Share on facebook
Share on twitter

101 Cleared-up Contradictions in the Bible Pt. 4

We come to the final section: https://answeringallah.com/101-cleared-up-contradictions-in-the-bible-pt-3/

  1. Did the Capernaum centurion come personally to ask Jesus to heal his slave (Matthew 8:5), or did he send elders of the Jews and his friends (Luke 7:3,6)?

(Category: the text is compatible with a little thought & misunderstood the author’s intent)

This is not a contradiction but rather a misunderstanding of sequence, as well as a misunderstanding of what the authors intended. The centurion initially delivered his message to Jesus via the elders of the Jews. It is also possible that he came personally to Jesus after he had sent the elders to Jesus. Matthew mentions the centurion because he was the one in need, while Luke mentions the efforts of the Jewish elders because they were the ones who made the initial contact.

We know of other instances where the deed which a person tells others to do is in actuality done through him. A good example is the baptism done by the disciple’s of Jesus, yet it was said that Jesus baptized (John 4:1-2).

We can also understand why each author chose to relate it differently by understanding the reason they wrote the event. Matthew’s main reason for relating this story is not the factual occurrence but to relate the fact of the importance of all nations to Christ. This is why Matthew speaks of the centurion rather than the messengers of the centurion. It is also the reason why Matthew spends less time relating the actual story and more on the parable of the kingdom of heaven. Matthew wants to show that Jesus relates to all people.

Luke in his telling of the story does not even relate the parable that Jesus told the people, but concentrates on telling the story in more detail, thereby concentrating more on the humanity of Jesus by listening to the messengers, the fact that he is impressed by the faith of the centurion and the reason why he is so impressed; because the centurion does not even consider himself ‘worthy’ to come before Jesus. Ultimately this leads to the compassion shown by Jesus in healing the centurion’s servant without actually going to the home of the centurion.

  1. Did Adam die the same day (Genesis 2:17) or did he continue to live to the age of 930 years (Genesis 5:5)?

(Category: misunderstood how God works in history)

The Scriptures describe death in three ways; 1) Physical death which ends our life on earth, 2) spiritual death which is separation from God, and 3) eternal death in hell. The death spoken of in Genesis 2:17 is the second death mentioned in our list, that of complete separation from God, while the death mentioned in Genesis 5:5 is the first death, a physical death which ends our present life.

For obvious reasons Shabbir will see this as a contradiction because he does not understand the significance of spiritual death which is a complete separation from God, since he will not admit that Adam had any relationship with God to begin with in the garden of Eden. The spiritual separation (and thus spiritual death) is shown visibly in Genesis chapter 3 where Adam was thrown out of the Garden of Eden and away from God’s presence.

Ironically Adam being thrown out of the garden of Eden is also mentioned in the Qur’an (Sura 2:36), though there is no reason for this to happen, if (as Muslims believe) Adam had been forgiven for his sin. Here is an example of the Qur’an borrowing a story from the earlier scriptures without understanding its meaning or significance, and therein lies the assumption behind the supposed contradiction.

(for a clearer understanding of the significance of spiritual death and how that impinges on nearly every area of disagreement Christians have with Islam, read the paper entitled “The Hermeneutical Key” by Jay Smith.)

  1. Did God decide that the lifespan of humans was to be only 120 years (Genesis 6:3), or longer (Genesis 11:12-16)?

(Category: misread the text)

In Genesis 6:3 we read:

“Then the LORD said, ‘My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal; his days will be a hundred and twenty years.’”

This is contrasted with ages of people who lived longer than 120 years in Genesis 11:12-16. However this is based, I presume on a misreading or misunderstanding of the text.

The hundred and twenty years spoken of by God in Genesis 6:3 cannot mean the life span of human beings as you do find people older than that mentioned more or less straight away a few Chapters on into the book of Genesis (including Noah himself). The more likely meaning is that the Flood that God had warned Noah about doesn’t happen until 120 years after the initial warning to Noah. This is brought out further in 1Peter 3:20 where we read,

“God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built.”

Therefore looking at the context of the Genesis 6:3 passage it would agree with what we find in chapter 11 of the same book.

(Geisler/Howe 1992:41)

  1. Apart from Jesus there was no-one else (John 3:13) or there were others (2 Kings 2:11) who ascended to heaven?

(Category: misunderstood the wording)

There were others who went to heaven without dying, such as Elijah and Enoch (Genesis 5:24). In John 3:13 Jesus is setting forth his superior knowledge of heavenly things. Essentially what he is saying, “no other human being can speak from first hand knowledge about these things, as I can, since I came down from heaven.” he is claiming that no one has ascended to heaven to bring down the message that he brought. In no way is he denying that anyone else is in heaven, such as Elijah and Enoch. Rather, Jesus is simply claiming that no one on earth has gone to heaven and returned with a message such as he offered to them.

