A fellow blogger, Kristenmomof3, has posted to one of my recent blogs two lists that she states are “contradictions” she has found in the content of the original manuscripts of the Holy Scriptures, the Bible. I am uncertain what additional sources she may have used to glean these allegations. Presumably these allegations were presented as open challenges to the readers of His Master‘s Voice. The challenge was essentially to disprove these “contradictions” or acknowledge that the Bible “contradicts” itself. I have transferred her allegations just as she posted them on my blog comments page and combined the two lists into one below.
Though I lack the time needed to offer up a lengthy rebuttal against each alleged contradiction, I can offer the following short refutations. Of course other Christian Bible study websites can provide more detailed explanations that adequately demonstrate that these allegations are not genuine contradictions at all. If you need more information, please search out and reference those online resources.
Allegations of Contradictions and Answers to Those Allegations
John's first encounter with Jesus was while both of them were still in their mothers' wombs, at which time John, apparently recognizing his Saviour, leaped for joy (Luke 1:44). Much later, while John is baptizing, he refers to Jesus as "the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world", and "the Son of God" (John 1:29,36). Later still, John is thrown in prison from which he does not return alive. John's definite knowledge of Jesus as the son of God and saviour of the world is explicitly contradicted by Luke 7:18-23 in which the imprisoned John sends two of his disciples to ask Jesus, "Are you the one who is coming, or do we look for someone else?"
Answer 1: John the Baptist
I gave more complete details in the comments section of my previous blog. John, having experienced a momentary episode of doubt while in prison, does not disqualify him as a prophet, and certainly does not indicate that the Bible has contradictions in it.
According to Matthew 26:15, the chief priests "weighed out thirty pieces of silver" to give to Judas. There are two things wrong with this:
a. There were no "pieces of silver" used as currency in Jesus' time - they had gone out of circulation about 300 years before.
b. In Jesus' time, minted coins were used - currency was not "weighed out."
By using phrases that made sense in Zechariah's time but not in Jesus' time
Answer 2: Silver Coins During the 1st Century
Silver coins had actually been minted by Rome for two centuries before Christ lived and used them for three centuries after. Due to forgery and tampering, coins could still be weighed to validate their authenticity, even in the 1st Century, so the idiomatic expression, “weigh out the silver“ also meant “count out the silver coins” at that time (even today we use hold-over phrases in our language in a similar way; no one has dial telephones anymore, but we often still say “dial that number“ when we mean “punch in that number“). Again, the allegation itself was a misstatement of real history, for silver coins were very much in common use in Palestine in the 1st Century.
How did Judas die?
a. In Matthew 27:5 Judas hangs himself.
b. In Acts 1:18 he bursts open and his insides spill out.
c. According to the apostle Paul, neither of the above is true. Paul says Jesus appeared to "the twelve" after his resurrection. Mark 14:20 makes it clear that Judas was one of the twelve.
In Matthew 19:28, Jesus tells the twelve disciples, including Judas, that when Jesus rules from his throne, they will sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
Answer 3: Judas Died by Hanging and by Bursting
The answer can actually be discerned in the allegation. Something caused Judas to fall and subsequently resulted in him bursting open. This was likely not a controlled fall, such as in a professional gallows hanging, where the drop would only be one to six feet straight down. As happens even today, a crude amateur hanging-suicide in which a person violently jumps from a tree branch, can result in broken necks, broken ropes, broken branches, and a broken and torn body which releases its internal organs. Something did cause Judas to fall, and that was his violent suicide-by-hanging.
Note: an additional objection was raised about the twelve thrones for the twelve apostles. “Twelve” had become a group title for the apostles, not merely a repetitious or redundant group count. Acts 1 describes how Judas was eventually replaced by Matthias to place twelve members in the group called “Twelve.” Paul also later became an apostle, but was never one of the “Twelve.”
How did the Field of Blood get its name?
a. Matthew says because it was purchased with blood money (Matthew 27:6-8).
b. Acts says because of the bloody mess caused by Judas' bursting open (Acts 1:18-19).
