One counter-argument to the doctrine of the Bible's divine inspiration is to point out the many logical inconsistencies within the text. Examining contradictions is also a useful tool to argue against Biblical literalism and the belief that every word of the Bible is equally true. When the Bible can be shown to be in contradiction with itself, it casts doubt upon the idea that it is entirely true.
The God of the Old Testament seems to be very different from the God of the New Testament. The Old Testament God is wrathful and bellicose, but the New Testament God promotes love and peace.
For example, God tells the Israelites, “Of the cities of these people which the Lord gives you as an inheritance, you shall let nothing that breathes remain alive.” (Deuteronomy 20:16) God commands the complete destruction of thousands of people because they were sitting on Israel’s promised land. Moreover, Joshua tells the Israelites that God, “is a jealous God; He will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins. If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then He will turn and do you harm.” (Joshua 24:19-20) This God is jealous and threatens punishment, even extreme curses (Deuteronomy 28:15), for those followers who disobey him. He also forces a pharaoh of Egypt to reject Moses’ offering of peace, causing thousands of Egyptians to be ravaged by plagues and killed by an angel of death. (Exodus 4:21, 9:12)
However, the God of the New Testament preaches peace. Jesus says, “But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” (Matthew 5:39) And he later says, “And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.” (Matthew 5:40). Clearly Jesus promotes peace over war in these passages. He is not threatening or jealous, but loving and full of mercy.
Clearly, these two testaments present a God with a conflicting character, or even two completely different gods altogether.
According to 2 Chronicles, King Manasseh ruled for 55 years over Jerusalem. Both 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles agree that Manasseh was an evil king who did wrong in the sight of God. However, the contradiction in his story lies in the fact in 2 Kings, Judah is destroyed because of Manasseh's sins which God did not pardon, while in 2 Chronicles, Manasseh asks the Lord for forgiveness and the Lord does grant him pardon.
"Surely at the commandment of the Lord this came upon Judah, to remove them from His sight because of the sins of Manasseh, according to all he had done, and also because of the innocent blood that he had shed...which the Lord would not pardon." (2 Kings 24: 3-4 NIV)
In this quote we see that Judah is being attacked because of Manasseh's sins, and it is clear that the Lord did not pardon these sins. However, Chronicles tells a different story.
"Now when he [Manasseh] was in affliction, he implored the Lord his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, and prayed to Him; and he received his entreaty, heard his supplication, and brought him back to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God." (2 Chronicles 33:12-13 NIV)
Clearly there is a contradiction here. Either Manasseh asked for forgiveness and God granted it to him, or Manasseh was not pardoned for his sins. See God's Word in Human Words, p. 104, by Kenton Sparks for more information on this contradiction.
According to Genesis 1:24-26, God creates the animals of the land, then creates man in his own image. There is a clear order here where God “made the wild animals according to their kinds…and God saw that it was good. Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our own image…so that they may rule…over all the creatures that move along the ground.” God makes mankind in his own image, creating them male and female (v.27).
However, in Genesis 2 God forms man out of dust, puts him in the Garden of Eden and says, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him” (v.18). The following verse says that “now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals,” which is ambiguous at face value in terms of whether these animals were created prior to Adam’s creation in concordance with chapter one, or if the animals were created in response to God’s recognition of Adam’s need. Regardless, as it turns out, no suitable helper was found for Adam amongst the animals (v. 20). “So the LORD God caused the man to fall asleep, and while he was sleeping he took one of the man’s ribs…then God made a woman from the rib” (v.21-22). Eve then becomes the “suitable helper” for Adam.
The obvious logical contradiction resides on when exactly, according the second account, the animals were created. It seems that the statement “but for Adam no suitable helper was found” suggests that the animals were created in order to meet Adam’s need for a companion, just as Eve was created after the animals failed to meet that need.
Perhaps a more nuanced contradiction resides in the roles of the animals which according to the first account are to be mere subjects to the man’s dominion, whereas in the second account they are possible candidates for companionship with Adam. Lastly there seems to be a sharp contradiction between God’s character in the two distinct accounts.
In the gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus, during the Passover, goes to the temple and clears out the merchants in the temple courtyard. this occurs at towards the end of his ministry, closer to the time of his death. However, in the book of John, Jesus does this "temple cleansing" at the beginning of his ministry. There is an obvious contradiction here regarding the time of this particular event.
Calvin attempted to harmonize these contradictory accounts by claiming that these accounts demonstrate that there were in fact, two separate occasions where Jesus drove out the merchants. However, this view is inadequate to explain how the accounts are almost identical with similar details. Furthermore, most biblical scholars agree to the fact that certain gospel writers were aware of and most likely read previously written bibles. It is highly likely therefore, that one of the gospels should have both accounts if Calvin's claim is true, but this is not the case.
Jesus's Second Coming Promise
In Matthew 16:28, which has corresponding verses in Mark and Luke, Jesus says, "Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” There is a logical contradiction here since Jesus has not come back even 2000 years later and everyone who was "standing there" in the time of Jesus has died. There have been some attempts by scholars and even later books in the Bible to address this conclusion. However, the problem still exists, since there is no obvious sense in which Jesus' words here are true. Furthermore, Paul, the great evangelist and disciple of Jesus understood these words literally.
- A List of Biblical Contradictions, by Jim Merritt. Library, Infidels.org
- Biblical Contradictions, American Atheists website.
- Bible Inconsistencies: Bible Contradictions?, by Donald Morgan. Library, Infidels.org
- Contradictions in the Bible, Skeptic's Annotated Bible website.
- Internal consistency of the Bible, Wikipedia
- Biblical Contradictions, Evil Bible