"The Bible is full of errors and contradictions."

Many alleged Bible errors and contradictions have been offered by throughout history. However, most of them are the result of sloppy thinking on the part of skeptics. The lists of "Bible errors" on atheist websites tend to favor quantity over quality. They overwhelm readers at the sheer number of "contradictions" offered, but make many basic mistakes in logic and exegesis. A great resource for avoiding these mistakes is "How to Read a Book" by Mortimer Adler, and "How to read the Bible for all It’s Worth" by Gordon D. Fee. 

Most alleged Bible errors can be categorized by the mistakes skeptics make when offering them. I’ve started a list of these categories and will refine and add to it over time:

Mistake 1: Falsely assuming additional information is contradictory information.

When two authors describe the same event but one gives additional detail, skeptics assume it’s a contradiction even though the two descriptions are compatible. For example, Matthew 27:5 says Judas hung himself, while Acts 1:18 says Judas fell and burst open. Skeptics say this is a contradiction, but their accusation is false since it’s possible for both accounts to be true. If Judas hung himself and burst open after they cut him down (or the tree branch broke), then the accounts are consistent. The alleged discrepancy is the result of different witnesses focusing on different details. Leaving out information is much different than saying it didn’t happen. This principle is obvious to the majority of literate people, yet it’s probably the most common error made by Bible critics. 

Mistake 2: Ignoring context.

As with all literature, sentences in the Bible rely on their surrounding text to be understood. Skeptics often isolate two different passages and compare them against each other as if they were meant to stand alone. However, disregarding context usually changes the meaning of the passage, causing skeptics to refute ideas that Bible authors never communicated. In order to avoid critiquing an imaginary version of the Bible, you have to critique passages in their literary, historical, and theological context. Context is one of the most basic principles in communication, yet many Bible critics disregard it.

One reason this mistake is so common is because the Bible is divided up into verses. Many people think verses are individual, contained statements meant to stand alone without context. However, that’s not how the Bible was written or intended to be read. The verse numbers are later scribal additions meant to make the contents of the Bible easier to reference.  

Mistake 3: Lacking a basic understanding of Christian and Jewish theology.

In order to critique the Bible, you must at least have a basic understanding of the theology it teaches. Since atheists usually just scan for 2 isolated sentences that contradict each other, they don’t bother taking the time to understand the theological teachings of the Bible. For example, they often point out evil deeds done by Abraham, Lot, or David, then say it contradicts later verses that refer to the flawed men as righteous. The problem with their "contradiction" example is that it ignores the most basic Christian doctrine: that everyone is sinful, but we are made righteous by God through faith—not works (Romans 4:5). Abraham, Lot, and David were extremely flawed, but God counted their faith as righteousness (Genesis 15:6).  This was possible because of Jesus’ atonement. If you find this confusing, my sections on the Gospel and the sacrificial laws of the Old Covenant explain this doctrine in more detail.

Mistake 4: Disregarding basic literary devices.

Since the Bible was written to ordinary people in everyday language, it uses many basic literary devices such as metaphor, paraphrasing, hyperbole, and figures of speech. Skeptics accept these devices in everyday speech and other works of literature, but when it comes to the Bible they force a literalistic interpretation that disregards author intent. For example, they claim that Psalm 113:3 contradicts science because it refers to the sun rising and setting. However, this is obviously a figure of speech that is still used to this day. Even the atheist and scientist Carl Sagan refers to celestial bodies as "rising in the east and setting in the west" when explaining astronomy (Cosmos Series, 3rd Ep, 14:30). Neither Carl Sagan nor the Bible should be discredited for using figurative language based on the perspective of observers.  Another common literary device is paraphrasing. When Bible authors "quote" people and other scriptures, they almost always paraphrase rather than give exact, word for word quotes. And although these literary devices may not be precise, they’re still accurate ways of communicating truth. 

Mistake 5: Creating a false a dichotomy.

A false dichotomy is when only two opposing options are presented even though others are available. For example, a popular atheist website says Galatians 6:2 and 6:5 contradict each other since Galatians 6:2 commands us to "bear one another’s burdens", while Galatians 6:5 says to "bear your own burdens". You can’t have it both ways, right? Actually, you can. They left out a third option: Bear your own burdens and the burdens of people who can’t bear their own (the poor, elderly, and orphans). The existence of a third, cohesive option means there isn’t a contradiction.