There are a number of scriptures that appear to contradict other statements in God’s word, and these apparent contradictions are often used by those who wish to discredit God by making the Bible appear unreliable. In reality, there are various reasons for apparent contradictions and these will be examined in this section of the website. It will be seen that any contradiction can be solved with a correct understanding of God’s nature, His plan of salvation for all who have sinned, and a humble, respectful attitude toward Almighty God. However, if the approach is to discredit God, those engaged in such an exercise will never come to a correct understanding of His truth. Some keys to correctly understanding apparent contradictions in scripture are as follows:
1) When the word “God” is used, which member of the heavenly host is being referred to? There are many gods (divine, created spirit-beings), but only One True God who was never created and has always existed. All other gods were created, including the one known as Jesus Christ (Ex. 18:11; Dt. 10:17; Josh. 22:22; 1Chr. 16:25; 2Chr. 2:5; Ps. 96:4; 136:2; Isa. 42:5-9; Dan. 2:47; 11:36; Mal. 2:10; Jn. 10:35-36; 17:3; 1Tim. 2:5; 6:16).
2) When descriptive words are used, are they meant literally or figuratively?
God’s word is replete with figurative and symbolic language as well as literal statements, but if the reader is unable to distinguish the difference, the real meaning will be hidden (see: Symbolism section of this website).
3) Some scriptures include the thoughts, feelings, and opinions of the writers and therefore should not be considered as commandments from God but are still helpful in living a godly life (1Cor. 7:6; 2Cor. 11:17; 2Tim. 3:16). When witnessing events such as those involving Christ’s life and ministry, the original writers commented on different aspects of the same events. Therefore, the details varied even though the main lessons were maintained.
4) Because the Bible has been translated into different versions at different times in history, the translators have sometimes added or changed certain sections of scripture to reflect their particular beliefs. This can create problems for the reader and more comprehensive research is often required to come to an accurate understanding of what God originally intended (Isa. 28:10-13; 2Tim. 2:15).
5) The context in which a teaching is given must be correctly understood. If the reader already has a misunderstanding or a bias regarding a Biblical subject, there is a higher likelihood that the context will also be misunderstood or ignored in an attempt to support a particular theory or doctrine. For instance, many of Paul’s writings are misapplied because readers assume that Paul taught against keeping God’s law and commandments, when in reality the context was usually referring to a change regarding the Levitical priesthood or some aspect of the animal sacrificial system (Heb. 7:12; 2Pet. 3:15-16).
6) Depending on the circumstances at the time, God can extend mercy or He can temporarily withhold His mercy. If He chooses to withhold or postpone His mercy, He is entitled to do so without being accused of contradicting Himself. This principle is explained in many scriptures but is ignored by those who wish to discredit God (Ecc. 3:1-8; Isa. 45:9-13; Jer. 18:1-11; Rom. 9:14-24).
7) God’s wisdom is required to correctly understand many apparent contradictions in scripture, but God does not give His wisdom to those who wish to live contrary to His law and commandments. Therefore, without repentance of sin and living in newness of life (cf. Rom. 6:4), the majority of mankind will misunderstand God’s word and never come to a correct understanding of apparent Biblical contradictions (cf. Dt. 4:5-9; Job 28:28; Mt. 13:10-15; Mk. 4:10-12; Lk. 8:9-10; Jn. 12:37-40; Ac. 2:38; 5:32b; Eph. 4:17-19; 1Pet. 1:2),
The fear (proper respect) of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; and a good understanding have all those who do His commandments… (Ps. 111:10a; Ed. note in parenthesis; emphasis added).