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Feedback archive Feedback 2010

Errors in the Bible?

Published: 13 March 2010(GMT+10)

Andrew B, a supporter of CMI, responded to Carl Wieland’s November 2009 Update article “The Issue of Issues” by writing …

Bible

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Hi Carl,

I will try to be very brief.

The Bible does contain errors. I understand what you are saying, however, I think it best to acknowledge what is actually there. There are a few small errors in a number of different places. E.g. Easter Sunday discrepancies, rich young ruler discrepancies, the demise of Judas, etc. etc.

The Bible was written by humans ("God breathed")-only the Ten Commandments were written by God directly. Thus, I would expect the Bible (except the Ten Commandments) to contain errors, as humans are mistake prone. This proves that the Gospel authors did NOT collude and copy from each other, and thus actually serves to enhance the Bible as a reliably accurate historical document.

The precise details do not matter so much; rather the underlying message. E.g. Jesus did rise from the dead, but whether one angel, or two angels appeared, or whether the women did this or that is of lesser importance.

Thank you.

Andrew B

… to which Carl Wieland responded:

Thanks, Andrew.

We would totally agree that the Bible is a human document, but at the same time all Scripture is God-breathed, as Paul tells us in Timothy. It’s philosophically asking for the impossible (if they are to be logically consistent) to have someone accept it as God-breathed and hence authoritative, and at the same time have it contain human error [such as false claims about history, and disregarding copyist errors]. We agree on many points, but that is one that I see as a huge issue, because if you truly see what I’m saying, then I don’t see how you can reconcile that with any error.

Because what will prevent me from assuming that a passage I don’t happen to like because of its moral demands on me, for instance, is conveniently another error? There is no stopping point.

Over time, many of the alleged ‘discrepancies’ have been resolved by simply presupposing an absence of error, thus motivating a search for a solution. When one sees, time and again, how such solutions arise, it reinforces the wisdom of not assuming error, but rather assuming our ignorance of the solution for any case in point. I am not aware of any Easter Sunday discrepancies. Are you referring to the three days and three nights matter?

Kind regards,

Carl.

Andrew replied:

Hi Carl,

Bible discrepancies:

Matthew 19:16 Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?"
Mark 10:17 “Good teacher… what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
** It appears to be the same rich young man, as he answers both times that he has kept ALL the commandments and Jesus makes comments about earthly wealth. Maybe these are two completely different people asking Jesus a slightly different question each time.

Matthew 27:5 So Judas threw the money into the temple. Then he went away and hanged himself.
Acts 1:18 (With the reward he got for his wickedness Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong…)
** This is definitely the same Judas. Some people say that Judas hanged himself and then the rope broke and his body burst open. However, if Judas threw the money AWAY, then he could not have bought the Potter’s field with THAT money. Besides, Zechariah says that THEY took the 30 silver coins to buy the Potter’s Field.

Matthew 27:9 Then what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: “They took the thirty silver coins… bought the potter’s field”
** Actually, the prophesy was from ZECHARIAH 11:13, not Jeremiah. Nowhere in Jeremiah is that mentioned as far as I could see, though I would be happy to be wrong about this one.

Matthew 1: Genealogy of Jesus (from David to Joseph is different when compared with Luke 3)
Luke 3: Genealogy of Jesus (from David to Joseph)

Matthew 28:1-Dawn on Sunday, Mary Magdalene & the other Mary went to Jesus’ tomb. Earthquake. Angel appeared who rolled the stone away. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid." The women left. Jesus met them They clasped His feet and worshipped Him.”
Mark 16:1-Mary Magdalene, Mary mother of James and SALOME went to Jesus’ tomb. When they got there, the stone had already been rolled away. They went inside. An angel (young man dressed in white) appeared.
Luke 24:1-Women went to tomb. Stone already rolled away. TWO angels appeared. Mary Magdalene, Mary mother of James, JOANNA and others with them. Women told the discpiles they had seen a vision of angels. (No mention of seeing Jesus Himself.)
John 20:1-Mary Magdalene went to Jesus’ tomb. Stone already removed. Mary goes to Peter’s home: “We don’t know where Jesus’ body has gone.” Mary goes back to tomb. Mary sees Jesus alive.
One angel, or two, or none? The angel rolled the stone away when the women arrived there, or the stone was already rolled away when the women arrived? All the women saw Jesus, or only Mary saw Jesus, or none of the women saw Jesus?

