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Saturday, May 20, 2006

Contradictions in the Bible?

Thanks to A Hermit for posing these questions:

Did God create the animals first , and then Man:


Genesis 1:25-27 And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And God said, Let us make man in our image.... So God created man in his own image.

Or vice versa?

Genesis 2:18-19 And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. 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 to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.

Here's a good one; Does God ever lie?

1 Kings 22:23
Now, therefore, behold, the Lord hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of these thy prophets, and the Lord hath spoken evil concerning thee.

2 Chronicles 18:22
Now therefore, behold, the Lord hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of these thy prophets.

Jeremiah 4:10
Ah, Lord GOD! surely thou hast greatly deceived this people.

Jeremiah 20:7
O Lord, thou hast deceived me, and I was deceived.

Ezekiel 14:9
And if a prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing, I the Lord have deceived that prophet.

2 Thessalonians 2:11
For this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie.

Or not?

Numbers 23:19
God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent.

1 Samuel 15:29
The Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent.

Titus 1:2
In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began.

Hebrews 6:18
It was impossible for God to lie.


Will I answer these questions? Yes! But first (now I am acting like a serial novelist or one of those History Channel hour-long programs where they tease you with an answer you don't get 'til right at the end) lets talk a bit about understanding the Bible. Because many questions like this will not even be questions to those who have applied certain principles to Bible reading and understanding. It is also very difficult to get full meaning and understanding from the Bible unless you are a believer able to be led by the Holy Spirit. But I mentioned that in an earlier thread, so let us drop that for now and move on.

The Bible was written progressively and is, in part, a series of legal documents.

Part of the Bible is a recording of covenants between God and man. A covenant is like a legal contract. God had an agreement in place with Adam and Eve and they broke it. That agreement was replaced by a covenant that was more or less in the form of a legal punishment, like a sentencing in court. Some call this the Adamic covenant. There was also the Noahic covenant, the Abrahmic covenant, the Mosaic covenant and of course the covenant you may wish to call the Messianic covenant. This New Covenant between God and man involves the redemption of mankind and the solution for the sin problem through the blood of Christ, by His death, burial and resurrection and the redemption of man through faith in that same Christ.

When you read the Bible, you need to remember which covenant was in place between God and man during the writing of the covenant. Just as an example, during the making of the Mosaic covenant, God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses to present to the people and they were to decide whether they would agree to follow them and follow the Law that God would give them. They agreed. During the time this covenant was in place that Law ruled and had to be followed to be part of God's people. But most of the Law that was in place during the time of this covenant was done away once Christ was risen, for a new covenant was in place.

Often people will quote verses from the Law which were part of the Mosaic covenant, not applicable today, and then ask questions about that verse as if it were directed to today's Christians.

The Bible is an historical document

There is much in the Bible that is, like a good news article, an accurate account of events that took place. In cases like this, people may make assertions that are not from God and may be in total disagreement with God, but they are recorded in the Bible as history rather than the teaching of God. For instance, in John 19:15 the Chief Priests are recorded as saying, "We have no king but Caesar!" Was God teaching that Caesar was king and to be revered? No. The writer simply recorded what was said by the priests, who were far more concerned about their political power and position than they were the will of God.

Context

By whom was the book written? When was it written? To whom was it written? When reading the Bible you need to consider these things in order to understand what God wants you to get from the passages. Knowing that Esther is a book centered in Persia then causes you to bring what understanding of Persian law and custom of the times into the understanding of the scripture in order to get the greatest insight into the various actions of the characters. In addition, understanding that the entire Bible is based in the Middle East/Asia/Mediterranean region helps you understand the teachings and the people even better. Example: Romans 12:20 -

"Therefore“ If your enemy is hungry, feed him;If he is thirsty, give him a drink;For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” "

As a young Christian, I thought that meant that by helping my enemy it would burn him emotionally, being conflicted by my actions and causing him guilt. That is how I first read this. I then supposed that the guilt and concern would bring him to Christ. Later, I learned that in that time and place the women would have a piece of pottery designed to hold hot coals. The family fire was a necessity, used to prepare the food in in certain times of the year heat the home as well. If you awoke in the morning and your coals had all gone out, this was an emergency! No one had matches and lighers and lighter fluid. So you would take the pot and go to a neighbor and ask for a few of their coals to be able to re-stoke your fire. They would, out of kindness, give you some of the coals. The woman of the house would then take the pot and balance it on her head and then carry the coals home to cook food for her family. So actually in this verse God is telling me that doing good in exchange for evil is like providing a necessity to my enemy. Is the other meaning a secondary meaning? I leave that to you to decide.

