Are there contradictions in the Bible?

The Bible claims to be free from all error. Psalm 19:7 says, “The law of the Lord is perfect.” Psalm 12:6 says, “The words of the Lord are pure words.” Proverbs 30:5 says, “Every word of God is pure.” Since the Bible claims to be perfect, the reader has a right to expect Scripture to be correct in every matter it addresses and to be consistent with its own teachings. If the Bible contradicts itself, then it is not what it claims to be.

The reader’s presuppositions about the Bible play a major role in evaluating the apparent contradictions in Scripture. Those who accept the claims of the Bible as true or plausible will examine apparent discrepancies with a willingness to accept reasonable answers. Those who absolutely refuse to accept the Bible’s claim will be quick to find contradictions where there are none and deny the validity of plausible answers.

The answers to many of the apparent contradictions are not intended to be undeniable proofs. They are plausible explanations that show passages which appear to contradict each other can be reasonably understood in a way that is not contradictory.

Many of the apparent contradictions are differences of detail or differences in the author’s perspective. In the gospel of Mark Jesus mentions a rooster crowing twice, but the other gospels only speak of the rooster crowing. The specific number in Mark does not contradict the more general accounts. Jesus did not say the rooster would crow only once. The specific does not necessarily contradict the general, nor does a greater number exclude a lesser. Did Jesus heal two blind men in Jericho or just one? Though Matthew says two, the other gospels only mention one. Any child knows that if Jesus healed two blind men, he must have also healed one blind man. (Matthew 20:30; Mark 10:46)

Some apparent contradictions are actually two different but similar events. The Beatitudes of Luke 6 and Matthew 5 are described as being given “in the plain” (Luke 6:17) and on “a mountain.” (Matthew 5:1) This is no contradiction. Luke 6 describes a later event than Matthew 5 in which Jesus repeated a portion of the message he had preached in the Sermon on the Mount.

Some differences are explained by differences of the particulars being discussed. When David bought the threshing floor from Ornan, 2 Samuel says he paid 50 shekels and 1 Chronicles says he paid 600. Further reading in these passages reveals 2 Samuel specifies that David paid 50 shekels for the oxen and threshing floor, while 1 Chronicles says David paid 600 shekels for “the place.” 2 Samuel and 1 Chronicles are describing the transaction differently. 2 Samuel tells of his purchase of the oxen and threshing floor and 1 Chronicles includes his purchase of the land surrounding the threshing floor.

Some differences are explainable by a different truth being taught. One of the most confusing apparent contradictions in the Bible is that between the books of Romans and James. The apostle Paul says justification is given “to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him.” but James says, “By works a man is justified, and not by faith only.” These two statements seem to be unreconcilable. Yet, reading the statements in their context it becomes evident the apostles are talking about two different things. Paul is describing the means by which a man receives justification. James is discussing the evidence of justification. The statements are not contradictory but complimentary.

A few contradictions can be traced to scribal error. The scribes who copied the text of Scripture took great pains to avoid any mistakes. The manuscript evidence shows they were incredibly accurate copyists, but some errors did creep in. For example, 1 Kings and 2 Chronicles record different numbers for Solomon’s horses. Though one passage says 4,000 and the other 40,000, the difference between the words for these numbers in Hebrew is very small, similar to the difference between four thousand and forty thousand in English. A scribe could easily misread the number, or a flaw in the manuscript could obscure the number.

A detailed analysis of every apparent contradiction in the Bible is not possible in this post. Excellent discussions of Bible contradictions are available online and in Christian books. A thoughtful reading of Scripture will readily provide reasonable answers to the supposed contradictions in the text. The Christian can have confidence the Bible is accurate in all it teaches. “Thy word is very pure: therefore thy servant loveth it.” (Psalm 119:140)

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Should a Christian be baptized a second time?

Every so often a Christian asks this Baptist pastor about being rebaptized. At times the desire for a second baptism is in response to a time of backsliding. A believer may have repented after a period of living in sin and desires to be baptized as a show of their renewed commitment to the Lord. The desire to show their return to the Lord is praiseworthy, but this kind of baptism misunderstands the purpose of baptism.

Jesus gave two ordinances to the church: baptism and the Lord’s Supper. The command to observe the Lord’s Supper included the need to do so “often.” “For as often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till He come.” (1 Corinthians 11:26) The record of Acts and 1 Corinthians indicates the church observed the Lord’s Supper as part of their Sunday gatherings. (1 Corinthians 11:21-26) The Lord’s Supper was repeatedly observed by all Christians.

