ALLEGED DISCREPANCIES OF THE BIBLE
by John Haley
John Haley wrote this book in response to those who doubted the Bible's infallibility by referencing so-called "self-contradictions of the Bible." He saw the abundance of pamphlets and discussions on discrepancies in the Bible compared to the lack of consideration they were given by evangelical authors and resolved to strive for a better balance. Of the lack of Christian guidance on the subject, he said, "I know of no work, ancient or modern, which covers the whole ground, treating the subject comprehensively yet concisely, and which is, at the same time, adapted to general circulation."
The view with which he undertook the writing of this text was one of honest outlaying of the truth. He acknowledged the hesitancy of some regarding his project by saying, "Some persons may, perchance, question the wisdom of publishing a work in which the difficulties of Scripture are brought together and set forth so plainly. They may think it better to suppress, as far as may be, the knowledge of these things. The author does not sympathize with any such timid policy. He counts it the duty of the Christian scholar to look difficulties and objections squarely in the face." Haley felt that there was nothing to be gained from merely overlooking or evading any apparent contradictions in the Bible. Besides, the enemies of the Bible would not remain silent, so why should he? "The poison demands an antidote," he wrote. "The remedy should be carried wherever the disease has made its blighting way."
Haley, however, did not take on so large a task as to attempt to refute all objections to Scripture. Instead, he left those difficulties dealing with secular history and science in the hands of more able persons, concerning himself only with those Scripture passages that seemed to be in conflict with one another. He sought to explain those places where the Bible appears to be inconsistent with itself.
Haley's first action was to read a large number of texts that pointed out discrepancies in the Bible, making a collection of the false arguments so that he might refute them. He then classified them and addressed each one. He also included numerous quotations and references to other biblical scholars with an aim to express the unanimity of scholarly biblical thought on certain points. Though unconcerned that the many quotations might make his book look more like a compilation than an individual scholar's work, Haley was concerned about retaining all pertinent information in the quotations while still keeping them short. For this reason, you may notice that some quotations have been abridged by eliminating subordinate clauses or other material deemed unnecessary to the readers' understanding.
In addition, the alphabetical organization of the text has resulted in some of the chapters appearing disconnected and fragmentary. However, it was thought that any other method of classification would probably have different, although equally challenging, problems. And since it was very likely that a reader would use this text as a reference book instead of reading through it consecutively, alphabetical organization was deemed best.
Sometimes several solutions to a difficulty are given, leaving the reader to choose for himself. Of course not all possible solutions are presented, but merely those that seem most reasonable.
Haley believed concessions by the Bible's adversaries to be weighty arguments in the Bible's favor. For this reason, he made use of those concessions from time to time throughout the text as the opportunity presented itself.
As to works originally published in foreign languages, whenever approved English versions existed, Halley used them instead of attempting his own translation.
Though he could not predict the efficacy of his book and whether his audience would be persuaded, Haley maintained his conviction "that every difficulty and discrepancy in the Scriptures is, and will yet be seen to be, capable of a fair and reasonable solution."
Whatever reception his book received and however fallible it was proven to be, Halley rested on his trust in the Bible's infallibility, saying, "Let it be remembered that the Bible is neither dependent upon nor affected by the success or failure of my book. Whatever may become of the latter, whatever may be the verdict passed upon it by an intelligent public, the Bible will stand. In ages yet to be, when its present assailants and defenders are moldering in the dust, and when their very names are forgotten, the sacred volume will be, as it has been during the centuries past, the guide and solace of unnumbered millions of our race.
Origin of the Discrepancies
"God reveals himself in his word, as he does in his works. In both we see a self-revealing, self-concealing God, who makes himself known only to those who earnestly seek him. In both we find stimulants to faith and occasions for unbelief. In both we find contradictions, whose higher harmony is hidden, except from him who gives up his whole mind in reverence. In both, in a word, it is a law of revelation that the heart of man should be tested in receiving it, and that in the spiritual life, as well as in the bodily, man must eat his bread in the sweat of his brow."
In these significant words of the sainted Neander 1 are brought to view the existence and the remedy of certain difficulties encountered by the student of scripture.
It is the object of the present volume to follow out the line of thought indicated by the learned German divine-—-to survey somewhat in detail the discrepancies of scripture, and to suggest, in the several cases, fair and reasonable solutions.
That no candid and intelligent student of the Bible will deny that it contains numerous "discrepancies," that its statements, taken prima facie, not
1 Life of Christ
infrequently conflict with or contradict one another, may safely be presumed. This fact has been more or less recognized by Christian scholars in all ages.
Of the early writers, Origen 2 declares that if any one should carefully examine the Gospels in respect to their historic disagreement, he would grow dizzy-headed, and, attaching himself to one of them, he would desist from the attempt to establish all as true, or else he would regard the four as true, yet not in their external forms.
(ORIGEN WAS FRANKLY A "NUT CASE" - EVERYTHING TO HIM IN THE BIBLE WAS TO BE TAKEN AS PARABLES AND THE LIKE, AND JUST ABOUT NOTHING TO BE TAKEN LITERALLY - Keith Hunt)
Chrysostom 3 regards the discrepancies as really valuable as proofs of independence on the part of the sacred writers.
Augustine 4 often recurs, in his writings, to the discrepancies, and handles many cases with great skill and felicity.
Some twenty-five years since, that eminent biblical critic, Moses Stuart 5 whose candor was commensurate with his erudition, acknowledged that "in our present copies of the scriptures there are some discrepancies between different portions of them, which no learning nor ingenuity can reconcile."6
To much the same effect, Archbishop Whately 7 observes: "That the apparent contradictions of scripture are numerous—-that the instruction conveyed by them, if they be indeed designed for such a purpose, is furnished in abundance—-is too notorious to need being much insisted on."
Similarly says Dr. Charles Hodge: 8 "It would require not a volume, but volumes, to discuss all the cases of alleged discrepancies."
Such being the concessions made by Christian scholars, it can occasion no surprise to find sceptical authors expatiating upon the "glaring inconsistencies," "self-contradictions," and "manifest discrepancies" of the Bible, and incessantly urging these as so many proofs of its untrustworthiness and of its merely human origin. The pages of the German rationalists, and of their English and American disciples and copyists, abound with arguments of this character.
Of the importance of our theme, little need be said. Clearly it bears a close and vital relation to the doctrine of inspiration. God, who is wisdom and truth, can neither lie nor contradict himself. Hence, should it be discovered
2 Comm. in Evangelium Joannis, Vol. i. p. 279, Lommatzsch's edition.
3 Warington on Inspiration, p. 36.
4 See Rabus in appended Bibliography.
5 Crit. Hist, and Defence of O. T. Canon, p. 193. Revised ed. p. 179.
6 When we consider the marked progress of sacred philology and allied sciences during the last quarter of a century, we cannot doubt that the Professor would, were he now living, essentially modify this opinion.
