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Come Reason's Apologetics Notes blog will highlight various news stories or current events and seek to explore them from a thoughtful Christian perspective. Less formal and shorter than the Web site articles, we hope to give readers points to reflect on concerning topics of the day.

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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Bible Contradictions - Snubbing Style to Force Meaning

I'm currently writing a series of articles answering the claim that the Bible holds contradictions. Previous posts discuss what a contradiction is, what I classify as the three main categories of errors people make when thinking they've found a contradiction, and a review of the first, which is an expectation of Robot Reporting.

The second major way that people err in claiming the Bible holds contradictions is they ignore the style and patterns of the language itself.  All language uses style to convey meaning.Some are put in by the authors to try and make a specific point while others are merely the way people spoke during that time and culture. Ignoring the fact that language and culture have a huge effect on writing and what people mean can mean coming out with a drastically different idea from what the author was really saying. I call this mistake "snubbing style" and it means that someone is trying to force making the text be in error when it is not really the case.

Ignore use of phenomenological language

The first case where this kind of mistake happens is ignoring language that is trying to describe something we all experience using language that we can all relate to.  An example we use even today is how we speak is the sun rising in the morning and setting in the evening. Now we all know that the sun isn't really circling the earth, the earth rotates and we see the sun.  But since from our point of view it looks like the sun is moving, we talk about the sunrise and sunset. Anyone who would stop someone else in conversation and say "you've made a mistake, the sun doesn't rise at all" would quickly have no friends!

Similarly, the Bible uses this type of language all the time.  God is depicted as having certain characteristics of a body, such as hands and eyes (called anthropomorphic language) even though Jesus tells us God is a spirit. Other passages talk about how "God remembered Noah" or how God would "once again turn his attention toward" His people.  These are all just linguistic ways of making a point that God is getting ready to do something special. He never forgot or had to be reminded.

Does God Change His Mind?

"But Moses interceded with the Lord…  So the LORD changed His mind about the disaster He said He would bring on His people." (Exodus 32:11,14)

If the Bible says that God is all-knowing and never makes a mistake, then how can he change His mind? This is a perfect example of how ancient writers were trying to help their audience understand the circumstances of that moment.  In this instance, Israel had sinned so deeply, they should have been wiped out by God. Therefore, the exchange between Moses and God is there to highlight the fact that it's not because the Israelites were somehow OK that God allowed them to continue, but it is only because of God's own promise and grace that He allowed them to continue at all.  God didn't change his mind, but His words just help us understand how precarious the Israelites situation really was. It also sets up the idea of the need for an intercessor between man and God — pointing the way to our ultimate intercessor, Jesus.

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