February 26, 2021, 01:47:07 pm

Biblical Contradictions

Started by DavidMcClean, February 02, 2021, 01:55:32 pm

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Hi there,

Interested on how you approach the whole subject of "Biblical Contradictions".

Atheists like Matt Dillahunty will suggest for instance a parallel reading of the Gospels - and I must admit I've done that and it is truly disturbing how many there are.

(Leaving aside the Gospels a quick Google search shows something like this : 101 Contradictions in the Bible. (answering-christianity.com))

Now of course believing that scripture is inspired and perfect then the "contradictions" must only be "apparent contradictions" that deserve an explanation that turns out to be then "not a contradiction".

One of the common explanations is that "the eye witness accounts in the Gospels - having differing details actually proves that the accounts are genuine".

For instance - if I see a car accident and Pete sees it - he's 400 yards down the road from me - the sun is behind me but it's in his eyes. He says that the "silver car hit the person in the road and sped off and it was a Nissan 370z". I say "the grey car hit the person and it was some sort of Porsche shape" would make sense.

But if Pete said that the car was silver and I said it was a red truck then that's too glaring to be taken seriously. In that case either Pete is wrong, or I am wrong or we are both wrong.

So how do YOU reconcile these differences in a logical and coherent fashion?

Reason I ask - I've been engaged in a conversation with a JW elder for about 4 years now, every few months he calls me and we usually talk for at least an hour about the Bible. We are getting to the point of a zoom call (still in lockdown sadly) and I am try to take my faith much more logically and it's leading me back to these sorts of questions.

I also have a very close friend who is a lead scientist on the Fukishima disaster and also a consultant on the C.E.R.N. project - and very atheistic in her views and only deals in fact and logic - "faith" does not work, it has to be reason-based.

Thanks! (And thanks again for the gracious replies in the other thread!)

Blessings to all



Perhaps a good way to start this discussion would be to highlight one of these "contradictions" that you speak of. That way, we can speak specifically about the text instead of providing abstract commentary. So can you list off one or two of the contradictions, and then I'll give you my thoughts.

"There is no charge for awesomeness -- or attractiveness."


Hi Pete,

Well for example look at the parallel readings of the account of the resurrection and then ask :

How many women went to the tomb? Was it Mary Magdalene by herself? Was she with the other Mary? The other Mary and Salome? The other Mary and Joanna and the "rest of the women?"

Was the stone already rolled away when they got there or did they see an angel come down and do it?

How many angels were there, one or two? Where were they? Were they in the tomb or sitting on the stone outside?

Who was the first person to see Jesus and where was He seen?

Where and when did Jesus appear to the disciples? Was it in Jerusalem or was it Galilee?

...literally reading through which I'm doing, shows dozens of "apparent" and "actual" contradictions.

Another example - The Gadarene demonic - one account says there were 2 men, and the other account says there was only one. At a basic level if someone gives a first hand account of an event and mistakes one person for two or vice versa, that's not an insignificant error.

If the accounts are both inspired and perfect then there must be no contradictions and it's a mistake in understanding right?

Wrong - 1 does not, and can never equal 2 - it is a logical impossibility....in other words I can only conclude one of the accounts in error in the detail - they cannot logically both be correct.

I hesitate to look for many more - it doesn't do the case of the inerrancy of the Bible any good in my book (no pun intended!).

But I don't believe blindly burying heads in the sand and not looking at these accounts and checking them out is wrong - after all the Bereans were commended for searching the scriptures to see "if these things be so".



Hey Dave,

What I was hoping for was a juxtaposition of two or three seemingly contradictory scriptures. That way we could discuss them. Not saying I'll have all the answers, but admittedly, I have not spent a lot of time examining apparent contradictions in the Bible. So if you could post 2 or 3 scriptures that seem to be in conflict, I would be happy to look at them and give you my thoughts.

"There is no charge for awesomeness -- or attractiveness."


Hi Pete,

Before I post let me state clearly I am not trying to undermine scripture - only to examine some concerns that I have noticed and that are mentioned on a lot of other sites - my only desire is to try and reconcile "apparent contradictions" that may not be.

