Muslim friend says there are contradictions in the Bible?


#1

Hello all. I’ve been having…let’s say a “debate” with a Muslim friend of mine. He’s a good person, but very involved in his religion, and continually asking me to explain these “contradictions.” While I know quite a bit about Scripture, shamefully, I apparently do not know enough to hold a strong argument. So I turn to you good people to ask for some assistance.

Two things.

First off, here is an example of two passages he questioned me about:

Acts 22:9

9 And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me.

Acts 9:7
7 And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man.
.
There were many others he gave to me that I won’t trouble all of you with. I figured one example would suffice.

Also, he claims that St. Paul was a “liar and a hypocrite.” :confused: This is what he gave to me to look at:

Galatians 3:13
New International Version (NIV)

13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.”

While this isn’t affected my own faith, I am extremely frustrated that I do not know how to answer his questions! So I would greatly appreciate some help.

Thanks!

Christa


#2

Hi Christa.

Apparent contradictions in the biblical text are always difficult to deal with, usually because (1) we pick passages out of context and this isolation makes the passage look like a contradiction, (2) we treat scripture as if it is a modern-day historical text, or (3) we fail to understand what the author is trying to achieve through the way he has written the text.

Now, your passages from Acts are a great example of this. Since St Luke has written both of these passages as accounts of Paul’s encounter with Christ, and since Luke was a pretty smart guy and talented writer of biography and history, it seems very unlikely prima facie that he would make such a stupid mistake as to write an obvious contradiction.

So, let’s look at them.

Acts 9:3-9:

[3] Now as he journeyed he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed about him.
[4] And he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
[5] And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting;
[6] but rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.”
[7] The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one.
[8] Saul arose from the ground; and when his eyes were opened, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus.
[9] And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

Acts 22:6-10:

[6]

"[6] As I made my journey and drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone about me.
[7] And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?' [8] And I answered,Who are you, Lord?’ And he said to me, I am Jesus of Nazareth whom you are persecuting.' **[9] Now those who were with me saw the light but did not hear the voice of the one who was speaking to me.** [10] And I said,What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, `Rise, and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do.’

Firstly, the contradiction - if there is one - here has to do with hearing rather than seeing. Notice the first passage says that the men saw no-one and the second passage says they saw the light. These can be seen as essentially equivalent, since in saying they saw the light, Luke is still emphasising that they saw no person (who was speaking).

So, how could they have heard the voice in one instance and not heard the voice in the other? To respond to this, we need to look more closely as the Greek text, and not at the word “voice” but the word ἀκού, which can mean both “hear” and “understand”, depending on the context. It can genuinely be translated either way, and I think to get a good idea of what Luke is talking about, we need to go back to his Gospel: Luke 8:10 -

“To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God; but for others they are in parables, so that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.”

Jesus is hear explaining why he speaks in parables, quoting from the prophet Isaiah. Notice he points out that people see but don’t see, hear but don’t understand.

I suspect Luke is re-working Paul’s story here (or perhaps even Paul himself is) to make this a living parable. Unlike Paul, those with him see and hear but don’t understand; just like Paul, they witness the revelation of Christ - they see the light but don’t see, they hear the voice but don’t understand. I think this is what is going on in this passage.

Again, notice how biblical interpretation is not simply a basic matter of taking two passages out of context and saying that they contradiction. Luke, and the other evangelists, were very clever and intelligent crafters of their Gospels (they were inspired by the Holy Spirit after all!) and we need to treat their work with such respect.

Now, with regards to Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, I’m not sure how that quote shows Paul to be a “liar and hypocrite”. Could you elaborate?

God bless.

Jonathan


#3

Someone calling themself “I Am Christian” on a site called The Experience Project had a lot to say about Paul being a liar and hypocrite. Here is the link to his/her diatribe. It’s VERYYY long, so I won’t cut/paste. I’m not sure if an account is needed to read it, but it does express lots of what your friend might be thinking of.

experienceproject.com/stories/Am-Christian/2883232


#4

sigh That site is pretty sad… The arguments are spurious, the interpretation made by someone who sounds as though his never studied the biblical text and tradition in his life, and the conclusion…


#5

Precisely why I did not copy/paste. :thumbsup: And it’s not actually the site, it’s just one person posting on a topic. There are thousands of topics discussed there, and it’s pretty enlightening sometimes.

