(Some supposed contradictions in the Bible)
Being a member of the Christian Apologetics Alliance has some benefits for it’s challenges. Being compelled to write more makes you have to read more and more substantively.
I’ve always come across portions of scripture that skeptics love to point out as parts that are errouneous and hence, you cannot trust the Bible.
Well really, if the most part corresponds properly with other areas that are cited and are corroborated by archaeological evidence, possibly beyond 90 percent, the scriptures can be counted on to be generally reliable and trustworthy.
However, it didn’t stop me trom trying to continue to ferret out the reasons for the supposed incompatibility with some New Testament accounts with their counterparts in the old testament, namely these:
1. The shewbread incident involving David and the High Priest in Mark 2:26 – the names don’t correspond to the OT accounts
2. Matthew 2:23 – he would be called a Nazarene.
3. Matthew 23:35 – where there’s another name mismatch again
4. And finally the matter of “springs of living water” – in John 7:38, as there is no direct scripture in the OT that is quoted.
Fortunately, being a part of the same group has the benefit of being able to connect with learned scholars such as Dr. Tim McGrew, who was generous enough and gracious to provide possible explanations to these problems.
Dr. Tim answered:
As for your particular questions:
1. Probably “Abiathar the high priest” is mentioned in Mark 2:26 because (a) he is more prominent than his father Ahimelech (1 Sam. 23:6), who was the high priest at the time referred to (1 Sam. 21:1), and (b) he is associated with David, whose side he took when David and Saul were at war.
As for the designation “Abiathar the high priest,” he did become high priest subsequently, but the phrase “the days of” may be taken merely to indicate that this was within his adult lifetime. It is a manner of speech used commonly enough in secular historical writings. For instance, Herodian (Roman History 1.2) says that “to Marcus the emperor were born several daughters and two sons,” though some of these children were born before Marcus became emperor.
2. Probably “Nazarene” here is a play on the word “netzer,” i.e. “root.”
3. As Alfred Barnes notes in his commentary on Matthew, some have thought that it was the Zecharias whose death is recorded in 2 Chronicles 24:20-21, where he is called the son of Jehoiada. But it was common among the Jews to have two names: as Matthew is called Levi; Lebbeus is called Thaddeus; and Simon is called both Cephas and Peter. Another possibility is that Jesus referred to Zecharias the prophet, who might have been massacred by the Jews, though no account of his death is recorded. If so, Jesus was referring to a tradition that has not come down to us in writing.
4. Again, Barnes has a useful note here, which I will simply quote:
Jesus probably intended to say, not that there was any particular place in the Old Testament that affirmed this in so many words, but that this was the substance of what the Scriptures taught, or this was the spirit of their declarations. Hence, the Syriac translates it in the plural – the Scriptures. Probably there is a reference more particularly to Isaiah 58:11, than to any other single passage: “Thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters fail not.” See also Isaiah 44:3-4; Joel 3:18.
He also said: “some objections are curious and difficult to answer with certainty, but we have a great mass of evidence for the substantial historicity of the Scriptures. So there is no reason to be “thrown” by a few minor difficult passages that we cannot be certain of explaining satisfactorily.”
Another explanation for number 4 was provided by my good friend and pastor Earl Opinion, of Doxo Dunamis, a small congregation where my family and I attend worship gatherings. Earl specializes in exegesis – a subject that he’s mastered and teaches very well, and I must admit, I’ve developed a love for as well.
Earl gave me this possible explanation some time ago:
But it appears that another passage about living water was also associated with Tabernacles, if rabbinic material may be relied on for this conclusion.20 This passage was Ezekiel 47:1–11. According to this text, Ezekiel reports, “Afterward he brought me again unto the door of the house; and, behold, waters issued out from under the threshold of the house eastward: for the forefront of the house stood toward the east, and waters came down from under from the right side of the house, at the south side of the altar” (Ezek. 47:1).
It is surprising that there has not been a much stronger tendency in the literature to settle on this passage as the one cited in John 7:37–39. Most commentators are well aware of the water ceremonies which marked the Jewish observance of Tabernacles and which seem obviously to furnish the backdrop for Jesus’ words. The ritual is well described by Morris.
On each of the seven days of the feast a priest drew water from the pool of Siloam in a golden flagon and brought it in procession to the temple with the joyful sounding of the trumpet. There the water was poured into a bowl beside the altar from which a tube took it to the base of the altar. Simultaneously wine was poured through a similar bowl on the other side of the altar.21 To be carefully observed here is the link between the altar and the water ceremony which quite readily evokes a recollection of Ezekiel 47 in which the waters issue forth at the right side of the altar of the millennial Temple!
