The Christian Faith, Lesson 4

Alleged Bible Contradictions

Introduction

Claims of Bible contradictions are nothing new. There are even entire websites dedicated to finding them, such as the Skeptic's Annotated Bible, but we'll just take a quick look at it via a site dedicated to refuting it, so we can see both at the same time. The SAB confuses internal and external contradictions, and it's more an atheist/evolutionist rant than purely about alleged contradictions. It really is pathetic that anyone would devote so much of their time to obsess over what they believe is fiction.

  1. The day you eat it you'll die (Gen. 2:17)

    First of all, unlike Gen. 1, day in Gen. 2 is not combined with evening and morning and a number, so there's no compelling reason to demand a solar day for this passage. Secondly, there was no death before sin (Rom. 5:12), so the most straightforward meaning is that death entered the world at that time. The physical world, including people, began to experience decay (entropy), and people were now spiritually separated from God, since death is separation.

    Another view argues that God extended grace to them. Eve didn't drop dead right then and there, and Adam saw this and decided to believe the serpent as well. God chose instead to confront them and announce a plan for redemption. There are other instances in scripture where God relents from his plans, such as after the people of Ninevah repented and were not destroyed, even though God had Jonah tell them they would. In fact, Jonah tried to run from God precisely because he knew God might show them mercy (Jonah 3:10-4:2).

    So there are at least two plausible explanations, either one of which is enough to debunk the claim of contradiction.

  2. Two creation accounts (Gen. 1 & 2)

    Let's take a look at one analysis. Keep in mind that ANE (ancient near east) convention was to give the summary before the main text body, which is exactly what Genesis does: Ch. 1 is about the Creator and the sequence of creation, whereas ch. 2 expands on certain points without regard for sequence. And if ch. 2 had been a different creation account, it left out significant things such as the creation of the heavenly luminaries.

    We should also point out that a similar issue pertains to Gen. 1:1, since that in itself introduces the rest of the chapter. In other words, it's the title, and the narrative begins in vs. 2. Too many people, even Christians, try to make an entire history between 1:1 and 1:2, such as that there was a first creation that became void and empty and had to be redone. This is why study of the context and habits of ANE writers is so vital… and why lazy critics are so easily debunked.

  3. Contradictions between the order and out of what substances things were created (Gen. 1 & 2)

    Of course, this is just a point of detail in the previous claim, but now we'll take a closer look at creation order since practically all such critics are evolutionists.

    Light was created before the sun, so plants needing light before the sun was not an issue. (The actual first thing created was water; compare Gen. 1:2 and 2 Peter 3:5.) As for animals being brought to Adam in Gen. 2:19, nothing in the text requires that the animals were created after Adam. Even if the skeptic insists that formed happened just then, the fact remains that Gen. 2 shows no concern with creation order. Let's take a look at this Apolgetics Press article.

    As for substance, the Hebrew word bara (Greek epoiEsen) means to make, cause, prepare, and the context is what God made: heaven and earth, sea creatures and birds, and people. Nothing else in scripture uses the word bara in the simple tense, as we can see at Blue Letter Bible under Creation Out Of Nothing.

  4. God doesn't know pi (1 Kings 7:23, 2 Chron. 4:2)

    What part of that says God doesn't know something? 10 cubits rim-to-rim is the diameter, 30 cubits is the circumference, so circ. / diameter = pi, and 30/10 = 3. You wanted decimal places B.C.? Does the lack of decimal places mean God doesn't know them? Was there a little notch in the rim where the missing decimal places were? How many pixels had to die so I could even give space to answering such a claim? This has to rank as one of the top lamest criticisms of scripture, which I can only guess is offered because it involves math.

