Whenever I’m in a conversation with someone who thinks the Bible isn’t from God, or is outdated, or is a made-up religious book to trick simple-minded people, what happens more often than not is when I ask the skeptic, Can you show me where the Bible contradicts itself?, rarely can they do it on the spot. Later on after our conversation I’ll get an email that has a link to some Google search they did.
Many of the so-called inconsistencies in the Bible assumed by people come up out of what are referred by the church as the Gospels: the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Theses four books give us historical glimpses of Jesus’ life on earth as God and as man.
Four books tell the account of Jesus’ one earthly life over 30-some years. There’s a lot of overlap. Matthew, Mark and Luke have 240 of the same statements and verses.
There are some recordings in these Gospel books that, at face value, first glance, seemingly come across as opposed to the other. One such example of this is in Matthew chapter 20 and in Luke chapter 18, which is recorded as the same account. Matthew says in chapter 20, verse 30:
There were two blind men sitting by the roadside. (Matthew 20:30)
Note that Matthew says there were two blind men. Here’s what Luke says of this same account, speaking of Jesus, he writes,
As he drew near to Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. (Luke 18:35)
Matthew says there were two blind men. Luke says there was one blind man. Had Matthew been drinking a bit too much and was seeing double? Did Matthew need Lasik surgery? Did someone pass on this account to Luke falsely? Luke was a doctor by vocation, so we’ll assume he could count. Matthew was a tax collector by trade so we know he could count. Somethings got to give here.
Is this a contradiction that allows us to call into question the validity of the Bible as God’s Word?
Two years ago I was in Denver on business. One evening I went to a Colorado Rockies baseball game. Attending the game with me were three other people: me, my daughter Izzy, and two church leader friends: Rick and Brian. Technically I only rode to the game with one other person, Izzy. That’s who I told my wife was at the game, myself and Izzy. I told another friend that I went to the game with Rick but left out that Brian was there too.
Was I lying? Was I contradicting myself? Or was I telling the same account, including and excluding different details?
Since the Super Bowl is this week, let me go at it at this angle:
Being born in Denver and having family there still, I’m a diehard Denver Broncos fan. They won the Super Bowl a few years back. Because of that success, I can now accept and talk about the fact that five years ago, the Broncos got their clocks cleaned by the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl.
In the 2013 Super Bowl, Seattle Quarterback Russell Wilson throws a touchdown pass to a receiver named Doug Baldwin (picture above). I don’t know why I was still watching because the game was already over. This touchdown was salt in my wounds. The touchdown catch had to be reviewed for 10 minutes to be sure it was a touchdown. When the replay was showed, there were four different camera angles. They showed the catch from the end zone, from the crowd, from the players’ perspective and from above the stadium.
Each different view showed the same play, but if you were to have a written record of each camera angle, there would be different details written about it. However, the outcome would be the same: A touchdown pass was thrown and a touchdown pass was caught and a part of myself died that night as a Broncos fan. Those are the basic facts.
The first four books of the New Testament are four writers who write about one Person’s life: Jesus. All four writers tell the same Jesus but all four view details from different angles. But the outcome is the same. Jesus came from heaven. Jesus lived a perfect life. Jesus died in your place. Jesus rose from death to give you hope. Jesus ascended back to heaven and started the church to pass on the hope we have in this life and the next. Those are the facts.
Here’s the conclusion I pass on when I willingly show skeptics what they would call a contradiction in the Bible in Matthew 20 and Luke 18: One person was healed if two people were healed.
This makes both camera angles of Matthew and Luke true. In the same way I can say I went to a baseball game with three people, I can also say I went with one person without contradicting myself. Jesus can heal one blind person and also two blind people at the same time. We can spend so much time trying to figure out how many blind men were healed that we forget JESUS HEALS BLIND PEOPLE!
Another angle when biblical contradiction is brought up is when people talk about Bible translations.
The Bible was written originally in two languages: the Old Testament was written in Hebrew and the New Testament was written in Greek. Since the 1600’s, the Bible has been translated into English with dozens of different translations. A logical question is: Does the Bible, originally written in two languages, when it gets translated into one language, like English, does that create problems of accuracy?
When I was an elementary kid, and it would rain during recess time, instead of going outside to play, our teacher would play games with us indoors. One game we played is the teacher would lean over near a student in the front row and whisper a sentence into their ear. That student would turn to the student next to them and whisper what they thought they heard and so on and so on until the last student in the back row received a whispered message.
Every time the sentence reached the last person, the statement from the teacher had been changed along the way, which changed the message of the teacher. The teacher’s starting line was, The bear is in the cave. By the time it reaches the last student the line has been changed to something like, The burrito’s in the car.
There’s a common misconception the Bible has been passed down over centuries and that the sentences have changed over time, thus changing the message of the Bible.
This line of thinking is flawed logic and mere opinion. It assumes that the Bible translators have been dependent exclusively on oral history, instead of a documented, dated, written history.
Translators have spent centuries cross-examining the work of historically-dated, original manuscripts, with other scholars, with tremendous accuracy, triple-checking it with other documents from the same era, making sure the grammar and context and syntax and other historical documents surrounding the text matches, so the precision infused into the process leads to a product that when you read the English Bible, it is 99.9% accurate to the original translations.
When there is a discrepancy or a disagreement in the process of Bible translation, there is integrity where there will be placed a small yet noticeable, horizontal line across the page. It appears a few times, and will have a statement like this: The earliest manuscripts and many other ancient writings do not have (and an example is) John 7:53-8:11.
In this particular account, the Greek language stands out differently than the rest of the Greek language in John’s Gospel. Did the account of the woman caught in adultery and brought to Jesus actually happen? Probably. There’s still truth in it to apply to our lives.
Investing into Bible translation should be important to the church – not just because accuracy and integrity are high values in the church – but because there are people groups who don’t even have the Bible in their language and as a result they’ve never heard the name of Jesus.
I could go on and on till the break of dawn talking about this subject of biblical contradiction. I’ll leave you with this declarative statement:
Even if the Bible is not true, since Jesus rose from the dead, Christianity is true.
Now, before emails start coming my way, I passionately, wholeheartedly believe the Bible is from God. It is true. If the church I get to pastor at ever demanded that I stop preaching the Bible, I would fight or resign. But if forced to pick between the two, the resurrection of Jesus is greater than the Bible.
If Someone rose from the dead, that qualifies that Person who died and rose to life again to be God. If there is a God, then there also must be absolute truth available to us to govern our lives – to give us identity and to guide our behavior.
Based on solid research of people smarter than me by dozens of IQ points, and based on my life experience and the worldview that I have, I believe the Bible is historically accurate, it’s a closed-fist fact that I’ll never let go of. I believe the Bible is from the mouth of God and I also believe it’s extremely pragmatic. Which means, even if you don’t believe what I do about the Bible, if you study it, it works for your life.
Every time I apply what the Bible tells me to apply, my life gets better and my relationships get better.
So I continue daily to align my life with the content and with the Author of the Bible, even if the content of the Bible and the Author of the Bible are not popular among the masses. The opinion of the masses is not as important as my daily relationships thriving, and the Bible provides that.
Thanks for reading. You are loved.