What are some of the arguments that we hear when we are presenting the gospel to the lost? One of the major arguments proposed against the truth is that the Bible is untrustworthy, it has contradictions. How serious is this argument and misconception? Why? We have looked at various ways to prove the veracity of the Scriptures. What is the argument from prophecy? What is the argument of uniqueness? What is the argument of history? What is the archeological argument? What is the Christological argument of the truthfulness of the Bible? (Christ believed it.)
What is the Christian doctrine of Biblical inspiration? The Bible is God-breathed. What is the difference between the inspiration that comes to a modern writer of fiction, and the inspiration of the Scriptures? What do we mean by verbal inspiration? What do we mean by plenary verbal inspiration? Does inspiration mean that God dictated the words of the Word of God? What roll does the personality of the pen-men have to do with the actual words that we study in the Bible? What would the Bible be like, if God used the perfect language of Heaven to express His perfect will? It would probably be unintelligible to us. Is there anything wrong with the following statement: “The Holy Spirit used specially chosen people to convey God’s revelation to man. Those men were permitted and led to use their own choice of words, phrases, cliches and knowledge, but what they wrote was precisely what God wanted us to know?” At what point do you picture the Holy Spirit working the miracle of inspiration? In the heart of people as they read the Bible? In the mind as the pen-men thought about what they were going to write? At the moment the revelation of God was uttered or written? What about the words of Satan when he told Eve, “Ye shall not surely die.”? Are those words inspired? How are they inspired?
We believe in the plenary verbal inspiration of the Word of God. What doctrine do we feel is almost as important as inspiration, when it comes to studying the Bible today? The preservation of the Word of God. Is this a commonly-held doctrine? If we don’t believe that God preserved His Word what sort of things result?
Okay, we believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. We believe that the evidence is conclusive. But our lost neighbors disagree. What is one of their most common arguments that the Bible cannot be trusted? Contradictions.
Recommendations when thinking about supposed contradictions in the Bible.
Be firmly convinced yourself of the inspiration of the Bible – it came from God. Be sure that there are explanations for all supposed contradictions. Admit to the need of God’s direction; that man’s wisdom or knowledge (yours) isn’t perfect. Don’t try to change what the scripture says. Don’t neglect the context of the verses under consideration. Remember that it is important to understand the words under consideration.
Well what about the reference to Ozias being Jotham’s father in Matthew 1:9. This reminds us of some of the problems with names. First, there are usually differences when one name is carried forward into another language. In this case Ozias is the same as Uzziah, just as Roboam is the same as Rehoboam. But then there is a second problem when it comes to names: lots of people have more than one name. All the salesmen, who call my house trying to get me to refinance my mortgage call me Kenneth. But those who know me better call me David.
II Kings 15:6-7, like I Chronicles 3:12, says that Azariah was the father of Jotham. “And the rest of the acts of Azariah, and all that he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah? So Azariah slept with his fathers; and they buried him with his fathers in the city of David: and Jotham his son reigned in his stead.” But then only 25 verses later we read: “In the second year of Pekah the son of Remaliah king of Israel began Jotham the son of Uzziah king of Judah to reign. Five and twenty years old was he when he began to reign, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Jerusha, the daughter of Zadok. And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD: he did according to all that his father Uzziah had done.” So who was the father of Jotham: Ozias, Uzziah or Azariah? All of the above. There is no contradiction.
Several times in the last few months we have thought about the wonderful words of Micah 5:2: “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.” When we come to Matthew’s account of the birth of Christ, we have a really distorted version of that verse. Matthew 2:1-6 – “Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.” What is the explanation for the differences between Micah 5:2 and Matthew 2:6? What language did Micah speak? What language did Herod speak? What guarantee do we have that the priests to whom Herod were speaking accurately translated Micah? It appears that they were giving a paraphrase.
Problems with the accounts of Christ’s temptations. Notice the order of Satan’s temptations of Jesus in Matthew 4:1-10: We have the hunger temptation, the pinnacle of the temple and the invitation to worship the Devil. In Luke 4:1-14 we have a different order: hunger, worship and jumping from the pinnacle. Remember that people who refuse to believe the truth will look for any excuse. How can we reconcile the apparent differences between these passages? The order doesn’t demand any real differences at all.
The difference between Jesus being the “Son of Man” and the “Son of God.” Matthew 8:20 is the first occurrence of Jesus’ use of the term “Son of man.” In fact he used that term 84 times scattered throughout the four gospels. But don’t Christians deny Jesus’ own statement and say that He is the Son of God and deny that he was son of a man at all; isn’t this a contradiction? Most people have a favorite name that they use for themselves. And most people have favorite names and nicknames that they use for loved ones that they don’t even tell the general public.
The Lord Jesus had a favorite name for himself. That Jesus preferred to call Himself the “Son of Man” didn’t keep Him from accepting the title “Son of God” when others gave it to Him. God the Father addressed Jesus as His Son at His baptism (Mark 1:11), and at His transfiguration (Mark 9:7). And Jesus didn’t correct the demons when they called Him the Son of God as in Mark 3:11. He didn’t correct Satan when he mentioned Jesus’ divine sonship at His temptation (Luke 4:3). The disciples called Him the Son of God. And when Pilate gave Jesus the opportunity to deny it and to go free, He didn’t take that opportunity.
The term “Son of Man” goes back to Daniel 7:13-14 and in fact teaches the special relationship between Jesus and God the Father. “I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.” “Son of Man” is a term which emphasizes the Messiahship of Christ. The two terms are not contradictory but augment each other.
