Errancy.org

This website represents one man's look at a fairly random selection of alleged Biblical contradictions, errors, and other problems. Problems are classified as Weak, Minor, or Serious, according to how severe they are for the doctrine of inerrancy: that is, the view that the Bible contains no errors. Of course, these ratings are pretty subjective. You might want to read my thoughts on how Christians should respond to these problems. I don't argue that Biblical errors are fatal for Christianity, merely a certain fundamentalist brand of it (but full disclosure: I am not currently a Christian).

Last updated September 2014: some more thoughts on the killings in 1 Samuel.


Internal contradictions: Non-problems | Gospels | Old Testament | NT versus OT | Acts – Revelation
Other problems: Science and history | Prophecies | Immorality | Oddities

Non-problems

Things barely worth worrying about, yet which occur widely...

(Weak) Various scribal errors
(Weak) Jesus' wording
(Weak) On rounding

Alleged gospel contradictions

Since there are four books dealing with the same events, the gospels are probably the best place to look for contradictions...

(Serious) The resurrection, Mary Magdalene, and the empty tomb
(Serious) Luke and Matthew's conflicting nativity stories
(Serious) The fig tree's withering
(Serious) A centurion and his messengers
(Serious) Jesus healed the blind before entering or after leaving Jericho
(Serious) Jesus' last words
(Serious) Jesus did and didn't carry his cross
(Serious) John the Baptist and Elijah
(Serious) The Last Supper and the Passover meal
(Serious) A man's ear is cut off before or after Jesus is seized
(Serious) When was Judas paid?
(Serious) James and John or their mother asked about sitting in Heaven
(Minor) The Easter chronology (three days and three nights)
(Minor) The fig tree and the cleansed temple
(Minor) The crucified thief does or doesn't revile Jesus
(Minor) When did Jesus cleanse the temple?
(Minor) A centurion mocks or exalts Jesus
(Minor) Feeding the 5,000 in Bethsaida or the desert
(Minor) John the Baptist was thrown in prison sooner or later
(Minor) The two callings of Andrew and Simon
(Minor) Different genealogies in Luke and Matthew
(Minor) Herod or Herodias wants John dead - also deals with Markan Priority
(Minor) Herod thought Jesus was John the Baptist, or not
(Minor) The (not quite?) dead girl
(Minor) The sermon on the whatever
(Minor) The rooster crowed (twice?)
(Minor) The hour of the crucifixion
(Minor) Jesus cried out in Hebrew or Aramaic
(Minor) Thomas did or didn't meet the risen Jesus
(Minor) Jesus healed one or two blind men - is the same as the one below
(Minor) Jesus healed one or two demoniacs - is the same as the one above
(Minor) Jesus on taking a staff
(Minor) John the Baptist knew or didn't know Jesus
(Minor) Jesus is offered vinegar or wine, with gall or myrrh
(Weak) John thought Jesus wasn't born in Bethlehem
(Weak) Jesus forgets Simon Peter's question at the Farewell Discourse
(Weak) Jesus did or didn't baptise
(Weak) Keeping good deeds secret
(Weak) John the Baptist forgets who Jesus is
(Weak) Satan entered Judas twice
(Weak) A kiss from Judas
(Weak) The women watched the crucifixion from afar, or up close
(Weak) The curtain was torn before or after Jesus died
(Weak) With us or against us
(Weak) Exorcisms and true believers
(Weak) When the stone covering Jesus' tomb was moved
(Weak) Jesus enters the wilderness post-baptism
(Unsure) Jesus and his scarlet purple robe
(Unsure) Jesus' second sign came after many others
(Unsure) Mary Magdalene and friends "said nothing to anyone"

Alleged Old Testament contradictions

I haven't searched for Old Testament contradictions with as much vigour...

(Serious) Josiah died at Megiddo or Jerusalem
(Serious) God's name Yahweh was or wasn't known
(Minor) David's great-grandmother Ruth was a Moabite
(Minor) The order of creation is contradictory
(Minor) God forgets that Abraham's son Ishmael exists
(Minor) God forgets about burnt offerings
(Minor) David was the seventh or eighth son of Jesse
(Minor) Saul forgets who David is
(Minor) David pays 50 or 600 shekels for some land
(Minor) Adam didn't die when he ate the fruit
(Minor) God or Satan incites David to take a census
(Minor) God asks for graven images
(Weak) Two animals, or seven pairs of animals, on the ark
(Weak) The Egyptians give pursuit on dead horses
(Weak) David, without sin?
(Weak) God forsakes Israel then changes his mind
(Weak) One or many languages before Babel
(Weak) Fowl were made from water or earth
(Weak) Jotham reigned for 16 or 20 years
(Weak) The burial of Ahaz - also covers Joash
(Weak) Someone else killed Goliath
(Weak) God or the sailors put Jonah into the sea
(Weak) The two deaths of Saul
(Weak) The deaths of Saul's sons
(Weak) Noah entered the ark a week early, or not
(Weak) Noah's ark was afloat for seven or ten months
(Weak) Abiathar is father and son of Ahimelech
(Weak) The death of Sisera
(Weak) Michal does and doesn't have children
(Weak) Joel or Vashni was Samuel's firstborn
(Weak) Foolish proverbs
(Unsure) David kills Goliath twice

New Testament versus Old Testament

This deals with either contradictions between, or misquotations of, the Old Testament by the New...

