Back in May I posted a blog entry titled “Differences in the Gospels” in which I discussed some of the supposed contradictions the Gospels, and how they are not actual contradictions. As a case study I examined John’s report of Jesus baptizing in Judea. In one place he says Jesus baptized, while a little later he says it was Jesus’ disciples, and not Jesus Himself. If it was Luke rather than John who had noted that it was Jesus’ disciples, not Jesus Himself, who baptized, people would claim a contradiction between Luke and John. Since both appear in John, however, it is clear that there is no contradiction. It only illustrates the flexibility in which the Biblical authors reported historical events. John so no contradiction at all. I argued that this is illustrative of how we ought to view other supposed contradictions between the Gospels.
I just updated that post to include another example similar to the one above. In John 20:1 John only mentions Mary Magdalene as a witness to Jesus’ resurrection, while the other Gospel authors report a plurality of women (the lists differ as to who is identified). Some see this as a contradiction. And yet in the very next verse John records Mary as saying to the apostles, “We do not know where they have laid him.” While John only names Mary as a witness, he is clearly aware of the fact that there were more present than just Mary. Again, such ways of speaking should alert us not to be too rigid in our interpretation of the Gospels. We cannot impose modern standards of historiography on the apostles and the texts they created.