The Bible and the Value of
As Well As 30 Other Supposed "Scripture Contradictions"
Does the Bible Contain a Mathematical Error?
First Kings 7:23-26 and 2 Chronicles 4:2-5 describe a huge brass bowl built by King Solomon. If the diameter of this bowl was 10 cubits, then the circumference should have been 31.415926 cubits, not just 30 cubits. The circumference of a circle is found by taking the diameter times Pi. This apparent mathematical error may cause a Christian to doubt the accuracy of the Bible. The diameter of ten cubits is from "(outer) rim to (outer) rim" (1 Ki. 7:23), the way anyone would measure a circular object (points A and B in the diagram). The circumference of 30 cubits, however, may have been of the INNER circle, after subtracting the thickness of the brass (two handbreadths -- one for each side) from which the bowl was made. This would be the number needed to calculate the volume of water.
Substitute the length of a cubit (18 inches -- elbow to longest fingertip) for the letter C in the following formula, and solve for H since the two walls were "a hand breadth thick" (1 Ki. 7:26):
30C ÷ π + 2H = 10C
The width of your handbreadth will be the result. Thus, the INNER circle would have a circumference of 540 inches (30 x 18 inches) and an outside diameter of 180 inches. Since 540 / 3.14159 = 171.887 inches inside diameter, we know the difference between the two diameters is 8.113 inches which is two handbreadths of 4.05 inches each for the wall thickness of the molten sea.
Were "30 Cubits" the Inside Or Outside Circumference?
However, another possibility is that the 30-cubit circumference of the molten sea is the OUTSIDE circle. If that is the case, then 1 Kings 7:26 says the vessel in question had a brim which "was wrought like the brim of a cup, with flowers of lilies" (KJV), or a rim "like the rim of a cup, like a lily blossom" (NIV) -- the brim or rim turning outward, suggesting the curvature of a lily. The circumference of 30 cubits was measured with a line "round about" (1 Ki. 7:23). The most natural meaning of these words is that they refer to the circumference of the OUTSIDE of the main body of the tank, measured by a string pulled tightly around the vessel below the brim. It is very obvious that the diameter of the main body of the tank was less than the diameter of the top of the brim. And it is also obvious that the circumference of 30 cubits could have been measured at any point down the vertical sides of the vessel, below the brim. For a measured circumference of 30 cubits, we can calculate what the external diameter of the vessel would have been at that point from the formula:
circumference ÷ π = diameter; or 30 cubits ÷ 3.14 = 9.55 cubits.
Thus the external diameter of the vessel at the point where the circumference was measured must have been 9.55 cubits.
It is thus abundantly clear that the Bible does not defy geometry with regard to the value of pi, whether the circumference referred to is the INNER or OUTER circle. It does not say that pi equals 3.0. Skeptics who allege an inaccuracy are wrong, because they fail to take into account the LIP OF THE BRIM if its the OUTER circle; or the THICKNESS OF THE WALLS if its the INNER circle. The Bible is reliable, and seeming discrepancies vanish on closer examination.
1. Was Ahaziah 22 (2 Kings 8:26) or 42 (2 Chronicles 22:2) when he began to rule over Jerusalem?
Copies of originals are all we have today. Those who did the copying were prone to making two types of scribal errors. One concerned the spelling of proper names, and the other had to do with numbers. Ahaziah is said to have been 22 in 2 Kings 8:26; while in 2 Chronicles 22:2 Ahaziah is said to have been 42. Fortunately there is enough additional information in the Biblical text to show that the correct number is 22. Earlier in 2 Kings 8:17 we read that Ahaziah’s father Joram, the son of Ahab was 32 when he became King, and he died eight years later, at the age of 40. Therefore Ahaziah could not have been 42 when his father died at age 40, and 2 Kings 8:26 corrects the mistake. (Archer 1982:206 and Light of Life II 1992:201)
2. Was Jehoiachin 18 years old (2 Kings 24:8) or 8 years old (2 Chronicles 36:9) when he became king of Jerusalem?
When Jehoiachin was eight years old, perhaps his father made him co-regent, so that he could be trained in the responsibilities of leading a kingdom. Jehoiachin then became officially a king at the age of eighteen, upon his father’s death. This is one possibility. A more likely scenario, however, is that this is yet another case of scribal error, evidenced commonly with numbers. If the primary manuscript, from which a copy was being made, was blurred or smudged, one or more of the decadal notations could be missed by the copyist. It is far less likely that the copyist would have mistakenly seen an extra ten stroke that was not present in his original than that he would have failed to observe one that had been smudged.
(Archer 1982:206-207, 214-215, 222, 230; Nehls pg.17-18; Light of Life II 1992:204-205)
3. Did David capture 700 of King Zobah’s horsemen (2 Samuel 8:4), or was it 7,000 (1 Chronicles 18:4)?
Keil and Delitzsh (p. 360) maintain that the word for chariots (rekeb) was inadvertently omitted by the scribe in copying 2 Samuel 8:4, and that the second figure, 7,000 (for the parasim “cavalrymen”), was necessarily reduced to 700 from the 7,000 he saw since no one would write 7,000 after he had written 1,000 in recording one and the same figure. The omission of rekeb might have occurred with an earlier scribe, and a reduction from 7,000 to 700 would have then continued with the successive copies by later scribes. But in all probability the Chronicles figure is right and the Samuel numbers should be corrected to agree with that. A second solution starts from the premise that the number had been reduced to 700 as it refers to 700 rows, each consisting of 10 horse men, making a total of 7,000.
