Tuesday, November 14, 2006

On the Alleged Contradictions of 2 Samuel 24, and 1 Chronicles 21 and 27 (vs. the Atheist "DagoodS")

I am replying to "DagoodS"' post, Let's do Better. I begin a little ways into it, where he gets to the subject matter proper. His words will be in blue.

* * * * *

An inerrantist will hold to any possible resolution of any contradiction, as if this would satisfy inerrancy.

Resolutions that are bent, twisted and contorted to fit that particular moment, and just as quickly discarded in the next discussion.


Some do this; not all. I don't think massive generalizations like this are helpful. It's prejudicial language. You act as if an entire clas of people must be intellectually dishonest ("twisted"), just because you don't like their conclusions. Many other factors may suffice besides that: bad premises, faulty (but sincere) methodology, insufficient acquaintance with how logic works (rather than deliberate wanton disregard of it), poor general reasoning skills, etc. Sometimes people just make bad arguments. That's not confined to Christians, by any means.

Honestly? Nobody except other inerrantists are buying it.

Of course, seeing that skeptics of the Bible will always be presupposed to tear it down, rather than seek to harmonize biblical passages. We operate according to our premises.

We understand their natural bias to manufacture a resolution. We see it in action by claims of people doing unbelievable things, and allegations of recording history in an unlikely fashion. Inerrantists would never accept these claims in a newspaper, but accept it to keep their Bible error-free. We see the double standard. What is ridiculed in the Qur'an is revered in the Bible. A great example of this is David’s Census.

Whatever. Nothing here that I can particularly respond to. It's just condescension towards Christians.

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King David

(To save bandwith, the three accounts of this event are at 2 Samuel 24:1-25, 1 Chronicles 21:1-28 and 1 Chronicles 27:24. Please read at your leisure)

Having read such, I have a few questions. The first few are multiple choice to make it easy. (A= 2 Sam., B= 1 Chron. 21 and C=1 Chron. 27)

Great! I love multiple choice tests! It makes it very easy to refute your logical errors too, so I appreciate it very much. You provide the rope that I can hang you with. :-)

*** CLICK ON "Tolle, lege!" immediately below to finish this article ***


1. When did God get angry?
A. Before the census
B. God never gets angry.
C. Because of the census

Looks like before (A), based on 2 Sam 24:1. God's "anger" means His prerogative of wrath and judgment, which is perfectly acceptable. As man's creator, He can judge. Having given the gift of life, He can take it away as a result of sin. 1 Chron 21:7 ("God was displeased with this thing") is not necessarily a contradiction because it gives no time frame. It is different from the proposition: "at this time God began being displeased with Israel" (which would contradict 2 Sam 24:1). He was angry before, and now He punished, while remaining angry. Where's the beef?

Nor it is correct to say that 1 Chron teaches that "God never gets angry." What do you think "displeased" means? Judgment of Israel is indicated in 1 Chron 21:11-11-12,14-15. Why you would characterize this as God never getting angry, is baffling. "C"'s statement, "wrath came upon Israel for this" is no contradiction to A, either, because A says that God was already angry and ready to judge Israel, whereas C says He judged them because of the census. How is that a contradiction? I could say, for example:
1 (A). I am angry at my son for not being careful when he plays baseball.

2 (C). I punished my son when he broke a window in the house, playing baseball.
How is this contradictory? It's not. It's talking about two different things. General anger (or decision to judge or exercise wrath, for God) is different from the actual punishment itself. But it is utilized as an alleged "contradiction" when a person is predisposed to find biblical contradictions under every rock, so to speak. Bias and wishful thinking leads to many logical errors, even in great thinkers. All this being the case, no logical difficulty exists. You'll have to try something else.

2. Who incited David to take the Census?
A. God
B. Satan
C. Nobody.

B (i.e., as instrumental cause). Satan did it for his causes (1 Chron 21:1), and God did it in the additional sense of His permissive will (Satan with evil intent, God for good purposes: 2 Sam 24:1). This is a common biblical theme (see, e.g., the beginning of the book of Job), as I discussed in three previous papers:

Did God Harden Pharaoh's Heart? (Does God Positively Ordain Evil?)

Reply to a Calvinist Critique Concerning the "Hardening of Pharaoh's Heart" (+ Discussion)

Supposed Contradiction Between 2 Samuel 24 and 1 Chronicles 21 (God or Satan as Cause?)

