Is The Bible Contradictory


Is the Bible contradictory? 

When we think about the Bible, it’s important to remember that it’s not just one book; it’s more like a library of sixty-six books written across hundreds and hundreds of years. We believe that the Bible was inspired by God, but written by humans – humans who lived in different cultures, writing in different genres and styles, and dealing with different cultural issues across time. Sometimes they wrote poetry, sometimes they wrote narratives, sometimes they wrote explanatory letters, and other times they wrote down apocalyptic or prophetic visions that they had. 

A lot of times, when we think the Bible is contradictory it’s because we’ve taken one verse, or one idea, and pulled it out of its context. 

The Bible Project, which has some great thinkers and Bible researchers, says: 

Cherry-picking Bible verses is a problem no matter where you’re coming from. When Christians take singular Bible verses out of context, we miss their place in the storyline of the Bible and, therefore, misunderstand their significance and meaning. However, many people who seek to undermine the authority of the Bible do the same thing: pick out verses to make a point and ignore their context in the story of the Bible.

How does this fit in the whole story?

When we come across separate verses (a Bible verse is just a way to assign numbers to sentences so they’re easy to find) that seem contradictory, we should ask ourselves, “How does this verse fit into the whole story of the Bible?” or “is the way this verse is being used consistent with the rest of Scripture?” 

Cherry-picking verses from Scripture has led to pain and trouble for people throughout history, and it can lead to the Bible being used as a weapon instead of what it really is: the story of God pursuing the people that he made and loves, restoring and rescuing us from the power of death and evil. 

It’s common for people to suggest that the Bible holds contradictory positions on slavery, but once you start to dive deeper into the entirety of the Bible, you realize that slavery is never preferred, is very different than the race-based slavery that happened in the United States, and is heavily regulated by the Law God gave to his people in the Old Testament. In fact, slave owners in the United States actually removed large portions of the Bible (90% of the Old Testament was removed, 50% of the New Testament was removed) because slave owners thought that if slaves read the full Bible, they would rebel because of what they read! 

Others point out that the Bible is contradictory in its statements about women and their roles in the life of the church. On first glance, it’s easy to understand what they mean. It seems like Jesus loves and empowers women, but then it seems like Paul, who wrote much of the New Testament, holds anti-women beliefs. 

After all, Paul says things like: 

Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church (1 Corinthians 14:34-35). 

So what does the Bible really say about women? 

Some people have used the verse above to diminish women’s roles in the life of the church, but is that what Paul really wanted to communicate? 

A good number of scholars think that in the verse above, Paul is quoting what the men in the Corinthian church had said, and is going to prove them wrong!  

A Larger Story

Remember, we should always read verses from the Bible in light of the larger story. Write after this verse Paul says: 

Or did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached (1 Corinthians 14:36)?  

Paul seems to be calling the men in the Corinthian church out and refuting their position. It also wouldn’t make sense for Paul to say that women aren’t allowed to speak in the churches, because earlier in the letter, Paul provides instructions for men and women when they pray and prophesy (deliver a word from God) in the church. This means that Paul expected women and men to speak and teach in the churches, and didn’t believe that women should stay silent. 

Throughout the letters that Paul wrote to New Testament churches, Paul lists numerous women whom he calls his “coworkers” or “co-laborers.” He frequently refers to women as his equal! In fact, when we read Paul’s letters, we realize that while there are a handful of verses that can be taken out of context to limit the roles of women, there are many, many more to show Paul’s support of women leading, teaching, and serving in churches!  

Whenever we come across verses in the Bible that seem like they contradict, we should always dig a little deeper to see how that verse really fits into the whole story that the Bible is telling. 

Luke Stehr

Luke Stehr

Christ-follower. Husband. Dad. Community Engagement Coordinator.

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