Hello Nathan, (my fellow Brother-in-Christ)
I was reading one of your online blogs, dated a few years back (about the prophecy of the Thirty pieces of silver, in Matthew and your stance showing that it was directly linked to Jeremiah, even though it wasn’t found in the book of Jeremiah). Regarding such, I would find your stance a plausible stance, but that is not the reason that I am writing to you. The reason is from another statement that you posted on this same blog. And, I quote: “I believe in a God Who is able both to write a book, and to see to it that every fact within that book is correct.”
My question is this: Are you saying that the Bible is error-free? Because if you are, then I must be mistaken on reading the following passages, listed below. Below, are some questions that shows two different answers, all within my Bible’s text. Now, I have done some research and found it to be in other printings of the Bible, as well. I found this while browsing the Internet, and came across this “Islamic” website. This is what Islamic know about the Bible, and I was totally ignorant of the errors, regarding the passages below. I was of the belief that the Bible that I was carrying was the perfect, inerrant word of God. And, I was wrong! As Christians, how do we educate other fellow Believers to these glaring errors?
God sent Gad, to threaten David with how many years of famine?
(2) Samuel 24:13 SEVEN years of famine.
(1) Chron.: 21:12 THREE years of famine.
When David defeated the King of Zobah, how many horsemen did he capture?
(1) Chron.: 18:4 David took SEVEN THOUSAND horsemen
(2) Samuel: 8:4 David took ONE THOUSAND SEVEN HUNDRED horsemen
How many stalls for horses did Solomon have?
(I ) Kings 4:26: FORTY THOUSAND
(2) Chron: 9:25 FOUR THOUSAND
The Temple contained how many baths?
(1) Kings 7:26 – TWO THOUSAND baths.
(2) Chron. 4:5 – THREE THOUSAND baths
How old was Jehoiachin when he became king of Jerusalem?
(2 )Kings 24:8 – EIGHTEEN years of age
(2) Chron. 36:9 EIGHT years of age
As a fellow Brother-in-Christ, I seek your thoughts on the above questions. If we’re gonna’ say that there are no mistakes within the Biblical texts, then we are incorrect. Please read each verse of each question, and you can see that these errors are there. And, please don’t take this personally; I am only reading the same Bible that you are reading (I think). What does a Christian tell others about these errors?
Should we just close our eyes to this? Do we say there are no errors in the Bible that we carry? Do we deceive ourselves? Now, does this affect this Holy Spirit-filled Christian, who trusts in and was saved by God, through the Virgin birth, shed blood, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ? The answer is NO! My belief is unchanged, and it’s in that position from which I pose this post to you. But, I must say that my ignorance was exposed, and that is a good thing – even if it was from an Islamic website.
I am not a “gotcha’ type of Christian, and I don’t want this email to come across as such. I sent this email, because I didn’t want to post it on your blog. Posting it on your blog might cause a stumbling block to other Christians, and I am not gonna’ be a stumbling block to anyone. But, we must tell fellow Christians about this, because they should know that the Bible does have inaccuracies, within its current texts – dating back to the Old-Testament books. There is no other way to say it, Brother!
Your fellow Brother – in- Christ,
P.S. Hello Again, Nathan I want to correct something that I said in my last email. I do believe that God gave us His word and that His word is true. And, I don’t know when these mistranslations showed up; I just know that they showed up.
Hold on! I think you are getting a little too excited about this. I am sorry you were not better educated about the Bible to already know these things, but this does not mean that there are no explanations for them. Take a deep breath, and let’s look at these passages you have pointed out together.
First of all, understand that when I say that God wrote a book which had every fact in it correct, I mean just that. That the way God wrote it, it was error free. Now in saying this, I am saying that it was error-free when it left the pen of the Divinely-inspired author. I am not saying that it has remained error-free since that time. There are errors that have accumulated in the texts we have now. The first source of such errors is copying errors. We do not have the original manuscripts of any of the Bible books available to us. All we have are copies. Though those copies are for the most part very good, there is a possibility of errors creeping in, and some have done so. While discoveries like the Dead Sea Scrolls have proven that what we have has changed very little over the centuries, there have been some errors in copying, and some of these have crept into our modern Bibles.
The second source of error is in translation. Most of us do not read the Bible in the original Hebrew and Greek. That means we are reading a translation of the Bible into our own languages, in our case probably English. These translations were made by men, and express what those men thought the original text was saying. Many times they are right, but sometimes they are wrong. Sadly, there even seem to be times when they have purposefully not translated something correctly because they did not like the truth the Bible was stating. I have examined the original texts enough to know this.
So when I say that I do not believe the Bible has errors in it, I am talking about the original languages and the original manuscripts. Our English translations do have errors, and so the careful student has to search these out and discover the truth behind them. This is usually quite possible to do, which is the good news.
Now let us consider the problems you have brought up.
Regarding God sending Gad to threaten David with famine. We have to realize something about the Hebrew text that most do not realize, and perhaps you do not either. That is, that there is no such thing as a Hebrew alphabet. This is not unusual, for there really is no such thing as an English alphabet either. The alphabet we use is really the Latin alphabet. The early Anglo-Saxon alphabet was abandoned for a more standard one, and we still use that standard alphabet today. The same seems to have been true of Hebrew, at least, as far as we can tell. If there was an original Hebrew alphabet, it has long since been lost to time, and we have no knowledge of it.
