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 (but we ask that you remain civil) or The Truth Ministries team at, visit our facebook page, or visit the ministry's main website. Take care, and God bless you. Troy Hillman

[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. .

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