Does The Bible Contain Contradictions?

by Robert Driskell · Print Print · Email Email

One of the skeptic’s favorite tactics is to attempt to foster doubt concerning the reliability of the Bible.  Many times they do this by claiming that the Bible is full of contradictions.  They claim that one cannot trust the Bible because it says one thing in one place and says a completely different thing in another place.  Even Bible-believers realize that, if there were even one true contradiction in the Bible, then the Bible could not be the Word of God.

But, does the Bible contain contradictions? This author stands on the authority of the Bible as God’s Holy Word.  I have heard, and found wanting, many of the supposed ‘contradictions’ that ‘prove’ the Bible could not be the Word of God. There are always good and sensible resolutions to these objections.  God makes no mistakes; the Bible is God’s Word; therefore, His Word contains no contradictions.

Contradictions: defining a contradiction

Now, one may disagree with what the Bible says; one may consider some of the accounts contained in the Bible to be myths or make-believe; however, this is not the same as saying the Bible contains mistakes or that it contradicts itself.  Believing or not believing is a personal choice; a contradiction is something that can be verified or falsified.

A contradiction can be stated in this way: a proposition and its negation (symbolically written, “A and not A”) at the same time and in the same relationship.  There is actually a Law of Non-contradiction that states that a contradiction cannot be true: “It is impossible to have A and not A at the same time and in the same relationship.”  Dr. Jason Lisle writes about this law, “The last part of this law is crucially important. Obviously, A and not A could be true at different times.  And this resolves a number of alleged Bible contradictions.  They could even be true at the same time if the relationship is different” (Ham, p. 13). 

The Unbeliever’s Philosophy

The biblical skeptic seeks to point out errors in the Bible in order to support his or her rejection of the Bible or convince others that the Bible is not trustworthy.  Nevertheless, the Bible tells us clearly that, even as they attempt to discredit the Bible, they know the truth, but are willfully suppressing it (Romans 1:18-20).  Because their hearts are blinded by unbelief (2 Corinthians 4:4), and because understanding has not been given to them by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:14), they look for reasons to call the veracity of the Bible into question.  Because they search with blinded eyes, they will see contradictions where none exist.  Then, they are quick to point out the, “…glaring inconsistencies,” “self-contradictions,” and “manifest discrepancies” of the Bible, and incessantly urging these as so many proofs of its untrustworthiness and of its merely human origins” (Haley, p. 2-3).  If the Bible truly is “full of contradictions”, as atheists would have us belief, then neither they, nor you and I, need believe the Bible to truly be God’s Word.  So, let us investigate.

To the skeptic

There are many, many good responses in print from thoughtful Christian apologists who take seriously the accusations that the Bible contains contradictions.  They have looked carefully, and thoroughly, at those accusations and have provided valid, reasonable rebuttals.  However, many of those skeptics who claim the Bible is ‘full of contradictions’ also choose to ignore any reasoned evidence against their claims.  They willfully bury their heads in the sand when confronted with rebuttals.

This author stands on the authority of the Bible as God’s Holy Word.

This author stands on the authority of the Bible as God’s Holy Word.

The Bible tells us that God provides the conditions, and opportunities, for anyone to know Him in a close, personal way (Acts 17:26-28).  Still, the choice remains ours to make…either to reject God and carry on, unforgiven, in our own sinfulness, or to give our lives to Him in obedience, receive forgiveness, and share an eternal existence with Him forever.  Sadly, many of those who claim the Bible contains contradictions, would rather hold onto their pride rather than admit they are wrong, repent of their sins, and receive the salvation God offers through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ.

To the believer

It is my hope that every true Christian believes the Bible to be the inerrant Word of God; however, if there are believers who do not trust the Bible as such, I would encourage you to investigate the reasons for your doubt, and find good, solid answers for your questions.  As David O’Brien writes, “No honest question or doubt can ever harm the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ” (O’Brien, p. 15). God’s Word can more than withstand the scrutiny of men, and has for some time now, and there is so much to gain, in this life and the next, from studying its contents.

False ‘Contradictions’

Most alleged contradictions in the Bible stem from one, or more, of these common reasons:

Only the original manuscripts were perfect.  The original writings of the Prophets and Apostles were free from error; we can be certain of this due to the science of textual criticism which assures us that any mistakes that have been made in the copying of the Bible are minor and affect no doctrinal teachings.  Most of these types of variations show up in differing numbers, differing names, or different word phrasing in several manuscripts.

Presuppositional Discrepancies.  This ‘contradiction’ is caused by someone whose mind is already made up concerning some issue on which the Bible disagrees with the reader’s preconceptions.  For instance, the Bible says that the world was once covered in water by a great flood.  A naturalistic scientist would say that there is no evidence for this flood.  However, what that scientist is really doing is bringing his or her preformed opinion (that there was no flood) to the text of the Bible and declaring the Bible to be wrong.  Once again, one may choose to not believe the Bible, but one should at least deal with the text.

Incorrect Context.  Many times, Christians are guilty of making this mistake when trying to make sense  of the Bible.  The words of the Bible were not written in a vacuum; they were written in particular places, at particular times, in particular situations, by particular people.  All of this should be taken into consideration when searching for the meaning of a text.  Also, there are many different genres of writing in the Bible.  One does not read poetry the same as one reads a historical account.  One does not read a prophetic vision the same as one reads a genealogy. 

When one is carefully (and prayerfully) endeavors to discern the meaning of the biblical text, many errors of interpretation can be avoided and many alleged contradiction simply vanish.

Conclusion

The Bible, as God’s Word, contains no contradictions.  The skeptic’s claim to the contrary stems from their desire to prove the Bible wrong, or to convince others that it is wrong in order to appease the guilty conscience that exists in every man and woman who does not have a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.  The believer, on the other hand, should never fear the skeptic’s accusations, because the Bible, being the very Truth of God, contains no lies, untruths, or mistakes.  Anyone can disarm the claims of the skeptic with but a small amount of prayerful research.  As Christians, we owe it to God to equip ourselves to be able to defend the truthfulness and authority of His Word.

Related reading: How Do We Know the Bible is True

Resources – Haley, John W. Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible. Whitaker House, 1992. Ham, Ken. Demolishing Supposed Bible Contradictions. Master Books, 2010. O’Brien, David E. Today’s Handbook for Solving Bible Difficulties. Bethany House, 1990.





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