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Christian candor in all our intercourse with them, and trust that we and they shall more and more search the Scriptures, to learn how God saves immortal souls from sin.
ARTICLE IV. ALLEGED DISCREPANCIES IN THE
The doctrine of inspiration refers to the special Divine assistance afforded to the sacred writers in recording the Book of God. It imports that these writers were so assisted and directed, as to be effectually secured from mistakes and errors, and enabled to write just what God would have them write, and in just the manner in which he would have it written. This is what we mean by the inspiration of the Scriptures; and one of the most formidable objections urged against the doctrine is, that the Scriptures are not free from mistakes and errors,—that they often contain statements which are not according to truth, and are not consistent one with another.
We propose to consider this objection in the following article. We propose to investigate the charge, so flippantly urged at this day, that the statements of Scripture are often untrue and self-contradictory. But before entering directly upon the work, several things are to be pre
In the first place, we claim inspiration and infallibility only for the original Scriptures, as they came from the hands of the sacred writers. We do not vouch for the entire accuracy of copyists and translators. A copy or a version is a proper subject for criticism, so far, at least, as concerns its agreement with the original; while the Divine original, when we have satisfied ourselves concerning it, is to be received with implicit confidence; and not a few of the alleged inconsistencies of Scripture are to be accounted for on this ground. They are to be referred to the mistakes of
transcribers and translators, and not to the original Word of God.
Many of the discrepancies appearing in the Bible are of a numerical character. They are found in the chronology of Scripture, in its dates, its computations, or in its statements respecting the ages of individuals. And when we remember that numbers, in the original Scriptures, are not commonly written out, but denoted by single letters, where the change of a letter for one resembling it, might make a difference of hundreds, or of thousands, we shall not wonder that there are discrepancies of this nature. We see, at once, that the transcriber, in copying, would be peculiarly liable to make such mistakes.
Another class of discrepancies is found in the names of Scripture. The names, in different genealogies, and in different parts of the Bible, do not agree. The explanation of these, or of the greater part of them, is, that among the Hebrews, in all parts of their history, the custom prevailed of calling individuals by different names. Thus we have Abram and Abraham, Jacob and Israel, Esau and Edom, Gideon and Jerubbaal, Araunah and Ornan, Jehoiachin Jechoniah and Coniah ; and in the New Testament, Simon and Peter, Matthew and Levi, Joseph Barsabas and Justus, Saul and Paul. There is still another cause of differences in names, and in the genealogies. The grandparent, or even a remoter ancestor, is sometimes put down as the parent, and the grandchild as the child. Thus Athaliah is called the daughter of Omri, whereas she was his granddaughter (2 Chron. xxii. 2); and in Matthew's genealogy of Christ, Jehoram is said to be the father of Uzziah, when in fact he was his great great grandfather. Three generations are entirely omitted (See Matt. i. 8). Such being the custom of the Hebrew scribes, this omission on the part of Matthew was deemed no inaccuracy.
Another cause of apparent discrepancy in the sacred writings, grows out of our ignorance of connecting circumstances.
As the narrative stands, some parts of it appear inconsistent or self-contradictory; whereas if we knew all the circumstances, we should see, at once, that there was
an entire agreement. In such cases, it is enough for us to introduce some harmonizing hypothesis, provided it be a reasonable and probable one, going to show how the seeming discrepancy may be reconciled, without pretending to say positively that such were the circumstances of the case. Every friend of the Bible will prefer to see its statements harmonized in this way, or to see how they may be harmonized, rather than to charge contradiction upon the Book of
I cannot pretend, in this paper, to notice all the alleged discrepancies in the Bible. Some of them are mere differences of statement, without so much as the appearance of contradiction; while others, growing out of the different senses and connections of words, will be readily harmonized by the judicious interpreter. Enough, however, will remain, after all deductions, to impose the necessity of a studied conciseness. The processes of investigation by which conclusions have been reached, must, in general, be omitted. The results, and these often in the most naked form, are all that I shall have room to present.
But without further preamble, let us proceed to the work before us.
