The Bible really contains quite a number of contradictions. This is very surprising to many people (it was to me) who grow up hearing that the Bible is inspired by God and completely free of errors. And perhaps what’s more surprising, is how easily these inconsistencies can be found when you start to look for them. In the last post I talked about why I think it’s important to study the contradictions in the Bible, and in this post we’ll begin looking at specific examples. There’s no way that we could cover them all in this series of blog posts, so I will concentrate on the ones that made the most impact to me.
A Body Prepared
The first consistency issue I’d like to look at might strike you as a minor one, but I still think it’s worth consideration. Hebrews 10:5-7 quotes an Old Testament passage that is supposed to refer to Jesus:
Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,
“Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,
but a body have you prepared for me;
in burnt offerings and sin offerings
you have taken no pleasure.
Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God,
as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.'”
We don’t have a record of Christ saying this, though it’s possible that he did. And the OT passage that was quoted here would obviously be talking about Christ since it says that God didn’t require sacrifices and offerings, “but a body you have prepared for me.” However, when we look at the passage this is taken from, it reads a little differently (note the underlined section):
In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted,
but you have given me an open ear.
Burnt offering and sin offering
you have not required.
Then I said, “Behold, I have come;
in the scroll of the book it is written of me:
I delight to do your will, O my God;
your law is within my heart.”
– Psalm 40:6-8
As you can see, the primary section of the quote in Hebrews that was supposed to reference Christ says something completely different in the original passage. When we read Psalm 40, there’s really nothing that would stand out to us as it being a Messianic prophecy – it’s simply stating that God wants full devotion. So that leads me to two questions. Was Psalm 40 really ever intended as a prophecy of the Messiah? And if so, why did the writer of Hebrews feel the need to change it?
Now, we could say that since both writers were inspired, then the Holy Spirit had every right to change what he said the first time. But why would a perfect, omniscient, omnipotent being need to do that? Why wouldn’t he have wanted this passage in Psalm 40 to more obviously reference Christ? Instead, this seems to be willful editing by someone trying to make a point.
*** Update: A commenter has since pointed out to me that the version of Psalm 40 in the Septuagint matches the version that is quoted in Hebrews, so the Hebrew writer is not guilty of changing the passage.
Galatians 3:16-17 says this:
The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,” meaning one person, who is Christ. What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise.
Here, Paul says that the law came 430 years after the promises were made to Abraham. But in Exodus 12:40-41, we see:
Now the length of time the Israelite people lived in Egypt was 430 years. At the end of the 430 years, to the very day, all the LORD’s divisions left Egypt.
If the Israelites were in Egypt 430 years, then there could not have been 430 years between Abraham’s promises and the law.
For those unfamiliar with the story, God made this promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3, and as we read on through Genesis, we see that Abraham had no children at this time. Later, he had a son named Isaac. When Isaac was 60 years old, he had Jacob (Gen 25:24-26), and Jacob had 12 sons that produced the 12 tribes of Israel. Already, we can see that some time has passed since Abraham received the promise. Once Jacob’s sons were all grown with families of their own, they finally settled in Egypt. Jacob was 130 years old at this time (Gen 47:9), and this marks the beginning of that 430 year period that the Israelites spent in Egypt.
That means that the time between the promise to Abraham and the giving of the law was actually over 600 years. So why did Paul say 430 years? I think it’s obvious that this was a simple mistake. He remembered the 430 year figure because that’s how much time the Israelites spent in Egypt, and so he simply misspoke. It’s not a big deal… except that he’s supposed to be inspired by God.
We’ll look at some other examples in the next post.