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    101 contradictions in the Bible (part 1) **Debunked**

    In response to the propaganda

    1. Does God incite David to conduct the census of his people (2 Samuel 4:1), or does Satan (1 Chronicles 21:1)?

    (Category: misunderstood how God works in history)

    This seems an apparent discrepancy unless of course both statements are true. It was towards the end of David's reign, and David was looking back over his brilliant conquests, which had brought the Canaanite, Syrian, and Phoenician kingdoms into a state of vassalage and dependency on Israel. He had an attitude of pride and self-admiration for his achievements, and was thinking more in terms of armaments and troops than in terms of the mercies of God.

    The Lord therefore decided that it was time that David be brought to his knees, where he would once again be cast back onto the mercy of God. So he let him go ahead with his census, in order to find out just how much good it would do him, as the only thing this census would accomplish would be to inflate the national ego (intimated in Joab's warning against carrying out the census in 1 Chronicles 21:3). As soon as the numbering was completed, God intended to chasten the nation with a disastrous plague which would bring about an enormous loss of life (in fact the lives of 70,000 Israelites according to 2 Samuel 24:15).

    What about Satan? Why would he get himself involved in this affair (according to 1 Chronicles 21:1) if God had already prompted David to commit the folly he had in mind? It seems his reasons were entirely malicious, knowing that a census would displease the Lord (1 Chronicles 21:7-8), and so he also incited David to carry it through.

    Yet this is nothing new, for there are a number of other occurrences in the Bible where both the Lord and Satan were involved in soul-searching testings and trials:

    In the book of Job, chapters one and two we find a challenge to Satan from God allowing Satan to bring upon Job his calamities. God's purpose was to purify Job's faith, and to strengthen his character by means of discipline through adversity, whereas Satan's purpose was purely malicious, wishing Job as much harm as possible so that he would recant his faith in his God.
    Similarly both God and Satan are involved in the sufferings of persecuted Christians according to 1 Peter 4:19 and 5:8. God's purpose is to strengthen their faith and to enable them to share in the sufferings of Christ in this life, that they may rejoice with Him in the glories of heaven to come (1 Peter 4:13-14), whereas Satan's purpose is to 'devour' them (1 Peter 5:8), or rather to draw them into self-pity and bitterness, and down to his level.
    Both God and Satan allowed Jesus the three temptations during his ministry on earth. God's purpose for these temptations was for him to triumph completely over the very tempter who had lured the first Adam to his fall, whereas Satan's purpose was to deflect the saviour from his messianic mission.
    In the case of Peter's three denials of Jesus in the court of the high priest, it was Jesus himself who points out the purposes of both parties involvement when he says in Luke 22:31-32, "Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers."
    And finally the crucifixion itself bears out yet another example where both God and Satan are involved. Satan exposed his purpose when he had the heart of Judas filled with treachery and hate (John 13:27), causing him to betray Jesus. The Lord's reasoning behind the crucifixion, however, was that Jesus, the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world should give his life as a ransom for many, so that once again sinful man could relish in the relationship lost at the very beginning, in the garden of Eden, and thereby enter into a relationship which is now eternal.
    Thus we have five other examples where both the Lord and Satan were involved together though with entirely different motives. Satan's motive in all these examples, including the census by David was driven by malicious intent, while the Lord in all these cases showed an entirely different motive. His was a benevolent motive with a view to eventual victory, while simultaneously increasing the usefulness of the person tested. In every case Satan's success was limited and transient; while in the end God's purpose was well served furthering His cause substantially.

    (Archer 1982:186-188)

    2.2 Samuel 24:9 gives the total population for Israel as 800,000, whereas 1 Chronicles 21:5 says it was 1,100,000.

    (Category: misunderstood the historical context or misunderstood the author's intent)

    There are a number of ways to understand not only this problem but the next challenge as well, since they both refer to the same passages and to the same census.

    It is possible that the differences between the two accounts are related to the unofficial and incomplete nature of the census (which will be discussed later), or that the book of Samuel presents rounded numbers, particularly for Judah.

    The more likely answer, however, is that one census includes categories of men that the other excludes. It is quite conceivable that the 1 Chronicles 21:5 figure included all the available men of fighting age, whether battle-seasoned or not, whereas the 2 Samuel 24:9 account is speaking only of those who were ready for battle. Joab's report in 2 Samuel 24 uses the word 'is hayil, which is translated as "mighty men", or battle-seasoned troops, and refers to them numbering 800,000 veterans. It is reasonable that there were an additional 300,000 men of military age kept in the reserves, but not yet involved in field combat. The two groups would therefore make up the 1,100,000 men in the 1 Chronicles 21 account which does not employ the Hebrew term 'is hayil to describe them.

    (Archer 1982:188-189 and Light of Life II 1992:189-190)

    3.2 Samuel 24:9 gives the round figure Of 500,000 fighting men in Judah, which was 30,000 more than the corresponding item in 1 Chronicles 21:5.

    (Category: misunderstood the historical context)

    Observe that 1 Chronicles 21:6 clearly states that Joab did not complete the numbering, as he had not yet taken a census of the tribe of Benjamin, nor that of Levi's either, due to the fact that David came under conviction about completing the census at all. Thus the different numbers indicate the inclusion or exclusion of particular unspecified groups in the nation. We find another reference to this in 1 Chronicles 27:23-24 where it states that David did not include those twenty years old and younger, and that since Joab did not finish the census the number was not recorded in King David's Chronicle.

    The procedure for conducting the census had been to start with the trans-Jordanian tribes (2 Samuel 24:5) and then shift to the northern most tribe of Dan and work southward towards Jerusalem (verse 7). The numbering of Benjamin, therefore, would have come last. Hence Benjamin would not be included with the total for Israel or of that for Judah, either. In the case of 2 Samuel 24, the figure for Judah included the already known figure of 30,000 troops mustered by Benjamin. Hence the total of 500,000 included the Benjamite contingent.