7 On Difficulties in Writings of St. Paul; Essay 7, Sect. 4.
8 Theology, Vol. L, p. 169.
that falsehoods or actual contradictions exist in the Bible, our conclusion must be, that, at any rate, these things do not come from God; that so far the Bible is not divinely inspired. We see, therefore, the need of a patient and impartial examination of alleged falsehoods and contradictions, in order that our theory of inspiration maybe made to conform to the facts of the case.
Yet we must guard against the conclusion that, since we cannot solve certain difficulties, they are therefore insoluble. This inference—to which minds of a certain temper are peculiarly liable-—-savors so strongly of egotism and dogmatism as to be utterly repugnant to the spirit of true scholarship.
As in all other departments of sacred criticism, so in the treatment of the discrepancies, there is a demand for reverent, yet unflinching thoroughness and fidelity.
An important preliminary question relates to the Origin of the Discrepancies. To what causes are they to be referred? From what sources do they arise?
1. Difference of Dates of Passages
Many of the so-called discrepancies are obviously attributable to a difference in the dates of the discordant passages. Nothing is more common than that a description or statement, true and pertinent at one time, should at a later period, and in a different state of affairs, be found irrelevant or inaccurate. Change of circumstances necessitates a change of phraseology. Numerous illustrations of this principle will be found in the following pages.
A certain infidel, bent upon making the Bible contradict itself, contrasts the two passages: "God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good"; and "It repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart." 9 Taking these texts out of their connection, and, with characteristic fairness, making no mention of the interval of time which divided them, he thus seeks to make it appear that the Bible represents God as, at the same time, satisfied and dissatisfied with his works. Had the unscrupulous pamphleteer told his readers that the fall of man and a period of some fifteen hundred years intervened between the two epochs respectively referred to in these texts, his "discrepancy" would have become too transparent to serve his purpose.
9 Genesis 1:31 and 6:6.
Obviously, after man had fallen, God could no longer be "satisfied" with him, unless a corresponding change had taken place in himself. We thus see that differences of date and circumstances may perfectly explain apparent discrepancies, and remove every vestige of contradiction.
May not these differences also furnish a hint toward the solution of certain moral difficulties in the scriptures? We find some of the patriarchs represented as good men, yet occasionally practicing deceit, polygamy, and other sins which are discountenanced in the later books of the Bible. Is not the rule of human conduct, to some extent, a relative one, graduated according to man's knowledge, circumstances, and ability? Did not He who revealed himself "in many portions and in divers manners"10 make the revelation of human duty in much the same way—-not as with the lightning's blinding flash, but like the morning upon the mountains, with a slow and gradual illumination?11
In the comparatively unenlightened times in which many of the Old Testament saints lived, many faults and errors of theirs may have been mercifully and wisely passed by. Those "times of ignorance" God "winked at"12—-"over-looked." Acts committed in that twilight of the world, in the childhood of the race, must be looked at in the light of that period. Nothing could be more unjust or unreasonable than to try the patriarchs by the ethical standard of a later age.
Dr. Thomas Arnold 13 deems that the truest and most faithful representation of the lives of the patriarchs which leads us to think of "a state of society very little advanced in its knowledge of the duties of man to man, and even, in some respects, of the duties of man to God—a state of society in which slavery, polygamy, and private revenge were held to be perfectly lawful, and which was accustomed to make a very wide distinction between fake speaking and false swearing." He deprecates the fear that we are "lowering the early scripture history, if we speak of the actors in it as men possessing far less than a Christian's knowledge of right and wrong." Professor Stuart,14 likewise, repudiates the notion of the absolute perfection of the earlier dispensation, and adds: "It is only a relative perfection that the Old Testament can claim; and this is comprised in the fact that it answered the end for which it was given. It was given to the world, or to the Jewish nation, in its minority." The Professor's conclusion is, that in the early ages, "with the
10 Hebrews 1:1, so Alford.
11 See Bernard, Progress of Doct. in New Testament, passim.
12 "In this word lie treasures of mercy for those who lived in the times of ignorance."—Alford on Acts 17:30.
13 Miscellaneous Works, pp. 149, ISO (New York edition).
14 History of Old Testament Canon, p. 415. Revised ed. pp. 387, 388.
exception of such sins as were highly dishonorable to God and injurious to the welfare of men, the rules of duty were not in all cases strictly drawn."15
Now, since our virtue must be judged of in relation to the amount of knowledge we possess, it is easy to see how men are styled "good" who live according to the light they have, even though that light may be comparatively feeble. Therefore, previous to pronouncing upon the moral character of a man or an act, we must take into consideration the date of the act, or the time when the man lived, that we may judge the man or the act by the proper standard. This simple principle will remove many otherwise formidable difficulties.16
2. Differences of Authorship
Were it not for the perversity and disingenuousness exhibited by certain writers in dealing with this topic, it would be superfluous to assign differences of authorship as a fruitful source of discrepancies. We find recorded in the Bible the words of God and of good men, as well as some of the sayings of Satan and of wicked men. Now, a collision between these two classes of utterances will not seem strange to him who is cognizant of the antagonism of good and evil. For example, we read, "Thou shalt surely die;" and "Ye shall not surely die."17 When we call to mind that the former are the words of God, the latter those of Satan, we are at no loss to account for the incongruity.
The question of the respective authorship of conflicting texts is an important one: "Whose are these sayings?" "Are they recorded as inspired language, or is one or more of them inserted as a mere matter of history?" "Does the sacred writer endorse, or merely narrate, these statements?" The answer to these simple questions will often be the only solution which the supposed discrepancy needs.
With regard to utterances clearly referable to inspired sources, yet which apparently disagree, several things are to be noticed:
(1) The same idea, in substance, may be couched in several different forms of phraseology. Thus we may vary the Mosaic prohibition of murder: "Thou shalt not kill"; "Do not kill"; "Thou shalt do no murder." Any one of these statements is sufficiently exact. No one of them would be
15 See further, under Ethical Discrepancies, "Enemies cursed."
16 "Distinguite tempora," says Augustine, "et concordabunt scripturae"; "Distinguish as to times, and the scriptures will harmonize."
17 Genesis 2:17 and 3:4.
regarded by any sensible person as a mis-statement of the precept. They all convey substantially the same idea.
(2) Inspiration does not destroy the individuality of the writers. It deals primarily with ideas, rather than with words. It suggests ideas to the mind of the writer, allowing him, generally, to clothe them in his own language. In this way his individuality is preserved, and his mental peculiarities and habits of thought make themselves felt in his writings. On this principle we account for the marked difference of style among the sacred writers, as well as for their occasional divergences in setting forth the same idea or in relating the same circumstance.18
(3) Inspiration need not always tread in its own track, or follow the same routine of words. A writer may, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, take the language of a former inspired author, and modify it to suit his own purpose. Thus the New Testament writers often quote those of the Old. They grasp the sense, the ground-thought, of their predecessors, and then mold that thought into such forms as shall best meet the needs of the later age for which they write. This simple principle relieves the apparent discrepancies between the phraseology of the Old Testament and the citations in the New.
