Wednesday, June 29

Book Overview: Nehemiah

The Book of Nehemiah, written after the Babylonian exile of the Jews and within a few decades of the writing of the book of Ezra which proceeds it, conveys the account of the Jewish return to Jerusalem and subsequent attempts at rebuilding the great city. The book itself is thirteen chapters long. It relays the account of Governor Nehemiah's reconstruction of the nation's capital. Together with Ezra, which records the restoration of the Temple, it provides a record of the political and religious activities and events of the Jewish remnant which had returned from the Babylonian captivity. (Photo credit: Answers In Genesis, God's Word First)

This is the sixteenth Book Overview in a series of 66 Books. These overviews are written so that it may provide readers with details about the book, things that they may have missed, and will hopefully peak your interest so that you will read the book, the entire Bible in fact, as God wants us to do. If we do not stand on Biblical truth, our starting point for all areas of life. Now, onto the Book of Nehemiah.

One of Nehemiah's Walls. (Credit: Answers In Genesis)
Title: Book of Nehemiah (English), Nəḥemya (Standard Hebrew), Nəḥemyāh (Tiberian Hebrew). Ezra and Nehemiah were once one book, at an early stage. Since the time of Origen in the third century-BC, Ezra and Nehemiah have been divided into two books, as we see them today. Also, the Chronicles-Ezra-Nehemiah theory states that Chronicles contains material that was set aside from the rest of the book of Ezra, which was canonized before Chronicles. Though heavily debated, some scholars believe that Ezra, Nehemiah, and 1st/2nd Chronicles were originally part of one work. It ought to be noted, however, that this view is not held by all, and many scholars believe this is highly improbable.
 
Authorship/Written: (Taken from the previous entry) Ezra wrote the book of Ezra between 433-400 BC. The books of Ezra and Nehemiah were both one book in the original Hebrew Bible, and as such, are really Ezra-Nehemiah. The evidence seems to indicate that Ezra the priest was the author of this book, and there is no reason to suggest otherwise. Much of Ezra (specifically Ezra 7:28-9:15) is written in first person (the "I" point of view). Also, when considering Nehemiah 1:1-7:5, we find itself quoting "the words of Nehemiah," no doubt compiled by the priest, Ezra, from the firsthand account of Nehemiah, as Ezra had access to records and documents in the library of Nehemiah, from which he could glean information and events which he was not there to witness. Ezra 1:1 connects itself with the final verse in 2nd Chronicles, which, as we illustrated in the previous book overview, was also written by Ezra. The vividness and continuity of both Ezra and Nehemiah tend to indicate the writer was Ezra. Lastly, the Jewish Babylonian Talmud (Baba Bathra 15) credits Ezra as the author of this book. Ezra was likely the author of this book, though as with most Biblical accounts, secular scholars disagree on exactly who wrote it.

The book itself is post-exilic, indicating that it was written after the return of the exiles to Jerusalem, as this is the book's focus. Ezra arrived in Jerusalem after 458 BC, in the "seventh year of the king" (Ezra 7:8), and Nehemiah in 445 BC, which was the "twentieth year" (Nehemiah 1:1). Nehemiah returned to Babylon in the "thirty-second year" (Nehemiah 13:5), which is around 433 BC, providing that this book was likely written after 433 BC. Ezra and Nehemiah were written during the reigns of Artaxerxes I (Longimanus), who lived 464-423 BC, and Darius II (the Persian). He is not to be confused with Darius the Mede (Daniel 6) or Darius I (Hytaspes), who loved from 521-486 BC. The Babylonian captivity lasted seventy years, just as Jeremiah had predicted.


A common objection from skeptics regarding Nehemiah 12:11's mention of Jaddua, whom Flavius Josephus (first century historian) mentions was priest during the time of Alexander the Great, ca. 330 BC. As author Norman L. Geisler points out, "There are two possible solutions: 1) Jaddua's name in Nehemiah 12:1 may be a later addition included in order to complete the genealogical listing. 2) If Jaddua was very young, say twenty, in 400 BC, then he would have been ninety in 330 BC. This is not an impossible age span. Note also that the 'Darius' mentioned in Nehemiah 12:22 was not the Darius of Alexander's day (c.330 BC), but Darius II (432-404 BC). Likewise, the phrase 'the days of Nehemiah' (Nehemiah 12:26) is not a reference to a long past event but an allusion by Ezra to the chief contemporaries of his day (the references to Joiakim, Ezra, and Zerubbabel in Neh. 12:26 are of the same manner). We conclude, therefore, that there is no substantial reason to doubt the evidence that Ezra wrote the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah before 400 BC." (Geisler, 160-161)

Summary: "Nehemiah is the final Old Testament history book. It records the events of the third wave of Jews to return to Israel and shows how God can use one man to accomplish his purposes.." (Source: NIV)

Overview
Nehemiah 1-2 - The return of Nehemiah from Persia
Nehemiah 3-7 - The rebuilding of Jerusalem's walls
Nehemiah 8-10 - The law and covenant of the Lord
Nehemiah 11-13 - Dedication of the walls of the city 
Breakdown:
Nehemiah 1 - The prayer of Nehemiah
Nehemiah 2 - Artaxerxes sends Nehemiah to Jerusalem (ca.445 BC)
Nehemiah 3 - The builders of the wall
Nehemiah 4 - The opposition to the rebuilding
Nehemiah 5 - Nehemiah helps out the poor
Nehemiah 6 - Continued opposition to the rebuilding
Nehemiah 7 - List of Exiles who returned
Nehemiah 8 - Ezra's reading of the Law
Nehemiah 9 - Israel's confession of sins
Nehemiah 10 - A binding agreement of the people
Nehemiah 11 - The new residents of the city of David
Nehemiah 12 - List of Priests and Levites
Nehemiah 13 - The final reforms of Nehemiah

Ezra and Nehemiah were contemporaries (Nehemiah 8:2, 9). Ezra was a priest, and Nehemiah was a layman, former cup bearer of King Artaxerxes, who lived in one of the Persian capitals, Susa. What do we know about Nehemiah? He had his heart in his work (Nehemiah 1:4), he was a man of prayer (Nehemiah 1), he was also careful - seeking firsthand information about what needed to be done (Nehemiah 2:11), he left his secure job at the royal palace in Persia for a harsh life in the ruined city of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 1:3, 2:5), he inspired others to work (Nehemiah 2:17-18), he was not easily distracted from the work his heart was in (Nehemiah 6:3), and was intent on giving credit to God (Nehemiah 7:5). 

King Artaxerxes granted Nehemiah permission to return to Jerusalem. Nehemiah's brother, Hanani, had relayed the information in December 446 BC, and once word reached his ears that the walls of Jerusalem had been broken and the gates of the city had been burned, he left for Jerusalem in 445 BC. When he arrived, Nehemiah conducted a firsthand investigation, interviewing eyewitnesses and, having observed the broken and defenseless state of affairs the city was in, he proposed to the elders and rulers that the walls and gates be rebuilt. Nehemiah became Governor, and, despite opposition, finally completed the rebuilding of the walls and gates.

