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  • C.A. Cranfill

Does the Bible Contradict Itself?

I have heard it said that the Bible cannot be the Word of God because it contradicts itself. Most of the time the individuals that will raise this complaint have not read or studied the Bible for themselves but are simply repeating a popular antagonistic catchphrase that they have previously heard others use. On rare occasion, however, there will be someone that has read sections of the Bible and finds what they believe to be a contradiction. Is it true? Does the Bible actually contain contradictions? To answer this question, we must understand what a contradiction is, according to the laws of logic. Logic tells us, in the Law of Non-Contradiction, that A cannot be both A and non A at the same time and in the same relationship. To put it a bit more simply, we might say that logically a glass of water cannot be both cold and not cold at the same time and in the same way. Now, the glass of water might be ice cold when first poured, but as time passes it begins to get warmer and slowly adjusts to room temperature. Now, is it a contradiction to say that the glass of water is cold and two hours later say that it is not cold? No, because you are not saying that the glass is cold and not cold at the same time and in the same way.

How does this understanding help us when it comes to understanding what some perceive to be Biblical contradictions? Let us take a look at an example. We are told in 1st John 4:18 that there is no fear in love and that perfect love casts out fear. We are also told in 2 Timothy 1:7 that God does not give us the spirit of fear. Yet, we are told in Luke 12:5 that we should fear God that has the power to cast us into Hell. At first glance, this would appear to be a contradiction. It would seem as if the Bible is telling us to both fear and not fear, simultaneously. Remember the Law of Non-Contradiction? It cannot be A and Non A at the same time and in the same relationship. Is that what we see taking place in the Biblical imperatives? No! We are told to not fear temporal things such as death or persecution because these things bring torment. This fear of the temporal arises out of a lack of faith. If we are made perfect in love and have been given the gift of faith, we will be able to overcome this type of fear. We are instructed to only fear God. The fear of God drives all other fear from us. Jesus tells us to fear God and not man. The fear of God will eradicate the fear of man. Therefore, you can see that it is not telling us to fear and not fear in the same relationship. So, this is not a contradiction but rather a paradox. A paradox is something that appears to be a contradiction but when studied is found to not be one at all. The Bible is full of paradoxes!

Another way of looking at the consistency of the Biblical Narrative, is to look at what J. Warner Wallace has identified as “Unintentional Eyewitness Support”. Basically, this is the idea that one of the Gospel writers unintentionally answers a question that is raised by another of the Gospel writers. For example, in Matthew 26:67-68 we see that men slap Jesus in the face and then ask Him to prophesy and identify the assailant. The question is immediately raised, “Why would that be difficult?” However, in Luke’s account of the same story (Luke 22:64), we see that the men had blind-folded Jesus prior to striking Him. Therefore, Luke unintentionally answers the question that was raised by Matthew.

There are a plethora of other such examples in the Gospels and throughout the Bible. Does the Bible contradict itself? No, but it does set forth paradoxes that inspire us to dig further into the text searching for the Truth. Yet, isn’t this God’s intention? Proverbs 25:2 says, “It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out.

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