Answers to Biblical Contradictions
Posted by catholicfaithdefender on April 28, 2008
Originally By: Andrew Tong, Michael J. Bumbulis, MaryAnna White, Russ Smith, and others (1994-1995)
Answers to Biblical Contradictions, 1-10
1. God is satisfied with his works
“God saw all that he made, and it was very good.” [Gen 1:31]
God is dissatisfied with his works.
“The Lord was grieved that he had made man on earth, and his heart was filled with pain.” [Gen 6:6]
This is an obvious case of both/and, for something occurred after Gen 1:31 and before Gen 6:6, namely, the Fall. Evil entered creation as a result of man’s volition. One can argue the theological implications elsewhere, as the only relevant point is that this is not an obvious contradiction. When God created, all was good. After man rebelled, God grieved.
2. God dwells in chosen temples
“the LORD appeared to him at night and said: “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a temple of sacrifices…..I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there.” [2 Chr 7:12,16]
God dwells not in temples
“However, the Most High does not live in houses made by men.” [Acts 7:48]
I fail to see the contradiction here. The claim that “my eyes and heart will always be there” appears to mean nothing more to me than the fact that the LORD would pay special attention to the temple and have a special affinity for it; the LORD would reveal Himself to His people through the temple. Stephen’s speech in Acts merely highlights the transcendence of God. Put simply, if you put these together you arrive at the following truth – God is transcendent, yet He reveals Himself where He will.
3. God dwells in light
“who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light whom no one has seen or can see.” [1 Tim 6:16]
God dwells in darkness
“Then spake Solomon. The Lord said that he would dwell in the thick darkness” [1 Kings 8:12]
“He made darkness his secret place; his pavilion round about him were dark waters and thick clouds of the skies.” [Ps 18:11]
“Clouds and darkness are round about him.” [Ps 97:2] The first thing I would point out is these are likely to be metaphors and it would seem unwise to take such language too literally when describing God. But what could such seemingly contradictory metaphors convey? Note that in both cases there is the theme of the unsearchableness of God. That is, the light is unapproachable and the darkness is thick and covers a secret place. Thus, these verses could actually be teaching the same thing – simply that God is unapproachable.
One could also note that Paul’s account is quite optimistic following from a consideration of Christ. Prior to the Incarnation, there was indeed a certain darkness associated with the hidden God. But the eyes of the blind have been opened!
Or it could be said that the verses in 1 Kings and Psalms need be nothing more than a description of God perceived through the memory of His interation with His people described in Exodus19:9.
These “contradictions” are easily resolved if one accepts the Trinitarian view of God. Allow me to repost a reply which addressed a similar point, and in doing so, resolves this contradiction….
In a previous post, someone attempts to discredit the deity of Christ by appealing to John 1:18:
“No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” (KJV)
“If no man has seen God, then logically Jesus was not God, since there is no secular record of an outbreak of sightlessness in Judea in Jesus’ time”.
How shall the Christian respond? Well, let’s consider the statement that “No man hath seen God.” Consider the following verses from the Old Testament (OT):
Sarai says “You are the God who sees me,” for she said,
“I have now seen the One who sees me” (Gen 16:13)
“So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.” (Gen 32:30)
“Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up and saw the God of Israel.” (Ex 24: 9-10)
“they saw God” (Ex 24:11)
“We have seen God!” (Judges 13:22) Now while this person’s logic seems to rule out that Jesus was God, it also means that the Bible contains a very significant contradiction. If no one has seen God, how is it that Sarai, Jacob, Moses et al, and Monoah and his wife are said to have seen God?
Actually, this is a problem only for those who deny the deity of Christ while claiming to follow the teachings of the Bible. Let’s look again at John 1:18:
“No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only (or Only Begotten), who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.”
I think it is clear that John is speaking of the Father as the one who has not been seen. To paraphrase it, “No one has ever seen God, but the Son, who is at His side, has made Him known”. This interpretation not only seems to follow naturally from this verse, but is also quite consistent with the Logos doctrine taught in John 1. Recall, it is the Logos who mediates between God and man, and who reveals God to man. Jesus would later say, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” Prior to the Incarnation of the Son, no one had seen the Father, for it is through the Son that the Father is revealed.
So for the Trinitarian, there is no Bible contradiction. No one ever saw God the Father, and what Sarai, Jacob, Moses, etc saw was God the Son. This can be seen from many perspectives, but let’s simply consider one from Isaiah 6. Isaiah “saw the Lord” (v 1). Seraphs were praising the “Lord Almighty” (v 3). Isaiah is overwhelmed and responds, “Woe to me, I am ruined. For I am a man of unclean lips [this rules him out as the servant in Isaiah 53], and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty” (v 5). Later, we read:
“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” (vs. 8).
Again, the plurality of God is implied. Isaiah asks God to send him, and then God gave him a message to preach.
Now it’s time to jump to John 12:37-41. John claims that the peoples failure to believe in Jesus was a fulfillment of these teachings Isaiah received from the Lord in Isaiah 6. Then note verse 41.
“Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him”.
