House of the Righteous
 
Bible Difficulties and Contradictions
  Bible Difficulties
  General Observations about Bible Difficulties
  Classification of Alleged Bible Difficulties and Contradictions
  Efforts to Disqualify the Bible
   
  Additional Resources
  Bibliography
   
 
Bible Contradictions
 
 
Bible Difficulties
 
Voices in opposition to the Bible have been accusing it of contradiction for thousands of years, and it has had, and still has, a confounding influence on many believers' faith.  However, any person-to-person communication may result in some difficulties or misunderstandings at some point or another, and this is even more prevalent when the finite man attempts to comprehend the infinite God. R.A. Torrey asssert that it is not prudent to ignore or attempt to conceal the existence of difficulties and incompatibilities in the Bible. Even the Apostle Peter noted that there are parts of Scripture that are difficult to grasp, "in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest , as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. (2 Peter 3:16, KJV)
 
 
General Observations about Bible Difficulties
 

Some easily understood observations regarding difficulties in the Bible exist, for which a theological background is not required.

1.  When the finite man tries to understand the infinite God and His actions, difficulties are bound to arise  -  Although finite man can never comprehend the full extent of the infinite God, sufficient understanding for living an abundant Christian life can be achieved. The Bible is the venue through which God reveals His will and wisdom. Mankind, in its ignorance and limited, imprefect intellectual and spiritual development, can never fully comprehend a perfect, holy, sovereign God; just as a child, in his limited knowledge and development, cannot fully understand the intricacies and complexity of adulthood.

2.  The presence of difficulties or objections do not in any way prove the Bible to be untrue  -  It is wise to refrain from pronouncing every Bible difficulty as unsolved, because our understanding of Scripture continues to grow with time. Many, if not all, doctrines of science experienced opposition, difficulty and challenges along the way before being completely understood and accepted. It is illogical to disregard a biblical doctrine, or the entire Bible, just because some parts of it cannot fully be understood.

3.  All outlooks on origin have problems and difficulties  -  The issue of the origin of the Bible fall into two categories: supernatural and natural.   Since no person has observed the origin in a laboratory or otherwise, any view regarding origin is a matter of faith rather than fact.   Both views, natural and supernatural, have difficulties, however the supernatural view faces far less challenges. The person who believes the Bible to believe of human origin, is burdened to prove their hypothesis by accounting for all the fulfilled prophecy in the Bible, for its remarkable unity, its inexhaustible depth, its unparalleled power of lifiting men up to God, and other challenges.

4.  One's inability to solve a difficulty does not imply that the problem is unsolvable  -  Many problems with the Bible which used to be deemed unsolvable were solved through discoveries in archaeology, history, geography, language, or science. Many people have disregarded the Bible because they have found some contradiction in the Bible and was unable to reconcile it with their own limited knowledge. If man would humbly be willing to acknowledge his limited knowledge, and take the time to seek answers from those who have sought and found the answers, many difficulties would easily be resolved.

5.  The apparent problems in the Bible become negligible when they are honestly compared with the incomparable excellencies of Bible  -  No other book ever written has had such a profound spiritual effect on people as the Bible.

6.  History is our witness that the alleged difficulties are given much more weight by superficial readers in comparison to serious students of any type  -  Critics of the Bible are often found to know the Bible only superficially, whereas many serious and honest scholars in the fields of science, arts, or humanities recognize the depth and value of the Bible even though they may not be believers. A person who reads the Bible only for the first or second time may find much complexities therein, however, a dedicated person who endeavours to read it numerous times accompanied by indepth study, research and sincere inquiry would find that many alleged difficulties are easily explained.

7.  Many problems are artificially created by propagandists, and these do not have their origin in the Scriptures  -  Propaganda techniques appeal to the emotions and can be effective in circumventing the truth, facts, analysis, and rationality.  It is important to understand that this is an emotional strategy of attack and the motives of those attacking the Bible should be clear.

8.  Careful and prayerful study will resolve many difficulties  -  A person who seeks answers with an honest and sincere attitude is bound to discover answers to many difficulties posed within the Bible;  enough to convince him of the Bible's trustworthiness.

 
Classification of Alleged Bible Difficulties and Contradictions
 

The difficulties that the Bible is accused of can be carefully analyzed and categorized, which lead to the discovery that only about two dozen types of difficulties exist.    A good understanding of the common types of difficulties in the Bible will enable the believer to address old and new challenges as they arise. 