I just figured I’d provide the O/P with a link to what might be rattling around in someone’s (an alleged Christian’s) head, and perhaps this is what his/her Muslim friend has been taught. Personally, I find the best way to counter arguments like these (in any subject, not just religion) is to take it all in first, and work backward from there.

Blessings. :slight_smile:


#6

That’s also part of the reason the Jews hung Jesus. It would be the most disgraceful punishment to be hung on a cross.

Deut 21:23you must not leave the body hanging on the pole overnight. Be sure to bury it that same day, because anyone who is hung on a pole is under God’s curse. You must not desecrate the land the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance.

We know that Jesus bore our sin. I don’t understand this argument, but it’s another example of Paul (Jesus, and the other Apostles) quoting Scripture. Something that Mohammed and his followers never did.

Check out this CAF link where I brought up this very topic of Allah/Mohammed never quoting any type of Scripture to prove what he claimed as truth:

forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=846370


#7

There is an explanatory footnote of the St. Joseph Edition of the New American Bible referencing the three accounts of Paul’s conversion. It says that St. Luke was using different sources of information for the details of the account. Of course, just to say that doesn’t prove it.

But really, it’s possible that one witness saw/heard one thing and another saw/heard another. The detail doesn’t invalidate the main message of the story.

You are engaged in a futile argument. From what I hear, the Koran has its own problems, including that of contradiction; that problem is resolved by what comes later superceding what was written earlier – sure, that’s a convenient excuse.

What you (or I) never hear about, is how many versions of the book of Acts are in existence. Do they all have the same problem? or is this apparent contradiction in only one of the versions? In other words, is what has come down to us a scribal error, of transcription?


#8

My evangelical relatives gave me a copy of the (Charles) Ryrie Study Bible. Ryrie is decidedly anti-Catholic, I have to say first. But, I have found it useful to consult his notes on problems such as this one. He says

"They did not hear (understand) the “voice” (so translated because the verb is followed by an accusative); however, 9:7 states that they did hear the “voice.” But this should be translated
“sound” (because the verb there is followed by a genitive.) Thus, there is no contradiction
.
Charles C. Ryrie, Ryrie Study Bible expanded edition, 1995, Moody Press.

So, Ryrie calls this apparent contradiction a problem with the translation (in his case, he’s using the New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update.

Me: This is why we should all study Bible Greek.


#9

Crucifixion was a Roman method of execution.

“The Jews” includes Jesus, Mary, etc. It was the leadership that wanted Jesus dead.


#10

I’m sorry, I should have been more clear.

Those shouting “crucify him” and “we have no king but Caesar.” (John 19) were Jewish and they likely knew this passage. Although the Romans carried out the crucifixion the (non believing) Jews called for it.


#11

Don’t feel that you have to set your Muslim friend straight, or convince him of anything. I imagine if you answer this challenge, he will come up with another, and another, and another, …

If you wish to convert him, first pray, because it can only be done with God’s help. Then, as they say, preach the Gospel, but use words only when necessary. “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)

Above all, do not allow him to erode your faith.

I am praying for you and your Muslim friend.


#12

Most Muslims would agree that they believe the Quran is the “third and final testament”. They claim to accept the first two testaments (ie the bible) but then also reject it. How can the Quran be the “third testament” is you reject the first two? So you could argue that even Islam has a contradiction in it.


#13

The best defense is a good offense. I would educated myself on Islam by reading any of Robert Spencer’s books on Islam. They are sold by Catholic Answers and he has been interviewed a number of times by CA. Instead of getting sucked into his nitty picky arguments about supposed inconsistencies in the Bible which they view as corrupted, point out the major glaring inconsistencies in the Koran. Try to have him answer the numerous contradictions between the violence avocated in the Koran to the so called peaceful verses most Islamic apologists point to. Remember that the meaning behind the work Islam is submission, not peace. But you really need to educate yourself on Islam to do so and Robert Spencer’s books are a great place to start.


