alleged discrepancies of the Bible

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alleged discrepancies of the Bible

Post by email » Mon Jul 03, 2006 9:48 pm

Hello. I have a few questions regarding supposed mistakes in the Bible. I am a college student majoring in theology and one of the books my class is reading is Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why, written by the Greek scholar Bart D. Ehrman who is chairman of the theology department at the University of North Carolina.
  1. My first question involves a supposed error in the book of Mark. In Mark 2, Jesus is confronted by the Pharisees because his disciples had been walking through a grain field, eating the grain on the Sabbath. Jesus wants to show the Pharisees that "Sabbath was made for humans, not humans for the Sabbath" and so reminds them of what the great King David had done when he and his men were hungry, how they went into the Temple "when Abiathar was the high priest" and ate the show bread, which was only for the priests to eat. One of the problems with this passage is that when one looks at the Old Testament passage that Jesus is citing (1 Sam. 21:1-6), it turns out that David did this not when Abiathar was the high priest, but, in fact, when Abiathar's father Ahimelech was. If you can, please explain this supposed error in the Bible?
  2. My next couple of questions have to do specifically about the supposed inaccuracies in the New Testament only. For starters, in Mark 4 Jesus states that the mustard seed is "the smallest of all seeds on earth," It is a fact that the mustard seed is not the smallest seed on earth. If you can, could you please also address this seemingly minor error in the book of Mark?
  3. My next question is regarding a seemingly small contradiction in both Mark and John. Mark states that Jesus was crucified the day after the Passover meal was eaten (Mark 14:12; 15:25) and John says he died the day before the meal was eaten (John 19:14) If you can, could you please also address this seemingly minor contradiction in the books of Mark and John?
  4. Also, Luke indicates in his account of Jesus's birth that Joseph and Mary returned to Nazareth just over a month after they had gone to Bethlehem (and performed the rites of purification; Luke 2:39), whereas Matthew indicates they instead fled to Eygpt (Matt. 2: 19-22). What am I to make of this supposed contradiction in Luke and Matthew?
  5. The last supposed contradiction I want to ask about is this: Paul says that after he converted on the way to Damascus he did not go to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before him (Gal. 1:16-17), whereas the book of Acts says that that was the first thing Paul did after leaving Damascus (Acts 9:26) Could you please explain this supposed contradiction?
I know these supposed errors may seem very small but they are making me question the inerrancy of the New Testament. Please, if you can, explain all these supposed errors and contradictions.
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"when Abiathar was High Priest"

Post by m273p15c » Mon Jul 03, 2006 11:03 pm

First, you should know that these are not new questions or recent discoveries. Atheists and agnostics have been floating these questions for years. Although they have been answered several times, very well by many different people, there is no answer worded well enough to convince the prejudiced, unbelieving scoffer, simply because he does not want to believe. Hence, these questions arise over and over again. Based on this observation, I would recommend a recent, old book, Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible by John W. Haley, published originally in 1874. It has been reprinted several times since then, and it contains answers to many of these questions, because they have been around for a long time.

Regarding Abiathar, let us start by putting the texts in question immediately before us:
Mark wrote:But He said to them, "Have you never read what David did when he was in need and hungry, he and those with him: how he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the showbread, which is not lawful to eat, except for the priests, and also gave some to those who were with him?" (Mark 2:25-26)
The prophets wrote:Now David came to Nob, to Ahimelech the priest. And Ahimelech was afraid when he met David, and said to him, "Why are you alone, and no one is with you?" So David said to Ahimelech the priest, "The king has ordered me on some business, and said to me, 'Do not let anyone know anything about the business on which I send you, or what I have commanded you.' And I have directed my young men to such and such a place. Now therefore, what have you on hand? Give me five loaves of bread in my hand, or whatever can be found." And the priest answered David and said, "There is no common bread on hand; but there is holy bread, if the young men have at least kept themselves from women." Then David answered the priest, and said to him, "Truly, women have been kept from us about three days since I came out. And the vessels of the young men are holy, and the bread is in effect common, even though it was sanctified in the vessel this day." So the priest gave him holy bread; for there was no bread there but the showbread which had been taken from before the LORD, in order to put hot bread in its place on the day when it was taken away. (I Samuel 21:1-6)
Admittedly, when examined in the context of one looking for discrepancies, these two passage do appear to present such a discrepancy - at first.

