Why does the Bible keep starting all over again?
I was asked this very question the other day. I was sitting across the table from an eager young man that I recently had the privilege of leading to Christ. We met at a restaurant at his request. He had questions… and lots of them! It’s thrilling to see him so hungry to understand the Bible. In fact, he was more interested in discussing the Bible than he was eating.
When my friend Bill (not his real name) asked me this question, it took a moment to understand where he was coming from. Then I recalled the New Testament I gave him right after leading him to Christ, and the instruction I gave him about reading it. I failed to mention to him that there are four gospels, and that each writer is presenting Jesus Christ to the world through their writings under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
This is what was puzzling to him. He would read Matthew and then begin to read Mark, only to discover that Mark was starting over and telling about the beginning of the story of Jesus all over again. He found the same thing happened when he got to Luke.
I then explained to Bill, that each writer was writing with the guidance of God to tell the story of Jesus. They were not giving us four different gospels, because there is only one gospel, but these are four independent witnesses sharing with the world, the truth about Jesus Christ. There are many things that each writer says that are similar, but if we read carefully we will find some distinct differences as well. I explained to Bill that the differences in their testimonies are COMPLIMENTARY and not CONTRADICTORY.
Bill was like a sponge as I explained that the four gospel writers were telling the story of Jesus, giving their unique perspective and it seems with a unique audience in mind too. It seems Matthew had the Jewish people in mind, Mark had the Romans in mind, Luke had the Gentile (anybody not a Jew) in mind, and John wanted the whole world to embrace what He had to say about Christ.
There is a lot more to tell, but I wanted to make sure Bill didn’t get stumped by reading these accounts and wondering why in one place two blind men are mentioned while another account only mentions one. To illustrate this, I asked Bill to imagine being one of four people that witnessed an accident. The policeman arriving on the scene asks him and the other three to write out what they saw. In those four accounts there would probably be many things similar, yet there would be distinct differences too. One might have only seen two cars crashing into one another, while another saw that a third car failed to brake when the first two cars crashed and included that in their report too. Another may have seen all three cars were damaged but because that person arrived on the scene a few seconds after the fact, he was not able to report anything about who hit who.
The fact that the reports of each person varied some doesn’t mean that somebody wasn’t telling the truth. In fact, whenever four witnesses give a report on the same crime and they all tell the exact same story the exact same way it sends up a flag to the detective interviewing the individuals that they must have gotten together to collaborate about their stories. This is called collusion. When this happens, witnesses are usually not considered reliable, and may in fact be trying to cover something up.
Satisfied with the answers I gave to his concerns, this inquisitive young man grinned widely. It is always a delight and blessing to see new converts with such a fervor to know Christ and grow in faith and understanding!