The idea that the Bible is the perfect word of god, that it is inerrant, infallible, and free of contradictions, continues to be defended by zealous Christians the world over. John Cameron, lead pastor of ARISE Church, is no exception.
“He [god] will always remain, in part, an unfamiliar god. He will never contradict his word, he will never alter his character, but that does not mean for a moment that we have ever been able to summarise the absolute totality of what he wants to reveal to us” (The New Normal – Part 7)
This post will present instances of biblical contradictions and inconsistencies of God’s character to demonstrate that the idea of contradictory-free scripture is a false one. Verses are are mostly taken from the NIV unless noted otherwise.
Instances of Contradictions
God’s anger lasts forever (Jeremiah 17:4)
Through your own fault you will lose
the inheritance I gave you.
I will enslave you to your enemies
in a land you do not know,
for you have kindled my anger,
and it will burn forever.”
God’s anger doesn’t last forever (Micah 7:18)
“Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy.”
Salvation can be attained by works alone
27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.
17 “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’[c]; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[d]”
28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
Salvation cannot be attained by works alone (Galations 2:16)
15 “We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles 16 know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in[d] Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.
God cannot be seen
18 No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and[a] is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.
1 Timothy 6:16
—God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.
God was seen by Abraham, Jacob, and Moses
The Lord [Jehovah] appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the Lord [Jehovah], who had appeared to him.
30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God [Elohim] face to face, and yet my life was spared.”
The Lord [Jehovah] would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young aide Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent.
One cannot see god and live
But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.”
God causes trouble/calamity/disasters/evil (translation dependent)
I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the Lord [Jehovah], do all these things.
God is love
1 John 4:8
8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
Humans were created after the animals
25 God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.
26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,[a] and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
27 So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
Humans were created before the animals
Genesis 2:18-19 (NET)
18 The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a companion for him who corresponds to him.” 19 The Lord God formed out of the ground every living animal of the field and every bird of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them, and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name.
Note: The NIV translates verse 19 as “…God had formed…” but the New English Translation (NET), which can be found online here, contains a translation note about this verse saying that the correct form of the verb is the past tense, not the past perfect. This is an example of how some Bible translations e.g. the NIV, deliberately use unconventional translations to try and patch up difficult verses to make them conform to the preconceived notion of Biblical inerrency.
Or “fashioned.” To harmonize the order of events with the chronology of chapter one, some translate the prefixed verb form with vav (ו) consecutive as a past perfect (“had formed,” cf. NIV) here. (In chapter one the creation of the animals preceded the creation of man; here the animals are created after the man.) However, it is unlikely that the Hebrew construction can be translated in this way in the middle of this pericope, for the criteria for unmarked temporal overlay are not present here. See S. R. Driver, A Treatise on the Use of the Tenses in Hebrew, 84-88, and especially R. Buth, “Methodological Collision between Source Criticism and Discourse Analysis,” Biblical Hebrew and Discourse Linguistics, 138-54. For a contrary viewpoint see IBHS 552-53 §33.2.3 and C. J. Collins, “The Wayyiqtol as ‘Pluperfect’: When and Why,” TynBul 46 (1995): 117-40.
Jesus was the only man to ascend to heaven
No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man.
Jesus wasn’t the only man to ascend to heaven
2 Kings 2:11
As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind.
In Old Testament law, children were to be punished for the sins of their parents – Deuteronomy 5:9
You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me,
Children weren’t to be punished for the sins of their parents – Deuteronomy 24:16
Parents are not to be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their parents; each will die for their own sin.
God never tires or gets weary – Isaiah 40:28
28 Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
God gets weary – Isaiah 43:24
24 You have not bought any fragrant calamus for me,
or lavished on me the fat of your sacrifices.
But you have burdened me with your sins
and wearied me with your offenses.
How many men drew the sword for Israel, as counted by Joab?
Eight-hundred thousand – 2 Samuel 24:9
9 Joab reported the number of the fighting men to the king: In Israel there were eight hundred thousand able-bodied men who could handle a sword, and in Judah five hundred thousand.
One million one hundred thousand – 1 Chronicles 21:5
5 Joab reported the number of the fighting men to David: In all Israel there were one million one hundred thousand men who could handle a sword, including four hundred and seventy thousand in Judah.
How much did David pay for the threshing floor?
600 shekels of gold – 1 Chronicles 21:25
25 So David paid Araunah six hundred shekels of gold for the site
50 shekels of silver – 2 Samuel 24:24
24 But the king replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.”
So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen and paid fifty shekels[a] of silver for them.
How many men were killed by the chief of King David’s captains?
800 – 2 Samuel 23:8
8 These are the names of David’s mighty warriors:
Josheb-Basshebeth, a Tahkemonite, was chief of the Three; he raised his spear against eight hundred men, whom he killed in one encounter.
300 – 1 Chronicles 11:11
11 this is the list of David’s mighty warriors:
Jashobeam, a Hakmonite, was chief of the officers; he raised his spear against three hundred men, whom he killed in one encounter.
How many of the criminals, who were crucified with Jesus, taunted and insulted Jesus?
One – Luke 23:39-42
39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”
40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
More than one
44 In the same way the rebels who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him.
32 Let this Messiah, this king of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him.
How many women visited the tomb of Jesus?
One – John 20:1
20 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance.
Two – Matthew
28 After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.
Three – Mark 16:1
16 When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body.
At least five – Luke 24:10
10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles.
How many heavenly entities were found to be attending Jesus’s tomb?
One – Matthew 28:2
2 There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it.
5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.
Two – Luke 24:4
4 While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them.
12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.
God loves people
6 And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, 7 maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.
7 maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.
God mete’s out the punishment of death for seemingly trivial offences
Death for fortune telling – Leviticus 20:27
27 “‘A man or woman who is a medium or spiritist among you must be put to death. You are to stone them; their blood will be on their own heads.’”
Death for hitting a parent – Exodus 21:15
15 “Anyone who attacks their father or mother is to be put to death.
Death for cursing a parent – Leviticus 20:9
9 “‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death. Because they have cursed their father or mother, their blood will be on their own head.
Death for not listening to a priest – Deuteronomy 17:12
12 Anyone who shows contempt for the judge or for the priest who stands ministering there to the Lord your God is to be put to death. You must purge the evil from Israel.