Don’t Be Hasty: Dealing with Apparent Discrepancies in the Old Testament
Certain accounts in the Old Testament provide data that seem to contradict data found in other parts of the Scriptures. Bible critics frequently cite these apparent discrepancies in their argument against viewing the Old Testament as God’s inspired and inerrant word. Some evangelical Bible scholars affirm that discrepancies really exist but argue that their presence need not undermine our faith in the Bible as God’s word. Others, however, insist that such discrepancies are not real but only apparent. They seek to provide possible solutions to the alleged discrepancies.1
In the video lecture below, I identify seven well-known discrepancies and offer various possible solutions.
Dealing with Apparent Discrepancies in the Old Testament
- The latter of the two evangelical approaches to apparent discrepancies in the Bible is the traditional approach. This approach is based on a conviction that the nature of Scripture as God’s self-attesting and self-authenticating word necessitates such a posture toward seeming discrepancies. For works that take this approach and offer plausible solutions, see Gleason Archer, The New International Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, 2nd edition (Zondervan, 2001) and Walter Kaiser, F. F. Bruce, Peter Davids, and Manfred Brauch, Hard Sayings of the Bible (Intervarsity, 1996). Conversely, some modern evangelicals think one may allow for real mistakes or errors in the text without compromising a high view of Scripture. For instance, John Walton believes the historical literature of the ancient Near East–including the Old Testament–emphasizes outcomes rather than events and precise details. This accounts, thinks Walton, for certain factual inaccuracies in works like Chronicles. The “integrity of the text,” he argues, “is linked to its interpretation of the outcome,” not to its accuracy of details. Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament (Baker Academic, 2006), 232-36. [↩]