(Archer 1982:184: Keil & Delitzsch 1949:360; Light of Life II 1992:182)
4. Did Solomon have 40,000 stalls for his horses (1 Kings 4:26), or 4,000 stalls (2 Chronicles 9:25).
Perhaps the decadal number was rubbed out or distorted due to constant use. Perhaps the stalls mentioned in 2 Chronicles were large ones that housed 10 horses each (that is, a row of ten stalls). Therefore 4,000 of these large stalls would be equivalent to 40,000 small ones. Another possible solution is that the number of stalls recorded in 1 Kings was the number at the beginning of Solomon’s reign, whereas the number recorded in 2 Chronicles was the number of stalls at the end of his reign. We know that Solomon reigned for 40 years; no doubt, many changes occurred during this period. It is quite likely that he reduced the size of the military machine his father David had left him. (Light of Life II 1992:191)
5. According to the author, did Baasha, the king of Israel die in the 26th year of king Asa’s reign (1 Kings 15:33), or was he still alive in the 36th year ( 2 Chronicles 16:1)?
Perhaps the 36th year of Asa should be calculated from the withdrawal of the 10 tribes from Judah and Benjamin which brought about the division of the country into the Kingdoms of Judah and Israel. If we look at it from this perspective, the 36th year of the divided monarchy would be in the 16th year of Asa. This is supported by the Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel, as well as contemporary records, which follow this method. (see Archer, page 225-116). However, Keil and Delitzsch (pp. 366-367) preferred to regard the number 36 in 2 Chronicles 16:1 and the number 35 in 15:19 as a copyist’s error for 16 and 15, respectively. But in this case, the numbers were written using Hebrew alphabetical type (rather than the Egyptian multiple stroke type used in the Elephantine Papyri). It is therefore possible that the number 16 could be confused with 36. The reason for this is that up through the seventh century BC the letter yod (10) greatly resembled the letter lamed (30), except for two tiny strokes attached to the left of the main vertical strokes. It required only a smudge from excessive wear on this scroll to make the yod look like a lamed. Perhaps this error occurred first in 2 Chronicles 15:19 (with its 35 wrongly copied from an original 15); then to make it consistent in 16:1, the same scribe (or a later one) concluded that 16 must be an error for 36 and changed it accordingly on his copy. (Archer 1982:226: Keil & Delitzsch 1949:366-367; Light of Life II 1992:194)
6. Did Solomon appoint 3,600 overseers (2 Chronicles 2:2) for the work of building the temple, or was it only 3,300 (1 Kings 5:16)?
The sum of the officers and overseers is the same in both books: In the book of Kings, officers -- 550 (1 Ki. 9:23) plus overseers -- 3,300 (1 Ki. 5:16) = 3,850. Whereas in the book of Chronicles, officers -- 250 (2 Chr. 8:10) plus overseers -- 3,600 (2 Chr. 2:18) = 3,850. Apparently there were people qualified for both titles -- who could perform the duties of either job well. (Haley, Alleged Discrepancies, p. 383)
7. Did Solomon build a bronze pool containing 2,000 baths (1 Kings 7:26), or over 3,000 baths (2 Chronicles 4:5)?
The Hebrew verb rendered “contained” and “held” is different from that translated “received”; and the meaning may be that the pool ordinarily contained 2,000 baths. But when filled to its full capacity it received and held 3,000 baths. Thus the chronicler simply mentions the amount of water that would make the pool like a flowing spring rather than a still pool. This informs us that 3,000 baths of water were required to completely fill the "molten sea" which usually held 2,000 baths. Perhaps an alternate solution is that the number in Hebrew lettering for 2000 has been confused by a scribe with a similar alphabetical number for the number 3,000.
Incidentally, if the pool had a diameter of 10 cubits, how is it possible to have a circumference of 30 cubits as the text says? Since ‘pi’ dictates that it would have a circumference of 31.416 or a 9.549 diameter, we must conclude that it was about 8cm thick and had a rim shaped like a lily as the text acdtually says. Therefore it depends on where you measure from. The top or bottom of the rim or the inside or outside for the bronze pool would all give a different diameter; and depending on whether you measure at the top of the rim or at the narrower point, you would get a different circumference. (Haley pg. 382; Light of Life II 1992:192)
8. Are the numbers of Israelites freed from Babylonian captivity correct in Ezra (Ezra 2:6, 8, 12, 15, 19, 28) or in Nehemiah (Nehemiah 7:11, 13, 17, 20, 22, 32)?
In chapter 2 of Ezra and in chapter 7 of Nehemiah there are about thirty-three family units that appear in both lists of Israelites returning from Babylon to Judea. Of these 33 family units listed in Ezra and Nehemiah, nineteen of the family units are identical, while fourteen show discrepancies in the number of members within the family units. Two of the discrepancies differ by 1, one differs by 4, two by 6, two differ by 9, another differs by 11, another two by 100, another by 201, another differs by 105, a further family differs by 300, and the largest difference is the figure for the sons of Azgad, a difference of 1,100 between the accounts of Ezra 2 and Nehemiah 7.
How do we account for the 14 discrepancies? One factor to consider is that although members of the units or families had enrolled their names at first as intending to go; in the interval of preparation, some possibly died, others were prevented by sickness or other insurmountable obstacles, so that the final number who actually went was not the same as those who had intended to go. Anyone who has planned a school trip can understand how typical this scenario this really is. A second factor is the different circumstances in which the two registers were taken. Ezra’s register was made up while still in Babylon (in the 450s BC), before the return to Jerusalem (Ezra 2:1-2), whereas Nehemiah’s register was drawn up in Judea (around 445 BC), after the walls of Jerusalem had been rebuilt (Nehemiah 7:4-6). The lapse of so many years between the two lists (between 5-10 years) would certainly make a difference in the numbers of each family through death or by other causes. Most scholars believe that Nehemiah recorded those people who actually arrived at Jerusalem under the leadership of Zerubbabel and Jeshua in 537 or 536 BC (Nehemiah 7:7). Ezra, on the other hand, uses the earlier list of those who originally announced their intention to join the caravan of returning colonists back in Babylon, in the 450s BC.