"At his own request Nehemiah is sent to Jerusalem as governor of Yehud, the official Persian name for Judah. Jerusalem had been conquered and destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BCE, and Nehemiah finds it still in ruins. His task is to rebuild the walls and to re-populate the city. He faces opposition from three powerful neighbors, the Samaritans, the Ammonites, and the Arabs, as well as the city of Ashdod, but manages to rebuild the walls. He then purifies the Jewish community by enforcing its segregation from its neighbors and enforces the laws of Moses."
Credit: God's Word First

Points: The book of Nehemiah is largely autobiographical in nature. According to extra-biblical sources, Ezra likely drew upon the diaries of Nehemiah when writing up this book. Between the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, about twelve years has passed. The administration of Nehemiah lasted thirty-six years. The narrative from the mouth of Nehemiah is found in chapters 1-7, and then from 12:27 on.
According to Clifford Wilson, "Sanballat was, as the Bible says, the Governor of Samaria (Nehemiah 4 and 6), though it was claimed by many writers that Sanballat was much later than Nehemiah. Several Sanballats are now known, and recovered letters even refer to Johanan (Nehemiah 12:13). Geshem the Arab (Nehemuah 6) is also known. Despite longstanding criticisms, Ezra and Nehemiah are accurate records of an actual historical situation. The letters about Sanballat clear up a dating point regarding Nehemiah. Nehemiah's time was with Artaxerxes I, who ruled from 465 to 423 BC, not Artaxerxes II. This illustrates the preciseness with which Old Testament dating is very often established by modern research." Essentially, yes, archaeological evidence does exist which gives credence to Nehemiah. In fact, part of the restored wall of Nehemiah can still be seen today, as excavations have revealed. 

Nehemiah 9:6 refers to the wonders of God, "You alone are the LORD, and made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, the multitudes of heaven worship you." Nehemiah also mentions historical events. Nehemiah 9:7, 9, 11-12 continues, "You are the LORD God, who chose Abram and brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans and named him Abraham... You saw the suffering of our ancestors in Egypt; you heard their cry at the Red Sea... You divided the sea before them, so that they passed through it on dry ground, but you hurled their pursuers into the depths, like a stone into mighty waters. By day you led them with a pillar of cloud, and by night with a pillar of fire to give them light on the way they were to take." Further reference is made to the Law given at Mount Sinai, the forty years in the desert, the conquest of Canaan, among other things. The consistency found within Scripture is simply another attestation to its unity.

Though there are twenty-three books following Nehemiah in the Hebrew Bible, the book of Nehemiah is the end of the historical narrative. Each book was written during one of the time frames recorded in Genesis-Nehemiah. For example, Jeremiah describes the events and prophecies leading up to the Babylonian captivity (627-585 BC), Ecclesiastes was written during the time of Solomon (ca.935 BC), Job was likely written by Moses during the forty-year wandering in the desert (1445-1405 BC), Amos and Jonah take place during the time of Jeroboam II of Israel (ca.793 BC), the like. 

Next Book Overview: Book of Esther
Previous Book Overview: Book of Ezra

Sources:
Geisler, Norman L. A Popular Survey of the Old Testament. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1978. 165-170. Print. 

Various. Zondervan Handbook To The Bible. Zondervan, 1999. 3rd ed. 331-339. Print.

Wilson, Clifford and Ham, Ken. The New Answers Book 1. 12 ed. Master Books Books, 2006. 316. Print.

Lee, Robert. "The Outlined Bible." London Pickering & Inglis LTD. 1st ed. 16. Print.

Hughes, Gerald, and Stephen Travis. Introducing the Bible. 1st ed. New York: Lion Publishing, 1981. 71, 82-83. Print.

Monday, June 27

Does The Bible Contain Contradictions? (Part Four)

Twenty centuries ago, a man named Jesus of Nazareth allowed Himself to be taken into custody by the Jewish authorities. He stood in front of Annas, then Caiaphas, then Pontius Pilate (prefect of Judea under Emperor Tiberius), was subsequently sent to Herod Antipas, and ended up back in trial before Pontius Pilate, where, after a private conversation, this Jesus was sentenced to be crucified under Roman Law. His sentence was carried out, and to be sure He was dead, the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, which brought forth a flow of blood and water, demonstrating that His heart had burst from the immense stress and pain He had undergone that day. Incredibly, His formerly despondent followers declared Him raised from the dead three days later. The Christian faith was founded on that supposition. *Note: This entry is double-length

In past entries, we have reviewed and examined the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus, discrediting the other theories proposed by secularists - from hallucinations to the disciples stealing His body, these have all been shown to be unreliable, leaving the only option to be a physical resurrection. According to Christians, God gave His revelation to mankind through the Bible, written by forty authors over a span of 1600 years on three different continents - yet all sixty six books demonstrating an elaborate and intricate inner harmony of one message: God's redemption for mankind. For years, however, skeptics have tried to dismiss all of this as mere fallacy, claiming that the Bible contains contradictions. If this were so, then the reliability of the Bible would come into question.

Author and apologist Paul F. Taylor wrote, "Some years ago, I was participating in an Internet forum discussion on this topic. Another participant kept insisting that the Bible couldn't be true because it contradicts itself. Eventually, I challenged him to post two or three contradictions, and I would answer them for him. He posted over 40 alleged contradictions. I spent four hours researching each one of those points and then posted a reply to every single one. Within 30 seconds, he had replied that my answers were nonsense. Obviously, he had not read my answers. He was not interested in the answers. He already had a a priori commitment to believing the Bible was false and full of contradictions. It is instructive to note that after a quick Google search, I discovered that his list of supposed Bible contradictions had been copied and pasted directly from a website." 
Taylor continues, "This anecdote shows that, for many people, the belief that the Bible contains contradictions and inaccuracies is an excuse for not believing. Many such people have not actually read the Bible for themselves. Still fewer have analyzed any of the alleged contradictions. It has been my experience that, after a little research, all the alleged contradictions and inaccuracies are explainable."[1] Indeed, with a little research and investigation, these alleged Bible contradictions are reconcilable or at the very least, a reasonable doubt can be created wherein we determine that there are answers for the "contradiction," regardless of whether or not we have discovered it yet. 

Hence the question is asked: does the Bible contain contradictions? In the previous three entries of this mini-series, we have reviewed such alleged contradictions and have explained - as well as reconciling - each of them. This series is not devoted to answering each and every claim that comes our way, but it is the intention of The Truth Ministries to demonstrate that these alleged contradictions are nothing more than theological misunderstandings or merely something the skeptic disagrees with based upon his or her own presuppositions. The contradictions answered in this final entry in the series are derived from the "Skeptic's Annotated Bible" website.

The first alleged contradiction we will review concerns Abraham and his children. "How many sons did Abraham have?", the skeptic asks. The skeptic cites Hebrews 11:17, "By faith Abraham when he was tried, offered up Isaac, ... his only begotten son," and Genesis 22:2, "Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, ... and offer him there for a burnt offering." These two verses appear to indicate that Isaac was Abraham's only son. Yet Genesis 16:15 records, "And Hagar bare Abraham a son: and Abram called his son's name, which Hagar bare, Ishmael," along with Genesis 21:2-3, "For Sarah conceived, and bare Abraham a son is his old age .... And Abraham called him Isaac." After the death of Sarah, "Then again Abraham took a wife, and her name was Keturah. And she bare him Zimran, and Jokshan, and Medan, and Midian, and Ishbak, and Shuah." (Genesis 25:1-2) Galatians 4:22 is also cited, "Abraham had two sons; the one by a bond-woman, and the other by a free woman." Do these verses as a whole present an apparent contradiction?

On the surface, perhaps. Note that when God called Abraham to offer Isaac as a test of his faith, and called him his "only begotten son," this was before Abraham had any children through Keturah. However, Ishmael was the firstborn of Abraham, and was hence born before Isaac. Why then is Isaac called his "only begotten son"? God was most certainly aware of Ishmael, as He had promised Abraham that Ishmael would be blessed among men (see Genesis 17:20), however, Ishmael was not the son promised by God to Abraham. Ishmael was the result of human interference in God's plan, attempting to take matters into their own hands. Both Hagar and her son Ishmael were sent away (see Genesis 15:4; 17:15-16, 21), because only Isaac was the promised son. After only Isaac remained, " "...he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, ‘In Isaac your seed shall be called'..."

