Bible scholars have a proven PROVEN TRACK RECORD of RESOLVING DIFFERENCES to HARMONIZE the Bible.
When facing possible contradictions, it is of the highest importance to remember that two statements may DIFFER from each other without being CONTRADICTORY.
Some fail to make a distinction between CONTRADICTION and DIFFERENCE.
We explore claims by skeptics that the Bible contradicts itself.
Are there DIFFERENCES among parts of the Bible? YES.
But are they CONTRADICTIONS? NO.
And we assert this because of TWO REASONS:
1) The Bible is the INerrant Word of God, and
2) Alleged contradictions have, too many times, been proven to NOT be contradictions as new, relevant discoveries come to light.
It is very EASY to ACCUSE the Bible of inaccuracies, BUT it is QUITE ANOTHER MATTER to PROVE IT.
The Bible, as inspired by God and recorded by men, is a book of TRUTH. Sometimes we just can’t see the truth because OUR VIEW is too NARROW.
It’s like our looking at a scene through the viewfinder of OUR camera. We can only capture what is within the borders of the shot frame.
Just because the camera doesn’t capture the rest of the scene, DOES NOT mean it’s NOT THERE.
Too, we must remember that each writer of Scripture brought his own personal/cultural perspective.
The Bible is composed of 66 smaller books written by a variety of authors, at different times, with different styles, and in different genres.
The poetry of Psalms, for instance, should be read differently than the historical narrative of Joshua, the laws in Leviticus, individual Proverbs, or the Gospels. We recognize that God has chosen to reveal Himself through a rich diversity of genres. Each writer communicated what God led him to write, but did so in his own way. That’s not a surprise to God!
Yet one way that Satan leads people away from God is by championing the notion that the Bible can’t be trusted – and, thus, neither can God.
This SOUNDS LOGICAL, IF the first ASSUMPTION is CORRECT.
BUT it’s NOT.
Skeptics are free to make whatever claims they like, just as we are free to disregard them. Not because we’re sticking our heads in the sand, but because of God’s track record of being faithful.
Let’s define the term “contradiction,” and look at just FIVE MISTAKES CRITICS COMMONLY MAKE when THEY DEEM the BIBLE to contain CONTRADICTIONS.
WHAT is a CONTRADICTION?
A contradiction occurs when two or more statements pull in OPPOSITE DIRECTIONS.
For example, these two statements contradict each other: “The Bible contains contradictions” … “The Bible does not contain contradictions.” They are logically contradictory because one affirms and one denies. But both statements cannot be true.
When studying the Bible, a key question is not necessarily what it SAYS, but what it MEANS.
Some passages APPEAR contradictory, but there are compelling, independent reasons to believe that when ALL the information is available, the Bible proves itself to be completely without error.
Walter Kaiser, author of Hard Sayings of the Bible, in asking the question, “Why are there so many discrepancies and difficulties in the Bible?”, makes this reply:
“There are a great number of sources to which we can trace them: errors of COYYISTS in the MANUSCRIPTS that have been handed down to us; the practice of using MULTIPLE NAMES for the SAME PERSON or PLACE; the practice of using different methods for CALCULATIN OFFICIAL YEARS, lengths of regencies and EVENTS; the special scope and PURPOSE of INDIVICUAL AUTHORS, which sometimes led them to arrange their material topically rather than chronologically; and differences in the position from which an event or object was described and employed by the various writers.”
All of these factors, and more, he concludes, have had a profound influence on the material. Of course, to THOSE who PARTICIPATED in the EVENTS, those FACTORS were LESS of a BARRIER than they are to us. Our distance from the time and culture amplifies our difficulty.
But that’s true with ANY historical event.
Common Mistakes Critics Commit When Alleging Contradictions
In their book Big Book of Bible Difficulties, scholars Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe identify 17 prevalent mistakes Bible critics commit when alleging biblical contradictions. These apply to both the Old and New Testaments.
We list just FIVE of the mistakes
PRESUMING the Bible GUILTY UNTIL PROVEN INNOCENT
Many critics ASSUME the Bible is WRONG UNTIL SOMETHING PROVES it RIGHT.
But the Bible should be considered truth until proven that it’s not.
This is not asking anything special for the Bible; it is the WAY WE APPROACH ALL human communication.
If we, for example, assume road signs and traffic signals couldn’t be trusted, we’d likely lie in a traffic accident before we could prove they were telling the truth. Likewise, if we assume food labels are wrong until proven right, we would have to open every can and package before buying it to ensure it’s what we want to buy. The Bible should be presumed to be telling us what the authors said and heard.
Says Geisler: “The Bible cannot err, since it is God’s Word, and God cannot err. This DOES NOT MEAN there are NO DIFFICULTIES in the Bible. But the difficulties are NOT due to God’s perfect revelation, but to OUR IMPERFECT UNDERSTANDING of it.”