  1. Was the high priest Abiathar (Mark 2:26), or Ahimelech (1 Samuel 21:1; 22:20) when David went into the house of God and ate the consecrated bread?

(Category: misunderstood the Hebrew usage & misunderstood the historical context)

Jesus states that the event happened ‘in the days of Abiathar the high priest’ and yet we know from 1 Samuel that Abiathar was not actually the high priest at that time; it was his father, Ahimelech.

If we were to introduce an anecdote by saying, ‘When king David was a shepherd-boy…’, it would not be incorrect, even though David was not king at that time. In the same way, Abiathar was soon to be high priest and this is what he is most remembered for, hence he is designated by this title. Moreover, the event certainly did happen ‘in the days of Abiathar’, as he was alive and present during the incident. We know from 1 Samuel 22:20 that he narrowly escaped when his father’s whole family and their town was destroyed by Saul’s men. Therefore, Jesus’ statement is quite acceptable.

(Archer 1994:362)

  1. Was Jesus’ body wrapped in spices before burial in accordance with Jewish burial customs (John 19:39-40), or did the women come and administer the spices later (Mark 16:1)?

(Category: the texts are compatible with a little thought)

John 19:39,40 clearly states that Joseph and Nicodemus wrapped the body in 75 pounds of myrrh and aloes, along with strips of linen. We also know from the synoptic writers that the body was placed in a large shroud. There need be no contradiction here. The fact that the synoptics do not mention the spices during the burial does not mean that they were not used.

If Mark 16:1 is taken to mean that the women were hoping to do the whole burial process themselves, they would need the strips of linen as well, which are not mentioned. It is likely that they simply wished to perform their last act of devotion to their master by adding extra spices to those used by Joseph.

As Jesus died around the ninth hour (Mark 15:34-37), there would have been time (almost three hours) for Joseph and Nicodemus to perform the burial process quickly before the Sabbath began. We need not suppose that there was only time for them to wrap his body in a shroud and deposit it in the tomb.

  1. Did the women buy the spices after (Mark 16:1) or before the Sabbath (Luke 23:55 to 24:1)?

(Category: the texts are compatible with a little thought)

Several details in the accounts of the resurrection suggest that there were in fact two groups of women on their way to the tomb, planning to meet each other there. See question 86 for more details of these two groups.

Now it becomes clear that Mary Magdalene and her group bought their spices after the Sabbath, as recorded by Mark 16:1. On the other hand, Joanna and her group bought their spices before the Sabbath, as recorded by Luke 23:56. It is significant that Joanna is mentioned only by Luke, thereby strengthening the proposition that it was her group mentioned by him in the resurrection account.

  1. Did the women visit the tomb “toward the dawn” (Matthew 28:1), or “When the sun had risen” (Mark 16:2)?

(Category: the texts are compatible with a little thought)

A brief look at the four passages concerned will clear up any misunderstanding.

Matthew 28:1: ‘At dawn…went to look at the tomb’.

Mark 16:2 ‘Very early…just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb’.

Luke 24:1: ‘Very early in the morning…went to the tomb’.

John 20:1: ‘Early…while it was still dark…went to the tomb’.

Thus we see that the four accounts are easily compatible in this respect. It is not even necessary for this point to remember that there were two groups of women, as the harmony is quite simple. From Luke we understand that it was very early when the women set off for the tomb. From Matthew we see that the sun was just dawning, yet John makes it clear that it had not yet done so fully: The darkness was on its way out but had not yet gone. Mark’s statement that the sun had risen comes later, when they were on their way. It is perfectly reasonable to assume that the sun had time to rise during their journey across Jerusalem.

  1. Did the women go to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body with spices (Mark 16:1; Luke 23:55-24:1), or to see the tomb (Matthew 28:1), or for no reason (John 20:1)?

(Category: the texts are compatible with a little thought)

This answer links in with number 81 above. We know that they went to the tomb in order to put further spices on Jesus’ body, as Luke and Mark tell us. The fact that Matthew and John do not give a specific reason does not mean that there was not one. They were going to put on spices, whether or not the gospel authors all mention it. We would not expect every detail to be included in all the accounts, otherwise there would be no need for four of them!

  1. When the women arrived at the tomb, was the stone “rolled back” (Mark 16:4), “rolled away” (Luke 24:2), “taken away” (John 20:1), or did they see an angel do it (Matthew 28:1-6)?