Only clans or city-group’s came in with a shrunken numbers. All the rest picked up last-minute recruits varying from one to 1,100. When we look at the names we find that certain names are mentioned in alternate forms. Among the Jews of that time (as well as those living in the East), a person had a name, title, and surname. Thus, the children of Hariph (Nehemiah 7:24) are the children of Jorah (Ezra 2:18), while the children of Sia (Nehemiah 7:47) are also the children of Siaha (Ezra 2:44).
When we take all these factors into consideration, the differences in totals that do appear in these two tallies should occasion no surprise whatsoever. The same sort of arbitration and attrition has featured every large migration in human history. (Archer 1982:229-230 and Light of Life II 1992:219-220)
9. Both Ezra 2:64 and Nehemiah 7:66 agree that the totals for the whole assembly was 42,360, yet when the totals are added, Ezra – 29,818 and Nehemiah – 31,089?
Ezra's sum total is 29,818; Nehemiah's sum total is 31,089. Nehemiah mentions 1765 persons omitted by Ezra and Ezra mentions 494 persons omitted by Nehemiah. But when we add Ezra's sum total to Nehemiah's surplus it equals Nehemiah's sum total added to Ezra's surplus. That is 29818 + 1765 = 31089 + 494 = 31583. If from the whole amount, given by both authors, 42,360, we deduct 31,583, the remainder is 10777 omitted because they did not belong to Judah and Benjamin, or to the priests, but to other tribes.
10. Was Jacob (Matthew 1:16) or Heli (Luke 3:23) the father of Joseph and husband of Mary?
Matthew gives the genealogy of Joseph and Luke gives that of Mary, making Jacob the father of Joseph and Heli the father of Mary. This is shown by the two narrations of the virgin birth. Matthew 1:18-25 tells the story only from Joseph’s perspective, while Luke 1:26-56 is told wholly from Mary’s point of view. But why is Joseph mentioned in both genealogies? Because Luke follows strict Hebrew tradition in mentioning only males. Therefore, in this case, Mary is designated by her husband’s name. This reasoning is clearly supported by two lines of evidence. In the first, every name in the Greek text of Luke’s genealogy, with the one exception of Joseph, is preceded by the definite article (e.g. ‘the’ Heli, ‘the’ Matthat). Although not obvious in English translations, this would strike anyone reading the Greek, who would realize that it was tracing the line of Joseph’s wife, even though his name was used. The second line of evidence is the Jerusalem Talmud, a Jewish source. This recognizes the genealogy to be that of Mary, referring to her as the daughter of Heli (Hagigah 2:4). (Fruchtenbaum 1993:10-13)
11. Did Jesus descend from Solomon (Matthew 1:6) or from Nathan (Luke 3:31), both of whom are sons of David?
Having shown that Matthew gives Joseph’s genealogy and Luke gives that of Mary, it is clear that Joseph was descended from David through Solomon and Mary through Nathan.
12. Which son of Zerubbabel was an ancestor of Jesus Christ, Abiud (Matthew 1:13) or Rhesa (Luke 3:27), and what about Zerubbabel in (1 Chronicles 3:19-20)?
Two different Shealtiels necessitates two different Zerubbabels, so it is no problem that their sons had different names. It should not surprise us that there was a Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel in both Mary’s and Joseph’s ancestry. Matthew tells us that Joseph’s father was named Jacob. Of course, the Bible records another Joseph son of Jacob, who rose to become the second most powerful ruler in Egypt (Genesis 37-47). We see no need to suggest that these two men are one and the same, so we should have no problem with two men named Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel. The Zerubbabel mentioned in 1 Chronicles 3:19,20 could easily be a third. This causes no problem: there are several Marys mentioned in the Gospels, because it was a common name. The same may be true here. This Zerubbabel would then be a cousin of the one mentioned in Matthew 1:12,13.
13. Were there fourteen (Matthew 1:17) or thirteen (Matthew 1:12-16) generations from the Babylonian exile until Christ?
There are only 41 names mentioned in Matthew's geneology. The genealogy of Matthew 1:11 records that "Josiah begot Jeconiah." However, 1 Chron. 3:15-16 says, "The sons of Josiah...the second Jehoiakim...and the sons of Jehoiakim: Jeconiah his son." One generation—Jehoiakim—was omitted from the genealogy of Christ. This must have been because he was made king by Pharaoh of Egypt and collected taxes for Pharaoh (2 Kings 23:34-35). Thus, the 3 groupings of 14 generations would include: 1. Abraham to David; 2. Solomon to Jehoiakim (he is not mentioned, but was among the first to be carried off into Babylon); 3. Jeconiah to Jesus. As Matthew clearly states (1:17), there were fourteen. In the first section there are fourteen names, in the second fourteen and in the third, fourteen. They add up to 42 names.
14. John the Baptist was (Matthew 11:14; 17:10-13) or was not Elijah to come (John 1:19-21)?
The priests and Levites came to John the Baptist and asked him if he was Elijah. "Art thou Elijah And he said, I am not" (John 1:21). John was about 30 years when he was asked this question. His parents were already dead; he was the only son of Zechariah from the tribe of Levi. So when asked if he was Elijah who ascended up into heaven about 878 years earlier, the answer was obviously “No, I am not Elijah.” Jesus also testified about John not being Elijah in Matthew 11:11 where he said that John was greater than all people who have ever been born. Moses was greater than Elijah, but John was greater than them both. So what did Jesus mean when he said of John “he is the Elijah who was to come”? The angel Gabriel spoke to Zechariah of his son, John, who was not yet born, saying “he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous – to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (Luke 1:17) The Angel referred to two prophecies, Isaiah 40:3-5 (see Luke 3:4-6 to see this applied again to John the Baptist) and Malachi 4:5-6, which says “See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers”. Gabriel unmistakably says that John is the “Elijah” whom God foretold through Malachi the prophet. So, was John Elijah? No. But had the priests and Levites asked him, “Are you the one the prophet Malachi speaks of as ‘Elijah’?” John would have responded affirmatively. Jesus in Matthew 17:11-13 says that the prophecy of Malachi is true, but Elijah had already come. He says that this “Elijah” suffered, like he, Jesus will suffer; “the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist“. Therefore, once we understand the context it is clear; John was not the literal Elijah, but he was the Elijah that the prophecy spoke of, the one who was to (and did) prepare the way for the Messiah, Jesus, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”, John 1:29.
