:18 is the missing Yod of Psalm 119:73. Which only goes to show that with the best intentions in the world -- and I am sure that tremendous care was taken by the publisher -- omissions of this kind can occur. It escaped the notice of everyone who had to do with the publishing of this particular edition.
      Sometimes such contradictions appear to exist because the text has not been read with sufficient care. Such a case is II Samuel 24:24 where a purchase involved a price of 50 shekels of silver that in I Chronicles 21:25 reappears as 600 shekels of gold. The purchase was made from a man whose name is given in II Samuel as Araunah and in I Chronicles as Oman. The two names are variants only and refer to one individual: but the first account concerns only the purchase of a threshing floor, whereas the second account has to do with a far

2. Smith, H. P.: quoted by E. F. Harrison, "The Phenomena of Scripture," in Revelation and the Bible, edited by Carl F. H. Henry, Baker, Grand Rapids, 1958, p.241.

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more extensive piece of ground which in due course became the temple court.
     One needs to be very careful in reading parallel accounts to make sure that there is not in reality a significant difference in the circumstances. Richard D. Wilson said that he once asked a man how many people lived in a certain Southern city.
(3) The man told him there were 40,000. Subsequently he felt the figure must be in error when he saw the size of the place and so he asked a second man who told him that there were 120,000. In due course he found that the population consisted of 40,000 whites and 80,000 blacks.
     At times the huge numbers given in Scripture for the number of camels, for example, or other animals possessed by a man like Abraham are so large as to be almost incredible and have likewise been attributed to copyists' errors. But as we show in Part IV of this volume, there are very precise modern parallels which suggest that no exaggeration whatever is involved. Sometimes the number of dead after a battle seems equally unbelievable,
(4) yet one has only to read the travels of Marco Polo to discover that battle losses of this order are by no means unknown from earlier times, and enormous herds are still owned by wealthy ranchers.
     Others have questioned the numbers involved in the ages given for the pre-Flood patriarchs.
(5) But here again, there is good reason to reserve judgment in the light of modern knowledge and the predictions being made with increasing frequency by authorities in the life sciences.
     In concluding this brief survey, it is important therefore to note first of all that some copyists' errors do exist. But it is equally important to note that merely because some particular number seems greatly out of proportion to our way of thinking, we should not on that account assume it is a copyist's error unless we have the means of checking it against some other parallel part of Scripture which strongly suggests that such an error does exist.

 2. Contradictions which are more apparent than real.
        Because this class of contradictions has steadily diminished as background knowledge has increased, we do not need to spend much

3. Wilson, Richard D., Is the Higher Criticism Scholarly? Sunday School Times Co., Philadelphia, 1922, p.53.
4. A brief but very useful article on this aspect of the problem is found in Eerdmans' Handbook to the Bible, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1973, pp.191-92.
5. "Longevity in Antiquity and Its Bearing on Chronology," Part I in The Virgin Birth and the Incarnation, vol.5 of The Doorway Papers Series, Zondervan Publishing Company.

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time upon it. However, one example will be useful as an illustration.
     In the New Testament we may note that according to Mark 10:46, the Lord restored sight to a blind man by the wayside as He was leaving Jericho; but according to Luke 18:35, the miracle actually occurred as He was approaching Jericho. The fact is that there were two Jerichos -- the ancient one which was destroyed by Joshua and which would occur at once to every Jew's mind as the Jericho; and a second one situated about one and a half miles from the first one which had been rebuilt by Herod and turned into a kind of summer residence for Roman officialdom and would therefore be in the Gentile mind the Jericho. Somewhere between the two, a blind man received his sight. As is well-known, and as we shall have occasion to explore in a slightly different way, Matthew wrote his Gospel for Jewish readers, whereas Luke wrote his for Gentile readers. This kind of "disagreement" when observed between the three Synoptic Gospels is vitally concerned with an aspect of revelation that is the subject of the last chapter. These contradictions are certainly more apparent than real.

