Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Quiz Show: Bible Contradictions!

Normally I wouldn't bother commenting on something this sophomoric: 

But considering the fact that it's approaching 2.5 million views, with over 32,000 comments and 95,000 upvotes, I'll make an exception. 

Do you find my videos offensive?

Actually, atheists should be embarrassed by the intellectual quality of his videos. If anyone ought to be offended, that would be atheists, not Christians. It makes atheism looks bad. 

Yahweh’s anger lasts both forever and NOT forever. (Not forever: Micah 7:18) (Forever: Jer 17:4)

In context, Jer 17:4 refers to the permanent effect of God's judgment in this particular situation. 

K: Well, Yahweh tempted Abraham, so it definitely is something he’d do.
Well Ken you’re right about that, (Gen 22:1) so 10 points for you, and 10 points for you also Craig, because ‘God cannot be tempted with evil, nor tempteth he any man” (James 1:13).

i) Just for starters, that's such a dumb way to approach the issue. Surely James doesn't disagree with Gen 22. James is a messianic Jew who's probably writing to messianic Jews. He reveres the OT. His audience revers the OT. The binding of Isaac is a famous episode in OT history. So the question is what Jas meant by 1:13. Whatever he meant, he couldn't intend it to rule out passages like Gen 22. Even if I didn't know how best to understand Jas 1:13, I know that construing that in contradiction to Gen 22 can't be the right interpretation. 

Can salvation be attained by works? Yes Craig,
C: No. A man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ (Gal 2:16)
OK, and Ken?
K: Well I’m afraid Craig’s correct, and I’m going to differ with him on this one, and instead go with what Jesus said, namely if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments (Matt 19:17) and Luke 10:26-8 , Matt 25:41-46 , Matt 16:27 etc
Two Correct answers! Well done<<<
C: Yes, but A man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law ( Romans 3:28)
K: “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone” (James 2:24)

i) Paul doesn't say that we're saved by faith alone, but that we're justified by faith alone. Justification is a narrower category than salvation. So the "contradiction" is vitiated by equivocation.

ii) It's often the case that the same word may have more than one meaning. The same word may have an ordinary sense as well as a technical sense. The same word may be used to denote different concepts. One writer may use the same word in a different sense than another writer. 

iii) Apropos (ii), there's no contradiction in saying believers are justified by the atonement while unbelievers are condemned by their works. If the sins of unbelievers are not atoned for, then they can only be judged by their behavior and character. By contrast, Christians are judged on the basis of what Jesus did for them–in their place, on their behalf. 

What are the consequences of seeing Yahweh’s face. 
Yes Ken:
K: death!
Hmmm - Ken saying death, do you agree, Craig?
C: I’m saying the preservation of life. (Gen 32:30)
K: But “there shall no man see me and live” (Ex 33:20)
And that’s Correct<<<
K: But hold on, Jacob saw god face to face (Gen 32:30)
C: Yes, and so did Moses (Ex 33:11)
And Abraham (Gen 12:7)
K: But no man hath seen god at any time (John 1:18)
C: Except Moses and the seventy elders of Israel (Ex 24:9-11)
And all the others too, and of course none of them did because no man hath seen nor can see god (1 Tim 6:16) 

i) Whether or not humans can see God and live is an OT paradox. That can be harmonized in part by the distinction between God in himself and manifestations of God. Although God is naturally invisible, humans can see theophanies and theophanic angelophanies which represent God. 

ii) That distinction is deepened and clarified by Trinitarian theology. Although the Father remains visible, God becomes visible in the person of the Incarnate Son. 

Does Yahweh delight in burnt offerings?
Correct. (Jer 7:22, Ex 20:24)

Fails to make allowance for hyperbole. 

Is God the author of evil
Correct (Is. 45:7, 1 John 4:8)

Fails to distinguish between moral evil and calamity or misfortune. 

According to Genesis, were humans created BEFORE the animals?
YES/NO (Yes: Gen 2:18-9   No: Gen 1:25-7)

Fails to distinguish between the creation of animals in general and the subset of animals created for the Garden. 

