Contradictions in the Bible
Whenever someone endeavors to discuss the “errors” in the Bible it somehow invites heavy criticism. It’s not like examining Homer’s Odyssey or Caesar’s Gallic Wars. Even though they are also works of antiquity, they are not religious books believed to be infallible. When you criticize a religious document, even by the very same standards used for other works of antiquity, people tend to get extremely defensive. It is a well-known fact that many believers do not read the Bible. Very few read it and fewer still study it with any perseverance. I suspect there would be fewer believers if the Bible and church history were to be studied closer and more often.
An important contradiction I would like to introduce is the strange concept of biblical faith. The Bible teaches that disciples are to walk by faith, not by sight. Bible believers contradict themselves greatly when they walk by physically seen recorded history (statues, artifacts, Bible documents, etc.) instead of walking by faith in the unseen God. Their faith, according to the Bible, is supposed to be in the unseen, not the physically seen world. However, countless fundamentalist leaders attempt to defend their faith using physical records. This is why believers often become very confused when contemplating this contradictory faith.
Many of the inconsistencies and contradictions that I will point out have been “explained away” by fundamentalist authors across many pages in numerous volumes throughout the years. The end result is, however, always the same: You must change the words of the “perfect” Bible in order to explain away the errors. That is unavoidable. You can’t excuse the fact that several actual words in the Bible do contradict themselves. The words of explanation from believers are not the Bible; they are simply words spoken by fundamentalist people trying to make sense of an ancient collection of texts that contain inconsistencies and contradictions. Therefore, you cannot claim that the Bible is inerrant without verbally “fixing” it. Fixing (changing) the text automatically concedes that it contains errors.
I understand that the way people commonly speak often appears to have contradictions. These are simply figures of speech. For example, the statement, “Los Angeles has a population of 13,107,528,” is not necessarily in conflict with the statement, “Los Angeles has a population of thirteen million.” The intelligent reader assumes that the second figure was rounded off, not that the author has contradicted himself. Likewise, the statement, “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times,” is not necessarily a blunder by some poor half-wit. To apply the hard rules of logic to such statements is to ignore the abbreviated way that we actually communicate. The real world is full of sentences that clearly have unstated conditions or implied meanings attached to them. Indeed, the simplest statements about everyday life are exceedingly difficult to make if rigor is demanded. If written communication is to function at all, let alone efficiently, then we must allow for unstated (but identifiable) conditions in a statement.
So what is a contradiction?
1. a combination of statements, ideas, or features of a situation that are opposed to one another.
I define a flat contradiction to be the strongest form of error. Flat meaning total or complete. A flat contradiction can be observed in the following two sentences:
The United States Declaration of Independence was ratified on July 4, 1776.
The United States Declaration of Independence was ratified on July 1, 1776.
If a flat contradiction is not considered an error then what is? I will proceed on that premise.
The Bible has many flat contradictions. I do not want be misunderstood here. I am not talking about Caesar’s Gallic Wars or other ordinary (uninspired, non-breathed of God) works of antiquity. The Bible is said to be “inerrant” (inspired, perfect, without errors). The Old and New Testaments cannot be inerrant because it does, as we will see, have errors. To “explain away” a flat contradiction using a theological loophole is to be indiscrete and dishonest. It also displays a double-standard because the believer would never want someone to use that kind of loophole against them in, say, a criminal court trial, especially when the believer is innocent of the charges.
It is assumed by millions of people that the Bible is 100% correct. This view often leads the believer to approach the scriptures as a kind of puzzle. Many puzzles do not appear to make sense at first until you “solve” them. The Bible, believers are taught, is full of such mysteries, oracles, and prophesies; only the mature disciple can discover the answers. For this, they say, you will need the mind of Christ. Two things immediately come to my earthly mind here. First, if we interpret flat contradictions as puzzles then nothing can be determined as accurate, inaccurate, true, or contradictory. Secondly, why would a good God hide such vital (heaven/hell) information in a puzzle where it could easily be missed? People who miss it wind up in the hell that God created.
Many people will hold to Circular Logic as they approach the Bible. Circular Logic is when a series of statements in an argument is made such that the conclusion is assumed in one or more of the premises. For example, “The Bible is the true, perfect, and inerrant word of God. How do I know this? Because the Bible says so.” Because of that illogic, anything in the Bible can be explained away and deemed valid. When I was a Bible teacher I simply refused to even entertain the idea that inconsistencies exist in scripture. Bias muddies the water for many people. It wasn’t bias, however, that led me to this research; it was actual Bible study that lead me to question the Bible. It was my quest for truth in the Bible that led me to the truth about the Bible. Many readers will at this point say that it is sinful pride and disobedience that leads people to question the Bible. I adamantly disagree with that assertion. I could just as easily espouse that it is delusional and arrogant pride that ensnares people to believe in flat contradictions. Where do people get the idea that it is more “obedient” and “righteous” to believe in a contradictory, unverified, outrageous, fantastic, unrealistic, violent, racist, and chauvinistic book? I now understand that it is not sinful pride that leads people to question and critically reject the Bible. On the contrary, it is utmost sincerity of truth that allows people to see the Bible for what it is. In this essay I will demonstrate, as many have before me, that there are real contradictions in the Bible. Not theological or philosophical but actual errors. There are far more biblical contradictions than are listed in this book. I have listed the ones that are most interesting to me.
