Today we present our final installment in our long series on contradictions in the New Testament with refutations for 63 allegedly contradictory statements from the writings of the Gospels, Acts, and the letters of St. Paul. Since it has been awhile since I last posted in this series, let me remind the reader that these alleged “contradictions” are taken from the atheist website Skeptically.org, where they presume to catalog 194 different contradictions in the New Testament. In our previous two installments in this series (Part 1 and Part 2), we demonstrated how the criteria these skeptics employ for what constitutes a “contradiction” is extraordinarily loose. It would behoove the reader to review the introduction to Part 1 in this series where we review what exactly is and is not a real contradiction in the logical sense. It would be better to describe these biblical “contradictions” as misunderstandings, incorrect exegesis, and plain willful ignorance than anything close to a contradiction.
In this installment, we see a lot of accusations made surrounding the writings of Paul. But as before, our interlocutors are extraordinarily narrow with what they allow words to mean. For example, no distinction is allowed between the kind of pride that is a sin and the kind of pride a man has in his child who has accomplished something noteworthy. We will see total ignorance of the most basic ideas of Christian eschatology and theology. We will see a failure to recognize hyperbole and an insistence on taking every statement in the most absolute narrowest, most literal sense without any effort to determine the nuance involved in real human speech – in short, a failure to treat the Scriptures the way we approach any other writing.
Every competent person knows there is a difference between saying, “Nero was a proud and arrogant ruler” and “St. Elizabeth Ann Seton was proud of her sisters for all their hard work.” There is nuance in the word proud that everybody understands. Yet we are supposed to suspend that linguistic conception to believe that the fact that St. Paul was proud of the Church of Corinth is a “contradiction” to our Lord’s warnings against arrogance! These are not contradictions; most of them are just plain failures to understand language–and deliberate failures at that. Willed ignorance.
Yes, there are real theological challenges in the Bible. We will see today some alleged contradictions on the place of the Old Testament in relation to the New, something that St. Paul himself takes great pains to explain and that Christian theologians have mulled over for centuries. But a challenge or a difficulty is not a contradiction.
Remember, this article is taken in part from Phillip Campbell’s work, The Book of Non-Contradiction (Cruachan Hill Pres, 2017) which we highly recommend if you want more resources on this topic.
Now, let us jump right in and address the last batch of 63 “contradictions” in the New Testament!
129. The coming of the kingdom will be accompanied by signs and miracles. Mt.24:29-33; Mk.13:24-29.
It will not be accompanied by signs and miracles since it occurs from within. Lk.17:20,21.
In Matthew 24 Jesus is not speaking of the coming of the kingdom but the second coming and the end of the world, which is something different than the coming of the Kingdom of God. Catholic tradition has always interpreted Luke 17 to refer to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that was made possible by the Incarnation and death of Jesus. The two passages are referring to two different things.
130. The kingdom was prepared from the beginning. Mt.25:34.
Jesus said that he was going to go and prepare the kingdom. Jn.14:2,3.
The kingdom is prepared from the beginning in the sense that God foreknew and foreordained its establishment (cf. Rom. 8:29) but the plan foreordained by God was not brought to fulfillment until done so by Christ’s Resurrection and Ascension. An analogy: Suppose one is building a house. Before the first brick is laid, the design is drawn out to the last detail by the architect. Then it is built. In one sense, the house was “prepared from the beginning” because it was planned before it was actually built. But still, the builder had to “go and prepare” the house that the architect had ordained “from the beginning.” This is common sense.
131. Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is an unforgivable sin. Mk.3:29.
All sins are forgivable. Acts 13:39; Col.2:13; 1 Jn.1:9.
God will forgive any sin that is repented of. To be forgiven, a willingness to be forgiven is necessary. Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is a refusal to repent, and hence a frustration of the work of the Spirit. The obvious solution is that God will forgive any sin which is repented of; but obviously God does not forgive sins which people refuse to repent of. To refuse repentance is to blaspheme the Holy Spirit.
132. The ascension took place while the disciples were seated together at a table. Mk.16:14-19.
The ascension took place outdoors at Bethany. Lk.24:50,51.
The ascension took place outdoors at Mt. Olivet. Acts 1:9-12.
Catholic Tradition is unanimous that Jesus was taken into heaven from the Mount of Olives. The passage in Mark 16:19 does not say Jesus ascended while the disciples were seated together at a table, only that Jesus ascended “after He had spoken to them”, which is certainly true. As we have noted elsewhere, after need not mean immediately after. If I say “I spent Christmas dinner with my family in Minneapolis. After that, I flew out to Phoenix”, it does not in any way mean that I stepped on to an airplane immediately after rising from dinner, let alone that the dinner table was the location from whence I flew out.
As for the reference to Bethany, Bethany is a village located on the slopes of the Mount of Olives. It is the same place. Luke uses the name of the town, Acts the name of the mountain, but they are one and the same location.
133. The holy spirit was with John from before he was born. Lk.1:15,41.
The holy spirit was with Elizabeth before John’s birth. Lk.1:41.
The holy spirit was with Zechariah. Lk.1:67.
The holy spirit was with Simeon. Lk.2:25.
The holy spirit is obtained by asking. Lk.11:13.
The holy spirit did not come into the world until after Jesus had departed. Jn.7:39; Jn.16:7; Acts 1:3-8.
