In Part 1 of this series we discussed the nature and scope of the question, “Do real contradictions occur in Scripture.” In Part 2 we continued the discussion by examining Turretin’s argument in answering the above question. In this third and final part we now look at specific purported contradictions or errors which Turretin dealt with in his time. He addresses 24 specific instances. The full list can be found under the second topic, Q.5, sections XII-XXXVI of volume one in Turretin’s Institutes of Elenctic Theology. Let me give a brief overview of the 24 instances and then make a couple observations.
First consider the predisposition of Turretin as he embarks on answering these supposed contradictions.
“Although we cannot find out immediately a plain reconciliation and one free from all difficulties between passages of Scripture…they must not at once be place among inexplicable things. Of if they are called inexplicable, they will be such only by the inability of the one endeavoring to explain, not in themselves, so that here it will be wiser to acknowledge our own ignorance than to suppose any contradiction.”Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, Second Topic, Q. 5, Sec. XI.
So to start of the endeavor Turretin professes that the Christian’s inability to harmonize this or that passage defaults to the ignorance of the Christian and not to the letter of the Scriptures. Or as my dad used to say, “We don’t understand because we haven’t done enough archeology, research, and study.” And why? Because Christians already have precommitments regarding the nature of Scripture as inspired, authoritative, preserved, and certain.
Of the 24 supposed contradictions, seven (7) regard genealogies, an additional two (2) regard Christ’s genealogy, one (1) is grammatical, and fourteen (14) are historical. By historical I mean they regard things like number of shekels used for a sale, the beginning of a king’s reign, the time of Abram’s birth, where the patriarchs are buried, whether one can swear oaths, and the like. Turretin also notes other specifically papal accusations which he will deal with under which edition of Scripture is the authentic edition.
All in all, the Reformers were very much aware of the accusations brought up against their Scripture text. We have seen it here and in Part 2 in which Turretin admits to the disagreements between original manuscripts. The point is that the Reformers were not blind to these things nor can it be said that knowledge of textual issues had not yet matured to place where the Reformers had to deal textual issues like we do now.
Not long ago I was on the campus of the University of South Florida and a Muslim student asked me where the patriarchs were buried, the exact argument Turretin dealt with hundreds of years ago. At that point I didn’t have an answer so while he went to class I Googled it and low and behold there was the answer. My point is, for some, if they really wanted to know, all they would have to do is Google it, so you might have to do it for them.
Lastly, just because we can’t answer some perceived contradiction now does not mean it can’t be answered. In the mean time it is not necessary that we throw out our beliefs. Certainly when tragedy strikes we may doubt God’s love or even His existence and such doubts can be powerful. So also when this or that scholar or FB post declares that there are contradictions in the Scriptures or that there are errors in the Scripture that don’t matter, such news may cause us to doubt our Bible. May God give us grace in times of doubt and let us say with the Psalmist,
“In God will I praise his word: in the Lord will I praise his word. In God have I put my trust: I will not be afraid what man can do unto me.”Psalm 56:10-11