A popular assumption many religious folks make is that anyone who would dare to critically examine the Bible is unregenerate, apostate, or a heretic. Keep in mind that the ancient Jews referred to Jesus as a heretic! Opposition to tradition often brings violence; the church has murdered a lot of people (many children) for so-called heresy and infidelity.
In 1998 I began research for an essay I was preparing on the topic of The Rapture. I became very suspicious of my findings. No mainstream church believed in the rapture until the 19th century. The rapture is a common belief now. This led to more research into the origins of the Bible. As a theology student, it started to be like mental gymnastics in order to ignore the technical contradictions in scripture. If “obedient faith” means ignore flat contradictions then the author of your faith is illogical, inconsistent, and disorderly. That same author gives no respect to the mind, intelligence, and honesty.
There are, as I eventually admitted, some serious errors and inconsistencies within scripture. Because my faith was based solely on the Bible, those inconsistencies became the reason for me to ask more (and better) questions about the history of my religion. I was not fearful of the outcome of my honest research; I simply wanted to know the truth and not a dogmatic explanation. There is a good reason as to why C.S. Lewis looked at much of the Bible as mythological. C.S. Lewis is therefore referred to by many fundamentalists as a liberal and heretical writer.
I would like to point out that fundamentalist teachers often use the words "liberal" or "heretical" to describe anyone who holds a view of the Bible that is other than traditional. They say that “liberal theologians” are trying to discredit the Bible. Fundamentalists see the “higher criticism” of the nineteenth century (and any other) Bible criticism as an antichrist agenda.
The earliest criticism of the Bible dates back to the fifth century, not the nineteenth century. Jerome (340-420 C.E.) was the first teacher to question the authorship date of the book of Daniel. He claimed it was written near 200 B.C.E. However, the author of Daniel was supposed to have been an eye witness to events that happened 300 years earlier.
Therefore, when we see the word “liberal” being used, it is more of a political reference and not of scholarship. When fundamentalists label other people as “liberal theologians” it is intended to spark a negative feeling among traditional Christian thinkers. So who is really traditional and conservative in their religious beliefs?
The Documentary Hypothesis
Where did the beginning actually start? It is very unlikely that Moses wrote the first five books of the Old Testament (a.k.a. the Pentateuch). In fact no one really knows how Moses was named the author. The Bible, however, lists him as the official author. First off, much of it is in the third person; The Lord God spoke to Moses, etc. If indeed Moses did write the books, there would also be some strange irony: Numbers 12:3, “Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.” If Moses really did think that of himself, instead of being the meekest of men he was one of the most vain and arrogant people in history! “If Moses was not the author, the books are without authority; and if he was the author, the author is without credit, because to boast of meekness is the reverse of meekness, and is a lie in sentiment.” -Thomas Paine, Age of Reason
Also, Deuteronomy 34:5 records the death of Moses. Moses could not have penned his own death and most scholars do agree that there is no writing style change in those last verses of Deuteronomy. In Jewish lore, Moses was the giver of the Law and somewhere along the line he was erroneously named as the author of those books. Then the fundamentalists came along and forced the issue of authorship. To claim that Moses wrote of his own humility and death is absurd.
Biblical scholar Richard E. Friedman, in his book, Who Wrote the Bible?, discusses the probable authors of the first five books. The Documentary Hypothesis holds that the Pentateuch was written by many people (other than the named authors) at different times. There are at least four traditions that are interweaved; the Yahwist (J), Elohist (E), Priestly (P), and Deuteronomist (D) material. Many scholars have reached this conclusion, in part, by consideration of stylistic and timeline elements. For example, the Priestly tradition is heavy on statistics, the Yahwist and Elohist traditions refer to the Deity as Yahweh and Elohim, respectively, and the Deuteronomist material reflect the faction of prophets during the lifetime of Jeremiah. The Yahwist material is dated between 960-916 B.C.E. It is the oldest of the Bible. The Elohist (Northern Kingdom) dates near 850 B.C.E. The (D) material is post exile text that contributes, among other things, the 2nd giving of the Law.
These four groups of writers are from different times and places. Their perspectives, circumstances, and politics were different from one another. During the exile of 586 B.C.E., the documents were most likely combined by a redactor. The redactor material (R) was an edited version that bridged all four of the written documents together. This helps to explain the many problems of contradiction and error in the final product. Many fundamentalist theologians reject the Documentary Hypothesis. They claim, despite the obvious, that Moses wrote those books! In the world of faith anything can be real.
Logically, if two statements contradict one another, then (at least) one of them is false. The following examples are just a few of the hundreds of contradictions and inconsistencies contained in the Old and New Testaments. If only ONE verse is incorrect then the Bible cannot be God’s inerrant (PERFECT) word.
Old Testament Contradictions
An anachronism is the representation of someone as existing or something as happening in other than chronological, proper, or historical order. The Bible is riddled with anachronisms. Historical inconsistency is a glaring problem in scripture. Theology aside, the factual and chronological information is many times contradictory as we will see.
