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Smorgasbord Debating
by Farrell Till
A reply to
OH-SIGH-RIS
The Pagan Origins of Resurrection Refuted!
by Mark McFall
Till's comment:
I can't help wondering about the title of McFall's response to my article. Is he claiming that
the concept of resurrection from the dead did not originate prior to the advent of Christianity?
Is it his position that prior to the resurrection of Jesus, there were no concepts of returning
from the dead in any of the religions that had preceded Christianity? He needs to clarify his
position.
McFall's article begins:
The ministry of In The Word (ITW) expresses appreciation to Mr. Till for publishing The
Resurrection Of Osiris According To Farrell Till in the November/December issue of
The Skeptical Review (TSR, 2001). Mr. Till's thought provoking response, The Pagan Origins
of Resurrection, originally followed that essay and I am pleased to have his permission to
publish it for readers of ITW. I, the present writer and Editor of ITW, believe that objectivity
substantially increases in the eyes of readers when ideas from two diametrically opposed
world views are openly exchanged and debated.
Till's Reply:
Here McFall referred to my first reply to his Osiris article as "thought provoking," but in his
postings on the Errancy list, he didn't seem to think it was so thought provoking. On 3/15/02,
he urged me to concede defeat and, in fact, even came close to pleading for me to concede.
"Look Farrell," he said, "I'm not going [to] tout victory all over the net if you were to admit
error on the bodily resurrection similarity." He said this even before I had written this reply to
his rebuttal article, but if I conceded defeat to every would-be apologist who unilaterally
declares victory in internet debates with me, I would spend most of my time conceding defeat.
I'm perfectly willing to let our audiences judge who needs to concede defeat, and I'm
confident that those who examine this issue in detail will see that I am not the one who should
concede.
McFall's Article Continues:
While it is true that neither Mr. Till nor I have intentions of persuading each other personally,
our approach to issues remain similar in that we seek to influence those who may be on the
fence of faith. On that tone, let's now consider the issue at hand.
Till's Reply:
On at least this one point, McFall and I agree. I never enter a debate with any illusions that I
will convince my opponent that his position is wrong. I do, however, enter debates with
confidence that Bible believers whose minds have not yet rusted shut will be able to see that
the inerrancy position is untenable. In this case, we are not debating inerrancy directly, but it
is certainly indirectly involved, because if it can be shown that a New Testament story as
vitally important as the resurrection of Jesus simply imitated myths that had preceded it, this
would seriously undermine the claim that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant "word of God."
My position is that the New Testament claim that Jesus rose from the dead was not at all
"unique," as McFall claims, but was simply another spin on ancient myths about resurrected
savior-gods, one of which was the Egyptian myth that Osiris was resurrected.
McFall's Article Continues:
Did the New Testament writers borrow the resurrection concept from myths? If they did, are
there any observable parallels that would lend credibility to that hypothesis?
Till's Reply:
Readers should expect McFall to quibble about "observable parallels," because this is a
familiar biblicist tactic when they debate the issue of similarities in Christianity and pagan
myths. They will emphasize the slightest differences in the Christian myths and their earlier
counterparts in paganism and then argue that these differences make the Christian versions
"unique," and so they are not imitations or "spin offs" of earlier pagan myths.
An Akkadian stela contained an inscription that told of king Sargon's apparently illegitimate
birth to a priestess, who made a basket of reeds, put the infant Sargon in it, and set him afloat
on the Euphrates River. He was rescued by a gardener who taught him the art of cultivation
until he was noticed by the goddess Inanna, who took him to the court of king Urzabal, where
he was given the name Sargon and later became king. There are many differences in this tale
and the one told later about Moses, who was put into a reed ark and later rescued by Pharaoh's
daughter, but the "core" elements of the story, i.e., the endangered child set afloat in a reed
basket and the rescue and subsequent rise to prominence in a royal court, are so strikingly
parallel that one would have to have his head in the sand to deny that the tale about Moses
was just a variation of an earlier legend.
I'll use an example from secular literature to show the absurdity of the fundamentalist claim
that unless all details in a biblical story are exactly parallel to earlier pagan myths, then no
borrowing from mythology occurred. If asked what author created the "super sleuth," who
was able to solve any baffling crime, most people would likely say Sir Conan Doyle's
Sherlock Holmes was the original of a long line of such master detectives, but in reality Edgar
Allan Poe was the creator of this archetype when he published "Murders in the Rue Morgue,"
which introduced C. Auguste Dupin, an "unofficial" French detective with amazing deductive
skills that enabled him to solve a crime that had baffled the police. Poe wrote two other Dupin
mysteries, and Sherlock Holmes and all the other super detectives who came later were "spinoffs" of the original Dupin. Many differences exist in the various detective series that came
after Poe's original. The name of Doyle's super sleuth, for example, was Holmes, whereas the
name of Poe's original was Dupin. Holmes was British, whereas Dupin was French, and so
on. Despite the many differences, however, the similarities are such that literary experts agree
that Poe created the super detective that was later imitated by various authors. Poe's formula
entailed the commission of a baffling crime, which was followed by a bungled investigation
by the official police, who had wrongly accused an innocent suspect. At this point, Dupin
would enter the investigation, discover clues overlooked by the police, and clear the innocent
party by identifying who had really committed the crime. How many times have readers seen
this "formula" in detective stories? To argue that Doyle's super detective wasn't a spin-off of
the original because his name and nationality were different and such like would be quibbling
not as likely to occur in critical analyses of secular literature, because no sacred beliefs are at
stake in secular literature. We can, however, expect to see McFall so quibbling in the issue
before us, because he has an emotionally important religious belief to defend.
McFall asked above if there are any "observable parallels that would lend credibility to [the]
hypothesis" that the Christian resurrection claim was borrowed from paganism. Well, duh, in
both cases (Osiris and Jesus), a man died and was "revivified," to borrow McFall's favorite
expression in this matter. That isn't an "observable parallel"?
McFall's Article Continues:
Or, do skeptics create their own parallels that are made plausible by selective descriptions?
Perhaps even by unsubstantiated presentments? And, do skeptics take what they think they
know about ancient obscure myths (like those we find about Osiris) and amalgamate (i. e.
unite) them with Christian elements that are heterogeneous (i. e. dissimilar in ingredient)? Or,
are these alleged parallels real? After all, so the skeptics tell us, there are many tales of dying
and raising [sic] gods in the ancient world (i. e. Mithra, Demeter, Dionysus, Adonis, Attis,
Tummuz, etc.). In this essay, we will confront Mr. Till's formulated parallels with original
texts and observe those parallels evaporate in the heat of the facts, and, we will also consider
the evidences surrounding Jesus Christ's resurrection and will find that the evidences are of a
kind that offer a much greater credibility and realism than any other religious "resurrection"
claim. I believe that this should cause the average skeptic to take a moment of pause, to,
rethink through the strengths of the available evidences.
Till's Reply:
We're going to see an evaporation all right, but it is going to be McFall's claim of
"uniqueness" in the New Testament resurrection claim that will evaporate, because McFall's
selective quoting from "original texts" is going to be exposed to show that the overall body of
Egyptian literature clearly depicted in some versions of the myth a bodily resurrection of
Osiris. Admittedly, this was not a bodily resurrection in which the one "revivified" remained
on earth nearly as long as the Christian narratives claim for Jesus, but the Egyptian myths did
indicate that there was at least a short time when the "revivified" Osiris was on earth, and I
know of no one who would claim that the resurrection of Osiris was exactly parallel to
Jesus's.
That aside for the moment, I found McFall's comments in this paragraph very interesting. He
indicates a belief that the "evidences" for the resurrection of Jesus "offer a much greater
credibility" than any other resurrection claim, so if he really believes this, I would think that
in addition to debating the issue of parallels in the Osiris/Jesus resurrections, McFall would be
eager to defend the credibility of the resurrection of Jesus, but when I proposed to him that we
extend the debate to include his "defense of the resurrection in general," he replied that he
would not consider this until I had conceded that I was wrong in the Osiris matter (Errancy
List, 3/15/02). In other words, he was offering to accept my proposal if I would just admit that
I was wrong about the resurrection of Osiris. This, of course, was a stipulation that he knew I
would not agree to, so I can only assume that he doesn't have much enthusiasm for defending
a resurrection claim that he thinks has a much greater credibility than any other such claim. If
the situation had been reversed and he had proposed a debate on the resurrection of Jesus after
the Osiris issue had been debated, I would have accepted without hesitation.
McFall's Article Continues:
By way of enlightenment, based on a thorough study of Mr. Till's interpretations in light of
the facts, the next time you hear such alleged comparisons between Osiris and Jesus Christ,
you too may be compelled to throw up your hands and say, "OH-SIGH-ris...not that again!"
Till's Reply:
Cute, but I suspect that the hand throwing and sighing won't be nearly as widespread as
McFall seems to think. More likely, the next time McFall contends that Egyptian mythology
didn't depict a bodily resurrection of Osiris--as he will undoubtedly do--skeptics will do the
hand-throwing and sighing: "Is McFall still singing that same tune?"
McFall's Article Continues:
Clearing the Air: Before we engage in the process of discussing the facts, a brief prefatory
remark is needed. In the beginning of Mr. Till's essay, he developed the idea that I am out to
"discredit" him. Mr. Till had stated that I mentioned his name 51 times second only to Osiris
with minimal references to Jesus Christ. In other words, Mr. Till implied that I am out to
"discredit" Farrell Till instead of his interpretation. However, in the opening paragraph of
my original piece lies a very clear preliminary remark regarding intent:
"while this article focuses for the most part on Mr. Till's formulated parallels between Jesus
Christ and Osiris, it nonetheless will adequately equip Christians with enough critical
information to give a ready response (1 Peter 3:15) to those who have expressed similar
analogues."
I chose to come at this topic from an examination of Mr. Till's interpretation because of the
comments he made in his debate with Dr. Geisler (of Southern Evangelical Seminary)
because he asked his audience to "go examine the evidence" of Osiris [sic] bodily resurrection
and to compare its similarity to the resurrection of Jesus Christ [See: Geisler-Till Debate.] In
the process of examining the evidence for Osiris [sic] resurrection as explained by Mr. Till, it
was necessary to give Mr. Till plenty of space within my article to adequately present his
view. It is worth noting that out of 3,280 words in that essay, 815 were Mr. Till's own. I
quoted Mr. Till at length to diminish the possibility of misinterpreting or misrepresenting his
view, and, since Mr. Till is so well known in skeptical circles, I thought it appropriate to
dismantle the interpretation of the head gun. Hence, it was not my intention to discredit
Farrell Till, on the contrary, the intention was/is to discredit the resurrection of
Osiris according to Farrell Till.
Till's Reply:
It sounds to me as if McFall is splitting hairs and then sanding down each part, but this is a
very minor issue with me. However, since McFall made the comments above, I'll restate my
opinion. If readers will examine his original article they should have little difficulty seeing
that he had obviously targeted me. If his intention was as he claimed above, he could have
entitled his article "The Resurrection of Osiris" (without the "According to Farrell Till") and
then proceeded to identify me as a proponent of the view that the New Testament resurrection
of Jesus borrowed from pagan myths. He could have verified that this was my position by
quoting what I had said in the debate with Geisler, after which he could have examined the
claim that Osiris was bodily resurrected without constantly referring to Till, Till, Till, Till,
etc., except, of course, when he was quoting me.
This is not a complaint, because I consider personal attacks on me complimentary. They show
that biblicists consider my materials on biblical inerrancy important enough to warrant their
time and space to try to refute. Whether I am the "head gun" of skepticism, as McFall claims,
is another matter entirely. I personally don't consider myself the head gun, because, as McFall
surely knows after a long tenure on the Errancy internet list, there are several qualified
spokesmen for the skeptical view of the Bible. I prefer to think that we complement each
other. If one is weak in a particular field, there is usually someone who can jump in and fill
the gap. Tim Taylor, for example, is a member of the Errancy list, who has sent McFall into
silence on the Osiris issue, and I will be quoting him later in this reply. Readers will see that
he is obviously far enough at the "top" to give McFall more than he can handle in this matter.
Even McFall apparently thinks that I am not the "top gun" of skepticism, because he has put a
lot of effort into getting the opinions of skeptics like Jeff Lowder, Richard Carrier, Robert
Price, and Earl Doherty on my position in this debate. I can only assume that he did this
because he thought that what these skeptics would have to say would carry more weight than
my opinion. McFall received replies from Carrier and Doherty, which I may publish
elsewhere on this site, but I doubt that McFall received from them what he had gone looking
for.
I'll admit quite honestly that my intention in this reply will be twofold: (1) First, I want to
show that the myths of Osiris's resurrection were obvious forerunners of the Christ
myth. (2) I want to discredit McFall, because he has exhibited a cockiness on the internet,
which, although nothing like Robert Turkel's, needs to be cut down to size. Because of
number (2), readers should expect to see me hammering away to expose McFall's position. I
make no apology for doing that.
McFall's Article Continues:
But now let's get on with discussing the facts with a view to address the points that Farrell Till
made in his response to my article.
Till's Reply:
Yes, let's do get on. I'm eager for everyone to see just how weak McFall's position is. I
understand from past communications with him that he went to the internet as a believer in
biblical inerrancy but soon learned that this was an indefensible position, so he is presently
arguing that the Bible is errant but still, in some sense that he can't seem to explain, the
"inspired word of God." He was able to see the foolishness of trying to defend biblical
inerrancy, but he can't quite bring himself to reject the extremely unlikely claim that a saviorgod was resurrected from the dead. Perhaps he will yet come to see that he is fighting
windmills in his effort to deny that Christianity plagiarized from pagan mythology.
McFall's Article Continues:
Diversity In The Accounts of Osiris: Are there variations in the versions that relate the myth
of Osiris? Well, it was interesting to see Mr. Till tell readers that much of my "confusion
about the Osiris myth is rooted" in my "failure to recognize the diversity in Egyptian myths,"
when in fact, these recognized diversities were the point [Diodorus Siculus I, Books I-II.34,
Loeb Classical Library (279), Translated by C.H. Oldfather. Harvard University Press
Cambridge Mass., London, England ISBN 0-674-99307-1. Source provided by Tim Taylor
(Errancy, 6/30/01)]. It seems Mr. Till is making it appear to readers that the present writer
"erred by relying on versions of the Osiris myth that were either vague about the nature of his
resurrection or else had left it out entirely." But what of this confusion?
In prior confrontations with Mr. Till, he had forcibly argued, that, "different versions of the
myth will disagree in some details, but an old inerrantist comment about inconsistencies in the
gospel accounts of the resurrection is worth adapting to the Osiris myth: the important thing is
that all of the accounts agree that Osiris was killed and resurrected to life"
(Errancy, 02/17/01). However, in Mr. Till's most recent response to me, he seemed to have
compromised that position by saying, that, "in some of the myths about Osiris, resurrection
was't [sic] mentioned, but in others he was clearly resurrected to life," and, that he had "never
claimed that all versions of the Osiris myth contained direct accounts of a resurrection but
only that some of them did." Admittedly, I became a bit confused after those comments in
light of his original one. Fortunately, however, Mr. Till put those recent comments into
perspective in lieu of the confusion:
"I need to point out that my summation of the Osiris myth was based on what I had read in the
accounts of Plutarch and other more popular versions of the myth, so when I said all of the
accounts had agreed that Osiris was resurrected, I was referring to the sources from which I
had complied my summary. It still remains true that some versions of the myth did not
mention a resurrection."
It seems I misunderstood the scope of what Mr. Till meant by "all." Nevertheless, I did learn
from Mr. Till through previous correspondences, that, he had consulted the versions of the
myth as related by Plutarch (as mentioned above), Diodorus of Siculus, and the Book of the
Dead. Even though Mr. Till mentioned to me that these works were temporarily obtained
through interlibrary loan processes, he assured me, and others, that, he was nonetheless
"personally confident enough in the accuracy" of his note-taking to "stand by" what he has
said concerning his assertion "that some versions of the myth had Osiris resurrected on earth,
where he remained for a period of time before descending into the netherworld" (Errancy,
2/21/01). Since the present writer has access to all three of the works referenced by Mr. Till,
and since these works constitute what Mr. Till considers apropos, then, let's bring "all" of Mr.
Till's evidence to the table for a thorough examination of the facts.
Till's Reply:
I'll interrupt here to inject a warning to McFall. Egyptian mythology is such a maze of
contradictory versions that he should not make the mistake of assuming that the three sources
I named above will be sufficient to settle disputes in this matter. If any or all of these three
fail to present details that support my position, other versions will be consulted. If any one of
them verifies my position, then I will have established my claim that some versions of the
Osiris myth depicted a bodily resurrection. Much to McFall's chagrin, however, we are going
to see that more than just one version depicted a bodily resurrection.
In my reply to McFall's first article, I had pointed out that no body of Egyptian priests had
ever met to decide which myths were "canonical" and which were not, as church bodies had
done in Christian writings. Hence, this had allowed wide diversity and inconsistencies
in Egyptian mythology, which resulted in conflicting versions of the same myth. I suggested
this diversity as a probable source of McFall's misconceptions about the nature of Osiris's
resurrection, because his article had seemed to rely on versions of the Osiris myth that were
either "vague about the nature of his resurrection or had left it out entirely." By relying on the
opinions of fundamentalist "scholars" like Ronald Nash, who will lean over backwards to find
dissimilarities in pagan counterparts of the Christian accounts of virgin birth, Herod's
massacre of the children of Bethlehem, the resurrection of Jesus, etc., McFall has not gotten
an accurate view of what the broad range of Egyptian literature said about the resurrection of
Osiris. McFall left this issue unaddressed in his reply to my rebuttal of his article.
McFall's Article Continues:
The Literary Evidence For Osiris' Resurrection: Plutarch's (AD 46-20) work, Isis and
Osiris (De Iside Et Osiride), is the most complete ancient work on this myth in existence, and,
it was originally dedicated to Clea (Ibid, 351D), a cultured and intelligent priestess at Delphi.
In that work we see Plutarch briefly mention Osiris' reanimation in conjunction with the
Greek mythical giants of the Titans.
Till's Reply:
I hope that everyone noticed that McFall said that "Plutarch briefly mention[ed]
Osiris' reanimation in conjunction with the Greek mythical giants of the Titans" (emphasis
added). His quotation from Plutarch below is truncated (a bad habit that he has), but the
quotation refers to the "dismemberment" and "revivification" of Osiris. McFall calls it a
"reanimation," but revivification or reanimation--the reference would be to a return to life,
wouldn't it?
If not, why not?
McFall's Article Continues:
Says Plutarch:
"Furthermore, the tales regarding the Titans and the rites celebrated by night agree with the
accounts of the dismemberment of Osiris and his revivification [anabiosesi] and regenesis
[paliggenesiais]. Similar agreement is found too in the tales about their sepulchers." (Plutarch,
Moralia, De Iside Et Osiride, 365A, (Babbit, LCL, Vol. V.)
Readers should take note that Plutarch devotes about 90 modern pages to the Osiris myth, and
it is particularly noteworthy to consider that this is the only piece of evidence in Plutarch's
corpus that mentions Osiris' resurrection, and even at that, it's an allusion and not an actual
account. What's missing? Well, beside the fact that there is no resurrection narrative, there are
also no reported appearances, and, to make this allusion even less credible, it is without a
historical foundation as we see by Plutarch's mention of the Titans. In fact, so weak are the
evidences surrounding Osiris' resurrection, that, Plutarch even advises Clea that "whenever
you hear the traditional tales which the Egyptians tell about the gods...you must not think that
any of these tales actually happened in the manner in which they are related" (De Iside Et
Osiride, 355B). In contrast, not only does Christ's resurrection have narrations and
appearances, it's also undergirded by historical characters, elements of which we will be
discussing later on.
Till's Reply:
And when we discuss this "later on," I will remind McFall (as I noted above) that if he is so
sure that the resurrection of Jesus was "undergirded" by narrations, appearances, and
historical characters, then he should be eager to defend the resurrection of Jesus in a debate
like this. When such a debate was suggested to him, however, he dodged the challenge, so I
will renew the proposal each time McFall claims that the resurrection of Jesus is supported by
such convincing evidence as narrations, appearances, and historical characters. I have been
reading Jane Haddam's detective novel True Believers, because I was told that she mentioned
Jeff Lowder and me in the book. As I read it, I found that, sure enough, on page 27 of the
paperback edition, Lowder and I were mentioned as frequent contributors of freethought
articles on the internet. I have also found references to Al Gore, Richard Pryor, Truman
Capote, Madalyn Murray O'Hair, Somerset Maugham, James Cagney, Ernest Hemingway,
Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Kaczynski, Bishop Spong, Karla Faye Tucker, Pope John Paul II, Dan
Rather, Peter Jennings, Barbara Ehrenrich, Richard Dawkins, Christina Aguilera, Kenneth
Copeland, Benny Hinn, Loretta Lynn, Nora Roberts, Oliver Stone, Ed McBain, and probably
many others who will be in the second half, which I have yet to read. Since all these are the
names of actual people, this must mean--according to McFall's logic--that the murder in this
novel, which the unofficial detective Gregor Demarkian (another Auguste Dupin knockoff)
was called in to solve, must have actually happened. Now if McFall will bother to tell us why
none of the references that Haddam made to real people prove that the novel I am reading is
historically real, then I'll be glad to explain to him why narratives, "appearances," and
historical characters in the New Testament don't prove that Jesus actually rose from the dead.
Better yet, if he will agree to debate the resurrection of Jesus in this forum, I'll explain it to
him then.
McFall's Article Continues:
Moreover, it is also evident from Plutarch's allusion to Osiris' reanimation, that he
uses anabiosesi (revivification) and paliggenesiais (regenesis) as reinterpreted terms of what
he understood to be the beliefs of the followers of Osiris. But does the use of a particular term
by someone describing something within a cult prove that the word itself was actually part of
the cult's terminology? Well, we know that Plutarch could not read Egyptian texts, we also
know that "his knowledge of Egyptology was not profound" (Babbitt, Introduction to the
Moralia, LCL, Vol. V, pg. 3), and, "in some cases Plutarch was mistaken about Egyptian
beliefs" (Mercatante, The Facts On File Encyclopedia of World Mythology and Legend, pg.
501).
Till's Reply:
So if Plutarch's knowledge of Egyptology was not profound, why wouldn't that minimize the
importance of what Plutarch said in the passage that McFall quoted above? Is he asking us to
accept the opinion of someone whose knowledge of Egyptology was not profound? At any
rate, McFall should keep in mind that Plutarch's reference to the "revivification" of Osiris
would be a reference to his return from the dead.
If not, why not?
McFall's Article Continues:
So, in the opinion of the present writer, that's a legitimate question to ask. Nevertheless, I will
grant Mr. Till this sliver of evidence because Plutarch does mention "revivification"
(anabiosesi) and "regenesis" (paliggenesiais) in his allusion to Osiris.
Till's Reply:
Excuse me, but wouldn't Plutarch's reference to the "revivification" of Osiris be more than
just a "sliver of evidence"?
McFall's Article Continues:
But wait just a minute! Isn't it Mr. Till's argument that Osiris bodily resurrected back to earth?
Till Reply:
Not exactly. It is Till's position that, according to some versions of the Egyptian myth, Osiris
was resurrected bodily while he was still on earth after which he quickly ascended into
heaven. I, of course, don't believe that Osiris was actually revivified any more than I believe
that Jesus of Nazareth was. After all, a myth is a myth, and I stopped believing in myths long
ago.
McFall's Article Continues:
It certainly is, and we see that Plutarch doesn't give us any details to confirm Mr. Till's thesis.
Till's Reply:
And, as we have seen, even McFall has noted that Plutarch's knowledge of Egyptian
mythology wasn't particularly profound. As we proceed, I will concentrate on showing that
McFall's favorite Egyptologist clearly recognized that ancient Egyptian writings and basreliefs depicted a bodily resurrection of Osiris, which was then followed by an ascension into
heaven. At any rate, if there was any doubt at all that McFall's primary intention was to
discredit whom he considered to be the "top gun" in skepticism, the section above should
settle the issue. He obviously went out of his way to show that I had made a mistake, and I'm
going to surprise him and admit that I was careless in stating my position. Plutarch at best
merely implied that Egyptian mythology taught that Osiris was resurrected. I made an error in
working from memory, but anyone who has ever tried to study Egyptian records on this
subject--or any other mythological subject--knows that this body of literature is so broad that
it is almost impossible to remember every detail of the various accounts. As I have noted
before, Egyptian clerics did not go through a process of weeding out mythical versions that
they considered "uninspired" in order to separate what they considered a "canon" of inspired
literature. The result was a maze of conflicting myths that was somewhat like Christians
would have if all apocryphal and pseudepigraphic writings had been lumped together in a
Bible that would have required several volumes to be published. McFall's favorite scholar
explained the reason for the hopelessly contradictory accounts in Egyptian mythology.
In religious theorizings the Egyptians never forgot anything which had been imagined and had
found expression in the written word, and they discarded no view or belief, however
contradictory, fearing lest they should suffer material loss in this world, and spiritual loss in
the next. The result of this was to create in their religion a confusion which is practically
unbounded, and we need not wonder that ancient Greek and Roman writers produced histories
of Egyptian gods and goddesses which border on the ridiculous (E. A. Wallis Budge, Osiris &
the Egyptian Resurrection, Dover Publications, vol 1, p.22).
Later on in his article, McFall quoted Dr. Ogden Goelet several times, whom he called "a
contemporary non-Christian Egyptologist of high regard," so I'll just quote from the same
source McFall cited what Goelet said about contradictory versions of Egyptian myths.
The fragmentary narrative [which Goelet had just summarized] cannot do justice to the
richness of the Osiris legend, reconstructed from hundreds of allusions scattered through the
BD [Book of the Dead]. The order and nature of events, as well as the participants, varies
[sic] not only from chapter to chapter, but within different sections of some of the longer
chapters. Some of these references were derived from moments and places in local Osiris
festivals which varied from place to place in Egypt. However confusing it may seem, we
must bear in mind that Egyptian religious texts tend to collect rather than edit; no attempt was
made to reconcile contradictions or to form a continuous tale. It is not surprising that the
numerous oral traditions should have given birth to a wide range of phrases, words, and
allusions ("A Commentary on the Corpus of Literature and Tradition Which Constitutes The
Book of Going Forth by Day," in The Egyptian Book of the Dead, Chronicle Books, San
Francisco, CA, 1994, p. 149, emphasis added).
Goelet obviously agrees with Budge that the Egyptian myths about Osiris constitute a maze of
contradictory accounts. Since writing my first reply to McFall, I have obtained my own copies
of Budge's volumes on Egyptian resurrection myths so that I won't have to rely on memory or
interlibrary loan to check the claims that McFall is making about Budge's position on Osiris's
"revivification." To McFall's chagrin, he is going to see that although I may have previously
overstated the clarity of Plutarch's account of this resurrection myth, Budge's translations of
Egyptian hieroglyphics clearly show that some versions of the Osiris myth claimed a bodily
resurrection.
McFall's Article Continues:
To add insult to injury, the Egyptologist Wallis Budge (who is a very hostile source to
Christianity) has this to say about Plutarch allusion:
"Unfortunately he does not say whether Osiris came in the form of a spirit, or in his natural
body, which he had raised from the dead..."(Budge, Osiris And The Egyptian Resurrection,
pg. 17).
Till's Reply:
Here is an example of how biblicists will selectively quote in order to leave the impression
that scholars support the biblicist position. Notice the ellipsis (the three dots) at the end of
what McFall quoted above. The ellipsis indicates that something was left out of the quotation,
so I am now going to fill in the ellipsis with italic print.
"Unfortunately he [Plutarch] does not say whether Osiris came in the form of a spirit, or in his
natural body, which he had raised from the dead, but it is clear that he had the power of
speech and thought, and that he appeared in a form which Horus could recognize."
If Osiris had the power of speech and thought after his "revivification" and if Horus was able
to recognize him, all this certainly implies that Osiris had risen in the body that Horus was
accustomed to seeing. If not, why not? Later, I will discuss other temple inscriptions and
depictions in ancient Egyptian bas-reliefs that necessarily implied a bodily resurrection of
Osiris. When these are considered along with the direct statements of a resurrection, they will
be more than sufficient to show that McFall is fighting windmills in a vain attempt to prove
that the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth in the New Testament was "unique." For now, I just
want to advise readers to be careful in accepting without question what biblical apologists say
when quoting scholars, because they will often times do what McFall did above to
misrepresent what the scholars actually said.
McFall's Article Continues:
After a more mature reflection on what I have just written above, I have decided to retract that
sliver of evidence that I granted Mr. Till's argument. Plutarch, writing a few thousand years
after Osiris' death (note: the New Testament was composed within a hundred years of Christ's
death), doesn't explicitly affirm that the followers of Osiris believed that he had bodily
resurrected. The implication is that Mr. Till's alleged comparison has overstepped the content
available from Plutarch.
Till's Reply:
I suppose McFall intended us to swoon with awe over his reminder that the New Testament
was composed within a hundred years of Christ's death, but any sensible person will realize
that a period of 100 years in a time when there were no libraries or archives to consult should
cause suspicion about how accurate New Testament "history" is. First of all, McFall assumes
the historicity of Jesus, which isn't a point I am willing to concede, but if Jesus wasn't an
actual historical person, it wouldn't matter when the New Testament was written. For the sake
of argument, however, let's just assume that he did exist and that the New Testament was
written within 100 years of his death. If there were no media archives or public libraries
existing today, how accurate do you suppose it would be if I should undertake to write a
history of the Spanish-American War and had no sources to use except oral traditions and a
few handwritten letters from veterans that may have survived the passing of decades? McFall
should catch the drift of my question, but if he wants me to explain it to him, I will.
Yes, as I noted above, McFall is right in saying that Plutarch didn't "explicitly affirm that the
followers of Osiris believed that he had bodily resurrected," but I did show that the reference
to the "revivification" of Osiris all but stated outright that he had returned from the dead. I
also showed that McFall is not above quoting selectively in order to distort what scholars have
said on this subject, and I will now show from McFall's favorite scholar that some versions of
the Osiris myth did either explicitly state a bodily resurrection or else stated by necessary
implication that such a resurrection had occurred. As I will show later, McFall already knows
this, because on the Errancy list, Tim Taylor took him to the woodshed on this very issue and
posted quotations from Budge that McFall has yet to answer. He is now going to confront
some of those same quotations, so it is going to be hard for him to continue his evasion of
them.
First, Budge's book Osiris & the Egyptian Resurrection, which McFall has cited several
times, reproduced the bas-reliefs in Egyptian temples that depicted Osiris rising from his
funeral bier to stand upright. Page 46 (volume 1) shows Osiris at a 45 degree angle during his
rising. Page 40 (volume 2) depicts a scene from a bas-relief at Denderah in which the rising of
Osiris from his bier, at the command of Horus, is in an earlier stage, so the angle of the body
is lower than 45 degrees. Page 43 (volume 2) in another Denderah reproduction depicts Osiris
standing on his knees in a still higher degree of resurrection from his bier. Page 58 (volume 1)
has a reproduction of a bas-relief at Philae in which Osiris is in an upright position between
the outstretched wings of Isis, so as Frazer said in the passage I previously quoted, "The
resurrection of the god could hardly be portrayed more graphically" (The Golden
Bough, chapter 39, section 2, paragraph 6).
In the preface of his book, Wallis Budge said that "for all [Egyptians] there was only the same
hope, and that hope was Osiris" (volume 1, p. xxi). He then went on to say that "Osiris the
god became this hope because he had lived in a body which had suffered, and died, and had
been mutilated, and had, after reconstitution, been raised from the dead by the god incarnate
in it, and had passed into heaven." When I read this, I wondered how McFall could read it and
not immediately see "observable parallels" between the resurrections of Osiris and Jesus. I
thought of such passages as these.
John 1:14 14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory,
the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth.
Philippians 2:5-8 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was
in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but
emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in
human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death--even death on a
cross.
1 Peter 2:21-24 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you,
leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps. He committed no sin, and no
deceit was found in his mouth. When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he
suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly. He
himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for
righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.
1 Corinthians 15:13-19 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been
raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith
has been in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God
that he raised Christ--whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the
dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is
futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have died in Christ have perished. If
for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.
I assume it isn't necessary to quote scriptures that speak of the resurrection and ascension of
Jesus, because these are well known incidents claimed in the New Testament. Overall, then,
the "observable parallels" in the Egyptian and New Testament resurrection myths would be
(1) a god was incarnated in a human body, (2) that body was mutilated, (3) the god-man was
resurrected from the dead, and (4) the god-man ascended into heaven. McFall can quibble
over many differences in the two stories, but such quibbling would be comparable to arguing
that Sherlock Holmes was a unique character in English literature, because Holmes did not
parallel in all details the super detective who had preceded him in the stories by Edgar Allan
Poe.
Budge's book contains many reproductions of temple hieroglyphics followed by translations
of the texts and Budge's own comments. After a long hieroglyphic reproduction from "the
texts of Teta and Mer-en-Ra," Budge made the following comment after his translation of the
text.
From the above passage it is clear that Horus did not only collect and reunite the flesh and
bones of Osiris, but that he made him once more a complete man, endowed with all his
members. Having done this, it was necessary to restore to Osiris the power to breathe, to
speak, to see, to walk, and to employ his body in any way he saw fit. To bring about this
result Horus performed a number of ceremonies, and made use of several words of power
which had the effect of "opening the mouth" of Osiris (volume 1, p. 74).
Budge cited a passage from another text that gave more details on the opening of Osiris's
mouth, which Horus "did with his little finger wherewith he opened the mouth of his father
Osiris." Budge explained that during the work of "reconstituting the body of Osiris," Horus
was helped by the goddesses Isis and Nephthys. After the body had been reconstructed and
revivified, Osiris was ready to ascend into heaven. Budge translated a passage from the text of
Pepi II (p. 75) and then made the following comment on the ascension.
With the assistance of Horus and Set, Osiris stood on the ladder, and with their help he
ascended and entered heaven. "Every spirit and every god opened his hand to Pepi when he
was on the ladder," and the "Lord of the Ladder," helped him with his two fingers to ascend,
and according to a passage in the text of Pepi I, when Osiris ascended the ladder, he "was
covered with the covering of Horus, he wore the apparel of Thoth, Isis was in front of Him,
Nephthys was behind him, Ap-uat opened the way for him, Shu bore him up, the Souls of An
drew him up the steps of the ladder, and Nut gave him her hands" (vol. 1, pp. 76-77).
McFall is familiar with all this, because Tim Taylor quoted it in an Internet reply on 3/16/02,
and McFall has yet to respond to it.
Are the resurrection accounts of Jesus different from these descriptions of Osiris's
resurrection? You bet they are, but there are differences in the literary character Sherlock
Holmes and Poe's Auguste Dupin, and there were differences in the tales of Moses' and
Sargon's salvation in reed arks. The parallels, however, are striking enough that any
reasonable person would recognize that the later stories were spin-offs of the earlier ones.
In our Internet exchanges, McFall challenged me to show that Egyptian mythology had put
Osiris on earth for even as much as one second after his "revivification." If McFall won't
concede that I have now done that, I would like for him to explain how the body of Osiris
could have been "revivified" and made to stand up and then ascend into heaven on a ladder
without having been on earth after the "revivification."
Furthermore, in some versions of the myth, Osiris impregnated Isis with their son
Horus after the body of Osiris was reconstituted and revivified. How did this occur unless
there had been a mysterious "poof" that had caused the body of Osiris to vanish and reappear
in heaven at the very moment of revivification? If McFall is going to claim that this is what
happened, then he should tell us how the impregnation of Isis occurred. Did Isis go into the
next world to copulate with Osiris and then return to this world? There are some problems
here that McFall needs to explain. If he is going to stick to his claim that the resurrection of
Osiris occurred in the nether world and not on this earth, he needs to explain how Isis was
impregnated and how Osiris ascended to heaven on a ladder without being alive again on
earth for at least a time.
McFall's Article Continues:
In the past, Mr. Till has tried to counter the present writer's conclusions by stating that Osiris
was "resurrect[ed] back to earth long enough for Osiris to instruct his son Horus in the art of
war and to urge him to avenge the death of his father on Set...After this, Osiris descended into
the world of the dead" (Errancy, 2/21/01, 3/3/01). However, Plutarch said in no uncertain
terms that "Osiris came to Horus from the other world and exercised and trained him for the
battle" (De Iside Et Osiride, 358B). In other words, Plutarch's summation shows us that Osiris
came from the land of the dead referred to as "the other world" (duat), and taught Horus on
the art of war.
Till's Reply:
How many times will I have to remind McFall of the diversity and variation in the various
accounts of Osiris's resurrection? Plutarch's account was just one of those variations, so what
Plutarch said doesn't necessarily mean that all versions of the myth agreed with him. As I
noted in an earlier quotation from Wallis Budge's work, which McFall has quoted extensively,
we are dealing with a mythology that had a wide range of variations and even outright
contradictions, because nothing was ever thrown away in Egyptian mythology. The fact that
Plutarch may have said thus and so about Osiris and Horus does not mean that all versions of
the myth said the same thing. I don't think McFall yet understands the unenviable position he
is in. To sustain a point on anything we are now arguing, whether the circumstances of
Osiris's resurrection or the circumstances of the conception or death of Horus, McFall must
show that no versions of mythology deviated from what he is claiming. I, on the other hand,
have only to show that some versions of a particular myth support what I am claiming. If I can
show that even one version presented the view I am defending, I will have made my case even
if all other versions disagree with my claim.
I will show later that whether Osiris taught Horus the art of war before or after his ascension
into the other world doesn't really matter, because either version would have put Osiris bodily
on earth after his "revivification," but first I want to point out that McFall's favorite
Egyptologist didn't think too much of Plutarch's understanding of Egyptian mythology. On the
same page that McFall quoted above, Budge said this about Plutarch's narratives on Egyptian
mythology.
The narratives of Plutarch and Diodorus contain a great many statements about Osiris and Isis
which can be substantiated by texts written three thousand years before the Christian Era, but
they are arranged in wrong order, and many of them are joined together in such a way that it
is certain that neither the classical writers nor their informants understood the original form of
the history of Osiris (Osiris and the Egyptian Resurrection, vol. 1, pp. 17-18).
If he is going to rely so heavily on what Wallis Budge thought about the Osiris myth, McFall
should at least give some consideration to Budge's opinion of the accuracy of Plutarch's and
Diodorus's versions of the myth.
McFall's Article Continues"
According to Budge, the IVth Salier papyrus implies that this meeting had mythical overtones
because Horus (on the advice of Osiris) changed himself into a bear for combatal reasons.
But, Mr. Till, however, would have us believe something else. Why? Because The
Resurrection Of Osiris According To Farrell Till depends on it. Mr. Till has formulated a
resurrection concept similar to that of Jesus Christ by having the dead Osiris rise from the bier
he was lying on, to go on to teach the art of war to Horus, to then ultimately descend "into the
world of the dead."
Till's Reply:
Correction please! I did not "have" the dead Osiris rise from the bier he was lying on; the basreliefs and hieroglyphics in ancient Egyptian temples so depicted the resurrection of Osiris. In
my first reply to McFall, I quoted where George Frazer said in The Golden Bough: A Study in
Magic and Religion that those depictions graphically portrayed the resurrection of Osiris, and
what I have quoted above from McFall's favorite scholar (Wallis Budge) shows that he also
understood them to mean the same thing. The body of Osiris was "reconstituted" and revived,
after which the resurrected body ascended into heaven on a ladder. How could this
resurrection and ascension have been completed without the "revivified" body of Osiris
having been on earth for a time? That time, of course, was not as long as the 40 days that the
New Testament claims that the resurrected Jesus remained on earth, but I have never said that
it was. I have argued only that the parallels in the two resurrection accounts are such that no
reasonable person can deny that the latter was either borrowed from the former or from other
pagan myths of resurrections that had preceded Christianity. There is just nothing "unique" or
original about the Christian claim of a resurrected savior-god.
As for when Osiris "appeared" to Horus, it doesn't really matter if the appearance happened
before or after Osiris's ascension into heaven, because McFall has made a great deal over
Budge's remark about the Egyptian belief that "life in the next world was but a continuation of
the life upon earth" (The Book of the Dead, Papyrus of Ani, p. lxxviii). Presumably, McFall is
claiming that the body of Osiris was reconstituted to be full and complete as it was when he
was alive but that at the moment of its revivification, the body vanished with a "poof" and
reappeared in the next world. If that is what he is claiming, then Osiris in the next world was
in the same bodily form as he was on earth, so if he later appeared to Horus to teach him the
arts of war, that would have been an appearance on earth in the same body Osiris had had on
earth. If not, why not?
I'll have still more to say about this later.
McFall's Article Continues:
All of which implies that Osiris bodily rose from the dead. But, Plutarch says the complete
opposite of what Mr. Till says he said.
Till's Reply:
Once again, I will remind McFall that Plutarch cannot be considered a final word in what
happened in Egyptian mythology, because he did not cover all versions of a particular myth.
These myths were hopelessly contradictory, for reasons already noticed, so if McFall relies on
just one version of a myth to support his case, he is playing a "smorgasbord" game to pick and
choose what appeals to him but leave unmentioned any version of the myth that damages his
case. All of my quotations from Budge above show that his translations of temple
hieroglyphics confirm that some versions of the Osiris myth and some temple bas-reliefs
depicted a bodily resurrection of Osiris, which was then followed by ascension into heaven on
a ladder. How could this ascension have happened unless Osiris was bodily on earth for at
least a period of time?
McFall's Article Continues:
As I mentioned earlier, Mr. Till's parallels made plausible by selective descriptions evaporate
when they are confronted with the original text.
Till's Reply:
Then perhaps McFall would like to make Budge's translations of original texts evaporate. I
suggest that he begin by explaining how the reconstitution, revivification, and ascension of
the body of Osiris, could have happened as Budge's translations of Egyptian texts described
unless the body was on earth for a time. And let's not forget that in some versions of the myth,
Osiris impregnated Isis after he was reconstituted and revivified. How could this have
happened unless Osiris was alive on earth for a time after he was "revivified"?
McFall's Articles Continues:
By way of interest, in The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion, which Mr. Till
made reference to in his essay, its writer, George Frazer, says that when "Isis fanned the cold
clay with her wings: Osiris revived, and thenceforth reigned as king over the dead in the other
world" (Ch. 38, Section 9).
Till's Reply:
Well, let's just apply a popular biblicist argument to what McFall is attempting to do here.
Was it Frazer's intention to include every detail in his summation of what happened? If he
omitted a detail, would that omission constitute error? Could Frazer's summation not be
essentially correct even though he obviously did omit an important detail? For example, he
said nothing about the ascension into the other world on a ladder, which is a detail of the myth
that Budge discussed at great length in his book on Egyptian resurrection. Would I be
incorrect if I revised Frazer's statement to read, "Isis fanned the cold clay with her wings,
Osiris revived, impregnated Isis, ascended into the other world on a ladder, and thenceforth
reigned as king over the dead in the other world"? I contend that this would be a correct
statement, which included more details than Frazer did, for as the quotations from Budge
showed, the ascension of Osiris on a ladder was a part of the resurrection myth, and as some
bas-reliefs show, the revivified Osiris impregnated Isis. How could this resurrection,
impregnation, and ascension have occurred unless the revivified body of Osiris was on earth
for at least a short period of time?
Another matter that McFall should address is whether the "revivification" of Osiris occurred
on earth or in the other world. Frazer said that the cold clay wings of Isis fanned the air and
Osiris revivified, so what happened at the moment of revivification? Did the body just
disappear with a "poof" and then reappear in the world of the dead? Budge's translations from
Egyptian texts say no. After the revivification of his body, Osiris ascended into heaven on a
ladder.
McFall's Article Continues:
Here, we find that there is no mention of Osiris' discussion with Horus on the art of war in the
interval between Osiris' resurrection and his descent into the other world which would imply
that he resurrected back to earth. The story is just not told in the sequence that Mr. Till asserts
as even his own sources indicate.
Till's Reply:
The easiest way to reply to this would be to quote to McFall what Tim Taylor posted on the
Errancy list (6/13/01).
"But of all Osiris' members, Isis could never find out his private part, for it had been presently
flung into the River Nilus, and the Carp, Sea-bream, and Pike eating of it were for that reason
more scrupulously avoided by them than any other fish. But Isis, in lieu of it, made its effigies
and so consecrated the phallus (it being a resemblance of it) for which the Egyptians, to this
day, observe a festival. After this, Osiris, coming out of hell to assist his son Orus
[Horus], first labored and trained him up in the discipline of war and then questioned him
what he thought to be a gallant thing a man could do, to which he soon replied to avenge one's
Father and Mother's quarrel when they suffer injury.... These then are most of the heads of
this fabulous narration, the more harsh and course parts (such as the description of Orus and
the beheading of Isis) being taken out. If therefore they say and believe such things as
these of the blessed and incorruptible nature as really thus done and happening to it, I need
not tell you that you ought to spit"* (Plutarch's Morals, Vol. 4. Second Edition, printed by
Tho. Braddyll, emphasis added).
* Translator's footnote: "These stories, (however since refined upon) were literally believed in
the more ancient and ruder time."
Earlier, McFall, in replying to my quotations from the Book of the Dead in which references
were made to the flesh and bones of Osiris "decaying not" and "going forth," emphasized that
his favorite Egyptologist, Wallis Budge, had said that to the Egyptians "the life in the next
world was but a continuation of the life upon earth, which it resembled closely" (The
Skeptical Review, November/December 2001, p. 5). In other words, the Egyptians believed
that the reassembling of the body of Osiris had been important in that this body was needed
for the life to which he was "revivified" in the next world. If this was the Egyptian belief,
then the return of Osiris from hell would have been a bodily return, because the next life was
like the earthly life. Furthermore, this part of the Osiris myth sounds very much like the
Christian belief that "Peter" described in 1 Peter 3:18ff.
18
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God,
being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, 19by whom also He went and
preached to the spirits in prison, 20who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine
longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few,
that is, eight souls, were saved through water.
In other words, Jesus died in the Christian myth, went into the next world, preached to the
spirits in prison, and then returned to earth. Osiris died, went into the next world, and
returned to earth to "preach" to his son Horus. This isn't an exact parallel, of course, but
striking parallels are nevertheless "observable." Whether before his entry into the next world
or afterwards, one way or the other, the Osiris myth, in some of its versions, had the
resurrected Osiris on earth at least for a time.
McFall's Article Continues:
Since Mr. Till has also cited Diodorus (writing career: 60-30 BC) as another one of his
sources that would affirm a bodily resurrected Osiris, a consideration of that evidence is
warranted here as well. Diodorus relates two different tales of Osiris death and resurrection.
First, Diodorus writes:
"Some explain the origin of the honour accorded this bull in this way, saying at the death of
Osiris his soul passed into this animal [Apis], and therefore up to this day has always passed
into its successors at the times of the manifestation of Osiris; but some say that when Osiris
died at the hands of Typhon Isis collected the members of his body and put them in an ox [sic]
(bous), made of wood covered over with fine linen, and because of this the city was called
Bousiris. Many other stories are told about the Apis, but we feel that it would be a long task to
recount all the details regarding them." (Book 1, Chapter 85, pp. 291-93); see Diodorus
Siculus I, Books I-II.34, Loeb Classical Library (279), Translated by C.H. Oldfather. Harvard
University Press Cambridge Mass., London, England ISBN 0-674-99307-1. Source provided
by Tim Taylor, Errancy list, 6/30/01)
Who or what is Apis? In Egyptian mythology, Apis (a sacred icon of a black bull with white
markings), came to be identified with Osiris. According to Plutarch, "most of the [Egyptian]
priests...regard[ed] Apis as the bodily image of the soul of Osiris" (De Iside Et Osiride, 362D,
368B-D). Do readers find a parallel here? In the opinion of the present writer, there's simply
no connection between the two concepts, and, the mythical overtones from this source are
immediately apparent.
Till's Reply:
Oh, well, if in the opinion of "this writer" [McFall], "there's simply no connection between the
two concepts," then I suppose that settles it. I'm sure, however, if I said that in my opinion,
mythical overtones are immediately apparent in the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth to make
it simply another version of a myth that dates back at least to Osiris, the "revivified" Egyptian
deity, McFall wouldn't see that as much proof. He will excuse me, then, if I don't see his
opinion as much proof either. I've quoted above from the writings of McFall's favorite
Egyptologist [Wallis Budge], where he translated temple inscriptions that spoke of Osiris's
ascension into the next world on a ladder after he had been "revivified." McFall needs to
explain to us how this ascension could have occurred unless Osiris was bodily on earth at
least for a time. In some versions of the myth, Osiris impregnated Isis after his
"revivification." How was that done unless the resurrected Osiris remained on earth at least
long enough for a "quickie"?
At any rate, I will call the readers' attention back to my earlier comments about McFall's call
for me to identify "observable parallels" between the Osiris myth and the New Testament
claim of Jesus's resurrection. I pointed out that in both stories or tales or whatever McFall
wishes to call them, a man died and returned to life, and that is about as observable a
"parallel" as one could expect to find. What does it matter if a virgin-birth myth depicted the
human female being impregnated by a sunbeam or a breeze or a swan or by the Holy Spirit
"overshadowing" the woman? The end result is the same. A human virgin gave birth to a
child whose father was a god. To argue in such cases that there are no "observable parallels"
in these stories and the conception and birth of Jesus because all details in the stories aren't
exactly parallel (the names of the virgins were different, the divine methods used to bring
about the conception were different, the names of the children born to the virgins were
different, etc.) is a flagrant resort to quibbling in order to protect a cherished belief, because
the mere concept of a human birth that occurred without the participation of a human male is
itself the most "observable parallel" that one could ask for. So it is with the resurrections of
Osiris and Jesus. The fact that both are tales of men who died and returned to life is a
"parallel" that strips the resurrection of Jesus of any right to claim "uniqueness."
McFall's Article Continues:
Perhaps, however, Mr. Till sees a bodily resurrection in the other belief that Diodorus relates
concerning Osiris' resurrection. Diodorus writes:
"But the Egyptians offer another explanation for the honor accorded this animal, although it
pertains more to the realm of myth; for they say that in early times when Isis, aided by her son
Horus, was about to commence her struggle with Tryphon, Osiris came from Hades to help
his son and his wife, having taken on the guise of a wolf; and so, upon the death of Tryphon,
his conquerors commanded men to honor the animal [the wolf] upon whose appearance the
victory followed" (Book 1, Chapter 88, pp. 301-303).
It appears that Osiris reanimated into a wolf in this account. Is Mr. Till interpreting a parallel
here between the bodily resurrected Christ, and the bodily resurrected "wolf?" If so, this
similarity seems a bit far fetched. In my view, Mr. Till's ability to confidently assert a
meaningful parallel has been compromised by the use of this source (this does not mean that I
am questioning Mr. Till's honesty). In any case, in the primary documents that report Christ's
post-resurrection appearances, he always appears in human form.
Till's Reply:
These so-called "primary documents" that McFall referred to reported a Jesus who at times
appeared to materialize out of nothing.
Luke 24:32 And they said to one another, "Did not our heart burn within us while He talked
with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?" 33So they rose up that very
hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven and those who were with them gathered
together, 34saying, "The Lord is risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!" 35And they told
about the things that had happened on the road, and how He was known to them in the
breaking of bread.
36
Now as they said these things, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them, and said to them,
"Peace to you." 37But they were terrified and frightened, and supposed they had seen a
spirit. 38And He said to them, "Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your
hearts? 39Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit
does not have flesh and bones as you see I have."
The last verse quoted spoke of the flesh and bones of Jesus, but Jesus's apparent appearance
out of nowhere wouldn't exactly be something that a physical body could do. The tale in
Luke went on to say that Jesus then "vanished out of their sight" (v:31), which likewise would
not have been something that a human body could have done.
The Marcan appendix makes an apparent reference to this story in Luke and refers to it as a
"manifestation" that occurred while the eleven were sitting to eat (Mark 16:14). The verses
prior to this claimed that Jesus appeared "in another form" to two who were walking in the
country (v:12), and John 20:19 refers to an appearance that Jesus made to the disciples in a
room that had had all of the doors shut for fear of the Jews. The next chapter of John referred
to another "manifestation" that Jesus made to the disciples by the sea of Tiberias (v:1). The
way these "appearances" and "manifestations" were described, they hardly seemed to be cases
of a physical body walking up to people and appearing to them through ordinary means.
If McFall wants to contend that Osiris' appearance as a wolf after his ascension to the
netherworld is unlike anything in the Jesus myth, and so that makes the Osiris myth too
different to be "parallel" to the "unique" story of Jesus's resurrection, maybe he will want to
reconsider that opinion. After his ascension, Jesus allegedly made an "appearance" to the
apostle Paul, which was not a bodily appearance, because (1) the men who were with Paul
heard a voice and saw a light but didn't see Jesus [Acts 9:7; 20:9], and (2) Paul referred to this
appearance as a "vision" [Acts 26:19]. In one myth, a man returned to life, ascended into the
next world, and made an earthly reappearance as a wolf; in the other, a man returned to life,
ascended, and then returned to earth as a "vision."
McFall sees no "observable parallels" in this? If not, perhaps it is because he doesn't want to
see any observable parallels.
McFall's Article Continues:
As we turn now to The Book Of The Dead, otherwise known as The Book Of Going Forth By
Day. This 3,500 year old piece of ancient literature signified to the Egyptians the soul
emerging into the restorative rays of the sun's light after a nighttime in the underworld. Its
purpose seems not to be for the intention of setting forth basic tenants of Egyptian religion or
religious guides, but, rather, to assist its reader into the afterlife of the underworld (duat).
Hence, unlike Islam, Judaism, and of course Christianity, The Book of the Dead was not
consider [sic] an authoritative text for its readers. Nevertheless, it is in Plate 33 translated by
the Egyptologist Dr. Raymond Faulkner where we read these words attributed to the goddess
Isis as she hovered over the dead Egyptian King Osiris:
"I have come that I may be your protection. I fan air at your nostrils for you, I fan the north
wind which comes forth from Atum for your nose. I clear your windpipe for you. I cause you
to be a god with your enemies fallen under you sandals. May you be vindicated in the sky and
may your flesh be powerful among the gods" (BD, Plate 33).
Besides the fact that this is the only Plate that alludes to Osiris' reanimation in the 37 plates
that make up the main corpus of The Book Of The Dead, this text, gives the impression that
Isis spoke those words over the body of Osiris and hoped for the best. Isis' expression: "may
you be vindicated in the sky and may your flesh be powerful among the gods," seems to bare
[sic] that out. Again, here we see more "allusions" to Osiris' afterlife, but still no reported
resurrection appearances. According to Dr. Ogden Goelet, a contemporary non-Christian
Egyptologist of high regard, and author of, A Commentary on the Corpus of Literature and
Tradition which Constitutes The Book of Going Forth by Day, says that it's "an allusion to the
legend of Osiris wherein these gods protected and revived Osiris after he had died" (pg. 168).
Dr. Goelet explains it this way:
"When Osiris comes back to life, however, he never returns to the land of the living, but
remains in the Underworld, the Duat, where he rules as King of Eternity and supreme judge of
the dead. His resurrection was limited to the next world and so he passed on the rights of
kingship to his son and avenger, Horus" (Goelet, A Commentary on the Corpus of Literature
and Tradition which Constitues [sic] The Book of Going Forth by Day, pg. 149).
Till's Reply:
Different variations of the myth were discussed in the broader context of the passage that
McFall quoted.
"Throughout the night after his death, both Isis and Nephthy mourned over their brother.
Thoth, and frequently Horus, as well, assisted the two goddesses in the revitalization of
Osiris. The means for bringing him back to life vary from one version to another."
As quoted earlier, Goelet went on to say...
"This fragmentary narrative cannot do justice to the richness of the Osiris legend,
reconstructed from hundreds of allusions scattered through the BD. The order and nature of
events, as well as the participants, varies not only from chapter to chapter, but within different
sections of some of the longer chapters. Some of these references were derived from moments
and places in local Osiris festivals, which varied from place to place in Egypt. However
confusing it may seem, we must bear in mind that Egyptian religious texts tend to collect
rather than edit; no attempt was made to reconcile contradictions or to form a continuous tale.
It is not surprising that the numerous local traditions should have given birth to a wide range
of phrases, words, and allusions."
Goelet recognized that the myths contained the idea of living again.
"Once revitalized, he usually appears as Wennefer, an epithet which perhaps means ‘he who
is always perfect.'"
McFall's tactic has been to play a "smorgasbord" game in which he picks and chooses from a
broad range of Osiris myths the versions that best suit his purpose, but the issue in this debate
is what Egyptian mythology said about the resurrection of Osiris. If some of the myths
indicated a bodily resurrection, it doesn't matter if some didn't. The existence of some myths
that depicted a bodily resurrection would have preceded the Christian myth of the resurrection
of Jesus, so the Christian myth would not have been "unique."
McFall's Article Continues.
Mr. Till also made several references to Egyptian poems or inscription [sic] to indicate a nondecayed [sic] rejuvenated Osiris body. But as Wallis Budge aptly put it:
"This belief may have rested upon the view that the life in the next word was but a
continuation of the life upon earth, which it resembled closely" (Budge, Papyrus of Ani, p.
lxxviii)
According to Dr. Goelet, "contrary to a common misconception about the [Egyptian] concept
of life after death, the Egyptians neither believed in the transmigration of the soul on
earth in the Hindu or Pythagorean manner, nor hoped for a resurrection in this
world. Rather, they believed in a transfiguration into the next world. Except in dreams
or visions, the dead did not reappear on earth" (Goelet, A Commentary on the Corpus of
Literature and Tradition which Constitutes The Book of Going Forth by Day, pg. 151).
Till's Reply:
McFall came back to quote this statement from Budge, which I referred to above to show that
his favorite Egyptologist said that ancient Egyptians believed that "the life in the next world
was but a continuation of the life on earth." If that is so, then Osiris had a bodily existence in
the next world. As noted above in the quotation from Plutarch, when Osiris came "out of
hell" to teach his son Horus the discipline of warfare, he would have been bodily on earth. As
for the quotation from Goelet above, I will remind readers of what I noted above that Goelet
had said in the broader context of his article: "Throughout the night after his death, both Isis
and Nephthy mourned over their brother. Thoth, and frequently Horus, as well, assisted the
two goddesses in the revitalization of Osiris. The means for bringing him back to life vary
from one version to another." Here Goelet was recognizing that Osiris was resurrected to life
through the interventions of Isis and Nephthy but that the way in which this was done was not
consistently depicted in all of the myths. However, if Osiris was "revivified" through the
labors of Isis and Nephthy, then his "revivification" necessarily took place on earth, unless
McFall wants to argue that Isis and Nephthy took the body of Osiris into the next world and
worked there to bring it back to life.
As for Goelet's quotation immediately above, it referred to the belief that Egyptians had
concerning the deaths of people in general and wasn't even referring to the resurrection of
Osiris. In other words, the Egyptians didn't seem to believe that they would be resurrected in
this world. That belief, however, would not remove the fact that Budge clearly showed that
some versions of the Osiris myth depicted his resurrection on earth, at least for a brief time,
before he ascended into heaven. In other words, Egyptians didn't believe that the general
population would be resurrected to earth, but that would not say anything at all about what
they believed about the specific resurrection of Osiris, who in their mythology was the first to
rise from the dead to give them hope that they would live again in the next world.
Somehow I suspect that if versions of the Osiris myth were discovered that said that Osiris
rose bodily from the dead and remained on earth 10 days before he ascended into heaven,
McFall would argue that there would be no "observable parallel" in this to the resurrection of
Jesus because he had remained on earth for 40, not 10, days. This is the kind of nitpicking
that the Ronald Nashes of biblicism engage in to deny that Christianity borrowed some of its
ideas from previous religious beliefs.
McFall's Article Continues:
This leaves us with Mr. Till's most recent appeal to the Egyptian poem The Book of the
Breaths of Life (521 BC), where, we find priestly recitals in mortuary literature concerning the
non-decayed [sic] rejuvenated body of Osiris (as mentioned earlier). However, these recitals
were just that--recitals. There is no tradition that has come down to us that suggests that these
priests (or anybody else for that matter) saw Osiris resurrected. In fact, Dr. Goelet,
specifically says of these inscriptions that contain phrases similar to what Mr. Till has
appealed to, that:
"Throughout Egyptian religious history such denials of death were a constant them[e] in
mortuary literature. As in many other cultures, the Egyptian dead would be treated as if they
were merely in a deep sleep and needed to awaken and go about their business. In the Book of
the Dead the denial of death appears mostly in the form of euphemism." (Goelet, A
Commentary on the Corpus of Literature and Tradition which Constitutes The Book of Going
Forth by Day, pg. 150)
These euphemisms according to Dr. Goelet (i. e. "Rise up thou, O Osiris, Thou hast thy
backbone" etc..), present the idea of not speaking ill of the dead. Dr. Goelet tells us that to be
called dead in Egyptian literature implies a damned or unhappy state of death. The Egyptians
felt that by reciting Pyramid Texts or Coffin Texts that reflect a rejuvenated Osiris, they would
be avoiding death's power over them. This same type of euphemism is present in today's
world with expressions that refer to the dead as: "the departed" or "passed away" (etc..). This
insight from the distinguished Egyptologist, Dr. Goelet, provides a perspective not considered
by Mr. Till.
Till's Reply:
If Goelet indeed understood the expressions in this way, it would have been nice if McFall
had told us Goelet's rationale for seeing this kind of euphemistic meanings in the expressions
referred to, which, incidentally, occurred throughout the Book of the Dead. They were
funereal incantations recited over mummies. I can certainly see that they intended to convey
that the mummified person had hope of living again through Osiris, who had risen from the
dead, just as funerals in Christian societies will refer to the resurrection of Jesus in order to
convey hope for the person who has died. In fact, the quotation from Goelet that McFall cited
seems to be saying exactly that: the expressions in question were "denials of
death." However, I see nothing in the quotation to indicate that Goelet thought that such
expressions were just euphemisms for death. People in our society who don't wish to face
reality will often say something like, "John passed away," instead of just saying, "John
died." When a preacher, however, is conducting John's funeral and reads John 11:25-26, "I
am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, though he may die, he shall live. And
whoever lives and believes in me shall never die," he is not just euphemistically saying, "John
died." He is instead saying that John has hope through the resurrection of Jesus of living
again. The funereal incantations from the Book of the Dead, which referred to the
"nondecayed flesh and bones" of Osiris were used to express the same hope.
Goelet has said nothing in this quotation that disputes Budge's translations of temple
inscriptions that referred to the reconstruction, resurrection, and ascension of Osiris.
McFall's Article Continues:
In light of the preceding sections, it appears that not only is the present writer's position (i.e.
that Osiris did NOT resurrect back to earth according to the myth) backed with heavy
scholarly (non-Christian) weight, but more importantly [sic], it is also backed by observations
from original texts.
Till's Reply:
It may have seemed that way to McFall when he wrote this article, but I have shown through
quotations from his own non-Christian scholars that in the wide diversity of Osiris myths
there were allusions to a resurrection that could only be considered a bodily resurrection on
earth for at least a brief period of time.
As I was wading through McFall's futile attempt to prove the "uniqueness" of the Christian
resurrection myth by denying that the Osiris myths had alluded to bodily resurrection, I
wondered what he hoped to prove even if he could establish that Osiris died and then was
"revivified" in the next world but not on earth. Even if he could prove this premise, he would
still be left with other pagan resurrection myths that he would have to disprove also. McFall
writes in his paper In the Word, as if no one has ever refuted his attempts to prove the
"uniqueness" of the resurrection of Jesus, but those of us familiar with his activities through
internet contacts know better. On 3/16/02, Tim Taylor posted the following references that
the early church writer Origen made to other resurrection myths that he was aware of in his
time.
"But since the resurrection of Jesus Christ is a subject of mockery to unbelievers, we shall
quote the words of Plato, that Erus the son of Armenius rose from the funeral pile twelve days
after he had been laid upon it, and gave an account of what he had seen in Hades; and as we
are replying to unbelievers, it will not be altogether useless to refer in this place to what
Heraclides relates respecting the woman who was deprived of life. And many persons are
recorded to have risen from their tombs, not only on the day of their burial, but also on the
day following" (Origen, Contra Celsus, Book 2, Chapter 16, emphasis added).
To my knowledge, McFall has never replied to this, but it clearly indicates that an early
"church father" knew that the Christian claim of Jesus's resurrection was by no means unique,
as McFall is now claiming centuries later. If, therefore, we grant McFall his quibbles about
differences in "revivification" or "rejuvenation" and "resurrection" in the matter of the Osiris
myths, he would still have to explain away the various other pagan resurrections myths.
At this point in his article, McFall turned to "literary evidence for Jesus Christ's resurrection,"
which I intend to reply to in a separate article. However, at the end of his article, McFall
returned to Egyptian mythology and tried to prove that the myths did not teach that Horus, the
son of Osiris, rose from the dead, so I will include that brief section in this reply.
McFall's Article Continues:
Horus: Mr. Till said that a response to my article would not be complete without mentioning
Horus, the son of Osiris and Isis, who later became a god himself. I am not sure why this
argument appeared so late in his response; perhaps it was a comparison being newly realized
on the spot?
Till's Reply:
It's purpose was to make the same point that I am now discussing. Even if McFall could
establish--and he can't--that no versions of the Osiris myth depicted a bodily resurrection to
earth, that would not help his case, because Egyptian mythology is clear in depicting Horus's
return to life, after which he reigned on earth for several years.
McFall's Article Continues:
In any case, as Mr. Till noted, in some of the versions that relate this tale, Horus drowns, and,
in others he is stung (her tchetem-f) by a scorpion. Either way, Mr. Till's point, was, that there
is no way that I can deny the parallel of a bodily resurrected Horus. Umm, shall we look at
more ancient texts? In the scorpion version, it is unclear if Horus was even dead. According
to the ancient Egyptian text known as the Sorrows of Isis (dated well into the BC era)
translated by Wallis Budge, we read, that, "Isis placed her nose in his mouth to know (her
rekh) if [he] had breath." The text does not report what Isis learned from this, nevertheless,
the text goes on to relate that through the night "Horus heal[ed]" (senb Heru). This is simply
all the original text explicitly relates.
[At this point, McFall included footnote 8, which is quoted below.]
The late and respected skeptic, Joseph Crea, tried to counter my claim by pointing out an
obscure word atet-f in the Sorrows of Isis which Budge translated as "nothing" (Budge, The
Gods of the Egyptians, Vol. II, pg. 238) as a possible "synonym for dead/death" (Errancy,
7/03/01). However, in my opinion, the overall context excludes this possibility because
"Horus heal[ed]" (senb Heru) through the night. Whatever may be the case, the language of
the entire text is difficult to read, follow, and comprehend. The only thing that is certain, is
that Frazer's description of Horus' resurrection is clearly an embellishment. The text simply
doesn't have the clarity and intensity implied by that prolific skeptical writer.
Till's Reply:
Well, of course, we would expect McFall's opinion to be that "the overall context excludes
this possibility," i. e., that atet-f was a synonym for dead or death, because McFall has an
emotionally important belief to protect. Because of the excellent job that Tim Taylor did
replying on the Internet to McFall's many quibbles and rationalizations on the Osiris myth,
my work can be simplified by just quoting from Taylor's work what McFall has yet to
refute. On 3/16/02, Taylor posted the following quotation from Diodorus, whose work on
Egyptian mythology McFall quoted in the article I am now replying to.
"There in the papyrus she [Isis] brought forth Horus, and there she [left him] unknown to
anyone. During her absence one scorpion stung the child, and he died. When Isis returned
and found Horus lying dead, she rent with her cries of grief, and made bitter lament. Her
sister Nephthys appeared, and made so fervent an appeal to the god in the Boat of Millions of
Years, the Boat stopped, and Thoth came down and provided Isis with the words of
power which restored Horus to life" (Book 1, page 96, emphasis added).
The text here is rather clear in stating that Horus died, lay dead, and was restored to
life. These expressions hardly denote the resuscitation that McFall has tried to distort this
into.
There is even a biblical example that I can cite to show that the act of Isis in putting her nose
to the mouth of Horus to see if he had breath was not without parallel.
2 Kings 4:33 When Elisha came into the house, there was the child, lying dead on his
bed. 33He went in therefore, shut the door behind the two of them, and prayed to
Yahweh. 34And he went up and lay on the child, and put his mouth on his mouth, his eyes on
his eyes, and his hands on his hands; and he stretched himself out on the child, and the flesh
of the child became warm.
This is the case of the Shunammite woman's son, whom Elisha resurrected from the dead. I
am sure that McFall would have no problem accepting this as a genuine, rootin' tootin'
resurrection, because the biblical text plainly said that the child was lying dead on his
bed. However, if the myth of Horus's resurrection had depicted Isis as lying on her son and
putting her mouth to his mouth, McFall would say, "Aha, this was not a case of resurrection
but only of mouth-to-mouth resuscitation." The Egyptian myth, however, made two
references to Horus's death and one to his restoration to life. According to the myths, then,
Horus died, returned to life, and reigned on earth for many years.
Why then does McFall consider the resurrection of Jesus "unique"?
McFall's Article Continues:
This is far different from Mr. Till's embellished quote from George Frazer (1851-1941) that
Isis "uttered the words of power, and straightway the poison flowed from the body of Horus,
air passed into him, and he lived."
Till's Reply:
Well, of course, what McFall tried to twist The Sorrows of Isis into meaning is quite different
from Frazer's account, but the version as recorded by Diodorus is clearly in agreement with
Frazer. A scorpion bit Horus, and he died. When Isis found Horus lying dead, she broke
into such a lament that her sister appeared, entreated the gods, and Thoth came down to
provide Isis with the "words of power" that restored Horus to life. The language here is too
clear to be misunderstood, but I have no illusions that McFall will admit what the language
clearly says. He has an emotionally important belief to protect.
McFall's Article Continues:
Can readers see the point I'm try to make about unsubstantiated presentments?
Till's Reply:
I'm sure readers can see the unsubstantiated "presentments" that McFall is trying to sell them.
McFall's Article Continues:
Unfortunately, Mr. Frazer's work, The Golden Bough, has influenced numerous resources on
mythology who's [sic] ideologies many have accepted uncritically.
[At this point, McFall included footnote 8, which is quoted below.]
A similar hyperbole presentment is found in The Facts On File Encyclopedia of World
Mythology and Legend, by Anthony S. Mercatante. Here we read that:
"Isis learned the magic words, and when she uttered them, the poison flowed from her son's
body, air entered his lungs, sense and feeling returned to him, and he was restored to life (pg.
347).
Again, however, the text of the Sorrows of Isis doesn't use this type of strong or even
suggestive language. Quite interesting...wouldn't you say?
Till's Reply:
By "interesting," I assume that McFall meant that The Sorrows of Isis seems to support his
position, but he keeps repeating the same mistake. He isolates one version of a myth and
accepts it as the authoritative version as if nothing in any other account of the same myth
warrants consideration. His own "authoritative" version, however, doesn't necessarily prove
what he wants it to prove, because I showed above that the act of Isis in putting her nose to
Horus's mouth to see if he had breath left in him would not prove that only a resuscitation had
happened any more than Elisha's putting his mouth to the mouth of the body in 2 Kings 4:34
would mean that the boy was resuscitated rather than resurrected to life. The biblical text said
that he was "lying dead" on his bed, so unless the text is errant, the boy was dead. The source
that McFall just quoted ended by saying, "(A)nd he was restored to life." This makes three
different accounts that all indicated that Horus died and was "restored to life." How could
Horus have been "restored to life" unless life had left him? If life had left his body, he was
dead.
McFall's Article Continues:
In the drowning version (which by the way only Diodorus tells), Horus is given a "drug"
which gives him immortality. Does this sound like a genuine parallel?
Till‘s Reply:
Whether Diodorus was the only source to depict Horus's death by drowning isn't important
enough for me to spend the time verifying, because some versions of Horus's death obviously
attributed the death to a scorpion's sting. McFall, then, is playing his same old game of
finding one version of a myth that appeals to him and treating it as if there were no conflicting
accounts. The versions that I have referred to above show that Horus died from a scorpion's
sting and was then "restored to life" by the "words of power" that Thoth reveal to Isis. Hence,
we have in Horus an example of a pagan myth in which a man died and then returned to
life. That would be an "observable parallel" to the Christian myth.
McFall asked if this [the death in the version he cited] sounds "like a genuine parallel." Well,
no, the death of Horus, whatever the version of his death was, would not be a "genuine
parallel" in the sense that all details or even most details paralleled the Christian myth of the
death and resurrection of Jesus, because the Jesus of the Christian myth died neither by
drowning nor the sting of a scorpion. However, the restoration to life of Horus is a "genuine
parallel" in the only detail that matters, which is that a man died and was returned to life. The
fact that in the Christian myth, Jesus died in a different way, was buried whereas Horus
wasn't, was dead for a longer period of time than Horus was, etc. are details unimportant to
the real issue, which is, as I noted above, that in both myths a man died and was returned to
life. There is therefore nothing unique in the central element of the Christian resurrection
myth.
McFall's Article Continues:
Or, are heterogeneous elements present here as well?
Till's Reply:
Since I have never argued at any time that there are exact parallels in pagan mythology
to all of the details in the Christian resurrection myth, this question is simply a straw man set
up to distract attention from the real issue, which is the so-called "uniqueness" of the
Christian myth. If mythologies of other religions depicted demigods who died and returned to
life, then that is the only element needed to dispel McFall's claim that the resurrection of Jesus
was "unique." It doesn't matter if the demigods in other myths died by drowning,
dismemberment, poison, or whatever, rather than crucifixion. If they died and returned to life,
that is the only homogeneous element necessary to establish that the Christian resurrection
myth is not "unique."
McFall's Article Continues:
If not, then perhaps Mr. Till sees the sour wine offered to the crucified Christ as making this
connection? If so, that's quite a parallel!
Till's Reply:
McFall is quibbling again. My comments above explain that I have never at any time
maintained that Egyptian mythology contained resurrection tales that were exact parallels to
the Christian myth. I have claimed only that resurrections in pagan mythology were believed
long before the time that Jesus was allegedly resurrected. Hence, there is nothing "unique"
about the Christian claim that a savior-god died and lived again.
McFall's Article Continues:
In any event, Diodorus undergirds Horus' resurrection with the mythical characters of the
giant "Titans" just like we see in Plutarch's allusion to Osiris' resurrection (incidentally,
neither Plutarch nor The Book of the Dead mention Horus' revivification).
Till's Reply:
For the umpteenth time, I will point out that McFall is playing a "smorgasbord" game by
singling out versions of the Egyptian myths that best suit his position, but ample evidence has
been quoted above from reputable scholars to show that diversity and outright contradictions
in different versions of a single myth abounded in Egyptian literature. Therefore, if some
versions of the Osiris myth depicted a bodily resurrection, it doesn't matter if some versions
didn't.
McFall's Article Continues:
How do readers view the strength of evidence regarding Horus' resurrection? How does that
compare with the evidence surrounding Christ's resurrection? Does the evidence that
surrounds Christ's resurrection cause you to take a moment of pause in light of what you
know concerning the tales that surround Horus or Osiris?
Till's Reply:
How do I view the "strength of evidence regarding Horus' resurrection"? It is pretty flimsy,
because the very nature of the tale in that it claims a death and subsequent return to life makes
it unbelievable.
How does it compare with the evidence surrounding Christ's resurrection? I have to ask
McFall what evidence he is referring to. Is he referring to the gospel accounts, which were
written decades after the alleged event? If so, that evidence is also flimsy. Is he referring to
the secondhand testimony in those narratives? If so, that evidence is equally flimsy. I'm sure,
of course, that he is not referring to the total absence of any contemporary record of the
resurrection tale, which would be the closest thing to real evidence that he could produce, but
unfortunately for his superstitious belief, no such records exist. These are matters that McFall
and I can discuss later if he will agree to defend the Christian claim that Jesus of Nazareth
was literally dead but then returned to life.
I will probably touch on much of this so-called evidence in my reply to the part of McFall's
article that discussed the "literary evidence" for the resurrection of Jesus. After that second
reply, I would also like to present a third reply that details the arguments and examples in my
article that McFall either skipped or touched too superficially to qualify as real rebuttals.
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About this capture
Objectively Commenting on a Believer's Objective
Comments on Evidence for the Resurrection
by Farrell Till
A reply to:
A Believer Objectively Comments on the Evidence
for the Resurrection of Jesus
by Mark McFall
Mark McFall, who edits a quarterly journal entitled In the Word, believes that although the
Bible is errant, it is nevertheless the inspired word of God. Getting him to defend any specific
biblical claim on the [email protected] forum, which he has been a member of for
several years, is almost impossible, because he lurks far more than he participates. Although
he is intellectually honest enough to admit that errors run all through the Bible, he is a staunch
defender of the resurrection of Jesus in the sense that he claims that it is very reasonable to
believe that this event happened even if it isn't possible to demonstrate that it is a historical
fact.
In the article linked to in the title, he rehashed a favorite theme song of his, which he has sung
several times on the Errancy list. He believes that although the many claims of resurrections
in ancient times, including even those in the Bible, didn't happen, the resurrection of Jesus is
an exception. He believes that it did happen. So that I won't be accused of misrepresenting
him, I will quote a sentence from the introduction of his article in which he made this claim.
You see, outright I don’t believe resurrections happen, yet I am somehow able to find myself
not only seriously contemplating the idea of Jesus’ resurrection on an ongoing basis but also
actually holding to the belief that such an impossible feat occurred. For me, this belief doesn’t
rest on the notion that because the "Bible says it happened: it happened." If it did, then I
would also believe all the other resurrections in the Bible, and quite frankly I can’t bring
myself to believe certain reports given the nature in which they are told. For instance, the
report in Matthew 27:51-53 that states many saints came out of their tombs and entered
Jerusalem after Jesus’ resurrection. This has a fictional apocalyptic ring that I just don’t
buy if literalness is the intent.
When I made my first contacts with Mark McFall on the Errancy list, I learned that he had
begun his internet activities as a biblical inerrantist but had eventually come to realize that this
is an indefensible belief. Although apparently able to see problems in the biblical inerrancy
doctrine, he has maintained a belief that the Bible, although errant, is nevertheless the inspired
word of God and that the errors in it are not God's errors but human errors made by those
whom he inspired to write it. He has been repeatedly pressed to answer two questions that
bother those of us who cannot accept his view of the Bible: (1) If the inspiration of an
omniscient, omnipotent deity did not guide those whom he chose to write the Bible to write
only the truth, then what was the purpose of inspiration? (2) How can someone who believes
that the Bible is errant determine truth from error in it? When asked to answer these questions,
he has been able to speak only in generalizations and abstractions that don't give any real
answers to them. In reading his occasional posts--and especially his article that I am now
replying to--I have decided that he still clings to the Bible because of a deep desire to believe
that the resurrection of Jesus was an actual historical event. I suspect that this desire is rooted
in an inability to accept that this life is it and that there will be nothing after it. Personally,
acceptance of this reality has never bothered me, any more than the realization that I was
nothing before I was born, but in my conversations and correspondence with people who see
the irrationality of religion and would like to escape from its bondage, I have found that the
question of what will come after this life is a real concern for them. Mark McFall just doesn't
talk like a committed Bible-believing Christian, so I can't help thinking that he too clings to
some semblance of belief because of an uncertainly of what lies in the future. In his Errancy
posts, he has shown a commendable ability to see through the phoniness and fictionalization
of much of the material in the Bible, so I hope in my rebuttal of his article to show him and
others that what he sees as "objective evidence" for the resurrection of Jesus is actually no
more substantial than the Bible records of fantastic events that he rejects. His belief in the
resurrection of Jesus is based on the fallacy of undesirable consequences or wishful thinking,
which fallaciously assumes the truth or falsity of propositions because of one's personal
desires. If Jesus did not rise from the dead, for example, this would imply the finality of death.
Since that would be an undesirable consequence of rejecting the resurrection, McFall
assumes, through wishful thinking, that it did happen.
The introduction of McFall's article about the resurrection simply stated the fact that he rejects
"ancient resurrection concepts" about mythical figures like "Osiris, Inannan, Zalmoxis in
Herodotus, Horus, Dionysus, Attis, Mithras, Adonis, and the Dioscuri brothers" but accepts
the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus because it, unlike the other tales, "is undergirded by
collective evidences that should cause just about anybody familiar with mythical stories a
moment of pause." I will therefore skip his introduction and confine my point-by-point
rebuttal to what McFall thinks is objective evidence that the resurrection of Jesus was an
actual event. I believe I can demonstrate that this so-called objective evidence is no more
substantial than various biblical claims whose historicity McFall rejects. He introduced his
"objective evidence" with the following comments.
There exists too much information of postmortem observances embedded in documents known
to have, with various debatable degrees, historical value; to simply dismiss the data
surrounding Jesus out-of-hand because there is a familiar human concept of hope beyond the
grave, is to ignore the evidential weight of what is reported.
Objectively commenting... on Paul
In 1 Corinthians 15:3-5, we read:
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins
according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day
according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.
The basic message of this passage is identified by objective scholars (as well as informed
skeptics) to have been in circulation just two to eight years after Jesus is thought to have been
killed. Though the document that contains this passage, 1 Corninthians, is dated some twenty
years after Jesus' death, the scholarly consensus favors the idea that its recollective-message
precedes 1 Corinthians by at least ten years.
McFall doesn't come right out and say it, but what he really meant was that the "basic
message" of 1 Cornithians 15:3-5 was "in circulation" within two to eight years of AD 28-30,
the time when Jesus was allegedly crucified. I have been studying the Bible seriously for
more than half a century, and I can't recall the first time I heard the claim that McFall repeated
in the paragraph above. This claim usually includes a "sister claim" that Paul was actually
repeating an early creed, which dated from about AD 32 to 40. I suppose that there may be
some linguistic evidence in the Greek text to support the interpretation that this was a creed
that early Christians recited, but I have never seen that evidence explained, and I doubt that
McFall has the linguistic background to present any kind of argument in support of this view
of the passage. As he indicated above, he is simply repeating what many consider to be a
"scholarly consensus" of the passage. For the sake of argument, let's just assume that this
consensus is correct and that Paul was repeating an early creed. How does McFall or his
scholars know that it was "in circulation" just two to eight years after Jesus was "thought" to
have been killed? The key word here is "thought," because in all that the apostle Paul wrote
about Jesus, he never once put his life and death into a historical setting. First Timothy 6:3
said that Jesus had "witnessed the good confession" before Pontius Pilate, but I think that
McFall is informed enough in biblical scholarship to know that only rank fundamentalists-which McFall is not one of--think that the pastoral epistles (1 and 2 Timothy and Titus) were
actually written by the apostle Paul.
The historical setting of the life of Jesus, which dated him at the time of Herod and Pontius
Pilate, came with the writing of the gospel of Mark around AD 70. It became the primary
source of the other two synoptic gospels, which came later and followed Mark's example and
put Jesus into the same historical setting. In the epistles of Paul, however, no such setting was
ever presented. McFall can read 1 Corinthians 15 from now until doomsday, but he will find
nothing in it that would date the life of Jesus at the time claimed in the synoptic gospels. Paul
simply did not put Jesus into a specific historical setting. What, then, is McFall's basis for
claiming a "scholarly consensus" that the "basic message" of 1 Corinthians 15:3-5 was "in
circulation" as early as the AD 30s? What has happened is that biblical scholars, who are
mainly Christians, first accepted the historicity of the synoptic gospels and from that
assumption further surmised that the "creed" that Paul quoted in 1 Corinthians 15:3-5 had
originated soon after the death of Jesus, possibly as soon as two years afterwards. This,
however, doesn't tell us how they had made this determination. In order to know that such a
creed actually existed at that time, there would have to be actual documentation of its
existence. No such documentation exists, however, so McFall is actually arguing that Paul
was quoting a creed that had originated within two to eight years of the unknown date when
Jesus died.
If McFall is going to present this text as an "objective comment" on the "evidence" for the
historicity of the resurrection of Jesus, at the very least he should take the time to tell us
exactly how he was able to determine that Paul's statement in 1 Corinthians 15:3-5 had
originated in the AD 30s. Until he does that, he is simply arguing by assertion. For the sake of
argument, however, let's just assume that McFall's chronology is correct and that (1) Jesus
was crucified around AD 28-30 and (2) Paul's "creed" had originated within two to eight years
of that date. Even if both points were true, why should this be considered "objective evidence"
for the historicity of the resurrection? If, for example, McFall should encounter documents,
which claimed that John Doe in Keokuk, Iowa, had flapped his arms and flown to San
Francisco 70 years before the authorship of the documents, and, then, if McFall should find a
letter, written within two years of Doe's alleged miraculous flight, which claimed that Doe
had indeed performed this miraculous deed, would McFall accept this letter as "objective
evidence" that Doe's flight was a historical fact? Somehow I doubt it.
McFall is having problems recognizing a widely accepted axiom, which says that
extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. I recommend that he take the time to
read "Evaluating Historical Claims," in which I showed that the very nature of miraculous
claims like resurrections from the dead, parting the waters of the Red Sea and the Jordan
River, and such like require rational people to reject them because of the very nature of the
claims; otherwise, one would have to believe all sorts of ancient miracle claims. McFall
seems to believe that if a claim that Jesus rose from the dead was made within two to eight
years of the alleged event, this becomes "objective evidence" that the event happened. As I
said above, McFall can't really confirm the date of this alleged "creed," but even if he could,
that would in no way make it "objective evidence" that a dead man had returned to life. If I
may adapt a slogan from the presidential campaign of 1992, it is the nature of the claim,
stupid. That is what makes it unbelievable.
McFall's position is that the proximity of Paul's statement in 1 Corinthians 15:3-5 to the time
of the resurrection gives it credibility. I have shown above that this alleged "proximity"
cannot be determined, but let's notice that as McFall continued his article, he did try to equate
proximity with reliability.
If one were to put this evidence on the table for comparison with other ancient resurrection
figures it would be discovered that it stands out in value due to its close recorded proximity;
simply put, no other resurrection figure has an undergirding feature such as this.
How McFall could possibly believe that the "proximity" of a report to the time of a
miraculous claim would give it credibility is beyond me. I used above the hypothetical
example of John Doe's arm-flapping flight to San Francisco to show that the proximity of a
report cannot give reliability to an outrageous claim, but I don't have to rely on the
hypothetical to show the absurdity of McFall's reasoning. Josephus wrote Wars of the Jews in
AD 75, which was only five years after the Roman army destroyed Jerusalem. In book 6,
chapter 5, section 3, Josephus claimed that several miracles had happened during the Roman
siege of the city. He said that a light so bright shined around the temple altar at the ninth hour
that it gave the appearance of daylight for about a half hour; he said that a heifer being led to
the altar gave birth to a lamb; he said that an army of chariots and soldiers were seen in the
clouds surrounding the city. By McFall's standard of reliable evidence, he should believe that
these miracles actually happened, because they were reported by Josephus just five years after
they had allegedly happened. In the case of Josephus's claim about the army that was seen in
the clouds over Jerusalem, he said that such a "prodigious and incredible phenomenon...
would seem to be a fable were it not related by those who saw it." Therefore, Josephus didn't
just report these miracles within five years of their alleged occurrence; he supported one of
them with eyewitness claims, but I seriously doubt that McFall would say that he accepts
these claims as actual historical events. Why then does he see an alleged creed in 1
Corinthians 15:3-5, which cannot be dated with any degree of accuracy, as "objective
evidence" that a dead man had returned to life?
After deriving from his "proximity" claim conclusions not justified by its evidence (since
proximity can never give credibility to outrageous claims), McFall then looked for support in
Paul's claim that 500 "brethren" had seen the risen Jesus.
Paul, in an attempt to head off contemporary criticisms pertaining to this report, appealed to
"more than five hundred" people who, he says, witnessed a single appearance, and
disbelievers could substantiate the claim by interviewing some of the witnesses still living (1
Cor. 15:6). Unfortunately, though many of these witnesses could have been easily sought out
in Paul's day, they were left unnamed. To modern readers this supportive argument carries
little evidential value because the witnesses can never be identified. However, when one takes
into consideration the magnitude of this appeal, in light of the fact that contemporary critics
could have cited Paul on his erroneous assertion but did not, the validity of his appeal to
more than 500 witnesses can reasonably be seen in a favorable light even though unnamed.
Nevertheless, whether this argumentative appeal is true or not, it rises to a consideration
unparalleled by evidences surrounding other reported resurrection figures due to its very
nature.
I suspect that even McFall realized the weakness of his argument here, because he himself
noted that it was "unfortunate" that Paul did not name any of these witnesses. Let's suppose
that the hypothetical letter that I mentioned above about John Doe's arm-flapping flight from
Keokuk, Iowa, to San Francisco had said that 500 people had seen Doe flap his arms and take
off in Keokuk and that 500 others had seen him land in San Francisco. Would McFall
consider this "objective evidence" that Doe's flight had really happened, or would he see the
failure of the writer to give the names of any of these 500 witnesses to be a major weakness in
the claim? I think I have seen enough of McFall's real objectivity on the Errancy forum to
know that he would consider this a serious weakness in the claim that Doe had made such a
flight. Well, if I should say that even though the letter didn't name any of these witnesses,
those who read it just two years after the flight had allegedly happened could have gone to
Keokuk, Iowa, and San Francisco and substantiated the claim by interviewing some of the
witnesses while they were still alive. Would that impress McFall and make the evidence of
the letter more objective to him? Or what if I should say that if this flight had not happened as
claimed, contemporary critics would have "cited" the writer on his "erroneous assertion but
did not"? Would that make the claim of this arm-flapping flight across the country more
believable to McFall?
Now let me explain what is wrong with McFall's attempt to give credibility to Paul's claim
that 500 unnamed "brethren" had seen the resurrected Jesus at the same time. First, most
people don't even bother to verify ridiculous claims. I once attended a Pentecostal revival
meeting at which the preacher claimed that God had performed many miracles through him
including resurrecting the dead. How much time does McFall think that I spent investigating
this claim? If he says, "None at all," he will have hit the nail right on the head, because I didn't
spend even a second checking into the claim, and I suspect that people 2,000 years ago would
have been much like the average person is today. They wouldn't have wasted time trying to
verify a ridiculous claim that 500 people had seen a man after he had returned from the dead.
Second, those witnesses could not have been "easily sought out," as McFall claimed above.
These 500 were mentioned in an epistle to "the church of God that is in Corinth, with all the
saints in the whole of Achaia" (1 Cor. 1:1). In other words, this epistle was addressed to
readers who lived in what is now Southern Greece. They would have been about 900 miles
from Jerusalem, so what kind of twisted logic did McFall use to determine that the readers of
this epistle could have "easily sought out" those 500 witnesses? They would have been
required either to take a ship from Southern Greece to Palestine or else travel by land over a
much longer distance up the Grecian peninsula, across ancient Thracia, down through Asia
Minor (modern Turkey), and through Lebanon down to Jerusalem. This would have been a
journey of about 1500 miles, which wouldn't exactly have been an "easy" trip in those days.
When 1 Corinthians 15:3-5 is examined with real objectivity, one can see that there is no
"objective evidence" in it that a man died and then rose from the dead. Early in his article,
McFall spoke of a "fictional ring" that he saw in Matthew's claim that an earthquake shook
open the tombs of "many saints," who were later resurrected and went into Jerusalem where
they were seen by "many" (27:52-53), but why he cannot see a fictional ring in Paul's claim
that 500 "brethren" saw the resurrected Jesus at the same time is beyond me. There is nothing
in the claim that even comes close to being "objective evidence" that Jesus really did rise
from the dead.
McFall then turned to implications in Paul's account that the resurrected Jesus was "without
physicality."
Interestingly, given the implied physicality of Paul's perception above, Paul is also recorded
as conveying a different perception related to Jesus being without physicality (Acts 9:35; 22:6-8; 26:13-15). As we will see below, others also had these two perceptions which
suggest that Jesus passed into a mode of being that was superior to all obstacles.
I agree with McFall that 1 Corinthians 15 seems to present a view that the resurrection of
Jesus was spiritual rather than physical, but I am mystified as to why he would mention this in
an article intended to give "objective evidence" for the resurrection of Jesus. The fact that
Paul seemed to think that the resurrection was "without physicality" makes it even less
believable, because that which is spiritual can be easily explained as imaginary or
hallucinatory.
McFall turned next to the "objective evidence" in Mark's gospel.