(THE READER NEEDS TO STUDY THE STUDY ON MY WEBSITE CALLED "HOW PAUL USED THE OLD TESTAMENT" AND SEE THIS POINT VIVIDLY EXPOUNDED, WHICH WILL SURPRISE NOT A FEW - Keith Hunt)
3. Differences of Standpoint or of Object
Other seeming disagreements are occasioned by differences of standpoint or of object on the part of the respective authors. Truth is many-sided, flinging back from each of its countless facets a ray of different hue. As Whately says, "Single texts of scripture maybe so interpreted, if not compared together, and explained by each other, as to contradict one another, and to be each one of them at variance with the truth. The scriptures, if so studied, will no less mislead you than if they were actually false; for half the truth will very often amount to absolute falsehood."19
Often, in looking from different positions, or at different objects, we follow lines of thought, or employ language, which seems inconsistent with something elsewhere propounded by us; yet there may be no real inconsistency in the case. Thus we say, in the same breath, "Man is mortal," and "Man is immortal."
18 See several striking cases under "Scriptures—-Quotations."
19 Future State, Lect. VI., p. 120 (Phila. edition).
Both statements are true, each from its own point of view; they do not collide in the least. In respect to his material, visible, tangible organism, he is mortal; but with reference to the deathless, intelligent spirit within, he is immortal. So one may say: "The people of this country are rulers," and, "The American people are ruled." In the sense intended, both assertions may be perfectly correct.
In the "Christian Paradoxes," published in Basil Montagu's edition of Lord Bacon's Works, we find striking contradictions. Thus, concerning the pious man:
"He is one that fears always, yet is as bold as a lion.
"He loseth his life, and gains by it; and whilst he loseth it, he saveth it.
"He is a peacemaker, yet is a continual fighter, and is an irreconcilable enemy.
"He is often in prison, yet always at liberty; a freeman, though a servant.
"He loves not honor amongst men, yet highly prizeth a good name."
In these cases no uncommon acuteness is requisite to see that there is no contradiction; since the conflicting sayings lie in different planes of thought, or contemplate different ends.
The principle that every truth presents different aspects, and bears different relations, is one of great importance. Sometimes these aspects or relations may seem inconsistent or incompatible with each other; yet, if we trace back the divergent rays to their source, we shall find that they meet in a common center.
The principle just enunciated serves to reconcile the apparent disagreement between Paul and James respecting "faith" and "works," and to evince, as will be seen elsewhere, the profound, underlying harmony between them. Looking from different points of view, they present different, yet not inconsistent, aspects of the same great truth.
It is scarcely needful to add, that in studying the sacred writings, we should carefully look for and keep in mind the particular point of view and the object of each of the authors. Unless we do this, we risk a total misapprehension of them. We are apt, forgetting the long ages which have intervened, to judge these writers by the standards of our own time. Says Miiller: "The great majority of readers transfer without hesitation the ideas which they connect with words as used in the nineteenth century to the mind of Moses or his contemporaries, forgetting altogether the distance which divides their language and their thoughts from the thoughts and language of the wandering tribes of Israel."20
Chips from a German Workshop, i. 133 (Am. edition).
This is a timely caution against unconsciously confounding an ancient author's standpoint with our own. We may remark, further, that the historian's standpoint is theoretically a neutral one. So long as he keeps to the mere recital of facts, he does not make himself responsible in any degree for the conduct described by him. When he drops the role of the historian, and assumes that of the philosopher and moralist, when he begins to deal out praise or censure, he may be held amenable to the tribunal of ethics for the rectitude and impartiality of his opinions and decisions.
In a word, the Bible writers do not, by simply narrating the misconduct of other persons, make themselves in the slightest degree responsible for that misconduct. Yet many persons, who would not think of holding Macaulay accountable for the crimes recorded in his history, cannot, when they come to read the sacred record, see the difference between a mere historian and a partisan. There is an appreciable distinction between narrating and endorsing an act.
4. Different Methods of Arrangement
Many other apparent discrepancies, of a historical character, are occasioned by the adoption, by the several authors, of different principles and methods of arrangement. One writer follows the strict chronological order; another disposes his materials according to the principle of association of ideas. One writes history-minutely and consecutively; another omits, condenses, or expands to suit his purpose. From the pen of one writer we receive an orderly, well-constructed biography; another gives us merely a series of anecdotes, grouped so as to illustrate some trait, sentiment, or habit of the person described. Thus, in Xenophon's Memorabilia, we do not find a proper biography of Socrates, but we see various points in his life and character set forth by anecdotes respecting him and by reports of his discussions. These are "thrown together in the manner best suited to illustrate the different topics, without regard to the order of time in which the transactions or conversations actually took place, and without any endeavor to preserve the appearance of continuity of narrative." So our first Gospel, in the words of Professor Stowe, 21 "does not follow any chronological series of events or instructions, but groups together things of the same kind, and shows by a series of living pictures what Christ was in all the various circumstances through
21 Origin and History of Books of Bible, pp. 153-154.
which he passed." A similar and intentional disregard of chronological order and sequence is seen, to a greater or less degree, in the three remaining Gospels, and in other historical portions of the Bible.
The methods of the several authors being thus different, it cannot but be that their narratives, when compared, will present appearances of dislocation, deficiency, redundancy, anachronism, or even antagonism—one or all of these. Now, if we put these authors upon a Procrustean bed, and clip or stretch them to suit our notions; if we require them to narrate precisely the same events, in precisely the same order, and with precisely the same fullness or brevity, we do them great violence and injustice. We should let each follow his own method of arrangement, and tell his story in his own way. A different grouping of events does not necessarily bring one author into collision with another, unless it can be shown that both writers intended to follow the order of time. Nor is an author's omission to mention an event equivalent to a denial of that event. It should also be remembered that a writer may employ customary phraseology, involving a historical inaccuracy, yet not be chargeable with falsehood, inasmuch as he does not intend to teach anything in reference to the matter. For example, a historian might incidentally speak of the "Battle of Bunker Hill," while he knows perfectly well that the battle was fought on Breed's Hill. It is an author's privilege to accommodate himself in this manner, to prevalent opinions and customary forms of speech, provided he does not thereby introduce any material error, which shall vitiate his leading design.
5. Different Methods of Computation
Other incongruities arise from the use of different modes of computation, particularly of reckoning time. Phenomena of this description are not confined to the scriptures, or to the domain of theology. They are found in scientific and other secular literature. Thus, one would think the number of the bones which compose the human skeleton a very simple and easily-settled question; yet the most eminent anatomists disagree on this point. Gray mentions 204 bones; Wilson, 246; Dunglison, 240; others, 208. There is, however, no real discrepancy in the case, since these authors reckon differently.
