Inerrancy and the Gospels: A God-Centered Approach to the Challenges of Harmonization

By Vern S. Poythress

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Inerrancy and the Gospels: A God-Centered Approach to the Challenges of Harmonization

By Vern S. Poythress

... Show All

Serious Bible readers all recognize that there are differences between accounts of the same events in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and no responsible reader can simply sweep these differences under the rug. But can all of the accounts still be reconciled with a belief in biblical inerrancy?

Responding to the questions surrounding the gospel narratives, New Testament scholar Vern Poythress contributes a worthy case for inerrancy in the gospels and helps readers understand basic principles for harmonization. He also tackles some of the most complicated exegetical problems, showing the way forward on passages that have perplexed many, such as the centurion's servant, the cursing of the fig tree, and more.

All those interested in the authority of Scripture will find in this volume great encouragement and insight as Poythress has provided an arresting case to stem the tide of skepticism.


Vern S. Poythress

Vern S. Poythress (PhD, Harvard University; ThD, University of Stellenbosch) is Distinguished Professor of New Testament, Biblical Interpretation, and Systematic Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he has taught for four decades. In addition to earning six academic degrees, he is the author of numerous books and articles on biblical interpretation, language, and science.

Product Details

Category: Apologetics
Format: Paperback
Page Count: 240
Size: 6.0 in x 9.0 in
Weight: 11.7 ounces
ISBN-10: 1-4335-2860-6
ISBN-13: 978-1-4335-2860-6
ISBN-UPC: 9781433528606
Case Quantity: 44
Published: October 31, 2012

Table of Contents

Part 1: The Challenge Of Harmonization
1.  Difficulties in the Gospels 
2.  An Example: The Centurion’s Servant

Part 2: Principles for Harmonization
3.  Initial Principles for Harmonization 
4.  History, Theology, and Artistry 
5.  The Historical Claims of the Gospels 
6.  The Authority of the Gospels 
7.  A Mental-Picture Theory 
8.  Truth in a Biblical Worldview 
9.  Truthfulness versus Artificial Precision 
10. Variations in Writing History 

Part 3: Attitudes in Harmonization
11.  Confidence and Doubt 
12.  Seeking God 
13.  Limitations in Human Knowledge
14. Intellectual Suffering 
15. Positive Purposes for Difficulties 

Part 4: Special Issues in Harmonization
16. The Synoptic Problem 
17. Temporal Order of Events 

Part 5:  Individual Cases
18. Cleansing the Temple 
19. The Rejection of Jesus at Nazareth 
20. Cursing the Fig Tree 
21. Commissioning the Twelve 


“I can think of no one in the world better qualified to write a defense of biblical inerrancy than my lifelong friend Vern Poythress. Serious Bible readers all recognize that there are differences between accounts of the same events in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and no responsible reader can simply sweep these differences under the rug. But can all of the accounts still be reconciled with a belief in biblical inerrancy? In this book, Poythress provides an outstanding resource that carefully analyzes every important Gospel passage where an inconsistency or a contradiction has been alleged. He draws on the rich resources of centuries of church history and his own remarkable wisdom in analyzing human linguistic communication to provide a sure-footed, thoughtful, humble, and even spiritually challenging guide to these key passages. This is the best book I know of for dealing with Gospel difficulties. It is profoundly wise, insightful, and clearly written, and it will surely strengthen every reader’s confidence in the trustworthiness of the Bible as the very words of God.”
Wayne Grudem, Distinguished Research Professor of Theology and Biblical Studies, Phoenix Seminary

“Shall we defend biblical inerrancy with arguments that are naïve and unconvincing? Or shall we assume that discrepancies among the Gospels cannot be resolved? Vern Poythress shows us that we need not make such a choice. Clear, convincing, accessible, practical, Inerrancy and the Gospels is everything we need in a book on this topic. While sharpening readers’ skill at harmonization, Poythress also develops a thoughtful, God-honoring foundation for addressing Gospel difficulties and the spiritual challenges that accompany them. I want every student, every pastor, and every skeptic I know to read this book—and recommend it to their friends.”
C. D. "Jimmy" Agan III, Senior Pastor, Intown Community Church, Atlanta, Georgia

“When Vern Poythress has chosen to write on a particular subject, the resulting book has always been (in my memory) the best book on that subject. This one is about the inerrancy of Scripture, dealing particularly with problems in the Gospel narratives, and I know of nothing better in the field. It is fully cogent, very helpful, linguistically sophisticated, and, above all, faithful to the Scriptures as the word of God.”
John M. Frame, Professor of Systematic Theology and Philosophy Emeritus, Reformed Theological Seminary

“It is all too common today to bemoan harmonization, but there is value in pursuing the real possibility that differences in the Gospels can and should be seen as complementing one another in their presentation of truth. Vern Poythress’s Inerrancy and the Gospels uses a self-authenticating approach to Scripture to argue that harmonization does give insight in how the Gospels work. This is a study well worth reading and considering regardless of whether one accepts the self-authenticating model or not.”
Darrell L. Bock, Executive Director of Cultural Engagement, The Hendricks Center, Dallas Theological Seminary

“Vern Poythress has the unique ability to make a complex subject understandable to anyone. In this book he tackles head-on the age-old issue of how to harmonize the four Gospels. In so doing, he helps us understand how they should be not only harmonized, but also appreciated for their unique and vital witness to the truths of the person and work of our incarnate Savior. This is an excellent introduction to the study of the Gospels.”
S. M. Baugh, Professor of New Testament, Westminster Seminary California

“Vern Poythress’s Inerrancy and the Gospels is of perennial value, but is especially timely given both the popularization of critical theories about the Gospels and the migration of some scholars from evangelical to critical approaches. He exemplifies his forebear Ned Stonehouse’s engagement with critical scholarship by not only playing defense, but also gleaning positive insights from synoptic comparisons. The hermeneutical principles that he articulates are in keeping with Scripture’s self-authenticating character and demonstrate a knowledge of contemporary developments in hermeneutics. The examples he uses to illustrate those principles are varied while including the typically most challenging harmonizations. Scholars and pastors alike who wish to understand and proclaim the unity and variety of the Evangelists’ witness will want to thoroughly digest what Dr. Poythress provides here.”
Michael J. Glodo, Associate Professor of Practical Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary

“Let’s be honest. Bible-believing Christians sometimes struggle to understand apparent discrepancies in the Gospels. Poythress’s book Inerrancy and the Gospels is now on the top of my list to recommend to students who are seeking a biblically faithful resource on this issue. It is up-to-date, balanced, and historically informed. I plan to adopt Inerrancy and the Gospels as a required textbook for my New Testament survey course.”
Robert L. Plummer, Founder, Daily Dose of Greek; Professor of New Testament Interpretation, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

“In this work, Vern Poythress, one of evangelicalism’s leading proponents and defenders of inerrancy, traverses the difficult terrain of Gospel harmonization. With theological acumen and exegetical sensitivity, Poythress equips the reader with the categories, distinctions, and reading strategies needed to study the Gospels in the way that God has intended. The result is magnificent—Poythress shows us how a proper understanding of harmonization enhances our appreciation of the rich unity and diversity of the Gospels. I warmly commend this work to students, pastors, and scholars alike.”
Guy Prentiss Waters, James M. Baird Jr. Professor of New Testament and Academic Dean, Reformed Theological Seminary, Jackson