Explaining Anomalies

Explaining Anomalies

Written by R.C. Sproul |
Friday, May 26, 2023

One of the most satisfying and faith-increasing exercises in my own lifetime has involved giving focused attention to alleged biblical difficulties. That’s because the more I study them and see their resolutions, the more I back away from the text in utter amazement that the Bible can be so coherent and so consistent and so unified at the tiniest level of the fine details. Its symmetry, its complexity, and its harmony are astonishing.

Unbelievers often allege that the Bible is “full of contradictions.” I’ve noted in many places over the years, however, that most of the contradictions people suggest really do not qualify as contradictions but merely reflect the difference in perspective we get when several eyewitnesses describe the same event but give different details. In such cases, the accounts do not contradict one another; rather, each account may emphasize different aspects of the same event, such that we get a fuller picture when we see how the details can be harmonized. Variations in perspective are exactly what we should expect even in a divinely inspired text, for the Holy Spirit did not override the personalities and styles of the individual authors when they wrote. Instead, the Spirit worked through their concerns to give us an inerrant record of what happened even as each writer focuses on some details and not others.

The vast majority of supposed “contradictions” in Scripture are relatively easy to reconcile. However, for the sake of honesty, I must acknowledge that there are a handful of problems in Scripture that are exceedingly difficult. For instance, it’s hard at times to square 1 and 2 Chronicles with 1 and 2 Kings, particularly with respect to when certain kings reigned, how long they ruled, and when they took the throne. Some have done the yeoman’s work of figuring out how these accounts fit together, which requires detailed knowledge of how ancient Near Eastern peoples recorded dates, periods of co-regency when two kings ruled at the same time, and other such things. No universally accepted solution has yet been found for every problem, but the work continues, and there’s every reason to believe we will have better answers as we learn more about how ancient Near Eastern writers, including the authors of Kings and Chronicles, did their work.

I’m confident such problems will eventually be solved because we serve a God who speaks truthfully and consistently, and because archaeological discoveries continue to confirm the biblical account. As an example, for many years all we knew about Pontius Pilate came from the Bible and a few other extrabiblical documents, so some people questioned whether Pilate ever existed.

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