By Jack Kinsella
The Christian faith stands or falls based on the truth of the Scripture. Christianity has no plan “B”. Should the Bible somehow fail, Christianity fails with it.
The Bible claims of itself that it is absolutely 100% accurate, 100% of the time. It is, as 2nd Peter 1:21 tells us, the product of holy men who “spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”
Therefore, if Noah didn’t build an ark, if Jonah wasn’t swallowed by a big fish, if David didn’t slay Goliath and if Jesus wasn’t born of a virgin, then our faith is in vain and we are yet dead in our sins.
So whether or not the Scriptures are reliable is a very big deal. That said, now I am going to say something some of you will find shocking. There are no contradictions in Scripture, but there ARE discrepancies. They are superficial and largely irrelevant, but they are there.
We’ll examine them in a moment, but for now, let’s examine WHY they are there. The Bible was originally written in Hebrew and Greek. According to the Bible Society, the Bible has since been translated into 414 different languages, as of 2003.
“Comment vous applez vous?” It’s French, but in English, it means, “What is your name?”
But literally, what it really means; is “What you called you?” So of course, there are linguistic discrepancies between translations.
Heck, there are discrepancies in translation between the KJV and the NIV, not to mention the other English versions.
Compare Acts 8:38 side by side in a KJV and an NIV. (The NIV omits Acts 8:38 and leaves a hole).
Now I am going to shock at least some of you again. I personally prefer the KJV, and at one time, I was a big “King James Only” guy. I took the dogmatic position the other versions are perversions of the perfect Word of God.
Until I compared the KJV with the original text. The KJV is faithful to the original in the same way that “Comment vous applez vous” doesn’t actually say “What is your name?” but means “What is your name?”
Some of the other English translations are translated from different original manuscripts; the KJV from the Textus Receptus, NIV, NASB etc. the Sinaiticus or Vaticanus texts, and some simply translated from Old English into New English.
Since we can now multiply that by 401 more languages, of course, there are discrepancies. Still the Bible is the inspired Word of God. If God didn’t want those discrepancies, they wouldn’t be there.
In point of fact, those minor discrepancies are a reason TO believe, not a reason for doubt.
For one thing, it destroys any suggestion of collusion between the various writers. It also shatters the suggestion that the Bible was a counterfeit. We know certain things about eyewitness testimony.
For one, no two people ever describe an event EXACTLY the same way. If they do, it is because they were coached.
If there were perfect agreement in every detail between Isaiah and Moses, between Peter and Paul, or between Matthew and Luke, the skeptics would zero in on it as evidence of a forgery.
Real people, especially those separated by great spans of time, don’t write in harmony with other writers, and if there were perfect agreement, it would naturally generate suspicion of collaboration.
So these apparent contradictions and discrepancies serve to refute these kinds of objections by their very existence.
Secondly, these apparent contradictions stimulate Christians to deeper Bible study — they literally force man to search the Scriptures. There are few motives for study more powerful than that of trying to reconcile an apparent Bible contradictions.
Believers cannot be satisfied with easy answers. The writers were fallible men, but they were inspired by an infallible God.
Although the contradictions seem to be apparent, upon greater study, one finds invariably that they exhibit a deeper agreement than appears on the surface — which reveals in greater detail the whole counsel of God.
When a believer solves one of these so-called contradictions on their own, it is a faith-affirming and joyful event.
But the same discrepancies that are to a believer, evidence of its Divine inspiration are, to dedicated unbelievers, evidence to the contrary.
Take, for example, the Commandment;
“Thou shalt not kill.” (Exodus 20:13)
But in the very next chapter, we read,
“He that smiteth a man, so that he die, shall be surely put to death.” (Exodus 21:12)
Taken at face value, that is an irreconcilable contradiction contained in the King James Bible, together with most of the other translations. God tells man, “Thou shalt not kill,” and in the very next breath, orders man to put transgressors to death.
How does one put someone to death without killing them?
The Hebrew doesn’t say “Thou shalt not kill.” That is what the English translation says. Consequently, in English, Exodus 21:12 is a direct contradiction within God’s Word. But God isn’t English. (Or even American)
The Hebrew says, “Thou shalt do no murder’ which not only eliminates any apparent contradiction but rather, serves to explain Exodus 21:12 as part the whole counsel of God, which is, if you commit murder, you shall be put to death.