The first four clauses are not contradictory because, being divine and hence omnipresent, the Holy Spirit can be with many people at the same time. That Jesus says the Holy Spirit can be asked for in Luke 11:13 is not to say that asking is the only way to receive the Spirit, as clearly the Holy Spirit also sometimes “falls” or “comes upon” people in the Bible without their having asked (cf. Jdg. 14:6, 1 Sam. 11:6, Acts 10:44). It also must be reminded that not everyone receives the Spirit equally; God may grant more or less “portions” of the Spirit to different people (cf. 2 Ki. 2:9, Mal. 2:15, 1 John 4:13). These “allotments” of the Spirit are for the purpose of empowering God’s people to do certain tasks or charisms and were given out even before the coming of Christ. As in the cases of Samson or Saul, they “came upon” people when God wanted them to perform a task – such as work miracles or, in the case of Elizabeth, speak prophetically – but went away when the task was over.
This must be distinguished with the sending of the Holy Spirit that only happened after the Ascension of Jesus, beginning on the day of Pentecost. This was a “giving” of a different order; on Pentecost, Christ gave the Spirit to abide with the Church forever as its very “soul”, and to indwell believers in an indwelling that was perpetual through their union with the Church as perfected in the sacrament of Confirmation. This is notably different from the manifestations of the Spirit prior to the day of Pentecost. It is in reference to this total outpouring that Christ said He gives His Spirit “without measure” (John 3:34).
134. Sometimes God is responsible for unbelief. 2 Thes.2:11,12.
Sometimes Jesus is responsible for unbelief. Mk.4:11,12.
The devil causes unbelief. Lk.8:12.
All things are either willed by God positively or else permitted by Him. Even the temptations of the devil are permitted by God, who allows the devil to tempt people as a means of testing them but never allows the temptations to go so far that they cannot be resisted (cf. 1 Cor. 10:13). Now when someone gives in to a temptation to unbelief, it is by their own will, since faith is both an intellectual act as well as an act of the will. When this happens, God “gives them over” to their punishment, which is nothing other than persisting in the state of unbelief with all the negative consequences that follow. The devil, insofar as he wills to drag men away from God, can be the instrument by which God inflicts His just punishments. Hence, St. Paul, when excommunicating a man from the Church, calls it “handing him over to Satan” (cf. 1 Cor. 5:5, 1 Tim. 1:20). Thus it happens that God, because of hardness of heart, allows men to fall into unbelief, or in Paul’s words, hands them over to Satan, who is the instrumental cause of unbelief. This is a great mystery, bound up with questions about freedom and grace, but at any rate, it is a theological difficulty, not a contradiction.
135. Whoever hates his brother is a murderer. 1 Jn.3:15.
If anyone claims to love God but hates his brother, he is a liar. 1 Jn.4:20.
No one can be a disciple of Jesus unless he hates his brother. Lk.14:26.
St. John’s use of the word “hate” in his epistles is used in a totally different sense from the way Jesus uses it. Quite simply, Jesus is using a hyperbole, a literary exaggeration to make a point. This is common in Aramaic, like when Christ counsels believers to poke out their eyes and chop off their hands rather than sin. Just as in those cases, Jesus is here using a hyperbole to make the point that one’s relationship with God must take precedence over human relationships and that, if necessary, a man must be willing to leave home and family for the sake of the kingdom. He does not literally counsel us to hate our family members.
136. Believers do not come into judgment. Jn.5:24.
All people come into judgment. Mt.12:36; 2 Cor.5:10; Heb.9:27; 1 Pet.1:17; Jude 14,15; Rev. 20:12,13.
To “come into judgment” in John 5 refers to being condemned. All men are judged and tried by God, but believers are not condemned. All people come into judgment, but believers are acquitted.
137. Jesus says that, if he bears witness to himself, his testimony is true. Jn.8:14.
Jesus says that, if he bears witness to himself, his testimony is not true. Jn.5:31.
This is a misquote. Jesus does not say that if He bears witness to Himself His testimony is true. He says, “Although I give testimony of myself, my testimony is true.” In other words, His testimony is not true because He gives it of Himself; rather, because He is the Son of God, His testimony is true in spite of Him giving it of Himself. In 5:31, Jesus is referencing a precept of the Mosaic Law which does not allow a man to testify on his own behalf. Jesus essentially says in 5:31, “According to the Mosaic Law, if I bear witness to myself, my witness is not true. So I appeal to the testimony of John the Baptist.” He is making His case within the parameters of the Mosaic Law, which does not allow a man to bear witness to himself because men are untrustworthy. In John 8, however, Jesus notes that even if He does go outside the bounds of the Mosaic Law and testify on His own behalf, His testimony is trustworthy, because He is above moral suspicion.
An example: Everybody knows that in card games, you are not supposed to look at your opponents cards because it is considered cheating. Imagine a morally upright person saying, “According to the rules of the game, I am not allowed to look at your cards because it would give me an unfair advantage. But even if I were to look at your cards, I would not have an unfair advantage because I am so honest it would not cause me to cheat.” This is not a contradiction; it is positing two different potential courses of action under two standards, one abiding by the rules of the card came, the other without. Similarly, in these two passages Jesus essentially says, “You want testimony of me? Fine, I bear witness to myself. But if that’s not good enough since we’re going by the Mosaic Law, then here’s other witnesses, too.”
138. Men can choose whether or not to believe. Jn.5:38-47.
Only God chooses who will believe. Jn.6:44.
This is not a contradiction; this is a theological problem relating to the relationship between God’s foreknowledge and man’s free will. Faith is a gift. We do not know, in the inscrutable designs of God’s providence, why He offers the gift of faith to some at one time and others at some other time. But when the gift of faith is offered, man is obligated to respond to the promptings of grace. God summons; man must respond. Both God and man, grace and will, play a part in the act of faith.
