There are countless instances of apparent conflicts in the Christian
Scriptures (New Testament). Some are:
The identity of Joseph's father: At first glance, two gospels appear to disagree
on the identity of the father of Joseph:
Matthew 1:16 states: "...Jacob begat Joseph..."
Luke 3:23 states: "Joseph... was the son of Heli..."
However, there are a number of possible ways to harmonize these passages:
Joseph's father might have changed his name sometime during his life
from Jacob to Heli (or vice-versa). This is not unheard of in the Bible.
Paul was originally called Saul, for example.
Jacob could have been the name of Joseph's father. Heli could have
been his nickname, or vice-versa.
One of Jesus' parables: Another of hundreds of possible examples of apparent errors relates to Jesus' parable
about the mustard seed.
Matthew 13:31-32 quoted Jesus: "The kingdom of heaven is like to
a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: Which
indeed is the least of all seeds..."
Mark 4:31 states: "It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is
sown in the earth, is less than all the seeds that be in the earth."
In fact, there are many plants that produce seeds which are much
smaller than the mustard plant. So, some argue that these passages prove
that the Bible is errant. However, the mustard seed may have been the smallest seed
that Jesus' audience would have been aware of. So, Jesus might have used the
mustard seed as an example that was familiar to his audience. Thus, there is not necessarily
a conflict between these verses and reality.
Judas' death: One of the most frequently cited "errors" in the
Bible relates to the events causing the death of Judas:
Matthew 27:5 states that he committed suicide by
Acts 1:18,written by the same author who wrote
the Gospel of Luke, describes how he fell down so that his body
broke open and intestines gushed out.
At first glance, there appears to be a contradiction: death by
strangulation is different than death by massive body trauma. If we heard
on CNN that a person had committed suicide by hanging, and then heard on
ABC news that the same person had died from a fall so violent that his
body was split open, we would suspect that the reporters had garbled their
stories. But it could be argued that Judas hanged himself from a tree that
overhung a cliff. The rope may have broken, and Judas could have fallen
onto sharp rocks below and burst his body open. However improbable that
series of events might appear, they would allow the Bible to be internally
consistent about Judas' death.
Sign on the cross: Still another popular example involves the discrepancy among the
Gospels of the sign that was posted on Jesus' cross. No two of the Gospels
agree on the inscription. They describe the sign as saying:
Mark 15:26: "The King of the Jews"
Matthew 27:37: "This is Jesus, the King of the Jews"
Luke 23:38: "This is the King of the Jews"
John 19:19: "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews"
One explanation is that four signs may have been posted on the
cross/stake: one in each of the four languages in use in Palestine at the
time: Latin, Greek, Hebrew and
Aramaic. All four inscriptions could thus be slightly different, and yet
the Gospels could still be accurate.
Visitors to the tomb on Easter morning: Another common "proof" notes an apparent conflict in the identities and numbers of the visitors to Jesus' tomb on Easter Sunday morning:
Matthew 28:1 - Mary Magdalene and "the other Mary."
Mark 16:1 - Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and
Luke 24:10 - Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of
John 20:1 - Mary Magdalene alone.
1 Corinthians 15:5 says that Jesus appeared first to Cephas,
then to the twelve male apostles.
Again, if a person heard these apparently conflicting stories from
five different TV news anchors, they would assume that the reporters were
incompetent. But it could be argued that Jesus appeared first to Cephas
(Peter). Then, later, Mary Magdalene could have made one trip
to the tomb alone. She could have followed this up with repetitive
returns to the city and trips with various combinations of
other women. Again, a very improbable story, but one that allows the Bible to
be free of error.
If there is an irresolvable
biblical conflict that you would like to see covered here, please E-mail us.