Ivy talks on her blog about how the Christian Gospels aren’t internally consistent, and that the writers don’t seem to know their own timeperiod. I was going to reply in her comment box and then I realized it was taking up too much space.
There are internal inconsistencies in the Bible. It’s a given. John has the Crucifixion happening on a different day than the Synoptic Gospels, for crying out loud. There’s a sermon on the mount in Matthew and a sermon on the plain in Luke, and there are little additions and subtractions all over the place.
No, Matthew and Luke’s infancy narratives cannot be reconciled. Either Jesus was born in Bethlehem and his parents brought him to Jerusalem to the Temple, or Jesus was born in Bethlehem and then his parents fled with him to Egypt. It makes no sense that knowing Herod wanted Jesus dead, they’d have brought Jesus to Jerusalem to the Temple, had people recognize who he was, and then fled to Egypt.
When Jesus responds about the picking food thing, he doesn’t say, “Hey, guys? This is allowed.” Instead he defends what they did as if it weren’t allowed, which is kind of odd. Gary Rendsburg goes over this in his Genesis lectures, though. Ancient logic is not the same kind of linear logic that you and I use today. It’s okay in ancient logic to have the conclusion happen before the antecedents, or to arrange things nonfactually if it works with the ultimate truth. To insist that the Bible be read through the modern lens of our understanding is to distort the text.
Ultimately, does it matter if Jesus delivered his sermon on a mountain or a plain? Not really, as long as we live the contents of the sermon. If Matthew is trying to give Jesus a sense of majesty, he does it by placing him on a mountain and trusting the reader will then associate “mountain” with “revelation” and there’s your shorthand. Whereas Luke wants to associate Jesus with the poor and the common, so where does he put him? On a plain.
Consider some of these details like the background music you’d hear in a movie to indicate “this is tense” or “he’s very sad” or “wow, something exciting is about to happen.” The writers chose the details they did in order to highlight certain aspects of the Kingdom of God rather than others. The factual details weren’t as necessary to them (in their cultural mindset) as were the spiritual details and the message of Jesus’s life, death and resurrection. Getting tied up in knots over inconsistencies in the Bible would be like getting overwrought that there was background music in the movie. “The characters couldn’t really hear that music, so why do we?” Why indeed? Because the readers of the Bible, and the viewers of the movie, needed it in order to get the message.
It takes more faith to see God in an inconsistent and inaccurate document than in one that’s textually flawless, but God likes to be seen in the hidden and the mysterious. The Holy Spirit worked through human beings to create a theologically true text that has withstood three thousand years of history and will be going strong three thousand years from now. But as in most parts of life, God worked through human beings to create it, and it was created for human beings, so the different books are going to have different emphasis and sometimes different details.
The Holy Spirit is smart. Those things are there because we need them, like looking at the same vase from two different angles so you can see the whole thing.
Whether God made the world in six 24 hour days or six trillion days, you know what? God made the world. Whether one thief was redeemed or not, Jesus died to redeem us all. Whether Jesus gave his sermon on a mountain or a plain, Jesus came to us because He loves us and told us to love one another with the same self-giving intensity.
Compared to that, I’m not going to sweat whether a roof was tile or straw.