Why Do Conservative Christians Deny that Contradictions Exist in the Gospels?

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It is my experience that conservative Christians who believe in biblical inerrancy can never be convinced that even the smallest contradiction exists in the Bible. Why? Answer: Their faith is not based on evidence but upon the still, small voice that they believe talks to them in their heart (head). If the still, small voice tells them that no contradictions exist in the Bible, then no contradictions exist in the Bible! Period.  The fact of the matter is, any and all contradictions can be explained away if one tries hard enough to harmonize them. Mormons, Muslims, Hindus and others do the very same thing with the apparent contradictions in their holy books.

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I believe that a more productive discussion with a conservative Christian would involve the following topics:

1. How do you know that the voice you hear “in your heart” is God and not simply…YOU?
2. The majority of scholars, including the majority of Roman Catholic scholars who very much believe in the supernatural and the bodily resurrection of Jesus, reject the claim that the Gospels were written by eyewitnesses or the associates of eyewitnesses. How strong is the evidence for the supernatural claims of Christianity, in particular, the Resurrection, if the four Gospels are not eyewitness sources? Just because all the apparent discrepancies in a story can be creatively harmonized does not prove that the story itself is historically true.

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13 thoughts on “Why Do Conservative Christians Deny that Contradictions Exist in the Gospels?

  1. Looking at that first meme: “No man has seen God”, but, Moses and Jacob saw God “face to face”.

    This looks like a contradiction to someone who doesn’t read Hebrew.

    If you read that account of Jacob, for example, you’ll see that Jacob wrestled with an angel – and then, declared that he had seen God “face to face”. But, it wasn’t God. It was an angel.

    One who reads Hebrew & understands Hebrew idioms would fully understand this.

    I guess you don’t.

    There are probably many discrepancies and contradictions in the gospels, but, anyone who uses the example in that first meme is simply showing off his ignorance.

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    1. I’d put money on it that you don’t read Hebrew either, Alphonse!

      Jacob is convinced that the ‘angel’ he wrestles in Genesis 32 is God in disguise (v.30). He also claims to have seen God face-to-face on another occasion (Genesis 28). If you’re going to argue that Jacob didn’t really see God either time (which seems to be your preferred way of getting out of this particular conundrum) then you’re left with the option that either Jacob was a fantasist or a liar (or an entirely fictional character whose creator had no idea that a later zealot would assert no-one had ever seen God face-to-face).

      Whichever it is, there is a contradiction between what Jesus says in John (‘no man has seen the father’) and the bible’s claim that Jacob saw God face-to-face on two occasions.

      Still, I expect, Alphonse, that you know better.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m so sorry for my dreadfully late response, but I’ve been face to face with Death the last couple of days (fighting the flu).

        I don’t suppose we’d see eye to eye, regarding idioms, and especially not Hebrew idioms (and yes, I read Hebrew quite well, thank you).

        However, when idioms are not properly understood, the s**t can really hit the fan.

        But, speaking man to man, I’d have to estimate that your understanding (or, rather, your terrific misunderstanding) of “face to face”, as commonly used in Hebrew, is responsible for your completely errant “interpretation” of the scripture passages you cite.

        To wit – I offer some information from Jewish sources: (below)

        Rambam in MN1:37 writes –

        “It is also a term denoting the presence and station of an individual…. In this sense it is said: And the lord
        spoke unto Moshe face to face – which means, as a presence to another presence without an
        intermediary, as is said: Come let us look one another in the face.”

        Lest we think that “presence” in this case would denote that there was some kind of tangible entity that

        Moshe experienced as facing him, Rambam continues:

        “Thus Scripture says: The lord spoke to you face to face. In another passage, it explains, saying: You
        heard the voice of words but you saw no figure, only a voice. Hence, this kind of speaking and hearing

        are described as being face to face.”

        In Sh’mot / Exodus 33:11, the Hebrew expression פנים אל פנים” / panim el panim” (face to face) is an
        idiomatic expression (not literal) — it means that two entities had a close relationship — such as Moses
        had with G-d. The Torah tells us that G-d communicated with Moses directly, whereas all other prophets
        had visions and dreams which conveyed messages from G-d. In speaking to Moses ‘face-to-face” it
        does not mean they stood with “faces” inches apart — indeed G-d tells Moses that Moses cannot “see”
        G-d and live — ergo Moses never saw any “face” of G-d.

        This same expression, פנים אל פנים” / panim el panim” is repeated in Yechezkel / Ezekiel 20:35 – “And I
        will bring you to the Wilderness of the Nations, and I will contend with you there face to face.” Yet we
        know that after Moses no other prophet communicated directly with G-d (including Ezekiel) — ergo this is
        another example of it simply being an expression of closeness.

