Contradictions in the Bible

I have recently started college in a secular university, and have encountered some strong attacks against Christianity. People have pointed out that many of the quotes in the different books don't agree, and that many of the details in parallel accounts are contradictory. Some of these arguments seem rather persuasive to me, and it has me questioning my faith. How can I respond to these challenges in an intellectually respectable way?
When you first encounter this kind of challenge to Christianity and to the Bible it can be very unsettling. Rest assured that Christians have known of these "problems" as long as these problems have existed. Challangers to our faith are late-comers on the scene. They are pointing out things we already know, not new revelations that the Bible might be wrong. Still, for those of us who haven't thought through all these issues, the answers are rarely intuitive or obvious.

When you encounter these kinds of challenges, it is worth remembering that the Bible wasn't intended to conform to modern scientific or legal standards. It does not attempt to be precise very often. Even when it does attempt to be accurate, it frequently speaks from the perspective of the observer. This is partly because the Bible was not dictated to man. Rather, God moved holy men to convey their points accurately. He did not impart to them special scientific revelations, or give them a piece of his omniscience. Just as in modern life, different observers had different perspectives, and thus they often saw different significance in the same events, and emphasized different things when writing about these events. Imagine that you attended a baseball game with a friend, and that later both you and your friend told a third person about the game. Your stories could both be absolutely true, yet still sound very different, depending on what details each of you included or excluded, and how each of you felt about the details you included.

Second, ancient authors did not think it necessary to provide precise quotes when they recorded what people said. By ancient standards, preserving the general idea was preserving the quote. This is one reason that we find some variety even in the ancient texts of the Bible itself. Among other things, Jesus and his contemporaries had different versions of the biblical books available to them. But this fact didn't seem to bother them, so it really shouldn't bother us.

Answer by Ra McLaughlin

Ra McLaughlin is Vice President of Creative Delivery Systems at Third Millennium Ministries.