  5. Was Jonah swallowed by a whale or a fish? (Jonah 1:17)

    This is another Seriously?? moment. It was a huge marine creature as you can see if you look it up in both Hebrew and Greek, and the question confuses original languages with translations. As for whether it's possible, remember that this is the Jonah that God had been talking to, so why not ask that question first? Miracles aren't limted by size. Maybe Jonah was swallowed by a Black Swan! (sarcasm intended) After all, the argument is that since we don't know of people surviving being swallowed by sea creatures, then it must be impossible and the Bible is false. That's an example of a Black Swan Fallacy, which is when someone says because of past experience (or lack of it) a certain thing cannot happen or exist. As the hostile witness Carl Sagan once put it, Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. There is simply no way to prove that the Bible story is false, especially since there are in fact sea creatures large enough to swallow a person whole.

  6. The Bible says there were unicorns (Numbers 24:8)

    Again with the confusion between original languages and translations. Only the KJV has unicorn, not Hebrew or Greek or any other version than Early Modern English, as you can see at this parallel.

  7. When the Israelites dwelt in Shittim they committed adultery with the daughters of Moab. God struck them with a plague. How many people died in that plague? (Numbers 25:1,9, 1 Cor. 10:8)

    Let's take a look at Defending Inerrancy.

  8. Who killed Saul? (1 Sam. 31:4-6, 2 Sam. 1:1-16)

    The Amalekite lied about killing him, since he clearly believed he would be rewarded for killing David's enemy. The Bible simply reports the lie, because it's historical record.

  9. How many stalls for horses did Solomon have? (1 Kings 4:26, 2 Chron. 9:25)

    Analyses here and here.

  10. In Ezekiel 26:7 the prophet predicts that Nebuchadnezzar would conquer and destroy the city of Tyre, but Ezekiel 29:18 says he failed.

    See Defending Inerrancy.

  11. Was Jesus born before 1 b.c. or around 6 a.d.? (Luke 1:5, Luke 2:1-2)

    The skeptics don't seem to know much about history, especially that there was more than one Herod; see Chronology of the Life of Jesus for the timing of both his birth and death.

  12. Why are the Genealogies of Matthew and Luke so different?

    See Zondervan Academic.

  13. How did Judas die, by hanging himself (Mat. 27:5) or by his guts splattering after a fall (Acts 1:18)?

    See Evidence for Christianity

  14. Was Jesus on the cross at the 3rd hour (Mark 15:25,33) or the 6th hour (Mat. 27:45, Luke 23:44, John 19:14)?

    A 24-hour day in Israel began at sundown and was divided into segments called hours or watches (as relates to guard duty). Each hour covered a three-hour span, but it was known by its beginning; that is, the third hour lasted from 9 o'clock to 12 o'clock, counting from either 6 a.m. or 6 p.m. Going by the position of the sun or moon in the sky made greater precision impractical. But more importantly, the expressions the third hour and almost/about the sixth hour refer to the same three-hour span, with the latter meaning it was close to the end of that span. [see David Lipscomb (1831-1917), A Commentary on the Gospel According to John, p. 295-296]. So Jesus was condemned at about 11 a.m. and crucified at about noon, with the darkness lasting until 3 p.m., at which time Jesus gave up his spirit. Then his body was taken down by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemas, who wrapped and buried it (John 19:38–42). This was at sundown on Nisan/Abib 14, just before the Passover itself began on the 15th. Here's a handy chart.

  15. Did the women buy burial spices before (Luke 23:56) or after (Mark 16:1) the Sabbath?

    There were two Sabbaths that week: The first on Nisan/Abib 15 was the special Sabbath or Passover, and the second on Nisan/Abib 17 was the normal weekly Sabbath. The women bought and prepared the spices between them, as they could not have worked during either Sabbath. There is more detail at Stack Exchange (hermeneutics), and the 2nd answer (I believe the other answer is not a good understanding…) is the one I agree with. Much hinges on whether the women knew Jesus would die and bought the spices before he was crucified, but I see no support for that in the Gospel accounts.

Conclusion

I think the point is made: In every case where contradiction is claimed, a careful study and attention to detail clear it up. The real issue is why, among all the world's sacred texts, only the Bible gets so much scrutiny, from so many people, for so many generations, in spite of how many other texts and beliefs are well known to the skeptics, who would never allow themselves or their writings to be held to the same standards.

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