Objectively commenting on Mark
In the account identified as Mark, three women who sought to care for the lifeless body of
Jesus were told by a "young man" who was present at the burial site (vs. 5) that Jesus "has
risen" (vs. 6) and they would soon see him in "Galilee" (vs. 7). This encounter, odd as it is,
left the women "gripped" with fear (vs. 8). Unfortunately, this "young man" is left unnamed
which naturally raises suspicions for the modern reader.
Just as he did in presenting his "objective evidence" from 1 Corinthians 15, McFall shows
here that he realizes that the evidence from Mark's gospel is flimsy, because he said again that
it was "unfortunate" that certain information was left out of this account. In this case, it was
the name of the "young man" whom the three women had encountered, so even McFall can
recognize that a claim that a dead man had returned to life was weakened by the failure of the
claimant to report the name of the person who had announced this miracle to the women who
had come to anoint the body with spices. Common sense would tell those reading the claim of
a miraculous event that the one reporting the miracle would want his account of it to be as
convincing as possible. At the very least, a convincing account should include clear
identifications of all parties involved, so "Mark" failed to meet even the minimum standards
of evidence.
As McFall continued to present his "objective evidence" from Mark's gospel, he pointed out
even more weaknesses in the "evidence."
As a further negative, this particular resurrection narrative is cut-short [sic] when the women
leave and the recorder pens his last words that "they said nothing to anyone" (Mk. 16:8). For
modern readers, who are familiar with the other Gospel accounts, this statement appears
perplexing as each of the other Gospel writers specifically note [sic] that the women went
quickly to report the empty tomb to the disciples (Mt 28:8; Lu 24:9-10; John 20:2). Why Mark
is under a different impression, we can only speculate.
Speculate? We have to speculate as to why a detail like this would have been left out? I
thought that McFall was going to give us "objective evidence" for the resurrection of Jesus,
but he is quickly becoming his own worst enemy, because the longer he writes, the more
unconvincing his "objective evidence" becomes as he points out what even he can see as
major weaknesses in his "evidence." Wouldn't evidence that is really objective preclude the
need to speculate?
Let's see if his "objective evidence" gets any better.
Nevertheless, as just mentioned, this writer abruptly ends his version at verse 8 (that the
original Mark ended at verse 8 is the opinion of the majority of mainline scholars). While
obviously this abrupt ending is a set back....
A setback? How could there be a setback as serious as this in "objective evidence"?
[While obviously this abrupt ending is a set back], as it would have been useful to glean more
information from this particular writer,
So even McFall recognizes that it would be "useful" for a miraculous claim to contain
sufficient information to make the claim credible, but he apparently thinks that a record of an
alleged resurrection from the dead is nevertheless convincing even though it contains all of
the holes and "setbacks" that McFall is identifying. Amazing!
[While obviously this abrupt ending is a set back, as it would have been useful to glean more
information from this particular writer], a second writer stepped in shortly thereafter.
Shortly thereafter? How shortly? Ten years thereafter? Twenty years? Thirty years? I have not
seen any scholarly consensus on when the Marcan Appendix was added to the gospel of
Mark, so I would be interested in knowing how McFall determined that this second writer had
"stepped in shortly thereafter." The gospel of Mark itself is generally dated at AD 70, which
would have been 40 years after the alleged resurrection. That within itself makes Mark's
"evidence" not very objective, but if this second writer didn't step in until 10 or 20 or 30 years
or more after this, that would make the "second writer," who added the Marcan Appendix,
even less reliable. As I am writing this article, the news media has been reporting on the
unreliability of memory, so how reliable would be the memory of someone who was writing
about what had happened 50 or 60 years ago? I know that memories of events that happened
in my life 50 or 60 years ago are very nebulous, so if this is McFall's idea of "objective
evidence," he needs to reexamine the standards by which he determines reliability.
This next writer pens a resurrection narration of postmortem appearances, which include
sightings by Mary Magdalene and three other separate observances by some close to Jesus
who had heard but remained skeptical of His resurrection. (Mk. 16:9-14).
Yes, but objective readers will keep in mind that this "next writer's" narrative of postmortem
appearances was written some 50 or so years after the alleged resurrection had occurred, and
it was written in a time when this writer would not have had access to research materials
(newspapers, books, video tapes, audio tapes, etc.) that would be available to a modern writer.
If such a narrative is McFall's idea of "objective evidence," then I will repeat that he needs to
reexamine the standards by which he determines reliability.
Though this secondary writer quickly changes his tone to include talk about an aberrant
baptismal rite,
An aberrant baptismal rite? The author of the Marcan Appendix simply claimed that Jesus had
told his disciples that he who believes and is baptized would be saved (v:16), and this is
entirely consistent with various other New Testament passages that obviously teach that
baptism is a requirement of "salvation." If McFall would care to dispute that the New
Testament teaches that baptism is necessary for "salvation," I would be glad to oppose him in
a debate on that subject.
[Though this secondary writer quickly changes his tone to include talk about an aberrant
baptismal rite,] demons, picking up serpents, and drinking deadly poison in conjunction with
his view of being a true Christian (Mk. 16:15-18), the substance of the reported resurrection
rightly overshadows these strange theological concerns.
I trust everyone has taken note of what McFall just said. He is claiming that we cannot trust
what the Marcan Appendix said about "strange theological concepts" concerning baptism,
casting out demons, taking up serpents, and drinking deadly poisons, but we can believe what
the author of this appendix said about a dead man returning to life. Is this his idea of
"objective evidence? No other comment from me is necessary here, because I think that any
objective reader can see that McFall isn't very objective about the New Testament claim that
Jesus rose from the dead. He is obviously determined to believe it, and so he is going to
believe it no matter how flimsy the real evidence may be.
McFall then turned to Matthew's "objective evidence."
Objectively commenting on Matthew
In the account identified as Matthew (see: Ch. 28),
Now this is a telling comment. It appears to be worded in a way that recognizes that this
gospel wasn't really written by the apostle Matthew. If so--and I am sure that this is what
McFall meant--McFall is actually claiming that an anonymously written claim that a man
returned to life should be considered "objective evidence" that this resurrection actually
happened. McFall indeed has some strange concepts of what constitutes objective evidence.
[In the account identified as Matthew (see: Ch. 28),] the writer elaborates on the expected
Galilean appearance to which the first draft of Mark alludes. Like the Markan account, he
initially mentions women (two are named here: Mary Magdalene and the other Mary) as
being first on the scene at the tomb. However, as a variant version to Mark (as well as Luke
and John), Matthew reports the tomb was guarded (Matt. 27:64).
And it doesn't bother McFall that an anonymously written claim of a resurrection from the
dead was the only gospel account that included this detail about the contingent of guards? Of
course, I think that the gospels are simply fictionalized "history" intended to put the Christ
myth into a historical setting, so I don't believe that any of the details in the narratives really
happened, but if we should grant that there was a crucifixion, burial, and subsequent empty
tomb, we must ask ourselves which is more likely, that the guards were really assigned or that
"Matthew" was simply punching up his account with the detail about the guards in order to
have a response to those who might have tried to explain the empty tomb by claiming that the
disciples of Jesus had stolen his body?
Additionally, the "young man" recounted in Mark's account is introduced by Matthew as a
type of "angel" for an unknown reason.
So McFall is claiming that an anonymously written account of a resurrection from the dead,
which is laced with claims that an "angel" appeared to roll the stone away from the tomb and
then announce the resurrection and that an apparently miraculous earthquake that shook open
the tombs of many saints, who later rose from the dead themselves, should be considered
"objective evidence" that at least one of these resurrections from the dead really happened. I
trust readers to see that I am right when I say that McFall seriously needs to reexamine his
ideas of what constitutes objective evidence.
It is this "angel," coupled with the rolling of the stone and a severe earthquake that cause the
guards who are securing the tomb to faint (Mt. 28:4), for there was as yet no appearance of
the resurrected Jesus.
Let's go back to something that McFall said earlier in the introduction to his article.
You see, outright I don’t believe resurrections happen, yet I am somehow able to find myself
not only seriously contemplating the idea of Jesus’ resurrection on an ongoing basis but also
actually holding to the belief that such an impossible feat occurred. For me, this belief doesn’t
rest on the notion that because the "Bible says it happened: it happened." If it did, then I
would also believe all the other resurrections in the Bible, and quite frankly I can’t bring
myself to believe certain reports given the nature in which they are told. For instance, the
report in Matthew 27:51-53 that states many saints came out of their tombs and entered
Jerusalem after Jesus’ resurrection. This has a fictional apocalyptic ring that I just don’t
buy if literalness is the intent.
This statement puts McFall in the position of arguing that when the anonymous "Matthew"
said that "many saints" were resurrected from their tombs and went into the city and appeared
to "many," that claim was wrong, but when just a few verses later, the same anonymous
"Matthew" said that Jesus rose from the dead, this claim was "objective" and correct. Why?
That is a question that McFall just doesn't answer. He said that the part of "Matthew's" report
that spoke of "many saints" coming out of their tombs had "a fictional ring" to it that he just
couldn't buy, yet he had indicated before this that he just didn't believe that resurrections
happen (except, of course, for the resurrection of Jesus). However, he identified no criteria
that enabled him to determine which resurrection claims had the "fictional apocalyptic ring"
to them. On the Errancy forum, I posted the following comments on this part of McFall's
article. I began it with the same quotation from McFall's introduction, so I won't requote it
here.
There are three NT accounts of the resurrection of Jairus's daughter, and they contain
inconsistencies. Matthew's account has Jairus coming to Jesus and telling him that his
daughter "is even now dead" (9:18). Mark's account, however, says that Jairus told Jesus that
his daughter was "at the point of death" (5:22). Luke's account could be construed to agree
with Mark's, because his simply said that the daughter "was dying" (8:42). Mark's account
has this event happening while a "great multitude" was gathered to Jesus "by the sea" (5:21),
but Matthew's account has it happening after Jesus had passed by a multitude and was eating
in a house (9:10), There are other variations in the story, but all three accounts claim that
Jesus raised Jairus's daughter from the dead.
Why then doesn't McFall agree that this resurrection happened?
I focused attention on variations in the three accounts, because McFall has argued that
inconsistencies in separate accounts of an event don't mean that the central claim in the
accounts is false. In this case, he was using variations in the accounts of Hannibal's movement
of his army, which included pack elephants, across the Alps as a basis for arguing that
variations in the New Testament resurrection accounts do not prove that the resurrection
didn't happen. If he has a credible argument here, then why doesn't he believe that the
resurrection of Jairus's daughter was an actual historical event? Except for the resurrection
claim in the three accounts, no other miraculous claims were made by the three writers who
included this story in their gospels, so just what is there in this story that has "the fictional
ring" that McFall cited above as his reason for not believing Matthew's claim that "many
saints" were resurrected after the resurrection of Jesus? The only possible answer I can see to
this question is that McFall wants desperately to believe that Jesus did rise from the dead, but
as far as real "objective evidence" for this belief is concerned, he has none.
McFall, nevertheless, struggled to find something in Matthew's account that he could claim as
"objective evidence."
From there, this angel informs the arriving women that Jesus has risen and that He will meet
with them on the Mountain of Galilee; the women then depart to inform others close to Jesus
what they have learned. Therewith, Jesus suddenly appears before the group instructing his
disciples to again meet with Him on the Mountain of Galilee. Falling to the ground, His
disciples take "hold of His feet and worship Him" (Mt. 28:9); and nothing more in the text is
said regarding that.
And what is there in all this that McFall considers "objective evidence"? I see nothing here
that differs in any substantial way from any of the many other miracle claims in the Bible,
which McFall says that he can't accept because of the "fictional ring" that they have.
Incidentally, Matthew, like Mark and Luke, differ from John just prior to this encounter as
John first has the disciples heading off to verify the empty tomb.
What is McFall trying to say here, that this variation makes the synoptic accounts credible? If
so, why? If not, why mention it, since McFall's position is that variations in accounts of the
same event don't discredit the historicity of that event?
After arriving on the Mountain of Galilee, as instructed, Jesus appears to them but now
Matthew records that while some believed Jesus was in a resurrected state, others were more
skeptical (Mat. 28:17).
And how would the disbelief of Jesus's own disciples make Matthew's record of it credible
"objective evidence"? I assume everyone has noticed that McFall is now just summarizing the
scriptures he sees as objective evidence for the resurrection but is telling us nothing about
why these accounts should be believed.
Thereafter, like the secondary writer of Mark, though not on a bizarre level, the writer then
expresses theological statements in conjunction with authority that would naturally
accompany a figure who appeared to be superior to the natural processes of death.
And in what way do these expressions of "theological statements" constitute "objective
evidence" that the resurrection really happened? McFall doesn't say, so I want readers to
notice as we continue through his "objective evidence" that McFall only summarizes what the
gospel writers said but gives us no good reasons at all to believe that their claims of a
resurrection are credible.
McFall next turned to summarizing what Luke said about the resurrection.
Objectively commenting on Luke
In the account identified as Luke, the author is under the impression that there were two men
who appeared at the empty tomb (instead of one as recounted by Mark; or one angel as
recounted by Matthew) after the women had arrived (Luke suggests more than three
women Lk. 24:10).
These variations, like the others, of course, don't affect the credibility of Luke's account. Why,
no, heaven forbid! At times, I find myself thinking that McFall actually believes that
inconsistencies in accounts of the same miraculous event somehow make them more credible,
so maybe if a couple of the other gospel writers had spun variations of Matthew's claim that
"many saints" came out of their tombs and appeared to "many," McFall would see the
inconsistencies in them as "objective evidence" that this miracle really did happen. At any
rate, at this point in his analysis of Luke"s "objective evidence," McFall has done nothing but
summarize.
According to the text, these men had given the women the idea Jesus had "risen" (Lk. 24:6) by
reminding them of Jesus' words related to rising on the third day (Lk. 24:7). Here, I find it
odd that the women appear unaware of this possible rising as Matthew records that that is
precisely why Pilate sent his guard to watch the tomb (Mt. 27:63-65).
I'm sure, however, that McFall doesn't see this oddity as any reason to doubt Luke's claim that
a resurrection had occurred. As for the women's apparent unawareness of a "possible rising," I
don't see why McFall would find this at all odd, since the apostles themselves were unaware
of this possibility, even though they had been told by Jesus during his personal ministry that
he would rise again on the third day (Matt. 16:21; Matt. 17:22-23; Matt. 20:17-19). I
discussed this "oddity" in detail in "Why Didn't They Know?" an article published in The
Skeptical Review (Vol. 4, No. 4). If the apostles were unaware of a "possible rising," why
would McFall find it odd that the women were also unaware of this possibility?
Anyway, like Mark and Matthew (but unlike John), Luke reports no initial sighting at or
around the tomb, but only that the women were led to believe that Jesus had risen due to the
said circumstances. As the women went to tell the others of these things, Luke reports that
they received the women's comments and excitement as "nonsense" (Lk. 24:11).
Actually, Luke didn't say that when the women told "the others" what they had experienced,
they received it as "nonsense." He said that "certain" of the disciples had gone to the tomb and
found it "even so as the women had said" (24:24); however, if McFall wants to interpret this
to mean that the other disciples had "received the women's comments and excitement as
nonsense," we will take his view of it. Now let him explain to us how this spin on Luke 24:24
would make Luke's account of the resurrection "objective evidence"? In his comments above,
McFall didn't say why this should be considered objective evidence, but I find it a bit odd that
those whom the women reported to found their "comments and excitement" to be "nonsense,"
but McFall finds it to be "objective."
Later that same day, Luke records that while a man named Cleopas and another unnamed
individual were on their way to Emmaus the resurrected Jesus joined them in their journey
but the men did not recognize Him. According to Luke, their eyes became altered in such a
way that they were "prevented from recognizing" the person traveling with them.
And this altering of the eyes (Luke 24:16) doesn't have a "fictional ring" to it? Strange indeed!
Apparently nothing has a fictional ring to it if McFall wants to believe it.
Luke explains that during this journey the figure conversed with the two men about the empty
tomb,
The "figure"? McFall seems to be implying here that Jesus was unrecognizable to those who
knew him because his body had somehow been altered, but the text seems to be saying that
the disciples were miraculously kept from recognizing him. So which was it? If Luke's
"evidence" is truly "objective," McFall should know which it was.
Oh, I forgot; ambiguity or inconsistency in a text doesn't keep its central claim from being
true. How careless of me to forget that!
[Luke explains that during this journey the figure conversed with the two men about the empty
tomb,] (which by that time had made ancient headlines), and attempted to persuade them of
the idea that the Messiah was to suffer for a time and then enter glory as communicated in the
Old Testament (Lk. 24:26).
Luke's account also recognizes that these two disciples were aware that Jesus was supposed to
rise from the dead on the third day.
Lukde 24:15 While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with
them, 16 but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, "What are
you discussing with each other while you walk along?" They stood still, looking sad. 18 Then
one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, "Are you the only stranger in
Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?" 19 He
asked them, "What things?" They replied, "The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a
prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests
and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 21 But we had
hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day
since these things took place.
Why did Cleopas point out to "the figure" that it was then the third day since those events had
happened unless he was recognizing that Jesus was supposed to have risen on that day? If
they knew this much, then why didn't they give more credibility to what the women had said
that they had experienced at the tomb. Luke said that "certain" disciples checked the women's
story and found the tomb "even so as the women had said," but apparently Cleopas never
considered that verification of what the women had said was reason to believe that Jesus had
risen on the third day as he had promised he would. I find it strange that McFall can find
"objective evidence" in any of this, but, of course, McFall believes that ambiguity, bizarre
theological views, inconsistencies, variations, and such like do not affect the credibility of the
documents that record the same events.
Let's see what else McFall says about the "figure" in Luke 24 that makes Luke's account
"objective evidence."
As they entered Emmaus, the men requested that this figure join them for dinner. At dinner,
this figure apparently broke bread in such a manner that it caused the men to realize this was
actually Jesus, and once they became aware, Luke records that Jesus simply "vanished from
their sight" (Lk. 24:31).
I suppose we are to think that the way Jesus broke the bread caused the alteration of their eyes
to go away so that the disciples then recognized who he was. McFall doesn't see any "fictional
ring" to this?
From there, these men went to find others who were close to Jesus to "relate their experiences
on the road and how He was recognized by them in the breaking of the bread" (Lk. 24:35). As
they were relating their experiences to an untold number of disciples, Luke reports that Jesus
appeared in their midst (Lk. 24:36).
As this tale was spun by Luke, the resurrected Jesus apparently had the ability to teletransport
himself from one place to another. When the disciples at Emmaus finally recognized him, for
example, Jesus "vanished out of their sight" (v:31). Then later, after the disciples from
Emmaus had gone to Jerusalem and found the other disciples gathered together, Jesus
suddenly appeared out of nowhere and stood in their midst (v:36). None of this has a
"fictional ring" to McFall? Strange indeed.
According to the text, the group became startled and frightened, so Jesus speaks to them to
calm their nerves by saying: "why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?
See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have
flesh and bones as you see that I have" (Lk. 24:38-39).
If Jesus were indeed flesh and bones and not a "spirit," then how was he able to materialize
out of nothing and vanish from sight as Luke and also John ((20:19) claimed? I'm just curious,
so I thought I would ask. Maybe McFall can tell us when he is explaining why the claims of
teletransportation don't have "fictional rings" to them.
Due to [sic] the impossibility of such a feat in light of His disciples witnessing His death,
Luke records that this type of tangible evidence was not enough to convince those closest to
Him that He was in a resurrected state (Lk. 24:41). Instead, the men naturally continue to
assume that the figure standing before them is some kind of ghostly apparition; after all, it's
easier to assume an apparition of a sort than it is to assume a corpse literally came back to
life.
I am curious about something else. Those who were the closest associates of Jesus doubted
that he would rise from the dead as he claimed he would, they later doubted the reports of
those who claimed that they had seen him alive again, and they even doubted when Jesus
appeared in their midst, yet McFall and his like-minded cohorts think, for some strange
reason, that people who are living 2,000 years after this miracle allegedly happened should
accept this tale of a resurrection without so much as even a smattering of a doubt. Thomas,
who wasn't present when Jesus appeared in the midst of the disciples, said that until he could
see the nailprints in the hands of Jesus and put his hand into Jesus's side, he would not
believe, but those of us living today are supposed to accept this yarn on nothing more than the
"objective evidence" of inconsistent, contradictory accounts written by those who wrote the
gospels decades after the alleged resurrection had happened. Is that really what McFall
expects of us? Apparently so, but I trust he will understand why more rational people will
expect more than this.
Taking it to the next level, Jesus requests something to eat in an effort to prove that which is
more difficult to believe (Lk. 24:42-43). As they marvel at Jesus eating, He turns to the
scriptures and takes the same line of reasoning as he did with the two men earlier, by relating
the idea that everything in the Old Testament points toward Him, and that the Messiah was to
suffer and rise again from the dead (Lk. 24:44-46). It is at this point, that Luke says their
minds became open and they began to understand everything that was unfolding.
It is time to remind everyone again that McFall is basically doing nothing but summarizing, in
this case, what Luke said, but he is giving us no reason at all to see Luke's account as
"objective evidence" that the resurrection really happened. I don't see that Luke 24:44-46
meant that everything in the Old Testament pointed toward Jesus. To me, the text merely
meant that Jesus was claiming that some things in the Old Testament prophesied of him.
However, if McFall wants to take the position that everything in the Old Testament pointed to
Jesus, I would be glad to oppose him in a debate on this proposition. For the sake of
argument, however, let's just assume that Jesus did mean that everything in the Old Testament
had pointed to him. How could that claim in any way be considered "objective evidence" that
Jesus rose from the dead? If McFall is really serious in his interpretation of this passage, he
must not know that assertions do not constitute evidence and especially not "objective
evidence."
After going out as far as Bethany and conversing with them further, Jesus departs from their
presence. As to how Jesus parted, the manuscript tradition varies as one has Him just leaving
while the other has Him carried up to heaven (Lk. 24:51; see: NAS vs KJV).
Well, I wonder why some manuscripts had Jesus just leaving or departing. I will say more
about that when I am commenting on McFall's comments immediately below.
Since the former is more believable we ought to embrace that version even if Luke actually
wrote the latter.
Say what? Even if Luke actually wrote that Jesus was carried up to heaven, we "ought to
embrace" the versions that say that he just left? This is a good opportunity for McFall to
answer questions that he has completely ignored in the [email protected] forum. If we
cannot believe a biblical writer when he said X, why should we believe him when he said Y?
To apply this question to the subject at hand, I will ask McFall to tell us why we should
believe that Jesus rose from the dead if we cannot believe that he left his disciples and
ascended into heaven? Why is the resurrection anymore believable than the ascension?
Don't expect McFall to make any serious effort to answer these questions. He is a
"smorgasbord Christian," who like those who dine at all-you-can-eat buffets, will pick and
choose from the Bible what appeals to him but leave the other. He knows that biblical tales of
walking on water, calming storms, feeding multitudes with only a few scraps of food,
ascensions into heaven, and such like are too ridiculous to believe, but he has so much
insecurity about what awaits him after death that he wants to believe that Jesus gave the world
hope of afterlife through a resurrection from the dead, and so McFall puts this on his plate but
leaves the ascension to be dumped into the garbage.
As we know, Luke has natural leanings toward Jesus' divinity and is therefore prone to
exaggeration thru [sic] heaven bound imagery as we see by his other report in Acts 1:9 where
Jesus ascends into the clouds.
So now we know why McFall thinks that we should "embrace" the manuscripts that say that
Jesus just left his disciples and says nothing about an ascension into heaven. The claim of an
ascension into heaven just isn't believable, so let's practice our smorgasbord approach to the
Bible and reject that part. However, I would again like to ask McFall to tell us why the claim
of a resurrection from the dead is more believable than the claim of an ascension into heaven.
The one is just as ridiculous as the other, but if I could make myself believe that a man who
was stone-cold dead returned to life, I could just as easily believe that after his resurrection he
ascended into heaven.
Now let's look, at long last, at McFall's attempt to make the gospel accounts of the
resurrection "objective evidence" that this phenomenal event really happened.
The same cannot be said of the resurrection observances noted above as they have all the
earmarks of objective reporting as disbelief is freely mentioned.
So there you have it. We can be sure that the gospel accounts objectively reported the
resurrection observances, because they "freely mentioned" disbelief that this event had
happened. According to this logic, McFall would have to believe that if a religious group
today should claim that their leader had died and returned from the dead, the claim should be
believed if the accounts of it, even though they may have been written by disciples of the
"resurrected" leader, mentioned that some members of the group doubted that the resurrection
had happened. What kind of logic is that? A more reasonable way to look at the references in
the gospel accounts to doubts among the disciples of Jesus is to regard them as simply a
device that was used to make an unbelievable claim more credible. You see, the gospel
writers were saying, you can believe that Jesus really did rise from the dead, because even
some of his own disciples didn't believe it at first. This would be a device somewhat like
"Matthew's" injection of the guards into his narrative. It was his way of saying that the
disciples of Jesus couldn't have stolen the body from the tomb because it was being watched
by a contingency of guards. McFall refuses to grant recognition to the obvious fact that
anyone who writes fiction can plot it any way he wants to.
Of conflicting interest with the book of Acts, is a discrepancy between mentioned time-frames:
while Acts reports that all these "convincing proofs" (Acts 1:3-4) happened over a 40 day
period, the Gospel of Luke reports (by context) that everything related to Jesus' resurrection
happened in a single day.
Of course, McFall doesn't think that this discrepancy should cast any doubt on the claim that a
resurrection happened, even though the discrepancy is in two accounts that were presumably
written by the same person (Luke). I appreciate that McFall didn't twist himself into a verbal
pretzel (as biblical inerrantists consistently do) to try to make Luke 24:50-53 not mean that
Jesus had ascended into heaven on the same day that he was resurrected, but I would really
like to see McFall give us a logical reason why this discrepancy does not cast suspicion on the
credibility of Luke's claim that Jesus rose from the dead. In one account (his gospel), Luke
said that Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into heaven on the same day, but in the other
account (Acts), he said that Jesus remained on earth for 40 days after his resurrection and then
ascended into heaven. If a flagrant inconsistency like this won't cast suspicion on the
outrageous claim of a resurrection from the dead, made in both accounts, then McFall needs
more help than I can give him.
Objectively commenting on John
In the account identified as John, there are actually two separate streams of reports
embedded in the ending of this work. Chapter 20 relates resurrection appearances that
occurred in the Jerusalem area, and Chapter 21 relates resurrection appearances roughly 75
miles away in the Galilee/Tiberias area. According to critical scholarship, these accounts
were penned by two different authors, which, like Mark, increase the value of the document.
I guess McFall means that two liars are better than one. The gospel of John has been generally
dated at ca. AD 90, which would have been about 60 years after the alleged resurrection. As I
pointed out in my comments about "Mark's" gospel, an account of an alleged resurrection,
which was written four decades or more after the fact, cannot be considered "objective
evidence" by any reasonable person, so an account of this alleged resurrection that was
written 60 years after the fact would be even less credible. If the 21st chapter was added to
this gospel after it was written in AD 90, that would reduce its credibility even more.
In Chapter 20, this author's version has Mary Magdalene going to the tomb only to find it
empty, and then has her departing to tell the disciples of her finding. For John, this is an
important element in the story as we can easily visualize thru
[sic] his emphasis their responsive excitement to verify the empty tomb.
His emphasis? Their responsive excitement? What are the antecedents of these pronouns?
McFall seems to have meant his to be a reference to "John," the putative author of this gospel,
and their to be a reference to the "responsive excitement" of Peter and "the other disciple,"
who ran to the tomb after receiving Mary Magdalene's report that the body of Jesus had been
stolen (John 20:3-8). McFall didn't say why this would be an "important element in the story";
he just arbitrarily declared that it was. When one wants to see "objective evidence" of the
historicity of the resurrection, he will apparently grab any straw in sight, but I see the
"responsive excitement" of Peter and "the other disciple" to verify the empty tomb entirely
differently in that I don't dismiss the possibility that fictionalized history can be written any
way the writers want to plot it. If, for example, the "responsive excitement" of Peter and "the
other disciple" would have made the story more credible--and I don't believe that it did--why
can't McFall recognize that the writer of John could have intentionally plotted his story to
give it this element? In other words, the "responsive excitement" that McFall is so excited
about isn't necessarily historical just because it is found in an anonymously written document
unless he can prove that it would not have been possible for the author(s) to have deliberately
plotted the story to give it this "important element." In reality, then, McFall is making the
same mistake on this particular point that inerrantists make on the entire Bible. The latter
assume that whatever the Bible says from beginning to end has to be true; McFall assumes
that what the book of John says about the "responsive excitement" of Peter and "the other
disciple" is true. Therefore, I would ask McFall, who admits that errors are in the Bible, to tell
us how he knows that this "responsive-excitement" element in the book of John is not an
error.
While John goes on to give a pretty detailed account of their responsive desire to verifying the
empty tomb, it is quite interesting that the other Gospels say nothing of it.
I don't understand how McFall could say that the other gospels said nothing of the "responsive
desire to verify the empty tomb." Has McFall never read Luke 24:12, which says that upon
hearing from the women who went to tell the apostles what they had seen at the tomb, "Peter
got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves;
then he went home, amazed at what had happened." Luke later had Cleopas, one of the
disciples whom Jesus met on the road to Emmaus, say that "certain women" had gone to the
tomb and found it empty and that when they reported this to the disciples, "Some of those
who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said" (Luke 24:22-24).
All I can do at this point is leave it to readers to decide just why McFall thinks that the other
gospels said nothing about the "responsive desire" of the disciples to verify the empty tomb.
Luke's references may not be as detailed as John's, but he certainly said something about
efforts of the disciples to verify the women's report that the tomb was empty.
After racing to the empty tomb, John records that at least one disciple became a believer as
he merely peered into the empty tomb (Jn. 20:8). There was no need to experience a
resurrection appearance in order to believe for this disciple.
I will just repeat here what I said above. Inerrantists assume the reliability of everything the
Bible says from beginning to end, whereas McFall apparently limits his assumptions of
reliability to details about the resurrection that he wants to be true. Since McFall believes that
the Bible contains errors, I would like for him to explain to us just how he knows that the
claim in John 20:8 that the "other disciple" believed when he entered the tomb and saw that it
was empty is historically accurate. How can he possibly know that the writer of John didn't
just plot the story to include this detail?
If this detail is historically true, all that I can say is that this "other disciple" was naively
gullible. Let's just suppose that a close friend of McFall has died and that three days after the
funeral and burial, McFall goes to the cemetery to put flowers on the grave. If upon arriving at
the gave, McFall should find it open and empty, would he immediately assume that his friend
had risen from the dead? I seriously doubt that he would, because he is sensible enough to
know that there would be explanations for the missing body that are far more rational than a
resurrection explanation. He would assume that grave robbers had taken the body to sell it to
some unethical medical school or that the grave had simply been vandalized, or he would
assume that the body had been excavated for autoptical reasons. Various explanations of the
empty grave would no doubt occur to McFall before he would "believe" that his friend had
risen from the dead.
John then makes a general statement in the next verse: "for as yet they did not understand the
Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead" (Jn. 28:9). Did this one person have that
understanding? We are not told.
McFall left completely untouched several questions raised by this "general statement." First of
all, exactly what "scripture" said that Jesus "must rise again from the dead"? I defy McFall to
produce that scripture, and before he cites Psalm 16, I encourage him to read "What ThirdDay Prophecy?" an article in which I showed that the apostle Peter in Acts 2:25-28 and the
apostle Paul in Acts 13:35-37 obviously distorted the meaning of Psalm 16 by claiming that it
referred to the resurrection of Jesus when it was clearly referring to the present condition of
its author. I further showed in this article that the claims in Luke 24:46 and 1 Corinthians
15:4 that the "scriptures" had said that Jesus would rise on the third day have no basis in fact.
I would add to these passages the one that McFall cited above in John 28:9 and challenge him
to show us what scriptures predicted that the Messiah would rise from the dead. Until he can
do that, I won't get excited about "John's" reference to the failure of the disciples to
"understand the scripture" that said "he must rise again from the dead," because I can't get
excited about a nonexistent scripture.
Another problem in McFall's citation of John 28:9 is that it raises the question of why the
disciples didn't understand that Jesus would rise from the dead. Although the "scriptures,"
which at that time would have been the Old Testament, said nothing about the Messiah's
resurrection from the dead, Jesus certainly had told his disciples enough times that he would
rise again that they should have immediately known why the tomb was empty.
Matthew 16:21 From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to
Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and
scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.
Matthew 17:22 As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, "The Son of Man is
going to be betrayed into human hands, 23 and they will kill him, and on the third day he will
be raised." And they were greatly distressed.
Matthew 20:17 While Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside by
themselves, and said to them on the way, 18 "See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son
of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to
death; 19 then they will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and
crucified; and on the third day he will be raised."
Parallel accounts of these passages can be found in the other synoptic gospels, so one has to
wonder why, after having been told so often that he would rise from the dead, the apostles for
some reason just didn't seem to know after the crucifixion that their "savior" was supposed to
rise again. The enemies of Jesus knew that a resurrection was supposed to happen, because
they went to Pilate and asked for guards to be stationed at the tomb so that the disciples
couldn't steal the body and then claim later that Jesus had risen from the dead.
Matthew 27:62 The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the
Pharisees gathered before Pilate 63 and said, "Sir, we remember what that impostor said
while he was still alive, 'After three days I will rise again.' 64 Therefore command the tomb to
be made secure until the third day; otherwise his disciples may go and steal him away, and
tell the people, 'He has been raised from the dead,' and the last deception would be worse
than the first."
So the chief priests and Pharisees knew that Jesus had promised to rise from the dead, but the
disciples, who had had this promise hammered into their heads while they were with Jesus,
didn't know it. That is curious indeed. I discussed this problem in more detail in "Why Didn't
They Know?" I recommend that McFall read it and then explain to us why the apostles were
surprised by the resurrection of Jesus. While he is at it, perhaps he will explain to us why we
should see "objective evidence" in parts of the gospels that are in flagrant conflict with other
parts of the same documents.
Nevertheless, in agreement with Luke, though not in time frame, John reports that there were
two angels who were having a brief discussion with Mary (after the disciples had left).
Thereafter, Jesus suddenly appeared before her though somehow she was unable to recognize
Him. Instead, Mary supposed Him to be the gardener but soon realized it was Jesus. John
then says that Mary began to cling to Jesus, but Jesus insisted that she not touch Him for He
had not yet ascended to His Father.
As I have pointed out before, McFall's "objective evidence" consists of little more than
summations of the gospel narratives. He rarely took the time to try to tell us what was so
objectively convincing about the narratives, so I see no need to comment on his summary
paragraph just quoted. Let's go on to see if he was able to uncover something startlingly
significant in the rest of "John's" narrative.
Oddly, not only does this insistence conflict with Luke's report above that Jesus requested his
disciples to touch him (Lk. 24:39), but it also conflicts with what this particular author
reports himself as we shall see shortly.
McFall, of course, doesn't think that all the "conflicts" that he has been honest enough to point
out should have any effect on evaluating the reliability of the resurrection accounts. I would
urge him to explain why we should think that claims of a resurrection are reliable even if they
contain what he calls "conflicts." Inconsistencies cast doubt on testimonies of ordinary events,
so why shouldn't inconsistencies in claims of miraculous events reflect on the reliability of
those claims?
John then relates an appearance in which Jesus passes thru a wall/door to show himself as
living to a group of disciples (Jn. 20:19). In effort to prove that His corpse literally revived,
Jesus shows his hands and side for verification (Jn. 20:20). One disciple, Thomas, is not with
them and when he is informed of Jesus' resurrection, he states: "unless I shall see in His
hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand
into His side, I will not believe"(Jn.20:25). Of interest at this point is that Thomas needed
more evidence to become a believer, much more than the unnamed disciple whom [sic] simply
peered into the empty tomb.
And the point of all this is what? McFall didn't say; he just summarized "John's" account of
these events and then went on his merry way. I, however, do have an observation to make.
Thomas, who had been a close associate of Jesus, wouldn't believe that a resurrection had
occurred until he had seen tangible evidence of it, but people who are almost 2,000 years
removed from this alleged event are supposed to believe that it happened on no more evidence
than that anonymously written documents said that it had happened. Is that McFall's idea of
"objective evidence"? I contend that if Thomas had justifiable reasons not to believe that
Jesus had risen, we have far more reasons not to believe it either.
After eight days Jesus again passed thru a wall/door where his disciples were located to show
himself in a physical bodily state and Thomas was present.
And what is McFall's evidence that this event actually happened? The mere fact that some
unknown person said that it did? I trust he will understand me when I say that I don't consider
that very "objective evidence."
So let's return now to McFall's summation of "John's" record of alleged resurrection events.
The author of John then records that Jesus said to Thomas: "Reach here your finger, and see
My hands; and reach here your hand, and put it into My side; and be not unbelieving, but
believing"(Jn. 20:27).
And McFall's evidence that this actually happened is what?
While Thomas apparently needed more evidence than the unnamed viewer mentioned above,
in contrast Luke recorded that even after Jesus showed and offered Himself to be touched His
disciples were still in disbelief (Lk. 24:41). Thus proving, everybody has a different level of
understanding when it comes to weighing evidence for belief.
We didn't need to have these parts of the gospel narratives summarized for us to know this.
Anyone who has had any experience at all with religious adherents would know that this is so.
Some people are so naively gullible that they will believe just about anything, whereas others,
who are more rational, will require substantive evidence. What I want to know is how any of
this can be see as "objective evidence" that a man returned to life after having been stone-cold
dead for over two days. McFall never tells us.
In the account recorded by the author of Chapter 21, we have a much different manifestation
in which Jesus is not so apt to prove His resurrection presence; probably because, according
to this recorder, this is now the third visible manifestation. In this scene,Jesus is standing on
the shore of the Sea of Tiberias and calls out to Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, and two other
apostles, who are fishing about a 100 yards out (Jn. 21:8), and instructs them to cast their net
on the opposite side of the boat. Not realizing that it is Jesus, but yet heeding the words of this
individual, they cast their net to the other side and instantly catch a full load. From that
circumstance, Peter makes the exclamation that the person standing on the shore is the
Lord/Jesus. Dragging their catch as fast as they can back to shore, but not fast enough for
Peter as he apparently bailed ship to beat his shipmates there, they arrive on land and notice
a charcoal fire already burning and fish cooking. Strangely, perhaps because there's not
enough fish cooking, Jesus has the group put their own fish on the grill for breakfast. During
this feasting time "the disciples did not venture to question Him" (Jn. 21:12), but the text goes
on to report that Jesus questioned them as to their level of love for Him while persuading
them to follow Him. The text then ends with the author signifying the truth of not only his
report but the report of Chapter 20 and notes that there were many other things that Jesus did
but that the details were too lengthy to include.
Well, once again, I must ask what any of this proves. The story is quaint, but even if we
assume that it is historically accurate, how would it in any way prove that Jesus had risen
from the dead? All that it does is relate an event that allegedly happened after the claim that
Jesus had risen from the dead, but how do we know that those other claims are historically
accurate? McFall just doesn't tell us. At the beginning of his article, McFall said that there
was "too much information of postmortem observances embedded in documents known to
have, with various debatable degrees, historical value; to simply dismiss the data surrounding
Jesus out-of-hand," but is he so naive that he just can't see that anyone with much writing
talent at all could embed "postmortem observances" of a resurrected hero? He referred to the
"historical value" of the documents in which these "postmortem observances" were
embedded, but he has a tremendous task before him if he is going to prove "historical value"
in anonymously written documents that even he admits are riddled with "conflicts." If this is
McFall's idea of "objective evidence," I must question the criteria by which he finds
objectivity.
Objectively reflecting and conclusion
It has been said by many conservative scholars and well-meaning popular Christians that the
evidence for the resurrection of Jesus is simply "overwhelming."
Yes, I have heard this same claim, many times, but invariably the "overwhelming" evidence
turns out to be no more convincing than the "objective evidence" that McFall has presented to
us in the article I am replying to. Those who can make such claims certainly don't have the
rationality that Thomas displayed in the actions attributed to him in John 20.
As an informed Christian, who does believe that Jesus rose from the dead, I'd like to say that
this belief does not come easy for me. I find the evidence, though superior on a comparative
scale, not to be on an overwhelming level given the impossibility of such a feat, and it is also
obvious that some of the disciples who actually witnessed and interacted first-hand with the
resurrected Jesus had a difficult time believing it too. In my opinion, those who put forth the
notion that the evidence is overwhelming fail to take into account the varying degrees in
which people individually process information. The most that can be said is that the
resurrection of Jesus is the best attested as far as resurrections go.
I really appreciate McFall's candor. He has come a long way, and I just hope that some day he
will be able to take that last step and admit to himself his belief in the resurrection of Jesus
has been based on nothing more than the fallacy of wishful thinking, which at this time deters
him from recognizing that there is really no rational reason for him to believe that there will
be life after this one.
Yes, as scholars of varying views contend, the historicity of the empty tomb is very strong,
The historicity of the empty tomb rests on McFall's flimsy belief that although the Bible
contains errors in what it says, what it says in the resurrection narratives is true. In other
words, the only historical evidence that McFall has of an empty tomb is that documents
anonymously written by people who obviously wanted to advance the tale of a resurrected
Messiah made references to a body missing from its tomb. If that is McFall's idea of "strong"
evidence of "the historicity of the empty tomb," all I can say is that his idea of strong evidence
differs substantially from mine.
but the resurrection of Jesus is outside of historical reach and in the realm of reasoned faith.
I would ask McFall to tell us what is reasonable about a faith that jumps over rational
explanations to a conclusion that something as unreasonable as a resurrection had taken place.
Even if we granted the assumption of an empty tomb, that would not give adequate reason to
assume that a resurrection from the dead accounted for the missing body. I will return to the
hypothetical burial of McFall's friend, which I referred to above. If McFall should go to his
friend's grave to put flowers on it and find it empty, he surely wouldn't assume that the body
was gone because his friend had risen from the dead, because he would know that there would
be too many unmiraculous explanations to account for the empty grave than to assume that a
resurrection had happened. Why can't he apply the same commonsense reasoning to the New
Testament claim of a missing body? The only answer I can think of to that question is that he
desperately wants to believe in an afterlife.
That is, reasoning from an evidential point to a seemingly logical conclusion.
Seemingly is the key word here, because there is nothing logical about assuming that a man
who had been dead for over two days returned to life.
Naturally, since each human mind works in an individual manner to solve mysteries, it is no
wonder that various theories have been put forth as to why the tomb was empty; from the
myth theory, wrong tomb and swoon theory (the belief that Jesus really wasn't killed but
rather woke up in the coolness of tomb and somehow exited), to the theory that He was
secretly buried in an unknown location in the ground, and finally to offering the explanation
that He had a twin brother; each in an effort to come up with a plausible scenario for
witnesses viewing Him alive after He was killed. Theories of this sort are numerous and
should not be detested by Christians as an awareness of these views will help us better
understand our own.
Once again, McFall is assuming the historicity of those parts of the Bible that he wants to
believe are true. The resurrection of the "many saints" in Matthew 27:52-53 has a "fictional
ring" to it, so McFall doesn't believe that this happened. The resurrection of Lazarus (John
11:38-4) has a "fictional ring" to it, so McFall doesn't believe that this happened. The
resurrection of the widow of Nain's son (Luke 7:12-15) has a fictional ring to it, so McFall
doesn't believe that this happened. The resurrection of Jesus--well, the resurrection of Jesus,
now McFall does believe that it happened. So I am going to propose another "theory" for
McFall to consider. None of the events surrounding the New Testament accounts of Jesus's
crucifixion, death, and resurrection actually happened, so there was no empty tomb to explain.
How's that for a "theory"? If McFall rejects this theory, let him explain why we should believe
anonymously written documents that claim a crucifixion, death, and resurrection that cannot
be corroborated by any historical records of the time?
For me, if I compare belief in Jesus' resurrection to belief in God, I find it quite easy (even
natural) to believe in God given the unknowable vastness of the universe and the Earth's
apparent uniqueness within it.
I don't know what McFall means by the earth's apparent uniqueness within a vast universe,
but if he does much reading at all about the continual discoveries being made by modern
astronomy, he should know that there are good reaons to believe that there is nothing at all
unique about the earth, but this is an issue that probably won't be settled within our lifetime,
so I will comment instead on the ease with which he is able to believe in what he calls "God."
Ever since I woke up and started studying these matters on my own instead of listening to
what was being spewed from pulpits and promulgated in Bible classes, I have wondered how
any rational person can believe in "God" when the realities that we see all around us dispute
the existence of such an entity. Just recently over 200,000 people were killed by a tsunami in
Southern Asia. I know that simple-minded preachers rationalize such events as these as
"judgments of God," but most of the victims of this tragedy were children. How can anyone
believe that a benevolent deity would allow such a disaster as this to happen? I suppose the
answer to that question is that the same people who believe that "God" ordered the massacres
of everyone who breathed during Joshua's conquest of Canaan (Deut. 20:16; Josh.
10:40; Josh. 11:11-12) and that he commanded king Saul to massacre all of the Amalekites,
including women, children, and babies 1 Sam. 15:1-3) could also believe that this god could
entertain himself by sending a tsunami to wipe out 200,000 people.
There is much more I could say about this, but I don't want to write a book at this point to
distract attention from the flimsiness of McFall's "objective evidence" of the resurrection of
Jesus.
I find it easy to believe Jesus actually lived, and had a unique relationship with this God to
the extent that He was generally and correctly (in my view) identified as the Son of God who
came to help build good human relations and die for our sins.
I hope McFall will not take offense when I say that I really don't care what he finds "easy to
believe." I am sure that there are millions of Hindus who find it easy to believe that Krishna
actually lived and that he was an avatar or incarnation of the god Vishnu. Likewise, I am sure
that millions of Muslims find it easy to believe that Muhammad was a prophet of Allah. I am
also sure that members of the Heaven's Gate cult found it easy to believe that a spaceship was
coming in the tail of the Hale-Bopp comet to take them away to a higher plane of existence.
They believed it enough that they were willing to die to make it come true, and as we will see
later, McFall seems to think that dying for what one believes is somehow proof of the truth of
that belief. Anyway, I hope McFall will try to explain to us what the ease of believing has to
do with proving that a particular belief is true?
I find it far more difficult however, to believe that His body returned to life at a point in time
when the smell of a rotting corpse is at the verge of penetrating the air.
Well, then, McFall apparently doesn't believe those parts of the resurrection narratives that
speak of how long Jesus was in the tomb. I really would like for McFall to explain to us how
he determines truth from error in the Bible, but I have no hope that he will ever try to do this.
He has evaded this challenge longer than I can now remember.
Honestly, if I wasn't aware of the general background surrounding His public ministry and
teachings, this essay would have quite a different focus.
Just how did McFall develop an "aware[ness] of the general background surrounding [Jesus's]
public ministry and teachings"? The background and teachings of Jesus are related in the New
Testament gospels, but how does someone who thinks that the New Testament erred
concerning how long Jesus was in the tomb and erred in claiming that "many saints" were
resurrected on the day that Jesus was crucified, and so on, determine truth from error in what
the New Testament said about the general background and public ministry of Jesus?
Don't expect McFall to answer this question, because he won't. I would, however, like for him
to tell us exactly what he is "aware of" in the general background and personally ministry of
Jesus that made the resurrection claim more credible. McFall didn't say; he just said that if he
wasn't aware of these, his article "would have quite a different focus."
McFall has a habit of writing in abstractions that he doesn't bother to explain.
In my view, the resurrection narratives by themselves do not provide me with enough evidence
to fully convince, but what I know given the totality of the Gospel versions and their
individual portraits of Jesus' public life and God-orientated teaching along with resurrection
narratives that persuades me into belief.
Once again, McFall wrote in abstractions that explained nothing, so there is nothing to reply
to here. How can I comment on "the totality of the Gospel versions and their individual
portraits of Jesus' public life" that make the resurrection claim credible to McFall when he
doesn't specify what the totality of the gospel versions and their individual portraits of Jesus
are. I do think that if I believed in an outrageous claim like the resurrection and wanted others
to believe it too, I would try to explain in specific terms why I have this belief, but McFall
apparently felt no such obligation.
Something significant happened after Jesus' death to the extent that many came under the
impression that Jesus returned to their presence.
So the resurrection narratives claimed, but how exactly does McFall know that these claims
were true. This brings us right back to the question that McFall has repeatedly declined to
answer: How does he determine truth from error in documents that by his own admission
contain errors?
Whether His appearance was with or without physicality (Acts 9:3-5; 22:6-8; 26:13-15 vs. Jn.
20:27; 20:17; Mt. 28:9; Lk. 24:39, 41-42) or transcending between the two properties, His
presence was nonetheless experienced by enough people to draw attention to the fact that
something out of ordinary had occurred.
So the New Testament claims, but we are still at square one. How does McFall know that the
resurrection narratives were historically accurate in recording these claims? He admits that
there are many mistakes and "conflicts" in the New Testament, but for some inexplicable
reason, he apparently refuses to entertain the possibility that some of those mistakes just
might be the very points in the resurrection narratives on which he is basing his belief. I said
years ago in the Errancy forum that McFall had put himself into an untenable position when
he acknowledged that errors were in the Bible. That prediction has proven to be true.
Many lives were indeed changed by these occurrences to the extent that those changed were
willing to die in order to share the knowledge of Jesus' resurrection.
I am very disappointed to see McFall resorting to this "apolgetic" claim that has been
discredited so many times that I would think that he would be embarrassed to use it, but I
apparently underestimated the progress that McFall has made in throwing aside his
fundamentalist baggage. I will ask him three questions: 1. What is so unusual about people
dying for their religious beliefs? 2. Does dying for one's religious beliefs in any way prove the
truth of that belief? 3. What proof does McFall have that "many lives were indeed changed by
these occurrences" to the extent that they were willing to die to "share the knowledge of Jesus'
resurrection"?
The only possible answer that I can think of to the third question is that the New Testament,
and especially the book of Acts, tells McFall that many people died for their faith, but this
takes us right back to square one. McFall admits that the New Testament is historically
inaccurate in places, so how does he know that the New Testament references to martyrs is
true? In other words, how can McFall determine truth from error in an errant Bible?
Don't expect him to answer that question.
Granted, others of various religious persuasions have died for beliefs thought to be true too.
It is from these considerations, that I weigh the evidences in the balance, and admit that
although I struggle with accepting Jesus' resurrection, I'm able to embrace it given the
totality of circumstances.
Given the totality of circumstances? Once again, McFall is talking in unexplained
abstractions. If "others of various religious persuasions" should tell McFall that they are able
to embrace the beliefs of those religions "given the totality of circumstances," how impressed
would McFall be? If he will answer that question, he may have an inkling of just how
unimpressed with the abstract "objective evidence" that he has talked around in his article. If
there is some "totality of circumstances" that makes belief in the resurrection plausible,
McFall should tell us in specific terms what those circumstances are.
As I mentioned earlier, if Jesus did not rise from the dead, or at least appear to do so, I find
the type of evidence surrounding His resurrection extremely perplexing.
What evidence surrounding his resurrection? Basically all that McFall has done is summarize
sections of the resurrection narratives and call that "objective evidence." I am sure that I was
not the only reader of his article who did not find the evidence very objective and certainly
not convincing.
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About this capture
How Long Were the Children of Israel in Egypt?
by Farrell Till
Because the Exodus-6 genealogy lists only four generations from Levi to Aaron and Moses,
this presents several problems for inerrantists. First, Exodus 12:40 states that the Israelites
sojourned in Egypt 430 years. Since Levi was one of Jacob's sons who accompanied him into
Egypt (Gen. 46:11) and since Levi's sons Gershon, Kohath, and Merari had already been born
at this time and also were in the group that went with Jacob into Egypt (Gen. 46:11), it is
inconceivable that in the space of over 400 years just two more generations would have been
born in the Levitical branch that Aaron and Moses were born into, yet Exodus 6:1820 requires this unlikely conclusion.
Exodus 6:18 The sons of Kohath: Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel, and the length of
Kohath's life was one hundred thirty-three years. 19 The sons of Merari: Mahli and Mushi.
These are the families of the Levites according to their genealogies. 20 Amram married
Jochebed his father's sister and she bore him Aaron and Moses, and the length of Amram's
life was one hundred thirty-seven years.
Notice that Kohath lived to be 133 (v:18) and that his son Amram (the father of Aaron and
Moses) lived to be 137. If we assume that Kohath was just an infant in his mother's arms
when the Jacobites went into Egypt and if we assume that in the final year of his life, he sired
Amram, and then if we assume that Amram sired Moses the last year of his life, this
genealogy would allow for an Egyptian sojourn of only 350 years. This number is arrived at
by adding 133 (the maximum period of time that Kohath could have spent in Egypt) to 137
(the length of his son Amram's life) to 80, the age of Moses at the time of the exodus: "And
Moses was eighty years old and Aaron 83 years old when they spoke to Pharaoh" ( Ex.7:7).
To circumvent this problem, inerrantists will argue that the genealogy of Exodus 6 is not
complete, that the writer skipped some generations. Thus, Moses and Aaron weren't
necessarily the sons of Amram but could have been his grandsons or even his greatgrandsons. They argue this despite the fact that Exodus 6:20 clearly says that "Amram
married Jochebed his father's sister and she bore him Aaron and Moses." The father/son
relationship of Amram and Aaron and Moses was also claimed in Numbers 26:59, "The name
of Amram's wife was Jochebed daughter of Levi, who was born to Levi in Egypt; and she
bore to Amram: Aaron, Moses, and their sister Miriam." So two separate biblical passages
clearly state that Amram's wife Jochebed bore to him Aaron and Moses, but when inerrantists
are in trouble they never let plain language bother them. In this case, they will still insist that
the language of these passages was not intended to be understood literally but that Aaron and
Moses were merely descendants of Amram who were listed as "sons" in a genealogy that had
skipped generations. They have to resort to this quibble in order to keep from admitting that
the Bible made chronological errors.
To rebut this "skipped-generations" explanation of the Exodus-6 problem, I intend to establish
that both biblical and extrabiblical writers understood that the relationships expressed in
Exodus 6 were literal family relationships. Thus, to this writer, Levi was literally the father of
Kohath, Kohath was literally the father of Amram, and Amram was literally the father of
Aaron and Moses. To establish this, I will be focusing on one of the least prominent names in
the genealogy quoted above. Exodus 6:18 states that the sons of Kohath were "Amram, Izhar,
Hebron, and Uzziel." Now if this genealogy was a literal, generation-by-generation
genealogy, that would mean that the person named Uzziel in verse 18, who was listed with
Amram, Izhar, and Hebron as "sons of Kohath," would have been the uncle of Aaron. That
would be necessarily true if Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel were the brothers of Amram, for if all
four of these were literally the sons of Kohath, then Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel would have
been uncles to any children that Amram produced.
In this article, my intention will be to establish that biblical and extrabiblical writers did
understand that Uzziel was the uncle of Aaron. Once that I have established this, it will be
hard for inerrantists to argue that generations were skipped in the Exodus-6 genealogy. I will
warn readers in advance that establishing Uzziel's relationship to Aaron will require some
rather tedious genealogical analysis, which will in turn require careful reading to understand.
Some people skip over all of the "begats" when they come to genealogies in the Bible, but I
find them to be a storehouse of useful information that often spells big trouble for the Biblical
inerrancy doctrine.
Let's look now at the relevant parts of the Exodus-6 genealogy. I won't get to Uzziel's
relationship to Aaron and Moses until much later in this article, but my initial analyses of the
genealogy will provide a useful background to build on when Uzziel finally becomes my
primary focus. We need to consider first the entire genealogy and not just the part that speaks
of Aaron's and Moses' descent from Levi.
These are the heads of their fathers' houses. The sons of Reuben, the firstborn of Israel
[Jacob]: Hanoch, Pallu, Hezron, and Carmi; these are the families of Reuben. And the sons
of Simeon: Jemuel, Jamin, Ohad, Jachin, Zohar, and Shaul, the son of a Canaanite woman;
these are the families of Simeon. And these are the names of the sons of Levi according to
their generations: Gershon, Kohath, and Merari; and the years of the life of Levi were a
hundred and thirty and seven years. The sons of Gershon: Lebni and Shimei, according to
their families. And the sons of Kohath: Amram, Izhar, and Hebron, and Uzziel, and the years
of the life of Kohath were a hundred thirty and three years. And the sons of Merari: Mahli
and Mushi. These are the families of the Levites according to their generations" ( verses 1419).
I will interrupt the text at this point to note some reasons why readers should think that the
writer of this passage was giving what he understood to be a literal father/son genealogy. The
evidence that this was his intenion is overwhelming. Let's notice first that this genealogy is in
perfect agreement with the listings in Genesis 46:8-11, where the sons and grandchildren of
Jacob, through Levi's children, are listed. Verse 8 says that the sons of Reuben (who is also
identified here as "Jacob's firstborn) were Hanoch, Pallu, Hezron, and Carmi. Compare this to
the beginning of the genealogy quoted above, and you will see that the same names are listed
as the "sons" of Reuben, the firstborn of Israel [Jacob]. Were the writers of these two passages
being literal in their usage of sons and firstborn? Other biblical information indicates that they
were.
In telling the story of Jacob's marriage to the daughters of Laban (Leah and Rachel), Genesis
29:31-32 says, "And Yahweh saw that Leah was hated, and he opened her womb, but Rachel
was barren. And Leah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Reuben, for she
said, Because Yahweh has looked upon my affliction, for now my husband will love me."
That should be convincing enough for inerrantists to agree that the writers of these
genealogies were speaking literally at least when they said that Reuben was the "firstborn of
Jacob" [Israel].
But were the genealogists being literal in their usage of the word sons when they said that the
"sons" of Reuben were Hanoch, Pallu, Hezron, etc. Let's notice what Josephus said
in Antiquities of the Jews, Book 2, Chapter 7, Section 4 when he listed the members of Jacob's
family that went into Egypt. This section in Josephus is parallel to the listings in Genesis 46.
Now Jacob had twelve sons; of these Joseph was come thither before [meaning that Joseph
had already come into Egypt]. We will therefore set down the names of
Jacob's children and grandchildren."
I will pause at this point to notice how specific Josephus was. He said that Jacob had twelve
"sons," and I assume that inerrantists will not deny that Jacob literally had 12 sons. (The story
of Jacob as related in Genesis makes that too clear to deny.) Furthermore, in the text quoted
above, Josephus wrote not in terms of Jacob's "sons," as did the biblical genealogists, but he
wrote in terms of Jacob's "children" and "grandchildren."
Now let's resume reading in Josephus.
Reuben had four sons--Anolch, Phallu, Assaron, Charmi [the spellings vary because Josephus
wrote in Greek, but anyone can see that they are the same names as the biblical genealogies
used]; Simeon had six--Jamuel, Jamin, Avod, Jachin, Soar, Saul; Levi had three sons-Gersom, Caath, Merari...."
Now since Josephus introduced his list with a very specific announcement (we will therefore
set down the names of Jacob's children and grandchildre), we must understand that he
meant for his readers to interpret sons literally in the above text. Hence, Josephus obviously
thought that Gershon [Gersom], Kohath [Caath], and Merari were literally the sons of Levi.
We can make this determination even more obvious by continuing our reading in Josephus's
listing of Jacob's children and grandchildren.
Judas [Judah] had three sons--Sala [Shelah], Pharez [Perez], Zerah; and by Phares [Perez]
two grandchildren--Esron [Hezron] and Amar [Hamul]....
So when Josephus came to names on the list that he understood were not literal children or
sons of Jacob, he referred to them with the specific term "grandchildren."
Everything in the biblical text and in Jewish writings points to the obvious fact that Gershon,
Kohath, and Merari were understood to be the literal sons of Levi, who was obviously the
literal son of Jacob (Gen. 29:31). Everything points to the obvious fact that the writer of the
Exodus-6 genealogy intended for his readers to understand that he was speaking literally
when he used the word sons. A genealogy from Levi through Aaron and Moses is in 1
Chronicles 6:1-3, and it reads exactly as the listings in Exodus 6 and Genesis 46. A
genealogy of Levi through his grandsons is listed in Numbers 3:17-20, and it reads
exactly as the listings in Exodus 6 and Genesis 46. Every time the Bible lists the descendants
of Levi, the listings are exactly as they appear in Exodus 6, Genesis 46, and the work of
Josephus.
The evidence that biblical and extrabiblical writers considered the Exodus-6 genealogy to be a
literal father-son listing extends beyond the verses I have so far analyzed in this passage, so
let's look at evidence that indicates that the writer continued his literal listings through the rest
of the genealogy.
Verse 21 And the sons of Izhar: Korah, Nepheg and Zichri....
This is an important verse, because verse 18 said that the sons of Kohath were
Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel. (I will remind readers that they should watch Uzziel
closely, because something very interesting is going to happen with him later in this article.)
Now if verse 18 is a literal father/son listing, as I believe the evidence presented so far has
clearly established, Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel were all brothers, who were the sons
of Kohath. This is important because most inerrantists who want to claim that generations
were skipped in this genealogy will point to this verse as a likely place where generations
were skipped. Many inerrantists, for example, will take the position that Amram wasn't
necessarily the literal father of Aaron and Moses but only a direct ancestor. This argument,
which flies right in the face of the "face-value" language of the text, claims that Amram's wife
Jochebed could have borne Aaron and Moses only in the sense that she was an ancestral
grandmother of Aaron and Moses, which, of course, would have made Amram only their
ancestor and not their immediate father. In "The Inerrancy Doctrine Is Found to Be
Impregnable" and "Plugging Holes in the Two-Amrams Theory," published in the first two
issues of The Skeptical Review, biblical inerrantist Jerry Moffitt took the position that the
Amram of verse 18 (listed as a son of Kohath and brother of Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel) was
not the same Amram of verse 20 listed as the father of Aaron and Moses. He argued that
generations were skipped between these two Amrams. Since inerrantists will resort to all sorts
of linguistic gymnastics to try to deny that this genealogy means what it clearly says, it is very
important to establish that biblical writers understood that Amram, Izhar, Hebron,
and Uzziel were brothers and that the Amram who was Kohath's son was the same Amram
who was the father of Aaron and Moses, so we need to look at textual information that shoots
this quibble full of holes.
I will begin the shooting by reminding readers that the sons of Kohath were
Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel (verse 18) and that Izhar had sons
named Korah, Nepheg, and Zichri (v:21). Numbers 16 records a rebellion against the
leadership of Moses that was led by a man named Korah, so obviously biblical writers
thought that there was a man named Korah living at the time of Moses. But was
this Korah the same person who was listed in Exodus 6:21 as the son of Izhar, who was
listed in verse 18 as the son of Kohath and brother of Amram? Unfortunately for proponents
of the "skipped-generations" quibble, there is a clear indication that the Korah of Numbers 16
was considered the same Korah. That is shown in the opening verse of Numbers 16.
Now Korah, the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, with Dathan and Abiram...
took men and they rose up before Moses...."
The chapter goes on to describe the rebellion that Korah led, which angered Yahweh so much
that he caused the ground to open and swallow the rebels alive, but the important point about
this story is the agreement that we have between this verse and the Exodus-6 genealogy.
Exodus 6:16 These are the names of the sons of Levi according to their generations:
Gershon, Kohath, and Merari....
Exodus 6:18 And the sons of Kohath [were] Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel....
Exodus 6:21 And the sons of Izhar [were] Korah, Nepheg, and Zichri....
Numbers 16:1 Now Korah, the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi....
At face value, the Bible says that Levi had a son named Kohath, who had a son named
Amram,who had a brother named Izhar, who had a son named Korah, and the Bible, at face
value, says that a rebellion against the leadership of Moses was led by a man
named Korah, who was the son of Izhar, who was the son of Kohath, who was the son
of Levi. Earlier in this article, I presented both biblical and extrabiblical evidence to show to
any reasonable person that both Jewish and biblical writers understood that Levi was the
literal father of Kohath, who was the literal father of Amram, who was the literal father of
Aaron and Moses. Now the information just presented above shows very clearly that biblical
writers understood that the Amram, who was the son of Kohath, had a brother named Izhar,
who had a son named Korah, who led a rebellion against Moses in the wilderness, so the
evidence that the genealogy in Exodus 6 was a literal father/son listing continues to mount.
So far I have analyzed the Exodus-6 genealogy through verse 21 to show that all of the
evidence, both biblical and nonbiblical, indicates that the writer obviously understood that he
was giving a literal father/son genealogy. More needs to be said about the relationship of
Amram and Jochebed to Aaron and Moses, so I will now back up to take another look at verse
20.
And Amram [listed in verse 18 as one of the "sons" of Kohath] took him Jochebed his father's
sister to wife, and she bore him Aaron and Moses; and the years of the life of Amram were a
hundred and thirty and seven years."
Now if this is a literal father/son genealogy, Amram would have been a literal son of Kohath,
and the woman he married (Jochebed) would have been Kohath's literal sister. If Jochebed
was Kohath's literal sister, then she would have been a literal daughter of Levi. Is there any
evidence to indicate that biblical writers understood that Jochebed was Levi's literal daughter?
Numbers 26:59 says, "And the name of Amram's wife was Jochebed, the daughter of
Levi, who was born to him in Egypt; and she bore to Amram Aaron and Moses, and Miriam
their sister." A widely recognized principle of both hermeneutics and literary interpretation
states that language is to be interpreted literally unless there are compelling reasons to assign
it figurative meaning. The only reason why anyone would want to assign figurative meaning
to the expression "daughter of Levi" is to avoid a chronological discrepancy between
the Exodus-6 genealogy and the claim that the Israelites sojourned in Egypt 430 years (Ex.
12:40). The avoidance of discrepancy, however, is not a compelling reason to interpret a
passage figuratively when the face-value meaning implies literalism, because that becomes an
attempt to prove inerrancy by assuming inerrancy. Inerrantists, nevertheless, will most
certainly want to avoid discrepancy, so I am never surprised to see them arguing that
Jochebed was a daughter of Levi only in the sense that she was a descendant of Levi. The
evidence, however, will not support this quibble.
To so argue, inerrantists will have to ignore a mountain of evidence. In an apocryphal work
called Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, each of the sons of Jacob gave their testaments. In
Levi's, he said this in the 11th and 12th chapters.
I was twenty-eight when I took a wife; her name was Melcha. She conceived and gave birth to
a son, and I gave him the name Gersom, because we were sojourners in the land. And I saw
that, as concerns him, he would not be in the first rank. And Kohath was born in the thirtyfifth year of my life, before sunrise. And in a vision I saw him standing in the heights, in the
midst of the congregation. That is why I called him Kohath, that is the Ruler of Majesty and
Reconciliation. And she bore me a third son, Merari, in the fortieth year of my life, and since
his mother bore him with great pain, I called him Merari; that is bitterness. Jochebed was
born in Egypt in the sixty-fourth year of my life, for by that time I had a great reputation in
the midst of my brothers.
And Gersom took a wife who bore him Lomni and Semei. The sons of Kohath were Amram,
Isaachar, Hebron, Ozeel. And the sons of Merari were Mooli and Moses. And in my ninetyfourth year Amram took Jochebed my daughter, as his wife, because he and my daughter
had been born on the same day... (quoted from The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, editor
James H. Charlesworth, vol. 1, Doubleday, p. 792).
So in this pseudepigraphic work, we see clear evidence that the writer of Testament of the
Twelve Patriarchs (which I will from now on abbreviate as T12P) understood that both the
Exodus-6 genealogy and Numbers 26 expressed actual family relationships. The writer of this
work, claiming to be Levi, said that Kohath was his son, whom his wife had given birth to,
that Amram was Kohath's son, and that Amram married his daughter Jochebed. Hence, this
extrabiblical text supports a literal interpretation of Numbers 26:59, which says that Jochebed
was Levi's daughter who had been born to him in Egypt, and Exodus 6:20, which says that
Jochebed was the sister of Amram's father. This is certainly compelling evidence that
"Hebrew culture" understood that Levi was Kohath's actual father and that Jochebed was
Kohath's actual daughter.
Philo Judaeus said this about Amram's wife.
"For there was," says the same historian, "a man of the tribe of Levi, named Amram, who
took to wife one of the daughters of Levi, and had her, and she conceived and brought forth a
male child; and seeing that he was a goodly child they concealed him for three months." This
is Moses..." (The Works of Philo, Hendrickson Publishers, 1993, p. 316).
Philo didn't identify Amram's wife by name but only referred to her as a "daughter of Levi,"
so inerrantists may quibble that this leaves room for her to be a daughter of Levi only in the
sense that she was a "descendant" of Levi. However, I have already given sufficient evidence
that the writer of Exodus 6 was speaking literally in his usage of the word sons, so if Amram
was a son of Kohath (who was Levi's son), and if Amram married "his father's sister," then
Amram married his grandfather Levi's daughter. And that is exactly what the writer of
Numbers 26:59 said: "The name of Amram's wife was Jochebed, the daughter of Levi, who
was born to him in Egypt." And that is exactly what Levi's testament in T12P says: "And
Jochebed was born in my sixty-fourth year in Egypt."
In Antiquities of the Jews, however, Josephus was more specific and said that Jochebed was
Amram's wife (2:9.4, verse 217) and went on to describe how she and Amram built an ark of
bulrushes in order to thwart pharaoh's decree to kill all Hebrew male children. This, of course,
is a familiar story about Moses that is known even to people whose biblical studies never
went beyond Sunday school. Hence, the evidence, both biblical and nonbiblical, supports my
argument that the writer of Exodus 6 was using literal language to describe the relationships
of the people listed in the genealogy.
Further extrabiblical evidence to support the generation-by-generation view of the genealogy
can be found in Philo and Josephus. Before we look at it, let's notice first that the Bible clearly
teaches that Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob, and Jacob begot Levi, and I don't think
that any inerrantist would seriously try to dispute that there were just four generations from
Abraham to Levi. Therefore, if Levi literally begot Kohath, and Kohath literally begot
Amram, and Amram literally begot Aaron and Moses, there would have been just seven
generations from Abraham to Aaron and Moses. These would be (1) Abraham, (2) Isaac, (3)
Jacob, (4) Levi, (5) Kohath, (6) Amram, and (7) Aaron and Moses. In his account of the birth
of Moses, Josephus said, "(F)or Abraham was his [Moses'] ancestor of
the seventh generation, for Moses was the son of Amram, who was the son of Caath
[Kohath], whose father, Levi, was the son of Jacob, who was the son of Isaac, who was the
son of Abraham" ( Antiquities, 2:9.6, verse 229). The fact that Josephus said that Abraham
was Moses' ancestor of the "seventh" generation clearly shows that he was using the
word son in its strictest sense as he went on to say who was the son of whom in these seven
generations.
On the subject of Moses' descent from Abraham, Philo said, "(A)nd Moses is
the seventh generation in succession from the original settler [Abraham] in the country who
was the founder of the whole race of the Jews: ("On the Life of Moses," The Works of
Philo, Hendrickson Publishers, 1993, section II, verse 7, p. 459).
So two major Jewish writers both understood that there had been only seven generations from
Abraham to Moses, and Philo even specified that these were seven generations "in
succession." Seven generations in succession would not allow for any "skipped generations"
in the Exodus-6 genealogy. Josephus even listed all seven names after saying that Abraham
was Moses' ancestor "of the seventh generation." When trying to explain biblical
discrepancies, some inerrantists will talk a great deal about the need to understand Hebrew
culture. It will be interesting, then, to see what these Hebrew-culture advocates will resort to
in order to dance around the obvious fact that two well known Jewish writers, who were about
2,000 years closer to the time of the exodus than they are, understood that Moses was the
seventh generation in succession from Abraham. Surely, they will not claim that Philo and
Josephus just didn't understand Hebrew culture.
So far, I have examined the Exodus-6 genealogy, compared it to other biblical genealogies
and extrabiblical texts, and established to the satisfaction of any reasonable person that both
biblical and nonbiblical writers understood that Levi was the literal father of Kohath, that
Kohath was the literal father of Amram, and that Amram was the literal father of Aaron and
Moses. Along the way, I have established that Amram (the father of Aaron and Moses) had a
brother named Izhar, who had a son named Korah, who led a rebellion against the leadership
of Moses. Such information as this (confirmed by more evidence than any reasonable person
could demand) makes it irrational for anyone to claim that the writer in Exodus 6 skipped
generations in his listings in this genealogy. Certainly, the information makes it unreasonable
to argue that generations were skipped between Kohath and Moses. To so argue, one must
claim that generations were skipped between Izhar and Moses, yet somehow Izhar's son
Korah was living in the time of Moses and was young enough to lead a rebellion against
Moses.
There are, however, still more nails to drive into the coffin of this "skipped-generations"
quibble, which makes the unreasonable claim that the word sons in Exodus 6 meant
only descendants. The next nail that I will be driving finally brings us to the relationship
of Uzziel to Aaron. To introduce this argument, let's notice that Exodus 6:18 says, "And the
sons of Kohath [were] Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel." Now if I am right in claiming that
Exodus 6 is a literal father/son genealogy, it is obvious that Amram, Izhar, Hebron,
and Uzziel were brothers. Furthermore, if they were brothers and if the Amram in this verse
was the literal father of Aaron, then Uzziel would have been Aaron's uncle. That conclusion is
so obvious that nothing further needs to be said about it.
Let's notice again that verse 20 says, "And Amram took him Jochebed his father's sister to
wife, and she bore him Aaron and Moses," so certainly the "face-value" meaning of the text
gives us every reason to conclude that a man named Amram was the literal father of Aaron.
Therefore, if this Amram is the same Amram of verse 18, then by necessity, Uzziel was
Aaron's uncle.
With that in mind, let's now look at verse 22: "And the sons of Uzziel [were] Mishael,
Elzaphan, and Sithri." That seems clear enough, doesn't it? Uzziel--and who could this be but
the Uzziel of verse 18, who was listed as a brother of a man named Amram?--had sons who
were named Mishael and Elzaphan.
Now let's compare this passage to Leviticus 10:1-4, where we are told the strange story of
Aaron's sons Nadab and Abihu (both of them priests like Aaron), who offered "strange fire" to
Yahweh, and so Yahweh did what any self-respecting tribal deity of that time would have
done. He sent forth fire to devour them, "and they died before Yahweh" (v:2). So after
Yahweh had had his petty vengeance for a petty offense, Moses, the top man on the Hebrew
totem pole... well, let's look at exactly what the inspired, inerrant word of God says.
And Moses called Mishael and Elzaphan, the sons of Uzziel, the uncle of Aaron, and said
unto them, "Draw near and carry your brethren from before the sanctuary out of the camp"
(v:4).
Please notice that these two men, Mishael and Elzaphan, whom Moses called before him at
this time were said to be "the sons of Uzziel." Now keep in mind that the Exodus-6 genealogy
said that Amram and Uzziel were the "sons of Kohath" (v: 18) and that verse 22 said
that Uzziel had sons who were named Mishael and Elzaphan. It kind of sounds as if the
Uzziel of Exodus 6 and the Uzziel of Leviticus 10:4 were the same person, doesn't it? Now
bear in mind that if these two were the same person and if Exodus 6 is a literal father/son
genealogy, then Uzziel of Exodus 6 would have been Aaron's uncle.
So notice what Leviticus 10:4 says in identifying who Mishael and Elzaphan were. It clearly
says that they were "the sons of Uzziel, the uncle of Aaron." Now I know from previous
exchanges with inerrantists on this subject that some will argue that the word uncle simply
meant a "relative." I intend to do follow-up articles on this issue in which I will reply to the
various attempts that inerrantists have made to resolve the chronological problem in Exodus
6, so at that time, I will show that the uncle=relative quibble just won't work.
The evidence that I have presented so far shows that both biblical and extrabiblical writers
understood that Jacob's son Levi was the literal father of Kohath, who was in turn the literal
father of Amram, who was the literal father of Aaron and Moses. The astounding thing about
this genealogy is the mountain of evidence, both biblical and nonbiblical, that makes it so
easy to establish that Jewish writers, both biblical and nonbiblical, understood the
relationships in this lineage exactly as they are presented above. Yet despite this
overwhelming evidence, bibliolaters will resort to all kinds of verbal gymnastics to keep from
admitting that the face-value meaning of the language in this genealogy makes Moses and
Aaron the great-grandsons of Levi, Jacob's son from whom the Levitical priesthood in
Judaism descended.
Why are bibliolaters so intent on denying the face-value meaning of Exodus 6? The reason is
that they must put more generations between Levi and Moses and Aaron than are listed in the
genealogy in order to keep the Exodus-6 genealogy from contradicting the claim in Exodus
12:40 that the Israelites had spent 430 years in Egypt by the time of the exodus. However, if
Aaron and Moses were only the great-grandsons of Levi, a glaring chronological discrepancy
results when the ages of Levi, Kohath, Amram, and Aaron and Moses (at the time of the
exodus) are added. First, let's notice again that Kohath, the grandfather of Aaron and Moses,
was born before Jacob took his family into Egypt. This determination is made from Genesis
46:11, where Kohath was listed as one of the 70 "souls" who went with Jacob into Egypt.
This text does not state Kohath's age at this time, but if we assume that he was just a nursing
infant in his mother's arms when the trip to Egypt was made, he would have spent 133 years
in Egypt. That is determined from Exodus 6:18, where it says, "And the years of the life of
Kohath were a hundred and thirty-three years." It is unlikely that Kohath was just a nursing
infant at the time of the descent into Egypt, because Genesis 46:11 lists him as the second of
three sons that Levi had at the time. Since this chapter names Jacob's sons in the order that
they were born to their respective mothers, a determination we can make from Genesis 29-32,
which tells all about Jacob's escapades with his two wives and two concubines, we have
reason to suspect that Jacob's grandsons were also listed in the order of their birth. If that is
so, Kohath had a younger brother named Merari, and that would mean that Kohath was not an
infant at the time of the descent into Egypt (unless, of course, Kohath and Merari were twins).
However, in order to give biblicists every benefit of the doubt, we will assume that Kohath
was actually the youngest of the three sons and that he was just an infant when he went into
Egypt. This would allow him to have lived 133 years in Egypt.
Kohath, as we have already noted, had four sons: Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel. For
reasons just noted, Amram was probably the oldest of the four brothers, but again, to give
inerrantists every advantage, I am going to assume that Amram was really the youngest of the
four. Furthermore, I am going to assume that Kohath's last act before he drew his final breath
was to sire Amram. It is ridiculous to think that this could have happened, but I am trying to
give inerrantists every break possible. Since Amram lived to be 137 (v:20), the maximum
number of years that could have passed from Kohath's entry into Egypt until the death of his
son Amram would have been 270 years (133 + 137). To give inerrantists further benefit of the
doubt, I am going to assume that Amram's last act on earth (like his father's) was the siring of
a son, in this case Moses, who was obviously younger than both Aaron and his sister Miriam
(Exodus 7:7; 2:1-8). Since Moses was 80 years old at the time of the exodus (Exodus 7:7),
this would mean that no more than 350 years could have passed from the time of the Israelite
descent into Egypt to the time of the exodus. This figure is arrived at by adding Kohath's total
age (133 years) and Amram's total age (137 years) to Moses' age at the time of the exodus
(80). Any reasonable person would, of course, recognize that the Exodus-6 genealogy won't
even allow a span of 350 years from Kohath's descent into Egypt to the exodus, because it is
completely unreasonable to believe that Kohath and Amram could have sired sons at the ages
of 133 and 137 respectively.
So this is exactly why inerrantists bend over backwards to make the Exodus-6 genealogy not
mean what it obviously does say. If they admit that Exodus 6 contains a literal father/son
genealogy, as it obviously does, then that results in a contradiction between Exodus
6 and Exodus 12:40. I believe that the evidence I have presented sustains my claim that there
is indeed a discrepancy in the two texts, so it is now the responsibility of biblical inerrantists
to show us that I have incorrectly divided "the word of truth."
This pretty well summarizes the chronological problem that this genealogy causes the biblical
inerrancy doctrine, but the bad news for inerrantists is that there is even more evidence that
biblical writers thought that the generation-by-generation descent from Levi to Aaron and
Moses was exactly as it is shown in the Exodus-6 genealogy. That evidence is in the few
remaining verses of the genealogy that I have not yet analyzed. The genealogy shifted its
focus to Aaron at verse 23, at which time the writer further indicated that he was presenting a
generation-by-generation genealogy.
And Aaron took him Elisheba, the daughter of Amminadab, the sister of Nahshon, to wife,
and she bore him Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar.
This verse strengthens my claim that the writer of Exodus 6 used family relationships in their
literal senses in this genealogy. To show why, let's notice another genealogical statement
in Ruth 4:18-20.
Now these are the generations of Perez: Perez begot Hezron, and Hezron begot Ram, and
Ram begot Amminadab, and Amminadab begot Nahshon....
Perez was the son of Judah, who was born illegitimately as a result of Judah's escapade with
his daughter-in-law Tamar (Gen. 38:12-30), so Perez was born before the Israelite descent
into Egypt. Furthermore, Perez's son Hezron was also born before the descent into Egypt,
because he was listed in Genesis 46:12 with Jacob's children and grandchildren who had
descended through Jacob's son Judah. (Everyone should remember that Josephus used the
specific word "grandchildren" in his listing of those who were descendants of Jacob but not
his immediate sons, Antiquities, 2.7.4.) So the chronological problem in this genealogy again
becomes very obvious. If Judah begot Perez and Perez begot Hezron and if both Perez and
Hezron had been born before the descent into Egypt, how reasonable is it to believe that only
three generations (Ram, Amminadab, and Nahshon) would have been born during the 430year sojourn in Egypt (Exodus 12:40)? That's not very likely, yet the genealogy clearly says
that Aaron married Elisheba, the daughter of Amminadab, the sister of Nahshon, so she
would represent only the third Israelite generation born in Egypt, according to the "facevalue" meaning of the genealogy in Ruth 4:19-20, which reads exactly as Matthew's
genealogy (1:3-4) and the genealogy of Judah in 1 Chronicles 2:5-10. There is no
genealogy anywhere in the Bible that adds any generations to the genealogy of Perez through
Nahshon.
Obviously, inerrantists can't accept the "face-value" meaning of these genealogies, so that is
why they will insist that some generations were skipped between Hezron, who was born
before the descent into Egypt, and Nahshon, who was obviously a contemporary of Aaron and
Moses, because he is mentioned several times during the wilderness wanderings as a leader in
the tribe of Judah.
Numbers 1:4 A man from each tribe shall be with you, each man the head of his ancestral
house. 5 These are the names of the men who shall assist you: From Reuben, Elizur son of
Shedeur. 6 From Simeon, Shelumiel son of Zurishaddai. 7 From Judah, Nahshon son of
Amminadab.
Numbers 2:3 Those to camp on the east side toward the sunrise shall be of the regimental
encampment of Judah by companies. The leader of the people of Judah shall be Nahshon son
of Amminadab, 4 with a company as enrolled of seventy-four thousand six hundred.
Numbers 7:11 Yahweh said to Moses: They shall present their offerings, one leader each day,
for the dedication of the altar. 12 The one who presented his offering the first day
was Nahshon son of Amminadab, of the tribe of Judah....
Numbers 10:13 They set out for the first time at the command of Yahweh by Moses. 14 The
standard of the camp of Judah set out first, company by company, and over the whole
company was Nahshon son of Amminadab.
Interestingly enough, whenever Nahshon was mentioned, he was always identified as "the son
of Amminadab." Yes, inerrantists will argue, he was the "son of Amminadab, but son could
mean just descendant, so that doesn't necessarily mean that Nahshon was the literal "son" of
Amminadab. Well, if he wasn't the literal son of a man named Amminadab, why was he
always called the "son of Amminadab"? As many times as he was mentioned, why didn't a
biblical writer at least one time refer to him as the son of whoever was his actual father?
A dodge that some inerrantists try to use when confronted with genealogical problems like the
one in Exodus 6 is to argue that the names in genealogies represented "ages" or "eras" and not
the specific people named in them. Thus, the name Abraham in the genealogy of Jesus meant
not Abraham but the "age" or "era" of Abraham. Very well, if that is true, why did the biblical
writers consistently say that Nahshon was the "son of Amminadab"? Who was this
Amminadab anyway? We really don't know, because outside of the many times that he is
listed in genealogies as the "son" of Ram and the father of Nahshon, he was never mentioned.
So why would biblical writers have chosen such an obscure person to represent an "age" or an
"era" in the various genealogies that listed Amminadab? He was famous for nothing except
that he had a "son" who was an important leader in the tribe of Judah during the wilderness
experiences of the Israelites. If this age-or-era-of argument has any merit, why wouldn't the
writers of biblical genealogies have gone directly from Hezron to Nahshon, because he was
the only descendant after Hezron who was prominent enough to have an age or era named
after him? Ram and Amminadab weren't.
For these reasons, it is entirely logical to understand that the writer of the Exodus-6 genealogy
meant for his readers to understand that he thought that Aaron's wife Elisheba was the literal
sister of the Israelite leader Nahshon and that this Nahshon was the literal son of a man named
Amminadab, just as Aaron's wife was the literal daughter of Amminadab. I have already
established to the satisfaction of anyone who doesn't have an inerrancy axe to grind that the
writer of this genealogy was using the word sons literally throughout the genealogy as he
listed the "sons" of Reuben and Simeon and Levi and Kohath, etc. So if Nahshon was not the
literal son of Amminadab, then the genealogist suddenly switched the meaning of the
word son when he said that Nahshon was the "son of Amminadab," and that would be a
writing error known as equivocation. I have said many times in discussing biblical
discrepancies that an error is an error. It doesn't have to be a "biggie" in order to be an error,
and if there is even a "little" error in the Bible, it is not inerrant.
Two more generations after Aaron were listed in the Exodus-6 genealogy, and they provide
further evidence that this was a generation-by-generation listing that skipped no generations.
We have already noted above that verse 23 says that Aaron married Elisheba, the sister of
Nahson, who bore him Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar. If Elisheba bore these four to
Aaron, then they would have been Aaron's actual sons just as Aaron and Moses would have
been the actual sons of Amram, whose wife Jochebed bore him Aaron and Moses. The
genealogy goes on to say that one of Aaron's sons, Eleazar, married Putiel whom bore him
Phinehas.
Exodus 6:25 Aaron's son Eleazar married one of the daughters of Putiel, and she bore him
Phinehas.
I would waste time if I cited all of the passages where Eleazar was identified as the son of
Aaron and Phinehas was identified as the son of Eleazar. Those who want verification of
these relationships can check Exodus 28:1; Leviticus 10:6; Numbers 3:2-4; Numbers 3:32;
and Numbers 4:16, which are just a few of the many passages that identify Eleazar as the son
of Aaron, and Numbers 25:7, 11; Numbers 31:6; Joshua 22:13, 30-32; Joshua
24:13; and Judges 20:28, which clearly identify Phinehas as the son of Eleazar. From the
beginning to the end of this genealogy, then, the text indicates that the writer understood that
he was listing all generations and skipping none. The "sons" in this genealogy were clearly
sons and not more distant descendants.
The writer of the Exodus-6 genealogy obviously thought that only three or four generations of
Israelites were born between the descent of Jacob's family into Egypt and the exodus. He
presented the genealogy of Aaron in a way that revealed that he thought that only four
generations of Israelites at the most had actually grown up in Egypt (Kohath, Amram, Aaron,
and Eleazar) and that Aaron had married a woman who was only the third generation of her
family to be born in Egypt (Ram, Amminadab, and Nahshon and Elisheba). It isn't possible to
find 430 years in this genealogy, so we can only conclude that a chronological discrepancy
exists in Exodus 6:18-25 and Exodus 12:40, which says that the Israelites sojourned in Egypt
for 430 years. And an error is an error. This is the exact kind of error that we would expect to
find in a "book" that is actually a collage put together by different writers and editors. The left
hand didn't remember what the right hand had done.
There is, however, no such thing as a discrepancy that biblical inerrantists won't try to
explain, so I will post follow-up articles in which I discuss the different attempts that
biblicists have made to show that the genealogy in Exodus 6 is consistent with the 430-year
claim in 12:40.
http://w w w
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captures AUGMARMAY
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Aug 2016 2011 2014 2016
About this capture
The 210-Year "Solution"
by Farrell Till
In "How Long Were the Children of Israel in Egypt?" I presented a mountain of evidence in
support of the view that the genealogy of Aaron in Exodus 6 was intended to be interpreted as
a generation-by-generation listing from Israel [Jacob] to Phinehas, a grandson of Aaron, and
that no generations were skipped. Hence, the genealogy, which contained only four
generations from Levi to Aaron and Moses, is chronologically incompatible with the claim
that the children of Israel dwelt in Egypt for 430 years (Ex. 12:40). I concluded that article
with the recognition that no self-respecting biblical inerrantist is ever going to admit that this
is a biblical discrepancy, because when inerrancy is at stake, biblicists will invariably resort to
all sorts of verbal gymnastics to try to make the Bible not mean what it clearly says. In this
article and others to follow, I will analyze some of the "solutions" that biblicists have
presented to try to explain away the chronological discrepancy that exists in Exodus
6 and 12:40. To understand my rebuttals of those "solutions," one should read first my article,
linked to above, in which the chronological problem was presented.
Both Jews and some Christian inerrantists have tried to solve this discrepancy by claiming
that the 430 years of Exodus 12:40 covered the time that the Israelites "sojourned" in both
Canaan and Egypt, and so the Israelites were in Egypt for only about 210 years, a time span
that would be compatible with the genealogy in Exodus 6. In support of this "explanation,"
inerrantists who espouse it will point out that the Septuagint translation included Canaan
in Exodus 12:40.
Brenton's Translation: And the sojourning of the children of Israel, while they sojourned in
the land of Egypt and the land of Chanaan, was four hundred and thirty years.
Proponents of this "explanation" theorize that Exodus 12:40 had orginally included the
sojourning in Canaan in the 430 years but that through copyist error, the land of Canaan had
been inadvertently omitted and the error passed along thereafter. In support of this theory,
they will also cite Galatians 3:16-17.
16 Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring; it does not say, "And to
offsprings," as of many; but it says, "And to your offspring," that is, to one person, who is
Christ. 17 My point is this: the law, which came four hundred thirty years later, does not
annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise.
Inerrantists who quote this passage will point out that the apostle Paul said here that 430 years
had passed from the time that Yahweh had promised the land of Canaan to Abraham and his
seed or offspring, so by necessity, they argue, Exodus 12:40 must mean that there had been
430 years from the time that the Israelites had dwelt in Canaan until the time that they left
Egypt. This, of course, is an argument that tries to prove the inerrancy of Exodus 12:40 by
assuming the inerrancy of Galatians 3:17, but as I discuss the 210-year "solution" to this
discrepancy, I will show that quoting the Septuagint and the text in Galatians will not resolve
the problem, but first I want to look at the Jewish approach to resolving this discrepancy,
which is similar to the one just noted.
Jews cannot very well claim that a copyist error in Exodus 12:40 accounts for the
discrepancy, because they believe that their Masoretic text has faithfully preserved the truths
that Yahweh revealed to their ancestors. Hertz's commentary on the Chumash simply asserts
that Exodus 12:40 should be interpreted to mean that the Israelites sojourned in Canaan and
Egypt for 430 years and that only 210 of those years were spent in Egypt.
"Of these four hundred and thirty years," the Rabbis state, "the Israelites were in Egypt for a
period of 210 years. This accords with the narrative of Exodus, and with the genealogies
given in chap. 6."
When this issue was recently discussed in the ii_errancy forum, David Ariel, a Jewish rabbi,
dutifully parroted this "explanation" of the discrepancy. On March 6, 2004, he posted the
following statement in the thread that was discussing this issue.
Oh, BTW, tell your apologists that every Jewish child in religious school knows that the Jews
spent 210 years in Egypt from when Jacob descended until the Exodus. It is so recorded in
our historical extra biblical writings as a people. The verses of 400 and 430 are referring to a
count from the birth of Issac and from the covenant between the parts with Abraham
respectively. But of course its up to you to accept that or not. Thought you would just like to
know that the Jews who were responsible for the keeping of the Bible text admit that we spent
not more than 210 actual years there.
In reply to this, I presented essentially the same information that I will use below to show that
this "solution" will not explain away the fact that Exodus 12:40 in the Masoretic text, which
the Jews "kept" for us over the years, clearly says that the children of Israel sojourned in
Egypt for 430 years. With this in mind, let's now notice reasons why, despite what every
Jewish child in religious school may know, the 210-year solution will not work.
First of all, this "solution" is incompatible with Genesis 15:13-16 where Yahweh prophesied
to Abraham that his descendants would be abused aliens for 400 years in a land that was not
theirs.
