I found the sceptic bible helpful to see how some people read and understand the bible. It’s kind of how I used to read it. Some of the comments are obvious misunderstandings but others are more thought provoking and challenging.
As an example the Sceptics bible says there is an inconsistency between Matthew which starts with a long genealogy and Titus 3:9 which says “avoid foolish questions and genealogies”. So is that really a glaring inconsistency? Well, my first thought is could Titus 3:9 be talking about foolish genealogies rather than any genealogy, but the commentaries don’t back that up and my greek is not good enough to see if it could be that. In any case, it could easily be genealogies in some negative sense rather than any type of genealogy. In fact, in 1 Tim 1:4 Paul tells Timothy to stop people from devoting themselves to “endless genealogies”.
Matthew’s genealogy is really helpful in showing how Jesus was descended (legally) from Abraham. That is surely theologically significant and helpful rather than “unprofitable and worthless” (Titus 3:9).
When I wanted to find contradictions in the bible I found loads but I didn’t spend that much time seriously checking to see if they really were definitely contradictions. I’d just notice that they look contradictory and move on to find another, bolstered in my conviction that there were loads and the bible was not worth taking seriously.
Now, however, my starting position is that the bible is inspired by God and that it is trustworthy and truthful. While in-errancy is a tricky thing to define my expectation is that there will not be any contradictions in the truth being communicated by God. While two statements may seem difficult to reconcile, their reconciliation is possible and communicates a richer truth than any one of the individual statements on its own. This understanding is vital for handling biblical truth, and in fact understanding the way we all speak. We are not robots churning out mathematical statements. Rather we use language in much more subtle ways.
Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself. Proverbs 26:4 (ESV)
Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes. Proverbs 26:5 (ESV)
They are right next to each other in the bible. The person who first put them there was not too foolish to realise they were contradictory. Rather they were saying both general statements needed to be born in mind when dealing with foolish people. While on the surface there is a logical contradiction (should you or shouldn’t you answer a fool according to his folly?) these verses impart wisdom that help us think about how to respond in different situations. Wisdom cannot always be written down in unqualified “if A then B” statements. Real life isn’t as simple as that and our brains don’t work that way either.
If we can’t get past apparent surface contradictions when reading the bible we will miss the trinity (one God three persons, each fully God…), incarnation (Jesus fully God and fully man), God’s sovereignty and our responsibility and in fact the divine and human authorship of the bible itself. Not very wise.
I’m not saying I can explain all the apparent contradiction, it’s just that my presuppositions are now different, and seem to enable me to dive down under the surface of biblical truth rather than skim over it.