Mind you... there are contradictions. While I'm not attempting to denigrate religion or religious people in any way, here are a few of my favourites:

The Nativity Story: We celebrate the birth of Christ on 25 December. The Shepherds were out watching their sheep. They only let the sheep out of the pen in March, because the sheep would crush the new-born lambs in the cramped conditions.

Actual explanation for this one: It's generally accepted that the date for Christmas was arbitrarily selected to coincide with certain already existing pagan festivals, including the Roman Saturnalia, held on 25 Dec.

NB: novalis advised me to get rid of this section, and I will do, eventually.

The Gadarene Swine: Apparently, Jesus sent a bunch of demons in to a herd of pigs and then made them all jump off a cliff. The Hebrew farmers got annoyed at this, because the pigs were expensive... and who wouldn't? Except that Hebrews don't eat pork, and pigs don't make great pets.

Actual explanation for this one: No one has ever managed to explain this to me, and I've asked religious people, religious fanatics, priests and all sorts of people who ought to know.

Ragnar! points out that "Christ sent the demons into the pigs as a rebuke to the farmers who weren't supposed to be raising them". That's a pretty good explanation, I suppose. But I gather that even now Jewish farmers will raise pigs... the lesson was insufficiently learned, then.

Christ's DOB: The monk Diogenes, who estimated the year of Christ's birth from which the Christian calendar is devised, got it wrong. Not only was there no provision for a Year Zero (there being no concept of zero when Diogenes did his stuff), but he got it about seven years too late. (Opinions differ between three, four and seven.) So Christ was actually born in 7BC, and BC stands for Before Christ.

Apparently Jesus did a lot of travelling around, spreading the Word and what have you... I'd love to have seen him get a passport. Imagine the tiresomely beaurocratic official person sighing. "So, Mr Christ," tapping the form weightily with the end of a pencil, "you claim to be the C in BC, and yet here you claim to have been born seven years before yourself. Do you really expect us to believe that, Mr Christ? Oh, and another thing, this passport photo's a little overexposed, isn't it?..."

Update: In the wake of severe flamage for my contribution to this node, I'd like to stress that I don't have a problem with Christians, it's Biblical Literalism I can't stand. I mean, some of my best friends are Christians, but that doesn't mean I agree with them.

Imagine how boring it would be if we were all the same. Chill out, everyone, okay?

Further update: In the wake of flamage over I don't have a problem with Christians, it's Biblical Literalism I can't stand, I'd like to point out that I probably didn't mean Biblical Literalism. I just can't stand fundies.

The point I was trying (poorly, I admit) to make here was this: the Bible is not the be-all and end-all. It is flawed. It has its good points, and it even has true stuff, but it is not the Ultimate Word Of God. Okay?

Feel free to flame me some more.

Someone pointed these out on some Usenet group I read:
"Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy." -- Exodus 20:8
"One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind." -- Romans 14:5

"The earth abideth forever" -- Ecclesiastes 1:4
"The elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up." - 2 Peter 3:10

"I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved." -- Genesis 32:30
"No man hath seen God at any time." -- John 1:18

There were a lot more, but I don't feel like typing them.

lagrange's list of Bible contradictions, like most others, isn't even based on the Bible. The Gadarene pigs, as pinky64 pointed out, weren't raised for Jews to eat. The other two "Bible contradictions" are really contradictions between the Bible and later traditions--the Bible doesn't say that Jesus was born in the winter and it also doesn't give the year that Jesus was born. Errors in dating from the 4th and 7th century are not Bible contradictions.

Even at the Skeptic's Annotated Bible, which is a more credible attempt, a fair number of the "contradictions" are based either on false generalizations or misunderstandings. Some of the contradictions they point out (particularly regarding dating and genealogy) are legitimate, but a lot of others are erroneous. This page is like the skeptical equivalent of bad theology; their arguments are so poor that they weaken their own position.

lagrange asks for an explanation of Jesus' casting out of Legion into a herd of pigs. According to Mark 5, this incident took place in "the region of the Gerasenes", part of the Decapolis and not of Israel.

