Contradictions Part 1: Introduction

Growing up, I had always thought that the Bible had no contradictions whatsoever. And to me, this was one of the biggest reasons to believe the Bible was truly inspired by God. After all, in a work this size, mere men would have made some mistakes along the way. So the Bible being without error gave it amazing credibility.

Ironically, this was a belief I was convinced of without ever examining its veracity. I also tended to dismiss people when they would claim the Bible had contradictions. It was obvious to me that God wouldn’t write a book with contradictions, and since he had written the Bible, there could be no contradictions within it. I can now see that this was circular reasoning at its best. And I’m ashamed to say that most of my conviction in that regard was based on what others had told me, not on investigations I had made myself.

Sometimes people mistakenly believe that being confident in a position means that one should never consider the possibility that they’re wrong. This is actually just a sure way of blinding oneself to truth. It’s okay to feel confident about the things we believe – but we should always be willing to consider another point of view. The Bible portrays the Pharisees as being unwilling to question their beliefs, and they are painted as villains because of it.

We should always test our beliefs in order to see if they’re true. Once I realized that, I didn’t ignore the claims of contradictions that I ran across. Instead, I began to examine them with the belief that truth had nothing to fear. In other words, if the Bible was truly inerrant, then no claims to the contrary would be able to stand against it. But as I studied the issues more deeply, I began to see passages that bothered me. There were areas that seemed contradictory, and I didn’t know how to answer them. Often, the explanations I found at places like ApologeticsPress.org seemed far-fetched. There is a difference between explaining something and explaining it away, and most of the “answers” I found seemed to be the latter.

During this time, I was also reminded of an inconsistency in Islam that I had run across. In Islam, it’s taught that when a child is conceived, if the mother’s reproductive fluids are dominant the child will be female, and if the father’s reproductive fluids are dominant the child will be male [src]. Biologically, this is not true. We know that gender is always determined by the father.

That obvious inconsistency was enough for me to decide that the teachings of Islam were not inspired. However, I’m certain that most Muslims are familiar with this teaching and have no problem with it. In fact, I think I could come up with ways to explain it too. I could say that it really means that when female characteristics are dominant the child will be female, and when male characteristics are dominant the child will be male. This is not what the passage says, but it is probably believable to someone who wants to believe Islam. Many of the “answers” I was finding to biblical problems seemed to be believable only to those who wanted to believe in Christianity.

But isn’t this a problem? The gospel is for all (Mark 16:15). Obviously, people who come from different religious backgrounds aren’t going to have enough emotional connection to the gospel to want it to be true – if it’s true, it needs to be obvious. In other words, we should be able to approach the gospel believing that it may or may not be true and still come away convinced. Therefore, even a seeming contradiction should make us wary. And an outright contradiction should convince us that the Bible is not inspired.

In the next post, we’ll begin looking at some of these contradictions.

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36 thoughts on “Contradictions Part 1: Introduction

  1. Graham

    Just wanted you to know that I’m still reading these and check your blog frequently for new posts!! I’m a bit sad that you’re not getting any comments, but maybe that’s a good sign! Keep em coming!!

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  2. Thanks man! I appreciate that. I’ve wondered a little at the comments too, but I do know it’s getting read. I still get several hits/day. So I’ll just keep it up, and if someone has something to add I’m sure they’ll jump in!

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  3. Pingback: Contradictions Part 3: Brief Examples | Finding Truth

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  5. Pingback: Contradictions Part 5: Out of Egypt | Finding Truth

