Biblical Contradictions #1

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Resolving Bible Errors?

The honest assessment on attempting to resolve biblical contradictions seems very desperate to validate a person’s worldview. Although, I agree that atheists or anti-Christians wrongly render some verses as contradictions found in Proverbs or Jesus’ statements. However, it seems in certain verses, these opponents of the faith are correct. As spiritual and serious believers, we should cease in affirming fundamentalism (e.g. inerrancy) as evidence for the Christian faith. There are better alternatives to affirming the faith instead of trying to prove an inerrant book, because some faiths already profess similar claims to inerrancy. Objectively, there are better manners to converting a person than imposing an impossible standard to the Bible. If the Bible were meant to be inerrant and non-ambiguous, then it shouldn’t need us to resolve contradictions within its own composition. The Bible should be self-evident in its inerrancy and simplicity, except this isn’t the case as the apostle Peter would profess that Paul’s epistles are hard to fathom (2nd Peter 3:15). And the apostle Peter had all the letters of Paul, so this proves the perspicuity of scripture is false. Fundamentalism shouldn’t be a system of thought for Christianity, but theopneusticism. I won’t explain this alternative system of thought in this post yet in another post. This post is simply a demonstration of refuting certain verses Protestants of fundamentalism attempt to resolve.

Saul Seeks Guidance — or not?

The king of Israel (Saul) is said to have inquired the Lord for guidance according to the account of Samuel (1st Samuel 28:6). However, the account of Chronicles affirms the exact opposite in 1st Chronicles 10:14. The argument that most Protestants assert is that Saul didn’t seek the Lord persistently, but he sought the Lord momentarily. Of course, this argument would seem feasible in a dispute without the other opponent analyzing the text under scrutiny. They assert that the Hebrew word used for ‘inquire’ is shaal and the Hebrew word for ‘seek’ is darash. They argue that Saul inquired the Lord (shaal) but he didn’t seek the Lord persistently as darash suggests in Chronicles. Although this argument seems feasible to resolve a biblical contradiction, it is still potentially refutable under scrutiny.

The Greek Septuagint narratives for Saul’s actions on divination seem to indicate a notion that contradicts the claims of these fundamentalists. The LXX version of Samuel, being the most accurate (not perfect) and ancient manuscript, asserts that Saul actually sought the Lord persistently. The LXX version says that Saul asked the Lord by serious insistence in Samuel’s account. The Greek word used for ‘inquire’ in the LXX is eperotao, which conveys the idea of persistence in such an inquiry. Even one of the root words (erotao) for ‘eperotao’ expresses the idea of an earnest request. So no, King Saul sought the Lord intently and insistently.

However, most Protestants attempt to use the Hebrew Masoretic to affirm its accuracy over the Greek Septuagint, except the church fathers would disagree with their claims. The Hebrew Masoretic text not only is a more recent manuscript of the Old Testament, but it was also a manuscript that the Pharisees tampered with in order to discredit the mention of Jesus found in the OT scriptures. They added a false narrative in Isaiah 53 where the Promised One would be stricken by God, which was a means to prevent Christians from using their Jewish scriptures as proof for Jesus. The early Christians of their time didn’t believe Jesus was stricken by God, so early writers like Origen and Eusebius of Caesarea, who were aware of the various errors found in the Masoretic version, implored Christians to refrain from using the Jewish version due to its omissions and forgery. But evidently, most Protestants will deny this claim formulated due to their traditional bias, so I’ll argue against their resolved contradiction claim. Again, they try to use “shaal” to simply mean “to ask” but with no implication of persistence in the inquiry. However, this Hebrew word can be extended to mean “to ask insistently” or “to demand” which conveys the concept of persistence. Although, because the LXX is much more accurate, arguing the Hebrew in the Masoretic version isn’t crucial and authoritative as the LXX version. In other words, their claim to inerrancy and perfect coherence doesn’t convince my assessment of the two texts. The Greek Septuagint correlates with the Dead Sea scrolls more so than the Hebrew Masoretic text, so most probably the LXX version is more accurate in its King Saul narrative even if ‘shaal’ couldn’t extend to the meaning of demand.

