Why do the Gospels differ in their details? I was surprised to learn that not all of the Gospels tell the same stories, for example, the Nativity. Doesn’t this take away from their credibility?
Take any event that happens, from family trips to national politics and ask two or three different people to explain what happened. You will get a different version of the same story. People tend to tell the story from their perspective, and past experience shades what we recall and how we recall it. Our choice of words and what details we leave in or out is also influenced by the audience who is listening to our tales.
The Gospel writers are no different. Each one tells the story of Jesus from their own perspective. Versions differ in some details, not because one is true and the other is not, but because each Gospel writer, or Evangelist, has a different theological point to communicate as well as a different audience for whom he is writing. He picks and chooses the details of his Gospel based on what message he is preaching, what his audience may already know, and what message they need to hear. The various details of the Gospels point more to their authenticity as a record of the church’s experience and understanding of Jesus. In a good study Bible, the background notes for each Gospel contain a lot of information that helps us better understand each Evangelist and his message.