Christianity’s Core Belief – Differences in Eyewitness Accounts

We concluded our special series about Christianity’s Core Belief yesterday, but I received a question at the end of the series that many people ask. It concerns what appear to be contradictions in eyewitness accounts in the Gospels.

Here’s a short response I sent to the person asking the question.

“My professional career was journalism, so I looked at this when I was an atheist investigating the New Testament claims. The seeming contradictions bothered me at first until I stepped back and thought about how I would report on the story based on the evidence. Where did the witnesses agree and where did they diverge in their testimony? They agreed on the important points of Christ’s death, burial and the empty tomb. Those are the vital points to which Paul attests in his famous statement about the Gospel he preached in 1 Corinthians 15.

As an investigative journalist I kept notebook lists of primary (major) points and secondary (minor) points when interviewing witnesses. I looked for agreement, disagreement and contradictions. I also looked for the perspective of each witness as compared with material (physical) evidence. In the case of the major points all of the Gospel accounts agree. Jesus was crucified, buried and raised from the grave. Witnesses saw that he was placed in a particular tomb. They returned to that tomb and found the tomb empty.

As a journalist who covered thousands of stories during a 40+ year career in journalism, I’ve talked with a lot of witnesses. Many told me the truth, even though their testimony would diverge or even contradict other testimony. Some told me lies and their false testimony usually matched other testimony that was discovered to be false. Liars lie and they often lie together.

Matching testimony is not what I looked for when interviewing people. I understand that people tell their eyewitness stories with some differences. I could say the same about fellow journalists. Even though we talked with the same witnesses and law enforcement investigators, we usually told our stories with different information and emphasis. I often wondered why other journalists left out information I thought important to the story and they may have thought the same about my reporting. However, the important thing was that we got the important things right.

Here’s an article that addresses some of the minor points in a way that may help.”

https://www.bethinking.org/did-jesus-rise-from-the-dead/q-dont-the-resurrection-accounts-contradict-each-other

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