© R. Paul Buchman 2010

FALSE CONTRADICTIONS



 1. Translation Differences

The following two verses from the King James Version are called a contradiction by some people:

 The young Samuel did / did not know who the LORD was.

1SAM 3:1, "And the child Samuel ministered unto the LORD before Eli. And the word of the LORD was precious in those days; there was no open vision." (KJV)
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1SAM 3:7, "Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, neither was the word of the LORD yet revealed unto him." (KJV)

How could young Samuel have ministered to the Lord if he didn't know who the Lord was? This is a situation in which looking at multiple translations was helpful. It turned out that this "contradiction" was the result of the way the KJV translated the two verses. For example, the New American Bible translation clarifies the problem:

 1SAM 3:1, During the time young Samuel was minister to the LORD under Eli, a revelation of the LORD was uncommon and vision infrequent. (NAB)

1SAM 3:7, At that time Samuel was not familiar with the LORD, because the LORD had not revealed anything to him as yet. (NAB)

The Tanakh's translation agrees with the New American's:

1SAM 3:1, Young Samuel was in the service of the LORD under Eli. In those days the word of the LORD was rare; prophecy was not widespread. (TAN)

1SAM 3:7, Now Samuel had not yet experienced the LORD; the word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him. (TAN)

These non-KJV translations clearly show that 1SAM 3:7 does not mean that Samuel was unaware of who the LORD was. Rather, it means that Samuel had not yet had personal contact with the LORD. So this is really not a contradiction, and I did not include it in my list. This is a good example of the value of using multiple translations for reference. There are many others.

 

 2. False Assumptions

Herod was dead / alive when Jesus was an adult.

MAT 2:1, Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king,

MAT 2:19-20, But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, Saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child's life.
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MAR 6:4, But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house. . . . 16-18, But when Herod heard thereof, he said, It is John, whom I beheaded: he is risen from the dead. For Herod himself had sent forth and laid hold upon John, and bound him in prison for Herodias' sake, his brother Philip's wife: for he had married her. For John had said unto Herod, It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother's wife. . . . 21 And when a convenient day was come, that Herod on his birthday made a supper to his lords, high captains, and chief estates of Galilee;

  The false assumption is that these verses all refer to the same "Herod." MAT 2:1 and MAT 2:19-20 refer to Herod the King (also known as "The Great"). If you know a little history of the Herods, you know that MAR 6:4 refers to Herod Antipas, the "tetrarch," rather than King Herod the king, even though the verse does not explicitly say so.

 Herod the king ruled Judea and the entire region surrounding it. After he died, his kingdom was split into four parts, each part ruled by one of his sons as a "tetrarch," not a king. In his book, Luke makes it clear which Herod he is writing about.

LUK 3:19, But Herod the tetrarch [Antipas], being reproved by him for Herodias his brother Philip's wife, and for all the evils which Herod had done, 20 Added yet this above all, that he shut up John in prison.

This occurred before Jesus' death.

BUT ...

ACT 12:1-2, Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church. 2 And he killed James the brother of John with the sword.

 This occurred after Jesus' ascension, so it may refer to Agrippa, Herod the king's grandson, who was first a tetrarch, then a king (see below).

NOTES:

Herod the Great, Roman-supported King (Ethnarch), 37-4 BCE (see Herod genealogy and also here)

After Herod the Great died, his kingdom was divided into four parts, each with a different ruler (tetrarch). Three of those were sons of King Herod:

After Agrippa I died there were also these rulers:

The confusion of the different Herods in Mark, Luke and Acts is one good example of the usefulness, and one might say the necessity, of reference material showing genealogies and the reigns of the kings of Israel and Judea. There are many other examples in which this is also the case. A timeline of the kings of Judah and the kings of Israel is most helpful when trying to untangle the many contradictions from the books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles. One big reason is that Judah and Israel both had kings named Ahazia, Jehoash (or Joash), Jehoahaz, and Jehoram (or Joram). Worse, part of the reigns of at least one set of same-named kings overlapped. Also, many names vary only slightly from other names (e.g., Ahaziah/Amaziah/Azariah and Jehoiakim/Jehoiachin). The lineages and reigns are so confused in the Bible that, without an expert's timeline, it's nearly impossible to determine the "real" contradictions from the false ones.

 

 3. Out of Context or Misread the Text

The following example shows what can happen when verses are taken out of context.