Therefore, there is no problem because the Bible recognizes complex causation: human or angelic agents and an overall supervising cause: God. This is very common in human day-to-day experience too. I could say my son was very polite to an old lady in the supermarket and helped her get a box of Wheaties off of a high shelf. Who caused that? He did, primarily. But it can also be said that my wife and I caused it by raising him to be a polite boy, and punishing him when he is not. So we both caused it. And the Christian says that God caused it, too, because all good things come from Him, by His grace.

So you say (as I would expect) that this doesn't deal analogously with Satan and God? Very well: I can provide another analogy. My wife and I might allow our sons or daughter to occasionally do a bad thing so that good can result longterm. We might allow them the freedom, for example, to become sloppy in study habits (while disapproving ourselves), so that they can see the consequences of getting a bad grade and the punishment resulting therefrom, so that they can learn a lesson. The proverbial example is allowing children to "put their finger in the fire." Parents recognize that these situations occur, and that good can come from them. God allows for free will and human and satanic error and sin as well, and can incorporate them into His overall beneficent plan.

3. What human mandated the census?
A. David
B. David
C. Joab.

This is a rather silly and simply-refuted "contradiction" (one of hundreds from atheists). Both men did it, and this is what the texts say. Have you never heard of a commander and his underlings? So A says that David did it (24:1) and that he commanded Joab to do it, who then did so (24:2,4). Joab then reported the number back to the king (24:9); then it says that David had numbered them (24:10). B does the same: David did it (21:1), David commands Joab to carry out the census (21:2); the latter does it and reports back to David (21:4-5), then David is punished for having done it (21:8). C says that Joab did the numbering (precisely as A and B did): 27:24; but the verse before (which you didn't include in your A,B,C - but this is context) says that David was numbering.

So this is much ado about nothing, too. We commonly speak in the same way. We'll say that "Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces Eisenhower commanded and supervised D-Day. He was responsible for it". But did he actually carry out and participate in the attack? No. Others did that. But it is understood that both the commander and the forces doing the invasion can be spoken of as having done it. Donald Rumsfeld is blamed for failure to quickly prevail in Iraq, etc. That's because he supervised and ran the effort. So does President Bush on another level. He's the Commander-in-Chief. So do the joint chiefs of staff of the armed forces.

So this is a particularly ridiculous so-called "contradiction." Many more of these and you will end up looking profoundly silly and foolish. You're 0 for 3 thus far. Is this an example of what you belittle and describe as "Nobody except other inerrantists are buying it."? Understanding the relationships here requires no belief in inerrancy, or even in God or Christianity at all. All it requires is a rudimentary understanding of logic.

4. Who protested against the census?
A. Joab and his captains.
B. Joab.
C. Nobody, Joab just did the census.

This is no contradiction, either. I'm so happy to have this opportunity to blow these alleged "contradictions" out of the water. It illustrates so well what I've maintained for years: atheists are the ones doing the absurdly illogical biblical exegesis: just as much as any stereotypical ignorant, special pleading proverbial "literalist fundamentalist." A doesn't say that Joab and his captains both protested. It informs us that Joab did so (24:3), as would be expected of a second-in-command.

Not everyone goes to the king to advise or be advised. When it says that "the king's word prevailed against Joab and the commanders of the army, that obviously means that they were included as under his command. Perhaps they, in turn, had advised him to say what he did to David, as is perfectly plausible in military affairs, or any business affairs. But that's not a contradiction. It's simply not enough information to establish one. So B has Joab protesting to the king, just as A did. C doesn't say one way or another, which is no contradiction (therefore, your saying that this supposedly entails "nobody" is an extra-textual groundless conclusion). The following three propositions are completely consistent with each other:
1 (A). Joab protested to David the king (and his commanders, like he himself, were subject to the king's "veto").

2 (B). Joab protested to David the king.

3 (C). Joab numbered the people.
3/C doesn't entail any contradiction of A or B or (A + B) anymore than my saying that "I did the dishes" and also, "I protested and complained about doing the dishes" contradict. Or, to be more strictly analogical, my wife may have asked me and my sons to do the dishes, and I protested, but we did it, and then it could be said, "But the boss's word prevailed against David [me] and his sons." Case closed (using good legal language).