Failing to Understand the CONTEXT of the Passage
Taking scripture out of context is perhaps the most common mistakes made by critics.
One can prove anything from the Bible by taking a passage OUT of CONTEXT.
A perfect example: The Bible says “There is no God” (Psalm 14:1). But the full scripture is “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’”
Assuming That Divergent Accounts Are False
Just because two or more accounts of the same event DIFFER, it does NOT mean they are MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE.
In fact, there is an infallible mathematical rule that easily explains this problem: whenever there are two, there is always one. Matthew did not say there was only one angel. One has to add the word “only” to Matthew’s account to make it contradict John’s.
ASSUMING That a PARTIAL Report Is a FALSE Report
Critics often jump to the conclusion that a partial report is false. But this is no so. If it were, most of what has ever been said would be false, since seldom does time or space permit an absolutely complete report. Occasionally the Bible expresses the same thing in different ways, or at least from different viewpoints, at different times. So inspiration does not exclude a diversity of expression. The four Gospels relate the same story in different ways to different groups of people, and sometimes even quote the same saying with different words.
Forgetting That LATER Revelation Supersedes PREVIOUS Revelation
Sometimes critics of Scripture forget the principle of progressive revelation.
God does not reveal everything at once, nor does He always lay down the same conditions for every period of time. Therefore, some of His later revelations will supersede His former statements. Bible critics sometimes confuse a change of revelation with a mistake. But the mistake is on the part of the critic.
For example, when God created the human race, He commanded that they eat only fruits and vegetables (Genesis 1:29). But later, in Genesis 9:3 He commands that they also eat meat. This is a progressive revelation, not a contradiction.
READING the Bible is KEY
Human knowledge is limited and history is MESSY, so we should EXPECT to face PUZZLING issues in the Bible, since we don’t have God’s all-knowing gaze.
There is GOOD REASON to believe the BIBLE is TRUE, and so we give it every benefit of the doubt.
Some CRITICS, however, REFUSE to BELIEVE that GOD is GOOD and TRUSTWORTHY, typically for PERSONAL REASONS.
Some are mad at God. Others claim they adhere to strict logic. Others believe science to be the only trustworthy source of information. Others believe the Bible to be detrimental to society, saying its “harmful teachings has had a disastrous effect on society.”
We’ll agree that humans, throughout history, have had a tendency to cherry pick from the Bible to champion or defend their actions.
But we can’t agree that God’s Word is full of “harmful teachings.” Anyone who has read the teachings of Christ would have to admit that Christ calls us to sacrificial love.
It is DISTURBING, however, that TOO FEW CHRISTIANS ACTUALLY KNOW what the Bible SAYS.
Because they’re NOT TAKING the TIME to READ it.
In just one 2013 poll, for example, 57 percent of the American Christians canvassed admitted they read their Bibles maybe four times a year. Only one in five read the Bible on any regular basis!
How can the Body of Christ expect to have any influence, if Christians aren’t getting serious about knowing what their Lord says???
When facing possible contradictions, it is of the highest importance to remember that two statements may differ from each other without being contradictory. Some fail to make a distinction between contradiction and difference.
For example, the case of the BLIND MEN at Jericho. Matthew relates how TWO blind men met Jesus, while both Mark and Luke mention ONLY ONE. However, neither of these statement denies the other, but rather they are complementary.
In the Book of Judges we have the account of the death of Sisera. Judges 5:25–27 is supposed to represent Jael as having slain him with her hammer and tent peg while he was drinking milk. Judges 4:21 says she did it while he was asleep. However, a closer reading of Judges 5:25–27 will reveal that it is not stated that he was drinking milk at the moment of impact. Thus, the discrepancy disappears.
Sometimes two passages appear to be contradictory because the translation is not as accurate as it could be. A knowledge of the original languages of the Bible can immediately solve these difficulties, for both Greekand Hebrew – as all languages – have their peculiarities that make them difficult to render into English or any other language.
A classic example concerns the accounts of Paul’s conversion as recorded in the Book of Acts.
Acts 9:7 (KJV) states, “The men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man.” Acts 22:9 (KJV) reads, “And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me.”
These statements seem contradictory, with one saying that Paul’s companions heard a voice, while the other account says that no voice was heard.
However, a knowledge of Greek solves this difficulty.
As the Greek scholar, W. F. Arndt, explains:
“The construction of the verb ‘to hear’ (akouo) is NOT the SAME in BOTH ACCOUNTS.
In Acts 9:7 it is used with the GENITIVE, in Acts 22:9 with the ACCUSATIVE. The construction with the genitive simply expresses that something is being heard or that certain sounds reach the ear; nothing is indicated as to whether a person understands what he hears or not.
“The construction with the accusative, however, describes a hearing which includes mental apprehension of the message spoken. From this it becomes evident that the two passages are not contradictory.
Many THINK they find errors in passages that they have NOT CORRECTLY READ.