    Observe that after the division of the United Kingdom into the North and the South following the death of Solomon in 930 BC, most of the Benjamites remained loyal to the dynasty of David and constituted (along with Simeon to the south) the kingdom of Judah. Hence it was reasonable to include Benjamin with Judah and Simeon in the sub-total figure of 500,000, even though Joab may not have itemized it in the first report he gave to David (1 Chronicles 21:5). Therefore the completed grand total of fighting forces available to David for military service was 1,600,000 (1,100,000 of Israel, 470,000 of Judah-Simeon, and 30,000 of Benjamin).

    (Archer 1982:188-189 and Light of Life II 1992:189)

    4. 2 Samuel 24:13 mentions that there will be seven years of famine whereas 1 Chronicles 21:12 mentions only three.

    (Category: misunderstood the author's intent, and misunderstood the wording)

    There are two ways to look at this. The first is to assume that the author of 1 Chronicles emphasized the three-year period in which the famine was to be most intense, whereas the author of 2 Samuel includes the two years prior to and after this period, during which the famine worsened and lessened respectively.

    Another solution can be noticed by observing the usage of words in each passage. When you compare the two passages you will note that the wording is significantly different in 1 Chronicles 21 from that found in a 2 Samuel 24. In 2 Samuel 24:13 the question is "shell seven years of famine come to you?" In 1 Chronicles 21:12 we find an alternative imperative, "take for yourself either three years of famine..." From this we may reasonably conclude that 2 Samuel records the first approach of the prophet Gad to David, in which the alternative prospect was seven years; whereas the Chronicles account gives us the second and final approach of Nathan to the King, in which the Lord (doubtless in response to David's earnest entreaty in private prayer) reduced the severity of that grim alternative to three years rather than an entire span of seven. As it turned out, however, David opted for God's third preference, and thereby received three days of severe pestilence, resulting in the deaths of 70,000 men in Israel.

    (Archer 1982:189-190 and Light of Life II 1992:190)
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    5. Was Ahaziah 22 (2 Kings 8:26) or 42 (2 Chronicles 22:2) when he began to rule over Jerusalem?

    (Category: copyist error)

    Because we are dealing with accounts which were written thousands of years ago, we would not expect to have the originals in our possession today, as they would have disintegrated long ago. We are therefore dependent on the copies taken from copies of those originals, which were in turn continually copied out over a period of centuries. Those who did the copying were prone to making two types of scribal errors. One concerned the spelling of proper names, and the other had to do with numbers.

    The two examples of numerical discrepancy here have to do with a decade in the number given. Ahaziah is said to have been 22 in 2 Kings 8:26; while in 2 Chronicles 22:2 Ahaziah is said to have been 42. Fortunately there is enough additional information in the Biblical text to show that the correct number is 22. Earlier in 2 Kings 8:17 the author mentions that Ahaziah's father Joram ben Ahab was 32 when he became King, and he died eight years later, at the age of 40. Therefore Ahaziah could not have been 42 at the time of his father's death at age 40! Such scribal errors do not change Jewish or Christian beliefs in the least. In such a case, another portion of scripture often corrects the mistake (2 Kings 8:26 in this instance). We must also remember that the scribes who were responsible for the copies were meticulously honest in handling Biblical texts. They delivered them as they received them, without changing even obvious mistakes, which are few indeed.

    (Refer to the next question for a more in-depth presentation on how scribes could misconstrue numbers within manuscripts)

    (Archer 1982:206 and Light of Life II 1992:201)



    6. Was Jehoiachin 18 years old (2 Kings 24:8) or 8 years old (2 Chronicles 36:9) when he became king of Jerusalem?

    (Category: copyist error)

    Once again there is enough information in the context of these two passages to tell us that 8 is wrong and 18 right. The age of 8 is unusually young to assume governmental leadership. However, there are certain commentators who contend that this can be entirely possible. They maintain that when Jehoiachin was eight years old, his father made him co-regent, so that he could be trained in the responsibilities of leading a kingdom. Jehoiachin then became officially a king at the age of eighteen, upon his father's death.

    A more likely scenario, however, is that this is yet another case of scribal error, evidenced commonly with numbers. It may be helpful to interject here that there were three known ways of writing numbers in Hebrew. The earliest, a series of notations used by the Jewish settlers in the 5th century BC Elephantine Papyri (described in more detail below) was followed by a system whereby alphabetical letters were used for numbers. A further system was introduced whereby the spelling out of the numbers in full was prescribed by the guild of so-perim. Fortunately we have a large file of documents in papyrus from these three sources to which we can refer.

    As with many of these numerical discrepancies, it is the decade number that varies. It is instructive to observe that the number notations used by the Jewish settlers in the 5th century BC Elephantine Papyri, during the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, from which this passage comes, evidences the earlier form of numerical notation. This consisted of a horizontal stroke ending in a downward hook at its right end to represent the numbers in tens (thus two horizontal strokes one above the other would be 20). Vertical strokes were used to represent anything less than ten. Thus eight would be /III IIII, but eighteen would be /III IIII with the addition of a horizontal line and downward hook above it. Similarly twenty-two would be /I followed by two horizontal hooks, and forty-two would be /I followed by two sets of horizontal hooks (please forgive the deficiencies of my computer; it is not the scholar Dr. Archer is).

    If, then, the primary manuscript from which a copy was being carried out was blurred or smudged, one or more of the decadal notations could be missed by the copyist. It is far less likely that the copyist would have mistakenly seen an extra ten stroke that was not present in his original then that he would have failed to observe one that had been smudged.

    In the New International Version (NIV) of the Bible, the corrections have been included in the texts. However, for clarity, footnotes at the bottom of the page mention that earlier Hebrew MSS include the scribal error, while the Septuagint MSS and Syriac as well as one Hebrew MSS include the correct numerals. It only makes sense to correct the numerals once the scribal error has been noted. This, however, in no way negates the authenticity nor the authority of the scriptures which we have.