#14

Ask your friend about some of the contradictions in the koran

wikiislam.net/wiki/Contradictions_in_the_Qur’an


#15

philvaz.com/apologetics/bible.htm#91

Obviously, according to the NIV translation, there is no contradiction, as you can hear a sound, but not the recognize it as the voice of one speaking. So is this translation justified? Sure. The original Greek makes a distinction between hearing a sound as a noise and hearing a voice as a thought-conveying message. Haley notes “The Greek “akouo”, like our word “hear”, has two distinct meanings, to perceive sound, and to understand”. This distinction makes sense also in light of the context. Recall the differing levels of perception. While the men heard an unintelligible sound and saw a light, Paul heard the voice and saw the person speaking. In fact, this type of distinction occurs in another place:

“Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again”. The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him” [John 12:28-29]. Here is a clear-cut example where a voice speaks, but is heard by some as an unintelligible sound.

As for the stance of Paul’s companions, Haley notes “the word rendered ‘stood’ also means to be fixed, to be rooted to the spot. Hence, the sense may be, not that they stood erect, but that they were rendered motionless, or fixed to the spot, by overpowering fear”. It is also entirely plausible that when they first saw the great light, they “hit the dirt”, then they could have got up off the ground and stood there motionless.

The problem with the skeptic’s approach is that it assumes these accounts are exhaustive, step by step, accounts where each detail is conveyed. They are not. It’s not as if the author of Acts is saying “this is how it happened” three separate times. The author does this once, and the other two times he relays Paul speaking about it in two different contexts. Now given that the author wasn’t on the road to Damascus, and given that Paul was speaking from memory, and given that none of these are meant to be some exhaustive, detailed, point by point description, it is indeed wise to fit them all together. Furthermore, the account in Acts 26 relays a speech that Paul gave to King Agrippa which was only a synopsis. Acts 26 simply relays the manner in which Paul chose to convey his points.

The index page for apparent contradictions is here: philvaz.com/apologetics/bible.htm#INDEX

I like the idea previously mentioned about pointing out the contradictions in the Koran.
Because the underlying assumption is that if there is a contradiction in the holy text, the entire religion is therefore false. If you can get him to see that he believes a religion based on a text with numerous contradictions, you can hopefully get onto the true message of the Gospel-- more important! :slight_smile:


#16

He has a right to an answer as the Bible instructs:
“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and *be ready always to give an answer *to every man that asks you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15)

And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. (Acts 9:5)

“And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.” (Acts 26:14)

“The above two verses are confirming ones, which means they’re saying the same things, only the second adds a bit more information to the whole picture.”

pricks is translated as “goads”

“The words **of the wise ** are as goads, and as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies, which are given from one shepherd.” (Eccl. 12:1)

Therefore, it was the words of the wise people whom Saul was persecuting that acted as pricks/goads that actually made his heart ready for when the Lord appeared to him.

In order to answer any questions, all you need to is use this confirming principle: find all the verses that speak of a particular topic and see collectively what the verses are saying.


#17

He does have a right to an answer as the Bible instructs:
“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and *be ready always to give an answer *to every man that asks you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15)

And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. (Acts 9:5)

“And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.” (Acts 26:14)

The above two verses are confirming ones, which means they’re saying the same things, only the second adds a bit more information to the whole picture.
pricks is translated as “goads”

“The words **of the wise ** are as goads, and as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies, which are given from one shepherd.” (Eccl. 12:1)

Therefore, it was the words of the wise people whom Saul was persecuting that acted as pricks/goads that actually made his heart ready for when the Lord appeared to him.

In order to answer any questions, all you need to is use this confirming principle: find all the verses that speak of a particular topic and see collectively what the verses are saying.


#18

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