An Atheist told me that the Bible has many contradictions. He pointed to these verses where Jesus speaks and in John 5:31 he says, “If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true.” Then he pointed to John 8:18, " I am one that bear witness of myself." I could not answer, can you guys help?
For a Christian, all contradictions in the Bible are apparent contradictions until proven otherwise. God is the author of scripture and God does not contradict himself.
*If I bear witness to myself, my testimony is not true; (John 5:31)
I bear witness to myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness to me." (John 8:18)*
In both cases Jesus is speaking to the experts in Jewish law who challenged him about breaking the law. In both cases Jesus references the Law of Moses back to them in reply.
A single witness shall not prevail against a man for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed; only on the evidence of two witnesses, or of three witnesses, shall a charge be sustained. (Dueteronomy 19:15)
In John 5:31 Jesus did not wish to make himself known. He told the man whom he healed on the Sabbath to tell no one so as not to bear witness to himself. After Jesus is found out he explains how John the Baptist and the works he performs are his witnesses.
In John 8:18 Jesus is operating publicly. Jesus forgave the sins of the woman caught in adultery right in the middle of the Jerusalem Temple in front of everyone and then turns to his challengers and says 'I am the light of the world" right to their face. He then says…
In your law it is written that the testimony of two men is true; I bear witness to myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness to me." (John 8:17-18)
In both cases a proper understanding of Jesus’ actions in the context of the Jewish Law shows that it is not a contradiction. It only appears to be a contradiction when those who are perhaps ignorant of Jewish law and Jesus’ actions take verses out of context. In both cases the context is the Jewish law about witnesses and whether Jesus is operating publicly (bearing witness to himself) or secretly (not bearing witness to himself).
Here’s a commentary from St. John Chrysostom on John 5:31-40:
He now brings proof of those high declarations respecting Himself. He answers an objection: If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true. These are Christ’s own words. But does not Christ in many places bear witness of Himself? And if all this is false, where is our hope of salvation? Whence shall we obtain truth, when the Truth Itself says, My witness is not true. We must believe then that true, here, is said, not with reference to the intrinsic value of His testimony, but to their suspicions; for the Jews might say, We do not believe Thee, because no one who bears witness to himself is to be depended on. In answer then, he puts forth three clear and irrefragable proofs, three witnesses as it were, to the truth of what He had said; the works which He had done, the testimony of the Father, and the preaching of John: putting the least of these foremost, i. e. the preaching of John: There is another that beareth witness of Me: and I know that the witness which he witnesseth of Me is true.
It looks like this particular instance has been answered, but chances in general when people say things like this it’s almost always a result of a lack of context. These people cherry pick very short segments of scripture that sound different from each other, and say them one after another without even trying to understand what they mean. So if he then pulls out another example, expect pretty much the same thing.
When people do that to me, I just call them on it, especially if they are claiming they found a contradiction but are incapable of giving the surrounding verses as context. I tend to compare what they are doing to taking the verse “thou shall not commit adultery” and only quoting “commit adultery”. Most people who have used this kind of attack on me start trying to make bad excuses for quoting out of context at this point, but I have had one or two seem to realize that they had fallen for a very weak straw man erected by their own side.
-]General/-] Absolute rule: Nothing in the scriptures is contradictory. Those who do not want to understand will think that it is.
This website might be helpful with your atheist friend, it’s operated by 2 Catholic PH D’s, a Professional Engineer, a consultant Catholic Priest, and a Rabbi for Old Testament Scripture:
Sorry, just couldn’t stop myself:D
Ordered drinks, and…