The people of Samaria did / did not fear the Lord. [H, 242]

2KIN 17:34 Unto this day they do after the former manners: they fear not the LORD (KJV)
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2KIN 17:41 So these nations
feared the LORD, and served their graven images (KJV)

The people referred to in these verses were not the Jews who originally inhabited Samaria. What really happened is that Samaria was conquered by the king of Assyria and the Samaritans were taken to Assyria. Then the king repopulated Samaria with people from other nations who had other gods. At first the newcomers worshiped only their own gods. Then, after some misfortune, the king sent a Jewish priest back to Samaria to teach them how to worship the Jewish god. After that, the transplants worshiped both Yahweh and their own gods. So, in a sense, they did and did not worship the LORD as he was supposed to be worshiped.

2KIN 17:23 ... So was Israel carried away out of their own land to Assyria unto this day. 24 And the king of Assyria brought men from Babylon, and from Cuthah, and from Ava, and from Hamath, and from Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the children of Israel: and they possessed Samaria, and dwelt in the cities thereof. 25 And so it was at the beginning of their dwelling there, that they feared not the LORD: therefore the LORD sent lions among them, which slew some of them. ... 28 Then one of the priests whom they had carried away from Samaria came and dwelt in Bethel, and taught them how they should fear the LORD. ... 33 They feared the LORD, and served their own gods, after the manner of the nations whom they carried away from thence.

 

 4. Ignorance

  The following is a popular "contradiction" which can be found on many Internet lists.

The pigs drowned in the sea / lake.

MAR 5:13 And forthwith Jesus gave them leave. And the unclean spirits went out, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the sea, (they were about two thousand;) and were choked in the sea. (KJV, NAB) [NIV: "lake"]
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LUK 8:33 Then went the devils out of the man, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the lake, and were choked. (KJV, NAB, NIV)

This is not a contradiction. The Sea of Galilee was previously called the Lake of Gennesaret (and before that, the Sea of Chinnereth). Source:The New Oxford Annotated Bible, Maps 2, 10 & 12.

 

OTHER FALSE CONTRADICTIONS

(1) Here is another popular "contradiction" found in the lists of many skeptics.

Ishmeelites / Midianites brought Joseph into Egypt. [H, 339]

or,

The Midianites sold Joseph to the Ishmeelites / Potiphar. [H, 339]

GEN 39:1, And Joseph was brought down to Egypt; and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him of the hands of the Ishmeelites, which had brought him down thither.

GEN 37:28, Then there passed by Midianites merchantmen; and they [Joseph's brothers] drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ishmeelites for twenty pieces of silver: and they brought Joseph into Egypt.

GEN 37:36, And the Midianites sold him into Egypt unto Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh's, and captain of the guard.

GEN 45:4, And Joseph said unto his brethren, Come near to me, I pray you. And they came near. And he said, I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt.

From the cited verses, it does indeed appear that the Bible frequently confuses Ishmeelites and Midianites. Apologists usually resolve the issue by saying that the two groups are one and the same. After researching this issue, I am obliged to side with the apologists.

The Midianites occupied the east coast of the Gulf of Aqaba before the Ishmeelites existed. Ishmeelites eventually took over Arabia and the Sinai. The Ishmeelites' territory was called Kedar, named after one of Ishmael's sons (Genesis 25:13), and included the territory of the Midians. (Source: OAB, Maps 3 & 7). The verses from Genesis quoted above appear to confuse the Midians and Ishmeelites, but Judges 8:22-24 appears to confirm the thesis that the two were used interchangeably.

JUDG 8:22  Then the men of Israel said unto Gideon, Rule thou over us, both thou, and thy son, and thy son's son also: for thou hast delivered us from the hand of Midian. 23 And Gideon said unto them, I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you: the LORD shall rule over you. 24 And Gideon said unto them, I would desire a request of you, that ye would give me every man the earrings of his prey. (For they had golden earrings, because they were Ishmaelites.)

 

 (2)

Rachel was buried in Ephrath / Zelzah.

GEN 35:19  And Rachel died, and was buried in the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem.
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1SAM 10:2  When thou art departed from me to day, then thou shalt find two men by Rachel's sepulchre in the border of Benjamin at Zelzah;....


OAB, Map 4, shows a "Zela" in between Bethel (which is where Jacob & Rachel were coming from) and Ephrath (Bethlehem).

 

 (3)

Jacob was buried in a cave / sepulcher.
GEN 50:13, For his sons carried him into the land of Canaan, and buried him in the cave of the field of Machpelah, which Abraham bought with the field for a possession of a buryingplace of Ephron the Hittite, before Mamre.
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ACT 7:15-16, So Jacob went down into Egypt, and died, he, and our fathers, And were carried over into Sychem, and laid in the sepulchre* that Abraham bought for a sum of money of the sons of Emmor the father of Sychem.

