The enemy of our souls used in the past, and continues using, all the means at his disposal to neutralize our main weapon, the sword of the Spirit that is the Word of God.
Shortly after it was completed, and its 66 books approved and accepted by the majority of the Christians towards the end of the first century after Christ, according to the evidence of the oldest manuscripts, the devil sowed doubts on its origin and tried to include other books in order to provoke confusion. But the Holy Spirit preserved His sword through the millennia and it remains undamaged until today in our hands.
Following the plans of the enemy, the apostate institutions, supported by public authorities, hid the Bible during centuries so that the people could not identify the innumerable heresies that they created and taught. When hiding the Truth, they increased their power over lost souls, imposing their control as the means of salvation in substitution of the Gospel of the grace of God.
But God demonstrated His mercy by raising courageous servants who, under risk of their own lives, translated the Holy Scriptures into the language of the people, and spread them at accessible prices, work which continues until today, now reaching even primitive people who are taught to read and write in order to be able to read them in their own language.
The enemy did not accept defeat. He induced new sects to propagate incorrect translations to move away to himself the incautious, and to put in doubt the text truly inspired by the Spirit of God. At the same time, he is driving a campaign to discredit the sacred text, using the false science based on ridiculous theories of evolution, and opinions spread by cynical and unbelieving people, putting in doubt Biblical stories which, they proclaim, cannot be taken seriously in our modern age of science and technology.
The statements found in the Bible concerning light before the sun existed, a universe created in six days, a serpent and a donkey that spoke, the sun apparently going backwards, an Earth that has pillars and ends, dragons, miracles, and many other supernatural things seem ridiculous in the light of modern science! They are absurd from the materialistic point of view.
We cannot omit placing in our considerations the creative, perpetual Being, infinitely superior in everything to the human being, who was planned and created by Him. Having God created the universe and everything that exists in it, as well as the “natural” laws that govern it, it is also perfectly logical that He is able to transgress and even revoke these laws, as well as transform or destroy the universe that He created.
The attack of the enemy on the feared sword of the Spirit, however, intensifies when he accuses it of containing contradictions. If a genuine contradiction really exists in the Bible, in principle it ceases to be the true Word of God, because it is not admissible that a work of direct inspiration by the Holy Spirit can have some error. This is a serious attack, and we must be prepared to know well and to defend the Bible against such allegations.
It is easy to evidence that the majority of the “Biblical contradictions” presented to us, in reality are not contradictions, but only misunderstandings on the part of who presents them. For example, the statements that Jesus descended from Adam and that Jesus descended from Noah can seem contradictory, but a small analysis will indicate that, as Noah descended from Adam, there is no contradiction at all.
Some imagined contradictions arise from the fact that certain words or expressions can be used in different senses, and it is even possible to have contrary statements. For example, a man can be free and imprisoned at the same time. This would be because he is not in chains, but is tied down by his work. The explanation invalidates the contradiction.
To be a contradiction, it is necessary to have an affirmation and a denial of the same affirmation, both concerning the same occasion, and relative to the same fact and to the same circumstances. Many supposed contradictions will disappear when submitted to a test where all these factors are considered.
One of the most known suggested “contradictions” is in respect of the justification of Abraham: was it due to his faith and not his works (Romans 4:2,3), or was it because of his works and not his faith (James 2:21-24)? Would this really be a contradiction? No, because these statements relate to different aspects. Paul is dealing with the relationship of Abraham with God, before Whom Abraham was justified by faith, whereas James is speaking of his witness before men, who see the works of Abraham and so justify him, as they are the evidence of his faith. There is no contradiction.
Another “difficulty” is to understand how the Bible can declare that the Lord is the only God (i.e. Isaiah 45) and, at the same time, that there are three persons: the Father (Galatians 1:1), the Son (John 20:28) and the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:3-4). However, there is no contradiction: as to His nature, God is one only, but He exists as three Persons, which is still perfectly logical. The statements concern different aspects.