Jesus commanded the twelve disciples to baptize every one who believes. “Baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” (Matthew 28:19) The book of Acts shows how the apostles obeyed this command. Those who believed the gospel of Jesus were baptized and added to the church. The New Testament church treated baptism as the initial sign of faith in Christ. Baptism was the way new believers told the church and their neighbors that they were followers of Jesus. Because salvation is received once and baptism is a testimony of salvation received, baptism was not repeated over and over again. There is “One Lord, one faith, one baptism.” (Ephesians 4:5)

However, some situations require the rebaptism of a believer. Because baptism is the public testimony which proclaims a new believers salvation, any baptism that took place before conversion is not Christian baptism. A person baptized as an infant is unable to believe Jesus, receive His salvation or confess Him as Lord. Those baptized as infants should be baptized after salvation. A person who professes salvation, is baptized, but later becomes convinced his earlier profession of faith was not genuine should be baptized again. Anyone baptized before salvation should be baptized again following his conversion.

One danger of multiple baptisms is they may encourage the beliefs that baptism provides some special grace, washes away sin or gives the person a spiritual power boost. Baptism does none of those things. Baptism is the loving response of the Christian to his Savior. No act of obedience, however important, gains for the Christian a special measure of grace or additional spiritual power. The only grace in obedience is the grace of God which enables the believer to obey. A Christian who has made a public profession of faith through baptism gains no benefit from a second baptism. A sinning believer who desires to show the genuineness of his change can do so by a public confession of sin and acknowledgment of repentance. No other baptism is needed.

Enjoy Life

In May the pastor’s roundtable began to discuss the book of Ecclesiastes. We will be recording a total of six conversations about this book. The roundtable discussion airs the last Sunday of the month on WRUP 92.7 FM. As part of the discussion of Ecclesiastes, Pastor Chambers’ sermon on the same part of Ecclesiastes will air the following Sunday. You can listen to both broadcasts below.

August 25 Pastor’s Roundtable

Pastor Dave Chambers
Pastor Joe Herr
Pastor Tom Schierkolk
Pastor Dave Ryerson
Pastor Dave Sexton

September 1 Radio Show
Live Wisely

Pastor Dave Chambers

Can Someone Get Saved from Reading a Bad Bible Translation?

Anyone shopping for a new Bible is likely to be overwhelmed by the choices available today. The bewildering array of translations, all cryptically encoded behind letter trios, is enough to confuse even a seasoned pastor. When one is forced to choose between acronyms like KJV, NKJV, ESV, NIV, NLT, HCSB, ASV, ATV, ABC, QUV, WWE, the letters soon become a meaningless jumble.

Despite the challenges, sorting through the jargon to select a good translation is important. Not all versions are translated equal. Some translators did their job poorly. Some translators included too much of their own interpretations. Some translators intentionally distorted the meaning of key verses. Can a person find the gospel in a bad translation?

Consider the worst case scenario. An individual in a cult reads the cult’s version of the Bible translated by members of the cult with little training in Greek or Hebrew. The translators intentionally change the text to undermine key Biblical truths, such as the deity of Jesus. Yet, even when incompetent heretics mangle the words of God, gospel truths are such a major part of the Bible they can never be entirely removed. Thomas Jefferson produced a highly edited version of the New Testament in which he attempted to cut out the Divinity of Jesus and all description of miracles. Yet, the gospel is still present. The Jesus Seminar voted to remove from the gospels everything they thought was myth. But they could not erase the gospel. The saving truths of the gospel so fill Scriptures that removing all gospel truths is nearly impossible. A Bible without the gospel could not rightly be called a Bible since it would be little more than two leather covers and a bookmark.

A person can be saved from a bad translation. The Bible itself contains evidence of the power of the gospel even when communicated by an inferior translation. At times Jesus and the apostles quoted from the Greek translation of the Old Testament known as the Septuagint (today it has its own confusing three letter acronym, LXX). This translation was inferior to other texts available at the time. Jesus certainly knew the Septuagint was not the best translation, but He quoted from it any way. He quoted it as the Word of God. He quoted it expecting His hearers to believe and obey it as Scripture. Christians ought to have a translation that accurately communicates the inspired words written by Paul, Moses and others, but we need not fear that a weak translation is going to damn a soul to hell. The Holy Spirit is able to convict men of sin and show them their need of a Savior even when the truth of His Word has been obscured by the failures of men.

