Thinking Out Loud

November 11, 2010

Contradicting Bible Contradictions

Ever seen this picture before?

It’s hard to miss it if you were to look recently at atheist or agnostic blogs or websites.   It’s a graph of alleged Bible contradictions.    It originates with Project-Reason.org and can be seen in detail by clicking this link, and then enlarging the magnification in your .pdf viewer.

But as a commenter at Fight the Faith points out, some of them are a bit of a stretch:

Want to point out that some of these don’t make much sense. For instance:

#359. Is all scripture inspired by God? 2tim 3:16 ≠ 1cor 7:12, 7:25

2 Timothy 3:16 is, indeed, about scripture being inspired by god. 1 Corinthians 7:12 and 7:25, however, are about when it’s OK to divorce your spouse.

Which is what we expect is the case with many others in the list.

Often, people will say, “The Bible is full of contradictions;” but then when you ask them to name one, they can’t.   Of course, others take a more scholarly approach, which is why we were excited to find the website, Contradicting Bible Contradictions.    Pay a visit and click on the numbered, item-by-item look at these textual conflicts listed in the links on the right side of the page in groups of ten.

On another website, Bible Answers Today, we read:

Yes, I know that people had stated that they have found contradictions in the Bible. However, if you look at the Bible as a whole, and the context in which these “contradictions” occur, you will find that these so called contradictions are not contradictions at all.

Sometimes it is interesting to see how atheists and Christians alike deal with the seeming imperfections of an inerrant book.   On the Christian side, we tend to consign difficulties to the realm of “mystery” or “the deeper things of God.”   We remind each other that “we see through a glass darkly.”

Those answers, when spoken by someone who views the world through the eyes of faith are quite satisfying.   But they don’t sit well with the broader population.  This comment at Science Blogs – Pharyngula is interesting:

Hey, wait a minute, I have a book here by someone called Norman Geisler who assures us that god’s word is perfect. He has a ready answer for every “seeming” contradiction found throughout the Bible… I can’t help thinking that maybe if the Lord had been more careful in writing his word, apologists like Geisler, William Lane Craig, etc. wouldn’t be necessary (they’d be out of a job). But as the Lord, whose ways are indeed mysterious, has seen fit to write a book that is, among other things, full of contradictions, apologists are an absolute necessity…So an infallible and omniscient god evidently needs the help of fallible apologists… Interesting.

Of course it’s actually true in a sense.   God does, in fact, choose to work hand-in-hand with his created beings.   He creates a variety of animals, but asks Adam to name them.   An interesting partnership, don’t you think?

Here’s something from the blog Best Dog Health Center (seriously…the things you find on Google Blog Search!)  where I’ve added some emphasis:

There is a classic example of “contradiction” in Proverbs 26; 4 -5: ” vs. 4: Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him. vs. 5: Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit.” What’s the answer then to this glaring contradiction? It is found in Ecclesiastes 3;7 “…a time to keep silence, and a time to speak…”. The thing we have to remember is that while there may be many “contradictions” in the Bible there are no untruths. The contradiction is actually in our minds in our understanding of the Bible and not in the Bible itself.

Dave at the blog The Bible: Contradicition or Confirmation has this written on the masthead which appears on every blog page:

Taking a look at the would be contradictions some say are in the Bible There are well over 200 so called contradictions in the Bible. I have had the chance over the years to take a close look at many of them. I must say, thus far I have found that none of them hold water.

L.J. Kim at City Fellowship Community Church in downtown New York has a good attitude toward all this:

Not-having contradictions doesn’t actually “prove” that it’s true…does it?  I don’t believe in the Book of Mormon, and I don’t agree with Marx’s communist manifesto, but I have no problem with the claim that they do not contradict themselves…  It would be silly to try to disprove communism by looking for contradictions…

Some people seem bent on finding Bible contradictions so that they can say that God isn’t real…  But if I were to forge a make-believe history, it would be easy enough to make sure there were no self-contradictions.  ”Star Wars” is a made-up story without contradictions…

But what about ________ ?  Isn’t that a contradiction you ask?  The Bible has two kinds of apparent contradictions…

Real accounts of historical events, even when they’re accurate can have “apparent” contradictions.  One person said he came home from LA, another person said he drove home from the airport, yet another says he took a cab.  Contradictions?  Not necessarily…  They’re all describing the same event. So if you’re into crime drama’s, one eyewitness account of a homicide might say that the person’s brains were blown out, another says he was shot, and the coroner’s report says he died of asphyxiation…  These can all be accurate accounts of the same event…

