Lesson 01.05

Bible Difficulties


     Bible difficulties, or apparent Bible contradictions, exist in the Bible and we need to be aware of them and know how to respond to them because the opponents of Christianity often use them in their attempts to discredit Christianity by invalidating the Bible.  Sometimes these attacks successfully undermine the faith of Christians who either don't understand the apparent discrepancies and don't realize they are not contradictions, or don't have the resources to deal with them.  
     Unfortunately, it is not practical in this online school to have you memorize a list of biblical difficulties and their answers.  So, CARM recommends that you become familiar with the Bible difficulties section as well as purchase New International Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties.  In the mean time, there are some things you need to know to be able to respond properly to the issue of Alleged Bible Difficulties.
  • What is a Contradiction?  A contradiction occurs when one statement makes another statement impossible when both statements deal with the same topic at the same time.  For example, in my right pocket is a set of car keys.  In my right pocket there is no set of car keys.  Both statements cannot true at the same time.  Therefore, to state that both were true is to state a contradiction
         If one gospel account says two people went to Jesus' tomb and another says that one went, it is not a contradiction because the accounts do not say that only one went or only two went.  If one account said that only one went, then two could not have gone and that would be a contradiction.
         One of the most common accounts used as a contradiction is how did Judas die, by hanging or falling down?  
    • By hanging (Matthew 27:3-8) - "Then when Judas, who had betrayed Him, saw that He had been condemned, he felt remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, 4saying, "I have sinned by betraying innocent blood." But they said, "What is that to us? See to that yourself!" 5And he threw the pieces of silver into the sanctuary and departed; and he went away and hanged himself. 6And the chief priests took the pieces of silver and said, "It is not lawful to put them into the temple treasury, since it is the price of blood." 7And they counseled together and with the money bought the Potter’s Field as a burial place for strangers. 8For this reason that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day."
    • By falling (Acts 1:16-19) - "Brethren, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit foretold by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. 17"For he was counted among us, and received his portion in this ministry." 18(Now this man acquired a field with the price of his wickedness; and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out. 19And it became known to all who were living in Jerusalem; so that in their own language that field was called Hakeldama, that is, Field of Blood.)"
         There is no contradiction here at all because both are true.  Remember, a contradiction occurs when one statement excludes the possibility of another.  What happened here is that Judas went and hung himself and then his body later fell down and split open.  In other words, the rope or branch of the tree probably broke due to the weight and his body fell down and his bowels spilled out.  Also, notice that Matt. 27:3-8 tells us specifically how Judas died, by hanging.  Acts 1:16-19 merely tells us that he fell headlong and his bowels gushed out.  Acts does not tell us that this is the means of his death where Matthew does.
  • Context.  When dealing with opponents who site biblical difficulties, you must always challenge them to look at the verses in context.  Very often, the problems disappear when doing this.  In Matt. 5:48 Jesus says, "Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect."  Sometimes people will quote a verse like this and say that it is an impossibility to accomplish and that the Bible asks you to do impossible things.  Therefore, it cannot be from God.1  The answer, of course, is found in the context, Matt. 5:43-48.
    “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.’ 44 “But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you 45 in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 “For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax-gatherers do the same? 47 “And if you greet your brothers only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect."

         Notice that the context is dealing with loving all people equally.  This is what it means to be perfect.  It means to be perfect in loving others and it is a noble thing to strive for.  Therefore, this is not speaking about perfection as God is perfect, but it is urging people to love as God loves -- equally.

  • Assumptions:  Sometimes people are looking for contradictions in the Bible and so they will find anything that looks like a contradiction.  When this happens, point it out.  When a person has misconceptions removed, many things fall into place.  So, listen to what they say and see if there are any false assumptions.

  • Copyist Errors:  The fact is that the copies of the biblical manuscripts are not perfect.  These copy errors account for several alleged contradictions.  For example, how many charioteers were killed by David, 700 or 7000?  In 2 Samuel 10:18 it says, 700 but in 1 Chronicles 19:18 it says 7,000.  This is an example of a copyist error.  Notice how the number is off by a single zero; that is, by a single notation of a digit.  According to Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible, by Gleason Archer, page 382, regarding the characters used to designate numbers, "Nun final , was mistaken for dotted Zayin ," would account for the copyist error in the text.  Most probably, the correct number is 7,000 charioteers."  Therefore, we can admit that there are copyist errors, though minor and infrequent.  We must also point out that inspiration deals with the autographs (the original writings), not the copies.  We have copies of inspired documents.


     When dealing with someone who raised an alleged contradiction, ask the person to document what it is so you can take a look at it. If you can't figure it out right there by looking at the context, admit it and ask if it is okay to get back in touch with the person later.  There is nothing wrong with admitting you don't know something and then checking into it.  Just make sure you follow up after you get the answer.
      Defending the Christian faith means being aware of different arguments against the Christian faith. It also means admitting the reality of copyist errors in the biblical manuscripts.  Of course, from the lesson on the Bible's reliability, we know that these copy errors don't affect the truths of the Bible.  Therefore, we can trust it. 
     As you defend the faith, you do so by teaching.  In order to do that, you need to know the facts so that you are not caught off guard.


Some years ago, a lawyer by the name of Frank Morison wrote a book with the title Who Moved The Stone? He set out with the purpose of disproving the resurrection, of proving that Christ did not really rise from the grave.   But the book turned out to be entirely different. It is a searching study of the scriptural story of Christ’s crucifixion, death and resurrection. He makes the unquestionable point that the resurrection is a historical fact. Lawyer-like, he disposes, one after another, of the dozens of theories invented to account for the removal of the body from the tomb.  For example, that the gardener took away Christ’s body so that the curious would not trample his flowers, that Joseph of Arimathea did it, because he regretted giving his grave to an acknowledged criminal, that Jesus recovered from a death-like faint on the cross and pushed the stone away Himself.

1.  This exact complaint was raised in a Philosophy class in college by a professor who was against Christianity.

Previous Lesson | Questions | Answers | Next Lesson