God tells Abraham in Genesis 21:12 that "through Isaac your sons shall be named." Understand that in Hebrews, the word used for "only begotten" can also be translated as it is in the LXX as "beloved." Regarding Galatians, which states, "Abraham had two sons; one by a bonds-maid, the other by a free woman," note that St. Paul did not state, "Abraham had only two sons," but was setting up the context for what he was about to say, referring only to Ishmael and Isaac, not to Keturah's children. He did not say "Abraham had only two children, but, "Abraham had two sons..." and proceeds to describe which two sons he is referring to.St. Paul was not denying that Abraham had more children, but mentioning the children relevant to his message. No contradiction exists.


Another alleged contradiction leveled by the skeptic is, "Is it wrong to have sex outside of marriage?", citing Exodus 20:14 and Deuteronomy 5:18 (the seventh commandment), "Do not commit adultery," along with Hebrews 13:4, "Whoremongers and adulterers God will judge." However, Hosea 1:2, "And the Lord said to Hosea, Go, take thee a wife of whoredoms," and Hosea 3:1, "Then said the Lord unto me, God yet, love a woman beloved of her friend, yet an adulteress." This does not present a contradiction, but a misunderstanding of the role of the wife in Hosea's life and her purpose. Jesus Himself condemns adultery and clarifies as to what qualifies as adultery in Matthew 5:27-28, "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart."

As for Hosea, "In the book of Hosea, the LORD uses the marriage of the prophet to a harlot as a picture or figure to speak against the nation Israel and her harlotry before the LORD (turning to idols). In no way is the LORD or Hosea condoning adultery in this illustration, but rather, condemning the unchaste conduct of God's people. Read the verses mentioned in the context of the whole book, and it certainly will become much more clear."[2] Understand that the relationship between Hosea and his wife are to be symbolic of God's relationship with Israel, which was living in, essentially, spiritual whoredom by giving themselves over to "other gods." Hosea's relationship with his wife was to symbolize idolatry, and to get a message across to Israel. No contradiction exists.

Concerning the Ark of the Covenant, the skeptic asks, "What was in the Ark of the Covenant?", and proceeds to cite 1st Kings 8:9, "There was nothing in the ark save the two tables of stone, which Moses put there at Horeb, when the LORD made a covenant with the children of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt," and 2nd Chronicles 5:10, "There was nothing in the ark save the two tables which Moses put therein at Horeb, when the LORD made a covenant with the children of Israel, when they came out of Egypt." However, Hebrews 9:4 records, "The ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron's rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant." Does a contradiction exist here?

No contradiction exists, merely a misapplication of Scripture. At one point in time, the Ark of the Covenant contained a pot that had manna within it, as well as Aaron's staff and the Ten Commandments, which had been written on two stone tablets. However, at the time of King Solomon, the manna and the staff had been removed, likely during the time during which the ark had been taken captive by Israel's enemies. It is not unreasonable to assume that the enemies could have easily tipped out the contents of the ark without touching the Ark itself. Also, note that the context in which both 2nd Chronicles and 1st Kings describe the Ark in involve the same event: the dedication of Solomon's Temple. The Ark itself did not go missing until the destruction of the temple several hundred years later, so it is also not unreasonable to assume that perhaps these artifacts - the staff and the pot - were later added in the Ark. The historian Philo attests to the gold jar tradition, and it is not unusual for artifacts to become lost over time, history evidently demonstrates this fact. No contradiction exists here.


Another alleged contradiction presented by the "Skeptic's Annotated Bible" is, "What color is Jesus' robe?", citing Matthew 27:28, "And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe," along with Mark 15:17, "And they clothed him with purple, and platted a crown of thorns, and put it about his head," and John 19:2, "And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and they put on him a purple rob." Matthew states that the robe worn by Jesus during his final hours was scarlet, yet Mark and John state that the robe was purple. Does this present a contradiction? "Purple" in the context of the first century usually refers to a type of dye (see Acts 16:14), which was used to make cloth which ranged in appearance, from scarlet to purple. It is also interesting to note that both scarlet and purple are the colors of royalty. 

"Barnes comments, 'The ancients gave the name purple to any colour that has a mixture of red in it...' Wesley adds, 'The Tyrian purple is said not to have been very different from scarlet'" And Robertson also states, 'There are various shades of purple and scarlet and it is not easy to distinguish these colours and tints.'"[3] Note also that "scarlet" and "purple" are often used in tandem throughout the Bible, such as throughout the books of Exodus, 2nd Chronicles, and Revelation. It can be concluded that no such contradiction exists when Matthew, Mark, and John describe the color of Jesus' robe worn during His final hours. It was merely the colors of royalty - scarlet and purple, and we know that "purple" was often attributed to colors with a mixture of red, particularly scarlet.

One of the more interesting contradictions alleged by the skeptic is as follows: "Did Jesus forewarn the apostles of his death and resurrection?" Citing Matthew 20:18-19, 26:1-2, 26:31-32; Mark 8:3, 10:33-34, 14:28; Luke 18:31-32, the skeptic demonstrates that, yes, Christ predicted His death and resurrection several times. However, the skeptic then proceeds to cite John 20:9, which records, "For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead," as evidence that Jesus did not forewarn his disciples. It is evident from Matthew, Mark and Luke (the Synoptic Gospels) that Jesus did indeed predict His death and resurrection, yet the skeptic seems to believe that John's text presents an issue. 

"It needs to be acknowledged that hearing something and actually knowing something are not the same. The disciples had heard Jesus say that He would be put to death and thereafter raised from the dead, but they did not comprehend what He spoke about. The Greek word translated "knew" in the text is eido, which also appears in the previous verse. The word means "...to see...to know:--be aware, behold...consider,(have) know(-ledge), look (on), perceive, see, be sure, tell, understand..." (Thayer's) The disciples were not aware, they did not perceive or understand what the Lord spoke about. I find it interesting that the questioner lists Luke 18:31-33. Why not include verse 34? It reads, "And they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken." This verse wonderfully explains John 20:9. Though they had heard, they did not perceive or understand."[4] (For a much more in-depth look at this alleged contradiction and why the disciples did not understand, see here.)

The final supposed contradiction we will examine and review in this series is, "Where does God dwell?" Psalm 9:11, Psalm 76:2, and Joel 3:17, 21 state that God dwells "in Zion, [His] holy mountain..." However, Psalm 123:1 states, "Unto you I lift up mine eyes, O thou that dwellest in the heaven," along with Ecclesiastes 5:2 which states, "Let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth." There appears to be a contradiction: God dwells in Zion, but God dwells in Heaven. Frankly, there is no contradiction, but a misunderstanding of Christian theology and the nature of God. God does dwell in Zion, yes. Zion is the name used of Jerusalem throughout the Hebrew Bible - it was the hill on which the Temple was built, a mountain, if you will.

1st Kings 11:36 says, "I will give one tribe to his son so that David my servant may always have a lamp before me in Jerusalem, the city where I chose to put my name." Also, 2nd Kings 21:4 conveys, "He built altars in the temple of the LORD, of which the LORD had said, 'In Jerusalem I will put my name.'" Here, God reveals that He had chosen Jerusalem. Zechariah 8:3 also relays this truth, concerning God's dwelling. Psalm 139:7-10 answers this purported contradiction: "Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast." God is omnipresent, He dwells both in Heaven and in Zion - it is the theological misunderstanding of the skeptic and their misunderstanding of the divine nature of God that is in question, not the Bible. No contradiction exists.