    Confirmation of this type of copyist error is found in various pagan writers as well. For example in the Behistun rock inscription set up by Darius 1, we find that number 38 gives the figure for the slain of the army of Frada as 55,243, with 6,572 prisoners, according to the Babylonian column. Copies of this inscription found in Babylon itself, records the number of prisoners as 6,973. However in the Aramaic translation of this inscription discovered at the Elephantine in Egypt, the number of prisoners was only 6,972.

    Similarly in number 31 of the same inscription, the Babylonian column gives 2,045 as the number of slain in the rebellious army of Frawartish, along with 1,558 prisoners, whereas the Aramaic copy has over 1,575 as the prisoner count.

    (Archer 1982:206-207, 214-215, 222, 230; Nehls pg.17-18; Light of Life II 1992:204-205)



    7. Did king Jehoiachin rule over Jerusalem for three months (2 Kings 24:8), or for three months and ten days (2 Chronicles 36:9)?

    (Category: misunderstood the author's intent)

    Here again, as we found in challenge number 2 and 4, the author of the Chronicles has been more specific with his numbering, whereas the author of Kings is simply rounding off the number of months, assuming that the additional ten days is not significant enough to mention.



    8. Did the chief of the mighty men of David lift up his spear and killed 800 men (2 Samuel 23:8) or only 300 men (1 Chronicles 11:11)?

    (Category:misunderstood the historical context or misunderstood the author's intent)

    It is quite possible that both authors may have described two different incidents, though by the same man, or one author may have only mentioned in part what the other author mentions in full.

    (Light of Life II 1992:187)



    9. Did David bring the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem after defeating the Philistines (2 Samuel 5 and 6), or before (1 Chronicles chapters 13 and 14)?

    (Category: didn't read the entire text)

    This is not really a problem. Shabbir Ally should have continued reading on further to 1 Chronicles 15, as he would then have seen that David brought the Ark after defeating the Philistines. The reason for this is that the Israelites moved the Ark of the covenant twice. The first time, they moved it from Baal, prior to the defeat of the Philistines, as we see in 2 Samuel 5 and 6 and in 1 Chronicles 15. Once the prophet Samuel narrates David's victory over the Philistines, he tells us about both times when the Ark was moved. However in 1 Chronicles, the order is as follows: the Ark was first moved from baal; then David defeated the Philistines; and finally, the Ark was moved from the House of Obed-Edom.

    Therefore the two accounts are not contradictory at all. What we have here is simply one prophet choosing to give us the complete history of the Ark at once (rather than referring to it later) and another presenting the history in a different way. In both cases the timing of events is the same.

    The same could be said of the Qur'an. In Sura 2 we are introduced to the fall of Adam, then God's mercy is shown to the Israelites, followed by Pharaoh's drowning, followed by Moses and the Golden calf, followed by the Israelites complaint about food and water, and then we are introduced to the account of the golden calf again. Following this, we read about Moses and Jesus, then we read about Moses and the golden calf, and then about Solomon and Abraham. If one wants to talk about chronology, what does Moses have to do with Jesus, or Solomon with Abraham? Chronologically the sura should have begun with Adam's fall, then moved to Cain and Abel, Enoch, Abraham, Lot, Isaac, Jacob and Esau, Joseph, the sons of Israel and Moses, in that order. If such a blatant chronological mix-up can be found in this sura of the Qur'an, then Shabbir would do well to explain it before criticizing what they deem to be an error in the Bible.

    (Light of Life II 1992:176)
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    10. Was Noah supposed to bring 2 pairs of all living creatures (Genesis 6:19-20), or was he to bring 7 pairs of 'clean' animals (Genesis 7:2; see also Genesis 7:8,9)?

    (Category: misquoted the text)

    This indeed is an odd question to raise. It is obvious that Shabbir Ally has misquoted the text in the 6th chapter of Genesis, which makes no mention of any 'clean' animals in its figure, while the 7th chapter specifically delineates between the clean and unclean animals. Genesis 7:2 says Noah was to bring in 7 pairs of 'clean' animals and 2 pairs of every kind of 'unclean' animal. Why did Shabbir not mention the second half of this verse which stipulates 2 pairs in his challenge? It is obvious that there is no discrepancy between the two accounts. The problem is the question itself.

    Shabbir attempts to back his argument by mentioning that verses 8 and 9 of chapter 7 prove that only two pairs went into the ark. However, these verses say nothing about two pairs entering the ark. They simply say that it was pairs of clean and unclean animals or birds and creatures which entered the ark.

    The reason for including seven of the clean species is perfectly evident: they were to be used for sacrificial worship after the flood had receded (as indeed they were, according to Genesis 8:20). Obviously if there had not been more than two of each of these clean species, they would have been rendered extinct by their being sacrificed on the altar. But in the case of the unclean animals and birds, a single pair would suffice, since they would not be needed for blood sacrifice.

    (Archer 1982:81-82)



    11. Did David capture 1,700 of King Zobah's horsemen (2 Samuel 8:4), or was it 7,000 (1 Chronicles 18:4)?

    (Category: copyist error)

    There are two possible solutions to these differing figures. The first by Keil and Delitzsh (page 360) is a most convincing solution. They maintain that the word for chariotry (rekeb) was inadvertently omitted by the scribe in copying 2 Samuel 8:4, and that the second figure, 7,000 (for the parasim "cavalrymen"), was necessarily reduced to 700 from the 7,000 he saw in his Vorlage for the simple reason that no one would write 7,000 after he had written 1,000 in the recording the one and the same figure. The omission of rekeb might have occurred with an earlier scribe, and a reduction from 7,000 to 700 would have then continued with the successive copies by later scribes. But in all probability the Chronicles figure is right and the Samuel numbers should be corrected to agree with that.

    A second solution starts from the premise that the number had been reduced to 700 as it refers to 700 rows, each consisting of 10 horse men, making a total of 7,000.

