Contradictions in the Bible: What did Jesus say about it?

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Contradictions in the Bible: What Did Jesus Say About It?


Are there contradictions in the Bible? In a fascinating encounter, Jesus pointed out a contradiction in the Bible of that time (the Old Testament) and didn't even give an answer to the apparent contradiction he had raised...

This raises some interesting questions: why didn't Jesus answer this contradiction? Why didn't he give an answer to the skeptics and the critics? Why did he allow this apparent contradiction in the Bible to go unresolved, after he had raised the question himself? Wouldn't this lead people into doubt and uncertainty regarding the Bible, or even Jesus himself?

To give some background about this situation: Many of the people to whom Jesus was speaking were individuals who were trying to find contradictions in anything that Jesus said, in order to discredit his message. They were individuals who had already made up their minds - people who had closed their minds and hearts against the message of Jesus and were looking for any flaw, any seeming contradiction, any loophole they could find so that they could write him off.

Not only that, they wanted to discredit Jesus publicly, in a public humiliation. They wanted to turn everyone away from the message of Jesus. His influence was becoming too great, his message was winning too many followers. Anything they could find in an attempt to discredit him was fair game in this battle. No stone was left unturned, no possible route of attack was left unexplored. If they could catch him in a contradiction, a mistake, or a wrong statement of some kind they could bring him down.

What is fascinating is that a very similar crowd can be found today. There are people today who are very intent on finding contradictions in the Bible, looking for any possible avenue of attack in order to discredit the message of Jesus. For these people it is a political battle, a religious battle, a battle for influence. They want to discredit the message and the person of Jesus, by any means at their disposal. The message of Jesus is a threat to their lifestyle, a threat to their conscience, or a threat to their dearly held beliefs. A type of warfare has been declared, against the true message of Jesus Christ that is contained in the gospels.

So how did Jesus respond to such a crowd? First of all, he gave wise answers to a series of questions that they had proposed to him, so that they failed in their attempts to catch him in a contradiction or a misstatement. They were unable to trap him, unable to cause him to stumble in what he said.

Then he proposed some questions of his own to the crowd.

To provide a brief background to these questions proposed by Jesus: In the Old Testament there were two strongly contrasting streams of thought that could be found concerning the promised Messiah. One stream of thought pointed to a very earthly Messiah. The other pointed to a heavenly figure, a heavenly Messiah.

The earthly Messiah was going to be a "son of David." He was going to be a literal flesh and blood descendant of King David of the Old Testament.

The heavenly Messiah figure was supernatural, with qualities far beyond those of any mere human being.

With that in mind, we come to the statement of Jesus. The crowd was made up of the Pharisees, many of whom had been intent on trapping Jesus, as can be seen from the context. So Jesus then asked them a series of questions, raising an apparently unsolvable contradiction in the Old Testament:

"Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them this question: "What do you think of the Christ? Whose son is he?" They said to him, "The son of David."

He said to them, "How is it then that David, inspired by the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, till I put your enemies under your feet'? (Psalm 110:1). If David thus calls him Lord, how is he his son?"" (Matt. 22:41-45).

They could not answer him, in response to this question.

How could the Messiah be both David's son, and the Lord? This the Pharisees could not answer. No one could explain this contradiction (v46). They accepted Psalm 110 as a Scripture about the Messiah, yet they could not reconcile these two streams of thought, that the Messiah could be David's son, and yet Lord. And Jesus gave no answer to this question.

So, why did Jesus not answer this question for them? Why did he not explain himself or resolve the issue?

To answer that question, we need to consider that unusual scene.

The answer was actually standing right in front of them, yet they did not have the eyes to see it. Jesus, the Christ of God, was standing right in front of them. Jesus - who came to die for the sins of the whole world. Jesus was the revelation of the only true God, who came in love to a fallen world. Jesus stood before them, unknown, as the Savior who took on human nature, the one who came to express the love of GOD by taking the punishment for our sins......

Jesus himself was the fulfillment of both of the seemingly contradictory streams of thought from the Old Testament. (1) Jesus was fully human - he was a literal physical descendant of King David, from whose lineage would come the Messiah. (2) Jesus was also the Lord spoken of in Psalm 110, the divine Messiah promised in the scriptures. In a way that they could not have foreseen, Jesus was fulfilling both of these contradictory streams of thought, concerning the Messiah.