5. What was wrong with taking a census?
A. Nothing, God mandated it in Numbers 26:2
B. Nothing, God required it for taxes in Exodus 30:12
C. Nothing, they just did one in the preceding 23 verses!

This at least has some measure of difficulty in solving (whaddya know: finally, one of five examples has some power of argument behind it). The most plausible solution seems to be that David had ill motives for conducting the census, rather than the census being bad in itself (per the other passages you cite). The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary thus states (p. 198):
The reluctance of Joab to participate in the census and the subsequent plague, a common divine punishment for breach of covenant, suggest that this census was part of a large-scale administrative reorganization and was perhaps evidence of a trend toward royal initiative rather than adherence to the tenets of Israel's covenantal foundations.
The text doesn't provide information as to why David later felt remorse. Unsavory internal motivations (unstated) are a possible reason. There is no rule that says that the Bible must explain everything to the nth detail. So some of these difficulties in interpretation will (for all practical purposes) come down to whether one is inclined to accept the authority of the Bible or not: a hostile person will immediately assert contradiction (in other words: your response is as entirely predictable as mine). But one who believes in biblical inspiration will give the benefit of the doubt to the text. Presently, there is a possibility of bad motives or kingly and military pride being the evil. That's not ruled out by the text. It's admittedly speculative and far from compelling (as an argument from silence), but there are many other similar instances (most of the reign of Saul involved the "king vs. God" dynamic).

The design for military conquest and empire (contrary to the covenant and Israel as a separate, chosen nation) is suggested by the fact that the census went beyond the traditional confines of Israel (see 2 Sam 24:5-7: "crossed the Jordan . . . the land of the Hittites . . . all the cities of the Hivites and Canaanites" etc.). The divinely-ordained census of Numbers 26 involved only the twelve tribes of Israel. The one recounted in Exodus 30:12 seems the same ("people of Israel"). There is also the hint of excess in Joab's statement, "why does my lord the king delight in this thing?" (2 Sam 24:3). That is something beyond the census itself being a good or bad thing. It goes to motivation and David's purposes.

6. How long did it take to do the census?
A. Nine months, 20 days.
B. Not recorded
C. Didn't complete the census

A and B obviously do not contradict. C is easily explained by the portion in B (21:6): "But he did not include Levi and Benjamin in the numbering, for the king's command was abhorrent to Joab."

7. Who all was counted?
A. All tribes
B. All tribes except Levi and Benjamin
C. Didn't complete the census.

C was explained in #6 above. A nowhere says that he counted "all the tribes," so the characterization above is based on nothing but an assumption of circular reasoning. It only says that David commanded Joab to number "all the tribes of Israel" (24:2). But we know from 1 Chronicles 21:6 that Joab disobeyed, as to Levi and Benjamin. So once again no contradiction and no cigar. Maybe we'll start awarding booby prizes for entertaining and amusing failed efforts, though . . .

8. What was the number of the census?
A. 1.3 Million
B. 1.57 Million (with LESS tribes counted!)
C. Number was deliberately not recorded.

This would seem to be a textual discrepancy (unless the two accounts used two different means of reckoning numbers, or one was an estimate only). An actual error in the text is not inconceivable nor necessarily damaging to inspiration, for it might possibly be explained as a copyist's error, in which case it was not in the original manuscripts (most Christians acknowledge textual discrepancies or disputed texts, which make up some 1% of, e.g., the NT). Even a numerical error in the inspired text itself would not affect any theological doctrine, so I don't think it is some sort of catastrophe, as is thought in some relatively small factions of Christianity (the ones atheists invariably go after as supposedly representative of Christianity as a whole). In any event, I don't get hung up on such discrepancies. I regard them as boring and insignificant. Possible, proposed contradictions in actions, events, descriptions, etc. (such as most suggested in your paper), are much more interesting and worth discussing.

So that is a total thus far of six solved (fairly conclusively, I say, by simple recourse to logic) as groundless accusations, one (#5) that is textually inconclusive (I'll call it a "tie"), and one instance of (I think, relatively insignificant) numerical discrepancy for you: 6-1-1 record in favor of an orthodox Christian viewpoint on the Bible.

9. What stopped the census?
A. Done counting
B. Done counting
C. Wrath of God, census not completed.

Again, this is explained as a non-issue, in my replies to #6 and #7 above. 7-1-1.

