This is the original version of this page. To see the updated version,
This page is a subsidiary of my What About The Bible? page, which
discusses some of the problems I found in the Bible during my years as a fundamental,
Bible-believing literalist. The subject of contradictions grew too long and thus warranted
its own page.
Because I grew up convinced that the Bible was literally true and inerrant, some of its
built-in problems eventually caused me to doubt its veracity. One category of problems is
contradictions. There are many passages in the Bible that seem to contradict one another. Some
of them aren’t really contradictions, as we shall see, but others actually are.
Please keep in mind that I was not sifting through the book looking for contradictions. I
was studying to be a minister, reading the Bible daily for my own education, and these kept
popping out at me.
OT God Versus NT God
One of the first contradictions that became apparent was how God’s personality
had changed from the ancient Hebrew text to the relatively new and enlightened Greek
writings of the New Testament authors. One God was angry and fitful, undependable, merciless,
hard-nosed. He kept changing his mind, and was susceptible to persuasion. He seemed more
interested in the odor of burnt animals than in the behavior or motivation of his people. He
encouraged the wandering tribes of Israel to commit genocide on several occasions, instead of
having them teach other nations about the one true God. But in the New Testament, He’s
apparently had a change of heart for the better. Now He is merciful (though the cruelty still
shows through), wise, forgiving, loving.
“The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth,
and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The Lord
regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. So the
Lord said, ‘I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created — and
with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground — for I regret
that I have made them.’ But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord... [After the Great
Flood:] Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean
birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it. The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his
heart: ‘Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination
of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as
I have done.’ ”
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who
loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is
love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we
might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son
as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love
one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is
made complete in us. This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his
Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the
world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And
so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God,
and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the
day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love
drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect
in love. We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or
sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot
love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also
love their brother and sister.” (emphasis mine)
In the first passage, God changed his mind three times: once to regret that He’d ever created
humanity and therefore should destroy it
(Gen. 6:6), then again to allow Noah and his
family to survive, and thirdly to regret having ever destroyed it and promising never to do it again
— this last apparently brought on by the smell of animals set afire
(Gen. 8:21). If I had read this in ancient times,
it might not have seemed so strange, but I was in Oklahoma City in the 1980s, where burnt
sacrifices were not common and God was not supposed to change his mind.
In the second passage, “there is no fear in love” because “fear has to do with
punishment” — which seems exactly like what the OT God wanted. He wanted us to fear
punishment, in fact commanded us to fear punishment. As I grew older, this dichotomy
reminded me of parents who were overly strict and corporal with their first child, but then
loosened up with the second child, leaning more on positive incentives and encouragement than on
spankings or other physical discipline.
For a time, I accepted (and propagated) these explanations.
Don’t think that Christians haven’t noticed this. They have. Theologians and apologists
long ago came up with a variety of explanations. One school of thought points to the various
expressions of God’s “love” in the OT as well as descriptions of his wrath in the
NT. “They’re not that different”, they’ll say. For a
time, I accepted (and propagated) these explanations.
One thing no Christian will deny is that the rules changed from the OT to the NT. For
example, we no longer have to offer burnt sacrifices — presumably because Christ was the
ultimate sacrifice. And we no longer kill sinners by throwing stones at them. Where there’s
great disagreement is on which Old Testament laws were dismissed by the New Testament. So,
how do you decide which OT rules are still in force and which ones aren’t? For every preacher
or theologian with an answer, you can find one with a different answer.
For example, some will insist the NT didn’t supercede the OT. They’ll quote Jesus as
saying he hadn’t come to abolish the Law or Prophets, but to fulfill them. Others,
however, will insist that Jesus’ death on the cross did away with the OT, and they’ll
quote Colossians 2:13-14, especially
in certain versions, which says Jesus “wiped out the written Law with its rules”
(NIRV), and “The Law was against us. It opposed us. He took it away and nailed it to the
Wouldnít it have been easier to just spell out in the New Testament which OT laws were going to
remain in force?