Some so-called “contradictions” are generated by a false quandary, for example, if some writers of books of the Bible claim to be their authors (Luke 1:3, John 21:24), how can Paul teach that it was all inspired, word for word, by God (2 Timothy 3:16)? It is suggested here that both cannot be right, so it has errors. But it is a false quandary, because nothing hinders the Holy Spirit from impelling men to write using His words (2 Peter 1:21).
The lack of attention to context also can make one allege that there is a “contradiction” between two texts. The classic example is: the Bible says: “In the beginning God created…” (Genesis 1:1) and “there is no God” (Psalm 14:1). Obviously it is not a contradiction, much on the contrary, because we see in the context of the statement of the psalm that who exclaimed this stupidity was a fool, which is incoherent, dull, and ignorant. It is a characteristic of the Bible that sometimes it records sayings, behaviours and events that it does not approve of. They are not told as examples to be followed, so they are not contradictions of Biblical doctrine.
Discernment must be used to distinguish between concrete facts and figures of speech, as both are found in the Bible. The figures of speech appear more in poetical books, but they are found also in some prophecies. Ends and pillars are attributed to earth (Job 9:6, Isaiah 41:9), and to heaven (Jó 26:11, Jeremiah 49:36), and the apparent movement of the sun over the earth is mentioned, but this is not a geology or astrology lesson. Even today we still speak of the “four corners of the earth” and of the “rising” and the “setting” of the sun.
Figures of speech are also used in the parables of the Lord Jesus. One does not have to give more attention to details than is necessary to understand the teaching contained in them. For example, when He told the parable of the mustard seed He not giving a lesson in botany - without a doubt He was aware that there were even smaller seeds, but they weren’t common or even known by His listeners like the mustard seed that He used as an illustration.
In the Bible we also find rules of a general order and exceptions. For example, homicide is condemned, and the murderer must pay for his crime with his own life, but there are exceptions in the case of self-defence, of the execution of criminals by the legal authority of the country etc. There is no contradiction. Also many of the general principles, like those found in the book of Proverbs, are normally applicable, but care must be taken not to generalise them in an inflexible way.
Finally, the ungodly always look out for reasons to justify their behaviour, of which the discredit with respect to the Word of God is only one. But we know who is fomenting the attacks made against it, because the devil knows that the Bible is a powerful weapon in the hands of every believer who knows how to handle it well “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15).
Let us know how to use well this powerful weapon that God has given us!
The Bible was inspired, word for word, God (2 Timothy 3:16), therefore it is the absolute truth and it does not contain errors of any kind.
However we do not have the originals with us any longer, because of the millennia gone by since its 66 books were written, by many different authors and at distant intervals, and it would be practically impossible to keep its content untouched, through its many copies, until today. Furthermore, the words themselves disappear from use or gain new meanings, so that the originals would probably be incomprehensible to a reader in our days, even if they could be preserved in their original form.
The vast majority of readers use translations made from other languages, and in these translations it is not always possible to find a word which expresses exactly the same meaning as the original, giving rise to inaccuracies and even errors. In the multiplicity of versions of the Bible used today in Portuguese, we can find some which are evidently tendentious, where its editors have twisted the translation to support their doctrinal line. In others, edited to fit into reduced vocabularies and so facilitate reading, it has not been possible to transmit exactly the original meaning of some expressions.
The enemy makes use of these arguments to raise doubt on the authenticity of the text of our Bibles, suggesting that, if imperfections exist, it becomes manifest that they cannot be of divine origin and cease to be trustworthy.
In the preservation of the purity and the perfection of the original writings throughout the centuries, of the copies and the translations, the most important factor has been the action of God, in the person of the Holy Spirit. It is manifested to us in many ways, such as:
Vestiges of stories of the Flood and of people mentioned in the Bible since the times of Noah, are being found by archaeologists in Mesopotamia, which prove that the book of Genesis was written by people who had knowledge of the facts told there. Its author, inspired for the Holy Spirit, was Moses, according to many passages of the Old as well as the New Testaments. Without doubt his intellectual preparation in Egypt, as well as the libraries he had access to in his time, turned him into a well informed and skilful scribe.
