In order to understand that argument, read this article about all the different copies and printings that we have extant of Abraham Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address”; and it is easy to image that the Synoptic Gospels took their eventual shape in a similar fashion.
It is easy to imagine the preaching and events of Jesus ministry being written down from 30-45/50 AD in smaller forms and because Jesus repeated Himself in teachings and sermons, no doubt – then it is easy to imagine a bunch of those being written out that are no longer extant today, that became the final forms of Matthew, Mark, and Luke written from around 45 to 62 AD. (Assuming, as many scholars do, that Luke was written last, as volume 1 of his 2 volume work, Luke-Acts, based on the way Acts abruptly ends.)
A Muslim asked:
Why would Jesus have to “edit and change” his words so many times? Why are you comparing him to Lincoln, when you consider Jesus to be “God”? Does God change His mind?
I did not say Jesus edited or changed His words. The Synoptic writers wrote many pieces and copies over the years from 30-60 AD, eventually becoming what we have today.
My point is that Jesus in those 3 and 1/2 years of ministry repeated Himself a lot in teachings and sermons and those that wrote it down could have written down a lot more copies of His words and actions from say 30 AD (after resurrection) to 50 and 60 AD, that eventually became what we have today, Matthew, Mark, Luke, (and John is more different because it reflects the more private settings with Peter, John, James and/or Andrew) rather than the more public and more repeated ministry in Galilee, etc.), the Synoptics being written from 45 to 62 AD, based on how Luke ends the book of Acts)
It is easy to image that Matthew, Mark and Luke made many copies, and many bits and pieces that were not complete, that they used in the process of eventually becoming what we have today.
This is not contradictory to the doctrine of inerrancy or inspiration, because God uses people and history and human process to bring about His written word. (2 Peter 1:19-21)
They did not fall into a trance and wrote the NT documents like some kind of robot, etc. rather God used normal human means of the process of thinking and writing it down.
That is why the Christian doctrine of inspiration is not dictation (like Islam seems to be), nor is it the inspiration of the person who writes, rather the final product, the writing is inspired / God-breathed.
The Writing/Scripture is God-breathed, not the person. ( 2 Timothy 3:16)
Addendum – June 8, 2018
Thinking about this more and interacting with Muslims more caused me to think this way about the comparison:
The comparison is not with content of the writing (Lincoln editing his speech) vs. inspiration of NT; the comparison is between extant artifacts of history – the fact that there are 9 copies of what Lincoln actually did (write, change wording, but basically the same meaning) is parallel with Jesus in history repeating His content of preaching a lot in 3 and 1/2 years, and different people writing different accounts of those events, some the same event, some the same basic content of teachings, sermons, but said in different words at different times. What we have extant (in existence today in the 4 gospels) – the reason why some stuff is repeated and uses different words or leaves out some detail, but is not contradictory, is because sermons and lessons have lots of repeated ideas and principles, but a human is not a robot and does not say his teaching in the exact words every time. The Synoptics are similar to the 9 copies of the Gettysburg address, with some differences, additions, things left out, etc. but basically the same content; whereas the Gospel of John would be compared to writing another book on Lincoln’s other events with his family and friends (real history), without having the Gettysburg Address in it; and then publishing something later with 10 chapters, (9 of the Gettysburg address; one of the other events with friends and family).
3 Synoptics Gospels as records of historical events of Jesus’ life and minister —– with Lincoln’s 9 extant copies of Gettysbury Address.
1 Gospel of John as historical record of Jesus’ more private ministry with John, Peter, James, Mary and Martha, Lazarus, etc. —- compared to publishing other events in Lincoln’s life and not having Gettysburg Address in the book.
Later combining them into one volume. 10 chapters about Lincoln in one book, compared to 4 Gospels.