  6. Pingback: Contradictions Part 6: Jesus’s Genealogy | Finding Truth

  7. Pingback: Contradictions Part 7: Judas | Finding Truth

  8. Pingback: Contradictions Part 8: The Crucifixion | Finding Truth

  9. Pingback: Contradictions Part 9: The Resurrection | Finding Truth

  10. Pingback: Contradictions Part 10: Conclusion | Finding Truth

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  12. Tony Atkinson

    Hey Nate, I also check you blog from time to time. I think you have a talent for clearly expressing what’s involved in issues that raise doubt about the literal truth of Christianity. I check back from time to time in eager anticipation to see what new observations you made. Although i have read many, many, many debates between skeptics and believers i think you have a unique and special clarity that adds something to the usual stale-mate of biased charge and counter charge. People can have strong beliefs on both sides but i hope you don’t mind if i say I find you hold up the skeptical side quite well. What bothers me is when people come across as if reasons for doubt are a minor manner for which there is a clear answer if you just refer to the Christian handbook, the Bible. There are indeed reasonable, rational, and heart felt reasons to doubt and if it were only a minor matter people like yourself would not experience the struggle of trying to make sense of the issues that arise and make one wonder how an absolute all knowing and all powerful God would create a world where our souls often desperately struggle in a murky uncertainty . The entire universe is only a speck to an infinite being such as God, yet he allowed a Bible and his message to be as much cause for doubt as anything else we might consider when trying to find the truth about God or our existence. You wrote in an article about hell something to the effect that if our eternal future depends on our belief about Christianity then it behooves God to make sure we are not stymied by such uncertainties if it will result in eternal damnation. Does anyone doubt that an infinite being could have done an amazing job of speaking to prophets which such amazing clarity that there would never be any question that was not answered in profound clarity. You seem to be a genuine person honestly and intelligently raising questions and I am sorry to hear your former Church and relatives have responded with what amounts to self righteous spiritual snobbery. John Lennon was right, “what the world needs is love”. Christianity has done much good in the world and it’s fair share of harm so religous belief is fine until it starts to hurt people mentally, emotionally, or physically. I wonder how much emotional pain has been dispensed as a result of contradictory or ambigous Bible passages, or anything found in the Bibles pages that make people question it’s rationality or how it could possibly be the thoughts of God. It is mind boggling to imagine the God of the OT who orders the slaughter of the Canaanites and others not to mention other things whether or not the ancient Hewbrews had a primitive worldview which was just the way things were in the ancient near east. Enuff said. I look forward to following your blog.

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  13. Thanks, Tony. I really appreciate your comments; they’re very encouraging. My goal with this blog has always been two-fold: to help me think through issues in order to find truth, and to be able to express my thoughts in a coherent way. It means a lot to me that you think I’ve done well at that so far. I do hope you’ll continue to check in from time to time, and I look forward to any other comments you might have.

    Take care!

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  14. Pingback: Does Inspiration imply inerrancy? | The BitterSweet End

  15. I am reading as much as time allows. I’d comment on all of them, but you already know my standpoint and having little Ark icons all over the show makes me look like a perishing troll.
    But I DO read.

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  16. @ Nate

    “During this time, I was also reminded of an inconsistency in Islam that I had run across. In Islam, it’s taught that when a child is conceived, if the mother’s reproductive fluids are dominant the child will be female, and if the father’s reproductive fluids are dominant the child will be male [src]. Biologically, this is not true. We know that gender is always determined by the father.

    That obvious inconsistency was enough for me to decide that the teachings of Islam were not inspired. However, I’m certain that most Muslims are familiar with this teaching and have no problem with it. In fact, I think I could come up with ways to explain it too. I could say that it really means that when female characteristics are dominant the child will be female, and when male characteristics are dominant the child will be male. This is not what the passage says, but it is probably believable to someone who wants to believe Islam.” Unquote

    Will you kinldy quote the reference from Quran where it is mentioned? Please

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  17. @ Nate

    if one wants to have a clear picture of Islam then one should base one’s opinion on what is written in Quran as it is the first and the foremost source of guidance of Muslims whatever the denomination; else one’s opinion is wrong and carries little weightage.

    Other sources of any authenticity simply never existed in the time of Muhammad.

    Hadith was written about 250/300 years after Muhammad. All tenets and practices of Islam are amply mentioned in Quran. If there had been no Hadith even then Quran was sufficient for guidance of the Muslims.

    So there is no inconsistency in Islam; for an inconsistency a scholar like you should have base his thoughts on Quran instead of Hadith.

    Please correct yourself in this connection.

