October 16, 2018 § Leave a comment
Skeptics of Christianity often will mention “contradictions” in the Bible without specifics, but refer to one resource in particular. So I chose three Biblical “contradictions” completely at random from the oft-cited Skeptic’s Annotated Bible Contradictions to see if they truly represent internal contradictions in the Bible.
1. “David’s sons” compares 2 Samuel 3:2-5 to 1 Chronicles 3:1-4, revealing that David’s 2nd son is identified as Chileab in 2 Samuel and as Daniel in 1 Chronicles.
Why this is not a contradiction: Chileab and Daniel are the same person.
2. “Would we fear God?” lists 49 verses that deal with the “fear of God”, and also 2 verses that supposedly contradict this teaching (1 Timothy 1:7 and 1 John 4:8).
Why this is not a contradiction: 1 Timothy says “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” This is a rejection of baseless fear, a very different fear than the meaning expressed in the sense of fearing God, which “refers to fear or a specific sense of respect, awe, and submission” to God. It’s a mystery as to why the authors chose 1 John 4:8, however: “He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.” No mention of “fear” in this verse.
3. “When did Ahaziah begin to reign?” points out that 2 Kings 8:25 has this Judean king beginning his rule “in the twelfth year” of the reign of Joram, the son of Ahab, while 2 Kings 9:29 indicates Ahaziah began his rule “in the eleventh year” of the reign of Joram.
Why this is is not a contradiction worth mentioning: Similarly, 2 Kings 8:26 says Ahaziah was 22 when he began his reign, and 2 Chronicles 22:2 says he was 42. I don’t know if this discrepancy is listed, but the answer to this “contradiction” is the same for many non-critical differences: They are copyist errors. An error that a scribe makes while making copies would be significant if it presented a theological or doctrinal issue, and most of these errors can be rectified with context, methods of textual criticism archaeology, and other resources. But none of these errors—most relating to punctuation, word endings, minor grammatical issues, word order, numbering errors, misspellings—prove significant. Scriptural inerrancy maintains that the original autographs, inspired by God, are without error. Humans making copies make mistakes, but God has not allowed any mistakes to creep in that alter any meaning or doctrine.
These 3 are just a random sample. Hundreds of alleged contradictions are listed at bibviz.com. I’ve browsed some others and they seem to be more of the same. Are there any ACTUAL contradictions to discuss that can’t be rationally explained with context or an insignificant copyist mistake? Something that actually challenges the authenticity and authority of scripture?
Some other posts I’ve written that deal with supposed contradictions in the Bible:
July 13, 2012 § Leave a comment
The Skeptic’s Claim:
The God of the Bible claims contradicting attributes: Jesus is subservient to the Father, Jesus is equal to the Father.
My son is obedient to his father, but is he not equal to me in his humanity? Are you not just as much of a person as your boss? Jesus obeyed His Father, but they are equals in their divinity. No contradiction.
That means that you have to read John 10:30 as “I and my Father are one [, but only in certain ways]” instead of simply “I and my Father are one”.
Did the Father beget Jesus? Then was there a time before Jesus was begotten when he didn’t exist? According to John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with GOD; and the Word was GOD.” And according to John 1:14, Jesus is the Word. But according to the earliest manuscripts of Mark 9:7, the Father says of Jesus: “Today I have begotten you”.
One who always existed would have a different nature than one that did not always exist.
Reading John 10:30 to understand that Jesus was like God in every way except some obvious differences is the logical way to read it. Jesus was God in human form, which was one obvious difference that He wouldn’t have had to point out to those He was speaking to. His obedience to the Father was another distinction as well as His unique role while on earth, but His oneness with God the Father was the point He was making. There’s no reason to believe that Jesus meant there were no distinctions whatsoever between Himself and the Father simply because He doesn’t mention them in John 10:30.
Mark 9:7 actually doesn’t include “Today I have begotten you.” It does appear in Hebrews 1:5 as a quotation of Psalm 2:7, which is a Messianic prophesy. In terms of God’s relationship with the Son, begotten is a description of the relationship, not of actual birth. “Today” refers to a time when the Son was revealed and presented to the world.
