May 23, 2024

Biblical “Contradictions”

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No discussion with an Atheist is complete without some mention of the “hundreds” of contradictions in the Bible.  However, for every contradiction they can come up with, there’s always a reasonable response to them if you take the time to examine the context of the passage and consider the time period and culture.

Contradictions over God’s Nature

God’s anger is fierce and endures long (Numbers 25:4, Numbers 32:13, Jerermiah[sic] 17:4), yet is at the same time slow and endures but for a minute (Psalms 103:8, Psalms 30:5).

God is always angry with sin.

  • Numbers 25:4 instructs Moses on something to do in order to turn away God’s wrath, and to show mercy on the people that were defiling themselves with another nation.
  • In Numbers 32:13 God causes Israel to wander in the wilderness for 40 years until the generation that would not go into the promised land died off.  Yet this was a merciful act, in that He could have raised up a nation from Moses (as He offered to on another occasion).
  • In Jeremiah 17:4 talks about what the actions of the children of Israel have done, and how God’s anger will burn forever at that sin—and yet shortly after this passage, God talks about how blessed a person will be if they trust in God.

In the two Psalms, God’s mercy is highlighted.

There’s no contradiction here, in that God is always angry with sin—and anger that continues and would be quenched but for the fact that He is merciful and gracious.  This may be a different picture than the one that many Christians look at when they think about God, but they’re not inconsistent.

Moral Contradictions

In Matthew 5:16, good works are supposed to be seen by men. Yet in Matthew 6:1, they are not.

The first one is talking about your daily walk.  You are to let your light shine—basically, you are to live above reproach in the world, doing good and drawing attention to God.  This is buttressed and enforced by the second verse.  This one is saying that you shouldn’t be doing your works so that you will gain the praise.  The giving of “alms”1 was something that was supposed to be done without trying to draw attention to each other.

Basically, you could fuse these two into one saying “Do good—not so that people will see you and think that you’re a good person, but so that your Father in Heaven receives the praise.”

Factual Contradictions

There are two accounts of David’s conquest of Hadadezer, king of Zobah. In one account, David captured seven hundred horsemen (2 Samuel 8:4). In the other account, he captured seven thousand (1 Chronicles 18:4).

As you can see, in the first section, the Atheist misspelled Jeremiah, but I didn’t say that made his point worthless.  So, a transcription error between the Hebrew and English does not count as a contradiction in the original, but a typo.

Doctrinal Contradictions

Are children punished for the sins of their parents? Exodus 20:5 says they are, while Ezekiel 18:20 says they aren’t.

Again, not inconsistent unless you want to read it that way.  Exodus 20:5 talks about the fact that God visits the judgment for sin on multiple generations.  When a king or a person sinned, it not only effected him, but future generations—through reputation, though something that was effected by sin.  Sin has consequences.

However, each generation is responsible to God for its own action.  The iniquity is not visited on the child, just the resulting judgment of the father’s sin.  So if dad was a crook and stole and was thrown in jail, just because he had a son doesn’t change the reputation of his father—but he has the choice of whether to rise above, or whether to follow his father in his folly.

As I stated at first, what you see as far as “contradictions” can be readily explained, but the question is your worldview as you come to the passages and what you are trying to find.

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  1. Literally mercy, pity—a donation to the poor []

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