15. Jesus would (Luke 1:32) or would not (Matthew 1:11; 1 Chronicles 3:16 & Jeremiah 36:30) inherit David’s throne?
Having shown that Matthew’s genealogy is that of Joseph, it is obvious from Jeremiah 36:30 that none of Joseph’s physical descendants were qualified to sit on David’s throne as he himself was descended from Jeconiah. However, as Matthew makes clear, Jesus was not a physical descendant of Joseph. After having listed Joseph’s genealogy with the problem of his descendance from Jeconiah, Matthew narrates the story of the virgin birth. Thus he proves how Jesus avoids the Jeconiah problem and remains able to sit on David’s throne. Luke, on the other hand, shows that Jesus’ true physical descent was from David apart from Jeconiah, thus fully qualifying him to inherit the throne of his father David. The announcement of the angel in Luke 1:32 completes the picture: ‘the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David’. This divine appointment, together with his physical descent, make him the only rightful heir to David’s throne.
16. Jesus rode into Jerusalem on one colt (Mark 11:7; cf. Luke 19:35 & John 12:14-15), or a colt and an ass (Matthew 21:7)?
Mark, Luke and John are all in agreement that Jesus sat on the colt. Jesus couldn't ride on two animals at once! So, why does Matthew mention two animals? The reason is clear. We read Matthew quoting two prophecies from the Old Testament (Isaiah 62:11 and Zechariah 9:9) together. Matthew says: “Say to the Daughter of Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gently and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey’.” (Matthew 21:5) By saying “a donkey” and then “on a colt, the foal of a donkey”, Zechariah is using classic Hebrew sentence structure known as “parallelism”, simply repeating the same thing again in another way, as a parallel statement. This is very common in the Bible. Psalm 119:105 mentions, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” It is clear that there is only one animal referred to. Therefore Matthew clearly says Jesus rode only on a colt, in agreement with the other three Gospel writers. So why does Matthew say that the colt and its mother were brought along in verse seven? The reason is simple. Matthew, who was an eyewitness (where as Mark and Luke were quite possibly not) emphasizes the immaturity of the colt, too young to be separated from its mother. As the colt had never been ridden the probability was that it was still dependent on its mother. It would have made the entry to Jerusalem easier if the mother donkey were led along down the road, as the foal would naturally follow her, even though he had never before carried a rider and had not yet been trained to follow a roadway. Here again we see that there is no contradiction between the synoptic accounts, but only added detail on the part of Matthew as one who viewed the event while it was happening. This is just one of many of the prophecies that Jesus fulfilled. He fulfilled ones that were in his control as well as ones which he could not manipulate, such as the time and place of his birth (Daniel 9:24-26, Micah 5:1-2, Matthew 2:1-6), and his resurrection (Psalm 16:10, Acts 2:24-32) to name but two.
17. Jesus allowed (Mark 6:8), or did not allow (Matthew 10:9; Luke 9:3) his disciples to take a staff on their journey?
In Matthew we read the English translation of the Greek word “ktesthe“, which is rendered in the King James translation as “Provide neither gold, nor silver nor yet staves”. According to a Greek dictionary this word means “to get for oneself, to acquire, to procure, by purchase or otherwise” (Robinson, Lexicon of the New Testament). Therefore in Matthew Jesus is saying “Do not procure anything in addition to what you already have. Just go as you are.” Matthew 10 and Mark 6 agree that Jesus directed his disciples to take along no extra equipment. Luke 9:3 agrees in part with the wording of Mark 6:8, using the verb in Greek, (“take“); but then, like Matthew adds “no staff, no bag, no bread, no money”. But Matthew 10:10 includes what was apparently a further clarification: they were not to acquire a staff as part of their special equipment for the tour. Mark 6:8 seems to indicate that this did not necessarily involve discarding any staff they already had as they traveled the country with Jesus.
18. John the Baptist did (Matthew 3:13-14) or did not (John 1:32-33) recognize Jesus before his baptism?
John’s statement in John 1:33 that he would not have known Jesus except for seeing the Holy Spirit alight on him and remain, can be understood to mean that John would not have known for sure without this definite sign. John was filled with the Holy Spirit from before his birth (Luke 1:15) and we have record of an amazing recognition of Jesus even while John was in his mother’s womb. Luke 1:41-44 relates that when Mary visited John’s mother, the sound of her greeting prompted John, then still in the womb, to leap in recognition of Mary’s presence, as the mother of the Lord. From this passage we can also see that John’s mother had some knowledge about who Jesus would be. It is very likely that she told John something of this as he was growing up (even though it seems that she died while he was young). In the light of this prior knowledge and the witness of the Holy Spirit within John, it is most likely that this sign of the Holy Spirit resting on Jesus was simply a sure confirmation of what he already thought. God removed any doubt.