Prophetic passages and books

God uses a great deal of lyrical and symbolic language in the parts of the Bible that are prophetic. A careful study shows us the powerful and symbolic imagery in such passages are not to be taken literally. Otherwise the stars would already have fallen from the skies! It is God's style to use such language to express the power and importance of the prophetic utterances.

Poetic books like Psalms and Proverbs make use of imagery that is not literal as well. Few people have difficulty understanding this but it is worth mentioning.

The Bible is composed of sixty-six books, but it is one complete work

The Bible points to Jesus Christ and his sacrifice and propitiation and resurrection. In Genesis, for example, we see Abel making a blood sacrifice, for without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin. This is a type of Christ. Later Abraham is to sacrifice his son but God stops him and substitutes a ram caught by his horns.

Genesis 22:12-14 - "And He said, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”

Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son. And Abraham called the name of the place, The-LORD-Will-Provide; as it is said to this day, “In the Mount of the LORD it shall be provided.” "


(That phrase is, by interpretation, YHWH Yireh or as we would say, Jehovah Jireh.)

I love that part, since horns are a symbol of power, of kingly power, and/or of kingdoms in the Bible. The ram was a type of Christ and being caught by his horns, prefiguring the Prince of Peace and our King becoming our sacrifice and propitiation for sins. Kinda neat, I think.

In any event, the teachings and phrasing of the Old Testament help us understand the New, and vice versa, because it is all one work in total. You interpret the Bible by the Bible. Since much of the New Testament includes quotes, partial, quotes and paraphrases from the Old it is often easier than first thought.

Whereas the Bible was written progressively over time, it was planned and known by God from the beginning. It is written by several authors but in fact authored by God with men the willing scribes writing down the Word of God for Him. This is why this collection of sixy-six books, some written hundreds of years after the previous book, all form one cohesive whole.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Okay, there were a few preliminary thoughts concerning understanding the Bible. Now let us endeavor to answer A Hermit's two questions.

#1 - The Bible lays out the order of creation in Genesis chapter one and the first three verses of chapter two. In chapter two there is a man-centric review that is not concerned about the order of creation. In fact, in Genesis 2:18-19 is likely more a review of the way God thought of the situation and of course God did form the animals and birds out of the ground before He presented them to Adam. God knew there would be an Adam before He made Adam. Indeed, I am quite sure that God knew the animals would not be good as a life-partner or helpmeet for him. This was likely done to allow Adam to come to that conclusion as well and desire the partner who was to come, Eve. Obviously the writer of Genesis knew quite well what he had written in chapter one and was not suddenly confused during the writing of chapter two. For that matter, the original text is not broken down into chapters and the part we know as 2:18-19 was written at the same time as what we know as chapter one.

#2 - I first have to address Ezekial 14:9, for your translation is wrong. (God induces the prophet to speak but not the content of the speech. If you read the entire chapter you see that, in context, this is about those among the people who were ungodly idol worshippers.)

Also, remember, if a man is saying that God has deceived, it is true that the man said it but it does not mean that God has done it.

Jeremiah 4:10 is part of a dialogue between Jeremiah and God where Jeremiah is addressing God as a complaint. Jeremiah is almost, if you will, negotiating with God. He makes the accusation but it is untrue.

Both Kings and Chronicles refer to a spirit and not God himself.

The language of II Thessalonians 2:11 is actually that God helped strengthen their delusion once they chose it, much as He helped harden Pharoah's neck after Pharoah himself had chosen to harden it a few times before. It is like God decides to seal their rebellion or delusion but not as if He causes it. In no instance is God found to be lying. But if there is a lying spirit God may encourage it or amplify it in order to perhaps make the sides clear to all. As mentioned, God does this with rebellion as well, per Proverbs 29:1 -

"He who is often rebuked, and hardens his neck,
Will suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy."


It is a statement of fact and it is also and indication that God may "seal" one that is habitually rebellious or ungodly.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I did go to seminary and I have studied the Bible for many years. But I am not the fount of all wisdom and knowledge and will be glad for additions and/or corrections from other Bible students out there as well as the general flow of comments that may well result from this post.

