Biblical “Contradictions” Explained

There are a multitude of so-called contradictions in the Bible, some of which are minor copyist errors that involve numbers. For instance, I Kings 4: 26 says Solomon had 40,000 stalls of horses for 12,000 horsemen, while II Chronicles 9: 25 says he had 4,000 stalls for the 12,000 horsemen. 40,000 stalls are way too many for 12,000 horsemen, so the number given in I Kings 4: 26 is obviously incorrect. Another copyist error exists in II Chronicles 22: 2, which says Ahaziah was 42 years old when becoming king. This contradicts II Kings 8: 26, which correctly says he was 22 when becoming king. It’s easy to determine which is correct. Ahaziah couldn’t have been 42 at the time because he was made king immediately after his father died at the age of 40 (II Chr. 21: 20; 22: 21). Other apparent contradictions exist in English Bibles as a result of errors made when Scripture was translated from its original language. Like the copyist errors, these translation errors have no effect on doctrine. Nevertheless, I’m going to address some of them here. All of the other alleged contradictions are taken out of context. In this introduction I’ll give you one example of something in the Bible that has been taken out of context. Romans 3: 7 says, “For if the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie unto His glory; why yet am I also judged as a sinner?” This verse has been singled out and used to assert that the apostle Paul was saying it’s okay to lie for the purpose of glorifying God. One only needs to read the very next verse to know this isn’t true. “And not rather, (as we be slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say,) ‘Let us do evil, that good may come?’  whose damnation is just” (v. 8). Paul was teaching that evil can’t be justified, even if good has resulted from it. But when you single out particular parts of the Bible, you are able to twist the meaning. This is the case with most of the “contradictions” below. I’m only listing some of the most prominent ones that are cited by critics of the Bible. If you need an explanation for one that’s not addressed here, you will probably have no problem finding it on another website if you do some searching.

Was Jesus a false witness?

“If I [Jesus] bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true.” (John 5: 31).

“I [Jesus] am One that bear witness of Myself…” (John 8: 18)

When reading John 5: 32-36, it becomes clear that if Jesus alone was bearing witness of Himself, His witness could not be accepted. However, He also had John the Baptist to bear witness of Him (v.33). In John 8: 12 Jesus told the Pharisees, “I am the light of the world.” Being ignorant of the other witness Jesus had, the Pharisees said to Him, “Thou barest record of Thyself; Thy record is not true” (8: 13). Jesus then explained the fallacy of this accusation (8: 14-17), and ended His explanation by saying, “It is also written in your law, that the testimony of two men is true” (v.17). He went on to say, “I am One that bear witness of Myself” (8: 18). And as He had explained, this did not make Him a false witness.

Does God tempt people?

“…God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth He any man.” (Jas. 1: 13)

“…God did tempt Abraham…” (Gen. 22: 1)

James 1: 13 is saying God never persuades anyone to commit a sin. But when Genesis 22: 1 says God tempted Abraham, what it means is God was testing him. This is obvious if you read verses 2-12. God told Abraham to sacrifice his son as a test of obedience, but before he followed through with the test, God told him, “Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou anything unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from Me” (v.12). God was testing Abraham here, not tempting him to commit sin. The word “tempt” has a different meaning in the book of James.

Should we judge others?

“Judge not, that ye be not judged.” (Matt. 7: 1)

“But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.” (I Cor. 2: 15)

If you compare Matthew 7: 1 to the next verse you will see that the word “judge” here means to condemn. I Corinthians 2: 15 can be understood by reading the previous verse, which makes it clear that the judgment spoken of here is in reference to those with divine discernment being able to perceive right and wrong.

Who provoked David to number Israel?

“And again the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and He moved David against them to say, “Go, number Israel and Judah.” (II Sam. 24: 1)

“And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel.” (I Chr. 21: 1)

God and Satan both provoked David to number Israel. While Satan carried out the actual deed, it was God who used him as a tool. God similarly used Satan to bring calamity upon His servant Job as a test of faith (Job 1: 8-12). Satan claimed Job would lose his faith if he lost his good fortune (v.11), so Satan was given permission to curse Job and carry out God’s test (v.12). The test ended with Job being restored his losses twofold (42: 10). God and Satan both brought calamity upon Job, just as God and Satan both provoked David to number Israel.

Who purchased the potter’s field?