139. None of Jesus’ followers would be lost. Jn.10:27-29.
Some of Jesus’ followers would be lost. 1 Tim.4:1.
No follower will be lost who continues to abide in Christ (John 10:29, 15:7); however, a follower of Christ who abandons Him and separates Himself from God’s grace without repentance will certainly be lost. Those mentioned in 1 Timothy 4 who are lost are specifically mentioned as those who “give heed to spirits of error and doctrines of devils.” In other words, they have forsaken Christ. Essentially, then, these passages teach that all followers of Jesus will be saved who persevere unto the end, which is what Jesus Himself teaches as well (cf. Matt. 24:13).
140. Jesus is the ruling prince of this world. Rev.1:5.
The prince of this world will be cast out. Jn.12:31.
Jesus is the rightful prince of this world. His place was usurped by Satan. Jesus casts Satan the impostor out and takes His rightful place as Prince of the World. This is a simple failure to read the Scriptures in context.
141. Jesus says all men will be saved. Jn.3:17.
Only 144,000 virgin men will be saved. Rev. 14:1-4.
For one thing, John 3:17 does not say all men will be saved. It merely says God sent His son to save the world, not condemn it. Nor does Revelation 14:1-4 say only 144,000 virgin men will be saved. Rev. 14:1-4 says that St. John saw 144,000 virgin men standing with Jesus on Mount Zion and that these men had been redeemed. It also calls them “first fruits.” It in no way suggests they are the only ones to be redeemed, merely that they are redeemed. In fact, neither passage here says what the atheist interlocutor claims.
142. God wants all men to be saved. 1 Tim.2:3,4; 2 Pet.3:9.
God does not want all men to be saved. Jn.12:40.
God wills all men to be saved, but on His terms. He does not will to save men who do not submit themselves to Him. I love my children. I want to give them all dessert. I will give them all dessert if they eat their dinner. Though I want to give them all dessert, I will not give dessert to any child who does not finish their dinner. What’s so difficult about understanding this?
143. Peter asks Jesus where he is going. Jn.13:36.
Thomas asks Jesus where he is going. Jn.14:5.
Jesus said that no one asked where he was going. Jn.16:5.
Peter asked Jesus where He was going. Jesus gave a cryptic answer, and so Thomas asked the question again. Regarding Jesus’ last comment, that “yet none of you ask me “where are you going?” Peter and Thomas knew Jesus was going away, but they were asking where He was going in a worldly sense; they did not realize what our Lord really meant – that He was going to die. Both men asked where Jesus was going, but neither of them asked where He was really going, because they could not comprehend what Jesus meant by “returning to the Father.” This is similar to Acts 1, where Jesus had been promising the coming of the kingdom. The disciples think He means a worldly, political kingdom and inquire as to whether the political kingdom of Israel will be reestablished. They had asked about the coming of the kingdom, but not about the real coming of the kingdom, because Jesus meant “kingdom” in a different sense than they understood. Similarly here, since Jesus had not yet died and ascended, the disciples understood “going away” in a different sense than Jesus meant it. This also occurs in John 11 when Jesus says Lazarus is “asleep” and in Matthew 16 where the disciples understand the word “leaven” carnally while Jesus means it allegorically. This proves nothing other than that the disciples were real, fallible human beings who were capable of sometimes misunderstanding what their Lord was saying to them.
144. Jesus lost only one disciple. Jn.17:12.
Jesus lost no disciples. Jn.18:9.
Based on His words in John 17:12, Jesus clearly means Judas to be the exception. But because this exception was foreknown “that the Scriptures might be fulfilled”, nothing has truly been lost. If a man is given $12 but knows ahead of time that $1 will have to be spent and includes this into his budget, then when the time comes and he loses the $1, nothing has really been lost in the sense that he is right on budget. Nothing unexpected has happened. The man, giving an account of his money at the end of the year, can truly say, “Of the money you gave me, I haven’t lost any – except the $1 that we budgeted for,” but since this was pre-planned, it doesn’t really count as a true loss.
145. Jesus came into the world to bear witness to the truth. Jn.18:37.
The truth has always been evident. Rom.1:18-20.
So the truth can never be stated more than once or in more than one method? The truth referred to in Romans 1 is the truth that God exists and has created the world. The truth that Christ came to bear witness to his that He is the Son of God and that salvation comes through Him alone. The former truth can be known from reason alone, but the latter from divine revelation only. These are both aspects of the truth, but ultimately the verses are talking about two different things.
146. During his first resurrection appearance, Jesus gave his disciples the holy spirit. Jn.20:22.
The holy spirit was given to the disciples after his ascension. Acts 1:3-8.
The giving of the Holy Spirit to the Apostles in John 20 was a special outpouring to them alone which would empower them to forgive sins and confer the other sacraments; it is the source of Apostolic Succession and the sacrament of Holy Orders. The outpouring in Acts 1 was when the Spirit was given to indwell the Church as a whole. One was meant for the Apostolic college alone to grant them sacramental powers, the other was to the Church as a whole. See question 133.
147. The world could not contain all that could be written of Jesus. Jn.21:25.
All was written. Acts.1:1.
