Differences in Gospel Accounts: What are we to beleive?

This is the 4th time I am asking this question. The previous three went unanswered, so I am hoping this one will be answered.

My question regards differences in Gospel accounts. In some Gospels, for instance, the number of angels in the tomb after the Resurrection is 1 whereas in others there are 2.

Also, one Gospel mention the words of commemoration at the Eucharist (“Do this in memory of me”), 2 others mention only the Eucharist, and St. John’s Gospel does not mention the Eucharist at all. At the crucifixion, one Gospel mentions that both thieves taunted Christ, another mentions that one is penitent, and both the remaining do not mention this at all.

My questions are:

  1. When these mutually exclusive events occur (there was either 1 angel or 2, but not both, and the words of commemoration were spoken or not), which Gospel is to be believed?

  2. What of those events that are written of that no apostle or Gospel writer witness, such as Christ’s prayer in Gethsemane, where all His disciples were sleeping. How are such details included (also His temptation in the desert) when no human being witnessed them?

  3. Are those Gospels nearer to the Ascension of Christ more accurate, or do we know by faith that each Gospel is fully the truth of Christ’s life?

  4. Why would certain key events (the Eucharist in St. John’s Gospel, the Annunciation and other details about Mary in all but St. Luke’s) be omitted from certain Gospels when they are of such tremendous importance?

Thank you for your help.

Dear Mike,

I salute you for your perseverance. I suspect that your question wasn’t answered because when others like me have attempted to answer it in the past, people who want details tend to be dissatisfied with anything less.

The word “synopsis” means: a brief or condensed statement giving a general view of some subject. The Synoptic Gospels of Saints Matthew, Mark and Luke are general statements. The details are just that. While they contradict each other in details, they all give witness to the same ultimate truth of the Gospel. St. John’s Gospel was the last to be written and so he added items that were not in the others. For example, he doesn’t give a description of the institution of the Eucharist, which he knew was present elsewhere. Instead, he described the foot washing and the beautiful and intimate teaching the Jesus gave to His apostles that night. However, St. John speaks more than the others of the Eucharist in Chapter 6, leaving little doubt about its reality to those who are open to it.

Whether there were one or two angels at the tomb doesn’t really affect salvation history. The words we use at Mass for the consecration of the bread and the wine are not identical with any of the Gospel accounts. But the same meaning is found in all of them.

As for the temptations in the desert and other matters that occurred with no one around but Jesus, He may very well have communicated them to the authors. The Evangelists were not writing diaries or chronicles, covering everything that happened in the lives of Jesus and His followers. They were concerned with conveying the truths that we who have come later would need to know.

I encourage you to check out the Gospels in the original Catholic Encyclopedia:[LIST]
*] Gospel of St. Matthew[LIST]
*] Biblical Commission update[/LIST]
*] Gospel of St. Mark
*] Gospel of St. Luke[LIST]
*] Biblical Commission update[/LIST]
*] The Synoptics[LIST]
*] Biblical Commission update[/LIST]
*] Gospel of St. John[LIST]
*] Controversies[/LIST] [/LIST]Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P.

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