A historical illustration is also in point. The family record, in an old Bible which belonged to Washington's mother, asserts that he was born "y 11th day of February, 173 and 1/2." On the other hand, a recent biography 22 of Washington gives the date as "the 22d of February, 1732, New Style." To those who understand
22 Everett's Life of Washington, pp. 19-20.
the difference between "Old Style" and "New Style," this discrepancy of eleven days will furnish no difficulty. When one historian reckons from one epoch, and another from a different one, there will of necessity be an apparent, if not a real, disagreement.
Many ancient and several modern nations have two kinds of year in use, the civil and the sacred. The Jews employed both reckonings. "The sacred reckoning was that instituted at the Exodus, according to which the first month was Abib; by the civil reckoning the first month was the Seventh. The interval between the two commencements was thus exactly half a year." 23
"The ancient Egyptians, Chaldeans, Persians, Syrians, Phoenicians, and Carthaginians each began the year at the autumnal equinox, about September 22. The Jews also began their civil year at that time; but in their ecclesiastical reckoning the year dated from the vernal equinox, about March 22."
"Among the Latin Christian nations there were seven different dates for the commencement of the year." "In the era of Constantinople, which was in use in the Byzantine empire, and in Russia till the time of Peter the Great, the civil year began with September 1, and the ecclesiastical sometimes with March 21, and sometimes with April l." 24 Even among us, the academic and the fiscal do not begin and end with the civil year.
It follows, therefore, that when two ancient writers fail to agree as to the month and day of a given event, we must inquire whether or not they employ the same chronological reckoning. If not, their disagreement furnishes no proof that either is wrong. Each, according to his own method of computation, may be perfectly correct. When, in the Fahrenheit thermometer, the mercury stands at 212 degrees, in the Reaumur at 80, and in the Centigrade at 100 degrees, the inference is not valid that any one of the three instruments is inaccurate. The different methods of graduating the scale account for the different indications.
It was one peculiarity of the Jewish reckoning that fractional years were counted for whole ones. Lightfoot 25 says that, according to the rabbis, "the very first day of a year may stand in computation for that year." Aben Ezra, on Leviticus 12:3, says that, "if an infant were born in the last hour of the day, such hour was counted for one whole day." A similar mode of reckoning prevails in the East at the present time. "Thus, the year ending on a certain day, any part of the foregoing year is reckoned a whole year. A child born in the last week of our December would be reckoned a year old on the first day of January, because
23 R. S. Poole, in Smith's Bib. Diet., Art. "Year."
24 Appleton's Cyclopaedia; Article "Calendar."
25 Harmony of New Testament, Section 9.
born in the old year." Menasseh ben Israel 26 says that, "in respect of the festivals, solemnities, and computations of the reigns of kings, Nisan [March] is the beginning of the year; but in regard to the creation and secular matters, it is Tisri (September)."
That eminent scholar and Egyptologist, Dr. J. P. Thompson, 27 well observes that the study of chronology is "particularly obscure and difficult when we have to do with Oriental modes of computation, which are essentially different from ours. Before the time of Abraham, the narrative given in the book of Genesis may be a condensed epitome of foregoing history—not a consecutive line of historical events, year by year and generation by generation, but a condensed epitome of what had occurred in the world from the creation to that time; for if you will scrutinize it carefully, you will see that in some instances the names of individuals are put for tribes, dynasties, and nations, and that it is no part of the object of the historian to give the consecutive course of affairs in the world at large." He proceeds to express the conviction that there is yet to come to us, from Arabian and other Oriental sources, a mode of interpreting chronology according to these lists of names, which he does not believe we have yet got hold of; hence he is not troubled by any seeming discrepancies. If, then, in dealing with biblical numbers, we encounter methods of computation which differ essentially from our own, 28 this is a fact which no student nor interpreter of scripture can afford to overlook.
26 Conciliator, L, 126-129.
27 Man in Genesis and in Geology, pp. 104-105.
28 The Hebrew and Arabic allow a peculiar latitude in the expression of numbers. According to Nordheimer (Hebrew Grammar, i. 265), and Wright (Arabic Grammar, p. 211), both these languages permit one to write first the units, then the tens, hundreds and thousands, in their order; or he may reverse the method, writing the highest denomination first, and ending with the lowest.
Revelation Dr. C. S. Robinson, in the Christian Weekly, thus overstates and misapplies the first usage: "This is just the reverse of our habit. We put thousands before hundreds, and hundreds before units. So if a literal rendering of one of those vast numbers be made into English, it will appear positively preposterous.
"In the first book of Samuel, we are told (in our version), that for the impiety of looking into the ark, the Lord smote, in the little town of Bethshemesh, 'of the people fifty thousand and threescore and ten men' (1 Samuel 6:19). Now, one cannot help thinking that there was no town in all those borders so large as this assumes. Fifty thousand men, besides women and children, would populate one of our larger modern cities.
"The difficulty disappears when you recall the idiom I have mentioned. The verse reads, 'seventy, fifties, and a thousand'-—that is, not seventy and fifty thousand, as it is translated, but seventy, two fifties, and one thousand, or one thousand one hundred and seventy men, in all."
Dr. R.'s explanation is inapposite. There is quite as much reason for reading "seventies" as "fifties," since both the original words are, as they ought to be, in the plural number. (See Gesenius, Hebrews Gram., Sect. 97, Par. 3). Besides, "fifties" may as well denote ten fifties as two fifties.
It is clear that the Hebrews often employed "round numbers," or, omitting fractions, made use of the nearest whole number. Thus, the ages of the patriarchs, in Genesis 5, are given in this manner, unless we adopt the improbable supposition that each of them died upon some anniversary of his birth.
The foregoing considerations evince the folly of hasty decisions in regard to biblical chronology. When the sacred writers disagree as to numbers and dates, unless there is evidence that they intended to reckon from the same point and by the same method, the verdict must be: "Discrepancy not proven."
(AND PAUL WARNED TITUS NOT TO SPEND TIME DEBATING FOR ONE THING "GENEOLOGIES" - TITUS 3:9 - AND HE WARNED TIMOTHY NOT TO INDULGE IN OTHER MEANINGLESS AND WASTE OF TIME ISSUES - Keith Hunt)
6. Peculiarities of Oriental Idiom
The peculiarities of the Oriental idiom are another prolific source of discrepancies. The people of the East are fervid and impassioned in their modes of thought and expression. They think and speak in poetry 29. Bold metaphors and startling hyperboles abound in their writings and conversation. "The shepherd," says Eichhorn, 30 "only speaks in the soul of the shepherd, and the primitive Oriental only speaks in the soul of another Oriental. Without an intimate acquaintance with the customs of pastoral life, without an accurate knowledge of the East and its manners, without a close intimacy with the manner of thinking and speaking in the uncivilized world, . . . you easily become a traitor to the book, when you would be its deliverer and interpreter."
