One of the go-to arguments of many skeptics is that the Bible contradicts itself. They believe they cannot have confidence in the Bible because it is filled with hypocritical statements. Many of those that argue this, though, have never actually read the Bible itself. When asked, they cannot name on contradiction that's present.

The truth is, though, is that the Word of God is not at fault. The Bible does not contradict itself, but rather is being misunderstood by its readers. Certain passages at first glance appear to be contradictory, but further investigation will show that this is not the case.

What is a contradiction?

The idea of contradictions themselves are misunderstood. Simply because there is a difference between two statements, doesn't mean they are contradictory. The Law of Contradiction tells us that we need to follow specific set of rules. First, is the same person is the same thing or person under consideration? Secondly, is the same time period in view? Lastly, is the language that seems to be self-contradictory employed in the same sense?

For example, the statements "Sarah is happy" and "Sarah is not happy" do not necessarily contradict each other. First, there could be two different people named Sarah under consideration. Secondly, time could have passed between these two statements. Sarah could have been happy when she first got a new boyfriend, but then was unhappy when they broke up. Lastly, the term "happy" could have been used in a way that might mean something different to others. The point is that there is more that goes into understanding if two sentences contradict each other. When this is applied to the Bible, we see that there is a lot of misunderstanding on the skeptic’s side.

Diversity of the writers.

The Bible is written by real live people over a long period of time. In some cases, the effect of time and circumstance can be seen in one person. For example, Paul's letters show differing tones, emphases, and even shifts in thinking. The Bible also records the voices of different people who have different points of view on the same topic. Some of this includes what the Law of Moses says, how God acts toward outsiders, how many gods exist, whether the reign of Manasseh was positive or negative, when Jesus cleansed the Temple, what Paul thinks of the Law, and on and on. The “contradictions” in the Bible aren’t contradictions, for the Bible does not reflect the “perfectly consistent mind of God,” but the diversity of time and place of the writers.

Consider the context.

When you hear someone say a passage in the Bible is contradicting, you can't take it at face value. What passages surround it? For example, one might say that if God rested on the seventh day, how was it that He continued working? Genesis 2:2-4 says that God “began to rest on the seventh day from all his work that he had been doing”, which refers specifically to His physical work on creating earth. When Jesus says in John 5:17 that God "has kept working until now" He is not contradicting the first passage. Jesus, here, was talking about other works of God.

Figurative vs. literal understanding.

Even in the stories read today, there is room for interpretation for what an author meant. Sometimes, things are not meant to be taken literally. In Ecclesiastes 1:4, the Bible states that the "earth remains forever", but later that is contradicted by 2 Peter 3:10 that says “the elements will be destroyed by heat—with the earth.” However in the scripture found in Peter, we understand that the word "Earth" should not be taken literally. Rather, it is speaking to the people that live on earth, and the "destruction of the ungodly people" (2 Peter 3:7).

Understanding time differences.

Many skeptics will argue contradictions are very literal, for example the Bible mistaking the time of Jesus' trial and death. Mark writes that the Lord was crucified at the third hour (Mark 15:25), while John’s account says that Jesus is tried at the sixth hour (John 19:14). This would have been three hours after His death. The time references that these two use, however, are not the same. John's time was based upon Roman civil days, while Mark computed according to Jewish time.

Inaccurate translations.

The Bible did not come from our time of modern, slang English. Rather, it has had to be translated 100s and 100s of times over the course of the earth. Due to this, there are some things that are misunderstood when they are translated in different versions of the Bible. For example, the Bible teaches us that we all inherit sin from the last man, Adam (Romans 5:12). Other translations of the Bible contradict this, and say that a good person “does no sin” or “sinneth not” (1 John 3:6, The Bible in Basic English; King James Version). In the original language, though, the Greek verb for “sin” at 1 John 3:6 is in the present tense. There is a difference between inherited sin, which we cannot avoid, and the deliberate, continuous practice of disobeying God’s laws. Other Bible translations make this clearer by using phrases like "does not practice sin" (New World Translation).

These are only a few of the examples of ways we are understanding the Bible incorrectly, and therefor doubting its legitimacy. The point is that rather than taking a fearful attitude when faced with a possible biblical contradiction, we should view these occasions as opportunities to search and explore scripture in a deeper way. This will only serve to deepen your awe of the majesty of the Bible, and all God has to offer.

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