Principles for Understanding Biblical Discrepancies

Recently, I had a run-in with a man who claimed once to be a born-again Christian but abandoned Christianity because of all the discrepancies he found in the Bible. He thinks that the Bible contains numerous errors and contradictions. The New Testament has many conflicting accounts; thus the Bible cannot be trusted anymore.

The question, as a result, hangs on the air: Can we trust the New Testament document? Is it free of known contradictions?

Summary of Principles for Understanding Apparent Discrepancies in the Bible:

1. The unexplained is not necessarily unexplainable.

2. Fallible interpretations do not mean fallible revelation.

3. Understand the context of the passage.

4. Interpret difficult passages in the light of clear ones.

5. Don’t base teaching on obscure passages.

6. The Bible is a human book with human characteristics.

7. Just because a report is incomplete does not mean it is false.

8. New Testament citations of the Old Testament need not always be exact.

9. The Bible does not necessarily approve of all it records.

10. The Bible uses nontechnical, everyday language.

11. The Bible may use round numbers as well as exact numbers.

12. Note when the Bible uses different literary devices.

13. An error in a copy does not equate to an error in the original.

14. General statements don’t necessarily mean universal promises.

15. Later revelation supersedes previous revelation.


Josh McDowell, Evidence for Christianity: Historical Evidence for Christian Faith, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2006), 77.


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