What inconsistencies and mistakes? It is easier to complain that the Bible
is full of inconsistencies and mistakes than it is to find one which will
stand up to careful study. Claiming that the Bible is full of errors and
inconsistencies is the standard approach of many Bible critics.

Of course, there are many good questions one could ask about the Bible.
How can God’s love and grace be consistent with his justice and vengeance
as described in the Bible? What about the different versions of creation
in Genesis 1 and 2? What about the fact that Matthew 27:5 says that Judas
hanged himself, while Acts 1:18 says that he fell headlong into a field
and his body burst open? The fact is that each of these seeming
inconsistencies are fairly easily explained in a way which is perfectly
satisfactory to any open-minded person.

Some of these specific inquiries will be addressed through the questions
section of this web site. You are encouraged to send an unanswered
question to john.oakes@gcccd.net for posting at the web site. The question
is addressed in the articles section under the heading “The Bible” at this
site entitled “The Ultimate Evidence,” as well as one entitled
“Reliability of the Bible.” Also see
http://hometown.aol.com/KingDavid8/Contradictions.html for a web page
devoted some of these questions.

The types of supposed errors and inconsistencies will include;

? Claims that what it taught in two different passages are contradictory.

? Identical events described by two different authors have details of fact
which appear to contradict.

? Numbers of objects, people or years in two different passages do not

It will obviously be impossible in this short section to deal with all the
possible examples of supposed contradictions in the Bible, or even to deal
with all the major ones which come up repeatedly. It may be helpful to
consider a set of questions which can be used to sort through apparent
contradictions which one might come across.

? Is this a legitimate contradiction? In other words, is there a perfectly
reasonable explanation of the supposed contradiction which can be found
simply by reading the relevant passages in context?

? Is there any chance that a scribal error could explain the apparent
discrepancy? This will be a particularly relevant question if the supposed
contradiction involves numbers from the Old Testament text.

? Is it possible that the two passages, rather than contradicting one
another, actually complement one another? In other words, is it possible
that the two apparently discrepant scriptures actually create a fuller
picture of what God is trying to communicate when taken together?

It will be helpful to consider some fairly typical examples of what some
have called mistakes or contradictions in the Bible to illustrate what is
involved. What will be done is to use examples taken more or less at
random directly from various web sites skeptics have set up to support the
claim that the Bible is full of contradictions. Some typical examples of
such claimed Bible errors follow.

1. “Genesis 7:17 says that the flood lasted forty days, but Genesis 8:3
tells us that it lasted one hundred and fifty days.”

This is an example of a supposed contradiction which is very easily
eliminated by simply reading the relevant passages in their context.
Genesis 7:17 describes forty days of rain, while Genesis 8:3 states that
the duration of the flood was one hundred and fifty days. Apparently after
the rain stopped, there was a significant amount of time before the waters

2. “In addition there is a contradiction regarding the question of whether
God punishes children for the sins of their parents. At (sic) Ezekiel
18:20, the Lord states: ?The son shall not bear the iniquity of the
father?? However at (sic) Exodus 20:5, God says: ??I the Lord thy God am a
jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto
the third and fourth generation of them that hate me.?”

This is a more serious example. The explanation would fall under the third
category above. When one reconciles the two quoted passages a more
complete understanding is reached. In Ezekiel 18, one finds the clear and
consistent Bible teaching that when Judgment Day comes, a person will only
be held personally responsible before God for their own actions?not those
of their parents or children or of anyone else. The passage in Exodus 20:5
is discussing God?s treatment of a nation or a group of people as a whole.
It is a consistent teaching in the Bible that although each individual is
responsible to God for his or her own actions, God will bring punishment
or discipline on a nation which turns their back on him. The punishment
anticipated in Exodus 20:5 is of a physical nature, such as warfare or
drought. The eternal destiny of individuals is a separate issue. Israel
was sent into exile because, as a nation, she turned to idolatry. Despite
this fact, some were still faithful to God, even during this time and
presumably will not be judged for eternity by God individually for the
sins of the whole people.

3. “As to the death of the apostle Judas, Matthew 27:5 states that Judas
took the money that he had obtained by betraying Jesus, threw it down in
the temple and then ?went and hanged himself.? However, Acts 1:18 reports
that Judas used the money to purchase a field and ?falling headlong, he
burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out.?”

This is an example of a supposed contradiction which is removed by reading
the two relevant passages and simply thinking carefully how they might be
resolved. What actually happened is that out of remorse, Judas brought the
money given to him to betray Jesus and threw it down at the feet of the
elders and chief priests who had put him up to the betrayal. In the
context of Matthew 27, it is clearly described how the chief priests
“decided to use the money to buy the potter?s field as a burial place for
foreigners.” (Matthew 27:7). After returning the money, it would appear
that Judas hanged himself. After only a few hours in a hot climate,
hanging from the rope, his body was extremely bloated. That would explain
why, when he was cut down, “his body burst open and all his intestines
spilled out.” In summary, Judas returned the money, it was used to buy a
field, he hanged himself, and when cut down his body burst open. There is
no contradiction.

