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Apparent contradictions in the Bible


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#1 Biochemist

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Posted 01 July 2005 - 01:20 PM

Continuing from another thread-

Several of you have offered that the Bible is rife with contradictions. I hear this a lot, and I am not quite sure what folks mean when they say it. There are indeed a number of elements of the Bible that are confusing, but I am only aware of a very small number of actual contradictions. Most are considered textual errors in transcription form the original manuscripts.

Would anyone care to offer a contradiction (or an apparent contradiction) that we can talk about? My intent is not to be defensive about this. I think this could be a pretty interesting discussion.

#2 adnaan

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Posted 01 July 2005 - 02:58 PM

The Bible is riddled with repetitions and contradictions, things that the Bible bangers would be quick to point out in anything that they want to criticize. For instance, Genesis 1 and 2 disagree about the order in which things are created, and how satisfied God is about the results of his labors. The flood story is really two interwoven stories that contradict each other on how many of each kind of animal are to be brought into the Ark--is it one pair each or seven pairs each of the "clean" ones? The Gospel of John disagrees with the other three Gospels on the activities of Jesus Christ (how long had he stayed in Jerusalem--a couple of days or a whole year?) and all four Gospels contradict each other on the details of Jesus Christ's last moments and resurrection. The Gospels of Matthew and Luke contradict each other on the genealogy of Jesus Christ' father; though both agree that Joseph was not his real father. Repetitions and contradictions are understandable for a hodgepodge collection of documents, but not for some carefully constructed treatise, reflecting a well-thought-out plan.

There is more than contradictions for why people dont accept the Bible. For instance, When you think of the idea of God, you would expect that everything around you is his creation, thus making a conclusion that God 'must' be greater than all creation. Then you see Christians say, "Jesus was God." A person would then think, God is better than his creations, he will not show himself using his own creation.
Another thing, Christians say that when you are born your filled with sin. Well think about that, a 'baby' is born with sin? People say that Jesus chose to die on the cross to forgive our sins, well if he were God, why would he need to do an act like that, just simply forgive us, right?

#3 adnaan

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Posted 01 July 2005 - 03:02 PM

JOHN 14:28 Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you. If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I.

Doesn't this also contradict the Bible, you say that Jesus was God, in this verse Jesus says his 'Father' (God) is greater than he is.?

#4 IrishEyes

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Posted 01 July 2005 - 03:03 PM

Ok, one question for me first, Bio-
When you are asking for contradictions, do you mean contradictions within the Bible, or contradictions between the Bible and other thoughts/sources/books? I know that people can generally come up with many contradictions between the Bible and other sources, but I really don't know of any contained within its pages.

#5 Biochemist

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Posted 01 July 2005 - 03:15 PM

The Bible is riddled with repetitions and contradictions, things that the Bible bangers would be quick to point out in anything that they want to criticize.....

I appreciate the response, Ad, but I really didn't intent to solicit a negative soliloquy against Christians.

My intent was to openly air issues that some believe are contradictions. You brought up several items that you regard as contradictions. You have actually brought up a couple of easy ones (like Genesis 1,2) , so I suspect that you are already aware of the common reading of those passages (Genesis 2 detailing Genesis 1) that are well within the bounds of normal useage of Hebrew poetry.

The New Testament lineages of Christ that you brought are another one that is easily explained (one lineage is Mary's, one is Joseph's). However, I got the impression (correct me if I am wrong) that you are not particularly interested in discussing the apparent contradictions.

Are you really interested in discussing the other items you surfaced in an agreeable manner?

#6 Biochemist

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Posted 01 July 2005 - 03:16 PM

Ok, one question for me first, Bio-
When you are asking for contradictions, do you mean contradictions within the Bible...

I was attempting to remain focused on internal Bblical conflicts. If we include conflicts with externals sources, we probably would have an unrestrained discussion.

