Please don’t ask me…How can you trust the Bible when it is so full of myths and contradictions? Part 1

Tim BurganSermons

I want to start today with a story

 

PT: Some time ago the mother of a dear friend of ours was killed. We first learned of her death through a trusted mutual friend, who reported…

 

Person 1: “Our friend’s mother had been standing on a street corner waiting for a bus, had been hit by another bus passing by, was fatally injured, and died a few minutes later.

 

PT: Just a few minutes later the grandson of the woman who had died gave this report

 

Person 2: My grandmother was involved in a collision, was thrown from the car in which she was riding, and was killed instantly.

 

PT: The boy was quite certain of his facts, relayed them clearly, and stated that he had secured his information directly from his mother—the daughter of the woman who had been killed.

 

Who was telling the truth? Which story should we believe?

 

Many people who have problems with the Bible are only saying so because of what they think they know, the information they have in hand…a great way to help them is to ask them, “Specifically what problems do you have? What passages in particular bother you?

 

Most people have only heard the Bible can’t be trusted or only heard there are lots of contradiction to it but don’t have anything in particular they can point to

 

When they do have particular issues, many times it stems from issues that seem to be contradictory like the report of the woman’s death. Did she die on the street corner or in a car? By the way, this is a true story…more about this later

 

When people begin to read the Bible they look at the Gospels and wonder, “why four books about the same things?” Then as they begin to read they see seeming contradictions that my raise doubts in their hearts, supposed contradictions like these

 

Case #1: What was really written on the cross above Jesus’ head? Every Gospel says something different.

  • Matthew 27:37 says, “And over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.”
  • Mark 15:26 says, “And the inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.”
  • Luke 23:38 says, “There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”
  • John 19:19 says, “Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.”

 

Case #2: How many angels were at Jesus’ tomb after the Resurrection?

 

  • Matthew 28:2 mentions one angel. “And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it.”
  • Mark 16:5 says there was “a young man” in the tomb. “And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed.”
  • Luke 24:4 mentions two men clothed in dazzling robes. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel.

 

Case #3: How many blind men greeted Jesus outside Jericho?

 

  • Matthew 20:30 says two, and neither is named. “And behold, there were two blind men sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!”
  • Mark 10:46 mentions one, named Bartimaeus. And they came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside.  

 

Case #4: How many demon-possessed men did Jesus meet in the region of the Gadarenes?

 

  • Matthew 8:28 says Jesus met two. And when he came to the other side, to the country of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men met him, coming out of the tombs, so fierce that no one could pass that way.
  • Mark 5:2 mentions one. And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit.  

 

Case #5: How many donkeys did Jesus ride on as he entered Jerusalem?

 

  • Matthew 21:7 mentions two, a donkey and a colt. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them.
  • Mark 11:7 And they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it.

   Luke 19:35 And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it only mention one, a colt.

  • This raises another issue: is the prophecy in Zechariah 9:9 wrong because it mentions both a donkey and a colt, and therefore supports Matthew but seems to contradict Mark and Luke

 

Case #6: Did the centurion outside Capernaum ask Jesus to heal his servant, or was it someone else who came to Jesus?

 

  • Matthew 8:5 says it was the centurion. When he had entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to him, appealing to him,
  • Luke 7:3-6 says the centurion sent two Jewish elders, then some friends, to speak to Jesus on his behalf. When the centurion heard about Jesus, he sent to him elders of the Jews, asking him to come and heal his servant. 4 And when they came to Jesus, they pleaded with him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy to have you do this for him, 5 for he loves our nation, and he is the one who built us our synagogue.” 6 And Jesus went with them. When he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends, saying to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. 

 

Case #7: How did Judas die?

 

  • Matthew 27:5 says he went out and hanged himself. And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself.
  • Acts 1:18 tells us he fell, and “his body split open, spilling out all his intestines.” Now this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness, and falling headlong he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out.

How do we answer people when they bring up these or similar seemingly contradictions?

 

We recognize that we are only getting part of the story, the eyewitness are only reporting what they thought were important or the details that they paid attention to rather than everything that was going on at the time. Often when we get a fuller version of the story seemingly contradictory details make sense in light of the broader understanding of the story

 

Let’s go back to our story…was someone lying? Was someone making things up? Both eyewitnesses were people of integrity. The best posture in light of this information is to think, “Somehow I’m not getting the full story so let’s wait and see what more information develops.

 

Here is what actually happened

 

We learned that the grandmother had been waiting for a bus, was hit by another bus, and was critically injured. She was then picked up by a passing car to rush her to the hospital—but in the haste, the car in which she was being transported to the hospital collided with another vehicle. She was thrown from the car and died instantly.

 

As with this story the Bible is full of accurate, trustworthy accounts, at least this is the basis of our belief as Christians so as we look further into the contradiction we know there is truth that will clarify any contradiction

 

Let’s look at the contradictions I mentioned earlier

 

Case #1: What was really written on the cross above Jesus’ head? Every Gospel says something different.