Example of anachronism: “Abraham is said in Genesis 11:31 to have left the city of his fathers, ‘Ur of the Chaldees.’ Had the material on Abraham that we find in Genesis actually been written down either before the Israelites settled in Canaan or at least before the monarchy-had the legend actually been written by Moses, we would expect that Ur would be referred to as a city of the Sumerians (who actually built it) or, at the very least, as a city of the Akkadians who were first Semitic rulers of Mesopotamia, or even the Amorites of Hammurabi’s day, ca. 2100 B.C.E.. The Chaldeans had not infiltrated the area around Ur until about 1100 B.C.E. and may not have seized the city itself until ca. 800 B.C.E. They were not the masters of Mesopotamia until the collapse of the Assyrian empire (612 B.C.E.). Thus, the reference to ‘Ur of the Chaldees’ dates the writing as being at least later than 1100 B.C.E. and possibly as late as 800 B.C.E.” Tim Callahan, Secret Origins of the Bible The Bible refers to the city of Abraham’s father, Ur of the Chaldees. It also states that Abraham lived in (Canaan) the land of the Philistines (Gen, 21:34). From this we know that the account was written hundreds of years after Abraham supposedly lived (it was written hundreds of years after the fact). We can see that the story was probably fitted to the times it was written in.
These anachronisms are also very important when prophecy is involved. If there are anachronisms in the supposed prophecy then there is a very high probability that the prophecy was written well after the alleged “fulfilled” predictions. This, among many things, calls biblical prophesies into question. Example: I watch the news and see that an earthquake has occurred. I then write down a “divine” prediction that the earthquake was indeed going to occur and date it years before the event. I then tell my neighbors that I am a prophet. Since it is all in the past with no digital timestamp, no one can verify the prophecy’s validity. Because religious faith has nothing to do with verification or proof, many people will simply swallow religious false prophecy as fact.
In college I was tasked to write a lengthy essay on the conquering of Jerusalem. The professor posed the question, “Why did it take centuries for Israel to take the city of Jerusalem after Joshua had conquered the region?” In my essay I valiantly pointed out that it was to be a king that would lead the children of Israel to victory. Jerusalem, I insisted, was the city of the great king and would never be ruled by a mere judge, priest, or prophet; David’s inheritance of Jerusalem was a foreshadowing of Christ’s victory as king and priest. My thesis waxed righteous and victorious. I even threw in a reference to Salem’s Melchizedek for flavor. It was a highly motivational paper. My professor was subsequently stunned and gave it a resounding A+. He commented on how I was “receptive” to the Holy Spirit and an intuitive apologist.
Nowhere had I read that a king was destined to take Jerusalem. I made it up! I was creative in my observance of scripture and embellished upon it. I used pattern-seeking similarities and confirming characteristics to build an essay. I was learning the art of myth making which is the heart of religion. The actual study of Jerusalem, however, reveals a very interesting problem. There are three different versions of the taking of Jerusalem:
“Both the historical validity and the supposed divine inspiration of the Bible are called into doubt when one book contradicts another. For example, Joshua 12:8 says that Joshua gave the land of, among others, the Jebusites, to the people of Israel, and Josh. 12:10 lists the king of Jerusalem as among those defeated by the children of Israel. At the time Jerusalem was also called Jebus. So, according to Joshua 12, it was in Israelite hands before Joshua’s death. Yet Joshua 15:63 says that the tribe of Judah could not drive out the Jebusites that dwelt in Jerusalem, and it is an important part of the story of the outrage at Gibeah that Jebus is still a Canaanite city until it is taken by King David (2 Sam. 5:6,7), hundreds of years after the time of the supposed conquest. Here we have three different versions of the conquest of Jebus/Jerusalem: that it was taken by Joshua, that it was taken by the tribe of Judah after Joshua’s death, and that it was independent until David took it and made it his capital. Clearly, we have a problem in historical validity: They cannot all be right.” Tim Callahan, Secret Origins of the Bible
In The Beginning
First of all, there are creation stories that are far older than the Bible. The Persian story: God created the world in six days, a man called Adama, a woman called Evah, and then rested. The Etruscan, Babylonian, Phoenician, Chaldean, and Egyptian stories are much the same. The Persians, Greeks, Egyptians, Chinese, and Hindus have Garden of Eden and the Tree of Life stories. Also, the Persians, Babylonians, Nubians, and people of Southern India all had the myth of the fall of man and the subtle serpent. The Tahitians report that man was created from the earth and the first woman was created from one of his bones. The Chinese claim that sin came into the world by the defiance of woman. Sound familiar?
A close reading of the first two chapters of the Bible reveals not one, but two different and conflicting stories of creation. In the first account, birds and beasts were created before man. In the second, man was created before the birds and beasts. In the first, fowls are made out of the water. In the second, fowls are made out of the ground. In the first, Adam and Eve are created together. In the second, Adam is created without Eve; then the beasts and birds, and then Eve is created from one of Adam's ribs. Some fundamentalists will say that the two different creation stories are simply commentaries on the same event (contradicting commentaries, I may add). Others will at this point say that certain things in the Bible are symbolic and not to be taken literally. And in the next breath those same believers will insist that other parts of the Bible are to be taken literally. I would ask, “What parts are literal?” Christian answer: “The ones that we tell you are literal.” This is simply inconsistent, ludicrous, and arrogant. This is the same logic that was used to canonize the Bible.