Since, moreover, the waters of Ezekiel’s prophecy have vivifying properties—“every thing shall live whither the river cometh” (Ezek. 47:9)—those waters are properly described as living waters! Additionally, in the Septuagint text of this passage the Greek word ποταμός (“river”) is found five times (vv. 6, 7, 9 twice, 12) as a rendering of the Hebrew ַנַחל. Obviously this furnishes an additional link with John 7:38 in view of the use of נןפבלן there.22
But of special importance is the suitability of Ezekiel’s vision in the light of John’s explanatory comment in verse 39. According to the Fourth Evangelist the real significance of Jesus’ words lay in their reference to the gift of the Holy Spirit which believers had not yet received.23 It is precisely this post-Pentecostal gift from a glorified Savior that transforms the believer into a “temple” of God! As Paul described it, “What! know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Cor. 6:19–20).
20 20. Dodd observes: “It may be recalled that among the scriptures most frequently quoted in rabbinic authorities with reference to the libations at Sukkoth [Tabernacles] are Is. xii. 3, Ezek. xlvii. 1 sqq., Zech. xiv. 8” (Dodd, The Interpretation of the Fourth Gospel, p. 349). Cf. the rabbinic tractate Sukkah iii as cited by Guilding (The Fourth Gospel and Jewish Worship, pp. 105–6).
21 21. Morris, The Gospel according to John, p. 420. Cf. also George W. MacRae, “The Meaning and Evolution of the Feast of Tabernacles,” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 22 (1960):273; and J. Blenkinsopp, “The Quenching of Thirst: Reflections on the Utterance in the Temple, John 7:37–9,” Scripture 12 (1960):45–46.
22 22. It may be worth noting that once (in Ezek. 47:9), the Hebrew dual ַנֲחַלִים is used. Could the Greek נןפבלן of John 7:38 reflect this?
23 23. On the ostensibly difficult expression in verse 39, ןὔנש דὰס ἠ̂ם ׀םוץ̂לב¢̔דיןם (modern editors usually omit ἅדיןם), Barrett’s statement is good: “John does not mean to deny the earlier existence of the Spirit, nor indeed that he was active in the prophets; and he says expressly that the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus himself at the beginning of his ministry (1:21). He means rather that the Holy Spirit was not given in the characteristically Christian manner and measure until the close of the ministry. ƒ He himself recognizes clearly the dependence of the gift of the Spirit upon the completed work of Jesus (The Gospel according to John, p. 272). Cf. also the study by S. H. Hooke, “ ‘The Spirit Was Not Yet,’ ” New Testament Studies 9 (1962–63): 372–80, esp. 378–80.
Bibliotheca Sacra : A quarterly published by Dallas Theological Seminary. 1996, c1955-1995 (248). Dallas TX: Dallas Theological Seminary.
Earl then concluded with this:”The quote from the O.T. fits rightly but only as an epo [(eipen = said) Scripture “said”] because John does not say “it is written.” When Jesus is quoted as saying it is written it is more specific unlike when he just says (epo) it is from Scripture.”
In any case, I’ve become more confident in addressing these issues when they arise – as these are often cited by skeptics, atheists and agnostics influenced largely by what they read on the internet, and are motivated mostly by anger and other mixed emotions against God that they do their best to discredit the Living God that we’ve come to know as our Father, the way the Lord Jesus has told us to refer to Him.
It doesn’t mean that they are persuaded by the argument, but those that are monitoring our conversations inevitably see the validity of the propositions that I hold to and come closer to the knowledge of the saving grace of the atonement made by the Risen Jesus.
While I do acknowledge that this kind of knowledge requires more than the usual approach of study, it is available, and with dedication, resolve and persistence, anyone can find the answers that ARE available and the God who skeptics accuse of being invisible, reveals Himself in a magnificent way.
The King James version of the bible challenges the reader to find God in a vivid way in Jeremiah 29:13. But when I saw the translation in the NET bible, I was floored- the challenge is different: When you seek me in prayer and worship, you will find me available to you. If you seek me with all your heart and soul.
Findong God is not just a matter of poring over the books and resources. Prayer and worship is involved. And the Lord God will be found. He will be there. If you seek Him with ALL of your heart and soul, or the inner man, as the Hebrew word “lebab” implies.