So why did Jesus not explain this? Why did he not give an answer to this seeming contradiction that he had pointed out? Why did he not show them the way?

Well, God has promised to teach the humble (Psalm 25:9). He will indeed guide the humble and teachable person, into his liberating truth. In fact, Jesus made this promise: "My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. If anyone's will is to do God's will, he will know whether the teaching is from God, or whether I am speaking on my own authority" (John 7:16,17). There were probably those in the crowd who later came to faith in Christ, perhaps after his death and resurrection.

But God is unable to lead the antagonists and the proud who oppose him. Many in the crowd that Jesus was dealing with had already made up their minds; they had already rejected Jesus and were in fact trying to trap him or discredit him by any means possible (Matt. 22:15). They had already rejected the living truth that was standing right in front of them.

For these people to try to trap Jesus with their questions, was like a few people with feeble candles trying to give out a little light of their own, while the sun itself was shining all around them in full strength.

That answer is still shining as brightly as the sun:  "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son, so that whoever believes in Him would not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).

This bright light is the revelation of God's love, for everyone in the whole world. God loved the world so much, that He gave a part of Himself, His own Son, so that whoever believed in Him would be forgiven of all sin and would live forever.

Why would anyone reject this? Why would anyone attack or seek to overthrow the greatest gift of love that has ever been brought to planet earth? The ignorance and stubbornness of human beings in this regard is truly amazing.

God himself brought this gift of love, not man. It did not come from man, or originate from man's knowledge. In fact when Jesus came, His teaching was so disruptive of the views of God that were held at the time, that he was crucified. But in the plan and foreknowledge of God, that crucifixion became the greatest symbol of God's love and mercy, and His willingness to forgive. All of us, because of our sins, need to see ourselves as part of that crowd that yelled, "Crucify him!"

Are people not aware of their own guilt and their sins? Do they not realize that they need forgiveness from God? Is there no humility, because of our shortcomings? Jesus and His loving sacrifice on the cross are what meet the need for forgiveness, in an incredibly beautiful way.

Over 700 years before Christ, Isaiah foretold the sufferings of Christ for our sins:


Surely he has borne our griefs,

and carried our sorrows,

yet we considered him stricken by God,

smitten by him, and afflicted.

But he was wounded for our transgressions,

he was bruised for our iniquities;

the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,

and by his wounds we are healed.

Each of us, like sheep, have gone astray,

each of us has turned to his own way;

and the LORD has laid on him

the sin of us all. (Isaiah 53:4-6)


How will you respond to the love of God, which was revealed as He sacrificed Himself for your sins? That is the ultimate question.


What about apparent contradictions in the Bible? God does have answers to apparent contradictions in the Bible. In fact, these answers include some of the richest areas of truth and discovery for the person who is humble and open to the truth. Yet to the proud or hard-hearted person who has closed their mind to the truth, no answer will be sufficient. To the skeptic, no answer will suffice. That is why Jesus refused to answer the hard-core critics of His day.

There are some apparent contradictions that are quite easily resolved, to a person with an open mind.

Other questions can be resolved after some more serious searching and investigation. Often, the surrounding context in one passage is different than the surrounding context in another passage, and that leads to a solution. "Quoting a person out of context" is a common strategy in today's political battles in order to misrepresent and discredit what a person says. But that strategy is as old as the hills...

Another common error is when someone confuses symbolic language in the Bible, with literal language. Sometimes literal language is used in the Bible, and at other times symbolic or figurative language is used. Discernment must be used to interpret these statements correctly. Even Jesus' disciples fell into this mistake at times, when Jesus spoke using symbolic language or a metaphor and the disciples interpreted it literally. Other mistakes in interpretation are also made, which are addressed in textbooks on biblical interpretation.  

And, there are some issues that the Bible doesn't address, specifically. These questions may remain unknown, for the present time. Yet they are as candles, flickering a feeble light, while all around them shines the brightness of the sun in full strength....

"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son, so that whoever believes in Him would not perish, but have everlasting life." John 3:16



M.A. Erickson


Copyright 2008 by M. A. Erickson / May be distributed, with correct attribution.




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* For a website which examines issues related to science, evidence for the resurrection of Christ, atheism, and other topics, see:





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