13 Then Yahweh said to Abram, "Know this for certain, that your offspring shall be aliens in
a land that is not theirs, and shall be slaves there, and they shall be oppressed for four
hundred years; 14 but I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they
shall come out with great possessions. 15 As for yourself, you shall go to your ancestors in
peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. 16 And they shall come back here in the fourth
generation; for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.
The 210-year solution contains the following inconsistencies with Yahweh's prophecy just
quoted.
(1) Yahweh told Abraham that his descendants would be aliens and slaves in a land that is
not theirs, but in the same context of the prophecy, Yahweh went on to tell Abraham that he
had given him the land of Canaan: "In that day Yahweh made a covenant with Abram, saying,
to your seed I have given this land, from the river of Egypt and the great river, the river
Euphrates" (Gen. 17:18). So if Abraham's seed had spent 220 years in Canaan and then 210
years in Egypt, that could hardly constitute being aliens and slaves for 400 years in a land that
was not theirs, because Yahweh clearly said that he had given to Abraham and his seed the
land from the river of Egypt to the Euphrates, which were boundaries that would have
encompassed the land of Canaan. Hence, the 220 years that Abraham's seed had spent in
Canaan would not have been years spent in a land that was not theirs, yet Yahweh plainly said
that Abraham's seed would be aliens for 400 years in a land that wasn't theirs.
(2) Yahweh's prophecy was that Abraham's descendants would be enslaved and "oppressed"
for 400 years in a land that was not theirs, so if the Israelites had spent only 210 years in
Egypt, that would hardly have constituted being "oppressed" for 400 years. Furthermore, as I
will note below, Joseph was only 40 when the Israelites went into Egypt, and he died when he
was 110 (Gen. 50:20). Hence, the Israelites, if they were in Egypt for only 210 years, had
spent 70 of those years in the comfort that would have come from being close relatives to
Joseph, the second most powerful figure in Egypt, so the most that Ariel and his biblical
inerrantist cohorts could get from their 210-year theory would be 140 years of slavery and
oppression in a land that was not theirs. That would be a far cry from the 400 years that
Yahweh prophesied in Genesis 15. Aside from this problem, there is nothing in the Bible text
to indicate that Abraham's seed suffered oppression while they were in Canaan and certainly
not 220 years of continual oppression. Notice that David Ariel said above that the 430 years
should be "counted from the birth of Isaac." He didn't elaborate, but those who are familiar
with this "solution" to the 430-year discrepancy will recognize a familiar quibble. After
Isaac's birth, Ishmael, Abraham's son who had been born to Sarah's handmaiden Hagar,
mocked Isaac on the day that he was weaned (Gen. 21:18-19), and, believe it or not,
proponents of the 210-year "solution" will actually quibble that Ishmael's mocking of Isaac
marked the beginning of the 430-year oppression of Abraham's seed. This quibble is so
ridiculous that it deserves no serious comment, because the story of Abraham's descendants as
told in the book of Genesis presented them as a family group that enjoyed relative prosperity
in Canaan for the times in which they lived. Anyone who would seriously argue that
Abraham's descendants were enslaved and oppressed for 220 years in Canaan is desperate for
a solution to a discrepancy.
(3) Yahweh prophesied that Abraham's seed would come out of a land that was not theirs with
"great possessions" (v:14). This could apply to the Israelites who allegedly left Egypt after
having been lavished with gifts by the Egyptians (Ex. 12:35-36), but when did they "come
out" of Canaan with great possessions? According to the story of the Israelite descent into
Egypt, which begins in Genesis 46, the Israelites didn't go out of Canaan with "great
possessions" but rather went into Egypt (out of Canaan) in great need of assistance because of
a famine. Furthermore, Yahweh's prophecy was that Abraham's seed would come out of this
land that was not theirs after 400 years, but the 210-year solution would have them having
come out of Canaan after only 220 years.
(4) Yahweh also predicted that Abraham's descendants would "come back here" in the fourth
generation (v:16), so since the prophecy was spoken in Canaan, the reference to coming
back here obviously had to mean that Yahweh was telling Abraham that his descendants
would go into another land (a land not theirs) and be slaves there for 400 years and then
come back here (to Canaan) in the fourth generation. The "fourth generation" causes
problems all the way around (whether the 430 years referred to the time actually spent in
Egypt or the time spent in both Canaan and Egypt), but for now I just want to notice that
Yahweh's prophecy made reference to the enslavement of Abraham's seed in a land "not
theirs" and a coming back to here after 400 years, so this prophecy cannot be reconciled with
efforts to make the sojourn in Egypt only 210 years, for if a "solution" to a discrepancy
creates inconsistencies with other biblical texts, nothing has been resolved. A satisfactory
solution to a discrepancy must be one that is consistent with all other biblical texts; otherwise,
inerrancy has not been successfully defended. The 210-year "solution" is fraught with too
many problems to be a satisfactory explanation of the 430-year problem.
The "children of Israel" problem: To understand my next rebuttal point, readers must
understand that Exodus 12:40 does not say that the seed or offspring of Abraham sojourned in
Egypt for 430 years but says that the children of Israel were in Egypt for 430
years. Israel was another name for Jacob, the second born of Isaac's twin sons. He was known
as Jacob, but in Genesis 32:28 his name was changed to Israel. Hence, the "children of Israel"
would necessarily have been descendants of Jacob or Israel. That they would have also been
descendants of Israel's father Isaac and his grandfather Abraham would be beside the point.
Children or descendants of Israel could not have existed until there was an Israel to produce
descendants that were known as Israelites, so I will now show that there were no children or
descendants of Israel until about 50 years before Jacob (Israel) took his extended family into
Egypt, but first let's notice that Exodus 12:40 plainly says that "the children of Israel"
sojourned in Egypt for 430 years.
Now the time that the children of Israel dwelt in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years.
Many translations use Israelites for children of Israel in this verse, but a check of the Hebrew
text will show that children of Israel was the actual term used here. Whether the Hebrew term
is translated Israelites or children of Israel is really immaterial, because just as there could
have been no descendants of Israel until Israel had had children, there could have been no
Israelites until Israel had produced descendants. Those who want to argue against this should
ask themselves if there could have been Moabites or Amalekites or Midianites before Moab,
Amalek, and Midian had produced descendants.
With this point in mind, I will now show that Israel or Jacob had produced no children until
about 50 years before the descent of Jacob's family into Egypt. Genesis 12:4-5 claims that
Abram [Abraham] was 75 years old when he left Haran and went into the land of Canaan. He
was 100 years old when Isaac was born (Gen. 21:5). Isaac was 40 when he married Rebekah
(Gen. 25:20), and he was 60 years old when his twin sons Esau and Jacob were born (Gen.
25:26). From these passages, we can see that the Bible claims that 85 years passed from
Abraham's entry into Canaan until the birth of Israel (Jacob), so certainly the "children of
Israel" could not have been enslaved and oppressed during this time when they didn't yet
exist. Now the chronology gets really interesting, because Genesis indicates that Jacob or
Israel didn't even have any children until he was well into his 80s. I confirmed this age of
Jacob (Israel) in the article "Jacob an Old Geezer?" which was published in the
November/December 1996 issue of The Skeptical Review. So that readers won't have to exit
this article to read it, I will quote the relevant part here, which uses biblical chronology to
show that Jacob or Israel was in his mid-80s when his children began to be born.
How can we know that Jacob was 83-96 years old when all this [the births of his children]
was happening? It is a matter of simple arithmetic. When Joseph presented his father to
Pharaoh after the arrival of Jacob's family in Egypt, Jacob was 130: "Pharaoh said to Jacob,
'How many are the years of your life?' Jacob said to Pharaoh, 'The years of my earthly
sojourn are one hundred thirty; few and hard have been the years of my life'" (Gen. 47:8-9).
This age was confirmed later in the chapter, at the time of Jacob's death, when it was claimed
that "Jacob lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years; so the days of Jacob, the years of his
life, were one hundred forty-seven years" (v:28). So if we can determine the age of any of his
sons at the time when Jacob was presented to Pharaoh, it would be possible to know how old
he was when his sons were being born to him in Paddanaram.
In the case of Joseph, we can make that determination. After his brothers sold him into Egypt,
Joseph rose to prominence through his dream-interpretation skills. Having interpreted with
accuracy the dreams of Pharaoh's butler and baker while they were in ward with him, Joseph
was called out of prison to interpret two disturbing dreams that Pharaoh had had. In his
interpretation, Joseph predicted seven years of plenty to be followed by seven years of famine.
So pleased was Pharaoh with Joseph's performance, that he elevated Joseph to the second
highest political position in Egypt to supervise the storage of food during the seven years of
plenty so that the country would have food supplies during the famine. At the time of his
promotion, Joseph was thirty: "Joseph was thirty years old when he entered the service of
Pharaoh king of Egypt" (Gen. 41:46).
Joseph's task was to gather excess food during the seven years of plenty and store it for use
during the seven years of famine (Gen. 41:34-43). The Bible implies that the 14-year period
foreseen in Pharaoh's dreams (seven of plenty and seven of famine) began immediately after
Joseph was made food administrator, because Joseph had said when interpreting Pharaoh's
dreams, "God will shortly bring it to pass" (Gen. 41:32). Also, the verses following the
passage quoted above to establish his age when Joseph "entered the service of Pharaoh king
of Egypt" said that "Joseph went out from the presence of Pharaoh, and went through all the
land of Egypt" to gather up "all the food of the seven years when there was plenty in the land
of Egypt" (41:46-48). Obviously, then, the Bible teaches that Joseph was thirty years old
when the seven years of plenty began.
This would mean that Joseph was 39 when he identified himself to his brothers who had come
into Egypt to buy grain. They came after the seven years of plenty had passed and "the famine
was sore in all the earth" (41:57; 42:1-3, ASV). Although he had immediately recognized his
brothers, Joseph did not reveal his identity to them. They bought grain and returned home,
and when the grain was consumed, Jacob ordered them to return to Egypt to buy more (Gen.
43:1-2). On this second trip, Joseph made himself known to his brothers, and by then, the
famine was in its second year (45:6, 11). So at this point, Joseph had to be nine years older
than when he had first entered into the service of Pharaoh at age 30.
Joseph sent his brothers back into Canaan to bring their father and relatives into Egypt
where they would have food to sustain them during the five remaining years of famine
(45:11). If it had taken no more than a year for the brothers to return home and bring Jacob
and their families to Egypt, Joseph would have been about 40 years old, according to the
biblical narrative. So if Jacob was 130 at this time, as the Bible claims, that would mean that
he was 90 years old when Joseph was born.
Inerrantists will insist that men lived longer in those days and were therefore more vigorous
in their eighties than men of today, but that is an assumption that they have no proof for but
what the Bible says. To make such a defense as this, then, would be a resort to the familiar
tactic of circular reasoning or trying to prove inerrancy by assuming inerrancy. Besides, they
would still have the problem of explaining Abraham's statement quoted earlier, which plainly
indicated that even in biblical times it was considered unlikely that a man in his nineties could
sire children. If Jacob was 90 when Joseph was born, as the chronology cited in support of
this conclusion certainly showed, then he was at least 96 when Benjamin was born. When he
learned that Laban had given him Leah instead of Rachel, Jacob agreed to work seven more
years if Laban would give him Rachel too. Then "it came to pass when Rachel had borne
Joseph" that Jacob asked Laban for permission to take his wives and children and return to
his country... "for thou [Laban] knowest my service wherewith I have served thee" (Gen.
30:25-26). As previously noted, however, Laban persuaded Jacob to stay and continue
working in exchange for all the spotted and speckled lambs and kids that would be born in the
flocks. When Jacob finally left Paddanaram, he said to Laban, "These twenty years have I
been in your house; I served you fourteen years for your two daughters, and six years for your
flock" (Gen. 31:41, NRSV). So if Jacob had felt free to go after Joseph's birth because he had
served Laban well, this must mean that Joseph was born at the end of Jacob's second sevenyear term of servitude or, in other words, 14 years after Jacob arrived in Paddanaram.
Rachel died giving birth to Benjamin en route to Canaan after Jacob had spent 20 years in
Paddanaram, so if Jacob was 90 when Joseph was born (as already shown), then he would
have been at least 96 when Benjamin was born. At age 99, Abraham laughed when told that
he would father a son within a year, so the claim that Abraham's grandson Jacob sired a son
when he was 96 should warrant at least a chuckle.
This analysis of biblical chronology shows that the Bible claims that Jacob (Israel) was
around 90 years old when Joseph was born. As this story was told, Jacob (Israel) had agreed
to work for Laban for seven years for the right to marry Rachel, but as the story was told
(Gen. 29), Laban deceived Jacob and gave Rachel's sister Leah to Jacob. Upon learning that
he had been deceived (if one is gullible enough to believe that a man could spend an entire
night doing what a man and his wife do on their wedding night and not know until morning
[Gen. 29:25] that the woman he had spent the night with wasn't the woman he had been in
love with for seven years), Jacob (Israel) agreed to work for seven more years if Laban would
also give him Rachel. So if Jacob's (Israel's) obligation to Laban had been fulfilled after
Joseph's birth, as noted above, then it would have been seven years prior to this time that
Jacob (Israel) had begun his sexual escapades with the two sisters and their handmaidens. At
that time, then, Jacob (Israel) would have been about 83. After Jacob (Israel) had "fulfilled his
week" with Leah, Laban gave him Rachel too, and the ecstasy for Jacob (Israel) started. Right
away, it seems, Leah began to have sons (Gen. 29:32), when Reuben was born, so it wasn't
until Jacob (Israel) was about 84 that there was any such thing as a son or child of Israel.
Right away, apparently, Leah had her second son, Simeon (v:33), which we would assume
was at least a year later. So Jacob (Israel) would have been at least around 85 before there
were any such thing as the "children of Israel."
Now let's take inventory of what we have. As noted above, 85 years passed from the time of
Abraham's entry into Canaan till the birth of Jacob (Israel), and now we have noticed that
Jacob or Israel was about 85 before he even had any children. We have noticed too that Jacob
(Israel) stayed in Paddanaram (which wouldn't have been Canaan) for six years after Joseph's
birth before he took his "children" back to Canaan. As noted above, Joseph would have been
about six years old at this time. Since Joseph was 17 years old when his brothers sold him into
Egypt (Gen. 37:2), the "children of Israel" would have lived in Canaan for a total of 10 whole
years before Joseph went into Egypt. The chronological analysis above noted that Joseph was
about 40 when he brought the Israelites into Egypt at the time of the famine, so this would
mean that the "children" of Israel had "sojourned" in Canaan 23 years after Joseph went into
Egypt. Add the 10 years that the "children of Israel" had been in Canaan prior to the selling of
Joseph, and we have a total of 33 years (10 + 23 = 33) that the "children of Israel" could have
sojourned in Canaan. Even if we consider as part of their "sojourn" in Canaan the 13 years
that Jacob (Israel) spent in Paddanaram after his wives had had "children of Israel," this
would make only 46 years that the "children of Israel" had spent in Canaan. Add these 46
years to the 210 in Egypt, and that would make a total of just 256 years that the "children of
Israel" had sojourned in Canaan and Egypt.
Those who try to explain away the problem in Exodus 12:40 on the grounds that this text
really meant that the "children of Israel" had sojourned in both Canaan and Egypt for 430
years have a lot of explaining to do, but before I finish my rebuttal of this "solution" to the
430-year discrepancy, let's just assume for the sake of argument that the author of this verse
did indeed say in his original scroll that the children of Israel had sojourned in Canaan and
Egypt for 430 years. If that were the case, then even this reading of the verse would be in
conflict with Old Testament chronology, because the Hebrew text states not that the
descendants of Abraham had sojourned for 430 years but that the children of Israel had
sojourned in Egypt (and Canaan?) for 430 years. As I have just shown above, however, the
"children of Israel" could not have sojourned anywhere until there were children of Israel
living, and biblical chronology shows that there were no "children of Israel" until about 50
years before Israel's descent into Egypt.
The 210-year solution, therefore, is no solution at all. Furthermore, the fact that the apostle
Paul claimed, as noted early in this article, that 430 years passed from the time of the promise
made to Abraham until the giving of the law would explain nothing either, because Exodus
12:40 plainly said that the children of Israel had sojourned in Egypt for 430 years. Paul may
have been correct in saying that 430 years had passed from the time of the promise till the
giving of the law, but that would be entirely different from saying that "children of Israel" had
dwelt in Canaan and Egypt for 170 years before there were even any children of Israel to
dwell anywhere. In other words, nothing that Paul could have said could change the fact that
there were no children of Israel until about 50 years before the Israelites went into Egypt.
In follow-up articles, I will reply to other lean-over-backwards attempts that inerrantists have
made to try to resolve the 430-year discrepancy.
http://w w w
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AUGMARMAY
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2011 2014 2016
captures
12 Nov
2006 - 10
Aug 2016
About this capture
The Two-Amrams "Solution"
to the 430-Year Problem
by Farrell Till
In "The 210-Year Solution," I showed that the attempt by Jewish and some Christian
apologists to limit the Israelite sojourn in Egypt to just 210 years instead of the 430 years
claimed in Exodus 12:40 will not work because it creates serious inconsistencies with other
biblical texts. The 210-year "solution," however, is not the only "explanation" that biblical
inerrantists have proposed in their attempts to remove this discrepancy. The really dyed-inthe-wool inerrantists will usually stick to the "skipped-generations" explanation, because it
takes Exodus 12:40 to mean what it says and avoids the inconsistencies with Yahweh's
prophecy in Genesis 15:13-16, where he plainly said that Abraham's seed would be enslaved
and oppressed for 400 years in a land that wasn't theirs. It also avoids the problem of having
to explain how the "children of Israel" could have sojourned in Canaan for 220 years prior to
their entry into Egypt if there were no children of Israel until about 50 years before they went
into Egypt. Accepting the face-value meaning of Exodus 12:40, however, requires these
inerrantists to explain how only three generations of Levites would have been born in Egypt
during those 430 years, so about the only alternative left to them is to argue that the Exodus6 genealogy skipped some generations. My first article on this subject gave very clear
evidence that this was a complete genealogy that skipped no generations, but those who
confront biblical inerrantists need to be familiar with the arguments they will use to support
their "skipped-generations" claim.
I don't know what the new fundamentalists like Robert Turkel might say to explain this
discrepancy. Perhaps they would argue that a "paper shortage" kept the Exodus writer from
listing all of the generations in the genealogy or that the ma besay-il (it doesn't matter)
principle kept this from being a discrepancy, because the people of that time would have been
interested in the central idea of Aaron's descent from Levi and not in the slavish correctness of
a generation-by-generation genealogy. Reasonable people, however, will understand that an
error is an error, so they need to be familiar with the arguments that old-school
fundamentalists will use to try to prove that there is no error in this genealogy because the
writer intentionally skipped generations in it.
As I mentioned in my first article in this series, the first two issues of The Skeptical
Review featured a debate on this very discrepancy. My opponent, Jerry Moffitt, took the
position that generations were skipped in the Exodus-6 genealogy. Although I showed in my
first article (linked to above) that this position is clearly incompatible with the obvious
intention of the Exodus writer, a review of the arguments used by Moffitt and others who
espouse the skipped-generations theory will show that this position is untenable. In support of
his view, Moffitt said in "The Inerrancy Doctrine Is Found to Be Impregnable" that "the Bible
often gives genealogies by listing the main characters in the genealogies according to the
general purpose of the writer." He apparently thought that "the general purpose" of the
Exodus writer allowed him to skip some generations in the disputed genealogy. Moffitt
quoted none other than Gleason Archer in support of his view.
Archer further points out that Numbers 3:27-28 says the combined total of Amramites,
Izharites, Hebronites, and Uzzielites came to 8,600. If Amram claimed one fourth of those and
if that same Amram fathered Moses and Aaron, as Till argues, Moses and Aaron (by Till's
argumentation) would have had around 2,150 brothers. That should be hard for even a
dedicated skeptic like Farrell Till to swallow. No, these figures indicate the genealogy
of Exodus 6:16-20 is listing only the main links just as Matthew does in Matthew 1:1. The first
Amram is a kind of clan head of a person's family tree.
According to Moffitt, there were two Amrams, one of whom was the eponymous ancestor of
the Amramite clan and the other the father of Aaron and Moses, and the two had been
separated in time long enough for the clan of the original Amram to number around 2,000 at
the time of the exodus. I will repeat again that my first article in this series (linked to above)
showed beyond all reasonable doubt that both biblical and extrabiblical Jewish writers, such
as Josephus and Philo Judaeus, understood that the genealogy in Exodus 6 was complete and
therefore skipped no generations. If Moffitt is right, then Josephus and Philo Judaeus were
both wrong when they said that Moses was a seventh-generation descendant in
succession from Abraham. Nevertheless, Moffitt made the argument, so let's examine it to see
if it can stand.
A basic flaw in Moffitt's argument was that it tried to prove biblical inerrancy by assuming
biblical inerrancy. He argued, in effect, that the Exodus-6 genealogy could not have been a
generation-by-generation listing, because if it is, then there is an obvious error in the
Kohathite census figures in Numbers 3:27-28. In other words, Moffitt assumed that both
Exodus 6 and Numbers 3 were inerrant, so Exodus 6 must not have meant what it seemed to
be saying. Hence, the Exodus writer must have intentionally skipped some generations in the
genealogy. In so arguing, Moffitt excluded even the possibility that at least one of the
passages was errant. In my original reply to Moffitt, I addressed in detail this problem in
Moffitt's argument, so to save time, I will quote that part of my article.
The crux of Moffitt's argument hinges on Numbers 3:27-28 where a census of the male
Kohathites (so named because they had descended through Levi's son Kohath) put their
number at 8,600. These were in turn divided into Amramites, Izharites, Hebronites, and
Uzzielites, because Kohath, as indicated in Exodus 6:18, had had four sons named Amram,
Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel. The argument of Mr. Moffitt and the sources he quoted is that the
Amram who was the father of Aaron and Moses could not have been the Amram who was
Kohath's son; otherwise, this would suggest (on the basis of an equal division of the 8,600
Kohathite males into their four clans) that Aaron and Moses had had "around 2,150
brothers," (p. 8). "That should be hard," Moffitt said, "for even a dedicated skeptic like
Farrell Till to swallow." For this reason, Moffitt concludes that there had to have been at
least two Amrams, one who was Kohath's son and head of the Amramites and another who
fathered Aaron and Moses by Jochebed, (Ex. 6:20). The writer of the Exodus-6 genealogy had
simply "skipped" some generations between the two Amrams, so the theory goes, and this has
caused some people to wrongly conclude that the Amram who was Moses' father was the
same Amram who was Kohath's son.
It all comes out sounding very pat, but it's a theory with more holes in it than a sieve. For one
thing, unless Moffitt has been living on another planet, he has to know that a major argument
against the Bible inerrancy doctrine is based on the outrageous exaggeration of census
figures in the books of Exodus and Numbers. Exodus 12:37 states that when the Israelites left
Egypt the number of men on foot (not counting women and children) was 600 thousand!
When a census was taken in the wilderness (Num. 1:46), it claimed the men of military age
(20 years old and up) numbered 603,550! If we assume an equal number of women in this age
group--and I guess I can do this if Moffitt can assume an equal division of the Kohathites
within their four clans--this would mean the adult population older than 20 numbered around
1,200,000. Then with the children of both sexes under 20 added on, there would have been a
total population of two and a half to three million! (Since the Israelites had been breeding like
flies in Egypt, we could reasonably assume that the younger, under-the-age-of-twenty group
would have surely represented an equal, if not larger, proportion of the total population.)
Regardless, the fact is that there were an awful lot of people in the exodus, according to the
Bible. There were so many, in fact, that one wonders why, given the relatively small size of the
Sinai peninsula, a few of them at least didn't accidentally stumble onto the promised land
before the end of the forty-year period of wandering, especially since they must have also
driven along with them herds of sheep and cattle numbering in the millions in order to have
had enough lambs to meet the requirements of forty Passover commemorations and to feed
the tabernacle altar the perpetual sacrifices (for three million people) described in Leviticus
and Numbers....
But I'm not going to swap far-fetched, how-it-could-have-been scenarios with Mr. Moffitt.
That's a game inerrancy believers have to play. I'm going to return Moffitt's favor and say
that I agree with him. If he can establish the reliability of the census figures in Numbers 3:2728, then I will agree that the Amram who was Moses' father was not the same Amram for
whom the Amramites were named. Until he can do that, however, he shouldn't expect us to be
too impressed with an argument that relies on one probable Bible discrepancy to explain
another one. The exodus census numbers have long been suspect in scholarly circles, and,
quite frankly, I would find it much easier to swallow the possibility that Moses and Aaron had
had 2,150 brothers than that two to three million Israelites had wandered around for forty
years in the Sinai desert with immense herds of sheep and cattle.
Moffitt's primary argument for his skipped-generations theory is based on a text (Num. 3:2728) that is right in the middle of a section where census figures were obviously inflated, but
the two-Amrams theory has another major weakness. If Moffitt's argument proves that there
were two Amrams, it would also prove that there were two Izhars and two Uzziels. This can
be seen by juxtaposing verses in the Exodus-6 genealogy with significant verses in Numbers
and Leviticus. We will first look at the references to Izhar.
Exodus 6:18 The sons of Kohath: Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel, and the length of
Kohath's life was one hundred thirty-three years.
Exodus 6:21 And the sons of Izhar: Korah, Nepheg and Zichri....
Numbers 16:1 Now Korah, the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, with Dathan
and Abiram... took men and they rose up before Moses...."
In my first article in this series, I showed how these verses establish that Izhar, listed
in Exodus 6:18 as a brother of Amram, had a son named Korah, who lived in the time of the
exodus and led a rebellion against Moses.
At face value, the Bible says that Levi had a son named Kohath, who had a son named
Amram, who had a brother named Izhar, who had a son named Korah, and the Bible, at face
value, says that a rebellion against the leadership of Moses was led by a man
named Korah, who was the son of Izhar, who was the son of Kohath, who was the son
of Levi. Earlier in this article, I presented both biblical and extrabiblical evidence to show to
any reasonable person that both Jewish and biblical writers understood that Levi was the
literal father of Kohath, who was the literal father of Amram, who was the literal father of
Aaron and Moses. Now the information just presented above shows very clearly that biblical
writers understood that the Amram, who was the son of Kohath, had a brother named Izhar,
who had a son named Korah, who led a rebellion against Moses in the wilderness, so the
evidence that the genealogy in Exodus 6 was a literal father/son listing continues to mount.
I compared these verses in my first article to show that the Exodus-6 genealogy did not skip
any generations; however, if inerrantists are going to reject this evidence and cling to their
two-Amrams theory, they will have to say that there were also two Izhars, one who was the
brother of the first Amram alleged to be the eponymous father of the Amramite clan, and
another who was a contemporary of the second Amram and father of Korah, who led the
rebellion against Moses. Proponents of the two-Amram theories would also have to say that
there were two Uzziels for reasons that I showed in my first article.
There are, however, still more nails to drive into the coffin of this "skipped-generations"
quibble, which makes the unreasonable claim that the word sons in Exodus 6 meant
only descendants. The next nail that I will be driving finally brings us to the relationship
of Uzziel to Aaron. To introduce this argument, let's notice that Exodus 6:18 says, "And the
sons of Kohath [were] Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel." Now if I am right in claiming that
Exodus 6 is a literal father/son genealogy, it is obvious that Amram, Izhar, Hebron,
and Uzziel were brothers. Furthermore, if they were brothers and if the Amram in this verse
was the literal father of Aaron, then Uzziel would have been Aaron's uncle. That conclusion is
so obvious that nothing further needs to be said about it.
Let's notice again that verse 20 says, "And Amram took him Jochebed his father's sister to
wife, and she bore him Aaron and Moses," so certainly the "face-value" meaning of the text
gives us every reason to conclude that a man named Amram was the literal father of Aaron.
Therefore, if this Amram is the same Amram of verse 18, then by necessity, Uzziel was
Aaron's uncle.
With that in mind, let's now look at verse 22: "And the sons of Uzziel [were] Mishael,
Elzaphan, and Sithri." That seems clear enough, doesn't it? Uzziel--and who could this be but
the Uzziel of verse 18, who was listed as a brother of a man named Amram?--had sons who
were named Mishael and Elzaphan.
Now let's compare this passage to Leviticus 10:1-4, where we are told the strange story of
Aaron's sons Nadab and Abihu (both of them priests like Aaron), who offered "strange fire" to
Yahweh, and so Yahweh did what any self-respecting tribal deity of that time would have
done. He sent forth fire to devour them, "and they died before Yahweh" (v:2). So after Yahweh
had had his petty vengeance for a petty offense, Moses, the top man on the Hebrew totem
pole... well, let's look at exactly what the inspired, inerrant word of God says.
And Moses called Mishael and Elzaphan, the sons of Uzziel, the uncle of Aaron, and said
unto them, "Draw near and carry your brethren from before the sanctuary out of the camp"
(v:4).
Please notice that these two men, Mishael and Elzaphan, whom Moses called before him at
this time were said to be "the sons of Uzziel." Now keep in mind that the Exodus-6 genealogy
said that Amram and Uzziel were the "sons of Kohath" (v: 18) and that verse 22 said
that Uzziel had sons who were named Mishael and Elzaphan. It kind of sounds as if the Uzziel
of Exodus 6 and the Uzziel of Leviticus 10:4 were the same person, doesn't it? Now bear in
mind that if these two were the same person and if Exodus 6 is a literal father/son genealogy,
then Uzziel of Exodus 6 would have been Aaron's uncle.
So notice what Leviticus 10:4 says in identifying who Mishael and Elzaphan were. It clearly
says that they were "the sons of Uzziel, the uncle of Aaron." Now I know from previous
exchanges with inerrantists on this subject that some will argue that the word uncle simply
meant a "relative." I intend to do follow-up articles on this issue in which I will reply to the
various attempts that inerrantists have made to resolve the chronological problem in Exodus
6, so at that time, I will show that the uncle=relative quibble just won't work.
In my next article in this series, I will be addressing the quibble that uncle in Leviticus
10:4 meant only that Uzziel was a "relative" of Aaron, but for now all I want to notice is that
there was an Uzziel living when Aaron was high priest of the Israelites. To stick to their twoAmrams theory, the proponents of this "solution" to the Exodus-6 discrepancy would have to
say that the original Amram had brothers named Izhar and Uzziel and that generations later,
the Amram who was the father of Aaron and Moses also had brothers named Izhar and
Uzziel. That is just a little too coincidental to be credible.
Finally, let's notice that the claim that there were two Amrams and that the Exodus writer
simply skipped from one Amram to the other without informing his readers that he was
omitting generations is inconsistent with this writer's style. I explained this in my original
reply to Moffitt (linked to above).
The writer's hand was further tipped as he continued his conclusion of the genealogy: "These
are that Aaron and Moses, to whom Jehovah (Yahweh) said, Bring out the children of Israel
from the land of Egypt according to their hosts. These are they that spake to Pharaoh king of
Egypt, to bring out the children of Israel from Egypt: these are that Moses and Aaron"
(vv:26-27). Somehow, the writer felt compelled to drive home the fact that the Aaron and
Moses in this genealogy were the very Aaron and Moses famous for having led the Hebrews
out of Egypt. From cover to cover, the Bible mentions no other Aaron and Moses except these,
so why did the writer go to such extremes to make it clear what Aaron and Moses he meant?
Clearly, he wanted it understood that the first Levitical priests to serve Yahweh's people were
descended from Levi through the same Aaron who was Moses' brother. He had a vested
interest in selling that point to his readers.
This writer's extreme care, however, raises another question. Is it reasonable to believe that
someone as redundant as this writer was in identifying which Moses and Aaron he meant
would list one Amram in a genealogy, skip a generation or two (or three), and then resume
listing the generations with a second Amram and not tell his readers the two weren't the same
person! It stretches credibility too far to imagine it. Besides, we have another case where Mr.
Moffitt loses even if he is right. Anyone who knows anything at all about effective writing will
agree that if there really were two different Amrams, then whoever wrote this genealogy used
extremely poor transition, for in the short space of just two verses, he went from one Amram
to another person of the same name without letting his readers know the change was being
made. Thus, if Moffitt could actually prove this is not a case of factual error, it would still be
a serious compositional error. Shouldn't an omniscient God know how to direct his inspired
writers to use sound writing practices? But in this case he didn't--if Moffitt is right.
One can hardly imagine that a writer who would labor the point that the Moses and Aaron
listed in the genealogy were the same Moses and Aaron who appeared before Pharaoh to
demand the release of the Israelites would have just a few verses before this skipped from
Amram, Izhar, and Uzziel to another set of men with the same names living generations later
without informing his readers that the second Amram, Izhar, and Uzziel were not the same as
the ones who were the direct sons of Kohath. It taxes imagination to think that this was the
case; hence, the two-Amrams, skipped-generations theories must be rejected for lack of
textual evidence to support them. The only sensible conclusion to reach in this matter is that
either the Exodus writer erred in saying that there had been only four generations from Levi to
Aaron and Moses, or else the writer of Numbers 3:27-28 erred by inflating the census count of
the Amramites, Izharites, and Uzzielites at the time of the exodus. When claims are at odds,
as they are in this case, the simpler explanation of the inconsistency is usually the safer one,
so I would say that the error most likely was made by the writer of Numbers, because that
would limit the discrepancy to just the one passage that exaggerated the number of
Kohathites, whereas saying that the Exodus writer erred would require one to say that the
passages in Numbers and Leviticus that mentioned men named Izhar and Uzziel living at the
same time as Aaron and Moses were also a part of the discrepancy. One thing is sure: there is
a chronological discrepancy in Exodus 6 and Exodus 12:40, and biblicists can't lean over
backwards far enough to solve the problem.
In a third follow-up article, I will rebut the attempts of some inerrantists to make uncle, in
reference to Uzziel's relationship to Aaron, mean that he was only a "relative" of Aaron.
http://w w w .thesk
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About this capture
The Mary Magdalene Problem
by Farrell Till
A Reply to:
Tomb Visitor Checklist
Do the Gospels Contradict Over Who Went to Jesus' Tomb?
by Robert Turkel (aka James Patrick Holding)
[Editor's Note: When this article was first written, the link in the title to Robert Turkel's
article worked, but he has since removed this article, as he has been known to do when replies
hard for him to answer satisfactorily have been posted on other websites. I was able to find
his article in the internet archives, so I have now posted it on TSR Online, so clicking this link
will take readers to Turkel's original article.]
The subtitle of Turkel's article, which is the focus of this reply, is "Do the Gospels Contradict
Over Who Went to Jesus' Tomb?" My answer is that they do and they don't. I will show in
replying to Turkel's attempt to reconcile the resurrection narratives on this issue that whether
the narratives contradict one another on the question of who went to the tomb depends upon
what aspects of the visits are being considered. If Turkel is concerned with only whether there
is contradiction in the identities of those named in the different narratives, my answer to his
question is that there are no ontradictions. The fact that Matthew named Mary Magdalene and
the other Mary as the visitors to the tomb, whereas Mark named these wo and a third
woman, i. e., Salome, and so on would not in my opinion be a mistake, because the omission
of names in a narrative would not constitute error. It is common for inerrantists to reconcile
this problem with some explanation like this: if a newspaper reported that Mary Smith and
Mary Jones went to a movie last night, this would not be an incorrect statement even though
they may have been accompanied by Sally Jackson. Such an omission might be considered
careless reporting, but technically it would not be an error, because the reporter's statement
would be true. Mary Smith and Mary Jones did go to a movie.
If, however, the question entails whether the narratives are consistent in what they say about
the women who went to the tomb, my answer is that the narratives are contradictory. The
gospel of John, for example, says that Mary Magdalene went to the tomb, found it empty, and
then ran to tell John that "they have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know
where they have laid him" (20:2). I will show that this depiction of Mary Magdalene on
resurrection morning is irreconcilably inconsistent with the way that Matthew's narrative
depicted her. She was presented in the two narratives so inconsistently that for all intents and
purposes the Mary Magdalene of John's gospel was not the Mary Magdalene of Matthew's
gospel.
Turkel's article begins:
Matthew 28:1 In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week,
came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.
Mark 16:1 And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James,
and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him.
John 20:1 The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark,
unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre.
Till:
I assume that Turkel will understand from my remarks above that I don't consider these verses
contradictory if the only issue in question is the identities of those who went to the tomb,
although I do wonder why Turkel omitted quoting Luke's account, which named three
women, one of whom was different from Mark's three, and added that "other women" were
with them (Luke 24:10). This raises the question of whether the Holy Spirit was careless in
guiding these "inspired" ones in what to write about an extraordinary event that begged for
evidence to confirm it. After all, these narratives were going to become the primary
documents in establishing that a man died, was stone-cold dead for two days, and then
returned to life. I would think that "the more the merrier" would apply here and that the
omniscient, omnipotent one should have realized that if at least five women, as required by
Luke's narrative, went to the tomb, the credibility of their claim that a dead man had returned
to life--if it is at all possible for such a claim to have credibility--would have been better
served if all of the narratives had named all of these "witnesses." On the matter of identities,
however, I will maintain my agreement with Turkel that there is no contradiction on this
point.
Turkels article continues:
The question of "who was at the tomb" is one of several that fall under the complex of
"harmonization" -- an issue we address here generally. But as for specifics, let's look at this
one. (Luke, by the way, just says "women" went to the tomb, and so there is no issue with
him.)
Till:
Well, Luke didn't even say that "women" went to the tomb. He simply said that "they came to
the tomb" (24:1), and the antecedent of they must be determined by reading back into chapter
23 where reference was made in verse 55 to the women who had followed Jesus from Galilee.
However, Luke did identify three of these women by their names in 24:10.
Turkel's article continues:
John first -- critics think John says Mary went alone, but read John 10:2 [sic]So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said,
"They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don't know where they have put him!"
So John's account could include other people as well.
Till:
I agree with Turkel on this point too, although I find it somewhat amusing that Robert "We"
Turkel would argue that use of the first-person plural pronoun in the narrative would mean
that other people could have been with Mary, because he repeatedly refers to himself as "we"
in his articles. Here are some sentences that I have cut and pasted from his attempt to answer
my Humpty-Dumpty rebuttal of his article on the Olivet discourse.
We gave specific answers and McTill ignored them.
McTill needs to check this site before running his gator, because we address that very point
elsewhere.
(W)e answered this elsewhere as well, though maybe too late for McTill to notice even if he
was awake at the time. We quoted an anti-preterist site as saying....
And we noted that DeMar has answered the careless use of this verse.
We have an example of this which we recently used as part of a tongue-in-cheek Skeptical
quiz....
I could cite a hundred times this many examples from Turkel's articles, but these are sufficient
to make the point. In each case, the "we" referred to him. It is a pretentious writing habit of
his that anyone who has read any of his articles will immediately recognize. Therefore,
if we in his own writing often times does not indicate plurality, then how does Turkel know
that Mary Magdalene meant that other people were with her when she said, "We don't know
where they have put him"?
On the II_Errancy list, John Kesler showed in a reply to Turkel on this point that we was
sometimes used in the Bible in the same way that Turkel uses it in his own writing.
John 1:1 There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2This man
came to Jesus by night and said to Him, "Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from
God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him."
Turkel may argue that Nicodemus was simply saying that he and others he knew understood
that Jesus was a teacher come from God, and so we in the statement did not refer to
Nicodemus alone. If he argues this, I would again agree with him, but that would not in any
way prove that Nicodemus had others with him at the time. The text says, "This man came to
Jesus by night," so there is no reason at all to suppose that others were with him.
In his reply to Nicodemus, Jesus used we to refer only to himself.
John 3:11 Jesus answered and said to him, "Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know
these things? 11Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify
what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness."
Was Jesus including his disciples with his usage of wehere? That hardly seems likely, because
the selection of the disciples had just begun in chapter 1 (35ff), so not much "testifying" could
have occurred by this time. Hence, we have here a probable case of where we was used in the
same way that Turkel so often uses it. His argument, then, that Mary Magdalene's use
of we in John 20:2 meant that she was saying that others had been with her at the tomb is
inconclusive.
This, however, is a minor point compared to the problem that I am going to show Turkel.
Turkel's article continues:
As for Mark and Matthew, it is not unreasonable to presume that Mark has the full account of
who went to the tomb, and Matthew just dropped Salome out of the picture as being
unnecessary to the story he was telling -Till:
Ah, yes, this is the old claim that the writers were "inspired," but they were left free to pick
and choose details to tell the story the way they thought it should be told. No one has ever
given a satisfactory explanation of how this kind of inspiration could have guaranteed that the
writers would tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so I don't expect to see
Turkel give us an explanation that no one else has ever been able to present.
Turkel's article continues:
or else, as part of a natural variation on oral tradition, her name was dropped.
Till:
Which means what? Why would "oral tradition" have required that the name be dropped?
Does Turkel even know the difference in an oral account and a written account? If Mark was
writing this account, why would "oral tradition" have had anything to do with what an
accurately written account should have included? Those who have done much reading in
Turkel's website know that he seems to think that vague appeals to "oral tradition," like this
one, are satisfactory explanations of whatever problem he may be trying to explain. If an
inconsistency in a written text exists, an inconsistency exists, and no number of appeals to
"oral tradition" can remove the inconsistency.
Turkel's article continues:
None of this can be answered without knowing Salome's personal level of involvement in the
story -- did she join the other women on the way? At what point? Did she play a memorable
role (i.e., paying for many of the spices)?
Till:
What the hell difference would any of this make? As I said above, the gospel writers were
trying to sell a very, very, very, very unlikely yarn about a man who died and returned to life.
Proving such an event would require some extraordinarily good evidence--which would have
to go far beyond mere personal testimony--but since there was going to be no evidence except
the personal testimony of those who said that they had seen the man alive after he had died,
common sense should have told Matthew and Mark to include in their accounts the names of
every last person who was present on the scene.
They didn't do this, however. We are supposed to believe that they knew by inspiration--if
nothing else--that Salome, Joanna, and "other women" were on the cene, but some of the
writers chose not to mention them. For some reason, they didn't consider them important.
These are the kind of dummies that the omniscient one selected to write this all-important
story?
Turkel's article continues:
As long as Matthew doesn't say that Salome never was there, strictly speaking, no error exists
-- and I challenge critics to show why this is not so in terms of the issues surrounding the
Lincoln biographies outlined in the link above. (This is a good match for the "how many
turkeys were outside the cabin" issue.)
Till:
Yes, as long as Matthew didn't say that Salome was never there, no error exists, but that is not
to say that a lot of stupidity didn't exist on the part of the writer and the omniscient one who
inspired him to leave out the names of some who were on the scene. This would be as idiotic
as a man accused of murder knowing that he was miles away from the scene of the crime at
the time in the presence of several people, but he gave the police only one or two names of
those who were with him.
So where are we now? We are in agreement that even though serious questions about the
competence of the gospel writers and the omniscient deity who presumably inspired them are
raised by the omission of "witnesses" in some of the narratives, technically there is no error,
but this problem is very minor compared to other discrepancies in the resurrection narratives.
Diehard inerrantists--which seem to include Turkel--claim that there are no inconsistencies in
the resurrection narratives, but to find "harmony" in the various NT passages that refer to the
resurrection, they must resort to outrageous speculation and how-it-could-have-been
scenarios. The most troublesome inconsistency in the resurrection accounts is what I call the
Mary Magdalene problem. It has sent many would-be apologists scurrying for cover with
announcements that they have so many obligations and responsibilities that they must
regrettably leave the forum. When confronted with the Mary Magdalene problem, some don't
even bother to offer excuses; they just leave whatever forum they are in. Turkel has his own
choir loft, of course, and I predict that he will keep this issue there, where he can selectively
quote his opposition, but he will not link his readers to an article like this so that they can
evaluate in full context his opposition's argument.
The Mary Magdalene problem is simple. Mary M was presented in the synoptic gospels as
having seen an angel or angels at the tomb, and heard him or them announce the resurrection
of Jesus, after which she actually encountered Jesus and worshiped him as she was running
from the tomb to tell the disciples what had happened. In John's gospel, however, Mary
Magdalene is presented as having found the tomb empty, after which she ran to Peter and the
disciple "whom Jesus loved" and told them that the body had been stolen. So the problem is
why Mary would have told the disciples that the body had been stolen if she had seen and
heard everything that the synoptic gospels claim that she saw and heard.
To save time, I am going to post a rebuttal of the most commonly used "explanation" of this
problem so that we can get to the heart of it much quicker. (Readers who have been with me
on alt.bible.errancy and the II Errancy list will recognize that this is an adapted version of a
posting that I have sent to Errancy many times, but no one has yet given a sensible
explanation of the problem.) Many inerrantists contend that Mary Magdalene simply panicked
when she saw the empty tomb and ran to Peter before she had heard the angel(s) announce
that Jesus had risen. This "explanation," however, is completely incompatible with Matthew's
gospel account. Let's look at it first, and then I will explain why the explanation is
incompatible with what "Matthew" clearly said.
Matthew 28:1 Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary
Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. 2And behold, there was a great
earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the
stone from the door, and sat on it. 3 His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as
white as snow. 4 And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men. 5 But the
angel answered and said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who
was crucified. 6 He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the
Lord lay. 7 And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He
is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told
you." 8 So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His
disciples word. 9 And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying,
"Rejoice!" So they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him. 10 Then Jesus said
to them, "Do not be afraid. Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see
Me."
I have emphasized in bold print certain words to call attention to them. They will establish
that Matthew intended for his readers to understand that Mary Magdalene didn't just hear the
angel announce that Jesus had been raised from the dead but that she also saw him and
touched him after she had run from the tomb. To establish this, let's notice that Mary
Magdalene and the other Mary are the only two women mentioned in Matthew's version. The
fact that Mark and Luke may have mentioned other women has nothing to do with the
obvious fact that Matthew mentioned only two women: Mary Magdalene and the other Mary.
Therefore, "THE WOMEN" in verse 5 to whom the angel said that Jesus had risen must
have necessarily included Mary Magdalene; otherwise, Matthew's text is incoherent and
would not have conveyed an accurate picture of what had happened to early Christians who
may have lived and died having had access only to this one gospel account. I assume that
inerrantists are willing to admit that the NT in bound volumes didn't exist until many years
after the gospels were written, so a reader of Matthew very likely would have been unable to
consult Mark, Luke, and John to see if they shed any "additional light" on what had happened.
If nothing else, Christians living at the time Matthew's gospel was completed could not have
had access to Luke and John, since (as most biblical scholars agree) they were written after
Matthew. Therefore, the picture they formed in their minds after reading Matthew's gospel
could not have included anything that was written in gospels that came after Matthew's.
Besides this, there are linguistic factors that inerrantists must consider. All rules of literary
interpretation that I ever heard of (and I studied a lot of literature on the subject when I was
teaching college English) would require readers to understand that "THE WOMEN" in verse
5 of Matthew's text were Mary Magdalene and the other Mary. No other assumptions can be
made, since Matthew did not himself specify that any other women were with the two Marys.
In other words, whether Mark and Luke mentioned up to five other women or 500 other
women is immaterial to what Matthew's narrative said. If he mentioned only two women, then
"the women" in his narrative grammatically had to be Mary Magdalene and the other Mary.
Hence, any plural pronouns like they and them that obviously referred back to the women had
to be references to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary. By necessity, then, the grammar of
Matthew's narrative requires readers to understand what whatever they did in this narrative or
whatever happened to or was said to them were things done by or to Mary Magdalene and the
other Mary.
The rules of pronoun-antecedent agreement will, therefore, require readers to understand that
the antecedent of the pronouns they and them (emphasized in bold print) is "THE
WOMEN." Since "THE WOMEN" by grammatical necessity had to be Mary Magdalene
and the other Mary, the antecedents of they and them are indirectly (by necessity) Mary
Magdalene and the other Mary.
It is a rule of literary interpretation that the substitution of antecedents for the pronouns in a
text will not alter the meaning of the text but will, if anything, help clarify its meaning. With
that in mind, I will now take Matthew's text quoted above and present it with the antecedents
substituted for the pronouns they and them when they made obvious references to "the
women." Readers should keep in mind that where Mary Magdalene and the other Mary (in
bold print) appear, the pronouns they or them appeared in the actual text.
Matthew 28:1 Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary
Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. 2 And behold, there was a great
earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the
stone from the door, and sat on it. 3 His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as
white as snow. 4 And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men. 5 But the
angel answered and said to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, "Do not be afraid, for I
know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here; for He is risen, as He said.
Come, see the place where the Lord lay. 7 And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is
risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him.
Behold, I have told you." 8 So Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went out quickly from the
tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word. 9 And as Mary Magdalene
and the other Mary went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met Mary Magdalene and the
other Mary, saying, "Rejoice!" So Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came and held Him
by the feet and worshiped Him. 10 Then Jesus said to Mary Magdalene and the other
Mary, "Do not be afraid. Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see
Me."
It is clearly evident that Matthew meant for his readers to understand that Mary Magdalene
heard an angel announce that Jesus had risen and that she ran from the tomb with great joy
after hearing this and that she met Jesus and touched him after she had run from the tomb. So
my question to Turkel and his inerrantist cohorts who think that there are no inconsistencies in
the resurrection narratives is a simple one: If Mary Magdalene had been told by an angel that
Jesus had risen and if she had even seen Jesus and touched him after leaving the tomb, why
did she go tell Peter that the body of Jesus had been stolen?
Some inerrantists use the two-visits theory to explain the inconsistencies in Mathew's and
John's narratives. They argue that John's narrative told of a first visit that Mary M made to the
tomb while it was yet dark, at which time she encountered an empty tomb and ran to tell Peter
and John that the body had been stolen, whereas the synoptic narratives told of a second visit
that Mary M made to the tomb "when the sun was risen." I do hope that Turkel will try to
present this as a solution to the Mary Magdalene problem.
As Dirty Harry would say, make my day, Turkel, and present this as your solution.
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OCTNOVOCT
14 captures
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12 Nov 2006 10 Aug 2016 20052006 2008
About this capture
The Two-Amrams "Solution"
to the 430-Year Problem
by Farrell Till
In "The 210-Year Solution," I showed that the attempt by Jewish and some Christian
apologists to limit the Israelite sojourn in Egypt to just 210 years instead of the 430 years
claimed in Exodus 12:40 will not work because it creates serious inconsistencies with other
biblical texts. The 210-year "solution," however, is not the only "explanation" that biblical
inerrantists have proposed in their attempts to remove this discrepancy. The really dyed-inthe-wool inerrantists will usually stick to the "skipped-generations" explanation, because it
takes Exodus 12:40 to mean what it says and avoids the inconsistencies with Yahweh's
prophecy in Genesis 15:13-16, where he plainly said that Abraham's seed would be enslaved
and oppressed for 400 years in a land that wasn't theirs. It also avoids the problem of having
to explain how the "children of Israel" could have sojourned in Canaan for 220 years prior to
their entry into Egypt if there were no children of Israel until about 50 years before they went
into Egypt. Accepting the face-value meaning of Exodus 12:40, however, requires these
inerrantists to explain how only three generations of Levites would have been born in Egypt
during those 430 years, so about the only alternative left to them is to argue that the Exodus6 genealogy skipped some generations. My first article on this subject gave very clear
evidence that this was a complete genealogy that skipped no generations, but those who
confront biblical inerrantists need to be familiar with the arguments they will use to support
their "skipped-generations" claim.
I don't know what the new fundamentalists like Robert Turkel might say to explain this
discrepancy. Perhaps they would argue that a "paper shortage" kept the Exodus writer from
listing all of the generations in the genealogy or that the ma besay-il (it doesn't matter)
principle kept this from being a discrepancy, because the people of that time would have been
interested in the central idea of Aaron's descent from Levi and not in the slavish correctness of
a generation-by-generation genealogy. Reasonable people, however, will understand that an
error is an error, so they need to be familiar with the arguments that old-school
fundamentalists will use to try to prove that there is no error in this genealogy because the
writer intentionally skipped generations in it.
As I mentioned in my first article in this series, the first two issues of The Skeptical
Review featured a debate on this very discrepancy. My opponent, Jerry Moffitt, took the
position that generations were skipped in the Exodus-6 genealogy. Although I showed in my
first article (linked to above) that this position is clearly incompatible with the obvious
intention of the Exodus writer, a review of the arguments used by Moffitt and others who
espouse the skipped-generations theory will show that this position is untenable. In support of
his view, Moffitt said in "The Inerrancy Doctrine Is Found to Be Impregnable" that "the Bible
often gives genealogies by listing the main characters in the genealogies according to the
general purpose of the writer." He apparently thought that "the general purpose" of the
Exodus writer allowed him to skip some generations in the disputed genealogy. Moffitt
quoted none other than Gleason Archer in support of his view.
Archer further points out that Numbers 3:27-28 says the combined total of Amramites,
Izharites, Hebronites, and Uzzielites came to 8,600. If Amram claimed one fourth of those and
if that same Amram fathered Moses and Aaron, as Till argues, Moses and Aaron (by Till's
argumentation) would have had around 2,150 brothers. That should be hard for even a
dedicated skeptic like Farrell Till to swallow. No, these figures indicate the genealogy
of Exodus 6:16-20 is listing only the main links just as Matthew does in Matthew 1:1. The first
Amram is a kind of clan head of a person's family tree.
According to Moffitt, there were two Amrams, one of whom was the eponymous ancestor of
the Amramite clan and the other the father of Aaron and Moses, and the two had been
separated in time long enough for the clan of the original Amram to number around 2,000 at
the time of the exodus. I will repeat again that my first article in this series (linked to above)
showed beyond all reasonable doubt that both biblical and extrabiblical Jewish writers, such
as Josephus and Philo Judaeus, understood that the genealogy in Exodus 6 was complete and
therefore skipped no generations. If Moffitt is right, then Josephus and Philo Judaeus were
both wrong when they said that Moses was a seventh-generation descendant in
succession from Abraham. Nevertheless, Moffitt made the argument, so let's examine it to see
if it can stand.
A basic flaw in Moffitt's argument was that it tried to prove biblical inerrancy by assuming
biblical inerrancy. He argued, in effect, that the Exodus-6 genealogy could not have been a
generation-by-generation listing, because if it is, then there is an obvious error in the
Kohathite census figures in Numbers 3:27-28. In other words, Moffitt assumed that both
Exodus 6 and Numbers 3 were inerrant, so Exodus 6 must not have meant what it seemed to
be saying. Hence, the Exodus writer must have intentionally skipped some generations in the
genealogy. In so arguing, Moffitt excluded even the possibility that at least one of the
passages was errant. In my original reply to Moffitt, I addressed in detail this problem in
Moffitt's argument, so to save time, I will quote that part of my article.
The crux of Moffitt's argument hinges on Numbers 3:27-28 where a census of the male
Kohathites (so named because they had descended through Levi's son Kohath) put their
number at 8,600. These were in turn divided into Amramites, Izharites, Hebronites, and
Uzzielites, because Kohath, as indicated in Exodus 6:18, had had four sons named Amram,
Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel. The argument of Mr. Moffitt and the sources he quoted is that the
Amram who was the father of Aaron and Moses could not have been the Amram who was
Kohath's son; otherwise, this would suggest (on the basis of an equal division of the 8,600
Kohathite males into their four clans) that Aaron and Moses had had "around 2,150
brothers," (p. 8). "That should be hard," Moffitt said, "for even a dedicated skeptic like
Farrell Till to swallow." For this reason, Moffitt concludes that there had to have been at
least two Amrams, one who was Kohath's son and head of the Amramites and another who
fathered Aaron and Moses by Jochebed, (Ex. 6:20). The writer of the Exodus-6 genealogy had
simply "skipped" some generations between the two Amrams, so the theory goes, and this has
caused some people to wrongly conclude that the Amram who was Moses' father was the
same Amram who was Kohath's son.
It all comes out sounding very pat, but it's a theory with more holes in it than a sieve. For one
thing, unless Moffitt has been living on another planet, he has to know that a major argument
against the Bible inerrancy doctrine is based on the outrageous exaggeration of census
figures in the books of Exodus and Numbers. Exodus 12:37 states that when the Israelites left
Egypt the number of men on foot (not counting women and children) was 600 thousand!
When a census was taken in the wilderness (Num. 1:46), it claimed the men of military age
(20 years old and up) numbered 603,550! If we assume an equal number of women in this age
group--and I guess I can do this if Moffitt can assume an equal division of the Kohathites
within their four clans--this would mean the adult population older than 20 numbered around
1,200,000. Then with the children of both sexes under 20 added on, there would have been a
total population of two and a half to three million! (Since the Israelites had been breeding like
flies in Egypt, we could reasonably assume that the younger, under-the-age-of-twenty group
would have surely represented an equal, if not larger, proportion of the total population.)
Regardless, the fact is that there were an awful lot of people in the exodus, according to the
Bible. There were so many, in fact, that one wonders why, given the relatively small size of the
Sinai peninsula, a few of them at least didn't accidentally stumble onto the promised land
before the end of the forty-year period of wandering, especially since they must have also
driven along with them herds of sheep and cattle numbering in the millions in order to have
had enough lambs to meet the requirements of forty Passover commemorations and to feed
the tabernacle altar the perpetual sacrifices (for three million people) described in Leviticus
and Numbers....
But I'm not going to swap far-fetched, how-it-could-have-been scenarios with Mr. Moffitt.
That's a game inerrancy believers have to play. I'm going to return Moffitt's favor and say
that I agree with him. If he can establish the reliability of the census figures in Numbers 3:2728, then I will agree that the Amram who was Moses' father was not the same Amram for
whom the Amramites were named. Until he can do that, however, he shouldn't expect us to be
too impressed with an argument that relies on one probable Bible discrepancy to explain
another one. The exodus census numbers have long been suspect in scholarly circles, and,
quite frankly, I would find it much easier to swallow the possibility that Moses and Aaron had
had 2,150 brothers than that two to three million Israelites had wandered around for forty
years in the Sinai desert with immense herds of sheep and cattle.
Moffitt's primary argument for his skipped-generations theory is based on a text (Num. 3:2728) that is right in the middle of a section where census figures were obviously inflated, but
the two-Amrams theory has another major weakness. If Moffitt's argument proves that there
were two Amrams, it would also prove that there were two Izhars and two Uzziels. This can
be seen by juxtaposing verses in the Exodus-6 genealogy with significant verses in Numbers
and Leviticus. We will first look at the references to Izhar.
Exodus 6:18 The sons of Kohath: Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel, and the length of
Kohath's life was one hundred thirty-three years.
Exodus 6:21 And the sons of Izhar: Korah, Nepheg and Zichri....
Numbers 16:1 Now Korah, the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, with Dathan
and Abiram... took men and they rose up before Moses...."
In my first article in this series, I showed how these verses establish that Izhar, listed
in Exodus 6:18 as a brother of Amram, had a son named Korah, who lived in the time of the
exodus and led a rebellion against Moses.
At face value, the Bible says that Levi had a son named Kohath, who had a son named
Amram, who had a brother named Izhar, who had a son named Korah, and the Bible, at face
value, says that a rebellion against the leadership of Moses was led by a man
named Korah, who was the son of Izhar, who was the son of Kohath, who was the son
of Levi. Earlier in this article, I presented both biblical and extrabiblical evidence to show to
any reasonable person that both Jewish and biblical writers understood that Levi was the
literal father of Kohath, who was the literal father of Amram, who was the literal father of
Aaron and Moses. Now the information just presented above shows very clearly that biblical
writers understood that the Amram, who was the son of Kohath, had a brother named Izhar,
who had a son named Korah, who led a rebellion against Moses in the wilderness, so the
evidence that the genealogy in Exodus 6 was a literal father/son listing continues to mount.
I compared these verses in my first article to show that the Exodus-6 genealogy did not skip
any generations; however, if inerrantists are going to reject this evidence and cling to their
two-Amrams theory, they will have to say that there were also two Izhars, one who was the
brother of the first Amram alleged to be the eponymous father of the Amramite clan, and
another who was a contemporary of the second Amram and father of Korah, who led the
rebellion against Moses. Proponents of the two-Amram theories would also have to say that
there were two Uzziels for reasons that I showed in my first article.
There are, however, still more nails to drive into the coffin of this "skipped-generations"
quibble, which makes the unreasonable claim that the word sons in Exodus 6 meant
only descendants. The next nail that I will be driving finally brings us to the relationship
of Uzziel to Aaron. To introduce this argument, let's notice that Exodus 6:18 says, "And the
sons of Kohath [were] Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel." Now if I am right in claiming that
Exodus 6 is a literal father/son genealogy, it is obvious that Amram, Izhar, Hebron,
and Uzziel were brothers. Furthermore, if they were brothers and if the Amram in this verse
was the literal father of Aaron, then Uzziel would have been Aaron's uncle. That conclusion is
so obvious that nothing further needs to be said about it.
Let's notice again that verse 20 says, "And Amram took him Jochebed his father's sister to
wife, and she bore him Aaron and Moses," so certainly the "face-value" meaning of the text
gives us every reason to conclude that a man named Amram was the literal father of Aaron.
Therefore, if this Amram is the same Amram of verse 18, then by necessity, Uzziel was
Aaron's uncle.
With that in mind, let's now look at verse 22: "And the sons of Uzziel [were] Mishael,
Elzaphan, and Sithri." That seems clear enough, doesn't it? Uzziel--and who could this be but
the Uzziel of verse 18, who was listed as a brother of a man named Amram?--had sons who
were named Mishael and Elzaphan.
Now let's compare this passage to Leviticus 10:1-4, where we are told the strange story of
Aaron's sons Nadab and Abihu (both of them priests like Aaron), who offered "strange fire" to
Yahweh, and so Yahweh did what any self-respecting tribal deity of that time would have
done. He sent forth fire to devour them, "and they died before Yahweh" (v:2). So after Yahweh
had had his petty vengeance for a petty offense, Moses, the top man on the Hebrew totem
pole... well, let's look at exactly what the inspired, inerrant word of God says.
And Moses called Mishael and Elzaphan, the sons of Uzziel, the uncle of Aaron, and said
unto them, "Draw near and carry your brethren from before the sanctuary out of the camp"
(v:4).
Please notice that these two men, Mishael and Elzaphan, whom Moses called before him at
this time were said to be "the sons of Uzziel." Now keep in mind that the Exodus-6 genealogy
said that Amram and Uzziel were the "sons of Kohath" (v: 18) and that verse 22 said
that Uzziel had sons who were named Mishael and Elzaphan. It kind of sounds as if the Uzziel
of Exodus 6 and the Uzziel of Leviticus 10:4 were the same person, doesn't it? Now bear in
mind that if these two were the same person and if Exodus 6 is a literal father/son genealogy,
then Uzziel of Exodus 6 would have been Aaron's uncle.
So notice what Leviticus 10:4 says in identifying who Mishael and Elzaphan were. It clearly
says that they were "the sons of Uzziel, the uncle of Aaron." Now I know from previous
exchanges with inerrantists on this subject that some will argue that the word uncle simply
meant a "relative." I intend to do follow-up articles on this issue in which I will reply to the
various attempts that inerrantists have made to resolve the chronological problem in Exodus
6, so at that time, I will show that the uncle=relative quibble just won't work.
In my next article in this series, I will be addressing the quibble that uncle in Leviticus
10:4 meant only that Uzziel was a "relative" of Aaron, but for now all I want to notice is that
there was an Uzziel living when Aaron was high priest of the Israelites. To stick to their twoAmrams theory, the proponents of this "solution" to the Exodus-6 discrepancy would have to
say that the original Amram had brothers named Izhar and Uzziel and that generations later,
the Amram who was the father of Aaron and Moses also had brothers named Izhar and
Uzziel. That is just a little too coincidental to be credible.
Finally, let's notice that the claim that there were two Amrams and that the Exodus writer
simply skipped from one Amram to the other without informing his readers that he was
omitting generations is inconsistent with this writer's style. I explained this in my original
reply to Moffitt (linked to above).
The writer's hand was further tipped as he continued his conclusion of the genealogy: "These
are that Aaron and Moses, to whom Jehovah (Yahweh) said, Bring out the children of Israel
from the land of Egypt according to their hosts. These are they that spake to Pharaoh king of
Egypt, to bring out the children of Israel from Egypt: these are that Moses and Aaron"
(vv:26-27). Somehow, the writer felt compelled to drive home the fact that the Aaron and
Moses in this genealogy were the very Aaron and Moses famous for having led the Hebrews
out of Egypt. From cover to cover, the Bible mentions no other Aaron and Moses except these,
so why did the writer go to such extremes to make it clear what Aaron and Moses he meant?
Clearly, he wanted it understood that the first Levitical priests to serve Yahweh's people were
descended from Levi through the same Aaron who was Moses' brother. He had a vested
interest in selling that point to his readers.
This writer's extreme care, however, raises another question. Is it reasonable to believe that
someone as redundant as this writer was in identifying which Moses and Aaron he meant
would list one Amram in a genealogy, skip a generation or two (or three), and then resume
listing the generations with a second Amram and not tell his readers the two weren't the same
person! It stretches credibility too far to imagine it. Besides, we have another case where Mr.
Moffitt loses even if he is right. Anyone who knows anything at all about effective writing will
agree that if there really were two different Amrams, then whoever wrote this genealogy used
extremely poor transition, for in the short space of just two verses, he went from one Amram
to another person of the same name without letting his readers know the change was being
made. Thus, if Moffitt could actually prove this is not a case of factual error, it would still be
a serious compositional error. Shouldn't an omniscient God know how to direct his inspired
writers to use sound writing practices? But in this case he didn't--if Moffitt is right.
One can hardly imagine that a writer who would labor the point that the Moses and Aaron
listed in the genealogy were the same Moses and Aaron who appeared before Pharaoh to
demand the release of the Israelites would have just a few verses before this skipped from
Amram, Izhar, and Uzziel to another set of men with the same names living generations later
without informing his readers that the second Amram, Izhar, and Uzziel were not the same as
the ones who were the direct sons of Kohath. It taxes imagination to think that this was the
case; hence, the two-Amrams, skipped-generations theories must be rejected for lack of
textual evidence to support them. The only sensible conclusion to reach in this matter is that
either the Exodus writer erred in saying that there had been only four generations from Levi to
Aaron and Moses, or else the writer of Numbers 3:27-28 erred by inflating the census count of
the Amramites, Izharites, and Uzzielites at the time of the exodus. When claims are at odds,
as they are in this case, the simpler explanation of the inconsistency is usually the safer one,
so I would say that the error most likely was made by the writer of Numbers, because that
would limit the discrepancy to just the one passage that exaggerated the number of
Kohathites, whereas saying that the Exodus writer erred would require one to say that the
passages in Numbers and Leviticus that mentioned men named Izhar and Uzziel living at the
same time as Aaron and Moses were also a part of the discrepancy. One thing is sure: there is
a chronological discrepancy in Exodus 6 and Exodus 12:40, and biblicists can't lean over
backwards far enough to solve the problem.
In a third follow-up article, I will rebut the attempts of some inerrantists to make uncle, in
reference to Uzziel's relationship to Aaron, mean that he was only a "relative" of Aaron.
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15 captures
20052006 2008
12 Nov 2006 10 Aug 2016
About this capture
The Symbolic-Generations "Solution"
by Farrell Till
A variation of the skipped-generations "solution" to the 430-year discrepancy in Exodus
6 and Exodus 12:40 claims that the names Levi, Kohath, Amram, and Aaron were not actual
generations but just symbolic generations, which began with the births of individuals with
these names and ended with their deaths. Thus, a "generation" in this sense would last as long
as the life of the person whose name was given to that generation. Roger Hutchinson, who
frequently tried to defend biblical inerrancy in articles submitted to The Skeptical Review, was
an advocate of this interpretation of the Exodus-6 genealogy. In "The 430-Year Sojourn of
Israel in Egypt," he made his first defense of this position.
Four key people are identified in Exodus 6. They are Levi, Kohath, Amram, and Aaron. We
know that Levi was among the group that originally entered Egypt.
Now these are the names of the children of Israel, which came into Egypt; every man and his
household came with Jacob. Reuben, Simeon, Levi... (Ex. 1:1-2).
Exodus 6 then tells us that Levi died at the age of 137, which would have been some time after
he entered Egypt. We are also told that Aaron was among the group of Israelites that left
Egypt with Moses and that Aaron was 83 years old when the Israelites left Egypt.
And Moses was fourscore years old, and Aaron fourscore and three years old, when they
spake unto Pharaoh (Ex. 7:7)
Between Levi and Aaron, Exodus 6 tells us that Kohath lived 133 years and Amram lived 137
years.
The Hebrew word "ben" translated as son in Exodus 6 can also be translated as offspring or
descendant. So, in Exodus 6, we can take "son of" to mean either that Kohath was Levi's
immediate son or that he was a direct descendant of Levi. Likewise, Amram could have been a
direct descendant of Kohath rather than his immediate son, and Aaron could have been a
direct descendant of Amram.
Because Levi died in Egypt at 137 years, we are able to speculate with some confidence that
he was less than 137 when he entered Egypt. We can assume that Levi was 60 when he
entered Egypt and that he lived in Egypt 77 years before his death at 137. The assumption
that Levi was 60 seems consistent with other information we find in the Bible. More
important, this assumption allows us to develop the following scenario in an effort to
harmonize Exodus 6 and Exodus 12.
Years Israelites Lived in Egypt

Levi

Kohath
133 years

Amram
137 years

Aaron

Total
77 years
83 years
430 years
Let's notice how convenient Hutchinson's assumption was about how long Levi had lived in
Egypt. When he added the years in his "symbolic" generations of Kohath, Amram, and Aaron,
he had 353 years; hence, he "assumed" that Levi had lived 77 of his 137 years in Egypt so that
his four "symbolic" generations would total 430 years, which was the number he needed to
have the Exodus-6 genealogy agree with the claim in Exodus 12:40 that the Israelites had
sojourned in Egypt 430 years, but just how did Hutchinson determine that Levi was 60 when
he went into Egypt? He didn't tell us except to say that this number "seems consistent with
other information we find in the Bible." In other words, Hutchinson needed Levi to be 60
when he went into Egypt in order for the math in his "symbolic-generations" theory to work,
and so Hutchinson made him 60 when he entered Egypt. If he had needed Levi to have been
69 or 72 when he went into Egypt, you can be sure that Hutchinson would have found either
one of these numbers to be "consistent with other information we find in the Bible." If one is
allowed to make assumptions like this, he could "prove" just about anything.
A major problem in Hutchinson's assumption, however, is that an age of 60 for Levi when he
entered Egypt is not "consistent with other information we find in the Bible." In this section of
"The 210-Year 'Solution,'" I showed that Jacob, who was also named Israel, was in his late
70s before he had any children and that he was 130 when he entered Egypt (Gen. 47:9).
Hence, the "children of Israel" could not have suffered oppression in Canaan for 210 years
before the Israelites went into Egypt, because there were no "children of Israel" until about 50
years before they entered Egypt. The chronology of Jacob's (Israel's) life will also show that
Levi was younger than 60 when he entered Egypt. Since this chronology was discussed in
detail in the article just linked to, I will only summarize the details here.
As just noted, Jacob was 130 when he entered Egypt. At this time, Joseph had been in Egypt
for about 40 years. Joseph was 30 when Pharaoh made him food administrator over Egypt
(Gen. 41:46). During the seven years of plenty, Joseph gathered the surplus food and stored it
to be prepared for the seven years of famine (Gen. 41:47-49). In the second year of the
famine, Joseph identified himself to his brothers, who had come into Egypt to buy grain (Gen.
45:6). Hence, Joseph would have been about 39 (30 + 7 + 2 = 39) at the time of his reunion
with his brothers. He ordered his brothers to return to Canaan and bring his father and their
families back to Egypt (Gen. 45:19). If it took even a year for Joseph's brothers to bring their
families into Egypt, Joseph would have been about 40 when his father Jacob (Israel) stood
before Pharaoh and told him that he was 130 years old. Hence, Jacob (Israel), if you can
believe it, would have been 90 when Joseph was born (130 - 40 = 90).
With this chronology in mind, we can determine about how old Jacob (Israel) was when Levi
was born. Those familiar with Jacob's sojourn in Paddanaram will remember that he had
agreed to work for his uncle Laban for seven years to receive permission to marry Laban's
daughter Rachel (Gen. 29:18). At the end of the seven years, Jacob demanded his right to
marry Rachel (Gen. 29:21), but Laban pulled a fast one on Jacob and sent his other daughter
Leah into Jacob (verse 22), who, if you can imagine it, spent a whole night with Leah before
he realized the switch had been made (verse 23).
Jacob protested but was stuck with Leah, so he agreed to work for seven more years for the
right to marry Rachel.
Genesis 29:25 When morning came, it was Leah! And Jacob said to Laban, "What is this you
have done to me? Did I not serve with you for Rachel? Why then have you deceived me?" 26
Laban said, "This is not done in our country--giving the younger before the firstborn. 27
Complete the week of this one, and we will give you the other also in return for serving me
another seven years." 28 Jacob did so, and completed her week; then Laban gave him his
daughter Rachel as a wife. 29 (Laban gave his maid Bilhah to his daughter Rachel to be her
maid.) 30 So Jacob went in to Rachel also, and he loved Rachel more than Leah. He served
Laban for another seven years.
This passage can be interpreted to meant that Jacob worked another seven years or a total of
14 before Rachel was given to him, but an interpretation that is more advantageous to
Hutchinson would be that Jacob (Israel) worked for Leah for seven years and that Laban also
gave him Rachel at this time on his word that Jacob would work for him seven more years.
Jacob, therefore, received Rachel at the same time that he received Leah, i. e., seven years
after he had begun working for Laban. At the end of these seven years, when Jacob (Israel)
had both Leah and Rachel, his children began to be born. The births began with Leah, who
had Reuben first, Simeon second, and then Levi (Gen. 29:31-35). If we can determine how
many years passed between the births of Levi and Joseph, we can then know about how old
Levi was when he went into Egypt.
That determination is possible. Levi was the third son born to Jacob (Israel) and Leah, and
Joseph wasn't born (to Rachel) until the end of his second seven-year period of servitude. We
can determine that Joseph was born at the end of the second seven-year period, because Jacob
(Israel) went to Laban after Joseph's birth and asked for permission to return to his homeland.
Genesis 30:25 When Rachel had borne Joseph, Jacob said to Laban, "Send me away, that I
may go to my own home and country. 26 Give me my wives and my children for whom I have
served you, and let me go; for you know very well the service I have given you."
Laban, however, promised to give Jacob (Israel) whatever wages he wanted and persuaded
him to stay (Gen. 30:27-28). Jacob stayed for six more years and then secretly one day stole
away to return to his home. Altogether, then, Jacob (Israel) was in Paddanaram for 20 years.
We know this, because the biblical text explicitly states twice that he was there for 20 years.
When Laban learned that Jacob and his family was gone, he gathered his servants to pursue
them. The record of a conversation that occurred when Laban overtook Jacob clearly states
that Jacob had been with Laban for 20 years.
Genesis 31:36 Then Jacob became angry, and upbraided Laban. Jacob said to Laban, "What
is my offense? What is my sin, that you have hotly pursued me? 37 Although you have felt
about through all my goods, what have you found of all your household goods? Set it here
before my kinsfolk and your kinsfolk, so that they may decide between us two. 38 These
twenty years I have been with you; your ewes and your female goats have not miscarried, and
I have not eaten the rams of your flocks. 39 That which was torn by wild beasts I did not bring
to you; I bore the loss of it myself; of my hand you required it, whether stolen by day or stolen
by night. 40 It was like this with me: by day the heat consumed me, and the cold by night, and
my sleep fled from my eyes. 41 These twenty years I have been in your house; I served
you fourteen years for your two daughters, and six years for your flock, and you have
changed my wages ten times.
With this additional information, we can determine that Levi was much younger than 60 when
he went into Egypt, because the chronology cited above shows that Levi was probably no
more than three years older than Joseph. If the births of his children didn't begin until Jacob
(Israel) had served Laban for seven years and if Levi was the third of these sons (all three of
whom were borne by Leah), then Levi could have been born no sooner than about 10 years (7
+ 3 = 10) after Jacob (Israel) had begun working for Laban. Then, if Joseph were born to
Rachel at the end of Jacob's second seven-year period of servitude, Joseph would have been
only about 4 years younger than Levi (14 - 10 = 4), so if Joseph was about 40 when Jacob
stood before Pharaoh and said that he was 130, Levi would have have been about 44 at that
time. If Jacob (Israel) had worked for Laban for six more years after the birth of Joseph, then
Joseph would have been six and Levi about 10 (6 + 4 =10) when Jacob (Israel) removed his
family from Paddanaram. Joseph was 17 when he was betrayed by his brothers and sold into
Egypt (Gen. 37:2), so Levi would have been about 21 at the time of the betrayal. If Joseph
was 30 when he was made food administrator over Egypt, then Levi would have been 34 at
that time. If Joseph was 39 when he revealed his identity to his brothers, Levi would have
been 43, and if Joseph was 40 when Jacob's family went into Egypt, then Levi would have
been about 44. This would have been 16 years younger than Hutchinson's hypothesized age of
60. This would mean that Levi spent 93 years in Egypt instead of 77; hence, the math of
Hutchinson's pat "symbolic-generations" theory falls apart. It isn't at all "consistent with other
information we find in the Bible."
After Hutchinson had conveniently but incorrectly hypothesized that Levi had lived 77 years
in Egypt, he then turned to showing that the four "symbolic generations" of Levi, Kohath,
Amram, and Aaron would fit into Yahweh's prophecy in Genesis 15 that Abraham's seed
would be afflicted in a land not theirs for 400 years and then "come out" in the fourth
generation.
We see how context affects our understanding of the Bible when we look at Genesis 15:13-16:
And he [the LORD] said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a
land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years....
But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is
not yet full. (Genesis 15:13-16)
In defending his theory that these four "symbolic generations" were the key to harmonizing
the Exodus-6 genealogy with the prophecy in Genesis 15, Hutchinson made a strategic error
that he didn't even recognize. Notice the part that I have emphasized in bold print in the
quotation below from Hutchinson's article.
Based on our hypothesized scenario, Levi would represent the first generation, Kohath the
second, and Amram the third. Finally, Aaron would represent the fourth in which Israel
would leave the land that was not theirs. Thus, under the above scenario, we draw the
conclusion that generations can be measured by the lives of certain individuals. A generation
would begin with the birth of some unique individual and end with his death. A new
generation would then be identified with a new unique individual who would be born
immediately after the death of the prior generation figure. With this view of a generation, we
see how it is possible for God to say that Israel would leave Egypt in the fourth generation.
Here Hutchinson said that a new generation of the "symbolic" kind would begin with the birth
of "some unique individual" and end with his death. A new generation would then begin with
the birth of "a new unique individual who would be born immediately after the death of the
prior generation figure." These statements are completely inconsistent with Hutchinson's
attempt to make Levi, Kohath, Amram, and Aaron the four "symbolic generations" that had
lived in Egypt for 430 years, because Kohath, for example, was not born immediately
after Levi's death. Hutchinson surmised that Levi was 60 when he went into Egypt, but
whether Levi was 60 or 44 at the time, when he went into Egypt his son Kohath had already
been born (Gen. 46:11). Hence, even if we granted him his assumption that Levi was 60 when
he went into Egypt, Hutchinson would be left with the problem of having to explain how
Kohath could have been a "symbolic generation" separate from the symbolic generation of
Levi if Kohath had been born well before and not "immediately after" the death of Levi. Since
the lives of Levi and Kohath, even by Hutchinson's own suppositions, would have overlapped
by 77 years, Kohath does not meet Hutchinson's criterion that a "symbolic generation" was a
"unique individual" who had been born immediately after the death of "the prior generation
figure" whose name was given to the previous generation. Furthermore, since Amram was
evidently the firstborn of Kohath's four sons, Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel (Ex. 6:19),
Amram was obviously not born immediately after the death of Kohath. Furthermore, Aaron
was the firsborn of Amram (Ex. 6:20), so he could not have been born immediately after the
death of the "unique individual" Amram whose name was given to Hutchinson's third
"symbolic generation." In other words, Hutchinson's "symbolic generation" theory turns out to
be just another failed attempt to explain a biblical discrepancy. When subjected to careful
scrutiny most of these speculative attempts to explain discrepancies will fall apart.
In his article linked to above, Hutchinson then turned to trying to prove that Uzziel was not
the actual uncle of Aaron.
The Hebrew word dod translated as uncle in this verse [Lev. 10:4] is also translated as love,
beloved, and well beloved elsewhere in the Bible. The word appears broad enough in scope to
refer to any relative, not just an uncle. Thus, Leviticus 10:4 could legitimately be translated
as, "Uzziel, the relative of Aaron," which would be consistent with the proposed scenario.
Limiting the range of dod by requiring that it be translated uncle and nothing else is not a
supportable position even though that translation is found in several versions of the Bible.
The translation of dod as uncle reflects the conclusion of the translator that the proper
context was that Aaron was the immediate son of Amram. Had the translator believed that
Aaron was a descendant of Amram, he would not have translated dod as uncle. He would
have chosen the proper English word that reflected the meaning of dod within the different
context. Thus, Leviticus 10:4 is not inconsistent with the above scenario.
Unfortunately for Hutchinson, I just showed that his "above scenario" is itself inconsistent in
that he said that a "symbolic generation" was named after a "unique individual" who had been
born immediately after the death of another unique individual who had been "the prior
generation figure," but since the lives of Levi and Kohath had overlapped by several years, as
did the lives of Kohath and Amram and Amram and Aaron, Hutchinson's "symbolicgenerations" scenario just won't work. As for his attempt to make the Hebrew
word dod mean relative instead of uncle, I shot that theory to pieces in my original reply to
Hutchinson, so I need only to quote what I said then.
Mr. Hutchinson, of course, isn't arguing for any two-Amrams or two-Uzziels theory; he is
arguing that Amram was simply a symbol of a generation but not literally the "immediate"
son of Kohath and that Aaron was also just a symbol of the fourth generation but not literally
the "immediate" son of Amram. Hence, the description of Uzziel in Leviticus 10:4 as "the
uncle of Aaron" should not be understood literally but figuratively. To think of Uzziel as only
a "relative" of Aaron, Hutchinson said, "would be consistent with the proposed scenario" that
he is arguing for.
A frustrating thing about Mr. Hutchinson's approach to argumentation is his habit of making
assertions for which he offers no proof. For example, he said that the Hebrew word dod,
translated uncle in Leviticus 10:4 is "also translated as love, beloved, and well beloved
elsewhere in the Bible," but he cited no examples. He could have made my task much easier
had he cited book, chapter, and verse where dod was so translated. Before I discuss what my
own research uncovered, I must point out that it really doesn't matter how many times dod
was translated love, beloved, or well beloved; to give credibility to his argument, Mr.
Hutchinson needs to find a place where dod was translated relative, and I think if he had
known of such a place, he would have cited it.
In a sense, Mr. Hutchinson is right in saying that dod did have meanings other than uncle,
although it is questionable that dod in those other places was the same word as the dod used
in Leviticus 10:4. Simply because words are spelled alike and pronounced alike doesn't make
them the same word. We can use "mean" in English as an example. To say that a person is
mean is not to use the same word as in either of the following sentences: (1) I know what you
mean, and (2) the mean distance from Earth to the sun is 93 million miles. Each sentence uses
a different word, and the technical designation for such words as these is homonyms, words
that are spelled alike and pronounced alike but have different meanings.
The people who speak and read a language are able to determine from context which
homonym is being used. For example, what English speaking person hearing someone say
that the mean distance from Earth to the sun is 93 million miles would think that "mean" was
the word that meant "lacking qualities of kindness or goodness"? He would know that the
sentence was using the mean that "means" middle point or average. So it is with dod in
Hebrew. The context determines what was meant by dod, and this is where Mr. Hutchinson's
scenario runs into deep trouble.
A check of Strong's concordance will show that when dod was used in the sense of love,
beloved, or well beloved, it almost always referred to concepts or objects but not persons.
When the reference was to a person, it was used in the sense of an object of romantic love.
The following quotations will illustrate that this is so:
Come, let us take our fill of love (dod) until morning (Prov. 7:18).
For your love (dod) is better than wine (Song of Solomon 1:2).
We will remember your love (dod) more than wine (Song of Solomon 1:4).
How fair is your love (dod), my sister, my spouse (Song of Solomon 4:10).
(I)ndeed your time was the time of love (dod); so I spread My wing over you and covered your
nakedness (Ezek. 16:8).
My beloved (dod) is to me a cluster of henna blooms (Song of Solomon 1:14).
Like an apple tree among the trees of the woods, so is my beloved (dod) among the sons (Song
of Solomon 2:3).
A bundle of myrrh is my beloved (dod) to me (Song of Solomon 1:13).
As you can see, dod used as Mr. Hutchinson said appears almost exclusively in the Song of
Solomon, a book with strong sexual overtones, and those same overtones are also present in
the passages in Proverbs and Ezekiel. Let's compare these uses of dod to the places where it
has been translated uncle:
If a man lies with his uncle's wife (dowdah, "aunt"), he has uncovered his
uncle's (dod) nakedness (Lev. 20:20).
After he [a slave] is sold, he may be redeemed again. One of his brothers may redeem him; or
his uncle (dod) or his uncle's son may redeem him (Lev. 25:49).
Then Saul's uncle (dod) said to him and his servant, "Where did he go?" (1 Sam. 10:14).
And Saul's uncle (dod) said, "Tell me, please, what Samuel said to you" (1 Sam. 10:15).
So Saul said to his uncle (dod)... (1 Sam. 10:16).
And Mordecai had brought up Hadassah, that is, Esther, his uncle's (dod) daughter, for she
had neither father nor mother (Esther 2:7)
Now when the turn came for Esther the daughter of Abihail the uncle (dod) of Mordecai, who
had taken her as his daughter, to go in to the king, she requested nothing... (Esther 2:15).
Also Jehonathan, David's uncle (dod) was a counselor, a wise man, and a scribe (2 Chron.
27:32).
There are other passages where dod was used in reference to a specific male person, rather
than an abstract concept or object of romantic love, and each time, it has been translated
uncle in the major English translations. When these passages are compared to the places in
the Song of Solomon where dod was used to refer to the emotion of romantic love or to a
person who was the object of that emotion, the difference in the meaning of the two words is
obvious. This is all I need to say about Mr. Hutchinson's quibble that Uzziel was just a
"relative" of Aaron and not his uncle. Obviously, the Leviticus writer meant that Uzziel was
the brother of Aaron's father, and Uzziel is listed in the Exodus 6 genealogy as a brother of
Amram (v:18). So if Amram and Uzziel were brothers and if Uzziel was Aaron's uncle, then
Amram was Aaron's literal father, not just an ancestor, and Mr. Hutchinson's "scenario"
vanishes into thin air.
We have Mr. Hutchinson's own testimony to the inadequacy of his "scenario," because he
himself said, "If we find one scripture that cannot be reconciled with this context, we will
have to reject this particular scenario and look for another explanation." I see no way for Mr.
Hutchinson to reconcile his theory that Levi, Kohath, Amram, and Aaron were merely
symbols or representatives of generations with the fact that Leviticus 10:4 was clearly
intended to mean that Uzziel was Aaron's uncle, so Mr. Hutchinson must reject his "scenario"
and look for another explanation.
Hutchinson's statement about looking for "another explanation" is typical of an inerrantist
mindset that I have encountered more times than I can estimate. An inerrantist will present an
"explanation" to a discrepancy, and when it is shown to be unworkable, instead of
acknowledging that the discrepancy might actually be real, he will go away and come back
later with another scenario. Then if that one also proves untenable, he will come back with
still another. As many times as Hutchinson's reconciliation scenarios were shot down in The
Skeptical Review, one would think that he would have learned that there is a real possibility
that the Bible just may be errant in places, but that is not the way that the mind of an
inerrantist works. When he fails in an initial attempt to explain a discrepancy, he will go back
to the drawing board and come back later with "another explanation." That this is done so
often by inerrantists should indicate to those who are more open-minded that biblical
inerrancy is very likely an untenable belief.
After failing to prove that Uzziel was not the actual uncle of Aaron, Hutchinson then tried to
prove that Jochebed was not the actual mother of Aaron and Moses but only a more distant
ancestor. I will leave Hutchinson's punctuation as it was in his article.
Exodus 6:20 is a little more difficult, but the same basic argument applies:
And Amram took him Jochebed his father's sister to wife; and she bare him Aaron and Moses:
and the years of the life of Amram were an hundred and thirty and seven years. (Exodus 6:20)
In Hebrew thought, an individual giving birth to a child becomes a parent to all who are
descended from that child. The Hebrew word yalad, translated as bear, can also denote
paternity, so that either the wife or the husband can be said to bear a child. The word
encompasses many ideas, and its translation relies on the context in which it is used.
Jochebed can be said to have borne Aaron and Moses even though she may have actually
given birth to their great-grandfather. Because of this, it is not possible to assert dogmatically
that Jochebed was the physical mother of Moses and Aaron just because yalad is used. Again,
yalad has a breadth of meaning that would allow it to be translated in a manner that supports
the context of the proposed scenario.
Exodus 2 describes the birth of Moses and can be confusing. Here we read, "And there went a
man of the house of Levi, and took to wife a daughter of Levi" ( Ex. 2:1). Many people assume
that the unidentified man and woman in Exodus 2 were Amram and Jochebed. At the same
time, we see that these people are not specifically identified. This leaves open the possibility
that the unnamed man and woman in Exodus 2 were not Amram and Jochebed, which must be
the case for the above scenario to work. While many people dogmatically assert that Moses'
parents were Amram and Jochebed, such a conclusion is basically speculative. The Bible
leaves the door open for a different conclusion.
Notice how Hutchinson will make an assumption and then argue from the assumption that
other assumptions he has made are true. Hence, he said above that for his "above scenario to
work," Amram and Jochebed were not the unnamed parents of Moses in Exodus 2. He is
apparently unwilling to acknowledge that his "above scenario" just might not be correct.
In this section of "How Long Were the Children of Israel in Egypt?" I showed clear evidence
that both biblical and extrabiblical writers, like Philo and Josephus, recognized that Amram
and Jochebed were the actual parents of Moses. Hutchinson, on the other hand, offered
nothing except a speculative claim that they could not have been the parents of Moses or else
his "above scenario" would not work. I suggest that he consider the probability that his
scenario is wrong.
Hutchinson's speculations continued. Please notice that he admitted that we must make
"certain assumptions" in order for his scenario to work.
Clearly, the scriptures dealing with the genealogy between Levi and Aaron are confusing.
However, because of the nuances in meaning of critical Hebrew words, we are able to
propose an explanation to harmonize Exodus 6 and Exodus 12. The validity of this
explanation requires that we make certain assumptions. The assumptions that we made fall
within the realm of acceptable possibilities. This makes the proposed explanation valid. It
does not mean that there are no problems with the explanation. However, it does show that
there is at least one way to reconcile Exodus 6 and Exodus 12.
So when Hutchinson has had his say, one fact detrimental to his "explanation" remains: he
must pile assumption onto assumption in order to make the Bible not mean what it plainly
says. This is rather ironic. Inerrantists are the ones who say that the Bible is the inspired,
inerrant word of God, yet in order to resolve biblical discrepancies, they must constantly
propose assumptions and speculations contrary to plain language in the Bible. Why would an
omniscient, omnipotent deity have revealed his eternal truths in such a way that such farfetched speculations must be resorted to in order to find consistency in the Bible?
Biblicists have tried and tried, but they have been unable to resolve satisfactorily the
chronological discrepancy that exists between the Exodus 6 genealogy and the claim in
Exodus 12:40 that the children of Israel sojourned in Egypt 430 years. Go to the Finley
"Solution."
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About this capture
Finley's "Solution"
by Farrell Till
Response to Till's Genealogical Claims
by Travis Finley
I must apologize for the delay in replying to Travis Finley's attempt to explain the 430-year
problem in Exodus 12:40 and the genealogy in Exodus 6:14-25. Because of other projects, I
am sometimes negligent about reading the comments that are posted about my articles, so I
didn't know that Finley had attempted to resolve the 430-year problem until he mentioned it
on the Errancy internet list. Rather than reply to him in the section reserved for readers'
comments, I am going to put my reply on the website as solution number 4, because Finley
seemed to have put a serious effort into resolving the problem. His attempt failed, of course,
but I think that his effort at least warrants a point-by-point rebuttal.
Finley's "solution" is really just a variation of the skipped-generation solution, which was
roundly refuted in my initial article in this series. At times, I also got the idea that he didn't
read my follow-up articles very carefully, because he sometimes presented arguments and
quibbles that were anticipated and rebutted in detail in them, so apparently he didn't see these
or else just ignored them. I won't take the time to reinvent the wheel when I encounter one of
his arguments that I have already replied to. I will just link readers to the sections in my three
"solution" articles where they can go to find my previously posted rebuttals of those
arguments.