(Category: misread the text)

Matthew does not say that the women saw the angel roll the stone back. This accusation is indeed trivial. After documenting the women setting off for the tomb, Matthew relates the earthquake, which happened while they were still on their way. Verse 2 begins by saying, ‘There was a violent earthquake’, the Greek of which carries the sense of, ‘now there had been a violent earthquake’. When the women speak to the angel in verse 5, we understand from Mark 16:5 that they had approached the tomb and gone inside, where he was sitting on the ledge where Jesus’ body had been. Therefore, the answer to this question is that the stone was rolled away when they arrived: there is no contradiction.

  1. In (Matthew 16:2; 28:7; Mark 16:5-6; Luke 24:4-5; 23), the women were told what happened to Jesus’ body, while in (John 20:2) Mary was not told.

(Category: the texts are compatible with a little thought)

The angels told the women that Jesus had risen from the dead. Matthew, Mark and Luke are all clear on this. The apparent discrepancy regarding the number of angels is cleared up when we realize that there were two groups of women. Mary Magdalene and her group probably set out from the house of John Mark, where the Last Supper had been held. Joanna and some other unnamed women, on the other hand, probably set out from Herod’s residence, in a different part of the city. Joanna was the wife of Cuza, the manager of Herod’s household (Luke 8:3) and it is therefore highly probable that she and her companions set out from the royal residence.

With this in mind, it is clear that the first angel (who rolled away the stone and told Mary and Salome where Jesus was) had disappeared by the time Joanna and her companions arrived. When they got there (Luke 24:3-8), two angels appeared and told them the good news, after which they hurried off to tell the apostles. In Luke 24:10, all the women are mentioned together, as they all went to the apostles in the end.

We are now in a position to see why Mary Magdalene did not see the angels. John 20:1 tells us that Mary came to the tomb and we know from the other accounts that Salome and another Mary were with her. As soon as she saw the stone rolled away, she ran to tell the apostles, assuming that Jesus had been taken away. The other Mary and Salome, on the other hand, satisfied their curiosity by looking inside the tomb, where they found the angel who told them what had happened. So we see that the angels did inform the women, but that Mary Magdalene ran back before she had chance to meet them.

  1. Did Mary Magdalene first meet the resurrected Jesus during her first visit (Matthew 28:9) or on her second visit (John 20:11-17)? And how did she react?

(Category: the texts are compatible with a little thought)

We have established in the last answer that Mary Magdalene ran back to the apostles as soon as she saw the stone had been rolled away. Therefore, when Matthew 28:9 records Jesus meeting them, she was not there. In fact, we understand from Mark 16:9 that Jesus appeared first to Mary Magdalene, which was after she, Peter and John had returned to the tomb the first time (John 20:1-18). Here, we see that Peter and John saw the tomb and went home, leaving Mary weeping by the entrance. From here, she saw the two angels inside the tomb and then met Jesus himself.

As all this happened before Jesus appeared to the other women, it appears that there was some delay in them reaching the apostles. We may understand what happened by comparing the complementary accounts. Matthew 28:8 tells us that the women (Mary the mother of James and Salome) ran away ‘afraid yet filled with joy…to tell his disciples’. It appears that their fear initially got the better of them, for they ‘said nothing to anyone’ (Mark 16:8). It was at this time that Jesus suddenly met them (Matthew 28:9,10). Here, he calmed their fears and told them once more to go and tell the apostles.

There are several apparent problems in the harmonization of the resurrection accounts, a few of which have been touched on here. It has not been appropriate to attempt a full harmonization in this short paper, as we have been answering specific points. A complete harmonization has been commendably attempted by John Wenham in ‘Easter Enigma’ (most recent edition 1996, Paternoster Press). Anyone with further questions is invited to go this book.

It must be admitted that we have in certain places followed explanations or interpretations that are not specifically stated in the text. This is entirely permissible, as the explanations must merely be plausible. It is clear that the gospel authors are writing from different points of view, adding and leaving out different details. This is entirely to be expected from four authors writing independently. Far from casting doubt on their accounts, it gives added credibility, as those details which at first appear to be in conflict can be resolved with some thought, yet are free from the hallmarks of obvious collusion, either by the original authors or any subsequent editors.

  1. Did Jesus instruct his disciples to wait for him in Galilee (Matthew 28:10), or that he was ascending to his Father and God (John 20:17)?

(Category: misread the text)

This apparent contradiction asks, ‘What was Jesus’ instruction for his disciples?’ Shabbir uses Matthew 28:10 and John20:17 to demonstrate this apparent contradiction. However the two passages occur at different times on the same day and there is no reason to believe that Jesus would give his disciples only one instruction.