Upon close examination and review of the Biblical record, we can safely conclude that the Bible - through historical data and archaeological evidence, is given much credence, and can remain the foundation of the Christian worldview. This is important, because "All Scripture is God-breathed [inspired] and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that all God's people may be thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2nd Timothy 3:16-17).

Troy Hillman

Sources
[1] Taylor, Paul F., and Ken Ham. The New Answers Book 2. 5th ed. 2. Green Forest, Arkansas: Master Books, 2009. 282-283. Print.
[2] "IS adultery wrong?." Answering The Atheist. Looking Unto Jesus, 28 March 2004 . Web. 25 Jun 2011. .
[3] "What color was Jesus' robe?." Answering The Atheist. Looking Unto Jesus, 11 December 2005. Web. 25 Jun 2011. .
[4] "Did Jesus forewarn his disciples about his death and resurrection?." Answering The Atheist. Looking Unto Jesus, 25 December 2005. Web. 25 Jun 2011. .

See also:

Thursday, June 23

Does The Bible Contain Contradictions? (Part Three)

The Bible, number one bestseller since Gutenberg's printing press, written by forty authors - kings, shepherds, tax collectors, doctors, historians, priests, prophets, fishermen, tent makers, across three different continents - Africa, Europe, and Asia - over a span of approximately 1600 years. The sixty six books of Biblical canon tell an overarching account of God's redemption of mankind, and by examining the Bible, we see that God slowly revealed His nature, finally coming in the flesh to redeem mankind (see John 1, Colossians 1, Philippians 2, Hebrews 1, 1st John 1). But does the Bible contain contradictions? It claims many times to be the inspired and perfect Word of God, yet if it contains contradictions which are irreconcilable and unexplainable, it can throw doubt on the "good book." (Photo credit: Hubble, The Passion of the Christ from Mel Gibson - 2004)

As with the previous two entries in this mini-series, the "contradictions" or "discrepancies" found within are derived from the "Skeptic's Annotated Bible," an atheistic site dedicated to finding everything that the atheist disagrees with in the Bible. While we commend the site for including a "good stuff" section and more often than not including Christian apologist's responses after discussing an alleged contradiction, much of these so-called contradictions are nothing more than mere theological misunderstanding, or something that the skeptic disagrees with, and based on his worldview, decrees it to be a contradiction, even though it is not. Understand that this mini-series is not about answering every single allegation found on the "Skeptic's Annotated Bible" website, but about examining and reviewing some of these supposed contradictions to provide a general idea of how these are easily reconcilable, or are at least explainable.

One such "contradiction" is as follows: the skeptic asks, "When were the stars made?" Citing Genesis 1:16-19, "He also made the stars. God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth... And there was evening, and there was morning - the fourth day." The skeptic proceeds to cite Job 38:4-7, "Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid it cornerstone - while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?" The contradiction is alleged as such: Genesis states that the stars were made on Day 4 of Creation Week, yet Job appears to be saying that stars existed before the earth was made. Does this not present a clear contradiction?

Photo credit: Hubble
Understand that when God utilized the phrase "while the morning stars sang together..." He was employing figurative language, as you will find in much of Job. Consider Job 38:30, "Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades? Can you loosen Orion's belt?" Here, God is referring to Pleiades, an open star cluster which contains hot B-type stars in the Taurus constellation, whereas Orion's belt is actually a constellation. It is evident that God did not literally mean for Job to answer about the star cluster or constellation, because God utilized these examples to illustrate His power, His majesty, and How we cannot, as humans, accomplish these things. Now, when we look at "while the morning stars sang together," ask yourself - do clusters of gas, i.e. stars, sing in space? Not likely. The text of Job 38 is referring to the glory of God's creation.

"The 'morning stars' are the brightest and most glorious of the stars, of outstanding beauty as they declare the coming of the morning. Here the Lord uses them figuratively to declare the beginning of creation, or the morning of creation. The fact that the stars were created on the fourth day does not preclude them from singing together the praise of God at the laying of the foundation of the earth. Have you ever had a wonderful idea, and you played out in your mind beforehand how things would work. You visualized the steps you would take, the successes you would attain, the goals and rewards which would come. God in His foreknowledge could surely envision the praises of His creation (Psalm 19:1; 148:3). The difference between the Lord anticipating such things, and us fantasizing of how and when our plans will come to fruition is that He knew that it would be so. We can only speculate when it comes to our plans."[1]

Another alleged contradiction involves Noah and the Ark. "How many of each clean animal did Noah take on the ark?" The skeptic cites Genesis 6:19, "Of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark," Genesis 7:8-9, 15, "Of clean beast and of beasts that are not clean, and of fowl ... there went in two and two unto Noah into the ark, the male and the female, as God commanded Noah," and Genesis 7:2, "Of every clean beast thou shalt take thee by sevens, the male and his female." At first glance, these verses appear to present a contradiction: was it two of every kind, or seven of every kind? First of all, regardless, there was plenty of space on the Ark - this is covered in another entry. But did Moses, in writing the account of the Global Flood, write a contradiction?

Look at verses 8 and 9. The NIV translation conveys, "Pairs of clean and unclean animals, of birds and all of the creatures that move along the ground, male and female, came to Noah and entered the Ark." The translation used by the skeptic uses "two by two." Understand that here, Moses is not recording how many of each kind (baramin) went onto the ark, but that as they entered the ark, the entered in an orderly fashion: two by two. In verse 2, God tells Noah to bring two of every unclean animal, and seven pairs of every clean animal (seven groupings of two - seven males, seven females). The NIV translation of Genesis 7:2 records, "Take with you seven pairs of every kind of clean animal, a male and its mate, and one pair of every kind of unclean animal, a male and its mate." No contradiction exists, merely a misreading of the text.

Another supposed contradiction concerns the "foundations of the earth." "What does the earth set upon?" Quoting Job 26:7, "He spreads out the northern skies over empty space, He suspends the earth over nothing." However, 1st Samuel 2:8 says, "The pillars of the earth are the LORD's, and he hath set the world upon them," and Job 9:6 conveys, "He shakes the earth from its place and makes its pillars tremble." Job 34:8 also says, "Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? Declare, if thou hast understanding." Does this present a contradiction? First, we ought to note that Job 26:7, which was written ca.1445-1405 BC, most likely by Moses, states, "He suspends the earth over nothing," indicating free float of the earth in space, yet at that time in science and astronomy, the commonly accepted idea was that the Earth sat on a large animal. Note also that Isaiah 40:22 records that the Earth is a sphere, whereas scientific thought of the time believed it to be a flat disk.

From these two verses, we can determine that the Earth is round and that it hangs upon nothing, essentially free floating in space. Job 26:10 also states that God "inscribed" a circle on the surface of the waters at the boundary of light and darkness. The boundary is a circle, and this is where evening and morning occur - the boundary of the earth, which, as noted in both Isaiah and Job, is a circle. Now that we understand this, does the Bible contain a contradiction when it mentions the "pillars of the earth?" It is possible for the Earth to hang upon nothing and yet still have foundations laid for it. Know and understand that the Bible, when referring to God having "laid the foundations of the earth" is not stating that the Earth sits upon pavement, or a pedestal, but it is referring to the creation of the world. Young's Literal Translation reads, "Where wast thou when I founded the earth? Declare, if thou hast known understanding" (Job 38:4). No contradiction exists, but a misunderstanding of a literary device.