A bad translation may create confusion in the mind of the reader. A bad translation may require the soul winner take more time to explain key elements of the gospel. A poor translation may make sharing the gospel more challenging, but never let a bad translation stop you from sharing the gospel. Keep witnessing. The Word of God is alive and powerful. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” (Romans 10:17)

Is cussing a sin?

Recently President Trump gained attention for publicly taking the Lord’s name in vain and for frequently using profanity. Observers have noted the increased willingness of public figures to use profanity in forums where it was once considered impolite to use foul language . This trend is a reflection of the widespread use of profanity in American culture. A Christian cannot avoid hearing cuss words, but should he use them? Many Christians lerned to cuss long before they ever heard the gospel. Should they be expected to go through the trouble of breaking that habit?

The Bible does not include a list of prohibited words. Since the Bible does not forbid any specific words, can anyone really say the Bible forbids cussing? According to Scripture, the way  a person speaks matters a great deal. What a person says reflects who they really are. “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” (Matthew 12:34) The things we say have a significant effect on others. “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” (Proverbs 18:21)

Scripture forbids the Christian to engage in any corrupt communication. Corrupt speech is like a rotten apple. It is useful for nothing and could cause harm if consumed. Cussing is useless speech that is hurtful to others. Most cuss words fall into two categories: curse and profanity. A curse is wishing ill upon someone. One common curse is a command for someone to depart to infernal regions. Should the Christian state a desire for someone to be damned, or wish them to go to hell? Isn’t such a statement the opposite of Christian compassion, the great commission and Christlikeness?

Profanity is that which attempts to corrupt or belittle with the mouth. Often these words are scatological or sexual in nature. Specific examples need not be given. Those who have heard them used know these words are used in a fashion which intends to destroy, defile or demean.

Recent decades have seen some American preachers take up the habit of cussing in the pulpit. Thankfully the fad has lost momentum, but those who engage in this despicable practice have defended their speech by pointing out that the apostle Paul cussed. This is simply not true. The epistles of Paul do not contain one single equivalent of a Greek cuss word. One supposed example of Paul’s using foul language is in Philippians 3:8, “I do count them but dung.” Paul is making a strong point, but is he using profanity? The Greek literature from that era has             numerous examples of the word Paul used. Not once is it portrayed as profanity or foul language. Paul used the proper term to describe filth, including human waste. Other supposed examples could be given, but when the words Paul used are examined in light of how they were used and understood in his day they can not be construed as cuss words. Some are strong. Some are harsh. None are profanity.

Because what we say matters. The Christian ought to speak words that “minister grace unto the hearers.” (Ephesians 4:29) To use profanities and curses is to speak of things which ought not be spoken of (Ephesians 5:3-4) and to trivilize matters of eternal importance. Cussing is the opposite of gracious speech tht edifies the hearer.

From the wisdom of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, to the warnings of Jesus,   to the instructions of Paul and the rebuke of James, Scripture consistently teaches that a Christian’s speech ought to be different. It must be careful, gracious, wise and helpful speech that builds up. Profanities and curses do not meet this standard.

How Should Christians Respond to the Recent Violence?

Our nation has once again been stunned by outbursts of unthinkable violence. Acts of terrorism and mass shootings are happening far too frequently. Murder remains a regular feature on the evening news. Every time someone shoots up a church or unloads into a crowd Christians are confronted with the need to address these tragedies with compassion and thoughtfulness.

Christian love demands we show genuine concern for all affected by these awful crimes. Whether the victims be Christians in Syria, partiers in Paris or abortionists in Colorado, the Christian should respond with heartfelt compassion for all who suffer at the hands of others. At no time should the child of God act like a victim got what they deserved. Murder is despicable no matter the morals, character or wickedness of the person murdered. The wanton taking of a human life is always a horrible evil because every person is created in the image of God. To harm a person is to attack the image of God. Every murder is a direct affront to the dignity and glory created in every person by God. Christians must clearly denounce any murderous act as a horrible evil without attempting to justify, excuse or mitigate the wickedness of the attack.

Horrendous deeds remind us the corruption of sin has filled this world with evil. Even those who might be inclined to deny any moral absolutes are forced to admit mass shootings are a terrible evil. The Christian need not argue about whether the problem is caused by guns, mental illness, religion, lack of religion or the shooter’s upbringing. The Biblically informed believer can say with confidence that whatever the immediate contributing factors to individual acts of violence, the tragedy occurred because everyone is corrupted by sin. The present excess of violence, hatred and destruction shows that sin is all too real.