I’m sorry, but this is simply stupid. As if St. Luke’s words “The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach,” should be taken to imply that every single thing Jesus Christ ever said or did was written down is absurd. This would mean He literally did not say a single word until He was 12, since that’s the first time the Gospels record Jesus speaking. Would any other document be held to this level of absurd literalism? If Julius Caesar were to say, “I have written about all the things I did in Gaul,” would anyone be so stupid as to think he meant every single last little action he did in Gaul was written down? This only shows that the people who float these contradictions have no interest in actually understanding the Scriptures, only hurling out pathetic objections and moving on.
148. Obey the laws of men for it is the will of God. 1 Pet.2:13-15.
The disciples disobey the council. Acts 5:40-42.
Obey God, not men. Acts 5:29.
Obey men. It is God’s will. Rom.13:1-4; 1 Pet.2:13-15.
Obedience to God is manifest by obedience to legitimate authorities. But since God is a higher authority than human law, human laws may be disobeyed when they contradict God’s law, which is an even higher authority. The disciples disobeyed the council because it contradicted Christ’s law to preach to all men. Christians obey all laws insofar as they are in accord with God’s law, but when they are not, God’s law must be obeyed above human law.
149. God hated Esau and loved Jacob even before they were born. Rom.9:10-13.
God shows no partiality and treats all alike. Acts 10:34; Rom.2:11.
Acts 10:34 and Rom. 2:11 are speaking about who can enter the Christian Church and state that any person can become Christian. This is a different issue from what is being discussed in Romans 9. Romans 9 quotes Malachi 1, which does not state that God hated Esau before he was born. Malachi 1:2-4 states that though Esau was also born of the faithful seed, as was Jacob, God blessed Jacob’s land but made Esau’s land desolate. All that was predetermined before birth was that “the older shall serve the younger” (Rom. 9:12). The word ‘Esau’ in “Esau I have hated” refers to the land of Esau (i.e., Edom), as is made clear by reading Malachi 1:3, “…I have hated Esau, and I have made his mountains a desolation and appointed his inheritance for the jackals of the wilderness.” This is referring to a land, not a person. Whoever came up with this “contradiction” is ignorant of the fact that Esau/Edom is a place name, just like Jacob is used as a place name.
150. All who have sinned without the law will perish without the law. Rom.2:12.
Where there is no law there is no sin or transgression. Rom.4:15.
All who have committed sins, whether or not they have the law, will still be judged for their sin, as Romans 2:12 says. Romans 4:15 is referring to not every sin but to those specific transgressions which come about from violating the Levitical law, such as failing to be circumcised or eating forbidden foods. This made clear by the previous discussion in Rom. 4:1-12 about Abraham and circumcision. The Pharisees accused Jesus of breaking “the Law”, by which they meant the Levitical law. St. Paul’s point in Romans 4 is that without the Law, these sorts of transgressions would not exist. In Romans 2, his point is to establish that there is a natural law which is universally binding, prior to the Levitical law. The argument he sets up in Rom. 2 is actually setting the stage for the argument in Rom. 4.
151. Doers of the law will be justified. Rom.2:13.
Doers of the law will not be justified. Rom.3:20; Gal.3:11.
To the extent that anyone is justified under the Law, it is because of the faith that is implicit in any act of worship carried out under the dictates of the Law. This is what it means to truly be a “doer of the Law.” This is why the Fathers said those who were justified under the Law were so by an implicit faith in Christ. But the Law considered apart from faith – i.e., the Law understood merely as a series of rules and external precepts, does not have power in itself to justify anybody.
152. The law does not have dominion. Rom.6:14.
The law has dominion. Rom.7:1.
In Romans 7:1 St. Paul is speaking of those who are still under the Law. In Romans 6:14 he is speaking of those who have been freed from the precepts of the Law by grace.
153. The law was the result of sin. Gal.3:19.
Sin is the result of breaking the law. 1 Jn.3:4.
1 John 3:4 does not say that sin is the result of breaking the law. It says that everyone who sins is a lawbreaker. Galatians 3:19 says that it was because of original sin that God gave the Law.
154. Those of “God” cannot sin. 1 Jn.3:9.
Those of “God” can sin. 1 Jn.1:7 8.
1 John 3 refers to abiding in a state of mortal sin. 1 John 1:7-9 refers to the fact that even among Christians nobody is sinless. The message is that while even Christians will fall into sin from time to time, one cannot claim to be a follower of God while habitually living in unrepentant mortal sin.
155. The anointing of Jesus teaches right from wrong. 1 Jn.2:27.
The law written on the heart and conscience teaches right from wrong. Rom. 2:15
The law written on the heart is the first teacher of right from wrong. This moral sense is enlightened, elevated, and sharpened by the anointing of Christ in the Holy Spirit.
156. Abraham was justified by faith. Heb.11:8.
Abraham was justified by works. Jms.2:21.
Abraham was not justified by works. Rom.4:2.
Hebrews 11:8 is in the famous “Heroes of Faith” chapter of Hebrews where various Old Testament characters are praised for their faithfulness. Hebrews 11:8 does not say Abraham was justified by faith; it merely says that his actions were motivated by faith: “By faith he that is called Abraham, obeyed to go out into a place which he was to receive for an inheritance.” Regarding the passages in James 2:21 and Romans 4:2, St. Paul and St. James use the phrase “works” in a different way. Paul, preaching to Jews about the Christian’s freedom from the Mosaic Law, refers to “works of the Law”, which denote such Jewish rituals as circumcision, the dietary laws, etc. Paul rightly says Abraham was not justified by these things, since he lived prior to the giving of the Law (cf. Gal. 3:17). St. James, on the other hand, refers to the law in the sense of the moral law. If we are referring to the moral law, then of course Abraham was justified by the law, because obedience and faithfulness to God are two precepts of the moral law written in the heart of every man. This is the foundation of the virtue of religion (CCC 1807). For more on the different ways St. Paul and St. James use the word “law”, our article “St. James and St. Paul on Works of the Law“, found on the Unam Sanctam Catholicam website.