This is another contradiction which depends upon the reader of Shabbir’s book being ignorant of the biblical passages and the events surrounding that Sunday morning resurrection. (I say Sunday because it is the first day of the week) The two passages, in fact, are complementary not contradictory. This is because the two passages do not refer to the same point in time. Matthew 28:10 speaks of the group of women encountering the risen Jesus on their way back to tell the disciples of what they had found. An empty tomb!? And then receiving the first set of instructions from him to tell the disciples.

The second passage from John 20:17 occurs some time after the first passage, (to understand the time framework read from the beginning of this Chapter) and takes place when Mary is by herself at the tomb grieving out of bewilderment, due to the events unraveling around about her. She sees Jesus and he gives her another set of instructions to pass on to the disciples.

  1. Upon Jesus’ instructions, did the disciples return to Galilee immediately (Matthew 28:17), or after at least 40 days (Luke 24:33, 49; Acts 1:3-4)?

(Category: didn’t read the entire text and misquoted the text)

This supposed contradiction asks when the disciples returned to Galilee after the crucifixion. It is argued from Matthew 28:17 that they returned immediately, and from Luke 24:33 and 49, and Acts 1:4 that it was after at least 40 days. However both of these assumptions are wrong.

It would appear that Jesus appeared to them many times; sometimes individually, sometimes in groups, and as the whole group gathered together, and also at least to Paul and Stephen after the Ascension (see 1 Corinthians 15:5-8, and Acts 7:55-56). He appeared in Galilee and Jerusalem and other places. Matthew 28:16-20 is a summary of all the appearances of Christ, and it is for this reason that it is not advisable to overstress chronology in this account, as Shabbir seems to have done.

The second argument in this seeming contradiction is an even weaker argument than the one I have responded to above. This is because Shabbir has not fully quoted Acts 1:4 which says;

‘On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.”‘

Now the author of Acts, Luke in this passage does not specify when Jesus said this. However in his gospel he does the same thing as Matthew and groups together all the appearances so again it would be unwise to read too much chronologically into the passage of Luke 24:36-49. However it is apparent from the Gospels of Matthew and John that some of the disciples at least did go to Galilee and encounter Jesus there; presumably after the first encounter in Jerusalem and certainly before the end of the forty day period before Christ’s Ascension into Heaven.

  1. Did the Midianites sell Joseph “to the Ishmaelites” (Genesis 37:28), or to Potiphar, an officer of Pharoah (Geneis 37:36)?

(Category: misunderstood the historical context)

This apparent contradiction is a very strange one because it shows a clear misunderstanding of the text in Genesis 37:25-36. The question is asked, ‘To whom did the Midianites sell Joseph?’ Verse 28 is used to say the Ishmaelites, and verse 36 Potiphar.

The traveling merchants were comprised of Ishmaelite and Midianite merchants who bought Joseph from his brothers, and they in turn sold him to Potiphar in Egypt. The words Ishmaelite and Midianite are used interchangeably. This would seem obvious once you read verses 27 and 28 together. A clearer usage for these two names can also be found in Judges 8:24.

  1. Did the Ishmaelites bring Joseph to Egypt (Genesis 37:28), or was it the Midianites (Genesis 37:36), or was it Joseph’s brothers (Genesis 45:4)?

(Category: misunderstood the historical context)

This supposed contradiction follows on from the last one and again lights up Shabbir’s problem with the historical situation, as well as his inability to understand what the text is saying This time the question asked is, ‘Who brought Joseph to Egypt?’ From the last question we know that both the Ishmaelites and the Midianites were responsible for physically taking him there (as they are one and the same people), while the brother’s of Joseph are just as responsible, as it was they who sold him to the merchants, and thus are being blamed for this very thing by Joseph in Genesis 45:4. Consequently, as we saw in the previous question all three parties had a part to play in bringing Joseph to Egypt.

  1. Does God change his mind (Genesis 6:7; Exodus 32:14; 1 Samuel 15:10-11, 35), or does he not change his mind (1 Samuel 15:29)?

(Category: misunderstood how God works in history & misunderstood the Hebrew usage)

This “contradiction” generally appears only in older English translations of the Biblical manuscripts. The accusation arises from translation difficulties and is solved by looking at the context of the event.

God knew that Saul would fail in his duty as King of Israel. Nevertheless, God allowed Saul to be king and used him greatly to do His will. Saul was highly effective as leader of Israel, in stirring his people to have courage and take pride in their nation, and in coping with Israel’s enemies during times of war.

