For centuries Christians have sought a way to harmonize the four Gospels.1 All the while opponents of Christianity or those critically seeking God or knowledge about God have pointed out that the Gospels do not always get along.
Really, this problem stretches further back than first century Palestine where Jesus’ followers and biographers were tromping around. It goes all the way back to the dawn of man — to the story of Creation. Genesis 1 and 2 present two very different accounts of Creation. Yet, they exist right next to each other. If we go with the prevailing scholarly opinion that Genesis was written by several different authors and then stitched together like a quilt, we must ask: why did the seamstress choose to put both of these accounts right next to each other at the very beginning of the text? Surely we’d notice!
Most of the time, we want to explain this stuff away. We invent elaborate ways to read the texts so that we can understand them to be in harmony with one another. Why? Why do we rob the quilt of the individuality of each patch? Do we believe that this will somehow yield a more beautiful picture? Is it possible that instead it will yield a boring bedspread with little to say about who God is?
The Bible is a group of texts written by many different authors over the course of 1,000+ years. Each author added a patch (or patches) to the quilt by the inspiration of the divine one himself. If we take seriously that God inspired these men (and women?) to write, then we are putting a great deal of validity in the Truth that is contained in this document. Why try to superimpose our understanding on top of it? In the name of what? Harmony and evangelism?
The Bible presents us with a multiplex God.2 Over the years much has been made of the use of the Hebrew word elohim, referring to Yahweh. Elohim is a plural noun. Prevailing Christian doctrine presents us with a multiplex God: the Trinity. We have this notion that God exists simultaneously as three “persons” — Father, Son, Spirit — in a relationship that we don’t understand. Our own experience tells us that humans, created in God’s image, are multiplex. We have many different facets to our personalities and chemistries.
Why then do we seek to unify?
Why do we need all of this to make logical sense?
The infinite God of the universe has chosen to reveal himself in many different ways to many different people in many different places. Everything about God is multiple. Multiple, yet One.
- A most famous example would be Tatian’s Diatessaron. ↩
- Oxford American Dictionary: multiplex |ˈməltiˌpleks|
- consisting of may elements in a complex relationship : multiplex ties of work and friendship
- involving simultaneous transmission of several messages along a single channel of communication
- (of a movie theater) having several separate screens within one building
Multiplex really is a lovely word, isn’t it? I am particularly intrigued by this idea of “several messages along a single channel of communication.” ↩