Are There Contradictions in the Bible?

Copyright (c) 2004, David A. Duncan, All Rights Reserved

The following is a list of alleged contradictions in the Bible. Many atheist and skeptic groups host lists such as these, attempting to disprove the Bible by such lists. The vast majority of such claims are based either on failing to identify word meanings and/or contexts correctly, or pointing out copyist errors in numbers.

Claim Text 1 Text 2
Beasts made before man vs. after man. And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, ... and God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness" Gen 1:25,26  And the LORD God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; ... And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam ...  Gen 2:18-20
7 of each clean beast vs. 2 of each clean beast Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and his female (Gen 7:2) Of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark (Gen 6:19)
Not Kill vs. Kill Thou shalt not kill (Ex. 20:13) Thus sayeth the LORD God of Israel, "Put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbour". (Ex. 32:27)
700 or 7,000
horsemen vs. footmen
And the Syrians fled before Israel; and David slew the men of SEVEN HUNDRED chariots of the Syrians, and forty thousand HORSEMEN, and smote Shobach the captain of their host, who died there. (2 Sam 10:18) But the Syrians fled before Israel; and David slew of the Syrians SEVEN THOUSAND men which fought in chariots, and forty thousand FOOTMEN, and killed Shophach the captain of the host. (1 Chron 19:18)
Who Moved David? And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel (1 Chron 21:1) And again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, "Go, number Israel and Judah" (2 Sam 24:1)
Michal childless vs. 5 sons Therefore Michal the daughter of Saul had no child unto the day of her death. 2 Sam 6:23 The five sons of Michel the daughter of Saul, whom she bare for Adriel. 2 Sam 21:8
Get Wisdom vs. God will destroy Wisdom Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding. (Prov 4:7) For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. (1 Cor 1:19)
Jesus the son of Heli vs. Jacob Jesus .. the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli. (Luke 3:23) And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus. (Matt 1:16)
Returned from Jerusalem to Galilee vs. went to Egypt And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth. (Luke 2:39) When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt: And was there until the death of Herod. (Matt 2:14,15)
Hate is Evil vs. Hate is required by God Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him. (1 John 3:15) If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26)
Third hour vs. sixth hour And it was the third hour, and they crucified him. (Mark 15:25) About the sixth hour ... they cried out, "Away with him, away with him, crucify him". (John 19:14,15)
kill children for the sin of fathers vs. not kill children for the sin of fathers Prepare slaughter for his children for the iniquity of their fathers. (Isa 14:21) The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin. (Deut 24:16)

When these purported contradictions are investigated, the evidence is that the great majority of the purported contradictions have no basis for such a claim.

The small number which are based on copyist errors are not questions of contradictions, but are questions concerning the reliability of the text.  None of these copyist errors question any of the doctrines taught in the Bible, and are far less than copyist errors in other documents of antiquity. 

The vast majority of copyist errors are in the Old Testament, and do not materially affect the reliability of the document. Actually, the independent historical records of the Chronicles and Kings allow us to detect these discrepancies.  The New Testament record is attested to not only by a great number of manuscripts with some reaching to within a few years of the autographs, but there is the record of many church fathers -- many quoting passages which have been preserved as an independent record of the reliability of the scriptures. 

The Christian faith is secure, documented, and better attested by far than any other document of antiquity.  For more information, see the FAQ: Is The Bible Reliable?

-- David A. Duncan