        Since the days of Maimonedes all references to God’s body are understood as metaphor, as figurative
        language that enables to relate to God. When a Jew reads of God’s strong hand and outstretched arm
        bringing us out of Egypt, we understand the language to be poetic, describing God’s might and saving
        power. When we remind ourselves that humanity was created in the image of God, we do not mean that
        God has a pinky finger, but that we have a sacred dignity about us, and we should treat one another with
        that in mind. When we read of Moses speaking to God panim el panim, “face to face”, we undertand
        Torah to be describing an unrialed intimacy between our great prophet and the Holy One.
        Breath of Life: God as Spirit in Judaism — R. Rachel Timoner

        Although many places in scripture and Talmud speak of various parts of God’s body (the Hand of God,
        God’s wings, etc.) or speak of God in anthropomorphic terms (God walking in the garden of Eden, God
        laying tefillin, etc.), Judaism firmly maintains that God has no body. Any reference to God’s body is
        simply a figure of speech, a means of making God’s actions more comprehensible to beings living in a
        material world. Much of Maimonides’ Guide for the Perplexed is devoted to explaining each of these
        anthropomorphic references and proving that they should be understood figuratively.

        https://www.mechon-mamre.org/jewfaq/god.htm

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        1. Hi Alphonse,

          When the Bible states that the Lord and two angels met with Abraham about the future destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, do you believe that this being was Jesus?

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          1. Gary – you ask “When the Bible states that the Lord and two angels met with Abraham about the future destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, do you believe that this being was Jesus?”

            No, I don’t. Jesus had not been born by that time, had he?

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              1. I feel certain that being was somebody. Or something. In that respect, I agree with the Rabbis, among whom there has never been any agreement on the matter.

                In Judaism, there is no “halakah” – no definitive decision ever reached by the Rabbis. They simply consider the matter one of legitimate disagreement.

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        2. Yup, I knew you’d know better.

          Except not really. What you offer is obfuscating semantics. That the original Hebrew doesn’t, according to you, mean what we all take ‘face-to-face’ to mean, it begs the question why the phrase is used in the first place. ‘Face-to-face’ is quite categorical; it doesn’t lend itself, despite your best efforts, to metaphorical interpretation.

          It is a favorite line of apologists when confronted with problematic assertions in the bible, to say we should interpret them metaphorically. What you never do, however, is explain how we can know when a metaphorical interpretation is required and when a literal. The evidence would suggest that ‘metaphorical’ wins out whenever it suits you.

          However, as there’s no God to encounter, either literally or metaphorically, it hardly matters.

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          1. My dear fellow – you say “What you offer is obfuscating semantics. That the original Hebrew doesn’t, according to you, mean what we all take ‘face-to-face’ to mean, it begs the question why the phrase is used in the first place. ”

            I have offered nothing, myself. Rather, I have presented you with what Jews – those that are greatly concerned with the Hebrew language – have to say about the meaning of “face to face”.

            It has nothing whatsoever to do with what I take (or, with what you take) as the meaning of “face to face”.

            Your argument, then, is with Hebrew-speaking Jews.

            I would suggest that you take the matter up with a few “natural Hebrew speakers”, or mayhaps a few good Rabbis.

            I feel certain that most of them (if not all of them) would consider your views as of utmost importance, as apparently you do.

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            1. Dear “Alphonse”: Your comments have been going to “moderation” for some odd reason. I looked into it and your computer seems to have the same IP address as one “ft bond” who was banned from the blog a few months ago.

              Hmm. I will unblock this IP address but I hope that your comportment will be much better than Mr. ft bond who had a very bad habit of peppering his comments with personal insults—which will not be tolerated on this blog.

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  2. The story of the saints coming out of there tombs is a strange one to me, and maybe something is lost in translation.
    As I read it, the tombs broke open when Jesus died (which would have been Friday), and then on the Sunday morning (after the resurrection) these dead people got out of their tombs and walked around. Why the wait? Why not break open the tombs on Sunday morning, and they can come back just like Jesus did?

    But let’s get one thing clear: These saints supposedly rose from the dead, but none of them are considered to be the Son of God. Only Jesus rising from the dead is considered proof that he’s the Son of God. Doesn’t that make for a serious case of special pleading?

    On a side note, I think it’s very interesting what happened to Mike Licona in 2011, after he questioned a literal interpretation of this Matthew 27 passage. I’d take Evangelical Christians scholars more seriously if they weren’t so committed to their views on Biblical inerrancy, and their dogma. How can anybody take people seriously when those people are more committed to beliefs than they are to truth?

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