1.  The Original Text vs Subsequent Copies - It is a fallacy to think that Christians believe that the modern translations of the Bible are of divine origin and inerrant. The original manuscripts, which we no longer have, are considered to be the divinely inspired, inerrant, Word of God, and the copies and various translations that exist today are only substantially accurante renderings of the Scriptures as originally given. Errors due to thousands of years of hand-copying, and the nature of the original ancient Hebrew language (such as the lack of spaces, punctuation and vowels; use of capitals only; use of letters instead of numbers).   The crux of the matter is that copyist errors of spelling and numbers, do not affect the nature of the biblical message or doctrine.

Types of errors in copying manuscripts:
*  Dittography - Writing twice what should have been written once
*  Fission - Improperly dividing one word into two words
*  Fusion - Combining the last letter of one word with the first letter of the next word
*  Haplography - Writing once what should have been written twice
*  Homophony - Writing a word with a different meaning for another word when both have the exact same pronunciation
*  Metathesis - An improper exchange in the order of letters

Errors in the copies of the Bible do not imply that it is untrustworthy.  When the Bible was inspired by God, it was perfect.  Although we do not have the original, inspired manuscripts, the copies we do have are very close to the original.   Copies are not expected to be perfect.   God never said the copies would be perfect.   The copyist errors are minute in comparison to the entire Bible and they do not challenge the Biblical doctrines.

It is a fallacy to assume that we must throw out the entire Bible just because of a few copyist errors.   Compared to other ancient documents, the New Testament has far more textual evidence in its favor than any other ancient publication.

Author

When Written

Earliest Copy

Time Span

No. of Copies

Homer (Iliad)

900 BC

400 BC

500 years

643

Ceasar (The Gallic Wars)

100 - 44 BC

900 AD

1,000 years

10

Plato (Tetralogies)

427 - 347 BC

900 AD

1,200 years

7

Aristotle

384 - 322 BC

1,100 AD

1,400 years

49

Herodotus (History)

480 - 425 BC

900 AD

1,300 years

8

Euripedes

480 - 406 BC

1,100 AD

1,500 years

9

New Testament

50 - 90 A.D.

130 AD

30 years

24,000

 



2.  Inaccurate Translation  -  Due to the vast differences in vocabulary, syntax and meaning, any translation from one language to another can cause error in how the original author's message is conveyed.   The use of idioms and figures of speech further compound this difficulty.

3.  False Interpretation of the Bible
  -  The Bible teaches a particular thing, and man may interpret something contrary or widely different. Since no person can fully comprehend all human truth, no human can fully comprehend the whole divine truth.   The human mind automatically attempts to explain or interpret problems based on its biases and preconceived ideas.   The difficulty here is not with the Bible, but with the differing viewpoints of people.  Whenever an attempt is made to describe and interpret the actions and words of the infinite God using mankind's finite language and limited concepts, difficulties are bound to arise.

4.  A Wrong Conception of the Bible  -  Divine inspiration of Scripture does not imply that every word is from the mouth of God.   Scripture records the words and actions of God, as well as those of godly and ungodly men and angels. We must practice discernment as to the speaker in every instance by distinguishing whether an uninspired man is speaking, or an inspired man, the devil, an angel or messenger from God, God Himself, etc. and then judge for ourselves. Even Satan, although a liar, may speak truthfully at times.

5.  The Type of Language in which the Bible was written  -  Technical books on specific subjects target a specific audience and are quickly obsolete.  The Bible, on the other hand, was written for every person who ever lived, is alive today, and will live in the future; and in a language for the common person from all walk of life.  Prose, poetry and prophecy are all distinct and should never be confused.

6. Incomplete Knowledge of the Customs, History, Geography, and the Society of the Bible Times  -  Modern understanding of Bible times or any other time in history can progressively be enhanced as new discoveries are made, but it can never be complete despite the vast archeological and historical evidence in existence today.

7.  Ignorance of the Conditions under which a certain book was written, or a certain commandment was given  -  Books like Esther, Songs of Solomon, and Ecclesiastes are better comprehended when the cultural society during which time these books were written are considered. Other events, such as the slaughter of the Canaanites as commanded by God, is also better understood in light of the cultural and societal conditions of the time.

