Page 11: autumn 1990
TEXTUAL CONTRADICTIONS IN THE BIBLE
Is the Bible the work of perfect harmony that inerrancy believers claim
it is? Suppose we let the Bible speak for itself and see what answer we get.
I Kings 6:1 says that work on the temple began 480 years after the
exodus from Egypt: "And it came to pass in the four hundred and eightieth
year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt, in the
fourth year of Solomon's reign over Israel, in the month Ziv, which is the
second month, that he began to build the house of Jehovah (Yahweh)."
But the Apostle Paul made a speech in Antioch of Pisidia in which his
math contradicted this statement: "The God of this people Israel chose our
fathers, and exalted the people when they sojourned in the land of Egypt,
and with a high arm led he them forth out of it. And for about the time of
forty years as a nursing-father bare he them in the wilderness. And when
he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, he gave them their
land for an inheritance, for about four hundred and fifty years: and after
these things he gave them judges until Samuel the prophet. And afterward
they asked for a king: and God gave unto them Saul the son of Kish, a man
of the tribe of Benjamin, for the space of forty years. And when he had re-
moved him, he raised up David to be their king; to whom also he bare wit-
ness and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after my heart,
who shall do all my will," (Acts 13:17-22).
With nothing else considered, the 40 years in the wilderness and the
450 years that the Israelites had the land of Canaan for an inheritance before
the advent of the judges total 10 years more than the 480 years of I Kings
6:1. Eerdmans Bible Dictionary states that the period of the judges "could
not reasonably be reduced to less than 280 years," (p. 610). Saul, as Paul
noted, reigned as king for 40 years, as did also David who succeeded him (I
Kings 2:11). So if we add the four years that Solomon reigned before work
on the temple began, we have 40 + 450 + 280 + 40 + 40 + 4, for a total of
854, a significant variation from the 480 years claimed in I Kings 6:1. Even
if we let Paul's 450 years for the inheritance of Canaan include also the
advent of the judges, as some translations strain to do, his chronology will
still total 574 years, almost a century longer than what was claimed in I Kings
I Chronicles 2:13-15 in listing the sons of Jesse says that David was
the seventh. Yet I Samuel 16:10-11 states that David was Jesse's eighth son:
"And Jesse made seven of his sons to pass before Samuel. And Samuel said
unto Jesse, Jehovah hath not chosen these. And Samuel said unto Jesse, Are
here all thy children? And he said, There remaineth yet the youngest, and,
behold, he is keeping the sheep."
Joshua 17:18 promised the Israelites that they would "drive out the
Canaanites though they have chariots of iron, and though they are strong."
Yet Judges 1:19 states that Judah's assault against Canaanites in the lowlands
failed because they were equipped with iron chariots: "And Jehovah was with
Judah; and he drove out the inhabitants of the hill-country; for he could not
drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron."
Numbers 3 and 4 describe the separation of the Levites for the priest-
hood and temple service (including care of the ark of testimony) while the
Israelites were camped at Mt. Sinai in the second year after the exodus, but
Deuteronomy 10:7-8 claims that the separation of the Levites occurred at a
place called Jotbathah: "From thence they journeyed unto Gudgodah; and from
Gudgodah to Jotbathah, a land of brooks of water. At that time Jehovah set
apart the tribe of Levi, to bear the ark of the covenant of Jehovah, to stand
before Jehovah to minister unto him, and to bless in his name, unto this
day." Verse 6 records the death of Aaron, who died "in the fortieth year
after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt" (Num.
33:38); hence, this passage also claims that the separation of the Levites took
place 38 years after the account in Numbers 3 and 4.
No contradictions in the Bible? It makes good sermon material, but it
just isn't so. Only the gullible will believe it.
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