10. Who took the blame for doing the census?
A. David
B. David
C. Not recorded, but apparently Joab. (COULDN'T be David. 1 Kings 15:5)

This is sheer nonsense. C doesn't indicate "apparently" Joab. This is mere wishful thinking. He simply carried out the command. A and B (21:17) show us that David was at fault, so the sensible, objective person interprets C in light of that (just as a lawyer would combine the details of three separate testimony-accounts, to arrive at a synthesis of progression of events leading to a crime), as there is no contradiction whatsoever. C says that wrath came because of the census, but not upon Joab as a supposedly evil agent. He cooperated against his will (as many of us are forced to do in work situations).

You want to jump over to 1 Kings. Nice try. It is obviously a general, proverbial-type statement, as are commonly found in the Bible; not meant to encompass every single act he ever did. That is only your hyper-literalist interpretation, and one of myriad instances of atheists comically adopting the extreme exegetical method that they purport to be critiquing. Your colleague Ed Babinski (nice guy though he may be) has almost made it his life's-goal to engage in ironically absurd exegesis of this sort. The same language is used when the Bible speaks of "good" and "bad" kings or men. It's a general statement. See, for example, 1 Kings 15:11: "Asa did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, as David his father had done." Yet he is faulted in 15:14: "But the high places [i.e., idolatrous sites] were not taken away . . ." 8-1-1.

11. What was the first threat of punishment of God?
A. 7 years of famine
B. 3 years of famine
C. No threat, it just came!

2 Samuel 24:13 is a disputed text. Most modern translations have "three years," not seven (like the KJV). As I am not a Hebrew linguist, I yield to the judgment of the translators and their knowledge of the best available manuscripts (we have better ones than we did in 1611). But three years seems to be - prima facie - the natural choice, given the parallelism of "three years, three months, three days" in both 2 Sam 24:13 and 1 Chron 21:12. 9-1-1.

12. What is the name of the Jebusite where the angel stopped?
A. Araunah
B. Ornan
C. Umm…What Jebusite? They should all be killed on sight. Deut. 20:17

Hebrews often had more than one name, or else this is a variation of one name. I don't see this as of much significance. Deuteronomy was hundreds of years earlier. Why that should be thought of as relevant is beyond me. God commanded the Hebrews to war against various nations to judge them at certain times, based on whether it was time to judge them. But individuals could often be exceptions, anyway. Araunah/Ornan appears to be a sojourner in Israel. The Hebrews were commanded to not oppress such people (Ex 23:21; 23:9); indeed, they were to love them (Lev 19:33-34, Deut 10:19): obviously for the purpose of converting them to the Hebrew religion. The sojourner was considered virtually on a level with the Israelite (Lev 24:22) and would share in the nation's inheritance (Ezek 47:22-23).

Since this wasn't decisive in my favor (or yours, I say), and I don't feel like calling a Hebrew scholar and asking about Araunah=Ornan, I'll call it a tie: 9-2-1.

13. What did the Jebusite do when he saw the Angel of Death?
A. Doesn't say the Jebusite saw the Angel.
B. Just kept working, just kept working…
C. Excuse me? Jebusite? Didn't David award Joab his position because he fought and killed the Jebusites? 1 Chron. 11:6

Simply not mentioning one way or the other (A) and noting that he saw the angel (B) is, of course, no contradiction. C is explained by #12. It's the ridiculous wooden literalism of "absolutely no exceptions" - as if the ancient Hebrews were modern analytical philosophers or Clintonian haisplitters -, that leads to such silly taunts. Score: 10-2-1.

14. What did David buy from the Jebusite?
A. The Threshing floor and the oxen.
B. "the place" (just the floor?)
C. Are you crazy? THERE IS NO @#%%@ JEBUSITE! David would have killed him!

The same silliness appears again (now the third time, and just as dumb) in C, based on unnecessary wooden literalism; explained in #12. David asks for "the site of the threshing floor" in 1 Chron 21:22 (which may be larger than just the threshing floor portion). Some oxen, wood, and wheat are also included in the transaction (21:23). David indicates that the oxen were part of the deal by referring to "burnt offerings" in 21:24. If the one account means that he bought a larger site and the other highlights the portion which was most valuable in it, so what?