Matthew 28:10 & 16 The disciples went to a mountain in Galilee to see Jesus. When they saw Jesus alive, they worshipped Him; but some doubted.
John 20:19 On the evening of that first day of the week (Sunday evening), Jesus came and stood among them in a house. <Jerusalem?>

2 Chronicles 9:25 Solomon had 4,000 stalls for horses and chariots 12,000 horses
Some manuscripts say 40,000 stalls.

2 Samuel 10:18 David killed 700 charioteers & 40,000 foot soldiers
1 Chronicles 19:18 David killed 7,000 charioteers and 40,000 foot soldiers.
(Not sure if this is the same battle but it appears to be).

1 Kings 7:26 The Sea held 2,000 baths
2 Chronicles 4:5 The Sea held 3,000 baths

I often have JWs visit me, and I show them the definition of a false prophet (Deut 18:20-22). Then I show them the many JW prophecies that have failed to come true. They always deny it. I have copies of their actual Watchtower publications.

The same is true for people who believe evolution to be true. I ask them about fossils, and I try to explain the discrepancies that the rock dating methods produce, and I ask them to do a simple thought experiment by taking an A4 page of printed text and to photocopy it, and then photocopy from the copy, and so on a million times and to then compare the original A4 page with the one millionth copy from the copy before that one. I ask them which one will be better? Everyone replies by saying, "The original." Yes. However, evolution says that the one millionth copy will be better than the original-which is an utter joke. Basically, people prefer to deny what is actually there.

Now, I do not claim to be a Bible scholar, yet from my simple reading of the texts, and from the few passages given above, it would appear that there are indeed some inconsistencies. To say , “No, there are no errors whatsoever,” seems to be exactly like the JWs and the evolutionists who deny the facts. If there are valid solutions to the inconsistencies above, then that would be excellent.

I do not doubt that God is the greatest living Being. I do not doubt that Jesus is Who He claims to be. I do not doubt that the Bible is a reliable historical document. All I am saying is that it is God breathed (whatever that means exactly-I’m not sure), but it does not claim to be written by the very hand of God (as the Ten Commandments were). If it had been written by the very hand of God, then yes it would be perfect. As it is, the Bible was written by 39 or 40 different people, and everything people do ends up in a mess usually, so God therefore has “breathed” His influence on it to produce what we now have. It is very incomplete, however, there is more than ample evidence to enlighten the world.

Carl responded:

Thanks, Andrew, will be in touch. It’s not my field, but to my knowledge there are very well-known solutions to most if not all of these.

Regards, Carl

Carl then asked NT Bible scholar (and CMI information officer) Lita Cosner to do a reply, but not before Andrew sent another two emails, each with further lists. Carl replied after the first one of these two:

If a randomly selected batch of claimed ‘errors’ can have all or most of the alleged contradictions shown to be capable of resolution, then it is more rational and God-honouring to adopt a stance of presupposing that God’s word is wholly inspired

Andrew, I haven’t even looked at these [contradictions], deliberately so—but will answer on the previous batch, because there have been whole books providing the answers to [that sort of thing], and the point is to show you that if a randomly selected batch of claimed ‘errors’ can have all or most of the alleged contradictions shown to be capable of resolution, then it is more rational and God-honouring to adopt a stance of presupposing that God’s word is wholly inspired—plus it would be me/us doing your homework for you to go further, especially given that most of the resolutions don’t take much digging to find an answer to. Will get back to you on the [first batch].

Lita then wrote:

Dear Andrew,
Carl Wieland has passed the first of your several lists of alleged Bible contradictions, etc. to me to respond to. As he has already indicated to you, we want to merely tackle that first list so as to demonstrate how we think such things should be approached by believers desiring to honour God (and thus His Word). We do not want to be seen as a substitute for researching the many good books and web articles that deal with these sorts of lists, which come up repeatedly on many biblioskeptics’ internet haunts.

Bible discrepancies:

Matthew 19:16 Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?"
Mark 10:17 “Good teacher… what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
** It appears to be the same rich young man, as he answers both times that he has kept ALL the commandments and Jesus makes comments about earthly wealth. Maybe these are two completely different people asking Jesus a slightly different question each time.