“And the chief priests took the silver pieces [which belonged to Judas], and said, ‘It is not lawful to put them into treasury, because it is the price of blood.’ And they took counsel, and bought with them the potter’s field…” (Matt. 27: 6, 7)

“Now this man [Judas] purchased a field with the reward of iniquity [silver pieces]…” (Acts 1: 18)

Since the priests bought the field with the money Judas received for betraying Jesus (Matt. 26: 14, 15), they purchased it in his name. This is why the field is said to be purchased by both Judas and the priests.

How did Judas die?

“And he [Judas] cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.” (Matt. 27: 5)

“Now this man [Judas] purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out.” (Acts 1: 18)

Matthew tells us how Judas died, and Acts tells us what happened to his body after he hanged himself. The rope was obviously tied to a tree branch that was over the edge of a cliff. Either the branch ended up breaking, or someone cut the rope to remove Judas from the tree. The bloated body fell onto the rocks below, and the bowels gushed out.

Should we love our parents?

“Honor thy father and thy mother…” (Ex. 20: 12)

“If any man come to Me [Jesus], and hate not father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.” (Luke 14: 26)

In this context, “hate” means “love less.” As Jesus says in Matthew 10: 37, “He that loveth father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.” Our love for Jesus should be so strong that we hate our family by comparison.

Does God punish children for their parents’ sin?

“The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers; every man shall be put to death for his own sin.” (Deut. 24: 16)

“…. And by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.” (Num. 14: 18)

Numbers 14: 18 is most likely referring to parents passing on their wicked ways to their children. This conclusion is supported by other references to children practicing the evil ways of their parents ( I Kings 22: 52; II Chr. 22: 3, Jer. 9: 14).

Did Saul inquire of the Lord?

“And when Saul inquired of the Lord, the Lord answered him not…” (I  Sam. 28: 6)

“And [Saul] inquired not of the Lord: therefore He slew him…” (I Chr. 10: 14)

The problem here can be resolved by examining the Hebrew text that these verses were translated from. In I Samuel, “inquired” is translated from the Hebrew word “sha’al.” It means to ask or request. In I Chronicles, “inquired” is translated from the Hebrew word “darash.” It means to ask AND to seek. Darash is translated as “sought” in Psalms 77: 2 and 119: 10. Saul made a request of the Lord without seeking Him the way that a devout believer would.

Did Paul’s men hear the voice that he did?

“And the men which journeyed with him [Paul] stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man.” (Acts 9: 7)

“And they that were with me [Paul] saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of Him that spake to me.” (Acts 22: 9)

This is just a bad translation from the original Greek. In its original language, Acts 22: 9 says the men with Paul heard the voice he did, but didn’t understand the words that were spoken.

Has anyone seen God?

“No man hath seen God at any time…” (John 1: 18)

“….for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.” (Gen. 32: 30)

“And they saw the God of Israel: and there was under His feet…” (Ex. 24: 10)

God is a Spirit (John 4: 24) and is therefore invisible (I  Tim. 1: 17), but He sometimes took on the appearance of a human. This is exactly what He did when incarnating Himself as Jesus, “who is the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1: 15). Anyone who reads the verses preceding Genesis 32: 30 (22-29) knows this is another case of God taking on the form of a human. As for Exodus 24: 10, there are two possible explanations. One is that God appeared as a human; the other is that Moses and those who accompanied Him (24: 9) saw a visible manifestation of God’s glory. If the latter, “feet” is metaphorical of a pavement under God’s glory.

At what hour was Jesus crucified?

“And it was the third hour, and they crucified Him.” (Mark 15: 25)

“And it was the preparation of the Passover, and about the sixth hour: and he [Pilate] saith unto the Jews, ‘Behold your King!’ But they cried out, ‘Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him.’ Pilate saith unto them, ‘Shall I crucify your King?’ The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king but Caesar.’ Then delivered he Him therefore unto them to be crucified. And they took Jesus, and led Him away.” (John 19: 14-16)

Mark’s Gospel uses the Jewish time system, but John’s Gospel uses the Roman time system because he wrote it while in Ephesus where the Roman system was used. Saying Mark and John contradict each other is akin to saying two news organizations contradict each other just because they are reporting on the same event from different time zones.

(Note: The Bible couldn’t be trusted if it contradicted itself, so there should be no reason for trusting in two or more religions that contradict each other. This is the folly of saying Christians and Muslims both worship the same God. No matter how many similarities there are between the Bible and the Qur’an, they still contradict each other. If you believe every religion that is merely similar to Christianity offers salvation, how can you believe anything in the Bible at all? If someone rewrote the Bible so that it permitted homosexuality and adultery, but left every other doctrine the same, would it be “close enough” to Christianity for you? I would hope not. You would be saying there are lies in the Bible, and that’s something no true Christian would do.)