Yet more Biblical contradictions!

I found this one courtesy of the fine folks at, an online comic book publisher. One of their comics is Apocamon, the Final Judgment. In Part Two, locusts are dispatched to attack the Earth, but they are to spare those who have “the seal of God” on their foreheads and not to hurt any of the grass. (The specific verse this scene refers to is Revelations 9:4.)

There’s one small problem: The grass was all destroyed back in Rev. 8:7. How are the demons supposed to spare grass that’s already been destroyed?

Revelations 8:7:

Revelations 9:4:

Why does the Word of God need an editor? Did God allow the grass to grow back? Then why did He have it destroyed in the first place? And if God allowed the grass to grow back, why doesn’t the text mention it? It would have taken only a few words.

And I’m curious as to why anyone would continue to believe the Bible is the Word of an infallible Almighty when faced with contradictions like these. (If you want to see more contradictions, go to for many, many more.)

Well, Mr. Smarty-Pants, they can’t very well hurt the green grass if it’s all already been burned to a crisp, now can they?

Ah, but Rev. 8:7 only says that all the GREEN grass was burned up. Rev. 9:4 instructs the locusts not to hurt ANY of the grass of the Earth.

Maybe some purple grass or orange grass is supposed to survive the fires of Rev. 8:7.

It says burned out, not made extinct. Stuff grows back. I think the reason it was mentioned in the first place was to emphasize how awful and far-reaching the hail and fire and blood was, that it burned up all of the grass as well as a third of those other things. But the hail etc. didn’t come explicitly to eradicate grass.

you seem to be nitpicking soley to discredit the book. I know many Christians(serious fundamental ones) who consider Revelations to be a parable, full of metaphors. Not many take it as a factual account of what could possibly happen.

You obvious haven’t read the “Left Behind” series.

Not that this is an original point at all, but the nitpickish contradiction posts seem pretty analogous to the fundamentalist nitpicks with scientific findings that contradict literal translations of the bible. Yeah they poke occassional holes but it really doesn’t affect either side of the argument.

Along the same line…

Can someone explain the plague of the frogs for me?

What? No more insects?

Sorry jab1 but this one’s pretty week.

I can think of at least three plausible explanations but they involve thinking in terms the authors understood, not terms most modern Americans understand.

The book of Revelation was written by a man who had lived his entire life in the middle east and medditeranean. These particular regions are dry with highly seasonal rainfall. In these systems the tops of the grass dies during the dry season and only re-shoots during the wetter months. Much of the middle east in particular was savanna at the time. In these systems the use of fire by agriculturalists is widespread, and it’s common to light fires in grasslands to remove the dead grass and promote new, high protein growth as well as for a range of other reasons I won’t get into now. For a fuller understanding of the use and effect of fire in grassland in Israel I suggest
Noy-Meir Imanuel. Interactive effects of fire and grazing on structure and diversity of Mediterranean grasslands. Journal of Vegetation Science. 6(5). 1995. 701-710

Now Rev. 8:7 says ‘all the green grass was burned up’, not all the grass. This can be taken to mean that either the grass was literally burned up, or that the green grass was browned off, becoming dead. It’s standard language in Australia, South Africa and New Zealand at least to speak of grass being burned off by frost or by an early dry dry spell. Bearing in mind we’re talking about a scenario with a firestorm that engulfs a third of the planet it’s not unreasonable to assume that this is what a middle eastern man from the first century meant. A third of the earth is consumed by fire and no vegetation remains, and even in the rest of the world the grass becomes brown and dry, bringing a time of no prosperity if not actual hardship. When I read the passage this is what I immediately translated it as and it wasn’t until I thought about it in terms of your criticism that I could translate it into terms a temperate American might understand.

Alternatively we could have a situation where the green grass was burned up, but where the dead brown grass was retained. Not logical but hell if these are the locusts I’m thinking of tehy’ve got men’s faces and women’s hair and metal breastplates and scorpions tails, so logic isn’t a pre-requisite. Again to a person from a mediterranean or monsoonal climate such a differentiation between green and brown grass is normal. We don’t say that grass is green by default because for most of the year most of the grass is in fact brown. There’s a good reason why the author speaks of green grass here, he means green grass, not dry, dead standing feed. Quite frankly it amuses me to hear people like tracer jokingly referring to purple grass, not realising that at any given point in time most of the world’s grass is in fact brown, not green.

