Numerical Contradictions in the BibleThere are many numerical contradictions in the Bible. We will give a few below to illustrate the point.
Jehoiachin's Age at Royal AscensionII Kings tells us that Jehoiachin became king when he was eighteen while II Chronicles alleged that he became King at age eight:
So how old was Jehoiachin when he became king? Eight or eighteen years old?
Not only does II Chronicles contradict the information in II Kings, it even contradicts itself. For the author mentioned that Ahaziah took over from his father, Jehoram, who had just passed away - at the age of forty! (II Chronicles 21:20) Thus according to II Chronicles Ahaziah was two years older than his own father!
This is a glaring contradiction. How does the fundamentalist apologist explain such an occurance? Studying this is an interesting exercise in the fundamentalist theological psyche. It turns out that they have a “catch all” explanation for contradictions: “copyist error”! What they mean is that the Bible, as it stands today, contains contradictions such as that given above-however these have crept in due to the error of a scribe. In other words, the original manuscript-when it left the hand of the writer-was error free. There are a few problems with this explanation:
Firstly, the original manuscripts no longer exists! Thus this explanation is based on the assumption that the Bible is without error. We already see the beginnings of a circular argument here: The Bible is without error, if any error exists it must have crept in at a later date, since the Bible could not possibly contain any error! However, the current editions of the Bible are based on the best scholarly attempt to get to the original manuscript-and the best still says that the contradiction exists. Thus, far from proving that the Bible is without error, modern attempt to get at the original rendition (or “lower or textual criticism”) shows that the error exists.
Secondly, if one assumes that it is a copyist error, one can with equal validity, assume that the error arose at the very first writing down of Chronicles. Since we know that the writer of Chronicles use much of II Kings as his source, it is equally likely the the Chronicler himself got the numbers wrong! So here is a case where “copyist” error does not exclude the Bible from being inerrant.
This apologetic defence does not hold water due to the two reasons above. Yet the reader will find that it is used by fundamentalist whenever they get the chance!
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The Encyclopedia of Biblical Errancy quotes a typical fundamentalist attempt (William Arndt, Does the Bible Contradict Itself?) at “solving the problem” of Solomon’s stalls (I Kings 7:26 and II Chronicles 9:25)
The explanation is ad hoc, since in no way does the verses lead one to conclude what Arndt had suggested. It is introduced purely as an attempt to get out of the obvious contradiction. One sense that he himself is not too happy with such a defence when he later says:
Amazing! Notice that it does not matter which explanation is true, so long as it can be used! It is obvious that apologists are not looking for the truth but merely for ways to keep to their faith.
Here’s another lame explanation, this time regarding the contradiction of the capacity of the tank built by Solomon (Carl Johnson, So the Bible is Full of Contradictions?):
Note, again the ad hoc explanation. There is no hint in any of the passages that I Kings gave the “ordinary” capacity while the Chronicler gave the “maximum” capacity. It was introduced purely to resolve the problem. And, if that it not good enough, try “copyist’s error”!
In II Samuel 8:4, David was said to have captured 1700 (seventeen hundred) of the King of Zobah’s charioteers. Yet I Chronicles 18:4 said that David actually captured 7,000.
Now for an example of two contradictions in one verse:
Thus the verse in Samuel said that there were 800,000 fighting men in Israel while the Chronicler gave this figure as 1.1 million-a total discrepancy of 300,000. Secondly Samuel said that there were 500,000 men in Judah, while the Chronicler gives this as 470,000. The numbers are so different here that even the “copyist’s error” excuse does not work. Apologists have tried other ad hoc explanations: one is that the numbers of one verse are simple “rounded off” versions of the other. It is hard to see how 1.1 million could be a “rounded off” figure of 800,000!
Here is another example of one verse with two contradictions:
So which is which, did David slay the men of 700 or 7,000 chariots? And were there 40,000 footsoldiers or horsemen?
The examples here (complete with attempted explanations by fundamentalist theologians) should be enough to prove the point that numerical contradictions exist in the Bible.
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