On the road to Damascus, did Paul’s traveling companions hear the voice that spoke to Paul ?
YES/NO (Acts 22:9, Acts 9:7)

These minor verbal variations are a mark of authenticity. When people repeatedly relay a personal anecdote, the wording varies. They aren't actors reciting a script. This is realistic. 

Correct. Will the Earth last forever? (2 Peter 3:10 Ecc 1:4)

Eccl 1:4 is not an absolute statement but an observational statement, based on the narrator's experience. It's not about linear eternality but the periodicity of nature. The author cites cyclical natural processes. So life is repetitious. 

Is Jesus the only man to have ascended into heaven?
YES/NO (2 Kings 2:11, John 3:13)

i) A dumb way to approach the issue. Surely Jesus/the narrator are familiar with assumption of Elijah. So the statement can't be mean to deny that event.

ii) Unlike Elijah, who originates on earth, Jesus returns to heaven.  That's the point of contrast. 

In old testament law, were children to be punished for the sins of their fathers?
YES/NO (Deut 24:16, Deut 5:9)

Fails to distinguish between sin and crime, penology and providence. Deut 5:9 is about historical divine judgments. By contrast, Deut 24:16 is about the administration of justice by human judges in courts of law. 

And onto the next round, which is all about numbers.

i) Once again, this is a dumb way to approach the issue. OT numbers are often perplexing to modern readers. But they presumably made sense to the Bible writers and the original audience. So it's presumptuous and arrogant to think something that's puzzling to a modern reader must in error. When reading ancient literature, from a different culture, we need to make allowance for lost idioms and conventions. 

ii) In some cases these are probably transcriptional errors. Numbers are easy to miscopy. That's inevitable. 

Since, however, the phenomenon is widespread, I doubt that's a complete explanation. Here's one treatment:

And my own musings:

When is a thief, two thieves? 
C: Ooh, well there were two thieves crucified with Jesus,
Yes, you’re on the right track<<<<
C: Did they both revile Jesus or did only one of them?
Well, both are correct depending on which gospel you’re reading! (Luke 23:39-42, Mark 15:32, Matt 27:44 )  It’s just like how many blind men Jesus healed near Jericho - it was two AND yet it was one. (Mark 10:46, Matthew 20:30). 

Once more, that's such a dumb approach. The fact that different accounts are selective in who they mention doesn't entail a contradiction. Think of how many people we encounter in the course of one day. Yet when telling our spouse what we did that day, we may only mention meeting one person in particular. Why are atheists and apostates unable to allow for Scripture what they allow for themselves? 

Think of a single historical event that featured two men standing, < Matt 28:2, Mark 16:5, Luke 24:4, John 20:12 > that were actually two men sitting, which was in fact one man sitting, and in actual fact was one angel descending from heaven and causing an earthquake. Was this non-contradictory singular event witnessed by
a)one woman, (John 20:1)
b)two women, (Matthew 28:1)
c)three women, (Mark 16:1) or
d)an unknown number or women numbering at least five (Luke 24:10)?

i) In Scripture, angels suddenly appear and disappear at will, as the occasion demands. No reason to suppose they'd be continuously present at the scene. 

ii) There's also the mechanics of angelic apparitions, which may be germane:

The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth. (Ex 34:6). 

He then cites capital crimes. But that's not a contradiction. For God to be merciful and long-suffering doesn't mean there are no limits to what humans can get away with. 

(Psalm 12:1-3) Enjoy it!
Either way, Craig, you be sure to sell that new possession of yours and give to the poor ( Luke 18:22 Luke 12:33 Luke 14:33 ). Or perhaps you could take the example of the early christian church, who got together as a community, sold what they owned, and shared the proceeds amongst themselves communally. (Acts 2:44-5, Acts 4:34-7)

i) There is no command to all Christians to sell all their possessions.

ii) In the early church, rich Christians shared. But they had to be wealthy in the first place to have the largess to spread around.  