Professor Stuart:31 "I do not, and would not, summon them [the books of scripture] before the tribunal of Occidental criticism. Asia is one world; Europe and America, another. Let an Asiatic be tried before his own tribunal. To pass just sentence upon him, we must enter into his feelings, views, methods of reasoning and thinking, and place ourselves in the midst of the circumstances which surrounded him."
Lowth, 32 on Metaphors: "The Orientals are attached to this style of composition; and many flights which our ears—too fastidious, perhaps, in these
29 A learned writer observes of Arabian literature: "A poetic spirit pervades all their works. Even treatises in the abstract sciences, geographical and medical works, have a poetic cast.
All their literary productions, from the most impassioned ode to the firman of the Grand Seigneur, belong to the province of poetry."
Michaelis quotes an Arabic poet who expresses the fact that swords were drawn with which to cut the throats of enemies, thus: "The daughters of the sheath leaped forth from their chambers, thirsting to drink in the jugular vein of their enemies."—See Bib. Repository, Oct. 1836, pp. 489, 442.
30 See DeWette, Introd. to Old Testament, ii. 31-32.
31 History of Old Testament Canon, p. 187. Revised ed. p. 174.
32 Lectures on Hebrew Poetry, pp. 51, 47 (Stowe's edition).
respects-—will scarcely bear, must be allowed to the general freedom and boldness of these writers."
Again, he speaks of the difficulties which arise in reading authors "where everything is depicted and illustrated with the greatest variety and abundance of imagery; they must be still more numerous in such of the poets as are foreign and ancient—in the Orientals above all foreigners; they being the farthest removed from our customs and manners, and, of all the Orientals, more especially in the Hebrews."
Dr. Samuel Davidson: 33 "He who does not remember the wide difference between the Oriental and Occidental mind must necessarily fall into error. The luxuriant imagination and glowing ardor of the former express themselves in hyperbolical and extravagant diction; whereas the subdued character and coolness of the latter are averse to sensuous luxuriance."
Again: "The figures are bold and daring. Passion and feeling predominate. In the Psalms preeminently, we see the theology of the feelings, rather than of the intellect. Logic is out of place there. Dogmas cannot be established on such a basis, nor was it ever meant to be so."
Professor Park: 34 "More or less clandestinely, we are wont to interpret an ancient and an Oriental poet, as we would interpret a modern and Occidental essayist. The eastern minstrel employs intense words for saying what the western logician would say in tame language. The fervid Oriental would turn from our modifying phrases in sickness of heart. We shudder at the lofty flights which captivate him. But he and we mean to express the same idea. The Occidental philosopher has a definite thought when he affirms that God exercises benevolence toward good men. Isaiah has essentially the same thought when he cries out: As the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee.'"
Such being the genius and idiom of the Orientals, it cannot be deemed strange that their metaphors and hyperboles overlap and collide with one another; that we find David, 35 for example, at one time calling God a rock, and elsewhere speaking of his wings and feathers. Such bold and free imagery, when properly interpreted, develops a felicitous meaning; but when expounded according to literalistic, matter-of-fact methods, it yields discrepancies in abundance. To the interpreter of scripture, no two qualifications are more indispensable than common sense and honesty.
33 Introduction to Old Testament, ii. 409, 310.
34 Bib. Sacra, xix 170-171.
35 Psalm 42:9, and 91:4.
7. Plurality of Names or Synonyms
Other dissonances in scripture are obviously attributable to the Eastern custom of applying plurality of names to the same person or object. In matters of everyday life, this custom is widely prevalent. Thus, in the Arabic, 36 there are 1000 different words or names for "sword," 500 for "lion," 200 for "serpent," 400 for "misfortune," 80 for "honey."
The Hebrew language has as many as fifty words denoting a body of water of some kind. 37 There are at least eighteen Hebrew words used to express different kinds of prickly shrubs or weeds which occur in the Hebrew scriptures. 38 Gesenius gives some eight different Hebrew terms for "counsel," twelve for "darkness," thirty-two for "destruction," ten for "law," and twenty-three for "wealth." 39
The usage in respect to proper names is quite similar. Thus we find Jacob and Israel, Edom and Esau, Gideon and Jerubbaal, Hoshea or Oshea and Jehoshua or Joshua. One of the apostles bore the following appellations: Simon, Simeon, Peter, Cephas, Simon Peter, Simon Barjona, and Simon son of Jonas. So we find Joseph, Barsabas, and Justus designating the same individual.
Not infrequently the names of persons and places were changed on account of some important event. The custom prevails to some extent in modern times. The Persian king, Shah Solyman, began to reign in 1667, under the name Suf-fee. During the first years of his reign, misfortune attended him. He came to the conclusion that his name was an unlucky one, and must be laid aside, in order to avert further calamities. "He accordingly assumed, with great solemnity, the name of Solyman. He was crowned anew under that name, and all the seals and coins which bore the name of Suffee were broken, as if one king had died, and another succeeded." 40 Chardin, an eye-witness, gives an account of the coronation. The custom of changing the name of the pope at the time of his election is not unlike—Aeneas Sylvius becoming Pius II.
Often, in the Bible, the name of the head of a tribe or nation is put for his posterity. Thus, in a multitude of cases, "Israel" means the Israelite nation; "Ephraim" and "Moab" signify the descendants of those men respectively. Keeping in mind the great latitude allowed by the Orientals in the use of names, we see the ready solution of many difficulties in the biblical record.
36 Bleek, Introd. to Old Testament, i. 43. Also, Biblical Repository for October, 1836, pp.
37 Taylor's Spirit of Hebrew Poetry, p. 91 (Gowans' edition).
38 Tristram's Natural History of the Bible, p. 423 (London edition).
39 Potter's English-Hebrew Lexicon, sub vocibus.
40 Bush, Notes on Genesis 17:5.
8. Diverse Meanings of Same Word
Not a few verbal contradictions arise from the use of the same word with different, sometimes opposite, significations. As Fuerst says, "Analogy in the Semitic dialects admits of directly opposite meanings in a word as possible." According to this lexicographer and Gesenius, the Hebrew word "barak" is used in the opposite senses of to bless and to curse. So "yarash" means both to possess and to dispossess; nakar," to know and not to know; "saqal," to pelt with stones and to free from stones; "shabar," to buy grain and to sell grain. So the Latin word "sacer" means both holy and accursed.
