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Contradictions in the Bible?Every now and then people say that there are contradictions in the Bible. These ‘inaccuracies’ are quite often used to argue that the Bible can’t be trusted because: “Why should we trust the Bible if there are inaccuracies”. Sadly enough people, who come up with these arguments, are not easy to convince of the reality of God. Mostly the persons who come up with these so-called contradictions are not really searching for truth but rather for new ‘errors’. Not much has changed since Jesus’ days. Time and again Jesus rebuked the Scribes and Pharisees but still many of them continued looking for errors in Jesus’ life. They fiercely held to their unbelief. Not even Jesus’ resurrection from the grave convinced them. Just like those times, contemporary people are not willing to give up on their own theories.
Nevertheless, it is a nice challenge to face these ‘contradictions’ head on. On this page we will discuss them; not to convince people who are not willing, but to help those who are seriously trying to understand God’s word.
- Proverbs 26: 4- 5 – Do we need to answer a fool or not?
- God is satisfied/unsatisfied with his works.
- God is not omnipresent, or is He?
Proverbs 26: 4- 5 (kjv)Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him.
Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit.
Do we need to answer the folly or not?
Proverbs 26: 4
Answer not a fool according to his folly,
lest thou also be like unto him.
In discussions, with atheists, the Christian will quickly realise that an atheist has a totally different starting point than Christians. We also speak of different world-views or different presuppositions. One such difference is that the Christian sees the God of the Bible as the Creator and an atheist does not acknowledge any supernatural phenomenons. This means that an atheist only wants to argue with a naturalistic scientific attitude. According to Biblical concepts we can categories an atheist as a fool:
Psalm 53:2 (kjv) The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.
In discussions between atheists and Christians, the Christian quickly gets the allegation of being unscientific. Furthermore, according to atheists the Bible has nothing to do with science and God cannot be proven. If we assume the atheistic world-view these allegations are true, but who has determined that science should be exercised in this way ? Nevertheless, an atheist will often say that he/she is willing to discuss matters with a Christian, but only on his/her conditions. This normally means that the Christian is not allowed to use the Bible. Only then, according to the atheist, a discussion can be scientifically sound. Read what Mr Peterse has to say about the book 'Degeneration' by Peter Scheele:
"First of all, within science only in physical terms formulated, materialistic causes are legitimate; the supernatural is outside the scientific domain, and statements which refer to the supernatural—for example, to a creator—are not allowed"
Degeneratie - Het Einde van de Evolutietheorie? (original in Dutch, translation mine).
In this comment it is clear that Peterse is trying to set the 'rules'. Though it seems pretty harmless, a Christian cannot participate in these rules. These rules are foolish. In a discussion, an atheist will not set his/her biased viewpoints to one side. He cannot do this and a Christian should not do this either. If a Christian leaves the Bible outside the discussion, he or she already lost the discussion in advance. The biblical world-view is the foundation of a Christian, without the Bible his argument is without foundation and his argumentation will collapse!
Suppose, you answer to the 'rules' of your opponent, and you put your Bible away, and afterwards continue the discussion solely on the principles of the atheist, at that point you are just as foolish as your opponent. The outcome of the discussion will never meet your views. Hence: "Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him."
Proverbs 26: 5
Answer a fool according to his folly,
lest he be wise in his own conceit.
If you do not concede with an atheist in his/her rules, the atheist will soon think that he/she is a wise person. To avoid this you will have to demonstrate why the atheist biased views are incorrect. Mostly atheists are not convinced by Christians, who argue only from their biblical viewpoints, for these are not accepted by atheists. The challenge is to show that the atheistic world-view contains many contradictions.
For example, the question about the origin of morality is a very difficult question to answer in atheism. As Christians, we say that YHWH is the absolute morality giver. Atheists cannot agree with this statement so they quickly invent something else. Some will admit they do not have the answer. Others will say that morality is determined by the people. For example, the people determined that rape is undesirable and even harmful to the collective. The question that arises is what happens when a dominant group say that it is not wrong to rape women. Does this mean that it is good because the people say so? There will be few atheists who will approve rape. So, is there still an absolute morality afterall? Was the persecution of Jews during the second world war good because it was conducted by a regime which in its turn was elected by the people? Even the law in Nazie Germany Nazie approved these atrocities. Ultimately, in the atheistic world-view, one should admit that these atrocities were good because the people said so.