The Apostle Paul says,
“for by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves. It is the gift of God not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
“Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.” (James 2:24)
Is this not a contradiction? And not just a minor one, either. Are we saved by grace, or by works? The contradiction evaporates with study and by applying context to both passages.
Salvation is by faith, as Paul says. And saving faith is inevitably expressed by a person’s works. James says, “I will show thee my faith by my works,” not, “I will substitute faith with my works.” In context, the meaning is obvious and the contradiction collapses.
1st Samuel 15:29 tells us that,
“God isn’t a man, that He should repent.”
But in the same chapter, we also read,
“It repenteth Me that I have set up Saul to be king.” (15:11)
Another contradiction. Or so it seems. God is immutable. He cannot change, or change His mind. God cannot ‘repent’ but since men do change, God seemingly must, and does, repent of individual actions with individuals.
God cannot change His mind about sin and unrighteousness, yet when we repent and are saved, God blesses and rewards the same sinner. There is no contradiction. God didn’t change. We did.
If anything, that PROVES God does not change. God hates the sin and loves the sinner, as He always has. God knew Saul would fail Him, but when Saul did, God had to change the way He dealt with him.
If not, then God really WOULD have changed His mind.
In the study of Scripture, a text without context is a pretext — that is to say, taken out of context, one can make the Bible say anything. “Judas went out and hung himself — thou do likewise.” Two parts of verses out of context, and we can make the Bible appear to be advocating suicide!
King David was just about the most depraved sinner among all the Patriarchs of Scripture. David committed adultery with Bathsheeba, and then had her husband, Uriah, murdered so he could marry her.
Yet the Scriptures call David a man after God’s own heart. Does that mean God is a murdering adulterer? Or that He approves of murder or adultery? Clearly not. A contradiction? Only out of context.
When most people are caught in the act of sin, they get defensive; they get angry, attempt to justify themselves, or just outright lie and deny it. When David was confronted with his sin, he repented, confessed his sin, and sought God’s forgiveness. (2nd Samuel 12:13, 24:10) In his Psalm of contrition, David writes,
“Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of Thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Thy sight: that Thou mightest be justified when Thou speakest, and be clear when Thou judgest.” (Psalm 51:1-4)
It is man’s heart that God looks at — in the context of man’s words or deeds.
One of the most often cited ‘contradictions’ by skeptics I’ve encountered is that of the superscription on the Cross.
Matthew 27:37: “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.”
Mark 15:26: “The King of the Jews.”
Luke 23:38: “This is the King of the Jews.”
John 19:19: “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.”
So we have four different Gospel writers, but only two inscriptions are virtually identical; Mark’s “The King of the Jews” and Luke’s “This is the King of the Jews.”
The other two, Matthew’s and John’s are similar to each other but different from Luke and Mark. A contradiction?
Read John 19:20 with me.
“This title then read many of the Jews: for the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city: and it was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin.”
So, how many inscriptions were there? Three — all in different languages. “What you called you?” is different than, “What is your name?” — but it means exactly the same thing — IN FRENCH. So it depends on which translation of the inscription each Gospel writer used.
Isn’t it interesting that between them, they managed to use all three?
The discrepancies in Scripture are only discrepancies in translation — they don’t exist in the original languages. The ‘contradictions’ are not contradictions at all, but rather the result of sloppy scholarship on the part of the skeptic.
The Bible remains the inspired word of God, fully inspired and full authoritative.
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” (2nd Timothy 3:16-17)
There are many more reasons to believe than there are to disbelieve. We’ve detailed only six — there are plenty more.
But there is only ONE reason to disbelieve. Paul writes,
“And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind…” (Romans 1:28)
The dedicated skeptic doesn’t want to believe. God gave all men free will, so if he doesn’t want to believe, God isn’t going to make him. Instead, God provided all the evidence necessary and says to us all, “Choose this day Whom you will serve.”
“But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:15)
This Letter was written by Jack Kinsella on August 11, 2008.