As for his question about the Nativity, I don't see where the contradiction is. Nowhere in the Gospels does it say that Jesus was born on December 25, that's simply the day his birthday is celebrated.

One of the more defensible claims of verbal plenary inspiration of scripture is that the original, autograph manuscripts (in their original languages) were, word for word, inspired directly by God.

Though a believer myself, I find such claims unsatisfactory, but not for the reason that some might expect.

If we are to believe that the authors of scripture were simply mouthpieces for God's wisdom, then how do we account for the unique marks of their written style in the old and new testament canon? In particular, if we are to discount the possibility that a book such as Jonah could be satirical rather than literal (as in fact it is!) haven't we lost some important part of the message of the book?

In the new testament as well, a strictly literal interpretation of Paul's epistles precludes the possibility for a wealth of spiritual wisdom that is to be gained from simply observing the attitude in which Paul addressed certain moral problems.

J.G. Machen is perhaps the best conservative scholar produced by evangelical Christianity in the last one hundred years (see the obituary that H.L. Mencken -- yes, Mencken! --wrote for him at his death). Machen's approach was to insist on a rigorous address to historical questions about the inspiration and canonicity of scripture, without discounting the possibility that even "errors" could be inspired.

In fact if one looks at Gen 1 and Gen 2, you find that about the only thing agreed upon in these two passages is that God created everything0.

In fact they are two different creation myths, probably written by two different people. (Yes, myths, but, like the Greek myths, that doesn't mean they're without value.) Biblical literalists usually conveniently skip over that part.

In the meantime, consider my favorite contradiction, this interpretation of Genesis 6:19, "And the waters prevailed so mightily upon the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered." It is from Innumeracy by John Allen Paulos:

Taken literally, this seems to indicate that there were 10 000 to 20 000 feet of water on the surface of the earth, equivalent to more than half a billion cubic miles of liquid! Since, according to biblical accounts, it rained for forty days and forty nights, or for only 960 hours, the rain must have fallen at a rate of at least fifteen feet per hour, certainly enough to sink any aircraft carrier, much less an ark with thousands of animals on board.

Let's face it, the bible was compiled hundreds of years after the events it reports on. Any given English version has been mistranslated through at least two other languages on its way to English. Not to mention the completely Draconian editing and revisionism imposed by the Christian church over the last two millenia...

It would take an Act of God to make the result anything even close to what the authors intended in the first place.

Biblical Literalism is even sillier than Quakers speaking in Shakespearean English because that's how they thought Jesus spoke, thanks to the King James Bible...

Biblical Contradictions can be put into categories:
  • Copying error
    These errors are known to happen. Hand-copying manuscripts had downsides, and this was one of them. Usually, the error will be detected when the page is checked for errors. If the error is overlooked, then most likely all future copies of it will contain the same error. However, due to the large quantities of manuscripts known today, most transcription errors can be found because by comparing sources. I think that there are still several such errors that have proliferated to such a degree that those manuscripts are the only ones we have, and as such we cannot detect them. These errors are usually numerical in nature rather that tyops in words. I wouldn't say that these are even a challenge to Biblical Literalism.
  • Technical error
    This would include things like scientific errors or mathematical errors.

    One such "error" is noted in Pi in the Bible. Another one that you might know about is a scientific error in Genesis, which I will address briefly. The contradiction is thus: In Genesis 1:11, plants are created. Later, in Genesis 1:13, God makes the sun/moon/stars. Well, how can plants live without light? One possible explanation is that God provided ambient light for the plants. This could be done by miraculous intervention, or what I prefer is that the atmosphere was not clear, so there was sunlight in the sky, but no sun (Note that in Genesis 1:2, God was hovering over the waters, so from that frame of reference no celestial objects would be visible.). I think that the words used allow for the sun to already be created. Additional support is lended from God making the stars on the same "day". Even if it were a long day as an old-earth creationist says, we can right now see stars that are older than the Earth. Possible interpretations are limited by Science, but not totally extinguished.

