Tuesday, June 18, 2013


One stock objection to the inerrancy of Scripture concerns numerical discrepancies between Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles. However, this raises several issues:

i) It’s easy to miscopy numbers. Some of these could be transcriptional errors.

ii) Coregencies are another consideration, where you have overlapping reigns.

iii) One Bible writer (or his primary source) may be using a different calendrical system than another Bible writer. Keep in mind that inerrancy concerns truth and falsehood. By contrast, calendrical systems are social conventions. For instance, if you have conflicting dates because one writer uses the Jewish New Year as a starting point while another writer uses the Chinese New Year as a starting point, that’s not an error. Same thing with the Julian and Gregorian calendars.

iv) Numerology is a further consideration. To cite a few cases:

The immediate successors of kings who receive news of impending judgment on their royal houses, for example, characteristically reign for “two years” in Kings (1 Kgs 15:25; 16:8; 22:51; 2 Kgs 21:19). Are we really being told exactly how long they reigned, or are we to see this as an example of narrative art, linking these kings together and inviting reflection upon them as a group? And what are we to make of the highly schematic ending to the book, where the last four kings of Judah are described as reigning successively for three months; eleven years, three months, and eleven years (2 Kgs 23:31-24:20)? I. Provan, 1 and 2 Kings (Hendrickson 1995), 18-19.

[20:15] “All the Israelites, 7,000.” It is, of course, a curious coincidence that 7,000 is the number of the “remnant” destined to survive the onslaught described in 19:15-18 (153-54). 

[22:30] The various numerical links perform the same function (400 prophets in 18:19 and about 400 in 22:6; 7,000 Israelites in 19:18 and 20:15; 32 kings in 20:1 and 32 commanders in 22:31 (166).

[24:16] It is interesting to find the figure seven thousand occurring yet again, since that is the number of “the remnant” in 1 Kgs 19:18 (cf. also the additional note to 1 Kgs 20:15) (281).

[2 Chron 7:4-7]. Here the numbers appear, but they are astounding: “twenty-two thousand…and a hundred and twenty thousand” (7:5). In all likelihood these numbers are hyperbolic. 144,000 sacrifices in the period of fourteen days (7:8-9)… R. Pratt, 1 and 2 Chronicles (Mentor 1998), 244.

Pratt says these are hyperbolic, but notice that 144,000 is a multiple of 12 while 14 is a multiple of 7–both of which are theologically significant numbers. So these seem to be symbolic rather than hyperbolic. Provan’s data invites the same interpretation.

No comments:

Post a Comment