That's like purchasing a building which has a desired music studio in it. If one says, "I bought the building" (the entire purchase) and also "I bought the studio" (the primarily-desired part of the pourchase), there is no contradiction. Why try to create one when it is obvious that there is no necessity for it at all, just going by common ways of speaking that are probably common to most languages (since based on simple logic)? But of course when one's goal is to tear down and mock the Bible at any cost, then why worry about insignificant things like logic and treating the writers and Christian and Jewish readers as something other than imbeciles and idiots? 11-2-1.

15. How much did David pay the Jebusite?
A. 50 shekels of silver
B. 600 shekels of gold
C. I’m telling you - There is no Jebusite!

I guess C is included now only for wrongheaded jokes and guffaws. As such , I'll just ignore it henceforth unless some further argument is provided. It is quite plausible to see the first price as for the threshing-floor, and the second for the entire site, since the first account emphasizes that and the second the larger area. The larger amount may even be a later purchase, since the Chronicler often combines two related events into one account. But this isn't decisive, only plausible, so I'll regard it as another tie. 11-3-1.

The test you cannot fail - all answers and no answers are correct. REGARDLESS of what you circled, you get 100% right! Depending on which particular passage you read is which answer you will provide.

I beg to differ, as shown. There are right and wrong answers for the great majority, if one troubles himself with logic and a halfway-fair reading, incorporating context and some miniscule level of understanding of ancient Hebrew culture.

We are not done. For the Essay portion of our quiz - In your apologetic, discuss the theological implications of God getting so angry He desires to kill 70,000 people, but His nature of Justice mandates someone has to sin first.

The two are not necessarily connected. God has the prerogative of being judge. He was spoken of as already being ready to judge in A before David sinned. Israel was constantly screwing up and disobeying, so this is nothing new or novel. God's reason for judging Israel at this juncture could be for any number of reasons (not necessarily mentioned at every turn). Some scholars contend that the sin was the internal rebellion against David, their rightful, divinely-ordained king, such as that of his own son Absalom (2 Samuel, chapters 15-18).

Also discuss the punishment of David's sin being 100,000-200,000 OTHER people have to die.

But this is based on the false premise that they died simply because of David's sin. The texts don't say that. David pleads for his people (2 Sam 24:17) but this is common in the Bible. Moses and Abraham had done the same (the latter for just a few righteous people in the corrupt city of Sodom). Christians hold that God could kill all of us in one fell swoop and it would be perfectly just, because we are all sinners and rebels and worthy of destruction. Only God's love, mercy , and grace allows any of us to live and attain eternal life. But of course the atheist presupposes everyone being innocent as the driven snow, so they don't accept mass judgments as just actions of God (i.e., assuming for the sake of argument that He exists).

Also discuss Satan's limitation of "tempting" others unless God allows it. Or (in the alternative) discuss the ramifications of Satan and God working together to allow God to kill 70,000 people for David's sin.

I've already explained all this in various places.

If, in your apologetic, you claim that God and Satan worked together,

They don't technically work together. Rather, God uses Satan as a pawn for His "game." Satan is stupid. He ndoesn't even realize that he's being used for God's purposes or that God can turn his eveil intent into a good outcome in the long run.

discuss other areas in which the two entities worked together, and why each of the authors failed to mention the involvement of the entity's enemy.

I've done that, too, above, and in the three papers of mine cited above.

If, in your apologetic, you claim David was prideful and wanted to do the census, please give other examples (with citations) as to David's pride, and explain why 2 Samuel states God was angry first.

God was angry because of sinful rebellion; that's the plausible explanation, taking into account events before this occurrence. But it could have been other disobediences and sins, too. The most obvious sin of David, was of course his adultery with Bathsheba and murder of her husband Uriah. One might say that derived from the pride of power as well as the lust of the flesh. Then there was his pride and vanity in capturing Jerusalem (2 Samuel 5:6-8). He was taunted by the Jebusites, who said that the "blind and the lame will ward you off." So he deliberately killed them, because he "hated" them. David didn't build the temple because he "shed so much blood" (1 Chron 22:8). A lot of that was by divine command; thus not sinful, so this probably applies to incidents like his killing of the noncombatant lame and the blind in Jerusalem.

You should also address why this sin was not listed in David's transgressions in 1 Kings.

It didn't have to necessarily be included. We can deduce certain things from various biblical indications. There is also the theme of kings relying on their own power rather than God (a type of pride). God (ideally) wished that Israel didn't have a king, for this reason, but He allowed them to because they wanted to be like the other nations.