  3. Contradictions which appear to have resulted where there may well be a case of translation from one language to another, as for example, where the words of Jesus, presumably spoken in Aramaic have come to us through the Greek.
      It seems to me highly improbable that the Lord spoke in Greek although it is certain that many Jewish people in Palestine at the time were quite able to do so. On a number of occasions we know indeed that the Lord used Aramaic, since here and there His actual words are recorded in that language (e.g., Mark 5:41). There is also good reason to believe that Matthew's Gospel was originally written in Aramaic, although the text we are familiar with appears in Greek and is presumably, therefore, a translation of an original in Aramaic.
     This raises the question as to whether a translation has the same inspired authority as an original. The usual answer to this is no. But in the present instance there may be a rather special circumstance involved since Matthew himself may in fact have been responsible for both the Aramaic and the Greek versions. Was he inspired in the writing of both of them? Some people believe that there is a numerical structure to Scripture of a kind which they feel cannot be accounted for except by assuming verbal inspiration; these persons hold that this applies equally to Matthew's Gospel in the Greek Version as it does to the rest of the New Testament. On this basis,

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therefore, one must assume that the Greek text of Matthew is equally inspired. On the other hand, an Aramaic Version also exists, (6) which may well have been the first New Testament Scripture, an inspired account written expressly for the dispersed Jews in the East who embraced the Christian faith after the great gathering in at the Feast of Pentecost (Acts 2:41).
     Eusebius tell us in his History of the Church (3:39) that one of the very early writers, Papias, held that Matthew wrote or arranged the current sayings of the Lord which had gradually accumulated by word of mouth from those who had heard them firsthand, and set them forth "in the Hebrew dialect", i.e., Aramaic. Irenaeus (Adv. Haer. 3:1) says that Matthew wrote an account of the gospel among the Jews in their own dialect. Origen, according to Eusebius, held the same view also. Jerome (see Catal. 3) says that "Matthew composed the Gospel of Christ in Hebrew [i.e., Aramaic] letters and words, but it is not made out who it was who afterwards translated it into Greek"; he adds, however, that this text was preserved in his time in the Caesarean Library. In the 1883 edition of the Schaff Herzog Religious Encyclopedia under the heading "Matthew," the writer, after discussing the relationship between this original Aramaic Gospel of Matthew and the Greek edition, observes:

     We prefer to hold to the opinion that a Hebrew [i.e., Aramaic] Gospel of Matthew did exist and that our canonical Gospel [i.e., the Greek one] is a reproduction and enlargement of it by his own hand [emphasis mine].

     It may seem as though we are stretching a point unduly to suggest that Matthew wrote his Gospel in Aramaic and then in Greek and that he was equally inspired in both. Yet we have interesting examples of both ancient and modern authors who wrote first in one language and then translated their own works into another language. Inspiration was lacking in these examples, of course, but the circumstances are much the same and show that such a thing is possible. Josephus wrote his Wars of the Jews in Aramaic and then rewrote it in Greek. (7) More recently, a Hebrew scholar, A. S. Yahuda, wrote a learned work on the Old Testament first in German

6. Matthew's Gospel in Aramaic: see an interesting discussion of this matter by Asahel Grant, The Nestorians, Murray, London, 1841, pp.168f. The author believes that these people were remnants of the tribes taken into captivity who did not go back to Palestine. See also J. E. H. Thomson, "The Readers for Whom Matthew wrote his Hebrew Gospel," Trans. Vict. Instit. 54 (1922):178-99. Thomson believes that the Aramaic Gospel of Matthew is not merely a translation of the Greek but an independent version.
7. Josephus' Wars of the Jews in two languages: see J. E. H. Thomson, ref. 6, p.179.

