Examining the Contradictions Claims

You’ve heard the allegation: “The Bible is full of contradictions!”

Interestingly enough, most people I’ve ever encountered who say such a thing can’t name one! Sometimes they can name one, but it is more a misconception and even so makes one wonder where the “full of” part of the claim originated. Even so, we have a growing movement of skepticism in our nation today. (This is one of the reasons fundamentalists are disgruntled with our movement. While atheism, skepticism, liberalism, and false religions are becoming increasingly threatening enemies of Christianity, fundamentalism continues to direct its “defense of the faith” toward Christians who do things differently like use another Bible version, employ contemporary music, or forsake the tie behind the pulpit. Historic fundamentalism confronted the challenges of its day: Darwinianism, liberalism – denying the inspiration of scripture, the virgin birth, the resurrection, etc., and rationalism. Fundamentalism must confront the real enemy) The Internet has become a prominent medium to spread the message of anti-Christianity. A simple search of Bible contradictions will result in numerous web pages with actual lists of alleged discrepancies in scripture. With the right study methods, we can fight the enemy. Thank God our Bible can be scrutinized and always come out victorious!

I’d like to suggest a few rules when examining the contradictions claim. It has helped us in our Sunday School class.

When considering the lists of “contradictions”, don’t be overwhelmed with the amount listed. Remember that people who have an agenda against Christianity will go to the extreme in trying to disprove it. If they can find just one error, they’ve destroyed the whole system. So, the technique employed is obvious: make it look like there’s just too many to prove wrong.

The truth is, the Bible has withstood the test of time. Take by faith that God is true to His word and begin studying each one out. This may not be for everyone, for you don’t have to be an apologist to live a godly life. But the day in which we live calls for a revolution of Christians living and defending their faith like never before.

Here is a simple method to apply when confronted with a Bible “contradiction”:

1. Law of non-contradiction. (Simply put, a contradiction only exists when the situations called into question both cannot be true. Ask yourself, “can these passages both be true?” “Is there possibly an explanation for this apparent discrepancy?”)

2. Context. (Infidels hate when you tell them that you must look at the context. They feel it is a cop out. But this can’t be – the only way to get the full effect of the verse or passage is its context. As a guy who once tried to teach a class of mine rightly said, “Context is king!” Look at the context: the author, the economy, the primary audience, the complete thought in the chapter, and its place in scripture.)

3. Wording. (You must take into account any verbal or literary considerations. Sometimes there is difficulty in translating from one language to another. Sometimes the verse is poetic, prophetic, or narrative. There may be some hard-to-define words. Examine carefully the passage in question and mark any significant words or phrases.)

4. Interpretation. (This isn’t to say, “Oh that’s just a matter of interpretation.” That actually might be a cop out. This means find the primary meaning of the passage. Although there may be several applications and implications, each passage of scripture really only has one interpretation. Prayer, study, and help from Bible commentaries and trusted sources should help you arrive at a conclusive interpretation.)

5. Reconciliation. (Take everything studied and honestly answer the question, can these passages be reconciled? We believe that one of the marks of inspiration is the tremendous unity of the Bible. Being able to reconcile the verses in question should testify to that. Consider this: am I stretching logic or avoiding an issue just to ‘make it fit’? Or are these passages both true in their context fitting perfectly in harmony with the whole of scripture?)

Here’s a quick example:

Alleged contradiction: The Bible says you can’t call someone a fool, but then it calls people fools! That’s a contradiction!

Verses in question: Matthew 5:22; Psalm 14:1; Matthew 23:17

Jesus said you can’t call someone a fool:

But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. (Matthew 5:22)

In the Psalms, King David calls someone a fool:

The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good. (Psalm 14:1)

Jesus contradicted Himself by calling the Pharisees fools:

Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold? (Matthew 23:17)

Let’s apply the five rules:

1. Law of non-contradiction.

Is it possible for them both to be true? Yes, we appeal to the context here because there isn’t one verse saying, “Don’t call someone a fool” and another, “call someone a fool.” Jesus seemed to make it a command not to, while the other two seem to be disobeying the command. But neither were universal. Perhaps there is a cause to justify exception.

2. Context.

Psalm 14:1 – King David is the writer. It is a wisdom poem containing profound deliberations on human depravity. The ills of the world are elaborated. We see the moral deprivation of the entire human race.

Matthew 23:17 – Jesus is proclaiming woes on the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees.

Matthew 5:22 – (from verse 18 onward) Jesus is using the law to demonstrate sin. He shows how although you may not actually kill, you break the commandment of “thou shalt not kill” by having anger against someone. Verse 27 does the same with adultery.

3. Wording

Psalm 14:1 – “fool” is more of a moral sense.

Matthew 23:17 & Matthew 5:22 – “fool” is more intellectual. From the Greek word more (moor-ay) from which we get moron.

4. Interpretation.

Psalm 14:1 – The depravity of man is seen in their rejection of God. A declaration, (“there is no God”) is not a wise statement, it is an expression of that kind of foolishness.

Matthew 23:17 – The religious leaders were truly foolish and consequently rebuked by Jesus for their foolishness in their treatment of the law.

Matthew 5:22 – Jesus is using the law to lay the foundation for the gospel. The Bible says by the law is the knowledge of sin, and Jesus is setting the example of how to present salvation: start by using the law to show people they are sinners. He is speaking of the universal disobedience of every human to the law of God. Although someone may have not actually killed, someone who angrily says to his brother, “you fool!” has broken the law of murder and therefore is worthy of hell.

5. Reconciliation

There is no contradiction because Jesus wasn’t making a universal command against calling something foolish. Obviously, there are times when things are so, and even as preachers following in His footsteps, a Christian preacher must sometimes rise up and say politically incorrect things, such as the foolishness of atheism or of blind religion. But, to be angry against someone in your heart and call them a fool is equivalent with murder and demonstrates to us how we all have broken God’s law. This doesn’t beat around the bush or stretch the issue, it satisfies the claim and no contradiction exists: these verses speak of different things.

I hope this was helpful. Matt Slick at Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry has provided a good reference on problem passages, organized in biblical order. After I wrote this, I realized Tim Challies also wrote about it recently, with a good article on biblical inerrancy. Several other websites and books exist to edify us all in this matter. We believe the Bible by faith, but thank God that faith is based in truth, and thank God, that truth always comes out victorious!


2 comments so far

  1. Travis James on

    “We believe the Bible by faith, but thank God that faith is based in truth, and thank God, that truth always comes out victorious!”
    And that’s the point exactly. Too many people see faith as a blind leap into nothingness, with no reason or evidence for what we believe.
    “[But] faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)
    There is immeasurable substance and a vast amount of evidence for the uniqueness and integrity of the Bible. We see that evidence, therefore we believe!
    Great post!

  2. Jason J on

    Thanks so much for this post. I feel 100% better. I read where someone had pointed the “raca” and “thou fool” example as a contradiction and I was really struck by it and it wounded my spirit. Your explanation was so good, it made me realize that this claim of contradiction is so shallow because it doesn’t consider the “whole counsel” of God’s word. I am going to check out those other sites you recommend. Thanks again for this post and for what you are doing here to edify us believers.

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