Saturday, September 3, 2011

Bible difficulties Answered (Part 23)

By: Jay Smith, Alex Chowdhry, Toby Jepson, James Schaeffer

"The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him." (Proverbs 18:17)

90. Did the Midianites sell Joseph "to the Ishmaelites" (Genesis 37:28), or to Potiphar, an officer of Pharoah (Geneis 37:36)?

(Category: misunderstood the historical context)

This apparent contradiction is a very strange one because it shows a clear misunderstanding of the text in Genesis 37:25-36. The question is asked, 'To whom did the Midianites sell Joseph?' Verse 28 is used to say the Ishmaelites, and verse 36 Potiphar.

The traveling merchants were comprised of Ishmaelite and Midianite merchants who bought Joseph from his brothers, and they in turn sold him to Potiphar in Egypt. The words Ishmaelite and Midianite are used interchangeably. This would seem obvious once you read verses 27 and 28 together. A clearer usage for these two names can also be found in Judges 8:24.

91. Did the Ishmaelites bring Joseph to Egypt (Genesis 37:28), or was it the Midianites (Genesis 37:36), or was it Joseph's brothers (Genesis 45:4)?

(Category: misunderstood the historical context)

This supposed contradiction follows on from the last one and again lights up Shabbir's problem with the historical situation, as well as his inability to understand what the text is saying This time the question asked is, 'Who brought Joseph to Egypt?' From the last question we know that both the Ishmaelites and the Midianites were responsible for physically taking him there (as they are one and the same people), while the brother's of Joseph are just as responsible, as it was they who sold him to the merchants, and thus are being blamed for this very thing by Joseph in Genesis 45:4. Consequently, as we saw in the previous question all three parties had a part to play in bringing Joseph to Egypt.

92. Does God change his mind (Genesis 6:7; Exodus 32:14; 1 Samuel 15:10-11, 35), or does he not change his mind (1 Samuel 15:29)?

(Category: misunderstood how God works in history & misunderstood the Hebrew usage)

This "contradiction" generally appears only in older English translations of the Biblical manuscripts. The accusation arises from translation difficulties and is solved by looking at the context of the event.

God knew that Saul would fail in his duty as King of Israel. Nevertheless, God allowed Saul to be king and used him greatly to do His will. Saul was highly effective as leader of Israel, in stirring his people to have courage and take pride in their nation, and in coping with Israel's enemies during times of war.

However, God made it clear long before this time (Genesis 49:8-10) that he would establish the kings that would reign over Israel, from the tribe of Judah. Saul was from the tribe of Benjamin. Therefore there was no doubt that Saul or his descendants were not God's permanent choice to sit on the throne of Israel. His successor David, however, was from the tribe of Judah, and his line was to continue.

Therefore God, who knows all things, did not 'change his mind' about Saul, for he knew Saul would turn away from Him and that the throne would be given to another.

The word in Hebrew that is used to express what God thought and how God felt concerning the turning of Saul from Him is "niham" which is rendered "repent" in the above. However, as is common in languages, it can mean more than one thing. For example, English has only one word for "love." Greek has at least 4 and Hebrew has more. A Hebrew or Greek word for love cannot always simply be translated "love" in English if more of the original meaning is to be retained. This is a problem that translators have.

Those who translated the Bible under the order of King James (hence the King James translation, which Shabbir quotes from) translated this word niham 41 times as "repent," out of the 108 occurrences of the different forms of niham in the Hebrew manuscripts. These translators were dependent on far fewer manuscripts than were available to the more recent translators; the latter also having access to far older manuscripts as well as a greater understanding of the Biblical Hebrew words contained within. Therefore, the more recent translators have rendered niham far more accurately into English by conveying more of its Hebrew meaning (such as relent, grieve, console, comfort, change His mind, etc. as the context of the Hebrew text communicates).

With that in mind, a more accurate rendering of the Hebrew would be that God was "grieved" that he had made Saul king. God does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a man that he should change his mind. God was grieved that he had made Saul king. God shows in the Bible that He has real emotions. He has compassion on people's pain and listens to people's pleas for help. His anger and wrath are roused when He sees the suffering of people from others' deeds.