    (Archer 1982:184: Keil & Delitzsch 1949:360; Light of Life II 1992:182)



    12. Did Solomon have 40,000 stalls for his horses (1 Kings 4:26), or 4,000 stalls (2 Chronicles 9:25)?

    (Category: copyist error, or misunderstood the historical context)

    There are a number of ways to answer these puzzling differences. The most plausible is analogous to what we found earlier in challenge numbers five and six above, where the decadal number has been rubbed out or distorted due to constant use.

    Others believe that the stalls mentioned in 2 Chronicles were large ones that housed 10 horses each (that is, a row of ten stalls). Therefore 4,000 of these large stalls would be equivalent to 40,000 small ones.

    Another commentator maintains that the number of stalls recorded in 1 Kings was the number at the beginning of Solomon's reign, whereas the number recorded in 2 Chronicles was the number of stalls at the end of his reign. We know that Solomon reigned for 40 years; no doubt, many changes occurred during this period. It is quite likely that he reduced the size of the military machine his father David had left him.

    (Light of Life II 1992:191)



    13. According to the author, did Baasha, the king of Israel die in the 26th year of king Asa's reign (1 Kings 15:33), or was he still alive in the 36th year ( 2 Chronicles 16:1)?

    (Category: misunderstood the historical context, or copyist error)

    There are two possible solutions to this problem. To begin with, scholars who have looked at these passages have concluded that the 36th year of Asa should be calculated from the withdrawal of the 10 tribes from Judah and Benjamin which brought about the division of the country into Judah and Israel. If we look at it from this perspective, the 36th year of the divided monarchy would be in the 16th year of Asa. This is supported by the Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel, as well as contemporary records, which follow this convention. (note: for a fuller explanation of this theory, see Archer, page 225-116).

    Keil and Delitzsch (pp. 366-367) preferred to regard the number 36 in 2 Chronicles 16:1 and the number 35 in 15:19 as a copyist's error for 16 and 15, respectively. This problem is similar to question numbers five and six above. In this case, however, the numbers were written using Hebrew alphabetical type (rather than the Egyptian multiple stroke type used in the Elephantine Papyri, referred to in questions 5 and 6). It is therefore quite possible that the number 16 could quite easily be confused with 36. The reason for this is that up through the seventh century BC the letter yod (10) greatly resembled the letter lamed (30), except for two tiny strokes attached to the left of the main vertical strokes. It required only a smudge from excessive wear on this scroll-column to result in making the yod look like a lamed. It is possible that this error occurred first in the earlier passage, in 2 Chronicles 15:19 (with its 35 wrongly copied from an original 15); then to make it consistent in 16:1, the same scribe (or perhaps a later one) concluded that 16 must be an error for 36 and changed it accordingly on his copy.

    (Archer 1982:226: Keil & Delitzsch 1949:366-367; Light of Life II 1992:194)



    14. Did Solomon appoint 3,600 overseers (2 Chronicles 2:2) for the work of building the temple, or was it only 3,300 (1 Kings 5:16)?

    (Category: misunderstood the author's intent)

    This is not too great a problem. The most likely solution is that the author of 2 Chronicles included the 300 men who were selected as reservists to take the place of any supervisors who would become ill or who had died, while the author of the 1 Kings 5:16 passage includes only the supervisory force. With the group as large as the 3,300, sickness and death certainly did occur, requiring reserves who would be called up as the need arose.

    (Light of Life II 1992:192)
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    15. Did Solomon build a facility containing 2,000 baths (1 Kings 7:26), or over 3,000 baths (2 Chronicles 4:5)?

    (Category: misunderstood the author's intent, or copyist error)

    The Hebrew verb rendered "contained" and "held" is different from that translated "received"; and the meaning may be that the sea ordinarily contained 2,000 baths. But when filled to its utmost capacity it received and held 3,000 baths. Thus the chronicler simply mentions the amount of water that would make the sea like a flowing spring rather than a still pool. This informs us that 3,000 gallons of water were required to completely fill the sea which usually held 2,000 gallons.

    Another solution follows a theme mentioned earlier, that the number in Hebrew lettering for 2000 has been confounded by the scribe with a similar alphabetical number for the number 3,000.

    It should be noted that Shabbir (in his debate on 25th February 1998 against Jay Smith in Birmingham, UK) quoted this "contradiction" and added to it saying that if the bath had a diameter of 10 cubits it cannot possibly have had a circumference of 30 cubits as the text says (since 'pi' dictates that it would have a circumference of 31.416 or a 9.549 diameter).

    Shabbir made the humorous comment "Find me a bath like that and I will get baptized in it!" But Shabbir did not read the text properly or was just going for a cheap, displaced laugh. Why? Because the text says that it was about 8cm thick and had a rim shaped like a lily. Therefore it depends on where you measure from. The top or bottom of the rim or the inside or outside for the vessel would all give a different diameter; and depending on whether you measure at the top of the rim or at the narrower point, you would get a different circumference.

    In other words, Shabbir may well be getting baptized if someone can be bothered to make a replica!

    (Haley pg. 382; Light of Life II 1992:192)



    16-21. Are the numbers of Israelites freed from Babylonian captivity correct in Ezra (Ezra 2:6, 8, 12, 15, 19, 28) or in Nehemiah (Nehemiah 7:11, 13, 17, 20, 22, 32)?

    (note: because numbers 16-21 deal with the same census, I have included them as one)

    (Category: misunderstood the historical context)

    In chapter 2 of Ezra and in chapter 7 of Nehemiah there are about thirty-three family units that appear in both lists of Israelites returning from Babylon to Judea. Of these 33 family units listed in Ezra and Nehemiah, nineteen of the family units are identical, while fourteen show discrepancies in the number of members within the family units (though Shabbir only lists six of them). Two of the discrepancies differ by 1, one differs by 4, two by 6, two differ by 9, another differs by 11, another two by 100, another by 201, another differs by 105, a further family differs by 300, and the largest difference is the figure for the sons of Azgad, a difference of 1,100 between the accounts of Ezra 2 and Nehemiah 7.