The fossil record clearly shows that land animals developed before birds. The Genesis account indicates the reverse.
Genesis 1:2-3 claims that God created light and divided it from darkness on the first day; however, Genesis 1:14-19 tells us the sun, moon, and stars weren't made until the fourth day.
Fundamentalist theologians have generally agreed that the Bible teaches that the earth is less than 10,000 years of age. However, in Wyoming, the Green River Formation shows that varves, a 260 meters thick formation made from annual layers of sediment, were laid down for the past 2 million years. Ice core samples taken in Greenland shows 40,000 annual layers of ice. In each case, one layer of sediment or ice is laid down each year. The creationists who believe the earth is much older than 10,000 years are at least more scientifically savvy and open to logic.
Where did Cain get a wife? “And Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch.” (Gen 4:17) There was only one woman created by God in Genesis. No sisters are listed, none at all. Either Cain had sex with an imaginary sister…or his mother. There is no other logical explanation for that one (yikes). I do not doubt that incest occurred in those days; it still occurs. Incest, however, was rejected by Jews and later Jewish laws. The Jewish writers and editors did not do a good job of fixing that one. All of this is swept aside by the believer doing mental acrobatics.
If the creation story is true, then the fossil record from bottom to top would be mainly composed of gradually larger species. But there would be the occasional random mixture of species as well: trilobites with humans with dinosaurs with maples with Cycad trees, etc. Species would be somewhat mixed. The very bottom layers would include signs of human habitation. That is simply not the case.
If the theory of evolution is true, the fossil record from bottom to top would show gradually more complex, less primitive species (and it does). Certain species would only be found in certain layers; they would never be found in others. For example, a trilobite would never be found with a dinosaur; a dinosaur would never be found with a human fossil. Species would be rigidly segregated. There would be no signs of human habitation in the lowest layers (and there is not).
Thousands of locations throughout the world have been studied for fossil record. Scientists have found fossils of thousands of species of plants and animals which did not exist on the earth simultaneously. The fossil record shows that older species died out before the first member of the more recent species evolved. They found that the fossils of certain species (e.g. dinosaurs and humans) have never been found together. Also, archeologists have never found remains of ancient villages and towns in and below the oldest layers of rock. The vast majority of scientists working in the field of archaeology, geology, and biology have concluded that the Bible creation story is incompatible with the observed fossil record.
The story of the flood is perhaps the most embarrassing one that believers take literally. There are multiple contradictions in the flood story.
Is it sevens or twos? “Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and his female: and of beasts that are not clean by two, the male and his female.” (Gen 7:2) “Of clean beasts, and of beasts that are not clean, and of fowls, and of every thing that creepeth upon the earth, there went in two and two unto Noah into the ark, the male and the female, as God had commanded Noah.” (Gen 7:8-9) It can’t be both, folks.
Noah is said to have built an all-wooden ark about 450 feet long. Long wooden ships as long as 300 feet have actually been built, but they required extensive metal reinforcing. This technology was not available to Noah. And those wooden ships leaked considerably, requiring either a motorized pump or a large crew to constantly dump water. Motor driven pumps were not available in those days, and there were not enough people on the ark to manually pump the water.
Even an elementary school student can deduce that it would indeed be impossible for a ship of that size to contain two of every kind of species. At that time there were millions of species in the world! They couldn’t possibly have enough room for that, even on a boat as large as the ark described in Genesis. Also, how did the marsupials of Australia or other isolated species get on that boat? At that time there was no way for animals found only in North America, South America, and Australia to cross oceans and arrive at the ark. And there is no fossil record to suggest that those animals were placed in those countries after the flood.
The Bible said that Noah loaded the entire ark with two (or seven) from each species within a 24-hour day. This would have required him to have taken into the vessel hundreds of species per second. I don’t think so.
Noah took his wife, three sons, and three daughters-in-law into the ark. Each person would have had to sort, house, look after, feed, water, and remove the excrement from millions of animals each day. Fun, but not probable.
When there are fewer than about 40 members to a species, extinction often occurs, even with massive human intervention. After the flood there would have been only two (or seven) members to each species; many species would not have survived. Please keep in mind that the writers, editors, and copyists of the Bible were not privy to modern scientific understanding. These mistakes were made in ignorance. If a perfect Holy Spirit authored the Bible and directed Noah, such ignorance concerning extinction would not have been the case.
Many animals can only survive in certain small regions of the earth where the food supply and temperatures are ideal. These species could not have left their homeland, moved through jungle and desert in order to reach the ark; they would not have survived the journey. Many believers claim that these impossibilities were overcome by God’s miraculous powers. You could just as easily say that you were born on the planet Krypton but then God did a miracle and guided you safely to earth. That story is about as believable as Noah’s flood.
The following is not a contradiction as much as it is an absurdity: In Genesis 8:20, Noah’s first recorded action following the flood is to sacrifice one of every clean animal and bird. Since so few animals were saved, this could be considered rather wasteful, defeating, and silly because Noah’s primary purpose of taking the animals aboard the Ark was to keep them alive (Gen 6:20). Wouldn’t extinction occur for many of those who didn’t reproduce on the journey?