However, God made it clear long before this time (Genesis 49:8-10) that he would establish the kings that would reign over Israel, from the tribe of Judah. Saul was from the tribe of Benjamin. Therefore there was no doubt that Saul or his descendants were not God’s permanent choice to sit on the throne of Israel. His successor David, however, was from the tribe of Judah, and his line was to continue.

Therefore God, who knows all things, did not ‘change his mind’ about Saul, for he knew Saul would turn away from Him and that the throne would be given to another.

The word in Hebrew that is used to express what God thought and how God felt concerning the turning of Saul from Him is “niham” which is rendered “repent” in the above. However, as is common in languages, it can mean more than one thing. For example, English has only one word for “love.” Greek has at least 4 and Hebrew has more. A Hebrew or Greek word for love cannot always simply be translated “love” in English if more of the original meaning is to be retained. This is a problem that translators have.

Those who translated the Bible under the order of King James (hence the King James translation, which Shabbir quotes from) translated this word niham 41 times as “repent,” out of the 108 occurrences of the different forms of niham in the Hebrew manuscripts. These translators were dependent on far fewer manuscripts than were available to the more recent translators; the latter also having access to far older manuscripts as well as a greater understanding of the Biblical Hebrew words contained within. Therefore, the more recent translators have rendered niham far more accurately into English by conveying more of its Hebrew meaning (such as relent, grieve, console, comfort, change His mind, etc. as the context of the Hebrew text communicates).

With that in mind, a more accurate rendering of the Hebrew would be that God was “grieved” that he had made Saul king. God does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a man that he should change his mind. God was grieved that he had made Saul king. God shows in the Bible that He has real emotions. He has compassion on people’s pain and listens to people’s pleas for help. His anger and wrath are roused when He sees the suffering of people from others’ deeds.

As a result of Saul’s disobedience pain was caused to God and to the people of Israel. But also, God had it in His plan from the beginning that Saul’s family, though not being from the tribe of Judah, would not stay on the throne. Therefore when Saul begs the prophet Samuel in verses 24 to 25 to be put right with God and not be dethroned, Samuel replies that God has said it will be this way – He is not going to change His mind. It was spoken that it would be this way hundreds of years before Saul was king.

There is no contradiction here. The question was “Does God change his mind?” The answer is, “No.” But He does respond to peoples situations and conduct, in compassion and in wrath, and therefore can be grieved when they do evil.

(Archer 1994)

  1. How could the Egyptian magicians convert water into blood (Exodus 7:22), if all the available water had been already converted by Moses and Aaron (Exodus 7:20-21)?

(Category: didn’t read the entire text & Imposes his own agenda)

This is a rather foolish question. To begin with Moses and Aaron did not convert all available water to blood, as Shabbir quotes, but only the water of the Nile (see verse 20). There was plenty of other water for the magicians of Pharaoh to use. We know this because just a few verses later (verse 24) we are told,

“And all the Egyptians dug along the Nile to get drinking water, because they could not drink the water of the river.”

So where is the difficulty for the magicians to demonstrate that they could also do this? Not only has Shabbir not read the entire text, he has imposed on the text he has read that which simply is not there.

  1. Did David (1 Samuel 17:23, 50) or Elhanan (2 Samuel 21:19) kill Goliath?

(Category: copyist error)

The discrepancy as to who killed Goliath (David or Elhanan) was caused by copyist or scribal error, which can be seen clearly.

The text of 2 Samuel 21:19 reads as follows:

“In another battle with the Philistines at Gob, Elhanan son of Jaare-Oregim the Bethlehemite killed Goliath the Gittite, who had a spear with a shaft like a weaver’s rod.”

As this stands in the Hebrew Masoretic text, this is a certainly a clear contradiction to 1 Samuel and its account of David’s slaying of Goliath. However, there is a very simple and apparent reason for this contradiction, as in the parallel passage of 1 Chronicles 20:5 shows. It describes the episode as follows:

“In another battle with the Philistines, Elhanan son of Jair killed Lahmi the brother of Goliath the Gittite, who had a spear with a shaft like a weaver’s rod.”

When the Hebrew for these sentences is examined, the reason for the contradiction becomes quite obvious and the latter 1 Chronicles is seen to be the true and correct reading. This is not simply because we know David killed Goliath, but also because of the language.

When the scribe was duplicating the earlier manuscript, it must have been blurred or damaged at this particular verse in 2 Samuel. The result was that he made two or three mistakes (see Gleason L. Archer, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, page 179):

The sign of the direct object in 1 Chronicals was ‘-t which comes just before “Lahmi” in the sentence order. The scribe mistook it for b-t or b-y-t (“Beth”) and thus got BJt hal-Lahmi (“the Bethlehemite”) out of it.