This infelicity of human speech is not, indeed, peculiar to the East. In our version of the scriptures, 41 and in the early English literature, 42 the word "let" is employed with the contradictor 'meanings, to permit and to hinder. In common parlance, a boy "stones" a fruit tree, and the cook "stones" certain kinds of fruit. "Cleave" affords another example of opposite significations combined in the same word. 43
When, therefore, we read in the Bible that certain persons "feared the Lord," yet "feared not the Lord"; that God "repents," yet does not repent; that he "tempted" Abraham, yet tempts no man, we find a ready solution of these apparent contradictions.
Frequently discrepancies appear in our version, when none exist in the original. This is due to the fact that the same English word has been employed by the translators to represent several original terms. Thus, in Luke 13:24 and 2 Timothy 2:24, two distinct Greek words are in our version rendered "strive." The resulting incongruity disappears when we consider that the term in Luke should have been rendered "agonize." Of course, all such discrepancies are to be attributed to the translators, and not to the book itself.
It is well to remember, also, that in King James's version words are frequently employed in an unusual or obsolete sense. Thus we find "prevent" 44 signifying to anticipate or precede; "thought" 45 implying anxiety. Often a knowledge of the ambiguity of their pivotal words enables us to reconcile two conflicting texts with the greatest ease.
41 Isaiah. 43:13; Romans 1:13; 2 Thessalonians 2:7.
42 Two Gent, of Verona, iii. 1; Hamlet, i. 4; Romeo and Juliet, ii.2.
43 See Roget's Thesaurus of English Words, Introd. p. 23.
44 Psalm 119:147-148; 1 Thessalonians 4:15.
45 Matthew 6:25.
9. Errors in the Manuscripts
A very large number of discrepancies take their rise from errors in the manuscripts; these errors being occasioned by the similarity of the alphabetical characters to one another, and by the consequent blunders of transcribers. The reader need not be reminded that previous to the invention of printing, in the fifteenth century, books were produced and multiplied by the slow, laborious method of copying with the pen. In a process so mechanical, mistakes would inevitably occur. The most carefully printed book is not entirely free from typographical errors; the most carefully written manuscript will exhibit defects of some kind. "God might" says an eminent critic, 46 "have so guided the hand or fixed the devout attention of copyists, during the long space of fourteen hundred years before the invention of printing, and of compositors and printers of the Bible for the last four centuries, that no jot or tittle should have been changed of all that was written therein. Such a course of providential arrangement we must confess to be quite possible; but it could have been brought about and maintained by nothing short of a continuous, unceasing miracle-—-by making fallible men (nay, many such in every generation) for one purpose absolutely infallible." To the unavoidable errors of copyists is, beyond question, to be attributed a large portion of those minute discrepancies, in both the Old and New Testaments, which we commonly term "various readings." The liability to mistakes in chirography was, moreover, indefinitely augmented by the very close resemblance of certain Hebrew letters to one another. Kalisch 47 gives twelve examples in point.
"Several letters," says Professor Stuart, 48 "bear a great resemblance to each other." As illustrations, he mentions: Beth 3 and Kaph D; Daleth 7 and Resh 1; Daleth 7 and final Kaph "; Vav 1 and Yod '; Vav 1 and Nun final 1; Heth 17 and He H; Heth n and Tav n. He might have added, Pe D and Kaph D. The reader will observe that, if the left hand perpendicular line of He be accidentally omitted or blurred, we have Duluth left, thus, n, 7; so Tav and Resh, thus n, i; also Pe and Kaph, 3, D. "At one time," says Herbert Marsh, 49 "the whole difference consists in the acuteness or obtuseness of an angle; at other times, either on the length or the straightness of a line; distinctions so minute that even when the letters are perfect, mistakes will sometimes happen, and still more frequently when they are inaccurately formed, or are partially effaced. In fact, this is one of the most fruitful sources of error in the Hebrew manuscripts."
46 Scrivener, Criticism of New Testament, p. 8.
47 Hebrew Grammar, i. 3.
48 Hebrew Grammar, Sec. 17 (ed. of 1821).
49 Lectures on Criticism and Interpretation, p. 186.
(AND SO THE DIFFICULT TASK OF ANYONE TRYING TO TRANSLATE THE HEBREW INTO ENGLISH - Keith Hunt)
Certain Greek letters, also, look very much alike; for example, Nu v and Upsilon v, with others.
Everyone is aware how easily the English letters b and d are confounded, also p and q; how often we see N placed thus, A In print we see the figures 3 and 8, 6 and 9, mistaken for each other. How frequently we find "recieve" for "receive," "cheif' for "chief," "thier" for "their," and the like. Now, if such errors occur, in the most carefully corrected print, what are we to look for in manuscript, and particularly when the letters of which it is composed are so nearly alike? Moreover, as Theodore Parker 50 says, "it is to be remembered that formerly the Hebrew letters resembled one another more closely than at present."
(SO ALSO THEN THE DIFFICULTY TRANSLATING THE GREEK NEW TESTAMENT INTO ENGLISH. IT IS NOT JUST AS SIMPLE AS "FALLING OFF A LOG" TO RENDER THE OLD HEBREW AND GREEK MSS INTO ENGLISH, FOR JUST THIS REASON, LET ALONE SOME OTHER REASONS ALSO - Keith Hunt)
Under such circumstances as the foregoing, that occasional mistakes should have been made in copying by hand the Hebrew of the Old Testament and the Greek of the New so many times in the course of fourteen centuries is a thing to which no reasonable man can occasion surprise.
In fact, nothing but the most astounding miracle 51 could have prevented such mistakes.
We are now ready to add that, in the ancient Hebrew, letters were, in all probability, used for numerals. That is, letters were employed by the original writers to represent numbers, which were expanded and written out in full by later copiers. So, with us, one author might write "CXI"; another, "one hundred and eleven."
"The Rabbinical writers," says Nordheimer, 52 "employ the letters of the alphabet, after the manner of the ancient Greeks, for the purpose of numerical notation." The same is true of more ancient writers, including those of the Masora. That the original writers did this, though not absolutely demonstrated, is generally conceded by scholars.
Rawlinson 53 observes: "Nothing in ancient MSS is so liable to corruption from the mistakes of copyists as the numbers; the original mode of writing them appears in all countries of which we have any knowledge to have been by signs, not very different from one another; the absence of any context determining in favor of one number rather than another, where the copy is blotted or faded,
50 De Wette's Introd. to Old Testament, i. 311.
51 In the words of Dr. Bentley, "That in millions of copies transcribed in so many ages and nations, all the notaries and writers, who made it their trade and livelihood should be infallible and impeccable; that their pens should spontaneously write true, or be supernaturally guided, though the scribes were nodding or dreaming; would not this exceed all the miracles of both Old and New Testament?" Yet the same scholarly critic elsewhere assures us that "the New Testament has suffered less injury by the hand of time than any profane author."— Remarks upon a late Discourse, Part i. Sec. 32.
