Breathed Out by God

All four evangelists record the Baptism of Jesus, and yet, each of these stories is a little different. Are they therefore contradictory? In the first two chapters of Genesis, Moses records at least two creation accounts. Does this mean multiple authors wrote Genesis instead of Moses? St. Paul says, “We know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 2:16), while St. James says, “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone” (James 2:24). Are St. Paul and St. James contradicting each other? The Evangelist Luke writes St. Paul’s conversion story three different times in Acts, and each time is a little different. Why?

The four stories listed above are a few examples of what might be described as seeming contradictions in Scripture. They appear to be contradictory, and yet, we confess that God gave us His Word without contradiction, without error. That is to say, God’s Word is both inspired — breathed out by God — and it is inerrant — it does not contradict itself or contain error.

When we read such stories, then, how do we resolve these seeming contradictions? Christians today are not the first ones to ask such questions. Ever since the Holy Spirit inspired men to write His Word in their own distinctive ways, Christians have sought to understand these seeming contradictions.

To help us in the task, we have enlisted the help of a theologian who came before us. William Arndt (1880–1957), a professor and pastor, wrote two books that Concordia Publishing House has helpfully combined into one and renamed Bible Difficulties and Seeming Contradictions (1987). (This book remains available in print or digital format, so if you enjoy this issue of The Lutheran Witness, visit to purchase a copy.) In the reprinted selection from Arndt, he establishes some guidelines to help you resolve these seeming contradictions.

Then, four different writers take up the task of evaluating a seeming contradiction in light of Arndt’s analysis. Curtis Giese explains how St. Paul and St. James use the same word but in different ways. Adam Koontz shows how the Gospel writers each emphasized a different aspect of Christ’s Baptism. Kevin Golden unveils Moses’ use of different types of writing in Genesis 1–2. And Jeffrey Oschwald details how the three conversion stories of St. Paul are each aimed at a different audience.

God’s Word is, indeed, without error. This issue aims to help you understand the seeming contradictions of Scripture for what they are: opportunities to study God’s Word and deepen your understanding of His work in Christ for you.

In the Word,

Roy S. Askins

Managing Editor, The Lutheran Witness

Scroll to Top