#7 IrishEyes

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Posted 01 July 2005 - 03:23 PM

The Bible is riddled with repetitions and contradictions, things that the Bible bangers would be quick to point out in anything that they want to criticize. For instance, Genesis 1 and 2 disagree about the order in which things are created, and how satisfied God is about the results of his labors.

I believe, and I may be mistaken so please feel free to correct me, that Genesis 1 & 2 both deal with creation, and they do not contradict each other. Genesis 1 deals with the big picture, while chapter 2 goes into more detail, including the placement of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. I also think that God felt pretty good about things, as is noted in 1:31. The only hint that He had something else to do was in 2:18, when He decided to make Adam a mate.

The flood story is really two interwoven stories that contradict each other on how many of each kind of animal are to be brought into the Ark--is it one pair each or seven pairs each of the "clean" ones?

The animals that were to be preserved were taken in pairs. The animals that were to serve as food were taken in seven pairs. At least that is how I have understood it.

The Gospel of John disagrees with the other three Gospels on the activities of Jesus Christ (how long had he stayed in Jerusalem--a couple of days or a whole year?)

Could you please reference the verses in John that you say contradict the other Gospels? I know that, according to the Bible, Jesus was in Jerusalem on more than one occasion.

and all four Gospels contradict each other on the details of Jesus Christ's last moments and resurrection.

I don't understand this one. The Gospels are all pretty much the same on His death. It's much like asking four different people that witness an event what happened. The four versions will undoubtedly vary a bit, as each person will probably use different words to describe it, and each will probably notice and recall different details. I think I would be much more concerned if they were all exactly the same, instead of having the more personal accounts and recollections that are there.

The Gospels of Matthew and Luke contradict each other on the genealogy of Jesus Christ' father; though both agree that Joseph was not his real father.

One of the geneologies goes to David, showing that Jesus had the right to call himself the King of the Jews. The other deals with his earthly family, tracing his lineage back to Adam. One is through Mary, the other is through Joseph. One is biological, while the other is legal. They don't contradict each other at all, as far as I can tell.

Another thing, Christians say that when you are born your filled with sin. Well think about that, a 'baby' is born with sin?

I had a very hard time with this one, especially when looking at my newborn children. But as they grew older, I understood it a bit better. 'Human' nature, or sin-nature, is very apparent, even in the wee ones. "Natural" instinct is not to be 'good'. You must teach that to children. Do you have to teach them to lie, to take things that are not theirs (steal), to hit each other? No, you must teach them the opposite. You must teach them to be 'good', not teach them to be bad. Our natural instinct is most often to do what goes against God.

People say that Jesus chose to die on the cross to forgive our sins, well if he were God, why would he need to do an act like that, just simply forgive us, right?

God is perfect holiness. We are not. Forgiving us without an atonement would still leave us full of sin. In order for us to be in the presence of a Holy God, someone had to pay the price for our sins. The only one capable of doing that would be someone without sin. However, since we are all full of sin, God must pay the price for us. Through His shed blood, we are made Holy, and are able to enter into the presence of God.

#8 IrishEyes

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Posted 01 July 2005 - 03:28 PM

I was attempting to remain focused on internal Bblical conflicts. If we include conflicts with externals sources, we probably would have an unrestrained discussion.

Sounds good to me.
Oh, and sorry, I was typing up the response to adnaan while you were posting probably. While I got the same impression that you did, I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. I'm hoping that others will be kind enough to bring up internal contradictions as well. It's always fun, and sometimes challenging as well, for me to go digging to figure out "contradictions". :)

#9 Biochemist

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Posted 01 July 2005 - 03:44 PM

JOHN 14:28 Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you. If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I.

Doesn't this also contradict the Bible, you say that Jesus was God, in this verse Jesus says his 'Father' (God) is greater than he is.?

This is a pretty good example of the sort of things that many regard as "contradictory". I appreciate you bringing up an item like this.

