Unlike many sites that have attempted to enumerate the Bible’s many contradictions, and in somewhat simplistic or even antagonistic terms, this site is devoted to explaining why there are contradictions in the Bible using modern biblical source criticism. As the term implies, this methodological approach to the Bible looks at the Bible’s sources, that is its once separate and individual texts—all of which were penned by more than 70 different authors, over a period of roughly 1,000 years, to vastly different audiences, and to address vastly different historical, political, and religious circumstances.
The Bible contains thousands of contradictions, from minute differences in narrative details to sweeping theological and ideological disagreements. This has been a well-known fact in the scholarly community for roughly three centuries! It is not debatable. What is debatable are the conclusions that one draws from this data or how to assess this data. But the textual data is unmistakable.
Starting January 01, 2013, I will post these textual data—a biblical contradiction a day! But more importantly I will explain how and why they came about, who wrote the texts that now contradict each other, to whom, when, and why these authors disagreed on the particular contradiction at hand. In sum, the Bible contains contradictions because the Bible is a composite text; it is composed from a vastly profuse array of different, and as we shall see competing, textual traditions, belief systems, and worldviews.
What usually happens in the pubic arena is that one’s personal or cultural values, beliefs, or theologies become more important than what is and is not printed on the pages of the Bible. In other words, the Bible is often vehicled to support this or that modern belief system, irregarldess of what the biblical texts actually say, why they say what they say, to whom they were written, aganst whom they were written, and prompted by what historical circumstance and conditioned by what geopolitical framework, ideology, or worldview….
Seldom do readers of the Bible actually think about the compositional nature of the text they hold in their hands. Many Jews and Christians are completely unaware that the Bible is composed of a vast collection of different texts, themselves composed from a variety of texts and traditions, all of which were written over a period of roughly 1,000 years, by varying authors, and under diverse historical circumstances and religious and political convictions. Many of the Bible’s books—or more precisely the texts and traditions that went into the composition of its books—went through lengthy periods of continual revision, often supplemented with other texts and traditions, and redrafted to suit an ever-changing audience’s political and religious needs. When the Bible as we know it was compiled, these different texts, traditions, and competing theologies were collected together. 99% of the contradictions currently in the Bible are the result of these different and competing texts having been combined together and authenticated as scripture by a later generation of readers. Distinguishing these individual texts and their unique messages, therefore, places a greater emphasis on the individual texts of the Bible, their authors, audiences, reasons for composition, etc., than that which is symbolized or invoked by the word “Bible” itself. It asks us to read and understand these once separate texts on their own terms, within their own literary and historical contexts, long before the Bible was ever created. That’s the task we will be pursuing here. Come join me in this textual and historical adventure….
I will be posting other preliminary posts about the Bible’s compositional history before we examine our first contradiction.