The problem of evil drives us to seek a solution. The Christian knows the only hope for mankind is Jesus. Gun control, mental health solutions and better education may be worthwhie goals, but they are unable to solve the problem of sin. Those with murder in their hearts will find a way to execute their desires. The heart is only transformed by Jesus. In Christ evil desires begin to be replaced with good. Only in Jesus does humanity find hope for genuine righteousness and an end to the evils of this world.

Above all else, the Christian must never forget that in the end God’s righteous kingdom will be victorious. Psalm 2 says, ” Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD . . . He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” Wicked men will rage against God and man, but in the end Jesus will punish all evil and will establish His righteous kingdom.

Why is Life Miserable?

In May the pastor’s roundtable began to discuss the book of Ecclesiastes. We will be recording a total of six conversations about this book. The roundtable discussion airs the last Sunday of the month on WRUP 92.7 FM. As part of the discussion of Ecclesiastes, Pastor Chambers’ sermon on the same part of Ecclesiastes will air the following Sunday. You can listen to both broadcasts below.

July 28 Pastor’s Roundtable

Pastor Dave Chambers
Pastor Joe Herr
Pastor Tom Schierkolk
Pastor Dave Ryerson
Pastor Dave Sexton

August 4 Radio Show
Who is in Charge?

Pastor Dave Chambers

What is Relativism?

Relativism is the philosophy that truth and morality are dependent upon the perspective of the individual. Absolutes that transcend time, culture, society or personal opinion do not exist. No one can rightly say the Christianity of Western Europe is right and the animism of central Africa is wrong, or vice versa. Relativism views truth and morals as products of their time. For example, according to relativism, the wrongness of homosexuality was just a product of Victorian and Puritanical cultures which sought to repress human sexuality.

According to relativism, truth and morality are determined by the individual, the culture, and the particular situation. What is right for one person is not necessarily right for another. Relativism is the foundation of the postmodern world view, and is one of the most dominant views of truth in America today. Because of relativism, all truth is negotiable. Even truths which were once strongly held by many people can now be set aside if they are deemed inconvenient, unpopular or unpalatable. According to relativism, all truth claims are to be tolerated and doubt is a virtue. The only real sins in relativism are being dogmatic, too certain or attempting to force a particular view of truth upon someone else.

Relativism is evident in the ancient fable of the blind men and the elephant. The different religions of the world are like three blind men trying to explain an elephant. The one at the front holds the trunk and declares an elephant is a thick, muscular cylinder able to move about in all directions and grasp things. The one at the back disagrees quite strongly. He feels the tail and decrees an elephant is a thin, rope like object which is able to move rapidly. The one in the middle says they are both wrong. He touches a leg and describes the elephant as a thick, strong, leathery pillar. All determined truth based upon their perspective. Each defined a part of truth, but none were entirely right.

Christianity does not dispute the inability of individuals to fully see and understand truth. A Biblical worldview affirms that perceptions of what is true and right are affected by the perspective of the individual. What makes Christianity unique, and contradictory to relativism, is the assertion that truth is absolute and is given by One outside humanity. Reality, truth, justice and oughtness are defined by One who is above mankind and human culture.

Sin has damaged man’s ability to understand and apply truth to life. But human inability to see truth does not lessen its truthfulness. The blind men of relativism are limited by their inability to see and comprehend the entire elephant, but the elephant is still an elephant. Their mis-definition does not change the reality of the elephant. If a sighted zookeeper described in full detail the true nature of an elephant, the blind men would be obligated to accept as true the expert testimony of one who knows. The rejection of the authoritative declaration of what is true for a limited, incomplete understanding is folly.

How many judgments will there be?

“It is appointed unto man once to die, but after this the judgment.” (Hebrews 9:27) The Bible contains a number of references to coming times of Divine judgment. The references are scattered between the Old and New Testaments, prophetic literature and letters to the churches. Because there is no single passage which lists all the judgments, many wonder how many judgments there are going to be.

The Bible describes one judgment that takes place at the return of Jesus and two judgments that people will face after death. When Jesus returns, there will be a judgment dividing “sheep from the goats.” (Matthew 25:31-46) At this judgment those who survived the Tribulation will be separated into two groups. Those who trusted Jesus for salvation are the sheep that will be brought into His kingdom. Those who rejected Jesus are the goats that will be cast into eternal punishment.