He misread the word for “brother” (‘-h , the h having a dot underneath it) as the sign of the direct object (‘-t) right before g-l-y-t (“Goliath”). Therefore he made “Goliath” the object of “killed” instead of “brother” of Goliath, as in 1 Chronicles.

The copyist misplaced the word for “weavers” (‘-r-g-ym) so as to put it right after “Elhanan” as his family name (ben Y-‘-r-y’-r–g-ym, ben ya’arey ‘oregim, “the son of the forest of weavers”, a most improbable name for anyone’s father). In Chronicles the oregim (“weavers”) comes straight after men\r (“a beam of”) – thus making perfectly good sense.

To conclude: the 2 Samuel passage is an entirely traceable error on the part of the copyist in the original wording, which has been preserved in 1 Chronicles 20:5. David killed Goliath.

This testifies to the honesty and openness of the scribes and translators (both Jewish and Christian). Although it would be easy to change this recognized error, this has not been done in favour of remaining true to the manuscripts. Although it leaves the passage open to shallow criticism as Shabbir Ally has shown, it is criticism which we are not afraid of. An excellent example of human copying error resulting from the degeneration of papyrus.

  1. Did Saul take his own sword and fall upon it (1 Samuel 31:4-6), or did an Amalekite kill him (2 Samuel 1:1-16)?

(Category: misread the text)

It should be noted that the writer of 1 & 2 Samuel does not place any value on the Amalekite’s story. Thus, in all reality it was Saul who killed himself, though it was the Amalekite who took credit for the killing. The writer relates how Saul died and then narrates what the Amalekite said. The Amalekite’s statement that he ‘happened to be on Mount Gilboa’ (2 Samuel 1:6) may not be an innocent one. He had quite possibly come to loot the dead bodies. In any case, he certainly got there before the Philistines, who did not find Saul’s body until the next day (1 Samuel 31:8). We have David’s own testimony that the Amalekite thought he was bringing good news of Saul’s death (2 Samuel 4:10). It is likely, therefore, that he came upon Saul’s dead body, took his crown and bracelet and made up the story of Saul’s death in order that David might reward him for defeating his enemy. The Amalekite’s evil plan, however, backfired dramatically on him.

  1. Is it that everyone sins (1 Kings 8:46; 2 Chronicles 6:36; Proverbs 20:9; Ecclesiastes 7:20; 1 John 1:8-10), or do some not sin (1 John 3:1, 8-9; 4:7; 5:1)?

(Category: misunderstood the Greek usage & Imposes his own agenda)

This apparent contradiction asks: ‘Does every man sin?’ Then a number of Old Testament passages that declare this are listed followed by one New Testament passage from 1 John 1:8-10:

“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.”

After this it is claimed by Shabbir that: ‘True Christians cannot possibly sin, because they are children of God.’ This is followed by a number of passages from the First Epistle of John showing that Christians are children of God. Shabbir is here imposing his view on the text, assuming that those who are children of God, somehow suddenly have no sin. It is true that a person who is born of God should not habitually practice sin (James 2:14ff), but that is not to say that they will not occasionally fall into sin, as we live in a sinful world and impinged by it.

The last of the verses quoted is from 1 John 3:9 which says:

“No-one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God.”

Shabbir in his quote uses an older translation for 1 John 3:9 and so states, “No one born of God commits sin…and he cannot sin…,” which is not a true translation of the Greek. In the newer translations, such as the NIV they translate correctly using the present continuous in this verse, as it is written that way in the Greek. Thus those born of God will not continue to sin, as they cannot go on sinning…, the idea being that this life of sinning will die out now that he has the help of the Holy Spirit in him or her.

It is interesting how Shabbir jumps around to make his point. He begins with 1 John 1, then moves to 1 John 3-5, then returns to the 1 John 1 passage at the beginning of the Epistle and re-quotes verse 8, which speaks of all men sinning, with the hope of highlighting the seeming contradiction. There is no contradiction in this as Shabbir obviously hasn’t understood the apostle’s letter or grasped the fact that the letter develops its theme as it goes on. Therefore quoting from the beginning of the letter, then moving to the middle of the letter, and finally returning to the beginning of the letter is not the way to read a letter.

The Scriptures clearly teach that all men have sinned except for one, the Lord Jesus Christ, therefore we have no quarrel with Shabbir on this point. As to Shabbir’s second point I am glad he has come to realize that Christians are children of God therefore we have no quarrel with him on this subject.