We begin with the alleged contradictions of Scripture in regard to nunbers. There is some diversity of statement in the Bible, in regard to the number of Jacob's family who went down into Egypt. Moses says, in one place, they were sixty-six ; in the verse following he makes them seventy; while Stephen says there were seventy-five. -Gen. xlvi. 26, 27 ; Acts vii. 14. The discrepancy here is to be accounted for, not from any supposed error of the transcriber, but from the different ways in which the family were reckoned. Reckoning only the lineal descendants of Jacob, those who, in the language of the sacred writer,
came out of his loins ;'' excluding the patriarch himself, and Joseph and his two sons who were already in Egypt; and the number is sixty-six. Adding Jacob, Joseph and his two sons to the sixty-six, and the number is seventy. Excluding the last four, and adding nine,—the number of Jacob's sons' wives who went into Egypt,—and the number is seventy-five. And that the sons' wives were included
in the reckoning of Stephen, is evident from his language. “ All his kindred were threescore and fifteen souls." The sons' wives, surely, were in the number of Jacob's “kindred,” though they were not his lineal descendants.
We have another discrepancy in the numbers who are said to have fallen in Israel, in consequence of their committing fornication with the daughters of Midian. Moses tells us that twenty-four thousand perished at this time.Num. xxv. 9. But Paul speaks of only twenty-three thousand.-1 Cor. x. 8. The difference may be explained in this way :—before the plague broke out, God commanded Moses to take the leaders in this wickedness, and hang them up before the Lord. In the execution of this order, as many as a thousand, in all probability, perished. These Moses included in the number of those who fell, while Paul refers to those only who died of the plague.
We have yet another discrepancy in the accounts given in Samuel, and in the Chronicles, as to the number of David's fighting men. In Samuel there are said to have been eight hundred thousand in Israel, and five hundred thousand in Judah.-2 Sam. xxiv. 9. But in Chronicles, the warriors of Israel are said to be eleven hundred thousand, and those of Judah four hundred and seventy thousand.1 Chron, xxi. 5. The difference in this case may be very reasonably accounted for, by supposing a distinction between the standing army of David, and the whole number of those who drew the sword,” or were capable, as we should say, of bearing arms. The probability is, that the standing army in the ten tribes of Israel, amounting to some three hundred thousand, or thirty thousand to a tribe, is included in the Chronicles, but not in Samuel ; while the standing army in Judah, amounting to thirty thousand, is included in Samuel, but not in the Chronicles. It will be seen that this supposition, if admitted, (and it is certainly å reasonable one,) removes the difficulty entirely.
There is a difference between the statements in the Kings and Chronicles as to the number of Solomon's stalls for horses. In Kings he is said to have had forty thousand stalls ; in Chronicles only four thousand.-1 Kings iv. 26;
2 Chron. ix. 25. In all probability, the latter is the true number, and the former a mistake of some transcriber,-a mistake which, as before explained, might easily occur.
Nearly allied to the subject of numbers is the chronology of Scripture, in which we shall find some diversities of statement. There are such in regard to the time of the sojourning of the Israelites in Egypt, or in a strange land. It is said, in Exodus xii. 40, that “the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years.” The language here used does not necessarily import that the sojourning of the children of Israel in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years, but only that their sojourning in a foreign land, without any settled home, extended to this period. Accordingly, it has been ascertained that the period here referred to commenced with Abraham's sojourn in the land of Canaan. Abraham was seventy-five years old when called to go into the promised land. Twenty-five years after this Isaac was born. Sixty years later Jacob was born, and Jacob was one hundred and thirty years old, when he went into Egypt.-Gen. xlvii. 9. Putting these numbers together, 25, 60 and 130, makes two hundred and fifteen years. And Josephus tells us that the residence of the children of Israel in Egypt was two hundred and fifteen years, making four hundred and thirty in all.* This statement of Josephus is altogether probable; since Moses, who brought the children of Israel out of Egypt, was only in the fourth generation from Jacob. Jacob begat Levi, and Levi Kohath, and Kohath Amram, and Amram Moses.-See Ex. vi. 16—20. And this accords with God's promise to Abraham—"In the fourth generation, they (his posterity) shall come hither (i. e. into Canaan) again.”—Gen. xv. 16. It accords also with the statement of Paul, in Gal, iii. 17—“The covenant, which was before confirmed of God in Christ, the law which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect.” The promise or covenant here spoken of was first given to Abraham, when he