If you’re into religion and philosophy at all - regardless of which side of the theistic/atheistic spectrum you sit - you’ve probably heard the claim that, “the Bible is full of contradiction,” usually immediately followed with, “Oh no it isn’t!” These conversations never go anywhere for a variety of reasons:
(1) The Skeptic making the claim doesn’t actually know of any specific examples to cite. He’s basically just repeating something he’s heard and accepted without any evidence. Sound familiar?
(2) The Believer isn’t actually aware of any specific examples either, only that contradictions in the Bible is potentially a violation of some Law of physics or something.
(3) The Skeptic cites an example of an apparent contradiction that is subjective in nature, or open to interpretations, which allows the contradiction to be explained away with lengthy and sometimes overly-complicated explanations. For example, I recently posted in a forum the seeming contradiction between verses claiming Jesus is a judge and others claiming he isn’t. A fellow hubber presented an in-depth explanation as to the inherent meaning of the original language of the text, which does seem to make the contradiction go away. I’m still not 100% convinced that his explanation is accurate, but it’s plausible enough to merit further research, studying, and understanding on my part before I cite this particular example again.
In an effort to avoid any of these pitfalls, we are only going to stick with narratives of factual, numeric, historic, or sequential value so that no appeals to subjectivity may be proffered in defense. This will be a work in progress as I continually add more to list, but this should get you started. These will be in no particular order.
1. THE CREATION ACCOUNTS
Genesis 1 states that the order of creation was Plants-Animals-Mankind (male and female together).
Genesis 2 states that the order of creations was Plants-Man-Animals-Woman.
Aside from the sequential contradiction, there is a puzzling bit in Version 2 that calls God’s omniscience into question. God sees Adam and decides that, “it is not good for man to be alone,” so He creates the animals and brings them to Adam in turn to see if any of them provide the necessary companionship (possibly explaining the origins of the questionable practice of humans trying to mate with sheep). When none of the animals provide suitable company, God finally gets a clue and creates Eve out of a rib.
2. THE CREATION OF FOWL
Genesis 1:20 states that God caused fowl to spring forth from the waters of the earth.
Genesis 2:19 states that God caused fowl to spring forth from the dust of the ground.
3. THE TOWER OF BABEL
Genesis 11: 1 states that, “The whole earth was of one language and one tongue.” God then uses this fact to confuse everyone at the Tower of Babel by giving everyone different languages and spreading them out in different locations. HOWEVER:
Genesis 10 lists all the descendants of Noah up to the Tower of Babel episode, and states that they were all separated geographically and by their different languages.
4. THE SALE OF JOSEPH
Genesis 37:36 states that the Midianites sold Joseph to Potiphar in Egypt.
Genesis 37:28 states that that the Ishmaelites sold Joseph to Potiphar in Egypt after buying him from the Midianites.
5. WHO KILLED SAUL?
I Samuel 31:4-6 states that Saul committed suicide after being wounded in battle.
II Samuel 24:1 states that an Amalekite killed a wounded Saul after Saul asked him to do so.
II Samuel 21:12 states that Saul was killed by the Philistines.
6. DAVID ‘S CENSUS OF ISRAEL’S ARMY
II Samuel 24:1 states that God incited David to count the fighting men of Israel.
I Chronicles 21:1 states that it was Satan who incited David to count them.
7. ASCENSION INTO HEAVEN
John 3:13 – Jesus claims to be the only person to have ever ascended into heaven.
Genesis 5:24 and II Kings 2:11 state that both Enoch and Elijah ascended to heaven prior to Jesus
8. SAUL’S CONVERSION
Acts 9:7 states that during Saul’s conversion on the road to Damascus, his traveling companions all heard the voice from heaven along with him.
Acts 22:9 states that none of Saul’s companions heard the voice from heaven.
9. KING JOSIAH’S DEATH
II Kings 23:29-30 states that King Josiah died in the city of Megiddo.
II Chronicles 35:23-34 states that King Josiah died in the city of Jerusalem.
10. THE NAZARETH FACTOR
Please see my hub: Sweet Baby Jesus in a Manger!: What’s Wrong With the Christmas Story? for a more detailed exposition on this inconsistency.
Luke 2 states that Mary and Joseph were originally from the town of Nazareth, went to Bethlehem (where Jesus was born) for a census, presented Jesus in the temple at Jerusalem 42 days after his birth, and then immediately returned to Nazareth.
Matthew 2 states that Mary and Joseph were living in Bethlehem up to 2 years after Jesus’ birth, fled to Egypt, then tried to return to their home in Bethlehem - but were warned that it wasn’t safe – so they chose Nazareth as a place to hide.
11. THE ARK OF THE COVENANT COMES TO JERUSALEM
I Chronicles 13 and 14 state that David brought the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem before defeating the Philistines.
II Samuel 5 and 6 state that David brought the Ark to Jerusalem after defeating the Philistines.
12. WHEN DID JESUS GET HIS DISCIPLES?
John 2 states that on the third day following his baptism, Jesus was at the wedding at Cana along with his disciples.
Matthew 4 and Mark 1 state that immediately after his baptism, Jesus was tempted in the wilderness for 40 days before returning to Galilee and calling his first disciples.
