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Reading the New Testament side by side, one can pick up inconsistencies in the Gospels by various Disciples. For example, some of them mentioned by this website:

  • MT 1:6-7 The lineage of Jesus is traced through David's son, Solomon.
    LK 3:23-31 It is traced through David's son, Nathan.

  • MT 1:16 Jacob was Joseph's father.
    LK 3:23 Heli was Joseph's father.

  • MT 1:17 There were twenty-eight generations from David to Jesus.
    LK 3:23-38 There were forty-three.

  • MT 1:18-21 The Annunciation occurred after Mary had conceived Jesus.
    LK 1:26-31 It occurred before conception.

  • MT 1:20 The angel spoke to Joseph.
    LK 1:28 The angel spoke to Mary.

  • MT 26:18-20, 57-68, 27:1-2, MK 14:16-18, 53-72, 15:1 Jesus' initial hearing was at night on Passover. In the morning he was taken to Pilate.
    LK 22:13-15, 54-66 The initial hearing took place in the morning on Passover.
    JN 18:28, 19:14 It took place the day before Passover, on the Day of Preparation.

  • MT 28:1 The first visitors to the tomb were Mary Magdalene and the other Mary (two).
    MK 16:1 Both of the above plus Salome (three).
    LK 23:55 - 24:1, 24:10 Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and "other women" (at least five).
    JN 20:1 Mary Magdalene only (one).

  • MT 28:1 It was toward dawn when they arrived.
    MK 16:2 It was after sunrise.
    LK 24:1 It was at early dawn.
    JN 20:1 It was still dark.

  • MT 28:1-2 The stone was still in place when they arrived. It was rolled away later.
    MK 16:4, LK 24:2, JN 20:1 The stone had already been rolled (or taken) away.

  • MT 28:2 An angel arrived during an earthquake, rolled back the stone, then sat on it (outside the tomb).
    MK 16:5 No earthquake, only one young man sitting inside the tomb.
    LK 24:2-4 No earthquake. Two men suddenly appear standing inside the tomb.
    JN 20:12 No earthquake. Two angels are sitting inside the tomb.

  • MT 28:8 The visitors ran to tell the disciples.
    MK 16:8 They said nothing to anyone.
    LK 24:9 They told the eleven and all the rest.
    JN 20:10-11 The disciples returned home. Mary remained outside, weeping.

Why do such inconsistencies occur, given that some people claim Biblical inerrancy, and how do various Christian theologians from the major denominations account for them?

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Not all of these are contradictions. For instance, the Hebrews used "father" for a literal father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and higher up the line (similarly for sons). They were also known to pick and choose which generations to record. Some of them are legitimate to the best of my knowledge, which isn't much in some cases. –  El'endia Starman Feb 8 '12 at 22:36
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It would be better to ask about each perceived inconsistency separately. There are really good explanations for all of these, but an answer that encompasses that would be quite long. –  Narnian Feb 8 '12 at 22:49
    
Just because you don't like a question is not a reason to downvote it. He has a legitimate concern and did some research to show that concern (even if it was just visiting that website). –  ryan Feb 9 '12 at 0:24
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I think this is a good question, so I upvoted it... but I'm also VtCing it becuase, as @Narnian said, it really needs to be split up. –  Flimzy Feb 9 '12 at 0:49
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There is also one problem with asking the many questions - as pointed out by ryanOptini, some people think that the Bible was written by humans that make mistakes and one should not hold every word accountable. Such answer would crop up for every such question, making it onto a preamble of sorts before discussing the problem from the perspective that Bible is inerroneous. –  ThePiachu Feb 9 '12 at 17:07
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closed as not constructive by Affable Geek, Mark Trapp, Bruce Alderman, Flimzy, Mason Wheeler Feb 9 '12 at 0:56

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1 Answer

up vote 2 down vote accepted

As Narnian said, an answer to all of your listed contradictions would be huge and if you have a real problem with a specific one it should be asked as a separate question.

As a general answer to why there are inconsistencies in the New Testament lets look at some facts.

The gospels were written by mortal men who make mistakes. They were written at different times by the apostles some later then others so some of them would of had a better recollection of the events then others. On that note everyone perceives experiences separately, so this would of also contributed to their different accounts of the same event.

Finally look at the historical timeline. The New Testament is over 2000 years old. We read it today for the most part in English, which is not the original language. And there are always problems when reading translations because every language is different. For example many languages have emphasizers, words that add emphasis to an action or noun, which just do not translate into English because we don't use emphasizers. We don't have access to the original manuscripts so we can't check how accurate the translations are. Not to mention the fact that they were translated by men, who make mistakes.

None of these things detract from the validity or the message that is meant to be conveyed by the New Testament. Namely that God sent His Son to redeem the world because He loves everyone. And that His Son, Jesus the Christ was a perfect example for us to follow and pattern our lives after.

Edit: this part is just opinion and addresses the fact that for a great many Christians inerrancy is not really an issue because of the following:

Since that message comes across clear despite the inconsistencies there is no doubt at least in my mind that God inspired the writers and translators. Else how would we even have the New Testament 2000 years later in the condition that its in.

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I appreciate the answer, but it should be clear that there are many (a majority of Southern Baptists and Evangelicals) who would still hold to inerrancy, so "men make mistakes" wouldn't be an answer that all Christians would agree with. I would agree that many do, however. –  Affable Geek Feb 8 '12 at 23:46
    
Your answer might be better phrased "For a great many Christians, inerrancy is not an issue. Many denominations suggest that the bible is wholly accurate in theological points, but that the Bible does not itself purport to be a scientific or historical text in the modern sense of the word. This is not universal, but is widely held." –  Affable Geek Feb 8 '12 at 23:49
    
@AffableGeek my opinion at the bottom was meant to address that point. I think that you can believe in the doctrinal inerrancy of the Bible while still excepting that errors in human perception might be the cause of slight inconsistencies in the description of events. Are there really people who say that every single word in the Bible is perfect? –  ryan Feb 9 '12 at 0:20
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