Can We Solve All Problem Texts
Not to everyones satisfaction. Three examples may be what we have already answered or tried to answer: little faith, no faith staff, no staff and the smallest seed or not. But the vast, vast majority of problem texts have been solved more easily than we might expect at first. For me, the Gospels have a pretty good record , and so does the rest of Scripture, considering it became part of history, not some ethereal, other world. If we give up on the reliability and inspiration of Scripture because of the few unsolved texts, then we have lost our bearings. Recall the scholars who said that we must not lose sight of the forest for the trees .
As inerrantist Wayne Grudem writes:
. . . Our understanding of Scripture is never perfect, and this means that there may be cases where we will be unable to find a solution to a difficult passage at the present time. This may be because the linguistic, historical, or contextual evidence we need to understand the passage correctly is presently unknown to us.
His humility about our imperfect understanding Scripture is refreshing.
The Sabbath Day Contradiction
Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Exodus20:8, ESV
One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. Romans 14:5, ESV
Some folks call this a contradiction since the Old Testament passage from Exodus seems very strong about keeping the Sabbath holy.
But the New Testament passage in Romans seems to be saying any man can decide for himself.
Heres an article on this subject, called Who Changed the Day of Worship from Saturday to Sunday? that explores the details.
Heres the short version of the story:
A clear reading of Exodus 20 shows God clearly gave the Sabbath law only to Israel.
Therefore the faith of the Christian is in the works of Jesus Christ and not in the works of the law.
The audience of Romans 14 is a gentile audience, so the context is completely different than the Hebrew audience in Exodus 20.
Verdict: Not a Contradiction
What Apparent Contradictions In The Bible Teach Us About God
What kind of God would allow people today to question the wisdom that had been treasured by people for thousands of years?
First of all, One who has given us free will and is patient with us. Also One who places high value on truth and on our learning to recognize the truth. God wants people to seek truth, search for wisdom and diligently study the Bible .
The Bible is not an easy book. But the vast majority of so-called contradictions are not mysterious and can be sorted out by carefully reading and comparing scriptures, translations and historical background. It takes work, but so does any knowledge that truly matters.
What kind of God allows errors to creep into copies and translations?
One who is willing to work through fallible human beings. The copyists of the Bible were some of the most careful scribes, and the rules involved in copying were stringent. But in spite of the best quality control, humans are still, well, human. We make mistakes.
One source estimates that there are about 1,500 errors that crept into the Old Testament. Out of the 23,145 verses and more than half million words in the Old Testament, that is a very small number, and most of those are simple spelling errors that do not affect the meaning. For more about the accuracy of the copying and translation of the Bible, see our articles Old Testament,Contradictions in the Bible? and What Is the Most Accurate Bible Translation? and download our booklet Is the Bible True?
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Problems With Denying Inerrancy
We turn first to problems that may arise when we tacitly or expressly deny inerrancy.
First, if we deny inerrancy, we make God a liar. If there are errors in the original manuscripts, manuscripts that testify they were breathed out by God, one of two things must be true: either God purposely lied or he mistakenly lied. Either way this would indicate that God is capable of making or of producing errors. Needless to say, this would destroy our ability to trust any of Gods revelation and cause us to doubt God Himself.
Second, if we deny inerrancy we lose trust in God. If there are errors in Scripture, even if in the smallest detail, and these were placed there intentionally by God, how are we to maintain trust that He did not lie in other matters? When we lose trust in the Scriptures, we lose trust in God Himself and we may consequently lose our desire to be obedient to Him.
Third, if we deny the clear testimony of Scripture that it is inerrant, we make our minds a higher standard of truth than the Bible. At the outset of this series I indicated a concern I felt towards those who deny inerrancy is when they indicate that the doctrine does not feel right. But nowhere does the Bible appeal to our feelings or our reason for its authority or inerrancy. We must submit to the Word, for it will not submit to us. We must give to the Bible the place it claims for itself. We cannot stand in judgment over it.
What Should You Do When You Think You’ve Found A Contradiction
If you should ever find an apparent contradiction in the Bible then there are two things I would recommend you do: recognize and research.
The worst thing to do is to pretend it is not there. Dont just say there are no contradictions in the Bible and leave it at that. It is ok and not a lack of faith to recognize that something appears to look like a contradiction.