Did the temple curtain rip before or after Jesus died? (Mark 15:37-8, Luke 23:45-6)

That would only be contradictory of both accounts are chronological. But what if Luke is bunching similar events thematically? Grouping the cosmic portents (HT: Arndt; Bock). 

Who put the gorgeous purple robe on Jesus, Herod’s soldiers or Pilate’s soldiers? (Luke 23:11, Matt 27:27-8, John 19:1-2)

Which assumes that Herod's soldiers and Pilate's soldiers are two different groups. But since Jesus was escorted by a posse as he's shuttled between Herod and Pilate, it's likely that the same soldiers who comprise the posse are present at both events. So it's not surprising if they repeat similar indignities. 

Did Jesus curse the fig tree before or after driving the merchants from the temple? (Matt 21:12, 17-19 , Mark 11:12-17) 
Ummm... before or after? 

Fails to take narrative compression into consideration. 

Should homosexuals be killed or exiled? (1 Kings 15:11-12, Lev 20:13)

i) The translation of “male shrine prostitutes” in 1 Kgs. 15 is a guess.  The text identifies them as qedeshim.  This is simply “the holy ones.”  They could be male prostitutes but they could also be a priestly class officiating at sites of false gods (HT: Richard Hess).

ii) Even if there was a contradiction, it wouldn't be contradictory biblical teaching or contradictory biblical commands, but a discrepancy between a command and failure to comply with the terms of the command.

iii) However, the context seems to be different. Lev 20:13 is about generic sodomy whereas 1 Kgs 15:11-12 is about pagan cultic prostitution. Lev 20:13 is about punishing individuals whereas 1 Kgs 15:11-12 is about eradicating a pagan cult. 1 Kgs is about a collective policy. 

iv) In addition, the sodomites in 1 Kgs may well be heathen foreign nationals whereas the offenders in Lev 20 are members of the covenant community. As such, the latter are punished more severely while the former are expelled, since they don't belong in Israel in the first place.

Given that Quirinius became governor of Syria nine years after King Herod’s death, was Jesus born during the reign of Herod, or during the governorship of Quirinius? (Luke 2:1, Matt 2:1, Wikipedia)

Because Wikipedia is the gold standard of scholarship. 

Why assume Luke and Josephus are referring to the same event in each case? Why assume Josephus got it right while Luke got it wrong? 

"Reasons for the Lukan Census", Stanley E. Porter, in Wedderburn, A. J. M., & Christophersen, A. (2002). Paul, Luke and the Graeco-Roman World: Essays in Honour of Alexander J.M. Wedderburn (Vol. 217, pp. 165–188). London; New York: Sheffield Academic Press.

A. Steinmann, From Abraham To Paul: A Biblical Chronology (Concordia 2011), 238-49. 

When the women arrived at Jesus’ tomb, was the tomb opened or closed? (Matt 28:2 , Luke 24:2)

I don't assume there was just one group of women. The fact that each Gospel mentions a group of women doesn't entail just one group of women, or the same group in each case. 

For one thing, the Gospel writers didn't accompany the women. They are getting their information about what the women directly or indirectly from what some of the women told them or their informants. 

It stands to reason that the women who went to the tomb lived in different parts of Jerusalem. Would they be in a position to synchronize their visit to the tomb? Or would they arrive at somewhat different times, in small groups? 

Did Judas die by hanging himself, or by falling over in a field and having his midsection burst open spilling his guts everywhere? (Acts 1:18, Matt 27:5)

Since I wasn't there, I can't say exactly how it went down. But here's a simple harmonization: he hanged himself on a hillside, then scavengers (e.g. jackals, feral dogs) yanked his body off the makeshift gibbet. 


  1. Very good post - thanks Steve!

  2. My favourite part of this is the yes/no round section because you say that the uploader of the video fails to make distinctions but the bible doesn't make these distinctions either

    1. The question at issue is not whether the Bible explicitly makes those distinctions, but his failure to make allowance for reasonable or realistic distinctions.

      This isn't unique to the Bible. It's about how to be a good reader in general. And basic principles in historical reconstruction.