19. John the Baptist did (John 1:32-33) or did not (Matthew 11:2) recognize Jesus after his baptism?
John recognised Jesus (John 1:29-36). Matthew 11:2 takes place later, and many things have happened in the interum. John did not know exactly what form Jesus’ ministry would take. We are told from Matthew 3:11,12 some of what John knew: “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing-floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” This is the classic portrayal of the Messiah as the CONQUERING KING who would bring God’s judgement on all those who reject him, bringing peace and justice to those who follow him. John obviously understood this. However, the Messiah was also portrayed in the scriptures as a SUFFERING SERVANT who would suffer on behalf of God’s people. This is shown clearly in Isaiah 53, especially verse 12: “For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors”. John also understood this, when he said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29) But how did the two visions of the Messiah dove-tail? Many thought that the Messiah would bring his terrible judgement as soon as he came. In fact, this will occur when he returns again (his return is alluded to in Acts 1:11, for example). Some were confused, therefore, by Jesus’ reluctance to act as a military leader and release the nation of Israel from Roman oppression at that time. This confusion is illustrated by Luke 24:13-33, where Jesus spoke with two of his followers on the road to Emmaus after his resurrection. They were initially kept from recognising him (v.16). They told him how they “had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel” (v.21). They were correct in this hope, but failed to understand the first stage in God’s redemptive process. Jesus corrected their misunderstanding in v. 25,26: “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” (emphasis added) It is most likely that a similar misunderstanding prompted John’s question in Matthew 11:2. After expecting Jesus to oust the Romans and restore the kingdom of Israel as in the days of king David, instead he had seen Jesus ‘teach and preach in the towns of Galilee’ (Matthew 11:1), with no mention of a military campaign. John surely wondered what had gone wrong: had he misunderstood the Messiah’s role, or perhaps he had made a bigger mistake in thinking Jesus was the Messiah. Jesus’ answer in Matthew 11:4-6 makes it clear: “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.” These activities were Messianic prerogatives, as foretold by Isaiah 29:18; 35:5,6; 61:1-3. Although John’s disillusionment was a natural human reaction, he had been right the first time. Jesus ended his reply with an exhortation to John not to give up hope.
20. When Jesus bears witness to himself, is his testimony not true (John 5:31) or is his testimony true (John 8:14)?
“If I testify about myself, my testimony is not valid” (John 5:31) seems to contradict “Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid” (John 8:14). To the first could be added "in the eyes of men" and to the second could be added "because I am God, not man." In John 5 Jesus is speaking about how he cannot claim on his own to be the Messiah nor the Son of God, unless he has corroborating witnesses. That is, without fulfilling the prophecies spoken in the Old Testament. But as Jesus did fulfil them and was proclaimed to be the Messiah by John the Baptist who the prophets also spoke of as heralding the way for the Messiah, then Jesus was indeed who he claimed to be, the Son of God. Jesus says of the Jewish scriptures which his listeners studied diligently, “These are the Scriptures that testify about me”. In John 8, Jesus once again claimed to be the Messiah by quoting Old Testament Messianic prophecies and applying them to himself (John 8:12, Isaiah 9:2, Malachi 4:2). “Then some Pharisees challenged him, ‘Here you are, appearing as your own witness; your testimony is not valid’.” Verse 13. Jesus responded, “Yes it is”. Why? Because the Pharisees were using a law from Deuteronomy 19:15 which says “One witness is not enough to convict a man accused of any crime or offense he may have committed. A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.” Yet the testimony of one man was valid – however not enough to convict, but enough when used in defense to bring an acquittal. Jesus replied, “Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid” He was not lying to them; he was the sinless Messiah of God. Therefore his word could be trusted. However, it is a good principle not to believe just anyone who claims to be the Messiah. Any claimant must have proof. Therefore the second thing Jesus goes on to state in John 8 is that he has these witnesses too, the witnesses that the Pharisees were asking for. “I am one who testifies for myself; my other witness is the Father who sent me.” Verse 18. The same proclamation as in John 5 that he was fulfilling the prophecies that they knew.
21. Did Peter deny Christ three times before the cock crowed (John 13:38), or three times before the cock crowed twice (Mark 14:30, 72)?
The Mishnah, the earliest compilation of rabbinic oral law, states that roosters (chickens) may not be raised in Jerusalem due to purity concerns (m. Baba Kama 7.7; see also b. Baba Kama 82b). This decree comes from the first century, when the Temple stood in Jerusalem. So, if roosters were not permitted to be raised in Jerusalem, no cock crowed at all.
The Greek term, alektor (Luke 22:34), which means, “cock,” can also mean “man, husband.” Thus, one can read the Greek of the Gospels as “the man will not cry out today before you deny three times that you know me.” This indicates that the Gospels did not mistakenly place a rooster in Jerusalem when roosters were not allowed to be raised in the city, but it does not answer the question as to what Jesus referred.
The ancient Jewish sources offer a solution. In describing the activities that went on in the Jerusalem Temple, the Mishnah references a specific time in the early morning: “He that was minded to clean the altar of ashes rose up early and immersed himself before the officer came. At what time did he come? Not always at the same time. Sometimes he came at cockcrow and sometimes a little sooner or later” (emphasis added; m. Tamid 1.2; see also m. Yoma 1.8; m. Sukkah 5.4). “Cockcrow” refers to a time early in the morning when the priests began to prepare the Temple for the daily visitors: “Every day they used to remove the ashes from off the altar at cockcrow, or near to it, either before it or after it” (m. Yoma 1.8). And it does not mean a rooster crow, but rather the blast from a trumpet at the Temple that announced the time: “At cockcrow they blew a sustained, a quavering, and another sustained blast” (m. Sukkah 5.4). In other words, cockcrow refers to a time early in the morning when a trumpet signaled the beginning of the day for work in the Temple.
The Hebrew expression for “cockcrow” is kerot hagever (lit. “the call of the cock”). The Hebrew word gever, translated as cock, also means “man,” like the Greek alektor. The Gospels, then, preserve the Jewish-Hebrew manner for speaking of the trumpet blast sounded from the Temple that announced to the priests it was time to begin preparing the Temple for the day. Jesus did not refer to a random rooster, but rather a specific time in the morning, which Peter would have understood. The Gospels also offer the earliest witness mentioning cockcrow in Jerusalem.
Excavations along the southwestern corner of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem uncovered a stone bearing a Hebrew inscription “to the place (lit. house) of trumpeting.” Scholars have suggested that this stone marked an area on the southwestern corner of the Temple Mount, facing towards the city, where priests would blow the trumpets announcing the different times of the day and week (see Josephus, War 4.582). It seems reasonable that this stone marked the location from which cockcrow sounded.