These passages are two of many examples which support the claim that the
gospel accounts as well as Acts provide independent parallel accounts of
the same events. When one allows for the possibility that the two accounts
compliment rather than contradict one another, the meaning is easily
worked out. A great number of the supposed contradictions in the Bible
come from different eye-witness accounts which record correct but
different details of the same event. Rather than providing evidence for
mistakes in the Bible, they support the claim that the gospel accounts are
separate but reliable records.

4. “David took seven hundred (2 Samuel 8:4) or seven thousand (1
Chronicles 18:4) horsemen from Hadadezer. Which is correct?”

This is an example of a contradiction which was produced by a scribal
error. In other words, almost certainly in the original 2 Samuel and 1
Chronicles, the numbers agreed. When numbers are recorded in Hebrew, it is
extremely easy for an error to occur. Similar to Roman numerals, letters
are used to represent numbers in Hebrew. Some of the letters which
represent numbers are very similar, making copy errors over long periods
very likely. A mistake by a factor of ten (seven hundred versus seven

thousand, for example) are even more likely to occur. As stated in chapter
six, the reader of the Old Testament should be cautious in assuming the
numbers found in our text are identical to the original writing. Bottom
line, a copying error is not a Bible contradiction.

5. “In describing Jesus being led to his execution, John 19:17 states that
Jesus carried his own cross. In contrast, Mark 15:21-23 says that a man
called Simon carried Jesus? cross to the crucifixion site.”

This is another example where simply reading the relevant passages and
considering how, reasonably, the accounts can be justified will easily
solve the supposed error. In Matthew 27:32, one finds “as they were going
out,” (to Golgotha) “they met a man from Cyrene named Simon.” Evidently,
Jesus carried the cross-beam part of the way, while Simon carried it the
rest of the way, possibly because Jesus was unable to continue under the
burden. As with example three above, the complete story is more fully
understood when the parallel accounts are compared and justified,
supporting the claim that the gospel accounts are independent but reliable

6. “In Genesis 37:36 it says that Joseph was sold into Egypt by
Midianites, while In Genesis 39:1 it says that he was sold by

Would it be a contradiction to say that George Bush is a Texan and at the
same time that he is an American? The Midianites were an Arabic tribe. A
common general name for Arab tribes in ancient times was Ishmaelites,
showing that they were descended from Abraham?s first son, Ishmael.

7. “Exodus 20:8, ?Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy? contradicts
Isaiah 1:13 ?Your? Sabbaths and convocations?I cannot bear??”

This is an example of not understanding the meaning of a passage in its
context. Of course, God commanded the Jews to observe the Sabbath. In
Isaiah, God is telling his people that their going through the motions of
worship without renouncing their blatant sin is so hypocritical that their
worship disgusts him. To put it in a modern context, it would be like God
saying to one of us: “You are in such gross sin?your example is so bad?it
would be better for you to stay home than to put on an act and go to
church.” There is no contradiction here.

8. “?Do not answer a fool according to his folly or you will be like him
yourself? (Proverbs 26:4) contradicts the verse, ?Answer a fool according
to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes.? (Proverbs 26:5)”

At first, this might seem like an obvious contradiction, since the two
statements seem to be direct opposites. Given that the two verses are
found consecutively in Proverbs, it is very likely that the original
writer was well aware of the dual meaning of the two verses. This would be
an example of two scriptures which, when taken together, produce a fuller
understanding. Comparing the two verses, one can conclude that it is a
mistake to get caught up into playing the games of the fool (v. 4), but it
is wise to reveal the emptiness of the thinking of foolish people (v. 5).

This process could go on almost indefinitely, but the point is made. Those
who claim that the Bible is full of contradictions are simply mistaken.
There may be some difficult questions. Even careful study may leave some
unanswered apparent contradictions, but in the final analysis, all or
virtually all of the supposed errors in the Bible are actually errors of
the Bible critic himself who is not doing a good job of analyzing the
biblical text.

After carefully considering many dozens of supposed errors in the Bible,
and finding all of them so easily explained, it would be tempting to close
the subject. However, it would be a bad idea for a Bible believer to
pronounce the contradiction issue a done deal. That would not be
intellectually honest. If we are absolutely closed to even considering the
possibility that there is a mistake in the Bible, we fall into circular
reasoning and a form of intellectual dishonesty which may become obvious
to those who ask good, honest questions. However, at some point, after a
person had addressed a great number of questions, finding that all or
virtually all are easily answered, it is reasonable to begin with the
presumption that almost certainly when the question is carefully
investigated, it will turn out that there is in fact no error or
contradiction at all.

In conclusion it is not unusual to hear the Bible attacked because of all
of its supposed contradictions and errors. The charge is far easier to
raise than it is to prove. A careful study in context of the scriptures
which are supposed to contradict and an attempt to understand the full
meaning of Biblical passages will readily explain virtually all these
questions. The Bible is the product of at least forty authors, writing
over the course of well over a thousand years, from widely differing
cultures and backgrounds. Yet it remains consistent with itself to such a
degree that the honest student of the Bible will find him or herself more
convinced than ever that it is inspired by God.

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