Answer 4: Matthew and Acts Disagree on The Field of Blood
This objection is based on a careless reading of Acts 1:18-19. Acts 1 does not say the field was called bloody because Judas died there, but it was called bloody because “the field was acquired by the price [blood money] of his wickedness [the betrayal of innocent blood].” In fact, Acts 1 does not say where Judas died, and to this day we do not know.
Where was Jesus taken immediately after his arrest?
a. Matthew, Mark and Luke say that Jesus was taken directly to the high priest (Matthew 26:57, Mark 14:53 and Luke 22:54).
b. John says that Jesus was taken first to Annas, the father-in-law of the high priest (John 18:13) who, after an indeterminate period of time, sent Jesus to the high priest (John 18:24).
Answer 5: Matthew, Mark, and Luke Disagree With John After His Arrest
This allegation is created by surreptitiously insinuating a word into all three gospel accounts that is not actually there, “directly.” Matthew, Mark, and Luke simply state that Jesus was taken to Caiaphas after His arrest, not “directly“ after His arrest. Whether any other stops were made or not was not important for them to write about. John, on the other hand, contains 95% new material not found in the other gospels. He liked to include details the others did not think worth mentioning, so he mentioned that they went to Annas’ house first. Why? To set the scene where Peter began his denial of Jesus in the courtyard of Annas’ house. Peter concluded his three-times denial after they all went to Caiaphas’ courtyard. John saw this as an important element of the story while the other three simply saw fit to note the short version: that Peter ultimately did deny Jesus.
There are several passages in the gospels where Jesus says he will return in the disciples' lifetime (Mark 13:30, Matthew 10:23, 16:28, 24:34, Luke 21:32, etc.).
Answer 6: Jesus Lied by Saying He Would Return in One Generation
This is a matter of uninformed reading and poor interpretation of Scripture. Mark 13:30 and Matthew 24:34 and Luke 21:32: the “generation” that sees Jesus return in the clouds with power will be the generation that also lives to see “the gathering of the elect” (v. 27), “the powers of the heavens shaken,” or, as other Christians think, “the end of heaven and earth” (v. 31). I favor the understanding that the generation which sees Jesus return is the one that also lives to see “the gathering of the elect.” Matthew 10:23: Jesus tells his disciples that they will never stop being persecuted and being driven out of every city (in Israel and in all the earth) until He returns. Matthew 16:28: this is a partially fulfilled prophecy; some standing there did see Jesus come in glory in the Transfiguration (see Matthew 17:1-13) making the prophecy true, but it is not yet complete as Jesus will also come again to judge His enemies (incomplete prophecies are not “contradictions”).
Jesus also told many parables about being patient and waiting a long time while the master of the house, Himself, is away. Moreover, Jesus instructed His disciples to go throughout the earth with the message, to persevere until the end, and that no one, not even He, knows when that end will occur. Is it really unusual that humans think God ought to work more quickly and that God ought not be so patient?
Jesus' last words
MAT 27:46,50: "And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, "Eli, eli, lama sabachthani?" that is to say, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" ...Jesus, when he cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost."
LUK 23:46: "And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, "Father, unto thy hands I commend my spirit:" and having said thus, he gave up the ghost."
JOH 19:30: "When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, "It is finished:" and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost."
Answer 7: Different Gospels Record Partial Segments of Jesus’ Last Words
His death likely took many agonizing hours. That each gospel records only tiny fragments of the many things Jesus must have said during that lengthy time is not even close to a meaningful definition of “contradiction.“ It might be called “editing,” or “redacting,” or “abridging” the dialogue of that day, but in no sense is it evidence of contradiction.
