In the discrepancies in the recorded words of Jesus

Yesterday morning I jogged alone.  Not having a conversation partner (yes, we talk while we jog), I listened instead to half of a lecture Jesus by N.T. Wright.  He made a remarkable observation about the differences between the Gospel records of Jesus’ words–remarkable and so obvious that I wonder why hadn’t thought about it myself.

He said, in effect, that since Jesus was an itinerant teacher he would have probably had similar things to say in different places, much like Wright himself would give a similar lecture in different places.  But when you teach a similar lesson repeatedly, you don’t always say the same things or say them in quite the same ways.  Hence, a reasonable explanation for some of the differences between the gospels.

I suppose, too, you can add the filter/perspective of the various hearers as a factor in the differences as well.  If you and I hear a lecture and then write a report on what was said, our reports won’t be identical.  And that different witness sources would have heard the teachings in different times and places.

For some reason or other, I had never considered the possibility of Jesus teaching the same lesson over and over again in a variety of locations.  My working assumption (albeit unconscious) was that, for instance, the material spoken at the so-called “Sermon on the Mount” was only taught once and in that location.  But there really is no reason that I’m aware of to think that Jesus taught the “Sermon on the Mount” only on the mount and nowhere else.

N.T. Wright does it again!

In other news: my first critical book review was returned to me and I did very well in terms of my grade.  Encouragement always comes at the right time, doesn’t it?

4 thoughts on “In the discrepancies in the recorded words of Jesus

  1. Simon

    I’m curious, Mark: what’s the demographic of the people you are in class with?

    I ask because I remember my own days in university and the relatively few “mature” students that peppered my lectures. They almost invariably did better than most, ending up on the right side of the bell curve. I’m sure it’s different with seminary, there being people from all different stages of life. But, as a 30-ish man, are you older than most of the aspiring clerics?

    I think, as this year and the next couple proceed, you’re going to come more and more into your confidence, at least at the same rate as knowledge. I don’t mean “confidence” in any sort of arrogant way; you will still retain a healthy air of “being unsure” about a great many things, but I see you questioning yourself about that uncertainty a LOT less.

    (This sort of thing happens as you level up, and prepare to face Voldemort, I hear.)

  2. Marc Post author

    As I understand it, statistically I am the average age of seminary students (early thirties). I’m not good at estimating age, but that looks to be about right here as well. The majority of seminary students that I’ve met might be a couple of years younger than me , but not by much (i.e. late 2os).

    The feel of class discussion is, for the most part, more “mature”, and has more humility than some university classes, where there was inevitably a student in my class who thought they knew better than the prof and was constantly arguing with him or her.

  3. Marc Post author

    Incidentally, so far I have met relatively few aspiring clerics in my classes. The majority of my classmates are either working on counseling/psychology degrees or on M.A.s in Theology, which is generally not a clerical track (though I haven’t quite determined in what way it’s different then the M.Div, outside of less focus on “pastoral issues”).

    There is a week-long intensive next week, which is a required course for M.Div students. There are only 10 students registered, and while some might take it later in their program, this isn’t indicative of an overwhelming M.Div presence.

    This is not entirely surprising, since Prov is known primarily for having a superb counseling program.

Comments are closed.