One more note, I do read the Bible prayerfully and always hope for God to enlighten me about the passage I am reading for insights applicable to my life. If you seek truth, may God greatly bless your journey and particularly guide you to the best available final destination!

19 comments:

Mark K. Sprengel said...

oh lucky you. Someone went to an online "contradictions" list. *rolleyes*

Anonymous said...

"Indeed, I am quite sure that God knew the animals would not be good as a life-partner or helpmeet for him."

Although if you look at that genetics study suggesting some hanky-panky between (long, long ago) human ancestors and chimp ancestors, it sounds like some of us gave it a try . . .

. . . Although that interpretation of the results has been questioned, so who knows . . .

Dan "I meant I wanted a hybrid car!" S.

Anonymous said...

" Later, I learned that in that time and place the women would have a piece of pottery designed to hold hot coals. The family fire was a necessity, used to prepare the food in in certain times of the year heat the home as well. If you awoke in the morning and your coals had all gone out, this was an emergency! No one had matches and lighers and lighter fluid. So you would take the pot and go to a neighbor and ask for a few of their coals to be able to re-stoke your fire. They would, out of kindness, give you some of the coals. The woman of the house would then take the pot and balance it on her head and then carry the coals home to cook food for her family. "

This sounded a little iffy to me - rather like the 'the Eye of the the Needle was the name of a really narrow gate!' and similar explanatory attempts, so I looked around a bit. According to an essay on some bible software site (now that sounds reliable, doesn't it?)

"Calvary Chapel Pastor John Corson makes a claim, without footnote, that the coals of fire were to be considered a physical blessing from a neighbor:  
. . .
Neither of these cultural suppositions [the other one is that ancient Egyptians would walk around with trays of hot coals on their head as a sign of public contrition] bears much historical or archeological support.  In fact, Corson’s explanation is flawed if it is dependent on a cultural practice of Paul’s day, as stated.  Paul is quoting scripture most likely written by Solomon some thousand years prior.  The idiom must find its meaning in its original time.*"

* That doesn't really follow, though - Paul could have been interpreting it in light of his own historical milieu, one way or another.

So far I haven't been able to find anything online about hot-coal-holding pots balanced on heads in either general time frame, but that might mean that it just isn't online (not everything is, although it does seem that way sometimes) or that I'm searching poorly. But certainly 'heaping hot coals on somebody's head' is intuitivly appealing as a idiom about making someone feel embarrassment and shame.

*shrug*

-Dan S.

highboy said...

Dan: Did you know in my state of PA it is legal to fool around with an animal as long as it is not over 40 lbs?

As for the article radar, good post, and it makes me laugh this was brought up when evolutionists have been screaming all over your site that Genesis is not an historical book. If that is the case, this is a non-issue for them.

matt said...

Just blog-browsing and happened to notice your very well thought-out responses to some useful questions.

I'd like to make two comments.

Firstly, your argument that "God helped strengthen their delusion once they chose it" is supported elsewhere in Romans 1, where people make a decision to follow their own heart's desire and God then gives them over to their passions, etc. This is an excellent way of demonstrating the way God has complete control over things (it is HE who "gives them over"), yet there is still room for people to make their own choices in life i.e. we are not pre-programmed robots.

Secondly - and this is a general comment completely unrelated to the first point - I am aware of this widespread view among Christians that Genesis is historical and should all be read literally, meaning God created the world in 6 24-hr days and rested on the 7th. I just can't see it that way - it's possible of course, but I don't think the writer was making that point exactly. You yourself have alluded to reading the bible in context, and a large part of the context for the first three chapters of Genesis is the writing style: it is very repetitive and very much like reading an ancient poem, particularly chapter 1 and large parts of chapter 3 - quite different even from the rest of Genesis. I think the best lessons that can be taken from chapter 1 regarding creation are that (1) GOD created the world, i.e. it didn't just happen, (2) God did so by simply speaking, and by implication he is an incredibly powerful God (3) creation was given order: God over man over creation (an order man has been trying to reverse ever since!) and finally (4) man is the only thing made with God's likeness, making us very special in his eyes. Oh yeah, it was also "good", but see point (3) above.

I wish you all the best in your continued prayerful reading of the bible and perseverance in your Christian life.

radar said...

"But certainly 'heaping hot coals on somebody's head' is intuitivly appealing as a idiom about making someone feel embarrassment and shame."