God CAN be seen:
"And I will take away my hand, and thou shalt see my backparts." (EXO 33:23)
"And the Lord spake to Moses face to face, as a man speaketh to his friend." (EXO 33:11)
"For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved." (GEN 32:30)
God CANNOT be seen:
"No man hath seen God at any time." (JOH 1:18)
"And he said, Thou canst not see my face; for there shall no man see me and live." (EXO 33:20)
"Whom no man hath seen nor can see." (1TIM 6:16)
Answer 8: Idioms and Euphemisms for “Seeing” God
Yes, God talked with Moses like one would talk with a human friend with whom he is with face-to-face; and yes, God passed by Moses but prevented Moses from actually seeing His glory. The lengthy accounts of these experiences in the Bible go out of their way to demonstrate that Moses never saw “the face of God,“ that is, God in His full glory, which would have been fatal. Talking with God conversationally is not the same as standing in His literal visible presence in Heaven itself. Moses never went to Heaven and God never left Heaven, Jesus did. If we are to assume every helpful euphemism or idiom is a contradiction then there is no point in speaking in the English language, for it too is filled with euphemisms and idioms.
"And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven." (2KI 2:11)
"No man hath ascended up to heaven but he that came down from heaven, ... the Son of Man." (JOH 3:13)
Answer 9: Elijah Went Into Heaven, But Jesus Said No One Ever Did
This is an example of sloppy modernistic artificially “rigid” and out-of-context reading of the text. Jesus obviously was addressing those standing around Him when He said, “I am the only living human standing here who both ascended into and descended out of heaven, so why don’t you listen Me and believe what I am saying?” (loose paraphrase of John 3:13 is mine). Jesus actually acknowledged that many individuals were alive in Heaven with God, but only He comes and goes by His own will. More than that, Jesus was claiming to be the very “son” literally mentioned in Proverbs 30:4, “Who has ascended into heaven and descended? Who has gathered the wind in His fists? Who has wrapped the waters in His garment? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is His name or His son's name? Surely you know!” (Proverbs 30:4)
How old was Ahaziah when he began to reign?
2KI 8:26 22
2CH 22:2 42
Answer 10: How Old Was Ahaziah When He Ruled?
Yes!!!! An actual “contradiction” has been found! Sort of. Some Hebrew manuscripts do have age 42 listed instead of age 22 in 2 Chronicles 22:2, though an age of 42 would have been a physical impossibility. His father died at the age of 40. A son cannot be 2 years older than his father. So how did modern copies of the text end up saying Ahaziah was 42 when the originals had to have said 22? The most likely explanation is that a modern scribe miscopied that number from a more correct but nearly exhausted original. Why say “modern scribe”? Because copies of the Septuagint (crafted from the 2nd Century BCE through 3rd Century AD) do not have the age 42 error, indicating the copyist error was introduced much later in history, long after the Septuagint was translated into Greek from the Hebrew. Christians are not so naïve as to think transcription or copy errors were not introduced into some copies of biblical texts. The key is to find them by comparing them to better copies and note them as copy errors which are called “variants.”
As I have said elsewhere in previous such discussions, these kinds of lists that allege that there are contradictions in the original manuscripts of the Bible are as old as is atheism itself. Most of these allegations arise from misunderstandings, such as not being able to interpret the archaic English of the KJV--solution, use a trusted modern English version such as the NIV or the NASB (not to be confused with the spurious NAB). Or reading into passages words or concepts that are not actually there--solution, read the text in context and as it was actually written. Or imposing absurdly rigid readings on dialogues that were meant to be taken as natural speech--solution, read figures of speech in the same normal way we employ them today.
Essentially, most of these lists treat the translated Bibles in tortured ways no one would ever treat other historical texts or narratives. When a modern history book states that the Nazis rounded up all the Jews from a given town we do not irrationally assume that because the word “all” was used that not even one soul successfully hid or escaped. In fact, we assume that the word “all” in natural English usage generally means “almost all” or “the greatest reasonable number” or “a very great amount.” The Bible was written in natural languages and needs to be read in that same light.
When it is read and understood as ordinary language that uses euphemisms and idioms, or poetry and narrative, the Bible does in fact have immense consistency. The alleged contradictions of skeptics and atheists are rarely indicative of any kind of genuine problem in the original manuscripts. Such accusations more usually originate from ignorance of the historical-contextual-literary hermeneutic interpretive process and from extreme biases than from faithful study of the texts themselves.
God’s Word simply will not pass away and will outlive the planet earth. It is the very Word of Christ.