If, in your apologetic, you claim that David bought more than the house, explain your use of the Hebrew word for "place" and why that entails an entire mountain.

I've dealt with that above.

If, in your apologetic, you address the differing numbers of the census, please provide archeological verification that in 1000 B.C. there were more than 50,000 people in the land encompassing Canaan. You should also address the ability of a nation with a possible standing army of at least 1.3 Million, as compared to other nations at that time, and why this military strength is non-existent in archeological records.

Beyond my ability to deal with at the present time. I've spent enough labor on this, and we see how weak your overall argument has been.

[passing over more skeptical babble]

[Christian possible reply] David delegated the task to Joab, so both were involved.

O.K., but why would the Author of 1 Chron. 27 leave out the important figure here, the King? ESPECIALLY in light of the fact that Joab protested the Census? Even more importantly, when (if it was the same author) 6 Chapters earlier he was more than happy to lay the blame on David and absolve Joab?

He wasn't. He is mentioned in 27:23, as previously noted.

Where I do not buy this apologetic, is the claim that this is inspired Scripture. Between human authors, it seems feasible to have missed out important figures, like God, Satan and David. But if God had his hand in it, why are these most important facts missing?

What's missing? You've failed miserably in your task. All you could come up with (after proper logical scrutiny is applied to your pathetic argument, is three instances where the Christian couldn't decisively refute your claim (that I have deemed "ties"), but where you couldn't decisively assert contradiction, either; one numerical inconsistency (that could possibly be simply a copyist's error), and 11 times where your position was blown out of the water, usually on an elementary logical basis that you somehow couldn't grasp. This is supposed to make me reject the Bible and repent in dust and ashes to become an oh-so-rational atheist, because the Bible is so illogical and ridiculous? You don't agree? Okay, show me where my reasoning went astray, then, and how you can overcome the simple logic involved in most cases.

And while we are on that, let’s talk about 2 Samuel missing Satan, and 1 Chronicles missing God in the story. Most apologists say that BOTH were involved, and this is not necessarily contradictory, as 2 Samuel just failed to mention Satan and 1 Chronicles failed to mention God. Can I say, "Huh?"

Yeah, sure, It won't affect the logic or the exegesis involved. Just because you can't comprehend it doesn't make it any less plausible, once properly explained and understood. The two passages are talking about two different aspects of causation, just as the book of Genesis did, with joseph's brothers (with evil intent) being used for God's purposes (Joseph becoming "vice-Pharaoh").

First (in explaining away "incite") we have Satan chomping at the bit to get David to sin. But 2 Samuel fails to mention that important fact. Then we have God getting angry and "releasing" Satan. But 1 Chronicles 21 fails to mention that fact. So we say "incite" means two different things. (1 Chronicles 27 fails to mention EITHER of them!)

None of this causes the slightest logical or exegetical difficulty, as explained brielfy above and in depth in my three cited papers. If you don't get it by now (and I answered you yourself in one of the papers, on a similar issue), then further effort would be futile.

Now that we have demonstrated how diametrically opposed Satan and God are, we then claim that the authors failed to mention the involvement of these two enemies!

Why does it have to? It's not logically required. Let me explain by another analogy. George Bush is the Commander-in-Chief of the US military. So one can say that whatever it does, he does. "President Bush invaded Iraq," etc. "President Kennedy invaded Cuba in the Bay of Pigs fiasco." Etc. Now say that in the military, there is a renegade captain (let's call hi Captain Bloodbath) who is going around committing atrocities against the will of the President. The enemy could say that "Bush did that." But it was not his will. So he is "responsible" in a sense because it occurred in the military force over which he is in charge. In another he is not because he didn't approve of it.

Likewise, God is sovereign over everything whatsoever. In His creation are acts that He doesn't sanction or approve (sins). But He can (unlike Presidents) incorporate those free will acts (even sinful ones) into His overall plan. But there is a limited sense in which Presidents can do so also, for there could be an overall good, moral cause (WWII) in which individual bad and evil things occur. The eventual outcome is good, but not everything done to get there was (I say the nuclear bombs were immoral, as well as conventional carpet bombing of cities on both sides).

