12 Myths Every Catholic Should Be Able To Answer
by Deal Hudson
#3. “The Old and New Testaments contradict one another in numerous places. If an omnipotent God inspired the Bible, He would never have allowed these errors.”
This is a common claim, one found all over the internet (especially on atheist and free-thought websites). An article on the American Atheists website notes that “What is incredible about the Bible is not its divine authorship; it’s that such a concoction of contradictory nonsense could be believed by anyone to have been written by an omniscient God.”
Such a statement is generally followed by a list of Biblical “contradictions.” However, claims of contradictions make a few simple errors. For example, critics fail to read the various books of the Bible in line with the genre in which they were written. The Bible is, after all, a collection of several kinds of writing...history, theology, poetry, apocalyptic material, etc. If we try to read these books in the same wooden way in which we approach a modern newspaper, we’re going to be awfully confused.
And the list of Bible “contradictions” bears this out. Take, for example, the first item on the American Atheist’s list:
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” Exodus 20:8
“One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.” Romans 14:5
There! the atheist cries, A clear contradiction. But what the critic neglects to mention is something every Christian knows: When Christ instituted the New Covenant, the ceremonial requirements of the Old Covenant were fulfilled (and passed away). And so it makes perfect sense that Old Testament ceremonial rules would no longer stand for the people of the New Covenant.
If the critic had understood this simple tenet of Christianity, he wouldn’t have fallen into so basic an error.
The next item on the American Atheist list is similarly flawed:
“...the earth abideth for ever.” Ecclesiastes 1:4
“...the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.”
So, the Old Testament claims that the earth will last forever, while the New says it will eventually be destroyed. How do we harmonize these? Actually, it’s pretty easy, and it again comes from understanding the genre in which these two books were written.
Ecclesiastes, for example, contrasts secular and religious worldviews — and most of it is written from a secular viewpoint. That’s why we find lines like, “Bread is made for laughter, and wine gladdens life, and money answers everything.” (Ecclesiastes 10:19)
However, at the end of the book, the writer throws us a twist, dispensing with all the “wisdom” he’d offered and telling us to “Fear God, and keep his commandments; for this is the whole duty of man.” (12:13)
If a reader stops before the end, he’ll be as confused as the critic at American Atheists. However, since the viewpoint that gave birth to the notion of an eternal earth is rejected in the last lines of the book, there’s obviously no contradiction with what was later revealed in the New Testament. (And this is just one way to answer this alleged discrepancy.)
The other “contradictions” between the Old and New Testaments can be answered similarly. Almost to an item, the critics who use them confuse context, ignore genre, and refuse to allow room for reasonable interpretation.
No thinking Christian should be disturbed by these lists.
Next: Myth 4
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