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Why Do Disparities Exist in the Gospels of Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John?

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Why Do Disparities Exist in the Gospels of Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John?

The disparity within the Gospels does not seek to disprove the personhood or the life of Jesus. Instead, it arises from the unique perspective of each writer regarding Jesus. Let us consider, for instance, the resurrection account of Jesus as an illustration.

THE DISPARITY IN THE RECORD OF JESUS’ RESURRECTION

In exploring the narratives of the resurrection across the Gospels, it becomes evident that while the central event remains consistent (the resurrection), the secondary details exhibit both subtle and pronounced variations. Here, we present a synopsis of these divergences, illuminating the distinctive nuances within each Gospel’s portrayal of Jesus’ resurrection and its immediate aftermath:

Matthew 28: First to the tomb: Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary” Unique Secondary Details in Matthew’s Gospel:

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  • A violent earthquake
  • An angel of the Lord rolling back the stone
  • Terrified guards rendered motionless
  • Jesus intercepting the women en route to the disciples
  • The women embracing Jesus’ feet and worshipping him
  • Conspiracy plotted by chief priests regarding the disciples’ alleged theft of Jesus’ body
  • Commissioning of the disciples on a mountain chosen by Jesus

Mark 16:1-8: First to the tomb: Mary Magdalene, Mary (mother of James), Salome Unique Secondary Details in Mark’s Gospel:

  • The women fleeing the tomb and divulging nothing—a notably abrupt conclusion to Mark’s account

Luke 24: First to the tomb: Mary Magdalene, Mary (mother of James), Joanna, “other women,” Peter Unique Secondary Details in Luke’s Gospel:

  • Two angels greeting the women in the tomb
  • Jesus’ post-resurrection appearance to two followers on the road to Emmaus, vanishing during the breaking of bread
  • Jesus appearing to his disciples, inviting tactile confirmation of his corporeality, and partaking in broiled fish with them

John 20: First to the tomb: Mary Magdalene, Simon Peter, the disciple Jesus loved Unique Secondary Details in John’s Gospel:

  • Accusations of grave robbery
  • A race between two disciples to the tomb
  • Extensive discussion on Jesus’ burial linens
  • Mary’s tears and vision of two angels
  • Mary mistaking Jesus for the gardener upon his appearance
  • Jesus’ refusal to be touched or grasped
  • Jesus’ appearance to the disciples behind locked doors, imparting the Holy Spirit through his breath
  • Jesus inviting Thomas to verify his wounds

*It’s noteworthy that the number of angels present varies across the resurrection narratives: Matthew and Mark mention one angel, while Luke and John describe two.

Why the Disparity

It’s crucial to grasp that the primary aim of the Gospel records is to narrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ—a pivotal event in Christian faith.

Now, the apparent differences arise from:

  1. The unique perspective of each writer. Imagine twenty reporters present at a wedding, tasked with recounting the event months later. Undoubtedly, their reports would vary in detail, yet all would highlight the essential figures—the bride and groom. Similarly, the Gospel authors, as eyewitnesses, penned their accounts after Jesus’ departure. Their central goal was to convey the truth of Jesus’ resurrection, not necessarily the chronological sequence of events.
  2. The intended audience of each Gospel. These accounts were tailored to specific audiences, often disciples of the eyewitnesses themselves. Bearing their audience in mind, the authors sought to impart the life and teachings of Jesus as they experienced them. This motive undoubtedly influenced the variations within the Gospel narratives.

In conclusion, while the accounts of Jesus’ resurrection differ across the Gospels, they do not diminish the truth of his resurrection—the fundamental message and purpose of the Gospel narratives.”

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