Inconsistencies in the Bible and why it doesn’t mean what you think it does

Skeptics have many reasons they offer for why they reject the authority of the Bible.  The reasons range anywhere from recording supernatural events to being edited and re-written over the centuries to suit the needs of the Church.  Among the most recurring objections are the many inconsistencies and contradictions which skeptics believe undermine the reliability of the Bible.  Any skeptic website or blog worth its salt will have a section dedicated to what they believe are insurmountable inconsistencies and contradictions.    What I’m not doing here is attempting to reconcile the inconsistencies and contradictions, there are plenty of resources which do an adequate job of that.  I think a better question is whether we should expect any inconsistencies and contradictions if the Bible was merely a human invention and edited down through the ages.

If the Bible was not superintended by God and edited and re-written over time, why should we expect to find inconsistencies and contradictions at all?  What extant copies we do have of both Old and New Testaments shows little to no change in its content.  The vast majority of variations in the NT text are insignificant errors such as misspellings, added letters, what have you; word order and grammar changes which have no effect in translation i.e., spelling “John” with one “n” or two, using “the Mary” instead of just “Mary”, or rearranging words like “God loves John” instead of “John Loves God” since the gender of the words dictate the understanding regardless of their order.  Admittedly, there are a few places where there are differences in manuscripts, but they do not affect any teaching or doctrine ( Romans 5:1, 1 John 1:4, and Philippians 1:14 for example).  But the content of the material is unchanged over centuries of copying.  Significant discoveries in the Dead Sea Scrolls confirmed little to no change in the OT as well.  A copy of Isaiah, for example, was found to be dated centuries earlier than the previously known oldest copy, and they were nearly identical.  What this shows is the Bible, as a whole, was not edited and revised over the centuries.  Why is this important?

The objection on one hand claims the Bible is thick with inconsistencies and contradictions which therefore render it unreliable; and on the other that the Judeo-Christian authorities have edited the Bible to suit their needs.  What we have is centuries of copied “inconsistencies” and “contradictions”.  Surely 19th-21st century skeptics don’t think they are the first to notice all the “obvious” problems do they? If the inconsistencies and contradictions are as obvious as they appear, why were they included at all, and not corrected throughout the centuries of “editing”?  Is it reasonable to demand that there should be no inconsistencies and contradictions if the events the Bible records are reliable accounts of those events?

The events recorded by the Prophets and Apostles were well-known in the communities which motivated their written accounts.  It stands to reason true inconsistencies and contradictions  would be weeded out first in the oral transmission of events, and then later in the written transmission of events.  However, what we find is the continued inclusion of these inconsistencies and contradictions.  I would argue their inclusion speaks more to our incomplete background knowledge of the history of the event more so than the event was not accurately recorded or never happened, and the presence of inconsistencies and contradictions do not serve to discredit the reliability of the events recorded in the Bible.

Comments

  1. Mark Patterson says:

    Just a grammar Nazi here. You say “rearranging words like “God loves John” instead of “John Loves God” since the gender of the words dictate the understanding regardless of their order.”
    That’s not gender (Both words are masculine). That’s case. You probably knew and forgot, but it just pained my delicate soul to see such a glaring error.

  2. Excellent article….well said.

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