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Table of Contents

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

Part VI


Vol.7: Hidden Things of God's Revelation

Part II

The Necessity of Four Gospels:
Contradictions an Essential Part of Revelation


Chapter 1.  The Nature of Contradictions
Chapter 2.  Which Portrait is the True One?
Chapter 3.  The Basis of a True "Harmony"
Appendix    Further Examples from the Gospels


The harmony existing in the New Testament is not sufficiently manifest
on the surface to have been the product of designing men:
it is far more profound than the inelastic verbal agreement of mere copyists.


Publishing History:
1969: Doorway Paper No. 26/27, published privately by Arthur C. Custance
1977: Part II in Hidden Things of God's Revelation, vol.7, The Doorway Papers Series, Zondervan Publishing Company.
1997: Arthur Custance Online Library (HTML)
2001: 2nd Online Edition (design revisions)

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     WHEN I first became a Christian, there came into my hands three small volumes by different authors dealing with what can most simply be described as "difficulties" in the Bible. Each author dealt usefully--and always interestingly--with passages in Scripture in which there appeared to be conflicts between statements made elsewhere in the Bible.
     Perhaps because of the way my mind worked at the time, I was tremendously concerned with statements which my college mates often made to the effect that no one in his right mind could believe in verbal inspiration once he realized how frequently Scripture contradicted itself. As a young Christian with a very firm belief in the inerrancy of the Word of God, I was disturbed by this challenge because, although my skeptical friends never seemed to know where these contradictions really were, I was fully persuaded that they must have ample grounds for their statements. As a consequence I devoured the substance of these three little volumes and felt myself in due time very well-equipped to deal with their accusations if the opportunity arose again. But as so often happens, for one reason or another, that opportunity never came. I suspect in the first place they were not really convinced that the issue was of any importance in any case. Moreover, I rather think that if I had been able to produce, at the drop of a hat, a completely indisputable answer to each challenge they raised, I should still not have been any nearer to persuading them to what I believe.
     It seems to me, now, that finding answers in this way is important enough to the young Christian who already believes, but it is apt to be an exercise in futility when dealing with a total skeptic. There may be times when it is important to stand up for the Truth and combat error simply because error should be combated whenever

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possible. This makes a man's unbelief inexcusable when he has been shown with certainty that the grounds for it are false. But he will not be converted to the Truth unless he already has a prompting by the Holy Spirit in this direction.
     Yet the existence of contradictions is undeniable, and to ignore them is a mistake. In my own experience it has never failed to be a blessing to my own soul to face up to these problems and try to resolve them. I am inclined to believe that many of them have been allowed--probably it would be even truer to say that they have been designed of God--that they might be a source of blessing and deeper understanding to all who will seriously attempt their resolution.
     Certain kinds of "difficulties" of this nature in Scripture are easily recognized and comparatively easily resolved. Another class of contradictions requires a much more sophisticated approach, as I hope to show in this paper, but it is an approach that is intellectually exciting and well worth the effort of serious thought. There remains a small group of contradictions which we seem at the present moment to have insufficient information to resolve. But it is important to know that not one of these, to my knowledge, touches upon anything basic to a saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
     These classes of contradiction may be usefully summed up under four headings:

1. Those which appear to have arisen because of error in transcription, especially where numbers are involved in the Old Testament;

2. Those which are more apparent than real and have steadily diminished in number as our knowledge of the background of events in Scripture has increased;

3. Those which appear to have resulted where conversation in one language has been reported in another language, for example where the original statement in Aramaic has subsequently been rendered into Greek by two or more different writers--as in the Gospels;

4. Those contradictions in reports by individuals who are independently setting forth what was done or what was said, 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 as in no way accidental but by design. This again is particularly true in the Gospels.

     It was my original intention to present this study as two separate

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papers, one dealing with contradictions as a phenomenon of Scripture, and the other dealing with the reasons for the existence of four rather than only one inspired Gospel record. It soon became apparent, however, that it was far better to combine the two papers and present them as one.
     Part of this paper, as will be evident to any informed reader draws very heavily upon the works of others. But the other part of it particularly chapter 2, is, I believe, a somewhat new approach that underscores the fact that a large number of so-called contradictions are not really contradictions at all but essential to revelation. If they were removed so completely that a "harmony of the Gospels" came to be established as a substitute for the four Gospels we now have, the sum total of revelation would be diminished beyond measure and we should be spiritually impoverished. The very fact that every attempt thus far to produce such a harmony has proved unsatisfactory seems to me sufficient evidence that this kind of truth can only be stated in contradictory terms, a fact which demonstrates the necessity of contradiction in Scripture


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Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights reserved

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