How Do You Prove a Contradiction in the Bible?

Post Author: Bill Pratt

As I’ve corresponded with skeptics of Christianity over the years, I have been amazed at what I call hyper-skeptics.  These are people who throw the word “contradiction” around when they should really use the word “difference.”

A contradiction occurs between two statements when one statement is “A is B” and the other statement is “A is not B.”  A has to mean the exact same thing at the exact same time in the exact same sense in both statements for there to be a contradiction, and B has to mean the exact same thing at the exact same time in the exact same sense in both statements for there to be a contradiction.  If there is not total and complete identity between A in both statements and B in both statements, there is no contradiction.

Hyper-skeptics often, however, call two statements in the Bible contradictory without ever showing that A and B are identical in both statements, but this is what they must do before claiming a contradiction.  Or to put it another way, hyper-skeptics demand that if two witnesses report the same crime, they must report the facts of the crime in exactly the same way, down to the most minute detail.  Any deviation between the two reports at all renders a verdict of contradiction.  The problem is that two different reports about an event do not constitute a contradiction unless the two different reports make opposite claims (i.e., A is B and A is not B).  Most of the time, the hyper-skeptic fails to show this.

C. Michael Patton of the Parchment and Pen Blog has obviously seen hyper-skeptics in action; he wrote a blog post recently that shed much light on the issue for those of you who are interested.  It’s one of those posts that I wish I had written after I read it.  Take a look and see what you think.

 

 

  • Anonymous

    Have you actually looked up the word “contradiction” in the dictionary? When I speak of contradictions in the Bible, I am employing the everyday ordinary usage of the word. I am not claiming that the “Law of Contradiction” has been violated. I am saying that the passages are inconsistent or logically incongruous.

  • Todd

    Just because there is not contradiction does not mean there is truth. If four people, let’s call them Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John all had similar accounts of a person dying, then coming back to life. They should still not be believed because their story is not consistent with reality. I would not call that hyper-skepticism…

  • What does “logically incongruous” mean?

  • Pgt_b

    Well, if it was normal it wouldn’t be much of a story would it? Isn’t that kinda the point?

  • Anonymous

    If that troubles you, just go with “inconsistent.”

  • “Truth, of course, must of necessity be stranger than fiction, for we have made fiction to suit ourselves.”
    – Chesterton

  • The Chisel

    lol – great quote…

    Although it’s not quite three days, give news article a quick read.

    http://news.yahoo.com/safrican-man-wakes-21-hours-morgue-fridge-171000467.html

  • Anonymous

    “Prove” is such a weird word to use here that I suspect Patton is doing so in a way that is deliberately disingenuous.

    Look: it’s you Christians who believe that the Bible is a book above all others, a holy revelation from an infalliable, perfect God. Many of you (not sure about you personally, Bill) believe that the book *itself* is entirely without error.

    That’s a pretty serious claim, to put it mildly.

    So what you call “hyper-skepticism” is really just the rational person’s response to this wild claim. It goes something like this: “Gee, if this Bible is supposed to be a perfect, holy work of a perfect, all-knowing God, then shouldn’t we expect fewer continuity errors than in, say, your average pulp novel?”

    It’s not the “hyper-skeptic”‘s job to “prove” a contradiction. It’s a rational person’s job to say “gosh, you know, this sure doesn’t *look* like a work of absolute perfection….”

    Hope this helps.

  • Andrew EC,
    Patton and I did not bring up the doctrine of inerrancy, so why did you? It’s completely off the topic of the blog post. We are asking you to look at the historical claims of Christianity as you would look at any other historical claims from the ancient near east instead of being unfairly and unreasonably skeptical. One step at a time….

  • Anonymous

    May I suggest you reread my comment?

    Inerrantist or not, you’re arguing that this is a book above all others, authored by a perfect, all-knowing God. If so, then we should expect more from it than we do from other books. That’s the argument.

    (I’m guessing now that you *are* an inerrantist, given this defensive, disingenuous reply, but again, it’s irrelevant to the argument I’m making.)

  • Boz

    Bill Pratt,

    Given that your article that separates a contradiction(law of non-contradiction) from a contradiction(inconsistency),

    Would you agree with the assertion: “There are many contradictions(definition: inconsistent) in the bible” ?

  • Boz,
    I didn’t make that distinction – Vinny did. However, since you asked, I would agree that there are some difficult passages in the Bible to harmonize with each other, although I think this number is very small compared to all the passages in the Bible. Why do I say they are difficult? They are difficult because they appear to be contradictory on the surface. In every case I’ve studied, however, these appearances of contradiction turn out not to be real cases of contradiction.

  • gp

    The Bible is hard to grasp if one is not born anew. The Bible has been given to us not for theological debate but for the impartation of God’s life and nature into our being. This is experiencial not just theological .
    gp