The key is to examine multiple translations. While ASV, RSV, and the NRS translate Mark 2:26 as "when Abiathar was High Priest", most other translations, such as the KVJ, NKJ, NAS, NAU, and NIV translate it like "in the days/time of Abiathar the High Priest". The primary crux is the translation of the Greek preposition, epi. It's fundamental meaning is "upon", or "at", but when used in regards to people, not locations, it means "in the time of" (Friberg AGNT, Liddell-Scott, Barclay Newman). Given these authorities and the majority translation, this seems to be at least a possible, fair translation, if not even the preferred translation. Once we consider the majority translation, the reconciliation becomes trivial.

Abiathar was Ahimelech's son. In fact, within days of this incident, all of Ahimelech's family was killed, except for Abiathar (I Samuel 22:6-19). He escaped with an ephod, and he served as priest on David's behalf while he traveled in the wilderness (I Samuel 22:20-23). Abiathar was a chief character in much of the Davidic stories (1 Sam. 22:20; 1 Sam. 22:21; 1 Sam. 22:22; 1 Sam. 23:6; 1 Sam. 23:9; 1 Sam. 30:7; 2 Sam. 8:17; 2 Sam. 15:24; 2 Sam. 15:27; 2 Sam. 15:29; 2 Sam. 15:35; 2 Sam. 17:15; 2 Sam. 19:11; 2 Sam. 20:25; 1 Ki. 1:7; 1 Ki. 1:19; 1 Ki. 1:25; 1 Ki. 1:42; 1 Ki. 2:22; 1 Ki. 2:26; 1 Ki. 2:27; 1 Ki. 2:35; 1 Ki. 4:4; 1 Chr. 15:11; 1 Chr. 18:16; 1 Chr. 24:6; 1 Chr. 27:34), while Ahimelech only served in one story. Therefore, Abiathar served as a better, more well-known point of reference. The event did occur during the days of Abiathar the High Priest, but he became High Priest after these specific events.

It would be like referring to the events of World War II as happening "during the days of President George Bush". He did not serve as President during World War II, but WWII did transpire during the days of George Bush, who is most well known as a President of the United States.

In Haley's book, he had these comments:
John W. Haley wrote:The expression in Mark, "in the days of Abiathar the priest," may denote merely that Abiathar was as his father's sagan or substitute (See Lightfoot, Horae Hebraicae, on Luke iii. 2 (Carpzov's edition)). Or, since Abiathar was, form his long association with king David, much more famous than his father, his name, although he was not yet high-priest, may be used here by a kind of historical anticipation. (Discrepancies of the Bible, p.320)
Last edited by m273p15c on Mon Jul 03, 2006 11:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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"the smallest of all seeds on earth"

Post by m273p15c » Mon Jul 03, 2006 11:39 pm

I believe the evidence supports the Bible to be the inerrant word of God. Furthermore, to believe anything significantly less would be to accuse God of either carelessness or weakness. Although the Bible is not a science book, whenever it speaks on any topic, even science, we should expect it to do so flawlessly. Therefore, this is a good question!

True, the mustard seed is not the smallest seed in all the earth. The orchid seed is smaller. In fact, it is almost invisible to the human eye, spreading like dust in the wind. ... So, did Jesus get it wrong here?
Mark wrote:Then He said, "To what shall we liken the kingdom of God? Or with what parable shall we picture it? It is like a mustard seed which, when it is sown on the ground, is smaller than all the seeds on earth; but when it is sown, it grows up and becomes greater than all herbs, and shoots out large branches, so that the birds of the air may nest under its shade." And with many such parables He spoke the word to them as they were able to hear it. But without a parable He did not speak to them. And when they were alone, He explained all things to His disciples. (Mark 4:30-34)
Parables were intended to relate unfamiliar, spiritual truths to the common man. Therefore, they contain references to common things, which people of Jesus' day could understand. It would do little good for Jesus to say, "The kingdom of God is like an orchid seed. You have never seen an orchid. They exist in a land far away from here, but if you can imagine what an orchid seed is like, then you can understand what the kingdom of God is like." That would kind of defeat the whole purpose for parables, would it not?