This is the sort of small variation in wording we would expect from people recounting something that happened decades earlier, while not giving a false or misleading report, something that an inspired text could hardly permit. It’s a somewhat petty ‘contradiction’, because in Matthew it’s assumed that Jesus is a ‘good’ teacher, and in Mark it’s assumed that what he has to do is some ‘good’ work; it isn’t as if Mark is leaving the option open that evil deeds might earn eternal life. The author just puts the theological emphasis differently; Matthew emphasizes good works, Mark emphasizes ‘Good Teacher’. See J.P. Holding’s article On Gospel Details and Precision in Narratives.

Matthew 27:5 So Judas threw the money into the temple. Then he went away and hanged himself.
Acts 1:18 (With the reward he got for his wickedness Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong…)
** This is definitely the same Judas. Some people say that Judas hanged himself and then the rope broke and his body burst open. However, if Judas threw the money AWAY, then he could not have bought the Potter’s field with THAT money. Besides, Zechariah says that THEY took the 30 silver coins to buy the Potter’s Field.

The standard harmonization goes thus: Judas goes to the chief priests and throws the money back in their faces and hangs himself. The chief priests can’t put the money in the treasury because it’s blood money, so they buy the field where Judas hanged himself. The “they” in Zechariah is the priests, but it’s still Judas’s money, so it’s bought in his name, and not an error to say that he bought it. This is such a common harmonization that it seems that by still citing this as a contradiction, you don’t appear to have done much (even the most elementary) checking. This may be because, as your first email indicated, you do not see outright contradictions as serious issues for believers. Again, I would encourage you to do such checking for the issues on both of the lists on your subsequent two emails.

Matthew 27:9 Then what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: “They took the thirty silver coins… bought the potter’s field”
** Actually, the prophesy was from ZECHARIAH 11:13, not Jeremiah. Nowhere in Jeremiah is that mentioned as far as I could see, though I would be happy to be wrong about this one.

Actually, Matthew 27:9-10 is the complete thought, and it’s citing from both Zechariah and Jeremiah. It was standard Jewish practice to string more than one prophet together and only cite the one that was making the main point. See J.P. Holding’s article Errors in attribution in the New Testament?.

Also, Noel Weeks, PhD in ancient history and languages at Brandeis University under Cyrus Gordon, showed how this actually supported the reliability of Scripture. In an interview in Australian Presbyterian by CMI-supporter Rev. Peter Hastie, he was asked, “Can we say that the Bible is true even though it is imprecise with some of its statements? For example, Matthew attributes a quote from Zechariah to Jeremiah in Matthew 27:9. Isn’t this an instance of imprecision?” Dr Weeks replied:

Let me tell you a story about when I was doing my PhD at Brandeis University in Boston. Brandeis is a leading Jewish university. I remember sitting in a lecture by a very fine Jewish scholar, Nahum Sarna, who was talking about the canon of the Old Testament as it was understood in early Judaism. One of the topics he touched on was the order of the books. He said, “Well, you know that there was a period in which Jeremiah was regarded as the first book of the prophets.” Of course, nobody in the class knew that. Anyway, he continued, “One proof is that you have a quote from Zechariah quoted as being from Jeremiah because in the Jewish way of labelling things you call a book by its first few words, and you call a collection of books by the first book in that collection. Thus one of the evidences that we have of Jeremiah being the first book of the prophets in the first century is the New Testament.” I was sitting there thinking, “This Jewish audience doesn’t understand why that’s an important question, because this particular text has been held up as proof that there are errors in the New Testament. All it says is that the New Testament is a Jewish document. It is speaking in the language that Jews would speak and understand.”

Matthew 1: Genealogy of Jesus (from David to Joseph is different when compared with Luke 3)
Luke 3: Genealogy of Jesus (from David to Joseph)

Matthew is tracing Joseph’s genealogy; his emphasis is the royal succession, and Luke is tracing Mary’s ancestry. This is probably what happened: Mary’s father Heli had two daughters—Mary and the unnamed wife of Zebedee. To preserve the family lineage, when Mary married Joseph, he would become the adopted son of Heli to carry on that family line, which explains why Mary married a man who was also from the house of David (see Numbers 36). It is worth noting that Matthew and Luke are stressing radically different things in the two genealogies. Matthew is stressing Jesus’ royal status, and His Jewish heritage. Luke is stressing Jesus’ humanity, which is why the genealogy goes all the way back to Adam. See also Genealogies of Jesus.