In other words, it is ok to ask questions. It is only by the asking of questions that you are able to find the answers. When you dont ask, then you are not prepared to address the question should someone ask you.
The second thing to do is research. There are lots of different ways to research, but one of the first ways is to consider the languages the Bible was written in. The original languages were Hebrew in the Old Testament and Greek in the New Testament. Sometimes what appears to be a contradiction could simply be an issue with translation.
For example, in the English language we have one word for love. In the Greek there are four. Understanding the translation can give you some clarity in understanding the meaning of the text. This is just one example but there are others. What is clear is that there is enough information to clear up any issues so you can be confident there are no contradictions in the Bible.
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Why Give To Biologos
As you make your year-end gift, you have many options. If youre new to BioLogos, we encourage you to learn more about our work and the impact of your gift, and watch our video below. Your gift to BioLogos is tax-deductible!
The Bible holds an essential place in Christian faith. The Bible claims to beand the Church has recognized it asthe Word of God. The Church through the ages has acknowledged this status by referring to the Bible as its canon, which means that the Bible is the written standard for its faith and practice. These are extraordinary claims to make about a collection of ancient literature, and many people in todays society have great difficulty understanding why Christians would put their beliefs and behavior under the authority of the Bible. I can think of five common objections that I have heard over the years:
Having thought about these issues over the years that I have been a biblical scholar, I would like to offer the following responses to these objections.
How Do You Address People If They Bring Up A Contradiction
What do you do if someone tells you there are contradictions in the Bible? I will be honest with you, most people who do not want to believe the Bible are not looking for an answer to this question. They would rather hold on to their unbelief or excuse because it validates their position. This does not pertain to all, but to many.
The first thing you need to establish is are they looking for an answer or looking for an excuse. If a person is sincerely looking for an answer, it is worth helping them find it. However, if a person is just looking for an excuse there is nothing you can say that will convince them.
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Principle : The Bible Not Dogma
Is Jesus equal to God or lesser than God? Jesus once said: I and the Father are one, which seems to contradict his statement that the Father is greater than I am. To understand those verses correctly, we must examine what the Bible really says about Jehovah and Jesus rather than try to harmonize the verses with the Trinity dogma, which is not based on the Bible. The Bible shows that Jehovah is not only Jesus Father but also Jesus God, the One whom even Jesus worships. Jesus is not equal to God.
The context of Jesus statement I and the Father are one shows that he was talking about the oneness of purpose that he shared with his Father, Jehovah God. Jesus later said: The Father is in union with me and I am in union with the Father. Jesus shared this unity of purpose with his followers as well, for he prayed to God about them: I have given them the glory that you have given me, in order that they may be one just as we are one. I in union with them and you in union with me.John 17:22, 23.
^ For example, in its article on the Taj Mahal, the Encyclopædia Britannica says that it was built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahn. Yet he did not personally build it, for the article adds that more than 20,000 workers were employed in its construction.
Is The Bible Infallible And Inerrant
Infallibility has to do with whether or not a particular teaching, document, or person is in fact completely truthful and inerrancy means without error. Christians believe that the Bible is infallible and inerrant because we believe that God is the ultimate author of His Word and that His Holy Spirit illuminated and inspired the minds of the human Bible writers to write Gods truth.
Paul in 2 Timothy 3:15-17 explains this about Gods Word: the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 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.
Because Scripture is God-breathed, we hold it to be true and able to guide us in all matters of how to live our lives in an effort to please God. That is not to say that we will find the answer to every mystery that we encounter in the world. There will be things that we do not understand in this life, usually why something specific has happened to us or someone we love, but we can trust that God will reveal the purpose of all things when we are with Him in heaven.
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God Is Good At His Job
Lets suppose there is a Godan eternal being who made all things. That would make him very powerful. Christians believe hes all-powerful, but very powerful will do for now. Lets suppose this God intends to communicate with humanity. If theres a very powerful beingmore powerful than anything elsethen its reasonable to assume he will accomplish what he intends to accomplish. So, if he intends to reveal himself, that is what will happen.