    Regards

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  18. Thanks for pointing this out, paarsurrey. I know very little about Islam, so I’ll take your advice and investigate it a bit more.

    Thanks

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  19. I recently read a comment by a Christiian that said the Bible is a meta-physical jigsaw puzzle and quoted Isaiah 28:10 which supposedly refers to interpretiting scripture though a complex logic of relating Bible verses to each other and resoning out what to believe or think about any particular theological viewpoint or meaning of any particular verses in the Bible. Many of us like puzzles and mysteries but with all the different interpretations that Christians have come up with for various things, it seems that God has not been crystal clear on many things, nor does he appear to the world at large or otherwise prevent doubt from being a part of the human experience. I agree, the Bible is often treated by apologists as a meta-physical jigsaw puzzle and i think they very often go way beyond the bounds of reason and make things up for the sake of making things work out. To me, most of it is no better than the method of elaborate conspiracy theorists who are often quite skilled at making the pieces fit, even sound believable except for having at least one fatal flaw in the theory.

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  20. @paarsurrey, “So there is no inconsistency in Islam”

    So did all of Noah’s Sons survive the Great Flood or not ?

    11:42-43
    Noah cried unto his son and he was standing aloof – O my son! Come ride with us, and be not with the disbelievers. He said: I shall betake me to some mountain that will save me from the water. (Noah) said: This day there is none that saveth from the commandment of Allah save him on whom He hath had mercy. And the wave came in between them, so he was among the drowned.
    21:76
    And Noah, when he cried of old, We heard his prayer and saved him and his household from the great affliction.
    37:75-77
    And Noah verily prayed unto Us, and gracious was the Hearer of his prayer. And We saved him and his household from the great distress, And made his seed the survivors.

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  21. William

    Even if there were no inconsistency, that isn’t the same as “divinely inspired,” it’s just a sign of good editing.

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  22. I read your Blog Post and want to start out by saying that I do admire you for being honest about your feelings. I also admire you for trying to seek out the truth for yourself rather than just taking peoples’ word for things. You seem like a Person that used to believe and follow God and now you do not, perhaps because you are convinced that there may be some contradictions in the Bible. I want to say that just by reading your first page alone, I believe that you were exagerrated pretenses to begin with.

    One must remember that yes, the Bible is God’s Word incarnate, but that it was written by HUMAN beings. Human beings may misinterpret things, misunderstand things, or even simply mistranslate things. What I am trying to say is that we should never base whether or not we are going to have Faith in God on a few human errors on the part of the writers or translaters that may have occured in the Bible. But I think that it would be even more probable that the errors probably occurred within the numerous translations that were made throughout the centuries. If you have ever played the game of telephone, you know that things dont always come out exacly the same as they started by the time you get down the line. Just because something comes out differently at the end, doesn’t mean that it was flawed when it started.

    This is why Faith is so important. What do you believe when something is misinterpreted or mistranslated?

    I believe that God preserved the Integrity of his Message. I believe that even with incorrect transalations, incorrect interpretations, and other things of that Nature, that the General Message God wanted to instill in the World is still alive and well today.

    I agree with you on the fact that people should never simply just believe what someone else (another human being) tells them. They should strive to find the answers for themselves. I have been an advocate of that for many years. Many people are very arrogant today and think that they have all the answers…in fact, many think that they are smarter than God. The problem is that many of these people may hold positions of influence. A second problem creates a terrible “cause and effect” outcome. The second problem is that ignorance is another great plague of society today. Most people feel that if an “influential” person says something, than it must be true. They do not bother doing research like you or I. Because of that, they fall into the trap of being wrong a lot of the time…and further spread the lie, causing more and more people to fall into that trap. Just look at how screwed up the world is today because of how ignorant society has become. But luckily there is a book which contains the truths which society forgot about…a book that has the “blueprints” to save the World from the self-destruction that we are causing.

    You seem smart so I plead with you now to hear the Big “Message”. Overlook, the small details that the writers or the translators may have gotten wrong. If you focus on the “big picture”, you will see the Perfection which you seek…You will See God. Most of all, you will see something that only God could have conjured up. No human being has the power to know the truths and grasp the complexity of the Truth written in the Bible, unless that Human being was God himself.