The other kind of apparent contradiction is the kind that asks us to look more closely, to think more deeply…  In order to save your life you must first lose it.  In order to really live, one must take up the Cross…

Sometimes the only approach is to sit down with someone and deal with each individual objection, one by one, as in this post at Frances and Friends:

For instance, there are several seemingly contradictory Passages about what happens when men gaze upon the Face of God, etc. St. John 1:18 says, “No man has seen God at any time” and Exodus 33:20 says, “And God said, You cannot see My Face: for there shall no man see Me, and live.” Yet, in Genesis 32:30 it says, “And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face.” Further, Exodus 33:11 says, “And the LORD spoke unto Moses face to face, as a man speaks unto his friend.” Which is correct?

What most of us fail to realize is that the word “seen” or “see” also means “to comprehend” or “to understand.” So, the Verse in St. John does not contradict the Verses in Genesis and Exodus at all. What John was saying was that no man has ever comprehended or understood everything about God – not at any time. We use the same kind of terminology in our conversations today. For instance, we will explain something to someone and then say, “Do you see?” But we don’t really mean “see,” as to look with the natural eye. We simply mean, “Do you understand? Do you comprehend?” So there is clearly no contradiction here.

I post that, knowing it was written by Jimmy Swaggart, a man whose life was at times one giant contradiction.  (Yes, I could have left that author information out, but chose not to.)    It’s a valid answer to the particular question, and a valid response to how we can deal with these things if we’re provided the necessary context.

I’ve heard it said that of all the alleged contradictions in the Bible, most are about numbers, measurements, the location of cities etc.; and only two have a bearing on doctrine, theology, or anything that actually matters to the study of Christianity.

How far do you go if you’re determined to write off the Bible?   In Psalms it uses the phrase, “From the sun’s rising…” and we could argue that the sun doesn’t actually rise, but the earth rotates.   But is the phrase invalid if we still continue to use it in the year 2011?

I’m told my grandmother’s contemporaries used a rather strange phrase, “looking for the hair in the egg.”  It means approaching the situation determined that there are difficulties and problems beforehand.   It’s not about whether or not there is actually a “hair in the egg;” whatever that means, but about the attitude with which people approach certain aspects of life.

I don’t think any chart of “Bible contradictions” is sufficient to sway me from a book which is like no other.   The Jewish approach to scripture was to consider it a jewel, like a large, rare diamond that refracted the light differently each time it was examined.    That’s the kind of book it is.

I like to think of the scriptures in terms of those 3D pictures they often sold at shopping mall kiosks before Christmas.   You would stare and stare, and then suddenly another image would come into view.    Only with the Bible there are multiplied images waiting to be discovered.

I’m sorry if that defies logic and reasoning, but you can’t un-convince me of the reality of my faith.

6 Comments »

  1. “Often, people will say, “The Bible is full of contradictions;” but then when you ask them to name one, they can’t.”

    Thou shalt not kill.

    Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.

    There. One.

    Comment by NotAScientist — November 11, 2010 @ 1:03 pm

    • A contradiction isn’t a contradiction if it is simply the consequence of translating from a richer language (Greek, Hebrew) into a less-rich language like English.

      I just went on BibleGateway.com and looked up Exodus 20:13; and only the King James Version and the American Standard Version retail the form, “Thou shalt not kill.” The rest all have “Thou shalt not commit murder;” which has a completely different nuance.

      But don’t feel badly if you didn’t know this. Even within Christianity, entire denominations have sprung up around unfortunate word usage in the KJV. I am quite confident that, 400 years later, the KJV translators would be embarrassed to think more people haven’t gravitated to the versions more compatible with the way we speak and understand English today.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — November 11, 2010 @ 1:32 pm

      • You know, that is the FIRST time I have seen someone answer that particular contradiction in a logical, and acceptable manner. In a way that actually forces me to remove that contradiction from the list of many that I have.

