We’re in the middle of tossing Christianity’s dirty laundry onto the lawn for everyone to examine. Here are five more Bible contradictions that call into question foundational Christian claims (part 1 is here).
11. Do people deserve punishment for their ancestors’ sins?
The Bible demands intergenerational punishment so that children must be punished for their parents’ sins.
I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me (Exodus 20:5).
[God justified a calamity to the people:] It is because your ancestors forsook me (Jeremiah 16:11).
But the opposite claim is recorded in the Bible as well.
Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their fathers; each is to die for his own sin (Deuteronomy 24:16).
Everyone will die for their own sin; whoever eats sour grapes—their own teeth will be set on edge (Jeremiah 31:30).
The one who sins is the one who will die (Ezekiel 18:4).
Where does this leave Original Sin? This is the idea that we’re born fallen and deserve hell because of Adam’s sin, which infects us all. What foundation remains for Original Sin if it is undercut by the Bible itself?
12. What day was Jesus crucified on?
The synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) say that the Last Supper was the Passover meal and that Jesus was crucified after the Passover meal.
On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?” (Matthew 26:17)
Three verses later, Jesus is at the Passover meal, the Last Supper. But in John, the order is reversed: it’s the crucifixion and then the Passover meal.
Now it was the day of Preparation [the day of preparing lambs for the Passover meal], and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jewish leaders did not want the bodies [of Jesus and the two thieves] left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. (John 19:31)
A “historical account,” as the gospels are claimed by some to be, should get the order of important events correct, and the Passover meal and the crucifixion are both important events.
13. Who should the disciples convert?
At the end of the gospel story, Jesus has risen and is giving the disciples their final instructions.
Make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19).
This is the familiar Great Commission, and it’s a lot more generous than what has been called the lesser commission that appears earlier in the same gospel:
These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel.” (Matthew 10:5–6)
This was not a universal message. We see it again in his encounter with the Canaanite woman:
[Jesus rejected her plea to heal her daughter, saying] “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”
The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.
He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” (Matthew 15:24–6)
You might say that a ministry with limited resources had to prioritize, but that doesn’t apply here. Don’t forget that Jesus was omnipotent.
Going back to the Old Testament, we don’t find an all-inclusive message there, either. The Israelites were God’s “Chosen People,” and God had harsh things to say about neighboring tribes.
No Ammonite or Moabite or any of their descendants may enter the assembly of Jehovah, not even in the tenth generation (Deuteronomy 23:3).
Let’s revisit the fact that Matthew is contradictory when it says both “Make disciples of all nations” and “Do not go among the Gentiles [but only] to the lost sheep of Israel.” There are no early papyrus copies of Matthew 28 (the “Make disciples of all nations” chapter), and the earliest copies of this chapter are in the codices copied in the mid-300s. That’s almost three centuries of silence from original to our best copies, a lot of opportunity for the Great Commission to get “improved” by copyists. I’m not saying it was, of course; I’m simply offering one explanation for why the gospel in Matthew has Jesus change so fundamental a tenet as who he came to save.
14. Jesus should’ve returned already.
Jesus promised to return within the lifetimes of those listening to him. This Apocalyptic message (Apocalypticism claims that the end times are very close) is found in the three synoptic gospels. It takes a passage in Isaiah 13 that predicts calamity for Babylon—that the sun and moon will darken and the stars will fall—and repurposes it as a prediction of the end. It also predicts:
[All people on earth will] see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds. (Matthew 24:30–31)
The prediction ends saying that this will all happen soon.
This generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened (Matthew 24:34).
Let me emphasize those two points: “these things” will happen soon (within months or years, not centuries), and “these things” are obvious and world-destroyingly calamitous. The popular Christian response that this referred to the fall of the Temple won’t fly.
Earlier in the same gospel, we find other references to the imminent coming of the Son of Man:
When you are persecuted in one place [as you spread the gospel], flee to another. Truly I tell you, you will not finish going through the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes. (Matthew 10:23)
Some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom (Matthew 16:28).
It’s been a lot longer than one generation. Jesus made a mistake.
15. Jesus promises that prayers are answered
Jesus says a lot about prayer, and he makes big claims for it.
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you (Matthew 7:1).
Whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours (Mark 11:24).
He who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do (John 14:12).
Apologists say that Jesus isn’t like a genie, but they need to reread their Bibles. Jesus really does say, “Ask, and ye shall receive”—it’s in John 16:24. He says it without caveats. That promise has been tested uncountably many times, often by desperate people, but if Jesus answers, it’s indistinguishable from chance. (More on prayer here and here.)
Concluded in part 4.
which has been around long enough
to have become respectable.
— J. B. R. Yant
Image via Andrei Lazarev, CC license