Are the synoptic gospels consistent?


#1

Has anyone studied the many points made by skeptics that the synoptic gospels lack consistency? If so, what are the points raised and how are they refuted?


#2

[quote="WmJackP, post:1, topic:335447"]
Has anyone studied the many points made by skeptics that the synoptic gospels lack consistency? If so, what are the points raised and how are they refuted?

[/quote]

I'm sure you will get some more precise answers to your question but I will toss in one point of my own: you need to be more precise about what you mean by "consistent".

What skeptics claim is that they are not consistent, that they are, in fact, contradictory and therefore unrelaible and probably false.

There arguments generally fail on logical, not historical grounds. Inconsistency is actually much harder to come by than the skeptics believe. When two people offer accounts of an incident we should expect difference between them due to any number of factors. It may be that one says that the object was black and the other says that it was white and that they are genuinly contradicting one another. But very often the contradictions are only apparent. For example, maybe the object was black on one side and white on the other.

More generally, when given multiple accounts that differ from one anther we have to ask whether there is an innocuous interpretation of the accounts that is reasonable, consistent and not contradictory. Skeptics are not motivated to discover such interpretations because their goal is to arrive at an inconsistency.

If, for example, one author organizes his account chronologically and another topically then it might appear that they are contradictory when, in fact, they are simply differently organized.

In other words, you should not be afraid to show skepticism toward the skeptics' claims of inconsistency.


#3

Just always keep in mind what "contradiction" means when skeptics bring up the synoptic Gospels. It means that both events cannot be true at the same time.

So if one author says "a man with a demon approached Jesus and said..." while another says, "two men posessed by demons approached Jesus" just because one author only focuses on one man doesn't mean that there weren't two. Another example is what's written above the cross. Different languages, different words.

Honestly, there's an answer for everything.


#4

The singular purpose of the Scriptures is salvation. God gave us the Scriptures so that we might be saved.

*DEI VERBUM

  1. Therefore, since everything asserted by the inspired authors or sacred writers must be held to be asserted by the Holy Spirit, it follows that the books of Scripture must be acknowledged as teaching solidly, faithfully and without error that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings for the sake of salvation. Therefore “all Scripture is divinely inspired and has its use for teaching the truth and refuting error, for reformation of manners and discipline in right living, so that the man who belongs to God may be efficient and equipped for good work of every kind”*

Whether any scripture is consistent with any other scripture, whether they are historically accurate, scientificially accurate, or even make sense from a logical perspective, isn’t the point.

Falling into a discussion about the consistency of scripture is like falling into a discussion about whether a bulldozer is beautiful. Beauty is not the point of a bulldozer, but moving earth is and so the converation is about something that doesn’t matter. It’s like arguing about how much happiness weighs or what color love is. Nobody asks if Mozart was consistent. Nobody asks if Monet was consistent. Nobody asks if every flower in a garden is consistent. Nobody asks these things because they are beside the point.

The point of Scripture is salvation. Catholics ask themselves, “What does this scripture teach me about Jesus, about how I am to behave in relation to others and to the world, and about my ultimate destiny?” With regard to those questions, with regard to our salvation, the Scriptures are without error.

That is how Catholics read Scripture. Consistency isn’t the point.

-Tim-


#5

But if Scriptures can contain errors, how can you rely on it. And if it contains contradictions, how do you know why one is saying the truth? Also, would God inspire people to write something that has contradictions and/or errors?


#6

Such critics have little credibility. They have scant knowledge or understanding of that which they critique. As well, they have a pre-existing bias against it. Many criticize the similarities in the synoptics, while others magnify any differences. Well, which is it? Oftentimes, they conveniently ignore the fact that the moral lessons taught are identical. They ignore the fact that the bible is neither a history, nor a science book. They **ignore **many aspects of that which they dislike. And, what is the term used to describe those who willingly ignore facts?

I spent three decades taking written statements from witnesses to varied incidents. Not one of those statements, from any given incident, was identical with the others. However, the nature of the incident described was always the same. You might examine the objections that skeptics raise, point out the differences in them, and then criticize them because they either do not agree with one another, or have too much agreement.

Oftentimes, our efforts are wasted dealing with intentionally closed minds.


#7

[quote="Robin_des_Bois, post:5, topic:335447"]
But if Scriptures can contain errors, how can you rely on it. And if it contains contradictions, how do you know why one is saying the truth? Also, would God inspire people to write something that has contradictions and/or errors?

[/quote]

God inspires me to write, "I am blue today."

What I have written is not factually true, but it is figuratively true.

A literalist might argue that I have made a factual error since human beings are not blue, (unless they lack oxygen and because I didn't,) there is no possible way that I could have been blue. So my statement is factually in error and God could not have inspired me to write that.

Assuming that God is creative and, not fundamentally or in principle, tied to literal expression, and, therefore, capable of expressing truth in non-literal ways, then I would presuppose that God could inspire me to write, "I am blue today."

The truth of that expression and of the inspiration would lie in the intention behind what was being written and not on the expectations of the one reading it. That is why the Church in the Catechism insists that Scripture be read, most importantly, with the intended purpose of the author in mind.


#8

Della said on a different thread

It's like 4 reporters attending a White House function. Depending on the reporters' readership, each will list those persons there and what happened according to his own perspective. So, one or two of them might leave out details or mention of persons that the others left out. It doesn't mean the WH function never took place or that they colluded together to lie, but rather that they each reported what they believed would be of interest to their particular readership. It's the same with the Gospel writers. They weren't being modern historians, but rather they were being story-tellers. Story-tellers relating a true story as they saw it and understood it.

forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?p=7288100&highlight=white+house+function+reporters#post7288100


#9

[quote="WmJackP, post:1, topic:335447"]
Has anyone studied the many points made by skeptics that the synoptic gospels lack consistency? If so, what are the points raised and how are they refuted?

[/quote]

Not exactly an answer, but a quote from another thread:

[T]he thing about the gospels is that their portrayals of different characters are usually in the interests of their respective authors: particular themes which the Evangelists want to emphasize inform the way characters are portrayed in the gospels. I too have an issue with the usual analogy of four reporters. It is a favorite explanation, and it does have some truth in it, but I don't think it completely and adequately explains the phenomenon we see in the gospels. No analogy ever could of course, but I think that the analogy can be and should be qualified further.

On the one hand, you have the 'fact', the what-happened, the historical reality, whatever you want to call it. On the other hand, you have four writers taking that 'fact' and retelling it from their own perspectives and on their own terms, adapting and refitting it to suit their purposes in the course of the retelling. A modern historian looking for 'just the unvarnished facts' will of course be frustrated at this, but the burden really lies in those who read the gospels ultra-literally as if they are mere dry transcripts of the 'fact' (in other words, as if something written by a modern historian ;)). This is why I believe that looking at the gospels simply as if they are reports while completely ignoring the fact that they are also literary works is to miss something crucial.


#10

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