Ask FMM: Understanding Bible Difficulties

Why are there so many contradictions in the Bible? In Matthew 10:34, Jesus says: Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. Yet, in Matthew 26:52 he then says: Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. Is it merely a representation of Jesus’s divided nature? As both fully human and fully divine, we assume that he also possesses all of our human flaws. Does this mean that Jesus has memory loss or was he suffering from dementia? Is the Lord just as flawed as us mortals?

At times, the Bible can seem to present various “difficulties” or “contradictions”. However, careful reading and examination of the Bible can quickly clear up these “difficulties” and “contradictions”. Keep in mind that every word of the Bible and the entirety of the Bible is inspired of God (2 Tim 3:16), and that the Bible is inerrant and infallible (it cannot err or fail in its teaching). I cover the inspiration, inerrancy, and infallibility in Part 1 of my series on Essential Bible Doctrines). Two books I highly recommend reading when it comes to understanding and resolving Bible difficulties are R.A. Torrey’s Difficulties in the Bible and David O’ Brian’s Today’s Handbook for Solving Bible Difficulties.

When it comes to Bible interpretation, it is important to keep in mind the context surrounding any Bible passage. Any passage of Scripture can be isolated to be used as a “proof text” for any interpretation, whether biblically valid or invalid. As my Bachelor-level Hermeneutics professor Dr. J.B. Hixon used to say: “A text without its context is a con”. Context is key to understanding and interpreting any biblical passage. Understanding the historical context and literary/grammatical context are the two main pillars for solid biblical interpretation. One of the best books to read on this subject is Roy Zuck’s Basic Bible Interpretation. When reading the Bible, I also recommend owning a couple of solid commentaries which can help shed light on difficult to understand passages. While Bible commentaries are not inspired of God and should not be given equal authority with the Word of God itself, the Lord has blessed us with given biblical exegetes and expositors who have shed insight and understanding on biblical passages. Two good single volume Bible commentaries which are affordable are MacArthur and Moody, and John G. Butler offers one of the best multi-volume Bible commentaries if you need solid biblical exposition without being overly technical or academic.

To answer your question with regard to Matthew 10 versus Matthew 26. Matthew 10 presents Jesus speaking in the context that during His first advent to the earth in His incarnation, His ministry would stir up opposition and hostility against Him and His disciples, even to the point where His opponents sought to (and succeeded in) killing Him and later killing many of His disciples. The “sword” used in this instance is not a literal sword, and Jesus was not advocating that He and His disciples go around Jerusalem swinging swords at individuals. The “sword” used here is a metaphor, which is figurative language to denote that the first advent of Jesus would bring opposition and hostility against Him to the point of His being crucified. Roy Zuck does an excellent job explaining figurative language in his book.

In Matthew 26, the context is the garden where Jesus was being arrested to be led away to be crucified. Peter impulsively pulls out his sword to begin attempting to injure or kill those arresting Jesus to the point where he cuts off the ear of the high priest’s servant. Jesus rebukes Peter and informs him not to use physical violence against those for a multitude of reasons. One reason is that Jesus is fulfilling the mission of God the Father by dying on the cross for the sins of mankind. Second, Jesus also alludes to the biblical law of capital punishment in his message to Peter. Lastly, Jesus can at anytime invoke heavenly defense in which he wouldn’t need the swinging of Peter’s sword to defend Him. He chose not to invoke this heavenly defense in order to fulfill the mission of God the Father mentioned in the first reason.
The passages of Scripture you mentioned are not a result of a divided nature of Jesus, but rather two different contexts, plus Jesus speaking in figurative language in the first context. In terms of the nature of Jesus, I go into the Hypostatic Union well in Part 2 on my series on Essential Bible Doctrines. While Jesus is both fully God and fully man, He was not a flawed man because He did not possess a sin nature as one being born of a virgin. Jesus did not have memory loss in these two incidents, nor was He suffering from dementia. Jesus was fully God and fully man and the two natures were without mixture in the person of Jesus (the Hypostatic Union), bur Jesus was also without a flawed, sin nature since He was also born of a virgin. Had Jesus had a sin nature or was flawed in any form as we are, then He could not have been the sinless sacrifice who died on the cross for our sins.

Update: First Fruits of Zion (a Messianic Jewish ministry, Messianic Jews are Jewish believers in Jesus Christ as the Messiah) has recently released an article concerning the sword passage. Our readers can access the article by clicking here. First Fruits of Zion offers some interesting articles of some New Testament passages, as they offer a thorough examination of the first-century Jewish context that the disciples and early church would have understood these passages.

Ask FMM: Describing the Trinity

This question came to me via email from an academic website where I post my academic papers. The person who emailed me read my PhD entrance paper with regard to the Trinity (I will share excerpts from it in some future posts here on the blog). I am including his question and my response to him here for the benefit of our readers. Thanks for sending in your questions to Ask FMM, and keep them coming! We love answering them!

How would you best explain to someone the concept of the Trinity?