What about the fish? Some fish require fresh water, some brackish water, and some ocean-salt water. If enough water was added to the oceans so that the level rose above that of the highest ground, then the salinity levels of the oceans would have drastically changed. There would have been a massive extinction of fish species. Only a few tolerant fish would have survived. The salt content of all the fresh water lakes in the world would drastically increase, causing the death of numerous fish species found only in fresh water. Except in one small area of the world, the Black Sea around 5600 B.C.E., none of this happened. The Black Sea flood is thought by many scholars to be the source of the world-wide flood myth of ancient Babylonian that was later adopted by the ancient Jewish writers who wrote the Bible. The Jews obtained much of their mythological gods, fables, and names from various older cultures.
There is no indication of a universal flood in ancient Egyptian, Indus or Chinese writings, temples, pyramids, statues, etc., which existed at the time of Noah. If a worldwide flood really did occur, then all of the world’s early civilizations would have been completely destroyed. The entire population of the world would have consisted of eight Jewish people. Human reproduction would have taken many hundreds of years. The subsequent culture would have been very different from the pre-flood society. The archeological record would definitely show a sudden change from ancient Egyptian, Indus, and Chinese artifacts, to no signs of civilization (flood destruction), to a post-flood Hebrew culture. However, archeology shows that those cultures were not interrupted at all. They continued in succession throughout the period when the flood is supposed to have occurred (2350 B.C.E.).
The American Northwest experienced many gigantic floods caused by glacier dams breaking in ancient Montana. Those floods cut amazing river gorges throughout Washington and Northern Oregon. Just in the last century have scientists began to understand these local floods. Noah’s worldwide flood and ark story simply did not happen. Once again, the writers of the Bible ascribe strange and fantastic stories to their God. But that was the custom of their day; story telling and mythic fables were integral to ancient man. What is modern man’s excuse?
Look up and read the Babylonian flood legend Epic of Gilgamesh. This famous story is dated way before Noah. About 300 different cultures from around the world have told flood narratives. The account of Noah became the most famous flood story for the same reason Judeo-Christian religions became the most prevalent in the world: Jewish and Christian wars and their cultural victories. The Jews emerged from Canaan as the triumphant people. This happened because they were successful in war. Subsequently, the Christians conquered Europe in wars and crusades. Every time the blood bathed religionists won, they declared that their God (Yahweh, then Christ) gave them victory. The winner gets to emphasize the history. Actual history, however, is still recorded quite often. Honest historians examine more than just the winner’s side of the story.
There is no evidence for the Hebrew Exodus out of Egypt. This is a case of the Bible contradicting history. There have been no Jewish/Hebrew artifacts found in the Sinai Desert from that time suggesting a massive 40-year wandering. Outside of the Bible there is no evidence of the Egyptians enslaving the Jews. Believers insist they have evidence but when pressed for substantiation on certain topics like the exodus, they simply say “absence of evidence doesn’t prove that it didn’t exist.” That kind of logic doesn’t hold up in a laboratory, courtroom, or classroom. Myth and miracles are articles of faith, not fact (and the Bible falls under the miracle category). Also, God is said to have killed all first born Egyptian male babies. It doesn’t say he killed Pharaoh (the guy who wasn’t listening to God in the first place). No, it says that God killed the babies. That is the Bible God; a God of unspeakable deeds. If this is how God feels about unbelievers, imagine how God’s children feel about unbelievers: Crusades, Inquisition, Serbia, 9/11, etc. Violence breeds violence and the God of the Bible is by far a violent God.
David or Satan?
The Old Testament contains an interesting contradiction in the story of the census taken by King David and the resulting punishment of the Israelites. God was so angered by the census that he sent a plague that killed 70,000 men. According to 2 Samuel 24:1, the Lord had caused David to take the census, which makes the punishment appear even more senseless. But an attempt was later made, in 1 Chronicles 21:1, to improve God’s reputation by claiming that Satan incited the census.
How old was Ahaziah when he began to reign?
22 years old in 2Ki 8:26.
42 years old in 2Ch 22:2.
Later translations conveniently change 2Ch 22:2 to read age 22. The older King James and American Standard Versions, however, read 42.
Is the lord good?
“The LORD is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works.” (Psa 145:9)
“And I will dash them one against another, even the fathers and the sons together, saith the LORD: I will not pity, nor spare, nor have mercy, but destroy them.” (Jer 13:14)
Four thousand or forty thousand stalls and horsemen?
“And Solomon had forty thousand stalls of horses for his chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen.” (1Ki 4:26)
“And Solomon had four thousand stalls for horses and chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen; whom he bestowed in the chariot cities, and with the king at Jerusalem.” (2Ch 9:25) Hey, if the Bible is “inerrant” then this sort of thing wouldn’t happen.
How many overseers did Solomon have?
550 in 1Ki 9:23
250 in 2Ch 8:10
Who’s the fool, fool?
“Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him.” (Pro 26:4)
“Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit.” (Pro 26:5)
How many children did Michal, the daughter of Saul, have?
