Question: Are there contradictions in the Bible?
Answer: What is a contradiction? Something cannot be one thing and the opposite at the same time and in the same way. For example an animal cannot be a dog and not a dog at the same time and in the same way. In the Bible Jesus cannot be God and not God at the same time and in the same way.
Whenever I am told the Bible is loaded with contradictions I love to hand the Bible to the person and ask him to show me a contradiction. The majority of time the person says I don’t know where one is. If they have one you’ll either have to answer right there or get back to them. If the Bible is God’s Word, when properly understood, it cannot have contradictions. It is impossible for God to contradict Himself. Good resources I have used to solve some of these problems are the New International Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties by Gleason Archer and When Critics Ask by Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe.
The following are a few study techniques for solving so-called contradictions.
- Read the passages in context. Sometimes just reading the paragraphs before or after will solve many of these problems.
- Use the clear Biblical passages to interpret the unclear. An example is the issue of faith versus works. Some people believe the Bible teaches we are saved by doing good works. However, the clearest passages say we are saved by grace through faith alone. It is either a contradiction or we have to have to come up with an interpretation of the less clear passages so they don’t contradict the clear.
- Sometimes the writers used hyperbole to emphasize a point and didn’t always worry about precision. In Mark 13:1-2 Jesus tells his disciples the temple will be torn down and not one stone will be left on one another. The temple was destroyed as Jesus said but there were some stones left on one another. Jesus used hyperbole too emphasize the complete destruction of the temple.
- The Gospels were written thematically and didn’t write sequentially as we would today. Do not expect them to have the same historical flow.
- Many times they skipped events to make a point. We do the same when we make a sound bite explanation versus a more detailed explanation of the same event.
- Sometimes they focused on one key individual ignoring others. For example Mark talks about an angel speaking (Mark 16:5) and Luke said there were 2 angels (Luke 24:4) at the tomb of Jesus. Nowhere does it say there was only 1 angel. Mark wasn’t interested in the other angel; he just highlighted the one who spoke. For a personal example let’s say I talk to a friend about a family gathering and I mention I spoke with Bill. With another friend I tell him I spent time at the gathering discussing teaching with Mary and Sarah. Does that mean Bill wasn’t there? No! I didn’t mention Bill because he wasn’t my focus. The writer Mark only emphasized the one angel that spoke and ignored the other one.
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