Here is a clear example where John equates Jesus with the Lord Almighty seen by Isaiah! This all fits together beautifully. Isaiah sees the Lord Almighty, yet he sees Jesus’ glory. Jesus speaks as a plural being (who will go for US). It is the Son who is seen, not the Father.
Thus, John 1:18 does not mean that Jesus was not God, it only means He is not the Father. This verse presents no problems for the Trinitarian, and in fact, when studied, serves as a great launching point for finding Christ in the OT. Prior to the Logos dwelling amongst us and revealing the Father to us, no one had seen the Father. But because of the Incarnation, we can now cry, “Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15) and “Our Father who art in heaven”! Those who see the Son can see the Father.
5. God is tired and rests
“In six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.” [Ex 31:17]
God is never tired and never rests
“The everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary.” [Is 40:28]
According to Haley, and many others, the term “rested and was refreshed’ is simply a vivid Oriental way of saying that God ceased from the work of creation and took delight in surveying the work.
God is not everywhere present, neither sees nor knows all things
“Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.” [Gen 3:8]
“But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower that men were building.” [Gen 11:5]
“The the LORD said, ‘The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sins so grievous that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.” [Gen 18:20-21] I accept the teaching that God is everywhere present and sees and knows all things. So let’s consider the instances in Genesis that are cited:
Gen 3:8 – “Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.”
Let’s also add the next verse to strengthen the critics case: “But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?”
How could one hide from God? Why does God need to ask this question?
First, what Adam and Eve could have hid from is merely the visible and special manifestation of the Lord. As for God’s seeming ignorance, anyone with children can recognize the utility of such questions. If a child is known to have broken a lamp, it is better to question the child than to simply accuse her. The former approach enables the child to take an active role in her wrong-doing, and allows for her to apologize. Note that God asked several questions:
“Where are you?….Who told you that you were naked?….Have you eaten of the fruit of the tree?”
Note the response. Instead of begging for mercy and confessing their sins, both the man and woman justified themselves and sought to put the blame on another. So typically human! By asking these questions, God enabled the man and woman to either freely repent or to firmly establish their sinfulness. Thus, while the critic thinks these are questions demonstrating ignorance, such an interpretation can be easily dismissed in light of the above considerations. What of the others?
“But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower that men were building.” [Gen 11:5]
“The the LORD said, ‘The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sins so grievous that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.” [Gen 18:20-21] These look like common human notions of someone coming down to check out what is going on. And perhaps, that’s how the writer of these accounts understood God. But perhaps there is also another layer to the account. Obviously, it teaches God’s transcendence. But it also demonstrates God’s interest. He is not an aloof sky-god. And he doesn’t watch from afar. He gets right down into human history.
But there is more. Maimonides once noted that just as the word ‘ascend’, when applied to the mind, implies noble and elevated objects, the word ‘descend’ implies turning one’s mind to things of lowly and unworthy character. Thus, God is not “coming down” in a physical sense, but in a “mental” sense, where he turns his attention to the sinful activity of men and invokes judgment. Of course, it is hard to describe God in human language, but I think the above account is not unreasonable.
Since these supposed contradictions depend on a particular interpretation which is (or at the very least may be) in error, no contradiction has been established.
God tries men to find out what is in their heart
“Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God.” [Gen 22:12]
“Remember how the LORD your God lead you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and test you in order to know what was in your hearts.” [Deut 8:2]
“The LORD your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul.” [Deut 13:3] We’ll assume that God knows the hearts of men, so let us determine if the above three verses are necessarily contradictions.
Could it be that these three instances simply serve to reveal and verify to man that which is already known by God? Anyone who has ever had a college chemistry course can probably relate to the following. A chemistry professor comes into class, and says, “I will now add acetic acid to this compound to see what happens.” The professor already knows what will happen! After the experiment, he might even add, “I now know that such and such results will occur after adding the acid.” Here he is simply putting himself in the place of the class, and speaking for them.
What the three verses could be showing is that once again, God is not some aloof sky-god who merely dictates. Instead, he relates. By asking questions, by claiming to have found something, he relates and allows man to play an active, not passive, role in the relationship. For example, Abraham now knew that God knew his heart. And he also knew God’s knowledge was true in light of the ‘test’ that he just went through.
In this supposed contradiction, along with the one immediately prior, the critic perceives ignorance on the part of God because of a belief that an omniscient God ought to dictate. Why can’t an omniscient God refrain from dictating, and simply relate in a way which intimately involves humanity?
God is not all powerful
“The LORD was with the men of Judah. They took possession of the hill country, but they were unable to drive the people from the plains, because they had iron chariots.” [Judg 1:19]
This is obviously not a contradiction. John Baskette notes that the critic is “reading the verse as saying that the LORD … he … could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley.” He adds: “This is an egregiously bad misreading of the text. The ‘he’ is Judah! not the LORD. That should be obvious to even the most obtuse objector.”