    How, then, are we to account for the 14 discrepancies? The answer is quite simple, and Shabbir, had he done any study into the history of these two accounts would never have bothered to waste his time in asking these questions. The fact that there are both similarities and discrepancies side-by-side should have pointed him to the solution as well (as you who are reading this are probably even now concluding).

    There are two important factors to bear in mind when looking at these discrepancies between the two lists. The first is the probability that though members of the units or families had enrolled their names at first as intending to go; in the interval of preparation, some possibly died, others were prevented by sickness or other insurmountable obstacles, so that the final number who actually went was not the same as those who had intended to go. Anyone who has planned a school-coach trip to the beach can understand how typical a scenario this really is.

    A second and more important factor are the different circumstances in which the two registers were taken, an important fact of which Shabbir seems to be acutely unaware. Ezra's register was made up while still in Babylon (in the 450s BC), before the return to Jerusalem (Ezra 2:1-2), whereas Nehemiah's register was drawn up in Judea (around 445 BC), after the walls of Jerusalem had been rebuilt (Nehemiah 7:4-6). The lapse of so many years between the two lists (between 5-10 years) would certainly make a difference in the numbers of each family through death or by other causes.

    Most scholars believe that Nehemiah recorded those people who actually arrived at Jerusalem under the leadership of Zerubbabel and Jeshua in 537 or 536 BC (Nehemiah 7:7). Ezra, on the other hand, uses the earlier list of those who originally announced their intention to join the caravan of returning colonists back in Babylon, in the 450s BC.

    The discrepancies between these two lists point to the fact that there were new factors which arose to change their minds. Some may have fallen into disagreement, others may have discovered business reasons to delay their departure until later, whereas in some cases there were certainly some illnesses or death, and in other cases there may have been some last-minute recruits from those who first decided to remain in Babylon. Only clans or city-group's came in with a shrunken numbers. All the rest picked up last-minute recruits varying from one to 1,100.

    When we look at the names we find that certain names are mentioned in alternate forms. Among the Jews of that time (as well as those living in the East), a person had a name, title, and surname. Thus, the children of Hariph (Nehemiah 7:24) are the children of Jorah (Ezra 2:18), while the children of Sia (Nehemiah 7:47) are also the children of Siaha (Ezra 2:44).

    When we take all these factors into consideration, the differences in totals that do appear in these two tallies should occasion no surprise whatsoever. The same sort of arbitration and attrition has featured every large migration in human history.

    (Archer 1982:229-230 and Light of Life II 1992:219-220)



    22. Both Ezra 2:64 and Nehemiah 7:66 agree that the totals for the whole assembly was 42,360, yet when the totals are added, Ezra - 29,818 and Nehemiah - 31,089?

    (Category: copyist error)

    There are possibly two answers to this seeming dilemma. The first is that this is most likely a copyist's error. The original texts must have had the correct totals, but somewhere along the line of transmission, a scribe made an error in one of the lists, and changed the total in the other so that they would match, without first totaling up the numbers for the families in each list. There is the suggestion that a later scribe upon copying out these lists purposely put down the totals for the whole assembly who were in Jerusalem at his time, which because it was later would have been larger.

    The other possibility is forwarded by the learned Old Testament scholar R.K. Harrison, who suggests that at any rate the figure of 42,000 may be metaphorical, following "...the pattern of the Exodus and similar traditions, where the large numbers were employed as symbols of the magnitude of God, and in this particular instance indicating the triumphant deliverance that God achieved for His captive people" (Harrison 1970:1142-1143).

    Such errors do not change the historicity of the account, since in such cases another portion of Scripture usually corrects the mistake (the added totals in this instance). As the well-known commentator, Matthew Henry once wrote, "Few books are not printed without mistakes; yet, authors do not disown them on account of this, nor are the errors by the press imputed to the author. The candid reader amends them by the context or by comparing them with some other part of the work."

    (Light of Life II 1992:201, 219)



    23. Did 200 singers (Ezra 2:65) or 245 singers (Nehemiah 7:67) accompany the assembly?

    (Category: copyist error)

    As in question number 7, this is a copyist error, where a scribe copying the numbers in the Ezra account simply rounded off the figure of 245 to 200.



    24. Was King Abijah's mother's name Michaiah, daughter of Uriel of Gibeah (2 Chronicles 13:2) or Maachah, daughter of Absalom (2 Chronicles 11:20 & 2 Samuel 13:27)?

    (Category: misunderstood the Hebrew usage)

    This apparent contradiction rests on the understanding of the Hebrew word bat, equivalent to the English daughter. Although usually used to denote a first generation female descendant, it can equally refer to more distant kinship. An example of this is 2 Samuel 1:24, which states: 'O daughters of Israel, weep for Saul...' As this is approximately 900 years after Israel (also called Jacob) actually lived, it is clear that this refers to the Israelite women, his distant female descendants.

    When seen in this light, the 'contradiction' vanishes. 2 Chronicles 13:2 correctly states that Michaiah is a daughter of Uriel. We can assume that Uriel married Tamar, Absalom's only immediate daughter. Together they had Michaiah who then married king Rehoboam and became the mother of Abijah. 2 Chronicles 11:20 and 1 Kings 15:2, in stating that Maachah was a daughter of Absalom, simply link her back to her more famous grandfather, instead of her lesser known father, to indicate her royal lineage. Abishalom is a variant of Absalom and Michaiah is a variant of Maachah. Therefore, the family tree looks like this:

    Absalom/Abishalom
    |
    Tamar-----Uriel
    |
    Rehoboam-----Maachah/Michaiah
    |
    Abijah
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    25. Joshua and the Israelites did (Joshua 10:23,40) or did not (Joshua 15:63) capture Jerusalem?

    (Category: misread the text)

    The short answer is, not in this campaign. The verses given are in complete harmony and the confusion arises solely from misreading the passage concerned.

    In Joshua 10, it is the king of Jerusalem that is killed: his city is not captured (verses 16-18 and 22-26). The five Amorite kings and their armies left their cities and went to attack Gibeon. Joshua and the Israelites routed them and the five kings fled to the cave at Makkedah, from which Joshua's soldiers brought them to Joshua, who killed them all. Concerning their armies, verse 20 states: 'the few who were left reached their fortified cities', which clearly indicates that the cities were not captured. So it was the kings, not their cities, who were captured.