        However. The answer you give in and of itself causes a contradiction. In the bible it says that there is know excuse for not following God’s word EXCEPT for not knowing. But if your word is to be translated so that it can be shared to the whole world, because no one can have an excuse for why they didn’t follow your word come judgement day, then you can’t allow for mistranslations either. Is God fallible? Or did he just forget? Not to mention, that the priests, preachers, rabbi, whatever name you choose to give your particular version of a “prophet of God” should be able to teach you the right way anyway. After all, these people are the modern day prophets right? Why do they even need the bible? Moses didn’t need one and he’s know for doing a heck of a lot more than any prophet today. It’s easy to believe when you SEE a man open a sea. Or call down a flaming tornado (at least that’s how it was depicted in the movie “The Ten Commandments”). But asking me to believe that it actually happened jsut because a book says so? I may as well believe in Jack and the Beanstalk. Or James and his Giant Peach. Or Rumplestiltskin. And so that’s my excuse on judgement day. I lived a good life, tried not to do people wrong. But I didn’t believe in a story that sounds just like a fairy tale. Or actually, just like the multitude of Pagan religions that came before it. I don’t believe in Zues, or Odin, or Amun-Ra. There are plenty of books about them and their miracles. And at least when they contradict themselves, it’s explained by the simple, just because he’s a god, doesn’t mean he’s perfect. He’s just powerful. The point is, if God is fair, and just, then how do you justify showing people in the past miracles, BIG HUGE miracles that can’t just be explained away, but now we get none. We just have to believe a book, that has so many mistranslations, that hey even the miracles could be wrong. It could be that they crossed a lake, not the sea. Oops. My bad. I screwed up. And can you blame me? I’ve been writing page, after page, after page because we don’t have a printing press to do it quickly for me. I’m tired. This book is about your immortal soul, and oops I just made a mistake. But it’s okay, because it’s ONLY the word of God…

        Another problem: God decided not to accept anyone but Jews for years according to the bible. They were his chosen people. Even JESUS HIMSELF said that you do not cast pearls before swine… But the woman mentioned that even dogs get scraps from the master’s table. Somehow, JESUS, learns from one of the very people God says are worthless? But he also says he has no respect of person. And he also says that he is not like man to make a mistake or change his mind. I’m confused.

        It’s also funny that he repented that he ever made man. You only repent for something if you decide that you shouldn’t have done it. Sounds like he made a mistake, since he wasn’t repenting a sin becuase God CAN’T sin right? He also decided to wipe man out, until he saw moses and suddenly decided to let a few live. Changed his mind. Changed his mind again when he decided to suddenly accept non-Jews. People make up for that by saying Jesus went to hell and preached to those there so that those who came before Jesus could be spared, if they truly deserved it. But then they forget about the problem with that. Say you’re a person who lives in the past. But you’re NOT Jewish. Because of this, you are doomed to hell. Tell me, what is the point of living a nice good life, if no matter what, you are doomed to hell anyway just because of your parents being say… Egyptian. Me? I’d go live it up, do what I want, when I want, with no restraint. After all, if I’m gonna burn for all eternity no matter what due some bully that people call God, then I’m at least gonna enjoy my life to the fullest. That’s why they had to change the religion and allow non-Jews in. Because otherwise they were all alone against the world. Worked for a while, but they kept getting enslaved. So, some Jews got smart and then Christianity was born. The rest, either weren’t smart, or the actually believed in their religion, and so wouldn’t sacrifice their belief’s for a better life. Either way, doesn’t matter.

        Does this mean that I don’t believe in God? No. I just don’t believe in any God who is just a bully. See, I don’t worship someone who is powerful. Or even someone who created me. That doesn’t matter. You have to be DESERVING of worship to get it from me. Just because you created me, doesn’t mean I’m your slave. I believe we were all created by something. It is however, my HOPE, that whoever God really is, he is not as shallow as the one depicted in the Bible. I don’t know for sure, because I’ve never met him, but I certainly hope that the creator of all, is truly a fair just God. I just don’t believe that the one described in your book is that. He says he is fair and just, but then so do politicians. I go by action, not words.

        Comment by James — December 24, 2011 @ 1:35 pm

  2. Thank you for this post. I have bookmarked a few of the links for future reference.
    I haven’t yet found a supposed contradiction that stands but I know that no matter what evidence there is for the inerrancy of the Word people will try to disprove it merely to dodge their own accountability and responsibility if there really IS a God.
    I love your illustration of the 3D pictures. I’ll use that in future debates.

    Comment by meetingintheclouds — November 11, 2010 @ 5:13 pm

  3. […] to simply point readers in that direction via a short blurb (as above). However, today I found a recent article by Paul Wilkinson, whose commentary on the approach to Biblical contradictions, compliments so well, the content of […]

    Pingback by Contradicting Bible Contradictions |:| The Aristophrenium — January 5, 2011 @ 8:28 am

  4. Thank This Really Helped Me As A Believer I Pray That You Continue To Stand Strong In The Faith

    Comment by Proverbs — July 2, 2012 @ 1:37 am


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