Saul’s Death — himself or Philistines?

After he consults with the medium and the dead prophet Samuel, he engages battle with the Philistines. Although, in the story, he is overwhelmed by them and attempts to kill himself since his servant refused to murder his king. So then, Saul out of fear and stress kills himself in the account of 1st Samuel 31:4–6. We have one narrative that reveals the death of king Saul; however, another narrative contradicts this first narrative. The narrative in 2nd Samuel 21:11–13 says that King Saul was smitten or struck down by the Philistines. Some fundamentalists will argue that this can be interpreted as “Saul was defeated by the Philistines”. On the contrary, the most often and probable usage for nakah (i.e. the hebrew word for ‘smitten’) is typically translated as ‘smitten,’ ‘beaten down,’ or in very rare instances as ‘‘stabbed so as to merely wound’’. But the likely intent of the author was that Saul was struck down, and according to the 1st Samuel account, he is never killed or at least wounded. To say that Saul was merely defeated by the Philistines is speculative and less likely to be the case. If the author of 2nd Samuel meant that Saul was indirectly defeated or overwhelmed emotionally, then he should’ve used the Hebrew word chalushah instead of nakah. ‘Nakah’ conveys a physical beating more so than ‘chalushah’. If God divinely dictated the Bible, then the authors of the scriptures should have been careful in their terminologies.

Although, I have heard atheists use 2nd Samuel 1:8–10 to prove a valid contradiction within the biblical text, yet character statements wouldn’t suffice since it can be argued that the character intently fabricated Saul’s death. But as for distinct narratives contradicting one another, there is no way to redeem and resolve the text from its self-evident incoherence. Another narrative from the account of Chronicles asserts that not only did Saul commit suicide but God also imposed his death (1st Chronicles 10:4, 13–14). It seems unnecessary to express that God imposed his death while mentioning Saul’s successive suicide; however, others might argue that God determined the circumstances for the eventual death of Saul. Although, I would interject by asserting that God didn’t really have much influence in this situation. The most Yahweh did was allow for the potential victory of the Philistines against Saul’s soldiers. Honestly, this verse doesn’t serve as an effective contradiction to the first narrative mentioned in this post. But if we are to credit God (or Yahweh) for the fall of Saul due to His passive state, one could also credit Yahweh for the rise of constant evil in this world. If anyone desires Yahweh to be credited for Saul’s demise, then such a deity should also be logically blamed for the evils committed in this world. Fundamentalists shouldn’t credit God for the demise of Saul, because such an argument can also be applied to the present injustice in this world. If fundamentalists credit Yahweh for this personal tragedy, then atheists should be justified in blaming Yahweh for the evils that are allowed. This is the philosophical issue with fundamentalism; it compromises the dignity and character of God for complete certainty in the unknown. What a shame!

The Retributive Fire of Judgement

The most interesting contradiction I have witnessed is the retributive fire that consumes men till they vanish. In 2nd Kings 1:10, Elijah calls down fire from heaven so as to consume the men who were after him. The fire indeed killed many men that day. However, this expression of judgement is imitated by the devil in the book of Job. In the story of Job, God allows the Satan to tempt and even oppress Job with the misfortune of his children. As the Satan leaves, the servants of Job report that the fire of God killed the children of Job (Job 1:12–16). According to the narrative, the Satan kills Job’s children but the servants profess this to be the fire of God. We know that God didn’t manifest a fiery judgment on the children of Job. Then in the gospel of Luke, John and James inquire Jesus if they should send fire from heaven to consume the men who would not receive their message. And Jesus notably rebukes them by saying, “But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of” (Luke 9:55). Interesting. If it’s the will of Yahweh to consume men with fire who oppose Him or His servants, wouldn’t Jesus be in favor of such an act of destruction? If God is immutable, then His methods shouldn’t change in this matter. If God changes His mind in the New Covenant, why does He not permit the fiery judgement on those who despise the message since Jesus didn’t yet establish the New Covenant? It seems unlikely that God desires fire to consume His enemies. Otherwise, Jesus would’ve affirmed and encouraged such an act of consequential judgement.