After death, Christians will stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:10) At that judgment believers will be given rewards based upon what they have done in this life. Each Christian will be examined for how he has lived for Jesus. The Judgment seat of Christ is not a judgment of sin. If we were to be judged for our sin, then we would all be condemned. All of the believer’s sin is covered by the blood of Jesus.

The judgment seat of Christ is an examination of service. The works of believers will be tested to see how they stand up in the light of eternity. If we have wasted our time, served wrongly or selfishly then our rewards will be lost. If we have served in obedience, with faithfulness and for the glory of God then we will have great reward in heaven. (1 Corinthians 3:12-15)

The last judgment will take place at the end of all human history. The unsaved will be judged at the Great White Throne. (Revelation 20:11-15) All who are judged there will be condemned by God because they have not obeyed the gospel. The criteria of this judgment is simple. Have you believed Jesus is God who died on the cross for your sin? Have you cried out to Him to take away all your guilt? Have placed all your hope of forgiveness, heaven and eternal life in Jesus alone? If not, you are not saved. Your name is not written in the Lamb’s Book of LIfe. You will stand before the Great White Throne of Judgment and be condemned. I plead with you today to turn to Jesus and cry out to Him to take away your sin.

All who stand before the Great White Throne will be punished according to their deeds in life. Jesus’ words to the cities of Bethsaida and Chorazin indicate that rejection of the knowledge of Christ is treated more severely than gross sin. Those who have heard the gospel and have heard the Word of God will suffer a greater penalty. The cities of Sodom and Gomorrha were wicked, violent and immoral. They were destroyed by God for their wickedness, yet they will be treated less severely in the day of judgment than the cities that were eyewitnesses of Jesus and rejected Him. Those who hear the gospel and reject it will face a harsher punishment at the Great White Throne than even a murderer who never heard the Word of God.

With all the other gods in the world, how do we know the God of the Bible is the only true God?

A couple weeks ago a child asked a challenging question as she left the Sunday morning service. Here question was this, “Since many people worship many different gods, how do we know the God of the Bible is the only true God?” She is not alone. Many people struggling to understand the claims of the Bible ask the same question.

Some may be surprised to learn the Bible never attempts to prove the existence of God. Scripture assumes God exists and declares that only the foolish or willfully rebellious deny the existence of God. Though the Bible never offers proofs that God exists, it repeatedly argues that God is the only God and all other deities are fraudulent products of man’s wicked imagination.

The creation of the universe is the supreme proof given in the Old Testament that God alone is God. This author does not possess an exhaustive knowledge of all the gods worshiped in the history of the world, but after extensive research and study of many different religious traditions he is aware of only one other god who claims to have created everything out of nothing. Aside from Allah, no other god claims to have created everything. The great gods of Canaan- Baal, Molech or Dagon- were local deities who ruled over crops or regions. They were never seen as creators. The gods of Egypt were not credited with creating everything out of nothing. The great gods of western mythology- Zeus, Jupiter and Odin-never claimed to be creators. Only in the Old Testament do we find a Deity who claims to have made everything.

God’s uniqueness as Creator is used in passages like Jeremiah 10 to show the folly of worshiping the pagan gods. After a lengthy description of how the gods of the nations are carved by men out of wood, covered in gold, fastened down so they do not fall over and are incapable of seeing, hearing or doing anything at all, God is presented as the maker of all things. He is the only One who rules over all spiritual beings. He alone is uncreated and Creator of All. “Before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me.” (Isaiah 43:21) All other gods are the creation of human imagination.

God’s claim to be the Creator was verified by His displays of power over creation. When God sent the plagues upon Egypt it was so the entire world would know He is God. (Exodus 9:16) When God drove the Canaanites before Israel it was prove He alone is God. (Joshua 3:10) God’s glory was present in the temple of Jerusalem as a testimony to the entire world He is God. (1 Kings 8:41-43)

Jesus is the greatest evidence that God is the only God. Jesus claimed to be God the Son and the God of the Old Testament. (John 8:58) The miracles of Jesus verified the truth of His claims (Acts 2:22). Finally, the resurrection declares Jesus is God the Son. (Romans 1:4) Since His mighty miracles and His resurrection from the dead verify the claims of Jesus, then all the claims of the God of the Old Testament must be true. Jesus is proof there is no other God.