Lesson 10 of Introductory Logic discusses the possibility that two statements delivered by different people may seem to be inconsistent, but upon further examination turn out to actually be consistent. We can call these seeming disagreements, and they can happen in one of two ways.
First, there may be an apparent disagreement. This happens when there is a difference in perception or opinion: each person states what they think, and both statements can be true, though they seem to conflict. Such a disagreement may explain the apparently conflicting accounts of the resurrection of Christ. In John 20:2, Mary Magdalene returns to the apostles saying, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb.” But in Luke 24:23, the women return “saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said He was alive.” The possibility exists that they had different perceptions. Perhaps Mary saw the empty tomb, thought that Jesus was taken away, and so she immediately ran to tell the apostles what she perceived (and thus believed). The other women may have stayed at the tomb, seen the angels and heard their message, and ran to the apostles afterward. Thus there is no real disagreement, just a difference in perception. Mary was honestly stating what she thought, while the other women were honestly stating what they heard and thus thought. (Incidentally, this could explain why “their words seemed like nonsense” — the two stories seemed to contradict.)
The second type of seeming inconsistency is a verbal disagreement. Two people may debate an issue, only later to discover that they were defining terms in different ways, and there was no real disagreement. This type of disagreement occurs in John 11:11-14.
These things He said, and after that He said to them, “Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up.” Then His disciples said, “Lord, if he sleeps he will get well.” However, Jesus spoke of his death, but they thought that He was speaking about taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead”
The disciples disagreed with Jesus (never a wise thing to do), because they were taking “Lazarus sleeps” literally, while He meant it figuratively. Once Jesus made His meaning clear, there was no longer a disagreement.
We might also understand the seeming conflict between Romans 4 and James 2:14-26 regarding faith and works in the justification of Abraham as a verbal disagreement. Paul and James may have different meanings of the words “faith” and “justification” in mind, because they are dealing with different situations in different contexts. For further study, read Noel Weeks’ The Sufficiency of Scripture, especially the chapter titled “Words and Meaning Again.”
This chart may be used to clarify these relationships: