The Claim, “The Bible is full of contradictions”

  • Critics and skeptics of Christianity will often raise the charge that the Bible is full of contradictions. This claim, however, is easily answered by a proper understanding of Scripture and biblical interpretation.
  • It is important to note that when Christians speak of the Bible as inerrant, we are talking about the original manuscripts. The Bibles we read to today are based on copies of those originals. So, while our copies are demonstrably reliable, we are not claiming they are perfect.
  • Another important issue is proper interpretation. Many supposed contradictions are really just misinterpretations of a given passage or misunderstandings of historical context. Careful Bible study can usually bring clarity to passages that initially seem challenging.
  • Oftentimes contradictions are claimed when figurative language is taken literally, or literal language figuratively (ex. Ps. 91:4; Deut. 33:27; John 4:24). Again, careful Bible study and proper hermeneutics will usually clear up confusions in flawed interpretations.
  • The authors of the four Gospels and book of Acts regularly recorded speeches that were given by various figures. Sometimes these speeches are paraphrased or condensed by a given author. This explains many instances of different wording used from one text to another (ex. Mt. 28:18-20; Acts 1:4-8).
  • Numerical records are often cited as examples of contradictions in the Bible. Again, recognizing that the biblical authors may have rounded off numbers in a given event is helpful. Also, sometimes numerical counts in one passage include categories that another passage omits (ex. 1 Chron. 21:5- all men of military age vs. 2 Sam. 24:9- actual number of troops).
  • One tactic that can be helpful when faced with the charge of contradictions in the Bible is to simply ask the question, “Can you please show me one?” Often those who raise this challenge really don’t know anything about the Bible or actual examples of supposed contradictions. They’re simply repeating a common claim they’ve heard that serves as a convenient excuse to dismiss the Bible.

For more help in defending the reliability of Scripture, please check out Jason and Jared Carlson’s lecture series, Answering the Tough Topics, available on CD in our online store.