Perspectives Matter

Twice a year for the past few years I have visited the offices of a certified public accountant in Montgomery, Alabama. Since I rarely went to his place of business (or even the area in which his business is located), I had a difficult time remembering exactly what side of the road it was on. When I expected to see it on my right, it would strangely appear on my left. Then, just as sure as I thought it might be on my left, I would find it on my right. Maybe I was just confused. Perhaps my memory was failing me. For whatever reason, I never took the time to figure out why I had the distinct impression that sometimes this building should be on the opposite side of the road. Whenever the time came for me to see the CPA, I simply headed in the direction of his office, confident that I could find it, but unsure on which side of the road it would appear.

Recently, I finally learned why sometimes the building was on my left and other times it was on my right: I had not realized that the street on which this office is located is a long, slow-curving semi-circle. Both ends of the street eventually meet up at the same road, just one intersection apart from each other. Since the two intersections look very similar, I (like many men who are rather unobservant) never realized that I sometimes turned left at one intersection and other times turned left at the next intersection. When I took the first left, the office building always appeared on my right. When I took the second left, the building was always on my left. For whatever reason, I had never paid close enough attention. I had failed to consider that the apparent contradiction was merely the result of two different perspectives: one from the North, and one from the South.

Sadly, many people approach a study of the Bible as carelessly as I approached the CPA’s office building: they fail to consider the various perspectives at play. Approximately 40 different inspired men from all walks of life wrote the Bible over a period of 1,600 years. These men lived at different times in different places among different people in different cultures. They wrote in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, and the original recipients of their writings varied greatly—from Jewish, to Greek, to Roman, to all men. Sometimes the Bible writers wrote chronologically (e.g., Genesis 1; Matthew 4:1-11); at other times they wrote thematically (e.g., Genesis 2; Luke 4:1-13). Sometimes they focused on a group of people (e.g., Matthew 28:1; Luke 23:55-24:1); at other times they targeted a particular person within the group (e.g., John 20:1).

Oftentimes when two or more Bible writers differ in their description of a certain event, skeptics cry “contradiction.” In reality, however, the skeptics have merely overlooked or dismissed the fact that the inspired penmen wrote from different perspectives. One question I continually get asked and hear skeptics frequently repeat is, “How did Judas die?” “Did he hang himself as Matthew wrote (27:5), or, as Luke indicated (Acts 1:18), did he fall headlong and ‘burst open in the middle’ and all his entrails gush out?” The answer: Judas hanged himself, and later his body fell (from wherever it was hanging), burst open, and his entrails spilled. Are Matthew and Luke’s accounts different? Yes. Are they contradictory? No. They simply wrote about two different, specific moments during the same general event.

If we fail to recognize the logical reasons for differences in life, we will continually find ourselves dazed and confused. Just as I was perplexed for years over the exact location of a particular office building, because I had not taken the time to consider the exact direction from which I approached the building, skeptics and others will never come to a proper understanding of Scripture until they recognize that perspectives play a major role.


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