The care taken by the Israelite scribes, who with deep reverence and extreme care counted even the smallest signs used in writing, when checking the copies with the originals (see Matthew 5:18). The Lord Jesus quoted the Old Testament in His days, thus giving it full authenticity.
This same care with the Old Testament in Hebrew and Aramaic continued after the time of Christ with Jewish scribes dedicated to its conservation and transcription. Of the books of the New Testament there are more documents in evidence, from the time in which they were written, than any another literature of the same age. There are more than five thousand manuscripts in the original Greek, eight thousand translations into Latin, and many manuscripts of translations into other languages to certify their legitimacy.
The harmony found between all the books collected into what we know as the Bible certifies the reality of a divine Author and His care in its preservation.
The reverence towards the divine Author is also revealed in many publications of the Bible (distinguished by being the first book to be printed by Gutenberg, inventor of modern typography) and in its translations made by His servants. Such is their quality that translations of the Bible have been frequently used even for didactic purposes in schools because of their grammatical perfection.
The most highly regarded philologists of old Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, the languages in which the originals were written, and of which copies are kept, are Jewish or Christian and they are dedicated to keeping the translations up to date and faithful to the originals, by means of periodic revisions. Spurious translations cannot be prevented, but they can be fought by means of comparison with those that are trustworthy.
The detractors of the Bible, in their effort to point out contradictions, make incorrect assumptions that the incautious or badly informed are capable of accepting. For example:
1. The first day of the feast of unleavened bread,
2. The seventh day of the week.
The contradiction does not exist in the Bible; it is about the difference between a very old tradition and what we can gather from the Biblical record.
They allege other apparent contradictions in the description of details found in the writings of the Evangelists, such as:
Abiathar and Ahimelech: Abiathar was son of Ahimelech (1 Samuel 22:20), and Abiathar also had a son called Ahimelech (2 Samuel 8:17). The Lord Jesus said that David and his friends had entered in the house of God and had eaten the showbread in the days of Abiathar the high priest (Mark 2:26), but in Samuel 1.21 we are told that the priest mentioned in the episode is Ahimelech. But there is no contradiction, because both Ahimelech and Abiathar were priests and in the record made by Samuel we are not told Ahimelech was the high priest - the word of the Lord Jesus prevails, without a doubt.
The Gadarenes with unclean spirits: Mark and Luke are concerned with the cure of one man (Mark 5:2-16, Luke 8:27-33), and Matthew says there were two (Matthew 8:28-32). Obviously Matthew included another one that also was involved. There is no contradiction; Mark and Luke do not say that there was only one.
The circumstances of the resurrection of Jesus Christ: the facts told in the four Gospels seem not to be in agreement with each other. But there are no contradictions when making a careful study, side by side, of the stories: they are not coincident, yet they are perfectly complementary (see a harmonization in Portuguese here).
There are still some rare and slight variations between the thousands of old manuscripts of the Bible. None of them is of any importance, consisting, for example, in differences in numbers, in spelling, in a word or in the construction of a phrase. In the majority of the cases, it is easy to tell from the context which must be the original.
Some contradictions may appear as a result of problems in translation. It is generally because the language into which a word is translated does not have a word to accurately express the meaning of the original, and the word chosen may have been used also to translate another word with another meaning, used somewhere else. For example, the word “love” in Portuguese is used to translate three words with different meanings in Greek - in this case there are accessible dictionaries where the correct meaning of the original may be found.
These contradictions, if there are any, certainly did not proceed from the Author, for He is not responsible for the deficiencies of the languages into which His Word was translated. It is important to note that the original languages, Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, are of the most expressive, so much so that Hebrew and Greek are currently used today, adapted for our time.
19 And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts;
20 knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation,
21 for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.
Second letter of Peter, chapter 1, verses 19 to 21