As a result of Saul's disobedience pain was caused to God and to the people of Israel. But also, God had it in His plan from the beginning that Saul's family, though not being from the tribe of Judah, would not stay on the throne. Therefore when Saul begs the prophet Samuel in verses 24 to 25 to be put right with God and not be dethroned, Samuel replies that God has said it will be this way - He is not going to change His mind. It was spoken that it would be this way hundreds of years before Saul was king.

There is no contradiction here. The question was "Does God change his mind?" The answer is, "No." But He does respond to peoples situations and conduct, in compassion and in wrath, and therefore can be grieved when they do evil.

(Archer 1994)

93. How could the Egyptian magicians convert water into blood (Exodus 7:22), if all the available water had been already converted by Moses and Aaron (Exodus 7:20-21)?

(Category: didn't read the entire text & Imposes his own agenda)

This is a rather foolish question. To begin with Moses and Aaron did not convert all available water to blood, as Shabbir quotes, but only the water of the Nile (see verse 20). There was plenty of other water for the magicians of Pharaoh to use. We know this because just a few verses later (verse 24) we are told,

"And all the Egyptians dug along the Nile to get drinking water, because they could not drink the water of the river."

So where is the difficulty for the magicians to demonstrate that they could also do this? Not only has Shabbir not read the entire text, he has imposed on the text he has read that which simply is not there.

94. Did David (1 Samuel 17:23, 50) or Elhanan (2 Samuel 21:19) kill Goliath?

(Category: copyist error)

The discrepancy as to who killed Goliath (David or Elhanan) was caused by copyist or scribal error, which can be seen clearly.

The text of 2 Samuel 21:19 reads as follows:

"In another battle with the Philistines at Gob, Elhanan son of Jaare-Oregim the Bethlehemite killed Goliath the Gittite, who had a spear with a shaft like a weaver's rod."

As this stands in the Hebrew Masoretic text, this is a certainly a clear contradiction to 1 Samuel and its account of David's slaying of Goliath. However, there is a very simple and apparent reason for this contradiction, as in the parallel passage of 1 Chronicles 20:5 shows. It describes the episode as follows:

"In another battle with the Philistines, Elhanan son of Jair killed Lahmi the brother of Goliath the Gittite, who had a spear with a shaft like a weaver's rod."

When the Hebrew for these sentences is examined, the reason for the contradiction becomes quite obvious and the latter 1 Chronicles is seen to be the true and correct reading. This is not simply because we know David killed Goliath, but also because of the language.

When the scribe was duplicating the earlier manuscript, it must have been blurred or damaged at this particular verse in 2 Samuel. The result was that he made two or three mistakes (see Gleason L. Archer, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, page 179):

    The sign of the direct object in 1 Chronicals was '-t which comes just before "Lahmi" in the sentence order. The scribe mistook it for b-t or b-y-t ("Beth") and thus got BJt hal-Lahmi ("the Bethlehemite") out of it.
    He misread the word for "brother" ('-h , the h having a dot underneath it) as the sign of the direct object ('-t) right before g-l-y-t ("Goliath"). Therefore he made "Goliath" the object of "killed" instead of "brother" of Goliath, as in 1 Chronicles.
    The copyist misplaced the word for "weavers" ('-r-g-ym) so as to put it right after "Elhanan" as his family name (ben Y-'-r-y'-r--g-ym, ben ya'arey 'ore-gim, "the son of the forest of weavers", a most improbable name for anyone's father). In Chronicles the ore-gim ("weavers") comes straight after men\r ("a beam of") - thus making perfectly good sense.

To conclude: the 2 Samuel passage is an entirely traceable error on the part of the copyist in the original wording, which has been preserved in 1 Chronicles 20:5. David killed Goliath.

This testifies to the honesty and openness of the scribes and translators (both Jewish and Christian). Although it would be easy to change this recognized error, this has not been done in favour of remaining true to the manuscripts. Although it leaves the passage open to shallow criticism as Shabbir Ally has shown, it is criticism which we are not afraid of. An excellent example of human copying error resulting from the degeneration of papyrus.


No comments:

Post a Comment

GCIM Discussion Forum: Latest Discussions