“Therefore Michal the daughter of Saul had no child unto the day of her death.” (2Sam 6:23)
“But the king took the two sons of Rizpah the daughter of Aiah, whom she bare unto Saul, Armoni and Mephibosheth; and the five sons of Michal the daughter of Saul, whom she brought up for Adriel the son of Barzillai the Meholathite” (2Sam 21:8) (Note. These verses are from the King James Version; some later translations conveniently replace Michal’s name with Merab. The American Standard Version also reveals the contradiction.)
How old was Jehoiachin when he began to reign?
“Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he began to reign, and he reigned in Jerusalem three months. And his mother's name was Nehushta, the daughter of Elnathan of Jerusalem.” (2Ki 24:8)
“Jehoiachin was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned three months and ten days in Jerusalem: and he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD.” (2Ch 36:9) Again, this is from the King James Version, some later translations conveniently change his age to 18. The American Standard Version also reveals the contradiction. Obviously, later scholars had to fix the problem.
Rabbits do not chew their cud.
“And the hare, because he chews the cud, but divides not the hoof; he is unclean unto you.” (Lev 11:6) Rabbits do not bring up anything; they let it go all the way through and then eat it again. Rabbits do eat their own dung but they do not regurgitate and chew on it. The description given in Leviticus is biologically inaccurate (errant).
Who pays for the sins of the father?
“Prepare slaughter for his children for the iniquity of their fathers; that they do not rise, nor possess the land, nor fill the face of the world with cities.” (Isa 14:21)
“The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin.” (Deut 24:16)
Seven or three years of famine?
“So God came to David, and told him, and said unto him, shall seven years of famine come unto thee in thy land? Or will thou flee three months before thine enemies, while they pursue thee?” (2Sam 24:13)
“So God came to David, and said unto him, thus saith the LORD, choose thee. Either three years of famine or three months to be destroyed before thy foes, while that the sword of thine enemies overtaketh thee;” (1Ch 21:11)
The Old Testament contradictions and inconsistencies are many. There are far more than I have listed. I am trying to keep this brief for the believers who don’t read much.
New Testament Contradictions
There are contradictions in the New Testament between the genealogies in the first chapter of Matthew and the third chapter of Luke. Both genealogies begin with Jesus’ father, who is identified as Joseph (although the Bible later says that Joseph isn’t Jesus’ father because Mary was supposedly impregnated by the Holy Spirit). Matthew says Joseph’s father was Jacob, while Luke claims he was Heli. Matthew lists 26 generations between Jesus and King David, whereas Luke records 41. Matthew shows Jesus’ line of descent through David’s son Solomon, while Luke shows it going through David’s son Nathan.
Whenever you attempt to explain inconsistent genealogies as Jewish culture, then you are admitting that the Bible has real errors. The “explaining” process by fundamentalists is an attempt to justify their view that the Bible is inspired. However, this so-called justification falls very short. For example, when they say, “It was customary to skip a generation or give pseudo-names when writing genealogies” then they are left with inserting their own information in place of the written (official canon) text. To say that Jacob’s pseudo-name was Heli or that Heli was really Joseph’s grandfather is to say that you acknowledge the (obvious) error and therefore must make logical sense of the problem. Some fundamentalists attempt to claim that Luke’s genealogy is actually Mary’s. However, Luke 3:23 says “Joseph, the son of Heli,” not “Mary, the daughter of Heli.” It can’t be both. There is something very slippery and dishonest when people bend words because of self-interest.
The bigger and more serious issue here is that of interpretation. If you take the liberty of proclaiming who Heli really is then you are now speaking interpretively for the Holy Spirit. You are saying that those who edited, canonized (voted), and translated the scriptures are inconsistent (and that you are accurate). Remember, we are not talking about your Uncle Joey going by his middle name Albert. We are talking about a book that people say is inerrant and inspired of God Almighty; a book that people stake their lives on. Was it Heli or Jacob?
Herein is the interpretive dance of the biblical riddle. Theologians and teachers demand they OWN the right to interpret those documents. Therefore, they think, that they alone can make sense of the scriptural puzzle. They proclaim that “the ‘wisdom of the world’ cannot see or discern such heavenly exhortation.” This is simply another broad paint stroke in trying to make unified sense of a fragmented document. Also, no one owns the rights to the Bible; I have just as much right to read, interpret, and comment on the Bible as the next person. Don't think so? Watch me go.
The story of Jesus' birth is also contradictory. Matthew 2:13-15 depicts Joseph and Mary as fleeing to Egypt with the baby Jesus immediately after the wise men from the east had brought gifts. However, Luke 2:22-40 claims that after his birth, Jesus’ parents remained in Bethlehem for the time of Mary’s purification (which was 40 days, under the Mosaic Law). Afterwards, they brought Jesus to Jerusalem “to present him to the Lord,” and then returned to their home in Nazareth. Luke mentions no journey into Egypt nor any visit by wise men from the east. An argument from silence?
Was Jesus’ first sermon on the mountain or on the plain?
“And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying...” (Matt 5:1-2)
“And he came down with them, and stood in the plain, and the company of his disciples, and a great multitude of people...came to hear him…And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples and said...” (Luk 6:17, 20)
Show or hide your good deeds?
