The doctrine of inerrancy is almost universally agreed upon among evangelical Christians, throughout local churches. However there are a number of different stances among biblical scholars. Some theologians think that the Bible is inerrant only insofar as it speaks to theological issues. Others think that it is inerrant only in some areas, but we do not know what they are. Other think that the Bible ought to be interpreted or even changed, in light of the discoveries of the modern world. But the majority of Christians and conservative biblical scholars believe that the Bible is absolutely inerrant in everything that it teaches. So is the Bible full of contradictions?
Now, when it is said that the Bible is inerrant, that is not to say that the English version is inerrant. There are obviously a number of different translations, sometimes with different teachings. So when we say that the Bible is inerrant, we meant that the original Greek autographs that the apostles and prophets wrote are inerrant. The English version is inerrant insofar as it reflects the original Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic. Fortunately, there is a science known as lower textual criticism, through which we can confirm that the English version that we have today faithfully reflects the writings of the originals. So when people say that the Bible was translated so many times, or that it was corrupted, we have too much evidence to the contrary for those views to be sustained rationally.
Of course, the importance of this issue cannot be understated. For the word of God to teach something that is a lie, or that contradicts itself, would certainly call into question whether this book truly was written by God. If God made a mistake in revealing his word to the prophets and apostles, one has to wonder if this book really was written by God. This is basically why so many non-believers will attempt to raise this objection. If the Bible was not written by God, one might expect that it would be full of contradictions. So is the Bible full of contradictions?
The Synoptic Gospels
It is interesting to see the divergent details in the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke). Many non-believers will attempt to teach that because of these divergent details, that therefore, the Bible is not inerrant and is full of contradictions. However, most of the examples that they provide are just a consequence of severe proof-texting. This means that they search through the Bible to find a single line, and isolate it from its’ context, to prove their point. This is how non-believers discover alleged contradictions in the synoptic gospels.
Suppose there were four different journalists telling a story of an event that occurred. Would one expect that they had exactly the same accounts of everything that occurred? Of course not. One would expect that they would tell the same general story, with different details. Indeed, if the details were exactly, line-by-line, the same, one would expect that they convened and changed their story so that they matched. But since there are divergent details, it is more reasonable to conclude that they did not change their story, but just told it as it occurred. This is exactly the nature of the synoptic gospels. There is the same basic story with different background details. That is because it is being told by different people with a different angle to the story.
With that in mind, most of the alleged contradictions turn out to be spurious and specious. For instance, they will say that there are contradicting stories of Judas’ death, one where he hangs himself, and the other where he falls to the earth and is split open. But there is no contradiction here. Judas hung himself, and then, as his corpse decomposed, it fell, and he was split open. Another is in the universal call to evangelism. Jesus tells the disciples to go to all nations (Matthew 28:19) but the Holy Spirit did not permit the apostles to go to Asia (Acts 16:6-10). However, again, this is not a contradiction. Asia was not henceforth excluded from evangelism, it was just that in that particular context, the apostles were not to go to Asia.
This is just the nature of all of the alleged contradictions. They are short-sighted, meant only to deceive, but when investigated, they quickly fall apart.
Can We Solve Every Problem?
There will always be a bag unanswered questions that Christians have. We will never be able to solve every problem. Even if we did, non-believers would attempt to raise more and more problems. They would pull out every deception. It is like working as a mail man. No matter how much mail we bring out, there will always be more waiting for us. In the case of the non-believers, no matter how many of their objections that we refute, they will always desperately try to find more. But Paul says of these objections that they are hollow, deceptive, following after human traditions rather than Christ (Colossians 2:8).
The reason that we are Christians is not that we can solve every bad objection that atheists raise, or even that we care to spend time answering these objections. Instead, the reason that we are Christians is that we know the living Lord. As the hymn writer said, You ask me how I know he lives? He lives within my heart. Those who are truly born again know God as though he were another person in our lives. We love him and interact with him in the same one that one interacts with a loved one. So when people say that the Bible is full of contradictions, we stand in confidence that it is not, because we know the God who wrote it.
Further, many of us can stand in confidence in God because of our knowledge of apologetics. We know that the evidence for God’s existence and the truth of Christian theology is so overwhelming, that alleged contradictions do not cause us to worry. The evidence for the resurrection has more veracity than the question of how Judas died. That is why Christians need apologetics in this generation. There is too much deceptive rhetoric for us to not be intellectually engaged with our faith.
So is the Bible full of contradictions? No, this is just deceptive rhetoric.
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