I will follow my usual custom of using ID headers (Finley and Till) so that readers can more
easily follow who has said what.
Finley:
Mr. Till’s admirable endeavour is to sustain the argument that the genealogies in the Bible are
literal father-son relationships. That is to say, when Exodus tells us that Levi bore Kohath and
Kohath bore Amram and Amram bore Moses it intends us to understand that these are literal
father-son ratios [sic].
Till:
I didn't make just an "admirable endeavor" to sustain this argument; I presented detailed
arguments for this position, which were supported by detailed biblical analyses and quotations
from extrabiblical writings that clearly show that the authors of these works obviously
believed that Levi was the literal son of Jacob, that Kohath was the literal son of Levi, that
Amram was the literal son of Kohath, and that Aaron and Moses were the literal sons of
Amram. If readers will refer back to my initial article in this series, they will see the detailed
analysis of the "Uzziel factor," which clearly shows that the writer of Exodus understood that
Uzziel was a literal son of Kohath, a literal brother of Amram, and a literal uncle of
Aaron and that Uzziel was living in the time of the exodus. Furthermore, this same article
presented another detailed analysis, which showed that Izhar was another literal son of
Kohath, a literal brother of Amram and Uzziel, and the literal father of a man named Korah,
who led a rebellion against Moses during the wilderness years. These analyses eliminated the
possibility of skipped generations between Kohath and Aaron. Finley completely ignored this
section of the article and wrote his "solution" as if these analyses had never been presented, so
I will ask readers to keep this point in mind so that I can just refer back to it in places where
Finley is arguing as if these literal relationships had not been established.
In the same article linked to above, I quoted extrabiblical writers like Josephus, Philo Judaeus,
and the author of Levi's testament in Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, which clearly
showed that these Jewish writers understood that Levi was the literal father of Kohath, that
Kohath was the literal father of Amram, and that Amram was the literal father of Aaron and
Moses. Finley ignored this information too except to say close to the end of his article that
"Josephus misunderstood the text." That is typical fundamentalist arrogance, as if it is more
likely that a biblicist living in the 21st century would know more about the likely meaning of
the biblical texts in dispute than would those who grew up in Jewish culture and lived 2,000
or more years closer to the time they were writing about. I will have more to say about this as
we go along and especially when we come to where Finley said that Josephus had just
misunderstood the text.
Finley:
Mr. Till then correctly calculates that this would mean that only four generations spanned the
430-year sojourn of Israel in Egypt. He says correctly, “It is inconceivable that in the space of
400 years just two more generations would have been born in the Levitical branch that Moses
and Aaron were born into.” As you will read at the conclusion of this paper, I, an [sic]
confessing evangelical[,] whole heartedly agree with Mr. Till on this last point. Mr. Till also
unleashes vitriol at Evangelicals for hermeneutical gymnastics when we try to explain away
this discrepancy with “quibbling”. [sic]
Till:
Pointing out that inerrantists resort to verbal gymnastics and quibbling when they try to
"explain" biblical discrepancies is "vitriol"? My, my, Finley certainly wears his feelings on
his sleeves, doesn't he? As I proceed in this rebuttal of Finley's article, I will emphasize those
places where he is obviously engaging in verbal gymnastics and quibbling to try to make the
biblical text not mean what it clearly says. Finley can then explain to us why pointing out
clear examples of verbal gynmastics and quibbling is "vitriol." Since when is telling the truth
vitriol?
Finley:
He quotes them as saying, “There are obviously generations skipped between these accounts.”
This paper will seek to demonstrate that there are generational gaps between the Mosaic and
Chronicler’s genealogies and that this will then allow for a 430 year exile of Israel in the
wilderness.
Till:
And we will see that Finley's "paper" failed miserably to accomplish what he sought to do but
I will wait until I come to his failures before I comment further on this.
Finley:
1. The general conservative consensus is that the Exodus occurred in 1446 BC, so we will use
that date for our reference point.
Till:
I am glad to see that Finley accepts biblical chronology, which says that Solomon began
construction on the temple during the 4th year of his reign (1 Kings 6:1). Since the fourth year
of Solomon's reign would have been 966 BC, the exodus would have occurred in 1446 BC
(966 + 480 = 1446). I can, however, cite other scriptures that are incompatible with this date,
but that will be another article.
Finley:
There are as Mr. Till pointed out 2 possible time frames for the occupation of Israel in Egypt:
210-215 years and 430 years. Let us begin with the LORD’s promise to Abraham that his seed
would sojourn 400 years in a foreign land being afflicted. Note well, here, that one already
has a discrepancy: Gen 15 says 400 years and Ex 12 says 430. One may as well cease and
desist right now. Is it 400 or 430? Perhaps rather than throwing out the baby with the bath
water, one might consider the possibility that the use of language allows for proximations. But
were one to be strictly literal, this is the place to start.
Till:
When have I ever even implied that Genesis 15:13 is inconsistent with Exodus 12:40 because
the one speaks of 400 years of affliction whereas the other one says 430? If Finley sticks
around on the Errancy list long enough, he will learn that I accept the appropriateness of
approximations, although one must sometimes wonder why a writer inspired by an
omniscient, omnipotent deity would have given approximations instead of exact numbers.
Finley:
But to the point.
Till:
Yes, please. There were enough points in my articles to keep Finley busy for weeks, so I am
eager to see him get to at least a few of them.
Finley:
Let us consider the whole of Genesis’ words concerning the promise of slavery. The LORD
says that the seed of Abraham would indeed be afflicted for 400 years. If one were to seek for
a consistent literal interpretation, the whole of the 400 years is described as one of conflict.
Till:
Yes, it was, so I will ask readers to watch Finley begin his verbal gymnastics and quibbling to
try to show that when Yahweh said that Abraham's seed would be afflicted and oppressed for
400 years, he really didn't mean what he said.
Finley:
However, Joseph's stay and that of his immediate kin did not appear to be one of oppression.
Till:
No, it didn't, so now watch Finley's verbal gymnastics and quibbling begin as he tries to show
that although Yahweh clearly said that Abraham's seed would be afflicted and oppressed for
400 years in a land that wasn't theirs, he didn't really mean this.
Finley:
This is a figure of speech that describes the whole event by a characteristic of only a part of
the whole.
Till:
Finley didn't use the word, but he is claiming that the references to affliction and servitude in
Genesis 15:13 were being used synecdochically. Synecdoche is a figure of speech where the
whole is substituted for the part or the part is substituted for the whole. This figure of speech
is obvious in such sentences as, "He asked for the daughter's hand in marriage." It is obvious
that the prospective groom is interested in much more than just the woman's hand, so the use
of synecdoche in this sentence is readily apparent because of the absurd meaning that would
result from interpreting hand literally. I will have more to say about this later after I have
commented on Finley's habit of resorting to familiar logical fallacies. Members of the Errancy
list have already noticed that Finley constantly resorts to question begging, special pleading,
and argumentation by assertion in his posts to this forum, so he is up to his old tricks here.
This text is not figurative just because Finley asserts that it is. He has an obligation to analyze
the text and show us legitimate reasons to understand that the writer intended the 400 years of
oppression to have a synecdochical meaning. I taught college literature for 30 years, have a
master's degree and 90 postgraduate hours in the field, so I think I know a little bit about
literary interpretation. One thing that I know--and I was taught the same thing in hermeneutics
at the Bible college I attended--is that the language of written texts is to be interpreted literally
unless there are compelling reasons to assign figurative meaning, so I would like to see
Finley's analysis of Genesis 15:12ff that will show us compelling reasons to think that the
language in verse 13 was figurative. I hope he understands that a desire to make a text inerrant
is not a legitimate reason to assign figurative meaning to its language.
He who asserts must prove, so Finley is obligated to show us good cause to think that the 400
years of affliction and servitude were used synecdochically in Genesis 15:13. It isn't my
obligation to prove that they were not so used. From my experience with biblical inerrantists,
however, I know that they will rarely meet their burden of proof, so I am going to take the
time to show good cause to think that the Genesis writer was not speaking synecdochically in
this passage. Figures of speech are usually easy to recognize, because literal interpretation of
them would result in absurd meanings. This is especially true of synecdoche. Farmers, for
example, refer to laborers as "hands," so if a farmer said that he had 10 hands working for
him, no one familiar with this synecdochical usage of the word would think that he literally
meant that he had ten hands working in his field. He would recognize that the farmer was
speaking figuratively to use hand for the whole laborer. The absurdity of the meaning that a
literal interpretation would give to the farmer's statement tells us that he was
using hands synecdochically.
I could spend all day citing examples here. If a rancher says that he has 200 head of cattle
grazing on his range, no one would think that he meant that only the heads of the cattle were
grazing. A part has obviously been substituted for the whole. If someone read in the sports
section of his newspaper, "The United States defeated Brazil in basketball," he would
understand that the whole was being substituted for the part, that certain citizens of the United
States defeated certain citizens of Brazil in a basketball game. Since a literal interpretation
would result in an absurd meaning, we are able to recognize the synecdochical meanings
of United States and Brazil.
There are many examples of synecdoche in the Bible, and they are easily recognized by the
absurdities that would result from literal interpretations. In Matthew 27:4, the remorseful
Judas said that he "had betrayed innocent blood," but to interpret this literally would result in
a nonsensical meaning, because the story of Judas makes it clear that he betrayed the whole
person of Jesus and not just his blood. Hence, we can know that blood was used
synecdochically here. In the so-called "Lord's prayer," Jesus taught his disciples to pray for
God to give them their daily bread (Matt. 6:11), but common sense tells us that bread was
being used to represent all of the food that one needs to sustain life. Judges 12:7 literally says
that Jephthah was buried "in the cities of Gilead," but a literal interpretation of this results in
absurd meaning, because he could not have been buried in all of the cities of Gilead. Here the
whole was substituted for the part. Some translations have even bracketed [in one of] into the
text before "the cities" in order to make the synecdochical meaning more apparent, but this
addition was not necessary for those who understand this figure of speech. It is comparable
to Genesis 8:4, which says that after the flood, the ark rested "on the mountains of Ararat."
Since it would result in absurd meaning to interpret this to mean that the ark had landed on all
of the mountains of Ararat, we can know that this is another case of synecdoche.
I could continue this indefinitely, but this is sufficient to make my point: synecdoche is easy
to recognize because literal interpretation of this figure of speech will almost always
result in absurd meaning. I have therefore shown good reasons
why affliction and servitude were not used synecdochically in Genesis 15:13, because to
understand that Yahweh was telling Abraham that his descendants would be literally afflicted
for 400 years in a land that was not theirs results in no absurd meaning. It is now Finley's
responsibility to analyze the text and show us good reasons why we should think that this text
was speaking synecdochically. I trust that he knows that the desire to make a written text
mean what he wants it to mean or, in the case of biblical inerrancy, to make the Bible inerrant
is not a literarily legitimate reason to assign figurative meaning to it. Let's see his analysis that
will justify his assertion that the meaning in Genesis 15:13 was figurative. I won't let him get
away with argumentation by assertion.
Finley:
So here we see at least that the Bible is not always to be taken literally.
Till:
I agree that the language of the Bible is not always literal, but I certainly don't see any reason
to think that Genesis 15:13 was figurative. I demand that Finley support this assertion with a
textual analysis. Until he does, my rebuttal of his assertion (above) will stand unimpeached.
Finley:
One might retort, the text is to be taken at face value unless otherwise obvious.
Till:
One might not only retort this; one has every right to do so, because this is an established
principle of literary interpretation. What is Finley's "obvious" reason for asserting that this
text is figurative? Notice how nothing that he says below gives any literary reason to justify
his asserton.
Finley:
This is true.
Till:
You're darned right it is! So what is Finley's "obvious" reason for asserting that Genesis 15:13
is figurative?
Finley:
Upon reading chronologically, the latter story in Exodus reveals that “a king arose who did
not know Joseph.” How long was this duration? The text does not say but one may surmise
that it might not have been the immediate king following; perhaps a later one. So there is
another principle of hermeneutics at work here.
Till:
Quite honestly, I have to say that whatever principle of hermeneutics Finley thinks is at work
here completely eludes me.
Finley:
It is referred to as “the analogy of Scripture” which means that the Bible is used to interpret
the Bible.
Till:
Ah, yes, the old let-scripture-interpret-scripture assertion. It is a pathetically flawed
hermeneutic principle, because it attempts to prove inerrancy by assuming inerrancy. The
"argument" works like this: scripture A says thus and so, but scripture B says something that
apparently contradicts A; therefore one of the scriptures must not mean what it says.
Otherwise, there will be a contradiction in the Bible. This whole "argument" is based on the
assumption that the Bible is consistent in everything it says, and so writer B could not have
contradicted writer A. This assumption is then used to assign some figurative or allegorical
meaning to one of the texts so that the inconsistency or contradiction will be eliminated.
This argument is a resort to the fallacy of special pleading, because it accords the Bible
interpretative privileges that would not be accorded any other literary forms. If, for example,
one should read a book by John Steinbeck and encounter a statement that contradicts
something that Ernest Hemingway said on the same subject in one of his books, the reader
would never feel an obligation to engage in verbal gymnastics that would assign some
figurative meaning to one of the texts so that the two would be in agreement, because he
would recognize that the two books were written by different authors and that different
authors will often have conflicting opinions. Even Bible fundamentalists don't think that all of
the books of the Bible were written by the same person. They think that some of the Bible was
written by Moses [snicker, snicker], some of it by Joshua [snicker again], some of it by David,
some of it by Solomon, and so on. Since different people obviously wrote the Bible, there is
every reason to suppose that they had different opinions even in theological matters, so it is
literarily unsound to argue that one should let a text written by Solomon (presumably)
interpret a text written by Moses (presumably).
Finley will no doubt argue that the Bible was written by the same person and that "person"
was God, but that would be an assertion that he is obligated to prove. If he wishes to affirm
that God inspired the authorship of the Bible, I will be glad to serve as his opponent.
He may also argue that Moses wrote both Genesis and Exodus, the two books that he referred
to below, but that too would be an assertion that I will challenge him on if he cares to make it.
Besides that, even if Finley could establish that Moses wrote both Genesis and Exodus that
would in no way prove that he did not at times contradict himself. In my 30 years of teaching
college composition, I must have read thousands of student papers, and I wouldn't even try to
estimate the number of times that I encountered contradictions within the same paper. Finley's
only recourse would be to claim that Moses was inspired by an omniscient, omnipotent deity
who protected him from making any errors, but if he wants to take that course, let him. I will
bury him under examples of "Mosaic" inconsistencies and contradictions that are just as
detailed as the 430-year problem, which Finley was obviously unable to explain away.
Finley;
If one portion of the Word is not as clear on a subject, another part may shed light on it.
Till:
I just explained above that this is a literarily unsound principle of interpretation, because it
seeks to prove biblical inerrancy by assuming biblical inerrancy.
Finley:
Such is the case here.
Till:
It is most assuredly not the case unless Finley can show that the let-scripture-interpretscripture method is a sound literary interpretation principle. I have shown above why it is not
a sound principle.
Finley:
At first glance, the former story (enslaved four hundred years) is modified by the latter (a king
arose who knew not Joseph).
Till:
Aside from the fact that these two passages have no apparent connection to one another, they
are widely separated in the Bible. The first one is a J text, and the other one an E Text.
(Readers may consult Richard Elliot Freidman's Who Wrote the Bible? for more on the J and
E documents.) I see no connection at all in the two texts (Gen. 15:13 and Exodus 1:8), but if
Finley thinks that there is a connection that provides some modification of Genesis 15:13, he
is obligated to show us that there is. I won't allow him just to assert it.
Finley:
On the other hand, one may very well argue that this appositive is not a figure of speech and
that the Bible is therefore wrong in describing the event this way. That is an option.
Till:
What is Finley even talking about? What appositive? There is no appositive in either Genesis
15:13 or Exodus 1:8. Does he even know what an appositive is? It is difficult to reply to
something that makes no sense.
Finley:
2. Exodus 12 tells the reader Israel stayed in the land 430 years.
Till:
Yes, it does, but as I showed in my first article in this series, the Exodus-6 genealogy is
obviously a generation-by-generation listing that leaves no room for the passage of 430 years
before the exodus began. Finley has come this far in his "rebuttal," and he has yet to say
anything that shows the textual analyses in my first article were incorrect.
Finley:
Again, using the date 1446, this would place the Jacobian caravan at 1876 BC. However, as
Mr. Till noted, the LXX reading is at variance reading “Egypt and Canaan”. (sic) This would
require the 430 years to cover Abram’s departure from Haran until Moses’ Exodus.
Till:
Yes, it would, but Finley is playing his old game of trying to prove biblical inerrancy by
assuming inerrancy. What he is saying is this: The Israelites could not have sojourned in
Egypt for 430 years, because counting back 430 years from the exodus would take us back to
the time that Abram [Abraham] departed from Haran. That would mean that there is an error
in the Bible, and that can't be, because the Bible is inerrant. He should get into his head here
and now that I will not let him play that game. He must show us why it is not possible
that Exodus 12:40 would be inconsistent with other parts of the Bible, and he can't do that by
just saying, "Well, there can't be inconsistencies in the Bible, because the Bible is
inerrant." If the time of the exodus, according to the Bible, was 1446 BC--and I agree that it
was--and if Exodus 12:40 says that the Israelites left Egypt after they had sojourned there for
430 years and if adding 430 years to 1446 BC takes us back some 200 years before the
Israelites even went into Egypt, that can only mean that there are chronological discrepancies
in the Bible. Finley will just have to live with that no matter how it punctures the inerrancy
balloon that he was taught to believe in.
Finley:
This variant may be the one Paul quotes in Galatians 3 referring to the Law's being given 430
years after the promise made to Abraham in Genesis.
Till:
Paul's claim that 430 years had passed from the time of the promise to Abraham to the giving
of the law after the exodus is simply more frosting on the errancy cake. It simply reinforces
my claim that there are serious chronological discrepancies in the Bible concerning how long
the Israelites were in Egypt. I will refer readers to "The 210-Year Solution," my second article
in this series, where I showed that Exodus 12:40 doesn't say that Abraham's seed sojourned in
Egypt 430 years but that the children of Israel sojourned there for 430 years. I then
proceeded to show through analyses of various Genesis texts that Israel (Jacob) didn't even
have any children until about 50 years before he took his extended family into Egypt.
Therefore, it is impossible for both Exodus 12:40 and the biblical chronology that Finley
referred to above to be true, because it just cannot be that if the exodus occurred in 1446 BC
and Abraham left Haran around 1876 BC, the children of Israel had managed to sojourn in
Egypt 430 years, because the children of Israel could not have dwelt anywhere before they
were even born. This is just basic math.
Finley:
Now, to be literal, it is about 215 years from Abraham’s sojourn from Haran until Jacob’s
traveling to Egypt (1876 + 215 = ca 2091). If Paul were referring to this event, that would
leave then 215 years left until Moses comes as deliverer. These years together equal 430. But
this would then alter other dates concluded to be reliable in reconstructing history. Remember
again, this is hypothetical, taking into account the possibility that the variant of Ex. 12:40 is
credible. This appears to be untenable however, because this would leave Joseph’s experience
under the rule of the Hyksos rather than Egyptian while the narrative seems to favour
Egyptian rule.
Till:
If it is untenable, then why did Finley waste our time with it? My articles were filled with
detailed scripture analyses that show the genealogy in Exodus 6 was a generation-bygeneration listing, and Finley skipped all of this so that he could summarize that which he
admits is untenable.
Finley:
Consider this however. Paul summarises [sic] the period of promise as 430 years. That is,
from God's promise to Abraham until Moses deliverance is dubbed 430 years. Now, to which
particular promise episode is Paul referring? The very first (Gen 12)? The second (Gen 15)?
The third (Gen 17)? The fourth (Gen 22)? Perhaps even the last occurrence of the promise
(Gen 46) is a possibility.
Till:
Well, the promise in Genesis 46 could not have been the one that Paul was referring to,
because this was a promise that God spoke to Jacob (Israel).
Genesis 46:2 God spoke to Israel in visions of the night, and said, "Jacob, Jacob." And he
said, "Here I am." 3 Then he said, "I am God, the God of your father; do not be afraid to go
down to Egypt, for I will make of you a great nation there. 4 I myself will go down with you to
Egypt, and I will also bring you up again; and Joseph's own hand shall close your eyes."
But Paul was very clear in saying that he was speaking of a promise that had been made to
Abraham.
Galatians 3:16 Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring; it does not
say, "And to offsprings," as of many; but it says, "And to your offspring," that is, to one
person, who is Christ. 17 My point is this: the law, which came four hundred thirty years
later, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise.
Paul was clearly referring to a promise that had been made to Abraham, so it doubtful that he
had in mind the renewal of the promise to Jacob years after Abraham was dead. One never
knows what kind of quibbling he may encountered from a biblicist, so Finley may claim that
Galatians 3:16 says that the promise was made to Abraham and to his offspring, and Jacob
(Israel) was a descendant or offspring of Abraham. That this would be a quibble can be
determined by noticing that the other promises that Finley cited, which were spoken directly
to Abraham, were clear in stating that the promise was to Abraham's offspring or seed.
Genesis 12:7 Then Yahweh appeared to Abram, and said, "To your offspring I will give this
land." So he built there an altar to Yahweh, who had appeared to him.
Genesis 15:18 On that day Yahweh made a covenant with Abram, saying, "To your
descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, 19
the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, 20 the Hittites, the Perizzites, the
Rephaim, 21 the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites."
Genesis 17:7 I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you
throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your
offspring after you. 8 And I will give to you, and to your offspring after you, the land where
you are now an alien, all the land of Canaan, for a perpetual holding; and I will be their
God."
Genesis 22:17 I will indeed bless you, and I will make your offspring as numerous as the
stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the
gate of their enemies, 18 and by your offspring shall all the nations of the earth gain blessing
for themselves, because you have obeyed my voice."
To deny that Paul was referring to the earliest versions of the land promise and not to one that
came decades later would be a resort to shameless quibbling, because Paul clearly said that
the promise were spoken to Abraham. I quoted the NRSV version above, which says that the
promise was "made" to Abraham, as does the KJV. However, if Finley will check the Greek
text of Galatians 3:16, he will see that Paul used the word errethesan, a derivative of rheo, the
root of the English word rhetoric. It meant "to speak" or "to say," and many English
translations, such as the ASV, NASV, NIV, and NAB, so translated it. Obviously, then, the
apostle Paul was referring to a promise that had been spoken to Abraham, so that would
exclude the promises spoken to Jacob [Israel].
As for the other promises that Finley cited, they were all spoken to Abraham over a period of
some 25 or 30 years. Abram [Abraham] was 75 when he left Haran (Gen. 12:4), and the first
account of the promise was made when he arrived in Canaan (Gen. 12:7), which would have
been when he was about 75. He was 100 when Isaac was born (Gen. 21:5), shortly after which
the omnibenevolent Yahweh commanded Abraham to offer Isaac as a sacrifice, at which time
Yahweh renewed the promise (Gen. 22:17-18). If, therefore, Finley wants to make Galatians
3:16 refer to the last time the promise was spoken to Abraham, let him do so. He will gain
only about 30 years, which would make the interval between the promise spoken to Abraham
and the covenant at Sinai just 400 years. However, since he noted above that the Bible
sometimes spoke in approximations or rounded numbers, he will have gained nothing. He is
still left with the problem of trying to explain why Exodus 12:40 said that the children of
Israel sojourned in Egypt 430 years, whereas the apostle Paul said that there had been 430
years from the promise spoken to Abraham to the giving of the law at Mount Sinai.
Are there any mistakes in the Bible? Why, no, I think we can all see that. All it takes to
remove them are a lot of verbal legerdemain and gymnastics, and biblical inerrantists are not a
bit ashamed to resort to these tactics to try to prove that their "word of God" is inerrant.
Finley:
Again, using metonymy where one thing is put for another,
Till:
Well, this is not a case of again using metonymy, because the other example of a figure of
speech that Finley claimed was synecdoche, which is the use of a part for the whole or a
whole for the part. Metonomy substitutes the whole of one thing for the whole of another,
such as when Jesus took a cup at the last supper, gave it to his disciples, and told all of them
to drink it (Matt. 26:27). Obviously, he didn't mean for the disciples to drink the cup but to
drink what was in it. This, then, is a case of metonomy, where the cup was substituted for it
contents i. e., the whole of one thing for the whole of another. This is different from
synecdoche, which Finley claims occurred in Genesis 15:13, where Yahweh was, according to
Finley, subtituting the whole (400 years) for just a part of that time.
I took the time to point this out, because Finley speaks facilely of figurative language and
figures of speech, when obviously he doesn't know one figure from another. It is hard to think
that we should put much confidence in someone who is as confused about figures of speech as
he is. His comments below, therefore, should be read with this in mind.
Finley:
Again, using metonymy where one thing is put for another, Paul may be referring not to
Abraham in and of himself but to the very core of the promise which beginning with Jacob's
descent would begin the countdown of 430 years.
Till:
Well, if Finley begins the countdown of 430 years at the time of Jacob's descent into Egypt,
he would be beginning the count around 1661 BC, so if the Israelites were in Egypt for 430
years after that, the exodus would have happened around 1231 BC, but Finley said above that
the exodus happened around 1446 BC. Does this guy even know what he is trying to defend?
Anyway, Finley thinks that he can just arbitrarily declare that Paul was using metonymy in
Galatians 3:16, and we will accept it without question, but if he is going to claim that this is
an example of metonymy, he is obligated to show us good reason to think that it is. In
rebutting his claim that synecdoche was used in Genesis 15:13, I pointed out that this figure of
speech can be easily recognized, because a literal interpretation of synecdoche will result in
absurd meaning. This is true of metonymy. If, for example, we interpet Jesus literally when he
told all of his disciples to drink the cup that he passed among them, we would have to
visualize the disciples breaking the cup into pieces and swallowing them. When we hear over
the news that "the White House said," we certainly don't think that the White House suddenly
developed a speech mechanism that enables it to use language. If someone says that he is
"reading Shakespeare," we don't understand that he is literally reading Shakespeare but what
Shakespeare wrote. One thing is metonymically substituted for another. If we fail to recognize
this, we will absurdly interpret the statement.
Now here is a question for Finley. He claims that the apostle Paul used metonomy in
Galatians 3:16 by substituting Abraham for Jacob, but what absurdity would result if we
understand that Paul literally meant Abraham when he referred to a promise that had been
made to Abraham 430 years before the giving of the law at Sinai? Finley cannot say that this
meaning would result in the absurdity of a contradiction in the Bible, because contradictions
are not absurdities. They are commonplace in written documents, so if Finley takes this track,
he will again be caught trying to prove inerrancy by assuming inerrancy. Before he does that,
I will insist that he prove to us that the Bible is inerrant.
Finley:
Note well again, Christian Bible students presuppose the Bible is reliable and believe it is able
to sustain criticism. It may be considered gymnastics by opponents but this does not mean the
Bible is against exercise.
Till:
Well, Finley doesn't have to tell me that Christian Bible students presuppose that the Bible is
reliable. I know that all too well, because I was once one of those fellows myself until I came
to see through intense biblical studies that this is an untenable belief. If Finley will bother to
check, he will find that Muslims believe that the Qur'an is reliable and that Mormons believe
that the Book of Mormon is reliable, but I am sure that Finley would not be at all impressed
with Muslims and Mormons who would try to support their beliefs with claims that their holy
books are "reliable." Finley made a familiar mistake here: He used an argument that any
adherent of another religion could make to prove the reliability of his holy book. What proves
too much proves nothing at all, but Finley apparently doesn't understand that.
Finley:
3. Now, the 215-year sojourn is more conducive to a literal reading of the four generations
between Levi and Moses
Till:
But it isn't at all "conducive" to Exodus 12:40, which very plainly says that the children of
Israel sojourned in Egypt for 430 years. Two hundred fifteen is not 430.
Finley;
and to that we now turn. Let us unpack the information as it is. Exodus 6 tells the reader that
Kohath is 133 years old when he dies. Amram is 137 when he dies and he is the father of
Moses who is 80 when he leaves Egypt. Together the total is 360 years. This is shy of 400 not
to mention 430. It would not do to say, “Eh. Let’s just round up.” So, what to do?
Till:
Quibble some more? Lean over backwards to try to find some verbal gynastic that will resolve
the problem by assigning possible but very improbable meaning to the Exodus-6 genealogy?
That is what biblical inerrantists before Finley have done, so I could hardly expect anything
different from him. What he says below shows that my expectations were correct.
Finley:
Besides the above scenario, the adding together of all the years assumes no overlapping of
father and son; hence, Mr. Till’s responsible conclusion in his paper: isn’t very practical.
Till:
I didn't intend for anyone to think that it was practical. I presented it only to show how
extremely impractical it would be to think that fathers well over 100 years old had sired sons
on their deathbeds for three successive generations.
Finley:
It would imply that indeed, each son was sired at the death of the father. Now, while this is
not as impossible as some may esteem (that old age is a barrier for God), it is also not very
reasonable.
Till:
I disagree with Finley only in that I consider this to have been so improbable that for all
intents and purposes it could be considered impossible. I do appreciate, however, that Finley
believes that it is "very unreasonable" to think that this had happened.
Finley:
Mr. Till labors in his paper to prove the Levi-Moses genealogy is literally four generations.
Till:
No "labor" at all was involved. It was easy to do by simply analyzing relevant biblical texts,
so why isn't Finley trying to show that my analyses were flawed? If readers will go back and
read "How Long Were the Children of Israel in Egypt?" they will find that all of my
conclusions were supported by detailed analyses of biblical and extrabiblical texts, which
Finley has ignored thoughout his attempt to rebut the article. In other words, he is just like
most other biblicists that I have crossed verbal swords with. He selects just a few points from
his opponent's article and then writes a "reply" as if 90% of the opponent's article never
existed.
Finley:
His use of Scripture to prove Scripture is just as laudable as he refers to Genesis 46 et al and
extra-biblical historians as well.
Till:
I don't use scripture to prove scripture. I use scripture to show that it is inconsistent. When, for
example, I quote Exodus 12:40, which says that the children of Israel sojourned in Egypt 430
years, I am not claiming that this statement is true. I am claiming only that this is what the
Bible says. As a matter of fact, I don't think that the Israelites were held in bondage in Egypt.
(I will be glad to show Finley evidence that the exodus and wilderness wanderings are
fictionalized "history" if he should care to defend the historicity of this part of the Bible.)
After I had quoted Exodus 12:40, I then quoted the Exodus-6 genealogy and Genesis 46 only
to show that what Exodus 12:40 said is inconsistent with certain claims in other biblical
passages. I could not prove that inconsistencies are in, say, the Book of Mormon unless I
juxtaposed quotations from this book to show that what passage A says is inconsistent with
what passage B says. I am sure that Finley realizes this, so why should he think that the
methodology in exposing biblical discrepancies should be any different? The only laudable
thing in my articles, therefore, is that I support my claims of biblical errancy by showing the
actual discrepancies in the Bible.
Finley:
Let us consider this literal genealogical system. Look at the man Bezalel. He was the man
chosen to construct the tabernacle and a contemporary with Moses (Ex 31:2-5). Note 1
Chronicles’ genealogy in chapter 2. If we are to remain consistent as Mr. Till is sure to make
sure, then literal genealogies will appear here.
Till:
No, Finley is off a country mile here. I do not claim that all genealogies in the Bible gave
generation-by-generation listings. My claim is that some of them did and that Exodus 6 was
obviously intended as a generation-by-generation listing, for if it isn't, other passages in the
Bible contain discrepancies.
My proof is in the article (linked to above), which Finley mainly ignored. Those who read it
will see that I pointed out the following facts.
1. The Exodus-6 genealogy says that Kohath was the son of Levi (v:16).
2. This agrees with Genesis 46:11, 1 Chronicles 6:1, and every other genealogical listing for
Kohath.
3. Exodus 6:18 claims that Kohath had four sons: Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel.
From these biblical claims, I concluded that if Exodus 6 is a generation-by-generation listing,
then Amram would have been a literal son of Kohath, and Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel would
have been literal brothers of Amram and uncles of Aaron and Moses. I then proceeded to
show that these conclusions were consistent with Exodus 6:22, which says that Uzziel had
sons named Mishael and Elzaphan and Leviticus 10:4, which says that a man named Uzziel,
living in the time of Aaron and Moses, had sons named Mishael and Elzaphan and that this
man was "the uncle of Aaron." This was compelling information that showed very good
reasons to believe that no generations were skipped in the Exodus-6 genealogy. Finley,
however, skipped over all of this information and didn't even mention it.
I further showed that Izhar, who was listed in Exodus 6:18 as a son of Kohath, had a son
named Korah (Exodus 6:21) and that a man named Korah, living in the time of the exodus led
a rebellion against the leadership of Moses (Num. 16:1) and that this man was described in the
passage just referenced as the "son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi." This was
more compelling textual evidence that no generations were skipped in Exodus 6, but Finley
ignored this too.
I also pointed out two more biblical facts that Finley completely ignored.
1. Exodus 6:20 says that Amram married his father's sister Jochebed, who bore to him Aaron
and Moses.
2. This agrees with Numbers 26:59, which says that Amram's wife Jochebed was born to Levi
in Egypt and bore to Amram Aaron, Moses, and their sister Miriam.
I then quoted a section from Levi's testament in Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, where
the writer, purporting to be Levi, clearly stated that Kohath was his son, that Kohath's sons
were Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel, and that Amram had married his daughter
Jochebed, who had been born to him in Egypt. This too was more compelling evidence for a
generation-by-generation, literal genealogy in Exodus 6, but Finley ignored all of this too.
I cited other extrabiblical evidence, but I am going to save the summation of it until I come to
where Finley waved the extrabiblical evidence aside by asserting, without supporting
evidence, of course, that Josephus had just misunderstood the genealogy.
Finley:
Let us start with where we left off, with Bezalel. Verse 20 tells us Bezalel’s father is Uri and
Uri’s father was Hur (v 20); Hur was fathered by Caleb and he in turn by Hezron (vv 1-19);
Hezron was the son of Perez (v 5) and he in turn is the son of Judah (vv 3-4). Finally the
reader is referred to the father of all these: Israel (v 1). Now, let us consider the generations.
Remembering that there are only four generations from Levi (contemporary with Judah [vv
1,3,4] ) to Moses who is a contemporary with Bezalel, we should expect here a symmetrical
four generations. What do we find? We find Judah (1), Perez (2), Hezron (3), Caleb (4), Hur
(5), Uri (6), and finally Bezalel (7). Just with numerics alone we see a ratio of four (4) against
seven (7). This shows us that Moses, Bezalel, Caleb, and Joshua are contemporaries. Does
this probable [apparent omission] with Moses family tree only needing four generations while
these other two have more?
Till:
Finley is at it again. He is trying to prove biblical inerrancy by assuming inerrancy, but even if
we conclude that the genealogy of Bezalel was accurate, that would in no way prove that
seven generations could not have been born in his family tree while only four were born in
Aaron's and Moses' family. I need look no further than my own family to understand this. My
wife was 17 years old when her kid sister was born. This sister had a daughter when she was
in her mid-40s. This daughter, my wife's niece, is 12 years old now. She is a first cousin to
our three children, who are 49, 48, and 46 respectively. Hence, there is a 37-year gap in the
ages of my older son and his first cousin. This is confusing even to us, because my wife's
niece sometimes calls me grandpa instead of uncle and calls my son uncle, when really he is
her first cousin. My wife has an older sister, who had a daughter before my wife and I
married, so the 12-year-old niece just mentioned has a first cousin who is even older than our
firstborn son. The gap in ages here is 41.
My point is that it would be entirely possible for seven generations to be born in one family
while only four were being born in another. All that would be necessary for this to happen
would be early marriages in one family but late marriages in the other. Aside from this, Finley
shows his biblical ignorance by appealing to such a quibble as this, because six Levitical
generations through Aaron and not just four were listed in Exodus 6.
Exodus 6:20 Amram married Jochebed his father's sister and she bore him Aaron and Moses,
and the length of Amram's life was one hundred thirty-seven years.... 23 Aaron married
Elisheba, daughter of Amminadab and sister of Nahshon, and she bore him Nadab, Abihu,
Eleazar, and Ithamar.... 25 Aaron's son Eleazar married one of the daughters of Putiel, and
she bore him Phinehas. These are the heads of the ancestral houses of the Levites by their
families.
As we have already noticed, Aaron was the fourth generation from Levi, so Eleazar would
have been the fifth and Phinehas the sixth. If Finley will bother to check, he will find that
Eleazar and Phinehas were alive during the wilderness years, so they would have been the
fifth and sixth generations from Levi and would have been contemporaries of Hur, Uri, and
Bezalel, the fifth, sixth, and seventh generations in Bezalel's genealogy. Just like that, then,
Finley's quibble backfires in his face when he tries to prove that there had to have been more
than four generations from Levi to Aaron and Moses on the grounds that there were seven
generations in the genealogy of Bezalel, who was a contemporary of Aaron. There would
have been nothing improbable at all about seven generations being born in a period of time
from Judah to Bezalel, whereas only six had been born during the same time period in a
family descending from Judah's brother Levi through Phinehas. Aaron and Bezalel were
contemporaries, but that means only that their lives overlapped. Aaron was 83 at the time of
the exodus (Ex. 7:7), but I can find nowhere any indication of how old Bezalel was. It is
entirely possible that even though they were contemporaries, several decades separated their
ages. To call Aaron and Bezalel contemporaries may be linguistically correct, but in all
probability, if any of this exodus stuff really happened, Bezalel would have been somewhere
in the age group of Aaron's son Eleazar or his grandson Phinephas, so there is no merit at all
to Finley's attempt to use the genealogy of Bezalel to prove that there had to have been more
than four generations in the Exodus 6 genealogy, because there were more than four
generations listed there. Eleazar and Phinehas were the fifth and sixth generations. That
Finley would resort to such a quibble as this is just another indication of how desperate
biblicists can be when they try to prove inerrancy in the Bible.
The best is yet to come, because Finley really put his foot into his mouth immediately below.
Finley:
Consider, as well, the family tree of Eliashim. He and his son Joshua were contemporaries
with Moses as we have seen. In 1 Chronicles 7:22-26 we read this.
Their father Ephraim (1) mourned for them many days, and his relatives came to comfort him.
Then he lay with his wife again, and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. He named
him Beriah (2), because there had been misfortune in his family. His daughter was Sheerah,
who built Lower and Upper Beth Horon as well as Uzzen Sheerah. Rephah (3) was his son,
Resheph (4) his son, Telah (5) his son, Tahan (6) his son, Ladan (7) his son, Ammihud (8) his
son, Elishama (9) [cross reference Numbers 1:10: Of the children of Joseph: of Ephraim;
Elishama the son of Ammihud: of Manasseh; Gamaliel the son of Pedahzur.] his son, Nun
(10) his son and Joshua (11) his son.
The ratio has now just grown. Prima facie, the reading has 11 generations between Ephraim
(contemporary with the Patriarchs coming to Egypt) and his “son” Joshua, who along with his
father was a contemporary with Moses. Now, while these eleven generations could fit into a
215-year sojourn, one could not then easily say that there were only four generations between
Levi’s and Moses’ family tree. It is not apparent to this Bible student that all recorded
genealogies are literal.
Till:
Unfortunately for Finley, he was not a member of the Errancy forum in July 2001, for if he
had been, he would have seen an inerrantist named Joe Carter taken to the cleaners when he
tried to use this same passage to prove that generations had been skipped in the Exodus-6
genealogy. The chronicler who wrote the genealogy that Finley has cited was so confused
about or uninformed in Israelite history that he thought that Ephraim, a son of Joseph who had
been born before Jacob took his extended family into Egypt (Gen. 41:52, was still alive
almost 500 years later when the Israelites entered Canaan after wandering in the wilderness
for 40 years. This can easily be demonstrated by an analysis of the complete genealogy that
Finley cited. First, let's notice that Finley omitted the first two verses of the genealogy.
1 Chronicles 7:20 The sons of Ephraim: Shuthelah, and Bered his son, Tahath his son,
Eleadah his son, Tahath his son, 21 Zabad his son, Shuthelah his son, and Ezer and Elead.
Now the people of Gath, who were born in the land, killed them, because they came down to
raid their cattle.
The part that Finley quoted gives no explanation for why Ephraim was in mourning, but the
first two verses of the genealogy will explain it. The sons of Ephraim had been killed by the
people of Gath. Whether this was because the sons of Ephraim were rustling cattle in the
region of Gath or whether the people of Gath were rustling the cattle of Ephraim's sons is not
clear in the text. I personally favor the former interpretation, but I recognize that it could be
the other, because the antecedent of they is ambiguous, as are many pronoun antecedents in
the Bible. This, however, is not important. What is important is that this text claims that
Ephraim mourned the death of his sons who had been killed by the people of Gath.
Gath was a Philistine city located in the Northwestern area of Philistia, whose inhabitants
were called Gittites in the Bible (Josh. 13:2-3; 2 Sam. 21:19), so the writer of 1 Chronicles
apparently thought that Ephraim, Joseph's son born before the Israelite descent into Egypt,
had somehow settled into postconquered Canaan and had experienced the death of his sons
during a raid that they had made on Gittite cattle or a raid that Gittites had made on their
cattle. At that time, the men of Gath, who had been born in the land, killed three of Ephraim's
sons, whom he then mourned over before the birth of another son. This would mean that the
Chronicler was either ignorant of Israelite history or else he thought that Ephraim had lived
through the entire 430 years of Egyptian bondage and the 40 years of wilderness wanderings
to enter Canaan and live there long enough to experience the deaths of his sons and the
subsequent birth of his son Beriah, who was conceived after Ephraim had mourned for "many
days." This would have made Ephraim almost 500 years old, and it would create a
discrepancy with Numbers 14:30, which claims that Caleb and Joshua would be the only
adults in the wilderness wanderings who would survive the 40 years in the wilderness and
enter Canaan.
In debates on this issue with other inerrantists, they have resorted to rank quibbling to try to
date the deaths of Ephraim's sons well before the exodus. Their most popular quibble was that
the chronicler was simply referring back to a time when the Ephraimites made cross-border
cattle raids from Egypt into Philistine territory. In other words, they were claiming that the
grandsons of Joseph, the second most powerful leader in Egypt, had engaged in cattle rustling
some 200 miles from their home in Egypt. That within itself is a scenario too unlikely for
rational people even to consider. That the Chronicler identified the men of Gath as those who
had been "born in the land" indicates that he saw these Gittites as original inhabitants of the
land in contrast to the Ephraimites, who had just recently entered Canaan. I will show by
more detailed analyses of this genealogy and related texts in 1 Chronicles that there is no
textual support at all for the quibble that Ephraim's sons were cattle rustlers while they were
living in Egypt. These analyses will show that the Chronicler was so unfamiliar with Israelite
history as it was recounted in the Hexateuch that he apparently didn't know about the alleged
bondage in Egypt or else didn't believe it, and so he wrote as if it had never happened.
I will begin by calling attention to verse 24 in the genealogy that Finley cited. It says that
Ephraim's daughter built lower and upper Beth-horon and Uzzen-sheerah. The Beth-horons
were towns in Canaan, which were referred to as boundary points for the distribution of the
part of the conquered lands that went to the descendants of Joseph (Josh. 16:3-5; Josh. 18:1314). Uzzen-sheerah is mentioned only in this genealogy, but its very name indicates that the
writer understood that it was a town founded by Ephraim's daughter Sheerah, so the
Chronicler claimed that a daughter of Ephraim built three towns in Canaan. How could she
have done this if the Ephraimites were in Egypt all through the lifespan of Ephraim? Are we
to think that although Ephraim may have died in Egypt, his daughter somehow lived for
several centuries, survived the wilderness years, entered Canaan, and then built these three
cities? I debated this issue with an inerrantist who claimed that Sheerah wasn't Ephraim's
daughter but the daughter of his son Beriah. Even if that were true, Sheerah would have been
Ephraim's granddaughter, and it would have been logistically impossible for the
granddaughter of a man who had been born before the entry into Egypt to live through the 430
years of bondage and the 40 wilderness years, and then enter Canaan where she built the cities
attributed to her. I even had an inerrantist claim that Sheerah had married into prominent
Egyptian society, and so she built these places in Canaan as vacation retreats, but he offered
not a speck of evidence to support this claim. As we will see, it is far more reasonable to
interpret this reference to Sheerah as just another indication that the Chronicle writer was
unaware of the alleged 430-year bondage in Egypt, and so he wrote as if it hadn't happened.
The chronicler's placement of Ephraim in Canaan is clearly an anachronism (in terms of what
other biblical writers said about Israelite history), so the genealogy that Finley cited in 1
Chronicles 7 is shown to be unrealiable from the outset. If Finley wants to defend the
inerrancy of the chronicler's Ephraimite genealogy, I will respond by posting an analysis of
this writer's literary style, which will convince anyone but diehard inerrantists that the writer
was interested only in what had happened to the Israelites after they entered Canaan and not
in what they had experienced before that. This is a five-part series that was posted on the
Errancy list back in July of 2001. I would copy it into the text, but this rebuttal of Finley's
article is long enough already. I will wait to see if Finley tries to defend the Ephraimite
genealogy any further. If so, I will then reply with this archived material. For his benefit,
however, I will recommend that he go to the Errancy archives, type "The Chronicler's Writing
Strategy" into the search window, and then read these and related articles, which clearly show
that the chronicler had no interest in the pre-Canaan history of Israel. He might then
understand that it wouldn't be prudent to use the genealogies in 1 Chronicles to support his
skipped-generation theory.
The chronicler wrote as if Egypt had never happened to the Israelites, and this resulted in
various anachronistic mistakes. To detail them all would probably double the length of this
rebuttal article, so I am going to discuss just a few of them. The chronicler, for example,
thought that Israelites who had been born in Canaan before the alleged bondage in Egypt lived
to enter Canaan after the conquest.
Here is a revision of one example of what I posted while debating this issue on the Errancy
list with Joe Carter back in 2001. To follow the analysis, readers will need to understand that
Machir, whose daughter Caleb married, was the son of Manasseh, who was Joseph's firstborn
son. In other words, Machir was Joseph's grandson. Also, the references to the Hebrew
word yalad were made because Carter had argued that this word in reference to Jochebed's
"bearing" Aaron and Moses had meant only that she was their ancestor.
Let's consider, then, a passage in 1 Chronicles 2. First Chronicles, by the way, is going to
give Carter so many migraines in this debate that he will be addicted to aspirin by the time it
is over. It is a maze of genealogical problems, so if Carter intends to make a career of
defending the inerrancy of biblical genealogies, he should take the time to become much more
familiar with 1 Chronicles than he now is. If he knew this book, he would never have said that
the context of chapter 7 will show that the cattle raid in which Ephraim's sons were killed
happened while they were living in Egypt, but I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's focus for now
on Machir and his son Gilead.
The genealogies in 1 Chronicles take some characters born before the entry into Egypt and
their near descendants and put them into Canaan after the conquest when the land was being
divided among the different tribes. Here is one such passage, to which I will apply some of the
conclusions from Carter's "yalad" study. I will emphasize in bold print some of the names to
call special attention to them.
1 Chronicles 2:18 And Caleb the son of Hezron begat children of Azubah his wife, and of
Jerioth: her sons are these; Jesher, and Shobab, and Ardon. 19 And when Azubah was dead,
Caleb took unto him Ephrath, which bare him Hur. 20 And Hur begat Uri, and Uri begat
Bezaleel. 21 And afterward Hezron went in to the daughter of Machir the father
of Gilead, whom he married when he was threescore years old; and she bare [yalad] him
Segub. 22 And Segub begat [yalad] Jair, who had three and twenty cities in the land of
Gilead.
Hezron? We have seen that name before, haven't we? The context shows that this was the
Hezron who was the center of controversy in the "Judah's Grandsons" debate. He and Hamul
were allegedly the sons of Perez, one of Judah's bastard twins whom Tamar bore to him. He
was listed as one of the 66 "souls" who went into Egypt with Jacob (Gen. 46:12). That the
Hezron in the passage quoted above was this same Hezron is evident from an earlier part of
this same genealogy. I will again emphasize certain names to call attention to them.
1 Chronicles 2:3 The sons of Judah; Er, and Onan, and Shelah: which three were born unto
him of the daughter of Shua the Canaanitess. And Er, the firstborn of Judah, was evil in the
sight of Yahweh; and he slew him. 4 And Tamar his daughter in law bare him Pharez and
Zerah. All the sons of Judah were five. 5 The sons of Pharez; Hezron, and Hamul. 6 And the
sons of Zerah; Zimri, and Ethan, and Heman, and Calcol, and Dara: five of them in all. 7 And
the sons of Carmi; Achar, the troubler of Israel, who transgressed in the thing accursed. 8
And the sons of Ethan; Azariah. 9 The sons also of Hezron, that were born unto him;
Jerahmeel, and Ram, and Chelubai [Caleb]. 10 And Ram begat Amminadab; and Amminadab
begat Nahshon, prince of the children of Judah....
The pattern here is typical. The sons of Judah were named, and then the sons of these sons
were listed. After the listing of the sons of the sons, the writer gave the genealogy of Hezron's
son Caleb [Chelubai], which began at verse 18. By analyzing the different sections of Judah's
genealogy, we get the following father/son sequence: Judah was the father of Perez, Perez
was the father of Hezron, Hezron was the father of Caleb [Chelubai]. Hence, Caleb
[Chelubai] was the third generation from Judah.
I'll ask Carter to keep in mind that this information has been gleaned from a genealogy in
which the writer, true to his style, counted the sons in the genealogy. "All the sons of Judah
were five" (v:4). The sons of Zerah, Perez's twin brother, were "five in all" (v:6). The sons of
Jesse in verses 12-17 (not quoted above) were counted: firstborn, the second, the third, the
fourth, etc. With such exactness as this in this genealogy, it is not just reasonable but
practically mandatory to conclude that Caleb [Chelubai] was the third-generation
descendant of Judah.
This is important because after telling of Caleb's marriage and the children born to his wife
who died (vs:18-20), the writer then said that "Hezron had relations with the daughter of
Machir father of Gilead--he had married her when he was sixty years old--and she bore him
Serug; and Serug begot [yalad] Jair" (vs:21-22, JPS). That Caleb married Machir's daughter
according to this passage gives Carter less room to quibble about skipped generations in this
genealogy, because it is easy to understand how a third-generation descendant of Judah (or,
more exactly, a great-grandson of Judah) could have married the actual daughter of Machir
(a second-generation descendant or grandson of Judah's brother Joseph) when he was 60, but
it isn't at all easy to visualize how this could have happened if this daughter of Machir was
only a descendant of Machir in a genealogy in which generations were "skipped," which
Carter may want to quibble to make this genealogy compatible with the claim of a 430-year
sojourn in Egypt. The generations in this genealogy, then, look like this: Judah begot Perez,
Perez begot (1) Hezron, Hezron begot (2) Caleb, and then Caleb married Machir's daughter,
who bore (3) Segub, who then begot (4) Jair. I put the numbers in parentheses in order to
count the number of generations born from the time of Hezron's entry into Egypt. As you can
see, there were only four. Carter may be inclined to ask, "So what?" and then argue that this
proves nothing except that Hezron begot Caleb, Caleb begot Segub, and Segub begot Jair, but
if that is what he thinks, he hasn't looked at this part of the genealogy closely enough. Jair is
very important, because look what the genealogy says after it states that Segub begot Jair.
21 And she [Machir's daughter] bore him [Caleb] Segub; and Segub begot Jair; He had
twenty-three cities in the land of Gilead.
What did the writer mean when he said that Jair had 23 cities in the land of Gilead? He was
talking about the distribution of the land of Canaan after its conquest.
Joshua 13:29 Moses gave an inheritance to the half-tribe of Manasseh; it was allotted to the
half-tribe of the Manassites according to their families. 30 Their territory extended from
Mahanaim, through all Bashan, the whole kingdom of King Og of Bashan, and all the
settlements of Jair, which are in Bashan, sixty towns....
Later on, much to Carter's dismay, I will be posting some detailed analyses of the tribal
genealogies in 1 Chronicles, which will show that the writer had an interest in telling what
territories and what cities different tribes and tribal members received when the spoils of
victory were divvied up. Comments about the dividing of the land and cities are scattered
throughout the genealogies, but 4:31-33, 4:39-42, 5:8-9, and 5:16-17 are just a few of them.
What this all means is that, whether it was historically accurate or not, the writer of 1
Chronicles thought that Jair, who was only a fourth-generation descendant of Hezron (one of
the original 66 to go into Egypt), lived long enough to enter Canaan and receive 23 cities
during the distribution of the spoils of victory. How could this genealogical information
possibly be consistent with Genesis 50:23, that Carter was so excited about?
Is Carter still not convinced? In Part Three, I will show him that the chronicler thought that
even Caleb, just a first-generation descendant of Hezron, had gone into Canaan too. That
would certainly be incompatible with the claim of a 430-year sojourn, but as we will see, the
writer of 1 Chronicles seemed almost oblivious to the claim that the Israelites had sojourned
in Egypt.
I have K's and K's of other analyses of the chronicler's genalogies in the Errancy archives, and
they show just as clearly as the examples above that this writer filled his work with
anachronisms in terms of what other biblical writers said about Israelite history [fiction].
There is an indication in 1 Chronicles, for example, that Hezron died in Canaan, but I will
leave it to Findley to decide if he wants me to hit him with this additional information. If he
returns with an attempt to prove the historical accuracy of the Ephramite genealogy, I will
dump the whole load of information on him.
Finley's next "rebuttal" needs to be quoted in its entirety before I comment on it.
Finley:
4. Mr. Till helps us here when he uses Judah’s genealogy as an example of literal generations.
He notes, "The genealogy shifted its focus to Aaron at verse 23, at which time the writer
further indicated that he was presenting a generation-by-generation genealogy. And Aaron
took him Elisheba, the daughter of Amminadab, the sister of Nahshon, to wife, and she bore
him Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar.
"This verse strengthens my claim that the writer of Exodus 6 used family relationships in their
literal senses in this genealogy. To show why, let's notice another genealogical statement in
Ruth 4:18-20. Now these are the generations of Perez: Perez begot Hezron, and Hezron begot
Ram, and Ram begot Amminadab, and Amminadab begot Nahshon...."
Notice here—Mr. Till only shows half the genealogy. Were we only to have this much of the
family tree, we would concur with Mr. Till at least this far. That is, there are four heads of
families listed here and there are four listed for Moses. Nashon then is Moses’ in-law. But Mr.
Till’s point is that Amminadab is Nashon’s immediate father. Is this plausible? Perhaps. Let
us continue Mr. Till’s use of Ruth. Notice verses 18-22.
18 This, then, is the family line of Perez: Perez was the father of Hezron, 19 Hezron the father
of Ram, Ram the father of Amminadab, 20 Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the
father of Salmon, [3] 21 Salmon the father of Boaz, Boaz the father of Obed, 22 Obed the
father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David..
Beginning here we see that before the journey into Egypt we have Perez (note again, Mr Till’s
affirmation of this point when he says, “Perez’s son Hezron was also born before the descent
into Egypt…” ). But we also have an end point: David. How many generations are there
between the descent into Egypt and David’s birth? First let us consider, conservative dates for
biblical events. We already have 1446 BC as the date for the Exodus. Assuming 430 years is
roughly the duration of the previous slavery we have its genesis in ca. 1876 BC. So Perez (1),
Hezron (2), and understandable Ram (3) are early Egyptian squatters. There are three
generations to begin with. Who follows? Amminadab (4), Nashon (5), Salmon (6), Boaz (7),
Obed (8), Jesse (9), and David (10). Herein is a literal genealogy and this from a different
author than Genesis, Exodus and Chronicles. If we consider what we observed above, that
Joshua, the (11th) generation from Ephraim was a contemporary of Moses, what must we
conclude about David? 1876 BC is where we left off. 1446 BC is the year of the Exodus (of
which David is now a contemporary) but the date for David’s reign as King over Israel is in
the 1000’s. Here is a random site for reference to this date.
Here the site offers a date of 1010 for his reign. This is an even more glaring Gordian Knot
for us “bibliolaters” to untie. Insurmountable!! I will not try. But to make a comment or two I
suppose would suffices [sic]. Mr. Till says the generations are literal father to son ratios. He
says there are literally four generations from Levi to Moses. But we have seen that there are
also eleven generations between Ephraim and Joshua and more recently that there are eleven
generations between Judah and David. Joshua and David may have played together in
daycare!
Till:
So there is Finley's "rebuttal" in its uninterrupted entirety. From what I have already said, I
shouldn't have to comment on it, but, of course, I will. To begin dismantling it, I will point out
again that Finley plays the old game of trying to prove inerrancy by assuming inerrancy. In
this case, he argues that the genealogy in Exodus 6 cannot be a generation-by-generation
listing, because a genalogy in Ruth contains only 10 generations from Perez to David, and
according to chronology derived from analyzing data in other biblical passages, David reigned
some 400 years after the exodus. Since Nahshon participated in the exodus, Finley is arguing,
that would mean that there were only 5 generations in David's lineage during these 400 years.
Finley was asking by implication,"How likely is this?" First, I will remind readers that Finley
continues to try to prove inerrancy by assuming inerrancy, which he calls "letting scripture
interpret scripture," but when one assumes that text A cannot mean what it appears to say,
because text B, which is explicitly clear, will contradict it if the face-value meaning of A is
accepted, he is arguing from the assumption that all scripture is inerrant and therefore must be
in agreement.
Finley assumed above, for example, that there had to have been generations skipped in
Exodus 6 because a genealogy in 1 Chronicles 7 listed 11 generations between Ephraim (who
had been born before the Israelite descent into Egypt) and Joshua, (who was the Israelite
leader of the conquest of Canaan). His reasoning is fallacious for three reasons. First, I
showed through reference to the 40-year gap between first cousins in my own family that one
cannot assume that if X number of generations were born in one family, the same number of
generations would have to be born in another family over the same period of time. As I
explained, if early marriages were a custom in the one family and late marriages in the other,
over extended periods of time, the one family branch would have more generations in it than
the other. Hence, there is no merit at all to this part of Finley's "solution." Second, I showed
through detailed analyses of the chronicler's earlier genealogies that he apparently had no
awareness of a period of bondage in Egypt that had lasted 430 years, because the genealogies
in this book put biblical characters like Hezron, Judah's grandson who had been born before
the descent into Egypt, into postconquered Canaan. The chronicler's concept of how much
time had passed between the time of biblical characters like Hezron, Ephraim, and Machir and
the Israelite division of the land in Canaan was obviously much shorter than that of those who
wrote in the Hexateuch the tales of bondage, exodus, wilderness wanderings, and conquest of
Canaan, so Finley certainly cannot let the genealogy in 1 Chronicles "interpret" the genealogy
in Exodus 6. Third, if the chronicler's sense of Israelite chronology was much shorter than that
of the authors of the Hexateuch, Finley cannot know whether the chronological sense of the
author of Ruth was in agreement with the author of Exodus 6 or whether he too, like the
chronicler, thought that the time from Perez to Nahshon and from Nhashon to David had been
no longer than a span that would have been covered by just the ten generations listed in Ruth
4:18-20. When these factors are all considered, the last semblance of merit in Finley's
"solution" will evaporate.
As an endnote to this part of Finley's "solution," I want readers to note that as he took us
through his "rebuttal," he completely ignored everything I said in "How Long Were the
Children of Israel in Egypt?" that clearly showed that, according to the book of Numbers,
Nahshon was a contemporary of Moses and Aaron and was the designated leader of the tribe
of Judah during the wilderness years. To save readers the time of having to look for it, I will
quote the relevant section. Notice how it shows textual reasons not just to understand that
Nahshon was a contemporary of Aaron but that he was also the actual son of Amminadab.
Obviously, inerrantists can't accept the "face-value" meaning of these genealogies, so that is
why they will insist that some generations were skipped between Hezron, who was born
before the descent into Egypt, and Nahshon, who was obviously a contemporary of Aaron and
Moses, because he is mentioned several times during the wilderness wanderings as a leader
in the tribe of Judah.
Numbers 1:4 A man from each tribe shall be with you, each man the head of his ancestral
house. 5 These are the names of the men who shall assist you: From Reuben, Elizur son of
Shedeur. 6 From Simeon, Shelumiel son of Zurishaddai. 7 From Judah, Nahshon son of
Amminadab.
Numbers 2:3 Those to camp on the east side toward the sunrise shall be of the regimental
encampment of Judah by companies. The leader of the people of Judah shall be Nahshon son
of Amminadab, 4 with a company as enrolled of seventy-four thousand six hundred.
Numbers 7:11 Yahweh said to Moses: They shall present their offerings, one leader each day,
for the dedication of the altar. 12 The one who presented his offering the first day
was Nahshon son of Amminadab, of the tribe of Judah....
Numbers 10:13 They set out for the first time at the command of Yahweh by Moses. 14 The
standard of the camp of Judah set out first, company by company, and over the whole
company was Nahshon son of Amminadab.
Interestingly enough, whenever Nahshon was mentioned, he was always identified as "the son
of Amminadab." Yes, inerrantists will argue, he was the "son of Amminadab, but "son" could
mean just descendant, so that doesn't necessarily mean that Nahshon was the literal "son" of
Amminadab. Well, if he wasn't the literal son of a man named Amminadab, why was he
always called the "son of Amminadab"? As many times as he was mentioned, why didn't a
biblical writer at least one time refer to him as the son of whoever was his actual father?
A dodge that some inerrantists try to use when confronted with genealogical problems like the
one in Exodus 6 is to argue that the names in genealogies represented "ages" or "eras" and
not the specific people named in them. Thus, the name Abraham in the genealogy of Jesus
meant not Abraham but the "age" or "era" of Abraham. Very well, if that is true, why did the
biblical writers consistently say that Nahshon was the "son of Amminadab"? Who was this
Amminadab anyway? We really don't know, because outside of the many times that he is
listed in genealogies as the "son" of Ram and the father of Nahshon, he was never mentioned.
So why would biblical writers have chosen such an obscure person to represent an "age" or
an "era" in the various genealogies that listed Amminadab? He was famous for nothing
except that he had a "son" who was an important leader in the tribe of Judah during the
wilderness experiences of the Israelites. If this age-or-era-of argument has any merit, why
wouldn't the writers of biblical genealogies have gone directly from Hezron to Nahshon,
because he was the only descendant after Hezron who was prominent enough to have an age
or era named after him? Ram and Amminadab weren't.
For these reasons, it is entirely logical to understand that the writer of the Exodus-6
genealogy meant for his readers to understand that he thought that Aaron's wife Elisheba was
the literal sister of the Israelite leader Nahshon and that this Nahshon was the literal son of a
man named Amminadab, just as Aaron's wife was the literal daughter of Amminadab. I have
already established to the satisfaction of anyone who doesn't have an inerrancy axe to grind
that the writer of this genealogy was using the word "sons" literally throughout the genealogy
as he listed the "sons" of Reuben and Simeon and Levi and Kohath, etc. So if Nahshon was
not the literal son of Amminadab, then the genealogist suddenly switched the meaning of the
word "son" when he said that Nahshon was the "son of Amminadab," and that would be a
writing error known as equivocation. I have said many times in discussing biblical
discrepancies that an error is an error. It doesn't have to be a "biggie" in order to be an
error, and if there is even a "little" error in the Bible, it is not inerrant.
Readers can see for themelves that Finley made no attempt at all to address this section of my
first article. As far as his "rebuttal" was concerned, none of what I quoted above was ever
said.
Finley:
Now no respectable Christian scholar will deny that Ruth is a book that justifies David’s
ancestry. King David’s that is.
Till:
As I noted above, we cannot assume that the author of Ruth had any better grasp of the
chronology in Israelite "history" than did the writer of 1 Chronicles. As far as we can know,
the author of Ruth had the same perception of chronology as did the chronicler, who seemed
to be oblivious to the Hexateuchal claims of a 430-year sojourn in Egypt. Hence, this writer,
like the chronicler could have thought that there were only 10 actual generations from Perez
to David. What Finley needs here is some kind of textual evidence that the author of Ruth
understood that 430 + 40 + 400 years had passed from the Israelite descent into Egypt until
the birth of David. Without that evidence he can base no legitimate skipped-generation
argument on the genealogy in Ruth.
On the other hand, I pointed out above that there are good reasons to think that the author of 1
Chronicles thought that his genealogy from Perez through David was a generation-bygeneration listing. I will go over this again for Finley's benefit.
1 Chronicles 2:3 The sons of Judah: Er, Onan, and Shelah; these three the Canaanite woman
Bath-shua bore to him. Now Er, Judah's firstborn, was wicked in the sight of Yahweh, and he
put him to death. 4 His daughter-in-law Tamar also bore him Perez and Zerah. Judah had
five sons in all. 5 The sons of Perez: Hezron and Hamul. 6 The sons of Zerah: Zimri, Ethan,
Heman, Calcol, and Dara, five in all. 7 The sons of Carmi: Achar [Achan], the troubler of
Israel, who transgressed in the matter of the devoted thing; 8 and Ethan's son was Azariah.
Notice the parts that I have emphasized in bold print. This writer was so specific that after
listing the sons of Judah and Zerah, he took the trouble to count them. How likely is it that a
writer that meticulous would turn around in the very next verses in this genealogy and begin
skipping names?
9 The sons of Hezron, who were born to him: Jerahmeel, Ram, and Chelubai [Caleb].
10 Ram became the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab became the father
of Nahshon, prince of the sons of Judah. 11 Nahshon became the father of Salma, Salma of
Boaz, 12 Boaz of Obed, Obed of Jesse.
I am sure that Finley knows that Jesse was the father of David, who is listed as one of Jesse's
sons in the very next verse. I interupted the text here to ask readers to note that the chronicler
once again began to count or number the names in this genealogy.
13 Jesse became the father of Eliab his firstborn, Abinadab the second, Shimea the third, 14
Nethanel the fourth, Raddai the fifth, 15 Ozem the sixth, David the seventh; 16 and their
sisters were Zeruiah and Abigail.
So I will ask Finley again to tell us how likely it was that a genealogists who meticulously
counted names at times would have skipped generations without informing his readers. In the
chronicler's genealogies, therefore, whether they are accurate or not, we have compelling
evidence that this writer at least thought they were accurate.
I have gone to lengths to show that Old Testament writers at times could not agree on their
chronology; hence, the Hexateuchal writers would put 430 + 40 years between the Israelite
entry into Egypt and their conquest of Canaan, whereas the chronicler obviously thought that
this time span was much shorter. For Finley's benefit, I will point out another piece of
evidence that shows that writers were confused in their chronology. Earlier, I quoted the
closing verses in the Exodus-6 genealogy to show that it went beyond four generations and
included a fifth and sixth.
Exodus 6:23 Aaron married Elisheba, daughter of Amminadab and sister of Nahshon, and
she bore him Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar.... 25 Aaron's son Eleazar married one of
the daughters of Putiel, and she bore him Phinehas.
That Phinehas was born at least during the wilderness years and at sometime fairly early in
those years must be conceded, because Numbers 25 depicts him as carrying out the execution
of a couple who had participated in the orgy at Peor.
6 Just then one of the Israelites came and brought a Midianite woman into his family, in the
sight of Moses and in the sight of the whole congregation of the Israelites, while they were
weeping at the entrance of the tent of meeting. 7 When Phinehas son of Eleazar, son of
Aaron the priest, saw it, he got up and left the congregation. Taking a spear in his hand, 8 he
went after the Israelite man into the tent, and pierced the two of them, the Israelite and the
woman, through the belly. So the plague was stopped among the people of Israel. 9
Nevertheless those that died by the plague were twenty-four thousand. 10 Yahweh spoke to
Moses, saying: 11 "Phinehas son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the priest, has turned back my
wrath from the Israelites by manifesting such zeal among them on my behalf that in my
jealousy I did not consume the Israelites.
Later Phinehas is mentioned several times in the book of Joshua during the conquest years
(22:13; 22:30-32; and 24:33). The last citation is the final verse in the book of Joshua, so
Phinehas was alive at the close of this book, which is followed by the book of Judges. Biblical
chronologists have noted chronological references in Judges that span a total of 410 years, but
since this figure is difficult to reconcile with other biblical passages, some chronologists have
manipulated the numbers to reduce the time span of the judges to 280 years (Eerdmans Bible
Dictionary, 1987, p. 610). Even this lower estimate, however, is hard to reconcile with the
reference to Phinehas at the end of the book of Judges.
Judges 20:27 And the Israelites inquired of Yahweh (for the ark of the covenant of God was
there in those days, 28 and Phinehas son of Eleazar, son of Aaron, ministered before it in
those days)....
So even if we take the lower estimate, which was arrived at in order to try to eliminate
inconsistency from the Bible, we still have a chronological problem, because Phinehas, who
was alive during the wilderness years and all through the conquest of Canaan, was still alive
and kicking at the end of the 280, and probably even more, years of the era of the Judges. This
would have made him well over 300 years old. Hence, we can see that biblical chronology is
so confused in places that neither Finley nor anyone else can base a credible "explanation" of
the 430-year problem of Exodus 12:40 on what other biblical genealogies say. In other words,
Finley's let-scripture-interpret-scripture theory is fundamentally unsound.
Finley:
Let us consider then Mr. Till’s earlier point. He queries, “How reasonable is it to believe that
only three generations…would have been born during the 430 year sojourn in Egypt? That’s
not very likely,” he says. I couldn’t agree more. But I think that’s the point, isn’t it? We are
not told how many literal generations there were in those 430 years but what we are told, let
us seek to know the Bible is intended to teach us reliable truths.
Till:
I think that Finley must have left a word or expression out of his final sentence, so I am not
really sure of what he was trying to say, but if he meant that we can determine that the
generations in Exodus 6 were not literal, I will just refer readers to what I said above, which
clearly kicks the props out from under his skipped-generation "explanation." As for his plea
for us "to know the Bible is intended to teach us realiable truths," I will simply say that it may
have been the intention of the biblical writers to do this, but we have seen in the case of the
430-year problem that, if reliability was their aim, they didn't succeed. I could also point out
other discrepancies in the Bible, but if Finley will read the TSR website, he should see that
reliability in the Bible is just a pipedream.
Finley:
In conclusion, let me tie this last point back to the first one made. The Bible is real. It’s made
of the stuff of earth. It has two authors, the Spirit of God and the men he inspired to pen his
history of redemption.
Till:
Members of the ii-errancy forum have seen that Finley's stocks in trade are logical fallacies
like begging the question, special pleading, and argumentation by assertion. We see in his
statement above that he is at it again. Does he seriously expect us to accept on nothing but his
assertion that "the Spirit of God" is one of the authors of the Bible? If so, I have news for him.
The readers of this website are a bit more critical in their thinking than that.
Finley:
The Bible is an organic, living Word.
Till:
This is more argumentation by assertion, so all I need to say here is that we would like very
much to see Finley prove this assertion.
Finley:
One author (Moses) will not contradict another (Ruth’s author).
Till:
This too is argumentation by assertion, and I have shown above that this assertion is clearly
not true. Furthermore, if Finley would care to affirm in a written debate that "Moses" was the
author of the Pentateuch, I would be glad to oppose him.
Finley:
Why? Because both have the same General Editor: God. This is where the Christian begins,
he comes with a bias—he is predisposed to trust God. Mr. Till however, is not predisposed to
trust but assumes incredulity—this is his bias. He seeks to disprove while the child of God
seeks to learn from his Father.
Till:
I lumped everything together in the paragraph above, because it consists of nothing more than
sermonizing filled with the usual fallacies that I identified above. I have learned from Mr.
Finley's participation in the ii_errancy forum that he can hardly write a sentence without
engaging in question begging, special pleading, or argumentation by assertion.
Finley:
As was discussed earlier, there is the analogy of Scripture. One portion of Scripture will not
contradict but will either support or elaborate on a matter.
Till:
I have explained above why this is an unsound principle of literary interpretation, so there is
no need for me to rehash a rebuttal of it here. Mr. Finley needs to learn that sermonizing just
won't work on critical thinkers. In my 12 years as a fundamentalist preacher and foreign
missionary, I preached quite a few sermons myself in which I said some of the same things he
is saying. If I rejected such thinking as that, what makes him think that I will be persuaded if
he just runs it by me again.
Finley:
Mr. Till wants to approach the Bible prima facie and so do we.
Till:
I saw nothing in Mr. Finley's "rebuttal" to indicate that he has this desire, because the facevalue language of the Exodus-6 genealogy and Exodus 12:40, if accepted for what they say,
would force Finley to admit that there is a chronological discrepancy here.
Finley:
If the Bible is understood at one point to be saying that there were four generations between
Levi and Moses, we must believe so unless there is evidence to do otherwise.
Till:
And as I have shown above, there is no evidence that the author of Exodus 6 meant for his
readers to think that there were more than four generations from Levi to Moses.
Finley:
Rather than assume the Bible’s proclivity for error, Christians understand that if there is
something amiss it is the interpreter, not the document.
Till:
Ah, yes, Finley is now parroting that old saw that we have heard from biblicists more times
than I could possibly estimate: If the Bible seems to contradict itself, one should understand
that this is only an apparent contradiction, which has an explanation. Well, we have seen that
if there is an explanation for the 430-year problem, we will have to look elsewhere than in
Finley's article to find it.
Finley:
So one must consider the story. Exodus records only four men from Canaan to Egypt (prima
facie, there are four generations only) but that the duration of captivity was 430 years. This
gives the reader pause. What does this mean? Is there a discrepancy? Perhaps.
Till:
No perhaps about it. I have shown through detailed textual analyses that this is clearly a
discrepancy. Analyses of extrabiblical evidence also show that writers such as Josephus, Philo
Judaeus, and the unknown author of Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs also believed that
there had been only four generations from Canaan to the exodus.
Finley:
But again, the Bible student will begin by trusting his author and will suppose the kink will
work itself out through prayerful study. We have seen that there is an alternate solution to
errancy. Ruth records as does the Chronicler various genealogies that run against the grain of
literal father to son ratios.
Till:
I showed above that the chronicler's sense of chronology was completely out of step with the
chronology presented in the Hexateuch, and I showed that there is no reason to think that the
author of Ruth was any more familiar with Hexateuchal chronology than was the chronicle
writer.
Finley:
Listen to Eugene Merrill on this matter.
Till:
Before we look at the quotation from Eugene Merrill's book, I will inform readers that Merrill
is a professor of "Old Testament studies" at Dallas Theological Seminary, a Southern Baptist
organization. He received his B. A., M. A., and Ph, D.--all three--from Bob Jones University.
That within itself speaks volumes about the probable fundamentalist mindset of Merrill. That
he is a confirmed biblical inerrantist is evident from the mission statement of DTS.
Dallas Seminary stands unequivocally committed to God’s inerrant Scriptures. Members of
the school’s boards and faculty subscribe to the Seminary’s Doctrinal Statement, which
safeguards the school’s unswerving theological stance.
The Seminary’s commitment to the Scriptures leads to a system of doctrine in which the great
fundamentals of the Christian faith are affirmed and expounded. The doctrines of evangelical
orthodoxy are taught in the framework of premillennial, dispensational theology, derived
from a consistent grammatical-historical interpretation of the Bible. Those truths include
such essentials as the authority and inerrancy of Scripture, the Trinity, the full deity and
humanity of Christ, the spiritual lostness of the human race, the substitutionary atonement
and bodily resurrection of Christ, salvation by faith alone in Christ alone, and the physical
return of Christ.
Doctrinal statement, underlined in the quotation above is a link to a lengthy, detailed doctrinal
statement on 21 articles of faith, ranging from the inspiration of the Bible to the second
coming of Christ and the eternal state of the "saved." I will quote only Article I, which
pertains to DTS's view of inspiration that clearly presents a belief in the verbal inspiration and
inerrancy of the Bible.
We believe that all “Scripture is given by inspiration of God,” by which we understand the
whole Bible is inspired in the sense that holy men of God “were moved by the Holy Spirit” to
write the very words of Scripture. We believe that this divine inspiration extends equally and
fully to all parts of the writings—historical, poetical, doctrinal, and prophetical—as appeared
in the original manuscripts. We believe that the whole Bible in the originals is therefore
without error. We believe that all the Scriptures center about the Lord Jesus Christ in His
person and work in His first and second coming, and hence that no portion, even of the Old
Testament, is properly read, or understood, until it leads to Him. We also believe that all the
Scriptures were designed for our practical instruction (Mark 12:26, 36; 13:11; Luke 24:27,
44; John 5:39; Acts 1:16; 17:2–3; 18:28; 26:22–23; 28:23; Rom. 15:4; 1 Cor. 2:13; 10:11; 2
Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:21).
These quotations show to any reasonable person that we could not expect Merrill to express
any view of the Bible that would conflict with the doctrinal statements of DTS. To do so
would put his job in jeopardy, because an employment statement on the website states that
DTS employs "men and women who show evidence that they are born again, are of proven
Christian character, endowed with appropriate spiritual gifts, and adhere to the basic doctrines
of Christian faith." I seriously doubt that the seminary would consider Merrill an adherent of
"the basic doctrines of Christian faith" if he should express the view that the Bible may be
errant. In other words, Merrill is a hired gun for the verbal, inerrant view of the Bible, so no
reasonable person could expect him to say anything that would conflict with that view. By
working for an institution like this, Merrill surrendered his objectivity, so anything that he
says about the Bible should be viewed accordingly.
I have taken the time to post all of this information so that readers can see that Finley's source
would be very unlikely to express an objective view of the Bible that was not in agreement
with what his employer demands of him. Here now is Finely's quotation from Merrill's book
Citing Kenneth Kitchen, he says, “the structure of Exodus 6.16-20 reflects not immediately
successive generations, but tribe (Levi), clan (Kohath), family (Amram), and individual
(Moses). A parallel structure is found in Joshua 7.16-18, where tribe (Judah), clan (Zerah),
family (Zimri) and individual appear” (Kingdom of Priests, 77).
Till:
That a clan was intended in Joshua 7 is evident from the author's specific identification of it as
"the family of the Zerahites."
Joshua 6:16 So Joshua rose early in the morning, and brought Israel near tribe by tribe, and
the tribe of Judah was taken. 17 He brought near the clans of Judah, and the clan of
the Zerahites was taken; and he brought near the clan of the Zerahites, family by family, and
Zabdi was taken.
This isn't even close to being "parallel" to Exodus 6. Here the writer clearly spoke of clans
and families, but Exodus 6 speaks of individuals who begot individuals. Levi begot Kohath,
Kohath begot Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel, etc. Although not a rank inerrantist like
Finley and Merrill, Kenneth Kitchen will defend the Bible whenever he sees a "possible" way
to do so. His comments, then, should also be evaluated accordingly. Finley proves nothing by
quoting such writers. Whatever belief one may want to defend, he will have no trouble finding
authors who agree with it. Would Finley say, "Well, I must be wrong," if I should quote
authors who agree that Aaron and Moses were the literal grandsons of Kohath? Well, come to
think of it, I have already quoted three ancient Jewish sources who agreed with me on this,
and what was Finley's reaction? As we will see below, he said that they had "misunderstood"
the genealogy. Why then should he expect us to swoon when he quotes a Bible professor
from, of all places, Dallas Theological Seminary?
Finley:
He says that this may mean that Moses was not Amram immediately.
Till:
I assume that Finley meant to say that Kitchen said that Moses may not have been Amram's
immediate son.
Finley:
This is exactly Mr. Till's contention: Moses must be Amram's immediate descendent.
Till:
No, that is not my contention. That is a conclusion necessitated by the various biblical and
extrabiblical passages that I have quoted and analyzed. I am sure that readers saw that Finley
made very little effort to rebut those analyses.
Finley:
A word must be said here to address Mr. Till's use of Josephus and others to support a literal
succession of father to son. While it may be true that Josephus understands Moses to present
his material thus; and while it may be true that Josephus was millennia ahead of us to his
source allowing him to have a more correct view, this does not necessitate that Josephus' view
is itself valid.
Till:
So that there will be no misunderstanding of what Finley is saying, I will put it more directly.
He is saying that Josephus's view was wrong but his is right. This is just another example of
fundamentalist arrogance.
Finley:
What I am saying is this. Josephus misunderstood the text just as this article is arguing for Mr.
Till's misunderstanding.
Till:
I could put a link here to where I quoted Josephus, but, instead, I will quote it again for the
readers' convenience. Since I also quoted Philo Judaeus as evidence that those who grew up in
Jewish culture in biblical times understood that Moses and Aaron were the literal grandsons
of Kohath, I will also quote that part too.
Philo Judaeus said this about Amram's wife.
"For there was," says the same historian, "a man of the tribe of Levi, named Amram, who
took to wife one of the daughters of Levi, and had her, and she conceived and brought forth a
male child; and seeing that he was a goodly child they concealed him for three months." This
is Moses..." (The Works of Philo, Hendrickson Publishers, 1993, p. 316).
Philo didn't identify Amram's wife by name but only referred to her as a "daughter of Levi,"
so inerrantists may quibble that this leaves room for her to be a daughter of Levi only in the
sense that she was a "descendant" of Levi. However, I have already given sufficient evidence
that the writer of Exodus 6 was speaking literally in his usage of the word "sons," so if
Amram was a son of Kohath (who was Levi's son), and if Amram married "his father's sister,"
then Amram married his grandfather Levi's daughter. And that is exactly what the writer of
Numbers 26:59 said: "The name of Amram's wife was Jochebed, the daughter of Levi, who
was born to him in Egypt." And that is exactly what Levi's testament in T12P says: "And
Jochebed was born in my sixty-fourth year in Egypt."
In Antiquities of the Jews, however, Josephus was more specific and said that Jochebed was
Amram's wife (2:9.4, verse 217) and went on to describe how she and Amram built an ark of
bulrushes in order to thwart pharaoh's decree to kill all Hebrew male children. This, of
course, is a familiar story about Moses that is known even to people whose biblical studies
never went beyond Sunday school. Hence, the evidence, both biblical and nonbiblical,
supports my argument that the writer of Exodus 6 was using literal language to describe the
relationships of the people listed in the genealogy.
Further extrabiblical evidence to support the generation-by-generation view of the genealogy
can be found in Philo and Josephus. Before we look at it, let's notice first that the Bible
clearly teaches that Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob, and Jacob begot Levi, and I
don't think that any inerrantist would seriously try to dispute that there were just four
generations from Abraham to Levi. Therefore, if Levi literally begot Kohath, and Kohath
literally begot Amram, and Amram literally begot Aaron and Moses, there would have been
just seven generations from Abraham to Aaron and Moses. These would be (1) Abraham, (2)
Isaac, (3) Jacob, (4) Levi, (5) Kohath, (6) Amram, and (7) Aaron and Moses. In his account
of the birth of Moses, Josephus said, "(F)or Abraham was his [Moses'] ancestor of
the seventh generation, for Moses was the son of Amram, who was the son of Caath
[Kohath], whose father, Levi, was the son of Jacob, who was the son of Isaac, who was the
son of Abraham" ( Antiquities, 2:9.6, verse 229). The fact that Josephus said that Abraham
was Moses' ancestor of the "seventh" generation clearly shows that he was using the
word son in its strictest sense as he went on to say who was the son of whom in these seven
generations.
On the subject of Moses' descent from Abraham, Philo said, "(A)nd Moses is
the seventh generation in succession from the original settler [Abraham] in the country who
was the founder of the whole race of the Jews: ("On the Life of Moses," The Works of
Philo, Hendrickson Publishers, 1993, section II, verse 7, p. 459).
So two major Jewish writers both understood that there had been only seven generations from
Abraham to Moses, and Philo even specified that these were seven generations "in
succession." Seven generations in succession would not allow for any "skipped generations"
in the Exodus-6 genealogy. Josephus even listed all seven names after saying that Abraham
was Moses' ancestor "of the seventh generation." When trying to explain biblical
discrepancies, some inerrantists will talk a great deal about the need to understand Hebrew
culture. It will be interesting, then, to see what these Hebrew-culture advocates will resort to
in order to dance around the obvious fact that two well known Jewish writers, who were
about 2,000 years closer to the time of the exodus than they are, understood that Moses was
the seventh generation in succession from Abraham. Surely, they will not claim that Philo
and Josephus just didn't understand Hebrew culture.
Well, I was obviously wrong, because Finley did claim that Josephus just didn't understand
the Exodus-6 genealogy. What about Philo Judaeus? Finley didn't say anything about Philo's
saying that Moses was the seventh generation in succession from Abraham, so did Philo
misunderstand the genealogy too? I suppose that Finley skipped over this quotation from
Philo because he thought maybe it would be too much for readers to swallow if he said that
Philo had also misunderstood the genealogy.
Finley also skipped over the quotation from Levi's testament, which I quoted from The
Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs.
I was twenty-eight when I took a wife; her name was Melcha. She conceived and gave birth to
a son, and I gave him the name Gersom, because we were sojourners in the land. And I saw
that, as concerns him, he would not be in the first rank. And Kohath was born in the thirtyfifth year of my life, before sunrise. And in a vision I saw him standing in the heights, in the
midst of the congregation. That is why I called him Kohath, that is the Ruler of Majesty and
Reconciliation. And she bore me a third son, Merari, in the fortieth year of my life, and since
his mother bore him with great pain, I called him Merari; that is bitterness. Jochebed was
born in Egypt in the sixty-fourth year of my life, for by that time I had a great reputation in
the midst of my brothers.
And Gersom took a wife who bore him Lomni and Semei. The sons of Kohath were Amram,
Isaachar, Hebron, Ozeel. And the sons of Merari were Mooli and Moses. And in my ninetyfourth year Amram took Jochebed my daughter, as his wife, because he and my daughter
had been born on the same day... (quoted from The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, editor
James H. Charlesworth, vol. 1, Doubleday, p. 792).
So what is Finley going to say about this? Is he going to say that Josephus, Philo, and the
author of this extrabiblical document all misunderstood the Exodus 6 genealogy, even though
they grew up in ancient Jewish societies, whereas Finley is over 20 centuries removed from
that time and grew up in a non-Jewish culture? There just isn't anything to equal the arrogance
of biblical fundamentalism, is there?
Finley:
The Bible is not mere history.
Till:
No, it isn't. A lot of it is fiction. This has become a prevailing view in mainstream biblical
scholarship and even in orthodox Judaism too, but someone who wraps himself in biblical
fundamentalism, as Finley apparently does, would be unware of that.
Finley:
It is theology that happens in history and those who record for us the intent of history are free
to arrange the data in order to make the desired point.
Till:
That isn't what the doctrinal statement of Dallas Theological Seminary says. As noted above,
this statement claims that "holy men of God 'were moved by the Holy Spirit' to write the very
words of Scripture," so that would take away the freedom of the writers to arrange the data
in order to make the desired point, or does Finley expect us to accept what Merrill says when
it agrees with him but reject it when it disagrees with him?
Finley:
Don't choke on your cookies, now. This is reflected in critical scholarship of the Gospels as
well (which are able to withstand their critics as well).
Till:
Finley has stated a view of the gospels that even fundamentalists will take when they are
confronted with inconsistencies. When that happens, they will say, "Well, Matthew chose to
report thus and so, but Mark (or Luke or John) didn't find this within his purpose." It is a view
completely inconsistent with DTS's claim that "holy men of God 'were moved by the Holy
Spirit' to write the very words of Scripture," so the view that an inerrantist will take of the
process of inspiration depends on what situation he is facing. If there is no discrepancy to
defend, he will claim that the Bible is the verbally inspired word of God, but if there are
discrepancies to "explain," he will claim that the variations resulted from individual choices
the writers made.
Finley:
One must understand that each writer is writing for his agenda and his writing style and
purpose is going to differ from another's.
Till:
If the DTS doctrinal statement is true, then the biblical writers could have had no agendas or
purposes. They would have written as they were "moved by the Holy Spirit to write the very
words of God." Perhaps it is time to ask Finley a question.
Does the Bible contain the very words of God?
Finley:
This should not be surprising.
Till:
It isn't surprising, and I fully agree that different writers will have different agendas, styles,
and purposes, but I have this view because I don't think that the Bible was in any sense
inspired of God. One who thinks that it was verbally inspired of God is being inconsistent
when he talks about agendas, styles, and purposes that the biblical writers had, because verbal
inspiration wouldn't allow writers to have agendas and purposes.
Finley:
The problem is when a foreign matrix is imposed on said author saying in effect, "This is how
you must write."
Till:
The doctrine of verbal inspiration as presented in the DTS mission statement requires an
adherent of this theory to think that biblical writers wrote the very words of God as they were
"moved by the Holy Spirit." That doctrine would necessarily preclude all the freedom that
Finley is trying to give the writers, because a writer being "moved by the Holy Spirit" would
follow the Spirit's agenda and purposes and not his own. If not, why not?
Finley:
If this is problematic for the outsider it is no surprise. Paul tells us that those who are
perishing consider the things of God (primarily the Cross of Christ) as sheer inanity.
Till:
It is sheer inanity, and I defy Finley to make any logical sense out of it.
At any rate, all we are seeing from Finley now is sermonizing that is laced with the usual
fallacies of question begging, special pleading, and argumentation by assertion. Why should I,
for example, give a hoot what the apostle Paul said? When Finley proves to me that the Bible
is the inspired, inerrant word of God, I assure him that I will perk up and take due notice of
not just what Paul said but what all other biblical writers said. Until then, I hope he will spare
us the inane semonizing.
Finley:
Mr. Till would have his readers believe that it is the other way around.
Till:
If Finley cares to debate the issue, I will gladly show him through a process of logical
argumentation that the so-called "gospel" is really nothing but sheer inanity.
Finley:
We unfortunate, sightless, silly Christians are to be pitied for swallowing the greatest bait and
switch.
Till:
Well, Finley said it; I didn't. He has no idea how much I pity his religious ignorance.
Finley:
I beg to differ.
Till:
I'm surprised. I thought that Finley would be in complete agreement.
Finley:
There is the great Fisherman who called his followers to fish as well—fish for the soul’s of
men. My prayer for Mr. Till is that he will switch his own bait and begin here.
Till
More inane, boring sermonizing. Finley must make about the 10 thousandth Christian who
has said that he is praying for me. I wonder why the prayers aren't working.
Finley:
We have sufficiently displayed the error of this one point he has made.
Till:
"We" have? Where?
Finley:
He has more. Of that I am sure.
Till:
Finley had better believe I have more. I have enough to bury him under a mountain of biblical
discrepancies that would take him a lifetime of rationalization to try to explain.
Finley:
But I am confident of this as well, not that I will merit a gold medal in hermeneutical
gymnastics,
Till:
No, he won't.
Finley:
but that the God of all truth will be able to sustain whatever else may come his way. Amen.
Till:
Then let's see the "God of all truth" get busy and lead Finley to answer the slamming that I
gave him in this reply. May the "God of all truth" not skip the hard stuff this time.
Finley:
Should anyone wish to correspond with me on this matter, I am more than willing to dialogue
providing the tone is respectful and with deference.
Till:
Should Finley wish to reply to my rebuttal points above, I will be more than willing to reply
to him again if he makes a serious attempt to answer all of my points, and I won't really
care what his tone is.
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About this capture
The Land That Till Forgot
by David Sparrow
[Editor's Note: The article below was submitted by David Sparrow, an Australian with weird
religious beliefs whom I debated on the old alt.bible.errancy forum in 1999 and 2000. The
issue was the 430-year problem, which I have explicated throughly here in the four-part
series that began with "How Long Were the Children of Israel in Egypt?" Those who have
already read this series will remember, as they go through Sparrow's article below, that his
attempt to limit the Israelite sojourn in Egypt to just 215 years was soundly rebutted in "The
210-Year Solution." I could just tell the readers here to click this link and read my rebuttal
after they have gone through Sparrow's article, but this fellow has an attitude about him that
makes me want to humiliate him further than he was embarrassed in our debates at
alt.bible.errancy. Those who have the time and the patience to work their way through my
previous exchanges with Sparrow can access them here. This link will take you to posts that
began on March 30, 1999. Just start reading here and work your way through the posts that
Sparrow and I exchanged, and you will see that his article below does nothing but recycle
quibbles that were patently refuted over five years ago. I will, in fact, be cutting and pasting
parts of my posts into my rebuttal of Sparrow's article to show that what he is now trying to
present as a "solution" to the 430-year problem was rebutted long ago.
On the alt.bible.errancy forum, Sparrow had a habit of disappearing when he found himself
in jams that he couldn't get out of. He is back again, so apparently he didn't learn anything.]
