Enemies of the Bible
frequently point out that the Bible is full of discrepancies.
Is it really?
First, some of the old
hand written manuscripts have copyist errors in them. For
example, using the Arabic numerals that we use, suppose a
manuscript has the number ten written as "1" followed
by a "0." When someone copied it, they may make
it look like a sixteen -- like a "1" followed
by a "6." So the copyist writes down 16. That
is an example of a copyist error. There are very few of
them, but there are some. In Hebrew, for example, the
letter "resh" looks very much like the letter
"daleth." There are some corrupt manuscripts.
The fact that manuscripts disagree among each other does
not mean that the word of God contains contradictions --
it means that copyists are fallible. We look at what most
of them say and if most of them say the same thing and we
have a single manuscript sort of "waving in the
breeze by itself" with a different reading, we tend
to believe the overwhelming majority. When a manuscript
stands alone, or even when a group of manuscripts with
the same deviant reading are in a minority, we tend to
dismiss the deviation. Of course the problem that arises
is that not all the errors are in a single manuscript.
That would make it easy, but it is not that way. Text critics
must compare manuscript with manuscript to find out what is
the majority reading. Sometimes there are copyist errors,
but it is relatively uncommon for one to cause a
discrepancy or contradiction.
Second, sometimes in Scripture the same person or the
same place has different names. In Exodus 3:1 Moses'
father in law is called Jethro and in Exodus 2:18 his
name is called Reuel. The same man is called Hobab in
Numbers 10:29. These are not "contradictions."
The man was simply known by more than one name. Gibeah
was also known as Kirjath-Jearim and Baalah. All three
place names refer to the same town. The same person or same
place may have more than one name. This is another clue to
reconciling Scripture. When one passage says that someone went
to a certain place, and another passage says he went some other
place, it may be that it was the same place with two
Third, sometimes chronological differences in a person's
age or how long a plague lasted or how long a king ruled
and so forth can be resolved by understanding the
differences in the method of computing. If one prophet
said that a plague would last seven years and later
another prophet said it would last four years we would
not have a contradiction if the latter prophet were
speaking in the midst of the plague. If a person in the
midst of a seven-year plague said it would last four
years, he could be understood to intend four MORE years.
If another person said it would last (or did last) seven
years, he might be understood to refer to the entire
plague from beginning to end. We must look at the manner of
computation before declaring something to be a
Fourth, the kings of Israel and Judah present a special
problem, so when we hear objections having to do with the
kings the resolution may have to do with the way in which
the ascension year was computed (this varied in Judah,
but remained constant in Israel -- but they were not the
same); it may have to do with the fact that some of the
kings reigned while their fathers were still alive, but
their reign may be counted as beginning either upon their
father's death or when they actually began reigning; it
may have to do with the fact that some kings reigned by
having someone overseeing their reign for a period of
time, and then reigned alone after coming of age. How
long such an one reigned would depend upon whether we
compute from the beginning of his right to the throne or
from the time he reigned without the regent.
Fifth, sometimes two different Scriptures are simply
talking about two different things and are not intended
to give any kind of contradictory information. Darkened
understandings (Eph. 4:18) simply choose to suppress the
truth (Rom. 1:18). An example would be if we were try to
maintain that there is a chronological contradiction
between Genesis 1:24-28 and Genesis 2:18-20. This is a
perfect example of two accounts that give supplemental information.
The accounts are parallel looking at the creation from two
Sixth, what may superficially appear to be a
contradiction may sometimes be resolved simply by
realizing that sometimes God speaks in absolute terms and
sometimes he speaks in comparative terms. For example,
there is a commandment "honor thy father and
mother." Jesus later said "If you do not hate your
father and mother you cannot be my disciple." Now
that is a SEEMING contradiction. But the one is an
absolute commandment whereas the other is a comparative
term. Compared to our love for God, love and honor for
our parents cannot interfere. Similarly, because Jacob
had less regard for Leah than he did for Rachel, that is
called "hating her." But the hate was only by
way of comparison to his love for Rachel.
Seventh, sometimes seeming contradictions arise from the Scripture
treating people in public capacity versus private capacity
or vice versa. For example, when the Bible says in one place,
"Judge righteous judgment," and in another
place, "Judge not" there is no contradiction.
We can resolve this seeming contradiction by simply
acknowledging that when God says, "Judge righteous
judgment" he is speaking to people whose capacity it
is to pass judgment. He was saying, "When you judge, judge
righteously." In Matthew 7:1 which is so often
quoted without a context Christ said virtually the same
thing. Christ was not saying "do not judge at
all," because in that very passage he went on to
say, "beware of false teachers. Beware of false prophets.
Beware of wolves dressed in sheep's clothing. Ye shall know
them by their fruits, etc." How will we know of whom
to beware? It is simple. Christ said, "bad fruit
equals bad tree." In the very context of saying
"judge not," Christ told us how to make judgments.
So we must resolve this by looking at the fact that it is sometimes
the public capacity of some (magistrates and others) to
pass judgment. But they must NOT judge according to their own
prejudices, but according to God's holy word.
Eighth, contraries may be true but in different respects
or senses. Jesus allowed a woman to break an alabaster
box and pour expensive oil on him. When the disciples
protested, he replied that he would not always be with
them (Matthew 26:11). In Matthew 28:20, however, he said,
"Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the
world." Here are contraries, but they are speaking
in different respects. Physically Christ left the earth
at the ascension. But "the Spirit of Christ" or
His Word is always with us. Scripture speaks of
contraries being true, but in different respects.
Ninth, God speaks to different times and dispensations.
Things are administered differently at different times
and periods in the history of redemption. Because things
are administered differently, we sometimes see things
that were done a certain way no longer being done the
same way. There was a time when God commanded every male
to appear before him in Jerusalem three times per year.
Christ abolished the ceremonial law and now we are no
longer required to visit Jerusalem (John 4:21-24). This
is not a contradiction as such, but simply a proper understanding
that administrations change and we need to make proper
distinctions between times and dispensations.
notes by R.B.)