What’s the Difference?
It’s not uncommon to hear from Christian skeptics that the Bible is “inconsistent” or “contradictory.” It’s important to remember that the Bible is a collection of individual writings. Different authors, writing at different times (over a period of about 1500 years), in different languages, and writing to different intended audiences all combine into one collaboration that we collectively refer to as “Scripture”.
As the four Gospels, however, purport to tell the “same” story, they are ripe for scrutiny when their details are not identical. Reading these three passages (Matthew 14:22-36, Mark 6:45-56 and John 6:16-26), one might wonder “why are they not the same?” Some have elements that others do not, while others have elements that the first does not. Is this a “contradiction”? Is the Bible ever “wrong”?
It’s not a contradiction. It’s more like a fabric, woven from several different types of material. Or perhaps a better example would be to consider a televised football game. There are multiple cameras, with multiple angles, focusing on different areas of the field. A studio director selects what camera angles to use, and when to use them, and combines them into one broadcast signal that comes through to the TV. Perhaps one camera angle shows a person making a catch, but another camera angle shows that the ball first touched the ground. If we only had one angle, it would skew our perception of the game. That we have multiple authors’ accounts of this story is a huge benefit to us.
Just like “instant replay” in sports, we can go back to examine, compare and contrast, and prayerfully consider what we might learn from it. Note that only one of the three stories mentions anything about Peter getting out of the boat, and walking on water himself – for a short time, anyway (before he begins to sink). What is common among all three stories?
Jesus’ nature is shown: He miraculously walked several miles on the surface of the water, during a severe storm.
Jesus proclaims who He is: He consoled the terrified disciples – “do not be afraid, it is I.”
Jesus is acknowledged by the people (of Gennesaret, where the boat landed, and the surrounding area) for who He is: The sick were brought to him “just to touch his cloak, and they were healed.”