I have often thought that the citing of this sort of ‘contradiction’ by unbelievers (I’m not referring to you here, but it may be that you inherited these lists from some anti-Christian source) reveals a degree of arrogance in those making such allegations public: these genealogies are obviously different, so the person who alleges that they are contradictory is basically claiming that it’s uniquely a problem today, as if they are the first person to ever notice that the two are different. And instead of going back and seeing how Bible scholars, both today and throughout Church history, have resolved this apparent discrepancy for the past 2,000 years, they instead rely on their own deficient understanding of the text to declare it an irresolvable contradiction!

Matthew 28:1-Dawn on Sunday, Mary Magdalene & the other Mary went to Jesus’ tomb. Earthquake. Angel appeared who rolled the stone away. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid." The women left. Jesus met them They clasped His feet and worshipped Him.”
Mark 16:1-Mary Magdalene, Mary mother of James and SALOME went to Jesus’ tomb. When they got there, the stone had already been rolled away. They went inside. An angel (young man dressed in white) appeared.
Luke 24:1-Women went to tomb. Stone already rolled away. TWO angels appeared. Mary Magdalene, Mary mother of James, JOANNA and others with them. Women told the discpiles they had seen a vision of angels. (No mention of seeing Jesus Himself.)
John 20:1-Mary Magdalene went to Jesus’ tomb. Stone already removed. Mary goes to Peter’s home: “We don’t know where Jesus’ body has gone.” Mary goes back to tomb. Mary sees Jesus alive.
One angel, or two, or none? The angel rolled the stone away when the women arrived there, or the stone was already rolled away when the women arrived? All the women saw Jesus, or only Mary saw Jesus, or none of the women saw Jesus?

Matthew 28:10 & 16 The disciples went to a mountain in Galilee to see Jesus. When they saw Jesus alive, they worshipped Him; but some doubted.
John 20:19 On the evening of that first day of the week (Sunday evening), Jesus came and stood among them in a house. <Jerusalem?>

There are several factors at work here. First, I would recommend that you read the Tekton article on inspiration linked to above, so you can understand how small details (the sort which would not qualify as “mistakes” in a way as to undermine the doctrine of inerrancy) wouldn’t concern the Gospel writers or their audience. Then see how the author applies those principles to the Resurrection narratives in his more detailed article The Resurrection Narratives Harmonized Contextually. However, most of the ‘contradictions’ here don’t even fall in that category. They are simply not errors or contradictions at all. Each evangelist is picking and choosing which details to report, so that one evangelist chooses to describe only one angel out of two or leaves out an earthquake. That isn’t a contradiction; it’s the author’s prerogative to choose which details to report as long as an omission does not distort the story. Many biblioskeptics don’t understand logic (see this explanation from Logic and Creation).

Matthew is organizing his material topically in 28:2, not chronologically; the earthquake, rolling away of the stone, and appearance of the angel could have happened at any time before the women got there. A translation of the Greek which properly brings this out would be “And behold there had been a great earthquake, for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven and went and rolled away the stone and sat on it.” We do things like this in writing even today, so it’s not a contradiction in chronology.

The question about how many angels there were, one or two, is another selection issue. Matthew and Mark choose to depict the one who did the most talking, Luke added the detail that there was another there too. The same goes for how many women saw Jesus. It’s not surprising that Mary Magdalene is highlighted in the accounts, because she was Jesus’ most prominent female follower, and there’s evidence that she was actually funding His (and His disciples’) ministry.