* The NAB translates sepulchre as "tomb."

A sepulcher is a tomb, grave, or burial place. A cave can be a sepulcher or tomb.

 

(4) The following is a contradiction in the KJV only. This is another example of the value of using multiple translations.

"The sure mercies of David" vs. David's barbarisms.

ACT 13:34,  And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David. (KJV)

ACT 13:34, The fact that God raised him from the dead, never to decay, is stated in these words: “ ‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings promised to David.’  (NIV)

ACT 13:34, And that he raised him from the dead never to return to corruption he declared in this way, "I shall give you the benefits assured to David." (NAB)


(5)

God's enemies should be forgiven / will be avenged.

MAT 5:44,  "But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;"

MAT 6:15,  "But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." [THESE ARE ABOUT MAN'S ENEMIES.]
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LUK 18:7-8,  "And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?"

ROM 12:19,  "Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord." [THESE ARE ABOUT GOD'S  ENEMIES.]

This is not a contradiction. God will avenge; men should forgive.

 

(6) "Respect" in the KJV does not have modern meanings: esteem, honor. I have annotated the KJV examples below. The more recent Tanakh translation shows several different meanings for words which were rendered "respect" by the King James translators.

God does / does not respect some people. [H, 81]

GEN 4:4,  "And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering:" ["paid heed" - Tanakh]

EXO 2:25,  "And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God had respect unto them." ["took notice" - Tanakh]

LEV 26:9,  "For I will have respect unto you, and make you fruitful, and multiply you, and establish my covenant with you." ["look with favor" - Tanakh]

2KIN 13:23,  "And the LORD was gracious unto them, and had compassion on them, and had respect unto them, because of his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and would not destroy them, neither cast he them from his presence as yet." ["turned back to them" - Tanakh]

PSA 138:6,  "Though the LORD be high, yet hath he respect unto the lowly: but the proud he knoweth afar off." ["sees" - Tanakh]
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DEU 10:17,  "For the LORD your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward:" ["shows no favor" - Tanakh]

2SAM 14:14, "For we must needs die, and are as water spilt on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again; neither doth God respect any person: yet doth he devise means, that his banished be not expelled from him." ["will not take away the life"; footnote: "meaning of Hebrew uncertain" - Tanakh]

2CHR 19:7,  "Wherefore now let the fear of the LORD be upon you; take heed and do it: for there is no iniquity with the LORD our God, nor respect of persons, nor taking of gifts." ["favoritism" - Tanakh]

Also note,

1SAM 2:30,  "Wherefore the LORD God of Israel saith, I said indeed that thy house, and the house of thy father, should walk before me for ever: but now the LORD saith, Be it far from me; for them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed" [KJV]

1SAM 2:30, "Assuredly---declares the LORD, the God of Israel---I intended for you and your father's house to remain in My service forever. But now---declares the LORD---far be it from Me! For I honor those who honor Me, but those who spurn Me shall be dishonored." [Tanakh]

 

(7)

There was / was not more than one language before the Tower of Babel.

GEN 10:5  By these were the isles of the Gentiles divided in their lands; every one after his tongue, after their families, in their nations. ... 25  And unto Eber were born two sons: the name of one was Peleg; for in his days was the earth divided; and his brother's name was Joktan. ... 31  These are the sons of Shem, after their families, after their tongues, in their lands, after their nations. (KJV)
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GEN 11:1  And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech. (KJV)
"If you read all of Genesis 10 (a genealogy of the descendents [sic] of Noah), the answer to this apparent dilemma is right there.  Let me give you an example: 'And unto Eber were born two sons: the name of one was Peleg; for in his days was the earth divided; and his brother's name was Joktan.  And Joktan begat Almodad, and Sheleph, and Hazar-maveth, and Jerah,' (Genesis 10:25-26)  There are people included in these genealogies who lived after the Earth was divided by the Tower of Babel. This is why these passages make mention of certain people having different languages, even though these passages are included before the mention of the Tower of Babel. Not a contradiction." - kingdavid8

So the apologist is saying that the two verses in question do not appear in the Bible in chronological order. The Bible completes the genealogy before starting the Babel story. The genealogy includes people who were born both before and after the division of language. The way it's worded, "in his days was the earth divided" makes sense, especially coming so close to Genesis 11:1. - p.b.