    Joshua 10:28-42 records the rest of this particular military campaign. It states that several cities were captured and destroyed, these being: Makkedah, Libnah, Lachish, Eglon, Hebron and Debir. All of these cities are south-west of Jerusalem. The king of Gezer and his army were defeated in the field whilst helping Lachish (v.33) and in verse 30 comparison is made to the earlier capture of Jericho, but neither of these last two cities were captured at this time. Verses 40 & 41 delineate the limits of this campaign, all of which took place to the south and west of Jerusalem. Importantly, Gibeon, the eastern limit of this campaign, is still approximately 10 miles to the north-west of Jerusalem.

    Jerusalem is, therefore, not stated as captured in Joshua 10. This agrees completely with Joshua 15:63, which states that Judah could not dislodge the Jebusites in Jerusalem.


    26. Was Jacob (Matthew 1:16) or Heli (Luke 3:23) the father of Joseph and husband of Mary?

    (Category: misunderstood the Hebrew usage)

    The answer to this is simple but requires some explanation. Most scholars today agree that Matthew gives the genealogy of Joseph and Luke gives that of Mary, making Jacob the father of Joseph and Heli the father of Mary.

    This is shown by the two narrations of the virgin birth. Matthew 1:18-25 tells the story only from Joseph's perspective, while Luke 1:26-56 is told wholly from Mary's point of view.

    A logical question to ask is why Joseph is mentioned in both genealogies? The answer is again simple. Luke follows strict Hebrew tradition in mentioning only males. Therefore, in this case, Mary is designated by her husband's name.

    This reasoning is clearly supported by two lines of evidence. In the first, every name in the Greek text of Luke's genealogy, with the one exception of Joseph, is preceded by the definite article (e.g. 'the' Heli, 'the' Matthat). Although not obvious in English translations, this would strike anyone reading the Greek, who would realize that it was tracing the line of Joseph's wife, even though his name was used.

    The second line of evidence is the Jerusalem Talmud, a Jewish source. This recognizes the genealogy to be that of Mary, referring to her as the daughter of Heli (Hagigah 2:4).

    (Fruchtenbaum 1993:10-13)



    27. Did Jesus descend from Solomon (Matthew 1:6) or from Nathan (Luke 3:31), both of whom are sons of David?

    (Category: misunderstood the Hebrew usage)

    This is directly linked to 'contradiction' 26. Having shown that Matthew gives Joseph's genealogy and Luke gives that of Mary, it is clear that Joseph was descended from David through Solomon and Mary through Nathan.




    28. Was Jechoniah (Matthew 1:12) or Neri (Luke 3:27) the father of Shealtiel?

    (Category: misunderstood the Hebrew usage)

    Once again, this problem disappears when it is understood that two different genealogies are given from David to Jesus, those of both Mary and Joseph (see #26). Two different genealogies mean two different men named Shealtiel, a common Hebrew name. Therefore, it is not surprising to recognize that they both had different fathers!



    29. Which son of Zerubbabel was an ancestor of Jesus Christ, Abiud (Matthew 1:13) or Rhesa (Luke 3:27), and what about Zerubbabel in (1 Chronicles 3:19-20)?

    (Category: misunderstood the Hebrew usage)

    As with #28, two different Shealtiels necessitates two different Zerubbabels, so it is no problem that their sons had different names.

    It should not surprise us that there was a Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel in both Mary's and Joseph's ancestry. Matthew tells us that Joseph's father was named Jacob. Of course, the Bible records another Joseph son of Jacob, who rose to become the second most powerful ruler in Egypt (Genesis 37-47). We see no need to suggest that these two men are one and the same, so we should have no problem with two men named Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel.

    The Zerubbabel mentioned in 1 Chronicles 3:19,20 could easily be a third. Again, this causes no problem: there are several Marys mentioned in the Gospels, because it was a common name. The same may be true here. This Zerubbabel would then be a cousin of the one mentioned in Matthew 1:12,13. A comparison of Matthew and 1 Chronicles gives the following possible family tree:

    Jehoiachin
    |
    Shealtiel----Malkiram----Pedaiah----Shenazzar----Jekamiah----Hoshama----Nedabiah----...
    | |
    Zerubbabel Zerubbabel----Shimei----...
    | |
    Abiud 7 sons
    | (1 Ch. 3:19,20)
    |
    Joseph


    30. Was Joram (Matthew 1:8) or Amaziah (2 Chronicles 26:1) the father of Uzziah?

    (Category: misunderstood the Hebrew usage)

    This answer is of a similar nature to that in #24. Just as the Hebrew bat (daughter) can be used to denote a more distant descendant, so can the Hebrew ben (son). Jesus is referred to in Matthew 1:1 as the son of David, the son of Abraham. Both the genealogies trace Jesus' ancestry through both these men, illustrating the usage of 'son'. Although no Hebrew manuscripts of Matthew's gospel are extant today, it is clear that he was a Jew writing from a Hebrew perspective and therefore completely at home with the Hebrew concept of son ship.

    With this in mind, it can easily be shown that Amaziah was the immediate father of Uzziah (also called Azariah). Joram/Jehoram, on the other hand, was Uzziah's great-great-grandfather and a direct ascendant. The line goes Joram/Jehoram - Ahaziah - Joash - Amaziah - Azariah/Uzziah (2 Chronicles 21:4-26:1).

    Matthew's telescoping of Joseph's genealogy is quite acceptable, as his purpose is simply to show the route of descent. He comments in 1:17 that there were three sets of fourteen generations. This reveals his fondness for numbers and links in directly with the designation of Jesus as the son of David. In the Hebrew language, each letter is given a value. The total value of the name David is fourteen and this is probably the reason why Matthew only records fourteen generations in each section, to underline Jesus' position as the son of David.