Carson’s commentary on John’s Gospel has the best discussion I’ve found on the alleged Resurrection account discrepancies.1 To sum it up, some of the discrepancies are on the trivial level and are based on the selectivity of the Gospel writers in choosing some details and leaving out others. Critics who say these things are actual contradictions are imposing their ridiculously rigid, uniquely Western, views on what consists of precise reporting. No one in ancient Palestine would take things like who went to the tomb to be a contradiction. Other things are judged to be contradictions based on too little evidence. Carson’s harmonization is worth quoting at length:

“For example, Mary Magdalene finds the tomb empty and, upon hearing her report Peter and the beloved disciple rush off to the tomb. Eventually they return to their own homes (v. 10), while Mary is found outside the tomb crying (v. 11). When or how did Mary get there? For almost two thousand years it has been assumed, not unreasonably, that she returned to the garden alone, or possibly in the wake of the two running men. Must a narrator report each mechanical step? This lack of information, coupled with modern assumptions about the way ancient editors and communities constantly cut up their sources and patched them together in new pieces, has led to several ingenious but unbelievable reconstructions.”2

Constructing a chronology for the Resurrection appearances is one of the more complicated issues; this is because we’re not exactly sure how the different authors’ accounts relate to the details in the other authors’ appearances. This is because there is nothing that would force the disciples to record the resurrection appearances in precise chronological order;

“in terms of the fundamental meaning and significance of each resurrection account, and in terms of the way they were first preached, each of Jesus’ resurrection appearances could stand more or less alone: the entire sequence of appearances was not necessary to establish meaning and credibility. This means that the student of the Gospels must proceed with extraordinary caution when historical or source-critical harmonizations are attempted.”3

Modern news stories covering the same event have much the same sort of ‘contradictions’ skeptics point to in the Gospel accounts

JP Holding’s article on harmonization points out that modern news stories covering the same event have much the same sort of ‘contradictions’ skeptics point to in the Gospel accounts, while at the same time not having any “mistakes” in the sense of false elements to the report. The Christian Thinktank also has a very good article; especially the point about the apparent discrepancies lending credibility to the Gospels as four separate witnesses to the Resurrection; absolute agreement in every small detail would be evidence that they had depended on each other to such an extent that they could not be considered independent witnesses.

2 Chronicles 9:25 Solomon had 4,000 stalls for horses and chariots 12,000 horses
Some manuscripts say 40,000 stalls.

This isn’t a contradiction in God’s intended revelation to mankind, but a copyist error. Many of the scribal errors in the OT text deal with numbers that were incorrectly copied. One of the most common is for them to drop or add a decimal place. In this case, the 4,000 stalls would be accurate, and that’s why this is what we find in our Bibles. So insofar as which is correct, 4,000 or 40,000, it’s a matter of the legitimate discipline of textual criticism (an important and God-honouring pursuit) determining which of the subsequently copied manuscripts is in this regard faithful to the original revelation.

2 Samuel 10:18 David killed 700 charioteers & 40,000 foot soldiers
1 Chronicles 19:18 David killed 7,000 charioteers and 40,000 foot soldiers.
(Not sure if this is the same battle but it appears to be).

Again, this is a case of a scribal error, not a contradiction in the original text. In this case, the correct number is 7,000 charioteers. Again, not a contradiction, a text-critical problem. Anderson notes that referring to the same battle, Josephus agrees with 1 Chronicles.4

1 Kings 7:26 The Sea held 2,000 baths
2 Chronicles 4:5 The Sea held 3,000 baths

And my answer is much the same for this one as well; it’s a scribal error. The Hebrew letter gimel (?) (which had the numerical value of 3) and beth (?) (numerical value of two) were probably confused by a copyist of one or the other text. Japhet is of the opinion that the number in 1 Kings is probably the correct one.5

I often have JWs visit me, and I show them the definition of a false prophet (Deut 18:20-22). Then I show them the many JW prophecies that have failed to come true. They always deny it. I have copies of their actual Watchtower publications.

The difference between small text-critical and harmonizing difficulties in the Bible and JW unfulfilled prophecy is such a wide chasm that it strikes me as quite unreasonable, to put it mildly, to compare the two.

The same is true for people who believe evolution to be true. I ask them about fossils, and I try to explain the discrepancies that the rock dating methods produce, and I ask them to do a simple thought experiment by taking an A4 page of printed text and to photocopy it, and then photocopy from the copy, and so on a million times and to then compare the original A4 page with the one millionth copy from the copy before that one. I ask them which one will be better? Everyone replies by saying, “The original.” Yes. However, evolution says that the one millionth copy will be better than the original—which is an utter joke. Basically, people prefer to deny what is actually there.