“In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matt 5:16, NIV)
“But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matt 6:3-4, NIV)
Coming back soon?
Jesus said that his second coming would occur in clouds of glory before the deaths of the people who were living at that time. He says, “I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.” (Matt 10:23) He then says, “I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom” (Matt 16:28) It is quite clear that Jesus believed that his second coming would happen during the lifetime of many then living. That was indeed the belief of many early Christians and the foundation of much of Jesus’ moral teaching. When he said, “Do not worry about tomorrow,” (Matt 6:34) and things like that, it was mostly because he thought that his second coming was going to be very soon; that all ordinary mundane affairs did not matter. Owning possessions as well as long-term goals were considered foolish. The early Christians really did believe it and some actually abstained from planting trees, etc. They accepted the teaching that the second coming was near. There are countless stories told through the centuries of ignorant people selling everything they own and waiting up until midnight for Christ’s return only to be reminded of their foolishness (Peanuts, Linus in the pumpkin patch).
Who bought potter’s field?
Matthew 27:5 states that Judas took the money he had received for betraying Jesus, threw it down in the temple, and “went and hanged himself.” To the contrary, Acts 1:18 claims Judas used the money to personally purchase the field and “falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out.”
At the hearing before Pilate, Jesus answered no charges (Matt 27:14).
At the hearing before Pilate, Jesus answers directly to all of Pilate’s questions (Jhn 18:33-36).
Jesus was crucified during the third hour (Mar 15:25):
“It was the third hour when they crucified him.”
However, it could not have been the third hour since he was still before Pilate until about the sixth hour (Jhn 19:13-14):
“When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge’s seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha). It was the day of Preparation of Passover Week, about the sixth hour. ‘Here is your king,’ Pilate said to the Jews.”
Who carried the cross?
In describing Jesus being led to his execution, John 19:17 recounts that he carried his own cross. But Mark 15:21-23 disagrees by saying that a man named Simon carried the cross.
One or two mockers?
Regarding the crucifixion, Matthew 27:44 tells us that Jesus was taunted by both criminals who were being crucified with him. However, Luke 23:39-43 relates that only one of the criminals mocked Jesus, the other criminal rebuked the one who was doing the mocking, and Jesus told the criminal who was defending him, “Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.”
What were Jesus’ last words?
“And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, eli, lama sabachthani?’ that is to say, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’...Jesus, when he cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.” (Matt 27:46, 50) Or was it:
“And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, ‘Father, unto thy hands I commend my spirit’ and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.” (Luk 23:46) Or was it:
“When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, ‘It is finished:’ and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.” (Jhn 19:30)
Who came to the tomb?
Mary Magdalene alone (Jhn 20:1), or was it
Mary Magdalene and the other Mary (Matt 28:1), or was it
Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome (Mar 16:1), or was it
Magdalene, Joanna, Mary, the mother of James, and other women (Luk 24:10)?
There are contradictions in the accounts of the resurrection. This is the event that is the very foundation of the Christian religion. If the resurrection isn’t true than it’s all over; the Christian faith depends on the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ. Mark 16:2 states that on the day of the resurrection, certain women arrived at the tomb at the rising of the sun. But John 20:1 informs us they arrived when it was yet dark. Luke 24:2 describes the tomb as open when the women arrived, whereas Matthew 28:1-2 indicates it was closed. Mark 16:5 declares that the women saw a young man at the tomb, Luke 24:4 says they saw two men, Matthew 28:2 reports they saw an angel, and John 20:11-12 claims they saw two angels.
Also, there are contradictions as to the identity of the women who came to the tomb, whether the men or angels the women saw were inside or outside the tomb, whether the men or angels were standing or sitting, and whether Mary Magdalene recognized the risen Jesus when he first appeared to her. Matthew 28:2 and Mark 16:5 say that there was one “angel” or “young man” at the empty tomb on Easter morning. On the contrary, Luke 24:4 says that there were “two men.”
How many apostles were in office between the resurrection and ascension?
1 Corinthians 15:5 says 12.
Matthew 27:3-5 has 12 minus 1.
Acts 1:9-26 says that Mathias not been elected until after the resurrection.
“Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them.” (Matt 28:16) While editing the Bible, it was obviously too difficult for the Christians to keep the small details accurate.
Judge everything or nothing?
“The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man's judgment” (1Cor 2:15, NIV)
“Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.” (1Cor 4:5, NIV)
There are conflicting accounts of Paul’s conversion. Acts 9:7 states that when Jesus called Paul to preach the gospel, the men who were with Paul heard a voice but saw no man:
“And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man.”
According to Acts 22:9, however, the men saw a light but didn't hear the voice speaking to Paul:
“And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of him that spoke to me.”
Also, notice that Paul (or whoever the authors were) rarely places a physical Jesus in his teaching. His references to Christ seem to be on a spiritual ministry and resurrection. Obviously, Paul never claims that he knew a physical Jesus. What isn’t so obvious is the earliest (biblical) gospel (Mark) makes no mention of the virgin birth. Paul’s Epistles (and Romans) were written about 10 years or more before Mark. Paul never mentions the virgin birth either. This coincides with many other Christian (Christ Cult/Gnostic) teachers during that same time period. They believed in a spiritual (never physical) Christ savior who conquered evil in the spiritual realm by way of a spiritual crucifixion and resurrection. This is very interesting when you go back and read the words ascribed to Paul. The earthly Christ, as seen in the later-written gospels, places Jesus as the Christ on earth.