52 Hebrew Grammar, Vol. i. pp. 265-266, note.
53 On Historical Difficulties of Old and New Testament, p. 9.
increases the chance of error, and thus it happens that in almost all ancient works the numbers are found to be deserving of very little reliance."
Mr. Warington: 54 "There is little doubt but that numbers were originally represented in Hebrew, not as now by the names of the numbers in full, but simply by the letters of the alphabet taken in order, at the following numerical value: 1,2, 3,4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9,10,20, 30,40, 5O, 60, 70, 80, 90,100,200, 300,400; the five terminal letters supplying the numbers from 500 to 900, and the thousands being obtained by appending certain marks or points to the units."
Mr. Phillott: 55 "Like most Oriental nations, it is probable that the Hebrews in their written calculations made use of the letters of the alphabet. That they did so in post-Babylonian times we have conclusive evidence in the Maccabaean coins; and it is highly probable that this was the case also in earlier times."
Keil: 56 "An interchange of similar letters, on the assumption that letters were used as numerals, also explains many differences in numbers, and many statements of excessive and incredible numbers." Elsewhere, he calls attention to certain "corruptions which have arisen from the blunders of copyists in transcription, and by the resolution of the numerical statements, the numbers having been denoted by letters of the alphabet."
De Wette, 57 speaking of the mistakes of copyists: "They confounded similar letters. Hence, on the supposition that numeral characters were used, we are to explain the difference in numbers." He adduces several pertinent instances. "In this manner," continues his translator, Theodore Parker, "many other mistakes in numbers seem to have arisen."
Dr. Kennicott: 58 "That the Jewish transcribers did frequently express the Bible numbers in the original by single letters is well known to the learned."
This author also cites the learned Scaliger, and an ancient Hebrew Grammar, printed with the Complutensian Bible in 1515, to the same effect.
Dr. Samuel Davidson: 59 "Wherever numerous proper names occur, there is greater liability to err. So with regard to numbers; for letters alike in shape being used as numerals, were easily interchanged."
Again, "Letters having been used as numerals in ancient times, one letter was often mistaken for another by transcribers, and hence many corruptions got into the text."
54 On Inspiration, pp. 204-205.
55 Smith's Bib. Diet., "Number."
56 Introd. to Old Testament, ii. 297 and 85.
57 Introd. to Old Testament, i. 310.
58 On Printed Hebrew Text, i. 96.
59 Introd. to Old Testament, ii. 108, 112.
Winer: 60 "In expressing numbers, the Jews, in the post-exile period, as is evident from the inscriptions of the so-called Samaritan coins, employed the letters of the alphabet; and it is not improbable that the old Hebrews did the same, just as the Greeks, who derived their alphabet from the Phoenicians, expressed, from the earliest ages, numbers by letters."
"From the confounding of similarly-shaped letters when used for numerals, and from the subsequent writing out of the same in words can be explained satisfactorily in part the enormous sums in the Old Testament books, and the contradictions in their statements of numbers; yet caution is herein necessary."
Gesenius 61 expresses himself in very similar language, adduces examples illustrative of the above hypothesis, and pronounces it "certainly probable" (allerdings wahrscheinlich).
Glassius 62 also decides in favor of the hypothesis, and discusses the subject with no little skill and ability.
Isaac Taylor: 63 "The frequent use of contractions in writing was a very common source of errors; for many of these abbreviations were extremely complicated, obscure, and ambiguous, so that an unskillful copyist was very likely to mistake one word for another. No parts of ancient books have suffered so much from errors of inadvertency as those which relate to numbers; for as one numeral letter was easily mistaken for another, and as neither the sense of the passage, nor the rules of orthography nor of syntax, suggested the genuine reading, when once an error had arisen, it would most often be perpetuated, without remedy. It is, therefore, almost always unsafe to rest the stress of an argument upon any statement of numbers in ancient writers, unless some correlative computation confirms the reading of the text. Hence nothing can be more frivolous or unfair than to raise an objection against the veracity or accuracy of an historian, upon some apparent incompatability in his statement of numbers. Difficulties of this sort it is much better to attribute, at once, to a corruption of the text, than to discuss them with ill-spent assiduity."
On the authority of these scholars and critics, of creeds widely diverse, yet agreeing in this particular, we may, therefore, easily explain many of the contradictory and extravagant numbers 64 which we find in the historical books of the
60 Real-Worterbuch, Art. "Zahlen."
61 Geschichte der Heb. Sprache und Schrift, pp. 173-174.
62 Philologia Sacra, Tom. ii. pp. 188-195 (Dathe and Bauer's edition). See, also, J. M. Faber's "Literas olim pro vocibus in numerando a scriptoribus V.T. esse adhibitas."—Onoldi, 1775.
63 Transmission of Ancient Books, pp. 24-25.
64 Glassius observes, "Modo enim numeros invenimus, qui omnem modum excedunt, modo sieadem res in duobus libris narratur, in altero numerus adfertur, cui alter contradicit."—Phil.Sacra, De Caussis Corrupt. § 23.
Old Testament. Also certain discrepancies in the New Testament are explicable by the fact that, as is the case in the Codex Bezae, Greek letters bearing a close resemblance were used as numerals, 65 and hence were mistaken for one another. In our common Greek text, the number "six hundred three score and six" is indicated simply by three or sometimes four characters. 66
We thus see how mistakes in respect to numbers have originated.
It hardly need be added that errors as to names have arisen in the same way—from the similarity of certain letters. Thus we find Hadadezer and Hadarezer, 67 a Daleth being mistaken for a Resh —and many like cases.
The key thus furnished, will unlock many difficulties during the progress of our work.
10. Imagination of Critic
Multitudes of alleged discrepancies are the product of the imagination of the critic, influenced to a greater or less degree by dogmatic prejudice.
Two classes of writers illustrate this remark. Of one class no names will be mentioned. The character, spirit, and motives of these writers render further notice of them inconsistent with the purpose of our work.
The second class—not to be spoken of in the same connection with the former—-comprises men possessing, in not a few cases, valid claims to scholarship, to critical acumen and to great respectability of character. Foremost in this class may be placed De Wette, as he appears in his earlier writings, and Dr. Samuel Davidson, as he is seen in some of his later works. It is painful to add that it seems impossible to acquit even these authors of great occasional unfairness in their handling of the scriptures. 68
65 In the Sinaitic MS., "numerals are represented by letters, with a straight line placed over them."—Scrivener's Criticism of New Testament, p. 78.
66 Either, as Tischendorf also writes, [Greek]or else [Greek]. Alford writes, in full, [Greek],—See Revelation 13:18.
67 2 Samuel 8:3; 1 Chronicles 18:3.
68 See, under "Ethical Discrepancies—-Enemies treated," an instance from Baur, relative to Romans 12:20; also, one from De Wette, under "Historical Discrepancies—Anak's Sons' Fate."