Even if we want to translate it to a literal burning of all the grass the question becomes “so what?”. Savannas are fire mediated communities, fires are common and the grass is adapted to this. Fires occur every year in savannas in Israel and by the end of the next growing season you can’t tell the difference. This isn’t to say that having all your stockfeed destroyed at the wrong time isn’t a very bad thing and something to be avoided at all costs, but it also doesn’t mean that the grass will never return. Someone like John, who had lived in rural Isreal, would have understood this fully. Grasses of tropical systems can be burned off and recover very quickly. It’s not a big undertaking to burn grass (talk to some Sydneysiders today and they’ll explain how big an undertaking it is to stop it). God didn’t make the grass grow back. As anyone who has ever lived in a tropical savannah system will tell you it would take a major drought or an act of God to stop it growing back. Mentioning that the grass grew back would be like mentioning that the sun continued to rise. It’s such common knowledge to medditerannean people that burned grass re-shoots that it’s assumed that it will happen by default.

Seriously jab when you think about this from the perspective of an author who didn’t come form a wet temperate environment it’s not even vaguely contradictory.

I couldn’t agree more with this point. Though I am an atheist I would think it would require extreme arrogance on my part to think that I could prove to a Christian that their beliefs are false or wrong simply by pointing out little technicalities that really miss the big picture altogether.

Ehhhh…some Biblical contradictions (or “apparent contradictions” if you prefer) are pretty nitpicky, but others are much more profound. I confess I doubt if this one will rock anyone’s faith to its foundations. However, if you are dealing with a Christian whose belief system is founded upon the idea that Scripture is the inerrant Word of God, and a true and authoritative revelation concerning all matters of which it speaks, both theological and historical–and there are certainly Christians who have those beliefs–then pointing out some of the more major contradictions between the various parts of the Bible should seriously challenge the fundamentals of their belief-system. Whether or not you will get them to accept any of this is another question, of course.

Problem is, I’ve found that the more literal/strict the translation, the more likely any contradiction is to be met with an answer along the lines of “With God, anything is possible” which is, of course, basically inarguable.

Heathen unbeliever! The Book of Revelations, like all the books of the Bible, is the dictated Word of God! John was merely his stenographer!

Uhm, sorry, I was channeling Jerry Falwell there for a minute…

But John didn’t live in any of those places, as you yourself pointed out.

I come from Texas, in a region where droughts are not unknown. I’ve seen grass turn brown in the summer because of a lack of rain. (Damned near every summer, come to think of it!) It also turns brown every fall and doesn’t become green again till spring.

Besides, the original Greek word used is katakaio, which has only one meaning: to burn up, consume by fire. (Go here.)

Maybe you can tell me what are those “four-legged, flying creatures” that are referred to in Leviticus 11:20-23?

Since we’re using greek definitions…how bout the word for grass.

Chortos unlike katakaio
has more than one definition
1)the place where grass grows and animals graze
2)grass, herbage, hay, provender
a)of green grass
b) of growing crops

So where ‘green grass’ could mean the actual grass like that in my backyard; grass spared by the locusts could be one of many crops that isn’t necessarily green. I’m sure a number of other thoughts can be made out of it. And the site I used for the definitions is the same one supplied by Jab.

<< However, if you are dealing with a Christian whose belief system is founded upon the idea that Scripture is the inerrant Word of God, and a true and authoritative revelation concerning all matters of which it speaks, both theological and historical–and there are certainly Christians who have those beliefs–then pointing out some of the more major contradictions between the various parts of the Bible should seriously challenge the fundamentals of their belief-system. Whether or not you will get them to accept any of this is another question, of course. >>

I am certainly NOT a biblical literalist – I accept that much of the Bible speaks in metaphor, in poetry, meant to convey impressions and ideas rather than to be literally specific. I don’t think God’s actual “breath” blew apart the Sea, that’s a metaphor for an awesome wind, for example.