It’s fine for critics to have their viewpoint, but it’s NOT FINE for Christians to NAIVELY ASSUME their ANTI-GOD VIEWS are CORRECT.
As CRITICS THEMSELVES PROVE, it’s quite EASY to TWIST Scripture to FIT a particular VIEW.
Case in point: a friend recently shared that he abandoned his Catholic faith – after reading The DaVinci Code – which he took as truth and fact. The book showed him, he said, that the Bible contradicts itself too much for Him to believe in God anymore. The tragedy here: the novel is pure fiction!
Alleged contradictions OFTEN arise from MISTAKES in interpretation, ignoring genre or literary devices, or other FAULTY assumptions. But given the track record of Bible scholars in resolving alleged contradictions, we can have confidence that if all the facts were known, all “contradictions” would disappear.
Matthew 7:21 Jesus says not everyone that calls the name of the Lord shall be saved VS. Acts 2:21 Paul says whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
Again in these passages, CONTEXT means a lot. In the book of Acts, Peter is speaking before a crowd in Jerusalem, challenging them to believe in Jesus since they have been witness to the events of His crucifixion and resurrection. He quotes a passage from the prophet Joel, and tells the crowd that all they need to do is truly believe in Jesus as Messiah and they will be saved.
The context of Matthew 7 is DRAMATICALLY DIFFERENT.
Jesus starts off that passage by saying “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” He then goes on to talk about how to discern a true believer from a pretender by examining their fruit. That’s what leads up to the statement saying ‘Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven.” The difference is simply one of true belief versus pretense.
I think we can safely assume that Peter meant you must call on the name of the Lord sincerely to be saved.
Matthew 15:4 Jesus says, “Honour thy father and mother…” VS. Luke 14:26 Jesus says, “If any man come to me, and hate not his father and mother…he cannot be my disciple.”
One must remember when reading the Scriptures that to take passages in an ultimate, wooden way is detrimental. One must surely honor his mother and father; however, what should you do if your father ort mother asked you to kill? Would you be disobeying God if you disobeyed them?
The general admonition to honor your mother and father is a good one. In Luke 14:26, Jesus is laying out the marks of a true follower. He uses a common bond, the love for your parents as a point of comparison. He says that to be a true disciple it requires total devotion. You cannot be more devoted to you parents than to God. Indeed, in my example above, one should obey the laws of God that say “do not murder” above the commands of your parents. Jesus is saying that those who follow Him should love Him so much, the love for their parents seems trivial in comparison.
Mark 15:25 Jesus was crucified at the third hour VS. John 19:14-15 says the sixth hour.
Mark figures the time by JEWISH reckoning, where the day would start at sundown and be broken into segments. We still see this today as observant Jews start their observance of the Sabbath at sundown. This would make the third hour to be about noon.
The ROMANS reckoned their TIME DIFFERENTLY and their segments were longer. Ancient Roman sundials show that the daylight hours were divided into twelve equal segments, or hours. However, there were only two major segments, daytime and nighttime, with the hours beginning at sunrise and counted until sunset. Therefore, this makes the sixth hour in Roman time also about noon. John’s audience was the Gentile church, so John uses Roman time throughout His Gospel.
Mark 15:40 says Mary was afar off beholding the crucifixion VS. John 19:25 says she stood at the cross.
Since the entire time of Jesus’ hanging on the cross was three hours, it’s highly likely that both statements are true. This discrepancy can be easily understood by thinking about the vantage point of the witnesses. The women and John could have stood farther away as the Romans actually performed the crucifixion, then drew closer to Jesus after He had been hanging on the cross a while. When the soldiers returned to break the legs of each, they would have withdrawn again.
This is not only PLAUSIBLE, but reads quite naturally and would be WHAT YOU WOULD EXPECT given the fear the Jews would have of the Romans at the time.
John 13:38 “the rooster shall not crow till thou hast denied me three times.” VS. Mark 14:68 Says the rooster crowed after the first denial.
Tradition holds that Mark received much of his gospel accounts from Peter, so it’s no surprise that Mark would have a detail about this incident that the others miss. In Mark’s gospel Jesus tells Peter “Before a rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” Peter’s first denial came before the first crow and his third denial came after the second.
However, to think that this is a mistake is still NOT ACCURATE. Eric Lyons at Apologetics Press gives a good analogy of a family attending a football game. The parents make plans to meet their son outside the gate “after the buzzer sounds”. Now, in football, there are four buzzers, one for each quarter. However we would understand intuitively that the parents meant after the “last buzzer” sounds. The passage above is similar. In the ancient world, many held that a rooster would crow first at about midnight or one AM, but this was an insignificant action. The crowing that everyone focused on was the crowing near daybreak – which would be the second crowing.
So, MARK simply gives us MORE DETAIL THAN MATTHEW, but the END RESULT is the SAME.