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Do My Biases Mean I *Have* to Find Contradictions?

I have now had a week to reflect on my debate with Matthew Firth about whether there are contradictions in the Bible.  Now I’d like to give my personal reactions.  I don’t mean for this to be a continuation of the debate per se —  I won’t be adducing more evidence or counter-evidence.  But I thought it might be helpful to put some thoughts on paper (well, on screen) about what a debate like this can show or at least did show, in my opinion.  Matthew is on the blog and he’s perfectly welcome to comment on these posts or even to respond with one or more posts of his own, giving his own second-level reflections.

So here are mine.  Since I’d like to flesh these out at some length (since they might be helpful for others thinking generally about their view of the Bible and what constitutes a contradiction), this will take several posts.

I begin with the question of whether either of us have a particular agenda/bias that more or less require us to see things the way we do.

I will refer to Matthew here as Rev. Firth here because if I call him Matthew it will be confusing when I’m talking about Matthew’s understanding of Matthew (the Gospel).


Stakes in the Matter

In a debate like this on a heated religious topic, both sides are often convinced that the other person has a deep agenda intimately related to, but not identical with, the issue being debated.   They have a bias that forces them to see things the way they do.

My view was (and still is) that for personal religious reasons …

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Being Willing to Accept the Truth
Judging the Debate!



  1. Avatar
    lobe  May 22, 2019

    It seems to me that you can harmonize virtually anything if you’re willing to say that an author “left out” anything that another author included. But the argument for the birth narratives (that Luke just “didn’t mention” a multi-year segue to Egypt involving hundreds of miles, and constructed the rest of his narrative in such a way that nobody who had not read Matthew would have any idea it had happened) doesn’t seem to be an actual argument against contradiction. It seems to me that it doesn’t matter if Luke knew that they had gone to Egypt but chose not to mention it. We don’t know Luke and we can’t ask him. What matters is what he wrote down, and what he actually wrote down never mentioned it. Even if there are reasons that Luke decided not to include it, that doesn’t make the account less contradictory. It means that Luke had a reason for the contradiction.

    It sounds like the only way Rev. Firth would concede that the account was contradictory was if Luke had said “And by the way, they definitely never went to Egypt at any point or for any reason. Any account that says they did is lying.” But if Luke really wasn’t aware of a flight to Egypt…why say something like that?

  2. Avatar
    jogon  May 22, 2019

    Bart, I’ve thought of a great way to harmonise the New Testament. There were two jesuses!

    Two different dates given for his death? Simple! Jesus 1 died the day before Passover and Jesus 2 the day of Passover.

    Two different lists of disciples? One set belongs to Jesus 1 and 1 set to Jesus 2!

    I ran into trouble with the resurrection accounts though! Maybe there were actually 4 guys called Jesus that led extremely similar but different lives?

  3. tompicard
    tompicard  May 22, 2019

    >>>Matthew is on the blog and he’s perfectly
    >>>welcome to comment on these posts or even
    >>to respond with one or more posts of his own

    I would appreciate another post or comment by Rev. Firth with the opposite question?

    Does his belief about the Bible or about Jesus or about God require him to think it is NOT a contradiction?

    I don’t know why it should, but maybe he can take the time to respond to the similar question

  4. Avatar
    Pattycake1974  May 22, 2019

    “In case anyone wonders, I should also say that later in life, when I stopped being a Christian, my loss of faith had nothing – absolutely nothing – to do with whether Jairus came to Jesus before or after his daughter died. It had to so with an issue that really is important: how to explain the misery and suffering so massively rampant in this world (from the beginning) if there is a God in charge of it. In the face of an issue like that, who actually *cares* when Jairus came to Jesus, if he did at all, if he even existed? Really, for me it wouldn’t matter a bit.]”

    I understand this, but would you have lost your faith if you believed Jesus’ resurrection was a factual event and that he really did walk on the water, raise people from the dead, turn water into wine, feed the 5,000…etc? Besides, Jesus is known as the Suffering Servant—poor, hungry, scoffed by family, and humiliated with the most extreme death penalty.

    Suffering may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back for you, but surely your education and knowledge were working against you as well because you say above, “Scholarship may affect what you choose to believe, theologically.“

    • Bart
      Bart  May 24, 2019

      If I thought Jesus was raised from the dead I would still be a Christian, yes. My point is that the contradictions I pointed out are not ones that have anything, in my opinion, to do with the essentials of Christian faith. And not seeing contradictions in those places would not make me inclined to be a Christians. So in response to the question of whehther I have to find contradictions in these places to justify my belief or lack of belief, I’d say absolutely not.

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