CLEANSES THE TEMPLE WHEN?
Never mind the fact that Jesus makes a homemade weapon and physically attacks a bunch of people with it (today they call this assault):
John 2:113-16 states that Jesus’ Temple Cleansing followed the wedding at Canaa, near the start of his public ministry.
Matthew 21:12 states that the Temple Cleansing occurred 3 years later after the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem right before his death.
14. TEMPLE CLEANSING PART DEUX
Matthew 21:12 states that Jesus entered Jerusalem, cleansed the temple, then departed for the town of Bethany.
Mark 11:1-17 states that Jesus entered Jerusalem, looked around the temple without doing anything, departed for the town of Bethany, then returned the next day and cleansed the temple.
15. THE CRUCIFIXION DATE
John 13:1, 18:28, and19:14-15 state that Jesus was crucified on the day before Passover.
Mark 14:12-17 states that Jesus was crucified on Passover.
16. CRUCIFIXION: THE 6TH HOUR
Mark 15:25,33 state that at the 6th hour on the day of his crucifixion, Jesus was hanging on the cross and had been there for 3 hours already.
John 19:14 states that at the 6th hour on the day of his crucifixion, Jesus was still on trial in Pilate’s court.
17. THE TEARING OF THE TEMPLE CURTAIN
Matthew 21:50-51 and Mark 37-30 state that after Jesus died, the curtains of the temple were torn in two as a result of his death.
Luke 23:45-46: states that Jesus did not offer up his spirit until after the temple curtain were torn in two.
18. ASCENSION INTO HEAVEN
Luke 23:43 – Jesus tells the thief on the cross beside him that, “Today you shall be with me in Paradise.”
John 20-17 – Two days later, Jesus tells Mary Magdalene, “I have not yet ascended to the Father.”
19. THE MIRACULOUS CATCH
Luke 5:4-6 state that Jesus’ commanding of his disciples to cast their nets on the other side of their boat – resulting in their nets being filled to the breaking point – occurred at the calling of his first disciples.
John 21:1-14 states that this same event occurred after his resurrection, as part of his third appearance to his disciples.
20. SILENT BEFORE PILATE?
Matthew 27: 13-14 states that Jesus remained silent and “spoke not a word” in the presence of Pontius Pilate, to such an extent that Pilate was amazed and "marveled at his silence."
John 18:33-37 and 19:11 state that Jesus responded to every question Pilate asked, and that they “talked about a great many things.”
21. WHO BORE JESUS’ CROSS?
John 19:17 states that Jesus bore his own cross to Golgotha.
Matthew 27:31-32 states that a man named Simon of Cyrene bore Jesus’ cross to Golgotha.
22. WHO TALKED TO THE WOMEN AT THE TOMB?
Mark 16:5-6, Luke 24:4 and 23, and Matthew 16:2 and 28:5-7 state that someone at the tomb informed the women as to what had happened to Jesus, and they went and told the disciples.
John 20:2 states that the women met no one at the tomb, and returned to the disciples confused.
23. THE WOMEN’S REACTION TO THE EMPTY TOMB
Matthew 28:8 states that the women were overcome with joy, and ran to tell the disciples.
Mark 16:8 states that the women were overcome with fear and ran off saying nothing to anyone.
24. JESUS MEETS PETER AND ANDREW
Matthew 4:18 states that Jesus first met brothers Simon Peter and Andrew while walking besides the Sea of Galilee.
John 1:42-43 states that Jesus first met the two brothers on the bank of the River Jordan.
25. JUDAS’ DEATH
Matthew 27:5 states that Judas died by hanging himself.
Acts 1:18 states that Judas died by tripping and falling headfirst down a hill.
26. THE POTTER’S FIELD
Acts 1:18-19 states that Judas used the money he was given to betray Jesus to buy the Potter’s field, and that the field was dubbed the “Field of Blood” because of his subsequent messy demise there when he tripped and fell.
Matthew 27:6-8 states that Judas returned the money to the priests who gave it to him, which they used to buy the field and labeled the “Field of Blood” because it was purchased with “blood money.”
27. THE NAME GAME: PART 1
II Chronicles 11:20 states that King Abijah’s mother was Maacha, daughter of Absolom.
II Chronicles 13:2 states that King Abijah’s mother was Michalah, daughter of Uriel.
28. KING AHAZIAH’S REIGN
II Chronicles 22:2 states that King Ahaziah was 22 years old when he inherited the throne.
II Kings 8:26 states that King Ahaziah was 42 years old when he inherited the throne.
28. KING JEHOIAKIM’S REIGN
II Kings 24:8 states that Jehoiakim was 18 years old when he became king of Jerusalem.
Ii Chronicles 36:9 states that Jehoiakim was 8 years old when he became king of Jerusalem.
29. JESUS' BIRTH
Matthew 2:1 states that Herod was king when Jesus was born.
Luke 2:2 states that Quirinius was governor when Jesus was born.
The problem here is that these 2 men were never in power at the same time. The historical records we have - both from the Romans, and from the Jewish historian Josephus - state that Herod died in 4 BC, while Quirinius did not become governor until 6 AD.