difficulties, or apparent Bible contradictions, exist in the
Bible and we need to be aware of them and know how to respond to them
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?
There is no
contradiction here at all because both are true.
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
tells us specifically how Judas died, by hanging.
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.
- By hanging (Matthew
- "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
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
- 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,
“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.
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
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.
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
1. This exact complaint was raised in a Philosophy
class in college by a professor who was against Christianity.