Approximation: We cannot hold the Bible to the current standards of today, we need to consider that when a person was quoted back them there was no requirement to quote that person exactly or verbatim, like some demand today. We are trying to impose a modern journalistic standard to an ancient culture, where approximation of the message was good enough.
Sequence: There is no mandate that a gospel or a letter follow a rigid sequence. The Gospel of Matthew follows a loose sequence in telling the story of Jesus. We have to consider that the stories and parable of the gospels are often placed in different settings or times because precise sequence of events was not required in that culture.
Completeness: There is no requirement for every event in the life of Jesus to be recorded in the gospels. The flight into Egypt is only recorded in the gospel of Matthew, however that does not mean it did not happened. The visit of Nicodemus to Jesus is only recorded in the gospel of John yet most people believe it happened.
Details: There are sometimes details that are left out of one gospel or the details are placed in different order. In one gospel two donkeys are mentioned while in another one donkey is mentioned, there is no contradiction, it is simply an omission of a detail. Mentioning or omitting a detail does not mean the story is not true.
Summary: Sometimes the scriptures summarize or condense an event or a teaching. Like in Acts 8: 35 “Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus”. We really do not know what he told the Ethiopian about Jesus for it does not say, but Phillip must have mentioned baptism, otherwise why would the Ethiopian ask to be baptized.
Methods: Some people say why did such and such person did or did not do such thing. Well back then people had different methods of doing things. There was a way that things were done, that made sense to them, but that we might do differently. We cannot expect the people of a different era to do things like we do today.
Translation: Unless you read the bible in its original language, you must consider that a translation is never the same as the original. A translation is never perfect; it is only an approximation of the actual message. Try different translations until you find one that you feel comfortable with.
Changes: Changes have occurred that sometimes confuse the reader. People, locations, cities, rivers and even mountains change their name. Cities have been destroyed or abandoned and new cities with the same name built in another region. There are even changes in the natural environment, rivers change their course and groups of people move from one area to another.
Time compression: The bible teaches a message that covers a long period of time. Quite often the reign of a king is summarized in one small verse. The 3 and a half years ministry of Jesus is given in a condensed form of only a couple of months. We have to consider that years may have occurred from one verse to the next.
Writer’s style: Every writer has his own individual style and we cannot expect Luke to write like John or Peter to write like Paul. We have to consider that each writer has his own level of knowledge and education and it shows in their writing. We also need to consider that quite often scribes or assistants often wrote many of the books of the Bible.
It is a library: The Bible is not a single book; it is actually a library of books. Some of the books are historical while others are song books. Some are letters while others are poetical. We need to consider the literary language of the book we are reading, for sometimes the failure to understand the literary style of a book has often created incorrect doctrines.
Imagery: Quite often the Bible uses images to teach a concept or a doctrine. A lot of these images often are from common everyday items. We have to consider the lesson that is taught by the imagery, instead of debating the imagery chosen. No one in their right mind would suggest that Jesus advocated cannibalism when he said we had to eat his flesh and drink his blood.
Purpose: Every book of the Bible was written for a certain reason or situation. Unless we take into account the reason for the existence of the book, we are going to misunderstand its message. We cannot simply take random verses out of context and apply them to our lives or our problems, the bible verses are not to be used like Chinese fortune cookies.