A photo showcasing an open Bible with highlighted passages, depicting the concept of variance in the Bible, symbolizing diverse interpretations and perspectives on its teachings.

What Does Variance Mean In The Bible?

Variance is not a common word that most people use in everyday language. So what does it mean when we come across it in the Bible? In short, variance refers to disagreement, dissension, or quarreling.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: In the Bible, variance refers to disagreement, dissension, quarreling, or a lack of unity among people or groups.

In this comprehensive article, we’ll explore the deeper meaning of variance in biblical contexts, with examples of how it’s used and practical applications for modern readers.

The Definition and Usage of Variance in the Bible

The Literal Meaning of Variance

The word “variance” appears several times in English Bible translations, conveying the idea of disagreement, disunity, or diversity of opinion. The original Greek and Hebrew words translated as “variance” literally mean separation, division, or diversity.

Where Variance Appears in Scripture

Variance shows up in a few key Biblical passages:

  • Galatians 5:20 lists “variance” along with other “works of the flesh” like idolatry and drunkenness.
  • Matthew 10:34-36 quotes Jesus stating He came to bring variance between family members regarding faith.
  • Esther 3:8 speaks of a “certain people” (the Jews) as being different and not following the king’s laws, using the language of variance.

Variance as Disunity and Strife

When the word “variance” emerges in Scripture, it often conveys connotations of interpersonal strife, infighting, and lack of harmony. For example:

  • Proverbs warns that variance leads to ruination (Proverbs 6:14, 10:12, 15:18, 16:28, 28:25).
  • Numbers 12 tells of a variance between Miriam, Aaron, and Moses over Moses’ Cushite wife.
  • The early church dealt with variance when Jewish and Gentile believers disagreed over requiring circumcision (Acts 15:1-35).

In contrast, Scripture upholds the ideals of unity, fellowship, compassion, and one mindset among God’s people (Philippians 2:2, Romans 15:5-6). Variance represents a divergence from those ideals.

Type Biblical Example
Doctrinal variance Debate over circumcision requirements (Acts 15)
Moral variance People not following the king’s laws (Esther 3:8)
Relational variance Infighting among Miriam, Aaron and Moses (Numbers 12)

While some theological diversity is expected, Scripture teaches that believers should seek unity and avoid divisiveness over disputable matters (Romans 14:1).

Notable Examples of Variance in the Bible

Variance Between Abraham and Lot’s Herdsmen

There was strife (or variance) between the herdsmen of Abraham and Lot in Genesis 13. As their flocks and herds grew large, there was not enough room for them to graze together, leading the herdsmen to quarrel over grazing rights.

Abraham, wanting to preserve peace between them, suggested to Lot that they separate and gave Lot the first choice of land. Lot chose the fertile Jordan valley near Sodom, leaving Abraham with Canaan. This story illustrates how material abundance can lead to variance, but that wisdom and patience can peacefully resolve such conflicts.

Paul Addressing Variance in the Early Church

In several of his New Testament letters, the Apostle Paul had to address issues of variance among early Christian churches and believers. For example, in 1 Corinthians 1:10 he appeals to the Corinthian church to “agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you.”

He was concerned over reports of quarreling factions in that congregation.

Similar admonishments against variance can be seen in Romans 16:17, Titus 3:9-11, and elsewhere. Paul continually focused on unity of faith and purpose for the first churches, which faced many pressures from both Jewish and Roman antagonists of Christianity.

Warnings Against Variance Among Christians

The New Testament writers frequently warn fellow Christians against engaging in variance, dissention and factious disputes within the church. James 3:16 states, “For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.”

What begins as petty variance and competition for status can grow into greater evils.

Jesus himself prayed for his disciples “that all of them may be one” just as He and the Father are one (John 17:20-21). Paul echoes this in urging the church to “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).

Humility and mutual submission can prevent harmful variance in Christian relationships.

What the Bible Says About Overcoming Variance

Pursuing Unity and Reconciliation

The Bible encourages believers to make every effort to maintain the bond of unity and peace (Ephesians 4:3). This requires humility, gentleness, patience, and bearing with one another in love (Ephesians 4:2).

When conflicts arise, God calls us to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger (James 1:19). We must be willing to forgive others as God has forgiven us (Colossians 3:13).

Seeking reconciliation should be a priority for Christians. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9). When disputes occur, the goal should be restoration and healing of relationships.

We must speak the truth in love and bring grace to difficult conversations (Ephesians 4:15).

There are biblical principles for resolving conflict in a constructive manner, such as going directly to the person involved, listening to their perspective, taking responsibility for any wrongdoing, and finding solutions together (Matthew 18:15-17).

With compromise and forgiveness, we can overcome divisions.

Cultivating the Fruit of the Spirit

Variances often stem from the “acts of the flesh” – hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions (Galatians 5:19-21). In contrast, the Holy Spirit produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

These godly qualities allow us to manage disputes wisely.

Walking in step with the Spirit empowers believers to exhibit harmony, not hostility in relationships. As we yield to God’s leading each day, He reshapes our thoughts and behaviors to reflect Christ more clearly.

This transforms how we handle inevitable clashes and enables us to diffuse anger rather than provoke it.

Following Biblical Principles for Resolving Conflict

In addition to relying on godly wisdom from the Holy Spirit, scripture provides practical guidelines for dealing with relational rifts:

  • Overlook minor offenses and do not keep record of wrongs (Proverbs 19:11)
  • Approach the situation prayerfully rather than reacting hastily (Proverbs 15:1)
  • Speak gently and with self-control; do not let anger escalate it (Proverbs 15:1)
  • Make allowances for others’ faults and forgive freely (Colossians 3:13)
  • Look out for others’ interests, not just your own (Philippians 2:4)

Employing these timeless principles can help resolve disputes and restore harmony. With God’s help, believers can overcome divisions and shine as examples of biblical reconciliation.


In the Bible, variance refers to disagreement, dissension, quarreling, and lack of unity among God’s people. Scripture clearly speaks against variance and offers practical principles for pursuing peace, cultivating the Holy Spirit’s fruit, and reconciling relationships.

Understanding the discord variance causes, believers can actively foster unity in churches and interpersonal relationships. With God’s help variance can be overcome, leading to deeper bonds between Christians.

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