    31. Was Josiah (Matthew 1:11) or Jehoiakim (1 Chronicles 3:16) the father of Jechoniah?

    (Category: misunderstood the Hebrew usage)

    This question is essentially the same as #30. Jehoiakim was Jeconiah's father and Josiah his grandfather. This is quite acceptable and results from Matthew's aesthetic telescoping of the genealogy, not from any error.



    32. Were there fourteen (Matthew 1:17) or thirteen (Matthew 1:12-16) generations from the Babylonian exile until Christ?

    (Category: misunderstood the Hebrew usage)

    As Matthew clearly states (1:17), there were fourteen. In the first section there are fourteen names, in the second fifteen and in the third, fourteen. Perhaps the simplest way of resolving the problem is to suggest that in the first and third sections, the first and last person is included as a generation, whereas not in the second. In any case, as Matthew has clearly telescoped his genealogy with good reason, a mistake on his part is by no means shown conclusively. If by some chance another name or two has been lost from the list in the originals, by scribal error, we cannot know. Whatever the real situation, a simple explanation can be afforded, as above.



    33. Who was the father of Shelah; Cainan (Luke 3:35-36) or Arphaxad (Genesis 11:12)?

    (Category: misunderstood the Hebrew usage)

    Although a conclusive answer is not possible, plausible explanations can be found. The most probable answer to this is that the genealogy in the Masoretic text of Genesis telescopes the generations as does Matthew in his list. When we look at the Septuagint (LXX), we find the name of Cainan included as the father of Shelah, echoing what we find in Luke. Luke, writing in Greek, would have used the Septuagint as his authority.

    On that same note, if we refer to the Septuagint, when we look at Genesis 11:12 we find that Apharxad was 135 years old, rather than 35 (which would allow more time for him to be Shelah's grandfather).
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    34. John the Baptist was (Matthew 11:14; 17:10-13) or was not Elijah to come (John 1:19-21)?

    (Category: misunderstood the historical context)

    Matthew records Jesus saying that John the Baptist was the Elijah who was to come, while John seems to record John the Baptist denying it. The reason for this apparent inconsistency is a lack of contextualization by readers.

    The priests and Levites came to John the Baptist and asked him if he was Elijah. Quite a funny question to ask someone, unless you know the Jewish Scriptures. For God says through the prophet Malachi that He will send Elijah to the people of Israel before a certain time. Therefore as the Jewish people were expecting Elijah, the question is quite logical.

    John was about 30 years when he was asked this question. His parents were already dead; he was the only son of Zechariah from the tribe of Levi. So when asked if he was Elijah who ascended up into heaven about 878 years earlier, the answer was obviously "No, I am not Elijah."

    Jesus also testifies, albeit indirectly, to John not being Elijah in Matthew 11:11 where he says that John is greater than all people who have ever been born. Moses was greater than Elijah, but John was greater than them both.

    So what did Jesus mean when he says of John "he is the Elijah who was to come"? The angel Gabriel (Jibril in Arabic) speaks to Zechariah of his son, John, who was not yet born, saying "he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous - to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." (Luke 1:17)

    The Angel refers to two prophecies, Isaiah 40:3-5 (see Luke 3:4-6 to see this applied again to John the Baptist) and Malachi 4:5-6 mentioned above, which says "See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers". Gabriel unmistakably says that John is the "Elijah" whom God foretold through Malachi the prophet.

    So, was John Elijah? No. But had the priests and Levites asked him, "Are you the one the prophet Malachi speaks of as 'Elijah'?" John would have responded affirmatively.

    Jesus in Matthew 17:11-13 says that the prophecy of Malachi is true, but Elijah had already come. He says that this "Elijah" suffered, like he, Jesus will suffer; "the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist". Therefore, once we understand the context it is clear; John was not the literal Elijah, but he was the Elijah that the prophecy spoke of, the one who was to (and did) prepare the way for the Messiah, Jesus, "the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world", John 1:29.



    35. Jesus would (Luke 1:32) or would not (Matthew 1:11; 1 Chronicles 3:16 & Jeremiah 36:30) inherit David's throne?

    (Category: misunderstood the Hebrew usage)

    This answer follows on directly from that to #26. Having shown that Matthew's genealogy is that of Joseph, it is obvious from Jeremiah 36:30 that none of Joseph's physical descendants were qualified to sit on David's throne as he himself was descended from Jeconiah. However, as Matthew makes clear, Jesus was not a physical descendant of Joseph. After having listed Joseph's genealogy with the problem of his descendance from Jeconiah, Matthew narrates the story of the virgin birth. Thus he proves how Jesus avoids the Jeconiah problem and remains able to sit on David's throne. Luke, on the other hand, shows that Jesus' true physical descendance was from David apart from Jeconiah, thus fully qualifying him to inherit the throne of his father David. The announcement of the angel in Luke 1:32 completes the picture: 'the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David'. This divine appointment, together with his physical descendance, make him the only rightful heir to David's throne.

    (Fruchtenbaum 1993:12)



    36. Jesus rode into Jerusalem on one colt (Mark 11:7; cf. Luke 19:35), or a colt and an ass (Matthew 21:7)?

    (Category: misread the text & misunderstood the historical context)

    The accusation is that the Gospels contradict about how many donkeys Jesus rode into Jerusalem on. This accusation is based on not reading the text of Matthew properly and ignoring his full point about this event.

    It first should be noted that all four Gospel writers refer to this event, the missing reference above being John 12:14-15. Mark, Luke and John are all in agreement that Jesus sat on the colt. Logic shows that there is no "contradiction" as Jesus cannot ride on two animals at once! So, why does Matthew mention two animals? The reason is clear.

    Even by looking at Matthew in isolation, we can see from the text that Jesus did not ride on two animals, but only on the colt. For in the two verses preceding the quote in point (b) above by Shabbir, we read Matthew quoting two prophecies from the Old Testament (Isaiah 62:11 and Zechariah 9:9) together. Matthew says:

    "Say to the Daughter of Zion, 'See, your king comes to you, gently and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey'."