Now, I do not claim to be a Bible scholar, yet from my simple reading of the texts, and from the few passages given above, it would appear that there are indeed some inconsistencies.

The key there is, with no disrespect intended, that in addition to the fact that you’re “not a Bible scholar”, you are apparently also unfamiliar with the copious amount of writing by people who are. This is the sort of stuff that is dealt with in rather elementary scholarship, to the extent that the only people who are still circulating these lists of ‘contradictions’ are skeptics who wish to discredit the Bible. Sure, I provided the answers, but I confess to having found it troubling how you didn’t even give the Bible the benefit of the doubt enough to see if these difficulties had been resolved by Bible scholars; if you had even done a web search on a search engine, you would have come up with good answers to every single one of these ‘contradictions’.

To say , “No, there are no errors whatsoever,” seems to be exactly like the JWs and the evolutionists who deny the facts. If there are valid solutions to the inconsistencies above, then that would be excellent.

I do not doubt that God is the greatest living Being. I do not doubt that Jesus is Who He claims to be. I do not doubt that the Bible is a reliable historical document. All I am saying is that it is God breathed (whatever that means exactly-I’m not sure), but it does not claim to be written by the very hand of God (as the Ten Commandments were).

No evangelical claims that the Bible was written by God. The Chicago Statement on Inerrancy gives a good explanation of a conservative evangelical view on inerrancy; CMI’s position is also along those lines. Basically, God worked with the vocabulary, thoughts, and literary talents of the human author, but the Holy Spirit inspired the writer in such a way that everything he wrote was accurate and could be said to be the Word of God.

The Holy Spirit also worked within the conventions of the literature genres which would have been found in the cultures of the authors. This means that a historical narrative, epistle, apocalypse, etc. which was inspired by God could be analyzed in much the same way as a non-inspired historical narrative, epistle, or apocalypse.

Part of this is that the literary conventions of the day should also be applied to Scripture. This is a somewhat controversial point, but in my view it is needlessly so. For instance, if precise accuracy in every small detail was not expected in an ancient genre, then we should not expect it in a biblical book of that genre. Inspiration and Inerrancy, and Contexts may be useful for a more in-depth explanation of this idea.

Another important point is that Scripture was written within what was called a “high context society.” This means that there was a very large amount of shared information in the culture, which an author could safely assume his audience already knew, and thus leave it out of his writing. So something could seem to contradict something else, while it’s simply assuming some knowledge on the part of the reader which we no longer have.

If it had been written by the very hand of God, then yes it would be perfect. As it is, the Bible was written by 39 or 40 different people, and everything people do ends up in a mess usually, so God therefore has "breathed" His influence on it to produce what we now have. It is very incomplete, however, there is more than ample evidence to enlighten the world.

How do you think that Scripture is incomplete? The Protestant evangelical view would be that while the Bible is of course not an exhaustive revelation of truth, what it gives us is sufficient for salvation. We don’t expect to find exhaustive information about science, history, etc (although we believe that what it does give us is true); no book, even one which is primarily scientific or historical, is exhaustive in its treatment of the subject.

All of the alleged ‘contradictions’ have easy explanations, and none of them should shake the faith of the believer

Anyway, I hope that the above has been helpful, and I hope that the nuances between the “0.001% mistakes” in Carl’s article and the truly trivial have been clarified somewhat. I hope, too, that it has given you more confidence in the accuracy of God’s word. There are many other alleged ‘contradictions’ that could probably make up 10 lists the size of those in your first email, and no doubt your subsequent lists (which I have not seen) include many of these. But all of the alleged ‘contradictions’ have similarly easy explanations, and none of them should shake the faith of the believer. I realize that you were not saying that they shook your own faith, but this was apparently not because of your confidence that there were solutions, but more that you had resigned yourself to the fact that the Bible as revealed to mankind, superintended by God, had actual errors. Which puts one on a slippery slope in which there is no logical stopping point—if the reports of what happened at the Resurrection were making frank errors, then these would be false claims about history. In that case, the claims about history contained in the Genesis narrative could be false, too, and along with it the origin of sin and death, the very foundational reasons for the Gospel.