The term “only begotten” occurs 6 times in the New Testament (monogenes, Strong’s #G3439) in reference to this Father-Son relationship. This doesn’t refer to Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem because He is the Son from eternity past. The emphasis is on the Father-Son sameness, not of live birth. Christians are said to be “born” or “begotten” of God in a spiritual sense (ie. 1 John 3:9), obviously not a physical re-birth.
This is from the Nicene Creed:
“And [we believe] in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of His Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father … .”
Jesus was “begotten, not made” because He has the same nature as God the Father, vs. something you ‘make’ or ‘create’ (cake, art, a house) that doesn’t necessarily have your nature.
To show a contradiction, you need to show more than a copyist error in the form of a misspelling, numerical error, exclusion of a letter or word here and there (which comprise the total <1% portion of early manuscripts that don’t agree) that does nothing to alter meaning. Or you need to show competing doctrines that can’t be reconciled by a straightforward reading with consideration of context and original language—the same method used when reading and understanding anything else.
July 9, 2012 § 12 Comments
The Old Testament God requires “life for life, eye for eye” and the New Testament Jesus says to “turn the other cheek”. When would you take an eye for an eye and when would you turn the other cheek? That is two completely opposite reactions to a situation. How can these two contradictory commands come from the same God in the same Bible?
The passages in question:
God’s commands to the Israelites in Exodus 21:22-25: “If people are fighting and hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman’s husband demands and the court allows. But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.”
Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:38ff: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.”
In Exodus, God laid down the groundwork for civil law, including capital punishment. We are not strangers to this principle today. When a life is taken unjustly, the law may demand life. When you break something that belongs to someone else, you are expected to pay for its replacement. If you injure someone, you are expected to pay for the medical bills related to their recovery.
What Jesus was preaching was not a different approach to the same situation, but a different approach to a different situation. “Turn to them the other cheek also” is admonition against personal vengeance. When Jesus recalls Exodus 21, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye…’”, it’s clear that He understands some may be tempted toward revenge. Legal offenders are still accountable to the law of the land, but on a personal level, Jesus instructs us NOT to respond to insults and other offenses with the same sinful action.
July 6, 2012 § 2 Comments
The critic’s claim:
I’m not saying that the apostles or people who met Jesus altered their testimonies on purpose, I think that the story might [have gotten] misinterpreted by the others and/or by accident.
I consider this to be a good example [of a Biblical contradiction]:
What did the centurion say when Jesus dies?
(a) “Certainly this man was innocent” (Luke 23:47)
(b) “Truly this man was the Son of God” (Mark 15:39)
Of course I don’t know and I can’t know what the centurion really said, but when I look at these two versions then it immediately comes into my mind that the (a) sounds much more like the real world while the (b) is the mythicized one, written by someone who already takes for granted that Jesus is son of God and interprets the centurion’s words in a way that suits his own belief.
It would be really interesting to know more about the sources of the gospels.
Your comparison of the centurion’s statement in Mark and Luke is interesting. Neither Mark or Luke are said to have been present at the crucifixion, so they probably would have relied on the testimony of others at the scene for the details. What’s clear from reading the Bible is that although its authors were inspired by God, their individual perspectives and writing styles were allowed to show through. The reason there are four gospels is probably because of the importance of the life of Jesus, and four identical perspectives on His life wouldn’t make sense. So it’s no surprise that the centurion’s response reads a little differently. It’s important to note however that both statements (and he may have even said both) essentially say the same thing. They are in fact interdependent. Mark wasn’t simply asserting his own bias, because the centurion knew that the only way “this man was innocent” of blasphemy was if “this man was the Son of God.” You can’t have one without the other.
July 5, 2012 § Leave a comment
So, if we are using Biblical ethics to define our own ethics we must identify what the bible finds ethical.
The bible lets us know its ethical to:
Harm to others through inaction: Genesis 3:1-7 & 3:22-24
Engage in Bigamy: Genesis 4:19
Commit Mass genocide: Genesis 7:11-24
Offer your daughters to a mob to be raped: Genesis 19:8
Commit Incest: Genesis 19:32-38
Kill, rape, plunder, enslave: Genesis 34:13-29
Kill someone for masturbating: Genesis 38:9
If you notice I have not even included everything in Genesis but ill stop there due to the fact if I attempt to do this with Exodus your eyes would bleed due to the volume of atrocities committed in the name of your god or by your god himself.
