My friend Kevin Nelstead has an excellent post about dealing with apparent Bible contradictions on his GeoChristian blog.
I'm summarizing his principles here:
- My starting assumption is that I assume the Bible is right. This is not because I have a blind faith, but because my experience has been that once I understand the text, culture, and historical context, the Bible turns out to be accurate.
- Another principle is to assume that the authors of the Bible knew their world, with its culture and history. Skeptics often assume that the authors of the Bible were idiots. They weren’t.
- We don’t know everything. For example, skeptics have charged that the lengths of reigns of the kings of Judah in the Old Testament make no sense. This went unanswered for quite some time. It has been shown, however, that the numbers make perfect sense once one considers that sons often served as co-regents with their fathers, so there was often considerable overlap in their listed reigns.
- We cannot force our cultural concept of what is acceptable in narrative literature to match that of Biblical cultures. For example, there are a number of places in the Old Testament where stories are arranged in a non-chronological order. There was nothing dishonest about this, and only our own cultural biases would cause one to call this a contradiction.
- Differences in wording are not contradictions.
- Parallel passages are often written in different literary genres.
Read the whole post for more details.