I was doing some research into the Lee Strobel books because I want to listen to the audios of them, and stumbled across a skeptic tearing apart the Bible. I figured it might be good practice to read what they had to say so I could know how to defend the Bible. Most of them I dismissed as a non issue, such as differences in lanuages between then and now (I assume). But one that struck me was the differences in numbers that account for losses and captures in war. I think this particular one was in 2 Samuel and talked about the 1700 (?) Difference in one account to 7000 in another, and that if the word is God breathed how could it be so different?
I tried searching this but couldnt find a lot of information that was from believers just more skeptics and athetists. So, I guess Im wondering how we account for these? Also, what about the rest of the often discussed " inconsistances?"
Hi Cassandra! I can’t quite recall which accounts you’re referring to – can you give the exact Bible reference, please? I’ve recently finished a study on 2 Samuel and I don’t recall this issue being brought up, but I will endeavour to find an appropriate response for you!
@SandiDuffy Before offering a possible explanation for the discrepancy, I would like to emphasize one point: our trust in the Bible as God’s Word does not rely on there being zero copyist errors. Let me say that again, our trust in the Bible as God’s Word does not rely on there being zero copyist errors. What matters is that the copyist errors that do exist do not, and I will say it again - do not, impact the core doctrine of Christianity and they are very few and far between.
So simply because someone finds a possible copyist error, which this may well be, does not have any significant impact on the status of the Bible.
The fact is that there are indeed copyist errors on the biblical documents and they account for many alleged contradictions. Remember, it is the autographs (original writings) that are inspired and inerrant, not the copies. The copies we have now are copies of inspired documents. The copies are not themselves “inspired;” that is, they have no guarantee of being 100% textually pure. Does this then mean that we can’t trust the Bible? Not at all. The copies are so accurate that all of the biblical documents are 98.5% textually pure. The 1.5% that is in question is mainly nothing more than spelling errors and occasional word omissions like the words “the,” “but,” etc. This reduces any serious textual issues to a fraction of the 1.5%. Nevertheless, nothing affects doctrinal truths. In fact, nothing in ancient history even comes close to the accuracy of the New Testament documents.
The Issue of 2 Samuel 8:4
Now that we have that out of the way, this issue is likely a copyist error. See explanation below.
The LXX has “one thousand chariots and seven thousand charioteers,” a reading adopted in the text of the NIV. See the parallel text in [1 Chr 18:4]. NET Bible
The easiest and most obvious resolution is that one of the verses has been miscopied. William Arndt, in his book, Does the Bible Contradict Itself? wrote: “The difference in the number of chariots is best explained as due to the error of a scribe, who especially if letters were used as numerals, could easily write seven thousand instead of seven hundred, or vice versa” (1976, p. 34).
With respect to the other divergence between the two passages, the one saying David slew 40,000 horsemen, the other that he slew 40,000 footmen in this battle, a simple solution presents itself. These warriors could fight both as cavalry and as infantry, just as the occasion required. Their status was similar to that of the dragoons a century or two ago. We can then very well harmonize the apparent discrepancies which we meet here (p. 34).
Blessings in Christ
I think your question is intriguing and one that interests me greatly. Once we have the information, it can be equally important ‘how’ we answer the critic.
In regards to ‘information’, ‘SeanO’ provided very good points. Textual variants exist. However, the key points are the foundational Jewish-Christian doctrines remain unchanged throughout time. Dead Sea/Qumran scrolls show this. Even Dr. Bart Ehrman, New Testament scholar, while admitting he is between an agnostic and atheist, states as much in his writings and lectures. For a deeper dive on the subject, I recommend videos by Dr. Gary Habermas and Dr. Daniel Wallace on YouTube.
‘How’ I answer the critics question is often a challenge for me. Unfortunately, I love a good argument, academic or otherwise. Once I have a grasp on the ‘information’, I will argue point by point. However, the critic will always find another point I may not have the right ‘information’. To the casual observer, it may seem we’re arguing on nothing more than sports box scores.
You discussed Lee Strobel, I found he has an effective insight that broadens the ‘argument’ to more of a discussion. Lee relates as an investigative journalist, if he hears that multiple witness all have the same perspective, he immediately suspects collusion. They got together and ‘cooked’ the story he relates. That each of the Gospel writers tell their perspective, each with their differences, yet with the core message preserved, Lee states this makes the Gospel a reliable account to believe in. I find it amazing, ‘God breathed’ even, that over 4000 years, through over 40 different men from different backgrounds, and the Bible’s essential messages of the Great Shepard, Sacrifice, Resurrection, and Redemption are uniquely preserved.
I don’t believe any other historical set of documents can say the same. I find that incredible! Praise God! I look forward to any comments you may have or if I’m off the mark towards your question.
Respectfully - Ken