We are in the midst of Skeptic Month here at Pastor Kip. The first two challenges we dealt with (here and here) were extraordinary events to say the least, but they could be explained away as being miracles. I’d like to shift gears now and deal with some direct contradictions and alleged inconsistencies that bolster the skeptic’s claim that the Bible is not the inerrant word of God.
The first we’ll consider is the problem of Jesus’ lineage. This is an important issue with Christianity because, in order to lay claim to being the Messiah, Jesus had to have descended from the royal lineage of David. So, both Matthew and Luke determine to lay out the foundation of Jesus' ancestry.
Problem is, they don’t match. And it’s not even close.
Both genealogies trace Jesus’ ancestry from Joseph back to David. In Matthew 1:17, Jacob begat Joseph and there are 28 generations from David to Jesus. In Luke 3, Joseph is the son of Heli and there are 43 generations from David to Jesus.
The conventional fundamentalist wisdom is that the genealogy in Luke is best seen as being the lineage traced through Mary, even though Mary is not mentioned. This is explained away as typical Jewish misogyny – women weren’t normally mentioned in genealogies – and where Joseph is said to be the son of Heli, it could just as easily mean son-in-law of Heli in the original language.
That’s all well and good, except it is traditionally agreed that Luke was a Gentile writing to Gentiles. Would he be so careful to observe Jewish tradition in this manner and risk confusing his Gentile audience? Moreover, Matthew was most definitely Jewish and was writing to Jews to convince them that Jesus was the Messiah – and his genealogy mentions four different women.
And that still doesn’t address the issue of the dramatically different numbers of generations.
In the notes on this passage, the venerable Believer’s Bible Commentary offers this advice:
What attitude should the Bible student take toward these difficulties and seeming discrepancies?
First, our foundational premise is that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. Therefore, it cannot contain errors.
Second, it is infinite because it reflects the infinity of the Godhead. We can understand the fundamental truths of the Word, but we can never fully comprehend all there is in it.
So, our approach to these difficulties leads us to conclude that the problem lies in our lack of knowledge rather than in the Bible's fallibility.
Basically, there are two rules when it comes to Bible difficulties:
- It’s the Bible and it’s inerrant.
- If you happen to stumble upon an error or contradiction, see rule 1 and stop thinking about it, reprobate.