Sincerely,

Lita Cosner
Information Officer
Creation Ministries International

Related Articles

Further Reading

References

  1. D.A. Carson, The Gospel According to John. Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991), pp. 632–635. Return to text.
  2. Ibid. p. 633. Return to text.
  3. Ibid. p. 634 Return to text.
  4. A.A. Anderson, 2 Samuel, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word Books, 1989), p. 148. Return to text.
  5. Sara Japhet, I and II Chronicles: A Commentary, The Old Testament Library (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1993), p. 565. Return to text.

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Readers’ comments
Judie S., Australia

Thanks for the brilliant article — What a gracious and knowledgeable scholar Lita is!

While reading the resurrection appearance section, I was reminded of Kel Richards’ excellent novel, The Case of the Vanishing Corpse, in which Mary Magdalene describes a very similar sequence of events.

I had heard of the reference to the first book of a section in Jewish culture: it is a perfect example of the ‘high context society’ in which the New Testament was written.

Frankly, I was a little surprised that any Bible reader would not know or assume that Jesus’ two genealogies were of both parents. Andrew’s including this furphy makes me wonder whether he truly has enough Bible knowledge to take on JWs. (I hadn’t heard the suggestion of Joseph’s having been adopted as the son of a man with only daughters, a perfectly logical explanation with overtones of Levirate marriage.)

Michael C., USA

Lita, Carl, thank you for your efforts in answering this man’s questions. I found the way that you handled his questions to be most helpful and God-honoring. It answered questions for myself, too, and showed me how to deal with skeptical questions that come my way. God bless you all.

Kendal H., United States, 28 July 2012

First off I LOVE this website and I love you guys who uphold the Truth and God's word. I believe you did a good job answering some of his "contradictions", but I don't agree with what you said about copyist errors because it's still an error. I believe there is another solution for the proposed contradictions that Andrew stated:

Andrew said:

"2 Samuel 10:18- David killed 700 charioteers & 40,000 foot soldiers

1 Chronicles 19:18- David killed 7,000 charioteers and 40,000 foot soldiers." That's false.

2 Samuel 10:18 actually says "David slew the MEN OF SEVEN HUNDRED CHARIOTS.." and 1 Chronicles 19:18 says "David slew...SEVEN THOUSAND MEN WHICH FOUGHT IN CHARIOTS.." There is a clear distinction of the numbers of chariots and the number of actual men. There obviously had to be 10 men per chariot.

Andrew said:

"2 Chronicles 9:25 Solomon had 4,000 stalls for horses and chariots 12,000 horses

Some manuscripts say 40,000 stalls."

2 Chronicles 9:25 actually says, "And Solomon had four thousand stalls for HORSES AND CHARIOTS.."

1 Kings 4:26 says, "And Solomon had forty thousand stalls of horses FOR HIS CHARIOTS.." Again there is a clear distinction of numbers. 4,000 stalls for horses AND chariots, and 40,000 stalls of horses FOR chariots. There obviously were 40,000 individual horses and 10 horses per chariot.

Andrew said:

"1 Kings 7:26 The Sea held 2,000 baths

2 Chronicles 4:5 The Sea held 3,000 baths"

1 Kings 7:26 says, "And it was an hand breadth thick, and the brim thereof was wrought like the brim of a cup, with flowers of lilies: it CONTAINED two thousand baths."

2 Chronicles 4:5 says, "And the thickness of it was an handbreadth, and the brim of it like the work of the brim of a cup, with flowers of lilies; and it RECEIVED AND HELD three thousand baths."

There's again a clear distinction. The Bereans Apologetic Research Ministry stated well as so:

"At first glance it looked like a contradiction. But what is a "bath"? And what is a "molten sea"? A "bath" is a unit of measurement that is equivalent to 8 gallons of water. While the "molten sea" is a very large brass pan, in which they put water for the priests to wash in. 1 Kings describe how much the molten sea was usually filled, it was 2,000 baths. 2 Chronicles specified the capacity of the molten sea when filled to the brim, which was 3,000 baths. Therefore both passages are correct."

Hope this helped you both. :)

God Bless,

Lita Cosner responds

I disagree with thinking that manuscript errors introduced later are a problem for inerrancy—in the New Testament, we have many variants in different manuscripts, and textual criticism is all about looking at the various readings and making a judgment about which is most probably original. But some of your suggestions are interesting ways to resolve some apparent discrepancies.

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