(Serious) Jesus names Abiathar as high priest when he wasn't
(Serious) Matthew says Jeremiah when he means Zechariah
(Serious) Matthew's account of the "triumphal entry"
(Serious) Daniel only says "many" shall awaken
(Minor) God tempts or doesn't tempt David
(Minor) Jesus mixes up his Zechariahs
(Minor) Paul on plague victims in Numbers
(Minor) Jesus forgets Elijah ascended into heaven
(Minor) The Isaiah 7:14 thing
(Weak) David is or isn't alone getting bread
(Weak) The age of Abram / Abraham when he left Haran
(Weak) Jesus versus Leviticus on adultery
(Weak) God tempts or doesn't tempt Abraham
(Unsure) Luke inserts Cainan into his genealogy

Alleged contradictions involving Acts, Epistles, and Revelation

Alleged contradictions involving "those other books" of the New Testament...

(Serious) Accounts of Judas' death conflict - 3 or 4 different problems together
(Serious) Paul started preaching immediately, or not
(Weak) Paul's advice conflicts on divorcing unbelievers
(Weak) Accounts of Paul's conversion
(Weak) Locusts are told not to harm grass already destroyed
(Weak) God's will isn't done in heaven
(Weak) The Gospel of Luke doesn't include all that Jesus did
(Unsure) A right strawy epistle

Alleged conflicts with science / history

See also alleged failed prophecies...

(Serious) A most unlikely census requirement
(Serious) Jesus was born before 4 BC or after 6 AD
(Minor) Jesus on mustard seeds
(Minor) The animals couldn't fit on Noah's ark - a special case
(Minor) Jacob and his striped goat breeding program
(Minor) The geocentric Bible
(Minor) Some insects have four feet
(Weak) Darius wrote to the whole world
(Weak) The Philistines' super-duper chariot force
(Weak) Pi = 3
(Weak) Light before the sun
(Weak) Proverbs on leaderless ants
(Weak) Jonah in the whale which was a fish
(Weak) Bats are birds
(Unsure) Hares or rabbits chew the cud

The following depend on your opinion of the conclusions of secular science.

(Serious) Stars have existed for only 6,000 years? - difficult only for young-Earthers; Weak for old-Earthers
(Serious) Plants before the sun - by contrast, this is difficult only for old-Earthers; Minor for young-Earthers
(Serious) Wrong order of celestial creation - Weak for young-Earthers
(Serious) Genesis contradicts evolution - Weak for all Creationists (though see dating issues)
(Serious) The Bible contradicts archaeology - dating the Exodus, Flood, and Creation itself

Alleged failed prophecies

I haven't looked too closely at this issue yet...

(Serious) Tyre survived
(Serious) The New Testament on the eschaton
(Minor) Nebuchadnezzar didn't take Egypt
(Minor) Solomon's kingdom didn't last forever
(Weak) Damascus survived
(Unsure) Daniel and the eschaton

Immorality

This isn't a category I'm very comfortable dealing with, since the arguments often involve deep theology. Hence I've written relatively little about immorality apparently condoned by God...

(Serious) Hell is real and eternal, and billions will go there
(Serious) God forbids and commands murder
(Minor) Rape of an unbetrothed woman was punished by marriage?
(Minor) God hardened Pharaoh's heart

Oddities

Not exactly contradictions, but things which seem to make little sense...

(Serious) Matthew's genealogy is too short
(Serious) "Born again" involves an impossible play on words
(Minor) Samson is really stupid
(Minor) A snake talked to Eve
(Minor) The polytheistic Bible
(Minor) John the Baptist still had disciples
(Minor) Luke's parable of the pounds (or minas) is incoherent
(Minor) Jesus tries to keep a secret in front of great crowds
(Minor) God is not fully aware of events in Sodom and Gomorrah
(Minor) Quail! Quail?
(Weak) Frogs! Frogs?
(Weak) Jesus led the Jews out of Egypt
(Weak) "I am not going up to this feast" - contains a few words about textual criticism
(Weak) Cain's wife comes out of nowhere
(Weak) Believers can handle snakes and drink poison
(Weak) "Lead us not into temptation"
(Weak) God couldn't defeat chariots
(Weak) Lying Cretans and the Epimenides paradox
(Unsure) God needs to rest
(Unsure) Paul didn't write all the Pauline epistles

This list is not intended to be complete

Various Christian and atheist (and indeed, Muslim) sources discuss hundreds of different Biblical problems. But I'm likely to focus on ones that I find interesting. If you like, email me at the following address with any suggestions for issues to look at, or any strong arguments I've missed.

(image) how to send me email

Why another page on this?

There are many pages listing Biblical problems. However, although it should be obvious that some problems are more serious than others, most sites opposed to "inerrancy" tend to throw them all at you at once, as if to impress you with their sheer number. I take a different approach, and try to classify problems according to how bad they are.

Ultimately, like those other sites, this website argues against "inerrancy". There are definitely errors in the Bible. Whether this alone renders the whole text worthless or not is up to you. I don't see any automatic reason why it should.

If you like, you can read more about my motivation for writing this site.

Acknowledgements

I have made much use of the following websites, especially the Skeptic's Annotated Bible, which was the source for a great many of the problems:

ESV

I should also thank the makers of the English Standard Version, my main Biblical source. It's not the Bible I would recommend personally, but I use it here because it's one that's broadly acceptable to most conservative Christians. The Bible I would actually recommend is the New Revised Standard Version, which is similar in style but makes no effort to harmonise contradictory passages. (It also goes gender neutral: an issue I care nothing about.) I've also started using the NIV Study Bible, the notes of which often give the most plausible inerrantist explanations, though the NIV itself is not to be trusted.

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