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and then in English. (8)
     The latter admits freely that he found it difficult merely to translate his own work, and the result was that he set forth exactly the same information but recast in a more appropriate form for the second language. Thus some of the reports which Matthew gives us of the Lord's words spoken originally in Aramaic have, still under divine inspiration, been preserved for us in Greek--and presumably, therefore, in a form which is not precisely their original one. What we have is not the kind of transcript of the Lord's words which a tape recorder would have left us, but rather that kind of record which the Holy Spirit was pleased to give us through the instrument of a man's mind translating as he wrote. There is no need to abandon verbal inspiration even though the actual words that appear in the Greek text were probably not the actual words spoken by the Lord. By avoiding a slavish insistence upon the recording of His precise words, the text we have provides us rather with an enlarged insight into what the Lord was telling us.
     Matthew's Aramaic Gospel was written for dispersed eastern Hebrew Christians to whom Aramaic was most familiar. Presumably his Greek version was written for western Hebrew Christians dispersed around the Mediterranean, to whom Greek was more familiar. As a matter of fact, the existence of the Aramaic version seems to have been almost unknown to the latter. As a consequence, Matthew occasionally reports sayings which incorporate some of the original words (assuming that even Greek-speaking Jews would be familiar with them). For example, when our Lord rode triumphantly into Jerusalem the people said, "Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest" (21:9). In reporting this same incident, Luke tells us that the people said, "Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest" (19:38). Of course, it is possible that some said one thing and some another; but it seems to me equally likely that Matthew, well aware of his readers' Jewish background, could afford to use the word Hosanna, whereas Luke, who was similarly aware of the background of his Gentile readers, would avoid an Aramaism and use a word equally appropriate but much more intelligible to them. Luke was still divinely overruled in his choice of the equivalent word, and plenary inspiration is just as necessary to ensure this.

     In his introduction to The Gospels from the Aramaic, George M.

8. Yahuda, A. S.: referred to by D. M. McIntyre, "The Synoptic Gospels and Their Relation to One Another," Trans. Vict. Instit. 65 (1933):123.

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Lamsa (9) suggests that there are a few places where a statement is made by the Lord according to our Greek texts which would be more meaningful if we assume that the original Aramaic was misunderstood by some transcriber into Greek. It seems possible that a number of the Lord's sayings were preserved orally by the disciples in their original form, and that people like Luke sought out these personal recollections and incorporated them into his manuscript. There is no reason why this should not have been true in the New Testament as it was in the Old Testament, whence a number of then-existing documents were quoted to form part of Scripture, which documents have long since disappeared. The Book of Jasher, for example, is referred to in connection with Joshua's long day. Luke may have made use of some of many well-known sayings of the Lord. Lamsa suggests that the word camel is rather like the Aramaic word meaning heavy rope, and that it was this to which the Lord made reference as being "difficult" to thread through the eye of a needle (Luke 18:25). I am aware there are some who believe that one of the small gates in the wall of the city was referred to as "the eye of a needle," imposing a similar problem for the camel driver.
     Another example may possibly be found in connection with the Aramaic word for "talent." By a very small slip of the pen, this could be mistaken for the Aramaic word which means "a province." Thus in Luke 19:13, 17, and 24 it is conceivable that what the Lord really said to the man who had invested his talent successfully was that he would be made responsible, not for more "cities," but for more "talent." According to Lamsa the two words may be so written that only the placing of a single dot distinguishes between them. I'm not sure how true this surmise really is, but it is worth noting. Yet I must confess that this kind of explanation makes me uneasy because, rightly or wrongly, I feel that it challenges the rather necessary assumption that our Greek text has been preserved faithfully. It is true that we do have some cases where variants occur, and alternative readings do exist. But in these two cases there is no such textual evidence. It is simply human surmise with no documentary evidence to support it.
      Furthermore, there are a number of cases in the Gospels where a conversation is reported by two different authors. The wording is often not precisely the same in the two reports. The change can be in word order and sentence structure or in vocabulary. Simple omissions

9. Lamsa, George M., The Four Gospels According to the Eastern Version, Holman, Philadelphia, 1933: camel vs. cable, p. xi; talent vs. province, pp.xif.

