Bible ContradictionsBible Contradictions
OK, prophecy aside, what about all those Bible contradictions and textual inaccuracies? If this is some kind of special book from God, how can I reconcile an imperfect Bible with a supposedly perfect source?
The alleged inaccuracies and errors in today's Bible translations were a major intellectual barrier for me -- so I decided to dive into that argument for awhile… When I started this journey, I hadn't read much of the Bible yet. However, I still maintained a "list" of "Bible contradictions" to help substantiate why I totally rejected it! It was time for me to pull out that list again...
To be fair, I knew I needed to analyze my list of alleged Bible errors according to traditional rules of logic and reason. Like many things in life, certain facts can appear contradictory, but further investigation reveals something different. "The Law of Non-Contradiction," which is the basis of all logical reasoning, maintains that something cannot be "a" and "non-a" at the same time. For instance, it can't be day and night at the same time and at the same place. Therefore, if a biblical scripture violates this Law, it has been established as a contradiction. However, based on the same Law, two statements can differ without being in contradiction.
For example, one witness in a court case might testify that he saw two people at a crime scene, Jake and Sam, while another witness may only testify to seeing Sam. These statements are not contradictory. In fact, in a court of law, these statements could be considered complementary.
I quickly discovered that this is the nature of many of the alleged contradictions in the Bible. For instance, in Matthew, we read that Jesus met two blind men. In Mark and Luke, we read about Jesus meeting only one blind man. 1 In Matthew and Mark, we read that Jesus went to pray alone three times in the Garden of Gethsemane, whereas, in Luke, we read that Jesus went alone to pray on one occasion. 2 Under legal rules of evidence and the Law of Non-Contradiction, these aren't contradictory scriptures, and yet they made my list.
Some "Bible contradictions" appear contradictory solely because of the intricacies of Bible translation. Analysis of the original languages of the Bible (Hebrew for the Old Testament and Greek for the New Testament) can solve many apparent issues. It's no different than any other textual review of translated material. All languages (including especially Hebrew and Greek) have special limitations and nuances that cause difficulty in translation. The historical context of the translation can also cause some misunderstanding.
For instance, the Book of Acts has two accounts of Paul's conversion on the Road to Damascus. In Acts 9:7: "…the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man." In Acts 22:9: "…they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me" (King James Version). At first glance, these accounts seem contradictory -- one says that Paul's companions heard a voice, while the other says that no voice was heard. However, the Greek text solves the matter. "The construction of the verb 'to hear' (akouo) is not the same in both accounts. In Acts 9:7 it's used with the genitive, in Acts 22:9 with the accusative. The construction with the genitive simply expresses that something is being heard or that certain sounds reach the ear; nothing is indicated as to whether a person understands what he hears or not. The construction with the accusative, however, describes a hearing, which includes mental apprehension of the message spoken. From this it becomes evident that the two passages are not contradictory." 3 Therefore, Acts 22:9 doesn't deny that Paul's companions heard certain sounds; it simply says that they didn't understand the sounds that they heard.
As I continued to pick apart my list, I was actually embarrassed with myself. Sure, there are a few inconsequential names and numbers in the Bible that must be considered copyist errors that arose over thousands of years. However, I was able to logically explain every alleged inconsistency of any real significance on my list.
I hadn't even checked this stuff out! I called myself an intellectual skeptic, and yet I hadn't treated this matter with much credibility. Sadly, I had rejected the Bible by focusing on a little list of "alleged Bible contradictions". Yet, when presented with the miracle of the Bible's structure, survival, integration, historical veracity, archaeological evidence, scientific insights, outside corroborating records, and hundreds of fulfilled prophecies, I stubbornly looked the other way. Now, the double standard I was living started to reveal itself to me!
I actually stopped reading (or even thinking) for about a week...
I had no where else to go...
What was I going to do with all of these "new realities" in my life...?
What was I going to do with those Old Testament prophecies of a coming Messiah...?
Go To The Next Chapter! Footnotes:
1 Matthew 9:27-31; Mark 8:22-26 and Luke 18:35-43.
2 Matthew 26:36-46 and Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:39-46.
3 W.F. Arndt, Does the Bible Contradict Itself?, 13-14.