Why is there a difference between Luke’s story in the Book of Acts and Paul’s own testimony in Galatians concerning Paul’s trip to Jerusalem?
If you have not read Stories Versus Truth, you may want to read that before reading this.
Don’t forget where you are going. You get past the questions/attacks so you can proclaim the Gospel. It is the proclamation of the Gospel, not argumentation, that transforms minds. See Give Them the Gospel.
You may hear a question about the Synoptic Gospels like the following: “Why is there a difference between Luke’s story in the Book of Acts and Paul’s own testimony in Galatians concerning Paul’s trip to Jerusalem?”
How to Handle This Question
(The parts in quotes are just examples of what you might say or ask.)
First, don’t become addicted to debate. Debates rarely solve anything. They usually cause confusion and cause both sides to become more entrenched in their original views. They are games with winners and losers. No one wants to be a loser, so people become irrational rather than lose.
It is best to ask them a few questions first and to listen to their answers. Be careful of your tone that you are not shutting down the conversation. This is not a cross-examination. “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” Proverbs 18:13
- “What makes you think that this is a contradiction?”
- “Tell me about this contradiction. How convinced are you that this is truly a contradiction?”
- “What is your understanding of what a contradiction is?”
- “Have you ever thought about the reason that we know that the Bible is the Word of God and that it is without error?”
Let them know you understand. “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1
- “I can understand how you might ask this.”
- “I actually can relate to how you feel.”
- “I’m hearing what you are saying, and I think I understand.”
Relate to them. “A brother offended is more unyielding than a strong city, and quarreling is like the bars of a castle.” Proverbs 18:19 “A man who lacks judgment derides his neighbor, but a man of understanding holds his tongue.” Proverbs 11:12
- “When I first heard this question, it seemed to challenge what I know to be true.
- “I used to feel the same way.”
- “At first glance, this gives the appearance of being a problem.”
- “This is a valid question, and one that I have gone to God about.”
- “Would you like to hear why I believe that the perceived contradictions in the Bible are not really contradictions but rather paradoxes?”
Tell them what God has shown to you
- “As I was seeking the will of God on this matter, He showed me that there is a huge difference between a contradiction and a paradox. I have seen that many of those who are antagonistic toward the good news about Jesus are able to accept contradictions and find rescuing mechanisms for such things as Evolutionism and yet they take a paradox, something that is simply not yet understood about the Bible, and frame it in their mind as if it were a contradiction. If someone has tried to challenge your faith with these, then they are misusing the logical law of non-contradiction. In fact, they are saying that differences are contradictions. Differences are not contradictions. A contradiction exists only when two statements are mutually exclusive. For instance, though you cannot wear only red and wear only green at the same time, you can wear red and green at the same time. Though you cannot stand up and sit down at the same time, you can stand up and sit down at the same event but at different times. For a contradiction to occur, no explanation of the text could be possible that would not result in contradiction. You could listen to an unbeliever’s speech and make some suppositions and claim that the unbeliever was lying. That is what is called, “being judgmental.” Have you ever been accused of lying because someone misinterpreted what you said? The claims of contradictions in Scripture are of this nature. Sometimes, when we, as Christians first hear the claim, it seems valid. However, with a little bit of thought, we realize that the claim is false.”
- “The reason that we believe that the Bible is the Word of God and that it is without error or contradiction is based in personal revelation. God shows us. Everyone recognizes the limits of raw human reasoning (the reasoning of the human mind without the Intelligence of the Creator flowing through the human mind) and observation, yet we place way too much emphasis on these weaknesses. For every person, God is speaking to us perpetually. 1 Peter 1:23 tells us that we have been born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the utterance of God, which lives and abides to the eon. It is this utterance on which faith is based. Our faith is NOT based on nothing at all. Taking Roman 10:17 as it is written in the original language, it says: So then supernatural belief comes by hearing, and hearing by the utterance of God. Jesus told Satan that man shall not live by bread alone but by every utterance that proceeds from the mouth of the Father. How silly if we rationalize a solution that goes contrary to what God Himself is telling us. And if we want to do God’s will, we will be able to know the difference between that which comes from God and that which comes from Satan. There are, in the final analysis, only two ultimate sources of ideas, thoughts, and actions.”
- “As to the question regarding Paul’s trip to Jerusalem, there were several trips. Acts mentions three of them. Galatians mentions two of them. If there were three then there were two. To claim this as a contradiction does not make any sense and is just being silly. There is no contradiction between Galatians 1 and 1 Corinthians 15. Paul, in his letter to the Galatians, states that he did not receive his gospel from man. In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, he explains that he followed the order of the Church under which all teach the same doctrine. No apostle claims that he cannot make an error and think that he has received a revelation when, in fact, he has not. So apostles are interdependent. This and other scriptures show that the apostles were each under the government and direction of all the other apostles.”
It is then good to ask an open followup question (not a “yes” or “no” question) to allow them to process what you have said.
- “How do you see this as applying to your life?”
- “What are your thoughts?”
- “Where do you see this as different from your point/question?”
Ungodly people are forced to hold on tightly to some basic presuppositions. These presuppositions are just simple-minded assumptions. They are filters and a way to censor out any information that supports the existence of God. They set up a web of rules to filter out God. They will only accept those things that conform to Naturalism, materialism, and uniformitarianism. Naturalism claims that God does nothing. Materialism claims that there is no God or spiritual realm. Uniformitarianism claims that there was not creation and that there was no violent worldwide flood, as the Bible and numerous other historical accounts record. Whatever they observe that does not conform to this complex filter is censored. The way that it is censored can take several forms. The ungodly may boldly proclaim that, though the data appears to support God’s version and refute the version of the ungodly, yet it still must be interpreted to mean just the opposite of what it does mean. A backup method that ungodly people use is to prophecy that in the future, science will be able to explain what they see as an anomaly. If that fails, they will hide the data, set it aside, or lie to keep the public from knowing the truth. The data clearly demolishes the story of the ungodly and clearly supports the reality of the Creator God, His Bible, and His abiding Presence in His people. When confronted with the obvious, a closed-minded ungodly person says, “I can’t understand it.” They are willingly ignorant because they refuse to hold God in their knowledge. The reality is that these people, for whatever reason, don’t what to know the Creator. They don’t want to truly know Jesus, their Creator.