Well this is not much of a scriptural contradiction; it’s more of a logical contradiction. When going through the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, I noticed that they are all written in third person. That was interesting, cause I always thought that the gospels were written by the disciples and first hand eyewitnesses from their own personal perspective. Traditional Christianity claim that the Gospels were written by two of Jesus’ twelve disciples (Matthew & John), a man who closely followed the memoirs of Peter the Apostle/Disciple (Mark), and a fourth who carefully interviewed eyewitnesses of Jesus’ life(Luke). So taking all this into consideration Matthew & John should have definitely been written in first person. And Luke & Mark probably should have shown some slight tendencies to both third and first person. Yeah, I know many of them were written decades after Christ Death. But the perspective of who it wrote should not change. Even if the Gospels were just copies of the disciple who wrote it, then they should still remain in first person. Either way we look at it, the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of John are to be considered eyewitness and should have been written from a first-person perspective. After all, any story that is telling of oneself in it (even if it is a copy), should have accounts or traces of being written with first person tendencies scattered throughout the text.
“If they[gospels] were written by the disciples, then their reliability, authenticity, and accuracy are better substantiated.” (C.A.R.M.)
Well this should be true, and easily verifiable, except for their authorship is neither easily verifiable nor substantiated. Now the more I think about the issue; the more I think of it as a common sense contradiction verse a biblical contradiction. Yes, it’s a contradiction of common sense for an eyewitness account of something to be written in third person.
I could not find any scholarly apologetic answers to this question. It’s odd that the Christian Apologist hasn’t even attempted to answer this question. But here are some answers I found on various blog posts and some yahoo Question/Answer. Which can really be categorized into Two sections: God inspired the Bible & Writing Style of the time.
God Inspired The Bible
- It is God’s Word because He inspired the writers to write what He wanted written – not because He personally took a pen and physically wrote it.
- Those who wrote the Bible were inspired by God. They wrote his thoughts, not their own.
- This is a common question with two relatively easy answers. 1. God did not sit down at his desk, sharpen up a pencil and get to work. He used human authors to convey his message. It is similar to an architect building a structure, he may not lay a single brick with his own hands, but they are all where he intends them to be. 2. Using third person narrative, even switching between first and third, was a common writing style of the Hebrews of that time. A good example of this is Acts of the Apostles, the whole thing was written by one man (St. Luke) but the narrative changes from first to third.
Writing Style of the Time
- They are narrating a story or event for the reader. Like a reporter would narrate or articulate for the public, the scene of a crime.
- That was the writing style at the time.
- The Bible isn’t an autobiography; much of it is history. If you were writing a history book, even about yourself, you would not write it in the first person; you would write it in the third person.
Now if the reason why the Gospels are written in third person is because God inspired them to write that way, that really does raises some eyebrows. Because there are no modern scholars who write that way or when people give testimony about the thing God has done for them, how come the average person doesn’t tell the story in third person? Even if this was true, how come the Gospels of Luke and John were inspired in third person; but God didn’t inspire Luke to write the Acts of Apostles fully in third person. -And how come God didn’t inspire John to write his three epistles in third person. Well if the answer to that is God designed it that way, then one can imply God inconsistent in his writing style. And the idea of writing in third person was the writing in ancient history is just straight absurd. We don’t need to look any farther than the bible to see that other parts of the bible are written in first person. Even the other works by Luke- Acts of the Apostles and John- 1, 2, & 3 John are all written in first person. So this can’t be it.
Now the two following points were the closest thing I could find to a scholarly answer. The first was posted on a Yahoo Question/Answer.
1. “According to professors of ancient literature, the Gospels are written just the way they should be for the time. We have a problem because we are used to everything RIGHT NOW!! It didn’t work that way back then. Plus, it speaks more in volume when you look at the changed lives of the Gospel writers. Jesus did not need to change. He was perfect. We have hope when we compare ourselves to the Apostles. Look what happened to them? We can and should expect the same when we place our lives in Jesus’ hands.” (Reference Yahoo Question) Now it’s hard to take this answer serious, because there are no citations to where this source comes from. The answer is very bland and lastly, it doesn’t provide the name or school of the professor.
2. Now according to other sources, the reason why the Gospels are written in third person is because they were never (originally) written by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. They were just randomly assigned the names because so many Jesus stories were in circular; that early Christians randomly assigned these names to help distinguish each of the gospels apart. This explanation of why the Gospels are written in third person, -then one can only assume that NOBODY truly knows who wrote Gospels and that we have absolutely eyewitness accounts of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. http://www.facingthechallenge.org/gospels.php
So now the Question remains, Can the Gospels still be considered reliable and trustworthy if we know that they are not eyewitness accounts?
A Hard case of why not to trust the gospels by Diogenes the Cynic with replies by John McClymont