Regarding St. Paul's conversion, the skeptic asks, "Did those with Saul at his conversion hear a voice?", and proceeds to claim that Acts 9:7 and 22:9 contradict. Acts 9:7 says, "The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone." Acts 22:9 says, "My companions saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of Him who was speaking to me." However, Saul was not converted on the Road to Damascus. This is a misconception, in Acts 9:6 Saul is told to enter the city and await instruction, Acts 9:9 records that he was in a miserable, blind state for three days, and finally, when Ananias came in Acts 9:17, then Saul became Paul, and was baptized with the Holy Spirit, but was not saved until after he was baptized for his sins (see Acts 22:16). Now that we are sure of the order of events, recognize that Dr. Luke, who wrote both Luke and Acts, notes in Acts 9 that the companions heard a voice, but when we read St. Paul's summary of the event on the road in Acts 22, he appears to indicate that the companions did not hear a voice.

Simply put, the companions heard the noise of the voice, as if hearing someone in another room through a thick wall, but did not hear the actual words that were spoken. This is not improbable either, as Dr. Luke never specifies that the men heard the voices - merely that they heard the voice. "A similar situation is found in John 12:28-29, where Jesus said, ''Father, glorify your name.' Then a voice came from heaven, saying, 'I have both glorified it and will glorify it again.' Therefore the people who stood by and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, 'An angel has spoken to Him.'' The people heard the voice of the Lord, but they did not hear the words that were spoken. Likewise, Paul's companions heard the voice, but they did not hear what the voice said. There is no contradiction."[2]

Concerning the trial of Jesus, the question arises, "Was Jesus silent during his trial before Pilate?" The skeptic cites Matthew 27:12-14, "And when he was accused of the chief priests and elders, he answered nothing. Then said Pilate unto him, Hearest thou not how many things they witness against thee? And he answered him to never a word; insomuch that the governor marveled greatly," and Mark 15:3-5, "The chief priests accused him of many things: but he answered nothing. And Pilate asked him again, saying, Answerest thou nothing? behold how many things they witness against thee. But Jesus yet answered nothing; so that Pilate marvelled." These two passages indicate Jesus was silent. The skeptic then quotes John 18:33-38:

Scene from The Passion of The Christ (2004)
"Then Pilate entered into the judgment hall again, and called Jesus, and said unto him, Art thou the King of the Jews? Jesus answered him, Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of me? Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me: what hast thou done? Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence. Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice. Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in him no fault at all." Lastly, he cites 1st Timothy 6:13, "I give thee charge in the sight of God, who quickeneth all things, and before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession." 

We ought to also point out Isaiah 53:7, the very prophecy which stated, "He was oppressed and afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He did not open His mouth." This prophecy did not specify that Jesus would not open his mouth at all, merely that at one point in His trial, He would remain silent. In past entries, we have examined cases where an event is mentioned by one gospel writer but not by another. This is not necessarily a bad thing, because if all four Gospels were exactly the same, we would 1) have no point in using all four, 2) know for certain that the four worked together to corroborate a fabricated story, and 3) would seriously question the Gospels. Thankfully, the Gospels are not all the same, and though they include material  from one or the other, it is a good thing, providing multiple attestation instead of multiple trickery, if you will. 

Matthew provides details of the trial, whereas John goes more in detail. But does a contradiction exist? Matthew 27:14 does say that Jesus did not answer Pilate, but in verse 12 we read, "When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer." It is this context that Matthew goes on to say in verse 14, "But Jesus made no reply, not even a single charge - to the great amazement of the governor." Pilate expected Jesus to defend Himself, yet He remained silent, "He did not open His mouth" (Isaiah 53:7). With this understanding, reviewing John 18, we determine that this conversation with Pilate was private, whereas the one recorded in Matthew 27 was in front of the "chief priests and elders." These two passages record two distinct events: Matthew 27 records Jesus in front of Pilate and the chief priests and elders, whereas John 18 records Jesus and Pilate in a private conversation, not in front of the chief priests and elders. In John 18:33 Pilate entered the Praetorium, and in verse 38, "he went out again to the Jews gathered there..." No contradiction exists.

In the next - and final - entry of this mini-series, we will examine and review several other alleged contradictions, and determine: does the Bible actually contain contradictions? Thank you for taking the time to read this entry of "The Truth," The Truth Ministries recognizes that not everyone will agree with our conclusions nor will they accept our stance on Biblical truth, however, feel free to email vexx801@yahoo.com (but we ask that you remain civil) or The Truth Ministries team at thetruth.ministryweb@gmail.com, visit our facebook page, or visit the ministry's main website. Take care, and God bless you. Troy Hillman

Sources:
[1] "When Were The Stars Made?." Answering The Atheist. Looking Unto Jesus, 10 August 2003. Web. 18 Jun 2011. .
[2] "Did those with Saul at his conversion hear a voice?." Answering The Atheist. Looking Unto Jesus, 24 February 2004. Web. 19 Jun 2011. .

Monday, June 20

Does The Bible Contain Contradictions? (Part Two)

In this second entry of a mini-series, we continue to review, examine, and reconcile alleged contradictions, discrepancies, or errors found within the Bible. As noted within the text of the previous entry, it is the position of this ministry - and ought to be for all Christians - that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, given to mankind via God the Spirit working through forty different authors over a span of around 1600 years, across three different continents, all with one centralized message: God's plan for the redemption of mankind. In the past, The Truth Ministries has answered objections concerning the authenticity of the Bible we have to day, illustrating the careful and meticulous preservation of the manuscripts, along with the predictive prophecy and archaeological credence. But does the Bible contain contradictions? 

If the Bible contained contradictions, it would considerably throw into question not only the preservation and accuracy of Scripture, it would throw into question its divine inspiration, and render the Bible unreliable as God's Word. The contradictions discussed and examined within this entry have been taken from the Skeptics Annotated Bible website. One such contradiction is as follows: Who created heaven and earth? Genesis 1:1 and Isaiah 44:24 say that God did - yet John 1:6-10 and 1st Corinthians 8:6 state that both Jesus and God did. But is there really a contradiction?

No, the skeptic merely has a theological misunderstanding. Jesus is God, the Bible attests to this on numerous occasions. The book of John is filled with references to the divine nature of Christ (John 1, 8:58 cf. Exodus 3, 10:18, 10:30, 13:13, 13:19, 14:6-11, 17:21, 20:28, etc.), as are the other Gospels. The name that Jesus used often of Himself is the "Son of Man." It has been alleged that he was claiming to be man, yet a examination of the historical context, in regard to the Jewish mindset of the time reveals otherwise. The Jews of this time were expecting the Messiah, and knew the prophecy of Daniel 7:13-14. It reads:

"In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into His presence. He was given authority, glory, and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and His kingdom is one that will never be destroyed" (emphasis added). The Jews understood that this could not be a reference to a mortal king, but a claim to deity. In fact, it was when Jesus claimed to be the "Son of Man," clearly claiming deity, that Caiaphas tore his robe and wanted Jesus eliminated (see Matthew 26:63-68).

Jesus healed the sick, raised the dead, and cast out demons, along with demonstrating a control over nature and creatures. While prophets of the Hebrew Bible accomplished similar feats, Jesus did something they did not: He claimed to forgive sins. Jews understood that only God could forgive sins, yet Jesus forgave sins as if it were His right to. Colossians 1, Philippians 2, Hebrews 1, and 1st John 1 also identify Jesus as God. Romans 10:9 identifies Jesus as Lord, (Theos) as does Dr. Luke when calling Christ the "Lord of the Sabbath" (Luke 6:5). Paul identifies Jesus as God in Ephesians 4:4-6, as well as Titus 2:13, "while we wait for the blessed hope - the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ" (emphasis added).  There is no such contradiction, as Jesus Christ is God in the flesh. (For more information, see entry: "Is Jesus Really God?")