Nevertheless, Jesus did say the mustard seed was the smallest seed of the earth, or the ground. Was He wrong?

No, Jesus was not wrong in what He said. People have merely ignored the context, overextending Jesus' words beyond their original setting.

Please notice that Jesus stated the mustard seed was the smallest seed "when sown on the ground" (or earth). Twice, He mentions it being sown on the ground: in both verse 31 and verse 32. Orchid seeds are not sown. In fact, they do not have enough stored energy to germinate and survive without establishing a dependent relationship with mycorrhizal fungus, which provides it sustenance during the early stages of development. Furthermore, it typically grows in the upper canopy of the rain forests - not sown and not on the ground, but up in the treetops. Therefore, the "smallest seed", although smaller than the minute mustard seed, would not be a contender for Jesus' parable simply because it was not sown, much less sown on the ground. It would certainly not be sown by the Palestinian farmers of Jesus' day. ... The key is to recognize the limitations asserted by the context.

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Contradiction In Parable of Mustard Seeds

Post by will » Mon Jul 03, 2006 11:43 pm

There is no contradiction, only a perceived one.

One has to use care to establish context limitations on a 'open ended text / phrase'. For example, the phrase "all things" (e.g/, Acts 4:32b) as used in many passages must not be interpreted in an unlimited fashion but in a limited fashion as determined by local textual and overall biblical context.context. The things shared as mentioned in Acts 4:32 were not shared with everyone everywhere, nor did it include things immoral. Even so in Matthew 13:31-32, the context for the "smallest / least of all seeds" is constarined by the seeds a Jewish farmer (i.e., His audience) would: 1) know about, 2) would sow (not same as Could sow!!), 3) would sow in a field by choice and selection as a desirable crop producer, and 4) was not an herb! Surely from all we know of Jewish agriculture and farming of Jesus day, the particular mustard seed (Grk. sinapi, sinapsis nigra) of Palestine fits the usage in the verse by the Lord.

With this one clear exgesis of context related to just this one passage, I would say that our querist should now back up and take a look at the book (along with all its other suppposed contradictions!) being used in his theology class. Instead of questioning the Word of God as the student has begun to do, the student should now be questioning the class text book, its author, and his class teacher.

The premise behind so called contradictions almost always lies in a presupposition that the Bible is by man and not God. As time permits for each of the forum members, I am confident that every supposed contradiction will be answered well to the satisfaction of the sincere, thoughtful Bible student. But, in the final analysis, where will that then leave the inquiring theology student who has come to know and understand the truth regarding these supposed contradictions and who has a conscience and integrit? Remember the sceptics have 'boatloads' of such examples and they have never stood up to rigorous analysis and response.

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Contradiction in John 19:14 with other Gospel accounts

Post by will » Mon Jul 03, 2006 11:48 pm

This is not a contradiction , but a matter of semantics. John 19:14 regarding the "Preparation of the Passover" does not signify that the Passover had not yet come or the Passover Supper not yet eaten.

John does not so much seem to contradict Matthew and Mark as he would seem to contradict himself given the queirists limited interpretation / application of this phrase. Why do I say this? John records the acccount of the Passover meal / Last supper in John 13. Then follows other events (washing the disciples feet), the discourse of Jesus (John 14-16), the prayer in John 17 in the Garden of Gethsemane, the betrayal and taking of Jesus of John 18. This all accords with any good harmony of the gospel acounts of this last day's events before the trials and crucifiction of the Lord.

The phrase "Preparation of the Passover" is being arbitrarily contrued by the questioner in a most limited sense as referring to the eating of the Passover Meal / Supper. Both Exodus 12:14-20 and Exodus 13:3-10 tells us that the Passover was a seven (7) day observance, i.e. Passover Week. Evidently this phrase, which was used by John, had been used by the Jews of Jesus day (see John 19:41-42) to refer to the entire first day of the Passover week as the Day of Preparation for the Passover week. Having no direct bearing on this discussion, to the Christian (versus the Jew), this day could aptly be separately considered Preparation Day for Jesus death on the cross ('He is our Passover' - I Corinthians 5:7) since it happened on what would be deemed by the Scriptures as the Passover Day, the first day of Passover. Further, just FYI, the next day was the Sabbath day following Passover, there was some Sabbath Preparations to occur on the Passover Day.