The accusation is that Jesus says to Peter “the cock will not crow (priest finish blowing twice) till you have denied me three times” (John 13:38) and also “Before the cock crows twice (priest finishes blowing twice) you will deny me three times” (Mark 14:30). As the King James translation has it, the cock crowed (priest started blowing) prior to Peter’s third denial in Mark. But finished blowing after. The prediction in John didn't fail either since "cock crow" encompasses the priest blowing twice before it is finished. Matthew 26:33-35, 74-75 “before the cock crows you will disown me three times” Luke 22:31-34, 60-62 “before the cock crows today, you will deny three times that you know me” John 13:38 “before the cock crows, you will disown me three times” Mark is therefore the most specific and accurate of the four.
22. Jesus did (John 19:17) or did not (Matthew 27:31-32) bear his own cross?
John 19:17 states that he went out carrying his own cross to the place of the skull. Matthew 27:31,32 tells us that he was led out to be crucified and that it was only as they were going out to Golgotha that Simon was forced to carry the cross. Mark 15:20,21 agrees with Matthew and gives us the additional information that Jesus started out from inside the palace (Praetorium). As Simon was on his way in from the country, it is clear that he was passing by in the street. This implies that Jesus carried his cross for some distance, from the palace into the street. Weak from his floggings and torture, it is likely that he either collapsed under the weight of the cross or was going very slowly. In any case, the soldiers forced Simon to carry the cross for him. Luke 23:26 is in agreement, stating that Simon was seized as they led Jesus away. Jesus started out carrying the cross and Simon took over at some point during the journey.
23. Should we obey men (Heb. 13:17) or obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29)? Do men have a right to bind and loose (Matt. 16:19; 18:18; John 20:23) or don't they (Matt. 23:8)?
Christians should not be "called Rabbi (Master; Teacher): for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren" (Matt. 23:8). We should only "Obey them that have the rule" (Heb. 13:17) over us to the extent that they are within Scriptural guidelines. When they step outside those boundaries, "We ought to obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29) when the two disagree. That is why it is so important to search "the scriptures daily, whether those things" are so (Acts 17:11) that come from the pulpit. When Christians join a church group as laymen, they must constantly beware of what is bound and loosed. The 1995 revision of the New American Standard Bible does a good job translating Matthew 16:19 and 18:18. “Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven" (NASB, Matt. 18:18). The Greek text in the phrase that most versions translate as, “will be bound in heaven” does not have a simple future tense, as “will be” implies, and the verb “bind” is passive in the Greek text, so “shall have been bound” or “must have been bound” are good translations of the Greek. [The “to be” verb in Matthew 18:18 is a future passive periphrastic perfect indicative. A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament (Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1930), p. 149.] An excellent translation of Matthew 18:18 was done by Charles Williams. "I solemnly say to you, whatever you forbid on earth must be already forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth must be already permitted in heaven.” (Williams', Matt. 18:18). Julius R. Mantey, the Greek grammarian and scholar who co-authored A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament, wrote that Williams’ translation did a better job of translating the Greek verb into English than any other New Testament he had studied, and he gave Matthew 16:19 and 18:18 as examples of verses that Williams translated very well. Once Matthew 16:19 and 18:18 are properly translated, we have clear teaching on how to act before God. It is not that we bind or loose and then God backs up what we do. It is God who first binds or looses in heaven, and then we follow His leading and do the same on earth. God’s ministers do not make commands that God must approve and follow. Rather, God’s ministers must become aware of what God wants done, and then follow His lead. Jesus himself worked that way, as Scripture makes clear: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does" (John 5:19). "By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me" (John 5:30).
"I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me" (John 8:28). Jesus’ disciples, like Jesus himself, are to follow God’s leading, as the correct translation of Matthew 16:19 and 18:18 makes clear. The binding and loosing is repeated by Jesus to all the disciples (18:18). Later after the Resurrection Christ will use this same language to all the disciples (John 20:23), showing that it was not a special prerogative of Peter alone, or some imaginary papal successor
24. Does God reveal the truth (John 18:20) or conceal the truth (Mark 4:11-12) from the majority of mankind?
God (not Satan) "hath NOT given you an heart to perceive, eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day” (Deuteronomy 29:4). After Ephraim sinned, God said: “For with STAMMERING lips and ANOTHER TONGUE will I speak to this people. The WORD of the Eternal was upon them precept upon precept; line upon line, here a little, and there a little (this sounds like the way in which the Bible is written today) THAT THEY MIGHT GO (not come), and FALL BACKWARD (not be rescued), and BE BROKEN and SNARED AND TAKEN ”(Isaiah 28:11,13). Because they rejected knowledge (Hosea 4:6), GOD BLINDED THEM so they would continue to sin and suffer its consequences. “Because they had not executed my judgments . . . have polluted my sabbaths . . . therefore I GAVE THEM ALSO STATUTES THAT WERE NOT GOOD AND JUDGMENTS WHEREBY THEY SHOULD NOT LIVE.” (Ez. 20:24-25). God gave them other laws by which THEY SHOULD NOT LIVE! Statutes that would bring death --“the statutes of the heathen and of the kings of Israel.” (2 Kings17:8; Acts 7:42). God has actually given the attitude of a wild animal to Gentiles because they would not accept him as supreme ruler (Daniel 4:16-17 and Romans 1:28). Our Lord said, “Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but unto them (the vast majority) that are without, all these things are done in parables: that seeing they may see and NOT perceive; and hearing they may hear and NOT understand” (Mark 4:11-12). “As they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a REPROBATE MIND . . . being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness . . . full of envy” (Romans1.28-29). Again, “For God hath concluded them (all mankind) all in unbelief that he may have mercy on all,” (Romans 11:32). “Even so at this present time there is a REMNANT (just a remnant) according to the ELECTION OF GRACE” (Romans 11:5). A FEW were truly