Question – Are there contradictions within the Bible?

question mark

‘It has been said that there are contradictions within the Bible. Is this due to false teaching?’

Good question.

As you read through the Bible there are times when it appears that it contradicts itself, it doesn’t happen often. It doesn’t if you read it right.

Let me help with two pointers.

a. The Bible is written under God by about 40 different authors, in three languages, across about a 2000 year time span. That means that there are several different perspectives at play and all can be helpful to give you a full picture.

To illustrate using an example from today. On Monday night Liverpool United and Adelaide United played at the Adelaide Oval. It was the one game, but across the 53 008 people who were there they could all describe what they saw from the seat they had. Their stories would vary slightly. Then of course if you asked the players themselves, or the coaches on the sideline, then they also would give you a slightly different perspective – yet all will be describing the one game.

That is similar in the Bible, different people saw the events, heard what was taught, felt or experienced what was happening – and when they tell that story, it will still be the same story, but their perspectives will all slight differ.

This actually gives creditably rather than takes it away. We have a much more balanced and accountable picture of what actually happened.

So when Matthew or Mark or Luke or John in their gospel tell what they saw and heard from Jesus, they have decided to say something, like others, they have focused on some particularities (like Luke the doctor on the healings) which the others might not have given so much attention – and the end result is a bigger and better picture – not a contradiction.

b. Second helpful pointer is that the Bible like any book, magazine, newspaper, article, document – should be read in context. You can not pluck a passage or verse out of its context and place up against another verse also out of context and say that they contradict themselves because you have not been fair on the context. When someone does that, it is often stated as a contradiction. What that is, is lazy, but it is not a contradiction.

So when Paul in Romans 4:3 quotes Genesis 15:5 to say that ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited as to him as righteousness’ and makes the point that a man is justified by his faith not works. He is rightly applying the context and says that if you think you are saved by your own effort then you are mistaken.

When James in James 2:23 also quotes Genesis 15:5 to say that ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited as to him as righteousness’ and makes the point that if a person says they are a Christian, but has no works, then they are not saved. Then he is taking the same verse, but he is helping the person who has been saved by calling them to be a person who does good works which will actually be a indicator that the person is saved. There is no contradiction, but plucked out of context and placed side to side it appears as if the Bible writers are saying contradictory things. Context is a great friend and helps us to understand the Bible (or any document) the way it should be understood.

It is not uncommon for verses to be plucked out of context and used to say things like the Bible is ‘full of contradictions’. Generally that is just lazy. When someone does that to me, I just ask them to show me in the Bible the contradiction so that I can read it with them. Most of the time they don’t know any contradictions – they just think that there are contradictions!

How would you answer?

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