Farrell Till is the editor of The Skeptical Review, a magazine devoted to the so called
“Inerrantist debate”. He was born April 26 1933, and was apparently brought up within the
American "Church of Christ" framework, where he became not only a
preacher/pastor/minister after attending some form of bible schooling, but also an overseas
missionary to France.
After allegedly abandoning "the faith", he swapped his pulpits for lecterns and taught English
literature under the umbrella of the American education system,which he continued with until
retirement. He currently claims to be "an atheist", and can be found to this day (mid 2003,
anyway) still arguing his point of view on things "biblical" in not only online mailing lists like
[email protected] and [email protected], but also in public debates. Transcripts of
some are posted here.
For information on the American "Church of Christ" and an insight in to the kinds of
doctrines, dogmas, and methods of translation and interpretation that Till was brought up in
click here.
Who is derspatz? Nobody really - I am 33 years sans 13 days Till's junior, I have never been
to "bible school", nor been a "Pastor" or a "foreign missionary". I am a believer in Yeshua Ha
Mashaiach (Jesus the Messiah), truth-seeker, and empiricist who happens to think that the
issues that Till raise, are merely the "same old stuff doing the rounds, and all of it adequately
dealt with before I was born". A most subjective POV [point of view]I realise, but I trust this
response will further demonstrate the truth of it, for in fact I am basically presenting a
response here that Not Only precedes my birth, But Also Till's by thousands of years for that
matter.
The essence of this debate that I am responding to is in relation to a view that the Old
Testament claims that the children of Israel spent 430 years in Egypt. As Till conclusively
shows in this series of posting to the Errancy List, this claim is contradicted by evidence from
the genealogical listings found in the Old Testament. From here-on Till’s words shall be in
italics and prefixed with Till and mine in standard text and prefixed with Derspatz.
Derspatz:
The Old Testament actually indicates a period of 430 years that the descendants of Abraham
were to spend sojourning in land that was not to be taken ownership of by them until certain
things had come to pass. In this document, Till has provided a reasonable but not conclusive
study into particular ways of deciphering a genealogical record but by the same token has
omitted much to achieve his goal.
For the sake of the argument, and there are at least three schools of thought on this matter but
I am not too interested in presenting them all at this time, I will be mostly assuming that Till
is correct in his appraisal of the genealogical record, even though there are many who do not
share that view.
I am taking this view because the issue raised need not rest on the genealogical record as
such.
The issue can be solved by the introduction of a single name to the Exodus 12:40 reference
that Till is using as the measuring stick to compare his genealogical argument against, which
But OF Course "doesn't match", hence his insistence of an error.
It will be shown that it is no error that some translations omit the name, and others include it
(including Josephus), for regardless of the presence of that name, it will be shown that it is
implied anyway, and thus somewhat redundant.
The name is Canaan, which for much of the time in question, had large portions of it under
direct Egyptian control and could be deemed to be part of Egypt. Incidentally, “Egypt” means
“two lands”.
Till:
Because the Exodus-6 genealogy lists only four generations from Levi to Aaron and Moses,
this presents several problems for inerrantists.
Derspatz:
Firstly, Till hardly needed the reference about alleged or so called "inerrantists" here (Who
are these people? What does Till precisely mean by the term? Is my understanding of it the
same as his, or the same as yours?) I bring this up now, for as you are about to see, Till's
"Uzziel" document, and indeed virtually all of his subsequent articles in TSR, is liberally
sprinkled/coloured with such loaded yet ill/undefined references that have little to do with
either honest study, truth seeking or apologetic work at the end of the day.
Till:
First, Exodus 12:40 states that the Israelites sojourned in Egypt 430 years.
Derspatz:
Some translations do state that (while implying more, but Till no where includes this in his
document), and others state that the sojourning was 430 years "in Egypt and Canaan". Till
has failed to bring this fact to the attention of the casual reader, and you will also find that
although he will use the non-biblical resource known as Josephus further on in his argument,
he will fail to make it known to the reader that even Josephus indicates that the 430 years of
sojourning was in Egypt and Canaan.
For example, I shall quote Josephus in his Antiquities of the Jews, Bk 2, Ch 15 VS 2) or Jos
2:15:2 if you prefer, which reads:
They [the Israelites] left Egypt in the month of Xanthiens, on the fifteenth day of the lunar
month; four hundred and thirty years after our forefather Abraham came into Canaan, but
two hundred and fifteen years only after Jacob removed into Egypt.
The Septuagint (LXX) and Samaritan Pentateuch also reflect the "Egypt and Canaan" direct
reference, which I will show further along in this response is implied in the Masoretic text
anyway.
Thus already Till's argument is proved to be in vain, and his very measuring stick has been
mis-represented [sic] to his audience.
Based on Till's own method of arguing demonstrated here, I would be justified in going no
further but I must admit to do that would make me just as careless if not dishonest as he in
regards to failing to bring other relevant references and resources I am aware of, to the
attention of the reader.
These references that Till has omitted along with the "other translations" and "Josephus"
references I've just pulled him up on, include Genesis 15, Numbers 3, Galatians 3, Acts 7.
None of which you will find Till making any inclusion of or reference to in this document of
his I am responding to.
This is behaviour that could be deemed understandable of someone with little knowledge of
things "biblical", but most questionable of someone of Till's claimed learning and experience.
What then is his real aim and desire?
Till:
Since Levi was one of Jacob's sons who accompanied him into Egypt (Gen. 46:11) and since
Levi's sons Gershon, Kohath, and Merari had already been born at this time and also were in
the group that went with Jacob into Egypt (Gen. 46:11), it is inconceivable that in the space of
over 400 years just two more generations would have been born in the Levitical branch that
Aaron and Moses were born into, yet this is what Exodus 6:18-20 states:
Derspatz:
It has already been shown that it is but 215 years that has to be accounted for in "Egypt"
which most indicate should be counted from the time Jacob arrived (some say Joseph), until
the time of the Exodus when Moses was about 80 years old. One need not wonder too much at
the generations required to be born in this period, nor should the word "inconceivable" spring
to mind either in light of the Exodus 6 references that Till provides us and his following
commentary.
Till:
Exodus 6:18 The sons of Kohath: Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel, and the length of
Kohath's life was one hundred thirty-three years. 19 The sons of Merari: Mahli and Mushi.
These are the families of the Levites according to their genealogies. 20 Amram married
Jochebed his father's sister and she bore him Aaron and Moses, and the length of Amram's
life was one hundred thirty-seven years.
Notice that Kohath lived to be 133 (v:18) and that his son Amram (the father of Aaron and
Moses) lived to be 137. If we assume that Kohath was just an infant in his mother's arms
when the Jacobites went into Egypt and if we assume that in the final year of his life, he sired
Amram, and then if we assume that Amram sired Moses the last year of his life, this
genealogy would allow for an Egyptian bondage of only 350 years. This number is arrived at
by adding 133 (the maximum period of time that Kohath could have spent in Egypt) to 137
(the length of his son Amram's life) to 80, the age of Moses at the time of the exodus: "And
Moses was eighty years old and Aaron 83 years old when they spoke to Pharaoh" (Ex.7:7).
Derspatz:
Well Till's three "if we assume" this and thats, have amply demonstrated far more than 215
years time required, so I don't need to add much to this other than to point out that although
the accounts indicate that Moses was born to the fourth generation of Abraham's descendants
to leave Canaan for Goshen (Jacob, Levi, Kohath, Amram), other families seemed to have
managed more generations in the same time period (eg, research 1 Chronicles), with even
Joseph who died at the age of 110, living long enough to see the third generation of Ephraim's
(his own son) sons, as per Genesis 50:22-24.
Till:
To circumvent this problem, inerrantists will argue that the genealogy of Exodus 6 is not
complete, that the writer skipped some generations.
Derspatz:
Uh, what problem? What precisely does Till regard to be an "inerrantist" again? However yes,
there are those who do consider there to be some skipped generations (a practice not
uncommon in such ancient accounts, as even Till would acknowledge--not for this particular
instance though).
As already indicated at the beginning of this response, I am not interested, nor [sic] deem it
needful, to either pursue or explore the notion of "skipped" or "missing" generations to handle
this tired old quibble of Till's.
Till:
Thus, Moses and Aaron weren't necessarily the sons of Amram but could have been his
grandsons or even his great-grandsons. They argue this despite the fact that Exodus
6:20 clearly says that "Amram married Jochebed his father's sister and she bore him Aaron
and Moses." The father-son relationship of Amram and Aaron and Moses was also claimed
in Numbers 26:59, "The name of Amram's wife was Jochebed daughter of Levi, who was
born to Levi in Egypt; and she bore to Amram: Aaron, Moses, and their sister Miriam." So
two separate biblical passages clearly state that Amram's wife Jochebed bore to him Aaron
and Moses, but when inerrantists are in trouble they never let plain language bother them. In
this case, they will still insist that the language of these passages was not intended to be
understood but that Aaron and Moses were merely descendants of Amram. They have to do
this to keep from admitting that the Bible made chronological errors.
Derspatz:
Remembering that for the sake of the argument that I am agreeing with Till's view of the
genealogy, I can but only indicate that his commentary in that regard is accurate but
somewhat spoiled by the totally unnecessary ad hominem laden assumptions about alleged
"inerrantists".
Till:
In this series of postings, which will consist of six or maybe even more rather long analyses of
biblical and extra biblical texts, I will establish that both biblical and extra biblical writers
understood that the relationships expressed in Exodus 6 were literal family relationships.
Thus, to these writers, Levi was literally the father of Kohath, Kohath was literally the father
of Amram, and Amram was literally the father of Aaron and Moses. In order to do this, I will
be focusing on one of the least prominent names in the genealogy quoted above. Exodus
6:18 states that the sons of Kohath were "Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel." Now if this
genealogy was a literal, generation-by-generation genealogy, that would mean that the person
named Uzziel in verse 18, who was listed with Amram, Izhar, and Hebron as "sons of
Kohath," would have been the uncle of Aaron. That would be necessarily true if Izhar,
Hebron, and Uzziel were the brothers of Amram, for if all four of these were literally the sons
of Kohath, then Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel would have been uncles to any children that
Amram produced.
Derspatz:
This may be true of Exodus 6 (not that it matters for the sake of this response), but not always
true of all recordings of genealogies. There is plenty of Online resources out there that deal
with all aspects and POV of this topic, of which I will provide ample links at the close of this
response, to assist in further "truth seeking" for those interested.
Till:
The intent of this series of postings will be to establish that biblical and extra biblical writers
did understand that Uzziel was the uncle of Aaron. Once this is established, it will be hard for
inerrantists to argue that generations were skipped in the Exodus-6 genealogy. I will warn the
readers in advance that establishing Uzziel's relationship to Aaron will require some rather
tedious genealogical analysis. Some people skip over all of the "begats" when they come to
genealogies in the Bible, but I find them to be a storehouse of useful information that often
spells big trouble for the Biblical inerrancy doctrine.
Derspatz:
Sorry, but I am going to include all of Till's original postings on this subject in my response,
lest he make the claim at a later date that I snipped portions of his efforts that I should not
have. Most of the following will not require much in the way of comment, other than to pull
him up on all his little ridicules. Something I would like to comment on from the preceding is
in regard to what he has called "the Biblical inerrancy doctrine".
What is this "Biblical inerrancy doctrine" exactly? Sure, we can come up with quite an array
of notions as to what Till might be meaning by this and we can scoop portions out of various
denominational "creeds" and the like and get a fascinating and sometimes quite conflicting
collection of declarations and stances on not only what "inerrancy" is but also what the very
"bible" is. Till makes it appear that there is some consensually agreed upon, conclusively
presented/supported/declared by the very "word" itself, position on "inerrancy" of the same
that can be presented as a doctrine by every denomination of belief that holds at least the "Old
Testament" as dear.
The truth is that there is no such thing - there isn't even consensual agreement as to what
should be called "bible" and what should not!
So we are left wondering what Till deems this doctrine to be. Considering his "Church of
Christ" origins it seems fair to deem his views to be based upon their dogmas in that regard, in
which case, it also seems reasonable to assume that Till's apparent war against his idea of "the
Biblical inerrancy doctrine" is in fact a war against the Church of Christ more than anything
else. After all, no two denominations seem to tout exactly the same views on what should be
deemed inerrant or infallible for that matter. Thus, I think it important that one should always
keep Till's origins in mind when reviewing his efforts in things "biblical".
Till
Let's look at the relevant parts of the Exodus-6 genealogy. I probably won't get to Uzziel in
this posting, but my analysis will provide a useful background to build on in follow-up
postings on Uzziel that I will send later. Here is the entire genealogy and not just the part that
speaks of Aaron's and Moses' descent from Levi:
These are the heads of their fathers' houses. The sons of Reuben, the firstborn of Israel
[Jacob]: Hanoch, Pallu, Hezron, and Carmi; these are the families of Reuben. And the sons
of Simeon: Jemuel, Jamin, Ohad, Jachin, Zohar, and Shaul, the son of a Canaanite woman;
these are the families of Simeon. And these are the names of the sons of Levi according to
their generations: Gershon, Kohath, and Merari; and the years of the life of Levi were a
hundred and thirty and seven years. The sons of Gershon: Lebni and Shimei, according to
their families. And the sons of Kohath: Amram, Izhar, and Hebron, and Uzziel, and the years
of the life of Kohath were a hundred thirty and three years. And the sons of Merari: Mahli
and Mushi. These are the families of the Levites according to their generations" (verses 1419).
I'll interrupt the text at this point to make some observations and then resume the text later
(probably in a separate posting). My argument is that the writer of this genealogy was giving
what he understood to be a literal father-son genealogy, and the evidence for this is
overwhelming.
In support of this claim, let's notice first that this genealogy is in perfect agreement with the
listings in Genesis 46:8-11, where the sons and grandchildren of Jacob are listed through
Levi's children. Verse 8 says that the sons of Reuben (who is also identified here as "Jacob's
firstborn) were Hanoch, Pallu, Hezron, and Carmi. Compare this to the beginning of the
genealogy quoted above, and you will see that the same names are listed as the "sons" of
Reuben, the firstborn of Israel [Jacob]. Were the writers of these two passages being literal in
their usage of "sons" and "firstborn."
In telling the story of Jacob's marriage to the daughters of Laban (Leah and Rachel), Genesis
29:31-32 says, "And Yahweh saw that Leah was hated, and he opened her womb, but Rachel
was barren. And Leah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Reuben, for she
said, Because Yahweh has looked upon my affliction, for now my husband will love me."
That should be convincing enough inerrantists to agree that the writers of these genealogies
were speaking literally when they said that Reuben was the "firstborn of Jacob" [Israel].
That should be convincing enough inerrantists to agree that the writers of these genealogies
were speaking literally when they said that Reuben was the "firstborn of Jacob" [Israel].
Derspatz:
My turn to "interrupt", merely to point out the bleeding obvious, and that is we are dealing
with translations to English. Word play can only go so far before we are forced to bring out
the study books on the original languages.
Till: But were the genealogists being literal in their usage of the word sons when they said
that the sons of Reuben were Hanoch, Pallu, Hezron, etc. Let's notice what Josephus said
in Antiquities of the Jews, Book 2, Chapter 7, Section 4 when he listed the members of Jacob's
family that went into Egypt. This section in Josephus is parallel to the listings in Genesis 46:
"Now Jacob had twelve sons; of these Joseph was come thither before [meaning that Joseph
had already come into Egypt]. We will therefore set down the names of
Jacob's children and grandchildren."
Let's pause at this point to notice how specific Josephus was. He said that Jacob had
twelve sons, and I assume that inerrantists will not deny that Jacob literally had 12 sons. (The
story of Jacob as related in Genesis makes that too clear to deny.) Furthermore, in the text
quoted above, Josephus wrote not in terms of Jacob's "sons," as did the biblical genealogists,
but he wrote in terms of Jacob's "children" and "grandchildren." Now let's resume reading in
Josephus: "Reuben had four sons--Anolch, Phallu, Assaron, Charmi [the spellings vary
because Josephus wrote in Greek, but anyone can see that they are the same names as the
biblical genealogies used]; Simeon had six--Jamuel, Jamin, Avod, Jachin, Soar, Saul; Levi
had three sons--Gersom, Caath, Merari...." Now since Josephus introduced his list with a very
specific announcement (we will therefore set down the names of
Jacob's children and grandchildren), we must understand that he meant for his readers to
interpret "sons" literally in the above text. Hence, Josephus obviously thought that Gershon
[Gersom], Kohath [Caath], and Merari were literally the sons of Levi. We can make this
determination even more obvious by continuing our reading in Josephus's listing of
Jacob's children and grandchildren: "Judas [Judah] had three sons--Sala [Shelah], Pharez
[Perez], Zerah; and by Phares [Perez] two grandchildren--Esron [Hezron] and Amar
[Hamul]...." So when Josephus came to names on the list that he understood were not literal
children or sons of Jacob, he referred to them with the specific term "grandchildren."
Everything in the biblical text and in Jewish writings point to the obvious fact that Gershon,
Kohath, and Merari were understood to be the literal sons of Levi, who was obviously the
literal son of Jacob (Gen. 29:31). Everything points to the obvious fact that the writer of the
Exodus-6 genealogy intended for his readers to understand that he was speaking literally
when he used the word "sons." A genealogy from Levi through Aaron and Moses is in 1
Chronicles 6:1-3, and it reads exactly as the listings in Exodus 6 and Genesis 46. A
genealogy of Levi through his grandsons is listed in Numbers 3:17-20, and it reads
exactly as the listings in Exodus 6 and Genesis 46. Everywhere the Bible lists the
descendants of Levi, the listings are exactly as they appear in Exodus 6, Genesis 46, and the
work of Josephus.
Derspatz
This is where I am having a chuckle to myself while tut-tutting Till's most selective use of
Josephus. He has made it clear by all this that he is both aware of the ancient works of
Josephus, and able to quote it directly. Now don't you think it strange that in the midst of his
study of the issue, he was able to find that which seems to support his view on "father son
relationships" specific to the genealogy in question, but was unable to provide the Josephus
reference (that I provided towards the beginning of this response) that brings to question his
usage of the "measuring stick" text (Exodus 12:40) that he is seeking to show as errant?
Till:
This posting is long enough, so I will send it now and give inerrantists something to chew on
while I am preparing another posting to continue my analysis of the Exodus-6 genealogy.
Eventually, I will get to the matter of Uzziel and show that biblical writers understood that he
was literally the uncle of Aaron.
Derspatz:
There he goes again...
Till:
The Uncle of Korah: In two earlier postings, I have given very reasonable evidence that
biblical and extra biblical writers considered the Exodus-6 genealogy to be a literal father-son
listing. So far, my analysis has gone through verse 20, so I will now resume with verse 21:
"And the sons of Izhar: Korah, Nepheg and Zichri...." This is an important verse, because
verse 18 said that the sons of Kohath were Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel. (I want
everyone to watch Uzziel, because something very interesting is going to happen with him.)
Now if verse 18 is a literal father-son listing, as I believe the evidence in my other postings
has clearly established, Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel were all brothers, who were the
sons of Kohath.
This is important because most inerrantists who want to claim that generations were skipped
in this genealogy will point to this verse as a likely place where generations were skipped.
Many inerrantists, for example, will take the position that Amram wasn't necessarily the
literal father of Aaron and Moses but only a direct ancestor.
This argument, which flies right in the face of the "face-value language of the text, claims that
Amram's wife Jochebed could have borne Moses and Aaron only in the sense that she was an
ancestor of Aaron and Moses, which, of course, would have made Amram only their ancestor
and not their immediate father. In the first two issues of The Skeptical Review published in
1990, an inerrantist took the position that the Amram of verse 18 (listed as a son of Kohath
and brother of Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel) was not the same Amram of verse 20 listed as the
father of Aaron and Moses. He argued that generations were skipped between these two
Amrams.
Since inerrantists will turn to all sorts of linguistic gymnastics to try to deny that this
genealogy means what it clearly says, it is very important to establish that biblical writers
understood that Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzzie were brothers and that the Amram who was
Kohath's son was the same Amram who was the father of Aaron and Moses.
Derspatz:
"Inerrantists" this, "inerrantists" that ... Till is seeing them everywhere - is everyone who
holds a view that differs from him to be deemed an "inerrantist"? Obviously Till holds the
view that whatever he publishes in his magazine (TSR) is deemed to be inerrant, anyway.
Actually, while I'm on the borderline of ad hominem, I do suggest that the reader peruse not
only some of the online issues of TSR, but also some of the "letters to the editor" (and his
responses to the same) found at the same place. See here, for it does provide quite a journey
into the psyche of the editor.
Till:
So we must notice that the sons of Kohath were Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel (v:18)
and that Izhar had sons named Korah, Nepheg, and Zichri (v:21). Numbers 16 records a
rebellion against the leadership of Moses that was led by a man named Korah, so obviously
biblical writers thought that there was a man named Korah living at the time of Moses. But
was this Korah the same person who was listed in Exodus 6:21 as the son of Izhar, who was
listed in verse 18 as the son of Kohath and brother of Amram? Unfortunately for proponents
of the "skipped-generations" quibble, there is a clear indication that the Korah of Numbers 16
was considered the same Korah. This is how Numbers 16 begins: Now Korah, the son of
Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, with Dathan and Abiram...." And the chapter goes
on to describe the rebellion that Korah led, which angered Yahweh so much that he caused the
ground to open and swallow the rebels alive. Now look at the agreement we have between this
verse and the Exodus-6 genealogy: Exodus 6:16, "These are the names of the sons
of Levi according to their generations: Gershon, Kohath, and Merari...." Exodus 6:18, "And
the sons of Kohath [were] Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel...." Exodus 6:21, "And the
sons of Izhar [were] Korah, Nepheg, and Zichri...." Numbers 16:1, "Now Korah, the son
of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi...."
At face value, the Bible says that Levi had a son named Kohath, who had a son named
Amram, who had a brother named Izhar, who had a son named Korah, and the Bible, at face
value, says that a rebellion against the leadership of Moses was led by a man
named Korah, who was the son of Izhar,.who was the son of Kohath, who was the son of
Levi. Previous postings have included biblical and extra biblical evidence to show to any
reasonable person that both Jewish and biblical writers understood that Levi was the literal
father of Kohath, who was the literal father of Amram, who was the literal father of Aaron
and Moses. Now the information in this posting shows very clearly that biblical writers
understood that the Amram, who was the son of Kohath, had a brother named Izhar, who had
a son named Korah, who led a rebellion against Moses in the wilderness.
Derspatz:
All quite agreeable for the purposes of this response, but a pity he couldn't resist the appeal to
"reasonable person".
Till:
Now will inerrantists on the list please explain to us how this very compelling evidence leaves
any room for skipped generations in the Exodus-6 genealogy? I am by no means finished with
this thread, because I intend to establish that Uzziel was the literal uncle of Aaron.
Derspatz:
Well I'm not sure what an "inerrantist" is, and I know from past experience/dealings that I
certainly don't agree with what Till's idea of what inerrancy is. "Skipped generations" or not,
are quite irrelevant considering that Till's baseline assertion regarding where 430 years were
to be spent sojourning is quite flawed and he hadn't expended any effort in either detailing
that problem, nor trying to explain it - he just has seemed to pretend it wasn't there and that no
one knew any better.
Till:
Extrabiblical Testimony: In my first posting (Uzziel), I analyzed the Exodus-6 genealogy
through verse 19 to show that all of the evidence, both biblical and nonbiblical, indicates that
the writer obviously understood that he was giving a literal father-son genealogy. To continue,
the analysis, let's resume at verse 20: "And Amram [listed in verse 18 as one of the "sons" of
Kohath] took him Jochebed his father's sister to wife, and she bore him Aaron and Moses;
and the years of the life of Amram were a hundred and thirty and seven years."
Now if this is a literal father-son genealogy, Amram would have been a literal son of Kohath,
and the woman he married (Jochebed) would have been Kohath's literal sister. If Jochebed
was Kohath's literal sister, then she would have been a literal daughter of Levi.
Is there any evidence to indicate that biblical writers understood that Jochebed was Levi's
literal daughter? Numbers 26:59 says, "And the name of Amram's wife was Jochebed, the
daughter of Levi, who was born to him in Egypt; and she bore to Amram Aaron and Moses,
and Miriam their sister." A widely recognized principle of both hermeneutics and literary
interpretation states that language is to be interpreted literally unless there are compelling
reasons to assign it figurative meaning. The only reason why anyone would want to assign
figurative meaning to the expression "daughter of Levi" is to avoid a chronological
discrepancy between the Exodus-6 genealogy and the claim that the Israelites sojourned in
Egypt 430 years (Ex. 12:40).
The avoidance of discrepancy, however, is not a compelling reason to interpret a passage
figuratively when the face-value meaning implies literalism, because that becomes an attempt
to prove inerrancy by assuming inerrancy. Inerrantists, nevertheless, will most certainly want
to avoid discrepancy, so we can expect them to argue that Jochebed was a daughter of Levi
only in the sense that she was a descendant of Levi.
To so argue, inerrantists will have to ignore a mountain of evidence. In an apocryphal worked
called Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, each of the sons of Jacob gave their testaments. In
Levi's, he said this in the 11th and 12th chapters:
I was twenty-eight when I took a wife; her name was Melcha. She conceived and gave birth to
a son, and I gave him the name Gersom, because we were sojourners in the land. And I saw
that, as concerns him, he would not be in the first rank. And Kohath was born in the thirtyfifth year of my life, before sunrise. And in a vision I saw him standing in the heights, in the
midst of the congregation. That is why I called him Kohath, that is the Ruler of Majesty and
Reconciliation. And she bore me a third son, Merari, in the fortieth year of my life, and since
his mother bore him with great pain, I called him Merari; that is bitterness. Jochebed was
born in Egyptin the sixty-fourth year of my life, for by that time I had a great reputation in the
midst of my brothers.
And Gersom took a wife who bore him Lomni and Semei. The sons of Kohath were Amram,
Isaachar, Hebron, Ozeel. And the sons of Merari were Mooli and Moses. And in my ninetyfourth year Amram took Jochebed my daughter, as his wife, because he and my daughter
had been born on the same day... (quoted from The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, editor
James H. Charlesworth, vol. 1, Doubleday, p. 792).
So in this pseudepigraphic work, we see clear evidence that the writer of Testament of the
Twelve Patriarchs (which I will from now on abbreviate as T12P) understood that both the
Exodus-6 genealogy and Numbers 26 expressed literal family relationships. The writer of this
work said that Kohath was his son, that Amram was Kohath's son, and that Amram married
his daughter Jochebed. Hence, this extra biblical text supports a literal interpretation of
Numbers 26:59, which says that Jochebed was Levi's daughter who had been born to him in
Egypt. Philo Judaeus said this about Amram's wife: "'For there was,'says the same historian, 'a
man of the tribe of Levi, named Amram, who took to wife one of the daughters of Levi, and
had her, and she conceived and brought forth a male child; and seeing that he was a goodly
child they concealed him for three months.' This is Moses..." (The Works of
Philo, Hendrickson Publishers, 1993, p. 316).
Philo didn't identify Amram's wife by name but only referred to her as a "daughter of Levi,"
so inerrantists will probably quibble that this leaves room for her to be a daughter of Levi only
in the sense that she was a "descendant" of Levi. However, I have already given sufficient
evidence that the writer of Exodus 6 was speaking literally in his usage of the word sons, so if
Amram was a son of Kohath (who was Levi's son), and if Amram married "his father's sister,"
then Amram married his grandfather Levi's daughter. And that is exactly what the writer of
Numbers 26:59 said: "The name of Amram's wife was Jochebed, the daughter of Levi, who
was born to him in Egypt." And that is exactly what Levi's testament in T12P says, "And
Jochebed was born in my sixty-fourth year in Egypt."
In Antiquities of the Jews, however, Josephus was more specific and said that Jochebed was
Amram's wife (2:9.4, verse 217) and went on to describe how that she and Amram built an
ark of bulrushes in order to thwart pharaoh's decree to kill all Hebrew male children. This, of
course, is a familiar story about Moses that is known even to people whose biblical studies
never went beyond Sunday school. Hence, the evidence, both biblical and non biblical,
supports my argument that the writer of Exodus 6 was using literal language to describe the
relationships of the people listed in the genealogy.
Further extra biblical evidence to support the generation-by-generation view of the genealogy
can be found in Philo and Josephus. Before we look at it, let's notice first that the Bible clearly
teaches that Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob, and Jacob begot Levi, and I don't think
that any inerrantist would seriously try to dispute that there were just four generations from
Abraham to Levi. Therefore, if Levi literally begot Kohath, and Kohath literally begot
Amram, and Amram literally begot Aaron and Moses, there would have been just seven
generations from Abraham to Aaron and Moses. In his account of the birth of Moses,
Josephus said, "(F)or Abraham was his [Moses'] ancestor of the seventh generation, for
Moses was the son of Amram, who was the son of Caath [Kohath], whose father, Levi, was
the son of Jacob, who was the son of Isaac, who was the son of Abraham" (Antiquities, 2:9.6,
verse 229).
On the subject of Moses' descent from Abraham, Philo said, "(A)nd Moses is
the seventh generation in succession from the original settler in the country who was the
founder of the whole race of the Jews: ("On the Life of Moses," The Works of
Philo, Hendrickson Publishers, 1993, section II, verse 7, p. 459).
So two major Jewish writers both understood that there had been only seven generations from
Abraham to Moses, and Philo even specified that they were generations "in succession." I will
post this as further evidence to support my case that Exodus 6 was intended as a literal
genealogy and continue my analysis of the text in a separate posting.
Derspatz:
All very nice - works for me! None of it has any bearing on the fact that Josephus also
supports "biblical texts" that show that the period of sojourning in Egypt and Canaan was 430
years. The single name rebuttal of Till's whole document as it stands (and his somewhat "flagship"ish entry to the first issue of TSR) still stands (untouched eben), with further text support
(unmentioned in Till's document) still to follow. We've got to wade through more of this
"uncle" stuff first though.
Till:
The uncle of Aaron: In three earlier postings, I have examined the Exodus-6 genealogy,
compared it to other biblical genealogies and extra biblical tests, and established to the
satisfaction of any reasonable person that both biblical and nonbiblical writers understood that
Levi was the literal father of Kohath, that Kohath was the literal father of Amram, and that
Amram was the literal father of Aaron and Moses.
Along the way, I have established that Amram (the father of Aaron and Moses) had a brother
named Izhar, who had a son named Korah, who led a rebellion against the leadership of
Moses. Such information as this (confirmed by more evidence than any reasonable person
could demand) makes it irrational for anyone to claim that the writer in Exodus 6 skipped
generations in his listings in this genealogy.
Certainly, the information makes it unreasonable to argue that generations were skipped
between Kohath and Moses. To so argue, one must claim that generations were skipped
between Izhar and Moses, yet somehow Izhar's son was living in the time of Moses and was
young enough to lead a rebellion against Moses. However, there are still nails to drive into the
coffin of this "skipped-generations" quibble, which makes the unreasonable claim that the
word sons in Exodus 6 meant only "descendants." The nail I'm driving in this posting
concerns the relationship of Uzziel to Aaron. To introduce this argument, let's notice that
Exodus 6:18 says, "And the sons of Kohath [were] Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel." Now
if I am right in claiming that Exodus 6 is a literal father-son genealogy, it is obvious that
Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel were brothers. Furthermore, if they were brothers and IF
the Amram in this verse was the literal father of Aaron, then Uzziel would have been Aaron's
uncle. That conclusion is so obvious that nothing further needs to be said about it.
Let's notice again that verse 20 says, "And Amram took him Jochebed his his fathher's
sister to wife, and she bore him Aaron and Moses," so certainly the "face-value" meaning of
the text gives us every reason to conclude that a man named Amram was the literal father of
Aaron. Therefore, if this Amram is the same Amram of verse 18, then by
necessity, Uzziel was Aaron's uncle.
With that in mind, let's now look at verse 22: "And the sons of Uzziel [were] Mishael,
Elzaphan, and Sithri." That seems clear enough, doesn't it? Uzziel--and who could this be but
the Uzziel of verse 18, who was listed as a brother of a man named Amram?--had sons who
were named Mishael and Elzaphan.
Let's compare this passage to Leviticus 10:1-4, where we are told the strange story of Aaron's
sons Nadab and Abihu (both of them priests like Aaron), who offered "strange fire" to
Yahweh, and so Yahweh did what any self-respecting tribal deity of that time would have
done. He sent forth fire to devour them, "and they died before Yahweh" (v:2). So after
Yahweh had had his petty vengeance for a petty offense, Moses, the top man on the Hebrew
totem pole... well, let's look at exactly what the inspired, inerrant word of God says:
And Moses called Mishael and Elzaphan, the sons of Uzziel, the uncle of Aaron, and said
unto them..." (v:4).
Please notice that these two men, Mishael and Elzaphan, whom Moses called before him at
this time were said to be "the sons of Uzziel." Now keep in mind that the Exodus-6 genealogy
said that Amram and Uzziel were the "sons of Kohath" (v: 18) and that verse 22 said
that Uzziel had sons who were named Mishael and Elzaphan.
It kind of sounds as if the Uzziel of Exodus 6 and the Uzziel of Leviticus 10:4 were the same
person, doesn't it? Now bear in mind that if these two were the same person and if Exodus 6 is
a literal father-son genealogy, then Uzziel of Exodus 6 would have been Aaron's uncle.
So notice what Leviticus 10:4 says in identifying who Mishael and Elzaphan were. It clearly
says that they were "the sons of Uzziel, the uncle of Aaron." Now I know from previous
exchanges with inerrantists on this subject that some will argue that the word "uncle" simply
meant a "relative." I could rebut his argument in advance, but I am first going to wait until
someone makes it. Then I'll hang him on his own rope.
Derspatz:
[laughs] That last bit really seems to sum up what Till is really about. Although I haven't
added much to all this as yet, I think what I have added already shows that Till isn't going
about creating honest apologetical type work but rather about putting on some kind of flimflam show. In short, Till is out and about for a fight - a proverbial (but aged) "Billy the Kid"
looking for some fresh meat to gun down. Or perhaps more akin to the old snake-oil peddler?
Never mind "reds under the bed" - this guy is seeing so-called "inerrantists" everywhere he
turns.
Till:
Recap: Four previous postings have presented very convincing evidence that Jacob's son Levi
was the literal father of Kohath, who was in turn the literal father of Amram, who was the
literal father of Aaron and Moses. The astounding thing about this genealogy is the mountain
of evidence, both biblical and non biblical, that makes it so easy to establish that Jewish
writers, both biblical and non biblical, understood the relationships in this lineage exactly as
they are presented above. Yet despite this overwhelming evidence, bibliolaters will resort to
all kinds of verbal gymnastics to keep from admitting that the face-value meaning of the
language in this genealogy makes Moses and Aaron the great-grandsons of Levi, Jacob's son
from which the Levitical priesthood in Judaism descended.
Derspatz:
One rant deserves another [grin]. Ooh, we've got "bibliolaters" "resort"ing to "verbal
gymnastics" now. BOC [but of course], we haven't actually seen any such example of this, but
Till assures us that it is so anyway. And then he goes on with more of the same. "strawman"
[sic] springs to mind. Watch how based on his own constructions, he'll descend into
accusations of "ridiculous", etc, while claiming to give mysterious "biblicists" all sorts of
"benefit of the doubt" and "breaks". Are we all suitably impressed?
Till:
Why are bibliolaters so intent on denying the face-value meaning of Exodus 6? The reason is
that they must put more generations between Levi and Moses and Aaron than are listed in the
genealogy in order to keep the Exodus-6 genealogy from contradicting the claim in Exodus
12:40 that the Israelites had spent 430 years in Egypt by the time of the exodus. However, if
Aaron and Moses were only the great-grandsons of Levi, a glaring chronological discrepancy
results when the ages of Levi, Kohath, Amram, and Aaron and Moses (at the time of the
exodus)are added. First, let's notice that Kohath, the grandfather of Aaron and Moses, was
born before Jacob took his family into Egypt. This determination is made from Genesis
46:11, where Kohath was listed as one of the 70 "souls" who went with Jacob into Egypt.
The text does not state Kohath's age at this time, but if we assume that he was just a nursing
infant in his mother's arms when the trip to Egypt was made, he would have spent 133 years
in Egypt. That is determined from Exodus 6:18, where it says, "And the years of the life of
Kohath were a hundred and thirty-three years." It is unlikely that Kohath was just a nursing
infant at the time of the descent into Egypt, because Genesis 46:11 lists him as the second of
three sons that Levi had at the time. Since this chapter names Jacob's sons in the order that
they were born to their respective mothers, a determination we can make from Genesis 29-32,
which tells all about Jacob's escapades with his two wives and two concubines, we have
reason to suspect that Jacob's grandsons were also listed in the order of their birth. If that is
so, Kohath had a younger brother named Merari, and that would mean that Kohath was not an
infant at the time of the descent into Egypt (unless, of course, Kohath and Merari were twins).
However, in order to give biblicists every benefit of the doubt, we will assume that Kohath
was actually the youngest of the three sons and that he was just an infant when he went into
Egypt. This would allow him to have lived 133 years in Egypt.
Kohath, as we have already noted, had four sons: Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel. For
reasons just noted, Amram was probably the oldest of the four brothers, but again, to give
inerrantists every advantage, we are going to assume that Amram was really the youngest of
the four. Furthermore, we are going to assume that Kohath's last act before he drew his final
breath was to sire Amram. It is ridiculous to think that this could have happened, but we are
trying to give biblicists every break possible. Since Amram lived to be 137 (v:20), the
maximum number of years that could have passed from Kohath's entry into Egypt until the
death of his son Amram would have been 270 years (133 + 137).
To give inerrantists further benefit of the doubt, we are going to assume that Amram's last act
on earth (like his father's) was the siring of a son, in this case Moses, who was obviously
younger than both Aaron and his sister Miriam (Exodus 7:7; 2:1-8). Since Moses was 80
years old at the time of the exodus (Exodus 7:7), this would mean that no more than 350 years
could have passed from the time of the Israelite descent into Egypt to the time of the exodus.
This figure is arrived at by adding Kohath's total age (133 years) and Amram's total age (137
years) to Moses' age at the time of the exodus (80). Any reasonable person would, of course,
recognize that the Exodus-6 genealogy won't even allow a span of 350 years from Kohath's
descent into Egypt to the exodus, because it is completely unreasonable to believe that Kohath
and Amram could have sired sons at the ages of 133 and 137 respectively. So this is exactly
why inerrantists bend over backwards to make the Exodus-6 genealogy not say what it
obviously does say. If they admit that Exodus 6 contains a literal father-son genealogy, as it
obviously does, then that results in a contradiction between Exodus 6 and Exodus 12:40. I
believe that the evidence I have presented sustains my claim that there is indeed a discrepancy
in the two texts, so it is now the responsibility of inerrantists to show us that I have incorrectly
divided "the word of truth."
Derspatz:
See, he didn't disappoint, did he! And there we go again with the "inerrantists" thang ... heck,
there are plenty of non-believer scholar types who argue over such things, not to mention
Jewish believers who similarly disagree over such things. As for the "divided the word of
truth" aspect, isn't it generally agreed upon that you actually have to be a believer with the
indwelling of the Holy Spirit to manage that?
Till:
This pretty well summarizes the chronological problem that this genealogy causes the biblical
inerrancy doctrine, and the bad news for biblicists is that I haven't yet finished analyzing the
information that shows that biblical and non biblical writers thought that the generation-bygeneration descent from Levi to Aaron was exactly as it is shown in the Exodus-6 genealogy.
Derspatz:
Talk about heaping things up on a bad premise! What was the "biblical inerrancy doctrine"
again? How has his ad hominem laced (guilty your honour!) biased study of a certain
genealogy caused a chronological problem with the promises of Genesis 15 and the confirmed
fulfilment [sic] given in Exodus 12:40, Josephus and even in the New Testament? But wait,
there is more we have to endure before getting on with all of that. [sigh].
Till:
The Nahshon Factor: My postings on the Exodus-6 genealogy have contained detailed
information, both biblical and non biblical, to establish that biblical writers thought that Levi
was the literal father of Kohath, that Kohath was the literal father of Amram, and that Amram
was the literal father of Aaron and Moses. My analyses of the genealogy were done on a
verse-by-verse basis to show that the relationships mentioned in the text were all to be
interpreted literally.
In other words, when the writer used the word sons, he meant sons in its strictest, literal sense.
When he used father and sister, as in the case of describing Jochebed's relationship to
Amram, he meant father and sister in the strictest, literal senses of the words. I will now
analyze the few remaining verses in the genealogy to show that this literal usage was extended
throughout the genealogy. Let's notice verse 22: "And Aaron took him Elisheba, the daughter
of Amminadab, the sister of Nahshon, to wife, and she bore him Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar,
and Ithamar."
This verse strengthens my claim that the writer of the Exodus-6 used family relationships in
their literal senses in this genealogy. To illustrate this, let's notice an interesting genealogical
statement in Ruth 4:18-20: "Now these are the generations of Perez: Perez begot Hezron, and
Hezron begot Ram, and Ram begot Amminadab, and Amminadab begot Nahshon...."
Perez was the son of Judah, who was born illegitimately as a result of his escapade with his
daughter-in-law Tamar (Gen. 38:12-30), so Perez was born before the Israelite descent into
Egypt. Furthermore, Perez's son Hezron was also born before the descent into Egypt, because
he was listed in Genesis 46:12 with Jacob's children and grandchildren who had descended
through Jacob's son Judah. (Everyone should remember that Josephus used the specific word
"grandchildren" in his listing of those who were descendants of Jacob but not his immediate
sons, Antiquities, 2.7.4.)
So the chronological problem in this genealogy again becomes very obvious. If Judah begot
Perez and Perez begot Hezron and if both Perez and Hezron had been born before the descent
into Egypt, how reasonable is it to believe that only three generations (Ram, Amminadab, and
Nahshon) would have been born during the 430-year sojourn in Egypt (Exodus 12:40)? That's
not very likely, yet the genealogy clearly says that Aaron married Elisheba, the daughter of
Amminadab, the sister of Nahshon, so she would represent only the third Israelite generation
born in Egypt, according to the "face-value" meaning of the genealogy in Ruth 4:19-20,
which reads exactly as Matthew's genealogy (1:3-4) and the genealogy of Judah in 1
Chronicles 2:5-10). There is no genealogy anywhere in the Bible that adds any generations to
the genealogy of Perez through Nahshon.
Obviously, inerrantists can't accept the "face-value" meaning of these genealogies, so that is
why they will insist that some generations were skipped between Hezron, who was born
before the descent into Egypt, and Nahshon, who was obviously a contemporary of Aaron and
Moses, because he is mentioned several times during the wilderness wanderings as a leader in
the tribe of Judah (Num. 1:7; Num. 2:3; Num. 7:12; Num. 10:14). Interestingly enough,
whenever Nahshon was mentioned, he was always identified as "the son of Amminadab."
Yes, inerrantists will argue, but son could mean just ancestor, so that doesn't necessarily mean
that Nahshon was the literal son of Amminadab.
Well, if he wasn't the literal son of a man named Amminadab, why was he always called the
"son of Amminadab"? As many times as he was mentioned, why didn't a biblical writer at
least one time refer to him as the son of whoever was his literal father?
A dodge that some inerrantists try to use when confronted with genealogical problems like the
one in Exodus-6 is to argue that the names in genealogies represented "ages" or "eras" and not
the specific people named in them. Thus, the name Abraham in the genealogy of Jesus meant
not Abraham but the "age" or "era" of Abraham. Very well, if that is true, why did the biblical
writers consistently say that Nahshon was the "son of Amminadab"?
Who was this Amminadab anyway? We really don't know, because outside of the many times
that he is listed in genealogies as the "son" of Ram and the father of Nahshon, he was never
mentioned. So why would biblical writers have chosen such an obscure person to represent an
"age" or an "era" in the various genealogies that list Amminadab? He was famous for nothing
except that he had a "son" who was an important leader in the tribe of Judah during the
wilderness experiences of the Israelites.
For these reasons, it is entirely logical to understand that the writer of the Exodus-6 genealogy
meant for his readers to understand that he thought that Aaron's wife Elisheba was the literal
sister of the Israelite leader Nahshon and that this Nahshon was the literal son of a man named
Amminadab, just as Aaron's wife was the literal daughter of Amminadab.
I have already established to the satisfaction of anyone who doesn't have an inerrancy axe to
grind that the writer of this genealogy was using the word "sons" literally throughout the
genealogyas he listed the "sons" of Reuben and Simeon and Levi and Kohath, etc. So if
Nahshon was not the literal son of Amminadab, then the genealogist suddenly switched the
meaning of the word son when he said that Nahshon was the "son of Amminadab," and that
would be a writing error known as equivocation. And I have said many times in discussing
biblical discrepancies, an error is an error is an error. It doesn't have to be a "biggie" in order
to be an error.
Derspatz:
[yawn] Oh sorry - yet it was all very nice and I am sure Till had fun researching it all, but it
still has not dealt with the "And Canaan" aspect (that I am about to show is implied even
when not given, and have already shown is also well given anyway) one iota.
As for "an error is an error is an error", despite Till's lengthy tome regarding things pertaining
to genealogies, he has failed to explore in any detail the very passage of scripture he is
offering as the measuring stick to prove the accuracy of his contention. And this is where the
problem lies - his measuring stick has been mis-represented [sic] and thus his whole argument
is rotten and has fallen.
Till: So here is further evidence that the writer of the Exodus-6 genealogy thought that only
three or four generations of Israelites were born between the descent into Egypt and the
exodus. He presented the genealogy of Aaron in a way that revealed that he thought that only
three generations of Israelites at the most had actually grown up in Egypt (Kohath, Amram,
and Aaron) and that Aaron had married a woman who was only the third generation of her
family to be born in Egypt (Ram, Amminadab, and Nahshon and Elisheba). It isn't possible to
find 430 years in this genealogy, so we can only conclude that there is a chronological
discrepancy between Exodus 6:18-23 and Exodus 12:40, which says that the Israelites
sojourned in Egypt for 430 years. And an error is an error is an error.
Derspatz:
And as has been asserted by the simple single name inclusion (used in some texts and
Josephus, and implied in others) of "Canaan", that the error is all Till's. His motivation may
well be more than indicated here.
You see, if only 215 year sojourning in Egypt are to be counted then various chronologies that
relate to the long promised taking "possession" of the areas promised to Abraham's
descendants, match far better with current archaeological findings in relation to Jericho, etc,
which happens to be another of Till's quibbles (that Jericho was destroyed centuries before the
Exodees got there). Get the period of sojourning right, and the Jericho falls at the hands of
Joshua and his marching men after all...
Yes, it seems quite impossible to find 430 years in the genealogy that Till is asserting as so if
one is meant to consider it only in the context of a sojourn in Egypt, but the same resources
Till is using, make it quite clear that the 430 year sojourning is to counted from a time other
than from when Jacob moved into Goshen.
Having already trounced Till's argument with a single name, I'll now present a "prepared
earlier" pre-amble to the "Canaan" issue before diving further in to explore it at depth.
[Editor's note: At this point, Sparrow wrote that he had a "work still in progress," which "one
day" would be woven in with a "whole heap more, including egrouped archives on the matter.
If after I have hung "Derspatz," the Sparrow, out to dry, he still wants to present that "whole
heap more," I will post it and rip it to pieces too, just as I did when the Sparrow and I were
members of the alt.bible.errancy forum. I will be quoting material that I used then to send him
running for cover, so after I have shown it to everyone, the Sparrow will wish that he had kept
running.
I predict that we have seen the last of "the Sparrow," who will begin running again after he
sees my reply to his article and will keep running. However, if he does send his "work in
progress," I will dismantle it too.
Readers can now go to "The Sparrow Gets His Wings Clipped Again" to see my reply to his
"solution" to the 430-year problem. Actually, I could just link everyone here to "The 210-Year
Solution" and be done with him, because this article clearly showed that it would not have
been possible for "the children of Israel" to have spent 215 years in Canaan before they went
into Egypt, because there were no children of Israel until about 50 years beforeJacob took his
family into Egypt. This, of course, is a point that would completely elude "the Sparrow,"
because his tenure in the alt.bible.errancy forum indicated that his intelligence had about
much depth as a sidewalk puddle.
I see that it hasn't improved any since 1999.]
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About this capture
The Sparrow Gets His Wings Clipped Again
by Farrell Till
A reply to:
The Land That Till Forgot
by David Sparrow
In "The Land That Till Forgot," David Sparrow, an Australian who calls himself "a believer in
Yeshua Ha Mashaiach (Jesus the Messiah)," whatever that is, made an attempt to "solve" the
430-year problem, which I have previously discussed here in a five-part series that began
with "How Long Were the Children of Israel in Egypt?" and ended with "Finley's
Solution." Sandwiched between these two articles was "The 210-Year solution," which
dismantled the attempt to solve the 430-year problem presented by Exodus 12:40, which says
that the children of Israel dwelt in Egypt 430 years, and Exodus 6:14-25, which has a
genealogy that doesn't allow for anything near 430 years from the Israelite entry into Egypt
till their exodus under the leadership of Moses. Proponents of the 210-year solution claim that
Exodus 12:40, which clearly says that "the time that the children of Israel dwelt in Egypt was
four hundred and thirty years," really meant that they had dwelt in Egypt and Canaan for 430
years, because Canaan, before the entry of the Israelites into Egypt, was under the control of
the Egyptians and should therefore be considered a part of Egypt. When a discrepancy results
from what the Bible clearly says, inerrantists can always be depended on to quibble that the
Bible didn't really mean what it said. That is what David Sparrow did in his article linked to
above. He took the position that Exodus 12:40 didn't actually mean that the children of Israel
had dwelt in Egypt 430 years but had dwelt in Egypt and Canaan for 430 years. The only
difference in Sparrow's position and the one that I dismantled in "The 210-Year Solution" is
that Sparrow claims that the Israelites were in Egypt for 215 years; otherwise, the two
positions are the same. At this point, then, I could just tell everyone to go read "The 210-Year
solution," and let this serve as a rebuttal of Sparrow's "solution" to the 430-year problem, but
as I explained in my "Editor's Note" appended to his article, he has an arrogant attitude that
deserves exposure. I intend to do that here.
As Sparrow did and as I usually do in my rebuttal articles, I will use the
labels Sparrow and Till to assist readers in following who is saying what. I will start at the
beginning of his article, because it contains information so incorrect that readers will be
shown from the start that this fellow doesn't know what he is talking about. Sparrow is
Australian, so his punctuation and spelling follow British rules, which I will leave intact. He
sometimes makes mistakes that would be considered errors even in countries where the
British system is used, so when these are glaringly incorrect, I will mark them with [sic].
Otherwise, I will leave everything as he submitted it to me.
Sparrow:
Farrell Till is the editor of The Skeptical Review, a magazine devoted to the so called
“Inerrantist debate”. He was born April 26 1933, and was apparently brought up within the
American "Church of Christ" framework, where he became not only a
preacher/pastor/minister after attending some form of bible schooling, but also an overseas
missionary to France.
Till:
Sparrow told me in an e-mail message that he had posted this article on his website in 1999,
so that could account for some of its information not being up to date. I no longer publish The
Skeptical Review, for example. It ceased publication with the last issue of 2000 and was
replaced by the online version where you are now reading this article. I have to wonder why
Sparrow didn't take the time to research his subject and update information like this. Well, I
have to retract that statement, because I really don't wonder why he didn't update his
information. I learned on the old alt.bible.errancy forum that Sparrow doesn't worry too much
about accuracy of details.
By saying that I was a "pastor," Sparrow indicated that he is profoundly ignorant of the
structure of what he calls "the American Church of Christ," because I was never a pastor in
this church. Preachers in this church are rarely pastors. As a church office, this word was used
just once in the New Testament where the writer of Ephesians said that when Jesus ascended
on high, "he gave some to be apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some
pastors and teachers" (4:11). The word translated pastors here was poimenas, the plural
of poimen. It literally meant shepherd--Tyndale and Moffatt so rendered it in this verse--and
was the word used in Luke 2 several times in reference to the shepherds who were watching
their flock the night that Jesus was born. The word was used interchangeably with Bishop
[episkopos] in 1 Peter 2:25: "For you were going astray like sheep, but are now returned to the
Shepherd and Bishop of your souls." The Shepherd and Bishop referred to here was, of
course, Jesus, but the point is that this passage used shepherd and bishop synonymously. For
this reason, the church of Christ understands the "pastors" in Ephesians 4:11 to be shepherds,
and the term "shepherd" was used in the New Testament to denote "bishops" or "elders,"
which is a clearly defined church office in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. References are
made to those who held the office of elder/shepherd (pastor)/bishop in several places (Acts
14:23; Acts 20:17; Acts 21:18; James 5:14; Philippians 1:1). In "the American Church of
Christ," then, a preacher or evangelist is not a "pastor" unless he meets the qualifications of
that office and is appointed to it by his local congregation. I was never appointed to it, so
Sparrow is obviously unqualified to speak about the organization and doctrines of "the
American Church of Christ." By pointing out that I had once been a member of this church,
he had hoped to discredit me by association, but all that he accomplished was that he revealed
his own ignorance.
Sparrow:
After allegedly abandoning "the faith", he swapped his pulpits for lecterns and taught English
literature under the umbrella of the American education system,which he continued with until
retirement.
Till:
Actually, I taught American literature in college, not English literature. There is a difference. I
didn't teach under the "umbrella of the American education system" either. I taught in the
state of Illinois, so if I taught under an "umbrella," it would have been under the umbrella of
the Illinois education system.
Sparrow:
He currently claims to be "an atheist", and can be found to this day (mid 2003, anyway) still
arguing his point of view on things "biblical" in not only online mailing lists like
[email protected] and [email protected],
Till:
Once again, Sparrow's information is way outdated. The Errancy list hasn't been hosted by
infidels.org for almost three years. It was relocated to Topica.com in December 2001 and has
since changed to [email protected] [email protected] was the now defunct
alt.bible.errancy forum, linked to above, whose owner took it off line in January 2004. This is
just another example of how careless Sparrow is in his research.
Sparrow:
but also in public debates. Transcripts of some are posted here.
Till:
Readers can indeed find some of my debates by clicking this link, but Sparrow's article
contained an incorrect URL, which I had to correct.
Sparrow:
For information on the American "Church of Christ" and an insight in to [sic] the kinds of
doctrines, dogmas, and methods of translation and interpretation that Till was brought up in
click here.
Till:
I left this link as Sparrow had it in his article, but those who click it will find that there is no
such site. I informed Sparrow of this, but he didn't send me a correction. Just about everything
that Sparrow has said so far turned out to be incorrect, so that speaks volumes about his
carelessness. As we continue, we will see that his attempt to "solve" the 430-year problem is
as flawed as the information he presented above in an attempt to discredit me by association.
If I had formerly been a Catholic or a Jehovah's Witness, I suppose that Sparrow would have
tried to make this into some kind of blast from my past that disqualifies me to speak with any
credibility about biblical errancy. Sparrow seems not to understand that the truth or falsity of
a proposition is independent of its source. No matter what I may have believed in the past and
no matter what I may believe today does not in any way affect the truth or falsity of my claim
that the Bible contradicts itself in the matter of how long the children of Israel sojourned in
Egypt, but Sparrow is apparently too logically challenged to understand that.
Sparrow:
Who is derspatz? Nobody really Till:
Well, finally, Sparrow has said something that I can agree with. In biblical matters, he has
indeed shown himself to be a nobody. He was so ill-informed on the subject of biblical
inerrancy that he was chewed up and spat out more times than I can remember in the
old alt.bible.errancy forum. I will be demonstrating this below as I quote from Sparrow's posts
to this forum, but those who have the patience to do so can go to message 4821 and begin
reading there where Sparrow tried to defend the same position that he has taken in his article
that I will be answering below. You will see much more of his ignorance than I will be able to
expose in this single article.
Sparrow:
I am 33 years sans 13 days Till's junior,
Till:
Those who do have the patience to begin with the link above and read through all of
Sparrow's posts will see that he fancies himself as some kind of linguist who likes to bandy
about foreign expressions, especially German ones, in his posts. Many of them will be found
in places where he seemed eager to impress his readers with his "cutesy" linguistic skills, but
quite often, his foreign expressions were used incorrectly. I worked almost five years in
France as a missionary for "the American Church of Christ," so I learned how to speak French
while I was there. The word sans meant "without" or "free from" and not "less," which seems
to be the way that Sparrow was using it above. He should have said that he is 33 moins 13
days my junior, because moins means "less" or "fewer" in French. Actually, then, Sparrow
was saying above that he is 33 without 13 days Till's junior.
If Sparrow had said that he is 13 days short of being 33 years my junior, that would have been
even better. Why does he seemed so compelled to try to impress people by peppering his
writing with foreign expressions (which are often used incorrectly) and "cutesy" puns that
often fall flat? An example of this obsession of his can be seen in his insistence on being
called "derspatz," which is German for "the Sparrow," but the more that I think about this, the
more appropriate I think that this sobriquet [nickname] may be, because the House Sparrow is
a nonnative bird in North America, which was brought here in 1850 to help control green
inch-worms, which were destroying trees in New York, and to eat the undigested grain in
horse manure deposited in streets. Conditions here were so favorable for them that they
quickly spread across the continent and threatened the existence of native sparrows. This
variety of sparrow has since become a nuisance in North America, and that is the best word
that I know to describe Sparrow's tenure on the old alt.bible.errancy forum. His posts became
such rambling nuisances that some members of the forum filtered them.
Sparrow:
I have never been to "bible school",
Till:
It's too bad that he didn't attend one. Maybe he would have learned something about the Bible
if he he had.
Sparrow:
nor been a "Pastor" or a "foreign missionary". I am a believer in Yeshua Ha Mashaiach (Jesus
the Messiah),
Till:
See what I mean? Sparrow couldn't just say that he was a believer in Jesus the Messiah; he
had to try to impress us with his linguistic skills by saying it in Hebrew.
Sparrow:
truth-seeker, and empiricist who happens to think that the issues that Till raise, are merely the
"same old stuff doing the rounds, and all of it adequately dealt with before I was born".
Till:
If Sparrow were indeed a "truth-seeker and empiricist," he would not still be trying to defend
biblical inerrancy five years after he had been presented with clear evidence on
alt.bible.errancy that it is riddled with errors. He would have to be in a state of denial to
continue clinging to a belief that has been thoroughly discredited.
He is still chirping a song that became familiar to members of alt.bible.errancy. He sings that
the "issues" that were being raising in that forum had been "adequately dealt with before [he]
was born." The key word here is adequately. Anyone who has done any research at all on the
subject of biblical errancy knows that the issues that usually come up in a forum like
alt.bible.errancy have been "dealt" with in the past, but any errantist that is truly informed on
the subject knows that they have not been adequately dealt with. I have had the apologetic
works of John Haley, William Arndt, George DeHoff, and R. A. Torrey in my personal
library for longer than I can remember, and I have added to them the works of Gleason Archer
and Norman Geisler. I am very familiar with how they have "dealt" with most discrepancies
that I have personally written about, so I know that their "explanations" of those discrepancies
have been far from adequate. They are, in fact, so ludicrous at times that some former
inerrantists have told me that their rejection of biblical inerrancy began with their exposure to
books like Archer's Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties. They found his "explanations" of
biblical discrepancies so ridiculously far-fetched that they eventually became errantists.
Sparrow had a chance on alt.bible.errancy to show that the 430-year problem is not a
discrepancy, but all that he could do was recycle the old 210-year solution, which he changed
to a 215-year "solution." He seems to have forgotten the humiliation that he suffered during
our first debates on this issue, so he has come back for more. I will be delighted to show him
again that his "solution" will not work.
Sparrow:
A most subjective POV [point of view] I realise, but I trust this response will further
demonstrate the truth of it, for in fact I am basically presenting a response here that Not Only
precedes my birth, But Also Till's by thousands of years for that matter.
Till:
Sparrow also fills his posts with internet acronyms that aren't always decipherable. When I
know what they mean, I will spell them out in brackets as I did above. I have had a hard time
trying to convince even skeptics that these acronyms should be avoided to ensure clarity of
meaning, but Sparrow was one of the biggest abusers of a primary rule of writing, which says
that writers should strive first and foremost to be understood.
As for how long his 215-year "solution" preceded my birth, the issue here is not how long it
preceded my birth but how sound it is. I have shown already in "The 210-Year Solution" that
this "explanation" just won't hold water. In rebutting Sparrow's recycling of this "solution," I
will be linking readers back to that article, but I will also quote from my rebuttals of Sparrow
in the alt.bible.errancy forum to show that this "solution" that he seems to be so in love with
was thoroughly dismantled almost five years ago. Why he has returned with it is beyond my
comprehension. He must be a glutton for punishment.
Sparrow:
The essence of this debate that I am responding to is in relation to a view that the Old
Testament claims that the children of Israel spent 430 years in Egypt. As Till conclusively
shows in this series of posting to the Errancy List, this claim is contradicted by evidence from
the genealogical listings found in the Old Testament.
Till:
Well, I must say that I appreciate Sparrow's honesty, because I too believe that I
showed conclusively in my posts on the 430-year problem that "genealogical listings,"
especially those in Exodus 6, contradict the claim in Exodus 12:40 that the children of
Israel dwelt in Egypt 430 years. I assume that Sparrow carelessly worded this statement.
Otherwise, what is he doing here trying to reply to something that I have conclusively shown
to be a biblical contradiction.
Sparrow:
From here-on Till’s words shall be in italics and prefixed with Till and mine in standard text
and prefixed with Derspatz.
Till:
Okay, if Sparrow thinks that it is cutesy to call himself Derspatz, I'll go along with it when I
am quoting where he used the "name" in his article--he can't hide the weakness of his position
by hiding it behind a German name--but I will put Sparrow's quotations from my article in
ordinary print.
Derspatz:
The Old Testament actually indicates a period of 430 years that the descendants of Abraham
were to spend sojourning in land that was not to be taken ownership of by them until certain
things had come to pass.
Till:
I will advise everyone to watch Sparrow carefully here, because he is alluding to Genesis
15:13-16, where Yahweh told Abraham [snicker, snicker] that his descendants would be
oppressed for 400 years in a land that was "not theirs." We are going to see Sparrow try to
make this land that wasn't "theirs" both Canaan and Egypt, but I will show everyone that
Sparrow long ago saw evidence that this quibble just won't work.
Sparrow:
In this document, Till has provided a reasonable but not conclusive study into particular ways
of deciphering a genealogical record but by the same token has omitted much to achieve his
goal.
Till:
Oh, really? Well, I thought that Sparrow said above that I had shown conclusively that the
"genealogical listings" contradicted the 430-year claim, so I wish that he would make up his
mind. Was my analysis of the genealogy conclusive or not?
Sparrow:
For the sake of the argument, and there are at least three schools of thought on this matter but
I am not too interested in presenting them all at this time, I will be mostly assuming that Till
is correct in his appraisal of the genealogical record, even though there are many who do not
share that view.
Till:
Well, actually, there are more than three schools of thought on this matter, but since sparrow
decided to focus only on mine, I will be glad to show that my analyses of the two passages
central to this issue are sound and that a discrepancy does indeed exist between the two. I will
also show that five years ago, my arguments were presented to Sparrow in the
alt.bible.errancy forum and that he could not rebut them.
Sparrow
I am taking this view because the issue raised need not rest on the genealogical record as
such.
Till:
Well, I never did rest it just on the genealogical record. If Sparrow had paid attention, he
would have known that.
Sparrow:
The issue can be solved by the introduction of a single name to the Exodus 12:40 reference
that Till is using as the measuring stick to compare his genealogical argument against, which
But [sic] OF Course [sic] "doesn't match", hence his insistence of an error.
Till:
Sparrow has problems with clarity in his written communications, but if I understand him
correctly, he is saying that Exodus 12:40 and the genealogical record, but of course, don't
match, so if they don't match there is a discrepancy in what Exodus 12:40 and the
genealogical record say. If not, why not?
Sparrow:
It will be shown that it is no error that some translations omit the name, and others include it
(including Josephus), for regardless of the presence of that name, it will be shown that it is
implied anyway, and thus somewhat redundant.
Till:
Hmm, if I understand Sparrow correctly, he is saying that if a later copy of an original work
omits a word [name] that was in the original, this would not be an error, but why wouldn't it
be? Perhaps he can clarify this matter for us.
Sparrow:
The name is Canaan, which for much of the time in question, had large portions of it under
direct Egyptian control and could be deemed to be part of Egypt.
Till:
Sparrow has assumed that my genealogical analyses are correct, so I am going to assume that
he is correct about Canaan's having been a part of Egypt at the time in question. It wasn't, but
the issue isn't important enough to my argument to waste time discussing. I can show, as I
already have in "The 210-Year Solution," that there were no "children of Israel" to reside in
Canaan at the time in dispute, so whether Canaan was a part of Egypt then is irrelevant. If
"children of Israel" didn't exist until about 50 years before Jacob [Israel] took his family into
Egypt, it would not have been possible for "the children of Israel" to have sojourned in
Canaan 215 years before they went into Egypt. If Sparrow can't understand that, I suggest that
he go to the nearest elementary school and find a student to explain the math to him.
Sparrow:
Incidentally, “Egypt” means “two lands”.
Till:
Oh, it does? I wonder where he got this. The word for Egypt in Hebrew was mitsrayim, which
was the dual form of matsowur, which meant "beseiged, bulwark, fortress, or stronghold."
English nouns are either singular or plural, but in Hebrew, they were singular, plural, or dual.
The dual form indicated two of whatever the noun denoted. Sparrow seems to think that
because the Hebrews used a dual form to refer to Egypt, the word must have meant two lands.
This is fallacious reasoning, for, in the first place, the word didn't mean "land" but "bulwark,
fortress, or stronghold." Hence, the dual form would mean that the Hebrews were referring to
two bulwarks or fortresses when they used the word, but what they actually meant was that
Egypt consisted of two parts, i. e., Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt. Lower Egypt was the
northern part, whose capital was Memphis, and Upper Egypt was the southern part.
Eventually the word lost its dual meaning and came to be applied to all of Egypt, but none of
the territory designated by the name Egypt included Canaan. It was at times inclusive of part
of the Sinai region, but Canaan was not considered a part of Egypt or the Sinai. If Sparrow
had consulted a reputable Bible dictionary, he could have learned all of this.
Sparrow [quoting Till]:
Because the Exodus-6 genealogy lists only four generations from Levi to Aaron and Moses,
this presents several problems for inerrantists.
Derspatz:
Firstly, Till hardly needed the reference about alleged or so called "inerrantists" here
Till:
Well, yes, I did need the reference to inerrantists here, because inerrantists have twisted
themselves into verbal pretzels to try to make the four-generation genealogy in Exodus 6
consistent with the claim in Exodus 12:40 that the "children of Israel" dwelt in Egypt for 430
years. Hence, the Exodus-6 genealogy does indeed present several problems for inerrantists.
Sparrow:
(Who are these people? What does Till precisely mean by the term?
Till:
Well, if Sparrow had done something as simple as consult a reputable dictionary, he would
have known what inerrantist meant. Webster defines inerrant like this: not erring, making no
mistakes.
Now that shouldn't be so hard to understand. An inerrantist, when the term is applied to the
Bible, would be someone who claims that the Bible didn't err or make mistakes, but maybe
Sparrow doesn't know what the English suffix -ist means and therefore doesn't understand that
a purist is one who advocates purism in whatever field that the word is applied to or that a
dentist is someone who is knowledgeable in the field of dentistry, and so on. An inerrantist,
then, when the word is applied to the Bible, is someone who maintains that the Bible contains
no errors or mistakes.
Sparrow harped about the use of this world throughout his tenure on alt.bible.errancy. He
apparently is not a biblical inerrantist, and so he didn't like seeing the word applied to those
who maintain that the Bible is inerrant in everything it says, in matters of science, geography,
history, prophecy, etc., as well as in matters of faith and practice. His problem seemed to be
that because he didn't consider himself an inerrantist, then the word should be applied to no
one. That is a strange position, but it is typical of the kind of nonsense that Sparrow tried to
peddle at alt.bible.errancy.
Sparrow:
Is my understanding of it the same as his, or the same as yours?)
Till:
Well, no it isn't. I understand what the word means, but Sparrow apparently never did.
Sparrow: I bring this up now, for as you are about to see, Till's "Uzziel" document, and
indeed virtually all of his subsequent articles in TSR, is liberally sprinkled/coloured with such
loaded yet ill/undefined references that have little to do with either honest study, truth seeking
or apologetic work at the end of the day.
Till:
Well, as I just showed above, the way I use inerrantist, or errantist too, for that matter, is not
"ill defined." Americans familiar with biblical inerrantists in this country know exactly what
these words mean, so since my articles are almost always addressed to either biblical
inerrantists or biblical errantists or both, I rarely felt the need to define them. My real flagship
article in the first issue of The Skeptical Review did take the time to define biblical
inerrancy because I knew that this would be a term that I would be using over and over in this
journal, so I wanted to make sure that readers understood it. I suggest that Sparrow take the
time to go read that article. If he does, he will see the following quotations from well known
American biblical inerrantists.
The Bible is the inerrant... Word of God. It is absolutely infallible, without error in all matters
pertaining to faith and practice, as well as in areas such as geography, science, history,
etc. (Jerry Falwell, Finding Inner Peace and Strength Doubleday, 1982, p. 26).
If God had wanted another "i" dotted or another "t" crossed, He would have had it done. The
writers did not use one word unless God wanted that word used. They put in every word
which God wanted them to put into the Bible (George DeHoff, Alleged Bible Contradictions
Explained, p. 23).
There is nothing at all difficult about understanding the meaning of the word inerrantist. If
Sparrow would take a little time to research a subject before he wrote on it, he would not
make a fool of himself by asking what the word inerrantist means. As Falwell said above, it
means "without error in all matters."
Sparrow [quoting Till]:
First, Exodus 12:40 states that the Israelites sojourned in Egypt 430 years.
Derspatz:
Some translations do state that
Till:
Some translations say that? The fact is that almost all translations say this, because these
translations have been derived from the Hebrew Masoretic text, and this text says that "the
children of Israel dwelt in Egypt four hundred thirty years."
Sparrow:
(while implying more, but Till no where includes this in his document),
Till:
The translations that say that the children of Israel dwelt in Egypt 430 years "imply more"? I
assume that everyone noticed that Sparrow made no attempt at all to show that these
translations "imply more." If this claim is true, why didn't Sparrow show us the implications
that he claims are in these translations? Well, of course, he didn't because he couldn't. The
Masoretic text simply says in Exodus 12:40 that the children of Israel dwelt in Egypt 430
years. There is no implication at all in this passage that the writer meant that they had dwelt in
Egypt and Canaan 430 years. This is something that Bible defenders who hold to Sparrow's
view read into the text.
Sparrow:
and others state that the sojourning was 430 years "in Egypt and Canaan". Till has failed to
bring this fact to the attention of the casual reader,
Till:
As Sparrow noted below, both the Septuagint, a Greek translation that dates from the 3rd
century BC, and the Samaritan Pentateuch, a Hebrew version of the first five books of the Old
Testament, which dates to the 2nd-century BC, say in Exodus 12:40 that the children of Israel
dwelt in Egypt and Canaan for 430 years. However, I did not mention this in my article,
because I was addressing it to biblical inerrantists, and the versions that they use have almost
all been derived from the Hebrew Masoretic text. When the Masoretic and Septuagint
versions of the Old Testament are compared, one will find hundreds of variations, which are
downright discrepancies. To discuss them all here would take way too much space, but I will
cite just a few of them. In the Septuagint, the ages of the descendants of Noah, when they
begot the sons attributed to them, are consistently a hundred years older in the Genesis 11
genealogy than they are in the Masoretic text. Septuagint Sala [Shelah] was 130 when he
begot Heber [Eber] (v:14), but Masoretic Shelah [Sala] was only 30 when he begot Eber
[Heber] (v:14). Septuagint Heber [Eber] was 134 when he begot Phaleg [Peleg] (v:16), but
Masoretic Eber [Heber] was just 34 when he begot Peleg [Phaleg] (v:16), and so on.
Masoretic Arpachshad [Arphaxhad] begot Shelah [Sala] when he was 35 (v:12), but
Septuagint Arphaxhad [Arpachshad] begot Cainan, and then Cainan begot Sala [Shela]
(vs:12-14). Septuagint Arphaxhad was 135 when he begot Cainan, and Cainan was 130 when
he begot Sala [Shela], so how would it be at all possible for the Septuagint and Masoretic
accounts of when Shela was born to be both correct?
Obviously, Sparrow accomplishes nothing by appealing to what the Septuagint says, because
this would obligate him to defend hundreds of Septuagint readings that deviate substantially
from the Masoretic text. Biblical inerrantists claim that the Masoretic text is the one that
Yahweh preserved through zealous scribes who meticulously guarded against copying errors
by doing such things as counting the number of alphabetic characters in their manuscripts.
Appeals to how the Septuagint may read will destroy the inerrantist argument that Masorete
scribes were zealously meticulous in their work.
Sparrow:
and you will also find that although he will use the non-biblical resource known as Josephus
further on in his argument, he will fail to make it known to the reader that even Josephus
indicates that the 430 years of sojourning was in Egypt and Canaan.
For example, I shall quote Josephus in his Antiquities of the Jews, Bk 2, Ch 15 VS 2) or Jos
2:15:2 if you prefer, which reads:
They [the Israelites] left Egypt in the month of Xanthiens, on the fifteenth day of the lunar
month; four hundred and thirty years after our forefather Abraham came into Canaan, but
two hundred and fifteen years only after Jacob removed into Egypt.
Till:
Attempts by Jewish writers to resolve discrepancies in their "scriptures" is almost as old as
their scriptures. In this section of "It Doesn't Matter?" I presented some attempts of ancient
Jews to resolve discrepancies in their scriptures, so anyone who doubts that as far back as the
postexilic era there were Jewish "apologists" who used the same far-fetched methods as those
of modern "apologists" like Gleason Archer and Norman Geisler may be interested in
reviewing this section of the article linked to above. Josephus lived centuries after the
postexilic era, so it isn't at all surprising that he would have accepted the 215-year solution
that had gained wide acceptance by his time. The issue, then, is not whether Josephus claimed
that the Israelites were in Egypt for only 215 years but whether that view can be supported by
the biblical evidence. I showed in this section of "The 210-Year Solution" that there were no
"children of Israel" until about 50 years before Jacob [Israel] took his extended family into
Egypt, so it would have been impossible for the "children of Israel" to have dwelt in Canaan
for 215 years before they went into Egypt and lived there for another 215 years. Until
Sparrow can explain to us how any ethnic group could have lived in a place before that ethnic
group even existed, he accomplishes nothing by telling us that the Septuagint translation says
that the children of Israel dwelt in Egypt and Canaan for 430 years and that Josephus
interpreted this to mean that the Israelites were in Egypt for only 215 years. The fact that
"children of Israel" just didn't exist 215 years before Israel [Jacob] took his family into Egypt
probably never even occurred to the ancient Jewish apologists who saw this as a solution to
the problem posed by Exodus 12:40 and the short, four-generation genealogy in Exodus 6.
Sparrow:
The Septuagint (LXX) and Samaritan Pentateuch also reflect the "Egypt and Canaan" direct
reference,
Till:
So what? If "children of Israel" didn't even exist 215 years before Israel [Jacob] took his
family into Egypt, then the Septuagint and Samaritan Pentateuch were wrong, unless they are
interpreted to mean that "the children of Israel" dwelt in Canaan 50 years and then in Egypt
for 380 years, but that interpretation cannot be harmonized with the Exodus-6 genealogy,
which would allow for a maximum period of just 350 years even if the chronology in it is
stretched to the very limits of possibility. Those who want to read my Uzziel article will see
that the Exodus-6 genealogy simply would not allow for an Israelite sojourn in Egypt of even
380 years. (I can't provide the coding to link readers directly to the part of the article that
shows this, because it is not posted on my website, but the pertinent chronological analysis
can be found in the opening paragraphs of the article.) What we have. then, is a situation
where early Jewish apologists presented an explanation to a problem passage that they
thought at the time made sense, but careful scrutiny of it has shown that it was ill-conceived.
Sparrow's task then is to show us how an ethnic group could have lived in Canaan before that
ethnic group even existed. Until he can do that, he accomplishes nothing by referring to what
Josephus, the Samaritan Pentateuch, and the Septuagint translation said about Exodus 12:40.
Sparrow:
which I will show further along in this response is implied in the Masoretic text anyway.
Till:
We will see that the implication that Sparrow has now referred to twice is all in his mind. We
will, in fact, see that he made no attempt at all to show that any such implication was in the
Masoretic text.
Sparrow:
Thus already Till's argument is proved to be in vain, and his very measuring stick has been
mis-represented [sic] to his audience.
Till:
I don't want to sound like a broken record, but until Sparrow can show us how it was possible
for "children" of Israel to live in Canaan before "children of Israel" even existed, he has
proven nothing of the sort. He seems not to understand that simply asserting that an argument
has been "proven to be in vain" is not the same as actually showing that the argument fails.
Till:
Based on Till's own method of arguing demonstrated here, I would be justified in going no
further but I must admit to do that would make me just as careless if not dishonest as he in
regards to failing to bring other relevant references and resources I am aware of, to the
attention of the reader.
Till:
Actually, I am the one who needs to go no further, because I have shown that Sparrow's
"solution" to the 430-year problem fails because it requires one to believe that an ethnic group
could have lived in Canaan before that ethnic group even existed.
Sparrow:
These references that Till has omitted along with the "other translations" and "Josephus"
references I've just pulled him up on, include Genesis 15, Numbers 3, Galatians 3, Acts 7.
None of which you will find Till making any inclusion of or reference to in this document of
his I am responding to.
Till:
I have to wonder why Sparrow would bring up Numbers 3, because as everyone will soon see,
he knows that this passage works against his 215-year theory. Everyone will also see that this
complaint is flagrant hypocrisy on Sparrow's part. As we will also see, I actually did refer to
Numbers 3 further along, but I didn't make any references to the other passages in my Uzziel
article, because I didn't consider them relevant to showing that the Exodus-6 genealogy had
only four generations from Levi through Aaron and Moses and that a genealogy this brief was
inconsistent with the claim in Exodus 12:40 that the "children of Israel" had dwelt in Egypt
for 430 years. I have written extensively on the 430-year problem, so anyone who will go
through the five-article series on this subject that I linked to at the beginning of this article
will find that all of these passages and many others were included in my discussion of this
subject.
Sparrow's hypocrisy is underscored by the fact that he and I debated this issue at length in the
old alt.bible.errancy forum, so he knows that our exchanges included references to the
passages that he now accuses me of avoiding. Sparrow's entry into the discussions of biblical
discrepancies began with post 4731 in which he claimed that, long before any of us had been
born, apologists like John Haley had resolved the discrepancies we were debating. I replied to
this to inform Sparrow that before he had joined the forum I had discussed John Haley's book
and had even summarized Haley's admission that limiting the Israelite sojourn to just 215
years was fraught with serious problems. Despite that notice, Sparrow still persisted in
chiming the same tune, so I finally sent him some of my earlier posts and reposted on
alt.bible.errancy my earlier discussion of Haley's admission that the 215-year "solution" was
problematic at best.
This is message 5383, which I reposted from March 29, 1999. Readers can see that I used in it
all of the passages that Sparrow said that I didn't refer to in my Uzziel article. Since this post
is one of my exchanges with him on alt.bible.errancy, he had to know that I had cited or
quoted all of these passages in reply to his 215-year "solution." Notice, in particular, how
detrimental Numbers 3 is to his position.
I have already noted four objections to Sparrow's attempt to make the 430 years of Exodus
12:40 include the time that Abraham and his descendants spent in Canaan before Jacob's
descent into Egypt. These objections concerned conflicts that this "interpretation" causes with
Yahweh's prophecy in Genesis 15:13-16 that Abraham's seed would be afflicted for 400 years
in a land that wasn't theirs and then be brought back "with great possessions"
to here (Canaan) in the fourth generation. Three of these objections were acknowledged by
Sparrow's own source (John Haley, Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible, p. 418-419), and one
was my own.
Haley also listed a fourth "weighty objection" to the explanation that Sparrow has
appropriated: "On this hypothesis, the grandfather of Moses [Kohath] must have had in the
lifetime of the latter 8600 male descendants, of whom 2750 were between thirty and fifty
years old." As I discuss this problem with Sparrow's "explanation," bear in mind that he has
claimed that the Israelites sojourned in Egypt for only 200 years, so that will prevent any
resort on his part to the "skipped-generation" attempts that have been made to explain the
problem I am going to outline. On the basis of Sparrow's explanation, which he seems to think
has thoroughly trounced me, it doesn't matter if generations were skipped in the Exodus-6
genealogy or not, because he is arguing that the Israelites were in Egypt for only 200 years
before they left in the exodus. To show the damage that this position does to Sparrow's smug
claims that he has resolved the chronological discrepancy that exists between Exodus 6 and
Exodus 12:40, let's notice first some preliminary biblical claims.
1. Only 66 members of Jacob's extended family went into Egypt with him. Their names are
listed in Genesis 46:8-25, and verse 26 then states that "all the souls that came with Jacob
into Egypt, who came out of his loins, besides Jacob's sons' wives, were sixty-six." The next
verse states that Joseph and his sons were already in Egypt, so adding them and Jacob to the
66 gave a total of 70 Israelites that went into Egypt.
2. The Exodus-6 genealogy states that Kohath was Levi's son through whom Aaron and Moses
descended:
Exodus 6:16 The following are the names of the sons of Levi according to their genealogies:
Gershon, Kohath, and Merari, and the length of Levi's life was one hundred thirty-seven
years. 17 The sons of Gershon: Libni and Shimei, by their families. 18 The sons
of Kohath: Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel, and the length of Kohath's life was one
hundred thirty-three years. 19 The sons of Merari: Mahli and Mushi. These are the families of
the Levites according to their genealogies. 20 Amram married Jochebed his father's sister
and she bore him Aaron and Moses, and the length of Amram's life was one hundred thirtyseven years.
Notice that verse 18 lists Amram as one of the sons of Kohath, and then verse 20 states that
Amram was the father of Aaron and Moses. This means that, according to this genealogy,
Kohath was the grandfather of Aaron and Moses.
3. This point is very important. The biblical text states that Kohath was born before Jacob
took his family into Egypt, because he is listed in Genesis 46:11 as one of the three sons of
Levi who went with Jacob into Egypt. His name must be counted in order to get the 66 "souls"
that Genesis 46:26 claims that Jacob took into Egypt with him.
4. The Genesis 46 list contains no names of sons who had been born to Kohath at this time.
With all of these points in mind, let's consider now a census claim that was made in Numbers
3:27-28.
27 To Kohath belonged the clan of the Amramites, the clan of the Izharites, the clan of the
Hebronites, and the clan of the Uzzielites; these are the clans of the Kohathites. 28 Counting
all the males, from a month old and upward, there were eight thousand six
hundred, attending to the duties of the sanctuary.
If you will check the genealogy of Kohath quoted above from Exodus 6:18, you will notice
that he had four sons: Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel. When the census was taken, the
male descendants of Kohath were divided into family clans according to the names of his four
sons: Amramites, Izharites, Hebronites, and Uzzielites. But the text above claims that there
was a total of 8,600 males living at that time who had descended from Kohath.
So consider now the absurdity that we have before us. Kohath was born before the Israelites
went into Egypt. The Israelites were in Egypt for just 200 years (according to Sparrow), but
within the space of just 200 years 8,600 males had descended from Kohath. If there were that
many males, then we can reasonably assume that there would have been an approximate
number of female Kohathites, so that would mean that over 17,000 direct descendants of
Kohath had been born in Egypt in the space of only 200 years. Biblical inerrantists who
accept the Exodus 12:40 claim that the Israelites were in Egypt 430 years have made all sorts
of frantic efforts to show how that it would be possible for 17,000 people to descend directly
from just one person in 430 years, and even their efforts have been far-fetched and ludicrous.
Sparrow, however, doesn't have the luxury of 430 years. He has taken the position that the
sojourn in Egypt lasted for just 200 years and has boasted that he has given me a "trouncing"
with this claim, so now we will look forward to seeing him show us that it is reasonable to
think that Kohath could have had 17,000 descendants living at the time of the exodus, who
had been born through just four sons in the space of only 200 years.
In message 5324, I had sent Sparrow an earlier reminded that his 215-year solution was
incompatible with Genesis 15:13-16.
I've seen gall before, but this has to take first prize. I sent a series of postings that detailed a
chronological discrepancy in Exodus 6 concerning the number of years that the Israelites had
sojourned in Egypt, and Sparrow made an effort to reply to it that consisted primarily of a
claim that Exodus 12:40 really meant that the Israelites sojourned in Egypt and Canaan for
430 years. I replied to this with an analysis of Genesis 15:13-16, which depicted Yahweh
prophesying to Abraham that his seed would sojourn in a land not theirs and be afflicted for
400 years but would then come again to this place in the fourth generation. I listed and
discussed four reasons why this prophecy is incompatible with Sparrow's claim that the
Israelites were in Egypt for just 200 years.
Sparrow said he would reply to this, and I have been waiting for him to do so. All he has sent
are a few postings that in no way relate to this matter, and they were so incoherent at times
that I wondered what he was smoking when he wrote them. Now he accuses me of not
replying to him.
In message 5363, I discussed this again and reminded Sparrow that his 215-year solution is
incompatible with Genesis 15:13.
I can't say what others have noticed, but I noticed that your hide was nailed to the wall on the
chronological discrepancy in Exodus 6 and Exodus 12:40. You tried to explain this away by
arbitrarily claiming that Exodus 12:40 should have said that the Israelites sojourned in
Egypt and Canaan for 430 years. I showed that this theory cannot be reconciled with
Yahweh's own prophecy in Genesis 15:13 that said Abraham's seed would sojourn and be
afflicted in a land not their own for 400 years but that they would be brought forth to this
place in the fourth generation. I took your own source, the pulp apologist John Haley, and
listed four difficulties that he himself admitted that this explanation encountered. I challenged
you to take those four difficulties and try to reconcile them with your 200-year theory. Since
then there has been nothing from you but postings that were written as if you were drunk or
spaced out on some drugs. I saw no need to waste time on incoherent nonsense like this. Your
"rebuttal" of my Uzziel postings has been thoroughly refuted, and I am still waiting for you to
explain away Haley's four difficulties and the one that I added to Haley's list.
What I have quoted from alt.bible.errancy is just a small part of all of my exchanges with
Sparrow on the 430-year problem, so I am not going to quote message 5370, but I invite
readers to go there and read a detailed reply to Sparrow on this issue in which I quoted or
cited every one of the passages that he claims I never referred to. His tactic is a familiar one
that inerrantists will use to try to save face. They will withdraw from the discussion of an
issue when they have been soundly rebutted and then months or years later, they will return
and bring up the same issue again as if it had never been addressed. I had not heard of or from
Sparrow for four years, and now he resurfaces with a position that he was previously unable
to defend in an internet debate.
Sparrow
This is behaviour that could be deemed understandable of someone with little knowledge of
things "biblical", but most questionable of someone of Till's claimed learning and experience.
Till:
Well, I have shown that Sparrow's charge that I dodged Genesis 15, Numbers 3, Galatians 3,
and Acts 7 is a misrepresentation of what has really happened in my internet debates with
David Sparrow. Readers who were members of the old alt.bible.errancy forum will remember
him, so they know that he has misrepresented the facts in this matter. Maybe he didn't realize
that even though alt.bible.errancy had ceased to exist, the posts were still in Yahoo's archives,
so perhaps he thought that he could get away with his distortions of what had been said in our
discussions of the 430-year problem.
Sparrow:
What then is his real aim and desire?
Till:
My real aim and desire was to show that there is a serious chronological discrepancy in
Exodus 6:14-25 and 12:40. I think that I have successfully shown in my internet debates of
this issue and all of the articles that I have post at The Skeptical Review Online that this
discrepancy is real and doesn't just exist in my imagination.
Sparrow [quoting Till's Uzziel article]:
Since Levi was one of Jacob's sons who accompanied him into Egypt (Gen. 46:11) and since
Levi's sons Gershon, Kohath, and Merari had already been born at this time and also were in
the group that went with Jacob into Egypt (Gen. 46:11), it is inconceivable that in the space of
over 400 years just two more generations would have been born in the Levitical branch that
Aaron and Moses were born into, yet this is what Exodus 6:18-20 states:
Derspatz (Sparrow):
It has already been shown that it is but 215 years that has [sic] to be accounted for in "Egypt"
Till:
No, this hasn't been "shown"; it has simply been asserted that "it is but 215 years that [have]
to be accounted for in Egypt," but I have clearly dismantled this claim by showing that it
would have been impossible for an ethnic group [the children of Israel] to have lived in
Canaan before that ethnic group [the children of Israel] even existed. Sparrow's task now is to
show that it would have been possible for the children of Israel to have lived in Canaan over a
hundred years before they even existed. That he cannot do, because he cannot prove that
which would have been logically impossible.
Sparrow:
which most indicate should be counted from the time Jacob arrived (some say Joseph), until
the time of the Exodus when Moses was about 80 years old.
Till:
Joseph was in Egypt for just about twenty-two years before Jacob [Israel} took his family
there, so Sparrow can count from either point. It doesn't matter, because he cannot prove that
"children of Israel" had lived in Canaan before children of Israel had even existed.
Sparrow:
One need not wonder too much at the generations required to be born in this period, nor
should the word "inconceivable" spring to mind either in light of the Exodus 6 references that
Till provides us and his following commentary.
Till:
Just four generations in a 215-year period would indeed not be significant, but claiming that
"children of Israel" had lived in Canaan before children of Israel had even existed is quite
significant. Sparrow's task is to show us how this could have happened. Just four generations
in the genealogy is a problem for those who accept the obvious meaning of Exodus 12:40 and
agree that this text claims that the children of Israel spent 430 years in Egypt. Since Sparrow
has lopped this period in half, I will concentrate only on showing that what he sees as a
wonderful solution to the 430-year problem just won't work.
Sparrow [quoting Till's Uzziel article]:
Exodus 6:18 The sons of Kohath: Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel, and the length of
Kohath's life was one hundred thirty-three years. 19 The sons of Merari: Mahli and Mushi.
These are the families of the Levites according to their genealogies. 20 Amram married
Jochebed his father's sister and she bore him Aaron and Moses, and the length of Amram's
life was one hundred thirty-seven years.
Notice that Kohath lived to be 133 (v:18) and that his son Amram (the father of Aaron and
Moses) lived to be 137. If we assume that Kohath was just an infant in his mother's arms
when the Jacobites went into Egypt and if we assume that in the final year of his life, he sired
Amram, and then if we assume that Amram sired Moses the last year of his life, this
genealogy would allow for an Egyptian bondage of only 350 years. This number is arrived at
by adding 133 (the maximum period of time that Kohath could have spent in Egypt) to 137
(the length of his son Amram's life) to 80, the age of Moses at the time of the exodus: "And
Moses was eighty years old and Aaron 83 years old when they spoke to Pharaoh" (Ex. 7:7).
Derspatz [Sparrow]:
Well Till's three "if we assume" this and thats, have amply demonstrated far more than 215
years time required, so I don't need to add much to this other than to point out that although
the accounts indicate that Moses was born to the fourth generation of Abraham's descendants
to leave Canaan for Goshen (Jacob, Levi, Kohath, Amram), other families seemed to have
managed more generations in the same time period (eg, research 1 Chronicles), with even
Joseph who died at the age of 110, living long enough to see the third generation of Ephraim's
(his own son) sons, as per Genesis 50:22-24.
Till:
Sparrow doesn't know this yet, but he wants to be very careful about depending on 1
Chronicles for genealogical information. Those who have followed this issue know that this
was a mistake that Travis Finley made in his attempt to solve the 430-year problem. He, of
course, accepted the 430-year claim in Exodus 12:40 but tried to explain the problem away by
claiming that generations were skipped in the Exodus-6 genealogy. He relied on 1 Chronicles
to argue his case, but in "Finley's Solution" I showed that the genealogies in 1 Chronicles,
rather than helping his claim that generations were skipped in Exodus 6, raised several
genealogical questions that he would have to explain before he could hope to use 1 Chronicles
to help his case. This article is detailed and long, but it dismantled Finley's attempts to use
genealogies in 1 Chronicles to prove that more than four or five generations passed in Egypt
from the time of Kohath till Aaron and Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt. Readers can go
to this section of my rebuttal of Finley's "solution" and see how his reliance on 1 Chronicles
proved to be devastating to his attempt to prove that generations had to have been skipped in
the Exodus-6 genealogy. This section of my reply showed very clearly that the Chronicle
writer, whoever he was, seemed to have been completely unaware of an extended sojourn in
Egypt. I showed, for example, that the Chronicle writer believed that Ephraim, one of Joseph's
sons whose children were born before Joseph died, had lived long enough to die in Canaan
after the exodus from Egypt. Since Ephraim had been born before Jacob [Israel] took his
family into Egypt, the Chronicler's claim that Ephraim had lived long enough to die in Canaan
is irreconcilable even with Sparrow's 215-year scenario. This point is fully explicated in the
section linked to above, and I invite those who have not yet read it to do so. I challenge
Sparrow to make the Chronicler's genealogies compatible with even his 215-year theory.
