Many people believe that the Bible contradicts itself and contains contradictions. Atheists and skeptics are strong supporters that the Bible contains contradictions. Any contradiction could easily undermine the Bible.
If the Bible contains contradictions or contradicts itself, then how can we believe its contents? If the Bible contradicts itself, how can we know it is the true Word of God?
Does the Bible Really Contradict Itself?
Most of the alleged contradictions are made by atheists. All of the “supposed contradictions” are aimed at attacking the genuineness of the Bible and its divine nature. One of the “contradictions” in the Bible is the teaching of the Sabbath day. Atheists point out the difference between the verses in Exodus 20:8 and Romans 14:5 (“Biblical Contradictions,” American Atheists).
Exodus 20:8 states; “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy,” whereas, Romans 14:5 states, “One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind.” Atheists argue there is a contradiction here but is there a true contradiction?
As with any biblical passage, the individual has to be aware of the surrounding context. Atheists are simply using these Bible passages out of context. Exodus 20:8 is talking about the Sabbath Day for the Israelites. On this day, the Israelites were to do no work.
It was supposed to be a day of rest and reflection on God. The Sabbath day is completely different from the teaching of Paul in Romans 14:5. After Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, believers are not under the Sabbath today.
Jesus restated all of the commandments during His ministry, except the commandment of the Sabbath day. In Romans 14:5, Paul was teaching that if one person wants to celebrate a special day, that’s fine.
Contradictions in the Gospel Accounts?
Another popular “contradiction” of the Bible is within the gospel accounts. There is a “supposed contradiction” between Matthew 28:1-8 and Luke 23:55-24:11. In the account of Matthew 28:1-8, the writer refers specifically to “Mary Magdalene and the other Mary” (Matthew 28:1) going to the tomb, whereas Luke 22:55-24:12 refers to “The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee” (Luke 23:55).
A second “contradiction” is that in Matthew, a giant earthquake is reported before the angel comes down and rolls back the stone and then sits on it (Matthew 28:2). However, in Luke, there is no documentation of an earthquake, but only the women coming to the tomb, seeing the stone rolled away, finding an empty tomb, and then seeing the angels (Luke 24:1-7).
A third difference is that there is only one angel in Matthew (28:3-5), whereas there are two angels in Luke (24:4).
After careful observation and study, one will discover these are not contradictions. For the first “contradiction,” Matthew specifically mentions Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, and Luke simply mentioned, “The women who followed Jesus.”
Neither of these statements contradicts one another as both Matthew and Luke mention women as going to the tomb. Matthew specifically states Mary Magdalene and the other Mary; however, Luke refers to them simply as “the women who had come with Jesus from Galilee” (23:55).
Neither of these statements contradicts each other as they both affirm that women went to the tomb; however, Matthew simply refers to them by their names.
The second “contradiction” can be explained by the fact that there was an earthquake, but Luke chose not to include it. Simply because Luke does not mention the earthquake does not mean that it did not happen.
The act of the angel coming down from heaven, rolling back the tomb, and sitting on it is affirmed in both gospels (Matthew 28:2-3; Luke 24:1-7). Both of these passages are in agreement with each other. Luke simply chose to leave out the event of the earthquake.
Thirdly, harmonization can be made between these passages despite the different number of angels recorded in Matthew and Luke.
The believed contradiction can be explained by the fact that “one of the angels served as the spokesman for the two, thus he was emphasized” (“Don’t the Resurrection Accounts Contradict Each Other?” Josh McDowell).
Thus, there were most likely two angels; it’s simply one of the angels is emphasized in Matthew while the other is not.
Lastly, the differences in these narratives can relate to a case for the reliability of the narratives by first understanding that differences in the text do not give proof of a contradiction. If every single account was identical to each other, it would be highly suspicious.
We could reason that if each of the four gospels were exactly the same, it would be highly plausible they simply copied each other.
As it is, the gospel accounts are different because it gives us the overall true account of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Each of the gospels is a piece of the puzzle that when all placed together forms the entire picture of Jesus.
The Truth about ‘Contradictions’
Most often, there is a reason why people try to find contradictions in the Bible. It is normally an attack on God, Christians, or Christianity. The Bible does not contain any contradictions as it is the very Word of God. Man did not create the Bible as the Bible is divinely inspired (2 Peter 1:21).
The Bible is the 100% accurate, infallible, trustworthy Word of God. It does not contain any contradictions, lies, or errors. All Scripture was inspired by God.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us that “all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
As a believer, there will be times when an unbeliever will approach with questions about the Bible, some of which may include some questions on the “contradictions” of the Bible. It is to be expected that unbelievers will try to find something wrong with the Bible.
As Christians, it is our responsibility to correct any misunderstandings about the Bible. By helping the unbeliever understand the “supposed contradiction” will help them discover there is not a true contradiction at all.
There can be differences in passages of the Bible depending on the different translations. It doesn’t mean the Bible contradicts itself.
Prayer, spending time in God’s Word, and surrounding yourself with other trusted Christians can help you develop the skills to help refute any “contradictions” of the Bible.
Good orthodox Bible commentaries can also help you understand any contradictions as well as help you explain “contradictions” to other people.
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Vivian Bricker loves Jesus, studying the Word of God, and helping others in their walk with Christ. She has earned a Bachelor of Arts and Master's degree in Christian Ministry with a deep academic emphasis in theology. Her favorite things to do are spending time with her family and friends, reading, and spending time outside. When she is not writing, she is embarking on other adventures.
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