Another contradiction in the atheistic world-view can be found in the origin of everything around us. If you only rely on naturalistic explanations there is now satisfying way of explaining how it all began. The atheist might say that there was a big bang, but he/she will be unable to explain how something evolved from nothing. There must be something beyond the natural state, which itself is not subject to our laws of nature. In the Christian world-view it is YHWH Who started everything, but this is not acceptable for atheists. Quite often they come up with the question of who or what created God. This only shows hat they are stuck in their own world-view. Furthermore, they do not realise that one simply cannot endlessly search for causes. Ultimately, there must be an absolute beginning. This 'absolute beginning' can only be caused by something beyond itself, something without beginning.
In this way a Christian can "answer a fool according to his folly." Showing the atheist the contradictions of his/her world-view will (hopefully) help him/her to see how foolish it is. When they come to realise this, they will not see themselves as wise. This is how you answer a fool according to his folly (his world-view), with the purpose of demonstrating the atheist that his world-view is not consistent, lest he/she is not wise in his/her own eyes.
God is satisfied/unsatisfied with his works
God is satisfied with his works
Genesis 1:31 (kjv) "And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good."
God is dissatisfied with his works.
Genesis 6: 6 (kjv) "And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart."
Both are right because it discusses two separate events. Something happened after Genesis 1: 31 and before Genesis 6: 6, namely, the Fall. Sin entered creation as a result of man's rebellion against God. This is not a contradiction. When YHWH created, all was very good. After man sinned, YHWH grieved.
God is not omnipresent, or is He?
God is everywhere present, sees and knows all things:
God is not everywhere present, neither sees nor knows all things:
"And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden." (Genesis 3:8)
"And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded." (Genesis 11:5)
"And the LORD said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous; I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know." (Genesis 18:20-21)
Let us look at what happens in Genesis:
Genesis 3:8 "And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden."
To make it easier on the critics we will add verse nine as well: "And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?"
How can one hide for the Lord? And why did God ask these questions?
Firstly, we can state that Adam and Eve could only hide for a visible manifestation of God. That is to say, God visibly walked through the garden and in that sense it was possible to hide, from that what visible, behind the bushes.
Secondly, people with children will recognise the following questions: "what are you doing?", "What have you done?". These are the kind of questions fathers and mothers frequently ask their children. Does that mean they do not know the answer themselves? No, mostly the parents already know. By asking these questions, parents give their children the change to explain and ultimately to apologise. This is exactly what the Lord is doing, He is asking several questions:
- "Where are you?"
- "Who told you that you are naked?"
- "Did you eat the fruit?"
After these questions we can distinguish Adam and Eve's typical human behaviour. They do not ask for forgiveness, they do not beg for mercy. No, they try to justify themselves by blaming each other. God enabled the man and woman to either freely repent or to firmly establish their sinfulness. Thus, while the critic thinks these are questions demonstrating ignorance, such an interpretation can be easily dismissed in light of the above considerations.
What to do with the other text?
"And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded." (Genesis 11:5)
"And the LORD said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous; I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know." (Gen 18:20-21)
It looks like the author purposely wrote the event in human style, which would not be strange if we look at how God interacted with Adam and Eve.
Yet, there is another aspect. In the whole story it becomes apparent that God is transcendent, and it demonstrates God's interest in people. He is not an aloof sky-god. And he doesn't watch from afar. He gets right down into human history.
Finally, it could also be that He did not descend physically but mentally. Rabbi Schelomo states that God descended from the 'throne of mercy' to the 'throne of judgement'. This would mean that the throne of mercy is a more exalted, more glorious attribute then the throne of judgement. Jewish writers note it is an attempt to capture God's acts in human language. Maimonides confirms this thought when he notes that the word 'ascend' talks about the mind. This would imply that one talks about higher and nobler issues. In contrast, if one talks about the word 'descend', it would imply that one centres on lower, less worthy issues. God is not physically coming down, but is focussing His attention on sinful behaviour and the judgement of this behaviour.1 It is like one is listening to a story and calls out: "It is just like I am there!". Then again, it will always be hard to capture God in human language.
Since these supposed contradictions depend on a particular interpretation which is (or at the very least may be) in error, no contradiction has been established.
↑ Haley, J. W. and Hovey, A., Examination of the Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible 1876, Forgotten Books, 2013, p. 59.