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the flight to Egypt

Post by m273p15c » Tue Jul 04, 2006 12:33 am

Regarding the alleged discrepancy concerning the ordering of events surrounding Jesus' birth, please consider another answer from Haley's book:
John W. Haley wrote:Christ's infancy, -- order of events. Matt. ii. 1-23 <--> A different order. Luke ii. 4-39.

It is objected by Strauss (New Life of Jesus, ii. 91. See, also, Schleiermacher, Life of Jesus, pp. 46, 48 - Thirlwall's translation) and his school that the two accounts are incompatible, since Matthew omits the residence at Nazareth before the nativity, the circumstances which brought Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem, and the presentation in the temple; while Luke does not mention the visit of the Magi, the murder of the innocents, nor the flight to Egypt.

To this we reply that the argument from the silence of an author amounts to very little. That particular aspect of the case which he wished to present, or the knowledge already possessed by those to whom he was writing, might render it inexpedient or superfluous for him to mention all the circumstances, as otherwise he would have done.

In the case before us, the following is the probable order of events: Journey of Joseph and Mary from Nazareth to Bethlehem; birth of the child; presentation in the Temple; visit of the Magi; flight of the family to Egypt; return and settlement at Nazareth. (So Robinson, Gardiner, Wieseler, and others.)

Eusebius, Epiphanius, and Patritius (Kitto, ii. 548, note; Andrews' Life of our Lord, pp. 84-89.) maintain that, after the presentation in the Temple, Joseph and Mary returned to Nazareth (Luke ii. 39), and, having arranged their affairs there, came back to Bethlehem (which must have possessed very strong attractions for them), with a view to make the latter place their home. Wordsworth thinks they came to Bethlehem the second time on the occasion of one of the great annual feasts. At this time the received the Magi not in a stable, but in a "house" (Matt. ii. 11), and from this city they fled into Egypt. Ebrard (Gospel History, pp. 186-189) satisfactorily explains the omission of some circumstances by one evangelist, and of others by the other.
To emphasize Haley's first point, it is a mistake to assume that these accounts are unabridged and complete accounts. They clearly leave out some stories. In fact, each gospel account is either geared to a specific audience (Matthew -> Jew, Luke -> Greek, or Mark -> Roman) or focused on a specific point, like generating belief in Jesus (John 20:31). In fact, they admit that they do not, even they could not provide an exhaustive record (John 21:25). Therefore, we should expect them to omit details that were inconsequential to their point or audience. Just because the authors glossed over certain incidents, we should not assume that they were unaware of these incidents or somehow forgot them.

This is a case of your textbook's author looking for a contradiction and failing to treat the Bible fairly. Would he expect any other historical document to exhaustively detail its subject? Does he expect to learn what time Joseph and Mary went to sleep? When they went to the bathroom? What they ate for breakfast? The color of their raiment, selected and worn each day?

Clearly, some details are always left unrecorded. Each author is free to pick and choose the incidents that are most germane to his chosen thrust. This is his right, and it is generally understood and respected.

Finally, as already noted, these questions far predate the author of your textbook. In fact, the above quote answers the question before the author was born. Did he mention the answer in his account of the discrepancies? Should we assume then that no one had ever considered, much less answered the question, based on the author's silence? Sometime, authors do not write everything they know, simply because they believe it will get in the way of their point. Sometime it is a noble motivation. Sometimes, the motivation is less than noble. ... The author should have exercised the same grace, which he would have wished to be afforded him.

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Paul's trip to Jerusalem

Post by m273p15c » Tue Jul 04, 2006 1:04 am

Regarding the supposed contradiction where Luke omits recording Paul's time spend in Arabia, please consider the points established in the last post.

Just because an author omits certain incidents, we should not assume that the author was unaware and mistakenly overlooked recording such incidents. Instead, we should recognize the right of each author to focus on the point of his book. Unless the author says something to the effect that event #2 occurred "immediately following" event #1, we should not presume to insert those words and eliminate the possibility of another event occurring between the two.