Wouldn’t it have been easier to just spell out in the New Testament which OT laws were going
to remain in force? The Old Testament listed all the laws at least twice, repeating itself quite a
bit. Surely there was enough room in the NT to scribble a few sentences: “No more burnt
offerings, because Christ died for your sins. No more violent punishments for sins; just forgive
people and move on. All those laws about cooking, hair-cutting, garment-making, not gathering wood
on the Sabbath, etc.? Those are done. Basically, be nice to people.” And list a few
One other interesting tidbit, which I didn’t realize until later, is that the Old Testament
is almost entirely silent on the subject of Heaven
(Daniel 12:1-3 being a major
exception). Those who followed the Lord in those
days expected to go to Sheol, somewhere in the belly of the Earth. Cobbling together a
bunch of scriptures, it looks like Sheol (Hades, the Grave, etc.) was divided into compartments,
one for sinners and one for the righteous. It wasn’t until much later that the concept of
Heaven arose. Modern Christianity gets its depiction of Heaven mostly from the last couple of
chapters of Revelation.
I learned to accept this apparent dissonance between the two testaments, just as I accepted other
teachings that later made little sense to me. But as I later read passages from other religious
writings — from outside Christianity, I discovered something startling: the Old Testament
sounded just like other religions’ writings from the same time period, while the New
Testament was written in language just like others of its time, and framed with different ideas
than the old.
The God of the Old Testament seemed just like the ancient gods of other nearby cultures, demanding
burnt offerings, going to war against neighborhing tribes, often acting capriciously and often
unexplainable. The God of the New Testament resembled more modern thought, perhaps borrowed from
the Greeks and Romans.
It seemed less and less like the completely whole book I’d been taught, and more like two
collections of writings. Even within each testament, there were differences in not only style, but
also in ways of thinking. If one unchanging God inspired every word, then why did it feel like
several dozen men wrote it in vastly different time periods and circumstances and with varying
God Is Seen/Heard/Felt Or Invisible Spirit?
The Bible is full of passages where people saw the Lord,
touched him, heard him. Yet in other places, he cannot be seen, touched, or heard.
A few examples of the former: In Exodus 33, Moses demanded of God: “Now show me your
glory.” God explained that no one could see his face and live, but allowed Moses to see
his back (Exodus 33:20-23). Just
a few verses earlier in the same chapter:
“The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as
one speaks to a friend.” Nine chapters before that
(Ex. 24:9-11), seventy-four people,
including Moses, “saw the God of Israel” and even described the “pavement”
that was “under his feet”.
In Gen. 3:8-10,
Adam and Eve heard God “as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day” Later in
Genesis (32:24-32), Jacob physically
wrestled with “a man” who later admitted he was God. (Notably, “the man”
was unable to beat Jacob in actual wrestling, and instead cheated by using his godlike powers to
injure Jacob’s hip.) In that instance, Jacob said he “saw God face to face”.
These are outright contradictions and demonstrate how the idea of god had changed. God used
to be something like a super-powerful, super-longlived human, who sometimes walked around like a
person, talking and wrestling with folks, but later he was understood to be a completely different
kind of being — something more philosophical, ethereal, spiritual.
The best explanation I ever heard for this is still pretty poor, and is based on the assumption
that the Bible cannot be wrong: Since the Bible cannot be wrong, and it says no one has ever seen
God and anyone who looks upon him will die, then no one has ever seen god and anyone who looks upon
him will die. Period. Therefore, any time it says someone saw God, they were actually seeing a very
toned-down version of a physical manifestation. In other words, they didn’t really see God.
This is weak tea, and they know it, because the Bible actually says these people
saw God, but the audience for this explanation is primarily people who already believe.
God Grows Weary?
Isaiah 40:28 assures the reader that
“the Lord is the everlasting God... He will not
grow tired or weary...” But we all know the story of Creation, where God rested
“from all his work” and “from all the work of creating that he had done”
(Gen. 2:2-3). The Bible goes further
(Ex. 31:17) and says that God was
“refreshed” by his rest.
The only explanation I’ve seen is that the original Hebrew word for “rest” can also
mean “to cease or stop”. So, apologists will say, God really didn’t rest;
he just stopped. This, however, does not explain how he was “refreshed” by the rest.
It also brings up the question of various English translations of the Bible, almost all of which
say “rested” instead of “ceased” (I found only three translations that chose
the supposedly better word in Gen. 2:2-3). Who knows Hebrew better, us or the folks who translated
the Bible into English? Also, didn’t God know ahead of time that few readers of the Bible
would be reading it in the original manuscripts?
God Satisfied With His Works?
Genesis 1:31 depicts a God satisfied
“with all that he had made”, but 6:6
says he “regretted” making humans and thus decided to kill all of them, and every plant
and animal as well.
