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Textual Contradictions in the Bible
by Farrell Till


1994 / July-August



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 removed him, he raised up David to be their king; to whom also he bare witness 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 6:1.

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 priesthood 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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