A common tactic of biblical skeptics is to question the veracity and historical trustworthiness of the New Testament based on alleged numerous “contradictions” therein. But most of these so-called “problem passages” can easily be shown to be not contradictory, but rather, complementary. This is what might be described as the “1001 Bible contradictions” ploy.
In the desperation to find contradictions, any instance of a different report (not absolutely identical in all respects) is regarded as contradictory, when in fact this is not so at all, and obviously so, for anyone who will take a little time to reflect upon it. A simple example will suffice to illustrate this:
1. Joe says he saw Bill walk up to the Dairy Queen and buy an ice cream at 3:10 PM on a hot Saturday afternoon.
2. Alice says she saw Ed walk up to the Dairy Queen and buy an ice cream at 4:10 PM.
3. John says he saw Kathy walk up to the Dairy Queen and buy an ice cream at 4:30 PM.
4. Sally says she saw Bill walk up to the Dairy Queen and buy an ice cream at about 3:15 PM, Ed buy an ice cream there at about 4:20 PM, and Kathy buy an ice cream there at about 4:45 PM.
Now, according to these conflicting and contradictory reports, how many people (at least) bought an ice cream at the Dairy Queen between 3:10 and about 4:45 PM on a hot Saturday afternoon? Was it 1, 2, 3, or 6?
Actually, none of the above, because (in all likelihood) many more people went there during that time to buy ice cream. They just weren’t all recorded.
But skeptical hyper-critics look at the above data (lets say they represent the four Gospels) and see a host of contradictions:
1. Joe contradicts Alice as to who visited there in an hour’s time.
2. Joe contradicts John as to who visited there in an hour and 20 minutes time.
3. Alice contradicts John as to who visited there in 20 minute’s time.
4. Joe says someone visited at 3:10, but Alice claims it was at 4:10, and John says it was at 4:30.
5. Joe, Alice, and John can’t even agree on who visited the Dairy Queen in a lousy span of only 80 minutes! They are obviously completely untrustworthy! Probably two or more of them are lying.
6. To top it all off, we have the utter nonsense of Sally, whose time for Bill’s arrival contradicts Joe’s report by 5 minutes!
7. Sally’s time for Ed’s arrival contradicts Alice’s report by 10 minutes!!
8. Sally’s time for Kathy’s arrival contradicts John’s report by 15 minutes!!!
And so on and so forth. Yet this is the sort of incoherent reasoning which we get from so many skeptics of the Bible, who pride themselves on their reasoning abilities and logical acumen, over against the alleged gullible, irrational orthodox Christians, who accept biblical inspiration. Many examples of this sort of nonsense can be easily located in the usual laundry lists of biblical contradictions which frequently appear in skeptical and atheist literature, often exhibiting the most elementary errors of fact or logic.
Fair-minded and open-minded folks should be able to easily see through the shallowness of such proofs. The skeptical underlying assumptions are almost always assumed as axioms (reasons for this acceptance are deemed unnecessary), and the Christian assumptions are almost always frowned upon as irrational, impossible, etc.
We often hear, for example, the weak argument that John’s Gospel excludes a lot of the important events in Jesus life, which are recorded in the synoptic Gospels. But it obviously had a different purpose (it was more theological in nature, rather than purely narrative). In the world of biblical hyper-criticism, however, facts such as those are of no consequence. The usual predisposition is that contradictions are involved, per the above reasoning.
I’ve compiled many resources for Christians who encounter this sort of thing: Alleged Bible “Contradictions” & “Difficulties”: Master List of Christian Internet Resources for Apologists (Links).
I just had an encounter yesterday with a man who listed off four alleged contradictions in the Bible. I spent a significant amount of time offering counter-explanations in a combox on my blog, showing (I think) that contradictions were actually not present, complete with links to the material that answers the charges. I wrote at the beginning and the end:
"Since you are unwilling to look these up in my sources (which is why I provided them), I’ll do your work for you. It was not difficult to find possible and plausible solutions in a few seconds searching on Google . . .
Now, I just spent a bunch of my time doing work that you could have done just as easily. Next time, do it yourself. But something tells me you won’t, because if you were willing, you would have done it this time, rather than challenging me with it. As it is, you provide a classic example of the logical inadequacies and unfair attitude of the biblical skeptic, that I can now pass on to my readers, as an illustration of what I’ve been saying for years: atheists and other Bible skeptics approach the Bible like a butcher approaches a hog.
And so how did this man respond when I did all that for him? He deleted all his comments and split . . ."
Exactly my point: he doesn’t give a rat’s rear end about actually solving these alleged Bible difficulties, or giving the Bible a fair shake. He only wants to tear it down. He has no interest in defenses of an infallible, inspired Bible. Therefore, if a Christian seriously interacts with his criticisms, he wants no part of it, because that doesn’t advance his agenda, and he disappears. He’s not interested in either serious Bible study or serious discussion. If I’ve seen it once, I’ve seen it a hundred times.