Contradictory Statements in the New Testament
Most Christians know that there are contradictory statements in both the Old Testament (OT) and New Testament (NT). For those who think that every statement in the Bible, being the word of God, must be literally true, we present a list of examples of directly contradictory statements found in the NT. None of these contradictions is a threat to the overall truth of Christianity. The NT was written long after the life of Jesus and people do not all have the same recollections. However, the contradictions do show that the Bible is not inerant in matters of fact. We are not listing minor variations in stories, such as the wording of the sign on Jesus’ cross, which is somewhat different in each of the four gospels.
- The two genealogies of Jesus are in direct contradiction with each other.
The two genealogies are found in Matt 1.1-17 and Luke 3.23-38.
The lists are not the same; in Luke, Joseph’s father is Heli, but in Matthew, Joseph’s father is Jacob. Matthew shows descent from David’s son Solomon, but Luke shows descent from David’s son Nathan. The footnotes to Matt 1 [in the NRSV study Bible] explain all this. The intent is to denote legitimacy as a messiah who was descended from King David.
- What did Jesus do immediately after he was baptised?
Mark 1:12-13 and Luke 4.1-2 both say Jesus went immediately into the wilderness for 40 days, where he was tempted by Satan.
John 1.35-51 says that Jesus immediately started gathering disciples, choosing Peter and Andrew right away.
- Discrepancies in the Story of the conversion of Saul on the road to Damascus
(the same story is told in these three different passages in Acts)
Acts 9:3-9 the men with Saul “heard the voice but saw no one”
Acts 22.6-9 “those who were with me saw the light but did not hear the voice of the one who was speaking to me.”
Acts 26:12– there is no comment on what the men with Saul saw or heard.
- What did Paul do right after his conversion?
In Gal 1:16-17 Paul says “I did not confer with any human being, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were already apostles before me, but I went away at once into Arabia [NRSV footnote: perhaps the Nabatean kingdom, south of Damascus and east of the Jordan River], and afterwards I returned to Damascus. Then after three years I did go up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days;”
Acts 9:26 says that immediately after Saul recovered from his temporary blindness, “For several days he was with the disciples in Damascus, and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, ‘He is the Son of God.’ ”
- Women speaking in Church.
The Paul scholar, Ed Sanders, knows of only one true contradiction in all of Paul’s letters. [EPS1, 281-7] It is contradictory for a woman simultaneously to (1) follow the rule to cover her head when speaking in church and (2) the rule that she may not speak in church. The two ideas are from Paul’s letters: (1)
1 Cor 11.4-5 “Any man who prays or prophesies with something on his head disgraces his head, but any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled disgraces her head . . .” (2) 1 Cor 14.33b-35. “As in all the churches of the saints, women should be silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as the law also says. If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.” This one contradiction is not surprising since Paul never tried to write down a systematic theology, which by its own definition, should not contain any contradictions.
- Who carried the cross?
Matt 27:32 “As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross.”
John 19:17 “So they took Jesus, and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull.”
- Who rolled back the stone ?
Mark 16:4 (reported by Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James) “When they looked up they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back.”
Matt 28:2 (seen by Mary Magdalene and the other Mary) “And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it”.
- Judas and the Potter’s field: how did Judas die and who bought the field.
Acts 1.18 “Now this man [Judas] acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness; and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out.”
Matt 27.5 “Throwing down the pieces of silver in the temple, he departed; and he went and hanged himself.”
Matt 27.6-8 says that the priests bought the field.
Matt 27.9-10 attributes the prophecy about the potter’s field to Jeremiah. The prophecy of 30 pieces of silver thrown into the Treasury is in Zechariah 12-13.