157. It is not good to eat or drink anything that might cause your brother to stumble or be offended. Rom.14:21.
Let no one pass judgment on you in matters of food or drink. Col.2:16.
The New Law has done away with the Jewish dietary law, so there are no longer any foods that are intrinsically good or bad for Christians to eat, as taught by Jesus (Matt. 15:11). In this sense, no one can pass judgment on a Christian for what he chooses to eat or drink since we are not under the dietary law. That’s not to say one cannot be guilty of sinning through food and drink in other senses; in Romans 14, St. Paul gives the example of scandalizing a weaker brother through one’s choice of food. Thus, while no food is in itself bad, we should avoid scandalizing others through our food if we know it could offend them.
158. It is better that widows should not remarry. 1 Cor.7:8.
It is better that young widows should remarry. 1 Tim.5:11-14.
St. Paul says it is better for old widows not to remarry but better for young widows to remarry.
159. The god of this world blinds people to the gospel. 2 Cor.4:4.
There is only one god. 1 Cor.8:4.
There is only one God. The phrase “god of this world” is a euphemism for the devil.
160. The powers of this world are wicked, so fight against them. Eph.6:11-13.
All powers are ordained of God and, if you resist, you are damned. Rom.13:1,2.
The powers referred to in Ephesians 6 are evil spirits. The powers referred to in Romans 13 are legitimately constituted political authorities. Two different ideas.
161.Bear one another’s burdens. Gal.6:2.
Bear your own burdens. Gal.6:5.
Galatians 6:5 says that every man will have to individually answer for his behavior to God. One of the things he will have to answer for is how well he helped his neighbor, as stipulated in Gal. 6:2.
162. Anyone who even greets a non-believer shares his wicked work. 2 Jn.1:10-11.
Always be ready to answer any man concerning your faith. 1 Pet.3:15.
Well, first of all, it is generally admitted that those whom John is speaking of in 2 John 1:10-11 are not non-believers, but heretics. Whether a heretic is admitted to one’s home or greeted is irrelevant to whether or not one gives answers concerning his faith. One may make answers to a heretic without greeting him or inviting him into one’s house. For more on this topic, we recommend our article “The Lost Practice of Christian Shunning” on the Unam Sanctam Catholicam blog.
163. All of the grass on the earth is burned up. Rev.8:7.
The army of locusts are instructed not to harm the grass. Rev.9:4.
Christian tradition does not take all of the symbols of Revelation in a strictly literal sense. But even if we were taking this literally, it is not stated how much time elapses between the events of 8:7 and 9:4. Burned grass starts to regrow rather quickly. Perhaps the grass is protected in 9:4 because it is recovering from the first destruction in 8:7? The point is this is nowhere close to a contradiction.
164. Only “The Father” knows. Mk.13:32.
“Jesus” and “The Father” are one. Jn.10:30; 17:11,21,22.
Christ is God, the Second Person of the Trinity. As such, by His nature, He possesses all knowledge of everything that is, was, or could be. But when the Second Person of the Trinity came to earth and became incarnate, He voluntarily divested Himself of many of the prerogatives of divinity, such as His glory, omnipresence, etc. This is what Philippians 2:7 calls Christ’s “emptying” of Himself. One of the things He emptied Himself of was all knowledge that was not related to His mission; so, for example, in His manhood, Christ did not know calculus, HTML, or Inuit, as this knowledge was not necessary for His mission. One of the pieces of knowledge that was similarly not necessary was the time of His return, which He professes ignorance of according to His human nature.
165. Jesus said that he would judge. Jn.5:22,27-30; Jn.9:39.
Jesus said that he would not judge. Jn.8:15
Jesus said that The Father judges. Jn.12:48,49.
Jesus said that The Father does not judge. Jn.5:22.
Jesus said that his disciples would judge. Lk.22:30.
First off, John 12:48-49 does not say that the Father judges, but that “the word that I have spoken shall judge him on the last day”, which is essentially the same as saying Jesus will judge. But note that the time of the judgment is given as “on the last day.” Jesus did not come in the flesh to judge the world (John 12:47); that is reserved for the end. This is the sense in which Jesus will judge in John 5:22 and 9:39, which in Christian eschatology is known as the “Last Judgment” and spoken of in the Creed: “I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ…who will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.” In John 8:15, Jesus is engaging the Pharisees over the woman caught in adultery. He says that the Pharisees “judge according to the flesh” (v. 15), that is, they judge in a purely external, worldly manner. Jesus follows this comment by saying “I judge not any man”; that is to say, Jesus does not judge anybody in this manner. Jesus judges in a spiritual sense, discerning the heart, which is why he immediately says in verse 16, “And if I do judge, my judgment is true: because I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent me.” Jesus is the instrument through which the judgments of God the Father are meted out to mankind, and because Christ and the Father are one, their judgment is one. The judgment Jesus speaks of in Luke 22:30, where the disciples will “sit on thrones” judging the twelve tribes of Israel, is a mediation of Christ’s judgment, something all believers will participate in; hence St. Paul says that the faithful will participate in the judgment of the fallen angels (1 Cor. 6:3-4). Because the Father is one with the Son, the Son’s judgment is united to His; because the Church is the Body of Christ, the Body takes part in the judgment committed to the Son. This is classic ecclesiology, not contradictions.
