Apologeet.nlDoesn’t the Bible Contradict Itself?
The Bible is full of contradictions, right? Still, those silly Christians believe this not to be a problem!
I became a Christian around 1995 and have studied the Bible ever since. To say that I never found one strange thing would be a lie. Sometimes I read stuff I didn’t understand or things that seemed to contradict other parts.
Now talk to someone who says to be sceptical about the Bible. Likely, you will be told that the Bible contradicts itself. No, even better. You will be told that it contradicts itself HUNDREDS OF TIMES! This is a claim that many just take for granted. However, when you ask for an example, they might say something like, “There are SO MANY. I don’t even know where to begin!” And as a result you’ll end up with no example at all.
But this is strange, isn’t it? I mean, many Christians read their Bible without seeing any contradictions at all! No worries, I will help you to discover them. But before we do that I will give you some proper rules about how you should read the Bible, or any other ancient literature for that matter.
Rule #1 Context
Try to find out the information around a text. Who made the statement; When did they said it; Who did they said it to; Etcetera. This kind of information is needed to find out whether someone is talking to one or maybe more persons. You will find out that the one situation might not be the same in another text.
Rule #2 The context of a Bible verse
This is really rule #1A.
Cherry picking is something people like to do. You cannot pick one verse here and another there and then compare them. You’ll end up with Jesus promoting killing:
Mark 12: 7a “This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.”
If you read the whole chapter you’ll find out that Jesus is telling a story. It is one of the bad guys in the story who is proposing this deed. So, even though these words come from Jesus’ mouth, he is not speaking on his own behalf, but is telling his listeners what the person in the story said.
So, you need to realise that writers, yes this goes for ancient writers as well, put things in a larger context. Verses belong to chapters and chapters belong to complete works. The Bible isn’t a bullet pointed list of witty or sharp statements. The Bible is mostly a book of history, which means every story is part of a greater story which we need to complete all of the context.
Rule #3 A Contradiction must be based on what IS said in the text.
Let’s say you’ll find a contradiction in the Bible. Is it a real one? It must be based on what IS BEING SAID, not on what we assume from what is NOT BEING SAID.
When I tell you that my wife received a phone call while I was sitting on the couch you might end up with a picture of me sitting next to her. Now my wife says to the person on the phone that I am not there with her. Is she lying? She might be blind or very sleepy. No, none of these. I was indeed sitting on the couch but not in the same room. Assuming that which is not being said is a tricky business.
Likewise, the Bible only contains so many pages, and sometimes the authors leave out details that we wish we knew. Sometimes we fill in the things that we think are missing. We are not talking about a valid contradiction if you end up with one by doing so.
I am happy this is a known rule in the court of law.
Rule #4 Literary genre
Parts of the Bible is historical narrative, telling you what happened at a certain place and time. Other verses are songs which are meant to be sung. There are parts with words of God spoken to his prophets, and there are teachings from the people of God without the words of God. We even have some passages telling us things Satan did and said.
The Genre of that what you read is part of its context. You cannot treat historical reports the same as an illustrative parable. This is just as unwise as saying the poetry passages need to be handled as law.
To understand a passage in the right way, you need to ask how the author intended it to be read.
Rule #5 The Bible is the word of God, but not everything is being said by God
“Thus sayeth the LORD…” is not the default of the Bible. True enough, God’s words can be found throughout the Bible but very often we find words of people.
I am writing a transcript for this video, making the written piece mostly my words. You will find stories of people doing and saying wrong things. God is not intervening every time by telling us that this or that guy did wrong. Like “Hey, did you see what Saul did? Don’t you dare doing the same!”
God left those stories in tact for us to learn from them. It is not that the Bible teaches “go and do likewise.” every time. The Bible is very honest when it comes to humans. It depicts humans as we are. Just because the Bible describes something without condemning it doesn’t mean it is affirming it. DESCRIPTION is not PRESCRIPTION.
What about these rules?
These rules will help you to understand what the Bible intends to teach us. They will help you to get a better grasp of the overall narrative of the Bible. You will find out that God is not so much the Author of a perfect story in which everybody lives happily ever after. It is God’s intention for you to understand the overarching theological story of the fall and redemption. It starts with creation and soon after it shows that humans want to go their own way, not paying much attention to their Creator. Then, throughout the books one can see how God is working towards His plan of saving the world. These rules can help us find a deeper understanding of what the Gospel is. And ultimately understanding the work of Jesus Christ the Saviour.
Oh, I forgot that I promised to help you to find some contradictions. It is not that hard, just ignore these rules COMPLETELY. It will not take long before you find all sorts of contradictions in the