Problem: Jesus' wording differs
Verses: Multiple; Status: Weak

It's often the case that, when one gospel gives a saying or quotation from Jesus, another gospel presents it slightly differently. Just as an example, here are Matthew 16:13, Mark 8:27 and Luke 9:18, respectively:

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" (ESV)
And Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the way he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that I am?" (ESV)
Now it happened that as he was praying alone, the disciples were with him. And he asked them, "Who do the crowds say that I am?" (ESV)

It's natural to ask, which of these did Jesus actually say? Well, the answer is, none of them. The gospel writers were writing in Greek, whereas Jesus almost certainly spoke Aramaic. So quotations of Jesus in the gospel are almost certainly translations from Aramaic into Greek.

It's natural that different writers would translate in different ways. None seem to have been too concerned with Jesus' exact wording, but rather intended to give the gist of what Jesus said, and felt free to give it in different ways.

Matters are further complicated by the fact that we are reading English translations of the Greek.

In any case, none of this seems to worry inerrantists, nor should it. There would only be a contradiction if two gospels recorded Jesus saying something drastically different, or gave his original words in his actual language.

Updated: 2008-06-01

Back to main index

See also