Are there really contradicting Bible verses?
Are there contradictions in the Bible? Christians believe that the Bible is God’s word, so if there are contradicting Bible verses, as some people claim, that’s a pretty big problem. God wouldn’t contradict Himself would He?
Why People See Contradictions in the Bible
One reason people may claim there are contradicting Bible verses is that they lack understanding of what they’re reading. One simple step to increase your understanding of the Bible is to read the verses in context. Don’t cherry-pick a verse here and there, but read the surrounding verses or even the entire chapter to understand what is being said.
Another way to better understand the Bible is to know who is writing to whom, what they are writing, and the purpose of what they wrote. The Bible is actually a collection of sixty-six books by many different writers who lived in different cultures and different centuries. Historical narrative, poetry, parables, and prophecy are a few of the different types of writing in the Bible.
With so many variables it may be easy to assume that somewhere along the line a few contradicting Bible verses must have slipped in. If this were an ordinary book, you’d be right. But the Bible is anything but ordinary. It is God’s divine revelation to us, and God is the only author, though He used many writers to pen His message.
Another reason people claim there are contradictions in the Bible is due to their own personal agenda. Something about the Bible or its message offends them, so they want it to be wrong. If they can disprove part of the Bible, they can throw the whole thing out as false, or pick and choose what they want to believe.
A perfect example of a group with such an agenda is the American Humanist Association. If anyone would have done their homework to find contradictions in the Bible or contradicting Bible verses it would be them. So we took a look at some of these supposed contradictions as given in their article, “Some Reasons Why Humanists Reject the Bible.”
By definition, a contradiction is:
a fact or statement that is the opposite of what someone has said or that is so different from another fact or statement that one of them must be wrong.
Other sources include the word inconsistent in the definition, which means incompatible. So a contradiction is in opposition or incompatible with something previously stated. Let’s dive into these supposed contradictions in the Bible and see what we can find.
Supposed Contradicting Bible Verses
According to their article, the contradictions in the Bible start in the very first chapter.
Can both of these statements be true? If I say I have light in my house on day one, and three days later I say I made candles and lit them in different rooms, have I contradicted myself? Are those statements incompatible? Not if I had a light source other than the candles to begin with.
So if there was a source of light other than those created on day four, these verses are not in contradiction. Interestingly enough, a simple search for ‘where does light come from’ is all it takes. Without getting too complex, light is an expression of energy more commonly known as radiation.
Even secular scientists agree there was light in the universe before there were stars. They call it ‘primordial radiation’ and attribute it to anything but a divine source. The Bible states it more simply. God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.
For the Bible to state that light was created before the celestial bodies that give light to our planet is not a contradiction, but is actually a scientifically accurate statement that goes against what myths and outdated science once believed. Fancy that.
This one is definitely a contradiction, right? It would be if that’s what the verses actually say, but it’s not. Genesis 2:19 says:
Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them…
Genesis 1:20 says:
Then God said, “Let the waters teem with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth in the open expanse of the heavens.”
From these two verses we learn that birds fly in the air and were created from the ground. Those are two different facts, but not an example of contradictions in the Bible. Unless you’re willfully misunderstanding the verse, these are obviously not contradicting Bible verses.
“Genesis 6:19, God ordered Noah to bring ‘of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort…into the ark.’ Nevertheless, Genesis 7:2-3 relates that the Lord ordered Noah to take into the ark the clean beast and the birds by sevens, and only the unclean beasts by twos.”
Remember the definition of contradiction? It means something is incompatible or in opposition to something else. Giving additional information does not mean I’ve contradicted myself.
If someone asked you to bring two of each of your favorite foods to a party and then said, also bring seven of each of a few specific foods you both like, have they contradicted themselves? You were bringing two of everything anyway, but they also want to make sure there are seven of a specific subset.
Are you unable to do both of the things you were asked to do? No. Having seven of something means you also have a pair, since two is included in that larger quantity. This is an example of personal bias and willful misunderstanding, not contradictions in the Bible.
“Genesis 8:4 reports that, as the waters of the flood receded, Noah’s ark rested on the mountains of Ararat in the seventh month. The very next verse, however, says the mountaintops could not be seen until the tenth month.”