That being said - here are a couple of examples :

Jairus Daughter :
Luke 8 : 40-56 - The woman with an issue of blood was healed, then Jairus' daughter was pronounced dead.
Matthew 9 : 18-26 - Jairus' daughter is pronounced dead, then a woman came up behind Jesus to obtain healing.

Gadarene Demoniac :
Matthew 8 : 28-34 - When He came to the other side into the country of the Gadarenes, two men who were demon-possessed met Him as they were coming out of the tombs. So extremely violent that no one could pass by that way"
Mark 5 : 1-20 - "When He got out of the boat, immediately a man from the tombs with an unclean spirit met Him"

These are a couple of simple examples that indicate a contradiction - one in the order of events, the other in the number of people that the story references.

In both examples (and there are many more) - I ask - "so which is it?". In the first example there is a timing contradiction, in the second there is a contradiction in the number of people that are the subject of the account.

If as we believe that all scripture is God breathed, then why the errors?

Again - I am NOT trying to undermine scripture - I have spent approx $600 on 2 Bibles in the last month - an RL Allan NASV and also an RL Allan ESV and I have spent more time in the scriptures over the last month than likely the last 30 years.

But a simple Google search will turn up a LOAD of inconsistencies - happily I will grant that a deeper study of scripture will reveal that "apparent contradictions" are "not contradictions". (e.g. Ephriam and Manasseh and first born / second born and how God explained that He had reversed the order - can't remember the exact verses atm).

That's why I say "apparent" contradictions versus "actual contradictions".

But without doubt some of the following are "actual" contradictions :

101 Contradictions in the Bible. (answering-christianity.com)

The bottom line for me - is not that there are "contradictions" - I couldn't care less on one level - as I am sure you cannot either. The Bible is wonderful, amazing and without question the Word of God. Indeed the more time I spend in it the more I amazed - no wonder we will take all of eternity to understand it's revelation.

My question is - in the case of my friends who are highly educated, intelligent and scholarly - what do I answer when they posit these "errors"? Do I answer that I've no idea? Do I admit the "errors"? Do I say that "only those born again will understand?".

You get where I am coming from I think, just looking an honest answer from a simple guy to other educated and intellectual non-believers - how would YOU answer these sorts of things maybe?



Thanks for the clarification, and the examples. 

I guess in the first example of Jairus' daughter, I personally wouldn't classify that as a contradiction. Yes, the order of events seems to be recalled differently by Matthew and Luke, but both accounts (healing the woman and raising Jairus' daughter from the dead) are recounted the same.

I often reminisce with my wife. We've been together since 1997 and happily married since 1999. Yet we often remember the finer details of incidents we've both lived through together slightly differently. Our human minds have only so much capacity. The finer details of what happened in the past sometimes get lost in our recollection, but we remember the same experiences overall.

So I guess in thinking about those types of "contradictions", that's why they don't bother me. The disciples wrote the scripture that was inspired by God, but they were subject to the same limitations you and I have on recalling the past. So if the details seem a bit different, that doesn't really seem all that surprising to me. On the contrary, I find it rather amazing how similar the accounts are despite our human limitations.

As to people who want to highlight these "errors" and how to respond to them, I would suggest that many people like that are simply looking for excuses, and even if you could explain to their satisfaction why there are these "contradictions", they'd simply find some other thing to nitpick. I would also say that it is not my job (or yours) to make people believe anything. It is the Holy Spirit that leads and guides people to the truth, not you or I.

"There is no charge for awesomeness -- or attractiveness."


Hi Pete,

Thanks for the reply - your statement -

"So I guess in thinking about those types of "contradictions", that's why they don't bother me. The disciples wrote the scripture that was inspired by God, but they were subject to the same limitations you and I have on recalling the past. So if the details seem a bit different, that doesn't really seem all that surprising to me. On the contrary, I find it rather amazing how similar the accounts are despite our human limitations."