For example and in application to our question at hand, Luke never said that Paul's trip to Jerusalem was "the first thing Paul did after leaving Damascus":
Luke, the inspired historian, wrote:But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who dwelt in Damascus, proving that this Jesus is the Christ. Now after many days were past, the Jews plotted to kill him. But their plot became known to Saul. And they watched the gates day and night, to kill him. Then the disciples took him by night and let him down through the wall in a large basket. And when Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple.
Luke just says the Jerusalem trip followed Paul's escape from Damascus. The author assumed it happened immediately following the escape, but the text never says that!

Luke's recording of the Acts of the apostles is intended to show the explosive and unstoppable growth of the church (Acts 1:1-8; 2:1-4, 40-47; 5:29-42; 8:1-4). He is not really concerned with the personal event's of Paul's life. This is most evident in Luke's omission of Paul's final release, last years, recapture, and death. We never learn what ultimately happened to Paul by reading Luke's works! Our only glimmer of info is from scant references found in documents from the second century and later. Acts just ends with Paul stuck in prison, but yet the gospel has spread to the very capital of the Roman empire and gained a foothold there! It truly is the kingdom that was to take over the world (Daniel 2:44-45). This is the point of Acts! Paul is only relevant to the book in as much as he helped the church to grow.

On the other hand, in chapter one of Galatians, Paul is very much interested in detailing his personal events, because it is the basis of establishing his divine revelation. He could not have received his message from men, because he was not with men to learn it:
Paul by inspiration wrote:But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.For you have heard of my former conduct in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it. And I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers. But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb and called me through His grace, to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went to Arabia, and returned again to Damascus. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and remained with him fifteen days. But I saw none of the other apostles except James, the Lord's brother. (Now concerning the things which I write to you, indeed, before God, I do not lie.) Afterward I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. And I was unknown by face to the churches of Judea which were in Christ. But they were hearing only, "He who formerly persecuted us now preaches the faith which he once tried to destroy." And they glorified God in me.
Again, if we pause to respect the author's right to pursue their primary points, choosing what to omit and what to highlight, then we can easily resolve this supposed discrepancy. If we pause longer to understand the primary points and why they may have omitted such points, we can learn far more transcendent truths.

I pray this will help answer your instructor's questions.

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Post by truth » Wed Dec 06, 2006 10:58 pm

i know a discrepancy that bothers a lot of people acts 5:30 KJV acts 10:39
do you want to talk about it? be nice.

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please elaborate

Post by m273p15c » Thu Dec 07, 2006 9:35 am

truth wrote:i know a discrepancy that bothers a lot of people acts 5:30 KJV acts 10:39
do you want to talk about it? be nice.
I looked over the verses, and maybe I am not being critical enough in my reading, but I cannot see a discrepancy. Would you mind explaining the discrepancy that these two verses are supposed to create? I would be happy to examine and discuss this, as well as any other alleged discrepancy of the Bible.


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Post by truth » Thu Dec 07, 2006 6:06 pm

Acts 5:30 (King James Version)
King James Version (KJV)

30The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree.
Acts 10:39 (King James Version)
And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree:

its not a conflict between those two verses , its whats being said in those verses

in your mines eye ,you see a post, pole ,the trunk of a tree or even a large stake , not a cross.

the word that tree is translated from is "stauros"

Note also what is stated in The Companion Bible, published by the Oxford University Press. On page 186 in

the "Appendixes" it says: "Homer uses the word stauros of an ordinary pole or stake, or a single piece of timber. And

this is the meaning and usage of the word throughout the Greek classics. It never means two pieces of timber placed

across one another at any angle, but always of one piece alone. Hence the use of the word xulon [which means a

timber] in connection with the manner of our Lord's death, and rendered tree in Acts 5:30; 10:39; 13:29; Gal. 3:13; 1

Pet. 2:24. . . . There is nothing in the Greek N.T. even to imply two pieces of timber. . . . The evidence is thus

complete, that the Lord was put to death upon an upright stake, and not on two pieces of timber placed at any angle."

Ezra 6:11 (King James Version)

Also I have made a decree, that whosoever shall alter this word, let timber be pulled down from his house, and being set up, let him be hanged thereon; and let his house be made a dunghill for this.

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