And that is what Christians claim has happened. God has revealed himself in his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible described Jesus as the Word of God or the message of God. Not only that, God has given us a written record of that revelation in the Bible so that we can be clear about, and certain of, his communication to us in Christ. Its true that God chose to create the Bible through human authors, and those human authors have left the imprint of their distinctive personalities on the text. But God is good at his job. He communicated through human beings in such a way as to ensure his communication was accurate and reliable. God is able to achieve what he intends!
What Should We Do If A Verse Doesnt Make Sense To Us
This is easier to understand, but perhaps longer to accomplish. First, for any passage you are having difficulty with, PRAY! In John 14:26 Jesus promises that the Holy Spirit will be sent to teach us all things. Understanding Scripture is a good and honorable endeavor, and God will honor your prayer for clarity in the things he has revealed. Account for any personal bias that may be interfering with your interpretation of a certain passage. Is something upsetting because its counter-cultural, is something convicting and you dont want it to be, or are you confused about the direction the author is taking?
Research the Scripture you are reading interpret a Scripture with other Scriptures in the Bible, ask your pastor for guidance, find out what others have said in Bible dictionaries, commentaries, study Bibles, and sermons. BibleStudyTools.com can be a great place to start reading commentaries and search Bible dictionaries all in one place. But throughout your research do not neglect to pray in the Holy Spirit and ask for guidance, as well as reaching out to other believers.
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It Is Full Of Violence Genocide Prejudice And Injustice Often Commanded By Godand Its Been Used By Christians To Justify More Violence And Oppression
Yes, the Bible is full of prejudice, violence, attempted genocide, and injustice. The Bible, after all, gives us the brutal truth about sinful human beings.
Of course, people who bring this charge against the Bible dont have these instances of human violence and injustice in mind, but rather they are thinking of those many stories where God brought violence on people either directly or through the agency of his followers. Think of the flood story , the killing of the Egyptian soldiers at the Red Sea , or the Conquest . But, while it is hard to get our 21st century Western minds around it, these are stories of justice, bad people receiving the judgment that they deserve. God brings the Flood against violent humanity he closes the Red Sea against Egyptian soldiers who were trying to kill the Israelites, and he commands Joshua to fight the Canaanites because their sin had reached its full measure .
Its only people who live in relatively peaceful circumstances who have the luxury of being turned off by such stories. The hard truth of the Bible is that people who reject God and harm other people will eventually receive punishment for them. Thats also the message of the New Testament, in the teaching behind heaven and hell.
Everyone Brings Assumptions To The Bible
There are two basic approaches when a problem passage is discovered. The reader either assumes that there is an error or that there is an explanation. A scholar with a low view of the Bible sees a problem passage, assumes its an error, and moves on. A scholar with a high view of scripture recognizes the difficulty and looks for ways to explain it. Scholars with a high view of scripture unravel apparent contradictions because they have a philosophical commitment to getting to the bottom of tough questions. They keep doing research and eventually find a suitable answer. Those with a low view of scripture dont do the research because they are already sure that an error has occurred. They have no reason to keep digging.
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The Contradictions In The Bible Arent Contradictions For The Bible Does Not Reflect The Perfectly Consistent Mind Of God But The Diversity Of Time And Place Of The Writers
I dont know how else to respect the Bible and what I read there but by arriving at a conclusion like this.
Others may argue that since God DIDwrite the Bible and since God by definition cant be self-contradictory, therefore any contradictions are only apparent contradictionsthey appear so to us, but are easily resolved in Gods mind. In that case, our job is simply to trust that this is so and defend the Bible against the charge of contradiction.
But that has always struck me as a very, very bad solution.
It seems nonsensical to me to argue God inspired the Bible, and therefore the Bible doesnt contradict itself, and yetthat divine inspiration produced a book that seems so untended and raises so many questions.
And it seems even more nonsensical to me to think that, in response to this untended Bible, the truly faithful are called by God to see past all that self-evident messiness and affirm with absolute conviction that behind it all God is completely consistent and one day when youre dead and you face Jesus youll see for yourself, but in the meantime your job is not to accept the presence of contradictions but to defend the Bible against the charge, knowing by faith that whatever the Bible seems to be doing it isnt really doing if you had enough faith in God to see past what youre seeing.
And Im exhausted just writing that.