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of words in one report need not trouble us. But when different words or sentence structure are used, we have a problem. Does verbal inspiration mean that a particular statement made by the Lord must always be set forth identically as a tape recorder would reproduce it? Or is it sufficient that we have the sense of what the Lord intended? If this is allowable, could it not be that verbal inspiration relates rather to the inspired purpose of each evangelist in presenting his record? The choice of actual words would then be subservient to the plan of his Gospel and the background of his readers, but still divinely inspired. The multifaceted meaning and significance of the Lord's recorded conversations would be faithfully preserved.
     The Holy Spirit therefore overruled the choice of words which each Gospel writer employed so that exactly that message would be conveyed which was required to communicate the truth to each group of readers. Thus we have to free ourselves of the idea that a tape-recording of the actual words used by a man is of greater importance than what he is seeking to communicate. I am persuaded that every word which Jesus uttered was in fact so pregnant with meaning that it was simply impossible to set it forth as a simple verbal transcript. His sayings have come to us through several minds, each of which, receiving the same original utterance, filtered and distilled it under divine inspiration so that more of its depth has come through to us by reason of apparent contradictions (and not in spite of them) than could possibly have been communicated in any other way.
     In the section that follows, and indeed in the rest of this paper this important truth is first of all illustrated from Scripture and then explored in the light of what we now know about the means by which we communicate to one another the truths we perceive.

  4. Contradictions occurring in reports by individuals who are independently setting forth what was said or what was done, and whose disagreement does not arise because of the use of a different language but for some other reason which appears to render the contradiction in no way accidental but entirely by design.
     From what has been said thus far, the reader will gather that I'm not greatly in favor of so-called harmonies of the Gospels. To my mind, it is analogous to taking three or four photographs of one individual from slightly different angles and attempting by superimposing the negatives over one another to print a single picture. Unless they are all precisely the same, the final portrait would be far less clear and meaningful than any one of the originals taken singly.

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Yet the originals are all genuine portraits of the same person and cumulatively add up to a total view. There is, of course, a difference in the present context between a visual portrait and a "portrait" drawn in words. To this extent, the analogy is quite unfair, because we assume that if someone said something, there is only one way of "accurately" recording what he said -- no matter from what angle we approach the speaker. That is, we make a faithful transcript of his words.
     This is a reflection of Western man's peculiarly developed sense of truth, which stems rather largely from our tremendous dependence upon a written text. Whether a man means what he says doesn't seem to us as important as the actual words he uses. So you often hear someone in an argument complain, "But you said..." To which the reply generally is, "But that's not what I meant...." Thus, while we give lip service to the principle that what we mean is more important than the words we use, we are still persuaded that a man's actual words must at all costs be transcribed rather than his intended meaning.
      This places us in an embarrassing position. If we argue strongly for verbal inspiration (I'm thinking of the Gospels at the present moment), we are at the same time being forced to acknowledge that the Lord's statements are often differently reported by different writers. Some must therefore have reported incorrectly? If we impose upon God our own insistence that truthful reporting is limited to the recording of a man's actual words, then we are forced logically to admit that in many places the Gospel records were not verbally inspired--because the fact is that the Gospel writers often do not agree upon the words He actually used. But if we once recognize the fact that it is the Lord's meaning that is of fundamental importance, then we are free to allow the Holy Spirit to put into any Gospel writer's mind just those words which will preserve for us intelligibly exactly what the Lord intended by them. And since His meaning was always so much more far-reaching than any single mind could comprehend, what He was communicating in His conversation had to be set forth in several different ways. And to be absolutely certain that in this transcription no error in meaning would be introduced, the Holy Spirit inspired the words that were to be used by each Gospel writer in his report. So it has come about that what to our superficial way of thinking may appear as very loose or even contradictory reporting is actually an essential part of the inspiration of Scripture. In this sense, contradictions are a necessary part of revelation.