It may be added that De Wette, as is generally admitted, during his latter years approximated to orthodoxy. On the contrary, Dr. Davidson's tendencies may be gathered from a comparison of the discussion of the Discrepancies, in his "Sacred Hermeneutics," pp. 516-611, with his treatment of the same, in Home's Introduction (tenth edition), Vol. ii. pp. 503-553. See, also, Dr. Davidson's Introduction to the Old Testament, throughout.
Next—but by a long interval—may stand the names of Strauss, Colenso, and Theodore Parker. One can scarcely read the productions of these three, and some others of their school, without the conviction that the animus of these writers is often felicitously expressed by the old Latin motto, slightly modified: "I will either find a discrepancy, or I will make one"-—Aut inveniam discrepantiam, aut faciam.
Certain rationalistic authors have a convenient method for disposing of answers to the objections adduced by them. They begin at once to talk loftily of the "higher criticism," and to deride the answers and solutions as "gratuitous assumptions."
"Pertness and ignorance," says Bishop Home, 69 "may ask a question in three lines which it will cost learning and ingenuity thirty pages to answer; and when this is done, the same question shall be triumphantly asked again the next year, as if nothing had ever been written on the subject." Often, when fairly answered and refuted, these authors remind us of the homely old maxim:
"A man convinced against his will, Is of the same opinion still."
A favorite exegetical principle adopted by some of these critics appears to be that similar events are necessarily identical. Hence, when they read that Abraham twice equivocated concerning his wife; 70 that Isaac imitated his example; 71 that David was twice in peril in a certain wilderness, 72 and twice spared Saul's life in a cave, 73 they instantly assume that in each case these double narratives are irreconcilable accounts of one and the same event. The absurdity of such a canon of criticism is obvious from the fact that history is fall of events which more or less closely resemble one another. Take, as a well-known example, the case of the two Presidents Edwards, father and son. Both were named Jonathan Edwards, and were the grandsons of clergymen. "Both were pious in their youth, were distinguished scholars, and were tutors for equal periods in the colleges where they were respectively educated. Both were settled in the ministry as successors to their maternal grandfathers, were dismissed on account of their religious opinions, and were again settled in retired country towns, over congregations singularly attached to them, where they had leisure to pursue their favorite studies, and to prepare and publish their valuable works. Both were removed from
69 Works, i. 392 (London edition, 4 vols. 1831).
70 Genesis 12:19; 20:2.
71 Genesis 26:7.
72 1 Samuel 23:19; 26:1.
73 1 Samuel 24:6; 26:9.
these stations to become presidents of colleges, and both died shortly after their respective inaugurations; the one in the fifty-sixth, and the other in the fifty-seventh year of his age; each having preached, on the first Sabbath of the year of his death, on the text: 'This year thou shalt die."' 74
Now, let these circumstances be submitted for the consideration of rationalistic critics, and the probable decision will be that there was but one Jonathan Edwards.
We thus see that, if critics dared to tamper with the facts of secular, as they do with those of sacred history, they would justly incur the ridicule of all well-informed persons. Men clamor for the treatment of the Bible like any other book, yet treat it as they dare not treat another book. Herein lies the inconsistency of much of the current criticism; particularly of that "higher criticism" of which we hear so much.
The following case illustrates a spirit and practice not seldom exhibited by certain authors: "A Swedish traveller, in looking through Voltaire's library, found Calmet's Commentary, with slips of paper inserted, on which the difficulties noticed by Calmet were set down, without a word about the solutions which were given by him. 'This,' adds the Swede, who was otherwise a great admirer of Voltaire, was not honorable.'" "Our modern critics," continues Hengstenberg, 75 "have adopted exactly the same line of conduct."
We cannot but concur in the judgment couched in this and the following quotations.
Prof. Henry Rogers, 76 criticising Strauss's Life of Jesus, says it ought to be entitled, "A collection of all the difficulties and discrepancies which honest criticism has discovered, and perverted ingenuity has imagined, in the four evangelists."
Again, alluding to Strauss's objections, "The paraded discrepancies are frequently assumed; sometimes even manufactured." This criticism is supported by several illustrations from the German author, and is as applicable to his "New Life of Jesus," as to his earlier work.
The learned translator of Bleek 77 severely, yet fitly, designates the course pursued by certain authors as that "exaggeration of difficulties, that ostentatious parading of grounds of suspicion, which so painfully characterize much of the
74 See Memoir prefixed to Works of Edwards the younger, p. xxxiv. Observe that no one of the above cases bears, in respect to points of coincidence, worthy comparison with this unquestioned instance in modern times.
75 Genuineness of Pent. i. 47.
76 Reason and Faith, pp. 424, 427 (Boston edition).
77 Preface to Introduction to Old Testament.
later biblical criticism, and not unwarrantably give rise to the question whether there be not some secret ground of malevolence, some unacknowledged, but most influential desire to find reasons for an already existing unbelief, to account for the bitter and determined hostility with which the books are treated."
It is a lamentable fact that there is abroad in the world, and bearing the name of Christianity, a spirit which, as Canon Wordsworth 78 well says, "speaks fair words of Christ, and yet it loves to invent discrepancies, and to imagine contradictions in the narratives which his apostles and evangelists delivered of his birth, his temptation, his miracles, his agony, his sufferings, his resurrection, and ascension." We refrain from characterizing that Christianity which seeks to disparage its own sacred books, and to undermine its own foundation.
Such are the spirit and methods of much of the sceptical criticism—-even of the so-called "higher criticism"-—of our day.
A careful and protracted examination of the works of numerous authors, who from various positions and under various pretences assail the Bible, warrants, as neither unjust nor uncharitable, the remark that a large portion of then alleged "discrepancies" are purely subjective—originating, primarily, not in the sacred books, but in the misguided prejudices and disordered imagination of the critic.
We might also have adduced the very great compression of the narrative as a fruitful source of apparent incongruities. Such was the condensation which the writers were constrained to employ, that, in any given case, only a few of the more salient circumstances could be introduced. Had the sacred historians undertaken to relate every circumstance, the Bible, instead of being comprised in a single volume, would have filled many volumes, and would consequently have proved unwieldy, and well nigh useless to mankind.
If "the world itself could not contain the books" which should minutely detail all our Savior's acts, 79 how much less could it "contain" those which should narrate circumstantially the history of all the important personages mentioned in the scriptures.
We thus see that, with reference to any given event, a host of minute particulars have dropped from the knowledge of mankind, and are lost beyond recovery. Hence, in many instances, the thread of the narrative is not simply not obvious, but can only be recovered, if at all, by prolonged and searching scrutiny. That circumstances, combined in so fragmentary and disconnected a manner, should sometimes appear incompatible, is a fact too familiar to need illustration.
78 Preface to Greek Four Gospels, p. viii.
79 John 21:25.
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