    Matthew 21:5

    By saying "a donkey" and then "on a colt, the foal of a donkey" Zechariah is using classic Hebrew sentence structure and poetic language known as "parallelism", simply repeating the same thing again in another way, as a parallel statement. This is very common in the Bible (i.e. Psalm 119:105 mentions, "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path," yet says the same thing twice in succession). It is clear that there is only one animal referred to. Therefore Matthew clearly says Jesus rode only on a colt, in agreement with the other three Gospel writers.

    So why does Matthew say that the colt and its mother were brought along in verse seven? The reason is simple. Matthew, who was an eyewitness (where as Mark and Luke were quite possibly not) emphasizes the immaturity of the colt, too young to be separated from its mother. As the colt had never been ridden the probability was that it was still dependent on its mother. It would have made the entry to Jerusalem easier if the mother donkey were led along down the road, as the foal would naturally follow her, even though he had never before carried a rider and had not yet been trained to follow a roadway.

    Here again we see that there is no contradiction between the synoptic accounts, but only added detail on the part of Matthew as one who viewed the event while it was happening.

    This is just one of many of the prophecies that Jesus fulfilled. He fulfilled ones that were in his control as well as ones which he could not manipulate, such as the time and place of his birth (Daniel 9:24-26, Micah 5:1-2, Matthew 2:1-6), and his resurrection (Psalm 16:10, Acts 2:24-32) to name but two.

    Some Muslims believe that in the Taurat there is reference to the prophecy which the Qur'an speaks of in Sura 7:157 and 61:6 concerning Muhammad. However, these Muslims yet have to come up with one, while Jesus is predicted time and time again.
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    37. Simon Peter finds out that Jesus was the Christ by a revelation from heaven (Matthew 16:17), or by His brother Andrew (John 1:41)?

    (Category: too literalistic an interpretation)

    The emphasis of Matthew 16:17 is that Simon did not just hear it from someone else: God had made it clear to him. That does not preclude him being told by other people. Jesus' point is that he was not simply repeating what someone else had said. He had lived and worked with Jesus and he was now clear in his mind that Jesus was none other than the Christ (Messiah), the Son of the Living God.

    Jesus did not ask, "Who have you heard that I am?" but, "Who do you say I am?" There is all the difference in the world between these two questions, and Peter was no longer in any doubt.



    38. Jesus first met Simon Peter and Andrew by the Sea of Galilee (Matthew 4:18-22), or on the banks of the river Jordan (John 1:42-43)?

    (Category: misread the text)

    The accusation is that one Gospel records Jesus meeting Simon Peter and Andrew by the sea of Galilee, while the other says he met them by the river Jordan. However this accusation falls flat on its face as the different writers pick up the story in different places. Both are true.

    John 1:35 onwards says Jesus met them by the river Jordan and that they spent time with him there. Andrew (and probably Peter too) were disciples of John the Baptist. They left this area and went to Galilee, in which region was the village of Cana where Jesus then performed his first recorded miracle. "After this he went down to Capernaum with his mothers and brothers and disciples. There they stayed for a few days." John 2:12.

    Peter and Andrew were originally from a town named Bethsaida (John 2:44) but now lived in Capernaum (Matthew 8:14-15, Mark 1:30-31, Luke 4:38-39), a few miles from Bethsaida. They were fishermen by trade, so it was perfectly normal for them to fish when they were home during these few days (for at this time Jesus was only just beginning public teaching or healing).

    This is where Matthew picks up the story. As Peter and Andrew fish in the Lake of Galilee, Jesus calls them to follow him - to leave all they have behind and become his permanent disciples. Before this took place, he had not asked them, but they had followed him because of John the Baptist's testimony of him (John 1:35-39). Now, because of this testimony, plus the miracle in Cana, as well as the things Jesus said (John 1:47-51), as well as the time spent with the wisest and only perfect man who ever lived etc., it is perfectly understandable for them to leave everything and follow him. It would not be understandable for them to just drop their known lives and follow a stranger who appeared and asked them to, like children after the pied piper! Jesus did not enchant anyone - they followed as they realized who he was - the one all the prophets spoke of, the Messiah the son of God.



    39. When Jesus met Jairus, his daughter 'had just died' (Matthew 9:18), or was 'at the point of death' (Mark 5:23)?

    (Category: too literalistic an interpretation)

    When Jairus left his home, his daughter was very sick, and at the point of death, or he wouldn't have gone to look for Jesus. When he met Jesus he certainly was not sure whether his daughter had already succumbed. Therefore, he could have uttered both statements; Matthew mentioning her death, while Mark speaking about her sickness. However, it must be underlined that this is not a detail of any importance to the story, or to us. The crucial points are clear:

    Jairus's daughter had a fatal illness.
    All that could have been done would already have been: she was as good as dead if not already dead.
    Jairus knew that Jesus could both heal her and bring her back from the dead. As far as he was concerned, there was no difference.
    Therefore it is really of no significance whether the girl was actually dead or at the point of death when Jairus reached Jesus.'
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    NO WAIT!

    That isn't exactly what the author meant!

    NO, WAIT, I GOT IT!

    Its too literalistic. They're only words, let's not interpret them too rigidly.
    WAIT!

    Except that. Interpret that bit literally.

    Or maybe metaphorically.

    WAY TO WARP THE TEXT CHRISTIAN BROTHER! HIGH FIVE!
    shut up and play yer guitar...and lift
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  10. #10
    ゴジラ Nextstopearth's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by geetar_joe View Post
    NO WAIT!

    That isn't exactly what the author meant!

    NO, WAIT, I GOT IT!

    Its too literalistic. They're only words, let's not interpret them too rigidly.
    WAIT!

    Except that. Interpret that bit literally.

    Or maybe metaphorically.

    WAY TO WARP THE TEXT CHRISTIAN BROTHER! HIGH FIVE!
    haha
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  11. #11
    Banned farzamk's Avatar
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    Great job viper.
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