The Maniac of Gadara: Matthew 8:28-34 versus Mark 5:1-20. How can we reconcile one scripture speaking about two people while the other speaks only about one? Have you ever met and talked with a married couple, and as either the husband or the wife spoke about their children, he or she would say, “My son, my daughter?” I’m not talking about children from another marriage, but children which they brought into the world as a married couple. Some people use that manner of speech, focusing on only themselves in that relationship. When Mark or Luke talk about only one of the demon-possessed men of Gadara, they aren’t necessarily saying that there wasn’t another man involved. It was just that there was only one who was the primary character as far as they were concerned. What did you have for supper last night? Most people would answer with the kind of meat or main dish that they had. What about the vegetables? Was there anything to drink? One answer is correct, but it doesn’t necessarily contradict someone else who talks about three things.
Matthew 12:40 says that Jesus would be in the grave as long as Jonah was in the belly of the whale. To the lost man the whole idea is preposterous. First, there is the contradiction between the Old and New Testaments about whales and fish. But this is not a contradiction, it’s only a matter of terminology. Then there is the problem that most scientists say that no such animals can swallow a man, and certainly no man could live inside the belly of any kind of creature like that. But that is a problem only to those who don’t worship an omnipotent God. But then there is the more practical question about the three days and three nights. Most of Christendom says that Jesus died on Friday, the day before the Jewish sabbath, and that He arose from the dead on Sunday morning. Even simplest mathematician knows that you can’t get three days and three nights between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. But other than the word “sabbath” there is no reason to believe that Jesus died on Friday. The fact is that the word “sabbath” which refers to a “rest,” didn’t have to be the usual seventh day of the week. Christ died during the Passover week celebrations which greatly changed the usual activities of Israel. Jesus did died on the day before a sabbath, but it was a special sabbath. Christ died on Wednesday and arose from the dead on Saturday night, leaving the tomb empty on Sunday morning when the women began arriving. There is no contradiction in the Biblical account, but there is in the traditions of men about the Biblical account.
In Matthew 13:31-32 Jesus made the preposterous statement that the mustard seed is the smallest of seeds. But does Jesus call the mustard seed the “smallest in size” of all seeds? Strong reminds us that the word “micros” can refer leastness in half a dozen different ways, including size, age, quantity and quality. The Lord Jesus was probably referring to the Black Mustard which does have a very tiny seed, but botanists tell us that there are other seeds which are smaller, like some of the orchids. But was Christ referring to all of the seeds on earth, or to just those seeds which his hearers knew?
In Matthew 16:28 Christ made a ridiculous statement or promise which obviously wasn’t fulfilled. Matthew 16:24 – “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.”
I think that the Kingdom of God is one of the great mysteries of the Bible. I think that it is as complex as any point of Biblical theology, and that most Christians only begin to understand it. And as far as the unsaved are concerned, it is next to impossible to understand. The Kingdom refers to the rule of God through Christ. It has aspects which are always in effect because God is always God. It has specific aspects which have not yet begun and which will not begin until the physical return of the Lord Jesus. And it has other aspects which have not yet begun, or which had not been seen, but which would be seen before the death of the first disciples. There are three logical explanations for Christ’s statement, all of which are possible. Some suggest that this was reference to the destruction of Judah by the Romans in 70 A.D., but I don’t think so. Some think that this was fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost when the power of the Holy Spirit filled the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, but again I don’t think so. I think that Jesus was referring to that which began to take place in the very next verse: the transfiguration. Some of the disciples to whom Jesus was talking: Peter, James and John, were given the privilege of seeing Christ in His glory. They heard things which could not be repeated on earth. They learned a little more about the authority of Lord of Lords and King of Kings. And, yes, that did take place before they died.
What about the differences between the accounts of the Rich Young Ruler. Let’s read Matthew 19:16-30; Mark 10:17-31 and Luke 18:18-30. Each account gives us more information about the event without contradicting the other.
How can we reconcile Matthew 20:20-21 and Mark 10:35-37? Who was it who came to Jesus with this request? James and John or their mother? Both, but it was their mother who was the leader.
There are many cases like this one, each with their respective questions: How many blind men did Jesus heal either going into or coming out of Jericho? How many donkeys were involved in the Lord’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Matthew 21:1-3 – “And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage, unto the mount of Olives, then sent Jesus two disciples, Saying unto them, Go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them unto me. And if any man say ought unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath need of them; and straightway he will send them.” Luke 19:28-32 – “And when he had thus spoken, he went before, ascending up to Jerusalem. And it came to pass, when he was come nigh to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount called the mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, Saying, Go ye into the village over against you; in the which at your entering ye shall find a colt tied, whereon yet never man sat: loose him, and bring him hither. And if any man ask you, Why do ye loose him? thus shall ye say unto him, Because the Lord hath need of him. And they that were sent went their way, and found even as he had said unto them.” How did Judas die? In one place we are told that he hanged himself, and in another place we are told that he fell to his death. Which is correct? Why can’t they both be right?
When Jesus spoke about Peter’s upcoming denial some say that He contradicted Himself. Matthew 26:34 – “Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.” Mark 14:30 – “And Jesus saith unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this day, even in this night, before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice.” There is no contradiction here because if the rooster crowed twice, it must have crowed at least once.
What was the wording on the sign above Christ on the cross? It seems that each Gospel gives us a different version of that sign. But they are in agreement of the message, and appear to refer to only part of the message. “This is Jesus the King of the Jews,” “The King of the Jews,” “This is the King of the Jews,” and “Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews.”
What about the various descriptions of the events of the Resurrection morning, aren’t they contradictory? No, even though each gospel presents different accounts, they are different accounts of different events. They are not contradictory. In almost every case like these, all we need to do is put the two or three scriptures together and we see that one account simply focused on one aspect of the event, but it doesn’t deny other aspects.
There are no genuine contradictions in the Bible.