    Anyway, if there are indeed these technical errors in the Bible, I would say that they are a challenge to Biblical Literalism, but not as serious as the theological type of error.

  • Theological error
    These are the real challenges to Christianity. However, these should not occur often since the obviously contradictory books would be deemed not-from-God, and hence not put in the Bible. So, you will have to look deeper to find the theological contradictions, but please be careful. For example, if the Bible told us that humans created God then that would be a serious problem. So, you would look for the speaker (could be the author, could be somebody else being quoted), their mode of speech (are they being sarcastic?), and perhaps other things. If you can establish that it was a real contradiction being conveyed to the reader, then you have a case for challenging the authority of the author, and therefore challenging the collection called the Bible.
  • Other - I'm not sure if there are other categories.

And now for the previous content of this node:

An attempt at debunking some of Segnbora-t's contradictions:

  • The keeping sabbath holy thing: See Old Testament law doesn't apply to Christians. The Exodus verse is instruction to Jews. The NT verse one is instruction to Christians, saying that it really doesn't matter if you think a certain day is special, just don't get all huffed up if somebody else thinks otherwise. Note: Romans 14:15 isn't where that verse is located, but I think it is in the NT somewhere.
  • The Earth's destruction thing: Consider the context of that Ecclesiastes verse: "Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever." It is part of a speech by the teacher (mentioned in 1:1), where he basically says that everything is meaningless: pleasures, toil, riches, even wisdom. The point of the verse isn't that Earth will last forever, but rather that a human's life is short and pointless in comparison to the Earth. The teacher is not trying to establish a scientific fact; he is trying to make his point, and I think he makes it well. Perhaps the intended meaning in Hebrew is that the Earth seems to last forever, and it was mistranslated into English, but take that with a grain of salt.
  • The seeing God thing: You could say the same about Jesus. If Jesus is God, when people looked at Jesus' face, didn't they see God's? However, I would say that the John verse is talking about not the face of a physical manifestation of God, but rather his heavenly face. I think this because in the same verse it says "Jesus who is at the Father's side ...", and there is no record of God always physically being next to Jesus as he walked around. So, I think the verse is saying that nobody has seen God's heavenly face.
Debunking Ptomato the Fleep's scientific issue by several methods.
(Presuming a global flood, the rain is not necessarily overwhelming.)

(Apologies for the roundabout method of calculation)
I fail to see what's so overwhelming about 15 feet per hour, unless those 15 feet all come at once every hour! Let's turn this into metric, for convenience: 15 feet per hour is equivalent to 15*30 = 450 cm per hour, which is 7.5 cm per minute, or .125 cm per second. Considering that the biggest raindrops have a terminal speed of 8 meters per second (I read it on the Internet, it must be true :-) ), and a mL of water is exactly a gram (by definition, apparently), we can use simple math and physics to show the force needed to hold up a roof under the impact of the rain.

Let's use a 10cm by 10cm square as our sample area, and use 1 second for our sample time. If we give it a height equal to the height of rain falling in one second, we can find the volume of rain that falls on that square for that second. So, take 10cm*10cm*0.125cm, which gives us 12.5 cm^3 in volume. Conveniently, 1 cm^3 = 1 mL, and 1 mL of water = 1 g. So, 12.5 cm^3 translates to 12.5 grams, or 0.0125 kg. The rain falls at 8 meter per second. Next, we find the momentum. P = mv = (0.0125 kg)(8 m/s) = 0.1 kgm/s. Momentum is also force times time (P = Ft), which is equivalent to F = P/t. Since we are using a 1 second interval, we get 0.1 newtons for every 10cm by 10cm area, or 1/100th of a meter squared. Multiply by 100, we and get 10 newtons for every meter squared (those of you who know physics can already tell by now that this force is not overwhelming). Now, the Bible states the dimensions of the presumably rectangular ark. The roof is 135x22.5 meters (Genesis 6:15), assuming it's flat. This makes an area of about 3040 meters squared. So, 10 newtons times 3040 gives us about 30400 newtons applied to the entire ark. Divide this by 9.8 (how many Newtons a 1-kg object weighs on Earth), and we can see what equivalent mass sitting on the ship would exert that force. The answer is 3100 kg. Even with the upper limit of 20 000 feet over the 40 days, it is 4300 kg. These extra "weights" are not very significant (A few extra elephants' worth on a large ark). However, I don't know enough about the shape of the roof (top surface) to remark on the layer of water that hasn't run off yet. If it's a flat roof, I suppose you'd get some sort of parabola-shaped blob of water on top, which might put a considerable extra strain on the structure. If it's a pointed roof, you could expect a quick run-off, and the ark could then easily survive that load. In addition, the rain would be deflected off a pointed roof instead of hitting head-on, which would lessen the vertical load created from impact.