Finley contacted me to let me know that he had posted his "solution" to the 430-year problem
in the letters section of this forum. Months have passed since I posted my reply to it, and I
have heard nothing from him. I predict that we will meet with silence from Sparrow too after I
have posted this rebuttal of his "solution."
Sparrow [quoting Till's Uzziel article]:
To circumvent this problem, inerrantists will argue that the genealogy of Exodus 6 is not
complete, that the writer skipped some generations.
Derspatz [Sparrow]:
Uh, what problem?
Till:
Well, in my Uzziel article, of course, I was discussing the problem of trying to make just four
generations cover a 430-year sojourn in Egypt, but since Sparrow has lopped this period in
half, he has a different problem. He must show us that it would have been logically possible
for "children of Israel" to have lived in Canaan as far back as a century and a half before
children of Israel even existed. I predict that we will have to wait a long time before we see
him do this.
Sparrow:
What precisely does Till regard to be an "inerrantist" again?
Till:
This quibble was answered and dispatched above. I can't help it if Sparrow is too ignorant to
read a dictionary entry and understand it.
Sparrow:
However yes, there are those who do consider there to be some skipped generations (a
practice not uncommon in such ancient accounts, as even Till would acknowledge … not for
this particular instance though).
Till:
No, in this "particular instance," all that Sparrow must do is show us how "children of Israel"
could have lived in Canaan as far back as a century and a half before any children of Israel
existed. We will eagerly wait to see him do that.
Sparrow:
As already indicated at the beginning of this response, I am not interested, nor deem it
needful, to either pursue or explore the notion of "skipped" or "missing" generations to handle
this tired old quibble of Till's.
Till:
Tired old quibble? For once I agree with Sparrow. Claiming that generations were skipped in
the Exodus-6 genealogy is a "tired old quibble." It has been blasted to pieces so many times
that I would think that no one would use it again, but inerrantists [Sparrow can consult the
dictionary to find out what this word means] are slow runners. They persist in recycling that
which has been refuted over and over.
Sparrow [quoting Till's Uzziel article]:
Thus, Moses and Aaron weren't necessarily the sons of Amram but could have been his
grandsons or even his great-grandsons. They argue this despite the fact that Exodus 6:20
clearly says that "Amram married Jochebed his father's sister and she bore him Aaron and
Moses." The father-son relationship of Amram and Aaron and Moses was also claimed in
Numbers 26:59, "The name of Amram's wife was Jochebed daughter of Levi, who was born
to Levi in Egypt; and she bore to Amram: Aaron, Moses, and their sister Miriam." So two
separate biblical passages clearly state that Amram's wife Jochebed bore to him Aaron and
Moses, but when inerrantists are in trouble they never let plain language bother them. In this
case, they will still insist that the language of these passages was not intended to be
understood literally but that Aaron and Moses were merely descendants of Amram. They have
to do this to keep from admitting that the Bible made chronological errors.
Derspatz [Sparrow]:
Remembering that for the sake of the argument that I am agreeing with Till's view of the
genealogy, I can but only indicate that his commentary in that regard is accurate but
somewhat spoiled by the totally unnecessary ad hominem laden assumptions about alleged
"inerrantists".
Till:
Sometimes Sparrow's ignorance leaves me shaking my head in disbelief. Even biblical
inerrantists freely apply this term to themselves. It is not an ad hominem. If Sparrow knew
diddly squat about conservative Christianity in the United States, he wouldn't make a fool of
himself with statements like the one above. He has about as much business writing about
belief in biblical inerrancy in American as I have writing articles on theoretical physics.
Sparrow [quoting Till's Uzziel article]:
In this series of postings, which will consist of six or maybe even more rather long analyses of
biblical and extrabiblical texts, I will establish that both biblical and extrabiblical writers
understood that the relationships expressed in Exodus 6 were literal family relationships.
Thus, to these writers, Levi was literally the father of Kohath, Kohath was literally the father
of Amram, and Amram was literally the father of Aaron and Moses. In order to do this, I will
be focusing on one of the least prominent names in the genealogy quoted above. Exodus 6:18
states that the sons of Kohath were "Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel." Now if this
genealogy was a literal, generation-by-generation genealogy, that would mean that the person
named Uzziel in verse 18, who was listed with Amram, Izhar, and Hebron as "sons of
Kohath," would have been the uncle of Aaron. That would be necessarily true if Izhar,
Hebron, and Uzziel were the brothers of Amram, for if all four of these were literally the sons
of Kohath, then Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel would have been uncles to any children that
Amram produced.
Derspatz [Sparrow]:
This may be true of Exodus 6 (not that it matters for the sake of this response), but not always
true of all recordings of genealogies.
Till:
I never said that it was true of "all recordings of genealogies." The thrust of my Uzziel article
was to show that it unequivocally requires readers to understand that it was a generation-bygeneration listing, which skipped no generations, so the four generations identified here and
their ages when they died are incompatible with the claim in Exodus 12:40 that the children of
Israel sojourned in Egypt for 430 years. The Uzziel article was addressed to biblicists who
accept the face-value reading of Exodus 12:40, so why has Sparrow wasted our time chiming
over and over that the Israelites were in Egypt for just 215 years? In the first place, that is not
what the text says, and in the second place, Sparrow is now confronted with the task of
defending his 215-year scenario. Let him explain to us now how "children of Israel" could
have lived in Canaan a century and a half before children of Israel even existed.
Sparrow:
There is plenty of Online resources out there that deal with all aspects and POV [point of
views] of this topic, of which I will provide ample links at the close of this response, to assist
in further "truth seeking" for those interested.
Till:
Sparrow's links, of course, are those who simply parrot the 215-year theory without offering a
scintilla of credible evidence to support it. Certainly, none of them explained how "children of
Israel" could have lived in Canaan a century and a half before any children of Israel even
existed. We will look forward to seeing Sparrow solve this problem.
Sparrow [quoting Till's Uzziel article]
The intent of this series of postings will be to establish that biblical and extrabiblical writers
did understand that Uzziel was the uncle of Aaron. Once this is established, it will be hard for
inerrantists to argue that generations were skipped in the Exodus-6 genealogy. I will warn the
readers in advance that establishing Uzziel's relationship to Aaron will require some rather
tedious genealogical analysis. Some people skip over all of the "begats" when they come to
genealogies in the Bible, but I find them to be a storehouse of useful information that often
spells big trouble for the Biblical inerrancy doctrine.
Derspatz [Sparrow]:
Sorry, but I am going to include all of Till's original postings on this subject in my response,
lest he make the claim at a later date that I snipped portions of his efforts that I should not
have. Most of the following will not require much in the way of comment, other than to pull
him up on all his little ridicules. Something I would like to comment on from the preceding is
in regard to what he has called "the Biblical inerrancy doctrine".
What is this "Biblical inerrancy doctrine" exactly?
Till:
I explained and explained to Sparrow on the old alt.bible.errancy forum what the biblical
inerrancy doctrine is, and I documented those explanations with quotations from leading
biblical inerrantists in America (some of whom were quoted above), so if Sparrow doesn't
understand it by now, he should seek some kind of professional help. His problem is that he
doesn't believe that the Bible is inerrant, and so for some inexplicable reason, he seemed to
object to usage of the term "biblical inerrancy doctrine." That is about as idiotic as a nonCatholic's objecting to usage of the term "the doctrine of papal infallibility." The fact that the
non-Catholic doesn't believe in papal infallibility in no way diminishes the fact that most
Catholics do. That is so simple to understand that one has to wonder about Sparrow's level of
intelligence when he objects to the usage of a term that has wide currency among those who
believe in biblical inerrancy.
Sparrow:
Sure, we can come up with quite an array of notions as to what Till might be meaning by this
Till:
No "array of notions" is necessary when one is confronted with the term "biblical inerrancy
doctrine," because this is a term that is understood as readily as both Catholics and nonCatholics would understand the term "doctrine of papal infallibility." If Sparrow doesn't have
the intelligence to grasp that "biblical inerrancy doctrine" is simply an expression used to
identify belief that the Bible contains no errors or mistakes, then he should be concerned
about his mental health and not about the fact that I and many others use a term that has
widespread currency in places where belief in biblical inerrancy flourishes.
Sparrow:
and we can scoop portions out of various denominational "creeds" and the like and get a
fascinating and sometimes quite conflicting collection of declarations and stances on not only
what "inerrancy" is but also what the very "bible" is. Till makes it appear that there is some
consensually agreed upon, conclusively presented/supported/declared by the very "word"
itself, position on "inerrancy" of the same that can be presented as a doctrine by every
denomination of belief that holds at least the "Old Testament" as dear.
The truth is that there is no such thing - there isn't even consensual agreement as to what
should be called "bible" and what should not!
Till:
Well, of course, there is disagreement over what "the very Bible" is. Some Christian sects
accept apocryphal books; others don't. Some radicals think that only the KJV is the Bible and
that others are corruptions. However, when one writes to an audience of, say, American
Baptists and uses the term "Bible," he won't have to wonder whether readers will understand
what he means. Likewise, if he writes an article aimed at Catholics, who accept the
apocryphal books, whenever he uses the word Bible, he will understand how this word will be
perceived by his audience. The old alt.bible.errancy forum was established to discuss and
debate the biblical inerrancy doctrine as it is believed by American fundamentalists, so when
we made references to the biblical errancy doctrines, members of that forum understood what
we were talking about. Not until David Sparrow signed on from down under was usage of this
term ever made an issue. We had members who said that they didn't believe in biblical
inerrancy but nevertheless believed that the Bible was still the "word of God," but none of
them ever complained about usage of the term "biblical inerrancy," because they understood
what it meant.
It took David Sparrow to make this an issue, and, in all honesty, I have to say that I always
suspected that he was an inerrantist but just didn't know how to rebut the examples of biblical
discrepancies that he was seeing posted in the forum, so he first (as noted above) posted a
claim that all of the examples of mistakes that we were posting had been satisfactorily
explained long before any of us had been born, but when he was shown that this wasn't so, he
then began to complain about usage of the term "biblical inerrancy doctrine." It became a
straw man that he kicked around, as he has done in his article that I am answering, to distract
attention from his inability to defend the Bible.
Sparrow:
So we are left wondering what Till deems this doctrine to be.
Till:
If Sparrow was left wondering what I "deem[ed] this doctrine to be," then he must be unable
to understand plain language, because I took the time, as I have done here, to explain what
this doctrine is in American circles.
Sparrow:
Considering his "Church of Christ" origins it seems fair to deem his views to be based upon
their dogmas in that regard, in which case, it also seems reasonable to assume that Till's
apparent war against his idea of "the Biblical inerrancy doctrine" is in fact a war against the
Church of Christ more than anything else. After all, no two denominations seem to tout
exactly the same views on what should be deemed inerrant or infallible for that matter. Thus, I
think it important that one should always keep Till's origins in mind when reviewing his
efforts in things "biblical".
Till:
This, of course, is an attempt by Sparrow to poison the well, because my former
demoninational affiliation is irrelevant to the 430-year discrepancy or any other biblical
discrepancy that I may identify, because, as I noted above, the truth or falsity of a proposition
is independent of its source. Why then does Sparrow keep bringing the Church of Christ into
this? The only possible reason I can think of is that he hopes that some of his readers will
think that I must be wrong because I used to be a member of "the American Church of
Christ." This is the same tactic that some use in interdenominational squabbles over religious
doctrines when they try to associate their opponents with Catholicism or Mormonism, as if
membership in either of these religious organizations would automatically make the
propositions they are defending wrong.
To accuse me of just wanting to wage "a war against the Church of Christ" only underscores
Sparrow's ignorance of the biblical inerrancy doctrine. Although the Church of Christ
certainly has different doctrinal beliefs than, say, the Baptist Church, both churches have
rather parallel views about biblical inerrancy. They would both claim that there are no
mistakes or errors of any kind in the Bible, and members of both groups will often rely on the
"apologetic" works of writers like John Haley, William Arndt, Gleason Archer, and Norman
Geisler to formulate their "explanations" of "alleged Bible discrepancies." Sparrow sorely
needs to inform himself on the issue of biblical inerrancy before he undertakes to write on it
again.
Sparrow [quoting Till's Uzziel article]:
Let's look at the relevant parts of the Exodus-6 genealogy. I probably won't get to Uzziel in
this posting, but my analysis will provide a useful background to build on in follow-up
postings on Uzziel that I will send later. Here is the entire genealogy and not just the part that
speaks of Aaron's and Moses' descent from Levi:
These are the heads of their fathers' houses. The sons of Reuben, the firstborn of Israel
[Jacob]: Hanoch, Pallu, Hezron, and Carmi; these are the families of Reuben. And the sons
of Simeon: Jemuel, Jamin, Ohad, Jachin, Zohar, and Shaul, the son of a Canaanite woman;
these are the families of Simeon. And these are the names of the sons of Levi according to
their generations: Gershon, Kohath, and Merari; and the years of the life of Levi were a
hundred and thirty and seven years. The sons of Gershon: Lebni and Shimei, according to
their families. And the sons of Kohath: Amram, Izhar, and Hebron, and Uzziel, and the years
of the life of Kohath were a hundred thirty and three years. And the sons of Merari: Mahli
and Mushi. These are the families of the Levites according to their generations" (verses 1419).
I'll interrupt the text at this point to make some observations and then resume the text later
(probably in a separate posting). My argument is that the writer of this genealogy was giving
what he understood to be a literal father-son genealogy, and the evidence for this is
overwhelming.
In support of this claim, let's notice first that this genealogy is in perfect agreement with the
listings in Genesis 46:8-11, where the sons and grandchildren of Jacob are listed through
Levi's children. Verse 8 says that the sons of Reuben (who is also identified here as "Jacob's
firstborn) were Hanoch, Pallu, Hezron, and Carmi. Compare this to the beginning of the
genealogy quoted above, and you will see that the same names are listed as the "sons" of
Reuben, the firstborn of Israel [Jacob]. Were the writers of these two passages being literal in
their usage of sons and firstborn.
In telling the story of Jacob's marriage to the daughters of Laban (Leah and Rachel), Genesis
29:31-32 says, "And Yahweh saw that Leah was hated, and he opened her womb, but Rachel
was barren. And Leah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Reuben, for she
said, Because Yahweh has looked upon my affliction, for now my husband will love me."
That should be convincing enough inerrantists to agree that the writers of these genealogies
were speaking literally when they said that Reuben was the "firstborn of Jacob" [Israel].
Derspatz [Sparrow]:
My turn to "interrupt", merely to point out the bleeding obvious, and that is we are dealing
with translations to English. Word play can only go so far before we are forced to bring out
the study books on the original languages.
Till:
And what in the world does this mean? If the fact that we are "dealing with translations to
English" has any special significance in this matter, exactly what is the significance of it?
Sparrow didn't say. What "word play" did he have in mind when he said it could go only "so
far before we are forced to bring out the study books on the original languages"? He didn't
say; he just said it, as if he thought it would sound good to throw out comments about the
"original languages" as if he has any expertise to talk about original languages. As I pointed
out above, in moments of affectation, he likes to throw out foreign expressions to impress his
readers, but quite often uses them incorrectly as he did above with the French word sans. He
is about as qualified to talk about the "original languages" of the Bible as I am to lecture on
the theory of relativity.
Sparrow [quoting Till's Uzziel article]
But were the genealogists being literal in their usage of the word sons when they said that the
"sons" of Reuben were Hanoch, Pallu, Hezron, etc. Let's notice what Josephus said
in Antiquities of the Jews, Book 2, Chapter 7, Section 4 when he listed the members of Jacob's
family that went into Egypt. This section in Josephus is parallel to the listings in Genesis 46:
"Now Jacob had twelve sons; of these Joseph was come thither before [meaning that Joseph
had already come into Egypt]. We will therefore set down the names of Jacob's children and
grandchildren."
Let's pause at this point to notice how specific Josephus was. He said that Jacob had twelve
"sons," and I assume that inerrantists will not deny that Jacob literally had 12 sons. (The story
of Jacob as related in Genesis makes that too clear to deny.) Furthermore, in the text quoted
above, Josephus wrote not in terms of Jacob's "sons," as did the biblical genealogists, but he
wrote in terms of Jacob's "children" and "grandchildren." Now let's resume reading in
Josephus: "Reuben had four sons--Anolch, Phallu, Assaron, Charmi [the spellings vary
because Josephus wrote in Greek, but anyone can see that they are the same names as the
biblical genealogies used]; Simeon had six--Jamuel, Jamin, Avod, Jachin, Soar, Saul; Levi
had three sons--Gersom, Caath, Merari...." Now since Josephus introduced his list with a very
specific announcement (we will therefore set down the names of
Jacob's children and grandchildren, we must understand that he meant for his readers to
interpret "sons" literally in the above text. Hence, Josephus obviously thought that Gershon
[Gersom], Kohath [Caath], and Merari were literally the sons of Levi. We can make this
determination even more obvious by continuing our reading in Josephus's listing of
Jacob's children and grandchildren: "Judas [Judah] had three sons--Sala [Shelah], Pharez
[Perez], Zerah; and by Phares [Perez] two grandchildren--Esron [Hezron] and Amar
[Hamul]...." So when Josephus came to names on the list that he understood were not literal
children or sons of Jacob, he referred to them with the specific term "grandchildren."
Everything in the biblical text and in Jewish writings point to the obvious fact that Gershon,
Kohath, and Merari were understood to be the literal sons of Levi, who was obviously the
literal son of Jacob (Gen. 29:31). Everything points to the obvious fact that the writer of the
Exodus-6 genealogy intended for his readers to understand that he was speaking literally
when he used the word sons. A genealogy from Levi through Aaron and Moses is in 1
Chronicles 6:1-3, and it reads exactly as the listings in Exodus 6 and Genesis 46. A
genealogy of Levi through his grandsons is listed in Numbers 3:17-20, and it reads
exactly as the listings in Exodus 6 and Genesis 46. Everywhere the Bible lists the
descendants of Levi, the listings are exactly as they appear in Exodus 6, Genesis 46, and the
work of Josephus.
Derspatz [Sparrow]:
This is where I am having a chuckle to myself while tut-tutting Till's most selective use of
Josephus.
Till:
I will have to chuckle too, because as everyone can see, I referred to Numbers 3 above, but
earlier in his article, Sparrow said that Numbers 3 was one of the references that I had
"omitted." I explained above that in the whole collection of my exchanges with Sparrow on
this issue, I did either cite or quote all of the passages that Sparrow said I had omitted, and as
everyone can see now, I even referred to Numbers 3 in the very article that Sparrow chose to
reply to.
Sparrow:
He has made it clear by all this that he is both aware of the ancient works of Josephus, and
able to quote it directly. Now don't you think it strange that in the midst of his study of the
issue, he was able to find that which seems to support his view on "father son relationships"
specific to the genealogy in question, but was unable to provide the Josephus reference (that I
provided towards the beginning of this response) that brings to question his usage of the
"measuring stick" text (Exodus 12:40) that he is seeking to show as errant?
Till:
There is nothing at all unusual about quoting a writer on one point when that writer is known
to disagree with the quoter on other points. It happens all of the time. I think that Josephus's
listing of the names and relationships of those who went into Egypt with Jacob [Israel] agrees
with the biblical account, so I was quoting it to show that this Jewish history agreed with the
biblical account. However, I can show and have shown that Josephus's claim that "the
children of Israel" were in Egypt for just 215 years contradicts the Bible and that neither
Sparrow nor anyone else can explain how "children of Israel" could have dwelt in Canaan
before any children of Israel even existed.
I didn't quote Josephus in this matter because I saw no need to quote someone whose position
was clearly wrong and can easily be shown to be wrong. Now if Sparrow thinks that he can
show us how it was possible for "children of Israel" to have lived in Canaan before any
children of Israel even existed, I invite him to do so; otherwise, he should be careful about
faulting me for not quoting a writer's position that can be shown to be logically impossible.
Sparrow [quoting Till's Uzziel article]:
This posting is long enough, so I will send it now and give inerrantists something to chew on
while I am preparing another posting to continue my analysis of the Exodus-6 genealogy.
Eventually, I will get to the matter of Uzziel and show that biblical writers understood that he
was literally the uncle of Aaron.
Derspatz [Sparrow]:
There he goes again...
Till:
I suppose that Sparrow was objecting here to my use of the word inerrantist, so I will suggest
again that he consult a dictionary and spend a moment or two trying to absorb the meaning of
this word. If he would do that, he wouldn't look so foolish in trying to argue that it is
inappropriate to use a perfectly legitimate word that is understood even by biblical inerrantists
who live where this belief is commonplace. I understand that Sparrow lives in Western
Australia, which is more sparsely populated than the eastern side of the continent, so maybe
the isolation has affected his mental faculties to the point that he now thinks it is incorrect to
use a word that denotes a belief that he doesn't personally accept.
Sparrow [quoting Till's Uzziel article]:
The Uncle of Korah: In two earlier postings, I have given very reasonable evidence that
biblical and extrabiblical writers considered the Exodus-6 genealogy to be a literal father-son
listing. So far, my analysis has gone through verse 20, so I will now resume with verse 21:
"And the sons of Izhar: Korah, Nepheg and Zichri...." This is an important verse, because
verse 18 said that the sons of Kohath were Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel. (I want
everyone to watch Uzziel, because something very interesting is going to happen with him.)
Now if verse 18 is a literal father-son listing, as I believe the evidence in my other postings
has clearly established, Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel were all brothers, who were the
sons of Kohath.
This is important because most inerrantists who want to claim that generations were skipped
in this genealogy will point to this verse as a likely place where generations were skipped.
Many inerrantists, for example, will take the position that Amram wasn't necessarily the
literal father of Aaron and Moses but only a direct ancestor.
This argument, which flies right in the face of the "face-value language of the text, claims that
Amram's wife Jochebed could have borne Moses and Aaron only in the sense that she was an
ancestor of Aaron and Moses, which, of course, would have made Amram only their ancestor
and not their immediate father. In the first two issues of The Skeptical Review published in
1990, an inerrantist took the position that the Amram of verse 18 (listed as a son of Kohath
and brother of Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel) was not the same Amram of verse 20 listed as the
father of Aaron and Moses. He argued that generations were skipped between these two
Amrams.
Since inerrantists will turn to all sorts of linguistic gymnastics to try to deny that this
genealogy means what it clearly says, it is very important to establish that biblical writers
understood that Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel were brothers and that the Amram who
was Kohath's son was the same Amram who was the father of Aaron and Moses.
Derspatz [Sparrow]:
"Inerrantists" this, "inerrantists" that ... Till is seeing them everywhere Till:
Well, I don't see them everywhere, but inerrantists are very commonplace in the United
States. I have never heard him say so, but I have seen reasons to suspect that the "president"
(read usurper) of the country I live in is an inerrantist. If Sparrow would get out of the
wastelands of Western Australia and visit the United States, he might find that there is good
reason for rational people in this country to be concerned about the influence that biblical
inerrantists are having on our government. Until then, those of us who know something about
biblical inerrancy in the United States will feel sorry for Sparrow's ignorance of what is going
on here.
Sparrow:
is everyone who holds a view that differs from him to be deemed an "inerrantist"?
Till:
No, not at all, and I have never even implied that they should be. I use the
term inerrantist only in reference to those who think that the Bible contains no mistakes and
is free of all errors. That is what the word means when it is applied to the Bible.
Sparrow:
Obviously Till holds the view that whatever he publishes in his magazine (TSR) is deemed to
be inerrant, anyway.
Till:
When have I ever even implied this? If I so "obviously" hold this view, Sparrow should be
able to quote where I have said this in The Skeptical Review.
By the way, I will remind readers, and Sparrow, that I no longer publish this journal. It ceased
publication almost four years ago. That is how far Sparrow is behind the times.
Sparrow:
Actually, while I'm on the borderline of ad hominem, I do suggest that the reader peruse not
only some of the online issues of TSR, but also some of the "letters to the editor" (and his
responses to the same) found at the same place. It does provide quite a journey into the psyche
of the editor.
Till:
True to fashion, Sparrow didn't explain what one could expect to learn about "the psyche of
the editor" if he/she "peruses" some of the letters to the editor at the site linked to above.
However, those who take the time to go through the archives of all the letters from readers
published there will see many testimonies to the contribution that TSR made to the journeys
out of biblical fundamentalism that many readers experienced. By concidence, I received a
letter just this week from a former reader who had subscribed to TSR with a dare for me to try
to make him a skeptic.
Here is his letter that was published in the "Mailbag" column ot The Skeptical Review in 1995
(issue #3).
Although I am skeptical of biblical skeptics, I shall request a free subscription to The
Skeptical Review, as a result of "strong urging" from a foremost biblical skeptic in this neck
of the woods, Ralph Nielsen (whom I suppose you are already familiar with since I am to "feel
free to mention [his] name").
However, you are hereby forewarned that if you offend my conservative Christian sensitivities
I shall be forced to invoke an ancient Hebrew curse upon all of you: "May a camel urinate in
your drinking well." And I'm sure you wouldn't want that to happen, would you?
I am the type of "whacko" that actually believes the events in the Bible really happened. You
know, the kind who thinks that Daniel really wrote the book of Daniel and there was only one
person named Isaiah who wrote a warning to Israel. Yes, I'm the kind of person who believes
that Jesus walked on water without it being frozen solid. That the Red Sea parted and the
Israelites walked across on dry land. That Sodom and Gomorrah was [sic] burnt to crispy
critters for all their deeds in and out of the closet. (But you can breathe easy now because I
didn't vote for the Republicans, nor for Clinton for that matter.)
So go ahead, send me your skepticism! I dare you to make me a believer in skepticism!
Now here is the letter that he just sent to me. I am protecting his identity, because he didn't
give me permission to use his name, and as the letter below shows, he is now embarrassed at
what he said in the letter above.
I just did a google on my own name and some of my asinine comments in 1995 are there on
your Skeptical Review online magazine. Not only do I not think that way any more, but I am
embarrased that I ever wrote such unadulterated shit. Even worse, my full former address is
attached to it. Given that identity theft is so rampant these days, and given that what I wrote
was crap, I am asking you to somehow delete my letter to your Skeptical Review, 1995, that is
still printed online.
I didn't delete his letter, because the archives are intended to reflect what was published
in TSR, but I did tell him that he could post a disavowal of his former beliefs on the
present online version. At any rate, I want to recommend that readers take Sparrow's advice
and "peruse" the articles and letters that were published in The Skeptical Review. If, however,
you are a biblical inerrantist, I issue this recommendation with a warning. I receive letters
with consistent regularity now from people who tell me that reading my online articles
convinced them that their belief in biblical inerrancy was misguided; hence, reading the
archived articles of The Skeptical Review can be dangerous to your belief in the inerrancy of
the Bible.
Sparrow [quoting Till's Uzziel article]:
So we must notice that the sons of Kohath were Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel (verse 18)
and that Izhar had sons named Korah, Nepheg, and Zichri (v:21). Numbers 16 records a
rebellion against the leadership of Moses that was led by a man named Korah, so obviously
biblical writers thought that there was a man named Korah living at the time of Moses. But
was this Korah the same person who was listed in Exodus 6:21 as the son of Izhar, who was
listed in verse 18 as the son of Kohath and brother of Amram? Unfortunately for proponents
of the "skipped-generations" quibble, there is a clear indication that the Korah of Numbers 16
was considered the same Korah. This is how Numbers 16 begins: Now Korah, the son of
Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, with Dathan and Abiram...." And the chapter goes
on to describe the rebellion that Korah led, which angered Yahweh so much that he caused the
ground to open and swallow the rebels alive. Now look at the agreement we have between this
verse and the Exodus-6 genealogy: Exodus 6:16, "These are the names of the sons of Lev
according to their generations: Gershon, Kohath, and Merari...." Exodus 6:18, "And the sons
of Kohath [were] Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel...." Exodus 6:21, "And the sons
of Izhar [were] Korah, Nepheg, and Zichri...." Numbers 16:1, "Now Korah, the son
of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi...."
At face value, the Bible says that Levi had a son named Kohath, who had a son named
Amram, who had a brother named Izhar, who had a son named Korah, and the Bible, at face
value, says that a rebellion against the leadership of Moses was led by a man
named Korah, who was the son of Izhar,.who was the son of Kohath, who was the son of
Levi. Previous postings have included biblical and extra biblical evidence to show to any
reasonable person that both Jewish and biblical writers understood that Levi was the literal
father of Kohath, who was the literal father of Amram, who was the literal father of Aaron
and Moses. Now the information in this posting shows very clearly that biblical writers
understood that the Amram, who was the son of Kohath, had a brother named Izhar, who had
a son named Korah, who led a rebellion against Moses in the wilderness.
Derspatz [Sparrow]:
All quite agreeable for the purposes of this response, but a pity he couldn't resist the appeal to
"reasonable person".
Till:
Well, I think everyone can see where this is going. Sparrow is not challenging my analyses of
Exodus 12:40 and the four-generation genealogy in Exodus 6; he seems interested only in
quoting long sections of my Uzziel article so that he can then say, "Well, yes, but why does
Till keep using the word inerrantist"? So I will announce a change of course below after I
have quoted Sparrow's next objection to use of the word that he doesn't seem to like.
Sparrow [quoting Till's Uzziel article]:
Now will inerrantists on the list please explain to us how this very compelling evidence leaves
any room for skipped generations in the Exodus-6 genealogy? I am by no means finished with
this thread, because I intend to establish that Uzziel was the literal uncle of Aaron.
Derspatz [Sparrow]:
Well I'm not sure what an "inerrantist" is,
Till:
If Sparrow doesn't know what an inerrantist is, he has only himself to blame, because the
meaning of the word was explained over and over again when he was a member of
alt.bible.errancy, where he constantly made this same complaint. Unless he is so far back in
the wilderness of Western Australia that he has no access to dictionaries, he could have also
checked there to find out what an inerrantist is.
This whole complaint about the word inerrantist is just a straw man that Sparrow set up to
distract attention from his complete inability to explain away the 430-year discrepancy.
Sparrow:
and I know from past experience/dealings that I certainly don't agree with what Till's idea of
what inerrancy is.
Till:
Till's idea of inerrancy is nothing more than what biblical inerrantists themselves say about
this issue. I have quoted many times biblical inerrantists like Jerry Falwell, George DeHoff,
and even Sparrow's favorite apologist, John Haley. I suggest that Sparrow take the time to
read Haley's introduction to his book Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible. If he will do that, he
will see that "Till's idea of what inerrancy is" agrees with what Haley, and apologists who
came after him, have said about what inerrancy is. In next to the last paragraph in Haley's
introduction, he wrote that he had a "profound conviction that every difficulty and discrepancy
in the scriptures is, and will yet be seen to be, capable of a fair and reasonable solution"
(original italics). "Till's idea of what inerrancy is," then, is the same as Haley's and other
apologists like him. They maintained that discrepancies in the Bible are simply "alleged
discrepancies," because all of them can be explained. In a word, then, an inerrantist is
someone who says that there are no mistakes or discrepancies in the Bible.
If Sparrow can't understand that, I suggest that he seek professional help.
Sparrow:
"Skipped generations" or not, are quite irrelevant considering that Till's baseline assertion
regarding where 430 years were to be spent sojourning is quite flawed and he hadn't expended
any effort in either detailing that problem, nor trying to explain it - he just has seemed to
pretend it wasn't there and that no one knew any better.
Till:
I was well aware of the 215-year solution that Sparrow has presented, and as the index
page at The Skeptical Review Online will show, I have written extensively on the 430-year
problem and have dismantled in detail attempts to truncate the 430-years of Exodus 12:40 to
just 210 years. My rebuttal arguments in this article can be applied to Sparrow's position,
because all he has done is add five years to the 210 to make it 215 years. Until, then, Sparrow
can show us how it would have been logically possible for the "children of Israel" to have
lived in Canaan before any children of Israel even existed, his "solution" to the problem will
remain no solution at all.
At this point, I will leave out the part of Sparrow's article where he did nothing but quote my
Uzziel article and periodically interrupt it to say, "Well, yeah, that may all be true, but why
does Till keep using the word inerrantist?" I will continue on through his article to quote only
places where he says something that I have not already rebutted over and over above. After
his comment above, for example, Sparrow quoted a lengthy section of my Uzziel article about
extrabiblical evidence, which readers can access by clicking the link, and then said, "All very
nice - works for me! None of it has any bearing on the fact that Josephus also supports
'biblical texts' that show that the period of sojourning in Egypt and Canaan was 430 years."
(I'll parenthetically interject here that Josephus did not "support" biblical texts that show that
the 430-year period of sojourning was in Egypt and Canaan; he simply asserted that it was,
and there is a difference in supporting and asserting.) All that Sparrow is doing, then, is
quoting long sections of my article, which he then agrees with, and then says that Josephus
said that the Israelites were in Egypt and Canaan for 430 years. There is no need, therefore,
for me to quote what Sparrow agrees with. Instead, I will renew my challenge that he show us
how it would have been logically possible for "children of Israel" to have lived in Canaan
over a century and a half before children of Israel even existed.
From now on, then, I will link readers to the parts of my Uzziel article that I don't quote here,
and I will reply only to the sections of Sparrow's article where he said something that I haven't
already repeatedly rebutted.
Sparrow:
The single name rebuttal of Till's whole document as it stands (and his somewhat "flag-ship"
ish entry to the first issue of TSR) still stands (untouched eben),
Till:
Here is another of Sparrow's attempts to sprinkle a little German into his article, but in so
doing, he said something that was clearly erroneous. Readers of The Skeptical Review
Online know, as I have repeatedly shown in this rebuttal, that I have indeed "touched" that
"single name," i. e., Canaan, many times over. I have shown that Exodus 12:40 does not say
that the children of Abraham dwelt in Egypt 430 years but that the children of Israel
[Jacob} dwelt in Egypt 430 years. There were no "children of Israel" until about 50 years
before Jacob [Israel] took his family into Egypt, so that fact shoots to pieces Sparrow's 215year scenario, because an ethnic group [the children of Israel] could not have lived in Canaan
until that ethnic group had come into existence.
Sparrow:
with further text support (unmentioned in Till's document) still to follow.
Till:
No amount of "text support" that Sparrow may think that he has could prove that the children
of Israel had lived in Canaan a century and a half before the children of Israel had even
existed.
Sparrow:
We've got to wade through more of this "uncle" stuff first though.
Till:
Well, I am skipping the "uncle stuff" here, because after Sparrow had waded through it, here
is what he said.
[laughs] That last bit really seems to sum up what Till is really about. Although I haven't
added much to all this as yet, I think what I have added already shows that Till isn't going
about creating honest apologetical type work but rather about putting on some kind of flimflam show. In short, Till is out and about for a fight - a proverbial (but aged) "Billy the Kid"
looking for some fresh meat to gun down. Or perhaps more akin to the old snake-oil peddler?
Never mind "reds under the bed" - this guy is seeing so-called "inerrantists" everywhere he
turns.
Till:
So after I had presented irrefutable proof, which readers can verify by reading this section of
Sparrow's article, where he quoted my entire analyses of biblical texts that clearly established
that Uzziel was Aaron's uncle, Sparrow said not one word to try to disprove those analyses.
He just pretended to laugh and then wagged out the same old worn-out complaint: "(T)his guy
is seeing so-called 'inerrantists' everywhere he turns." In reality, I don't see inerrantists
everywhere I turn, because most Christians in the United States are not inerrantists. I talk
about inerrantists so much, because I have made it my goal to oppose a highly organized
group of inerrantists in this country, who are trying to force their beliefs on us through
legislative means, so I necessarily mention inerrantists quite often. I couldn't very well
accomplish my goal of opposing biblical fundamentalism in the United States, which is based
on a belief in biblical inerrancy, unless I referred to inerrantists in my articles. If I had set a
goal to oppose Catholicism, for example, I couldn't expect to achieve that goal unless I made
frequent references to Catholics and their doctrinal beliefs.
There isn't much wrong with Sparrow except that he lacks the common sense to reason
rationally.
Sparrow [quoting Till's Uzziel article]:
Recap: Four previous postings have presented very convincing evidence that Jacob's son Levi
was the literal father of Kohath, who was in turn the literal father of Amram, who was the
literal father of Aaron and Moses. The astounding thing about this genealogy is the mountain
of evidence, both biblical and nonbiblical, that makes it so easy to establish that Jewish
writers, both biblical and nonbiblical, understood the relationships in this lineage exactly as
they are presented above. Yet despite this overwhelming evidence, bibliolaters will resort to
all kinds of verbal gymnastics to keep from admitting that the face-value meaning of the
language in this genealogy makes Moses and Aaron the great-grandsons of Levi, Jacob's son
from which the Levitical priesthood in Judaism descended.
Derspatz [Sparrow]:
One rant deserves another [grin]. Ooh, we've got "bibliolaters" "resort"ing to "verbal
gymnastics" now.
Till:
Yes, a bibliolater is "someone whose devotion to the Bible is marked by an irrational lack of
criticism" [New Webster's Dictionary, Lexicon Publications, 1993, p. 95]. If Sparrow doesn't
think that this kind of irrational devotion to the Bible exists, he needs to get out of the deserts
of Western Australian and try to learn what is going on in the rest of the world. There is a
whole industry, which dates back before the publication of John Haley's Alleged
Discrepancies of the Bible in 1874, that exists to convince irrational biblicists that the Bible
didn't really mean what it plainly said in the passages where discrepancies have been
identified. Exodus 12:40 for example, clearly says that the "children of Israel" dwelt in Egypt
for 430 years, but this is not consistent with passages like the genealogy in Exodus 6, so
"apologists" like Haley, Arndt, Torrey, Archer, Geisler, etc., etc., etc., come riding to the
rescue to tell the gullible that this really doesn't mean that the children of Israel were in Egypt
for 430 years or that generations were "skipped" in the Exodus-6 genealogy, and so there is no
inconsistency. I could cite enough other examples to drag this article out forever, but anyone
can go to the archives of The Skeptical Review and to the index page of The Skeptical Review
Online and find various other examples of biblical discrepancies that professional "apologists"
have repeatedly tried to convince the gullible are only "alleged discrepancies," because the
passages where these are found in the Bible didn't really mean what they appeared to say.
This is bibliolatry, and it exists in the United States probably more than anywhere else in the
world. If Sparrow doesn't like my opposition to it, he will just have not to like it.
Sparrow:
BOC [But of course], we haven't actually seen any such example of this, but Till assures us
that it is so anyway. And then he goes on with more of the same.
Till:
If Sparrow hasn't seen "any such example of this," then he hasn't been paying attention,
because he was a member of the alt.bible.errancy forum plenty long enough to see example
after example of it. If he really believes that he hasn't seen "any such example of this," I invite
him to check the links that I gave above. He will see enough there to keep him busy for years.
Sparrow:
"strawman" springs to mind.
Till:
Yes, it comes to my mind too. Sparrow has made the word inerrantist a straw man that he can
kick around to take attention from his inability to show that there is no discrepancy in Exodus
12:40 and the genealogy in Exodus 6. I have shown that there clearly is, and he has done
nothing to show otherwise.
Sparrow:
Watch how based on his own constructions, he'll descend into accusations of "ridiculous", etc,
while claiming to give mysterious "biblicists" all sorts of "benefit of the doubt" and "breaks".
Till:
Those who read my Uzziel article in its entirety will see that I interpreted it to give every
benefit of doubt to biblical inerrantists who claim that the Israelites dwelt in Egypt for 430
years. For example, I calculated the maximum number of years allowed in the genealogy by
assuming that Kohath had sired Amram in the last year of his life and that Amram had sired
Moses in the last year of his life. Such assumptions are clearly ridiculous, but they were
intended to give every benefit of doubt to those who claim that no inconsistency exists
between Exodus 12:40 and the genealogy in Exodus 6. If the most absurd and ridiculous
assumptions slanted in favor of inerrantists who say that Exodus 12:40 said 430 years and
meant 430 years cannot explain this chronological discrepancy, then inerrantists have a
problem that urgently demands their attention. Sparrow settles nothing by sarcastically
referring to my "accusations of ridiculous.'"
As for my references to "biblicists," there is nothing "mysterious" about them. They do
exist. Webster's Time-Life Delux Dictionary defines biblicist like this: "A person who
interprets the Bible literally or strictly." If Sparrow thinks that there are no "biblicists," I will
advise him to get out of the deserts of Western Australia and try to find out what is really
going on in the world.
Sparrow:
Are we all suitably impressed?
Till:
Well, I doubt that anyone has been "suitably impressed" by someone who writes an article in
which his primary focus seems to be a denial that the kind of people designated by perfectly
legitimate words like inerrantist, bibliolater, and biblicist exists. If such people didn't exist,
the words that denote them wouldn't exist either. Words exist because the things or concepts
that they denote existed to give rise to the words. That is so linguistically elementary that even
Sparrow should be able to see it.
After I had analyzed the Exodus-6 genealogy to give biblical inerrantists the maximum
benefit of doubt about how much time could have passed from Kohath's entry into Egypt until
Moses led the "children of Israel" out of Egypt, I summarized the results.
So this is exactly why inerrantists bend over backwards to make the Exodus-6 genealogy not
say what it obviously does say. If they admit that Exodus 6 contains a literal father-son
genealogy, as it obviously does, then that results in a contradiction between Exodus 6 and
Exodus 12:40. I believe that the evidence I have presented sustains my claim that there is
indeed a discrepancy in the two texts, so it is now the responsibility of inerrantists to show us
that I have incorrectly divided "the word of truth."
Then Sparrow had this to say.
Derspatz [Sparrow]:
See, he didn't disappoint, did he!
Till
I suppose that this comment was directed to my use of the word bibliolaters at the beginning
of the section I omitted (linked to above), so I will challenge Sparrow to tell us what is wrong
with using this word in reference to those who venerate the Bible when obviously such people
do exist. As I said earlier, if there were no such people, the word wouldn't exist. When an
opponent can do nothing but set up straw-men complaints about the usage of legitimate
words, you can be sure that he knows that he has nothing substantial to offer.
Sparrow:
And there we go again with the "inerrantists" thang ... heck, there are plenty of non-believer
[sic] scholar types who argue over such things, not to mention Jewish believers who similarly
disagree over such things.
Till:
I don't know what Sparrow means by "nonbeliever scholar types," but, actually, there are
relatively few biblical scholars who do not, in some sense, consider the Bible either the "word
of God" or else an important religious work. However, such "scholars" are not inerrantists.
The fact is that there are no real scholars who are inerrantists, because real scholars recognize
that the Bible is an errant work that reflected the ideologies and misconceptions of the time.
So-called "scholars" who are inerrantists publish their books at Grand Rapids, Michigan, or
Nashville, Tennessee, or other sanctuaries of small religious presses.
The disagreements that Sparrow referred to are clear evidence to reasonable people that the
Bible is not the inerrant work that biblicists claim that it is. If Sparrow is not an inerrantist,
well and good, but that doesn't mean that inerrantists don't exist, and, certainly, it doesn't
mean that articles opposing the inerrantist view should not be written. What kind of warped
thinking has found its way into Sparrow's brain?"
Sparrow:
As for the "divided the word of truth" aspect, isn't it generally agreed upon that you actually
have to be a believer with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to manage that?
Till:
Well, first of all, my reference to "rightly dividing the word of truth" was a sarcastic reference
to 2 Timothy 2:15, where Timothy was told to study so that he could "rightly divide the word
of Truth." Needless to say, I don't believe that the Bible is "the word of truth," but neither do I
believe the scripture that Sparrow alluded to above, where the apostle Paul said that "the
natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and
he cannot know them because they are spiritually judged, but he that is spiritual judges all
things" (1 Cor. 2:14-15). Christian fundamentalists have spun this passage to mean that no
one can understand the "word of God" (read Bible) unless he has the Holy Spirit dwelling in
him. This is a self-contradictory doctrine that teaches that one must understand the "word of
God" in order to receive the Holy Spirit but that one cannot understand the "word of God"
until he has the Holy Spirit dwelling in him. It is just another example of the kind of nonsense
that is so regrettably characteristic of Christian dogmatism.
And Sparrow has the temerity to fault me for using words like inerrantist,
bibliolater, and biblicist to describe people who are inerrantists, bibliolaters, and biblicists.
Go figure.
Sparrow [quoting Till's Uzziel article]:
This pretty well summarizes the chronological problem that this genealogy causes the biblical
inerrancy doctrine, and the bad news for biblicists is that I haven't yet finished analyzing the
information that shows that biblical and nonbiblical writers thought that the generation-bygeneration descent from Levi to Aaron was exactly as it is shown in the Exodus-6 genealogy.
Derspatz [Sparrow]:
Talk about heaping things up on [sic] a bad premise! What was the "biblical inerrancy
doctrine" again?
Till:
A doctrine is "something taught as the principles or creed of a religion, political party, etc., a
tenet or tenets of belief" (Webster's Unabridged Dictionary). By quoting above leading
religious leaders like Jerry Falwell, I have shown that there is a system of beliefs in Christian
fundamentalism that claims that there are no errors or mistakes of any kind in the Bible.
Hence, the existence of a biblical inerrancy doctrine is so obviously established that only
someone hopelessly uninformed would deny that there is such a doctrine in Christian
fundamentalism. While he was on alt.bible.errancy, I never could understand Sparrow's
objection to references to "biblical inerrancy doctrine," "biblical inerrantists," "biblicists," etc.
He seemed to be saying that because he didn't believe that the Bible is inerrant, there is no
such thing as a biblical inerrancy doctrine. That position is as idiotic as if I would say that
because I don't believe in papal infallibility, there is no such thing as a doctrine of papal
infallibility. When I am replying to something that David Sparrow wrote about biblical issues,
I often feel as if I am trying to reason with a moron.
Sparrow"
How has his ad hominem laced (guilty your honour!) biased study of a certain genealogy
caused a chronological problem with the promises of Genesis 15 and the confirmed fulfilment
given in Exodus 12:40, Josephus and even in the New Testament?
Till:
My plea is really, "Not guility, your honor." It is Sparrow's responsibility to show that the
conclusions that I reached in my "ad-hominem laced, biased study" of the Exodus-6
genealogy are incorrect. I don't see how he can expect to do that by frequently admitting, as
he did throughout his article, that my genalogical analyses are correct. After making this
admission, his only recourse has been to say that Exodus 12:40 really meant that the "children
of Israel" sojourned in Egypt for just 215 years and the other 215 years were spent in Canaan,
but he didn't bother to explain how "children of Israel" could have lived in Canaan before
children of Israel even existed. He, like the others who have tried this "explanation" of the
discrepancy, failed to recognize this huge hole in their theory.
Sparrow:
But wait, there is more we have to endure before getting on with all of that. [sigh].
Till:
The more that Sparrow had to endure was an analysis of genealogies in Ruth 4:18-29, Genesis
46:12, 1 Chronicles 2:5-10, Numbers 1:7, Numbers 2:3, Numbers 7:12, and Numbers 10:14,
which all agreed that Nahshon, the brother of Aaron's wife Elisheba (Ex. 6:23), was the son of
Amminadab, who was the son of Ram, who was the son of Hezron, the grandson of Judah,
who, according to Genesis 46:12, had already been born when the Israelites went into Egypt.
These genealogical analyses established that the writers of the various passages referred to
agreed that the sons of Aaron and Elisheba would have been only the fourth generation of
Israelites who were born in Egypt.
Look at what Sparrow said about these genealogical analyses.
Derspatz [Sparrow]:
[yawn] Oh sorry - yet [sic] it was all very nice and I am sure Till had fun researching it all,
Till:
If Sparrow could stay awake long enough, perhaps he would learn enough about the Bible not
to put his foot in his mouth as he did immediately below.
Sparrow:
but it still has not dealt with the "And Canaan" aspect (that I am about to show is implied even
when not given, and have already shown is also well given anyway) one iota.
Till:
I didn't "deal" with the "and Canaan aspect," because the article was not addressed to those
who have tried this dodge. My Uzziel article was directed to those who think that Exodus
12:40 meant what it said and that the Exodus writer was claiming that the "children of Israel"
had dwelt in Egypt for 430 years. I am well aware of the 210-year theory, and whenever I
address that view of Exodus 12:40, I give a complete, detailed refutation of it, as Sparrow and
anyone else can see by reading "The 210-Year solution." I will be waiting to see him rebut my
conclusions in this article and explain to us how "children of Israel" could have lived in
Canaan before children of Israel had even existed. If Sparrow were not so ignorant of the
Bible, maybe he wouldn't get himself into predicaments like the one he is now in.
He says that he is "about to show" that "and Canaan" is "implied even when not given" in
Exodus 12:40. Let's see how he succeeds in doing that. Even if he succeeds in showing--and
he doesn't--that this text implied "and Canaan," he will then have to explain to us how
"children of Israel" could have lived in Canaan before children of Israel had even existed.
Sparrow:
As for "an error is an error is an error", despite Till's lengthy tome regarding things pertaining
to genealogies, he has failed to explore in any detail the very passage of scripture he is
offering as the measuring stick to prove the accuracy of his contention. And this is where the
problem lies - his measuring stick has been mis-represented [sic]....
Till:
I have to wonder about the education system in Australia. Doesn't it teach that mis- is a prefix
and should therefore be added to root words like represent without the hyphenation? Well, on
second thought, maybe I shouldn't fault the Australian education system. for how Sparrow
writes. The fact that he wouid repeatedly make a mistake like this doesn't mean that he wasn't
taught the correct way to use English prefixes. He is, after all, a slow learner.
Sparrow:
and thus his whole argument is rotten and has fallen.
Till:
Well, let's just let the readers decide whether the argument is rotten and whether it falls.
Sparrow [quoting Till's summation statement in the Uzziel article]:
So here is further evidence that the writer of the Exodus-6 genealogy thought that only three
or four generations of Israelites were born between the descent into Egypt and the exodus. He
presented the genealogy of Aaron in a way that revealed that he thought that only three
generations of Israelites at the most had actually grown up in Egypt (Kohath, Amram, and
Aaron) and that Aaron had married a woman who was only the third generation of her family
to be born in Egypt (Ram, Amminadab, and Nahshon and Elisheba). It isn't possible to find
430 years in this genealogy, so we can only conclude that there is a chronological discrepancy
between Exodus 6:18-23 and Exodus 12:40, which says that the Israelites sojourned in Egypt
for 430 years. And an error is an error is an error.
Derspatz [Sparrow]:
And as has been asserted by the simple single name inclusion (used in some texts and
Josephus, and implied in others) of "Canaan", that the error is all Till's.
Till:
In articles in which I addressed the "and-Canaan" theory, I showed that it is logically
impossible for this to be a satisfactory explanation to the 430-year problem, because it just
wouldn't have been logically possible for "children of Israel" to have lived in Canaan before
any children of Israel had even existed.
Once again, Sparrow claimed that "Canaan" was implied "in other" texts, so watch carefully
to see if he ever established any such implication.
Sparrow:
His motivation may well be more than indicated here.
Till:
If the pronoun his referred to me, I can easily explain what my motivation was in writing the
Uzziel article. Strict biblical inerrantists believe that Exodus 12:40 meant exactly what it said;
therefore, they claim that the children of Israel lived in Egypt for 430 years. My motivation in
writing the Uzziel article was to show that this position is chronologically inconsistent with
the Exodus-6 genealogy. Throughout his article that I am now replying to, Sparrow admitted
that my conclusions about the generation-by-generation listings in Exodus 6 were correct, so
we have to wonder what his motivation was in writing his article.
Sparrow:
You see, if only 215 year [sic] sojourning in Egypt are to be counted then various
chronologies that relate to the long promised taking "possession" of the areas promised to
Abraham's descendants, match far better with current archaeological findings in relation to
Jericho, etc, which happens to be another of Till's quibbles (that Jericho was destroyed
centuries before the Exodees got there). Get the period of sojourning right, and the [sic]
Jericho falls at the hands of Joshua and his marching men after all...
Till:
If only 215 years sojourning in Egypt are to be counted? Well, I am reminded of a proverb
that I heard when I was a missionary in France: "If my aunt had balls, she wouldn't be my
aunt." Those who allow only 215 years in Egypt for the children of Israel are flagrantly
disregarding what Exodus 12:40 plainly says. It doesn't say that they sojourned in Egypt for
215 years; it says that they sojourned there for 430 years.
Yes, yes, Sparrow says, but that means that they sojourned 430 years in Egypt and
Canaan. Well, my reply to that has been made several times throughout this response to
Sparrow's article, so let him now explain to us how "children of Israel" could have lived in
Canaan over a century and a half before any children of Israel even existed.
As for Sparrow's unsupported assertion that a 215-year sojourn in Egypt "match[es] far better
with current archaeological findings in relation to Jericho," he has achieved nothing here but
to show his ignorance of "current archaeological findings." There are certain archaeologists of
the maximist [inerrantist] kind who think that the tales of the exodus and Joshua's conquests
have been verified by archaeology, but archaeologists who have no biblical axes to grind
recognize that tales of the exodus, wilderness wanderings, and conquests in Canaan are only
fictionalized history that was intended to give a nondescript people who gradually gained
dominance in Canaan a glorious past.
If Sparrow would care to debate this issue, I will gladly take him on.
Sparrow:
Yes, it seems quite impossible to find 430 years in the genealogy that Till is asserting as so if
one is meant to consider it only in the context of a sojourn in Egypt,
Till:
Well, good, then Sparrow agrees that those who accept what Exodus 12:40 says have a
chronological discrepancy that they can't explain. Since my "motivation," which Sparrow
referred to earlier, in writing the Uzziel articles was to show that the Exodus-6 genealogy is
incompatible with the claim that the children of Israel sojourned in Egypt for 430 years,
Sparrow agrees that I achieved my aim. I thank him for that admission.
Sparrow:
but the same resources Till is using, make it quite clear that the 430 year sojourning is to [be]
counted from a time other than from when Jacob moved into Goshen.
Till:
Well, if "the same resources" make this so clear, why didn't Sparrow show us that they did?
He is not a biblical inerrantist, but he acts like one in that he finds it easier to assert than to
show. I am almost to the end of his article, and he has yet to show us where Exodus 12:40 and
"the same other resources" implied that the writer was saying that the children of Israel had
sojourned in Egypt and Canaan for 430 years.
Sparrow:
Having already trounced Till's argument with a single name,
Till:
Until he shows us how it would have been possible for "children of Israel" to have lived in
Canaan before children of Israel had even existed, Sparrow will have to withdraw his claim of
having "trounced" my argument "with a single name." The single name that he meant was
Canaan, but I showed in this section of "The 210-Year Solution" that children of Israel didn't
even exist till about 50 years before Israel [Jacob] took his "children" into Egypt. How then
could "children of Israel" have dwelt in Canaan a century and a half before they even existed?
We will eagerly wait to see if Sparrow can answer that question.
Sparrow:
I'll now present a "prepared earlier" pre-amble [sic] to the "Canaan" issue before diving
further in to explore it at depth.
Till:
This was where Sparrow included the notice that he had a "work in progress" that would
include excerpts that he went on to quote from our exchanges on alt.bible.errancy.
WORK STILL IN PROGRESS - the following to be woven in with a whole heap more,
including egrouped archives on the matter. One day…
Sparrow's quotations were unorganized, so I will wait until he completes his "work in
progress" to reply to it except for his first quotations from exchanges in alt.bible.errancy on
the 430-year problem. I will include them here to show readers that his "work in progress"
will do nothing but recycle his 215-year solution, which I have now dismantled many times
over.
He seems to think that a brief post by an alt.bible.errancy biblicist named Paul Smith left me
with a problem that I couldn't reply to.
Paul Smith:
Exodus 12:40: Now the length of time the Israelite people lived in Egypt [1] was 430 years.
[1] Masoretic Text; Samaritan Pentateuch and Septuagint "Egypt and Canaan"
Till, can you put into 100 words or less why exactly Canaan does not resolve the difficulty?
Till:
No, I can't explain this in 100 words or less, and to ask me to do so is an unreasonable
request.
Derspatz:
But Of Course Till can't do it - he needs masses of words to do his smoke, mirrors and straw
tricks.
Sadly he can't be convinced without such masses of words either, hence the ever increasing
amount of postings on the subject, despite his whole quibble as first raised in his extremely
wordy WWW available "Uzziel" document, being rendered null and void by the introduction
of a single name.
I can "put into a [sic] 100 words or less" both why "Canaan" is implied in the MAS text, and
included in other texts and how it harmonizes with the rest of "The Word" and "The Promise"
though, but for the sake of the challenge let's make it exactly 100 words.
Please start your word counters after "counter on" and prior to "counter off" for my 100 word
response detailing a standard Jewish view of their history and the recording thereof that Till
is having such problems with. BOC [but of course], it would be mainly the Messianic Jewish
believers of Yeshua Ha mashiach or Ha shem who would be including the NT references...
Counter-On
75yo Abram crosses Euphrates to sojourn as "strangers in a strange land" (Gen:12, Heb:11).
430y period commences (Gal:3, Ex:12). Abraham's descendants promised land from Egypt to
Euphrates for ownership, not sojourning.
Till:
Well, I must interrupt Sparrow here to point out to readers that he not only fudged on his 100
count by abbreviating and combining numbers and abbreviations but he is also sadly
misinformed on the extent of the land promise that was made to Abraham. In the first place,
the promise to Abraham that mentioned Egypt was not in Genesis 12 but Genesis 15. Let's
take a look at it.
Genesis 15:18 In that day Yahweh made a covenant with Abram [Abraham], saying, "To your
seed, I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates."
Sparrow has apparently made a common mistake here by assuming that "the river of Egypt"
was the Nile, but it actually referred to "the brook of Egypt," which was the southern border
of Judah's territory. Here are some other passages that refer to this brook.
Numbers 34:1 Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying: 2 Command the Israelites, and say to them:
When you enter the land of Canaan (this is the land that shall fall to you for an inheritance,
the land of Canaan, defined by its boundaries), 3 your south sector shall extend from the
wilderness of Zin along the side of Edom. Your southern boundary shall begin from the end of
the Dead Sea on the east; 4 your boundary shall turn south of the ascent of Akrabbim, and
cross to Zin, and its outer limit shall be south of Kadesh-barnea; then it shall go on to Hazaraddar, and cross to Azmon; 5 the boundary shall turn from Azmon to the Wadi [brook] of
Egypt, and its termination shall be at the Sea.
Joshua 15:1 The lot for the tribe of the people of Judah according to their families reached
southward to the boundary of Edom, to the wilderness of Zin at the farthest south. 2 And their
south boundary ran from the end of the Dead Sea, from the bay that faces southward; 3 it
goes out southward of the ascent of Akrabbim, passes along to Zin, and goes up south of
Kadesh-barnea, along by Hezron, up to Addar, makes a turn to Karka, 4 passes along to
Azmon, goes out by the Wadi [brook] of Egypt, and comes to its end at the sea. This shall be
your south boundary.
Readers should also see Joshua 15:47; 1 Kings 8:65; 2 Chronicles 7:8; and Ezekiel 47:19,
which all refer to this brook [wadi] as the southern border of Israel [Judah]. Sparrow can
consult just about any reputable commentary to see that "the river of Egypt" in Genesis 15:18
was the brook [wadi] of Egypt and not the Nile River. This brook flowed from Northern Sinai
into the Mediterranean Sea south of Gaza. This was northeast of Egypt; hence, the land
promise that Yahweh made to Abraham never included land "from Egypt to the Euphrates."
Now let's continue to "wade" through Sparrow's 100-word "solution" to the 430-year problem.
Prediction of 400y ill-treatment, promise to punish enslaving nation, and prediction of
returning descendants to current area during fourth generation to take ownership.
(Gen:15&17). 400y ill-treatment begins with Ishmael mocking at Isaac's weaning (Gen:21)
when Abraham 105yo, increasing to enslavement under Egyptian nation preceding the
Exodus led by Moses, the fourth generation of Israel/Jacob, 430y from Promise. "Canaan"
thus a redundant detail already implied. Gen:15-17 and Ex:6&12 harmonize. Counter-off.
The above isn't good enough for Till though, which is why we have a long way to go and lots
more information to drag about the place in the effort to show him the error of his ways.
Till:
I will interrupt the birdie again to point out that now that he has read through my point-bypoint rebuttal of his article he should know why his 100-word "solution" above isn't "good
enough." Besides being nearly incomprehensible in places where he struggled to limit himself
to 100 words, it made the mistake of taking about 215 years of Exodus 12:40 and assigning
them to the time that Abraham and his immediate descendants lived in Canaan, but Exodus
12:40 doesn't say that the children of Abraham lived in Egypt and Canaan 430 years; it says
that the children of Israel sojourned in Egypt 430 years. Try as he may, Sparrow cannot find
"Canaan" in this text, and even if he could prove that the Septuagint and Samaritan
Pentateuch read as the original manuscript did, that still would not solve the problem, because
he would then have to show us how "children of Israel" could have lived in Canaan over 150
years before any children of Israel existed.
Before I quote from an alt.bible.errancy post in which I replied in detail to Sparrow's spin on
Genesis 15:13-16, I just have to comment on Sparrow's recycling of the Jewish claim that the
400 years of oppression predicted in this passage began when Ishmael mocked Isaac at the
latter's weaning. I have heard this before, but I find it incredible that anyone would have the
audacity to claim that one child's mocking of another would constitute the oppression
prophesied in Genesis 15. Let's look at the record of Ishmael's mocking.
Genesis 21:8 The child [Isaac] grew, and was weaned; and Abraham made a great feast on
the day that Isaac was weaned. 9 But Sarah saw the son of Hagar [Ishmael] the Egyptian,
whom she had borne to Abraham, playing with her son Isaac. 10 So she said to Abraham,
"Cast out this slave woman with her son; for the son of this slave woman shall not inherit
along with my son Isaac." 11 The matter was very distressing to Abraham on account of his
son. 12 But God said to Abraham, "Do not be distressed because of the boy and because of
your slave woman; whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for it is through Isaac that
offspring shall be named for you.
Now let's juxtapose with this the text the one where Yahweh told Abraham that his
descendants would be oppressed for 400 years.
Genesis 15:13 Then Yahweh said to Abram, "Know this for certain, that your offspring shall
be aliens in a land that is not theirs, and shall be slaves there, and they shall be oppressed
for four hundred years; 14 but I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and
afterward they shall come out with great possessions.
How can any reasonable person think that one child's mocking of another would constitute
the oppression that Yahweh prophesied? When Ishmael mocked Isaac, did it enslave him?
Yahweh's prophecy was that Abraham's offspring would be enslaved and that this
enslavement would occur in a land that wasn't theirs, so in what sense did Ishmael's mocking
enslave Isaac? Ishmael was immediately sent away, so that would have ended any
"oppression" that Isaac experienced then, so when was Isaac oppressed again? Does Sparrow
seriously expect anyone to think that a single act of childish mocking would have constituted
215 years of oppression for Abraham's offspring in the land of Canaan? Furthermore, the
plural pronoun theirs was used in the prophecy. Abraham's offspring would be oppressed and
enslaved in a land that wasn't theirs; hence, the oppression and enslavement prophesied here
was obviously intended to convey the enslavement of a plurality of Abraham's descendants.
Isaac, therefore, could not have fulfilled this prophecy, because he was just one person.
Furthermore, Abraham's descendants were to be oppressed by a nation upon which Yahweh
would bring his judgment (v:14), so Ishmael could not have fulfilled this part of the prophecy,
since he was an individual and not a nation.
This aspect of Sparrow's "solution" is so ridiculous that it deserves no more comment.
During our exchanges on alt.bible.errancy, I addressed Yahweh's promise to Abraham in
Genesis 15:13-16 to show why the promise of 400 years of servitude in a land "not theirs"
could not have been a reference to any time that Abraham's descendants had spent in Canaan.
I will first quote that passage and then quote what I said in reply to Sparrow on that very
issue.
Genesis 15:13 Then Yahweh said to Abram, "Know this for certain, that your offspring shall
be aliens in a land that is not theirs, and shall be slaves there, and they shall be oppressed
for four hundred years; 14 but I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and
afterward they shall come out with great possessions. 15 As for yourself, you shall go to your
ancestors in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. 16 And they shall come back
here in the fourth generation; for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete."
Now here is what I said about this text when Sparrow and I were debating the 430-year
problem on the alt.bible.errancy forum. The complete post can be accessed here, but I will
quote the part relevant to Yahweh's promise in Genesis 15.
If you hadn't brought up Genesis 15:13, I was going to, because (as your comments below
clearly show that you are aware of) it does irreparable damage to your position that the
bondage in Exodus 12:40 included also the years spent in Canaan.
[Genesis 15:13-16, just quoted above, has been snipped for brevity's sake.]
Let's notice some statements in this passage that clearly show that its intention was to refer to
the bondage in Egypt. First, Yahweh allegedly told Abraham (if one can take seriously stories
about gods appearing to humans) that his offspring would be aliens in a land (singular, not
"lands" plural) that is not theirs, but Genesis 12:7 has Yahweh already having told Abraham
that he was giving the land to his seed. Hence, it could not be said that while Abraham's seed
was in Canaan, they were in a land that was "not theirs." Second, this same verse says that
Abraham's offspring would be "slaves there," i. e., in the land that is not theirs. You cannot
show (and, of course, your comments below recognize this) that the Israelites were ever
"slaves" while they were in Canaan. Third--and this is the killer for your position--this same
verse says that Abraham's seed would be slaves in a land that wasn't theirs for four hundred
years. Notice that it does not say that they would be slaves in lands that were not theirs, but if
your position is right, this is what the text would have to say, because you are arguing that the
Israelites sojourned as slaves in Canaan and Egypt for a combined total of 400 years.
However, the Genesis 15:13 prophecy spoke only of enslavement in a land that wasn't theirs
for 400 years.
Finally, the Genesis prophecy says that Abraham's offspring would come out of this land they
had been enslaved in with great possessions. This statement fits into the scenario described in
Exodus 12 of the Israelites going out of Egypt with jewels, silver, gold, raiment, and great
herds of livestock, but I know of nothing claimed in the Bible about the Israelites ever having
"come out" of Canaan with great possessions.
Clearly, the prophecy in Genesis 15:13 was intended to describe the exodus from Egypt, and
the text says that it would last 400 years, so it looks as if you are going to have to take your
theory back to the drawing board to see if you can come up with another quibble or two to try
to save it. The problem is simple: even if you could unequivocally establish that Exodus 12:40
should read that the Israelites sojourned in Egypt and Canaan for 430 years, you would then
be confronted with a conflict with Genesis 15:13, which speaks only of a 400-year
enslavement in a land that wasn't theirs, out of which they would be brought after the 400
years. The Israelites were not brought out of Canaan; the biblical claim is that they were
brought into it.
Sparrow had seen this reply to his Genesis 15:13 references long before he wrote the article I
am now replying to, so I have to wonder why he has pretended that I had never referred to this
passage in my articles about the 430-year problem. He had to know better, but now he cannot
deny that I have dealt with all of the passages that he accused me of "omitting." Let's see now
if he can twist Genesis 15:13-16 to make it mean that Yahweh was prophesying that
Abraham's descendants would be in bondage for 400 years in Canaan and Egypt. Of course,
to succeed in making Genesis 15:13-16 a satisfactory solution to the 430-year problem, he
will also have to show us how "children of Israel" could have lived in Canaan before there
were any children of Israel.
Now let's continue with Sparrow's comments on his 100-word "solution" of the 430-year
problem.
"It's only a flesh wound -I've had worse" he'll declare as yet another limb goes flying.
Till:
As anyone can see from my rebuttal comments above, it wasn't even a flesh wound. He
missed me by a mile.
All in vain mind you, for no doubt as far as the majority of those the Abrahamic Covenant
mostly applies to are concerned, there is no problem or issue evident to warrant discussion in
its current form.
Till:
Well, yes, as I noted above, we have known for a long time that Jews recognized the 430-year
problem fairly early in the history of their "scriptures," and so they did the same thing that any
respectable inerrantists, whether Jewish or Christian, would do when confronted with a
discrepancy in their holy book. They leaned over backwards to try to make the discrepant
passages not mean what they clearly say, and so Jewish "apologists" came up with the 215year "solution." I have shown, however, that this "solution" is really no solution at all. Until
Sparrow can show us how "children of Israel" could have lived in Canaan a century and a half
before any children of Israel existed, he is left without any solution to the problem.
Maybe he can go back to the drawing board and come up with a better "solution."
http://w w w .thesk
Go
OCTNOVOCT
12 captures
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12 Nov 2006 10 Aug 2016 20052006 2008
About this capture
How Could Hezron and Hamul Have
Gone into Egypt with Jacob?
by Farrell Till
I recently received mail from a couple who left the Church of Christ after having read internet
articles, which convinced them that the doctrine of biblical inerrancy is untenable. They are
presently experiencing intensive efforts by the elders of their former congregation to lead
them back into the "fold." Since my internet articles were among those that they had studied,
they have asked me to reply to some of the apologetic efforts that their former elders have
made to convince them that the Bible is indeed the inspired, inerrant "word of God." In this
series, I will be replying to some worn-out, frequently discredited arguments that these elders
have recycled in correspondence with their former members.
The question of how many children of Israel went into Egypt with Jacob was raised in these
discussions. Was it 70, as claimed in Genesis 46:27, or was it 75, as Stephen claimed in his
speech in Acts 7:14? I will address this question in Part Two of this series, but first I want to
show that there are some serious problems in what the book of Genesis says about the descent
of Jacob's extended family into Egypt. Seeing this problem first should help readers see that
the "solution" to the 70/75 problem is not quite as simple as these church elders would have
their former members believe.
The first problem I will present concerns the accuracy of Genesis 46 in its listing of the family
members who made the trip into Egypt with Jacob. According to Genesis 46:26, sixty-six
members of Jacob's family allegedly accompanied him on this trip, and three (Joseph and his
sons Manasseh and Ephraim) were already in Egypt (Gen. 46:27), so that a total of 70
Israelites, when Jacob is counted, were in Egypt at that time. All of these people were
individually listed in verses 8-24, and among them were Hezron and Hamul (v:12), the greatgrandsons of Jacob through Perez, one of his twin grandsons born to Tamar, who had tricked
Jacob's son Judah into impregnating her (Gen. 38:12-30). The problem is that if Judah
actually did have two grandsons who had already been born to Perez at the time of Jacob's
descent into Egypt, then other sections of the biblical narrative cannot be numerically correct.
We can determine this from certain chronological information given about Joseph, Jacob's son
who was sold into Egypt by his jealous brothers. Joseph was seventeen years old when his
brothers betrayed him (Gen. 37:2). Immediately after the events of the betrayal were related,
the Genesis writer said, "And it came to pass at that time, that Judah went down from his
brethren, and turned in to a certain Adullamite, whose name was Hirah. And Judah saw there
a daughter of a certain Canaanite whose name was Shua; and he took her and went in unto
her" (38:1-2). Now if this happened "at that time," what else can we believe except that the
writer meant that Judah married the Canaanite woman at the time following the selling of
Joseph? To argue otherwise is to render meaningless a transitional expression ("at that time")
that the writer was obviously using to let his readers know when Judah's marriage had
occurred. It had occurred at that time, when Joseph was sold into Egypt. This meaning of the
expression "at that time" becomes rather obvious when the final verses of Genesis 37 are read
in the same context with 38:1.
Genesis 37:31 Then they [Joseph's brothers] took Joseph's robe, slaughtered a goat, and
dipped the robe in the blood. 32 They had the long robe with sleeves taken to their father, and
they said, "This we have found; see now whether it is your son's robe or not." 33 He
recognized it, and said, "It is my son's robe! A wild animal has devoured him; Joseph is
without doubt torn to pieces." 34 Then Jacob tore his garments, and put sackcloth on his
loins, and mourned for his son many days. 35 All his sons and all his daughters sought to
comfort him; but he refused to be comforted, and said, "No, I shall go down to Sheol to my
son, mourning." Thus his father bewailed him. 36 Meanwhile the Midianites had sold him in
Egypt to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh's officials, the captain of the guard. 38:1 It happened at
that time that Judah went down from his brothers and settled near a certain Adullamite
whose name was Hirah. 2 There Judah saw the daughter of a certain Canaanite whose name
was Shua; he married her and went in to her.
The expression "at that time" was obviously intended to date Judah's departure from his
brothers so that readers would know when this happened. Unless it refers back to the event
just mentioned, i. e., the sale of Joseph into Egypt, it becomes a meaningless expression, and I
am sure that not even biblical inerrantists would try to make the expression mean anything
else were it not for the chronological problem that I will be explicating below.
As Judah's story was told in this chapter, his Canaanite wife conceived and bore a son named
Er, then conceived again and bore a son named Onan, and finally conceived and bore a third
son named Shelah (vv:2-5). Er grew up and married Tamar, but before the marriage had
produced children, Er did something to offend God, who then killed him. Under the
requirements of Levirate law (which in this story would be an anachronism) Judah told Er's
brother Onan to "go in unto [his] brother's wife... and raise up seed to [his] brother." Onan
went in to his brother's wife, but, knowing that the child produced would not be legally his, he
"spilled [his seed] on the ground." This so angered God that he killed Onan too (Gen. 38:610). Judah, fearful that tragedy would befall his last son Shelah, urged Tamar to "remain a
widow in [her] father's house till Shelah [his] son be grown up... lest he also die like his
brethren" (v:11).
Tamar obligingly retired to her father's house, and "in the process of time" (v:12) Judah's
Canaanite wife died, at which time Judah went up to his sheep-shearers at Timnah to be
comforted. Meanwhile, realizing that Judah's son Shelah was grown but that she had not yet
been given to him in Levirate marriage, Tamar posed as a prostitute and conspired to trick
Judah into impregnating her. The plan worked, and Tamar subsequently gave birth to twin
sons, Perez and Zerah (vv:13-30). It was this Perez who fathered Hezron and Hamul, who
were listed in Genesis 46:12 as two of the sixty-six members of Jacob's family who
accompanied him into Egypt.
So what is the point of all this? To see the significance of it, we have to think in reasonable
terms of how many years would have had to pass for all the events in Genesis 38 to happen. If
we assume that Judah married his Canaanite wife the day after he and his brothers had sold
Joseph into Egypt, and if we further assume that Judah's wife became pregnant the very night
of their wedding, and then if we further assume that Judah's second son, Onan, was conceived
immediately after Er's birth, this would have made the brothers about a year apart in their
ages. Now, if we suppose that Er married Tamar immediately upon reaching puberty, say,
when he was a mere 12 years old, and if we further suppose that Onan went into Tamar when
he too was only 12 years old, then Onan's death would have occurred about fourteen years
after the selling of Joseph into Egypt, because Onan's puberty (at age twelve) could not have
occurred until about fourteen years after Judah's marriage to his Canaanite wife.
There is a clear indication that more than just one year separated Onan and Shelah, because
Judah implored Tamar to remain a widow in her father's house "till Shelah [his] son be grown
up" (v:11). Exactly how many years separated them we don't know, but the Genesis writer
certainly implied that more than just a short while separated Onan's death and Tamar's
conspiracy to trick Judah into impregnating her, because the writer bridged the interval by
saying that "in the process of time" Judah's wife died. Surely this is not an expression he
would have used if only a few weeks or even a few months had passed. Furthermore, the
writer said that Tamar had seen that "Shelah was grown up" (v:14). Both of these statements
imply the passage of a considerable period of time, for certainly Tamar would not have had to
see that Shelah was grown up if he had been only a year or so younger than Onan. She would
have known without "seeing" that he was grown. There is even a textual implication that
many years separated Onan and Shelah, for the writer said that Judah's wife bore Shelah "at
Chezib" (v:5). This place is mentioned nowhere else in the Bible, and some scholars think that
this is because it was not a place. They think that the Hebrew word kezib was actually derived
from kazab, meaning "to stop flowing." If so, the implication is that Judah's wife gave birth to
Shelah and then ceased having her menstrual cycle or in other words experienced menopause,
and this is exactly what the NEB understands the word to mean. Lamsa's translation from the
Peshitta text renders the verse, "and after she bore him [Shelah] she stopped bearing." These
translations are consistent with Judah's request that Tamar return to her father's house and
wait until his son Shelah "be grown up" (v:11), a definite implication that Shelah at the time
was considerably younger than Onan.
To make my point, however, it isn't necessary to assume that Shelah was "considerably
younger" than Onan. Let's just assume that only two years had passed between Onan's death
and Tamar's realization that "Shelah was grown up" (v:14). Let's further assume that Tamar,
after realizing that "Shelah was grown up," immediately tricked Judah into impregnating her.
Even at that, her twin sons, Perez and Zerah, could not have been born until about seventeen
years after Judah's marriage to his Canaanite wife, whom he had married "at that time" (the
selling of Joseph into Egypt). Let's now be generous to biblical inerrantists and assume that
Perez, like his half-brothers Er and Onan, had married immediately upon reaching puberty at
age twelve. Let's further assume that he immediately impregnated his wife, whoever she was,
and that she also gave birth to twin sons, Hezron and Hamul, who only days after their birth
accompanied their great-grandfather Jacob into Egypt with sixty-four other members of the
family clan. Even this would put the births of Hezron and Hamul at least thirty years after the
selling of Joseph into Egypt. This figure is arrived at by the following formula: 2 (the time it
took Judah's wife to give birth to Er and Onan) + 11 (the time required after Onan's birth for
Er to attain puberty) + 1 (the time needed after Er's death for Onan to attain puberty) + 2 (the
time for Shelah to grow up and Tamar to realize that Judah did not intend to give her to
Shelah in marriage) + 1 (the time for Tamar to trick Judah and then carry her twins to term) +
12 (the time for Hezron to attain puberty and marry) + 1 (the time for Hezron's wife to carry
her assumed twins to term). The numbers add up to thirty, and surely no one would seriously
argue that all of this could have occurred within a time frame of less than thirty years.
Reasonable people, who have no pet theories to protect, would even agree that a much longer
period of time would have passed. To add ten or even fifteen years to our hypothetical thirty
would not be at all unreasonable, because the thirty-year figure is predicated on the
assumptions that (1) all events happened in rapid succession, that (2) three brothers all
attained puberty at twelve and became sexually active at that age, that (3) one of the twelve
year olds was sophisticated enough sexually to know how to prevent pregnancy by coitus
interruptus, and that (4) one of the three immediately impregnated his mate. That any one of
these happened is very unlikely, but to believe that they all happened, one would have to be
naively credulous.
With the chronology in this period of Judah's life agreed upon, let's now return to Joseph. As
previously noted, he was seventeen when his brothers sold him into Egypt (Gen. 37:2).
Through a long, complicated process that I will be as brief as possible in relating, Joseph
found favor with the Egyptian pharaoh and was made food administrator. If the Bible record
is historically correct, Joseph was in Egypt thirteen years before this promotion occurred,
because he was "thirty years old when he stood before Pharaoh king of Egypt" (Gen 41:46).
Joseph was put into this administrative position as a result of his dream interpretations in
which he had predicted seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine. When he
made himself known to his brothers, who had come into Egypt to find food during the famine,
Joseph said in identifying himself, "For these two years hath the famine been in the land: and
there are yet five years, in which there shall be neither plowing nor harvest" (Gen. 45:6). So
if Joseph was 30 years old when he "stood before pharaoh" and if seven years of plenty and
two years of famine had passed when he revealed his identity to his brothers, then he was only
thirty-nine at this time. In other words, Joseph's reunion with his brothers occurred only
twenty-two years after he was sold into Egypt. He then sent his brothers back into Canaan to
bring his father and family into Egypt where there would be food to sustain them during the
famine (Gen. 45:19-28; 46:1-27).
The problem should be apparent by now. Between the selling of Joseph into Egypt and his
reunion with his brothers, certain events had allegedly transpired in Judah's life that required a
bare minimum of thirty years, and, as I indicated, we have to stretch every detail of the story
to confine these events to only thirty years. Yet during all of this time only twenty-two years
had passed in the life of Joseph. How could that have happened?
The conclusion is inescapable: either the events that the Genesis writer recorded in the life of
Joseph are not chronologically accurate or else the events he recorded in Judah's life are not
chronologically accurate. It is impossible for his chronology of both lives to be numerically
correct.
Inerrantists who try to "resolve" this discrepancy will often comment on the assumptions that
I made in presenting it, but I trust readers will see that these were all assumptions that would
give inerrantists maximum advantage to show that there is no discrepancy in the time frames
that Genesis presented in the lives of Judah and his brother Joseph. In other words, I didn't ask
readers to assume that Er and his brothers were 16 or 17 or older when they began their sexual
activities; I suggested instead that we assume that they were just 12, which would be about the
earliest age of puberty imaginable for brothers maturing at different times. This made the time
passage in Genesis 38 much shorter than it would otherwise have been and thereby made it
closer to the time span in Joseph's life during the same interval. Still with this advantage,
inerrantists are left with a gap of about eight years that they must explain. How could it be
possible that about 30 years had passed for Judah in Canaan while only 22 years were passing
for Joseph in Egypt?
There is a clear chronological problem here.
Inerrantists, however, will never admit that there are mistakes in the Bible, so they have
leaned over backwards and twisted themselves into verbal pretzels to try to show that there is
no chronological discrepancy in the Genesis stories of Judah and Joseph. I will now present
the "explanations" that inerrantists have resorted to in trying to explain this discrepancy and
show why they will not work.
The "dischronologized" explanation: Some have argued that the expression "at that time"
in Genesis 38:1 referred not to the betrayal of Joseph by his brothers but to events earlier than
that. As I showed above, however, by quoting this verse within the context of the final verses
of Genesis 37, the expression "at that time" was obviously referring to the selling of Joseph.
The final verse of Genesis 37 says that the Midiantites sold Joseph into Egypt to Potiphar, the
captain of Pharaoh's guard, and then the very next verse says that "it came to pass at that
time that Judah departed from his brothers and went down to Addulam," where he had all of
the experiences told in chapter 38.
To show that the expression "at that time" had probable reference to the event mentioned just
before it, we have only to look at other texts where this same chronological marker was used.
In Genesis 21:22 the identical Hebrew expression was used. When examined in its context,
we can see that it had obvious reference to events that were mentioned just before it.
Genesis 21:20 God was with the boy [Ishmael], and he grew up; he lived in the wilderness,
and became an expert with the bow. 21 He lived in the wilderness of Paran; and his mother
got a wife for him from the land of Egypt. 22 At that time Abimelech, with Phicol the
commander of his army, said to Abraham, "God is with you in all that you do; 23 now
therefore swear to me here by God that you will not deal falsely with me or with my offspring
or with my posterity....
Since there is no discrepancy involved, no one reading this would think that the expression "at
that time" had reference to something that had happened years before Hagar had taken her and
Abraham's son into the wilderness of Paran. Readers will readily agree that the passage was
saying that Abimelech and Phicol approached Abraham at the time that Hagar got an
Egyptian wife for Ishmael while they were living in the wilderness of Paran. In the same way,
objective readers, who have no inerrancy axes to grind, should be able to see that Judah
departed from his brothers (Gen. 38:1) at the time when he and his brothers had sold Joseph
into Egypt.
Besides the rather obvious flow of this verse within its broader context, which told of Joseph's
betrayal, there are other textual reasons to conclude that the Genesis writer was introducing
events in the life of Judah by beginning them at the time when Joseph had been betrayed. To
say that these events happened at some time before the plot of Joseph's brothers to sell him
into Egypt would make "at that time" a meaningless--and even misleading--transitional
marker. Some inerrantists will argue that Judah's marriage to the Canaanite women took place
during the betrayal of Joseph, but if the marriage happened during the time of the plot against
Joseph, what advantage do inerrantists gain? After all, they can't find anything in the story of
Joseph's betrayal to indicate that he was in the pit, which his brothers had thrown him into, for
any extended period of time. Indeed, the story indicates that his betrayal and selling both
happened within a short period of time. The brothers threw Joseph into a pit that had no water
in it (37:24). They sat down to eat bread and looked up and saw an Ishmaelite caravan coming
(v:25). Judah suggested that they sell Joseph to the Ishmaelites (>v:27), so they sold Joseph to
Midianite merchants (v:28). Then the brothers took Joseph's coat, dipped it in goat's blood,
and took it to Jacob to deceive him into believing that Joseph was dead. Judah was
specifically mentioned in the plot against Joseph, so if he was marrying a Canaanite woman
"during" all this, he must have been able to be in two places at once.
I make this last observation, because the plot against Joseph happened at Dothan (v:17),
which was located north of Samaria.
Genesis 37:13 And Israel [Jacob] said to Joseph, "Are not your brothers pasturing the flock
at Shechem? Come, I will send you to them." He answered, "Here I am." 14 So he said to him,
"Go now, see if it is well with your brothers and with the flock; and bring word back to me."
So he sent him from the valley of Hebron. He came to Shechem, 15 and a man found him
wandering in the fields; the man asked him, "What are you seeking?" 16 "I am seeking my
brothers," he said; "tell me, please, where they are pasturing the flock." 17 The man said,
"They have gone away, for I heard them say, 'Let us go to Dothan.'" So Joseph went after his
brothers, and found them at Dothan.
As Genesis 38:1-2 shows, however, Judah met his wife when he visited the home of an
Adullamite. Adullam was located miles away west of Jerusalem on the coastal plain of the
Philistines. This was where David hid from Saul after fleeing into the land of the Philistines (1
Sam. 22:1).
Inerrantists can, of course, quibble--and probably will--and say that it was possible that an
Adullamite was living in Samaria, but the story of Judah as told in Genesis 38 situated him in
the general area of Adullam. After he had mourned the death of his Canaanite wife, for
example, Judah went up to his sheep-shearers in Timnah (38:13) with his friend Hirah the
Adullamite. Timnah was in the southern region of Judah, just a short distance north of
Adullam but miles away from Dothan, which was up in the region that became Samaria.
When Tamar heard that Judah was going to Timnah, she disguised herself as a prostitute and
sat at the gate of Enaim (38:14), which was located between Adullam and Timnah. A map of
Bronze-Age Palestine shows Timnah west of Jerusalem and Dothan some 60 miles northeast
of it, and a map of David's flight from Saul shows that Adullam was located south of Timnah.
In other words, everything about this story locates the events in Genesis 38 miles southwest of
Dothan, where Joseph was betrayed by his brothers. How could Judah have been marrying a
Canaanite woman (who lived some 60 miles away)"during" his participation in the betrayal of
Joseph? And even if inerrantists could prove that the marriage did take place during the
betrayal, they would gain nothing, because I have shown above that only a short period passed
from the time that Joseph was thrown into the pit until he was sold to the Midianite caravan.
The geographical setting of Genesis 38 also shows the absurdity of the inerrantist quibble that
this chapter was "dischronologized," because using that as an explanation to this discrepancy
would require its proponents to say that Judah went to Adullam, 60 miles from where his
father and brothers were living, married, started a family, began to acquire his own flocks and
herds, and then neglected his own sheep in order to go back to Dothan to help his brothers
"feed their father's sheep" (37:12) and was there long enought to help his brothers betray
Joseph. Then he went back to Adullam and had the experience with Tamar. That is the kind of
silly scenarios that inerrantists will resort to in order to cling to their untenable belief that the
Bible is the inspired, inerrant "word of God.
If inerrantists still aren't convinced that their "dischronologized" quibble just won't pass
muster, they should consider a grammatical element in the Hebrew text that should settle all
doubt that the Genesis writer intended his readers to understand that he was relating events in
a chronological order. Even in English, when a narrative text links events together with the
conjunction and, readers instinctively recognize that the story is being told in chronological
sequence, but in the case of the Hebrew text, we have more than just conventional narrative
writing principles to let us know that the events in Genesis 38:1-2 were related in
chronological sequence. Hebrew used what is called a "waw consecutive" to indicate that the
narration of events was intended to be understood in consecutive order. In other words, the
"waw consecutive" signaled that the second event followed the first event in a chronological
order, the third event followed the second event in chronological order, and so on.
If inerrantists will check the Hebrew text, they will see that the "waw consecutive" was
affixed to the verbs in Genesis 38:1-2. I will indicate the order by putting WC, for waw
consecutive, in brackets after each verb where the waw consecutive was used.
Genesis 38:1 It came to pass [WC] at that time that Judah departed [WC] from his brothers,
and [Judah] visited [WC] a certain Adullamite whose name was Hirah. 2
And Judah saw [WC] there a daughter of a certain Canaanite whose name was Shua,
and he married [WC] her and [he] went [WC] in to her.
Waw was a letter in the Hebrew alphabet, but it was also used as a conjunction, which was
attached as a prefix to verbs. The Masoretic text of Genesis 38:1 and 2 will show that
the waw was pointed with the petah to indicate its usage as a "waw consecutive." Hence, the
text was saying Judah departed from his brothers and then he visited the Adullamite and
then he saw there a Canaanite woman and then he married [took] her and then he went into
her.
Another point that should be made is that Genesis 38:1 also begins with a "waw consecutive."
Literally, the text begins, "And [WC] it was at time that went down Judah away from his
brothers...." Hence was had a "waw consecutive" attached to it to indicate that the writer was
indicating that this verb followed in consecutive order what had been said immediately before
it. And what was said in the verse immediately before this?
Genesis 37:36 Now the Midianites had sold him [Joseph] in Egypt to Potiphar, an officer of
Pharaoh and captain of the guard.
So the use of the "waw consecutive" in this passage shows that the writer intended his readers
to understand that the Midianites sold Joseph into Egypt and then Judah departed from his
brothers and then Judah visited an Adullamite and then Judah saw there a Canannite
woman and then Judah married [took] her and then Judah went in to her. The narrative was
obviously written in chronological sequence, and that would be evident even if Hebrew had
not used the "waw consecutive" to signal that sequence.
Anyone who doesn't have an inerrancy axe to grind can read on through Genesis 38 and see
that the writer was obviously using the "waw consecutive" to show that he was relating the
events in chronological order.
Genesis 38:1 It happened at that time that Judah went down from his brothers and settled
near a certain Adullamite whose name was Hirah. 2 There Judah saw the daughter of a
certain Canaanite whose name was Shua; he married her and went in to her.
I have already analyzed the use of the "waw consecutive" in these verses, but notice now how
the writer continued to use it as he told his story of Judah's life in the region of Addullam. The
use of this conjunction is not always evident in English translations, which didn't always
translate the "waw consecutive" as and, so I will again use [WC] to show where it was used
in the narrative.
3 She conceived [WC] and bore [WC] a son; and he named [WC] him Er. 4 Again she
conceived [WC] and bore [WC] a son whom she named [WC] Onan. 5 Yet again she
bore [WC] a son, and she named [WC] him Shelah. She was [WC] in Chezib when she bore
him. 6 Judah took [WC] a wife for Er his firstborn; her name was Tamar. 7 But Er, Judah's
firstborn, was [WC] wicked in the sight of Yahweh, and Yahweh put him [WC] to death. 8
Then Judah said [WC] to Onan, "Go in to your brother's wife and perform [WC] the duty of a
brother-in-law to her; raise up [WC] offspring for your brother." 9 But since Onan
knew [WC] that the offspring would not be his, he spilled his semen on the ground whenever
he went in to his brother's wife, so that he would not give offspring to his brother. 10 What he
did [WC] was displeasing in the sight of Yahweh, and he put [WC] him to death also. 11 Then
Judah said [WC] to his daughter-in-law Tamar, "Remain a widow in your father's house until
my son Shelah grows up"--for he feared that he too would die, like his brothers. So Tamar
went [WC] to live in her father's house. 12 In course of time the wife of Judah, Shua's
daughter, died [WC]; when Judah's time of mourning was [WC] over, he went
up [WC] to Timnah to his sheepshearers, he and his friend Hirah the Adullamite.