Therefore, it can be said of the same event: "President Bush did it" and "Captain Bloodbath" did it. Bush "did" as the Commander, but it was not his will, and he thought it was wrong. The captain, however, was directly responsible, and intended it as evil. But Presidents are not judges of mankind. God can do that, because it is His divine prerogative. Presidents cannot, as members of the same class that is being judged, and hence, not above it by nature. God can judge a nation and do it with righteous cause, whereas Satan just wants to kill people for the sake of killing people. He is a murderer, not a righteous Judge. He kills people for no reason; God has sufficient reason. Satan is a creature like ourselves, and as such, cannot be the judge of mankind.

Facts that apologists feel are important to align the passages, the authors did not!

They didn't need to, as just shown. Divine superintendence would be one reason why so few true logical contradictions can be found.

Look at this analogy. (I know it is not perfect. It is designed to point out that leaving out important details is unacceptable.)

Yes; neither are mine. But mine in this case is better than yours, as I will show below.

Imagine this week you read in Newsweek that Pres. Bush ordered a sniper to kill Tony Blair. You then pick up Time which says Osama bin Laden ordered a sniper to kill Tony Blair. US News & World Report simply says a sniper killed Tony Blair. Would you look at those three reports and think, "Oh, these are complimentary. Clearly Bush had Osama in his control and then allowed bin Laden to hire a sniper"?

The analogy doesn't work because bin Laden is not "under" Bush the way that his own military is under him (and everyone knows this). My analogy does work because it involves a renegade soldier within the structure of the US military, headed by President Bush. This is analogous to Satan being under God (in the overall scheme of things: God and His creation), because God is in total command of the universe and Satan is merely a rebellious creature (with some considerable amount of evil power) underneath God, being used by an omnipotent and omniscient and sovereign God for His own ends (while not approving of his evil).

OR would you more likely determine that somebody screwed up in the News department in each of these magazines?

Yes, we would, but the analogy itself fails, as shown, so the Christian need not be troubled by it. Mine is, I think, successful.

I find it fascinating that apologists hold the inspired word of God to a lesser standard than they do to a Newspaper or a Magazine. What one would NEVER accept in a news agency, one GLADLY accepts in the Bible. I would think the word of God could be held to a greater standard and still sustain the test. Apparently not.

Well, this is hogwash, based on the mistaken assumption that your analogy is simlar to the reasoning we (and the biblical writers) are using with God and Satan and how they are related to each other and to events.

The point is that NOWHERE does it state that taking a census is wrong. Since census taking was not only performed before, but ORDERED by Mosaic Law (for taxes) if it is considered a grave sin in this situation, don't you think it would be important to point out why? More on how grave of a sin later.

This is why I argued that the sin was in David's motivation, not in the census itself. The text doesn't have to necessarily explain everything in exhaustive detail, anymore than God explained to Job why he had suffered so much. God is not required to do so. And we can't demand that He does. Who are we to do so? That was the point made at the end of the Book of Job.

[hypothetical Christian apologist] The number "7" (or the number "3" is reputed to be a copyist error.

Oh, good. A copyist error. Then can anyone show me the copies that had a "3" rather than a "7?" What? There AREN'T ANY? Then how can I possibly say this is a "copyist" error?

If so, it is simply a speculation (obviously). Are you maintaining that it is impossible that errors could have ever crept into Bible manuscript transmission? That would be a fascinating position for an atheist.

And which one (2 Sam. Or 1 Chron.) was the "copyist error?" I wonder if apologists ever get tired of trying to explain these situations for God.

I argued that it was the very similar notion of a matter of variant manuscripts. I also made a contextual argument that is perfectly plausible (3 years . . . 3 months . . . 3 days). The texts are what they are. The best ones are determined by how old and authenticated they are. That would show which one was correct and which false. We know how accurate ancient manuscripts were by, e.g., the example of the scroll of Isaiah from the Dead Sea Scrolls, which was something like 98% identical to the Masoretic text of some 1000 years or more later.

Question: How many OTHER copyist errors are in the bible? Apparently there is at least one. (This one.)

There are several possibilities that are well known to biblical scholars. But to reiterate: a true error merely of the copier is obviously not an error in the inspired text. The error was introduced by the non-inspired copyist, not by the inspired biblical writer. So it doesn't prove biblical contradiction. It proves manuscript contradiction, but manuscripts are not necessarily 100% synonymous with the inspired Bible. This is the point.

