-by Tony Warren
There are so many people who are looking for contradictions that it's expected that they would find them (when there are none). These will grab hold of anything to try and tear down the authority of scripture. Some of these are from the world, and some are of the Church, but all come with an agenda. Most of these purported contradictions can be explained with a little study in the scriptures. But there are also those who won't accept any explanation you give, because they are predisposed to believe there are contradictions. And even some doctrines which most Christians routinely acknowledge as true, some people will look upon as contradictions.
For example, scripture says we are not justified by works, and in another place it says we are justified by works. That seems to be a contradiction to the skeptic who is looking for one. But he who has studied the scriptures carefully knows that we indeed "are" justified by works. We are justified by the works of Christ (Romans 5:9). But we are not justified by our own works. That's why one part of scripture says we are justified by works, and another verse says we are not justified by works. And so both statements are 100 percent true, it's just that the uninformed take them standing alone without the balance of other information in scripture, and thus "think" they are contradictions. Again, we are justified by faith, the faith of Christ! But not our faith! Faith without works is dead, because any faith with no works cannot be Saving faith, but dead faith (as the faith of a religious fanatic who drives a car loaded with explosives into a building). He has faith, but it's not Saving faith it is dead faith, and the works thereof are not the work of Christ, but dead! This is the faith without works. ..without Good Works. A tree is known by it's fruit. So you see, again, there is no contradiction, only lack of understanding of the scriptures.
Another example is Romans 3:23 where scripture tells us that "all have sinned," but we read in 1st Peter 2:22 that the Lord Jesus committed no sin! Is there a contradiction? No, it only seems a contradiction to those who seek one. The "all" in each passage is qualified by other passages. Just as if I were to say that, "I took all of the children to school". The fact is, that could mean that I took only 3 children to school out of 30 that were in a certain class. But it was "all" the Children who were in my house. You see, the word all is qualified. But without the qualifying information, it seems like a contradiction. And that is how many people look at the scriptures. As if it exists in a vacuum and is not qualified by everything else in scripture. In this way, scripture is often misunderstood because the novice doesn't study the scriptures or compare scripture with scripture to understand the additional information therein, which qualifies these statements.
Let's take the practical biblical example of John the baptist. Christ said this is Elijah that was prophesied to come (Matthew 11:14), but John said that he was not Elijah (John 1:21). Is this another contradiction? To the Biblical novice it would certainly appear so. But not at all! Because John wasn't Elijah, the same as Jesus wasn't David. Yet the prophesy of David spake of Christ. Likewise, John wasn't Elijah, but he is the fulfillment of the prophesy of Elijah coming to prepare the way of the Lord. Therefore, when the prophesy spoke of Elijah coming, it didn't speak of an incarnation, it was speaking spiritually of John the baptist. i.e., John coming in the Spirit of Elijah. In the spiritual sense, He was elijah. Not literally his reincarnation! In the prophesy of John the Baptist, we read:
When it spake of Elijah coming, it was speaking of a "type", or that there would come a man in the Spirit of Elijah. Christ says John fulfilled that prophesy. Therefore is he the Elijah that was prophesied, not the Elijah that lived years before and was taken up into heaven in a whirlwind.
Likewise, when it spoke of the prophesy of David reigning, it spoke spiritually of Christ. God's Word of truth often uses people, and even things, to spiritually signify or illustrate prophesy. This is not unlike the prophesy of a Nail in a sure place, which spoke of Christ. But it didn't mean that there was a literal nail coming, nor a literal Lamb, nor a literal Branch from a tree, nor a Root! And it's not a contradiction that he wasn't a literal Lamb, but fulfilled the prophesy of a coming lamb. It's God way of showing us something spiritually.
Again, when the 4 gospels record some event in a slightly different way, does that mean it's contradictory? No, because each writer is witnessing according to his God inspired perspective. If you were to have four eye witnesses to a crime, each one would see the same crime, but each one would explain it by highlighting what he remembers best of the time. One may have observed four men go in the building. Another may have only witnessed two go in, and then a third go in later. One may spend most of the time talking about the panic that was created. The other may concentrate on talking about the criminals who were giving orders. If they all had to write about what they saw, one may only give one line to the criminals, while another write 20 lines about them. This is the way the gospels are written, each one giving us a view from another perspective.
Likewise, in the supposed contradiction of names in scripture. Some people in scripture have several names, and sometimes names were so common that many people had the same name. There was also a patriarchal system where the word "begat" doesn't always mean a strict father/son relationship. We could say Abraham begat Jacob. That doesn't necessarily mean that there wasn't another Son in between (in this case Isaac). i.e., Abraham was the father of Jacob patriarchally, but not literally. These are just a few of the examples, but most of the alleged contradictions have similar simple explanations, and those few which we may not yet understand, are surely explainable with a little effort or careful study.
The bottom line is, there are no contradictions in scripture, there is only passages which some people do not understand. If I had a dime for every supposed contradiction I heard which was readily explained by scripture, ..well, I wouldn't need dimes for a long time!
Copyright 1998 Tony Warren
Created 11/15/98 / Last Modified 12/28/99
The Mountain Retreat / email@example.com