Are there contradictions in the Bible? Do you know how to answer that question? What if your kids ask you this question one day? Or worse, they bring up a “contradiction” in the Bible, and you’re left stumped.
We often say that the Bible is inerrant. But what does that actually mean? The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines inerrant as free from error.
So, is the Bible free from error? What about the hundreds of errors that atheists and skeptics point out? And even more important, are you prepared to deal with these objections if your kids, family, or friends bring them to you?
I briefly tackle the question of are there contradictions in the Bible in my post “12 Faith Questions Your Skeptic Friends Might Ask”. But in this post, I want to dive into five specific examples of contradictions skeptics use to object to the reliability of Scripture.
As a mom, knowing how to tackle these types of objections, or at least being aware of them, is so important. My son is only 2 right now, but he will be a young man before I know it. And personally, I’d like to beat him to these contradictions and get the answers ahead of time in preparation for the day he asks about them.
What is a Contradiction?
In order to answer the question “are there contradictions in the Bible?”, it is important that we define the word first. Let’s first define a contradiction. If you Google the definition of a contradiction, it reads “a combination of statements, ideas, or features of a situation that are opposed to one another”.
So, if one statement is said to be true, but a second statement is also claiming to be true, a contradiction would occur if both statements cannot be true at the same time in the same situation.
And when looking at proposed Biblical contradictions, it’s so important to pay attention to context. In these “contradictions”, who is being addressed in the Bible? What is the context? What’s going on historically? These are important details.
One thing I noticed when researching some of these “contradictions” was that the skeptic would often take a statement made in the Old Testament, compare it to a different statement made in the New Testament, and then call it a contradiction.
Well, as Christians, we know that a new covenant was made after the death and resurrection of Christ. And under a new covenant, old covenant laws may take on different meanings. In the NT (New Testament), statements were made that may appear to contradict what God said in the OT (Old Testament). However, the situation changed once Jesus came and died.
So…Are There Contradictions in the Bible?
So, let’s answer the big question. Are there contradictions in the Bible? The short answer is no. However, skeptics will provide you with an entire list of Scriptures that do appear to be contradictions at first glance. When you see the list, it may even shake you a bit. They may even seem like contradictions to us as believers.
But, once you start taking a closer look at a particular Scripture and what is actually being compared, what the context is, and which people group are being addressed, it becomes easier to debunk the contradiction.
5 Contradictions That Are Not Actually Contradictions
Let’s dive into these 5 common contradictions and see if this exercise can help us answer the question: are there contradictions in the Bible?
1. The Sabbath Day Contradiction
The first contradiction is regarding the Sabbath day. The atheists compare Exodus 20:8 to Romans 14:5. Let’s take a look.
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.Exodus 20:8
One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.Romans 14:5
Well, I spotted the first problem with this supposed contradiction immediately. Skeptics are comparing the OT with the NT, which requires a deeper understanding of the Christian faith to understand why these verses do not contradict one another.
In one instance, it says to keep the Sabbath holy. But then in Romans, it says let every person be persuaded in his own mind on whether they esteem the day. Yes, it sounds like a contradiction to someone who hasn’t studied Scripture.
However, Christians know that after Jesus came and died on the cross, His work on the cross placed us under a new covenant. And with that, a lot of the ceremonial traditions and rituals performed in the OT are no longer required because of what Jesus did on the Cross.
Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross…Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of ChristColossians 2:14, 16, and 17
Now, of course, keeping the Sabbath Day holy is one of the 10 Commandments. And the commandments are still very much valid to Christians today under the new covenant. There is nowhere in Scripture that tells us to stop honoring the Sabbath after Christ’s resurrection.
However, the way in which we honor the Sabbath is no longer chained to the traditional Old Testament Jewish way of honoring the day.
And if we want to take it a step deeper, Jesus is our Sabbath. Jesus fulfills the law as Jesus says in Mathew 5:17. So, as we rest in Christ, we are honoring the Sabbath, who is Jesus.
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law of the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them, but to fulfill them.Mathew 5:17
Christianity.com has an excellent article that dives into Jesus as our Sabbath. You can read it here.
2. The Permanence of Earth Contradiction
Okay, so the second “contradiction” we’re going to tackle is one about the future of the Earth. Let’s dive in.
… the earth abideth forever.Ecclesiastes 1:4
… the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.2 Peter 3:10
In this supposed contradiction, in one instance, the Bible says the Earth will live on forever. But in another instance, it will melt away and be burned up.
Do you see how this is not a contradiction at all? Again, this contradiction is written by someone who has not truly studied to understand Scripture.
As we know, in the end, the world will be burned up. The old world will be destroyed, and essentially renewed. It will be established forever after Jesus returns, and His saints will live on the new earth.
For behold, I create a new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.Isaiah 65:17
The article here on defendinginerrancy.com explains this very well. According to the article, the Hebrew word for forever (olam) doesn’t necessarily mean forever. It can just mean for a very long time.
But, even if Ecclesiastes 1:4 is taken literally, there is no contradiction. Old earth destroyed. New earth born. Earth goes on forever.
3. The Seeing God Contradiction
This third contradiction deals with seeing God face to face. Let’s compare the verses.
