by Daryl E. Witmer
Following are nine brief starter answers to nine (so-called) Bible problems submitted to our office in 2003 by a pastor who had received them in an e-mail from someone in his congregation. The bracketed Scriptures following the questions are cited as the basis of the alleged contradictions.
Were humans created before or after other animals? [Genesis 1:25-27 vs. Genesis 2:18-19]
Adam and Eve were created after the animals were created. Genesis 1 provides a chronological order of creation. Genesis 2 provides a more topical listing of events. Genesis 2:19 does not specify exactly when God had created the animals which He then brought to Adam for naming.
Did Adam die on the day that he ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? [Genesis 2:17 vs. Genesis 3:6 & 5:5]
Adam’s body began to physically age and decay and die the day that he sinned, just as God had warned would happen in Genesis 2:17. This ongoing process culminated in an actual ultimate moment of death at the age of 930 years (Genesis 5:5).
When did Satan enter Judas Iscariot? [Luke 22:3 vs. John 13:27]
Satan initially entered Judas Iscariot long before the Last Supper. Judas had become more and more open to Satanic influence in his life (John 12:6, Luke 22:3,47). But that night Satan entered Judas in a far deeper, more profound, even physical sense (John 13:27).
How did Judas die? [Matthew 27:5 vs. Acts 1:18]
By hanging (Matthew 27:5), after which his body – presumably, while being cut loose – fell headfirst and split open upon impact (Acts 1:18).
When was Jesus crucified? [Mark 15:25 vs. John 19:14-16]
Jesus and those who crucified Him evidently arrived at Golgotha at the third hour, or 9am, Jewish time (Mark 15:25). His trial had concluded at about the sixth hour, or 6am, Roman time (John 19:14). The journey from the Pavement in the Praetorium (John 19:13) to Golgotha, presumably lasted for most of the interim three hours.
Whom did the women see at the tomb? [Matthew 28:2 vs. Mark 16:5 vs. Luke 24:4 vs. John 20:12]
Two angels. Mark’s Gospel mentions only one young man (Mark 16:5), which of course doesn’t necessarily mean that there weren’t two. While the angels may have appeared, and are sometimes referred to, as men, the context (Luke 24:4-5), i.e. sudden appearance, dazzling garments, etc., makes it clear that these were no mere men.
Is salvation by faith alone? [Galatians 2:16 & Acts 16:30-31 vs. Psalm 62:12 & Jeremiah 17:10 & 2 Corinthians 5:10 & James 2:17, 21-25]
Under the New Covenant, salvation is by God’s grace through faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-10). It results not from works, but through a faith that works. In comparing Scriptures, be careful not to equate eternal rewards with salvation. And don’t confuse the Old Testament with the New Testament, which only begins with Jesus’ death and resurrection.
Who is for or against Jesus? [Matthew 12:30 vs. Mark 9:40]
Everyone is either for or against Christ, based on His words in these two passages. No one can be neutral. There’s really no contradiction here – and no middle ground.
Can God be found through reason alone? [Romans 1:20 vs. Job 11:7]
Not really. Not definitively. A general revelation of God has been provided through nature (Romans 1:20.) But only when faith, guided by reason, is invested in the Bible can specifics about His nature, His attributes, and His plan be known. The quote from Job 11:7 is cited out of context, and is therefore misleading in regard to this question.
Most folks approach the Bible’s difficult passages with an inclination to find either problems or solutions – and usually find just what they’re looking for. Those who presuppose the Bible to be God’s Word of truth should find these three texts helpful:
Bible Difficulties Solved (Richardson)
Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties
When Critics Ask (Geisler)