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One of the most common objections against Christianity is violence in the Old Testament. Richard Dawkins, our generation’s most famous atheist, sums up the attitude of many when he says,

The God of the Old Testament is … a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”

The question of violence in the Old Testament is a troubling one for many people, Christians as well as non-Christians. Read through the book of Joshua, for instance, and it appears that God commands genocide. So what are we to make of this large-scale, divinely-ordered violence in the OT? The answer revolves around three key words—authority, judgment, race.

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Earlier this week, we’ve been considering the question of whether the Jesus depicted in Mark’s Gospel contradicts the Jesus in John’s Gospel. For a review of that argument, click here. For Part 1 of our rebuttal, click here.

The purpose of this post is to question whether Mark’s depiction is actually all that different from John’s. Spoiler: we believe it’s not.

To recap, the argument goes something like this: Mark’s “Jesus” is shy, coy, and human. He doesn’t claim to be God and doesn’t want other people thinking he is. But John’s “Jesus” is overt in his claims to divinity.

It is often said that error is truth out of proportion. That certainly applies here. The grain of truth in this is that Mark’s depiction of Jesus is more indirect and more secretive than John’s. For the modern reader especially, it’s easier to understand Jesus’ claims to divinity in the book of John than in the book of Mark. They are legitimately distinct portraits, emphasizing different aspects of Jesus’ ministry.

But recognizing differing emphases doesn’t mean we’re talking about two contradictory people. Let’s take each side of the argument and look at the Gospels themselves.

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Yesterday I (Chris) introduced a common objection to the historicity of Jesus: the accounts of Jesus’ life are so varied in the Gospels that they cannot be about the same person. (You can go back to read that here.) To many, the idea of contradictions in the Gospels is compelling. My purpose in this post is to show why that narrative rests on faulty foundations. (Be sure to check out the last in this 3-part series, in which I address the contradictions themselves.)

At the heart of the argument is the assumption that if two biographies differ, their differences must necessarily be contradictory. That’s one option, of course. But differing accounts might also be complementary, depending on the evidence. Consider these two sets of claims:

Scenario 1

Person A: Our friend Mike passed away last year this time.

Person B: I played basketball with our friend Mike last week.

Scenario 2

Person A: Our friend Mike passed away last week.

Person B: Wow. And to think, just last week Mike and I were playing basketball together.

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