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  23. bchai0409

    I also wanted to add, I read all of your contradictions and it simply backs up what I said previously. You must look at the Bible as a whole and not just focus on the fine details. We must also remember that the Gospel of Mathew was the first Gospel written and was written directly by one of Jesus’ Apostles. On the other hand, Luke was not written directly by one of Jesus’ Apostles, rather it was written by a very close friend to St. Paul, who also was not one of Jesus’ 12 Apostles directly but a later convert to Christianity.

    Basically, what I am trying to say is that details by the writers may be a little scewed, but I really dont think that God cares if we know things like whether Joseph and Mary lived in Nazareth first or Bethlehem first or whether or not Potter’s Field was called the “field of blood” because of Judas’ physical blood being stained on it or becuase it was bought with “blood money”.

    Every contradiction you pointed out in your entire post could be explained away by simply adding the element of different human interpretation, speaking styles (such as literal or metaphor), and things of that nature.

    As I said before, what people should be focused on is the True Message that Jesus speaks in the Bible. One only needs read the Sermon on the Mount or the Beautitudes for example to know that the words are divinely inspired and could not be conjured up by any Human Being.

    I will pray that you may regain your lost Faith. “Blessed are they who believe without seeing”. If God wanted to he could correct every human grammatical and statistical error that is in the current translations of the Bible, but why should he when his “Mesage” is still preserved just as he intended it? He wants us to believe in the message and look past the human inaccuracy.

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  24. I’m not Nate, but I feel certain he would say something similar.

    Some of your statements are inaccurate. For example, Matthew was not the first gospel written — Mark’s was. This is a well-known fact among Christian apologists. Paul was not a “convert” to Christianity … he was the author of the movement, i.e., Christianity is based on his theology (and much of it does not agree with the teachings of Yeshua).

    You wrote, Most people feel that if an “influential” person says something, than it must be true. You are correct in this statement in that most Christians believe what comes from the pulpit and do not do the research. Nate has done the research, and obviously has reached a different perspective/conclusion that you.

    You point out that HUMANS wrote the bible … and they often misinterpret things, misunderstand things, or even simply mistranslate things. Isn’t the Bible is supposed to be God’s word? If one cannot trust what is written, how do you know that God preserved the Integrity of his Message?

    These are just a few of my observations related to your comments. I’m sure Nate will have many more as he has done extensive reading and research (have you looked at his “Books I’ve Read” page?) and is much more of a “scholar” than I am.

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  25. bchai0409, “I will pray that you may regain your lost Faith. “Blessed are they who believe without seeing”

    Why should we be expected to believe without seeing when so many people in the NT supposedly got to see ? Doesn’t hardly seem fair, does it ?

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  26. “We must also remember that the Gospel of Mathew was the first Gospel written and was written directly by one of Jesus’ Apostles. On the other hand, Luke was not written directly by one of Jesus’ Apostles, rather it was written by a very close friend to St. Paul, who also was not one of Jesus’ 12 Apostles directly but a later convert to Christianity.”

    In addition to Nan pointing out The Gospel According to Mark was written before Matthew, we have no proof who wrote any of the Gospels as they are all anonymous .

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  27. Peter

    If we take the Bible as a whole and ignore later Christian tradition then we should reflect that Matthew’s Gospel is actually anonymous, it is not claimed to be written by a witness.

    As Nan and kccheif1 mention there is no meaningful dispute in scholarly circles (including conservative Christian scholars) that Matthew copied and amended Mark’s Gospel.

    What one sees in Matthew’s Gospel is an attempt by the author to portray JEsus as a second Moses. Thus we see Jesus Herod’s killing of Babies that mirrors Pharaohs killing of the Jewish babies. We see Jesus’ family retreat to Egypt. It is significant that nowhere else in the Bible are those two events recorded. There is no historical record of Herod’s slaughter of children, the family refuge in Egypt directly contradicts the account in Luke’s Gospel.

