Where I Am on my Spiritual Journey – Gospels (Part 3)

The last blog post I wrote was written with me putting aside any doubts about the trustworthiness and accuracy of the gospel texts. But in the next two posts I’ll be looking at certain texts that cause me to question if everything written in the gospels can be trusted.

I think it’s right to say that there are mistakes in the gospels. I don’t write such things lightly but I think it’s unwise to deny such things. I remember listening to a discussion between Bart Ehrman and Mike Licona, in the debate Bart talks about the time when he was at Princeton Theological Seminary and he wrote a paper on the contradictions between what Jesus said in Mark 2 about David eating the showbread in the house of God. In his paper, Bart tried to show that there was no contradiction, while his professor liked his work he wrote that the gospel writer had made a mistake. After hearing Bart describe what happened I felt very distressed because this was the first time I had ever heard of such a contradiction. But after looking it up I found the idea of there being a contradiction undeniable. In Mark 2 Jesus clearly says Abiathar was the high priest (when David eat the showbread in the house of God), yet in the account of the actual event, it says Ahhimelek is the priest. I think the conclusion we can bring from the text is that either: Mark misquoted Jesus, Jesus didn’t know who the priest was, Jesus was messing with the Pharisees by giving them misinformation or the record in 1 Samuel 21 is incorrect. Either way, things don’t add up.

I know such a view may upset some Christians. I was upset when I first listened to Bart Ehrman’s debates and discussions but I can’t deny what I see before me.
This may not be the only contradiction in the gospels, but I’m not going to go into any others since the one I mentioned is the only one I’ve heard serious scholars discuss. I’m aware that there’s a number of websites that have lists of contradictions but anyone can write anything on the internet. So personally I will only take the claims of contradictions seriously if they’re made by published scholars.

However what I will do now is to take a look at the subject of ancient manuscripts and early witnesses dispute a certain event in one of the gospels. Those who read Bible translations like the NIV, ESV, NLT should know that not everything in the gospels is testified by all witnesses. However other translations don’t make such facts clear. So, unfortunately, some believe a certain event actually happened that isn’t supported by all witnesses.

The fact is that the end of the gospel of Mark is a forgery. It wasn’t written by the author of the whole book. I think in a way it doesn’t matter since nothing exclusive happens in verses 9-20, but it is a bit deceitful that certain translators have tried to make out it was part of the original manuscript.

Moving along to an event that isn’t backed by earlier manuscripts and is something more major than the end of Mark. That is the story of the woman caught in adultery.  I think while something similar to that described in John 7:53-8:11 may have happened I don’t think we can say that everything in the text actually happened. I cringe every time I hear the story read in a sermon because preachers never warn their audience that the story isn’t featured in the earliest manuscripts.

If I was a detective investigating a crime scene and I had witnesses agreeing on certain things happening but not on everything happening, I would only present the events that all witnesses agree on in court. I think we should treat the gospel accounts the same way. I just think treating the gospels as they’re a perfectly written infallible work is a wrong way to view it. I would say that the writers of the gospels and other books of the Bible may have been inspired by God, but their words weren’t God-breathed.
I had intended this to be my last post on the subject of the gospels but I’m going to extend it to a part four. Next time I’ll be looking at the missing verses in the gospels and explaining why I think the Sermon on the Mount is incomplete.

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