Editing and multiple authorships can be seen in the fusion of teachings and doctrines. Put simply, many early Christians never believed that a physical Christ existed (they had nothing to do with a Jesus). Later Christians claimed that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ. One can easily see how a physical Jesus could be added to the later doctrines seen in the gospels. We tend to look upon the early church as neat little groups within a short time period with just a few problems in conflicting doctrine. This is simply not history. There were many years involved with many differences in belief about who Christ was and who Jesus was. The group that “won” the battle of doctrine was the council of Nicea under Constantine’s rule. They were the chief editors of the Bible canon and therefore took the liberty of deciding that the person [Jesus] was the Christ. There were many believers who simply rejected an earthly physical Jesus as the Christ; they simply believed in a spiritual Christ. The many books and writings were fused together and traces of different doctrines are seen throughout the New Testament and apocryphal writings. In short, the Council of Nicaea was an early form of fundamentalism. They insisted on a “legal” book to rule the physical church. The other groups of Christians observed that real faith was spiritually internal; written documents were not authoritative to them. There were many kinds of Christians then and many now.
Various Contradictions and Problems
1. Every word of God proves true. (Pro 30:5)
2. God deceives some of the prophets. (1Ki 22:23, 2Ch 18:22, Jer 4:10, Eze 14:9)
3. The scribes falsify the word. (Jer 8:8)
4. God deceives the wicked (in order to condemn them!). (2Th 2:11-12)
If God deceives anyone at all then every word of God cannot prove true; the Bible simply cannot be trusted if the scribes falsify any of the words. Number 1 is mutually exclusive with the other three references. The Bible cannot be perfect since one or more of the above references are obviously untrue. Whether your Bible translates the word “persuade” or “deceives” makes no difference; deception is clearly articulated.
23,000 or 24,000 people died?
“We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did-and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died.” (1Cor 10:8, NIV)
“but those who died in the plague numbered 24,000.” (Num 25:9, NIV)
Paul was 1,000 people wrong. We gladly overlook such errors in “non-inspired” and “errant” works of antiquity. However, if the Bible is perfect then such errors cannot exist. All you students of logic will understand that if you are explaining why Paul was 1,000 people wrong then you are explaining why the Bible was incorrect in the first place. You cannot hide the hole you dug when covering something else with the dirt.
Can God be seen?
YES: “And I will take away my hand, and thou shalt see my backparts.” (Ex 33:23)
“And the Lord spake to Moses face to face, as a man speaketh to his friend.” (Ex 33:11)
“For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.” (Gen 32:30)
NO: “No man hath seen God at any time.” (Jhn 1:18)
“And he said, Thou canst not see my face; for there shall no man see me and live. (Ex. 33:20)
“Whom no man hath seen nor can see.” (1Tim 6:16)
God doesn’t tempt people…but he does.
“Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God; for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man.” (Jam 1:13)
“And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham.” (Gen 22:1)
One or two ascended to heaven?
“And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.” (2Ki 2:11)
“No man hath ascended up to heaven but he that came down from heaven...the Son of Man.” (Jhn 3:13)
Remember to forget
Deut 25:19 says “you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven. Do not forget!” So which is it, blot out the memory or do not forget? Well, since it’s in the Bible it will probably not be blotted from memory…I can’t remember.
Jeremiah or Zechariah?
In Matthew 27:9, Matthew quotes the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah. But the quote is actually found in Zechariah 11:12-13 and not found in the book of Jeremiah at all. Matthew and his Nicene editors needed to brush up on their prophets. Again, fundamentalists will try in vain to “fix” this error with smoke and mirrors.
The words attributed to Jesus in the New Testament never discuss a new written creed or law. Jesus never mentions that a new covenant of grace would require a written New Testament Bible. None of the books in the Bible were written by Jesus. The writer(s) of Paul’s letters, which represents more than 50% of the New Testament, were obviously heavy into Hebrew theology, the written law, and the sacrificial system. Paul’s letters almost never mention the teachings of Jesus. Perhaps the early Jesus Movement knew quite well that a new physical/legal/mandatory written document would contradict what Jesus was actually teaching.
The progression of writing through the some 2500 years gave the Bible writers and editors the ability to rewrite history as they saw fit. These writers also took the opportunity to bridge material and fill gaps in the stories as they needed. I think many of these people were sincere and believed what they were writing; bridging doctrinal and historical gaps seemed right to them. Discrete and honest people will relate to what I am saying here.
Many of the contradictions found in the Bible are due to the fact that many fallible humans wrote, compiled, and edited the individual books. As a result, the collection of books now known as the Bible contradicts itself. If you think that two statements that flat contradict each other can both be true, then you have faith in a lie. You also have little regard for the truth, except of course when you need the truth in order to plead your case.
If ANY book is to be considered “God’s Word” then it must be verifiably accurate beyond any shadow of any possible doubt. In the case of the Bible, there is a shadow the size of Palestine and Rome put together.