Since all the copies say "7," than we can have other portions of the Bible that all the copies say the same thing, yet be a copyist error, right? Since we can’t tell? If this is a copyist error, and I claim that John 3:16 is a copyist error, how can you possibly argue against it?

I can't speak to this, as I don't have sufficient information at hand. All I know is that Hebrew translators of many modern Bibles thought "3" was the best translation of the one passage, and not all translators, by any means, are "inerrantists."

[more skeptical ruminations passed by: either dealt with, or I've seen enough nof the quality of your reasoning on this to have any motivation to spend more of my time on it]

Now, I propose the following resolution for David's Census:

There was a legend about a census during Kind David's reign that resulted in a punishment on the people.

How do you know that? Where did the idea come from? Your own head? Some atheist book from a disgruntled former Christian?

At various times, and various places the legend modified, based upon who was telling it.

Sure . . . how do you know this? If it is just speculation, how is it any better than my speculations in favor of the harmonization of biblical texts?

Three different authors wrote it down. Being human, and hearing the legends from humans, they wrote different accounts.

Which is more likely?

Mine, of course, because simple logic has shown us that only one out of 15 of your supposed "contradictions" can hold any water. And the one contradiction is about the minutiae of accurate numbers. The Bible is not primarily about numbers; it is about how to know and serve God and get to heaven. So what has been accomplished by this exercise in terms of your cause? Very little that I can see . . .

Human error on these accounts, or a tortured, twisted explanation that bends and turns according to the necessity of that exact clause at that exact moment, which, not surprisingly, happens to coincide with the bias of the person making the proposal.

If my logic is so "tortured" and "twisted" I'm sure you'll be only too happy to point out how, since I've spent many many hours dealing with your paper, at your request. surely you won't let me down, right?

If it weren't in the Bible, every person would agree it was "human error" every time.

Is that so? I guess I'm not a person, then, because I would argue the same way whether it was the Bible or three accounts from the newspaper that I was given the burden to explain as either harmonious or contradictory. What's the difference? Logic applies in both instances. Virtually all that was necessary above was Logic 0101 and a little knowledge of the Bible, biblical themes, and a working knowledge of how ancient Hebrews approached things.

That is why simply coughing out some words that would align one part of one clause of one story, while disregarding the more likely probability of human error is not persuasive.

Why? I'm all ears for you to show me where my logic fails and why yours is superior. Until and unless you can do that, then nothing you have presented to me in this paper causes the slightest doubt that Christianity is true, or that the Bible cannot be trusted as God's inspired word. Even if you persuaded me that a few more of the fifteen alleged "difficulties" could hold water, so what?

The rational person doesn't expect that they will be able to understand or explain absolutely every jot and tittle, every last aspect (no matter how minor or secondary) of some belief-system, theory, or set of jointly-held opinions. Scientists, for example, don't do that. It isn't required. They can't explain everything, but it doesn't stop them from adopting the currently most substantiated and least-falsified theory. There are such things as "anomalies" in virtually every scientific theory, no? They don't reject a theory because it isn't utterly exhaustive and comprehensive in explanation.

That's one form of respected knowledge. Legal trials don't work that way, either, do they (you know something about that)? Absolute proof is not required (nor is it arguably possible in many cases without a videotape or something); only proof beyond a reasonable doubt. It involves (like scientific theories) some speculation and deduction, and is not airtight. You don't throw out a verdict because it is absolutely impossible or unthinkable to question it. to the contrary: there is a chance that the verdict is false. Innocent people have been convicted. An innocent person can even be (and many have been) executed by this method. But we don't throw out the legal system because of that.

Likewise, why should it be thought that I and any rational person have to give up a belief in biblical infallibility and inspiration simply because I (or even the set of biblical scholars) can't explain absolutely every passage which presents some ostensible difficulty? I don't have to do that at all, just like scientists don't have to throw out plausible theories and governments their legal systems. We have plenty of positive evidence (including hard empirical evidence such as archaeology) to suggest that the Bible is accurate and trustworthy and even that it is inspired.

But in the present case, we have seen that your arguments don't even succeed in proving that there are serious difficulties in these parallel passages in the first place. You haven't even gotten to first base. It was a gloriously failed attempt, though. I'll give you that much, and an "E" for effort. Thanks so much for bringing this to my attention so I could highlight the flimsy character of atheist exegesis yet again! Got any more papers like it? It was a lot of fun.

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