It is Shabbir’s third point, however, which is a contentious one because it does not take on board the development of the themes of the letter, of which the one pointed out here is the call to holiness and righteousness because of the forgiveness of sins by Jesus Christ’s atoning death. It is for that reason that we are called not to continue in our sinful ways but to be changed into Christ’s sinless likeness. In his attempt to show an apparent contradiction Shabbir has mischievously rearranged the order in which the verses were intended to be read in order to force a contradiction, which doesn’t exist.

  1. Are we to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2), or are we to bear only our own burdens (Galatians 6:5)?

(Category: misread the text)

The question is asked: ‘Who will bear whose burden?’ Galatians 6:2 and 6:5 are compared, one says each other’s, while the other says your own.

There is no contradiction here at all. This is not a case of ‘either/or’ but of ‘both/and’. When you read Galatians 6:1-5 properly you will notice that believers are asked to help each other in times of need, difficulty or temptation; but they are also called to account for their own actions. There is no difficulty or contradiction in this, as the two are mutually inclusive.

  1. Did Jesus appear to twelve disciples after his resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:5), or was it to eleven (Matthew 27:3-5; 28:16; Mark 16:14; Luke 24:9,33; Acts 1:9-26)?

(Category: misread the text)

There is no contradiction once you notice how the words are being used. In all the references given for eleven disciples, the point of the narrative account is to be accurate at that particular moment of time being spoken of. After the death of Judas there were only eleven disciples, and this remained so until Matthias was chosen to take Judas’ place.

In 1 Corinthians 15:5 the generic term ‘the Twelve’ is therefore used for the disciples because Matthias is also counted within the Twelve, since he also witnessed the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, as the passage pointed out by Shabbir records in Acts 1:21-22.

  1. Did Jesus go immediately to the desert after his baptism (Mark 1:12-13), or did he first go to Galilee, see disciples, and attend a wedding (John 1:35, 43; 2:1-11)?

(Category: misread the text)

This apparent contradiction asks: ‘Where was Jesus three days after his baptism?’ Mark 1:12-13 says he went to the wilderness for forty days. But John ‘appears’ to have Jesus the next day at Bethany, the second day at Galilee and the third at Cana (John 1:35; 1:43; 2:1-11), unless you go back and read the entire text starting from John 1:19. The explanation about the baptism of Jesus in John’s Gospel is given by John the Baptist himself. It was “John’s testimony when the Jews of Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was” (vs. 19). It is he who is referring to the event of the baptism in the past. If there is any doubt look at the past tense used by John when he sees Jesus coming towards him in verses 29-30 and 32. While watching Jesus he relates to those who were listening the event of the baptism and its significance. There is no reason to believe that the baptism was actually taking place at the time John was speaking, and therefore no reason to imply that this passage contradicts that of Mark’s Gospel.

  1. Did Joseph flee with the baby Jesus to Egypt (Matthew 2:13-23), or did he calmly present him at the temple in Jerusalem and return to Galilee (Luke 2:21-40)?

(Category: misunderstood the historical context)

This supposed contradiction asks: ‘Was baby Jesus’s life threatened in Jerusalem?’ Matthew 2:13-23 says yes. Luke 2:21-40 appears to say no.

These are complementary accounts of Jesus’ early life, and not contradictory at all. It is clear that it would take some time for Herod to realize that he had been outsmarted by the magi. Matthew’s Gospel says that he killed all the baby boys that were two years old and under in Bethlehem and its vicinity. That would be enough time to allow Joseph and Mary the opportunity to do their rituals at the temple in Jerusalem and then return to Nazareth in Galilee, from where they went to Egypt, and then returned after the death of Herod

  1. When Jesus walked on the water, did his disciples worship him (Matthew 14:33), or were they utterly astounded due to their hardened hearts (Mark 6:51-52)?

(Category: didn’t read the entire text)

This seeming contradiction asks: ‘When Jesus walked on water how did the disciples respond?’ Matthew 14:33 says they worshiped him. Mark 6:51-52 says that they were astounded and hadn’t understood from the previous miracle he had done when he fed the 5000.

This again is not a contradiction but two complementary passages. If Shabbir had read the entire passage in Matthew he would have seen that both the Matthew account (verses 26-28) and the Mark account mention that the disciples had initially been astounded, thinking he was a ghost. This was because they had not understood from the previous miracle who he was. But after the initial shock had warn off the Matthew account then explains that they worshiped him.

Conclusion:

In conclusion, once we have weighed the evidence, many if not all of the seeming contradictions posed by Shabbir Ally can be adequately explained.

