5. Realize one author’s purpose may differ from another.

Why do you suppose that when Matthew records the words of the criminals who hung on crosses on either side of Jesus he mentions both as hurling insults at Him, while Luke mentions only one doing the cursing?  Does Scripture contradict itself?  Not at all.  Matthew desires to highlight the opposition to Jesus, so he selects the details of what actually happened and records them according to the purpose the Holy Spirit put in his heart when writing Scripture.  Luke, on the other hand, wishes to emphasize the truths of repentance and salvation.  With this view in mind he records the events truthfully, though only mentioning one of the thieves as hurling insults at Jesus.

When we read the four Gospel accounts of the New Testament we should take into consideration the audience to which they are seeking to communicate. Matthew addresses a primarily Jewish readership.  For this reason you find many more references to and quotations from the Old Testament Scriptures.  Luke wished to communicate with a largely Gentile audience, so he does not use as many Old Testament allusions or quotations.  Each Gospel writer, moved by the Holy Spirit to address different groups of people, selectively recorded what they wrote to be appropriate to their audience.  What they wrote is true, though not a recording of every fact.  Again consider the self-confessed selectivity of the Apostle John in writing the fourth Gospel (John 20:31).

6. Realize that the rules for quotation vary with culture and situation.

When recording varied accounts by different writers, realize that one may use direct discourse to record the person’s words, another may employ either indirect discourse or make a simple statement summarizing what was said.  In today’s English language we have use of quotation marks to set off a person’s specific words, ellipses to indicate an omission of words, brackets to mark off words that have been added to explain what a person meant, and footnotes to record the exact location from which a statement or idea is cited.  The Biblical languages of Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic had none of these devices in their language.  It is wrong for us to impose these literary techniques from our age back upon writings from a different age and from different languages.

Realize also that Jesus undoubtedly spoke at least these three languages (Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic).  It is likely that Jesus often spoke in Amamaic; therefore His words were translated into the written language of Greek for our New Testament.  The questions we need to ask are these: Do the words selected accurately portray what Jesus said?  Do they faithfully represent what Jesus in fact spoke?