8.  The Many-Sidedness of the Bible  -  The multi-dimensional character of God's truth cannot be fully comprehended by the human mind who brings preconceptions, prejudices, and human philosophy to its interpretation.

9.  The Infiniteness of God and the Finiteness of Man's Understanding  -  Using human language and expressions to describe the acts and thoughts of the infinite God, may result in difficulties. We must always keep in mind that God is not bound by matter, energy, and time, as we are. Attempts to put an the infinite, omniprescent, omnipotent, spirit nature of God into material forms of expressions, are futile.

10.  Fallacies of Logic  -  Logic is fundamental to rational thought, reasoning and communication.  However, errors arise in interpretation when biblical statements from various locations are put together in order to arrive at a conclusion that contradicts the original meaning.   Fallacies of logic causes people to hear what was not said, deduce what was not intended, and conclude which are not warranted in the normal course.

11.  Misunderstanding the Precise Nature of a Statement  -  It is challenging to ascertain the correct affirmative, subjunctive, speculative, or figurative nature of biblical statements and then translate them in their precise form into another language.   The sincere person who studies the Bible in search of truth will be able to discern these subtleties, however a person who is intent upon discrediting the Bible will easily find difficulties in this area.

12.  Numbers  -  The use of numbers in Scripture relate to age, money, measurement, time, the  number of people or things, etc.   These numbers may be exact or approximate, just as numbers today may be exact or rounded off to an approximate value.

13.  Problems related to the Dullness of our Spiritual Perception  -  Even the most spiritually mature person is limited in their comprehension of spiritual matters. Difficulties, such as the doctrine of eternal punishment, can never fully be comprehended by mankind who have such an inadequate conception of the dreadfulness of sin.

 

As these various types of difficulties are studied, it is clear that they all sprout from our imperfection, and not from the inadequacy of the Bible. R.A. Torrey (3) states, "the Bible is perfect, but we, being imperfect, have difficulty with it. As we grow more and more into the perfection of God, our difficulties grow ever less and less, and so we are forced to conclude that when we become as perfect as God is, we shall have no more difficulties whatever with the Bible."

 
 
 
 
 
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Efforts to Disqualify the Bible
 
 
 
Project Reason - Scripture Project
Cross-References in the Bible    

Bible Cross-References

 

This legitimate and honest endeavour in an effort to visualize cross-references in the Bible, was conducted by Chris Harrison in collaboration with Christoph Römhild, a Lutheran Pastor.

Römhild contacted Harrison in October of 2007. He described a data set he was putting together that defined textual cross references found in the Bible. Together, they endeavoured to find an elegant solution to render the data, more than 63,000 cross references in total.

The bar graph that runs along the bottom represents all of the chapters in the Bible. Books alternate in color between white and light gray. The length of each bar denotes the number of verses in the chapter. Each of the 63,779 cross references found in the Bible is depicted by a single arc - the color corresponds to the distance between the two chapters, creating a rainbow-like effect.

 
This project served as inspiration to Project Reason, who then developed their own version of this graphic, depicting supposed contradictions in the Bible.
     
Contradictions in the Bible    

Bible Contradictions Chart

 

Visualization of 439 contradictions in the Bible taken from The Scripture Project by Steve Wells, and put in graphic form by Andy Marlow.

The bars that run along the bottom of the visualization represent the 1189 chapters in The Bible, with the length of each bar corresponding to the number of verses in each chapter. White bars represent the Old Testament and grey bars represent The New Testament. Each arc indicates a contradiction.

Graphic design: Andy Marlow
Inspiration: Chris Harrison

Click on the image to the left to view a large pdf version

 

Closer Examination:

At first glance, this spectacular graphic gives the impression that the Bible is riddled with contradictions that disqualifies its authority and inerrancy. This can have a severely disheartening effect on a Christian believer who do not spend the time to analyze these contradictions.

When starting to read each verse and it's cross-reference that supposedly point to a contradiction, it is quickly discovered that many of these 'contradictions' are unsubstantiated and bogus.

