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Click HERE for Part 1 of this blog series.
Click HERE for Part 2 of this blog series.
Click HERE for Part 3 of this blog series.
Click HERE for Part 4 of this blog series.
Click HERE for an introductory YouTube video for Apologetics – Is the Bible Contradictory? (Part 5).
We’ve come to our final blog on contradictions in scripture. We’ll cover external contradictions in one blog so it will likely be the longest of the 5. We’ll cover archaeology, dating of materials, and science, both general and specific before we conclude.
It’s interesting how much faith we put in certain things these days and how easily we dismiss the overwhelming evidence from archaeology regarding the accuracy of the historical record of the Old and New Testaments. McDowell has said that our knowledge of the text has been increased because of the science of archaeology which, in turn, has strengthened confidence in the Biblical historical record. Even if someone doesn’t ultimately arrive at a position of faith, they should really view scripture’s history as generally accurate.
Many times there have been claims based on various criteria, including archaeology, of historical contradiction in the scriptures. Unfortunately for the sceptic, those claims have often come back to be shown false after newer discoveries. McDowell and Kreeft list a number of them, although not exhaustively. McDowell says that the following was once believed:
* Sargon didn’t exist
* Hittites were not significant (I assume in number)
* The Davidic Empire was not very extensive
* Belshazzar never existed
In fact, all of these were eventually found to be almost assuredly true so that these “supposed errors and contradictions are not errors at all.” Kreeft chimes in with his own example of the walls of Jericho. The claim was that the walls fell before the Jews came. However, Kreeft cites B.G. Wood’s work on the subject and says he has done a great job in showing, through archaeological evidence, that that was not likely the case, which has caused most skeptical scholars to withdraw their earlier claim.
Often, on a more scholarly level, whose details trickle down in basic form to the masses, there are objections to dating in terms of linear history. For example, McDowell has faced those who claim that there are words used in the Pentateuch that are too late in origin. If it can be shown that this is the case then it must be that the Pentateuch is not as old as we thought and was not written at least partially by Moses. However, once again, patience in archaeology shows the light. The word swh was once thought to be one of those words used in the Pentateuch thats origins were too late. However, recent discoveries of a Moabite stone show the word being used much earlier as scripture has long claimed.
Sometimes scholars have claimed that a prophetic writing was not written until after the fulfillment of scripture. As an evidentialist I’d like to note that this is extremely difficult to do regarding the resurrection, but I digress. Over and over again, these scholars and their presuppositional hermeneutic have been exposed. For example, as Kreeft has shown, it’s not good scholarship to claim Isaiah must have been written after the days of King Cyrus just because their presuppositions regarding the supernatural don’t include the ability to prophecy about the future. Presuppositions do not equal evidence.
We’ll end with a bang and talk more specifically about the popular external claim to the contradiction of science. Up for discussion is both general and specific scientific claims. Surely this is the one that has gotten most of the attention both explicitly while also residing in the back of the mind during other claims of contradiction. In discussing science and theology here, I would like to center on miracles.
Craig L. Blomberg, in his book, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels has mentioned that there is a paradigm shift that has taken place in the attitude of scientists from the 1930’s to today, largely due to quantum physics. Laws of physical nature that were once held absolutely are now seen more as regularities because physicists realize they can’t know the exact position and momentum of subatomic particles. This, Blomberg says, has introduced chance into the equation rather than strict law. Still, he cautions us not to take this idea too far since, on a larger level, things seem to be very predictable when it comes to the “laws” of nature. At a minimum, he concludes, miracles are not a violation of the law. Instead, they are an aberration from a regularity.
There is this idea sometimes that the ancients were people who believed in just about anything, even if it was irrational. Blomberg thinks people think that way because they are preconceived to view past people as having “primitive scientific understanding.” However, he gives a good example to say that even ancient people knew that you needed two parents to conceive and when you were dead for three days you were done with this life.
If God exists, then it logically follows that miracles can exist, too, says Blomberg. As we saw in archaeology, sometimes the evidence, both scientific and theological, may seem to contradict. However, more often than not, new scientific discoveries or advanced theology helps them to coalesce. One example of this, given by Blomberg is the theory in science that used to be held that the universe was eternally expanding. Now, scientists believe that the universe is both expanding and decaying towards entropy at the same time, which is an idea that can absolutely square with scripture. Blomberg quotes Peter Medawar’s book The Limits of Science to say that we should be abandoning our ideas that the supernatural is impossible because of scientific discovery.
What do we do when we read scripture or science and we see what appears to be a contradiction? I’m willing to say what many are not and that is that we should consider the idea that they actually do contradict. In my experience, I’ve eventually learned that they don’t, at least in any meaningful way, which has allowed me to have a great faith in both the Bible and science.
Arthur F. Holmes in his work, All Truth is God’s Truth, gives us some good pointers on how to proceed when we run into just this situation. First, we must make a careful analysis of the claim from both a scientific and a biblical perspective. Then, we must be sure we’re properly interpreting the facts. Finally, we must be sure we’re correlating science and scripture in the right way. Returning to our textual example of a “rising sun,” Kreeft shows pretty easily how we can eliminate the barrier to faith after reading this. A careful analysis of the textual claim clearly shows that there is no attempt to be scientific. Proper interpretation reveals the conversational genre being used. The only correlation between science and theology in this example is that there is a horizon and a sun in both while there is no evidence that scripture is trying to be both conversationally true and scientifically true at the same time. At all points within Holmes’ method we can see that the contradiction in the statement does not eliminate the possibility of inspiration, or even inerrancy, within the text.
In conclusion, I can’t say that there are no contradictions in the Bible for two reasons. Firstly, I think there are contradictions when we interpret across genre type, ignoring the context and overall message the author is trying to send. However, these hardly qualify for the type of allegations scripture often receives from its critics and it is certainly no reason not to take a long look at who Jesus really was and is. Secondly, I simply don’t know every claim for contradiction levied against scripture. While I’m not the type to flatly refuse to even consider the possibility, I have gained a great deal of confidence in the trustworthiness of scripture over the years during my careful study of its claims. After all that time, with as much of an open mind as I’ve been able to muster, I know of no contradictions in scripture that are outside of the type I’ve talked about regarding genre and context, so that I should abandon my faith. So, I remain a believer in what I see as the greatest apologetical evidence for the truth of Christianity. I believe in the historical bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ.
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 McDowell p. 18
 McDowell p. 20
 McDowell p. 21
 Kreeft p. 217
 McDowell p. 153
 Kreeft p. 217
 Kreeft p. 217
 Blomberg p. 106
 Blomberg p. 106
 Blomberg p. 105
 Blomberg p. 105
 Blomberg p. 107
 Blomberg p. 107
 Blomberg p. 108
 Holmes p. 59-60
 Kreeft p. 218