converted, but “the REST (the VAST MAJORITY) were BLINDED” (Rom. 11:7). The same is true today: the few, whosoever will, may come to God, but the vast majority won’t because they are blinded to God’s truth by thinking their ways are better. Jesus never once said that everyone is in this age called to salvation. Paul said: “Not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.” (1 Cor. 1:26) . "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day" (John 6:44) to immortality (1 Corinthians 15:50-54). “MANY shall follow their (the false teachers) pernicious ways,”-- the MANY-- not the few! (2 Peter 2:1-2). "BROAD is the WAY that leadeth to destruction”, (Matt. 7:13). "But the wicked will do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand" (Dan. 12:10). Most people today are IN BABYLON! Remember, it is Babylon THE GREAT-- not Babylon the small, Revelation 17:2; 18:4. Only a relatively small number will receive salvation in this age. These will be used to teach, rule, and judge those called later, (Revelation 1:6; 2:27; 3:21; 1 Cor. 6:2). “And he will DESTROY in this mountain the face of the COVERING CAST OVER ALL PEOPLE, and the VAIL THAT IS SPREAD OVER ALL NATIONS,” (Isaiah 25 :7) causing a great fall harvest. God has allotted six thousand years to mankind here on this earth (2 Peter 3:8) in which he can try out all methods of living which HE THINKS will bring happiness. history records his poor attempt to rule himself without God’s help. "And the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Eternal", (Isaiah 11:9). God will cleanse the people and give them a new heart and a new spirit, and cause them to walk in his statutes and judgments, (Ezekiel 36:25-27). God's principles never change. Applied to this millennial "week," God has said to Satan, in effect: "Six 'days' shalt thou labor and do all thy work (of counterfeiting), but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God; in it thou shalt not do any work." He shall be chained, restrained, thrown into the symbolic "bottomless pit" (Rev. 20:1-4).Jesus plainly said He is "Lord of the Sabbath." Micah 4:2 says, "And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Eternal, and to the house of the God of Jacob [the Kingdom of God]; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths." "Behold, now is the day of salvation" (2 Cor. 6:2) was quoting Isaiah 49:8 which does not have a definite article. Neither does the Greek text of II Corinthians 6:2. The first part of the verse is more correctly rendered as follows: "I have answered thy prayer, he says, in a [not the only one] time of pardon, I have brought thee help in a [not the only one] day of salvation" (Knox translation).
25. Did 24,000 Israelites die in the plague in ‘Shittim’ (Numbers 25:1, 9), or was it only 23,000 Israelites who died (1 Corinthians 10:8)?
This apparent contradiction asks how many people died from the plague that occurred in Shittim. Numbers 25:1-9 and 1 Corinthians 10:8 are contrasted. Paul was referring to the plague in Exodus 32:28, which takes place at Mt. Sinai and not to that found in Numbers 25, which takes place in Shittim, amongst the Moabites. If there is any doubt refer to verse 7 of 1 Corinthians 10, which quotes almost exactly from Exodus 32:6, “Afterwards they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.” Now there are those who may say that the number killed in the Exodus 32 account were 3,000 (Exodus 32:28) another seeming contradiction, but one which is easily rectified once you read the rest of the text. The 3,000 killed in verse 28 account for only those killed by men with swords. This is followed by a plague which the Lord brings against those who had sinned against him in verse 35, which says, “And the Lord struck the people with a plague because of what they did with the calf Aaron had made.” It is this plague which Paul refers to in 1 Corinthians 10:8. (Geisler/Howe 1992:458-459)
26. Did 70 members of the house of Jacob come to Egypt (Genesis 46:27), or was it 75 members (Acts 7:14)?
Both Genesis 46:27 and Acts 7:14 are correct. In the Genesis 46:1-27 the total number of direct descendants that traveled to Egypt with Jacob were 66 in number according to verse 26. This is because Judah was sent on ahead in verse 28 of Chapter 46 and because Joseph and his two sons were already in Egypt. However in verse 27 all the members of the family are included, including Joseph and his sons and Judah making a total number of 70, referring to the total number of Jacob’s family that ended up in Egypt not just those that traveled with him to Egypt. In the older Septuagint and Dead Sea Scroll manuscripts the number given in verse 27 is 75. This is because they also include Joseph’s three grandsons and two great grandsons listed in Numbers 26:28-37, and in at least the Septuagint version their names are listed in Genesis 46:20. Therefore the Acts 7:14 quotation of Stephen’s speech before his martyrdom is correct because he was quoting from the Septuagint.
27. Did Jesus say “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” in Hebrew (Matthew 27:46) or in Aramaic (Mark 15:34)?
Mark 15:34 is probably the most quoted Aramaism in the New Testament, being “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabakthani.” However, it is doubtful that Jesus spoke in the language that Mark records them in. The reason is simple; the people hearing Jesus’ words thought he was calling Elijah (Matthew 27:47 and Mark 15:35-36). In order for the onlookers to have made this mistake, Jesus would have to have cried “Eli, Eli,” not “Eloi, Eloi.” Why? Because in Hebrew Eli can be either “My God” or the shortened form of Eliyahu which is Hebrew for Elijah. However, in Aramaic Eloi can be only “My God.” It is also worth noting that lama (“why”) is the same word in both languages, and sabak is a verb which is found not only in Aramaic, but also in Mishnaic Hebrew. Therefore Jesus probably spoke it in Hebrew. Why therefore is it recorded in Aramaic as well? Jesus was part of a multilingual society. He most probably spoke Greek (the common language of Greece and Rome), Aramaic (the common language of the Ancient Near East) and Hebrew, the sacred tongue of Judaism, which had been revived in the form of Mishnaic Hebrew in Second Temple times. Hebrew and Aramaic are closely related Semitic languages. That Hebrew and Aramaic terms show up in the Gospels is, therefore, not at all surprising. That one Gospel writer records it in Hebrew and another in extremely similar Aramaic is no problem to Christians, nor is it a criticism of the Bible. The simple reason for the difference is probably that when one of them remembered and discussed the happening of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, this phrase may well have been repeated in their conversation as Aramaic, which would be perfectly normal. So he wrote it down as such. Secondly, Mark may have written it in Aramaic due to the fact that he was the original recipients of the Gospel. However, both these reasons are simply speculation (Bivin/Blizzard 1994:10).
