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Doctrinal Matters: Bible Interpretation

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The Bible Contradicts Itself?

by  Kyle Butt, M.A.

The light shone brightly into the eyes of the suspect who was seated between two FBI special agents in black suits. “Where were you the night of October 31, 2000?” demanded one of the agents. The suspect nervously muttered, “I already told you, I was at a Halloween party with some friends.” The interrogation continued: “And what exactly were you doing at the party?” asked the same demanding voice. “I bobbed for apples,” retorted the suspect in his shaky voice. Several hours later, during another interrogation, a different FBI agent asked the suspect what seemed to be a silly question: “Have you ever bobbed for apples?” The suspect promptly replied, “No, I have never in my life bobbed for apples.”

Obviously, the testimony of the suspect was faulty. He could not truthfully say in one breath that he bobbed for apples, and then in the next breath say that he never bobbed for apples in all his life. Either he had or he had not bobbed for apples; both of his statements could not have been be true.

Some people accuse the Bible of doing the exact same thing as the lying suspect. They claim that when the Bible is put under close scrutiny it says one thing in one place, and then says something completely contradictory in another place.

If the Bible does contradict itself, then the Christian has a serious problem. The Christian claims that the Bible is the Word of God. Yet if it contradicts itself, then that would make God a liar. And since the Bible says that God cannot lie (Titus 1:2), then any book with contradictions in it could not have been inspired by God. Therefore, if legitimate contradictions can be found in anywhere in the Bible, then it is not the Word of God.

The skeptic, of course, claims to have found not just one, but hundreds of contradictions. Furthermore, the sincere Bible reader must admit that, occasionally even he comes across something in a passage that seems to “contradict” something else in the Bible.

ARE BIBLE CONTRADICTIONS REAL?

Let it be noted that if the Bible does, in fact, contain a legitimate contradiction of some kind, it has not yet been found. When all the facts are considered, each alleged biblical contradiction has been shown to be something other than a true contradiction. That is a powerful statement, considering the fact that no book in the world has been examined more closely or scrutinized more carefully. After the Bible has been put under the high-powered microscope of criticism, and dissected by the razor-sharp scalpel of supposed contradictions, it rises from the surgery with no scratches or scars, none the worse for wear.

JUST A POSSIBILITY

Dealing with alleged contradictions entails several different principles; one of which involves the fact that sometimes many different solutions will present themselves. In order to “fix” the contradiction and show that the Bible is not self-negating, an exact solution does not necessarily have to be established. All that the biblical defender must do is offer a possible solution.

For instance, it has been claimed that a contradiction exists because Acts 7:16 states that Abraham bought a tomb in Shechem where the patriarchs were buried. Yet, in Joshua 24:32 the Bible plainly says that Jacob was the one who bought the plot of ground in Shechem where Joseph was buried. At first glance, these passages appear to be in opposition, but upon closer inspection several possible solutions come to light.

First, both men could have bought the field. Jacob was in the area more than 150 years after Abraham. Abraham could have bought the field, sold it back, and Jacob could have bought the field many years later. The United States has been in existence only a little over 200 years. Imagine your great grandfather buying a field before the Civil War. In order for you to gain possession of the field today, you might have to buy it. Another possibility is that Abraham bought the tomb in Shechem, but Jacob bought a field. The Bible does not say that Jacob bought a tomb, just a field (Genesis 33:19, Joshua 24:32).

Actually, no one knows for sure exactly what happened with the field, the tomb, Jacob, or Abraham. But in order to avoid the charge of a contradiction, we simply must show that there is a possibility that the two statements could be true. By using such principles as this, each alleged Bible contradiction can be answered quite adequately.




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