This is a popular response these days but is it true? If the following does not answer any of your questions then please send them to us, using the Contact page, for an answer. As the Bible is the inspired Word of God (2 Timothy chapter3 verse16) it can be demonstrated to be without error. Therefore we will discuss some of the ideas why people suppose that the Bible contains contradictions before we answer some of the specific and supposed contradictions. There are other articles that concentrate on answering some specific and supposed contradictions.
What Are Contradictions?
A contradiction is the opposition of two ideas (i.e. “A and not A”), on the same subject at the same time and in the same relationship. The last part of this definition is crucially important. Obviously, A and not A could each be true at different times. They could even be true at the same time if the relationship is different. This resolves a number of supposed Bible contradictions. An example is Christ was God without a body in heaven. However after His incarnation, i.e. becoming a man, He was God with a body.
Are Some Thoughts Rational or Illogical?
Apart from the claim of contradictions, a number of objections to the Bible are not made from a rational viewpoint. Someone may say, “You cannot trust the Bible because it talks of miracles, and miracles are clearly impossible.” So by making that assumption the critic has already dismissed the possibility that the Bible is true. This argument is illogical as an all-powerful God, that the Bible describes, would be capable of doing miracles.
These things may not feel right but they are not illogical. Is it rational to argue that something is impossible because it “seems” impossible? How many people, two centuries ago, would have thought it impossible for, say, one hundred and fifty tons of metal etc to fly from one country to another? Did that opinion make such flying impossible? It was just an opinion that was ignorant of modern technology. The claim that miracles are impossible or unreasonable is only sustainable when God is left out of the equation.
Different Uses Of Words At The Same Time
Since words can be used in different senses, it is possible to have “A and not A” at the same time as long as the relationship or sense of the word is different. So a person can be tied and free at the same time. They could be tied because of an employment contract but also free because they are not in prison. Consequently there is no contradiction if the meaning of the word differs. Some supposed Bible contradictions are within this class as for example is the Trinity. “How can God be both one and three?” The Bible teaches that God is one in one sense, i.e. His nature (Isaiah c45v5–6, 18, 22), and three in a different sense which is that there are three Persons who are God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit ( Matthew c28v19 ). This might not be what a person expected but there is no contradiction here. An illustration of a trinity from everyday life is an egg. While it is one egg, it has three separate parts that form the one egg, i.e. the shell, the white and the yoke.
Untrue or False Options
Some alleged contradictions of the Bible are presented as a dilemma because of certain implied conditions that are not true. An example is: “Was the Bible inspired by God as said in 2 Timothy c3v16 or was it written by men as Luke c1v3 says?” The proposition is that only one of these can be correct or true but this is an untrue or false option because there is no reason why God could not inspire men to write the Bible as said in 2 Peter c1v21.
It is important to understand that the truth of God was revealed increasingly as the Bible progressed. This is especially so with the New Testament which came four hundred years after the Old Testament. This does not mean that the New Testament has contradicted the Old. This never happens. There is a great unity through the whole Bible as each section takes its proper place. God has revealed increasing light as Hebrews c1v1-2 shows: “God, who at sundry (various) times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken unto us by his Son”.
Some examples of alleged contradictions take a text out of context and so make it seem what it is not i.e. a pretext. An example of this is putting together, “And he (Judas) … went and hanged himself” (Matthew c27v5) with “… Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise,” (Luke c10v27). In the second verse the Lord Jesus was referring to the good deeds of the Samaritan and so putting these two verses wrongfully together infers that God is encouraging people to commit suicide. This God never said nor intended to be said. When the contexts are considered there is no contradiction at all.
A further point is that the Bible records statements and situations of which God does not approve.
Additionally, we must seek to recognize and honour the author’s intentions whenever we study any literature work and this includes the Bible. The historical episodes should be taken in the normal (literal) way. The prophetic sections that use a lot of imagery or metaphors should be understood as such. The poetic sections in the Bible should not be emphasized beyond their purpose. Figures of speech should not be taken as anything other than figures of speech. The earth does not literally have pillars, or corners, but it does figuratively. Even today a person may be considered a “pillar of the community”!
In the Bible there are a number of generalizations i.e. things that are usually, but not always, true. It is not a contradiction if, from time to time, the general rule does not apply. Therefore we must not take a sweeping generalization and make it into a universal rule. An example is the use of the word salvation. Very often it means that by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ a person is saved from the judgment of God for our wrong doing etc, called sin. However in Philippians c1v19 “For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ”, this was not the salvation from the consequences of sin which the apostle Paul had enjoyed for many years. It was either his spiritual well-being or the possibilities of his release from prison.
Contradictions By Inference Or Ignorance
A contradiction of inference is where we merely infer a contradiction that the text does not actually state. An example is, “Where did Joseph and Mary go with Jesus after Jesus’ birth at Bethlehem?” The Gospel of Matthew c2v13–15 says that they went to Egypt to be safe from King Herod. However the Gospel of Luke c2v22, 39 says that they took the child to nearby Jerusalem and then to Nazareth after that. There is no mention of Egypt in Luke’s account. Is this a contradiction by inference? No because the events can be put together in a chronological manner. These passages do not state that both Matthew and Luke are referring to the same time period and so it is only an apparent conflict and no contradiction.
Another contradiction of inference is what we might call the “Aand only A” consideration. This occurs when a reader erroneously assumes that a number stated in the Bible (A) indicates “only A” and not more. As an example, there is the account of the two blind men recorded in Matthew c20v29–34 and the Gospel of Mark c10v46–48 . We might be inclined to infer that Matthew and Mark differ about whether there was only one man but the text does not actually say this. After all, if there were two men, then it must also be true that there was one man (as well as one other man)! Perhaps Mark mentions one man because he spoke louder than the other but we can only speculate. In any case, Matthew and Mark do not say that there was only one man and therefore, there is no contradiction here.
Contradictions of inference are what we have incorrectly imagined due to our ignorance because that all the details were not supplied in the passage. We need to be careful about making dogmatic conclusions based on what the Bible does not say.
Factual Contradictions and Begging the Question
Another type of criticism might be called an apparent factual contradiction. In this case, rather than claiming that the Bible contradicts itself, the critic alleges that the Bible contradicts a well-established fact. There are two types of alleged factual contradictions, and both turn out to be untrue. The first type comes from a misreading of the text. This could stem from any of the fallacies already listed. A word could be taken in the wrong sense; a verse could be taken out of context; or something could be assumed to be a Bible teaching when in fact it is only a mistaken idea about the Bible.
In the second kind of alleged factual contradiction, a critic has understood the biblical text properly, but is confused about what the external facts, i.e. that society’s attitudes, were or are. Such then assume that their current society’s beliefs are factually correct when either they are not, or are not necessarily, so. Consequently it is argued that as the Bible contradicts these current “facts,” therefore it must be wrong. But this is the fallacy of begging the question. (That is a flaw of logical argument that assumes as true the very thing that one is trying to prove). The critic has simply supposed that the Bible is wrong by presuming that their society’s ideas are right and so uses this assumption to claim that the Bible is wrong.
Summary and Conclusions
So we have answered generally the supposed contradictions of the Bible. There are other articles on this website that will answer specific and supposed contradictions of the Bible. If there are any problems or supposed contradictions that are a problem to you that we have not answered then please inform us on the contact page and we will put the answer on the website.