There are a host of characteristics attributed to God that are generally assumed not to be applicble to Jesus when he walked the roads of Palestine. For example, Jesus was clearly not omnipresent, omniscient or time transcendent while human. When we discuss passages like John 14 (in concert with, for example, Col 2:9- "all the fulness of deity dwells in Him in bodily form") it looks like Jesus was temporarily less than God. In fact, In Hebrews 2:6-8, the author explicitly states that Christ was "lower than the angels" for a little while. (Oddly, this is a quote from Psalm 8:5, which does not look like it was talking about the Messiah, when the Psalmist wrote it. Nevertheless, this is one example of NT authors taking an interpretive view of the OT when discussing messianic issues.) It is generally accepted among conservative folks that Jesus was different then than He is now. Jesus now is more like the picture characterised in Revelation 1. There, He is pretty much all powerful and a little scary.

It appears that during His life, He gave up something while human. You might note that most descriptions of Christ's resurrection retain some reference to His glorfication, which presumably refers to a resumption of the God-like attributes that were temporarily abated. Ephesians 4: 4-10 does a good job of confusing the issues further by reiterating Godly unity ("One Lord, one faith, One baptism") and then immediately discusses the measure of Christ's gift. That is, in back-to-back verses from the Paul, he has no difficulty describing the unity of God, and then describing the uniqeness of Christ's role, as distinct from the Father.

This is a discussion primarily of the nature of God. We should expect this to be complicated. But complicated does not mean contradictory, any more than some of the apparent complexity of quantum physics is tough to reconcile.

#10 adnaan

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Posted 01 July 2005 - 04:50 PM

If it seems like im arguing, sorry, because I really am not trying to be mean or anything, but i have questions thats all.

Understanding a God i think shouldnt be that difficult.. I believe in God, but when i think of him i think of him greater than all creations. Its simple i like it.

We are not filled with sin until we commit sin. I dont think we are born with sin thats just confusing to be given sin for nothing. Our children can learn to lie, its not like when they are born they already know how to lie, and do bad deeds. They learn to lie and do bad things from exposures from friends, tv shows, movies, etc. I think children can be taught to be evil or good depending on our environment that affects them.

I am not sure if i understand, but Irisheyes are you saying that God sacrificed himself on the cross? I dont understand why such an event would be taken place, when simply like many other christians have told me, if you ask for forgiveness you will be forgiven. Why couldnt that be the rule at the beginning, why this whole event of sacrificing himself?

I see that God sheded blood, to forgive our sins, but blood is something he created, I am just saying, like i have said earlier I find God greater than all his creations, and to say that God sheded blood, well you can see the problem I see there.

#11 IrishEyes

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Posted 01 July 2005 - 05:02 PM

PLEASE don't take this as me attacking you, but -
Where did you learn to lie? Who taught you? Do you have kids?

I'm asking because I watched my kids. Nobody had to teach them how to lie. They just knew it. If they did something, and I asked them if they did it, they would say "no" far more often than they said "yes", until they learned that telling lies was not acceptable to Mommy.

But as I understand it, you are saying that we are not sinful until we commit our first sin. Is that correct? So you are asserting that it is possible for a person to live a sinless life? Again, not attacking, just trying to understand where you are coming from on this one.

I have to run to the store, but will be back later to address the other things you mentioned, unless, of course, BioC wants to do that while I'm gone... :)

#12 Biochemist

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Posted 01 July 2005 - 06:02 PM

If it seems like im arguing, sorry, because I really am not trying to be mean or anything, but i have questions thats all..

I apologize, Ad. I read your post as a little adversarial. It looks like I was incorrect. I appreciate your interest.

#13 adnaan

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Posted 01 July 2005 - 06:38 PM

Don't worry IrishEyes your not attacking me or anything.

I am just saying between the ages 0-3 children, alot of them are exposed to like I said tv shows, movies, etc. I am just saying that they are influenced from that sort of stuff. This is what i learnt in English class in gr.9.