...at first seemed like a bit of a cop out but on further thought seems entirely reasonable.

I think it comes down to "what does inspired mean?". Does it mean that God breathed every single word perfectly onto the page? Or does it mean that He chose (for reasons that are known to Him) that He chose to breathe his word into imperfect minds that were open to Him? If the latter - which I think is the case, then it would be reasonable that there would be "organic differences".

If I was God then would I have chosen to dictate scripture this way? Not at all....but when we have the full revelation of truth I have no doubt we'll realise that His way was the best way for reasons we don't fathom here.

This was the reason why I was careful to differentiate between "actual contradictions" and "apparent contradictions".

I think as well that you're correct that an unbelieving person could use these to make up excuses not to believe.

I find it interesting in Luke 16 that Abraham said that "even if someone rises from the dead then they will not believe".

Good answers and has put to bed this question / doubt / discomfort that I had - thanks :)

(Isn't it interesting though that once we believed and were regenerated that a lot of things that seemed "important" fade away into trivial).



I consider alleged contradictions to be opportunities to learn. There is something I am missing so let's find out!  :amen:


This is an interesting topic.

I think I would say, as you mentioned, that our understanding of the term "God-inspired" is the key to understanding apparent contradictions.

Using myself as an example, I lead worship at my church. I believe that God has called me to do this, and I strive to follow His leading in our worship. I believe that as I spend time preparing for our worship services that our worship is "God-inspired".

Does that mean everything I do in worship is flawless? Nope. I hit or sing wrong notes, I'm sure my musical preferences bias my song selections, sometimes I may not have the perfect attitude. Yet I still believe that our worship services are "God-inspired" and I am both honored and humbled that He chose imperfect me to play a part.

It amazes me that God chooses to include us in His plans, even though He knows all of our faults, failures and shortcomings.

"There is no charge for awesomeness -- or attractiveness."


Quote from: LittleRocketBoy on February 15, 2021, 11:48:48 amI consider alleged contradictions to be opportunities to learn. There is something I am missing so let's find out!  :amen:

What do you take out of this?


February 15, 2021, 09:52:30 pm #10 Last Edit: February 19, 2021, 03:10:11 am by LittleRocketBoy
I don't think the copies of the copies of the copies are inerrant.
The originals were likely written in Aramaic or Hebrew. These were then translated into Greek and or Latin. These were then translated into old English and then finally updated to modern English.
A lot of things can happen as these things are translated over and over again. The original was inerrant. Not these three-tier translations.
Look at the myriad of languages into which the scriptures have been translated. Literally hundreds. What are the chances that each of these are going to relate the events the same? Some languages may not have words that transliterate into the second language. There are Hebrew and Aramaic words that simply do not translate into English word for word. Look at the number of versions we have in English alone. I cannot count them all. They are all different. Which one is inerrant? There is only one that is inerrant... the rest would have to be wrong. I suggest none of them are exactly what the Spirit recorded in the original.
So I let go of the inerrant English translation long ago. While this may seem unpleasant to some, I think it is the most obvious and honest answer.
I know this is not what many want to hear.
This should not trouble us. I do believe the Holy Spirit will relate the truth.
Consider what the scripture says about belief and the process of believing. Truth that becomes faith is transmitted Spirit to spirit. It is not mind to spirit, it is Spirit to spirit.
In the end, that is, at the end of the day, the truth the Spirit has revealed to my spirit is the same as the truth He has related to every other spirit. I call this spiritual knowledge the "logosystem:" that is the sum contents of what the Holy Spirit has imported into your spirit. Jesus is and was the logosystem of God.  My logosystem may not have all the truth that is in yours nor yours mine. But that truth that we share in our spirits is exactly the same. The "words" we share are exactly the same.

So when I am approached by unbelievers (or unbelieving believers) I simply acknowledge they are correct. I do not try to defend a theory I do not believe in and really cannot be defended. If they still want to contend, I simply explain the above, and if they want to doubt... there is nothing I can do.
If the Spirit is drawing them... they will not be able to dismiss it or run from it.