For us humans, it would not be contradiction. I can be satisfied today when I complete a project, and
then regret it later, when I realize what I did wrong. But for an almighty God who knows the future,
it is indeed a contradiction. To date, I have never seen a good explanation around this.
The explanation most often given is that God is reacting to human sinfulness: he gave us free will,
and is saddened any time we use that free will to sin. Many seem to accept this, despite the answer
itself raising more questions than it answers. God himself created the capacity and desire to sin,
but is sad when people do it? God foreknew that humans would become exceedingly wicked within a
few generations, but didn’t intervene until the only solution he could think of was to drown
everyone? God was satisfied with all that he had made, despite knowing it would all fall apart
very soon (exceedingly soon for a being who is eternal)?
And even if the “explanation” didn’t raise these other questions, it still
doesn’t explain how God could be satisfied with all of creation and then later regret it, if
he exists eternally and knows all things.
God Is Omnipresent & Omniscient?
Christian doctrine is pretty solid on this point: God knows everything, from the beginning of
time until the end of time, and has always known it. And he is everywhere, at all times.
There are countless scriptures to bear this
out, including Proverbs 15:3
(“The eyes of the Lord are everywhere,
keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”),
Psalm 139:7-10 (describes how
God is everywhere, in the heavens, in the depths, on the far side of the sea), and
Job 34:21-22 (“His eyes
are on the ways of mortals; he sees their every step. There is no deep shadow, no utter darkness,
where evildoers can hide.”)
However, there are scriptures that indicate otherwise. In
Gen. 3:8-9, Adam and Eve hid from God,
and God asked where they were. Gen. 11:5
says God “came down to see” the city and tower that the people were building (Babel).
In Gen. 18:20-21:
“Then the Lord said, ‘The outcry
against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous that I will go down and see
if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.’”
The first one could be explained easily, that Adam and Eve only thought they were hiding
from God; of course he knew where they were. The next one could simply be a figure of speech. But
the last one is the Lord himself speaking, as if
he has no idea what’s going on in Sodom and Gomorrah; just what he’s heard from
complainants. “I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry
that has reached me” is not indicative of someone who knows exactly what’s going on,
someone who has forever known that this would happen.
There is no way to explain it away.
God Is All-Powerful?
The Bible regularly repeats the refrain that God is all-powerful. As a couple of examples, take
Jeremiah 32:27 and
Matthew 19:26. There
are many other such passages.
However, there are also passages which indicate strongly (without inline explanation) that God is
not all-powerful. As previously mentioned, Jacob once wrestled with “a
man” that turned out to be God. During that wrestling match, “the man saw that he
could not overpower him”, and only won by magically causing a permanent hip injury.
Afterward, the man (God) told Jacob: “you have struggled
with God and with humans and have overcome.” I have only ever heard/read one explanation for
this, which is that God must have chosen to not use his power. But this is not what the passage says.
It says God could not — did not have the ability to — overpower Jacob. If
it had meant he didn’t want to, it would have said would not or just flat-out
“God was restraining himself” instead of giving the impression that God in human form
was just a man.
Also relevant is the confusing story of Israel’s conquest of Canaan. In
Genesis 17, God promises Abraham: “The
whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession
to you and your descendants after you...” This promise is apparently fulfilled in
“So the Lord gave Israel all the land he had
sworn to give their ancestors, and they took possession of it and settled there. The
Lord gave them rest on every side, just as he had
sworn to their ancestors. Not one of their enemies withstood them; the
Lord gave all their enemies into their hands. Not
one of all the Lord’s good promises to
Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.”
But, just a few chapters later, at the beginning
of the book of Judges, it turns out that
“all their enemies” had not been driven out. Some of the Canaanites were still in the
land. The Lord continued to send the Israelites
into battle against the various tribes who still lived in Canaan, including in the city of
Jerusalem. Victory after victory ensued, but by verse 19, the military efforts began to fail,
despite the Lord being “with” the army.
“The Lord was with the men of Judah. They
took possession of the hill country, but they were unable to drive the people from the plains,
because they had chariots fitted with iron.”
