Why do some accounts of the life of Jesus contradict others?

This question has been asked in many ways throughout the centuries. Even when Jesus was alive, witnesses described events differently. So, we shouldn’t be surprised to read in the gospels recorded by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and in letters written by Paul, Peter and others, reports of events that seem to be contradictory. 

Eyewitnesses to events very often describe those events differently from others standing next to them. Each of us views everything through the lens of our worldview. So too, did each of the Bible’s authors. Matthew, for example, was writing to Jewish people and wanted them to understand how Jesus fulfilled Jewish prophecy. Luke, not an eyewitness to many of the events he recorded, undoubtedly talked to many who knew Jesus, chose the events and miracles most likely to give non-jews an understanding of Jesus, and then wrote a chronological account. He followed his gospel of Jesus with the Acts of the Apostles, condensing years in the lives of many people into a narrative of the establishment of the church throughout the Roman Empire. 

Many of the events in the life of Jesus, from his virgin birth through his trials and crucifixion involved many people who viewed events from different perspectives. The words of Jesus recorded in scripture were likely written down from memory, but all under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Just as God preserved the story of the creation of all things and the history of the His chosen people as recorded in the 39 books of the Old Testament, he ensured that the life and teachings of Jesus would be preserved for us, today.

So, when we read descriptions of events or teachings that seem to be in conflict, upon closer examination we see how well they tie together to give us a wholistic picture what God wants us to see and understand. Paul wrote to Timothy he reminded this young disciple that the Word is without error.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness 

2 Tim 3:16

If you are confronted with seeming contradictions, ask God to open your eyes to His truth. He will reveal Himself to those that diligently seek Him. One area where there is no contradiction is Jesus’s direct assertion recorded in John’s gospel:

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” 

John 14:6

If you have not yet found this way to eternal life, then we encourage you to read our post: How Can I Become a Christian?