What alphabet the Hebrews were using when they came out of Egypt it is hard to say, but what we do know is that when they settled in the land of Canaan, which became the land of Israel, they adopted the alphabet of one of their near neighbors, the Phoenicians (Tyre and Sidon,) and so all the books of the Bible at that point were written in the Phoenician alphabet. This would be the alphabet that Samuel and Kings were written in. An example of this ancient Hebrew alphabet can be seen on the Moabite Stone.
When Israel went into captivity and were deported to Assyria and Babylon, however, they found themselves among people who used a different alphabet, which is called the Syrian alphabet. As the people at that time stopped speaking Hebrew and started speaking Aramaic instead, they all started to use and become familiar with the Syrian alphabet, rather than the Phoenician alphabet they had been using. This they continued to do, even after they returned to the land under Ezra and Nehemiah. Therefore, they took all the already-existing books of the Old Testament and, while they left them in the original Hebrew, they rewrote them all using the Syrian alphabet instead of the Phoenician one. This alphabet is the one used for Hebrew today, and is the one that all of our modern Hebrew texts of the Old Testament are written in. All the books of the Old Testament which were written after this time would have been written in Hebrew, but using the Syrian alphabet, and this would include the book of Chronicles.
Now one thing we know about the Phoenician alphabet is that it seems to have been more “liney” and less “blocky” than the Syrian alphabet. The characters it used for numbers were very subtly different, and so could be easily confused. Thus, it seems that somewhere along the line the Phoenician character for “three” was mistaken for the character for a “seven” by some copyist. This error then was transferred into the Syrian alphabet when the Hebrew manuscripts were changed over, and now it remains, even in an alphabet where “three” and “seven” don’t look at all similar, which they don’t in the Syrian alphabet.
Thus, the error here is quite obviously in the text of Samuel. The original text read three years of famine, just like the later book of Chronicles states it. Chronicles was written in the Syrian alphabet, and has retained the right number. In Samuel, however, the numbers got confused in the Phoenician alphabet, and thus the mistake of “seven” was introduced.
As for the number of horsemen, the Hebrew characters for seven and seven hundred are easily mistaken for each other. The mistake here seems to be in the book of Chronicles, though neither number seems unreasonable, so the mistake could have gone either way.
As for the forty thousand versus four thousand horses of Solomon, this would seem to be another case where the ancient Phoenician alphabet was easily mistakable, and so an error crept into the text of I Kings. Since Chronicles used the Syrian alphabet, it has retained the correct number, which is a far more reasonable number as well.
I am afraid your problem when the number of baths in the temple comes simply from not reading the text carefully enough. I Kings 7:26 says it contained two thousand baths, which is probably the amount of water it usually held. II Chronicles 4:5, however, says it “received and held” three thousand baths, which seems to be listing its maximum capacity. But no bath is used to its maximum capacity. If you filled your bathtub to the maximum it could hold, the instant you put a toe into it it would start to overflow, which would be very inconvenient. Thus one book gives its usual contents (to 2/3 capacity,) whereas the other gives its maximum fill capacity.
The Islamic website you got these problems from didn’t do a whole lot of work with the kings. There are a lot more seeming discrepancies than this one with Jehoiachin. Perhaps they just picked the most obvious one.
The thing here that is often missed is the concept of co-regency. This was a practice common in ancient Israel and Judah, as well as in ancient contemporary kingdoms. That is, a king would get his son and heir ready to take the throne after him by declaring him his co-regent. This meant the young prince would have all the power of the king, and would reign alongside his father. I suppose this cut down on sons trying coups against their father so as to take the throne earlier. But the idea was to get them experience reigning while their father was still around to give them advice and counsel. Jehoiakim Jehoiachin’s father was 25 when he became king, and reigned 11 years. It seems the year after he took the throne, he made his 8-year-old son Jehoiachin co-regent with him. This was unusual for a child that young, but certainly not impossible. After ten years of co-regency, Jehoiachin took over as king alone when his father died, but his solo reign was short-lived at three months and ten days. However, his co-regency had been going on for a long time, and so he had had much more time to work the “evil” that the Bible says he worked as king than a scant time of less than four months.
The concept of co-regency is absolutely essential to put together the dates in Kings and Chronicles, not just when comparing the books to each other, but when comparing the northern kingdom to the southern kingdom in the book of Kings. The numbers will never fit unless one recognizes that sometimes a king reigned along with his father for a time before his death, when he took the throne alone. This time of co-regency can be counted as part of his reign, or not, as the author sees fit.
As for telling others about errors and discrepancies one seems to find in the texts of the Bible, that is exactly what I am doing all the time with my series on “Contradictions in Scripture” on my blog site. I have mostly focused on seeming discrepancies between the gospels so far, but upon returning to the topic, I will be focusing much more on the Old Testament, and seeming errors there, like the ones you have pointed out. If others like you were are not informed about these things, I will be working hard to help them be informed.
If you really wish to get deeply into these things and do serious study regarding texts, I would suggest you pick up a copy of the Companion Bible. Though it is nearly a hundred years old, most of the subjects of interest have not changed all that much since that time. It covers these errors or seeming errors that you have found, as well as many others you have not, and helps the student understand them. Though I do not agree with everything it teaches, as a whole I would highly recommend it.
Keep studying the Word!