How can you believe a Bible that is full of contradictions?

It is truly amazing how often this question is asked. It contains the assumption that the Bible is filled with many obvious discrepancies – which, if true, would make it impossible for someone to believe that the Bible has a divine origin.

If, indeed, the Bible does contain demonstrable errors, it would show that at least those parts could not have come from a perfect, all-knowing God. While one could not argue with this conclusion, there is disagreement with the initial premise. It is very easy to accuse the Bible of inaccuracies, but it is quite another matter to prove it.

Certain passages at first glance appear to be contradictory, but further investigation shows that this is not the case. What constitutes a contradiction? The Law of non-Contradiction, which is the basis of all logical thinking, states that a thing cannot be a and non-a at the same time. In other words, it cannot be raining and not raining at the same time in the same exact spot.

If one can demonstrate a violation of this principle from Scripture, then and only then can he prove a contradiction. For example, if the Bible said — which it does not — that Jesus died by crucifixion both at Jerusalem and at Nazareth at the same time, this would be a provable error.

It is important to remember that two statements may differ from each other without being contradictory. Some fail to make a distinction between contradiction and difference.

For example, take the case of the blind men at Jericho. Matthew relates how two blind men met Jesus, while both Mark and Luke mention only one. However, neither statement denies the other; rather they are complementary.

Suppose you were talking to the mayor of your city and the chief of police at city hall. Later, you see your friend Jim and tell him you talked to the mayor today. An hour later, you see your friend John and tell him you talked to both the mayor and the chief of police. The statements you actually made to Jim and John are different, but not contradictory. Likewise, many biblical statements fall into this category. Many think they find errors in passages that they have not correctly read.

In the Book of Judges we have the account of the death of Sisera. Judges 5:25-27 is supposed to represent Jael as having slain him with her hammer and tent peg while he was drinking milk. Judges 4:21 says she did it while he was asleep. However, a closer reading of Judges 5:25-27 will reveal that it is not stated that he was drinking milk at the moment of impact. Thus, the discrepancy disappears.

Sometimes two passages appear to be contradictory because the translation is not as accurate as it could be. A knowledge of the original languages of the Bible can immediately solve many of these difficulties. The reason is that both Greek and Hebrew — like all languages — have peculiarities that make them difficult to render into English or any other language.

A classic example concerns the accounts of Paul’s conversion as recorded in the Book of Acts. Acts 9:7 (KJV) states, “And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man.” Acts 22:9 (KJV) states, “And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me.”

These statements seem contradictory; one says that Paul’s companions heard a voice, while the other account says that no voice was heard. However, knowledge of Greek solves this difficulty. As the Greek scholar, W. F. Arndt, explains in his book Does the Bible Contradict itself?:

“The construction of the verb ‘to hear’ (akouo) is not the same in both accounts. In Acts 9:7 it is used with the genitive, in Acts 22:9 with the accusative. The construction with the genetive simply expresses that something is being heard or that certain sounds reach the ear; nothing is indicated as to whether a person understands what he hears or not. The construction with the accusative, however, describes a hearing which includes mental apprehension of the message spoken. From this it becomes evident that the two passages are not contradictory. “

Acts 22:9 does not deny that the associates of Paul heard certain sounds; it simply declares that they did not hear in such a way as to understand what was being said. Our English idiom in this case simply is not so expressive as the original Greek” (Does the Bible Contradict Itself?, pp. 13,14). [Note: Newer translations, such as the New King James Version, the NIV, or the NASB are more accurate due to better understanding of linguistics. In other words, while the original Greek manuscripts have not changed, current versions render the languages more “readable” and easier to understand.]

It must also be stressed that when a possible explanation is given to a Bible difficulty, it is unreasonable to state that the passage contains a demonstrable error. Some difficulties in Scriptures result from our inadequate knowledge about the circumstances, and do not necessarily involve an error. These only prove that we are ignorant of the background.

As historical and archaeological studies proceed, new light is being shed on difficult portions of Scripture, and many “errors” have disappeared with better-informed understanding. We need a wait-and-see attitude regarding some problems. While all Bible difficulties have not yet been cleared up, it is our firm conviction that, as more knowledge is gained of the Bible’s past, these problems will fade away. The biblical conception of God is an all-knowing, all-powerful being who does not contradict Himself. Therefore, we feel that His Word, when properly understood, will not contradict itself.

 

Let us turn the question around. With a body of sacred Scriptures so different from the rest (e.g. supported by many historical records and a great amount of evidence, fulfilled prophecy, etc.) why won’t you put your trust in Jesus Christ, Who attested to the complete accuracy of this written Word, the Bible?

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