(This is the first post in “The Mission Field” series)
“How can one believe the Bible? It’s full of contradictions … it even contradicts itself!”
C’mon Ali, you’ve completed Bible school … you have to have an answer for this. I thought to myself as I stood there appalled at what I just heard.
“The Bible may seem that it’s full of contradictions, or that it even contradicts itself. Just trust me when I say that it doesn’t contradict itself.”
“But it does! It does contradict itself. So if it’s full of contradictions, then we can’t believe it.”
“But that’s the thing, we can believe it, because it’s the infallible Word of God. What contradictions are you referring to?”
“God says He hates jealousy, however, He Himself is a jealous God. Explain that one.”
“That’s right, God doesn’t want His children to be jealous of others. But that’s an attribute of His, because He is the One True God – He has every right to be jealous when we give our worship to anyone/anything other than Him.”
This was a conversation I had with a coworker last week while I was working an all day shift at the restaurant. It shocked me to hear what was being said (don’t know why I was shocked, I’ve heard it before), not to mention … I was saddened. Not only was I realizing the seriousness of this coworker’s eternity, but I could not for the life of me remember Bible verses that could explain the exact opposite of what this person was saying. Like always, the devil didn’t want me to have the opportunity to be apart of bringing another into the fold (1 Pet. 2:25)
It’s been almost a week since that conversation, and I’ve still (to this day) mulled over the conversation. Praying God would show me how to bring Truth out of what my coworker had said/and believes (basically to twist it around to Christ). Then God did the amazing, it was like a Spiritual light-bulb moment.
The Bible doesn’t contradicts itself. It contradicts us, because our brains cannot comprehend what the Bible says, or because we have our own interpretation of the Bible.
(I don’t know why this couldn’t have come to me, almost a week ago lol)
When I discussed my God given “light-bulb moment” with my parents, my dad said something else that has stuck with me.
“Anyone can say anything is contradictory. When someone doesn’t understand the ‘why’ behind something, it seems contradictory. It takes understanding to get rid of contradiction.”
Which is totally true, that’s why Proverbs tells us to get wisdom and understanding.
But that didn’t satisfy me at all. I had to know more, so I could help my coworker see that the Word doesn’t contradict itself. A new question arose in my mind:
So if it takes understanding to get rid of contradiction, and the Bible doesn’t contradict itself, but yet still seems that way to a nonbeliever – is there a middle ground?
For some there is a middle ground in regards to contradiction.
What do I mean by a middle ground? Let me explain it this way:
The Bible is God’s Word to humankind, I’m sure the majority can agree with me on this. However, it has also been mediated through authors that are man (or human). So there could be mistakes, yes? After all … humankind isn’t perfect. And if it’s God’s Word, wouldn’t have God actually written the Bible Himself? This in and of itself is a contradiction, yes?
The middle ground are for those still searching for answers, but who believe. Those who can’t fathom how the Bible doesn’t contradict itself.
Does the Bible contradict itself?
First off, let’s take a look at a couple definitions: the definition of “contradiction” and of “difference”.
1. the act of contradicting’ gainsaying or opposition
2. assertion of the contrary or opposite; denial
[dif-er-uh ns, dif-ruh ns]
1. the state or relation of being different; dissimilarity
2. an instance or point of unlikeness or dissimilarity
Now that we know those definitions, let’s put them into the context of our question.
There are two accounts of Jesus’ lineage (Matt. 1 & Luke 1). These are known as “one of the contradictory passages”.
These passages show us that there are two different lineages, however – Jesus only had one earthly parent. How could this be??? This is a huge contradiction, therefore I won’t believe it!
Why are there two passages when Jesus had one earthly parent?
Matthew 1 gives us the lineage of Jesus’ earthly father, Joseph.
Luke 1 gives us the lineage of Jesus’ mother, Mary.
See – not a contradiction … just a difference ;)
The contradiction would be:
Matthew 1 gives us the lineage of Jesus’ earthly father, Joseph. While Luke 1 gives the lineage of Jesus’ mother Mary, who conceived Jesus through Joseph.
A couple other passages that breed contradiction, are the death accounts of Judas Iscariot (Matt. 27:5 & Acts 1:18).
Matthew 27:5 tells us that Judas hung himself
Acts 1:18 tells us that Judas fell headlong, and all of his organs gushed out
Again, this is not a contradiction … just a difference.
“But Alisha, these passages are contradictions! They give two different accounts of Judas’ death!”
Yes they do, however, let’s put it in a couple different perspectives, shall we?
1. Let’s say Judas did hang himself like in Matthew 27:5. And a couple days, his body decayed, the rope snapped – making him falling headlong, and causing all of his organs to gush out (just like in Acts 1:18).
2. Let’s say Judas attempted to hang himself Matt. 27:5), but it didn’t work well for him (I would probably chicken out too – just saying). So instead he fell off a cliff (Acts 1:18).
Does it really matter how the man died? No it doesn’t! What matters, is that both accounts say he died (by his own means), and they named the field he purchased the Field of Blood. How he died is irrelevant!
The contradiction to these passages would be:
Matthew 27:5 says he hung himself, while Acts 1:18 says he went and purchased a field and lived a long life – regretting the betrayal he displayed towards Jesus.
The last “contradiction” is a “big one”. It has to do with a matter of faith, rather than facts.
Paul tells us three different times in Romans (3:20, 28; 5:1), that our faith is justified through Christ alone, and not our works. But yet in James 2:24 Paul tells us that a man is justified through works.
So which is it?
We have to look at the context of the word justification in all the passages.
In Romans, we see that justification is in regards to standing before God, while in James 2:24 justification is in regards to standing before people.
So yes, our faith isn’t justified through works in order to be saved, but once we’re saved – we need to be showing the fruits of the Spirit to those around us.
The contradiction for these passages would be:
Romans tells us that we are justified through Christ alone, and that James would tell us that we need works to get to heaven.
I could go on and on about the different “contradictions” the Bible seems to contain, but I won’t.
Instead of ironing out every single “contradiction” the Bible looks like it contains, we need to focus on how we can apply it to our lives as individuals. We need to focus on how we can be the change we want to see in the world.
It’s all in how we read Scripture!
We have to be careful to not presuppose what Scripture is saying in regards to a particular view, and then try to stuff it into our preconceived notion. We have to be willing to allow the Holy Spirit to convict us with Scriptures He wishes to convict us with.
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I hope this post helped some out there, who have wondered why the Bible “contradicts” itself. I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic, so be sure to leave a comment below ;)