Once again, these purported contradictions all presuppose some platonic-type sky god. Christianity has always believed that God is a God who relates and who is personal. And whenever there is a personal relationship, there is a dynamic. And dynamics can involve both immutability and change. Whenever you have a personal dynamic, when one person changes, the other responds in a way which reflects this change. But all is not relative. If God’s essence is immutable, then He is the standard by which such change is understood.
For example, imagine you are in a field standing next to a tree. As you walk around the tree, you may end up north of the tree (and the tree is south of you). If you continue walking, such a relative relationship changes, so that you might find yourself south of the tree (and the tree is north of you). In the same way, our behavior towards God is like walking around the tree. Depending upon what we do, God is in a different relationship with us.
Let’s consider a better analogy. A man and a wife are in a happy marriage. The man commits adultery, and the wife becomes unhappy. Has the wife changed in a significant manner? Not really. Her change is a function of what her husband did, and reflects the immutability of her belief that infidelity is wrong.
In the purported contradictions, we have a set of Scriptures which speak of God’s essence – it is unchangeable. The other set deal with God’s relationships with men (they don’t abstractly speak of God’s essence). Thus, as the above analogies show, there need be no contradiction.
10. God is just and impartial
“To declare that the LORD is upright; He is my rock and there is no unrighteousness in him.” [Ps 92:15]
“Far be it from Thee to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are treated alike. Far be it from Thee! Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?” [Gen 18:25]
“The Rock! His work is perfect, For all His ways are just; a God of faithfulness and without injustice, righteous and upright is He.” [Deut 32:4]
“Yet you say, “The way of the LORD is not right.” Here now, O house of Israel! Is My way not right? Is it not your ways that are not right?” [Ezek 18:25]
“For there is no partiality with God.” [Rom 2:11]
God is unjust and partial
“So he said, Cursed be Canaan; A servant of servants He shall be to his brothers.” [Gen 9:25]
“You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers in the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me.” [Ex 20:5]
“for though the twins were not yet born, and had not done anything good or bad, in order that God’s purpose according to His choice might stand, not because of works, but because of Him who calls, it was said to her, “The older will serve the younger.” Just as it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” [Rom 9:11-13]
“For whoever has, to him shall more be given, and he shall have in abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken from him.” [Mt 13:12] The first set is as follows:
“To declare that the LORD is upright; He is my rock and there is no unrighteousness in him.” [Ps 92:15] = Basic Teaching (BT) — God is righteous
“Far be it from Thee to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are treated alike. Far be it from Thee! Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?” [Gen 18:25] = (BT) — God does not condemn the righteous with the wicked.
“The Rock! His work is perfect, For all His ways are just; a God of faithfulness and without injustice, righteous and upright is He.” [Deut 32:4] = (BT) — God is righteous
“Yet you say, “The way of the LORD is not right.” Here now, O house of Israel! Is My way not right? Is it not your ways that are not right?” [Ezek 18:25] = (BT) — God’s ways are right, the ways of Israel, when the prophet spoke, were not.
“For there is no partiality with God.” [Rom 2:11] = (BT) — God is impartial. However, it seems clear from the context that we are talking about God being impartial when it comes salvation being offered to both Jew and Gentile. Thus, the verses cited below could only be contradictory if they teach that Christ’s atonement was only for the Jews or Gentiles. Since they don’t, we need only consider if God is unrighteous in any of them.
The second set is as follows:
“So he said, Cursed be Canaan; A servant of servants He shall be to his brothers.” [Gen 9:25] Here, one must read a contradiction into the teachings as it is unclear whether Noah’s curse would make God “unrighteous.”
“You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers in the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me.” [Ex 20:5] The following verse notes that loving-kindness extends to thousands of generations of those who love God. This leads me to believe this verse is hyperbolic and thus difficult to make into a contradiction. For example, is God really unrighteous for bestowing blessings for a thousand generations, yet visiting iniquity for ONLY three or four generations? The thrust seems to run in the other direction. Whether or not one views this as “unrighteous” is a function of their ethics, and thus the “contradiction” is read into the scripture. (BTW, I would note, however, that sinful behavior is often transmitted in families. For example, the son of an alcoholic is often an alcoholic himself.)
MaryAnna responds to another related “contradiction” which is also relevant here:
Are children punished for the sins of the parents?
Exo. 20:5 tells us that God is to be feared, as He has the ability to visit the sins of the fathers on the children.
Ezek. 18:20 tells us this will not happen if the children repent and turn away from the ways of their fathers. Not a contradiction.
“for though the twins were not yet born, and had not done anything good or bad, in order that God’s purpose according to His choice might stand, not because of works, but because of Him who calls, it was said to her, “The older will serve the younger.” Just as it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” [Rom 9:11-13] Again, I view that “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated” as a hyperbole which indicates that God simply favored Esau. This is not a clear case of unrighteousness.
“For whoever has, to him shall more be given, and he shall have in abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken from him.” [Mt 13:12] I view this as a proverbial way of saying that he who improves upon the gifts that he receives will receive more, but he who does not improve upon them (i.e., neglects or takes them for granted) shall have them removed. I find this the very opposite of unrighteousness.