I knew that Dr. McGrew’s book was going to be good from the moment I asked my family to pre-order it months ago as a Christmas present, and after reading it I’m happy to say that it is bound to be a classic in Christian apologetics. Since the kind of textual argument it makes for the credibility of the Gospels helps to answer so many questions concerning their reliability, it really should be required reading for just about all Christians. But in the meantime, here are a few things that struck me that every Christian should learn from Hidden In Plain View.
1. All Christians Should Understand the Concept of “Undesigned Coincidences.”
In a nutshell, undesigned coincidences occur when the testimony of one witness explains a question that was unintentionally left unanswered by another witness.
This is the kind of thing that law enforcement looks for when they are evaluating the trustworthiness of a person’s testimony. If another person not only corroborates but also unintentionally explains an aspect of the first person’s testimony, then this speaks positively to the trustworthiness of one if not both of the witnesses.
To use one of Dr. McGrew’s examples, John 1 tells of John the Baptist referencing Jesus as one who came before him. This could mean a lot of things including the simple idea that Jesus was born before John the Baptist. But we know courtesy of Luke 1 that Jesus was born after John the Baptist, which means that John the Baptist was making a theological statement about Christ. John the Baptist never took the time to fully explain this, but Luke unintentionally explained it for John even though there was no theological significance to Luke’s mentioning that Jesus was younger than John the Baptist.
2. All Christians Should Understand How the Gospels Fit Together Like Pieces of a Puzzle
The fact that there are examples of undesigned coincidences such as the one between John 1 and Luke 1 means the Gospels fit together like a textual puzzle. We know that the book of John was written after Luke, so Luke couldn’t have been trying to explain John’s omission of the fact that Jesus is younger than John. It just so happened that Luke accidentally explained it and John, being a contemporary of Jesus, took it to be common knowledge that Jesus was younger than John the Baptist so he didn’t take the time to explain it.
These “puzzle pieces” go in all directions, and every Gospel has these undesigned coincidences. As we put more and more of these puzzle pieces together, we see a cumulative case for the trustworthiness of the Gospels emerge.
3. All Christians Should Understand that the Gospels Being Authentic Accounts is the Best Explanation of Their Undesigned Coincidences
There’s a lot of theories and speculation about how the accounts of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection came to be. But the existence of undesigned coincidences makes any conspiracy theories or theories involving honest yet mistaken alterations to the Gospels highly unlikely. Two people making up the same story out of thin air for whatever reason don’t just happen to supply details to each other’s accounts that the other forgot to include. And it would involve an impressive conspiracy theory to suggest that texts written decades apart from each other omitted and included details to set other fabricated accounts up to fill the gaps so that they would appear more trustworthy later on.
It is also extremely unlikely that people accidentally exaggerating or mistakenly recalling hearsay would just so happen to complement each other’s accounts. Furthermore, most theories involving the slow but well-intentioned introduction of erroneous myths and legends into the Gospels suggest that the Gospels originally told much more modest tales, but unintended coincidences include the accounts of miracles which we would not expect to be the case if the accounts of miracles had been fictitiously added later on.
This leaves the possibility that the Gospels are accounts written by contemporaries of Jesus who believed the accounts they were telling. There is much more to be said here, but that is why Dr. McGrew wrote an entire book on it which every Christian should read.
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