As I explained above, the reference to Timnah and Hirah the Adullamite shows the writer's
intention to let readers know that these events were happening in the region of Adullam and
not in the vicinity of Dothan, where Joseph's brothers betrayed him. More important,
however, is the usage of the "waw consecutive," which clearly communicated that the author
was relating events in a chronological sequence. Surely, no one would read this narrative and
think that the writer was saying that Judah's wife gave birth to Er before she had conceived
him or that she had given birth to Onan before she had conceived him or that Onan was born
before Er or that Yahweh had killed Er before Er had done something displeasing to him, and
so on. The same common sense should tell readers that the writer had also obviously meant
earlier in his narrative that Joseph's brothers betrayed him, sold him into Egypt, and then at
that time, Judah departed from his brothers and went down to Adullam, where he married a
Canaanite woman and had all of the experiences related in the rest of the chapter. Those who
argue that events were not related chronologically in this story quibble shamelessly for no
other reason but to protect an inerrancy belief that is emotionally important to them.
The expression in Hebrew didn't really mean "at that time." Some inerrantists have argued
that the Hebrew expression used in Genesis 38:1 didn't actually mean "at that time" but was
just an expression that was idiomatically used to go from one story to another without
intending any specific reference to when the new story began. To so argue, however, is to
ignore a mountain of scholarship represented in the various translations that clearly indicate
that the Hebrew expression that begins Genesis 38:1 meant "at that time." Here are twentytwo examples of English translations, which all indicated that the Hebrew expression meant
"at that time" or its equivalent.
KHV: And it came to pass at that time, that Judah went down from his brethren....
NKJV: It came to pass at that time that Judah departed from his brothers....
ASV: And it came to pass at that time, that Judah went down from his brethren....
NASV: And it came about at that time, that Judah departed from his brothers....
RSV: It happened at that time that Judah went down from his brothers....
NRSV: It happened at that time that Judah went down from his brothers....
NIV: At that time, Judah left his brothers and went down to stay with a man of Adullam....
NEB: About that time Judah departed from his brothers....
NAB: About that time, Judah parted from his brothers....
GNB: About that time, Judah left his brothers....
NCV: About that time, Judah left his brothers....
CEV: About that time, Judah left his brothers....
Darby's: And it came to pass at that time, that Judah went down from his brethren....
Amplified Bible: At that time Judah withdrew from his brothers....
Revised Berkeley Version: About that time Judah withdrew from his brothers....
Jerusalem Bible: It happened at that time that Judah left his brothers...
Lamsa's: And it came to pass at that time that Judah went down from his brothers....
Tyndale's: Now it fortuned at that time that Judah went from his brothers....
Moffatt's: It happened about then that Judah withdrew from his brothers....
Young's Literal: And it cometh to pass, at that time, that Judah goeth down from his
brethren....
Hendricks Interlinear: And at time that went down Judah away from his brothers....
Hendricks Marginal: And it happened at that time that Judah went down away from his
brothers....
Segond's French translation is even more emphatic in showing that the Hebrew expression
made reference to a specific time.
En ce temps-là, Juda s’éloigna de ses frères et se retira vers un homme d’Adoullam, nommé
Hira.
A quasi-literal translation of this verse would be, "In that time there, Judah distanced himself
from his brothers and retired himself to a man of Adullum named Hira." The usage
of là, highlighted in bold print, is what makes the reference to time more specific than it is in
English translations. This word is an adverb that means there. A French speaker could say, "In
that time, such and such happened," and the meaning would be clear, but when là is attached
with a hyphen to temps [time], that makes the meaning much more specific. A hypothetical
example would explain why. If a person bitten by a dog had called for police to investigate his
complaint and upon their arrival, the police found several dogs on the scene, the police would
probably ask which dog had done the biting. If so, the complainer would probably point at the
dog and say, "Ce chien-là," which would mean "this dog there." It would be the speaker's way
of saying, "This very dog," and would be much more specific than just saying, "Ce chien"
[this dog].
The Old Testament, of course, was not written in French, but I have quoted the English
translations and cited the specificity of the French version to show that there has been
widespread agreement among Hebrew scholars that the three-word Hebrew expression that
begins Genesis 38:1 meant "at that time," and the way that Segond translated it in French
shows that a scholar who was knowledgeable enough in Hebrew to translate the Old
Testament understood that the expression was very time specific. If the discrepancy that I
have explicated in this article didn't exist, even biblical inerrantists would see this verse in the
same way that I have presented it: Joseph's brothers sold him into Egypt, and then after
that Judah departed from his brothers, went to Adullam, and had all of the experiences
narrated in chapter 38.
The in-lumbis-patrum solution. Some inerrantists have been honest enough to admit that the
chronological markers from Genesis 37:2 (the time of Joseph's betrayal) through Genesis
45:6 (the time of Joseph's reunion with his brothers) do not allow enough time for Judah to
have had the grandsons (Hezron and Hamul) who were listed among members of Jacob's
extended family, who went into Egypt went him. Hence, they resort to one of the most absurb
"solutions" imaginable to this problem. They actually argue, with straight faces, that Hezron
and Hamul had not yet been born when Jacob's family went into Egypt, and so they had gone
into Egypt only in an in-lumbis-patrum sense. This is a Latin expression that meant "in the
loins of the father," so those who resort to this explanation are quibbling that Hezron and
Hamul did not literally go into Egypt but that they went only in the sense that they were still
in the loins of their father waiting to be born later in Egypt.
This is no joke. Inerrantists have actually argued this as an explanation for the discrepancy
now under consideration. In a written debate that I began eight years ago with Michael
Hatcher, a Church-of-Christ preacher now located in Pensacola, Florida, I presented the
problem of Judah's grandsons in my first manuscript. In reply, Hatcher tried the usual
"solutions," which I discussed above, and then tried the in-lumbis-patrum "explanation."
However, even if we allowed all that Mr. Till has said, we still do not have a problem, and his
conclusion ("it is impossible [for the Genesis writer's] chronology of both lives to be
numerically correct") does not follow. We readily admit that not all mentioned in the list of
Genesis 46 were born when Jacob went into Egypt. These went into Egypt "in lumbis
patrum," or by "prolepsis" or "anticipation."
Prolepsis is a figure of speech that speaks of something yet future as if it had already
happened, so Hatcher's position was that Hezron and Hamul, and possibly some of the others
in the list, had not yet been born when Jacob took his extended family into Egypt, but they
were listed in anticipation of their being born later in Egypt. I suspect that the absurdity of this
"explanation" embarrassed Mr. Hatcher, because he dropped out of the debate after I sent him
my rebuttal of his in-lumis-patrum argument. I later asked him for permission to publish
in The Skeptical Review the exchanges that we had made before he quit, and he refused to
permit the publication of his manuscripts. If he really believed that his explanation was
tenable, he should have been willing to let me publish his manuscripts for a larger audience to
see that the names of Hezron and Hamul in the Genesis-46 list is not a discrepancy.
The list in Genesis 46 brings us back to the problem that I mentioned in my introduction to
this article. How many Jacobites went into Egypt, 70 (as claimed in Genesis 46:27) or 75 (as
claimed in Acts 7:14)? In a follow-up article, I will address this issue, and in so doing, I will
show in detail that the in-lumis-patrum patrum "solution" referred to above is untenable. I
think that objective readers will see that it is, in fact, a downright ludicrous "solution" to the
problem of why Judah's grandsons Hezron and Hamul were mentioned in the Genesis-46 list.
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How Many Children of Israel Went into Egypt?
by Farrell Till
In Part One of this series, I explicated a chronological discrepancy concerning how much time
passed for Joseph from his betrayal by his brothers (Gen. 37:2) till his reunion with them
(Gen. 45:6) as opposed to how much time had passed for his brother Judah (Gen. 38:1-39)
during the same interval. That discrepancy raised the question of how many children of Israel
actually went into Egypt with the extended family of Jacob [Israel]. Genesis 46:26-27 says
that 70 went into Egypt.
26 All the persons belonging to Jacob who came into Egypt, who were his own offspring, not
including the wives of his sons, were sixty-six persons in all. 27 The children of Joseph, who
were born to him in Egypt, were two; all the persons of the house of Jacob who came into
Egypt were seventy.
Acts 7:14, however, in a speech that Stephen made before the the Sanhedrin court, said that
75 had entered Egypt.
13 On the second visit Joseph made himself known to his brothers, and Joseph's family
became known to Pharaoh. 14 Then Joseph sent and invited his father Jacob and all his
relatives to come to him, seventy-five in all; 15 so Jacob went down to Egypt. He himself died
there as well as our ancestors....
This variation in the two texts just quoted became a focal point in discussions that the former
Church-of-Christ members mentioned in Part One of this series have had with the elders of
the congregation that they once attended. The elders, of course, have contended that there is
no discrepancy in the two passages. In this article, I will examine their "solution" to the
problem and show that this variation does indeed create serious doubts about their claim that
the Bible is the inspired, inerrant "word of God" and certainly refutes their claim that the
Bible is a marvelous work of unity and harmony. First, however, I want to show that the list
of names in Genesis 46 presents more than just one problem that inerrantists must explain. I
have already shown in Part One that there is a chronological problem in the inclusion of
Judah's grandsons Hezron and Hamul in the list of those who went into Egypt with Jacob
[Israel], so if I can show other problems in this list that can be "explained" only by resorting
to far-fetched, unlikely, how-it-could-have-been scenarios, that should convince reasonable
people that the fundamentalist claim of biblical inerrancy is too tenuous to be believed.
Another problem in this list concerns the naming of Jacob's sons and grandsons who had
descended through his wife Leah. That problem concerns how many were in this group. Verse
15 says that there were 33, but a count of the names will show that there were only 32. In
quoting the passage where they were listed, I will number them as they are named. The verses
in this passage number 8 through 15, so I will substitute A through H in parentheses for the
verse numbers so that they will not be confused with the numbering of the names in the list,
which will be indicated in brackets. Er and Onan, in verse 12 (E) will not be counted, because
they had died in Canaan, as the verse notes, before the Israelites went into Egypt.
(A) Now these are the names of the Israelites, Jacob and his offspring, who came to Egypt.
[1] Reuben, Jacob's firstborn, (B) and the children of Reuben: [2] Hanoch, [3] Pallu, [4]
Hezron, and [5] Carmi. (C) The children of [6] Simeon: [7] Jemuel, [8] Jamin, [9] Ohad,
[10] Jachin, [11] Zohar, and [12] Shaul, the son of a Canaanite woman. (D) The children of
[13] Levi: [14] Gershon, [15] Kohath, and [16] Merari. (E) The children of [17] Judah: Er,
Onan, [18] Shelah, [19] Perez, and [20] Zerah (but Er and Onan died in the land of
Canaan); and the children of Perez [already counted as number 19] were [21] Hezron and
[22] Hamul. (F) The children of [23] Issachar: [24] Tola, [25] Puvah, [26] Jashub, and [27]
Shimron. (G) The children of [28] Zebulun: [29] Sered, [30] Elon, and [31] Jahleel (H)
(these are the sons of Leah, whom she bore to Jacob in Paddan-aram, together with his
daughter [32] Dinah; in all his sons and his daughters numbered thirty-three).
As anyone who takes the time to examine this passage can see, there were 34 different names
in the listing of Leah's descendants, but Er and Onan must be subtracted, because, as already
noted, they had previously died in Canaan before the others went into Egypt. When these two
are subtracted from 34, only thirty-two are left, but the presumably "inspired" writer said that
there were 33 in this group.
Biblical inerrantists, of course, have tried to explain this numerical discrepancy. They have
alternately argued that Jacob is named in this section, so he should be counted; others have
argued that Leah should be counted. There is a serious problem in either solution, because, as
anyone can see by reading it again, verse 15 (labeled H above), clearly said that these are
the sons of Leah, who "together with [her] daughter Dinah" numbered thirty-three. Jacob
was not a son of Leah, and he certainly wasn't a daughter of Leah. Furthermore, the last verse
in this passage plainly says, "(I)n all his [Jacob's] sons and his daughters numbered thirtythree." Jacob was not his own son, and, likewise, Leah was not a daughter of herself. The
verse plainly says that the sons and daughter of Leah, whom she bore to Jacob in Paddanaram, numbered thirty-three, but as anyone can see by counting them, there were only thirtytwo in the list.
Another problem with counting Jacob to solve this numerical problem is that the other group
lists of his sons and daughters who descended through Zilpah, Rachel, and Bilhah conform
exactly to the counts claimed. Verses 16 through 18 listed the sons, grandsons, and
granddaughter of Zilpah and concluded that there were sixteen in this group. A count of the
names shows that, just as verse 18 claimed, there were sixteen in this group. To verify this,
one has only to count them: (1) Gad, (2) Ziphion, (3) Haggi, (4) Shuni, (5) Ezbon, (6) Eri, (7)
Arodi, (8) Areli, (9) Asher, (10) Imnah, (11) Ishvah, (12) Ishvi, (13) Beriah, (14) Serah, (15)
Heber, and (16) Malchiel. If Jacob is to be counted in Leah's group, analyzed above, why
should he not be counted in Zilpah's group too? If Leah is to be counted in her group in order
to get a number that agrees with the claim that there were 33 in this group, then why shouldn't
Zilpah be counted with her group? The answer is simple. A count of the names in Zilpah's
group conforms to the number claimed, so biblicists see no need to twist the passage to try to
make it not mean what it plainly says. Biblical inerrantists resort to verbal gymnastics to try to
make the Bible not mean what it says only when there is a discrepancy to "explain."
Likewise, verses 19-22 listed Rachel's sons and grandsons and said that there were fourteen in
this group. A count of all the names listed will show that they numbered fourteen. Bilhah's
sons and grandsons were listed in verses 13-25, and they numbered seven, exactly what verse
25 claimed. If Jacob or Leah should be counted in order to remove the discrepancy in Leah's
list of descendants, then consistency would demand that either Jacob or Rachel or Bilhah be
counted with the last two lists. In other words, the inerrantist "solution" to the numerical
discrepancy in the count of Leah's descendants is no "solution" at all. Their "solution" is as
inconsistent as the claim that there were thirty-three in the list of Leah's descendants.
Some inerrantists, recognizing the inconsistency in claiming that Jacob or Leah should be
counted in Leah's group but that Jacob or the other mothers should not be counted in the three
remaining groups, resort to the old inerrantist standby: the original "autograph" listed a
thirty-third name in Leah's group, but this name became lost through copyist
error. Needless to say, this "solution" cannot be defended without having access to the
original autograph to verify that there was indeed a thirty-third name in this group, and
everyone knows that the original was lost long ago. We can, however, point out that the
constant resort that inerrantists make to "copyist mistake" casts serious doubt on a claim that
they frequently make about the reliability of the biblical text. They argue that the reliability of
the Bible can be trusted because ancient scribes were so diligent in their work that they would
count the letters in their copies to make sure that the copies conformed exactly to the texts
they had copied from. They will say this with a straight face and then turn around and try to
explain textual inconsistencies by pleading "scribal error." Biblical inerrantists--they would be
comical if they weren't so serious.
Another problem in the Genesis-46 list of Israelites who went into Jacob concerns the number
of descendants in the list that were attributed to Benjamin, Jacob's last son whom Rachel gave
birth to when the family was returning to Canaan after Jacob's sojourn in Paddanaram.
Genesis 46:19 The children of Jacob's wife Rachel: Joseph and Benjamin. 20 To Joseph in
the land of Egypt were born Manasseh and Ephraim, whom Asenath daughter of Potiphera,
priest of On, bore to him. 21 The children of Benjamin: Bela, Becher, Ashbel, Gera, Naaman,
Ehi, Rosh, Muppim, Huppim, and Ard 22 (these are the children of Rachel, who were born to
Jacob--fourteen persons in all).
There are 10 descendants of Benjamin listed here, and it would certainly have been possible
for Benjamin, who would been about 32 at the time, to have had 10 sons, but if a genealogy of
Benjamin in Numnbers 26 is historically accurate, not all of these 10 were Benjamin's
immediate sons; some were grandsons and possibly even great-grandsons. As we will see, that
does create a problem somewhat like the listing of Hezron and Hamul as grandsons of Judah.
Numbers 26:38 The descendants of Benjamin by their clans: of Bela, the clan of the Belaites;
of Ashbel, the clan of the Ashbelites; of Ahiram, the clan of the Ahiramites; 39 of
Shephupham, the clan of the Shuphamites; of Hupham, the clan of the Huphamites. 40 And
the sons of Bela were Ard and Naaman: of Ard, the clan of the Ardites; of Naaman, the clan
of the Naamites. 41 These are the descendants of Benjamin by their clans; the number of
those enrolled was forty-five thousand six hundred.
As one can immediately see, this genealogy in Numbers differs substantially from the one in
Genesis 46. Inerrantists have tried to explain the variations in different ways. They claim that
there are fewer names here than in Genesis 46:19-21 because some of Benjamin's "sons" died
without having established clans, and they claim that where the names are different is just an
example of the same persons having different names. These differences, however, are
unimportant at this point, because I want readers to notice that according to this genealogy,
some of the names listed in Genesis 46 were not actual sons of Benjamin but were grandsons.
Ard and Naaman, for example, were listed in the Genesis-46 genealogy as "sons" of
Benjamin, but the one in Numbers 26 identified them as "sons of Bela," which would have
made them grandsons of Benjamin. Benjamin's genealogy in 1 Chronicles 8 complicates this
problem even further.
8:1 Benjamin became the father of Bela his firstborn, Ashbel the second, Aharah the third, 2
Nohah the fourth, and Rapha the fifth. 3 And Bela had sons: Addar, Gera, Abihud, 4
Abishua, Naaman, Ahoah, 5 Gera, Shephuphan, and Huram.
This genealogy of Benjamin differs from both the one in Genesis and the one in Numbers,
but, again, I don't intend to discuss the differences in the names. I want to point out only that
it does agree with Numbers that Naaman was the son of Bela, which would have made him
Benjamin's grandson rather than his son. It also says that Gera (listed in Genesis 46:21 as a
son of Benjamin) was really the son of Bela or, in other words, the grandson of Benjamin.
The Septuagint version of Genesis 46:21 even claims that Gera was the father of Arad (listed
in the Masoretic version as just a "son" of Benjamin).
And the sons of Benjamin: Bala, and Bocher, and Asbel. And the sons of Bala were Gera, and
Noeman, and Anchis, and Ros, and Mamphim. And Gera begot Arad.
According to the Septuagint version, Benjamin had only three sons at this time: Bala [Bela],
Bocher [Becher], and Asbel [Ashbel]. The others were grandsons, except for Arad, who was a
great-grandson, so if the Septuagint version that the previously mentioned church elders have
appealed to, corroborated in part by other versions of Benjamin's genealogy, is correct, that
would create another problem like the inclusion of Hezron and Hamul in the list of those who
went into Egypt with Jacob. Benjamin could have easily had three sons at that time, but it
would have been chronologically improbable that he would have also had several grandsons
and one great-grandson. Hence, the problem with Benjamin's part of the Genesis-46 list is the
same as it was with Judah's grandsons Hezron and Hamul, who were discussed in Part One of
this series. Even if Benjamin had had had a harem of wives, it would have been very unlikely
that he could have produced grandchildren and a great-grandson by the time that Jacob took
his family into Egypt. Biblical inerrantists themselves have recognized this problem, so a
simple way to present the chronological difficulties involved in it is to quote from an attempt
that Eric Lyons, a Church-of-Christ "apologist," made to solve it.
If Joseph was thirty-nine at the time of this migration (cf. 41:46), one can figure (roughly) the
age of Benjamin by calculating the amount of time that passed between their births. It was
after Joseph’s birth that his father, Jacob, worked his final six years for Laban in Padan
Aram (30:25; 31:38,41). We know that Benjamin was more than six years younger than
Joseph, because he was not born until sometime after Jacob discontinued working for Laban.
In fact, Benjamin was not born until after Jacob: (1) departed Padan Aram (31:18); (2)
crossed over the river (Euphrates—31:21); (3) met with his brother, Esau, near Penuel
(32:22,31; 33:2); (4) built a house in Succoth (33:17); (5) pitched his tent in Shechem
(33:18); and (6) built an altar to God at Bethel (35:1-19). Obviously, a considerable amount
of time passed between Jacob’s separation from Laban in Padan Aram, and the birth of
Benjamin near Bethlehem {"Jacob's Journey to Egypt," Apologetics Press).
Lyons' chronology is basically correct, except that Genesis 41:46 considered alone would not
prove that Joseph was 39 at the time of Jacob's descent into Egypt. This verse says only that
Joseph was 30 years old when he "stood before Pharaoh." If, however, one considers with this
verse Genesis 45:6, which establishes that all seven years of plenty and two years of famine
had passed when Joseph was reunited with his brothers, the two texts together would show
that Lyons was correct when he said that Joseph was around 39 (30 + 7 + 2 = 39) at the time
of the Israelite "migration" into Egypt. I would disagree with Lyons only in that it would have
taken time for Joseph's brothers to return to Canaan and then bring their families back to
Egypt. If we assume that this would have required a year, that would mean that Joseph was 40
at the time of Jacob's descent into Egypt.
Genesis 47:8-9 claims that Jacob was 130 when Joseph presented him to Pharaoh, so this
would mean that, as unlikely as that would have been, Jacob was 90 years old when Joseph
was born (130 - 40 = 90). As Lyons correctly showed, Benjamin had to have been
considerably more than six years younger than Joseph. Even if we assume that Jacob had been
able to do everything that Lyons noted above in only two years, that would mean that
Benjamin was eight years younger than Joseph. Hence, Benjamin would have been only 32
years old at the time of the Israelite "migration" into Egypt. Hence, Benjamin, the youngest,
by far, of Jacob's 12 sons, had produced more descendants at the time of the descent into
Egypt than any of his brothers. It certainly isn't impossible that a 32-year-old man could have
had 10 sons at that age, especially if he had had, as some inerrantists quibble, more than one
wife, but as we have seen above, if the Bible is indeed inerrant, some of those listed as "sons
of Benjamin" were his grandsons and probably even his great-grandsons. It is unlikely that a
man 32 years old at the time could have had descendants as distant as this. Even Lyons
recognized that the list of Benjamin's sons in Genesis 46:21 is problematic at best. The
paragraph that I quoted above from Lyons' article began with this sentence:"A second
indication that all 'seventy' were likely not born before Jacob’s family migrated to Egypt is
that ten 'sons' (descendants) of Benjamin are listed (46:21)." That is a clear recognition of
serious problems in the Genesis-46 list.
It also brings us back to the in-lumbis-patrum "explanation" of discrepancies in this list of
names. In Part One of this series, I quoted Michael Hatcher's attempt to solve the HezronHamul problem by claiming that these grandsons of Judah had not actually been born at the
time of Jacob's descent into Egypt but that they had gone into Egypt in lumbis patrum or "in
the loins of their father." In the article quoted above, Eric Lyons resorted to the same quibble.
But how is it that ten of Benjamin’s descendants, along with Hezron and Hamul, legitimately
could appear in a list with those who traveled to Egypt, when all indications are that at least
some were yet to be born? Answer: Because some of the names are brought in by prolepsis
(or anticipation). Although they might not have been born by the time Jacob left for Egypt,
they were in his loins—they “came from his body” (Genesis 46:26). Renowned Old Testament
commentators Keil and Delitzsch stated: “From all this it necessarily follows, that in the list
before us grandsons and great-grandsons of Jacob are named who were born afterwards in
Egypt, and who, therefore, according to a view which we frequently meet with in the Old
Testament, though strange to our modes of thought, came into Egypt in lumbis patrum”
(1996).
This quibble dates back to the attempts of the 19-century German apologists Kurtz and
Hengstenberg to resolve it after John William Colenso, the Anglican bishop to Natal, had
delineated the Hezron-Hamul discrepancy in his three-volume work The Pentateuch and Book
of Joshua Critically Examined. When he encountered their quibble, Colenso sensibly asked
why the Genesis writer would have included some as yet unborn grandsons of Jacob but "not
also the great-great grandsons, and so on ad infinitum (volume 1, p. 23). Further along, in
reply to Kurtz's claim that the view,"which sees in the father the ensemble of his descendants,
is common to the whole of the Old Testament," Colenso pointed out the same problem just
noted above.
But why does the Sacred Writer draw any contrast between the "three-score and ten persons,'
who went down to Egypt, and the "multitude, as the stars of heaven," who came out, since
these last, as well as the former, were all in the loins of their father Jacob?
Professional apologists have rarely been caught without an "explanation" of whatever biblical
discrepancies are presented to them, so they have a reply to Colenso's question. They argue
that Hezron and Hamul and the grandsons of Benjamin became the heads of "families" after
the Israelites were in Egypt, and so the Genesis writer proleptically included them in the list
of Israelites who went into Egypt, even though some of them, at least, were still "in the loins"
of their fathers. Eric Lyons appropriated this quibble in his article quoted above.
While all seventy mentioned in Genesis 46 may not have literally traveled down to Egypt,
Moses, writing this account more than 215 years later (see Bass, et. al., 2001), easily could
have used a figure of speech known as prolepsis to include those who would be born shortly
thereafter, and who eventually (by the time of Moses) would have been “the recognized heads
of families.”
There is a major flaw in this quibble. In the time of Moses, there were recognized heads of
families who had not been included in the Genesis-46 list. A census of the Israelites was done
in Numbers 26 before they crossed into Canaan, and a juxtaposition of the families descended
from Joseph with the listing of his descendants in Genesis 46 shows that several "recognized
heads of families" were not listed among the seventy who went into Egypt.
Genesis 46:19 The children of Jacob's wife Rachel: Joseph and Benjamin. 20 To Joseph in
the land of Egypt were born Manasseh and Ephraim, whom Asenath daughter of Potiphera,
priest of On, bore to him.
Numbers 26:28 The sons of Joseph by their clans: Manasseh and Ephraim. 29 The
descendants of Manasseh: of Machir, the clan of the Machirites; and Machir was the father
of Gilead; of Gilead, the clan of the Gileadites. 30 These are the descendants of Gilead: of
Iezer, the clan of the Iezerites; of Helek, the clan of the Helekites; 31 and of Asriel, the clan
of the Asrielites; and of Shechem, the clan of the Shechemites; 32 and of Shemida, the clan
of the Shemidaites; and of Hepher, the clan of the Hepherites. 33 Now Zelophehad son of
Hepher had no sons, but daughters: and the names of the daughters of Zelophehad were
Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah. 34 These are the clans of Manasseh; the number
of those enrolled was fifty-two thousand seven hundred. 35 These are the descendants of
Ephraim according to their clans: of Shuthelah, the clan of the Shuthelahites; of Becher, the
clan of the Becherites; of Tahan, the clan of the Tahanites. 36 And these are the descendants
of Shuthelah: of Eran, the clan of the Eranites. 37 These are the clans of the
Ephraimites: the number of those enrolled was thirty-two thousand five hundred. These are
the descendants of Joseph by their clans.
As this census record clearly shows, Machir, Gilead, Iezer, Helek, Asriel, Schechem,
Shemida, Hepher, Shuthelah, Becher, Tahan, and Eran--12 descendants of Joseph, who were
"recognized heads of families" or clans in the time of Moses--were not listed in Genesis 46, so
if the intention of the Genesis writer was to list all of those who later became recognized
heads of families, why did he not include the 12 descendants of Joseph identified in Numbers
26 as heads of families? In his "explanation" of the Hezron-Hamul discrepancy, Kurtz
presented a false analogy in which he noted that Abraham was sometimes mentioned in the
book of Genesis to mean not just Abraham but Abraham and his future descendants, and then
went on to ask, "Why, then, should not the same writer, or even another, be able to say, from
the same point of view, that the sons of Pharez went down in their father to Egypt?"
In his reply to this, Colenso pointed out that Kurtz's analogy was false, because he had
mentioned examples of where an ancestor was substituted for the whole race but that the list
in Genesis 46 was entirely different in that no one was used to represent others but were listed
as children who were "referred to by name, as well as the parent" (Ibid.). Then Colenso
answered Kurtz's question quoted above.
Because, from the same point of view, it would be necessary that the children of Reuben's
sons, and Simeon's, and Levi's, etc., should all be named and counted in like manner, as
being in their father, though not yet born.
I could also analyze the census of the tribe of Benjamin in Numbers 26 to point out that heads
of families mentioned here were not listed in Genesis 46, but overkill isn't necessary to show
the flimsiness of the quibble now under consideration. If there were any merit to it, we would
expect to find consistency in all texts relevant to it. Such consistency would find that all
"recognized family heads" in the time of Moses were included in the Genesis-46 list, but as I
have just noted, that is not the case. The "solution" that Eric Lyons borrowed from Kurtz and
Hengstenberg, then, turns out to be just another grabbing of any straw in sight to try to defend
an untenable quibble.
Some proponents of the in-lumbis-patrum theory quote Hebrews 7:1-10 in support of it.
7:1 This "King Melchizedek of Salem, priest of the Most High God, met Abraham as he was
returning from defeating the kings and blessed him"; 2 and to him Abraham apportioned
"one-tenth of everything." His name, in the first place, means "king of righteousness"; next he
is also king of Salem, that is, "king of peace." 3 Without father, without mother, without
genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God, he
remains a priest forever. 4 See how great he is! Even Abraham the patriarch gave him a tenth
of the spoils. 5 And those descendants of Levi who receive the priestly office have a
commandment in the law to collect tithes from the people, that is, from their kindred, though
these also are descended from Abraham. 6 But this man, who does not belong to their
ancestry, collected tithes from Abraham and blessed him who had received the promises. 7 It
is beyond dispute that the inferior is blessed by the superior. 8 In the one case, tithes are
received by those who are mortal; in the other, by one of whom it is testified that he lives. 9
One might even say that Levi himself, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham,
10 for he was still in the loins of his ancestor when Melchizedek met him.
All that this passage does, however, is shoot a huge hole into the biblical inerrancy doctrine,
because proponents of this belief claim that the Bible is inerrant in matters of history,
chronology, science, and all other matters, as well as faith and practice, but the idea that
unborn children could have gone into Egypt in the loins of their fathers or that Levi paid tithes
to Melchizedek because at that time he was still in the loins of Abraham is a patently false
scientific claim. Each person is a composite of genetic materials evenly inherited from both
his father and mother. Until those materials unite, the person simply doesn't exist as an
individual. I, for example, am a genetic composite of my father and my mother, so if my
father and mother had never met, I would never have been born, even though my father may
have married someone else and deposited in her the sperm cell that fertilized the ovum
contributed by my mother to bring about my birth, but, as any geneticist would confirm, if
that had happened, another person besides me would have been born. Furthermore, we know
now that males continually produce sperm cells, so it just would not have been scientifically
accurate to say that even the sperm cells, which eventually fertilized the ova that brought
about the pregnancies that resulted in the births of Hezron and Hamul, existed "in the loins" of
Perez and, say, 15 or 20 years later, they were ejaculated to impregnate their mother(s). Such
an idea would be light years away from the actual scientific realities that cause pregnancies
and eventual births. It would have been possible for unborn Israelite children to have gone
into Egypt in the wombs of their mothers, if their mothers were pregnant at the time, but it
wasn't at all possible for Hezron and Hamul or anyone else to go into Egypt in the loins of
their fathers. I realize that ancient societies believed that males planted seeds into females,
who were seen as sort of like "gardens" in which the implanted seed grew, but we now know
that this was a scientifically inaccurate concept. Therefore, it doesn't matter what the ancient
Hebrews may have thought about human reproduction. If they really did think that tiny,
unborn children actually existed in the loins of their fathers, they were wrong. If they
projected this belief into the Bible, then the Bible cannot be the inerrant work that people like
Eric Lyons, Michael Hatcher, et al think that it is.
The in-lumbis-patrum quibble also violates a basic principle of both hermeneutics and literary
interpretation that says language should be interpreted literally unless there are compelling
reasons to assign figurative meaning. In a written debate that I began with the Church-of-
Christ preacher Jerry Moffitt, who dropped out before its completion, he stated the principle
like this: "Sound hermeneutics teaches us that words have their normal import unless the
context inhibits the normal use." No one reading the Genesis 46 genealogy can find any
compelling reason in the context to think that the writer meant that some of the people on the
list went into Egypt only in a figurative sense, which is what the in-lumbis-patrum theory
would is claiming. The need to circumvent a textual or doctrinal embarrassment is insufficient
reason to interpret language figuratively, but that is exactly what Eric Lyons, Michael
Hatcher, et al, are doing. If the Hezron-Hamul problem were not in the Genesis-46 list, no one
would ever have concocted the in-lumbis-patrum theory, so it has been resorted to for no
other reason but to try to escape from a textual inconsistency in the Bible.
Lyons, Hatcher, and probably the elders who are desparately trying to pull back into their fold
a couple who has seen obvious inconsistencies in the Bible belong to a wing of the Church of
Christ that constantly harps about "the new hermeneutics" advocated by a liberal branch of
this church, which seeks to reinterpret scriptures less radically than the fundamentalist wing.
As advocates of the "old hermeneutics," Lyons, Hatcher, and their like-minded cohorts are at
least consistent, because their hermeneutics is as old as the inerrancy doctrine itself: if the
literal, face-value meaning of a text poses an embarrassment to the doctrine, they will
just interpret it figuratively.
The figurative in-lumbis-patrum interpretation of Genesis 46 is certainly not compatible with
other biblical passages that speak of the number of people who came into Egypt with Jacob.
The book of Exodus begins with a statement pertaining to the number who came to
Egypt with Jacob.
Exodus 1:1 These are the names of the sons of Israel who went to Egypt with Jacob, each
with his family: 2 Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah; 3 Issachar, Zebulun and Benjamin; 4 Dan
and Naphtali; Gad and Asher. 5 The descendants of Jacob numbered seventy in all; Joseph
was already in Egypt.
Notice that the writer clearly indicated that he was talking about "sons of Israel" who had
gone into Egypt with Jacob. He confined his list to the names of those who were the literal
sons of Jacob, and no grandsons or great-grandsons were mentioned. The writer, however, did
say something that would indicate to any objective reader that the seventy mentioned in verse
5 were seventy people who had already been born at the time of Jacob's entry into Egypt. By
saying that "Joseph was already in Egypt," the writer was clearly indicating that he was
talking about people who were living at the time he was writing about. The "seventy in all,"
then, would have been descendants of Jacob who were already living at that time and not a
group of "seventy" that consisted of some who were living at the time and some who would
be born later.
This meaning was made evident by what the writer said in the very next verse: "Now Joseph
and all his brothers and all that generation died...." All that generation would have been the
generation that was contemporary to Jacob's 12 sons listed here. Just as Jacob's 12 sons were
living at the time of Jacob's descent into Egypt, so the seventy in all were also living at the
time. The writer was, therefore, clearly indicating that the seventy who had come into Egypt
belonged to the same generation, living at the same time, and that they had all died. To
interpret this any other way would be to take liberties with the text not justified by recognized
principles of literary interpretation.
Obviously, then, the writer was speaking about a "generation" that was living at the time of
Jacob's entry into Egypt and not a generation that had just been partially born at the time. No
one would deny that all twelve of Jacob's sons listed in this passage had already been born at
the time of the Israelite descent into Egypt, so since the "seventy in all" were mentioned in the
same context with sons who had obviously been born at the time, the only sensible
interpretation of this passage would be to understand that the writer meant that seventy
descendants in all had entered Egypt with Jacob.
If not, why not?
Deuteronomy 10:22 is even more damaging to the in-lumbis-patrum theory. Here Moses was
speaking to the Israelite nation as it prepared to enter into the promised land: "Your
forefathers who went down into Egypt were seventy in all, and now Yahweh your God has
made you as numerous as the stars in the sky." The obvious intention of the statement was to
emphasize the marvelous deed that Yahweh had performed in taking a small number of
people and building them into a teeming nation. Why then did "Moses" say that Yahweh had
begun with 70 persons if, as the in-lumbis-patrum advocates claim, the actual number of those
who had gone into Egypt had been fewer than 70? In other words, if Hezron and Humul had
not yet been born at the time, there would have been only 68 actual persons who went into
Egypt and if, as Eric Lyons projected above, some of Benjamin's "sons" had also not been
born at this time, then there would have been even few than 68 in the group. Why, then, didn't
Moses use the actual number living at the time and say that only 60 or perhaps not even that
many had gone "down into Egypt"? If the in-lumbis-patrum theory is correct, Moses
weakened the effectiveness of his point by inflating the actual number of those who had gone
into Egypt with Jacob. Why would he have wanted to do that?
In addition to having studied hermeneutics in the Bible college I attended, I spent 30 years
teaching literature on the college level. I think that in all of that time I learned something
about principles of literary interpretation. On the essay tests that I gave in my literature
classes, I required students to justify any figurative interpretations that they applied to the
literary passages on the test. I expect no less of those who try to apply figurative
interpretations to biblical passages to make them not mean what they clearly seem to be
saying. Let them tell us, then, what there is in Moses' statement quoted above that compels us
to understand that he was not speaking literally when he said, "Your forefathers who went
down into Egypt seventy in all"?
This brings us finally to the discrepancy in the Old Testament texts (already quoted), which
said that 70 went into Egypt with Jacob and Stephen's claim in Acts 7:14 that there had been
75. As we will see, the elders trying to regain their former members used the Septuagint
explanation for this variation, but before I address that, I want to show exactly what Genesis
46 claimed about the number of those who went into Egypt.
Genesis 46:2 God spoke to Israel in visions of the night, and said, "Jacob, Jacob." And he
said, "Here I am." 3 Then he said, "I am God, the God of your father; do not be afraid to go
down to Egypt, for I will make of you a great nation there. 4 I myself will go down with you to
Egypt, and I will also bring you up again; and Joseph's own hand shall close your eyes." 5
Then Jacob set out from Beer-sheba; and the sons of Israel carried their father Jacob, their
little ones, and their wives, in the wagons that Pharaoh had sent to carry him.
The text here is clear in saying that the sons of Israel [Jacob] took their wives with them, but
later on the text is just as clear in stating that the wives of Jacob's sons were not to be counted
in the seventy who went into Egypt.
26 All the persons belonging to Jacob who came into Egypt, who were his own offspring, not
including the wives of his sons, were sixty-six persons in all. 27 The children of Joseph, who
were born to him in Egypt, were two; all the persons of the house of Jacob who came into
Egypt were seventy.
As we have already noted, there were sixty-six from Canaan who went with Jacob into Egypt,
so when Jacob is added, along with Joseph and his two sons who were already in Egypt, the
total number of Israelites who were in Egypt was seventy, but the text just quoted was explicit
in saying that the wives of Jacob's sons were not included in the seventy. Any attempt,
therefore, to explain the discrepancy between Genesis 46 and Acts 7:14 by counting the wives
of Jacob's sons will automatically become suspect. That point will become important later on
in the examination of inerrantist attempts to "explain" the 70/75 variation.
The elders referred to several times above used the Septuagint variation to "explain" this
problem. One of them appealed to Albert Barnes, who was a 19th-century Presbyterian
inerrantist whose commentary is widely used by Bible fundamentalists. I remember that
professors at both Bible colleges I attended in the 1950s would often refer students to Barnes's
commentary. One should be forewarned not to expect to see anything detrimental to the
biblical inerrancy doctrine in this commentary, but in fairness to the Church-of-Christ elder
who appealed to Barnes, let's see what his "explanation" of this variation was. The paragaph
below was quoted in a letter from one of the elders.
Threescore and fifteen souls, seventy-give persons: There has been much perplexity felt in
the explanation of this passage. In Ge 46:26; Ex 1:5; De 10:22, it is expressly said that the
number which went down to Egypt consisted of but seventy persons. The question is, in what
way these accounts can be reconciled? It is evident that Stephen has followed the account,
which is given in the Septuagint. In Ge 46:27, that version reads, "But the sons of Joseph,
who were with him in Egypt, were nine souls; all the souls of the house of Jacob which came
with Jacob into Egypt, were seventy-five souls." This number is made out by adding these nine
souls to the sixty-six mentioned in Ge 46:26. The difference between the Septuagint and
Moses, is that the former mentions five descendants of Joseph who are not recorded by the
latter. The names of the sons of Ephraim and Manasseh are recorded in 1 Ch 7:14-21. Their
names were Ashriel, Machir, Zelophehad, Peresh, sons of Manasseh; and Shuthelah, son of
Ephraim. Why the Septuagint inserted these, it may not be easy to see. But such was evidently
the fact; and the fact accords accurately with the historic record, though Moses did not insert
their names. The solution of difficulties in regard to chronology is always difficult; and what
might be entirely apparent to a Jew, in the time of Stephen, may be wholly inexplicable to us.
As readers can see, Barnes was almost apologetic in winding down his "explanation" of this
problem, as if he realized that his explanation might be too weak for some readers to buy, and
there are plenty of reasons not to buy it. In the first place, the sons of Manasseh and Ephraim
list in 1 Chronicles 7:14-21 are not the same as those listed in Septuagint Genesis 46:20. This
is evident when the two texts are juxtaposed.
Septuagint Genesis 46:20 And there were sons born to Manasses, which the Syrian
concubine bore to him, even Machir. And Machir begot Galaad. And the sons of Ephraim, the
brother of Manasses; Sutalaam, and Taam. And the sons of Sutalaam; Edom.
As one can immediately see, Ashriel, Zelophehad, and Peresh (in Barnes's list) were not
"inserted" as sons of Manasseh in Septuagint Genesis 46:20, as Barnes claimed, and Taam,
listed in the Septuagint as a son of Ephraim, was not in Barnes's list. Now when we look at
the list of Manasseh's and Ephraim's sons in 1 Chronicles 7, we will see even more
differences. I will emphasize in bold print those sons of Manasseh and Ephraim whom Barnes
did not include in his list.
1 Chronicles 7:14 The sons of Manasseh: Asriel, whom his Aramean concubine bore; she
bore Machir the father of Gilead. 15 And Machir took a wife for Huppim and for Shuppim.
The name of his sister was Maacah. And the name of the second was Zelophehad; and
Zelophehad had daughters. 16 Maacah the wife of Machir bore a son, and she named him
Peresh; the name of his brother was Sheresh; and his sons were Ulam and Rekem. 17 The son
of Ulam: Bedan. These were the sons of Gilead son of Machir, son of Manasseh. 18 And his
sister Hammolecheth bore Ishhod, Abiezer, and Mahlah. 19 The sons of Shemida were Ahian,
Shechem, Likhi, and Aniam. 20 The sons of Ephraim: Shuthelah, and Bered his son, Tahath
his son, Eleadah his son, Tahath his son, 21 Zabad his son, Shuthelah his son, and Ezer and
Elead. Now the people of Gath, who were born in the land, killed them, because they came
down to raid their cattle.
The wording of genealogies can be confusing, but a careful analysis of verses 20-21 indicates
that Shuthelah was Ephraim's son, that Bered was Shuthelah's son, that Tahath was Bered's
son, etc., so that Ezer and Elead at the end of the list would have been actual sons of Ephraim,
so the genealogy in 1 Chronicles that Barnes appealed to actually had four sons (Asriel,
Zelophead, Ezer, and Elead) who were not listed in Septuagint 46:20. (An examination of this
genealogy will show that Peresh, along with Sheresh, was a grandson of Manasseh and not a
son, as Barnes claimed above.) Furthermore, a continuation of his genealogy in 1 Chronicles
shows that after Ephraim had mourned the death of his sons, he "went in to his wife, and she
conceived and bore a son; and he named him Beriah" (v:23), so that would make a fifth son of
Ephraim who was not listed in Septuagint Genesis 46:20, so one has to wonder why these
were omitted if the intention of the writer was to include the sons of Manasseh and Ephraim
who would be born after the Israelite descent into Egypt. In other words, an adaptation of
Colenso's question is very applicable here: "If the intention of the Septuagint writer was to
name the sons of Manasseh and Ephraim who would be born after the descent into
Egypt, why didn't he name all of them?"
A related question would be to ask why the Septuagint writer listed Galaad [Gilead], who was
the son of Machir and therefore a grandson of Manasseh but didn't list Peresh and Seresh,
who were also grandsons of Manasseh (1 Chron. 7:21). There are so many other
inconsistencies in Barnes's attempt to justify the Septuagint counting of Jacob's descendants
that I could drag the discussion of them out forever. Verse 15, for example, says that Maacah
was Machir's sister, but the next verse says that Maacah was Machir's wife, so did he have an
incestuous marriage with one of his sister's? Verse 15 also says that Machir took wives for
Huppim and Shuppim, but both of these are listed with variant spellings in Genesis
46:21, Numbers 26:29, and 1 Chronicles 8:5 as sons of Benjamin. As I showed in "Finley's
Solution," the chronology and genealogies in 1 Chronicles are so inconsistent with what the
Old Testament says elsewhere in these matters that this book cannot be considered reliable
enough in any sense to settle disputes like one now under consideration. That anyone would
appeal to 1 Chronicles, as Barnes did, is sufficient to question his qualifications to speak with
any authority at all on issues pertaining to biblical discrepancies.
I don't doubt at all that Luke, who was probably putting words into Stephen's mouth, was
quoting the Septuagint version. Since most New Testament writers relied on the Septuagint
rather than the so-called "inspired" Masoretic text, there is no reason to think that Stephen or
Luke would have done differently. Although he incorrectly identified what "sons" of
Manasseh and Ephraim were included in the verse, Barnes was certainly right in saying
that Genesis 46:20 in the Septuagint included grandsons of Joseph, who were not in the
Masoretic text from which most English translations were derived, but as I will explain
below, rather than settling anything pertaining to biblical discrepancies, this raises some
serious questions about the reliability of the biblical text. Before discussing that problem, let's
look again at Brenton's English translation of this Septuagint verse.
19 And the sons of Rachel, the wife of Jacob; Joseph, and Benjamin. 20 And there were sons
born to Joseph in the land of Egypt, whom Aseneth, the daughter of Petephres, priest of
Heliopolis, bore to him, even Manasses and Ephraim. And there were sons born to
Manasses, which the Syrian concubine bore to him, even Machir. And Machir begot
Galaad. And the sons of Ephraim, the brother of Manasses; Sutalaam, and Taam. And the
sons of Sutalaam; Edom.
Rather than solving a textual problem, this Septuagint variation, as I noted above, raises some
questions with serious implications about the reliability of the biblical text found in most
English translations. First, as I also noted above, New Testament writers frequently quoted the
Septuagint version, so if the fundamentalist belief that those who wrote the Bible were
inspired by the omniscient, omnipotent Holy Spirit is true, then we must wonder why
inerrantists don't consider the Old Testament version that was apparently preferred by the
Holy Spirit to be the one from which our English translations should be derived. Stephen, for
example, was allegedly "full of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 7:55), and as he began his speech, his
face was seen as if "it had been the face of an angel" (Acts 6:15), so if these claims are true,
his reliance on the Septuagint version during his speech must have been something that the
Holy Spirit directed him to do. If that is so, then why are inerrantists like Lyons, Hatcher, and
the church elders involved in this discussion using English translations that were derived from
a Hebrew text that differed from the Holy Spirit's choice of Old Testament scriptures? This is
an inconsistency that inerrantists need to explain.
A second question raised by Stephen's usage of the Septuagint concerns the reliability of the
biblical text as it has been transmitted through the centuries. I mentioned earlier that a favorite
argument of biblical inerrantists is that the reliability of the biblical text can be trusted
because ancient scribes were so meticulous in their work that they counted the number of
letters in their scrolls to make sure that they conformed exactly to the texts they had copied
from, but if that claim is true, why does the Septuagint differ so substantially from the English
translations that were derived from the Masoretic text? I say that the Septuagint differs "so
substantially," because the variation just quoted above is just one of many that are too
numerous to cite, but a look at just a couple of others might give readers an idea of how
numerous these variations are. The Septuagint genealogy in Genesis 11, for example, lists
Cainan as a generation that followed Shem's son Arphaxad, but as the juxtaposition below
shows, no such generation was listed in the Masoretic text.
Septuagint Genesis 11:11 And these are the generations of Sem: and Sem was a hundred
years old when he begot Arphaxad, the second year after the flood. 12 And Sem lived, after he
had begotten Arphaxad, five hundred years, and begot sons and daughters, and died. 13 And
Arphaxad lived a hundred and thirty-five years, and begot Cainan. 14 And Arphaxad lived
after he had begotten Cainan, four hundred years, and begot sons and daughters, and died.
And Cainan lived a hundred and thirty years and begot Sala; and Cainan lived after he had
begotten Sala, three hundred and thirty years, and begot sons and daughters, and died.
Masoretic NRSV Genesis 11:10 These are the descendants of Shem. When Shem was one
hundred years old, he became the father of Arpachshad two years after the flood; 11 and
Shem lived after the birth of Arpachshad five hundred years, and had other sons and
daughters. 12 When Arpachshad had lived thirty-five years, he became the father of Shelah;
13 and Arpachshad lived after the birth of Shelah four hundred three years, and had other
sons and daughters.
The variation here is obvious. The Septuagint says that Shem begot Arphaxad and then
Arphaxad begot Cainan, who then begot Sala, but the Masoretic text goes from Arphaxad to
Shelah [Sala]. There is no Cainan in the Masorectic. Inerrantists will say that there is no
problem here, because genealogies sometimes skipped generations, so the Masoretic text
simply skipped Cainan, but that quibble cannot solve a serious chronological discrepancy in
the two versions. The Mosoretic text says that Arphaxad was 135 when Cainan was born and
that Cainan was 130 when Sala [Shelah] was born. Hence, Shelah, according to the
Septuagint, was born 265 years [135 + 130 = 265] after the birth of Arphaxad, but according
to the Masoretic, Shelah [Sala] was born 35 years after the birth of Arphaxad. That is a
chronological discrepancy that cannot be explained by the skipped-generation quibble.
My reason for citing this discrepancy, however, is to emphasize the problem of appealing to
the Septuagint version to "solve" discrepancies. Variations in the Septuagint are so numerous
that any reasonable person will wonder why the Holy Spirit (as biblical inerrantists) claim
would have directed New Testament writers to quote it if the Masoretic text is (as inerrantists
also claim) the version that was inspired by the Holy Spirit. That New Testament writers did
generally rely on the Septuagint can be seen not just in Stephen's appeal to it but also in
Luke's reliance on it in giving the genealogy of Jesus. After having traced the genealogy from
Joseph to Abraham, he continued through the generations listed in Genesis 11.
Luke 3:34 Abraham, son of Terah, son of Nahor, 35 son of Serug, son of Reu, son of Peleg,
son of Eber, son of Shelah, 36 son of Cainan, son of Arphaxad, son of Shem....
As the part emphasized in bold print shows, Luke included Cainan as the son of Arphaxad and
the father of Shelah, a clear indication that he was using the Septuagint as his source. If the
Holy Spirit directed Luke to use the Septuagint text, does that mean that the Holy Spirit knew
that this text was correct in what it said? If so, does that mean that the Septuaint is correct in
saying that Shelah [Sala] was born 265 years after the birth of Arphaxad and that the
Masoretic is wrong in saying that Shelah [Sela] was born only 35 years after the birth of
Arphaxad?
I will repeat again that I am sure that Luke, who obviously used the Septuagint in writing the
genealogy in Luke 3:36, probably used it in Acts 7:14 in the speech that he attributed to
Stephen, but that would in no way explain why variations like the 70/75 discrepancy would be
in two versions of the Old Testament that the biblical inerrancy doctrine would require its
proponents to believe that the omniscient, omnipotent Holy Spirit was involved in either
writing or preserving. Those who appeal to the Septuagint to "solve" the 70/75 problem must
give a reasonable explanation for why this variation would even exist in two documents with
which the Holy Spirit was presumably closely associated. To think that the Holy Spirit had
"inspired" the Genesis author to write in Hebrew that 70 Israelites had gone into Egypt but
later "inspired" Stephen to quote a Greek text that said that this number was 75 is a rather
bizarre view of what constitutes divine "inspiration" in the writing of "God's word." It
presents a contradictory view of the Holy Spirit as entity who was omniscient yet unable to
make up his mind.
In his article quoted above, Eric Lyons had tried to float another "solution" before he tried the
Septuagint "explanation."
First, it is possible that Stephen included Jacob’s daughters-in-law in his calculation of
seventy-five. Jacob’s children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren amounted to sixty-six
(Genesis 46:8-26). If Jacob, Joseph, and Joseph’s two sons are added, then the total number
is seventy (46:27). If, however, to the sixty-six Stephen added the wives of Jacob’s sons’, he
could have legitimately reckoned Jacob’s household as numbering seventy-five, instead of
seventy. [NOTE: Jacob is listed by Stephen individually.] Yet, someone might ask how sixtysix plus “twelve” equals seventy-five. Simple—not all of the wives were included. Joseph’s
wife obviously would not have been calculated into this figure, if Joseph himself were not.
And, at least two of the eleven remaining wives may have been deceased by the time the
family journeyed to Egypt. We know for sure that Judah’s wife had already died by this time
(Genesis 38:12), and it is reasonable to conclude that another of the wives had passed away
as well. (In all likelihood, Simeon’s wife had already died—cf. Genesis 46:10.) Thus, when
Stephen stated that “Joseph sent and called his father Jacob and all his relatives to him,
seventy-five people” (Acts 7:14), realistically he could have included the living wives of
Joseph’s brothers to get a different (though not a contradictory) number.
I have already rebutted this quibble when I noted above that Genesis 46:28 clearly says that
the wives of Jacob's sons were not counted in the sixty-six who went out of Canaan with
Jacob. Lyons and like-minded cohorts may quibble that even though Genesis 46:28 does say
this, that would not mean that Stephen could not have included nine of Jacob's daughters-inlaw, but how much sense does it make to think that someone who was "full of the Holy Spirit"
as Stephen allegedly was (Acts 7:55) would have chosen to go off on his own to give a head
count different from the one that the Holy Spirit had inspired? When I see speculative
quibbles like this one, I have to wonder just how many other biblical texts, if the quibble is
true, would represent what the writers themselves thought rather than what the Holy Spirit
"inspired" them to write. Perhaps the church elders involved in this discussion can tell us that.
If they will answer this, I am sure that the former members of their congregation will be glad
to pass it along to me.
Let's notice now what we have seen so far in this rebuttal of the elders' attempt to explain the
70/75 discrepancy.

Exodus 1:1-5 is too explicit to interpret it to mean anything except that sixty-six of
Jacob's descendants went into Egypt with him.

Joseph and Joseph's three sons who were already in Egypt plus Jacob made the
number of Israelites in Egypt seventy (Gen. 46:27).

Deuteronomy 10:22 is too explicit to interpret it to mean anything but that seventy
Israelites went into Egypt.

The wording of the texts cited above, especially Exodus 1:1-5, clearly implies that
these seventy were people who were living at the time of Jacob's descent into Egypt.

The wives of Jacob's sons were not counted in either the sixty-six or the seventy (Gen.
46:26).
I recall a song that was popular when I was much younger. The lyrics said something like,
"Trying to make a hundred; ninety-nine and a half just won't do." We can apply this obvious
truth to the 70/75 discrepancy. The passages we have quoted and analyzed say that 70, not
counting the wives of Jacob's sons, went into Egypt. Seventy is seventy and not sixty-nine or
sixty eight or seventy-one or seventy-two or any other number, so if seventy, not counting
Jacob's daughters-in-law, went into Egypt, then certainly seventy-five didn't go. Hence, if one
"inspired" text said that 70 went into Egypt and another said that 75 went, they cannot both be
right. This is so obvious that even Robert Turkel, a narcissistic "apologist" who writes on the
Tektonics website under the pseudonym James Patrick Holding, had to admit that two
conflicting views cannot both be right, even though he has at times taken the opposite view.
In "Not InDavincible," an article about Dan Brown's fictional thriller The Da Vinci
Code, Turkel made the following comment to which I have added bold-print emphasis.
Don't try to tell me, when I ask you who is right (myself [sic] or Brown), that we "both are".
[sic] That's just plain ridiculous. If you really believe something like this, you need to learn
some basic principles of sound thinking, such as the Law of Noncontradiction.
Since Brown's book was a work of fiction, I have no interest in trying to defend the premises
in it or to take issue with the controversy that it has created among some oversensitive
Christians, who for some incomprehensible reason have at times gotten all bent out of shape
over a fictional mystery novel. I quoted Turkel's comment above just to underscore an
important point, which is a recognized rule of evidence: "Two inconsistent statements
cannot both be right. They may both be wrong, but they cannot both be right." Being
aware of positions that Turkel has taken to try to "explain" biblical discrepancies, I was
surprised to see him say what I quoted above, because I suspect that if he were presented with
the fact that Masoretic Genesis 46:27 says that "seventy souls" went into Egypt, whereas the
same Septuagint passage says that seventy-five went into Egypt, Turkel would argue that they
were both right. I do thank him, however, for saying that in a disagreement that he has had
with Dan Brown, they cannot both be right. "That's just plain ridiculous," he said, so I am
going to appropriate what he said here and say that it is just plain ridiculous to claim that both
Masoretic Genesis 46:27 and Septuagint Genesis 46:27 were right about how many Israelites,
not counting the wives of Jacob's son, went into Egypt. If 70, not counting the daughters-inlaw of Jacob, went, then it was incorrect to say that 75 went, because Septuagint Genesis
46:26 clearly says that there were 75, besides the wives of the sons of Jacob.
Some biblical inerrantists would no doubt argue that the Septuagint count is also correct
because it listed among Joseph's descendants three grandsons and two great-grandsons of
Joseph that were not included in the Masoretic version. That is true, but I have argued at
length above and, in my opinion, ably supported the argument that the language of Genesis 46
and related texts was intended to convey that the ones in the list were people who had already
been born. Hence, the text erred in listing Hezron and Hamul, who, if the rest of the Genesis
text is accurate, couldn't possibly have been born by the time of Jacob's descent into Egypt,
and certainly the Septuagint version erred in listing grandsons and great-grandsons of Joseph
who definitely could not have been born by that time. As we have noted above, Joseph was 30
when he was made food administrator of Egypt (Gen. 41:46), and his sons Manasseh and
Ephraim were born after this (Gen. 41:50-52) and before Joseph was reunited with his
brothers at the age of 39 (Gen. 45:6), so Joseph who had two sons under the age of nine at this
time certainly could not have had grandsons and great-grandsons by then. Whoever added
these names to the Genesis-6 list erred. That is the only sensible conclusion to reach, no
matter how desperately biblical inerrantists try to "explain" discrepancies like these.
We can conclude, then, that no matter how much the church elders involved in these
discussions want to believe otherwise, there are some rather glaring discrepancies in the Bible
pertaining to the list of those who went into Egypt with Joseph.

Genesis 46:12 said that Hezron and Hamul, grandsons of Judah, were among those
who went to Egypt, but I showed in "How Could Hezron and Hamul Have Gone into
Egypt with Jacob?" that if the rest of the book of Genesis is accurate, it would have
been chronologically impossible for them to have been born by that time.

Genesis 46:15 claims that there were thirty-three descendants of Leah in the Israelite
descent into Egypt, but a count of the names in verses 8-15 shows that there were only
32.

Genesis 46:27, Exodus 1:5, and Deuteronomy 10:22 clearly say that there were 70 in
the generation that went into Egypt, so Stephen's claim in Acts 7:14 that there were 75
in this group stands in clear contradiction to the three Old Testament texts.
It is time for biblical inerrantists to join mainstream Christianity and admit that the Bible is
not the marvelous work of unity that they claim it is. In a third article in this series, I will
show that a popular claim that, despite having been written over centuries by various
individuals, the Bible is perfectly harmonious in everything it says is so ludicrously contrary
to fact that no reasonable person can believe it.
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About this capture
Plagued By Inconsistencies: Discrepancies in the
Egyptian-Plague Narratives - Part One
The Tit-For-Tat Problem
by Farrell Till
For sheer absurdity, few tales in pagan mythology can match the biblical stories of the
Egyptian plagues. The incidents that led eventually to the death of all firstborn in the land and
quickly thereafter to the Israelite exodus from Egypt began with a tit-for-tat confrontation
between Moses and Aaron and pharaoh’s magicians (Ex. 7:8-13). To show the power that
Moses and Aaron had in reserve, Aaron, we are told, cast his rod down, and, presto, it became
a serpent. Apparently unimpressed by Aaron’s demonstration, pharaoh called for his
magicians and sorcerers, who “did in like manner with their enchantments.” Aaron’s rod,
however, swallowed the rods of pharaoh’s magicians. At this point, we might wonder why the
“inspired” writer of this quaint little tale said that Aaron’s rod swallowed the rods of
pharaoh’s magicians. Surely it would have been the serpent that had been Aaron’s rod that
swallowed the serpents that had been the magicians’ rods. To spare inerrantists the trouble of
lecturing us on the figure of speech called ampliatio, however, I won’t quibble about the word
used to designate what swallowed what, although this does seem to be a careless bit of writing
by one whose hand was presumably guided by the omniscient god who created the universe.
Just suffice it to say that Aaron’s rod or serpent, whichever the case may have been, saved the
day by swallowing the magicians’ rods or serpents, whichever the case may have been. Score
one for Yahweh and the good guys.
If one accepts the premise that God once routinely and personally intervened in the affairs of
men to achieve whatever results he desired, there is admittedly nothing in this story so far that
could be characterized as preposterous. Beyond this point, however, as we will soon see, that
situation changed dramatically, and absurdity was quickly piled upon absurdity. What we
want to glean from this part of the story before we wade through the sea of absurdities that
follows is the evident fact that whoever wrote this part of the Bible obviously intended the
tale of the Egyptian plagues to be perceived as a confrontation between the power of Yahweh
invested in Moses and Aaron and the magic of pharaoh’s magicians. The writer’s strategy
seemed to be to tell the story as a tit-for-tat contest between the power of Yahweh and the
power of pharaoh’s sorcerers until finally the latter would have to give up and admit that
Yahweh’s power was greater than theirs.
It was a good idea to apply to the duel of the rods, but in choosing to continue it into the
infliction of the plagues, the writer very quickly got himself into a peck of trouble. Apparently
still unimpressed with Aaron’s power, even after the swallowing of the other rods (serpents?),
pharaoh refused to release the Israelites from bondage. Yahweh then showed him a thing or
two by sending the famous plagues upon the land of Egypt. The first plague was the changing
of the water of Egypt into blood. Through Moses, Yahweh commanded Aaron to stretch his
rod, (which had once been a serpent), over the waters of Egypt to change them into blood. To
understand just how complete and thorough this plague was said to be, let’s notice the passage
that recorded the event. For the sake of clarity, I will quote the modern English of the New
Revised Standard Version with Yahweh substituted for the LORD:
Exodus 7:17 Thus says Yahweh, “By this you shall know that I am Yahweh. See with the staff
that is in my hand I will strike the water that is in the Nile, and it shall be turned to
blood. 18 The fish in the river shall die, the river itself shall stink, and the Egyptians shall be
unable to drink water from the Nile.” 19 Yahweh said to Moses, “Say to Aaron, ‘Take your
staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt--over its rivers, its canals, and its
ponds, and all its pools of water--so that they may become blood; and there shall be
blood throughout the whole land of Egypt, even in vessels of wood and in vessels of stone.’”
Moses and Aaron did just as Yahweh commanded. In the sight of pharaoh and of his officials,
he lifted up the staff and struck the water in the river, and all the water in the river was turned
into blood, and the fish in the river died. The river stank so that the Egyptians could not drink
its water, and there was blood throughout the whole land of Egypt, but the magicians of
Egypt did the same by their secret arts (Ex. 7:17-22). One wonders why Yahweh said, “See,
with the staff that is in my hand I will strike the water that is in the Nile,” when the staff
wasn’t in Yahweh’s hand; it was in Aaron’s hand. Although this also strikes me as rather
careless writing on the part of an “inspired” writer, again I won’t quibble. This will spare
inerrantists the trouble of an excursion into that land of how-it-could-have-been scenarios that
fundamentalist apologists are famous for. “Well, you see, in saying that the rod was in his
hand, God could have meant that the power in the rod ultimately emanated from him, or he
could have meant blah, blah, blah, and etc., etc., etc.” What would inerrantists do without
figurative “explanations” when they find themselves in tight spots!
There is, however, an even greater problem than careless writing in this passage; the thinking
behind the writing was incredibly myopic. It is one thing to say that after Aaron had cast his
rod down and changed it into a serpent, pharaoh’s magicians “did in like manner with their
enchantments” and changed their rods into serpents; it is quite another to say that “the
magicians of Egypt did the same by their secret arts” (v:22) after Moses and Aaron had
changed into blood the water throughout the whole land of Egypt, from the river [Nile]
down to the water in vessels of wood and vessels of stone. Please notice the statements
emphasized by bold print in the passage above to see that the extent of the plague was
allegedly as thorough and complete as I have indicated. How, then, could pharaoh’s
magicians have duplicated Aaron’s feat this time? If Aaron had changed all of the water
throughout the whole land of Egypt into blood, including even the water in stone and wooden
vessels, there would have been no water available for pharaoh’s magicians to show their stuff
and duplicate the feat. I would think that any inerrantist should be able to see this, but if they
can’t, perhaps someone can at least explain to us how the magicians were able to pull off this
remarkable stunt. At any rate, we have to score one for pharaoh and the bad guys this time.
Moses and Aaron merely changed all the water there was into blood; pharaoh’s magicians
changed all the water there wasn't into blood. They were some magicians, to say the least.
Hence, what we have here is a story that amounts to asserting both X, (all the water of Egypt
was changed into blood), and not X, (all the water of Egypt was not changed into blood). It is
unreasonable to believe that after Aaron and Moses had changed all of the water throughout
all the land of Egypt into blood, pharaoh’s magicians could have done “likewise with their
enchantments.” As I have already noted, it would have been a logical impossibility for the
magicians to have done likewise with their enchantments, because there would have been no
water left for them to change into blood.
Even if we assume that once all the water in Egypt had been changed into blood, it would
have somehow been logically possible for someone else to duplicate the feat by changing
water that no longer existed into blood, it was certainly a stupid act on pharaoh’s part to have
his magicians do the same. As I explained in "Pharaoh, the Nincompoop," no responsible
chief of state would cause civil unrest by intentionally inflicting catastrophes on his country,
but as the plague stories were told, pharaoh at first had his magicians perform tit-for-tat
whenever Aaron and Moses brought a plague. When all the water was changed into blood,
pharaoh had his magicians do likewise; when they brought the plague of frogs, pharaoh had
his magicians bring even more frogs. This part of the plague stories presented pharaoh as an
incompetent dunce. If, for example, terrorists should contaminate all water east of the
Mississippi with a deadly chemical, the president would be an idiot if he ordered his agents to
do the same thing to all water west of the Mississippi. How idiotic! The plague stories would
have been more credible if the magicians had been presented as agents of pharaoh who undid
the plagues as Aaron and Moses inflicted them on Egypt. Instead, we find this tit-for-tat
premise in the accounts of the first plagues. Whatever Aaron and Moses did, the Egyptian
sorcerers also did. Who can believe such nonsense? We have to wonder how Egypt, with such
incompetence sitting on the throne, ever managed to become a major power in that part of the
world.
As I have often said, however, there is no such thing as a biblical discrepancy that will not
send inerrantists scurrying to find some way to explain it, so, needless to say, there have been
some how-it-could-have-been attempts to explain how Pharaoh's magicians could have done
likewise with their arts after Aaron and Moses had changed all the water throughout all the
land of Egypt into blood. Some inerrantists use the all-didn't-mean-all explanation and insist
that where the text says that the water throughout all the land of Egypt became blood, the
writer didn't mean that every last molecule of water became blood but only that a
preponderant part of it did. When the original copy of this article was posted on the Errancy
list, one of the members formed a separate, restricted board called Christians Combating
Biblical Errancy (CCBE), which allowed only Bible believers as members so that they could
pool their ideas to formulate satisfactory "explanations" of biblical discrepancies being posted
at Errancy. Their initial explanation of the water-into-blood problem was a variation of the
all-didn't-mean-all "solution." Their spokesman Matthew Bell presented the "explanation"
on October 4, 1998.
It states nowhere in the text that absolutely no water existed for the magicians to perform their
feat. Indeed if one uses the principle of exegesis (defined by F.Till as, "exegesis" means to
derive from the text the meaning of the language used within it), then one would come to the
opposite conclusion that F.Till does. The text states that the magicians did likewise. We
derive from this (the text) that to have done so they would have water to use. That the text
does not specify where or how they obtained this water does not mean that there was none in
existence.To claim such is to argue from that which the text does not say (eisegisis [sic]), and
go against what it does say (exegisis [sic]).
When Bell and his CCBE cohorts argued that if the text says that after Aaron and Moses had
changed the water in all the land of Egypt into blood, the magicians of Egypt did likewise,
then there must have been some water somewhere for them "to use," they were begging the
question of biblical inerrancy by arguing that if the Bible said that it happened, then somehow
it happened, even thought we may not know how it happened; hence, they were resorting to a
variation of the all-didn't-really-mean-all explanation. On the same day that Bell posted this
"solution," I sent "Blood, Water, and Magicians (1b) in reply to his post to show that, contrary
to what he was claiming, the problem did indeed concern what the text said, since what the
text said constitutes a logical impossibility.
I've never claimed that the text does not say that the magicians did likewise with their
enchantments, and that is the whole point. My argument is that the text had to be in error in
making this claim, because it is a logistically impossible claim. If we grant that Aaron and
Moses changed all of the water in Egypt into blood, an act that would have been possible if
there were any such thing as an omnipotent god working on their behalf, it would not have
been possible for the magicians to do the same thing that Aaron and Moses did, because all
the water in Egypt had already been changed into blood. So the argument is not about whether
the text says that the magicians did the same as Aaron and Moses but whether the text could
be accurate in saying that they did. If something is logically impossible, then it couldn't have
happened. That's the issue that Bell and the CCBE keep evading.
Bell promptly sent this "reply." By the way, Bell is Scottish, so I will retain his British
spelling and punctuation.
At this point we see no textual reason to 'grant that Aaron and Moses changed all of the water
in Egypt into blood'. What we do agree with is that Moses and Aaron changed all of the water
in Egypt into blood that is categorised in the text. Any water not categorised in the text
immediatley sinks your whole argument. Please textually demonstrate your assertion
that 'all', as in absolutely no exceptions, of the water in Egypt was turned to blood? A failure
to do so from the text invalidates your argument of logistically impossible.
Bell and his CCBE colleagues just never seemed to understand the logistical-impossibility
factor in this plague story or else they understood it but just didn't wanted to admit that it was
there. The matter is as simple as I explained above: although an omniscient, omnipotent deity,
if such should exist, could certainly have changed all of the water throughout all of the land
of Egypt into blood, once this had been done, not even an omnipotent power could have done
likewise with his arts, because doing so would have required the performance of a logical
impossibility, and not even "God"--if he exists--could perform a logical impossibility. "God,"
for example, could not make square circles, because square circles are logically impossible,
since any geometric pattern that is a circle could not be a square, and any that is a square
could not be a circle. As for Bell's references to whatever water was "categorized" in the text,
the water that was "categorized" was, according to the text, the water "throughout all the land
of Egypt." That, then, would have been inclusive of all the water in Egypt. If not, why not?
In an unfinished written debate that I began with the Church-of-Christ preacher Jerry Moffitt
back in 1992, which he dropped out of after only three exchanges, I presented this same
problem, which Moffitt tried to explain by claiming that the magicians dug for ground water
along the river and then changed that into blood. This was simply a variation of the all-didn'tmean-all "solution," which I will be addressing later, but first, I want to quote a hypothetical
example that I used to present the tit-for-tat problem to Moffitt.
Let's suppose that Mr. Moffitt and I, both possessing genuine supernatural powers to perform
miracles, decided to have a showdown, and to get things started, I waved my hand and
instantly changed all the trees in Texas into stone. Would Mr. Moffitt then be able to
duplicate my feat? No, how could he? There would be no trees left in Texas for him to act
upon no matter how great his powers might be. If a newspaper reporter covering the duel
should later write an article that said, "After Till had changed all the trees throughout all the
territory of Texas into stone, Moffitt did in like manner with his enchantments," wouldn't
anyone reading that be justified in questioning this reporter's journalistic accuracy?
The problem is as simple as recognizing that not even the god Yahweh--if he exists--could
have done that which was logically impossible. If the biblical text had said that pharaoh's
sorcerers had changed all the blood created by Aaron and Moses back into water, there would
have been no issue concerning logistical impossibilities in this story, but no such claim was
ever made. The Exodus writer simply said that after Aaron had changed the water throughout
all the land of Egypt into blood, pharaoh's magicians "did likewise with their enchantments"
(KJV), and therein lies the problem. The text claims that a logical impossibility was
performed.
All through my exchanges with Bell and his CCBE cohorts, this part of the problem was
largely ignored by them, but we can see in the quotations above from Bell's "responses" that
he was essentially arguing that all didn't mean all. If the text says that pharaoh's magicians did
likewise with their enchantsment, then somehow they did likewise with their enchantments,
so there had to have been some water somewhere for them to act upon. That was the essence
of Bell's "solution," so he was, as I noted above, begging the question of biblical inerrancy by
assuming that all didn't mean all.
Moffitt's variation of the all-didn't-mean-all solution to this problem was based on the biblical
claim that the Egyptians found drinking water by digging along the river.
Exodus 7:24 says the Egyptians got water to drink by digging round about the river. They
could get plenty enough to show they turned water to blood in as many vessels as they chose.
Till alludes to this digging only eight lines later, and surely only some kind of adversarial
forgetfulness led him to ignore it here.
Well, actually, the text that Mr. Moffitt quoted doesn't say that the Egyptians found water to
drink by digging round about the river; it says only that they dug for water round about the
river. If someone should say that Jones drilled for oil on his property, that wouldn't mean that
he found oil but only that he drilled for it. The Exodus writer may have indeed meant that the
Egyptians actually found water by digging along the river, but if this was what he meant, then
he erred when he said that the water throughout all the land of Egypt had been changed into
blood, including even the water that was in ponds, pools, and vessels of stone and wood,
because if the Egyptians found drinking water by digging round about the river, then the
water that they found this way would have come from the river. Hence, it would not have
been true that all of the water in the river had been changed into blood, and certainly it would
not have been true that the water throughout all the land of Egypt had been changed into
blood, for if the Egyptians had actually found drinking water by digging along the river, the
water that they found would have been water that was in Egypt. It would not have been water
that they found in China or North America.
What mystifies me about most apologetic solutions to discrepancies like the one presently
under consideration is the failure of the "apologists" to see that they are making their
omniscient, omnipotent deity also look like a nincompoop, who was unable to inspire his
chosen writers to narrate events clearly enough that there would be no misunderstanding of
what had happened. Here is the biblical account of the changing of the water throughout the
whole land of Egypt into blood.
Exodus 7:19 Yahweh said to Moses, "Say to Aaron, 'Take your staff and stretch out your hand
over the waters of Egypt--over its rivers, its canals, and its ponds, and all its pools of water-so that they may become blood; and there shall be blood throughout the whole land of Egypt,
even in vessels of wood and in vessels of stone.'" 20 Moses and Aaron did just as Yahweh
commanded. In the sight of Pharaoh and of his officials he lifted up the staff and struck the
water in the river, and all the water in the river was turned into blood, 21 and the fish in the
river died. The river stank so that the Egyptians could not drink its water, and there was
blood throughout the whole land of Egypt. 22 But the magicians of Egypt did the same by their
secret arts; so Pharaoh's heart remained hardened, and he would not listen to them; as
Yahweh had said.
Now let's just suppose that Moffitt and other would-be apologists who use this same
explanation are right and that pharaoh's magicians dug for water, filled some containers, and
changed that water into blood. Look how simple it would have been to have written the story
to make it clear that this was what had happened.
Exodus 7:19 Yahweh said to Moses, "Say to Aaron, 'Take your staff and stretch out your hand
over the waters of Egypt--over its rivers, its canals, and its ponds, and all its pools of water-so that all the water above ground may become blood; and there shall be blood throughout
the whole land of Egypt, even in vessels of wood and in vessels of stone.'" 20 Moses and Aaron
did just as Yahweh commanded. In the sight of Pharaoh and of his officials he lifted up the
staff and struck the water in the river, and all the water in the river was turned into
blood, 21 and the fish in the river died. The river stank so that the Egyptians could not drink
its water, and all the water above ground, including even that in vessels of wood and vessels
of stone, became blood throughout the whole land of Egypt. 22 But the magicians of Egypt dug
along the river, filled some vessels with water found under the ground, and did to it the same
by their secret arts; so Pharaoh's heart remained hardened, and he would not listen to them;
as Yahweh had said.
Now if the story had been written in this way, there would have been no dispute at all about
what had allegedly happened. Even the staunchest biblical skeptic would have been able to
understand what was claimed in the story: after Aaron and Moses had changed all water in
Egypt above the ground into blood, Pharaoh's magicians dug along the river, found water
under the ground, and changed that water into blood with their secret enchantments. The
"word of God" has reached a sorry state of affairs when a retired English teacher is able to tell
a story with better clarity than someone who was inspired by an omniscient, omnipotent deity.
[If the would-be apologist Robert Turkel, whose "solution" to the livestock-of-Egypt problem
I will address in a later article, reads this and says that my problem is that "God" didn't kiss
my patoot, besides begging the questions of whether "God" exists and was in any way
involved in biblical tales like the Egyptian plagues, he will be evading a legitimate question
about ambiguity and confusion in the Bible: why couldn't an omniscient, omnipotent deity
have done a better job of "inspiring" those who wrote the books of the Bible?]
As this series of articles continues, I will be quoting a Jewish rabbi, who has been a longtime
member of the Errancy list. His "solutions" to discrepancies in the Old Testament almost
invariably involve some Jewish tradition that he believes explains whatever discrepancy is
being claimed. Just recently, he cited a Talmudic solution to the problem of the Egyptian
livestock that seemed to keep rising from the dead after the plague of murrain had killed "all
the livestock of Egypt." When I asked why we should consider Jewish tradition to be any
more reliable than anyone else's, he sent this reply on November 24, 2005.
In a recent post to HILL I started to explain why Talmudic explanations are better than the
musings of a Gleason Archer. The extra-Biblical records of ancient Israel are thousands of
years closer to the source material than Gleason Archer is. Furthermore Archer admittedly
invents his answers based on hope and whim. Even if such apologetics is based on the
occasional historic event, it is still an outright after-the-fact invention. Talmudic explanation
carries the traditional public claim of a nation who are the ones responsible for bringing you
your copy of the Bible to begin with.
The rabbi's position, then, is that traditions that are closer to "the source material" will be
more reliable than those that are further removed. He may be surprised to hear me say that
unless bias or prejudice is present in traditions, proximity would make them more reliable
than sources further removed, but what reading I have done in Talmudic traditions--which is
admittedly not nearly enough to make me an authority on the subject--has shown that they
contain not just obvious bias for the view that the god Yahweh favored the Jewish people but
also have downright absurdities in them. I find it hard to believe that the rabbi can read those
Talmudic traditions without seeing in some of them as much "hope and whim" for accuracy
and inerrancy in the Torah as anything ever said in the writings of apologists like Gleason
Archer. When we examine later some of the rabbi's Jewish traditions--which will figure into
my analysis of the plagues that affected Egyptian livestock--we will see that he seems to think
that traditions that were 1400 to 2400 years removed from the time when the plagues
allegedly happened should be accepted as explanations of inconsistencies and discrepancies in
the plague stories. I fail to see, however, why a Jewish source living, say, 1400 years after the
time of the alleged Egyptian plagues should be considered a credible source of information
about what presumably happened during the plagues, because entirely too much time had
passed between the events and the formulation of the traditions. Furthermore, claiming that
the traditions had been formulated centuries before they were actually written down would not
make them any more credible, because there would have been ample time for them to have
undergone corruption and embellishments. However, we are going to see the rabbi claiming
later that Jewish sources who lived 1400 and even as late as 2400 years after the time of the
alleged plagues should be accepted as reliable sources, but this claim would be somewhat like
saying that a person today would be a reliable source of information about events that
happened in AD 700 and 300 BC. If such a source were indeed reliable, his credibility would
be due to research and not to his 1400- and 2400-year "proximity" to the events.
Bias and prejudice absolutely must be considered in evaluating the reliability of any written
document, and that would be especially true of ancient ones that have no corroborating
records to compare them to. If someone lived even within a relatively short time of the events
being commented on, his opinion would be severely compromised if he exhibited signs of
either bias or prejudice. If, for example, a Jewish source 2,000 years closer to the time when
the Egyptian plagues allegedly happened has an obvious bias for the traditional view that the
plagues were inflicted on Egypt by the Hebrew god Yahweh but no contemporary records
corroborate what he reports by way of solutions to problems in the stories, his attempts to
reconcile inconsistencies or explain discrepancies in them would really have no more
credibility than a modern-day Gleason Archer or Norman Geisler or Josh McDowell trying to
do the same thing by postulating purely speculative solutions. The rabbi mentioned above has
been a longtime member of the Errancy list, and he almost invaribably tries to explain Old
Testament discrepancies by appealing to Jewish traditions in the Talmuds. I am certainly no
Talmudic scholar, but I have read sections of them and have found much of their commentary
on biblical texts to be entirely speculative and at times patently ridiculous.
Since I will be quoting the rabbi mentioned above in my article that addresses a major
problem in the plague of murrain, which allegedly killed "all the livestock in Egypt," I will
quote here his opinion of the first-century AD Jewish writer Philo Judaeus. Since the rabbi, as
we will eventually see, cited the authority of second-century and eleventh-century AD Jewish
writers on the grounds that they were closer to events in biblical times than modern apologists
like Gleason Archer, I asked him if Philo Judaeus, who lived before the rabbi's earliest source,
would be even more "reliable" than he ones he had cited, he sent me this cautious approval of
Philo on December 9, 2005.
Philo would be a better source since he is closer in general. However, we would need to know
more about Philo's expertise. How much of a master of Torah was he compared to say the
sages of Yavneh? I know that the Mechilta was arranged/ratified by the main academy of
Pharisees in Israel in its time. Was Philo?
In any case, Philo was an important Jewish philosopher, and since he lived at that early time
(about 100ce) his insights are very valuable to us (as are the comments of Josephus). Do you
have something from Philo we should be considering?
The rabbi seemed a bit uninformed about Philo Judaeus, because he "lived from about 20 BC
to about AD 50" (David M. Scholer, "Foreward: An Introduction to Philo Judaeus of
Alexander," The Works of Philo, Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1993, p. xi). Anyway, I will be
quoting the rabbi's Jewish sources later in analyzing problems in the other plague accounts, at
which time I will also appeal to what Philo said in reference to the same plagues.
The brother of Moses, by the divine command, smote with his rod upon the river, and
immediately, throughout its whole course, from Ethiopia down to the sea, it is changed into
blood and simultaneously with its change, all the lakes, and ditches, and fountains, and wells,
and springs, and every particle of water in all Egypt, was changed into blood, so that, for
want of drink, they digged round about the banks of the river, but the streams that came up
were like veins of the body in a hemorrhage, and spurted up channels of blood like springs,
no transparent water being seen anywhere (The Works of Philo, Hendrickson Publishers,
1993, p. 468, emphasis added).
A serious problem in all variations of the all-didn't-mean-all solution to the claim that
pharaoh's magicians duplicated the first plague is that they ignore the obvious strategy of the
Exodus writer, which was to communicate that the plagues in general were thorough and
more comprehensive than anything the world had ever seen in even those that sometimes
happen naturally, such as calamities that are caused by hail, locusts, and diseases like murrain
and boils. The writer's theme of totality and completeness was recurrent in his descriptions of
all the plagues.
1. First, he claimed that the magicians of Egypt did the same as Aaron and Moses after
they had changed all the bodies of water throughout all the land of Egypt into
blood. Since the scope of this plague has already been explored at length above, I
don't need to rehash here the biblical claims of its extent.
2. He claimed that Moses and Aaron had warned pharaoh that a "plague of frogs" would
be brought upon the "whole country" (8:2), which would make the river "swarm with
frogs," bring frogs into pharaoh's palace, bedchamber, and bed, and into the houses of
pharaoh's officials and people, and into their ovens and kneading bowls (8:3-4). When
pharaoh didn't comply, the plague was executed, and frogs came up and "covered the
land of Egypt" (8:6). When the plague was removed by Yahweh's intervention to kill
the frogs, they died in the houses, the courtyards, and the fields (8:13). They were then
gathered together "into heaps, and the land stank" (8:14). This tale was obviously
written with the intention of communicating that the whole land of Egypt was polluted
with frogs.
3. He claimed that when Aaron struck the dust with his staff, "all the dust of the earth
turned into gnats throughout the whole land of Egypt." [The KJV and other versions
present this as a plague of lice rather than gnats.] The writer didn't say that just "some"
of the dust or "most of the dust" or a "significant part of the dust" turned to gnats; he
said that "all the dust" turned to gnats "throughout the whole land of Egypt," so again
the writer obviously intended to communicate a scope of totality and thoroughness in
his description of this plague.
4. He claimed that swarms of flies would fill the houses of pharaoh and the Egyptians
and "also the land where they lived" (8:21) when the next plague came, and when it
did come, the writer claimed that "the land was ruined because of the flies" (8:24).
5. He claimed that the plague of murrain killed “all the livestock of Egypt” (9:6). The
extent of this plague will be analyzed in detail in another part of this series, so I won't
jump the gun and discuss that point here. Suffice it to say that the text clearly says that
"all the livestock of Egypt" died in the plague of murrain, and as plagues against
livestock go, it would be hard to have one more extensive than a killing of "all" the
livestock.
6. He described the plague of boils as a scourge that afflicted "humans and
animals throughout the whole land of Egypt" (9:9), so just as the plagues before this
one covered "the whole land of Egypt," the plague of boils struck throughout the
whole country of Egypt.
7. He described the next plague as one that would be "the heaviest hail to fall that has
ever fallen in Egypt from the day it was founded until now" (9:18). When the hail was
sent, it fell "on the whole land of Egypt, on humans and animals and all the plants of
the field in the land of Egypt" and was again described as "such heavy hail as had
never fallen in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation" (9:22-24). The writer
went on to emphasize that it "struck down everything that was in the open
field throughout all the land of Egypt" (9:25). Totality and thoroughness--these
were recurrent themes in the writer's descriptions of the plagues.
8. Next came the plague of locusts, which the writer claimed "came upon all the land of
Egypt and settled on the whole country of Egypt." He described them as "such a
dense swarm of locusts as had never been before, nor ever shall be again" (10:14).
Like so many other biblical writers, this one consistently described the plagues in
superlatives that communicated either totality and completeness or that they were the
worse that the land of Egypt had ever seen or ever would see again.
9. The writer's theme of absolute totality continued as he told about the removal of the
locusts. Yahweh sent a wind, which blew the locusts into the Red Sea, and the
removal was totally complete: "Not a single locust was left in all the country of Egypt"
(10:19). Now imagine that; the plague consisted of a "dense swarm of locusts" unlike
any that had ever been before or would ever be again, yet every last one of the little
boogers was blown out to sea. Not a single one was left in ALL the country of
Egypt.
10. Then came the plague of "dense" darkness, which covered "all the land of Egypt for
three days" (10:22), except, of course, for where the Israelites lived. Otherwise, this
darkness was so dense that it could be felt (10:21), and the people couldn't see one
another and couldn't move about (10:23).
11. Finally came the death of the firstborn, which the writer said would kill "every
firstborn"--not some firstborn but every firstborn--"in the land of Egypt, from the
firstborn of Pharaoh who sits on his throne to the firstborn of the female slave who is
behind the handmill, and all the firstborn of the livestock" (11:5). The writer said that
this plague would cause "a loud cry throughout the whole land of Egypt, such as has
never been or will ever be again" (11:6), and when the plague actually came, the
writer said that Yahweh struck down at midnight "all the firstborn in the land of
Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the
prisoner who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of the livestock" (12:29). He
further claimed that "there was not a house without someone dead" (12:30), so as in all
of his other accounts of the plagues, the Exodus writer emphasized the totality and
thoroughness of the plagues.
Later in this series, I will be referring back to this section to remind readers that the Exodus
writer went out his way to emphasize that all of the plagues were unmitigatedly thorough in
their scope. I introduced this point here in order to challenge the credibility of the all-didn'tmean-all "solution" to the tit-for-tat problem in the story of the first plauge. All, all, all was
the writer's recurrent theme in his accounts of the plagues. The water throughout all the land
of Egypt was changed into blood, all the dust of the earth throughout all the land of Egypt
became gnats [lice], all the livestock of Egypt died in the plague of the murrain, hail heavier
than any that had ever been fell throughout all the land of Egypt, locusts covered all the land
of Egypt, and so on. Hence, there is no reason at all to think that when the writer said that the
water in the rivers, lakes, ponds, pools, and vessels of stone and wood throughout all the land
of Egypt became blood, he didn't mean exactly what he said. In making the first plague this
extensive, the writer failed to realize that his tit-for-tat theme that he began in Aaron's duel of
the rods with pharaoh's magicians could not be extended into a story claiming that the water
throughout all the land of Egypt was changed into blood, because if Aaron had actually
performed this feat, it would have been logistically impossible for pharaoh's magicians to
have done the same with the "secret arts." The writer simply made a claim without thinking
that what he was saying would not have been possible.
Earlier, I used a hypothetical example in which someone with presumably supernatural
powers had changed all the trees in Texas into stone. Once this had been done, it would not
have been done, an opponent could not have duplicated the feat, because there would have
been no trees left in Texas for him to change into stone. Let's put aside the supernatural
element to consider how that once some events have happened, they could not be duplicated.
If, for example, a pandemic disease should strike country X and kill all the people there, it
would be logistically impossible for another disease to strike on the heels of the other in the
same country and immediately kill all of the people in it, because there would be no people
left there to kill. Likewise, if an asteroid struck lake X and evaporated all of the water in it, a
second asteroid immediately impacting in the same place could not evaporate water in the
former lake bed, because there would be no water there for it to evaporate. In the same way,
once that Aaron and Moses had changed the water throughout all the land of Egypt into
blood, pharaoh's magacians, no matter what presumed powers they may have had, could not
have duplicated the feat, because there would be no water left for them to change into blood.
This is all so obvious that even biblical inerrantists would see it if they were not so
emotionally attached to their "inspired word of God." If this first plague story were in some
other ancient document, such as the Babylonian Chronicle or the Moabite Stone or the Ebla
tablets, biblical inerrantists would immediately recognize it had made a logistically impossibe
claim, but because it is in the Bible, they twist themselves into verbal pretzels to try to explain
how it could have happened.
[Addendum, December 23, 2005: After this article was posted, a reader informed me that
none other than Robert Turkel had an answer to the water problem in the first-plague story. I
read it and found that it is just another purely speculative how-it-could-have-been "solution,"
but I wouldn't want Mr. Turkel to think that I am neglecting him, so I am adding this
addendum to my original article. Turkel's "solution" to this problem was apparently posted in
reply to one of his readers who also wondered about the logistical possibility that the Egyptian
sorcerers could have duplicated Aaron's feat of changing water throughout all the land of
Egypt into blood. "But wait a minute!" the reader wrote. "After Moses turns the water into
blood there's no water left for the Egyptians to do the same thing." Turkel reacted with typical
sarcasm and said, "Heh heh - this is an old chestnut, isn't it?" Well, yes, it is an old chestnut,
but despite its age, no biblical inerrantist has yet given a satisfactory solution to it. That
includes Turkel, who went on to say that there are "two solutions" to it.
Two solutions to it? To quote Turkel's reader, wait a minute; there couldn't be two solutions to
the problem, because if the Egyptian sorcerers did in some way, known only to the god
Yahweh and his inspired writer, duplicate Aaron's feat, there would have been just one way
that this was done, not two. By saying, then, that there are "two solutions," Turkel was
admitting that he is just speculating and that there is no sure solution to the problem that his
reader identified.
What Turkel meant, of course, is that there are two how-it-could-have-been "explanations" of
this problem. The first one he gave was the digging-beside-the-river "solution," which I don't
need to comment on, because that was addressed above and found inconsistent with the
"totality factor" that the Exodus writer emphasized in all his accounts of the plague. The same
is true of Turkel's second "solution," but since it wasn't addressed above, I will quote it and
then show why it won't work either.
Even better, though, to my mind: Fresh water from the Nile's source outside of Egypt would
have kept flowing and replaced the blooded water within a matter of a couple of days. Not
that it helps - who needed more blood??? It's worthwhile to note that it isn't assumable that the
water assumed every characteristic of blood, including viscosity; as long as and [sic] looked,
and smelled, like blood, it was enough for it to be called that descriptively...it is not as though
samples were taken to detect corpuscles, and the Hebrew word had a precise scientific
meaning! I also wonder whether the statement that the Egyptians magicians "did the same" or
"did so" by their arts means, they repeated Moses' performance, or that it was part of their
known repetoire of tricks to turn water into blood.
