Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Diversity and Contradiction in the Bible

Some quarters of biblical scholarship have exaggerated supposed contradiction and diversity within both the Old and New Testaments. Much of the diversity however does not amount to mutual opposition. Nevertheless, genuine contradictions do occur. Given this emphasis placed upon diversity and contradiction in recent scholarship, John Goldingay provides a helpful and revealing analysis of the "degrees of diversity and forms of contradiction" in the Old Testament. He outlines a four-fold typlogy:[1]

  • Formal Contradiction - "Formal contradiction involves a difference at the level of words which is not a difference at the level of substance." (16)
  • Contextual Contradiction - "Contextual contradiction denotes a difference reflecting the variety in circumstances which different statements address." (19)
  • Substantial Contradiction - "Substantial contradiction involves a true divergence in viewpoint on the part of the speakers whose disagreement is neither merely verbal nor merely contextual." (21)
  • Fundamental Contradiction - "Fundamental Contradition denotes a dissagreement which is a matter of substance and which indicates a basic disharmony at the level of "ethical stance" or "religious outlook"." (24)

Much of the evidence for contradiction marshalled by scholars falls in the first two categories. However, all of them occur in the Old Testament.

[1] Theological Diversity and the Authority of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), 15-25

No comments: