|Series Theme: Difficult Questions|
Title: 3. Isn't the Bible full of contradictions?
A series that helps consider difficult questions of the Christian faith
I'm told the Bible is full of contradictions. Surely that shouldn't be so if it's inspired by God as Christians say it is?
Isn't it interesting how people so often say "They say..." or "I'm told", but actually rarely if ever say, " I've seen that the Bible is full of contradictions."
As a reader of the Bible for many years, I have to say that I haven't been able to find all these contradictions that people speak about.
I think there are probably two reasons for that:
1. What a real contradiction is.
Very often people haven't really thought about what a contradiction means.
For example, consider a car crash. A couple of days later the police go round checking eye-witness statements.
One young man says, "Yes it was a real pile up with eight cars involved."
Someone else simply says, "Yes, I saw it, a red car went into the back of a blue estate car."
To the undiscerning this is a contradiction. But it's not! If you pressed the second witness they would admit that there were more cars involved, but what stood out to them were a red car going into a blue car.
The other witness was simply more concerned with the overall number of cars involved.
That, so often, is how it is with the Bible. You have two or more witnesses who remember events from their perspective and so recall the important aspects as they saw it.
The reported facts may be different but they are simply different details of the same picture.
A contradiction in the car accident would be if one witness said there was a red car involved and another witness said there were NO red cars involved. THAT is a specific contradiction.
The same is true of the Bible. We could give a variety of examples where different facts are given but they are NOT contradictory.
Should you come across such an instance, ask yourself, does it fit the comments above?
2. A Developing Book
Another difficulty that people have in understanding, which they wrongly attribute to being a contradiction, is in respect of the development of revelation through the Bible. Let's explain.
The Old Testament developed over a probable fifteen hundred year period, built around the nation of Israel and God's relationship with them.
When God established them as a nation at Mount Sinai ( Exodus 19 ) their understanding of Him was limited to the knowledge they had of Him, as passed down from the Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob ( Israel ).
At that point though, He gave them the Law, and that increased their understanding of Him a hundred fold. Later on through the events of history and through the words that came from God through the prophets, the understanding of God and His intentions for His people increased even more.
When Jesus Christ came, revealing divinity in the flesh, our understanding of God increased even more!
There is no doubt, that with the development of the nation of Israel, and the development of their understanding, and the subsequent development of the Church, God changed His directives to His people, but that was simply because His overall planning was being rolled out and more and more of it was being seen.
Things seen at different times in the plan being rolled out are NOT contradictions.
An example of this would be the subject of animal sacrifices. (For a fuller explanation of such sacrifices, see the question in this series to do with animals being sacrificed.)
Animal sacrifices were instructed by the Law at Sinai but are now no longer necessary because the New Testament teaches that such sacrifices simply pointed forward to the ultimate sacrifice, Jesus Christ, (see Hebrews 9:26-28) who has now dealt with all sins, past, present and future, by his sacrificial death on the Cross.
Another example of this would be the two covenants that God initiated. The former covenant was an agreement with His people, Israel , at Sinai. Centuries later, through the prophets, we find God speaking of a new covenant that He is going to initiate in the years to come. (e.g. Jer 31:31-34 , Isa 55:3 , Isa 61:8,9 ) The latter covenant was all to do with Jesus.
We need to realise, therefore, that the formation of the Bible was progressive and so some things in the Old Testament have been superceded by the New Testament, and some things in the Old Testament were specific to the nation of Israel and cannot be applied generally today through the church.
Where we observe these things, they are NOT contradictions, but the progressive development of God's plan, established before the foundation of the world!
For a more detailed answer go to Apologetics, Question 27