166. He that does not believe is damned. Mk.16:16.
Thomas did not believe and was not damned. Jn.20:27-29.
Thomas’s disbelief was momentary, for after he saw the risen Lord he cried out, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28). But those who persist in disbelief will be damned.
167. “When his branch is yet tender”. Mt.24:32.
“When her branch is yet tender”. Mk.13:28.
This is just a translation issue related only to those texts which trace themselves back to the King James Bible. Most Bibles render both the passages from Mark and Matthew as “it”. Greek, like Latin and many other languages, is a gendered language, and sometimes there is uncertainty as to what gender a specific word ought to take. But since such gender designations do not literally mean the branch is feminine or masculine, this is really a question of linguistics and translation, not asserting anything contradictory. Both Matthew and Mark speak of a tender branch. What gender designation the Greek assigns to each phrase is irrelevant to the meaning.
168. Jesus is God. Jn.10:30.
Jesus is the “image” of God. 2 Cor.4:4.
Jesus was a man approved by God. Acts 2:22.
Jesus and God are one in the same. Jn.1:1.
Jesus sat down beside himself. Mk.16:19; Acts 2:32,33; 7:55; Rom.8:34; etc.
This is simply ignorance of the Incarnation, Hypostatic Union, and Trinitarian theology. The Second Person of the Trinity, the Son, is co-equal and co-eternal with God. The Son is God, just as the Father and the Holy Spirit are God; yet, He is also a distinct Person. That Person came to earth and was incarnate in the womb of the Virgin Mary and was born Jesus Christ on this earth. Because the invisible God appeared in human likeness, Jesus is said to be the very image of God (2 Cor. 4:4; Col. 1:15). Jesus Christ was true God but also true man. It is right to say He was man because He was truly a man (though without sin); it is also right to say He was God insofar as the Second Person of the Trinity was joined to human flesh; it is also right to say He is the Son of God because the Second Person of the Trinity proceeds from the First as a son from a father or as an idea from the mind. The union of the divine and human natures is not undone after the Resurrection; Jesus forever remains God and man, and as a glorified man, He is able to ascend into heaven to “sit down at the right hand of the Father.” Jesus is one with the Father; He is God with the Father and the Spirit, but He is a distinct Person. This is basic Trinitarian theology.
169. Jesus is the Son of God. Jn.6:69; Jn.20:31.
Jesus is the Son of Man. Mt.18:11; Lk.21:27.
The “Son of Man” is an Old Testament title for the Messiah taken from the Book of Daniel (Dan.7:13). Apocryphal Jewish works, such as the Similitudes of Enoch, also interpret Daniel 7 in a Messianic sense (1 Enoch 37-71). The Pharisees understood it as a claim to divinity, which is why the Chief Priests were so scandalized when Jesus referred to Himself as the Son of Man in their presence (Mk. 14:62-63).
170. Paul states that he does not lie. Rom.9:1; 2 Cor.11:31; Gal.1:20; 1 Tim.2:7.
Paul states that he does lie. Rom.3:7.
St. Paul is speaking rhetorically in Rom. 3:7, as he states in verse 6 when he says “I speak according to man”, or literally, “I speak in a human manner.”
171. Paul said that he does not use trickery. 1 Thes.2:3.
Paul admits to using trickery. 2 Cor.12:16.
In 2 Cor. 2:16, St. Paul does not say he was practicing trickery but says that others accuse him of practicing trickery.
172. Paul says that circumcision is nothing. 1 Cor.7:19.
Paul says that circumcision is profitable. Rom.2:25; Rom.3:1,2.
Circumcision has no value for a Christian and profits nothing. The only sense in which it is profitable is if one is under the Law, which is what Paul says in Romans 2:25. Circumcision is profitable if one is a Jew under the Law (Rom. 2:25, 3:1-2) but has no value for a Christian who has been released from the Jewish law.
173. Do not covet. Rom.7:7; Rom.13:9.
Paul says covet. 1 Cor.12:31; 1 Cor.14:39.
Let’s look at what these passages actually say. 1 Cor. 12:31 says, “Earnestly desire the greater gifts” and 1 Cor. 14:39 says “Be eager to prophesy.” Now, not all desire is coveting, much less merely being “eager.” In his commentary on the Ten Commandments, St. Thomas Aquinas says that desire becomes the sin of coveting when the desire leads us to serve iniquity. Thus, if the desire does not lead towards iniquity (either to jealousy or envy), then it is not covetousness. This is especially true when what we desire is charity, grace, or other supernatural goods. For this to be a “contradiction”, one must equate covetousness with mere desire or eagerness, which is absurd.
174. Paul teaches not to steal. Eph.4:28.
Paul admits to stealing. 2 Cor.11:8.
In 1 Cor. 11:8, Paul is using hyperbole when he says he “robbed” other churches; this is just an exaggerated way for him to say he accepted voluntary donations, as anybody would see if they simply read the second half of 1 Cor. 11:8: “I robbed other churches by accepting support from them in order to serve you.”
175. Paul was assured that he would not be hurt. Acts 18:9,10.
Paul was often physically abused. 2 Cor.11:23-27.
In Acts 18:9-10, while St. Paul is preaching in Corinth, God says to him: “And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but speak and do not be silent; for I am with you, and no man shall attack you to harm you; for I have many people in this city.” Note the last clause, “for I have many people in this city.” God’s promise to St. Paul was that he would not be harmed in Corinth. And he was not. He preached there peacefully for a year and a half (Acts 18:11), and though the Jews made an attempt to silence him, he was not harmed.