The problem with the nit-pickery approach is that you cannot come up with anything new. The Biblical Literalists have around 1500 years of anti-literalists finding loopholes, inconsistencies, contradictions, etc. And they have found “answers” to all those, within the literal-word-for-word context. So, don’t think that you producing some amazing inconsistency will shatter their beliefs – they’ll find that the same point was raised in 1207 by some lunatic monk, and was answered as follows.

Well, saying that “Biblical literalists” are people who believe that the Red Sea was parted by “the breath of God”–with some mental image of a giant guy with a long, flowing white beard blowing really hard–is a straw man, I think. By “Biblical literalist” I would mean someone who believes that an escaping group of ex-slaves from Egypt were miraculously delivered from Pharoah’s armies after a large body of water suddenly and inexplicably parted in front of them, allowing them to walk across the seabed, and then closed in behind them, drowning the pursuing forces. There are people who believe that the Biblical accounts are true to that level of detail.

By a “non-literalist” I mean a person who, accepting the Bible as “truth” in some sense, nonetheless might say “The story of the Exodus is not a historical account but a story of liberation from oppression through faith in God”. I have a different set of disagreements with those believers than I do with those who I would characterize as “Biblical literalists”.


“The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.”

I doubt anyone is going to come up with any new arguments for the existence of God or the truth of the Bible. I doubt anyone is going to come up with any new refutations of the arguments for the existence of God or the truth of the Bible, either. Still, you never know when some old argument will be new to the person who is hearing it.

I’ve known some “literalists” who, when confronted with a contradiction they cannot deny, will explain it away by saying, “Then it must be a parable,” as though it’s perfectly acceptable for parables to have contradictions, as though they’re somehow exempt from all the rules that govern all other forms of storytelling.

So, CK, maybe you can tell me what kind of animals Leviticus 11:20-23 is referring to? Or is that another metaphor?


No, it was meant to illustrate that there is often a difference between the literal meaning of a word and its applied usage in context. The example demonstartes that in seasonal environments grass is refrerred to as being burned even if flame never comes near it, hence it provides credibilty for my hypothesis that such a usage could have been common in Israel, 90AD (or whenever).

Then I really am surprised that you didn’t make the (clearly stated) distinction between green grass and all grass. You’ve seen this every year, why does it make you leap to the conclusion that a contradiction is necessary in order for all the green grass to have been consumed and there still be grass left? Why couldn’t all the green grass in Texas be consumed by flame and all the brown grass left intact? Why would the demons need “to spare grass that’s already been destroyed” (as you stated in the OP) when clearly not all the grass needs to have been destroyed?

I fear I am missing something.

Well I don’t claim to be an authority on ancient Greek and if you do I will defer. It was an hypothesis and no more.

However the two alternative hypotheses I proposed are both completely indisputable and can hold up even with the most rigorous literal interpretation. No contradictions needed.

Ummm, at a guess I’d have to say insects.

OK jab1, I’ve read Lev. 11 and I still can’t see a problem.

To walk on all fours means to walk on four legs doesn’t it? I mean an animal can walk on all fours and have six legs can’t it? If you dispute this then can you please provide a cite to do so.

It seems to me that by saying all fours the author is just making his intentions quite clear. All insects (bar locusts etc) are out. Had he said all sixes he would have been giving carte blanch to the eating of mantises, certain types of lacewings, giant water bugs and a whole slew of other predatory insects which use the forelegs as raptorial grasping organs and never actually walk upon them. So he said all fours which means any flying creature that maintains four legs in contact with the ground during normal perambualtory motion.

Not really a contradiction, more a matter of needing to interpret all fours as meaning on four legs exclusively and solely, as opposed to simply meaning on four legs. Insects certainly walk on four legs.

This sort of thing really doesn’t help the credibility of those that have a legitimate criticism of Christianity. I think that you need to review the definition of the word “cotradiction”.

Gaspode wrote:

Aha! So it was the HAIL in Rev. 8:7 that burned up all the grass, not the fire!! :wink: