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By Gary F. Zeolla
"The Bible is full of contradictions."
"We believe the Holy Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, to be the inspired Word of God, without error in the original manuscripts, the complete revelation of His will for our salvation and the Divine and final authority for all Christian faith and life."
Which of the above statements is true? If the Bible is full of contradictions then it cannot be the Word of God. If it is the Word of God then it cannot be full of contradictions.
The first statement above is a common objection raised against the Christian faith. The second statement represents the historic Christian attitude toward the Bible. It is the first article in Darkness to Light's Confession of Faith.
The claim, "The Bible is full of contradictions" is often heard when discussing the integrity of the Bible. But if the person making the claim is handed a Bible and asked to point one out, they will generally react with bewilderment. When pressed to demonstrate just ONE (which should be easy if it is FULL of them), they will usually hand the Bible back feeling somewhat embarrassed.
Paul Little explains what has happened. "They've heard someone else say the Bible is full of contradictions and they've swallowed the assumption" (Little, p. 75). But when confronted on the claim they have no way to defend the charge since they have never checked out the facts for themselves.
This writer has been confronted many times with many supposed contradictions and other difficulties in the Bible. But every time, upon further investigation, I have always found the objection to be without warrant.
Generally, the "contradiction" is due to ignoring the literary or historical context in which the passages were written or a simple misunderstanding of the text.
This is not to say that there are not difficulties that could be raised. There are some apparently troublesome passages in the Scriptures. And here on the Internet there are postings in various places of lists of supposed Biblical contradictions and difficulties. But, as Little explains, "Volumes have been written on some of these topics. After two thousand years, no one this week is going to think of the question that will bring Christianity crashing down" (Little, p. 76).
The following are a few of these volumes.
Archer, Gleason. Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties.
Blomberg, Craig. Historical Reliability of the Gospels.
Haley, John. Alleged Discrepancies.
Geisler, Norman and Thomas Howe. When Critics Ask.
O'Brian, David. Today's Handbook for Solving Bible Difficulties.
In addition, Bible commentaries, Bible dictionaries, and study Bibles can be helpful. The New Geneva Study Bible: NKJV is particularly helpful in this regard (along with being an excellent study Bible in general).
It is strongly recommended that the reader have one or more of these resources on hand. This way, when presented with a supposed contradiction in the Bible, you'll have the resources available to investigate the subject from both sides before making a decision.
first one to plead his cause seems right,
until his neighbor comes and examines him"
All Scripture references from: The New King James Version. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982, unless otherwise indicated.
Little, Paul. How to Give Away Your Faith. Downer's Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1966.
Is the Bible Reliable? Copyright © 1999 by Gary F. Zeolla of Darkness to Light ministry (www.zeolla.org/christian).
The above article originally appeared in Darkness to
newsletter in 1991.
It was posted on this website in July 1996.
The Bible The Bible: General "Contradictions"
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