Introduction to Bible Difficulties and Bible Contradictions
Bible difficulties, or apparent Bible contradictions, exist. The opponents of Christianity often use them in their attempts to discredit Christianity. Sometimes these attacks undermine the faith of Christians who either don't understand the issues or don't have the resources to deal with them.
Opponents of Christianity will cite what they consider a Bible contradiction or difficulty by comparing one verse to another (or more) that seems to disagree with the first. In doing this, several verses are often referenced as being contradictory or problematic. Therefore, to make this section of CARM easy to use, it is arranged by verse for easy lookup. Since many of the same "difficulties" deal with one verse in opposition to another or even several others, I have listed all the verses addressed in the same answer. This makes the initial list look larger than it really is. For example, how many animals did Noah bring into the ark? Genesis 6:19-20 says two while Gen. 7:2-3 mentions seven. Therefore, both verses are listed and both links point to the same answer.
The Originals are Inspired, not the copies.
What a lot of Christians don't know is that the autographs (original writings) are inspired, not the copies. The autographs are the original writings--the original documents penned by the biblical writers. The copies are copies of inspired documents. The copies are not themselves "inspired"; that is, they have no guarantee of being 100% textually pure. But don't worry, the Bible manuscripts are 98.5% textually pure. Only a very small amount of information is in question because we have repetitive facts, instructions, and information found elsewhere in the Bible. Nevertheless, through the copying method over the years, various textual problems have arisen. Following is a list of the types of errors that have occurred in copying the manuscripts. I've used English as examples instead of going into the original languages for examples.
- Dittography - Writing twice what should have been written once. Example: writing "latter" instead of "later." "Latter" means nearest the end. "Later" means after something else.
- Fission - Improperly dividing one word into two words. Example: changing "nowhere" into "now here."
- Fusion - Combining the last letter of one word with the first letter of the next word. Example: "Look it is there in the cabinet... or Look it is therein the cabinet."
- Haplography - Writing once what should have been written twice. Example: "later" instead of "latter." "Later" means after something else. "Latter" means nearest the end.
- Homophony - Writing a word with a different meaning for another word when both words have the exact same pronunciation. Example: Meat and meet have the exact same sound but different meanings. Also, there and their and they're are another example.
- Metathesis - An improper exchange in the order of letters. Example: Instead of writing "mast," someone writes "mats," or "cast" and cats."
Does this mean we cannot trust the Bible?
Does this mean that the Bible we hold in our hand is not inspired? Not at all. Inspiration comes from God, and when He inspired the Bible it was perfect. Our copies of the original documents are not perfect, but they are very close to being so. The critics often erringly assume that even the copies are supposed to be perfect. But when we point out that God never said the copies would be perfect, they then ask how can the Bible be trusted at all? Quite simply, it is redundant in its facts and information and the amount of material that has any variation at all is so minute compared to the whole Bible that the Bible is considered to be almost 100% accurately copied. Furthermore, the copyist errors present no problems doctrinally.
Still, some will say that since there are, for example, copyist errors then we must throw out the entire Bible. But this argument is very weak. Are we to throw out a science textbook because there is a misspelled word or two in it? Does this mean that the whole book cannot be trusted? Of course not. Furthermore, compared to other ancient documents, the New Testament, for example, has far more textual evidence in its favor than any other ancient writing. Please consider the chart below.1
|Author||When Written||Earliest Copy||Time Span||No. of Copies|
|Homer (Iliad)||900 BC||400 BC||500 years||643|
|Ceasar (The Gallic Wars)||100 - 44 BC||900 AD||1,000 years||10|
|Plato (Tetralogies)||427 - 347 BC||900 AD||1,200 years||7|
|Aristotle||384 - 322 BC||1,100 AD||1,400 years||49|
|Herodotus (History)||480 - 425 BC||900 AD||1,300 years||8|
|Euripedes||480 - 406 BC||1,100 AD||1,500 years||9|
|New Testament||50 - 90 A.D.||130 AD||30 years||24,000|
If the Bible cannot be trusted as being reliable because it has only a small percentage of copyist errors, then neither can the above documents that have far less textual support be trusted. In other words, the critics (to be consistent) would have to reject the Iliad, The Gallic Wars, Plato's Tetralogies, Aristotle's works, Hoerodetus' history, and Euripedes' writings. Are the critics willing to disregard all those writings -- which are far less well preserved -- if they throw out the Bible as being reliable? They should if they are fair in how they apply their criticism. Since basically no one discards those writings as being so bad that they can't be trusted, why would anyone apply the double standard to the Bible . . . unless they have an agenda.
We can see that the Bible is an ancient document that has withstood thousands of years of transmission with remarkable accuracy and clarity, far more so than the great works of old listed in the chart above. We can trust it to be what it says it is: the word of God.
- 1. This chart was adapted from charts in Josh McDowell, Evidence that Demands a Verdict, 1979, p. 42 and 43.
- Apologetics Dialogues
- CARM Radio
- Cut and Paste Information
- Discussion Boards
- Email and Responses
- Evidence and Answers
- Lost Books
- Objections and Answers
- Online Schools
- Preachers and Teachers
- Recommended Websites
- Research Links
- Responding to Critics
- Verses Examined - OT
- Verses Examined - NT
- Women in Ministry
- Women's Issues
- About Angels
- About Apologetics
- About Baptism
- About the Bible
- About Bible Verses
- About the Church
- About Christianity
- About Demons
- About Doctrine
- About End Times
- About Ethics
- About Evangelism
- About God
- About Heresies
- About The Holy Spirit
- About Jesus
- About Man
- About Marriage
- About the Occult
- About Pastors
- About People
- About Prayer
- About Philosophy
- About Religions
- About Salvation
- About Sanctification
- About Science
- About Sexuality
- About Sin
- About Theology
- Other Questions
- Skeptics Ask
- Gen. 1 & 2, Don't Genesis 1 and 2 present contradictory creation accounts?
- Gen. 4:17, Where did Cain get his wife?
- Gen. 7:2-3, How many kinds did Noah bring into the ark, two or seven?
- Ex. 6:2-3, Has anyone seen God or not?
- Ex. 20:8, Should we keep the Sabbath or not?
- Lev. 11:13-19, Is a bat a bird?
- Num. 15:32, Why was a man killed for gathering sticks on the Sabbath?
- Deut. 2:32-33, Why did the Israelites destroy cities and kill all of the people inside?
- Deut. 5:9, Do the sons bear the sins of the fathers or not?
- Deut. 21:18-21, Stone a rebellious son
Help CARM by Liking It!
Discount off of Logos Bible Program.
CARM highly recommends using the Logos Bible Research Program. It is what we use. It is the best in the world. Just go to http://www.logos.com/carm. Use the coupon code of CARM6.