A few verses later, Israel’s army
failed to drive out the Jebusites, who were living in Jerusalem. They also failed to defeat the
people of Beth Shan, Taanach, Dor, Ibleam, or Megiddo, “because the Canaanites were
determined to live in that land.” They did press them into slavery. The rest of the
chapter lists further peoples and towns that Israel could not subjugate, despite the
Lord being with them and despite the earlier
assertion that all the enemies had already been driven out.
A little later in Judges (Ch. 3), it’s
explained in hindsight that the Lord had left
these nations in Canaan intentionally “to test the Israelites to see whether they would
obey the Lord’s commands” and to
“teach warfare to the descendants of the Israelites who had not had previous battle
As a believer, these stories troubled me, both as examples of poor writing and as unexplained
contradictions. How could it say God had given the Israelites all the land he had promised them
during the lifetime of Joshua, but then after Joshua’s death they still didn’t have
that land? And if God was fighting with the soldiers, how could they not defeat iron
chariots or lose to people whose only defense was their determination? How could an
almighty being wrestle with a man and only win by cheating?
God Knows The Hearts Of Men?
In addition to knowing of events, God is supposed to know our thoughts and feelings too.
Acts 1:24 has disciples praying:
“Lord, you know everyoneís heart.”
Psalm 139:1-4 says:
“You have searched me, Lord, and you know me...
you perceive my thoughts from afar... you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my
tongue, you, Lord, know it completely.”
I Chronicles 28:9 adds, “the
Lord searches every heart and understands every
desire and every thought.” He’s the world’s best mind-reader.
Surely, if the Psalmist and Jesusí disciples were correct, God already knew whether Abraham
feared him; there was no need to terrorize Isaac just to learn something he already knew.
Yet there are times when God clearly didn’t know.
In Gen. 22:12, God says to Abraham, after
ordering him to kill his son Isaac, “Now I know that you fear God, because you have not
withheld from me your son, your only son.” Surely, if the Psalmist and Jesus’ disciples
were correct, God already knew whether Abraham feared him; there was no need to terrorize Isaac
just to learn something he already knew. In
Deut. 8:2, Moses told the Israelites:
“Remember how the Lord your God led you all
the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in
your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.” But God already knew all that,
right? So why did he really lead them through the wilderness for forty years? For fun?
A little later, in Deut. 13:3, Moses
almost repeats himself: “The Lord your
God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your
One attempt I have often heard on this matter is still
making the rounds:
“Since God knows even the intent of the heart, then He knew what the intent of
Abraham’s heart was... we can conclude that God was speaking to Abraham in terms that
Abraham was familiar with...
God makes statements often designed to reveal to us a truth that needs to be presented.
In fact, God often asks questions He already knows the answer to.”
What if instead, you started with the parts where God didnít know the intentions of menís hearts,
and used that to explain the all-knowing parts? Itís not as pretty, then.
As always, that isn’t an explanation, but a cop-out. Some years ago, I began to realize
how commonly this strategy was used: “If part of the Bible seems to disagree with another part,
then accept the part that backs our doctrine, and use it to explain away the other part.”
The “explanation” is based on other verses that say God knows everything, including
our intentions and thoughts. What if instead, you started with the parts where God didn’t
know the intentions of men’s hearts, and used that to explain the all-knowing parts? It’s
not as pretty, then.
The Four Gospels
Much has been written on the four canonical gospels — the four “books” in the
Bible that purport to describe the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth — and how they
relate to one another. In the world of Christian fundamentalists and biblical literalists, from
whence I came, much of the writing focuses on explaining away the differences and contradictory
I wasn’t in high school until I learned there had been other “gospels”, and
that there had been severe disagreements in the early Church about which gospels were the
true ones. This shook me, because I thought it should have been more obvious to
those who lived closer to the time of Christ which ones were accurate.
And it wasn’t until going to Bible college that I learned that none of the four Gospels
was likely composed by anyone who had actually met or even seen Jesus. Scholars differ
somewhat on the guessed dates of writing (65-110 CE), but we know the earliest surviving complete
copies of the gospels date to the 300s CE. Mark is often thought to be the earliest of the gospels
with Matthew and Luke borrowing heavily from it.
What I studiously ignored for many years were the differences between the four stories of Jesus,
or when I didn’t ignore them, I accepted the common explanations.
Who Is Joseph’s Father?
Matthew says Jacob was the father of Joseph (the husband of Jesus’ mother Mary). But Luke
says Heli was the father of this same Joseph. Joseph cannot be the son of both Jacob and Heli
unless both gay marriage and gay adoption were acceptable then (they weren’t). The rest of
the genealogies differ as well.