176. Paul states that the law is necessary. Rom.3:31.
Paul states that the law is not necessary. Rom.6:14.
Both of these verses speak of the Levitical law but neither say what they are asserted to imply. Romans 3:31 does not say the Law is “necessary”; it says that by our faith we uphold the divine origin of the law because, by faith in grace, we fulfill the heart of the law. Romans 6:14 does not say the Law is not “necessary” but only that Christians are not bound by it.
177. Jesus said to go and baptize. Mt.28:19.
Paul said he was not sent to baptize. 1 Cor.1:17.
When Paul says he was not sent to baptize, this does not mean he never baptized. Obviously, even in the passage cited above Paul mentions he baptized several in Corinth. Paul simply means that the essence of his mission was not baptism but preaching. Baptism follows faith, which in turn comes by hearing the word of God preached (Rom. 10:17); but the special mission Paul was given by Jesus was not to baptize but to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles and their kings (Acts 9:15).
178. Paul said he was not sent to baptize but to preach. 1 Cor.1:17.
Paul baptized. 1 Cor.1:16.
Again, Paul did not say, “I never baptize anyone,” but “I was not sent to baptize.” See answer to number 177 above. A person who goes to a business luncheon can rightly say, “I did not come here to eat,” because the lunch is merely an occasion for talking about business; but this does not mean that he will not eat while he is there, only that the primary purpose of his attending the meeting is not merely to eat.
179. Jesus said that he did not come to abolish the law. Mt.5:17-19.
Paul said otherwise. Eph.2:15.
Christ did not come to abolish the Levitical law but fulfill it. When He fulfilled it by His death on the cross, its demands upon believers went away, hence Paul says that our Lord’s death “abolished” the law with its ordinances. Paul speaks from the point of view of the subject (believer), who is no longer obligated to keep the law. It is important to note that the fact that Christ did not “abolish” the law does not mean it did not go away; it went away because it was fulfilled, not abolished, but it still went away, and hence its demands are no longer binding. A simple analogy: There are two ways to make a debt go away. One can either repudiate it and walk away, or pay it to the last penny. These methods are both radically different, but they result in the same end (no longer paying on the debt). One can say, “I have not come to repudiate my debt, but to pay it.” However the end result is the same as if one would have repudiated it; i.e., the balance of the debt is no longer paid, but in one case it is because the debt is repudiated, in the other because one has paid it to the last penny. Similarly, Jesus did not abolish the law as if the New Covenant were a repudiation of the Old or in fundamental opposition to it; rather He fulfilled it by living its commands perfectly, offering Himself for a perfect sacrifice, and hence bringing an end to the demands of the law upon believers. This is complex – the relationship between the Old and New Testaments is one of the trickiest parts of New Testament theology – but it is not a contradiction in any sense.
180. Jesus said that God did not condemn the world. Jn. 3:17.
Paul said that God did condemn the world. Rom.5:18.
This is a misquote. Jesus does not say God did not or does not condemn the world, only that it was not the mission of the Son to condemn the world (“God did not send His Son into the world to condemn it”). God will always judge sin, and even Christ will judge the world at the Last Judgement. See number 165 above.
181. Those present at Paul’s conversion stood. Acts 9:7.
They fell to the ground. Acts 26:14.
Presumably they stood speechless at first and then fell to the ground. Everybody who “falls to the ground” was by definition standing before they fell.
182. Those present at Paul’s conversion heard a voice but saw nothing. Acts 9:7.
Those present at Paul’s conversion saw a light but heard nothing. Acts 22:9.
Let us compare the two passages. Acts 9:7 says, “Now the men who went in company with him, stood amazed, hearing indeed a voice, but seeing no man.” Acts 22:9 says, “And they that were with me, saw indeed the light, but they heard not the voice of him that spoke with me.” Acts 9:7 does not deny that the men saw something, only that they saw a man. They very well could have seen a light, but they did not see a man. So at least in this respect, these verses are not contradictory. Regarding whether the men heard the voice, the word “voice” in both passages is phōnē, which can mean “voice” but has an equally primary meaning as “tone” or “sound.” Similarly, “hear” and “hearing”, akouō, can mean to hear, but can also mean to understand what is heard; some Bible translations will thus render Acts 22:9 as “They understood not the voice of him that spoke with me.” This leaves us two possibilities (a) That the men who were with Paul certainly heard some sort of phōnē; Paul perceived it as a clear voice, but the rest of the men only heard some kind of noise. There is precedent for this in the Scripture, where Jesus and the disciples heard the clear voice of God speaking from heaven but those who stood nearby only heard the noise as thunder (John 12:28-30). Another possibility is (b) that the experience was not uniform among all the men with Paul. Some heard the voice and understood it, some heard a mere noise with no voice, and others heard nothing. In the same episode quoted above with Jesus in John 12, it states that “The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him” (John 12:29). Some perceived a heavenly voice, others thought they had heard thunder.
183. Shortly after his conversion, Paul went to Damascus where he spent some time with the apostles. Acts 9:19.
Paul went to Damascus three years later and saw only Peter and James. Gal.1:18,19.
Galatians 1:18-19 says Paul went up to Jerusalem, not Damascus.
184. Shortly after his conversion, Paul went to Damascus and then to Jerusalem. Acts 9:18-26.
Shortly after his conversion, Paul went to Arabia, then to Damascus, and then, 3 years later, to Jerusalem. Gal.1:17,18.
