Unity in diversity in the New Testament almost sounds like an oxymoron. But in truth, it is exactly what the New Testament is about. Unity is the common message and diversity is the different ways it is presented. Julius J. Scott writes, “The serious reader of the New Testament must take into account the various literary forms and relationships within and between New Testament books” (New Testament Theology: A New Study of The Thematic Structure of The New Testament 40). Meaning some books may have more of a Jewish emphasis than that of others (Scott 40). Or, simply, a differing purpose in their writing, e.g., in-depth explanation, reprimanding, theological, or biographical. One thing we know is that Scripture never contradicts Scripture. Hence George Eldon Ladd stating, “For all the actual diversity…there remains an unforced and genuine unity…” (A Theology of the New Testament 18).
This means that within this array of diversity there is unity. The diversity of the New Testament does not mean a difference of teachings, but of different ways of saying the same things. Darrell Bock explains it this way, “how they might say similar things in different ways” (A Biblical Theology of The New Testament 16). He compares the diversity to that of light coming through a diamond and says, “one should see the diversity of color and the intensity…” that is shown from the differing angles (Bock 16).
In other words, diversity in the New Testament is the unity of it. Its diversity shows that real men from various backgrounds wrote the books therein. These men, though “moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21), had their personalities and personal experiences within their writings. This shows why there is diversity in writings that have the same unified directive for the writing. The unity in diversity is what shows the New Testament is true and reliable.
This last statement is why understanding diversity and unity matters. If the New Testament documents, from Matthew to Revelation, did not have some diversity within them, they would be suspect of coerced or schemed writing. For example, the fact there are differences in the gospels point to an authentic account. This diversity points to the fact that there was more than one author to these truths. This in turn shows that all these different authors were writing about the same theme, the same person and event. This theme is stated well by Darrell Bock; “In the rich Diversity of New Testament theology an inherent unity emerges around the activity of God through Jesus Christ” (17). So, don’t fret and worry over some difficulties in harmonizing certain Scriptures. They do harmonize if one will just seek the unity in the diversity found in them.
Next week I will seek to write a little more on how this diversity is unity. How some Scriptures that seem off explain other Scriptures in other areas. What is called “undesigned coincidences.”