When we look over the 101 supposed contradictions we find that they fall into 15 broad categories or genres of errors. Listed below are those categories, each explaining in one sentence the errors behind Shabbir’s contradictions. Alongside each category is a number informing us how many times he could be blamed for each category. You will note that when you add up the totals they are larger than 101. The reason is that, as you may have already noticed, Shabbir many times makes more than one error in a given question.

Categories of the errors evidenced by Shabbir in his pamphlet:

-he misunderstood the historical context – 25 times
-he misread the text – 15 times
-he misunderstood the Hebrew usage – 13 times
-the texts are compatible with a little thought – 13 times
-he misunderstood the author’s intent – 12 times
-these were merely copyist error – 9 times
-he misunderstood how God works in history – 6 times
-he misunderstood the Greek usage – 4 times
-he didn’t read the entire text – 4 times
-he misquoted the text – 4 times
-he misunderstood the wording – 3 times
-he had too literalistic an interpretation – 3 times
-he imposed his own agenda – 3 times
-he confused an incident with another – 1 time
-we now have discovered an earlier manuscript – 1 time

It must be admitted that we have in certain places followed explanations or interpretations that are not specifically stated in the text. This is entirely permissible, as the explanations must merely be plausible. It is clear that the gospel authors are writing from different points of view, adding and leaving out different details. This is entirely to be expected when four authors write independently. Far from casting doubt on their accounts, it gives added credibility, as those details which at first appear to be in conflict can be resolved with some thought, yet are free from the hallmarks of obvious collusion, either by the original authors or any subsequent editors.

This testifies to the honesty and openness of the scribes and translators (both Jewish and Christian). Although it would be easy to change this recognized error, this has not been done in favour of remaining true to the manuscripts. Although it leaves the passage open to shallow criticism as Shabbir Ally has shown, it is criticism which we are not afraid of.

In Shabbir’s booklet, he puts two verses on the bottom of each page. It would seem appropriate that we give an answer to these quotes, which are:

“God is not the author of confusion…” (1 Corinthians 14:33)

True, God is not the author of confusion. There is very little that is confusing in the Bible. When we understand all the original readings and the context behind them, the confusion virtually

disappears. Of course we need scholarship to understand everything in there, as we are 2,000 – 3,500 years and a translation removed from the original hearers.

But this is no different to the Qur’an. On first (and tenth) readings of the Qur’an there are many things which are not apparent. Take the mysterious letters at the beginning of the suras. It seems that after 1,400 years of scholarship, people can only take a good guess at what on earth they might be there for. Or take the many historical Biblical characters whose stories do not parallel the Bible but seem to originate in second century Talmudic apocryphal writings. This is indeed confusing. However, it is because we can go to the historical context of those writings that we now know that they could not have been authored by God, but were created by men, centuries after the authentic revelation of God had been canonized.

“…A house divided against itself falls” (Luke 11:17)

The Bible is not divided against itself. Jesus was talking about a major division, i.e. Satan destroying his own demons. This is far removed from the Bible. A book four times the size of the Qur’an, with the remaining problems able to be counted on your fingers and toes, a 99.999% agreement! That indeed is remarkable!

We conclude with two quotes of our own:

“The first to present his case seems right… till another comes forward and questions him” (Proverbs 18:17)

“…our dear brother Paul also wrote to you with the wisdom that God gave him….His letters contain some things that are hard to understand which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction” (2 Peter 3:15-16)

Bibliography:

Archer, Gleason, L., Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, 1994 Revised Edition, 1982, Zondervan Publishing House
Bivin, David, & Blizzard, Roy, Jr., Understanding the Difficult Words of Jesus, Revised Edition, Destiny Image Publishers, 1994
Blomberg, Craig, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels, IVP, Leicester, 1987
France, R.T., Matthew, Tyndale IVP, 1985
Fruchtenbaum, A. ‘The Genealogy of the Messiah’. The Vineyard, November 1993, pp.10-13.
Geisler, Norman & Howe, Thomas, When Critics Ask, Victor Books, Wheaton, Illinois, 1992
Haley, John, W., Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible, Whitaker House, Pennsylvania
Harrison, R.K., Old Testament Introduction, Tyndale Press, London, 1970
Keil, C.F., and Delitzsch, F., Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, 20 vols. Reprint, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1949
McDowell, Josh, Christianity; A Ready Defence, Harpendon, Scripture Press Foundation, 1990
Morris, Leon, Luke, Tyndale Press, 1974 (1986 reprint)
The True Guidance, Part Two, (‘False Charges against the Old Testament’), Light of Life, Austria, 1992
The True Guidance, Part Three, (‘False Charges against the New Testament’), Light of Life, Austria, 1992

Related articles

Muhammad

Allah