Acts 9:26 does not say Paul came to Jerusalem immediately after leaving Damascus. It merely says, “When he came to Jerusalem.” Paul’s journey to Arabia took place between verse 25 and 26. Since St. Luke composed the Book of Acts in order to give an account of the growth of the Christian Church, Paul’s three year solitary, contemplative sojourn in Arabia did not fit in his narrative and was omitted. Acts is not the biography of Paul; it is an account of the growth of the Christian Church. Consequently we often find other details about St. Paul’s life in his letters that are never mentioned on Acts, such as his intention to travel to Spain mentioned in Romans 15:24.
185. In Damascus, the governor attempts to seize Paul. 2 Cor.11:32.
In Damascus, the Jews attempt to seize Paul. Acts 9:22,23.
The Jews of Damascus were the ones who stirred up the governor to go after Paul, just like it was the Jews of Jerusalem who instigated the Romans against Jesus.
186. The holy spirit forbids preaching in Asia. Acts 16:6.
Paul preaches in Asia anyway. Acts 19:8-10.
The Holy Spirit forbade Paul to go into the province of Asia at that particular time; it was not a universal command to never go to Asia ever. We know from Acts 18:11 that a minimum of one year and six months elapsed between Acts 16 and Acts 19; probably much longer given all the stops Paul made. God willed Paul to travel through the cities of Greece before going into Asia.
187. Paul said he would not be a servant of Christ if he tried to please men. Gal.1:10.
Paul said that he tried to please men. 1 Cor.10:33.
In Galatians 1:10 St. Paul warns the Galatians of not letting the praise of men be the ultimate end of their religious observance. To do so is to be a “man pleaser” who cares more for human respect than the Gospel. But just because the approval of men is not to be the end of our religion does not mean it cannot be used as a means to an end. In 1 Cor. 10:33 Paul famously says that he tries to “please all men in all things” for the sake of the Gospel. This refers not to being a “man pleaser” in the sense of subordinating religion to human respect, but in the sense of not needlessly putting stumbling blocks in front of the Gospel by offending people without reason. This is why although Paul fiercely argues that circumcision is unnecessary – and those who suggest otherwise are merely trying to please men (Gal. 1:10) – he has the disciple Timothy circumcised in order to remove a stumbling block to the Jews, who would not listen to uncircumcised men preach (Acts 16:1-3). There is a difference between being a “man pleaser” and simply trying to not needlessly offend people.
188. Paul says that he was the chief of all sinners. 1 Tim.1:15.
He who commits sin is of the devil. Children of God cannot sin. 1 Jn.3:8-10.
Paul was a grave sinner before he converted and became a child of God.
189. Paul said that Jesus is the judge. 2 Tim.4:1.
Paul said that God is the judge. Heb.12:23.
Paul said that the saints would judge. 1 Cor.6:2.
See no. 165 above.
190. Paul said that Jesus was the Son of God. Rom.1:3,4.
Paul said that Jesus was just a man. Heb.7:24.
Hebrews 7:24 says Jesus was a man, but it does not say He was just a man. Jesus is both fully God and fully man. See no. 168 above.
191. Do not boast. Lk.18:14.
Do not be proud. Rom.11:20; 1 Pet. 5:5.
Paul proudly boasts. 2 Cor.11:16-18; Gal.2:9-11.
Christ condemns boasting in the sense of proudly attributing one’s blessings to oneself. When Paul does use the word “boast”, he makes it very clear that he is boasting in the work of the Lord (1 Cor. 1:30-31). Paul is proud of the work God has done through him and makes his boast in Christ. This is why St. Paul says, “Not that we are sufficient to think any thing of ourselves, as of ourselves: but our sufficiency is from God” (2 Cor. 3:5). We may never boast in our own sufficiency, which would be pride, but we may certainly boast and glory in the triumphs of the Lord.
192. Jesus commends the church at Ephesus for discerning the lying apostles. Rev. 2:1,2.
Paul was the apostle to Ephesus. Eph.1:1.
The fact that there were apostles at Ephesus whom Jesus accuses of being liars does not implicate anyone in particular. This is especially true since Paul was a true apostle of Ephesus and Jesus condemns false apostles. This alone puts them in different categories. For example, if we hear on the news, “The governor commended local law enforcement for arresting those illegal weapons traffickers in Phoenix,” it would be understood that those who were legally and legitimately selling guns in Phoenix would not be referred to in the statement. Similarly, Paul and the true apostles are not included in Jesus’ condemnation of false apostles.
Well my friends, that’s it. One hundred ninety-two alleged contradictions refuted. Every single one. And without any tortured logic or wordplay; all that is required is some knowledge of Christian theology, an unbiased application of linguistics, and pure common sense. The Scriptures are the word of God. Everything they assert as true is in fact true. My friends, there are no contradictions in the Bible.
By the way, if you noted that this series was refuting the “194 Contradictions in the New Testament” from Skeptically.org but saw that I have only listed 192 contradictions, this is because there were two repeat “contradictions” which had already been addressed elsewhere. It was perhaps inevitable that in attempting to compile 194 of these there would be some repeats. These were omitted in the interest of space because they were already addressed.
Phillip Campbell, “Contradictions in the New Testament: Part 3 of 3,” Unam Sanctam Catholicam, June 21, 2015. Available online at: www.unamsanctamcatholicam.com/contradictions-in-the-new-testament-part-3-of-3