Why do we have lighthouses and buoys around coastlines? To protect ships from rocks, reefs or other dangers hidden beneath the surface of the water. Ships don’t sit on the surface of the water like a rock on a frozen pond. Depending on how large the vessel is and how much weight it’s carrying, a substantial part of a ship is below the surface of the water.
If the Bible is accurate, Noah’s ark was the size of a small cargo ship, over forty feet from top to bottom and carrying so much weight that the water line would have been several stories above the bottom of the ship.
According to Genesis chapter 8, it took seven months for the flood waters to recede enough for the bottom of the ark to snag on the top of Mount Ararat. It took another three months for the water to recede to the point where those in the ark could actually see the mountains. These are not contradicting Bible verses, but an accurate account of what happened.
When there is a massive flood and water covers everything, you mark the day you can see the ground again. That’s verse 13. “…In the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried off the earth.” In essence, “I can see land!”
Does that mean the ground was dry? Is that how it works with the puddles in your yard? When you finally see ground and not water, are you surprised to get muddy if you walk over the spot that day or even the next? Of course not.
Ask any farmer if not seeing water on the ground means the ground is dried out. They’ll tell you absolutely not. The amount of time it takes for soil to dry varies depending on how saturated the soil was to begin with, what kind of drainage the area has, and the type of soil.
In the case of Noah’s flood, everything was completely saturated. It’s not a surprise and not a contradiction in the Bible when Genesis 8:14 states that the ground was dried out almost two months after the water was dried off the surface of the earth. These aren’t contradicting Bible verses, but a continuation of the events being recorded.
“According to II Samuel 24:1, the Lord had caused David to take the census – which makes the punishment appear even more nonsensical. But an attempt was later made, at I Chronicles 21:1, to improve God’s image by claiming that Satan incited the census.”
This one is not just about contradicting Bible verses, but also questions the character of God. If God incited David to take a census, how can a just God punish him for it? And if it was Satan who moved David to take a census, then why didn’t Samuel just say so?
James 1:13-14 can help us understand this. It says:
Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.”
God may test us, but He never tempts us. It’s important to distinguish between the two. A test is given with hope that you pass. Temptation is presented with hope that you fail. Satan is the tempter, not God. But ultimately we are responsible for our own actions.
In the case of the census, David did what he wanted. He failed the test (from God) and gave in to the temptation (of Satan) to do what he knew was wrong. These aren’t contradictory Bible verses, but different facets of the same lesson.
“At Jeremiah 7:22, God denies he ever gave the Israelites commandments about animal sacrifices. In contrast, Exodus 29:38-42 and many other verses depict God as requiring the Israelites to offer animal sacrifices.”
Everything in the Old Testament is a foreshadow of the fulfillment we find in the New Testament. Sacrifice is an important theme throughout the Bible, culminating in the sacrifice that Jesus made for all of mankind at the cross. At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, John the Baptist alluded to these Old Testament sacrifices when he said of Jesus, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29)
Sacrifices are a very important part of the Bible. If Jeremiah denied that God commanded sacrifices, that would indeed be a contradiction in the Bible. What does Jeremiah actually say?
For I did not speak to your fathers, or command them in the day I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices. But this is what I commanded them, saying ‘Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you will be My people; and you will walk in all the way which I command you, that it may be well with you. (Jeremiah 7:22-23)
Jeremiah doesn’t deny God ever gave commandments about animal sacrifices. He says that wasn’t the first thing He commanded them to do. The first thing God wanted was obedience. Everything else follows.
He said the same thing to king Saul, when he failed to follow instructions and chose to do his own thing, which included sacrifices God didn’t ask for.
Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
As in obeying the voice of the Lord?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
And to heed than the fat of rams. ~ 1 Samuel 15:22
The sacrifices that God commanded were important, but they weren’t the most important, nor were they the first thing he spoke to them. This is not a contradiction in the Bible, but a statement of priorities.
What’s Your Motivation?
These supposed contradictions in the Bible are not difficult to resolve when you have a desire to do so. When you approach the Bible with a desire to understand it, God will help you to do so. When your desire is to misunderstand the Bible or undermine it, you become willfully blind to the truth that is there if you are willing to see it.
The examples above are from the Old Testament. What about the New Testament? In the next article, we will give the same examination to what some consider New Testament contradictions in the Bible.
Do you know the Good News?