During a prime-time television special titled The Search for Jesus by in 2000, hosted by the late Peter Jennings, he asserted that according to some scholars, “the New Testament has four different and sometimes contradictory versions of Jesus’ life.” The Jesus Seminar scholars Jennings referenced, however, are famous for an idiosyncratic brand of fundamentalism that supplants reason and evidential substance with rhetoric and emotional stereotypes. They have made a virtual art form out of exploiting “discrepancies” in the secondary details of the Gospels. Hank Hanegraaff, the host of the 𝘉𝘪𝘣𝘭𝘦 𝘈𝘯𝘴𝘸𝘦𝘳 𝘔𝘢𝘯 broadcast and the 𝘏𝘢𝘯𝘬 𝘜𝘯𝘱𝘭𝘶𝘨𝘨𝘦𝘥 podcast, notes one of the alleged contradictions that is most frequently cited involves the female discoverers of the empty tomb. According to Matthew, the discoverers were Mary Magdalene and another Mary (28:1); Mark said they were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome (16:1); Luke claimed Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and others (24:10); and John focused solely on Mary Magdalene (20:18). In providing a defensible argument against dogmatic assertions, it is first helpful to point out that the four accounts are complementary rather than contradictory. Instead, the complementary details provided by the four gospel writers simply serve to flesh out the rest of the story. Credible scholars look for a reliable core set of facts in order to validate historical accounts. In this case, liberal and conservative scholars alike agree, for instance, that the body of Jesus was buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. If each of the gospel writers presented exactly the same secondary details in exactly the same manner, critics would dismiss their accounts on the basis of collusion. Instead, the Gospels provide unique yet mutually consistent perspectives on the events surrounding the empty tomb.
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