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No, the Bible Does Not Contradict Itself. Here's How We Know

No, the Bible Does Not Contradict Itself. Here's How We Know

If you ever have a conversation about the Bible with someone, especially someone who is a skeptic or unbeliever, the question of contradictions in the Bible may come up. Some people have legitimate concerns over these things while some people use it as an excuse. They may say something to the effect of “I don’t read the Bible because there are contradictions.” Many people who say this have never read the Bible but are simply using this as a validation for not reading it.

This statement however does lead to the question, are there contradictions in the Bible? This is a valid question and let me give you the quick, short answer which is no. However, there are passages and texts that may appear to be in contradiction and those passage are worth exploring.

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Are There Contradictions in the Bible?

While there may not be contradictions in the Bible, there are passages in Scripture that are either hard to understand or require a closer examination of the text to give clarity. When you examine more closely, what you discover is that what may appear to be a contradiction is not really one at all.

It’s not possible to consider all the various texts in one article, so let me address one to give you an example. Let’s consider the apparent contradiction and then work through the steps to resolve it.

The Sabbath Day

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy” (Exodus 20:8).

“One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind” (Romans 14:5).

When you consider these passages, it seems like there is an apparent contradiction because in the Old Testament the Israelites were told to keep the Sabbath holy. In the New Testament this requirement is no longer necessary. Are they both right, or is one contradicting the other?

In the Old Testament, God established the law as a way for his people to separate themselves from the nations around them. He also established the principle of the Sabbath. Keeping the Sabbath was a requirement if you were going to live by the tenets of the law. The problem is that the law was God’s standard, but no one could keep the law and no one was made righteous by following the law. What the law did was make people aware of their sinful condition. 

In the New Testament, what we discover is that Christ came to fulfill the requirements of the law and offer a way of righteousness that could not be attained by following the law. By him fulfilling the requirements of the law it no longer required us to fulfill them to obtain righteousness, which we couldn’t do anyway. Our righteousness now comes by faith and not by adherence to the law.

“For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law” (Romans 3:28).

Since we are justified by faith, we are no longer required to be beholden to the letter of the law. This is why Paul makes the statement he did in Romans 14. If you choose to honor the Sabbath, there is nothing wrong with that. But honoring the Sabbath is not a requirement for righteousness.

I hope you followed the thought process here. As you can see, if you are ever presented with what appears to be a contradiction it requires a much closer examination of the text to bring complete understanding.

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How Do You Address People if They Bring Up a Contradiction?

What do you do if someone tells you there are contradictions in the Bible? I will be honest with you, most people who do not want to believe the Bible are not looking for an answer to this question. They would rather hold on to their unbelief or excuse because it validates their position. This does not pertain to all, but to many.

The first thing you need to establish is are they looking for an answer or looking for an excuse. If a person is sincerely looking for an answer, it is worth helping them find it. However, if a person is just looking for an excuse there is nothing you can say that will convince them.

What Should You Do When You Think You've Found a Contradiction?

If you should ever find an apparent contradiction in the Bible then there are two things I would recommend you do: recognize and research.

Recognize

The worst thing to do is to pretend it is not there. Don’t just say there are no contradictions in the Bible and leave it at that. It is ok and not a lack of faith to recognize that something appears to look like a contradiction.

In other words, it is ok to ask questions. It is only by the asking of questions that you are able to find the answers. When you don’t ask, then you are not prepared to address the question should someone ask you.

Research

The second thing to do is research. There are lots of different ways to research, but one of the first ways is to consider the languages the Bible was written in. The original languages were Hebrew in the Old Testament and Greek in the New Testament. Sometimes what appears to be a contradiction could simply be an issue with translation.

For example, in the English language we have one word for love. In the Greek there are four. Understanding the translation can give you some clarity in understanding the meaning of the text. This is just one example but there are others. What is clear is that there is enough information to clear up any issues so you can be confident there are no contradictions in the Bible.

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How Can We Trust a Book as Old as the Bible?

Here is what we know about the scriptures.

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

When it comes to trusting the reliability of scriptures here are a few things to consider.

The Historical Record – A large part of the scriptures is the history of nations. You can study that from a strictly historical perspective which can give you confidence and trust in the scriptures.

The Prophetic Record – You can consider the prophetic accuracy of the scriptures as a way of giving you confidence. For example, just study the number of Old Testament prophecies pointing to the coming of Jesus the first time and you will see the reliability and hand of God in these prophecies. You can also do this regarding what was said about some of the nations of the day. You can even look at what the Bible says about what is happening today. All of these are evidence and things you can rely on to help you trust the Bible.

The Human Record – When you consider the authors of Scripture and who these people were, it gives further evidence that there are no contradictions in the Bible. If the writers of the story were trying to collaborate or fabricate, they didn’t do a good job. They left within the stories of the Bible all the flaws of all the men and women of faith. They didn’t hide the faults. You are allowed to see their struggles of faith, doubt, sin, trust, and every other struggle these men and women had. It is in the humanity of the people that we gain confidence in the words that were written.

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Where Do You Go from Here?

I want to encourage you to do two things: Know what you believe and know why you believe it. Don’t be afraid to deal with what may seem controversial or contradictory; it simply requires that you do more research. The goal is to get to the place where you can do what Peter encourages us to do:

“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).

The Bible can be trusted and there are no contradictions in the Bible. As you learn more, study more, and grow more you will be able to see the hand of God at work in bringing together the truth of his word.

Related articles
How Do We Know the Right Books Made it into the New Testament?
How Many Books Are in the Bible and How Did They Get There?
What Are the Synoptic Gospels and Are They Contradictory?

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Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, Bible teacher, and co-founder of The Bible Study Club.  He is the author of The Pursuit of Purpose which will help you understand how God leads you into his will. He has also just released his new book The Pursuit of Victory: How To Conquer Your Greatest Challenges and Win In Your Christian Life. Do you want to go deeper in your walk with the Lord but can’t seem to overcome the stuff that keeps getting in the way? This book will teach you how to put the pieces together so you can live a victorious Christian life and finally become the man or woman of God that you truly desire to be. To learn more about his ministry please visit clarencehaynes.com.


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