The Bible repeatedly makes the incredible claim of being the very words of God. These claims are supported by clear evidence found in the characteristics displayed by this book. The first of these characteristics that I will cover is also the one that many find to be most problematic, the Bible’s coherence. The Bible displays a unity in its message and even in details that reveal a single authorship. Although around forty humans were used each displaying their own unique styles through a period of over fourteen hundred years, yet the Bible has the characteristics of a united theme and a lack of contradictions and inconsistencies that mark a single-author work in a way that cannot be explained by natural processes.
Nonetheless, one of the most common attacks made on the Bible is that it is so full of contradictions that it could not possibly be of divine origin. How can we accept the idea that the Bible displays amazing unity in the face of the idea that the Bible is filled with contradictions? The problem goes back to our world-view. If an individual begins with the idea that there is no God then, obviously, the Bible could not be authored by God. We would therefor expect contradictions to be found in the Bible. Such an individual, then, would accept anything that appears to be a contradiction as a contradiction with no further investigation. On the other hand, any individual who sees the evidences of God’s self-revelation displayed in creation and considers carefully the claims made by the Bible will investigate the apparent problems to see if they are truly contradictions. If the Bible is really the product of a single Divine Mind then the contradictions and problems should be able to be resolved; if the Bible is merely the product of the human authors over so long of a time, then we should find many contradictions in message and detail that cannot possibly be resolved.
In fact, the Bible does demonstrate a unified message throughout all its books. Although there are differences in emphasis (The Old Testament emphasizes Israel under the Old Covenant looking for a kingdom on earth whereas the New Testament emphasizes the Church under the New Covenant looking for an heavenly kingdom), these differences are complementary, not contradictory. The unified message of the Bible begins with a God who has one essence yet three persons and who created all else that exists. The Bible everywhere reveals man as sinful, having rebelled against his creator, and so deserving of the judgment of God. The Bible then reveals that God yet loves mankind and provides a way for individuals to be redeemed from sin and judgment represented in the Old Testament by the various sacrifices. The Old Testament then by prophecy and symbol reveals that God the Father would send the Messiah who would be the reality represented by those sacrifices taking our sin and the wrath we deserve in our place. This sacrifice then can be appropriated on the basis of repentance and faith. This Messiah, who is revealed in the New Testament to be Jesus Christ, having taken our judgment then proves his victory over sin and Satan by rising from the dead conquering death itself and ascend into heaven to intercede for us. This Jesus Christ, God the Son incarnate, will then return to earth redeeming all creation and establish His kingdom. This grand meta-narrative of space-time is consistently developed in a coherent manner throughout all sixty-six books with no unsolvable contradictions even though it came to us through so many authors with such varied backgrounds over so long a time. Arranged chronologically, the Bible reveals this message as an opening flower. No other work of literature displays such a characteristic.
The usual explanation for this phenomenon is that of redaction processes. In this explanation, the Bible was produces by many largely unknown authors and put together by editors over time who smoothed out the differences and united the narrative. Although there is internal evidence of the use of sources and editing (Joshua 10:13; II Samuel 1:18 I Kings 11:41; 14:19; I Chronicles 29:29; Luke 1:1-4 etc.), and most conservative scholars accept that some redacting has been done by the biblical human authors themselves. However, the imaginary scenario proposed by the critics is never mentioned by ancient extra-biblical sources nor is there any manuscript evidence to support this idea. Conservative Old Testament introductions such as Archer’s A Survey of Old Testament Introduction and LaSor, Hubbard and Bush’s Old Testament Survey, and articles such as R. K. Harrison’s “Historical and Literary Criticism of the Old Testament” in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary and New Testament introductions such as Guthrie’s New Testament Introduction and Carson, Moo, and Morris’s An Introduction to the New Testament have, while admitting some redaction, repeatedly demonstrated the weaknesses of this kind of redaction history. Josh McDowell writes: “One of the major weaknesses of the radical higher critical school was that in much of their analysis and isolation of alleged documents their conclusions were based almost exclusively upon their own subjective theories regarding the history of Israel and the probable development and compilation process of the supposed sources” (The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict, p. 413). The fact that such a story had to be devised by critics demonstrates that this coherence is a real and unusual phenomenon that has to be explained away if one wants to deny the Bible as a revelation of God even if the explanation is poor. Such an explanation must be devised for those who deny the existence of a God Who reveals Himself through the Bible to maintain their worldview.
I have not yet, however, directly dealt with he existence of what seems to be contradictions in the Bible. It does no good to deny the existence of apparent contradictions. I did not say there are no examples of what looks like contradictions, but that there are none that cannot be resolved. In my next post, Lord willing, I will deal with the apparent contradictions found in the Bible.