Another alleged contradiction involves Jonah. Jonah was a prophet from Gath Hepher, who had restored the "boundaries of Israel from Lebo Hamath to the Dead Sea, in accordance with the word of the Lord, the God of Israel, spoke [to Jonah]." (2nd Kings 14:25) In the book of Jonah, we read more about this prophet. The skeptic claims that a contradiction exists: "Was Jonah swallowed by a fish or a whale?" The skeptic quotes Jonah 1:17, "Now the LORD provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights." Matthew 12:40 is then quoted, and the text which is quoted is as follows, "For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale's belly." The reader may be curious as to what the issue is.

The issue is simply this: although whales bear the appearance of fish, according to experts, whales are not fish. Whales breath with lungs and not gills, hence the reason they must surface regularly for air, whales do not lay eggs but rather give birth to - and nurse - their young, and whales have hair, not scales as fish do. The word ketos is used to describe the creature which swallowed Jonah up. It has been noted in older entries that there are different translations, but most translations identify ketos with "a great [or huge] fish," not a whale. That Jonah was swallowed by a whale is found within children's storybook depictions, but regardless, it is possible that both Jonah and Jesus actually said a whale, not a fish. It is our translation of the word ketos that is central. Therefore, we can conclude that there is no contradiction here - just a misuse of different translations.

Yet another supposed contradiction involves the location where Moses received the Ten Commandments and the Old Covenant. Several verses in Exodus, along with Leviticus 26:46, 27:34 and Nehemiah 9:13 state that it was at Mount Sinai, whereas 1st Kings 8:9, 2nd Chronicles 5:10 and Malachi 4:4 state that it was at Mount Horeb. According to the Wikipedia article, "though there is a small body of opinion that Sinai and Horeb were different locations, they are generally considered to have been different names for the same place." The Encyclopedia Britannica will take you to the Mount Sinai entry if you search for Mount Horeb. For centuries, the two mountains have been regarded as the same Mountain. There is no contradiction.

A claim of an alleged contradiction concerning Paul and Jesus has also been leveled. It asks, "Did Paul see Jesus on the road to Damascus?" In support of "yes," the skeptic cites 1st Corinthians 9:1, "...Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?" (note that, in reference to the earlier point regarding Jesus, Paul here calls Him Lord). In support of "no," the skeptic cites Acts 9:8, "Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by hand into Damascus." Verse 9 continues, "For three days he was blind..." The skeptic also cites 1st Corinthians 15:8, "And last of all He appeared to me..." But do these verses present an actual contradiction? Not at all. 

If anything, the skeptic could have reworded 1st Corinthians 9:1 in support of "no," but aside from this, nowhere does Paul state that He had not seen Jesus. Acts 9:8, "Saul got up...he could see nothing" takes place directly after Paul has seen Jesus. Acts 9:4-8 records, "He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, 'Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?' 'Who are you, Lord?' Saul asked. 'I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,' He replied. 'Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.' The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing..." The quote was taken out of context. Paul evidently heard and saw the risen Lord - but his companions only heard him. He notes several times that he saw a light and heard Christ in the book of Acts, all within chapters of the event's occurrence.

But what about 1st Corinthians 15? In his book, The Case for Christ, Lee Strobel interviews several experts - archaeologists, historians, scholars, etc., who make a case for 1st Corinthians 15:3-7 actually having been a creed passed on to Paul around 35 AD when he was in Jerusalem (see Galatians 1:17-21). Paul, having seen Christ, adds that "and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born." The skeptic excludes Paul's "also," inferring that He had seen Jesus. In its entirety, 1st Corinthians 15:3-8 (including Paul's addition to the creed concerning himself) reads:

"For what I received [the creed] I passed on to you as first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas [Peter], and then to the Twelve. After that, He appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. [have died] Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all He appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born." Taken in context, Paul is clearly stating in his letter to the church at Corinth (written ca.55 AD) that he had seen Jesus as well. There is no contradiction, but a clear misquoting and misapplication of Scripture. Even if Paul had not been referring to the incident on the road to Damascus, Dr. Luke records that Jesus visited Paul on more than one occasion throughout the book of Acts - in physical form.

Concerning Paul's visitation of the disciples, the Skeptics Annotated Bible claims a contradiction. Acts 9:26-28 is quoted as, "And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. And he was with them coming in and going out at Jerusalem" Following this, Galatians 1:18-19 is quoted, "Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days. But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord's brother." The contradiction is alleged as follows: Did Paul visit all of the disciples when he went to Jerusalem after his conversion?

Note that in Acts 9:26-28, nowhere does it state that Paul visited all of the disciples (or apostles), it says, "he assayed to join himself to the disciples... brought him to the apostles..." The does does that state that all of the disciples/apostles met with Paul, just "the disciples/the apostles." It does not necessitate nor should we assume that this means all of them, Paul clears this up when he conveys in Galatians that he only visited Peter and James, brother of Jesus. There is no contradiction, merely a misunderstanding of the text on the part of the skeptic leveling the claim. Another supposed contradiction concerns Enoch, who lived in the time before the Global Flood.

Enoch
According to skeptic, the genealogies in Genesis 5:3-18, 1st Chronicles 1:2, and Luke 3:37-38 state that Enoch is the sixth from Adam, however, Jude 14 records, "And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam...". Could this be a contradiction in the Biblical record? Genesis 5:3-18 records, "Adam... had a son... Seth... [who] became the father of Enosh... [who] became the father of Kenan... [who] became the father of Mahalalel... [who] became the father of Jared... [who] became the father of Enoch." 1st Chronicles 1:1-2 records, "Adam, Seth, Enosh, Kenan, Mahalalel, Jared, Enoch...", and Luke 3:37-38 records, "...the son of Enoch, the son of Jared, the son of Mahalalel, the son of Kenan, the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God." If Adam is not counted, Enoch would be the sixth from Adam, however, if Adam is included, Enoch is the seventh from Adam. 

Genesis, 1st Chronicles and Luke all agree on the lineage in the genealogy. Jude 14 did not convey that there was an additional person in the lineage nor did it exclude any of those in the lineage, if it had, on that basis it would have been a contradiction. Yet Jude 14 merely states, "Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about them: 'See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of His holy ones..." By excluding Adam from one the seven, the skeptic is basing his claim on a non-existent contradiction. From Adam to Enoch seven generations exist, the text of Jude specifies this, and the text found in Genesis, 1st Chronicles and Luke provides for this. There is no contradiction, merely a misapplication and an unfounded assumption by the skeptic.

In the final contradiction we will review in this entry of the mini-series, the "Skeptic's Annotated Bible" asks, "Did Adam die on the day he ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil?" Genesis 2:17 is cited as, "But of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die," along with Genesis 3:6, "And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food ... she took of the fruit therof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat," and Genesis 5:5, "And all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years: and he died." If God had told Adam that he would die if he ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and not only die but die the day of - would this not be considered a contradiction?