The most common explanation offered is that Matthew’s genealogy is that of Joseph,
while Luke is listing the ancestors of Mary. Of course, neither gospel makes this clear, and
neither does any other passage in the Bible. Some apologists
assert that “Luke never said that Joseph was the son of Heli in the Greek”, saying
that the original manuscripts omit the word “son”, something that was added into the
English translations “so we can better understand it”. Really? If adding the word
son was so we can understand it better, then why does it require removing the word son
to actually understand it? I’m willing to take the word of scholars about what the Greek
passage says, but what I’m not willing to accept is that an all-knowing God would require
every future Christian to learn Greek or hang around with Greek scholars in order to understand
the Bible. It was God, afterall, who created
the various languages of the world, for the express purpose of: “so they will not
understand each other”.
A more rational explanation is that neither author, or only one of them, knew the actual
genealogy of Jesus. In other words, at least one of them was mistaken.
Jesus Equal To The Father, Or Lesser Than?
John 10:30 has Jesus saying: “I and the Father are one.” But just a few chapters later,
in 14:28, Jesus says: “...the Father is greater than I.”
Read in complete context, this is not quite the contradiction that it seems at first. Other verses
explain that Jesus and “The Father” are different aspects of the same God, but that
Jesus, when he was sent to Earth was placed temporarily in a lower position of authority,
even “lower than the angels” (Heb. 2:7). This doesn’t require knowledge of the
original languages; just more careful reading of the entire New Testament.
It only raises the question of why this wasn’t spelled out more clearly instead of appearing
to be a doctrine that developed over time.
Sermon On The Mount Or On The Plain?
Matthew records the well-known Sermon of the Mount in
chapter five. It’s called this because
“when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down.” But in Luke,
a very similar sermon is delivered
from “a level place”, with Jesus standing.
This is not a contradiction. Nothing in the two gospels indicates that this was the same sermon.
Jesus’ ministry is supposed to have lasted just over three years, as he “went throughout
Galilee, teaching in their synagogues”. It is easy to conceive that he covered the same
material on multiple occasions. If he had a consistent message to convey, it only makes sense
that he would have delivered it more than once, in different places to different crowds.
But again, it calls into question the theory that the entire Bible was
guided by an all-knowing God. Why have the same sermon in the Bible twice, worded slightly
differently each time? This reminds me of the Old Testament listing many of the laws two or
three times, often slightly differently each time.
God Has A Specific Dwelling Location?
2 Chronicles 7:12-16 depicts God telling
King Solomon he has “chosen this place for myself as a temple for sacrifices” and
that he has chosen the temple as a dwelling place for “my eyes and my heart”. But in
Acts 7:47-49, a man named Stephen, who
was “full of the Holy Spirit”, explained that God “does not live in houses
made by human hands” (referring specifically to Solomon’s temple).
Like some of the other alleged contradictions, this one isn’t quite so. The earlier passage
doesn’t say the temple is God’s house or that an infinite God will somehow live in a
stone building made by an earthly king. However, the differences in the two passages certainly
seem to reflect different ways of thinking about God on the part of the authors. The earlier
Hebrew writings often depict God being attached to physical places or objects, much like other
religions of the time, while the later Greek writings see a much larger, less human-like God.
In other words, the two passages don’t necessarily contradict each other, but it is clear that
God became more sophisticated over the millenia, coincidentally just as humanity’s ideas of
gods became more sophisticated.
This same changing idea can be seen by contrasting
I Kings 8:12 (“The
Lord has said that he would dwell in a dark cloud”)
and I Timothy 6:16 (“[God] lives in
unapproachable light”). Looking at the context, these aren’t so much contradictions
as they are representations of the god idea going through changes over the centuries. Verses like
Psalm 18 show the ancient idea of gods being
part and parcel with natural phenomena — earthquakes, thunderstorms, — providing
physical strength to overcome enemies in battle, showing human characteristics like sadness, anger,
favoritism, and jealousy, while the New Testament depicts a higher, non-Earthly being described
by light and love, mystery and immutability.
God Doesn’t Change His Mind?
God, according to Christian doctrine and parts of the Bible, is unchanging.
Number 23:19 tells us that “God is
not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind.”