I agree, Dan S. I found the custom in a small book published by a man who had spent years in the Middle East studying the customs of the people there and commenting on them in the light of Bible teachings. I have yet to find it among my several hundreds (thousands?) of books throughout my house. Yet in Paul's day it is possible that the custom was not yet fully established and he was, in fact, able to present two meanings with one phrase. I am comfortable with that thought.

radar said...

By the way, that there is similarity between humans and chimps is not a surprise. There is similarity between humans and ferns!

You would find a lot of similarity between the blueprints for a house and the blueprints for a yacht. Same design template, you see. Blueprint = DNA. Design indicates a designer. But of course many just cannot agree with this, as we all know. But from the point of view of a believer that God created, it would seem odd if the DNA from any creature did not have some similarities with any other creature.

Hawkeye® said...

Radar,
Another good post. Some Bible scholars believe that Genesis (especially the first few chapters) are a compilation of old legends sort of strung together. Since writing in those days was pretty sporadic, most people memorized stories and poems handed down to them from generations past.

If nothing else, it shows that writers were true to the word... putting it down exactly as it was told to them, and not trying to reconcile it with some other story for the sheer sake of harmony. The reader is then left to harmonize the the texts... And I think you did that in a very thoughtful way.

Anonymous said...

" I have yet to find it among my several hundreds (thousands?) of books throughout my house."

I know what you mean! : )

"But from the point of view of a believer that God created, it would seem odd if the DNA from any creature did not have some similarities with any other creature."

Why? Presumably God could have created each creature with a completely new genetic system, even, to say nothing of completely distinctive DNA. Indeed, that would be a glaring sign for scientists-to-come that life didn't have a common ancestor.

Was he in a rush or something? Did he have to contract creation out to low-skilled labor?

What's more, you get degrees of difference in DNA that, as far as we know, doesn't play a major role in what the organism looks or functions like. And the relationships these suggest match pretty well with the relationships suggested by examining both living creatures and the fossil record.

Why should DNA analysis work fine for a paternity test, but not here?

At this point, it would seem the most sensible conclusions are either that evolution happened, or that God really wants us to think it did.

-Dan S.

Anonymous said...

"There is similarity between humans and ferns! "

Yes. But less, iirc,than between humans and toadstools, a lot less than between humans and insects, a good bit less than between humans and fish, and a lotlot less than between humans and mice, and etc.

More, on the other hand, than between humans and E. coli, and a lot more than between humans and some of the things that grow in hot springs and such.

See here - not just the prettypretty picture, but the discussion - of possible problems, of new roads forwards, of current issues . . .

That's what science sounds like.



-Dan S.

creeper said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
creeper said...

"evolutionists have been screaming all over your site that Genesis is not an historical book. If that is the case, this is a non-issue for them."

We so-called "evolutionists" are not all one person, you know.

Besides, not all of Genesis is a historical book, certainly not the Creation part of it. The fact that it is inconsistent is not an issue for us, but should be for those who think it reflects literal truth.

A Hermit said...

The "coals of fire" bit is a perfect example of how the Bible acts as a Rorshach test; twist it around alittle, substitute a different translation for a word or two, or just invent a story to create an alternative interpretation and voila! the plain, clear admonition to "love your enemies and do good to those who hate you" becomes an argument for scorched earth warfare.

"Blessed are the Cheesemakers?"

A Disgusted Hermit

A Hermit said...

I know a thing or two about structural drawings(having spent fifteen years producing such both by hand and CAD) so this comment sent the coffee up my nose:

"You would find a lot of similarity between the blueprints for a house and the blueprints for a yacht..."

Remind me never to go boating with you Radar...

""God helped strengthen their delusion once they chose it" "

"Put a lying spirit in their mouths" is a long way from "strengthening" a pre-existing delusion...

I find a ot of the "explanations" for Biblical contradictions make Bill Clinton's legal parsing look like straight shooting.

In my experience the fact that the bible was progressively written, asserts historicity (but conflicts so badly with so much archeology), contains a mix of symbolic and narrative text, and consists of books chosen by a political commitee increases the number and strength of the contradictions in it. The more I studied it (concordance, lexicon and "harmony of the gospels" in hand) th emore I found that just didn't fit.

A Draughting Hermit

A Hermit said...

"#1 - The Bible lays out the order of creation in Genesis chapter one and the first three verses of chapter two..."