No, and there are two reasons why. The first, just as God had said, it happened. Adam did not die a physical death, nor had God specified it would be - Adam died a spiritual death, although the gradual process which would culminate 930 years later in his physical death began that day as well. Romans 3:23, Ephesians 2:5, Colossians 2:13, 1st Timothy 5:6 and James 1:15 all specify that death is a result of sin. Isaiah 59:1-2 and 2nd Thessalonians 1:8-9 tell us that spiritual death is separation from God, and the day upon which Adam disobeyed a direct command of the Creator and ate of the tree, he died spiritually. The second reason is simply this: Genesis 3:21 records, "The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them." Many biblical scholars agree that this was likely the first offering, and as such, may have been a lamb - to atone for the sins of Adam and Eve so that they would not die that day, and to clothe them. (Ultimately, Jesus became the final "lamb.")

On the basis of the second reason, some have argued that this negates the fact that God's word was true. If God helped - or showed - Adam and Eve how to sacrifice, as He must have at some point as evidenced by the sacrifices of their children, Cain and Abel (Genesis 4:3-7), none of this negates the veracity of the word given to Adam by God - because Adam still died a spiritual death, therefore validating God's words to Adam. There is no contradiction here, but yet another misunderstanding of God's Word. While some contradictions may be difficult to answer or reconcile, as Christians we ought to believe that there is an answer, perhaps we simply have not found it yet. The veracity of God's Word ought not be determined based on whether or not a minor detail appears contradictory when in reality it is actually supplementary and easily explained. 

The Truth Ministries would like to thank you for taking the time to read this entry of "The Truth." This is the second entry in a mini-series on answering alleged contradictions within the Bible. We understand that not all readers will agree with our conclusions or beliefs, but it is our mission to educate, inform, and if possible, lead to Christ, though only the Holy Spirit can guide you the full length, not us. Feel free to email vexx801@yahoo.com or The Truth Ministries team at thetruth.ministryweb@gmail.com, but please remain civil in your email, and we will get back to you when we can. Be sure to also visit our facebook page or our ministry website. Take care, and God bless you. Troy Hillman

Sunday, June 19

Does The Bible Contain Contradictions? (Part One)

For years, it has been claimed by many skeptics and critics that the Bible contains alleged contradictions. Since the Law of Non-Contradiction essentially states you cannot have A and Non-A both be true at the same time, one would be in error if a contradiction was truly found, and it would throw into question the historicity, accuracy, preservation, reliability, and inerrancy of the Biblical account. In past entries, we have attempted to establish a credible basis upon which the accuracy, preservation and historicity of the Biblical record rest. But if such contradictions exist, it would create an issue that could not be ignored. In this mini-series, we will attempt to examine these alleged contradictions - and try to reconcile these. 

Having recently come upon the website titled the "Skeptics Annotated Bible," The Truth Ministries examined much of these alleged contradictions, and for each one which was review, an answer was easily found. More often than not, these so-called contradictions were nothing more than a mere theological misunderstanding on the part of the accuser, or a historical misunderstanding - and in some cases, a misunderstanding due to translations. Understand that it is not our intention to answer each and every "contradiction," as there are around 6000 "errors, contradictions, and discrepancies." However, if the reader has a question which he seeks an answer to in regard to these, feel free to utilize our ministry email attached to the bottom of this entry, and we will answer when we can.

Note that it is admirable of the atheist owner(s) of the "Skeptic's Annotated Bible" website to include a "Good Stuff" section of things found within the Bible, and with most of the alleged contradictions, a link or sometimes several links are provided to answers given by Christians, notably certain Apologetics ministries. Now, let us examine some of these "contradictions" or "discrepancies," and answer as best as possible. Understand that just like everyone else, we do not have all the answers, but as an Apologetics Ministry, must do our best to provide the answers people seek.

One such "contradiction" is - How long does God's anger last? Psalm 30:5 says, "For his anger lasts only a moment...", along with Jeremiah 3:12, "I will not be angry forever...", and Micah 7:18, "You do not stay angry forever but delight to show your mercy." The "contradiction" appears through these: "...you have kindled my anger and it will burn forever" (Jeremiah 17:4), along with a reference to Hell and the forty years in the desert. How do we answer such claims? The length of God's anger is dependent upon what he or she has done, not what they have done to make it right - this is true with anyone. In terms of Psalm 30:5, here, the anger of the Lord is contrasted with His favor, as His desire is to save and give life - it is His anger over our sin that shows us the need for eternal life through Christ.

But the word itself is what calls the verse into question. If at one point God says His anger will last "forever" and yet at another says His anger lasts "only a moment," this appears to be a contradiction, right? Not exactly. The word "forever" in Hebrew is "owlam," which refers to a long duration. Essentially, the point is that "forever" and "eternally" in Hebrew have different meanings. When we read in English translations that something lasts "forever," it means only a long duration - not for eternity. This is not a contradiction, but a misunderstanding due to the Greek to English translations. As for the forty years in the desert, God had punished Israel as a result of their disobedience. The text itself (referring to Numbers 32:13) did not say that God was angry with Israel for the entire forty years. On the contrary, God daily provided Israel with food and watched over them in His protection.

Another alleged contradiction is in regard with the Tower of Babel. The skeptic claims that, since in Genesis 10:5 we read, "From these the maritime peoples spread out into their territories by their clans within their nations, each with its own language. Verse 20 and 21 also mention "by their clans and languages." Yet in the following chapter we read, "Now the whole world had one language and a common speech." (Genesis 11:1) At first glance, this appears to be a contradiction - Genesis 10 refers to people separated by their clans and nations, yet Genesis 11 states that there was only one language, and that as a result of the Tower of Babel, "...the LORD confused the language of the whole world. From there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth" (Genesis 11:9).

How, then, can this contradiction be reconciled? Simply put, Genesis 10 is the "Table of Nations," a genealogy of the three sons of Noah - Japheth, Ham, and Shem - and their descendants. Genesis 10 and 11 do not follow chronologically with one another. Much like Genesis 1 and 2, though many claim there are two contradicting accounts of creation, both chapters merely build upon the next. Genesis 1 and 2 are supplementary and complimentary, with Genesis 2 expounding upon Day 6. As for Genesis 10 and 11, Genesis 10:5 makes reference to the spreading out of people, as does verse 25 referring to Peleg born during the division of the people through language. 

In other words, after ending each genealogy, Moses decided to begin the next chapter by expounding upon a major event which happened between after the Global Flood and the end of the genealogy. In fact, Nimrod, who was a key player in regard to the Tower of Babel, is mentioned in Genesis 10:8-10, "Cush was the father of Nimrod, who became a mighty warrior on the earth. He was a mighty hunter before the LORD; that is why it is said, 'Nimrod, a mighty hunter before the LORD.' The first centers of his kingdom were Babylon, Uruk, Akkad, and Kalneh, in Shinar." Shinar was the plain on which the Tower of Babel was built (Genesis 11:2), which is Babylonia. The fact that more than one language is mentioned at the end of each genealogy is another important factor to consider: this is not a contradiction of the number of languages. The Bible is clear that there was one language until after the Tower of Babel, and the previous chapter makes mention of this, then goes into more detail. This is not a contradiction, but another simple misunderstanding of the text.

Perhaps one of the easiest contradictions to answer is the following. The skeptic claims that there is a contradiction over who buried the body of Jesus, citing the following references: Matthew 27:57-60, "When the even was come, there came a rich man of Arimathaea, named Joseph, who also himself was Jesus' disciple: He went to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be delivered. And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, And laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulcher, and departed." Mark 15:43-46, "Joseph of Arimathaea ... took him down, and wrapped him in the linen, and laid him in a sepulcher" Luke 23:50-53, "Joseph ... of Arimathaea ... took it down, and wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a sepulcher" 

John 19:38-42 reads, "Joseph of Arimathaea ... took the body of Jesus. And there came also Nicodemus.... Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulcher, wherein was never man yet laid. There laid they Jesus...", and finally, Acts 13:27-29, "For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning him. And though they found no cause of death in him, yet desired they Pilate that he should be slain. And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulcher." The skeptic's claim is that Matthew, Mark, and Luke (the Synoptic Gospels) provide that it was only Joseph of Arimathaea who buried Jesus, with John conveying that it was both Joseph and Nicodemus, and finally, Acts claiming it was "...those who dwell in Jerusalem, and their leaders."

