A good question to ask someone who raises this objection is, "Can you name three?" Most people cannot name three, or even one. This is an example of an assertion people have heard, and they just adopt it as their own without having done their homework. As we begin to look at this objection, let's start by defining some terms.
Here are some very basic definitions:
Inerrancy - Free of error.
Infallible - Incapable of error.
Let's define two more terms:
Contradiction - To oppose, or deny the truth.
Paradox - A statement that seemingly appears to be a contradiction.
The statement that the Bible is full of contradictions is not only false, but there isn't even a single contradiction in all of Scripture. What we do find are paradoxes, difficulties, and other hard to understand verses. St. Augustine once said, "If we are perplexed by any apparent contradiction in Scripture, it is not allowable to say, the author of this book is mistaken; but either the manuscript is faulty, or the translation is wrong, or you have not understood." To put it another way, the mistakes are not in the revelation of God, but are in the misinterpretations of man.
Although human authors recorded the words, it is clear that all scripture is God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16), and it came from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4). Also, the Bible strongly states that "it is impossible for God to lie" (Hebrews 6:18). Jesus said to the Father, "Your Word is truth" (John 17:17). In addition Psalm 30:5 says, "Every word of God is flawless." So the Bible itself sets the stakes high, saying it doesn't contain a single error or mistake. So what about all the people who say the Bible is full of contradictions?
Remember that the Bible was written by approximately 40 different authors over a period of around 1,500 years. Each writer wrote with a different style, from a different perspective, to a different audience, for a different purpose. We should expect some minor differences. However, a difference is not a contradiction. It is only an error if there is absolutely no conceivable way the verses or passages can be reconciled.
Almost every attempt to point out an error in Scripture will fall into one or more of the following categories:
Category #1 Not understanding the context of the passage
A very simple easy to grasp example of this is to look at Psalm 14:1. Someone could actually say, "The Bible itself says, 'There is no God.'" Of course the whole verse reads, "The fool has said in his heart, 'There is no God'". This is an extremely simplified version of this type of common mistake, but it illustrates the concept of context well.
Category #2 The Bible uses everyday common language
We experience this everyday. After watching the weather report on TV, you wouldn't call to inform the news station that the sun doesn't actually rise and set, and then explain to them the reality is the earth is revolving and rotating and that gives us the impression of the sun rising and setting. It's understood. This is the language we use and we all understand what is meant by it. On top of that, the Bible is not a scientific textbook. People who read it that way are missing the point. At the same time, factual science and correct Biblical interpretation will never be at odds with each other.
Category #3 The original text of the Scripture is without error, not every copy
The Bible being inspired of God doesn't mean that every copy is inerrant. This may scare some Christians, but give it some thought. I could write a Bible verse - "Jesus wwept." Now I wrote that verse, but I wrote it wrong. Does that mean the original is also wrong? No. I made a copyist error. That's all. You would still understand it's meaning.
A few facts about copyist errors:
They are relatively few in number.
They are minor errors. Often it is a name or number. No doctrines are affected.
There are so many manuscripts we can look at to determine which are in error, and therefore preserve the original message.
Category #4 Assuming that a partial account is a false account
If one witness says that he saw an angel at the tomb, and another witness says he saw two angels at the tomb, how many were there? Answer: 2
If there were two angels there, then there was at least one. It just so happened that one of the witnesses reported seeing only one angel. If that witness had said that there was ONLY one angel at the tomb, then we may have a contradiction.
Category #5 The Bible uses multiple literary devices
Failure to realize that the Bible contains different styles of writing can cause lots of difficulties. It contains poetry, narrative, parables, similes, metaphors, satire, hyperbole and more. If we're not careful in our understanding of these figures of speech we can enter into all sorts of confusion.
Category #6 Confusing general statements with universal ones
This is especially true in the Book of Proverbs. "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it." Proverbs 22:6 Critics will point to the children of Job, Eli and David who each had some children that strayed from Godly principles. This verse is not an absolute guarantee, but a general guideline for child rearing. It is helpful to our daily life, but that's not to say there aren't exceptions.
Category #7 Demanding precise citations amongst authors
Every time an author, usually in the New Testament, quotes an Old Testament author the citation need not be exact. Many times the NT author gives the idea or meaning from the OT without quoting it precisely. This is a perfectly acceptable way of communication.
Category #8 Assuming that round numbers are false
We need to give the same liberties to the Biblical authors that we would writers of today. They used round numbers instead of exact precision to give us an estimate in relaying certain details. Again, the Bible is not a textbook, and one shouldn't expect scientific precision when it's not demanded.
Category #9 Failure to understand progressive revelation
A later revelation will supersede former revelation. Antagonistic Bible critics will ask Christians why we eat shellfish, wear blended fabrics, or not comply with other admonitions. This gets complicated, because it has to do with an understanding of different covenants and the Biblical revelation as a whole. We are not under that old covenant, during that time of Theocracy. It's not that we just pick and chose which commands we will follow, and which ones we'll ignore. This is known as progressive revelation in which each command is for a particular individual during a particular circumstance.
Category #10 Assuming the unexplained is not explainable
Skeptics used to say that the Bible contained myths because it spoke of the Hittite people, who were not known by historians. Then the Hittite people's records were located in Turkey and it was revealed that the Bible had it right all along. Since there are currently other truths that we have yet to discover, and there remain Biblical difficulties yet to be understood, it doesn't mean that the answer is not out there. If the Bible is true, there won't be a single discovery that will contradict what the Bible has already revealed in its pages. There hasn't been one yet.
On a personal note, I used to be skeptical in regards to the claims of biblical inerrancy. What I did was get a huge list of what people claimed to be errors and contradictions in Scripture. I began working through that list with Bible commentaries, apologetic (defense) resources, and most of all prayer, and what I found was for every single apparent problem in Scripture there is a logical intelligent answer. Admittedly, some are more satisfying than others but the answers are there. Here is what I found out: It's an issue of the heart. If you come to the Bible with a hard heart looking for problems with it, you'll be able to find what you believe to be error and inconsistency. In my personal opinion, God put apparent contradictions in Scripture to reveal the heart of the individual. If you want a reason to not believe this Book, you can find it. On the other hand, if you, like me, come to the Bible with a desire to know your Creator, He will reveal His truth to you.
"In faith, there is enough light for those who want to believe, and enough shadows to blind those who don't." Blaise Pascal
Is The Bible True?