Yesterday I worked at the local library. As I was making my sweep to make sure things looked tidy on the bookshelves, I noticed a peculiar book. The exact title escapes me, but it was something like “Contradictions in the Bible.” Looking at it, I saw that the author compiled a list of items where he felt the Bible contradicted itself. Of course, if true, this opens a theological can of worms: if the Bible is wrong in one area, where else is it wrong? Because of these “contradictions”, the author said, we must conclude that the Bible is nothing more than a historical book that is filled with myths.
Not so fast, high-speed.
Of the contradictions I was familiar with, most looked easily explainable. For example, the author notes that in First Kings 8:23, 27-30 King Solomon gives a public prayer while dedicating the temple. However, in Matthew 6:5, Jesus encourages the people to pray in private and not to pray publicly, as the hypocrites do.
On the surface, this seems to be a contradiction—unless you realize the context. Solomon’s public prayer was one of sincerity, especially when you read the text of the prayer and consider the painstaking details in planning and building the temple. From start to finish, it took years. Jesus was referring to religious leaders of the day who were trying to show how holy they were by praying in public. He knew their hearts and knew there was no sincerity whatsoever in their prayers. They were trying to please men rather than God. To avoid such an appearance of godlessness, Jesus said, when speaking to God it is better to do so in private.
Does this mean that all public prayers are wrong? I don’t think so. For instance, I don’t necessarily have a problem with the National Day of Prayer as long as it’s approached in sincerity. If you plan to participate because you think it would be great to attend and even get a chance to let the public hear your articulate prayer, then it’s best that you avoid it. If your reason is because you are deeply concerned about our nation and the world and want to join others in offering prayers up to God, then I don’t see a problem there. Again, it hinges upon how your heart is and what your motiviations are.
In the future, I will be posting examples (and writing columns about them in “My Two Shekels”) of supposed Biblical contradictions that can be easily explained by simply understanding the context and the customs of the time. Remember, the eastern mindset is wholly different from the western one.