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It may be argued that in some instances we must not suppose contradictory reporting, but rather that the statements of each of the Gospel writers are to be put together in order for us to recover the whole truth. An analogy is to be observed in the inscription on the cross, where the total wording may be recovered by combining what each writer has recorded. In Matthew 27:37 the inscription is stated as follows: "This is Jesus, the King of the Jews." In Mark 15:26 it appears as "The King of the Jews." Luke 23:38 has it, "This is the King of the Jews." And in John 19:19 it is given, "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews."
     There are two ways in which one can deal with these four accounts. The first is to say simply that each writer was led to pick upon only part of the total inscription, the part he recorded being appropriate to the purpose of his Gospel. Putting them all together produces the following: "This is Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews." Out of this total inscription one can extract any one of the four Gospel accounts. They are, therefore, in this light assumed to be additive. The second alternative is that since the title was written, as we are told specifically, in Greek and Latin and Hebrew, the wording adopted by each Gospel writer was that which appeared in the language most familiar to him. Matthew recorded what was written in Hebrew, Mark in Latin, and Luke in Greek. It is also possible that the total inscription was in all three languages, but this seems to me a tattle less likely. John, writing somewhat later in time, comes nearest to putting down the total inscription.
     One further point in the same connection is worth noting. Matthew, seeing the situation through the eyes of a Jew and writing for Jewish people, refers to the inscription as an "accusation." Luke writing for those who would hardly see the significance of the inscription in these terms, simply refers to it as a superscription. Mark, who wrote for the Romans, notes that it was both a superscription and an accusation. John, who saw perhaps more clearly with the passage of time, looked upon these words as having much greater significance than merely standing as an accusation or a superscription. He refers to it as a "title."
     I believe that this principle of adding together cannot be applied in more than a few cases except by some rather artificial reconstructions. However, one or two further examples may be worth observing. For instance, Matthew 15:28 reads "Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: Let it be unto thee even as thou wilt...." At this point we may add Mark 7:29 which reads, "For this saying go thy way; the devil is gone out of thy

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daughter." And the record is then completed by Matthew: "And her daughter was made whole from that very hour." Additively, Matthew and Mark give us a complete picture.
     Another case is found at the time of Jesus' trial, in the following way:

Matthew 20:19: "mocked..."
Luke 18:32: "...and spitefully entreated and spitted on."
Matthew 20:19: "...and scourged."

     Clearly there is no contradiction of fact here, so this is not what I mean when I speak of contradictions. What I do mean is illustrated in the following. In speaking to the Pharisees and other religious authorities, Jesus said, according to Matthew 26:55, "Ye laid no hold on Me." According to Mark 14:49, His words were, "Ye took Me not." According to Luke 22:53, He said, "Ye stretched forth no hands against Me." It is clear that if any one of these is reporting accurately, as we commonly define accurate reporting, then the other two are reporting inaccurately. That each of these sentences has fundamentally the same meaning is quite evident, however, and since I personally believe in verbal inspiration, I am convinced that each writer was inspired to record the Lord's words as he did. I think we must assume in that case that in some way which may not be immediately apparent, the difference in wording was deliberately chosen by the Holy Spirit to preserve the unique character of each of the Gospel portraits as a whole. In some cases, which we shall return to in the last chapter, we can see why there were differences: in this particular case the reason is not clear to me at the moment, but I am certain that there is a perfectly good reason.
      Here is another example. In Matthew 21:2, which has to do with the Lord's commission to certain of the disciples to go and bring the ass upon which He was to ride into Jerusalem, Matthew records His words as having been "straightway ye shall find..."; Mark (11:2) "as soon as ye be entered into it, ye shall find...; and Luke (19:30): "at your entering ye shall find..." Clearly these are the same statements in intent, and equally clearly they cannot be merely added together to evade what appears, superficially, as contradiction. The Greek text is not precisely the same in each case. If these purport to record the identical conversation, we must assume that the strict recording of words has been replaced by a reporting of intention because this was of greater importance.
     We have another such example in Matthew 19:26, where the Lord's words are given as "With God all things are possible." Luke  

