A 30 year old young man recently told his mom, he can’t share her confidence in the Bible as God’s Word anymore because, in his words, “The Bible is full of contradictions.” What can we say about all these alleged contradictions in Scripture? How should we answer?
This mom, who loves the Lord, gave a perfect response to her son. She asked, “Can you tell me which specific contradictions you’re talking about?” This is a good response because all too often people hear that the Bible has contradictions but they don’t know of any specific ones themselves. It’s always good to point that out. But this young man actually had an alleged contradiction in mind, so at least now, this mom could see if there is a good explanation for this so-called biblical problem.
The allegation her son raised is that Genesis 2 gives a second, contradictory version of the creation account found in Genesis 1. Of course, the creation story is not contradictory but rather it becomes more and more specific. So, Genesis 1:1 gives the big general statement, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” or God made the whole universe. Then from Genesis 1:2-2:3, it gives more details, describing how God made the world in six days. In the next passage, from Gen 2:4-24, it gets even more precise, describing the events of only the 6th day of creation.
But critics will object that on the third day of creation, God is said to have made vegetation, seed bearing plants and fruit bearing trees (Gen 1:11-13). But in Genesis 2:5, describing the 6th day, it says “No shrub of the field had yet grown on the land, and no plant of the field had yet sprouted . . . and there was no man to work the ground.” So what gives? The answer is fairly simple; on the third day of creation God made wild vegetation and trees, plants that renewed themselves. On the 6th day, the text says there were no shrubs of the field, which the Hebrew indicates to be a reference to troublesome plants, like weeds, thorns, and thistles — plants that would only develop after humanity’s fall. Also, there were no plants of the field, a reference to cultivated plants. These did not exist yet because man had not yet been created to work the fields. So on the 3rd day there was only uncultivated vegetation but by the time we get to the 6th day, it only says that neither weeds nor cultivated plants existed yet. So, this major contradiction is . . . really nothing at all.
Besides asking someone to specify their alleged contradictions, it’s also helpful to remind people to “keep the main thing, the main thing.” When people tell me that they used to believe the Bible but no longer do so because of the contradictions, I always ask them to think about the resurrection of Jesus. There’s great evidence for the resurrection, evidence that proves Jesus is both Messiah and Lord. That’s more important than arguing about alleged contradictions. And as Messiah and Lord, Jesus said, God’s “Word is truth” (John 17:17). Since the tomb is really and truly empty, we can trust Jesus’ words about the Scriptures.
Finally, I’d caution people confused by the alleged contradictions of Scripture not to trust the anti-Bible, anti-God, atheist websites. These sites present their arguments as if they were some new discovery, as if no one had ever seen or addressed these challenges before. Of course, for generations, Bible scholars have given good and clear answers to these alleged problems of Scripture. Also, these websites, while aware that there are good answers to their criticisms, fail to address them. It only would require doing a little research. Anyone confused by these atheist websites need to remember that these websites are not driven by a pure desire for truth, but rather, they are all about trying to hurt the faith of people who aren’t aware that there are good answers to criticisms of Scripture.
It’s heartbreaking for parents, who love the Lord, to hear their adult children fall prey to attacks on God’s Word and deny the faith with which they were raised. But here’s the great reminder for any parent in that circumstance: The great Shepherd loves that child even more than the most loving parent. He cares and He’ll extend Himself to draw this straying sheep back to the fold. He may even use the answers you give about the alleged contradictions of Scripture.