 

We see a consistency with all of the accounts being “King of the Jews”

 

The sign most likely said “This is Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews which means each of the accounts were accurate just not complete. Secondly we are told in John 19:20 that the sign was written in three different languages which could also account for the differences in recording “Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek.”

 

Cases 2-5 the numbers of angels, demonized people, blind men, or animals let me present a thought.

 

If I walked out of the sanctuary this morning and said there is a chair in the sanctuary I would be correct. If someone else walked out of the sanctuary and said there are 270 chairs in there, they too would be correct, they are just giving more detail then I did. I didn’t say there was only one chair in the sanctuary. Using the angels as a example

 

In the story of the Resurrection, where two angels appear, there is obviously also one angel present; the text doesn’t say “one and only one angel.” Matthew and Mark, who mention one angel speaking, are giving partial details; Luke adds a bit more by also mentioning another angel. And when Mark says “a young man,” he’s describing one angel’s appearance (Luke does this as well when he mentions “two men . . . clothed in dazzling robes”). two blind men, two demonized men, a donkey and its colt all mean that there was one there and there was an additional person but to some of the authors only the detail of the one was important to them

 

Case #6: Did the centurion outside Capernaum ask Jesus to heal his servant, or was it someone else who came to Jesus?

 

In cases of authority a delegate can be sent to speak with the authority of another person. We see that today when the President is quoted as saying something when in reality it was an aide or press secretary or someone else given the authority to speak on the president behalf. The centurion’s quote gives credence to these differences when he says Matthew 8:8,9

 

“Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

 

It is very easy to see that an emissary(s) of the centurion very well could be speaking in his authority and that a Roman soldier would send emissaries of Jewish leadership to speak on his behalf to a powerful Rabbi/prophet. It would be more politically correct in this day.

 

Case #7: How did Judas die? Hanging or falling

 

It is totally possible that both accounts are extremely accurate. Keep in mind our story of the grandmother. Let me share with you a very plausible explanation to unite the two accounts

 

Realizing that he had betrayed the very Son of God and refusing to come to God for grace and forgiveness, Judas decided to do the unthinkable. He went out to a field and found a tree at the top of a rocky cliff, hastily threw a rope over a branch, secured one end of the rope to the tree, and tied the other end around his neck. As his final destructive act, he swung himself out over the precipice. [This squares with the account in Matthew 27:5.] But then, whether before or after dying of strangulation, either the rope or the branch broke, and his body went tumbling down onto the rocks below, disemboweling him in the process and ensuring his demise if he hadn’t passed away already [thus explaining the record in Acts 1:18].

 

I hope that this sampling of some of the so-called contradictions gives you an idea that if an honest reading of the scripture can occur every contradiction can be reconciled.

 

Something to think about as scribes copied the letters and Gospels that could have easily tried to reconcile these seeming contradictions but instead chose to leave them in just as they were. That’s a strong argument for how carefully the biblical text was transmitted throughout the centuries and is another reason why we can trust its accuracy.

 

Don’t worry if your friends have found other things they believe to be mistakes or contradictions in the Bible. There are some great tools for you to use to help bring clarity two I would recommend are

 

1) Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe’s The Big Book of Bible Difficulties

2) Gleason Archer’s New International Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties

 

with what I have shared today and the use of either of these books you can easily help your friends resolve and conflict they might perceive.

 

As I mentioned earlier

 

Many people who have problems with the Bible are only saying so because of what they think they know, the information they have in hand…a great way to help them is to ask them, “Specifically what problems do you have? What passages, in particular, bother you?

 

Most people have only heard the Bible can’t be trusted or only heard there are lots of contradiction to it but don’t have anything, in particular, they can point to

 

When they do have particular issues, many times it stems from issues that seem to be contradictory. I have given you some tools today to help you clarify some things regarding the supposed contradictions. Some times people hope the Bible is not true because if not, then they don’t need to be accountable for anything that is in it but if it is true then they are accountable for everything that is in it!

 

If you remember this quote from Mark Twain

 

Mark Twain:  “It ain’t those parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand”

 

Depending on how close you are with your friend, You might want to ask them…”Is there something in your life you are afraid you will have to change or give up if the Bible is proven to actually be the Word of God?”

 

If they begin to answer this question, listen completely and intensely, don’t interrupt. With compassion, love, and wisdom

 

As always we have to work from a point of love…they don’t know what they don’t know…so love them to the truth.

 

Next week we will answer

 

Please don’t ask me…How can you trust the Bible when it is so full of myths and contradictions? Part 2 and deal with some myths about the Bible like

 

– How can one religious book be right and all the others wrong? Isn’t it more likely all contain some truth, and all contain some error?

– The New Testament consists of carefully chosen books, banning others that shed light on the real Jesus of history

– Even if it was accurate at first, the Bible was copied and translated so many times that it surely has been corrupted

– The Bible was written too far after the events actually happened to be considered reliable

– The Bible is very old and was written by gullible, illiterate people; therefore, we can’t trust it