Contradictions in the Bible - will be the open discussion topic for Bible study on Thursday, 5/14/20 at 7:30. All are welcome to join us - even if you'd just like to listen!
Here are some questions to guide our conversation, or your own thinking through this topic:
Does the Bible contradict itself?
Does it matter? When?
Do the contradictions bother you?
Are they not contradictions but something more complicated?
Does the Bible/its authors care that there are contradictions?
Which contradictions come to mind or bother you?
What do you think God thinks?
Here's some background/resources:
So . . . have you ever come across or been faced with something that at least appeared to be a contradiction in scripture? How did you feel about it? Did it bother you, or no big deal?
Not to beat around the bush, the first issue is to consider whether you believe that there are contradictions in the Bible or not. Simply put, I, Pastor Brett Davis, say YES, absolutely there are contradictions in the Bible! (Scroll down to the accordion/drop-down menus for some examples.) For a number of reasons, the Bible is far from internally consistent, especially when "proof-texting," pulling out a lone verse to compare with another, or even regarding some larger themes. It's simply a truth of history that the Bible can be directly cited to support completely opposite claims.
Now, this sets me apart from doctrinal positions of some other Lutherans, including the entire denominations of the Lutheran Church Missouri-Synod (LCMS), and Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS). This isn't to say that the ELCA has one singular view of this issue.
A good, quick overview of what the ELCA generally believes is here, Diane Jacobsen's "What Lutherans Think about the Bible," in which she writes:
Jacobsen also said: “I take joy when scripture contradicts itself, because this indicates that God’s truth is far more complicated than my truth. If we use it to make life easy, we betray how scripture makes truth work.” Scripture does not offer us easy answers, but instead requires us to take part in the hard work of interpreting God’s word for today’s concerns.
What do you think??
I also find helpful this explanation from Martin Marty's Lutheran Questions, Lutheran Answers, to the question "Are there Errors in the Bible?"
Bill helpfully shared this blog from scholar Bart Erhman on "The Historical Significance of Contradictions."
Some important questions to consider is - does the Bible, or individual author/community even care or know that they might be contradicting something else?
Can it be something more complicated than flat contradiction?
What genre is this writing? How might it use language?
(FYI/background: this Bible Chronology compiled by Bill is helpful to know the history and timeline.)
Dig even deeper and consider as a contrast to a straight factual analysis, the dialogic approach to scripture as Peter Enns describes in this video below, regarding wrestling with what the Bible says - and why it doesn't just say one thing:
Contradictions - or are they? Just a few examples - which ones can you think of?