Is this the morals you speak of and guide you?
“From what part of Scripture do you find the teaching of racial bigotry?”
Genesis 9:25: In retaliation for Ham’s “sinful act” of seeing his father nude, Noah puts a curse on his grandson Ham, being ‘blackened by sin’ and ‘forced to become a servant’. (Ham’s son). Canaan: ?Cursed be Canaan; lowest of slaves shall he be to his brothers” Over time, this curse came to be interpreted that Ham was literally “burnt,” and that all his descendants had black skin, marking them as slaves with a convenient color-coded label for subservience.
Leviticus 19:19 Ye shall keep my statutes. Thou shalt not let thy cattle gender with a diverse kind: thou shalt not sow thy field with mingled seed: neither shall a garment mingled of linen and woollen come upon thee.
Deuteronomy 7:3 Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son.
Deuteronomy 22:9: “Thou shalt not sow thy vineyard with divers seeds: lest the fruit of thy seed which thou hast sown, and the fruit of thy vineyard, be defiled.”
“how do sexual habits have anything to do with race?”
The correlation is the bigotry your religion instills and requires of its followers, not the specific acts.
Your ethical objections to the Bible are unfounded for a number of reasons.
1. Your conclusions are based on a misunderstanding of who God is. If God is the Creator and author of all life then He is ultimately justified whether He gives it or takes it away and doesn’t contradict His nature by doing so. He may take it away in judgment for evil and He may do it for reasons that are ultimately good in accordance to a plan that finite human minds would of course have no way of knowing or seeing beforehand.
2. Because the Bible contains descriptions of evil done by humans does not mean the evil is prescribed for us to do. For instance, it describes the acts of Lot’s daughters in Gen. 19:32-38, which were sinful, but doesn’t prescribe incest. One does not (& should not) take history books about the Holocaust to be instruction to kill Jews.
3. You have assigned alternate meanings to passages by misreading the text or ignoring context. It’s hardly possible to provide thorough exegesis on all the texts you reference, but here are a few…
– Adam and Eve had a free will and chose to sin; God allowing them that freedom was not sinful.
– Canaan (not Ham) was “cursed” but if you read it carefully, Noah doesn’t say it was because of Ham’s act of seeing him naked and making a joke of him to his brothers rather than covering him up (which is what probably happened). The curse on Canaan and his descendants were because of the future sins of Canaan and his descendants as Noah’s words were prophetic, in a “like father, like son” manner. And nowhere in the Bible is it taught that the curse led to Africans in slavery, in fact Canaan’s immediate descendants were probably more of a middle brown.
– God judged Onan because he didn’t fulfill a cultural duty to marry his brother’s widow and produce offspring. In his selfishness he refused to take her as his wife and to give her children that would be credited to her brother’s line. The offense wasn’t masturbation. That isn’t even what Onan did.
– Re: Slavery, bigamy, polygamy, etc. God allowed certain conditions to exist in a fallen world, but He does not create or condone those conditions, people do.
– Many confuse ceremonial Levitical laws with moral laws, but the distinction becomes clear when you consider the context. There was a larger lesson for Israel in remaining separate from other nations because they were God’s chosen people, which God would naturally have the right to do.
I find it interesting that any atheist would have an opinion on the moral acts of a hypothetical deity and still believe they can reconcile their atheism. If morality evolved as a human convention, it would logically only govern the behavior of human beings. You speak of “the volume of atrocities committed in the name of your god or by your god.” How is it that you readily apply human ethical standards to not only ancient humans in far-off cultures, but to the hypothetical Creator of the universe? You do this because our moral obligations are objective, absolute and universal and you can’t even imagine them any other way. Evolution and atheism require the opposite, yet strangely, nobody lives as if morality is at all subjective or relegated to human beings.
[There were no further responses from this critic. He did, however, invite me to participate in a live debate broadcast. Check out Proof of an External Source for Human Morality for a deeper analysis of the argument I make in the last paragraph.]