28. Does God change his mind (Genesis 6:7; Exodus 32:14; 1 Samuel 15:10-11, 35), or does he stay the same (1 Samuel 15:29)?
God knew Saul would fail in his duty as King of Israel. Nevertheless, God allowed Saul to be king and used him to do His will. Saul was highly effective as leader of Israel, in stirring his people to have courage and take pride in their nation, and in coping with Israel’s enemies during times of war. However, God made it clear long before this time (Genesis 49:8-10) that he would establish kings from the tribe of Judah. Saul was from the tribe of Benjamin. Therefore there was no doubt that Saul or his descendants were not God’s permanent choice to sit on the throne of Israel. Those who translated the Bible under the order of King James translated this word niham 41 times as “repent,” out of the 108 occurrences of the different forms of niham in the Hebrew manuscripts. These translators were dependent on far fewer manuscripts than were available to the more recent translators; the latter also having access to far older manuscripts as well as a greater understanding of the Biblical Hebrew words contained within. Therefore, the more recent translators have rendered niham far more accurately into English by conveying more of its Hebrew meaning (such as relent, grieve, console, comfort, change His mind, etc. as the context of the Hebrew text communicates). With that in mind, a more accurate rendering of the Hebrew would be that God was “grieved” that he had made Saul king. God does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a man that he should change his mind. "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever" (Heb. 13:8). "For I am the LORD, I change not" (Mal. 3:6).God was grieved that he had made Saul king. God shows in the Bible that He has real emotions. He has compassion on people’s pain and listens to people’s pleas for help. His anger and wrath are roused when He sees the suffering of people from others’ deeds. As a result of Saul’s disobedience pain was caused to God and to the people of Israel. But also, God had it in His plan from the beginning that Saul’s family, though not being from the tribe of Judah, would not stay on the throne. Therefore when Saul begs the prophet Samuel in verses 24 to 25 to be put right with God and not be dethroned, Samuel replies that God has said it will be this way – He is not going to change His mind. It was spoken that it would be this way hundreds of years before Saul was king. There is no contradiction here. The question was “Does God change his mind?” The answer is, “No.” But the conditions and circumstances change. He does respond to peoples situations and conduct, in compassion and in wrath, and therefore can be grieved when they do evil. (Archer 1994)
29. Did David (1 Samuel 17:23, 50) or Elhanan (2 Samuel 21:19) kill Goliath?
“In another battle with the Philistines at Gob, Elhanan son of Jaare-Oregim the Bethlehemite killed Goliath the Gittite, who had a spear with a shaft like a weaver’s rod” (2 Sam. 21:19). But in the parallel passage we read: “In another battle with the Philistines, Elhanan son of Jair killed Lahmi the brother of Goliath the Gittite, who had a spear with a shaft like a weaver’s rod” (1 Chr. 20:5). When the Hebrew for these sentences is examined, the reason for the contradiction becomes quite obvious and the latter 1 Chronicles is seen to be the true and correct reading. Not simply because we know David killed Goliath, but also because of the language. When the scribe was duplicating the earlier manuscript, it must have been blurred or damaged at this particular verse in 2 Samuel. The result was that he made two or three mistakes (see Gleason L. Archer, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, page 179): The sign of the direct object in 1 Chronicals was ‘-t which comes just before “Lahmi” in the sentence order. The scribe mistook it for b-t or b-y-t (“Beth”) and thus got BJt hal-Lahmi (“the Bethlehemite”) out of it. He misread the word for “brother” (‘-h , the h having a dot underneath it) as the sign of the direct object (‘-t) right before g-l-y-t (“Goliath”). Therefore he made “Goliath” the object of “killed” instead of “brother” of Goliath, as in 1 Chronicles. The copyist misplaced the word for “weavers” (‘-r-g-ym) so as to put it right after “Elhanan” as his family name (ben Y-‘-r-y’-r–g-ym, ben ya’arey ‘ore–gim, “the son of the forest of weavers”, a most improbable name for anyone’s father). In Chronicles the ore–gim (“weavers”) comes straight after menr (“a beam of”) – thus making perfectly good sense. Therefore, the 2 Samuel passage is an entirely traceable error on the part of the copyist in the original wording, which has been preserved in 1 Chronicles 20:5. David killed Goliath. This testifies to the honesty and openness of the scribes and translators (both Jewish and Christian). Although it would be easy to change this recognized error, this has not been done in favour of remaining true to the manuscripts. Although it leaves the passage open to shallow criticism, but an excellent example of human copying error resulting from the degeneration of papyrus.
30. In Luke 17:20-21, Jesus said, "the Kingdom of God is within you. Yet they were "serpents" (Matt. 23:33). What did he mean?
First, Jesus was talking to the hypocritical, unconverted, lying Pharisees. In Matthew 23:33 He described this group of religious leaders as "serpents" and a "generation of vipers." They had just asked Jesus when the Kingdom of God would come. Do you think He was telling that carnal group they themselves had the Kingdom of God within their own hearts? Of course not! In the original Greek, the words of Jesus ought to be translated "among you," not "within you." See the margin of most Bibles. Jesus was referring to His own presence -- He is the King of that Kingdom. He was among the Pharisees as the ·representative of the coming Kingdom of God. Later He would come, with the power of God, as King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Rev. 17:14) to rule the world! In other places the Bible makes it clear that "flesh and blood" -- mortal man -- "cannot inherit the Kingdom of God" (I Cor. 15:50). Jesus told Nicodemus, "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God, That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit" (John 3:5-6). If mortal flesh cannot enter that Kingdom, then certainly those Pharisees did not have it "within them"!