James 1:17 assures us that “the
Father of the heavenly lights” (God) “does not change like shifting shadows.”
Mal. 3:6 agrees: “I the Lord do
not change.” And, since Jesus is God too, let’s include
Hebrews 13:8: “Jesus Christ is the same
yesterday and today and forever.” So, God doesn’t lie, change, or change his mind —
When Jonah was sent to preach to Ninevah, the message God gave him was “Forty more days and
Ninevah will be overthrown” (Jonah 3:4).
The king of the city and all the people acted immediately to show God how contrite they were, and
“When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not
bring on them the destruction he had threatened”
(Jonah 3:10). God’s initial message
did not include an “if”; just that the city would be overthrown.
In I Samuel 2:30-31, God reminds Eli of
a previous promise (“I promised that members of your family would minister before me
forever”), and then announces he will break the promise: “Far be it from me!”
2 Kings 20:1-6 relates the story of how
God promised death to King Hezekiah: “Put your house in order, because you are going to die;
you will not recover.” Like the people of Ninevah, Hezekiah immediately prayed and begged
for God to change his mind. So God changed his mind and promised to heal Hezekiah, and added
fifteen years to his life.
The usual explanation for these stories is that God’s forebearance with humankind is
conditional upon human behavior. In other words, he wasn’t lying and didn’t
change his mind; his actions in these cases were dependent upon the human actions. What’s
odd then is that the Bible didn’t come out and say that was the case. Just that he
planned/promised one thing but later did/said something else.
God Will Judge Us?
A bunch of Bible passages refer to various post-life judgments.
Revelation 20:11-15 describes every
dead person being judged according to “what they had done”, as recorded in a book.
Anyone whose name was not in the book was thrown into “the lake of fire”.
“God has no need to examine people further, that they should come before him for judgment.
Without inquiry he shatters the mighty and sets up others in their place.”
This only feels like a contradiction, but isn’t really. Job just says God doesn’t
need to have a judgment, not that he won’t actually do it.
On the other hand, reading more about the Judgment can cause a lot of confusion. According to the
passage from Revelations above, some names are in the book and others aren’t; it seems like
a simple process. But Jesus said:
“But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every
empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will
So it’s not the simple process of finding out whether your name is in a big book; but you
will also have to stand around while every word you said is evaluated. Jesus
added that he will “separate
the people from one another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats”, based on
whether they fed the hungry, housed strangers, clothed the poor, looked after the sick, and
visited folks in prison. Even the Revelations passage above mentions people being judged for
“what they had done”. James noted
that “judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful.”
People who teach will be “judged more strictly”
(James 3:1). Also, Jesus
said, “in the same way you judge
others, you will be judged”. Later in that same chapter, Jesus indicates there will be some
time set aside for pleading your case at the judgment, and this is backed up by
Romans 14:12 (“each of us will give
an account of ourselves to God”) and by
I Peter 4:5.
In I Corinthians, it’s
written that “the
Lord’s people will judge the world” and “judge the angels” too, something
you don’t hear too much about. Regardless of all the talk about words and actions, though,
John 3:18 disagrees, saying that anyone
who believes will not be condemned, and whoever doesn’t believe is already condemned;
doing good stuff won’t matter if you don’t believe. Luke
wrote that Jesus said the poor will go
to heaven, and the rich won’t. Later in the same chapter, Jesus said you could get out of
being judged by not judging others, that you could be forgiven by forgiving others. The prophet
Jeremiah said God will search a person’s
heart and mind, but will reward them for their conduct and deeds. That one was kind of a tease; you
start to think — Oh! I’ll get points for good intentions — but no; it’s just
what you do.
My point here is that the Bible is gravely inconsistent in how it describes the judgment that will
allegedly follow our deaths.
Despite the existence of regular explanations for many of these contradictions (most of which fell
flat upon further examination), I began to strongly
feel that the Bible could not have been inspired by God on a word-for-word level. An omniscient
being with the intent to instruct us through this collection of small books would not have
included so many passages that either seem to or actually do contradict each other. He would have
known how confusing it would be to the average acolyte, how many questions they would foster.
Some of the “explanations” require extra-biblical knowledge, knowledge
of the original languages or a specific translation, or knowledge of ancient Hebrew customs. Did
God not realize that the world would someday be filled with people who don’t speak ancient
Hebrew, Latin, and Greek?