Believable – Part 1

Some people like to discredit the Bible on the basis of its supposed errors and contradictions. The fact is, that alleged discrepancies are all resolvable if we are willing to be impartial.  For instance, the gospel authors have different emphases for their readership in much the same way that we see major daily newspapers differing in their reporting of stories without necessarily being in error on the facts.

A useful example might be in Matthew 21:2 which refers to two donkeys at Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem; the other three accounts of Jesus’ life speak of only one donkey, yet both don’t need to be mentioned, because Jesus rode on only one of them. 

Acts 1:18 gives a grisly account of the spilling of Judas’s intestines when his body fell in a field, but this doesn’t contradict the clear suicide by hanging account of Matthew 21:5, since he could have fallen when his body was being cut down after death or if the rope eventually broke.  Also, Matthew 27:9 seems to attribute a prophecy of Zechariah’s to Jeremiah, although there is actually just a fusing of two sources under the name of the more significant prophet.

Conflict over specific numbers of fighting men in different Old Testament accounts give further examples of results that differ not in fact, but in understanding. 1 Chronicles 21:5, for example, lists the fighting men as 1.1 million in ‘all Israel’ and 470,000 in Judah, whereas 2 Samuel 24:9 seems to give 800,000 and 500,000. Given the chronicler’s probable use of Samuel, this is not likely to be a reporting discrepancy, however his account clearly states his non-inclusion of two tribes.  If his ‘all Israel’ is inclusive of the 470,000, we then have two lower numbers explained by not listing the people of ‘Benjamin’ and ‘Levi’.

Objectivity, in such cases, does not mean explaining allegations away, but realising the difficulty in being conclusive when there is an absence of information.  Yet none of these supposed discrepancies has ever been so strong as to make the Bible any less believable.

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