What, exactly, is an “undesigned coincidence”? Lydia McGrew explains,
An undesigned coincidence is a notable connection between two or more accounts or texts that doesn’t seem to have been planned by the person or people giving the accounts. Despite their apparent independence, the items fit together like pieces of a puzzle.
In her recent book, Hidden in Plain View: Undesigned Coincidences in the Gospels and Acts, McGrew puts forth many instances where the details in the account of one author lend explanation and credibility to other authors’ parallel accounts. As an example, we don’t know based on Matthew’s account in chapter 14 how he could have known what Herod was saying to his servants. But, coincidentally, Luke informs us in chapter 8 that Herod’s household manager is one of the women traveling with Jesus and his disciples. (pp. 87-89) Another interesting example is how Peter’s boasting in Matthew 26 provides explanation for the seemingly-odd question that Jesus asks him in John 21, of whether Peter loves him more than the other disciples. (pp. 57-60)
McGrew, I think, successfully argues that these are the sorts of coincidences that we would expect to see when as many four different accounts are being given of the same events. Eyewitness accounts often include details which may lack context or even literary purpose, and we would expect the details of different eyewitnesses–though different–to be consistent with, explain, and even corroborate the other’s details.
Craig Keener, in the forward, says we have here a “valuable and accessible approach for recognizing significant historical information in the Gospels that does not simply repeat arguments that most of us have already heard.” Craig Blomberg calls the book, “One more important plank in the ever-growing platform for the reliability of the New Testament.” And Sean McDowell says, “Even though I have been teaching and writing in the field of apologetics for nearly two decades, many of Lydia McGrew’s arguments were new to me. And I find them very convincing.”
Hidden in Plain View is published by DeWard and is available for $15.99 at Baker Book House.