The Bible is Full of Contradictions!

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Oh, come on now ...

MAYBE you're not one of these people, but usually when people say this, it means that they know of one or a few supposed "contradictions" (or they really don't know of any themselves, and just heard that there were), and use this statement to broad-brush the Bible as an invalid document, in order to justify their own hatred for what it says.

If you are one of these people, you probably won't really be interested in an explanation, no matter how reasonable it may be. However, maybe I'm wrong about you (too "judgmental" perhaps?), so perhaps you'd be willing to check out the "why should I care what the Bible says" page.

On the other hand, if you are genuinely concerned that the book that claims to be "the word of God" is riddled with absurdities and contradictions, let me ease your troubled mind.

First, we need to look at one possible cause of confusion:

Erors!? Errors!?

This is not really the biggest issue here, but I'll start here first. One possible way we may have received discrepancies in our modern texts is through copyist errors, which produce manuscript discrepancies.

The original texts by the original scribes were written thousands of years ago, in ancient Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. As they were recognized as the inspired word of God, they were carefully and accurately copied. Many times. Many, many times. Along the way, mistakes have been made by those who copied it, by hand, letter by letter, word by word, sentence by sentence.

We don't actually possess the originals any more, but we have many ancient copies. To produce our modern translations, scholars need to examine these manuscripts. If they run across any discrepancies, they have to resolve them as best as they can. It can often be difficult to determine which words were intended, and which were not.

Still, even these kinds of problems do not alter the basic message of the Bible. Let me give you a couple of examples. Here's how John 3:15 reads in two different manuscripts:

  1. "whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life." (emphasis mine)
  2. "whoever believes in Him should have eternal life."

Not much difference in the message, is there? Here's one more example, this time taken from Luke 2:43:

  1. "... the Boy Jesus lingered behind in Jerusalem. And Joseph and His mother did not know it" (emphasis mine)

  2. "... the Boy Jesus lingered behind in Jerusalem. And His parents did not know it" (emphasis mine)

Now someone might see this, get really angry, and start yelling at me, "SEE, THAT LAST VERSION CONTRADICTS THE VERSES THAT SAY JESUS IS THE SON OF GOD!! IT SAYS THAT JOSEPH WAS JESUS' FATHER!!!"

Hardly. The Bible clearly teaches that God was Jesus' father, and this verse could be easily taken as a figure of speech. I, for example, am adopted. I consider my adopted parents to be my parents, and I call them "Mom" and "Dad," even though they aren't my literal, genetic parents.

Get the idea? 'Nuff said about copyist errors.

Here's the major thing that folks fail to consider when they say that the Bible is full of contradictions:

What do these supposedly "contradictory" verses really mean?

Here's a classic example. Matthew 12:40 says that Christ would be buried for "three days and three nights," but Mark 15:25, 42, 44, 45, 46, and 16:9 indicate that He was only buried from Friday evening through Sunday morning. That seems pretty contradictory, doesn't it?

It might, until you understand that Matthew 12:40 uses a common Oriental figure of speech. In that cultural setting, any part of a day was considered as a whole day, so a "day and a night" was not necessarily a full 24 hour period. Since the burial began on Friday and ended on Sunday, it was considered a 3-day burial. And the common way to describe such a three-day period was "three days and three nights."

No big deal really, but it does take a little research and common sense.

This really goes back to the issue of "how do you interpret the Bible?" If you haven't already been there, you should check out the page on Bible interpretation.

In the meanwhile, here's an overview and explanation of many of the other supposed Biblical Contradictions. If you really take the time to seriously check it out, you will realize that God has never contradicted Himself. Humans often contradict themselves by not getting all the facts; God never does.

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