"For there to be a contradiction between the synoptic gospels and John's account of the burial, Matthew, Mark or Luke must indicate that Joseph buried Jesus alone, without any other present. None of them do. John gives us more information than the synoptics, adding that Nicodemus was also present. However, the information given in these 4 accounts is not contradictory. Acts 13 speaks Jesus' death and burial, and attributes his being laid in a tomb to "...those who dwell in Jerusalem, and their leaders..." I am unsure how the questioner considers this to be contradictory. Joseph of Arimathaea was "prominent council member" (Mk 15:43; Lk 23:50), and Nicodemus was a "Pharisee" and "ruler of the Jews" (Jn 3:1). It is also entirely possible that there were others who helped with the burial. None of the texts mention others, but none of the texts exclude the possibility either. There is no contradiction here."[1]

The skeptic also claims that there is a contradiction over who appeared to Moses in the Burning Bush. Exodus 3:2 says, "There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush..." However, Exodus 3:4 says, "When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, 'Moses! Moses!' And Moses said, 'Here I am.' 'Do not come any closer,' God said... "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.'" Mark 12:26 repeats this last claim, and in Acts 7:35 we read, "...through the angel who appeared to him in the burning bush." Which appeared to Moses, then - an angel, or God Himself?

Both appeared to Moses. The word angel itself is also translated as "messenger." Many Biblical scholars agree that each appearance of the "Angel of the Lord," or rather, "Messenger of the Lord," is the Pre-Incarnate Jesus Christ. Jesus is God (John 1, 10:30; Romans 10:9; Colossians 1; Philippians 2; Hebrews 1; etc), and as God, He is the only visible form. God the Father makes it clear to Moses in Exodus 33 that "No one may see me and live," and as the Holy Spirit is just that - Spirit, the only physical form of God which has appeared to man in the flesh - not in visions, as with Isaiah or others, but in physical form - is God the Son, who is Jesus Christ. This is not a contradiction, but a lack of understanding of theology. The Angel of the Lord, or rather, Messenger of the Lord, is God - Jesus, who is God the Son. (For more information, see entry, "Who Is 'The Angel of the Lord?'", "The Holy Trinity (Part Two)", and "Is Jesus Really God?")

Yet another alleged contradiction involves Jesus - and a Roman centurion. Matthew 8:5-8 record a centurion coming to Jesus to talk to Him about healing his paralyzed servant. However, Luke 7:1-7 states that a servant of the centurion came to Jesus and conveyed the information given to him by the centurion. This presents what many claim to be a contradiction - or does it? Dr. Luke, a careful historian and physician, records that the servant(s) came to Jesus, conveyed it Him, and He came with them. But when Jesus approached, the centurion sent another servant, who conveyed the message that he was not worthy to have Jesus enter his household. 

"In both Matthew and Luke's account, we read the centurion's short discourse on authority, in Matthew, as it were from his own mouth, in Luke, as given from the centurion through his friends. Our answer is found in the authority which the centurion possessed. He could speak to one and say, "Do this", and it would be done, or to another, and say "Do that", and it would be done. Those who are sent are not accomplishing their own will, but that of the centurion. They are not speaking or acting for themselves, but for the centurion. When the Jewish elders and the centurion's friends came, they came in his place. Matthew, focusing on the miracle, and not the particular details, doesn't bother to mention that the centurion said these things through representatives. Luke, a detail oriented writer, is more specific."[2] Consider: if the President of the United States sent out a message to the media to convey to the people, they would speak for the President, relaying his message. This is exactly what the centurion's servant did - there is no contradiction.

The skeptic also claims a contradiction regarding the length of the Earth's existence. We read that "The righteous will inherit the land and dwell in it forever" (Psalm 37:29), "the earth that He established forever" (Psalm 78:69), "He set the earth on its foundations, it can never be moved" (Psalm 104:5), and "Generations come and go, but the earth remains forever" (Ecclesiastes 1:4). However, we read in Psalm 102:25-26, "In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment." Several times Jesus also said, "Heaven and earth shall pass away..." Also, the Bible consistently refers to "new heavens and a new earth" (Isaiah 65:17). 

Malachi 4 also refers to the end of the present heavens (earth's atmosphere, outer space, and God's Abode) and earth, as does 2nd Peter 3:17, "By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly." Verse 10 continues, "But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare." Verse 12b concludes, "That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat." Revelation 21 is an entire chapter dedicated to what will transpire on the new heavens and new earth. Therefore, a contradiction must exist, since the Bible says that the heavens and earth will last "forever," yet also says it will be destroyed, correct?

As noted earlier, "The word forever appears some 382 times in Scripture, most commonly rendered in the Old Testament through the Hebrew word owlam, and in the New Testament with the Greek eis aion. The word forever has a variety of meanings, including "...long duration, unbroken age, perpetuity of time, antiquity, ancient, old, everlasting, evermore, perpetual, always, indefinite or unending, eternity..." (Strong's, Thayer's). The word need not mean eternal, without end, as the questioner has supposed."[3] From this, and noting that the Psalms are written in a poetic format, we can conclude that no such contradiction exists.

The final contradiction which we will examine within the confines of the first entry in this mini-series on answering contradictions is as follows: the skeptic quotes Psalm 90:10, "The days of our years are threescore years and ten." Yet the text actually says, "Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures..." and proceeds to quote Genesis 6:3, "their days will be a hundred and twenty years." Does this not present a contradiction? First, the 120 years that God provided was 120 years for mankind to repent before He sent the Flood, during which time Noah built the Ark and preached righteousness to the people (see 1st Peter 3:20 and 2nd Peter 2:5). As for Psalm 90, this is not a stating of the human lifespan, but a generalization. It was not a set lifespan, but a psalm to illustrate the brevity of life.

No such contradiction exists over the age of man, merely a misunderstanding and misapplication of Scripture, as much of these alleged contradictions are. While some of these may be difficult to explain or reconcile, Christians can rest assured that no contradictions exist within God's Word. Archaeology, true empirical science, astronomy, historical evidence, textual evidence, and predictive prophecy all lend credence to the inspiration and preservation of the Bible.

Thank you for taking the time to read this entry of "The Truth." Feel free to email vexx801@yahoo.com (but please remain civil, or we will not respond) or The Truth Ministries at thetruth.ministryweb@gmail.com, visit our facebook page, or visit the main ministry website. We understand that not all readers will accept our explanations or conclusions, yet we do hope it will allow you to take Christianity more seriously, or to consider it - call into question its veracity, and investigate for yourself. Thank you, take care, and may God bless you. Troy Hillman

Sources:
[1] "Answering The Atheist: August 20, 2006 / Volume 6, Issue 34." Looking Unto Jesus. Looking Unto Jesus, 20 August 2006. Web. 18 Jun 2011. .
[2] "Answering The Atheist: August 14, 2005 / Volume 5, Issue 33." Looking Unto Jesus. Looking Unto Jesus, 14 August 2005. Web. 18 Jun 2011. .
[3] "Answering The Atheist: September 17, 2006 / Volume 6, Issue 38." Looking Unto Jesus. Looking Unto Jesus, 17 September 2006. Web. 18 Jun 2011. .