Are the Gospel accounts contradictory?


(Mary L.Boctor) #1

Hello, RZIMConnect Family,

First of all, I can’t express how grateful I’m for this wonderful platform, allowing us to exchange our experiences and share our questions.
Though I joined the site a while back in Feb, I was going through some difficult season that made it challenging for me to keep up!
Therefore, this would be my first contribution to the site. I hope I’m posting in the appropriate section while keeping in line with the guidelines :slight_smile:

People often accuse the gospel accounts of being contradictory or conflicting,and there’re some occasions where it may look like that at the first instance, including the one I’m about to mention.
This is more of a Question/ Reflection kind of post, where I’d be happy to know your thoughts about the incident I’m referring to, while also sharing similar Qs or thoughts about other similar seemingly contradictory stories or accounts in the gospels.

While reading John 1:35-42, The story of the two disciples of John the Baptist- one of whom was Andrew, Peter’s brother- following Jesus after John calls him out as the"Lamb of God" greatly caught my attention, & led me to think " This wasn’t how Jesus called Peter and Andrew! was it?" Compared to the famous story in Matthew 4:18-22, where He was walking by the seaside, saw them fishing and called them to follow him and “fish for people”.

I went back and tried reading the four gospels’ accounts of Jesus’ calling of his disciples, and here’s what I concluded :

I was led to believe that the account recorded in John’s gospel is an earlier incident than the other three. For example, when I contrasted Matthew’s and Mark’s accounts**( Mark 1:14-20)** with John’s, I found out that in the former two gospels, the incident of Jesus commanding Andrew and Peter to follow him, happened after John the Baptist had been put into prison( Matthew 4:12, Mark 1:14), while in John 1:35, John the Baptist was still there. According to which, I can’t help but conclude that Jesus knew Peter and Andrew before He had called them to follow Him, and John, the disciple, recorded such an earlier encounter. On the other hand, I found Luke’s account (Luke 5: 1-11) to be an even more detailed version of that seaside story, where he describes how Jesus gets into one of the two brothers’ fishing boats and asks them to go deeper in waters, only to end up catching so much fish that both boats were about to sink. Then Jesus commanded them to follow Him by His well-known phrase" You’ll fish for people!"

It took me almost two hours contrasting and connecting the dots, but it definitely was worth it.

I hope I didn’t leave something out or mix things up, but that’s all I’ve reached so far. I’m now eager to hear your thoughts and remarks regarding this story and maybe similar stories in the four gospels.

Blessings! :slight_smile:


(Natasha Morton) #2

Hi Mary.Boctor!
Great discussion topic!
I think the 4 Gospels can definitely appear contradictory, however I once heard it explained as though it’s 4 people giving viewpoints of a building. If all 4 stand on a specific side, you’ll get different descriptions of the same house - all are accurately told, just from individual and unique viewpoints. I do understand that’s a pretty basic way of thinking of some of the ‘contradictions’ and I’m not sure if everyone would agree with that approach but it’s made sense to me.


(SeanO) #3

@Mary.boctor Thank you for your post on Connect! As far as I can see, you did great - keep it up!

Regarding the differences between the Gospels generally, check out this article from Zondervan academic. One of the big issues people face when reading the Gospels is that ancient history was simply different from modern history - it focused on theme more than chronology at times. Modern history is concerned with order and details - ancient history was concerned with conveying a thematic point - Jesus the Messiah in Matthew or Son of Man in Mark. It was perfectly acceptable to reorder events to emphasize themes. Also, the stories were at times told from different vantage points.

Regarding the specific case of the calling of Simon Peter and Andrew, it sounds like you were on the right track if I am understanding correctly. Here are two articles that explain the view that these are in fact two entirely separate accounts. According to CARM - " The chronology of events becomes evident when viewing the grid below. In [John 1:35ff], John the Baptist was with his disciples. He tells them that Jesus is the “Lamb of God” (v. 36) and they stay with Jesus a while (v. 37). In [John 1:40-42], Andrew goes and gets Simon Peter and they follow Jesus. Why? Because Andrew had spent time with Jesus and told Simon that Jesus was the Messiah (v. 41). Later, in [Matt. 4:18], Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee and He sees Simon Peter and Andrew as they were fishing. He had not asked them to follow Him until this point in verse 4:19. They do (4:20). There is no contradiction."

https://carm.org/bible-difficulties/matthew-mark/where-did-jesus-first-meet-simon-peter-and-andrew

I hope that is helpful :slight_smile:

What is your view of the difference between the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew and the Sermon on the Plain? Do you feel they are compilations of Jesus’ teaching or two separate times Jesus taught similar things? This is a question that has interested me.