Alleged Discrepancies in the Bible

Q. If the Bible is inspired word for word, as you assert, how do you explain errors and contradictions found in the Bible? In one place the Bible says “no man shall see me and live” and yet Jacob said that he saw the face of God.  In another place the Bible says that Moses and Aaron saw God, and yet Jesus said that “No man has seen God at any time.”  Be honest, are these not genuine contradictions? 

I want to be as clear as I possibly can, it is the Bible itself that makes the claim for itself that it is inspired word for word.  Paul said in 1 Corinthians 2:12-13:

1 Corinthians 2:12-13 (NASB)

12  “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God,

13  which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.

It is certainly true that the Bible contains some statements which we in our present state of knowledge are not able to fully understand.  We are still learning about the original languages, the Hebrew and the Greek.  There are a number of words or idioms which only occur a few times in Scripture, and it sometimes happens that even the best scholars are not in full agreement as to their exact meaning.

A number of years ago the skeptics and atheists advanced a number of supposed “Biblical errors.”  Almost without exception these so called “errors” have been cleared up by archaeological discoveries.  In spite of the heated criticism that the Bible has received from the critics, there has not been so much as one single error that has been definitely proven to exist anywhere in the Bible.  Without exception, to this very day, were the skeptic has stated the Bible has been in error, archaeology has proven it to be correct.

We should also notice, that for the most part that the alleged errors have been trivial.  In no cases have important doctrines or important historical events been in question.  There certainly were opportunities for copyists or translators to make mistakes through the centuries, and it is certain that they indeed did make mistakes, but few if any of them are anything more trivial mistakes.  No one has the right to say there are errors in the Bible unless he can show beyond reasonable doubt that they were in the original manuscripts.

When we remember that the Bible was written over a 1600 year period of time, by some forty authors, living in different ages with different points of view in life and with diverse literary talents and had a part in its production, that the religious and political history of the country was hopelessly complicated, the marvel is, that there are only a few things in the Bible which are difficult to understand.

Now let’s examine these alleged “errors.”

Two passages cited:

Genesis 32:30

30* So Jacob named the place Peniel, for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved.”

Exodus 33:20

20* But He said, “You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!”

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Exodus 24:9-10

9* ¶ Then Moses went up with Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel,

10* and they saw the God of Israel; and under His feet there appeared to be a pavement of sapphire, as clear as the sky itself.

John 1:18

18* No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.

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Exodus 33:11

11* Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses returned to the camp, his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent.

John 5:37

37* “And the Father who sent Me, He has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time nor seen His form.

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1 Tim. 1:17

17* Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

1 Tim. 6:16

16* who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen.

God is a “SPIRIT”, and as such he is never visible to man.  These verses indicate situations when he might have been seen in a vision, or assumed some type of temporary manifestation of a visible form in order to communicate with man.  Cases of this kind are termed “theophanies,” in which God appears in an assumed human form for a brief period of time.

There are other incidents in the Scriptures where God might have been seen, by proxy, by his accredited representative.  This was the ancient understanding of the Jews found in the Samaritan Pentateuch.  The Angel of the Lord, or the Angel of Jehovah was the accredited representative.

In his infinite and incomprehensible essence the God of the universe has not been seen by man (1 Tim 6:16).  In a “theophany, in his representative Angel, and in visions given to the prophets, God has been seen.

Q. I’ve found a contradiction in the Bible.  James says that God gives us blessings when we ask for them, Jesus says the same thing in Luke 11:10,  yet Isaiah 1:15, Micah 3:4, and James 4:3 all indicate that God withholds his blessings.  Can you explain” 

James 1:5-6, 17

5* But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.

6* But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.

17* Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.

Luke 11:10-13

10* “For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened.

11* “Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he?

12* “Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he?

13* “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”

Isaiah 1:15

15* “So when you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you; Yes, even though you multiply prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are covered with blood.

Micah 3:4

4* Then they will cry out to the LORD, But He will not answer them. Instead, He will hide His face from them at that time Because they have practiced evil deeds.

James 4:3

3* You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.

God will withhold his blessings in certain cases.  Isaiah 1:15 identifies the reason, “your hands are covered with blood.”  In Micah God does not hear because “they have practiced evil deeds.”  James observes “you ask with wrong motives.”

The promise of God to give to all who ask is conditional on upon the proper relationship to him, and the motives for asking.

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