Contradictions in the Bible

I classify Biblical contradictions into 3 categories; contradictions of account, contradictions of interpretation and contradictions of concept.

The Bible is not just a book of religious wisdom and insight, it is also a work of history. As such it is liable to the accusation that it is inaccurate in its account of events. These would be contradictions of account.

As it turns out contradictions of account are really hard to establish. The number of people who actually have put in the time and study of history, anthropology, language and the Bible itself is small enough that it is highly unlikely you are one of them. Furthermore those who have, regardless of which side of the fence they start from, bring their own prejudice and (scholastic) reputations to the endeavor. As a result most of us have at best, third and fourth hand knowledge of the context or details around any contradiction of account and multiple differing opinions from experts in the field.

These disagreements (among qualified individuals) do not generally change the story. For example there isn’t disagreement in the accounts that Christ was crucified (public verifiable death), buried and then appeared to many. So the evidence for contradictions of account often depend on the baggage carried to the investigation.

The next type of contradiction is a contradiction of interpretation. The best way to explain what I mean is to use an example. Consider the exchange between Satan and Christ in Matthew 4. Satan quotes Psalm 91 to Christ, who quotes back Deut. 6:16. Both are scripture, so is there a contradiction? Why did Deuteronomy trump the Psalm?

As a friend of mine explains, “the Bible is not a spell book.” Which is not to say we can’t or shouldn’t claim the promises of God. It is to say, however, that you cannot control God through His words any more than you can control Him through His love. This is a contradiction of interpretation rooted in our misunderstanding of who God is. Christ’s response to Satan’s temptation is to clarify just exactly who is on the throne. When we stop and think about it even a little it becomes obvious we cannot manipulate God, and if we understand who He is we would not want to. Contradictions of interpretation are particularly common around passages like John 14:14 or Matthew 21:21. So common in fact they came up in James 4:3. A clear understanding of this point can be elusive.

The last type of contradiction is the contradiction of concept. These are in fact logical contradictions. The idea that eternal God could come in the flesh and die is a contradiction. It is a fundamental aspect of God that He is infinite and it is a fundamental aspect of man that he is not. Salvation, prayer, the Bible itself are all contradictions to the way we imagine things could, would or should be. I Corinthians 2:14 says it best, these things are foolishness.

The last contradiction of concept is, this foolishness works. It comforts the broken, strengthens the weak, overcomes the strong, cleanses the heart, stimulates the mind and satisfies the soul. The fact this works comforts me and strengthens my faith. Think about it, if this were a contrivance of men, it would be rational at a human level. The fact that it only makes sense within the framework of a faith submitted to Him testifies of its divine origin.

And why not? Isn’t it perfectly logical that the foolishness of God would be wiser than men? In fact how could it be otherwise?

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1 Response to Contradictions in the Bible

  1. Outlaw Monk says:

    It’s funny you mention this; I just wrote a post about this (link below). There are different ways to read the Bible. Different problems/contradictions appear depending on how you’re looking at the text. I’ve found the best way to read the Bible is to keep the life and work of Christ at the center of the text at all times (even Old Test). I think if you do this, it’s hard to go wrong.

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