Contradictions in the Gospels: Problems or Opportunities?
At one point in the article, Ehrman is quoted:
That Matthew, Mark, and Luke “left out” Jesus’ talk of his identity and origins indicates to Ehrman that aspects of the gospels (or perhaps even whole gospels) are untrue.
But I wonder: are “contradictions” in the gospels or gaps between gospel stories necessarily an indication of their falsity? I don’t think so. Or let me put it this way: “contradictions” between gospels are only a problem from a certain perspective.
From another perspective, one that views language as a set of symbolic resources that humans use to make sense of their experiences and to formulate responses to them, these gaps between gospel stories indicate the points at which interpretive agency becomes important. It is precisely here at these “contradictions” where Matthew takes one storyline and John takes another, for instance, that the contemporary reader is pushed to the point of undecidability; that is to say, the reader has come upon “a condition of choice” (Caputo 2000, 237) where a judgment is called for. John D. Caputo says that the empty tomb and the confusion and undecidability that immediately followed offers another example where interpretive agency was called for; as a result, an interpretation was forged that accounted for the empty tomb.
My point in all of this is that “contradictions” in and between the gospels are better treated as opportunities to creatively interpret the text in a faithful way and not, as Ehrmen might argue, to discredit the text.
*John D. Caputo, “Undecidability and the Empty Tomb.” In More Radical Hermeneutics. John D. Caputo. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2000.