“… I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.Genesis 32:30
No man hath seen God at any time…John 1:18
In this contradiction, atheists compare the statement that Jacob made about seeing God face to face, with John’s statement that no person has seen God at any time.
In Genesis 32:30, if we actually take the time to read the chapter, we learn that Jacob wrestled with a man that night, who he later realizes is God. So, Jacob does not see God in His full glory face to face. He sees a form of God face to face.
So, the statement still stands true, that no one has seen God face to face. This article here on answeringenisis.com does a great job breaking this down.
But essentially, John is correct. No man has seen the fullness of God face to face. In fact, God told Moses in Exodus 33:20 that no man shall see Him and live.
But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.Exodus 33:20
This tells us that seeing God face to face is too great for us to handle. Therefore, if Jacob had seen the fullness of God face to face, He would have surely died.
4. The Human Sacrifice Contradiction
Contradiction number four is all about human sacrifice. Let’s look at which verses atheists compare.
… Thou shalt not let any of thy seed pass through the fire to Molech, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God…Leviticus 18:21
“… If thou shalt without fail deliver the children of Ammon into mine hands, Then it shall be, that whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the LORD’s, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering.Judges 11:29-34
In this contradiction, they highlight the command in Leviticus not to sacrifice children or have them pass through the fire. They then compare that to Judges, where we see Jephthah vow to sacrifice the first thing that greets him when he returns home. Inadvertently, he makes a vow to sacrifice his daughter to God if God allows him to win a battle.
Well, Jephthah does win that battle. And therefore, regrettably carries out his oath as promised.
Now, based on the skeptic interpretation, because God gave Jephthah victory in battle, this confirms that God accepted the daughter as a sacrifice because He already knew who would come running out to Jephthah first.
Well, let’s talk about what we know and why this is not a contradiction.
Jepthah may have made a ridiculous oath to God. However, nowhere in the text does God say this oath was acceptable or pleasing to Him.
The atheist argues that a God who says He’s against human sacrifice wouldn’t have let Jepthah win the battle, having the foreknowledge that the young woman would be the first to greet him.
Well, let’s think this through. A battle is about to happen. It is God’s will that Jephthah win this battle. Should God then change His plan because Jephthah made a silly oath?
You see, that little oath had nothing to do with God. And nowhere does the Scripture say that God rewarded Jephthah with the win because He wanted the daughter sacrificed. Whether Jepthah made the oath or not, it is likely that the battle still would have been won, and no oath ever had to be made.
People promise God all sorts of things, silly promises that they can’t keep. Should God really be held captive by the impulsive promises and oaths that men and women make every day? If God has a plan, our oath or promise is not going to scare God away from doing His will.
5. The Power of God Contradiction
Okay, so the last contradiction deals with the power of God. Let’s look at Scripture and see if this last contradiction helps us get any closer to answering “are there contradictions in the bible?”
… with God all things are possible.Mathew 19:26
…The LORD was with Judah; and he drave out the inhabitants of the mountain; but could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron.Judges 1:19
In this contradiction, we are comparing Mathew 19:26, which states that with God all things are possible, to Judges 1:19, in which it seems God is unable to drive out the inhabitants for Judah.
Let’s tackle Mathew 19:26 first. It says with God all things are possible. The key word here is possible. Just because all things are possible with God, does not mean God is going to let all possibilities happen.
In other words, just because God does not allow a certain possibility to happen, does not mean He is incapable of doing so.
Secondly, if you really pay attention to the verse, it says that “…he could not drive out the inhabitants of the plain because they had chariots of iron.” The he in this statement is Judah. Judah could not drive out the inhabitants.
Yes, the Lord was with Judah. But having God with you does not automatically guarantee everything you try to do will be successful. God did allow Judah to drive the inhabitants from the mountains. However, God chose not to let Judah drive out the inhabitants from the valley. But in no way does this indicate that God is incapable. Or that Judah was incapable because God lacked the strength to make it happen.
Whew, that was a lot! But this exercise was very eye-opening for me.
Because it shows us how the Bible is often misunderstood by those who do not study it. It’s very concerning that these types of lies are being spread and keeping people from coming to Christ.
Let’s make it a practice to be aware of the lies being spread so that we are prepared to tackle them.
So, what do you think? Are there contradictions in the Bible? What other Biblical contradictions have you heard? Are there any contradictions that you’ve been unable to find a solution for?
You might also like:
12 Challenging Faith Questions Your Skeptic Friends Might Ask
6 Tips to Make Studying Apologetics Less Intimidating
Is Jesus Real and How Can We Know?
3 thoughts on “5 Contradictions in the Bible…That Are Not Contradictions”
Excellent blog post. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing and not knowing the full content of a scripture it is easy to misinterpret the scripture and mislead others away from the truth.
I’ve been a Christian for nearly fifty years and only learned of apologetics in the last ten years. I’m looking forward to more of your blog posts and increasing my knowledge of apologetics and being fully equipped to defend the faith.
Thanks! Yes, exactly. So true. A little knowledge is dangerous for sure. And this happens so frequently with people only repeating what they hear. I’m glad you’ll be sticking around for more posts! I look forward to chatting with you again in future comments.
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