     

For example:

#1. How many men did the chief of David's captains kill? 2 Sam 23:8 1 Chronicles 11:11
 
When we actually compare these two references and their wider context, we find the following:
2 Samuel 23:8-13   1 Chronicles 11:11-15
8 These be the names of the mighty men whom David had: The Tachmonite that sat in the seat , chief among the captains; the same was Adino the Eznite: he lift up his spear against eight hundred, whom he slew at one time. 9 And after him was Eleazar the son of Dodo the Ahohite, one of the three mighty men with David, when they defied the Philistines that were there gathered together to battle, and the men of Israel were gone away : 10 He arose , and smote the Philistines until his hand was weary , and his hand clave unto the sword: and the LORD wrought a great victory that day; and the people returned after him only to spoil . 11 And after him was Shammah the son of Agee the Hararite. And the Philistines were gathered together into a troop, where was a piece of ground full of lentiles: and the people fled from the Philistines. 12 But he stood in the midst of the ground, and defended it, and slew the Philistines: and the LORD wrought a great victory. 13 And three of the thirty chief went down , and came to David in the harvest time unto the cave of Adullam: and the troop of the Philistines pitched in the valley of Rephaim.   11 And this is the number of the mighty men whom David had; Jashobeam, an Hachmonite, the chief of the captains: he lifted up his spear against three hundred slain by him at one time. 12 And after him was Eleazar the son of Dodo, the Ahohite, who was one of the three mighties. 13 He was with David at Pasdammim, and there the Philistines were gathered together to battle, where was a parcel of ground full of barley; and the people fled from before the Philistines. 14 And they set themselves in the midst of that parcel, and delivered it, and slew the Philistines; and the LORD saved them by a great deliverance. 15 Now three of the thirty captains went down to the rock to David, into the cave of Adullam; and the host of the Philistines encamped in the valley of Rephaim.
     
In order to prove this contradiction, the person asserting it must first prove that Adino the Eznite (who killed 800 men) and Jashobeam the Hachmonite (who killed 300 men), are one and the same person. Therefore, in order to call this a contradiction, we must first assume an error within the recording of names and lineages. "An argument that must assume an error in order to prove an error is an example of logical fallacy, called circular reasoning." (5)

 

It is interesting to note that on the Project Reason blog where this poster was being introduced, respondents eagerly commented on its effectiveness for refuting the Bible and excitedly requested larger sized images to post on walls, and wallet-sized cards to distribute to all their 'naive' Christian friends. Only two people out of 100 actually stated that it may be prudent to examine the content of the poster to determine its accuracy and trustworthiness, before jumping to the conclusion that IT actually proves the Bible's inaccuracy.

     
 
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Reference Books and Resources
 
The Big Book of Bible Difficulties
By Norman L. Geisler
and Thomas Howe
 
New International Encyclopedia
of Bible Difficulties

By Gleason L. Archer Jr.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Difficulties in the Bible
By R.A. Torrey
Free Download
Difficulties in the Bible by R.A. Torrey
 
 
 
 
 
 

Answering Alleged Bible Contradictions
The Divine Evidence

Bible Inconsistencies: Bible Contradictions?
By Donald Morgan

CARM - Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry
Bible Difficulties Introduction and Index

Christian Answers
Encyclopedia of Bible Questions and Difficulties

Cleared-up Bible Contradictions
- An extensive list of articles addressing Bible Contradictiosn
(The Bereans Apologetics Research Ministry)

Come Reason Ministries
Bible Difficulties

Countering Biblical Contradictions
By Bumbulis, Smith, and White
143 Contradictions and Responses

David Cox's Free Online Library
Various free resources, book excerpts, etc.

Introduction to Bible Difficulties and Bible Contradictions
- Extensive list of Bible Difficulties
By Matthew Slick
(CARM - Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry)

Objections - Subject Index
Rational Christianity
Lists of Bible Contradictions and Responses

TEKTONITRON Encycopedia Apologetica
Look up passages accused of contradiction and difficulties, and view their refutations

 
 

 

     
 
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Bibliography
 

1. Philip, Dr. Johnson C., Cherian, Dr. Saneesh. Analyzing Bible Difficulties. Kochi, India: Calvin Research Group.
2. Slick, Matthew. Introduction to Bible Difficulties and Bible Contradictions. CARM - Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry. [Online] 1995-2010. [Cited: January 5, 2011.] http://carm.org/introduction-bible-difficulties-and-bible-contradictions
3. Torrey, R.A. Difficulties in the Bible - Alleged Errors and Contradictions. Public Domain: First Pulbished 1907

5. Elton, Matthew. Does the Bible Have Contradictions? A Biblical response to Shabir Ally's list of 101 supposed "contradictions" in the Bible. Revised Version 3.5. 2009.

 

 

 

 

 
 
 
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