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18:27 records this same statement in the form, "The things which are impossible with men are possible with God."
     The next illustration shows precisely what I mean. In Mark 5:41 (in the Authorized Version), Jesus is said to have raised Jairus' little daughter with the Aramaic words, "Talitha cumi." Luke 8:54 gives the Lord's words on the same occasion as having been "he pais egeire" (in the Greek ). No person could possibly use these two entirely different speech patterns at the same time, although they both mean the same thing--"Maiden, arise"--the first is Aramaic () whereas the second is Greek. It is reasonably certain that Jesus used the former words, since He spoke Aramaic. The Holy Spirit who inspired the writing of both Mark's and Luke's accounts clearly intended us to know the meaning of Jesus' words rather than the sound of them.
     There are many occasions upon which the general intent is the same, though the way the intention is expressed is deliberately different. In Matthew 18:8 the Lord is reported as saying, "If thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off." But Mark 9:43 reports these words as "If thy hand offend thee, cut it off." The quotation from Mark includes no reference to the feet. The rest of each of these two sentences makes it clear that the omission is intentional: Matthew continues, "It is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire"; Mark finishes the verse, "It is better for thee to enter into life maimed than having two hands to go into hell."
     It seems unlikely that these two passages are intended by the Holy Spirit to be combined in the way that we might combine Matthew 15:28 and Mark 7:29 (referred to earlier). In the former case a combination adds to our total understanding, whereas in this case nothing is added. On the other hand, if--as I shall try to show in the last chapter--Mark was laying emphasis upon the Lord as an exemplary Servant, then it may well be that the stress is upon the servant's hands rather than upon his feet. A lame servant could still be a good one; but from the point of manual labor--that is, for service as we ordinarily think of it--a servant without hands is virtually useless. Thus, possibly the omission here is deliberate and is in keeping with the special object and character of Mark's Gospel.
     One further illustration of contradictory reporting is to be found by comparing Mark 5:19, 20 with Luke 8:39. This is an account of the healing of the maniac of Gadara, who desired immediately to become part of the Lord's entourage. However, Jesus Suffered him not, but said to him, "Go home to thy friends, and tell

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them how great things the Lord hath done for thee." Luke puts the Lord's instructions as follows: "Return to thine own house, and show how great things God hath done unto thee." There is disagreement in the instructions, in the one case to go home and tell his own friends, and in the other to tell his own house. But even more important, there is this divergence in wording by the use of the word Lord as opposed to God. There is no contradiction in meaning: but there is in terms of the actual words spoken. If we insist that the only truthful reporting is what a tape recorder would provide, then which word would the tape have recorded? I think it is also worthy of note that the healed man, according to Mark, went home and began to publish how great things Jesus had done for him. Mark makes no attempt to excuse the man for his disobedience, for in point of fact he was not being disobedient, since Jesus is indeed both Lord and God (John 20:28).
     I cannot refrain from referring in this context to Luke 17:16, the story of the healing of the ten lepers. One of them returned to say, "Thank you." Luke records what happened: "When he saw that he was healed, he turned back and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at His feet, giving thanks." It seems to me that unless one makes the assumption that Jesus is God, the writer would have been led to make it quite clear that the feet were not God's feet. The fact is that they were the feet of God.
     It will be noted that these contradictions in reporting chiefly concern words spoken by the Lord. I have not made an exhaustive study of the evidence, but my impression is that when Scripture reports the words of man (for example, Matthew 11:3 and Luke 7:20: John the Baptist speaking), this kind of free paraphrasing is not allowed. In short, the words of men are reported consistently without contradiction because such words never have the inexhaustible content of meaning as the words of God have. Even when the Lord Himself is quoting what man has said, He quotes the words precisely (cf. Matthew 11:19 and Luke 7:34).

     As we shall see, it is often quite as important to note what is omitted as it is to observe what is included. Matthew frequently judges the Jewish people very harshly and does not hesitate to set forth the severest strictures which Jesus pronounced against His own people. By contrast, the other writers are more gentle and omit many of these strictures. Evidently it seemed proper to the Holy Spirit that one who was not writing to the Jewish people specifically should not be encouraged to emphasize their wrongdoing; but in Matthew's

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Gospel written for Jews by a man who was himself one of their number, it was not appropriate.
     Enough has therefore been said to establish the fact that there are clearly contradictions in reporting which the Holy Spirit has not merely allowed to appear in the text, but has, to my mind, deliberately introduced because by them something more has been revealed than would have been impossible by slavishly repeating on every occasion the same precise wording. Every attempt to remove these inconsistencies by artificially combining them or by excusing as errors of transmission inevitably robs us of part of the total revelation which God intended. For this reason I believe harmonies of the gospels can be dangerous. In fact, experience shows fortuitously that they never have been successful in any case.
     While we thus say that the meaning is the important factor, it is still true that meaning cannot be conveyed without words. Thus it needs to be underscored that to give the true meaning according to the mind of the Holy Spirit, inspiration of the wording was required. This is all the more essential where the record is apparently contradictory.

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Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights reserved

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