The concept of the Trinity as described by evangelical Christian theologians is that God eternally exists as one God (Deut 5:1) in three persons (Mt 28:19). Each of the three persons who comprise the Trinity exist with an eternal equality of essence (each of the persons of the Trinity eternally equally share in the divine essence of the Godhead) and an eternal distinction of persons (God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit eternally exist as three distinct persons in relation to each other). While the concept of the Trinity can be somewhat described by theologians (some recommended Systematic Theology resources which offer an excellent discussion and description of the Trinity include Ryrie, Grudem, MacArthur, Erickson, and Moody Handbook), the quote below by Oliphint reminds Christians that the Trinity will never be exhaustively described this side of eternity, as the Trinity is also a doctrine of mystery that causes Christians to pause in awe and wonder at such a majestic being as God.

Scripture Sunday: John 6:37

John 6—Bread. This is the great bread chapter in the Bible. •Multiplying of bread: this miracle of feeding 5,000 is the only miracle recorded in all four Gospels. Involved in the miracle was a challenge (Christ tested Philip about supplying bread); contribution (a lad gave five loaves and two fish); creating (Christ multiplied the bread from the few loaves and fish); cleanup (twelve baskets); consequences (people honored Christ). •Movement after bread: the trip across the sea at night during a storm. The purpose of the movement (to go to Capernaum); the problem in the movement (storm at sea); the phenomena in the movement (Christ walked on the sea to the boat and the boat came to shore as soon as Christ got in it). •Message about bread: in this major discourse, Christ spoke about spiritual bread (He is the Bread of Life). The learning from Christ (about the work, wonders, will, and Wheat of God [Jesus the Bread of Life]); the loathing of Christ (the people loathed the person and power of Christ); the leaving of Christ (the message caused all the people to leave Christ except the twelve). –Butler’s Daily Bible Reading

Due to a computer transition, Scripture Sunday is being posted on a Wednesday this week.

Scripture Sunday: John 1:12

John 1—Word. •Prologue of the Word: the first five verses of John are the greatest introduction of Christ found in Scripture. They tell of the relationship of Christ (the Word) to God (He is God), to the galaxies (He created them), and to the Gospel (He is the Savior). •Proclamation of the Word: the work of John the Baptist which included his calling (“sent to bear witness of that light”); his clarification (he was not the Christ but was inferior to Him); his communication (Christ is the Lamb of God). •Pursuit of the Word: by early disciples. It involved the inspiring of the pursuit (the preaching of John the Baptist), inquiry in the pursuit (Christ was asked where He lived), instructing of the pursuers (Christ showed them where He lived and convinced them He was the Messiah), and increase in pursuers (first disciples win others to Christ). -Butler’s Daily Bible Reading

Great Devotional From Adrian Rogers: Yielding Yourself to Christ

Great devotional today from Adrian Rogers from Love Worth Finding. I wanted to take a moment to share it with readers:

“…yield yourselves unto God…” Romans 6:13

I heard about a man who entered an interstate out of a side road and did not even slow down. A big eighteen-wheeler pulled over, almost wrecking him. The truck driver leaned out of the window and yelled, “Hey, didn’t you see that sign?” The man said, “What sign?” The trucker said, “That sign that said Y–I–E–L–D.” “Oh,” he said, “I opened the window and yield as loud as I could.”

In the matter of victory, it is not your ability or your responsibility that counts. It is not even your response to His ability. You must choose to yield to Christ. You are to yield with all of your heart to the power, the presence, and the provision of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Look up the definition of “yield.” What does it say about the right of way? Who has the “right of way” in your life? Come before the Lord and surrender all of you to all of Him today.

Scripture Sunday: Malachi 3:10

Malachi 3—Communique. The prophet has three messages in this chapters. •Coming: the first and second coming of Christ are both in view here. The messenger in the return (prophecy of John the Baptist); the moment of the return (will come suddenly); the might of the return (great judgment upon the sinners). •Corruption: the people were defrauding offerings and despising obedience. •Consecrated: their fear (holy fear of God), their fellowship (those who feared God spoke one to another), their favor (they were God’s jewels). –Butler’s Daily Bible Reading

Scripture Sunday: Galatians 6:2

Galatians 5:13–6:18—Conduct. The last third of the epistle emphasizes sanctified conduct of the believer. •Cause of the conduct: the Spirit not the law. The works of the flesh are cited and the fruit of the Spirit is given as a contrast. •Character of conduct: a number of areas of conduct are cited here. They include dealing with the sinning brother, humility, validating your calling/work, sharing with those who help you spiritually, sowing and reaping, and preference in giving favor (favor believers over unbelievers). Paul then closes the epistle with a parting shot at the legalists who insist on circumcision, but he glories in the cross of Christ. –Butler’s Daily Bible Reading

Scripture Sunday: Matthew 18:20

Matthew 18—Galilee. •Pride: the inquiry of pride (the disciples want to know who is the greatest in the kingdom); the illustration for pride (Christ uses a child to illustrate the need of humility regarding heavenly matters); instruction for pride (Christ warns of mistreatment of the little ones who represent humility). •Polity: Christ instructs about dealing with the belligerent and the process of disciplining such an one in the church. •Pardon: this subject takes up over half the chapter. It involves the inquiry by Peter about forgiveness and the illustration by a parable of forgiveness. –Butler’s Daily Bible Reading