    Also it becomes clear that Matthew used the Greek LXX as a source rather than the Hebrew Old Testament.

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  28. We must also remember that the Gospel of Mathew was the first Gospel written and was written directly by one of Jesus’ Apostles.

    That some little pipsqueak would venture onto the blog of any non-believer let alone Nate’s, who probably knows the bible inside out and backwards and has the temerity to announce that gMatthew was written by an Apostle of Jesus of NazarethNowhere is hilarious.
    Aside from raucous, thigh-slapping laughter, the erudite epithet of ”Dickhead” is the only other response such a person warrants.

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  29. Hi Brandon,

    Thanks for the comments. I appreciate your taking the time to read my critiques and weigh in on them.

    Most of all, you will see something that only God could have conjured up. No human being has the power to know the truths and grasp the complexity of the Truth written in the Bible, unless that Human being was God himself.

    … As I said before, what people should be focused on is the True Message that Jesus speaks in the Bible. One only needs read the Sermon on the Mount or the Beautitudes for example to know that the words are divinely inspired and could not be conjured up by any Human Being.

    I just disagree. I think there’s some good stuff in the Sermon on the Mount, but I don’t see anything that a mere mortal couldn’t have thought of. Human history is full of great philosophers, principled leaders, crusaders for social justice, and brilliant minds. I can’t think of anything in the Bible that couldn’t have come from the mind of a human.

    If God wanted to he could correct every human grammatical and statistical error that is in the current translations of the Bible, but why should he when his “Mesage” is still preserved just as he intended it? He wants us to believe in the message and look past the human inaccuracy.

    But how do you know the message has been preserved? You already believe that every other religion in history is the product of humans. If the Bible bears the same signs of human fallibility, why should we believe it’s anything more? And where do you draw the line between human error and divine intent? Where do the laws about slaves in Exodus 21 fit in? Or the command to annihilate the Midianites, except for the virgin girls, whom the Israelites could keep for themselves (Num 31)?

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  30. Peter

    Ark I was a Christian for many decades holding a view that Matthew’s Gospel was written by a disciple. I also assumed it was first, as it comes first in the order in the Bible. As eminent a Christian scholar as Augustine thought Mark’s gospel was a condensed version of Matthews and thus he thought that Mark relied on Matthew not the other way around. So I don’t think it is unreasonable for a Christian to hold the view.

    It was not until 2011 when I commenced detailed study of the Gospels that I came to realise that almost certainly that great man Augustine was mistaken and the Mark’s Gospel was clearly the first written. Once again it was not until that time that I came to see how clearly Matthew copied Mark, and corrected the numerous geographical errors Mark made. Matthew then added his own gloss by making Jesus seme more divine and less human than Mark’s portrayal. Matthew also portrayed the disciples in a better light, than the differing idiots they are in Mark’s Gospel.

    So I think our visitors position is not unreasonable to a person who has not studied the Gospels at an academic level, but rather only read them devotionally.Though I would add that whilst I consider the position not an unreasonable one to hold, I also consider it to be clearly wrong.

    Liked by 1 person

  31. It was what we were all brought up to believe.
    However, that he holds the belief after making the decision to visit and read Nate’s blog without further investigation suggests he is willfully ignorant. We no longer live in a closeted environment.
    If you hold an opinion and have access to a computer then once you espouse an opinion it better be backed by sound reasoning and evidence.
    Thus this bloke fully warrants the title of Dickhead.

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  32. Peter

    Ark, I suppose I should be thankful that Arch has not posted the song of the same name.

    I just don’t think that insulting people is the best way to persuade them they are mistaken. But I acknowledge you claim some success with this method.

    The real test for our friends who you refer to is how they respond when their mistaken understanding is pointed out to them. If they accept the correction then a more charitable description is appropriate, however if they come back with some apologist drivel then your judgment would be vindicated.

    I must admit I am becoming less tolerant of apologists, especially those who push science denying misconceptions, pretty much any Young Earth Creationist who claims their position is based upon research. I say this because any honest research will quickly show that Young Earth Creationism is an untenable position to hold.

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