I am not saying anyone could possibly live a sinless life, because that is practically impossible. Also it depends on what people perceive as a sin, but right now we are judging on what Christians see as sins. I was just thinking and had in mind that when you sin, you would generally ask for fogiveness, and then its Gods judgement to wether forgive you or not, depending on your situation, and people say God is All-Forgiving.

I am just trying to say, is that I dont want to call my child sinful, when his brain isn't developed enough to know what is right or wrong.

Anyways, generally you say we are all sinful, and without Jesus sacrificing himself, we are unable to allow ourselves to stand infront of God, because we are filled with sins. Then what about the people before Jesus time, it seems to be unfair for them.

Another you see in the Bible the Devil playing with Jesus' mind, again i dont understand that. What does the Devil think he is doing? he is trying to convince God to give up? It really makes me think "what kind of a God is Jesus?" If this kind of stuff is really happening, it makes me think that this life is just a mere game, seemingly pointless.

Obviously you can see I am not Christian currently, but I am open to possibilities, it may seem im not.

#14 bumab

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Posted 01 July 2005 - 06:57 PM

I am just saying between the ages 0-3 children, alot of them are exposed to like I said tv shows, movies, etc. I am just saying that they are influenced from that sort of stuff. This is what i learnt in English class in gr.9.

I am not saying anyone could possibly live a sinless life, because that is practically impossible. Also it depends on what people perceive as a sin, but right now we are judging on what Christians see as sins.


Personally, I wouldn't think about living a sinful life as a series of actions, none of which are sinful. Think about it this way- people are not perfect. It's not so much as the actions are incorrect, or evil, or whatever- it's more subtle and pervasive then that. Perfection would require sinless action, but other things as well- none of which we have. I could live the next 5 minutes in a sinless way- but those 5 minutes would still not qualify as "heaven worthy" because, simply, I did it.

It's not a self-hating relgion, either. I hope you don't get that impression. I think it's basically a focus on humility, not being so prideful that we think just through our will alone we can attain perfection.

I was just thinking and had in mind that when you sin, you would generally ask for fogiveness, and then its Gods judgement to wether forgive you or not, depending on your situation, and people say God is All-Forgiving.


I think the entire Bible is in agreement as to an honest request for forgiveness in humility (forgive others and be forgiven, etc) always will be granted.

I am just trying to say, is that I dont want to call my child sinful, when his brain isn't developed enough to know what is right or wrong.


No kidding.

A fundmental mistake I see in many Christian circles is the focus on the afterlife to the exclusion of the present-life. The Kingdom of Heaven was presented in the present tense by Jesus, not the future tense. Read in this way (a perfectly valid translation) you see that it's simply a matter of asking to participate in the new Kingdom. Heaven is par for the course.

Anyways, generally you say we are all sinful, and without Jesus sacrificing himself, we are unable to allow ourselves to stand infront of God, because we are filled with sins. Then what about the people before Jesus time, it seems to be unfair for them.


Certainly- they had sacrifices and various other rituals to symbolize their relationship with God, but I personally think that's all they were- symbols. The focus is on a relationship with God, not sacraficing sheep.

Another you see in the Bible the Devil playing with Jesus' mind, again i dont understand that. What does the Devil think he is doing? he is trying to convince God to give up? It really makes me think "what kind of a God is Jesus?" If this kind of stuff is really happening, it makes me think that this life is just a mere game, seemingly pointless.


The temptation is an incredibly rich piece of the story, and hard to interprit in a single way (if not impossible). My favorite discussion of this was by Dostevsky in The Brothers Karamozov. I suggest grabbing a copy of the book and reading the chapter "The Grand Inquisitor," or search for that on the net- numerous pages exist with the entire chapter available online. It's an excellent work on the significance of the questioning and the questions themselves. You'll certainly see it's far from a game.

Obviously you can see I am not Christian currently, but I am open to possibilities, it may seem im not.