Erosion probably isn't a problem, since it is only rain (perhaps the layer of water that has not yet run off would also serve to cushion impacts). The pitch that the ark was covered with would probably keep the wood from getting waterlogged. Yes, I know that buildings and vehicles have problems with only one foot of water per hour. Then again, buildings and vehicles don't float. :-)

In addition, I have assumed that all the flood's water is rain. This isn't true, because at least some water came from the "springs of the great deep", which I would interpret as aquifers or something, but definitely not rain.

In conclusion, I would say that John Allen Paulos may be a victim of Innumeracy himself. However, although excessive rainfall may be an invalid point against a global flood, I do have other reasons for rejecting it (the global flood), namely:

  • The Bible allows for a local flood. See http://www.reasons.org/resources/books/genesisquestion/gq18.html
  • I believe that God has stopped creating lifeforms (we are still in the seventh creation day of rest), which fits with an old earth creation view. There is no way that rapid speciation could have happened in the short time after the flood if God didn't do it. Even evolutionists aren't that optimistic about natural speciation. :-)

I am going to create a virtual bible. In this bible I shall put: I'm not sure how big this bible is, but as you can see, its a fairly good representation of how physical things interact with one another. We have two distinct sections here Classical Physics, and Modern Physics. Old and New. Are there contradictions? You bet there are! The most obvious ones are: these:

The book of Newton Chapter 7 verse 1:
"Space and time intervals are absolute and the speed of light is relative"

The book of Einstein Chapter 2 Verse 1:
"The speed of light is absolute, and space and time intervals are relative"

The book of Einstein Chapter 16 Verse 18:
"God does not play dice with the Universe"

The book of Hawking Chapter 2 Verse 1:
"Not only does God play dice, but he sometimes throws them where they cannot be seen"

See! Contradictions in the Bible of Physics! Ha! The bible of physics is wrong! Therefore physics is wrong!. How can fools believe in science, when it can't even get its own story straight??

I think you see the point I'm trying to make. Of course the bible has contrary opinions, ideas and events. Not only is it a series of books documenting historical events, but it is also over 40 different people's opinion on the nature of God and His representatives. If the bible had no contradictions in it, I would severely doubt its quality as a source since it would have been obviously compiled by somebody who wanted you to agree with it.

Now one more point, the story of Snow White has changed considerably from its original as it was written hundreds of years ago, and has morphed in each telling. Aesop's Fables change all the time, the teachings of Buddha change depending on what the point of the story is - writings of Basho are translated in a thousand different ways. But in each case, the message is the same, even if previous teachings contradict the current one watch out for those trees, they'll stop you from seeing the wood.

The biggest contradiction in the bible that I was able to find, and that is the question of freedom versus predestination. Most of the other ones are explained away by translator bias and such, but this one still remains, and I may have figgured out a possible solution to it.

Now, one can argue untill blue in the face about the existence of a deity, but it all comes down to belief. Sure, modern science seems to indicate the lack of a god but take into account Hume's problem of induction, that is to say science itself is a religion. Science is the belief that everything can be explained and predicted with mathematics. This may not be the case. We are assuming the future will continue to act as the past has. It's all faith.

