Monday, 1 March 2010

Mistakes in the Bible (part 1 of 3)

I have to write an essay on the authority of the bible for Christianity based off four articles. It seems that whatever you think about the bible there are some Christian thinkers that will back you up. One of the four main articles I read pointed me to some contradictory verses and then paraphrased some historically respected theologian to show how they dealt (unsuccessfully) with these errors.

With this post I first planned on just laying the verse and quotes in full next to each other for my own reference to come back to, but these problems all seemed to be solved by footnotes from the sources that I was grabbing the quotes from - I wasn't even looking for the solutions to these issues. If these are the big problems that the author of the article sees in the Bible, he really should have read the footnotes of the resources (like an off the shelf "study bible", or the English translation of Augustine's work) which are aimed at the general guy off the street.

(Of cause you don't have to believe footnotes, and there are other arguments that could be said in response to them and someone else could point out other contradictions; but I was surprised that these were the ones cited in the article on how scripture isn't inerrant.)

Also the old dude quotes got a bit long, so I have broken up this post into "smaller" chunks.

Matthew cites Jeremiah and not Zechariah

From the article:
Augustine believes that the Spirit led Matthew to refer to Jeremiah rather than Zechariah (Mat 27:9) because this emphasizes that all the prophets are the same and encourages people to put Jeremiah and Zechariah together.

Matthew 27:9: Then was fulfilled what had been spoken by the prophet Jeremiah, saying, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him on whom a price had been set by some of the sons of Israel

Augustine said:
For it may have been the case, that when Matthew was engaged in composing his Gospel, the word Jeremiah occurred to his mind, in accordance with a familiar experience, instead of Zechariah. Such an inaccuracy, however, he would most undoubtedly have corrected (having his attention called to it, as surely would have been the case, by some who might have read it while he was still alive in the flesh), had he not reflected that [perhaps] it was not without a purpose that the name of the one prophet had been suggested instead of the other in the process of recalling the circumstances (which process of recollection was also directed by the Holy Spirit), and that this might not have occurred to him had it not been the Lord’s purpose to have it so written. If it is asked, however, why the Lord should have so determined it, there is this first and most serviceable reason, which deserves our most immediate consideration, namely, that some idea was thus conveyed of the marvellous manner in which all the holy prophets, speaking in one spirit, continued in perfect unison with each other in their utterances,—a circumstance certainly much more calculated to impress the mind than would have been the case had all the words of all these prophets been spoken by the mouth of a single individual. The same consideration might also fitly suggest the duty of accepting unhesitatingly whatever the Holy Spirit has given expression to through the agency of these prophets, and of looking upon their individual communications as also those of the whole body, and on their collective communications as also those of each separately. If, then, it is the case that words spoken by Jeremiah are really as much Zechariah’s as Jeremiah’s, and, on the other hand, that words spoken by Zechariah are really as much Jeremiah’s as they are Zechariah’s, what necessity was there for Matthew to correct his text when he read over what he had written, and found that the one name had occurred to him instead of the other? Was it not rather the proper course for him to bow to the authority of the Holy Spirit, under whose guidance he certainly felt his mind to be placed in a more decided sense than is the case with us, and consequently to leave untouched what he had thus written, in accordance with the Lord’s counsel and appointment, with the intent to give us to understand that the prophets maintain so complete a harmony with each other in the matter of their utterances that it becomes nothing absurd, but, in fact, a most consistent thing for us to credit Jeremiah with a sentence originally spoken by Zechariah?

The footnote in the English translation of Augustine's work has:
The simplest explanation is that the name “Jeremiah” was applied to the collection of prophetical books, in which it was placed first by the Jews

And the ESV Study Bible notes say:
While drawing on a combination of words from Jeremiah (Jer. 19:1–13) and Zechariah (Zech. 11:11–13), Matthew attributes the prophecy to Jeremiah as the more prominent prophet. In the same way, Mark combines quotations from Isaiah and Malachi but cites only Isaiah as the more prominent prophet (see Mark 1:2; cf. Isa. 40:3; Mal. 3:1).


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