You seem very honest and open. Bravo! If only all people, Christian or not, were so honest in their curiosity and questions.

#15 UncleAl

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Posted 01 July 2005 - 07:02 PM

http://members.aol.c...dity/quotes.htm

#16 bumab

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Posted 01 July 2005 - 07:06 PM

I've seen that page before, Al. Isn't it linked to on your site?

Nobody said the Bible was a pleasent summer read. One would expect a book about significant issues to have some hard to read passages, some unpleasentness, and generally be shocking at times. If I started reading a religious book and found it like Winny the Pooh, I'd be a little concerned, actually.

Second, taking various passages out of context, and from specific translations designed for visceral impact, is disengenious in EXACTLY the same way evolution opponents are often accused of being. EXACTLY.

#17 Southtown

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Posted 01 July 2005 - 08:26 PM

What a wonderful thread! And what beautiful points, adnaan. Only truly open people can ask questions like that. Rarely are people open to the nuances of Christianity, and I love opportunities to talk about these things. My best friend, in fact, was an open-minded atheist just like you, was.

I am just trying to say, is that I dont want to call my child sinful, when his brain isn't developed enough to know what is right or wrong.

Bingo! They don't know, they don't care. They want what they want when they want it, and they get mad at whoever opposes them, just pure, undiluted human behavior. They are selfish and inconsiderate, the opposites of generosity and compassion. These attitudes would all by themselves destroy an otherwise perfectly harmonious society when displayed by adults, and are currently crippling ours, in my opinion.

The fact that kids act like this, (I have two so I'm not just postulating) seeing how it is consistent with scripture regarding the nature of mankind, testifies to the scriptures as true. Instead of being a contradiction, kids stand out as reasonable evidence toward the bible's validity.

I dont understand why such an event would be taken place, when simply like many other christians have told me, if you ask for forgiveness you will be forgiven.

Christ's sacrifice gives God the power to forgive sins, while also remaining uncorrupt. Would we call a judge honest if he let criminals go free? Aren't cops that let criminals go breaking the same law they claim to uphold, making them hypocrits? God can't remain good if He simply sweeps wrong doing under the rug. To me at least, the sacrifice of Jesus testifies both to the unswerving justice of God, and His undying love for humanity, two qualities I would demand in a deity.

Another you see in the Bible the Devil playing with Jesus' mind, again i dont understand that. What does the Devil think he is doing? he is trying to convince God to give up? It really makes me think "what kind of a God is Jesus?" If this kind of stuff is really happening, it makes me think that this life is just a mere game, seemingly pointless.

I see it as God allowing His authority to be questioned or debated, subjecting His ways to the criticism or testing of the devil. God doesn't want us to just blindly follow Him, but to understand that He is right and good, and to acknowledge Him as such. Would you be convinced that your wife (or husband) truly loved you if she said "I do" at the point of a gun?

Then what about the people before Jesus time, it seems to be unfair for them.

The bible says they "believed God." Apparently it was enough to simply cling to the hope that God would save them somehow. Refer to the story of Abraham or Romans 4, among others. And Romans 2:14, Paul talks about people doing rightly "by nature" without the knowledge of God, presumably to the salvation of their souls. Bottom line I think an omniscient God can provide perfect justice, even in extenuating circumstances, and I doubt any will fall through the cracks.

Then you see Christians say, "Jesus was God." A person would then think, God is better than his creations, he will not show himself using his own creation.

Christians differ on this. I believe the verses referring to Jesus the Son, Jehova (God) the Father, and the Holy Spirit being "one" most likely refer to "unity of purpose" or "being in complete agreement." I do not subscribe to the idea that the three are physically One, because it needlessly confuses things by adding apparent contradictions, and I haven't seen sufficient scripture to convince me otherwise. I was taught the "Trinity" when I was younger, but I've been re-evaluating a lot of beliefs lately, which is never a bad thing.