But I digress...
Now, the bible states that God is omnipotent and omnicient. Also, it states that God is the "supreme", that it isn't at the mercy of any force. The problem arises when it states that God gave mankind free will. Even if one choses to chalk this up to translator bias, a merciful god (which the Christian deity is supposed to be) would only condemn to hell, or deny from heaven, those who chose an "evil" or "impure" life.

Now, to know the future implies that the future is pre-determined, or "know-able". Now, either the future is knowable, and man does not have free will (implicitly stating that God is not merciful), or the future is un-knowable, and God is not omnipotent (being at the mercy of time, and all).

But, I may have figgured this out.
Picture a river. It goes along, splits into different rivers and tributaries, and just basically branches out all over the place. God is a sattelite in space. It can see the whole system, what all the choices will be, what the outcome of those choices are, etcetera. We are a swimmer in the lake, on a foggy day. We remember our past, we have an extremely limited view into the future, and we make choices.

This is how I found religion, despite science.

How long did Jesus live?

The general opinion is that Jesus was born in 1AD and died in 33AD. The gospels of Mark and John find Jesus' birth and early life irrelevant. However, the gospel of Matthew places his birth during the Star of Bethelehem occurence in 6-7BC whilst the gospel of Luke places it during the Census of Quirinius in 6-7 AD. I'm sure you've all noticed that the 2 possible times for Jesus' birth are 15 years apart. So why does the Catholic Church teach that his birth took place in 1AD? When the modern clergy set up the Calendar they simply split the difference.

Due to a curious lack of sources other than those found in the Bible, there a few known sources that speak of Jesus' birth or life or death. One of these sources is the Acts Pilatii which stated that Jesus died in 19AD.

How long did the Jesus' ministry last?

The Catholic Church follows the chronology events found in the Gospel of John which states that the ministry lasted 3 years. However, all 3 of the other gospels state that the ministry lasted 1 year.

How old was Jesus when he died?

The view of the Catholic Church is that he was 33 (and that he set up his ministry at age 30). Matthew, Mark and Luke all agree that he died when he was 30-33 years of age. Yet, John implies that Jesus was 46 when he died (the same age as the temple in Jerusalem). Here, the Church seems to be picking up various parts of the various Gospels and amalgamating them.

Where was Jesus from?

Ever heard the phrase Jesus of Nazareth. Interesting since there was no Nazareth in Jesus' day. The myth comes from the 1st Crusade in which Christians captured the Holy Land from the Muslims. They intended to create a pilgrimage to the Holy Cities of Jerusalem, Bethlehem and of course Nazareth. Upon finding that there was no town called Nazareth (and realising that this could cause problems with the faith and the pilgrimage plans) the crusaders simply found a town called Nazara and re-named it. If you look at the Gospel of Luke, it states that the some villagers wanted to throw Jesus off the cliffs outside town. There are no cliffs anywhere near Nazareth. Nazareth is probably referring to a strict form of Judaism as it existed in those days, not a town.

As for Bethlehem, it was only mentioned in one of the gospels.

Jesus' Brothers

Jesus had three brothers; James, Simon and Judas. The Catholic Church claims that all three of them were disbelievers. There are two main problems with this;

1. The Gospel of Mark states that the brothers travelled with Jesus. Amongst the Apostles there where 3 Judas', 2 Simon's and 2 James'. Statistically unlikely if his brothers weren't apostles.

2. Upon Jesus' death, the Ministry was given to James until 62 AD whereupon he was matyred. Then Simon took over and ran the Ministry till his matyrdom in 97AD. Judas' eldest son then took control of the Ministry. Judas was killed whilst on a mission for the Ministry in about 35AD. Why whould the Apostles hand over Jesus' Ministry to disbelievers?

References and Further Reading

Self-contradictions of the Bible. William Henry Burr

Cooper, Robert The "Holy Scriptures" analyzed

DeHaan, M. R. 508 answers to Bible questions : with answers to seeming Bible contradictions

Ackerley, Edward "the x-rated bible"

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