Radar, you're the one who's been insisting that the Bible is a reliable, accurate source of historical data; now you're trying to explain away an obvious contradiction by suppositions abou the authors' intent. You haven't dealt with the plain language of the text, which is clearly a contradiction.


"#2 - I first have to address Ezekial 14:9, for your translation is wrong."

Well, pick another one then, they all say the same thing in the end. The context argument seems weak to me; God ois warning against false prophets, yes, but he seems to be saying that he has deceived them himself.


"Jeremiah 4:10 is part of a dialogue between Jeremiah and God where Jeremiah is addressing God as a complaint. Jeremiah is almost, if you will, negotiating with God. He makes the accusation but it is untrue."

I'll give you this one, Jeremiah was a bit of a whiner...

"Both Kings and Chronicles refer to a spirit and not God himself."

But a spirit sent by God; God is the author of teh deception, just because he does it by proxy doesn't make it less His responsibility (kind of like your President sending my fellow citizens off to be tortured. Bush didn't beat Maher Arar with electrical cables himself; nor did any American, but it was Bush's policies that saw this innocent man sent to a Syrian torture room for ten months.../political rant...)

"The language of II Thessalonians 2:11 is actually that God helped strengthen their delusion once they chose it"

Shouldn't God be ionterested in revealing the truth instead of reinforcing an error? How is confirming someone else's error when you know them to be wrong any different from lying to them?!

"In no instance is God found to be lying."

Guess it depends on what the meaning of the word "is" is...

"But if there is a lying spirit God may encourage it or amplify it in order to perhaps make the sides clear to all."

Clear to all...except the people He's deceiving...sorry, this is still lying, and still a contradiction.

Sincerely

A Consistent Hermit

highboy said...

I just got done going through all this Bible "contradictions" stuff on my own site. These fishing expeditions to discredit God's Word never get old.

"Put a lying spirit in their mouths" is a long way from "strengthening" a pre-existing delusion..."

Putting the lying spirit in their mouths doesn't make Him a liar, the spirit himself said he would become a lying spirit, in order to bring about the ends God desired. Just like hardening Pharoah's heart in order to display His might to the Israelites and the world, and punish the Egyptians for their wickedness. Its really not that complicated.

""In no instance is God found to be lying."

Guess it depends on what the meaning of the word "is" is..."

I have yet to see a passage where God lied.

"Shouldn't God be ionterested in revealing the truth instead of reinforcing an error? How is confirming someone else's error when you know them to be wrong any different from lying to them?!"

2 Thess. 2:11 is easily explained by reading verse 12. See, you have to read the WHOLE Bible. Why did God send them strong delusion? Because they didn't believe, and took pleasure in sin. Also, when we read the WHOLE Bible, we see that God knows ahead of time who will accept or reject them, and those that accept Him are predestined to be conformed to the image of His son. Those that reject Him, will still be used to glorify Him whether they want to or not. This stuff is pretty clear when the entire Bible is taken into account, not limiting God's whole character to one or two verses, and reading it with intellectual honesty.

Does Ezekial 14:9 mean that God has actually decieved any of His prophets? The actual literal translation doesn't say "lie", it says "anything", and almost the entire book of Ezekial is a warning to Israel's prophets. God was tired of their believing lies, not the opposite.

Jeremiah 20:7 is also easily explained by continueing to read up to verse 12. And again, the actual translation is not "decieved" but "induced." I have a whole list of Bible "contradictions" on my own site. I'm impressed that radar found some new ones.

A Hermit said...

"See, you have to read the WHOLE Bible."

Way ahead of you there buddy; been there, done that, got over it.

Doesn't matter if God does his deceiving through third party "spirits"; if his behaviour and his purpose is to deceive (and it clearly is in those passages) than he is, in effect, lying.

And no amount of Clintonian parsing can make that go away.

highboy said...

"And no amount of Clintonian parsing can make that go away."

Way to stick your fingers in your ears buddy. The Bible, when read as a whole, as you claim to have done, does not contradict itself and that point has been explained rather clearly.

radar said...

a hermit, you don't want to know if God is real or if there are contradictions in the Bible. You want your lack of faith to be justified publically. Few Christians will buy it, nor should they. I offered a reasonable explanation for the so-called contradictions you listed and you don't want to hear it because of this reason: If the Bible is not full of contradictions, then it is a hermit and not God that has failed in the matter of a hermit's faith.