The genuine answer is that Jesus didn’t consider the offer of John and James, because they were motivated by the wrong spirit. And if killing your enemies by the means of fire is rebuked in this instance, then arguably Elijah’s dealings with his enemies were also motivated by the wrong spirit. Yet one might argue, “How could someone abuse the power of God? God wouldn’t allow us to have our own power so as to abuse it!” Yet God gave us the power to speak, which we abuse for the detriment of others. Even the Corinthians are noted by Paul to be abusing their charismatic gifts since they lacked ecclesiastical order (1st Corinthians 14:1–28). The apostle Paul reveals that their prophetic gifts aren’t divinely dictated, but rather their gifts are subject to the control of the prophets (verse 32, 33). If believer’s retain control of their gifts, then Elijah as well had control of such a gift to call fire down from heaven. You might argue on why would Elijah have the gift to call fire down. There are two proposals: he had this ability to intimidate his enemies instead of intending to kill them, or this specific account concerning Elijah’s fire is not historically valid. If the prior interpretation is true, then why did Elijah flee from Jezebel’s threat on his life? If Elijah had the experience of Yahweh consuming his enemies, then it wouldn’t be logical and realistic for Elijah to flee for his life. Such an account is either poorly composed, or perhaps meant to be an allegorical lesson. The church fathers like Gregory of Nyssa and Origen (great theologians) would interpret these difficult instances found in scripture as allegorical instead of as literal.

If God wanted to kill His enemies for moral reasons, instead of consuming them in the worst manner, He would be better off depriving them of their life energy. Why? Because in this case, He would not be inflicting them unnecessary pain and cruel suffering. The method of fireworks and explosions would be rendered morally inferior compared the method of withdrawal. God cannot bestow evil except what is benevolent, and He can withdraw both the good and the evil. Why can God not tempt or deceive men? Because as I said prior, He cannot bestow what is detrimental, or what is considered as a misfortune to humans. The epistle of James even professes, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (1:17). Either God is the source of all benevolent qualities, or He is paradoxically retaining both the good and evil expressions of being. If hypothetically God inspired Peter to deprive the life energy of the supposed Christian couple, why then would God not impose a similar manner to the enemies of Elijah? It is quite noticeable that Jesus never consumed His enemies, and we, as believers, are called to imitate Christ in every way. If Christ is the supreme moral standard and He consumed no one in His earthly ministry, then for Peter to consume his enemies could be rendered as morally inferior and perhaps non-Christlike. This latter mention of Peter versus Jesus is disputable, but the fundamental point I’m asserting is that God could find better and alternative outcomes rather than settling for lesser and inferior outcomes. If God could deprive the life of others as the only better alternative rather than consuming them, then the consuming and retributive fire would be apathetic and impractical. If God truly despises the death of the wicked, why would He be comfortable or apathetic in cruelly killing others or tormenting them forever? The answer is He wouldn’t and He couldn’t unless you assume He is totally apathetic and morally impractical. It seems more probable that the method of cruelly killing and destroying is of the devil according to Jesus’ assessment (John 10:10). One could argue that God destroys both body and soul based on the reading of Matthew 10:28. However, if Jesus is the perfect representation of the Father, then either this translation about God’s punishment is incorrect, or Jesus is simply contradicting Himself. The verse for Matthew 10:28 can be rendered as, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, fear Him who can lose both soul and body in Gehenna”. I explain more on this verse in this post: “Reshaping the Christian Hell”. Conclusively, I wouldn’t consider the Old Testament to be an inerrant portray of who God is. The apostle John wrote of the spiritual ignorance of men, “No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known” (John 1:18). This is not to say they didn’t have any insight of God, but sometimes, their perception of God was distorted. Even Samuel as a young man couldn’t recognize the voice of the Lord according to the Old Testament (1st Samuel 3:7).

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George M. Garcia

George M. Garcia

A writer interested in theology and the supernatural. A Christian with divine experiences and a vast understanding of Scripture.