I am glad that Turkel said that water would have flowed into Egypt from the "source" of the
Nile "outside of Egypt," because the biblical text said that "all the waters that were in the
river turned to blood" (Ex. 7:20), so if all the water in the river was changed into blood, that
would have included the water all the way up to its source, one of which was in Ethiopia. I
quoted the first-century AD Jewish writer Philo Judaeus above, and in his description of the
scope of this plague, he said that "throughout its whole course, from Ethiopia down to the
sea," the water in the river changed into blood, so this would indicate at least something about
Jewish traditions of how extensive the plague of blood was. We will see, then, that Turkel's
speculation about fresh water flowing in from the source of the Nile doesn't really solve much
of anything.
I hardly know where to begin to expose the flaws in Turkel's "solution," which turned out to
be a multifaceted solution that rambled on to say that the sorcerers could have done it this way
or they could have done it that way, and so on. First, let's consider whether Turkel's claim that
fresh water flowing in "from the Nile's source outside of Egypt" would have replaced the
blood within "a couple of days" is compatible with the biblical record. Turkel apparently
doesn't know that the source of the Nile is some 4,000 miles south in Lake Victoria in
Uganda, and the Blue Nile, which flows into the White Nile at Khartoum, Sudan, begins at
Lake Tana in Ethiopia, but this source of the Blue Nile is about 1,000 miles from the
confluence of the two main rivers that form what we know as the Nile River that eventually
flows through Egypt. As the crow flies, Khartoum is about 1,000 miles from the Nile Delta,
where the confrontation between Moses and Pharaoh would have happened, but a look at a
map of Northeast Africa will show that the Nile hardly flows as the crow flies. It snakes its
way into Egypt in loops and curves, one of which actually turns the river channel into a
southwest direction, away from Egypt, for a distance of about 100 miles, before it turns north
again toward Egypt. In other words, the "source" of the Nile "outside of Egypt" would have
been thousands of miles from where Moses and Aaron were having their confrontation with
Pharaoh and his sorcerers, so fresh water from "the source" of the Nile would have had to
flow at about 80 miles per hour to reach Egypt within the "couple of days" that Turkel thinks
would have been long enough for fresh water to have reached the Nile Delta. If we assume
that fresh water encountering blood could flow fast enough to wash the blood on out to sea
that fast, I guess we are supposed to think that the sorcerers said to Aaron and Moses, "Just
wait a couple of days, and when fresh water flows down, we will do likewise with our secret
arts," and then Aaron and Moses and Pharaoh's entourage all sat twiddling their thumbs for
two days, waiting for fresh water to come in so that the sorcerers could show Aaron and
Moses a thing or two by duplicating their feat. As I noted above, a far more impressive feat
would have been for the sorcerers to have changed the blood back into water, but who am I to
tell the omniscient, omnipotent creator of the universe how to inspire his revelation to
mankind?
Turkel apparently recognized this problem in his how-it-could-have-been scenario, because he
went on in another of his inimitable attempts to banter a discrepancy away, in this case, by
quipping that it wasn't as though samples were taken [from the river] "to detect corpuscles."
To this, I can only say that if Aaron didn't turn the water throughout all the land of
Egypt into blood, then why did the inspired writer say that he did? Was he incapable of
saying that Aaron waved his rod and the water throughout all the land of Egypt became
red like blood. After all, it isn't as if similes were not used by biblical writers. (If Turkel wants
me to cite some examples for him, I will be happy to accommodate the request.) Turkel
further quibbled that the Hebrew word for blood didn't have a "precise scientific meaning,"
but the English word blood didn't originate as a scientific word either; nevertheless, when
native English speakers hear the word blood, they know what it means. When, for example, a
journalist describing a crime scene says that blood was all over the floor, we don't think that
he means that water colored with red dye was on the floor. In the same way, when we read in
texts translated from Hebrew that the brothers of Joseph dipped his coat into the blood of a
goat (Gen. 37:31) or that the priests were to sprinkle the blood of bullocks "round about the
altar" (Lev. 1:5) or that the blood of the paschal lamb was to be put onto the doorposts and
lintels (Ex. 12:7) or that Moses put his finger into the blood of a sin-offering and smeared it
onto the horns of the altar (Lev. 8:15) and so on, we don't wonder at all if samples of the
"blood" on these occasions were checked for "corpusles." We simply accept that the writers
meant what they said, because it is very easy to recognize when the Hebrew
word dam [blood] was being used figuratively, as when a poetic text referred to washing
garments in "the blood of grapes" (Gen. 49:11) or to the drinking of the "blood of the grape"
(Deut. 32:14).
That the Exodus writer meant that the water throughout all the land of Egypt was literally
changed into blood is rather apparent in the various texts that refer to this alleged incident. At
least twice, psalmists said that the rivers of Egypt were "turned into blood" (Ps. 48:44; Ps.
105:29) I know of no biblical writer who ever said in referring to this plague that the water
became "like blood"; they said that it became blood. When Yahweh first called Moses to send
him on the mission to free the Israelites from Egyptian bondage, he gave a demonstration of
his power that would be with Moses as he set about fulfilling this mission.
Exodus 4:1 Then Moses answered, "But suppose they do not believe me or listen to me, but
say, 'Yahweh did not appear to you.'" 2 Yahweh said to him, "What is that in your hand?" He
said, "A staff." 3 And he said, "Throw it on the ground." So he threw the staff on the ground,
and it became a snake; and Moses drew back from it. 4 Then Yahweh said to Moses, "Reach
out your hand, and seize it by the tail"--so he reached out his hand and grasped it, and it
became a staff in his hand--5 "so that they may believe that Yahweh, the God of their
ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to
you." 6 Again, Yahweh said to him, "Put your hand inside your cloak." He put his hand into
his cloak; and when he took it out, his hand was leprous, as white as snow. 7 Then God said,
"Put your hand back into your cloak"--so he put his hand back into his cloak, and when he
took it out, it was restored like the rest of his body--8 "If they will not believe you or heed the
first sign, they may believe the second sign. 9 If they will not believe even these two signs or
heed you, you shall take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground; and the
water that you shall take from the Nile will become blood on the dry ground."
I am sure that when Turkel reads this he doesn't think that Moses' staff became something like
a snake but not literally a snake or that his hand became white with something like leprosy but
not literally leprosy, so why would he think that when Moses would take water from the Nile
and pour it onto the dry ground, it would become only something like blood but not literally
blood with corpuscles that could be scientifically checked. If he is going to argue that the
water throughout all the land of Egypt didn't literally become blood, he needs to explain his
literary criteria for reaching that determination. Then he should tell us if the frogs that came
up onto the land and into the houses were literal frogs or just comething like frogs? Were the
lice literally lice or just something like lice? Were the flies literally flies or just something like
flies? Was the murrain literally murrain or just something like murrain? Were the boils
literally boils or just... well, even Turkel should get my point here.
So what about Turkel's claim that "a couple of days" passed after which fresh water flowed in
from outside of Egypt to give the sorcerers the opportunity to do "in like manner with their
secret arts"? Does the biblical text support this speculation? I will let readers decide.
Exodus 7:20 Moses and Aaron did just as Yahweh commanded. In the sight of Pharaoh and
of his officials he lifted up the staff and struck the water in the river, and all the water in the
river was turned into blood, 21 and the fish in the river died. The river stank so that the
Egyptians could not drink its water, and there was blood throughout the whole land of
Egypt. 22 But the magicians of Egypt did the same by their secret arts; so Pharaoh's heart
remained hardened, and he would not listen to them; as Yahweh had said. 23 Pharaoh turned
and went into his house, and he did not take even this to heart.
If this two-day interval between Aaron's feat and the duplication of it by the sorcerers actually
happened, where is the linguistic evidence of it in the text just quoted? It isn't there, because it
exists only in Turkel's imagination. As any competent composition teacher would tell Turkel,
when there are no time transitions in narrative writing to indicate the passage of time between
events described in the narrative, readers should assume that the events had happened one
after the other with no significant delays. I mentioned earlier that the way the Exodus writer
told the plague stories made Pharaoh look like a nincompoop, and now Turkel's speculation of
an unmentioned and completely unimplied two-day interveral between verses 21 and 22
quoted above makes the "inspired" writer of Exodus look as unskilled in narrative writing as a
below-average grade-school student. Earlier, I showed how the narrative of the blood-plague
narrative could have been written to show clearly and unequivocally that the sorcerers had
dug along the river to find water to change into blood, so now I will show Turkel how easily a
competent writer could have told this story to make it clear that the sorcerers had changed
fresh water from the Nile's source into blood after "a couple of days." I will emphasize in bold
print the transitional expressions that communicate significant delay between Aaron's feat and
its duplication by the sorcers.
Exodus 7:20 Moses and Aaron did just as Yahweh commanded. In the sight of Pharaoh and
of his officials he lifted up the staff and struck the water in the river, and all the water in the
river was turned into blood, 21 and the fish in the river died. The river stank so that the
Egyptians could not drink its water, and there was blood throughout the whole land of
Egypt. 22 After the flowing of the river had brought down fresh water two days later, the
magicians of Egypt did the same by their secret arts; so Pharaoh's heart remained hardened,
and he would not listen to them; as Yahweh had said. 23 Pharaoh turned and went back into
his house, as he had done before when Aaron changed the river water into blood, and he did
not take even this to heart.
I noted earlier that "the word of God" has come to a sorry state of affairs when a retired
English teacher can write with better clarity than someone who was "inspired" by an
omniscient, omnipotent deity. I also said that if Turkel should read this and resort to his usual
quibble that Till is upset because God didn't "kiss his patoot," besides begging the questions
of the existence of "God" and of his involvement in the writing of the Bible, he will be
evading a perfectly legitimate question: If the Egyptian sorcerers did duplicate Aaron's
water-into-blood feat in the way that Turkel speculates, why couldn't the omniscient,
omnipotent one have inspired his chosen writer to say so in specific language that would
have left no doubt about what had happened? Now that I have said this twice, maybe
Turkel will actually try to answer a rebuttal argument.
And maybe pigs will fly someday too.
Besides the fact that the narrative does not provide any linguistic basis for Turkel's
speculation that two days had passed between Aaron's feat and the sorcerers duplication of it,
what the text says later on clearly shows that Turkel's "solution" to this "old chestnut" is
completely absurd, because as the narrative continued, it specifically stated that the plague of
blood had lasted for seven days.
Exodus 7:22 But the magicians of Egypt did the same by their secret arts; so Pharaoh's heart
remained hardened, and he would not listen to them; as Yahweh had said. 23 Pharaoh turned
and went into his house, and he did not take even this to heart. 24 And all the Egyptians had to
dig along the Nile for water to drink, for they could not drink the water of the river. 25 Seven
days passed after Yahweh had struck the Nile.
Knowing Turkel's penchant for shameless quibbling, I fully expect him to say that the text
says only that "seven days passed after Yahweh had struck the Nile," but that doesn't
necessarily mean that the bloody water lasted that long. I would admit that this is a possible
meaning of the text, as it is worded, but it is far more likely an incorrect interpretation. Why
would the Exodus writer have said that the Egyptians dug along the Nile for water and then
immediately have added that seven days passed after Yahweh had struck the river unless he
meant that the plague had lasted for seven days? In the context of the passage from Philo
Judaeus, which I quoted above, Philo went on to say of the plague of blood that "this evil
lasted seven days" (The Works of Philo, Hendrickson Publishers, 1993, p. 468). This,
however, means only that Philo understood the text in the same way that I do, but if this is not
what the writer meant, he made Pharaoh look even more moronic than I described
him above and in this section of Part Two, because the spin that Turkel is trying to put onto
this tale would mean that after Aaron's plague of blood had sent the Egyptians frantically
digging for water alongside the river, two days later when potable water was finally available
again, Pharaoh the genius had his magicians duplicate Aaron's feat and pollute the water
again. I doubt that Pharaoh would have been stupid enough to bring a second national
catastrophe like this onto his country.
Now let's consider a final problem in Turkel's "solution." He offered it as if he absolutely
knew that this was what had happened, but at no time did he say, we can know that Pharaoh's
sorcerers duplicated Aaron's feat only after fresh water had flowed down from the source of
the Nile and washed the blood away, because temple inscriptions or papyrus documents or
some other extrabiblical records discovered by archaeologists report that the Nile was once
polluted for two days and then polluted again after fresh water had flowed down. No, he
offered nothing like that to corroborate his "solution"; he simply asserted that this was what
had happened.
In other words, Robert Turkel is just another biblical inerrantist who claims to have insights
into the meanings of biblical texts that have eluded ordinary readers for centuries. He doesn't
seem to understand that anyone with a bit of imagination could always postulate how-itcould-have-been scenarios to explain away inconsistencies and contradictions in any written
text, whether biblical or secular, but the postulation of a how-it-could-have-been explanation
doesn't explain anything unless it is supported by evidence that would make more likely than
not that the postulated scenario is what had actually happened. In the matter of how the
sorcerers had duplicated Aaron's amazing feat of changing the water of Egypt into blood, for
example, I could say that immediately after the water in Egypt became blood, the sorcerers
used their secret arts to bring in heavy rain clouds and wash Aaron's blood away, after which
they then changed all of the rain water into blood. Thus, the Egyptians digging for water
along the river for seven days were searching for water there not because of Aaron's feat but
because of the miracle wrought by the sorcerers.
Let Turkel tell us why this how-it-could-have-been would not be as tenable as his.]
Go to Part Two.
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Plagued By Inconsistencies: Discrepancies in the
Egyptian-Plague Narratives - Part Two
Here a Frog, There a Frog,
Everywhere a Frog Frog
by Farrell Till
As I noted in Part One of this series, the problem of the Egyptian magicians having done
“likewise with their enchantments” remains unexplained, but that was far from the only
problem in the Egyptian-plague stories. Pharaoh, being the impious sort that he was, still was
unimpressed after Aaron and Moses had changed the water throughout all the land of
Egypt into blood. He witnessed the exchange of miraculous feats between Aaron and the
Egyptian sorcerers there by the riverside, then “turned and went into his house, and he did not
take even this to heart” (v:23). So Yahweh sent the plague of frogs against Egypt, which was
a typical Yahwistic response, by the way. The Egyptian populace had had nothing to do with
this dispute between Pharaoh and Moses, but they were the ones who had to bear the brunt of
Yahweh’s wrath. Already they had frantically dug for seven days along the Nile for water to
drink (vs:24-25), and now, as if this were not enough suffering for their ruler’s obstinacy,
Yahweh decided to zap them with a plague of frogs. This Yahweh that biblical inerrantists
admire so much has a strange sense of justice and fairness.
Aaron waved his magic rod again (when one reads such silliness as this in "God’s inspired
word," those tales of fairies with magic wands we are all familiar with from our childhood
days don’t seem so far-fetched at all) and the curse of the frogs began. Yahweh, being
Yahweh, of course, never does anything halfway, so once again the plague was as thorough in
its scope as any plague could possibly be.
Exodus 8:1-7 Then Yahweh said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Thus says
Yahweh: Let my people go, so that they may worship me. If you refuse to let them go, I will
plague your whole country with frogs. The river shall swarm with frogs; they shall come up
into your palace, into your bed-chamber and your bed, and into the houses of your officials
and of your people, and into your ovens and your kneading bowls. The frogs shall come up on
you and on your people and on all your officials.’” And Yahweh said to Moses, “Say to
Aaron, ‘Stretch out your hand with your staff over the rivers, the canals, and the pools, and
make frogs come up on the land of Egypt.’” So Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters
of Egypt; and the frogs came up and covered the land of Egypt. But the magicians did the
same by their secret arts, and brought frogs up on the land of Egypt.
In Part One of this series, I quoted the opinion of Philo Judaeus in the matter of how extensive
the plague of blood was, so I will also quote what he said about the scope of the second
plague so that the Jewish rabbi previously referred to can see that Philo Judaeus did indeed
say something about the plagues that "we should be considering." I will emphasize in bold
print Philo's comments that described his view of the extent of the second plague.
For again, the brother of Moses, being ordered to do so, stretched out his hand and held his
rod over all the canals, and lakes, and marshes; and at the holding forth of his rod, so
immense a multitude of frogs came up, that not only the market-place, and all the spots
open to the air, were filled with them, but likewise all the stables for cattle, the houses,
and all the temples, and every building, public or private, as if nature had designed to
send forth one race of aquatic animals into the opposite region of earth, to form a colony
there, for the opposite region to water is earth. Inasmuch then as they could not go out of
doors, because all the passages were blocked up, and could not remain in-doors, for the
frogs had already occupied all the recesses, and had crawled up to the highest parts of
the house, they were now in the very greatest distress, and in complete despair of safety.
Again, therefore, they have recourse to the same means of escape by entreating Moses, and
the king now promised to permit the Hebrews to depart, and they propitiated God with
prayers. And when God consented, some of the frogs at once returned into the river, and
there were also heaps of those which died in the roads, and the people also brought loads
of them out of their houses, because of the intolerable stench which proceeded from them,
and the smell from their dead carcases, in such numbers, went up to heaven, especially as
frogs, even while alive, cause great annoyance to the outward senses (The Works of
Philo, Hendrickson Publishers, 1993, p. 468, emphasis added)
In at least the case of Philo Judaeus, then, Jewish tradition held that the second plague was
also one of totality and thoroughness, which as we saw in Part One seemed to be a central
theme of the Exodus writer. In subsequent articles in this series, I will continue to notice the
emphasis that this writer put on this theme. By the time I have finished analyzing this theme
in my analyses of the plague stories, sensible readers should be able to see that the all-didn'tmean-all "solution" to inconsistencies in these stories is simply another inerrantist attempt to
rationalize biblical discrepancies.
On the off chance that anything remotely resembling these events in the second plague story
ever happened, we should observe here that the plague of frogs may not have been as
marvelous a display of Yahweh’s power as Bible inerrantists would have us believe. If all of
the water in Egypt, including even the water that Pharaoh’s magicians somehow scrounged up
to duplicate Aaron’s feat, was changed into blood for seven days, we could reasonably expect
that, in order to survive, frogs and other amphibians would have had to leave their natural
habitats in the polluted rivers, canals, lakes, ponds, and maybe even the vessels of wood and
stone. Be that as it may, the passage just quoted claimed that the “whole country” was
plagued with frogs. The little varmints were everywhere, in the pharaoh’s palace; in his bedchamber, including his bed; in the houses of his officials; in the houses of the people; in their
ovens and kneading bowls. Frogs, frog, frogs--frogs were everywhere. Although this was said
to be a plague or curse, to those Egyptians who had an appetite for frog legs, the situation
could have been considered a gourmet’s paradise. It would have all depended on one’s point
of view. As the old adage says, “What is one man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” but the
principal thing to notice from the passage under consideration is the thoroughness that the
writer claimed for the second plague. As I continue this series of articles, I will emphasize the
totality and thoroughness that the writer claimed for these plagues, because, as we saw in the
case of the plague of blood, the totality factor will prove to be an obstacle for those who offer
the all-didn't-mean-all "solution" to some of the inconsistencies in the stories.
Yahweh or Aaron’s rod or whatever was responsible for the appearance of the frogs didn’t
send just a few frogs or even a lot of frogs. Frogs were everywhere; the land of Egypt was
covered with them. All of this being true, we have to wonder about the claim that “the
magicians did the same by their secret arts and brought frogs up on the land of Egypt” (v:7).
With Yahweh’s frogs everywhere as far as the eye could see, how could anyone have verified
that the magicians did in fact bring forth their own wave of frogs? Maybe they just faked it,
waved their own rods--except that they couldn’t have, of course, because Aaron’s rod had
swallowed the magicians rods--said abracadabra or something like that, and then claimed that
some of Yahweh’s frogs were really frogs conjured up by their enchantments. Or maybe the
magicians brought forth a different breed or variety of frogs that could be easily distinguished
from Yahweh’s frogs. Or maybe the frogs were labeled ours and theirs so that the Egyptians
could easily tell who was responsible for any particular frogs found in their beds, ovens, or
kneading bowls. Who knows? Anything can happen in the Bible. What I do know is that one
would have to be pretty gullible to accept this story of the Egyptian plagues at face value. It
has all the earmarks of folklore and myth running wild.
But the silliness doesn’t stop. Seeing now that he had a big problem on his hands, Pharaoh
called for Moses and Aaron and asked them to take away the frogs. Why he didn’t just have
his magicians to take the frogs away is anybody’s guess. Surely removing the frogs would
have been a snap for magicians who could call forth a wave of frogs that matched Yahweh’s
frogs, not even to mention change water that didn’t exist into blood. We have to understand,
however, that few things in the Bible were ever done in logical, sensible ways, so we will just
take the word of Moses (?) that Pharaoh made a plea for the messengers of Yahweh to remove
the frogs. This is how the “inspired” writer recorded the request.
Exodus 8:8-10 Then Pharaoh called Moses and Aaron, and said, “Pray to Yahweh to take
away the frogs from me and my people, and I will let the people go to sacrifice to Yahweh.”
Moses said to Pharaoh, “Kindly tell me when I am to pray for you and for your officials and
for your people, that the frogs may be removed from you and your houses and be left only in
the Nile.” And he said, “Tomorrow.” Moses said, “As you say! So that you may know that
there is no one like Yahweh our God, the frogs shall leave you and your houses and your
officials and your people; they shall be left only in the Nile.”
Tomorrow? Tomorrow! Here frogs were everywhere in sight, as already described, causing
no telling how much contamination with the filth and slime that they brought with them from
the polluted rivers, canals, lakes, ponds, and pools that had driven them onto land, and
Pharaoh, being offered an opportunity to have them removed from the land apparently at any
time he wanted, chose to have it done tomorrow! Does that make any sense? If the plague was
bad enough to make him eat crow and call upon his adversaries for help, wouldn’t he have
wanted the frogs removed at once? Who knows? If this pharaoh was so dumb that he would
have his sorcerers duplicate the plagues and afflict the land with even more blood--in
someway unknown--and frogs, maybe he would have also been incompetent enough to wait
another day to have the frogs removed. As I said, few things in the Bible happened in logical,
sensible ways, and the imbecilic conduct of this pharaoh is just one example of that. Maybe
inerrantists can help us make sense out of situations like this one.
With a summation of this plague story now before us, this is as good a place as any to make
another important observation about the absurdity of the Egyptian-plagues story. Am I the
only one to see things like this or have any of you reading this also noticed them? This
Pharaoh, whoever he was--Moses, who had been reared in the royal palace as the son of
Pharaoh’s daughter (Ex. 2:1-10), presumably wrote Exodus and the four other books of the
Pentateuch but oddly enough never used this pharaoh’s name in telling the story of the
plagues, as if maybe the one who really wrote it didn’t know his name--was made to look like
an absolute nincompoop in the plague stories. Egypt in those days was ruled by a dynasty
through which the pharaohship was hereditarily passed from generation to generation, usually
from father to son; nevertheless, one would think that a pharaoh as dimwitted as this one in
the plague stories could never have survived the civil unrest that would have erupted when
word of his colossal stupidity had gotten around.
Widespread civil unrest is the last thing any intelligent chief of state would want to have in his
realm, but the pharaoh of the Egyptian plagues must have been an exception to the rule,
because the plague stories ask us to believe that the pharaoh at that time was utterly stupid.
Yahweh’s messengers, Moses and Aaron, zapped Egypt with the plague of blood, and what
did pharaoh do? Somehow (in ways known only to biblical inerrantists), Pharaoh had his
magicians find some water somewhere and turn it to blood too. Or perhaps he just had his
magicians give a double whammy to the blood that had been water before Aaron gave it the
magic touch with his rod. Again, who knows? What we can know is that any pharaoh who
would have done such a thing to his people deserved to be impeached or whatever the process
of getting rid of an unqualified head of state may have been in those days. Under the
circumstances described in this story, any water that may have gone untouched by Yahweh’s
messengers would have been a commodity more precious than gold. Yet this pharaoh was too
stupid to realize this. He looked at his magicians and said, “Okay, boys, let’s show them that
two can play this game; zap whatever water you can find left.” Do biblical inerrantists really
expect us to think anyone serving as a head of state would have been that dumb? I mean, after
all, even pharaohs have to have water to live, so would he have brought down on himself a
threat to survival like this? The Bible tells us he did. But the Bible tells us a lot of fanciful
things, doesn’t it? The same could be said of the plague of frogs. Would any ruler upon seeing
his national territory invaded by a wave of frogs that covered the whole land even to the point
of crawling into beds, ovens, and kneading bowls react to the crisis by having his underlings
bring in even more frogs? The question is too ridiculous to deserve serious comment. This
entire tit-for-tat contest between Moses and Aaron and the magicians of Egypt is utterly
ridiculous. Let’s suppose that the United States is being threatened by a group of terrorists
warning that, unless certain demands are met, they will contaminate every river, lake, pond,
reservoir, and all other supplies of fresh water in the country with a substance that would
render the water nonpotable. Upon the president’s refusal to meet their demands, the terrorists
make good their threat and pollute every known source of potable water in the country. Let’s
suppose then that the response of our president is to match the terrorists tit-for-tat, so he
orders a second dose of contaminants to be administered to all the water supplies already
polluted by the terrorists. Afterwards, the terrorists respond by detonating H-bombs in the 20
largest metropolitan areas in the nation, and the president reacts to this by ordering a second
wave of bombings on the same cities. And then--but why continue the farce? The point of it
all should be obvious by now. No president in his right mind would react to national crises in
the manner just described, and if he did, he certainly wouldn’t survive in office very long. Yet
biblical inerrantists expect intelligent people to believe that the pharaoh of the Egyptian
plagues was every bit as stupid as this story makes him appear. Who can believe it? A more
credible story would have resulted if the Exodus writer had presented the contest between
Yahweh’s messengers and pharaoh’s magicians as a confrontation in which the magicians
undid the plagues as Moses called them down on Egypt. The water was changed to blood, but
pharaoh’s magicians changed it back into water. Yahweh’s wave of frogs invaded the land,
but pharaoh’s magicians sent them back into their natural habitats. Surely magicians who
could change nonexistent water into blood would have had no difficulty performing less
demanding miracles as these. To tell the story in this way, however, would have put sense and
sanity into the Bible, and these are qualities the Bible is decidedly short on. But, who knows,
maybe the Bible writers knew what they were doing! The more ridiculous a story is, the more
inclined people seem to be to believe it, especially if it has anything to do with religion.
If we grant the existence of an omniscient, omnipotent deity working through Moses and
Aaron, inconsistency is not the problem in the plague of frogs that it is in most of the other
plague stories. The main problem here is that Pharaoh was depicted so incompetely and
imbecilically that rational people just can't believe that this plague happened in the way that
the Bible claims. In the next article in this series, I will show that the silliness, as well as
inconsistency, continued.
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Plagued By Inconsistencies: Discrepancies in the
Egyptian-Plague Narratives - Part Three
Lice, Flies, and the Amazing Livestock of Egypt
by Farrell Till
The Exodus writer began his tales of the confrontation between Aaron and Moses and the
sorcerers of Egypt with a tit-for-tat theme. Whatever amazing feat Aaron would perform with
his rod, Pharaoh would order his sorcerers to do the same, even when it meant increasing the
pollutions of blood and frogs throughout all the land of Egypt. After the second plague,
however, the sorcerers were stumped and had to give up. Aaron had caused "all the dust"
in Egypt to become lice (or gnats or mosquitoes, depending on the translation), but somehow
the sorcerers who had managed to change water that didn't exist into blood were unable to
change dust that no longer existed into lice (or gnats or mosquitoes).
Exodus 8:16 Then Yahweh said to Moses, "Say to Aaron, 'Stretch out your staff and strike the
dust of the earth, so that it may become gnats [lice] throughout the
whole land of Egypt.'" 17 And they did so; Aaron stretched out his hand with his staff and
struck the dust of the earth, and gnats [lice] came on humans and animals alike; all the dust
of the earth turned into gnats [lice] throughout the whole land of Egypt. 18 The magicians
tried to produce gnats [lice] by their secret arts, but they could not. There were gnats [lice]
on both humans and animals. 19 And the magicians said to Pharaoh, "This is the finger of
God!"
Hmm, didn't these guys see the "finger of God" in all the other stunts that Aaron and Moses
had performed? One would think that seeing Aaron change the water throughout all the land
of Egypt into blood would have given these fellows pause to think from the beginning that
maybe "the finger of God" was with these two upstarts daring to confront Pharaoh with
demands to free the enslaved Israelites, but since they were somehow able to duplicate this
feat and change water that didn't exist into blood too, that could explain why they had not yet
seen the finger of God in the initial plagues. That wouldn't explain, however, why they could
not duplicate the miracle of the lice or gnats. One might argue that they could not have
changed dust into lice, because Aaron had already changed "all the dust" throughout all the
land of Egypt into lice, but inerrantists should be careful about offering this as an explanation
for the inability of the Egyptian sorcerers to duplicate the third plague, because if these
sorcerers had been able to change water into blood after the water throughout all the land of
Egypt had already been changed to blood, bringing forth some more lice from dust that had
already been changed to lice would have seemed like child's play. Ah, the hazards that
accompany attempts to find inerrancy in a book riddled with discrepancies!
The reason why the Egyptian sorcerers were unable to duplicate this comparatively easy
plague of lice [gnats] is a mystery that was known only to Yahweh and his inspired writer, but
as this tale was told, they couldn’t quite come up with a duplication of the plague of lice or
gnats or mosquitoes or whatever. As the tale was spun, Aaron stretched out his magic rod
(wand?) again, struck the dust of the earth, and it became lice (or one of the above) that
infested humans and animals alike. Then we are told that “the magicians tried to produce
gnats (or lice or mosquitoes) by their secret arts, but they could not” (Ex. 8:18), but one can't
help wondering why they couldn’t? Even if there were no more dust in all of Egypt to change
into lice or whatever, wouldn't producing lice in this situation have been only a routine
miracle for a band of sorcerers who could change nonexistent water into blood? If nothing
else, they could have faked it and, with a little legerdemain that any magician worth his salt
would surely be trained in, taken advantage of the fact that Yahweh’s lice or gnats or
whatever were already swarming over the land, and made it at least appear that they had
duplicated the plague. If I had been this pharaoh, I would have given those magicians their
walking papers.
The inspired word nevertheless assures us that the magicians of Egypt had to throw in the
towel at this point and admit defeat. “This is the finger of God!” they said to Pharaoh (v:19).
We don’t need much imagination to understand why the story was probably written in this
way. The capitulation of the magicians of Egypt gave the story the twist the writer had no
doubt planned from the beginning, which was to show that Yahweh’s power was greater than
the forces behind the wizardry of the Egyptian sorcerers. Never mind that such a fanciful twist
to the story, at a time when the sorcerers had been confronted with a comparatively easy
miracle, would make Pharaoh and his magicians look like a bunch of morons to critical
readers of future generations. To gullible readers of more superstitious times, Yahweh came
off looking veritably like a god of gods, and that was all that really mattered. It’s probably just
as well that the magicians cried uncle at this point anyway, because it spared the poor
Egyptians, who had suffered through double whammies of water into blood and frogs in their
beds and ovens, a double dose of lice (or gnats or mosquitoes).
As for the plague of flies that followed the lice, gnats, or mosquitoes, there is nothing here for
inerrantists to crow about. Even if it happened, so what? With dead frogs heaped in piles all
over the land, they would have attracted flies like bees are drawn to flowers. So if Bible
fundamentalists want to call this an awe-inspiring miracle of God, why not let them have their
fun? They don’t have a lot to rejoice over these days. In the rest of my article this time
around, I will focus attention on the amazingly resilient livestock of Egypt. With the fifth
plague, Yahweh, having had enough fun at the expense of the Egyptian populace, which had
patiently endured the polluted waters, the frogs, the lice (gnats? mosquitoes?), and finally the
flies, now turned his wrath against the dumb animals of Egypt, which, like the Egyptian
people, had had nothing to do with the dispute between Moses and Pharaoh. They were
unfortunately at the wrong place at the wrong time, when Yahweh decided to let Pharaoh
“know that he was Yahweh” (Ex. 8:22), and whenever Yahweh decided to let somebody
know that he was Yahweh, whoever had crossed him was in for some pretty rough times.
What happened in the fifth plague, the affliction of all the livestock in Egypt with murrain or
pestilence (again depending on which translation is preferred) wasn’t so incredible in and of
itself. The plagues that followed it are what rendered it absolutely ludicrous. By now the
warranty on Aaron’s rod had apparently expired, so this time, as also in the case of the flies, a
plague was called down without the theatrics of waving a magic wand. All the livestock in
Egypt, except for any that belonged to the Israelites (Ex. 9:6), were stricken with a pestilence
of murrain or whatever, and “all (a-l-l, all) the livestock of the Egyptians died” (Ex. 9:6). One
would think that with everything that had happened before this, Pharaoh would have
understood he was fighting a losing battle and would have given in to Yahweh’s demands, but
we must remember that this is a Bible story we are dealing with, and Bible stories are
routinely far-fetched and illogical. “The heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he would not let
the people go” (Ex. 9:7).
So what happened next will leave critical readers scratching their heads. With Aaron’s rod
now out of commission, Moses, standing before Pharaoh, took “the ashes of the furnace”
(what furnace is anyone’s guess) and “sprinkled it (why not them?) up toward heaven,” and it
( they?) caused boils to break forth on "man and beast alike" (Ex. 9:8-12). Since all of the
livestock of the Egyptians had been killed by the plague of murrain, doesn’t it seem rather
strange that this plague extended to beast as well as man? Could this have been an oversight
on the part of the “inspired” writer of this story? We could perhaps say that the beasts stricken
with boils belonged to the Israelites whose livestock were spared the plague of murrain,
except that it seems rather strange even for Yahweh Elohim to spare Israelite herds of
livestock from one plague only to turn around and zap them with another. To be honest, we
must also recognize that the text doesn’t say livestock; it says beasts or animals, again
depending on the translation. So perhaps it wasn’t livestock at all that were afflicted with
boils; it could have been rabbits, squirrels, dogs, cats, and other species of animals that are not
considered livestock. It would be just like Yahweh Elohim to do something like this. He was
angry at Pharaoh, so he decided to take it out on poor, dumb animals. Talk about animal
rights! The concept seemed completely foreign to Yahweh, but of course a lot of moralistic
concepts seemed foreign to Yahweh. The boils afflicted people too, but they seemed to have
hit Pharaoh’s magicians particularly hard. “The magicians could not stand before Moses
because of the boils, for the boils afflicted the magicians as well as all the Egyptians” (Ex.
9:11). No doubt, the writer of this story was trying to drive home the point that had prompted
him to present the story of the plagues as a tit-for-tat contest between Yahweh’s messengers
and Pharaoh’s magicians, in which the magicians after a couple of phenomenal displays of
miraculous powers had to give up and admit that they were no match for the peerless
Yahweh. You see, if you can believe it, these magicians could change nonexistent water into
blood and conjure up frogs out of nowhere, but they were powerless to do anything about
boils. That was the whole point of this reference to the magicians’ still “standing” before
Pharaoh, as if he would have wanted such a sorry lot of has-beens standing before him
anyway. I mean, after all, they had given up three plagues ago and exclaimed, “This is the
finger of God!” Why keep them around any longer?
Pharaoh, being as contrary as he was, still didn’t give in: “Yahweh hardened the heart of
Pharaoh” (Ex. 9:12), as Yahweh did several times in this little fairy tale (Ex.
4:21; 10:20,27; 11:10). It would have made more sense for Yahweh to have softened
Pharaoh’s heart and thereby spared the innocent people and animals of Egypt a lot of pain and
suffering, but, as I have already noted, sense and sanity were rarely criteria for determining
what would and would not be included in biblical stories.
As Pharaoh's stubbornness continued, Yahweh had Moses send the plague of hail upon the
land, and this wasn’t just an afternoon thundershower that included a little hail either. This
was “such heavy hail as had never fallen in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation”
(Ex. 9:24). Whew! The results were predictable. Trees and crops were devastated, and
everything that was in the open field was struck down throughout all the land of
Egypt, "both human and animal" (Ex. 9:25). Animals? Were these maybe rabbits, squirrels,
dogs, and cats too as we theorized about the animals afflicted with boils? No, that
explanation won’t cut it. Yahweh was gracious enough to have Moses warn everyone to have
their livestock brought into a secure place (v:19). Their livestock! But “all the livestock of the
Egyptians died” in the plague of murrain (9:6). If all the livestock of the Egyptians had died in
this plague, just where did these livestock that were struck down by hail come from? Since the
livestock of the Israelites had been spared both the plagues of murrain and boils, maybe the
Egyptians just appropriated the Israelites’ livestock. Yet that can’t be, because the Israelites
took their livestock “in great numbers, both flocks and herds” with them when they left Egypt
(Ex. 12:32,38), and Moses had vowed to Pharaoh that "not a hoof shall be left behind" (Ex.
10:26). So this is indeed a great mystery. If all the livestock in Egypt died in one plague, how
could other Egyptian livestock have died just two plagues later, and how could Pharaoh have
later gathered an army of chariots and horsemen (Ex. 14:5-9) to pursue the Israelites to the
Red Sea? After all, the account of the murrain plague had specifically mentioned horses in
specifying what kinds of livestock would be infested with the "deadly pestilence" (Ex. 9:3).
So if "all the livestock of Egypt," which would have included all of the horses, died in this
plague, how could Pharaoh have fielded the army of chariots and horsemen that pursued the
Israelites?
Inerrantists, of course, aren't about to let problems like these diminish their confidence that
the Bible is the inspired, inerrant "word of God," so they haven't been a bit shy about
postulating how-it-could-have-been explanations of how the plague of hail could have "struck
down" (Ex. 9:25) "man and beast" after "all the livestock in Egypt" had been killed (Ex. 9:6).
Robert "No Links" Turkel got into the act on this one too and, as usual, postulated more than
one "solution."
A standard solution cites Exodus 9:3 as specifying that the plague was on animals in the field
-- any animals not in the field (i.e., in stables, like [sic] Pharaoh's horses certainly would have
been) were not affected. But this does run aground on verse 19, which says that all of the
livestock died....
It so happens that the animals-in-the-field "solution" is the one that has been postulated by the
Jewish rabbi mentioned in Parts One and Two of this series, so I will kill two birds with one
stone and rebut this one when I come to the rabbi's claim that Jewish tradition has eliminated
the plague of murrain as a discrepancy. In his article linked to above, Turkel went on to offer
"a better solution."
A better solution recognizes that there is a certain misconception that the Ten Plagues were
right on the heels of one another. But the #2 plague (frogs) probably took place in December
("frog season" there!) and the #7 plague (hail) occurred in January, because the barley was
ripe and the flax was in blossom (9:31). Then of course by the time of the Exodus it was
April. That gave at least 2-3 months for the Pharaoh to replenish his stables -- certainly no
problem for a world power like Egypt, which could do that either by trade, conquest or by
outright confiscation from the Israelites and other foreigners.
As usual, Turkel has proposed that this could have happened or that could have happened or
even thus and so could have happened, so what I previously said about his multifaceted
"solution" to how Pharaoh's sorcerers could have changed nonexistent water into blood would
apply here too: if somehow Egyptian livestock could have existed after all the livestock of
Egypt had been killed by a plague of murrain, there would probably have been only one way
that this had happened, so when Turkel or other inerrantists postulate several explanations to a
biblical discrepancy, they are tacitly admitting that they are speculating and don't really know
which one, if any, of their solutions had actually happened. Since Turkel has proposed them,
however, I intend to examine each of his "solutions" to show that they are all unsatisfactory.
Turkel postulated that there were delays between the plagues that would have been long
enough, in this case, for Pharaoh to "replenish his stables," but the biblical "records" of these
plagues and other contemporary events hardly leave time for any significant delays between
the plagues.
1. The Exodus text says that Moses was 80 years old when he stood before Pharaoh (Ex.
7:7). After the plagues had run their course, Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt and into the
Sinai wilderness, where their rebellious attitude caused them to have to wander for 40 years in
the wilderness (Num. 14:32-33). At the end of those 40 years, just before the Israelites
crossed the Jordan into Canaan, Moses died at the age of 120 (Deut. 34:7), so biblical
chronology leaves no room for significant delays between the plagues. Even a one-month
interval after each plague would have dragged them out for almost a year and made Moses
121 when he died after having spent 40 years leading the Israelites in the wilderness.
2. The Exodus text dated some of the plagues in terms of days, not months. Exodus
7:25 indicates that only seven days separated the first plague from the second one,
and 10:22 directly stated that the plague of darkness lasted only three days. When Aaron and
Moses brought the plague of frogs onto the land of Egypt, Pharaoh asked Moses to remove
them, and Moses asked him when he wanted the frogs removed. “Tomorrow,” Pharaoh said
(8:10), and Moses granted the request. We could hardly imagine that Pharaoh had waited for
"weeks" or “months” to make this request, especially since, for some strange reason, he was
willing for Moses to wait until “tomorrow” to take away the frogs. His apparent willingness to
tolerate this nuisance for another day certainly implies that the frogs had been around for just
a short time, for if they had been there for weeks or months, surely Pharaoh would have asked
for their immediate removal. Verse 13 states that Yahweh did according to Moses’ request,
and so apparently the writer was saying that the frogs were removed the next day. All of this
indicates durations of days at best and certainly not weeks or months. When the plague of
flies came, Pharaoh again asked for mercy, and Moses promised that Yahweh would remove
the flies “tomorrow” (8:29) and then did so (v:31). If Turkel will consult a concordance and
check on the usage of the word “tomorrow” throughout the plague stories, he will see that the
writer spoke several times in terms of the plagues happening “tomorrow” and ending
“tomorrow.” After the flies, for example, Yahweh brought the plague of murrain “on the
morrow” (9:6), and “all the livestock of Egypt died.” One would have to stretch imagination
beyond the limits of rationality to find even a suggestion that the death of all the livestock of
Egypt did not happen “on the morrow” after Yahweh had made the threat. In announcing the
coming of the final plague, Yahweh said, “For I will go through the land of Egypt that night
and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt” (12:12), and 12:29 says that “it came to
pass at midnight that Yahweh struck all the firstborn in Egypt.” Pharaoh then rose up “in the
night” (v:30), sent for Moses “by night” (v:31) and told him to take his people and leave. In
the case of this plague, the writer clearly indicated that it had a duration of only one night.
3. Turkel referred to "a certain misconception that the Ten Plagues were right on the heels of
one another," but this "certain misconception" is exactly what the biblical accounts of the
plagues indicate. Whether or not one plague had come directly on the heels of the previous
one, the text of Exodus certainly doesn't allow for the delays of weeks and months
that Turkel had to postulate between the plagues in order to find time for the Egyptians to
replenish their herds of livestock that had been killed by the murrain. The writer's accounts of
the plagues of hail and locusts are quite clear in their indication that the plague of the locusts
followed "on the heels" of the hail, because in stating what the locusts consumed, the text
specifically said that they ate what had not been destroyed by the hail: "The locusts came
upon all the land of Egypt and settled on the whole country of Egypt, such a dense swarm of
locusts as had never been before, nor ever shall be again. They covered the surface of the
whole land, so that the land was black; and they ate all the plants in the land and all the fruit
of the trees that the hail had left; nothing green was left, no tree, no plant in the field, in all
the land of Egypt" (Ex. 10:14-15). If there had been significant delays between the plagues,
as Turkel has imagined, the vegetation would have had time to recover with new growth, so
the writer would not have specified that the locusts ate what had survived the hail. By
specifically sayng that the locusts ate vegetation that the hail had left, the writer was
indicating that the plague of the locusts had, contrary to Turkel's postulations, followed "on
the heels" of the hail.
Common sense should tell Turkel and other inerrantists that their claims just won't fly when
they postulate delays or intervals between the different plagues to "explain" how the Egyptian
sorcerers could have changed nonexistent water into blood or how livestock could have been
afflicted with boils or pelted with hail after all the livestock in Egypt had died from murrain or
how Pharaoh could have gathered an army of chariots and horsemen to pursue the Israelites
after all livestock in Egypt had been killed, because delays between the plagues would have
destroyed their shock effect. Unless one plague immediately followed the other, the effects of
the previous ones would have been sufficiently suppressed in the memories of the Egyptians
to make subsequent ones more tolerable. This would be especially true if the intervals
between the plagues were long enough for the Egyptians to recover as Turkel and other
inerrantists imagine when they speculate such scenarios as Egyptians going abroad to trade
for livestock or engaging in military conquests to replace their herds that had died from
murrain. One fact is certainly evident to anyone who will bother to read the plague
stories: there are no chronological or transitional markers in the text to support the claim that
the plagues were separated by time intervals long enough to allow the Egyptians to replenish
devastated livestock and crops sufficiently for them to be affected by subsequent plagues. If
there is any linguistic support at all for this view, why don't the inerrantists cite it?
Turkel said that the plague of the frogs probably took place in December, because that was the
"frog season there," but I assume that everyone noticed that he cited no biblical
or extrabiblical evidence in support of this claim. He simply asserted it, and the assertion
seems to assume that the origins of the plagues were at least partially naturalistic. In this case,
Yahweh simply used a "frog season," i. e., a time when frogs were plentiful, to send them
onto the land. Presumably, then, the plague of lice would have happened during a "lice
season" when lice were plentiful, the plague of flies came when flies were plentiful, the
plague of locusts came when locusts were plentiful, and so on. I suppose this would mean that
there were also "seasons" in Egypt when such things as boils, hail, and darkness were
plentiful, which plentitudes Yahweh took advantage of to cause these plagues. I was aware
that some liberal theologians have tried to explain the plagues in terms of natural events, but I
was rather surprised that a biblical inerrantist like Turkel would resort to naturalism to try to
explain them, because attributing the plagues to natural events runs completely contrary to
what the Bible claims about the divine role that the god Yahweh played in bringing the
plagues upon Egypt. Time and time again, the Exodus writer spoke in terms of what Yahweh
was doing to bring about the plagues.
1. With the staff that is in my hand I [Yahweh] will strike the water of the Nile, and it will be
changed into blood (Ex. 7:17).
2. If you [Pharaoh] refuse to let them go, I [Yahweh] will plague your whole country with
frogs (Ex. 8:2).
3. If you [Pharaoh] do not let my people go, I [Yahweh] will send swarms of flies on you
and your officials, on your people and into your houses (Ex. 8:21).
4. Yahweh set a time and said, "Tomorrow Yahweh will do this in the land." And the next
day Yahweh did it: All the livestock of the Egyptians died, but not one animal belonging to
the Israelites died (Ex. 9:5-6).
5. Therefore, at this time tomorrow I [Yahweh] will send the worst hailstorm that has ever
fallen on Egypt, from the day it was founded till now (Ex. 9:18).
6. If you [Pharaoh] refuse to let them go, I [Yahweh] will bring locusts into your country
tomorrow (Ex. 10:4).
7. So Moses stretched out his staff over Egypt, and Yahweh made an east wind blow across
the land all that day and all that night. By morning the wind had brought the locusts... (Ex.
10:13).
8. And Yahweh changed the wind to a very strong west wind, which caught up the locusts
and carried them into the Red Sea. Not a locust was left anywhere in Egypt (Ex. 10:19).
9. At midnight Yahweh struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh,
who sat on the throne, to the firstborn of the prisoner, who was in the dungeon, and the
firstborn of all the livestock as well (Ex. 12:29).
Besides the various texts within the stories of the plagues that clearly say that Yahweh caused
them to happen, whenever later writers referred to the plagues, they too said that Yahweh had
sent them.
Psalm 78:41 Again and again they [Israelites] put God to the test; they vexed the Holy One
of Israel. 42 They did not remember his power--the day he redeemed them from the
oppressor, 43 the day he displayed his miraculous signs in Egypt, his wonders in the region
of Zoan. 44 He turned their rivers to blood; they could not drink from their streams. 45 He sent
swarms of flies that devoured them, and frogs that devastated them. 46 He gave their crops to
the grasshopper, their produce to the locust. 47 He destroyed their vines with hail and their
sycamore-figs with sleet. 48 He gave over their cattle to the hail, their livestock to bolts of
lightning. 49 He unleashed against them his hot anger, his wrath, indignation and hostility--a
band of destroying angels. 50 He prepared a path for his anger; he did not spare them from
death but gave them over to the plague. 51 He struck down all the firstborn of Egypt,
the firstfruits of manhood in the tents of Ham.
Psalm 105:26 He [Yahweh] sent Moses his servant, and Aaron, whom he had chosen. 27 They
performed his miraculous signs among them, his wonders in the land of Ham. 28 He sent
darkness and made the land dark--for had they not rebelled against his words? 29 He turned
their waters into blood, causing their fish to die. 30 Their land teemed with frogs, which went
up into the bedrooms of their rulers. 31 He spoke, and there came swarms of flies, and gnats
throughout their country. 32 He turned their rain into hail, with lightning throughout their
land; 33 he struck down their vines and fig trees and shattered the trees of their
country. 34 He spoke, and the locusts came, grasshoppers without number; 35 they ate up
every green thing in their land, ate up the produce of their soil. 36 Then he struck down all the
firstborn in their land, the firstfruits of all their manhood.
He, he, he, he, he--did it all. To the biblical writers who recorded the plagues or subsequently
referred to them, their origin was no mystery. Their god Yahweh had brought them upon the
Egyptians by his supernatural powers. The text just quoted said that he [Yahweh] spoke, and
there came swarms of flies and gnats throughout the country and later said that he [Yahweh]
spoke and the locusts [grasshoppers] without number came and ate up every green thing in the
land. Although this writer didn't specifically say that Yahweh spoke and frogs came upon the
land, the clarity with which he attributed the other plagues to the god Yahweh leaves little
doubt that he also believed that Yahweh spoke and caused the frogs to come upon the land.
For Turkel to date the plague of frogs at the time of some perceived "season of frogs" is to
ignore the emphatic biblical claims that the god Yahweh brought the plagues down
on Egypt and to flout the power of an omniscient, omnipotent deity to pollute Egypt with
frogs at any time of the year. Such a deity, which Yahweh presumably was, wouldn't have
needed a "season of frogs." I really don't know the source of Turkel's claim that December
was the "season of frogs" in Egypt, because he typically gave no textual support for the
assertion, but frogs are amphibians, which need water in order to thrive, so one would think
that if there were any such thing as a "season of frogs" in Egypt, it would have been during
the season when the Nile was flooded. The ancient Egyptians divided their year into three
seasons: flooding (mid-June to mid-October), planting and growing (mid-October to midFebruary), and harvesting (mid-February to mid-June). Before construction of the Aswan
Dam, the flooding of the Nile basin happened because of the drainage of water in the
mountainous regions of Ethiopia during its rainy season, so if there was any such thing as a
"season of frogs" in ancient Egypt, one would think that it would have occurred during the
flooding season (mid-June to mid-October) and not in December during the planting and
growing season, but certainly the biblical claim that all of the plagues were brought upon
Egypt by the power of Yahweh would eliminate the need of a "season of frogs" to date the
time that this plague would have happened.
If an omniscient, omnipotent deity was indeed bringing the plagues upon Egypt, as the
Exodus writer did clearly claim, then the land invasion of the frogs could not be reliably
dated by an alleged "season of frogs." There are, however, some clues in the plague stories
that date the time of their alleged occurrence. One clue is in the account of the plague of hail,
which said that "the flax and the barley were ruined, for the barley was in the ear and the flax
was in bud" (Ex. 9:31). In the paragraph quoted above from his article, Robert Turkel said
that the plague of hail happened in January "because the barley was ripe and the flax was in
blossom," but Turkel, who often tries to claim expertise in biblical languages,
apparently didn't bother to check the Hebrew text of this verse. Had he done so, he would
have seen that "in the ear" was translated from ’abîyb [abib], the name of the first month in
the Hebrew religious calendar, which was also the month when the Passover was celebrated
(Ex.13:4; 12:1-6; Deut. 16:1), and that month falls within March and April of our Gregorian
calendar.
The significance of this will not be lost on those whose knowledge of the Bible runs a bit
deeper than Turkel's. The Jewish Passover was inflexibly tied to the barley harvest.
According to the Scriptures, the religious calendar begins in the spring with the Passover
month of Abib, the month of Israel's Exodus from Egypt. In the popular
Jewish calendar the year begins in the autumn at the end of the agricultural year. But in the
religious calendar, and that is our prime consideration in this booklet, a year begins in the
Passover month of Abib. Yahweh directed Moses in the following words concerning the first
month of the year:
Exo.12:1 And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, 2: This
month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you.
Exo.13:3 And Moses said unto the people, Remember this day, in which ye came out from
Egypt, out of the house of bondage; for by strength of hand the LORD brought you out from
this place: there shall no leavened bread be eaten. 4: This day came ye out in the
month Abib.
The name of the Exodus month is Abib. The word Abib means 'sprouting, budding,' a
'green ear of corn.' In other words in Abib the earth will spring to life, plants will sprout and
bud and the corn (sown the previous year) will have green ears ([Jewish] Calendar
Booklet, emphasis added).
To many of us, harvest time is of little concern, because in our complex life we are far
removed from the actual production of our food supplies, but for the Hebrew people, as for
those in any agricultural district today, the harvest was a most important season (Gen
8:22; 45:6). Events were reckoned from harvests (Gen 30:14; Josh 3:15; Jdg 15:1; Ruth
1:22; 2:23; 1 Sam 6:13; 2 Sam 21:9; 23:13). The three principal feasts of the Jews
corresponded to the three harvest seasons (Ex 23:16; 34:21,22); (1) the feast of the Passover
in April at the time of the barley harvest (compare Ruth 1:22)... ("Harvest," International
Standard Bible Encyclopedia, emphasis added).
On the fifteenth day of Abib, after the paschal lamb had been sacrificed, the Jews were
commanded to bring "the sheaf of the first-fruits of [their] harvest" to the priest to be
presented as a "wave offering" (Lev. 23:6-12) during the observance of the feast of
unleavened bread that followed the Passover celebration. The text doesn't specify what kind
of "sheaf" was to be offered, but I am sure that Robert "High Context" Turkel will agree that
since barley was the only grain crop that would have been ready for harvest at Passover time,
Jewish readers would have known that this was a command to bring a barley sheaf. In case he
should suddenly switch positions, as he has been known to do, and claim that the ancient
Hebrews lived in a "low-context" society, I will quote a Jewish view of the meaning
of abib. The quotation is long but necessary to establish the invariable conjoining of Passover
with the "abib" stage of barley.
Abib indicates a stage in the development of the barley crops. This is clear from Ex 9:3132 which describes the devastation caused by the plague of hail:
"And the flax and the barley were smitten, because the barley was Abib and the flax
was Giv'ol. And the wheat and the spelt were not smitten because they were dark (Afilot)."
The above passage relates that the barley crops were destroyed by the hail while the wheat
and spelt were not damaged. To understand the reason for this we must look at how grain
develops. When grains are early in their development they are flexible and have a dark green
color. As they become ripe they take on a light yellowish hue and become more brittle. The
reason that the barley was destroyed and the wheat was not is that the barley had reached the
stage in its development called Abib and as a result had become brittle enough to be damaged
by the hail. In contrast, the wheat and spelt were still early enough in their development, at a
stage when they were flexible and not susceptible to being damaged by hail. The description
of the wheat and spelt as "dark" (Afilot) indicates that they were still in the stage when they
were deep green and had not yet begun to lighten into the light yellowish hue which
characterizes ripe grains. In contrast, the barley had reached the stage of Abib at which time it
was no longer "dark" and at this point it probably had begun to develop golden streaks.
Parched Abib:
We know from several passages that barley which is in the state of Abib has not completely
ripened, but has ripened enough so that its seeds can be eaten parched in fire. Parched barley
was a commonly eaten food in ancient Israel and is mentioned in numerous passages in the
Hebrew Bible as either "Abib parched (Kalui) in fire" (Lev 2:14) or in the abbreviated form
"parched (Kalui/ Kali)" (Lev 23:14; Jos 5:11; 1 Sam 17:17; 1 Sam 25:18; 2 Sam 17:28; Ruth
2:14).
While still early in its development, barley has not yet produced large enough and firm
enough seeds to produce food through parching. This early in its development, when the
"head" has just come out of the shaft, the seeds are not substantial enough to produce any
food. At a later stage, the seeds have grown in size and have filled with liquid. At
this point the seeds will shrivel up when parched and will only produce empty skins.
Over time the liquid is replaced with dry material and when enough dry material has amassed
the seeds will be able to yield "barley parched in fire."
Abib and the Harvest:
The month of the Abib is the month which commences after the barley has reached the stage
of Abib. 2-3 weeks after the beginning of the month the barley has moved beyond the stage
of Abib and is ready to be brought as the "wave-sheaf offering" (Hanafat HaOmer). The
"wave-sheaf offering" is a sacrifice brought from the first stalks cut in the harvest and is
brought on the Sunday which falls out during Passover (Hag HaMatzot). This is described in
Lev 23:10-11:
"When you come to the land which I give you, and harvest its harvest, you will bring the sheaf
of the beginning of your harvest to the priest. And he will wave the sheaf before YHWH so you
will be accepted; on the morrow after the Sabbath the priest will wave it."
From this it is clear that the barley, which was Abib at the beginning of the month, has
become harvest-ready 15-21 days later (i. e., by the Sunday during Passover). Therefore, the
month of the Abib cannot begin unless the barley has reached a stage where it will be harvestready 2-3 weeks later.
That the barley must be harvest-ready 2-3 weeks into the month of the Abib is also clear
from Dt 16:9 which states:
"From when the sickle commences on the standing grain you will begin to count seven
weeks."
From Lev 23:15 we know that the seven weeks between Passover (Hag Hamatzot) and
Pentecost (Shavuot) begin on the day when the wave-sheaf offering is brought (i. e., the
Sunday which falls out during Passover):
"And you shall count from the morrow after the Sabbath, from the day you bring the sheaf of
waving; they will be seven complete Sabbaths."
Therefore, the "sickle commences on the standing grain" on the Sunday during Passover, i.
e., 2-3 weeks after the beginning of the month of the Abib. If the barley is not developed
enough so that it will be ready for the sickle 2-3 weeks later, then the month of
the Abib cannot begin and we must wait till the following month.
So both Passover and Pentecost were inseparably connected to the harvesting of barley, and
faithful Jews took this stuff--and continue to do so--just as seriously as other religionists
adhere to their religious doctrines and ceremonies. The following article describes the care
that was taken in March 2005 to determine when the countdown to the Passover should begin.
In this report, Abib was spelled Aviv.
On Tuesday March 8, 2005 Aviv was found in Israel at Alon Junction
and Ein Mabua near Jerusalem. Large quantities of Aviv barley were
found near Ein Mabua and smaller quantities near Alon Junction. Ein Mabua is located 15km
east of Jerusalem. The Aviv examination on March 8, 2005 started out as a field trip to teach
Aviv Searchers about what to look for during the main Aviv Search on ThursdayFriday March 10-11, 2005. During this preliminary examination we immediately found that
the barley in the region was in an advanced stage of ripening. The main Aviv Search, which
will cover the Northern Negev and Jordan Valley regions, will still be carried out on March
10-11. However, the vast quantities of Aviv Barley already located east of Jerusalem are
enough to establish the coming month as the Month of the Aviv. In light of this discovery, the
New Moon on Friday March 11, 2005 will be the beginning of the coming biblical
year. Chag HaMatzot (Feast of Unleavened Bread) will fall out on Saturday March 26,
2005 and Shavuot (Feast of Weeks) will fall out on May 15, 2005. The following people
participated in the Aviv examination on March 8,
2005: Nehemia Gordon, Ruthanne Koch, Devorah Gordon, Glen Cain,
Karl Bloodworth, Ferenc Illesy, Avi Marcus, Dina Marcus, Avi Gold, Terry Fehr,
and Yosef Ruach.
This article concluded with a link to pictures of barley that was found to be in the "Aviv"
stage on March 8, 2005.
All of this spells doom for Turkel's claim that the plague of hail would have occurred in
January, because that wouldn't have been the time when barley was abib [in the ear].
Confirmation of this can be determined from Exodus 12), which recorded the institution of the
first Passover and designated that month be "the first month of the year" (v:2). The Passover
lamb was to be selected on the 10th day of this month (v:3) and then sacrificed and eaten on
the 14th day of the month (vs:6-8). As noted in the article above, two weeks after barley had
become abib [in the ear], it would have been ready for harvest time. In 2005, for example, that
stage of barley was reached on March 26th in the nation of Israel.
The problem that all this information presents to Turkel's January dating of the plague of hail
becomes obvious to those who know--and maybe Turkel isn't one of them--that the Jewish
month of Abib begins at some time in our month of March. Turkel may try to quibble
that Egypt is farther south than Israel, so barley would have matured sooner than it did
in Israel. If so, he would be right, because barley in Egypt, depending on variations in the
seasons, can be harvested a month earlier [Webmaster's note: see the definition for
"Barley"] than in Israel, but this would put the "abib" stage of Egyptian barley in February,
not in January, but an even bigger problem for Turkel's January dating of the hail is that the
Exodus writer clearly dated the observance of the first Passover in the Jewish month
of Abib (Ex. 12:1-20), which would have been in March, not January or February. This text
gives instructions about the separation of the paschal lamb on the 10th day of the month and
the slaughter and sacrifice of the lamb on the 14th, which was followed that night by the
killing of all the firstborn of the Egyptians (Ex. 12:21-29). The plague against the firstborn
spared the Israelites who had smeared the blood of their Pascal lambs on their doorposts.
Exodus 12:21 Then Moses called all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go, select lambs
for your families, and slaughter the passover lamb. 22 Take a bunch of hyssop, dip it in the
blood that is in the basin, and touch the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood in the
basin. None of you shall go outside the door of your house until morning. 23 For Yahweh will
pass through to strike down the Egyptians; when he sees the blood on the lintel and on the
two doorposts, Yahweh will pass over that door and will not allow the destroyer to enter your
houses to strike you down.
At midnight, Yahweh passed through Egypt and killed all firstborn of the Egyptians, and
Pharaoh immediately relented and allowed the Israelites to leave.
29 At midnight Yahweh struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of
Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the prisoner who was in the dungeon, and
all the firstborn of the livestock. 30 Pharaoh arose in the night, he and all his officials and all
the Egyptians; and there was a loud cry in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone
dead. 31 Then he summoned Moses and Aaron in the night, and said, “Rise up, go away from
my people, both you and the Israelites! Go, worship Yahweh, as you said. 32 Take your flocks
and your herds, as you said, and be gone. And bring a blessing on me too!” 33 The Egyptians
urged the people to hasten their departure from the land, for they said, “We shall all be
dead.” 34 So the people took their dough before it was leavened, with their kneading bowls
wrapped up in their cloaks on their shoulders.
The rest of the chapter describes the hasty departure of the Israelites on the very night of the
Passover, when Yahweh brought the 10th or final plague on the Egyptians by killing all of
their firstborn, so the biblical record clearly claims that the exodus began on the 14th of Abib.
Moses told the Israelites to remember that night: "Remember this day on which you came out
of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, because Yahweh brought you out from there by strength
of hand; no leavened bread shall be eaten. 4 Today, in the month of Abib, you are going
out" (Ex. 13:3-4). Even Turkel said in the text quoted above from his article that "by the time
of the Exodus it was April," but his January dating of the seventh plague (hail) would
necessarily put the exodus well before April, a time that would be inconsistent with Moses'
claim that the Israelites left Egypt in the month of Abib.
Determining that there would not have been the three-month interval (from January to April,
which Turkel envisioned between the hail and the exodus, requires only a common-sense
reading of the plague stories. As noted above, the account of the 8th plague says that the
locusts ate the vegetation "that the hail had left" (10:6,15), which would necessarily imply
that the locusts came on the heels of the hail or at the very least that there was no significant
delay between the 7th and 8th plagues, because a prolonged delay would have allowed time
for regrowth of vegetation to provide the locusts with more than just what the hail had
left. When Pharaoh still refused to relent and let the Israelites go, Moses "stretched out his
hand toward heaven" and brought upon Egypt a "thick darkness," which could be felt, but the
biblical text specifically says that this 9th plague lasted for only three days (Ex. 10:21-23).
Then after the three days of darkness, Yahweh sent the 10th or final plague against the
firstborn of Egypt. This final plague lasted only the one night, which, as noted above, was the
night of the Passover. This is all consistent with my analysis above of chronological markers
that indicate the plagues did indeed come one after the other, so only a short time separated
the "abib" stage of barley in March and the exodus, which would have occurred 14 days later.
There is just no room for Turkel's three-month scenario between the 7th plague and the
exodus.
This brings us finally to Turkel's postulation that the horses that Pharaoh's army used to
pursue the Israelites to the Red Sea had been obtained from other countries by "trade or
conquest" during his perceived two-to-three month interval between the hail and the exodus.
We noticed above that the biblical text makes no allowance for such an interval, so no matter
how grandiose Egypt may have been at that time, Pharaoh, as we will soon see, would not
have had the time to import enough horses to field an army of the size that pursued the
Israelites. As for obtaining horses by conquests, even a period of three months would hardly
have been enough time for the Egyptian army to invade other countries and bring back their
horses. If such an invasion had occurred, the Egyptian army would have had to walk to get to
whatever country they invaded, because "all of the livestock in Egypt" that had died during
the plague of murrain would have (as noted above) included horses. I have previously pointed
out how moronically Pharaoh acted during the plague stories, but I seriously doubt that even a
head of state as stupid as he was presented by the Exodus writer would have launched an
invasion of another country without horses at a time when the country was being devastated
by the plagues being called down on Egypt by Moses and Aaron. Also, if a plague had killed
livestock on a scale not necessarily total or complete yet wide enough to describe it as the
dying of "all the livestock in Egypt," just imagine what would have been involved in
disposing of the carcasses of all of "the horses, donkeys, camels, herds, and flocks" (Ex. 9:3)
that had been struck down by the pestilence. The work that would have been required to bury
or cremate or dispose of the carcasses in some other way would have hardly allowed the able
bodied population of Egypt the luxury of going on trading expeditions or conquests in
sufficient numbers to replace the livestock that had died. When inerrantists struggle to find
how-it-could-have-been "explanations" of discrepancies, they often forget minor details like
these, and Turkel seems to be no exception to the general rule that no "possible" explanation
can be too far-fetched to satisfy an inerrantist looking for a way to "explain" a biblical
discrepancy.
Turkel also postulated that Pharaoh could have obtained the horses "by outright confiscation
from the Israelites and other foreigners," but there is nothing in the biblical texts that even
suggests that livestock belonging to foreigners in Egypt were spared the ravages of the
plagues. The biblical texts referred only to plagues that skipped the Israelites (Ex. 8:22; 9:4,67,26; 10:23; 11:7), so if Turkel is going to claim that Pharaoh possibly obtained horses from
foreigners, he needs to cite some textual basis, either biblical or extrabiblical, for it.
He doesn't seem to understand that only his choir members will be interested in what he
thinks could have happened. As for Pharaoh's having confiscated horses from the Israelites, I
have already mentioned above that Moses had sworn to Pharaoh that all of the Israelite
livestock had to go with them and that "not a hoof [would] be left behind" (Ex. 10:26).
Furthermore, when Pharaoh had finally had enough and agreed to let the Israelites go, he
called Moses before him and said, "Take your flocks and your herds, as you said, and be
gone" (Ex. 12:32), and verse 38 says that the Israelites left Egypt with a "mixed crowd" and
"livestock in great numbers, both flocks and herds." Doesn't Turkel ever bother to read what
the Bible says before he presumes to tell us what really happened in matters concerned with
alleged textual discrepancies?
As if all this were not enough to expose Turkel's biblical ignorance, the final paragraph in his
"solution" to the livestock problem in the plagues stories shows just how profound that
ignorance is.
As an added note, since we don't know exactly how many horses there were in the pursuing
army, we might reckon that some of them were originally out on military work
outside Egypt at the time of the plague. Whatever the case, there is no sufficient ground for
dismissing the story outright.
Although the biblical text doesn't state exactly how many horses were in Pharaoh's pursuing
army, if we assume that the text is inerrant, as Turkel seems to insist, then it necessarily
implies that there would have been thousands of horses in it. First of all, the text claims that
there were 600,000 men "on foot" in the Hebrew horde that left Egypt (Ex. 12:37), and a
census taken in the second year after the exodus (Num. 1:1) indicated that these were more
precisely 603,550 men of military age (Num. 1:45-46), so if Pharaoh gathered an army to
pursue an Israelite horde that had an army of over 600 thousand, then surely he didn't take off
after them with just a handful of soldiers. This inference is confirmed by Turkel's inerrant
biblical text.
Exodus 14:5 When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, Pharaoh and his
officials changed their minds about them and said, "What have we done? We have let the
Israelites go and have lost their services!" 6 So he had his chariot made ready and took his
army with him. 7 He took six hundred of the best chariots, along with all the other chariots
of Egypt, with officers over all of them. 8 Yahweh hardened the heart of Pharaoh king
of Egypt, so that he pursued the Israelites, who were marching out boldly. 9 The Egyptians-all Pharaoh's horses and chariots, horsemen and troops--pursued the Israelites and
overtook them as they camped by the sea near Pi Hahiroth, opposite Baal Zephon.
This is not a description of just some ragtag army that was thrown together at the last minute.
It had six hundred of Pharaoh's "best chariots, along with all the other chariots
of Egypt." Some Egyptian chariots were quadrigas, which were drawn by four rather than
two horses, so if Pharaoh took six hundred of his "best chariots," we could reasonably assume
that at least some of them were quadrigas. If all 600 of them were, there would have been
2,400 horses in this chariot corps alone. If we assume that they were all bigas or two-horse
chariots, manning them would have required 1200 horses without even considering "all the
other chariots of Egypt," which would surely have numbered in the hundreds, and in addition
to the horses in the chariot corps, there would have been hundreds of others that were ridden
by the "horsemen and troops" (vs:9,17-18). Unless Turkel wants to argue that Pharaoh was so
militarily incompetent that he went off with just 600 chariots and a handful of "horsemen and
troops" to engage an army of 600 thousand, he will have to recognize that we are talking here
about an army that consisted of tens of thousands of horses, so does Turkel expect sensible
people to think that an army of this size could have been thrown together by confiscating the
horses of foreigners or by "trading" with other countries, all within a surmised but
unverifiable hiatus of "two to three months" between the 7th and the 10th
plagues. Turkel may think that "there is no sufficient ground for dismissing the story
outright," but people who are not shackled to an irrational belief in biblical inerrancy will
disagree.
This brings us to the livestock-in-the-field "solution." Turkel alluded to this above when he
noted that Exodus 9:3 "specified" that the plague of murrain was "on the animals in the field,"
and so any livestock not in the field would have been spared. He, however, was honest
enough to go on and admit that this solution was problematic, because verse 19 [sic],
actually verse 6, "says that all the livestock died." I congratulate him for seeing the obvious
problem in this "solution," but, unfortunately, many inerrantists think that it is not just a
satisfactory way to explain the livestock problem but that it is the real explanation of it in that
it tells exactly what had happened: only the livestock in the field died from the plagues of
murrain and hail, and so the Egyptian livestock that was kept inside by those who
"feared Yahweh" survived the plagues. Afterwards, so proponents of this "solution" claim,
Pharaoh obtained from these Egyptians the horses he needed to field the army that pursued the
Israelites to the Red Sea.
This is the "solution" that was presented on the Errancy list by the Jewish rabbi whom I have
previously referred to. He will consistently appeal to Jewish tradition to "explain"
discrepancies in the Torah [Pentateuch], and in this section of Part One, he argued that the
Talmud is a reliable source because the traditions in it are "thousands of years closer" to the
"source material" than non-Jewish references.
In a recent post to HILL I started to explain why Talmudic explanations are better than the
musings of a Gleason Archer. The extra-Biblical records of ancient Israel are thousands of
years closer to the source material than Gleason Archer is. Furthermore Archer admittedly
invents his answers based on hope and whim. Even if such apologetics is based on the
occasional historic event, it is still an outright after-the-fact invention. Talmudic explanation
carries the traditional public claim of a nation who are the ones responsible for bringing you
your copy of the Bible to begin with.
Readers can click the link above to read my reply to the rabbi, which pointed out obvious
flaws in his reasoning. In the first place, Talmudic traditions are not "thousands of years"
closer to biblical "source materials," since the Talmuds were written after the first century
AD, so they were at best just a few centuries closer to the "source materials." Although these
Talmudic traditions may have been orally transmitted for decades or even centuries before
they were written down within the "common era," we can have no guarantee that they were
not corrupted during transmission or even that they were reliable when they first originated;
therefore, any "solutions" to discrepancies in these Talmudic tranditions were nothing more
than speculative attempts by Jewish writers to "explain" discrepancies away, just as Christian
apologists like Gleason Archer, John Haley, Norman Geisler, etc. have tried to do. I really see
little difference in Jewish and Christian inerrantists who, without any biblical
or extrabiblical records to support their claims, presume to tell us what happened at events
that they didn't witness. At any rate, the rabbi just referred
to quoted the Mechilta, Beshalach 2 (on Exodus 14:7) to explain the livestock-of-Egypt
problem, so let's have a look at this "solution."
[Exodus 14:5-7 "It was told to the king of Egypt that the people had fled; and the heart of
Pharaoh and his servants became transformed regarding the people, and they said, 'What is
this that we have done that we have sent away Israel from serving us?' He harnessed his
chariot and attracted his people with him.] He took six hundred elite chariots [and all the
chariots of Egypt, with officers on them all."]
From whom were the animals that drove the chariots? If you say they were from Egypt,
doesn't it say (Exodus 9:6) "and all the livestock of Egypt died [from the fifth plague]"? If you
say they were from Pharaoh, doesn't it say (Exodus 9:3) "[Moses said to Pharaoh]: Behold,
the hand of G-d is on your livestock that are in the field"? If you say they were from the
Jews, doesn't it say (Exodus 10:26) "And our livestock, as well, will go with us--not a hoof
will be left"? Rather from whom were they, from the Egyptians who feared G-d [and were not
affected by the plagues]. We now see that the livestock of the G-d-fearers that escaped the
plague caused great hardship for the Jews [by being used for chariots to pursue them]. From
here R. Shimon [ben Yochai] said: Kill [even] the good among the gentiles.
This "explanation" makes a big deal out of Egyptians who "feared Yahweh" and "took their
servants and livestock into the houses" (Ex. 9:19), but this was said about the plague of hail,
which happened after the plague of murrain, and nothing was said anywhere in the account of
this plague about Egyptians who feared Yahweh and took their livestock inside.
Exodus 9:1 Then Yahweh said to Moses, "Go to Pharaoh, and say to him, 'Thus says Yahweh,
the God of the Hebrews: Let my people go, so that they may worship me. 2 For if you refuse to
let them go and still hold them, 3 the hand of Yahweh will strike with a deadly pestilence your
livestock in the field: the horses, the donkeys, the camels, the herds, and the flocks. 4 But
Yahweh will make a distinction between the livestock of Israel and the livestock of Egypt, so
that nothing shall die of all that belongs to the Israelites.'" 5 Yahweh set a time, saying,
"Tomorrow Yahweh will do this thing in the land." 6 And on the next day Yahweh did so; all
the livestock of the Egyptians died, but of the livestock of the Israelites not one
died. 7 Pharaoh inquired and found that not one of the livestock of the Israelites was
dead. But the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he would not let the people go.
This account of the murrain plague said that Yahweh would "make a distinction between the
livestock of Israel and the livestock of Egypt," but nowhere in the account does it even hint
that Yahweh would make a distinction between the livestock of the Egyptians who took their
livestock inside and the Egyptians who kept theirs outside. It simply says that all the
livestock of the Egyptians died. Surely if livestock that Egyptians kept inside had been
spared from this pestilence, the writer would have made some reference to it. Furthermore, we
should notice that the Exodus writer said that "not one of the livestock of the Israelites was
dead" (v:7). Was this statement literally true? Did the writer really mean that among all of the
livestock of the Israelites not a single one had died during this plague? If so, then why should
we not understand that the writer intended to communicate literally that "all the livestock
of Egypt died"?
Another problem to this "solution" is that the livestock were not killed by hail but by murrain,
a pestilence, so how would keeping livestock inside have protected them from an infectious
disease? I will have more to say about this later, and maybe the rabbi can then cite some
Talmudic tradition that addresses this problem.
Not until two plagues later when Yahweh sent the grievous hail, which was greater than any
hailstorm that had ever been experienced since Egypt became a nation (Ex. 9:24), was any
mention made of Egytians who "feared Yahweh."
Exodus 9:19 Send, therefore, and have your livestock and everything that you have in the
open field brought to a secure place; every human or animal that is in the open field and is
not brought under shelter will die when the hail comes down upon them.'" 20 Those officials of
Pharaoh who feared the word of Yahweh hurried their slaves and livestock off to a secure
place. 21 Those who did not regard the word of Yahweh left their slaves and livestock in the
open field.
This is certainly a peculiar statement to make after a claim two plagues before this one that
"all the livestock in Egypt" had died from murrain. Inerrantists, of course, will say that this
was stating only what the Egyptians had been doing ever since the first plague against the
livestock of Egypt: even though it had not been mentioned at the time of the other
plagues, those who feared Yahweh had taken their livestock inside for protection before
the seventh plague (hail). If this is going to be their claim, then there are some problems they
will need to address. First of all, livestock had been affected by the plagues ever since "all the
dust in the land of Egypt" was changed to lice [gnats or mosquitoes], at which time, "there
were lice upon man and upon beasts" (Ex. 8:17), so we have to wonder if there were
Egyptians at this time who "feared Yahweh" and took their livestock inside to protect them
from the lice. If so, perhaps the rabbi can tell us how being confined inside would have
protected livestock from infestation by parasites as small as lice, especially after "all the dust"
throughout the land of Egypt had become lice. Did being inside also protect humans from the
lice? If so, wouldn't that have taken something away from the purpose of this plague? We
read in verses 21 and 24 that during the next plague, "grievous swarms of flies" came into the
houses of Pharaoh, his servants, and the Egyptians "in all the land of Egypt," so if being
inside was no protection against flies, surely it would have been no protection against lice.
After the plague of murrain, which the rabbi's Talmudic sources claim did not kill the
livestock of Egyptians who "feared Yahweh" and took their animals inside, Yahweh sent the
plague of boils that broke forth "upon man and beast throughout all the land of Egypt" (vs:910), so were livestock kept inside by Egyptians who "feared Yahweh" spared the torment of
this plague? If so, were people who remained inside so protected? If they were, we have to
wonder why the Egyptian sorcerers didn't remain inside, because they were so afflicted by the
boils that they couldn't stand before Moses (Ex. 9:11). Well, of course, the biblical text tells
us that going inside would not have protected anyone from this plague, because verse
11 claims that the boils were upon "all the Egyptians." Only those who think that all didn't
mean all in the Bible will think that there was any way for the Egyptians to shelter themselves
from the ravages of the plagues.
We have to suspect that if any such thing as these plagues really happened, no protection was
afforded those who remained inside, because the whole purpose of the plagues was to so
torment the Egyptians that Pharaoh would be forced to let the Israelites leave (Ex. 3:1920; 11:1). Sparing animals and humans who remained inside from the ravages of the plagues
would have defeated their whole purpose. Furthermore, we saw that confinement inside was
no protection against small pestilences like lice and flies, so we can reasonably conclude that
it would not have protected livestock from murrain and boils, which would have been caused
by invisible agents far more minute than lice and flies. Certainly, confinement of livestock
during hailstorms would have protected them, but hail was very different from infectious
diseases and insects tiny enough to penetrate cracks and other fissures in the structure of the
buildings. Thinking that confinement of livestock could have protected them from the "deadly
pestilence" that killed "all the livestock of Egypt" is just a desperate attempt to explain a
glaring problem in the story of the plagues.
A second major problem in the confinement "solution" to the livestock problem is that it
makes Moses look even stupider than their king. If, as the rabbi's Talmudic sources claim,
there had been Egyptians who "feared Yahweh" even before the plague of hail and had saved
their livestock by keeping them inside, they would have been the only ones at the time of the
"grievous" hail who had any livestock left, so they would have known that confining their
animals inside would have protected them from any more plagues. Why, then, did Moses
bother to tell these Egyptians who "feared Yahweh" what they had already known? As I said
above, inerrantists, whether Jewish or Christians, wanting to find total accuracy in the
Bible don't think about such things as this when they are looking for some way to explain
discrepancies.
There is yet another problem in the Mechilta claim that Pharaoh had fielded his army of
chariots and horsemen by using horses of those Egyptians who had "feared Yahweh" and kept
their livestock inside during the plagues. Anyone who would naively suggest this as a solution
to the problem would be someone who knows absolutely nothing about horsemanship. I grew
up on a cotton farm at a time when horses were still used as work animals, so I know that a
farmer didn't just go out, buy untrained horses, and then immediately hook them to farm
implements and put them to work. They had to be trained first. My father bought two young
horses that had been shipped to Missouri from out west, and he and my grandfather had to
spend considerable time "breaking them" to accept being hitched to farm implements. I really
don't think that Egyptian horses would have been any different, so I find it impossible to
believe that Pharaoh, upon realizing the mistake he had made in allowing the Israelites to
leave, would have bellowed orders for his soldiers to go get horses from Egyptians who had
"feared Yahweh," and then hitch them to chariots, or saddle them up, and take off in pursuit
of the escaping slaves. This same problem would apply to Turkel's suggestion that Pharaoh
could have confiscated the horses of foreigners and Israelites, because they too would have
had to be trained in military maneuvers before they could have been used in hot pursuit of an
escaping army of 600,000, and that could not have been done in just a matter of days or even
weeks.
Rabbi Yishma'el apparently didn't know much about horses when he wrote this section of
the Mechilta, and our rabbi on the Errancy list, who is so enthusiastic about the Mechilta,
doesn't seem to either. I think the rabbi lives in New York City, so perhaps his equestrian
ignorance is understandable. I will be interested to see what "Jewish traditions" he can cite to
resolve the problems identified above after he reads this article. I am sure that he will not be
left without something to say on the subject. Just how far-fetched it might be is something
else. We will just have to wait and see.
One thing should be certain by now: to claim that all didn't really mean all in the plague
stories is to deny the obvious. All through these stories, as I noted above, the Exodus writer
emphasized that the Israelites were spared their devastation. To emphasize that their livestock
had been spared during the plague of murrain, he specifically said that "not one" of the
livestock of the Israelites had died and that Pharaoh "inquired and found that not so much as
one of the livestock of the Israelites was dead" (v:7). He didn't say that "some" of the
livestock of the Israelites survived or that "most" of their livestock had survived. No, he was
just as thorough in communicating the exemption of Israelite livestock from the consequences
of the plague as he was in emphasizing the complete devastation of the Egyptian herds, so he
twice said that "not one" of the livestock of the Israelites was dead. The writer didn't say that
all the Israelite livestock was spared, but when he said that "not one" was dead, he obviously
meant that all of them had been spared. Hence, if all didn't mean all when used in reference to
the water of Egypt, the dust of Egypt, and the livestock of Egypt, we have to wonder if "not
one" in reference to the Israelite livestock meant not a single one, or was it just the writer's
way of saying that almost all or a significant number of Israelite livestock was spared. Taking
such a position would subvert the purpose of the plague stories, which was obviously to
convey that Yahweh's protection of the Israelites was complete and unrestricted while the
plagues were totally devastating Egypt. If, then, the writer literally meant that "not so much as
one" of the Israelite livestock had died, we have no reason to think that he didn't literally
mean that all of the Egyptian livestock had died. The fact that he later referred to Egyptian
livestock still alive was just a careless plotting error like the one he had made when he had the
Egyptian sorcerers "doing likewise with their secret arts" after Aaron had changed the
water throughout all the land of Egypt into blood. Such oversights just can't be dismissed
by readers who are not shackled to an archaic belief in biblical inerrancy.
There were other plagues, of course, that I cannot discuss at this time, but I will plan to
include them in yet a fourth article on this series. Meanwhile, these observations about the
first seven plagues are enough for any open-minded, objective reader to see that the Bible is
just too preposterous in places for rational-thinking people to take it seriously. If I am wrong
in saying this, perhaps inerrantists or the Jewish rabbi will be able to show me just where I
went wrong. If he replies, I urge the readers to study attentively what he has to say as he tries
to make sense out of these absurdities I have identified in the Egyptian-plagues story.
Go to Part Four
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Plagued By Inconsistencies: Discrepancies in the
Egyptian-Plague Narratives - Part Four
Another Exaggeration Problem
by Farrell Till
We noticed in Part One that the Exodus writer began the plague stories with a tit-for-tat
premise that quickly created a logistical impossibility. In the first tit-for-tat scenario, Aaron
threw his rod down and it became a serpent, but Pharaoh's sorcerers did likewise with their
"secret arts" and changed their rods into serpents, which were then gobbled up by the serpent
that had been Aaron's rod (Ex. 7:10-12). Hence, the power of Yahweh had from the very
beginning proved superior to that of the Egyptian sorcerers. The writer's strategy worked until
he had Pharaoh's sorcerers duplicate Aaron's feat of changing the water throughout all the
land of Egypt into blood, because, as noted in my article linked to above, the writer was at
this point claiming a logistical impossibility, for if all the water in Egypt had been changed
into blood, there would have been no way for Pharaoh's sorcerers to have done "likewise with
their secret arts." It would have been one thing to change existing water into blood; it would
have been quite another to change nonexisting water into blood.
The Exodus writer also had a penchant for superlatives that subsequently resulted in other
discrepancies. We have already seen how the writer claimed that "all the livestock in Egypt"
were killed by a plague of murrain but then later claimed that additional Egyptian livestock
were somehow afflicted with boils, killed with hail, and finally killed in the plague against all
Egyptian firstborn, human and animal alike. This discrepancy resulted from the writer's
consistent use of superlatives to describe the extent of the plagues. The water was changed to
blood throughout all the land of Egypt (Ex. 7:19-21); all the dust throughout all the land of
Egypt was changed to lice [gnats or mosquitoes] (Ex. 8:17); all the livestock of Egypt died
(Ex. 9:6); the hail struck throughout all the land of Egypt (Ex. 9:25)--all seemed to be the
writer's favorite word to describe the scope of the plagues. Other superlatives, however, were
used to convey that the plagues were unbounded in their scope. Although all the livestock of
the Egyptians were killed by the murrain, not so much as one of the Israelite livestock died
(Ex. 9:7). The hail was "the heaviest hail to fall that has ever fallen in Egypt from the day it
was founded until now" (Ex. 9:18,25). Every man and beast in the field were struck down
by the hail (Ex. 9:25), which also broke "all the plants in the field" and "shattered every tree
in the field" (Ex. 9:25). The locusts were "very grievous" and such as "had never been before,
nor ever shall be again" (Ex. 10:14), and they ate "all the plants in the land and all the fruit of
the trees that the hail had left" and "nothing green was left, no tree, no plant in the field,
in all the land of Egypt" (Ex. 10:15). Apparently, the Exodus writer just couldn't say that a
heavy hail came or that huge swarms of locusts came. No, he had to describe the plagues in
superlative terms, i. e., the worse that had ever been or ever would be, which spared nothing it
their paths.
He was just as extravagant in his descriptions of Yahweh's clean-up operations. When
Yahweh removed the flies "not one remained" (Ex. 8:32). When he sent a "very strong west
wind" to drive the locusts into the Red Sea, "not a single locust was left in all the country of
Egypt" (Ex. 10:19). Such hyperbolic descriptions are hard to believe, because it is
inconceivable to imagine that there could have been a time when not a single fly was
anywhere in the land of Egypt or that not a single locust was left in all of Egypt after
infestations as thorough as had been claimed earlier, but the writer finally went too far on the
final plague when he said that after Yahweh had struck all of the firstborn, both human and
animal, "there was not a house without someone dead" (Ex. 12:30).
If this statement was true, the social structure of Egypt was indeed unique at that time,
because every house in the country would have had to have had someone who was the
firstborn in his family, and that would not have been very likely. If a plague against the
firstborn should strike our country, for example, no one would die in my house, because both
my wife and I have an older sibling; hence, there would be no firstborn in our house to die. I
can personally think of several other families where this would also be true. By virtue of the
firstborn having grown up and moved out on their own, husbands and wives, who were not
the firstborn of their parents, would experience no deaths in their own houses, because there
are no firstborn living in these houses. There are also houses where no firstborn reside
because neither parent was a firstborn and their firstborn children have regrettably died. My
wife has a younger sister who married a younger sibling in his family, and their firstborn child
died shortly after birth, so if a plague against the firstborn had struck our country back when
their only other child was living with them, no one in their house would have died.
Nationwide, there are surely hundreds or even thousands of houses in which no firstborn live;
hence, a plague against the firstborn in this country would leave many homes untouched.
There is no reason to think that Egypt in biblical times would have been any different.
This is the point where inerrantists will play their "figurative" card. Well, of course, they will
say, the writer wasn't speaking literally. He merely used hyperbole to communicate that the
scope of this plague was massive. In reply to that, I have to ask if the writer was speaking
figuratively when he said that "not one [fly] remained" in Egypt (Ex. 8:31) and that "not a
single locust was left in all the country of Egypt" (Ex. 10:19). Was he just speaking
figuratively when he said that "not so much as one of the livestock of the Israelites was dead"
(Ex. 9:7)? If this is going to be the "explanation" that inerrantists offer in their defense of this
problem, let them explain just how it could have been figuratively true that not one fly was in
all the land Egypt? How could it have been figuratively true that not a single locust was in all
the country of Egypt? How could it have been figuratively true that not so much as one of the
Israelite livestock died in the plague of the murrain? After all, if one--just one--Israelite cow
or sheep or horse died in this plague, then it would not have been true, even figuratively, that
"not so much as one of the livestock of the Israelites died."
The Bible is a book of exaggerations. It exaggerated the population figures of the Israelites at
the time of the exodus (Num. 1-2); it exaggerated the size of armies; it exaggerated casualties
in battles; it exaggerated the wealth of Solomon (1 Kings 10:14-21) by claiming that, among
other valuable assets, he received 666 talents of gold per year. A talent weighed 75.5 pounds,
so the claim was that Solomon received 50,283 pounds or over 25 tons of gold per year. At
this rate, over his 40-year reign, he would have received 1,000 tons of gold, which was
certainly phenomenal considering that the total gold reserves worldwide today are only
about 30,000 tons. Hence, we are supposed to believe that Solomon possessed about onethirtieth of all the gold that has ever been mined.
Exaggeration was commonplace in the Bible as it was in many extrabiblical documents of that
time. In "The Numbers of the Book," Fred Titanich discussed and analyzed several examples
of biblical exaggeration, such as the number of oxen and sheep that Solomon allegedly
sacrificed at the dedication of the temple upon its completion (2 Chron. 7:4-5), the amount of
gold and silver used in the embellishment of the temple (1 Chron. 22:14), the number
of quails that the Israelites gathered in the wilderness (Num. 11:18-20), the size of Nineveh
(Jonah 3:3-4), and other overstated examples. Exaggeration is a difficult discrepancy to prove,
but common sense will tell any reasonable person that 7.5 million pounds of gold and 75.5
million pounds of silver, in addition to unspecified qualtities of brass and iron, could not have
been used in overlaying the walls, beams, and furnishings in a temple that was only 90' x 30' x
45' in its dimensions (1 Kings 6:2). The same common sense will tell reasonable people that
Solomon could not have sacrificed 22 thousand oxen and 120 thousand sheep at one time,
which would have been an estimated 37 million pounds or 18,000 tons of animal flesh, in
dedicating the temple, and these were only Solomon's sacrifices; they didn't include those
that "all the people" offered to Yahweh (2 Chron. 7:4), and "all the people" constituted a
"very great assembly from the entrance of Hamath [in the far north of Israel] to the brook of
Egypt [on the southern border]" (2 Chron. 7:8). The temple had only one sacrificial altar, and
even though its dimensions were 30' x 30' (1 Chron. 4:1), it couldn't possibly have
accommodated this many sacrifices in a single dedication ceremony of only a seven-day
duration (2 Chron. 7:8). The chronicler seemed aware of this problem, because he claimed
that Solomon "consecrated" the middle court in front of the temple and offered burnt offerings
there "because the bronze altar Solomon had made could not hold the burnt offering and the
grain offering and the fat parts" (2 Chron. 7:7). The dimensions of this court were never stated
in the Bible, but at the dedication ceremony Solomon had a bronze platform, which was 7.5' x
7.5' (2 Chron. 6:12), put before the altar so that he could kneel on it to give a dedication
prayer. A porch 30' feet long (2 Chron. 3:4) was built in front of the temple, so the known
dimensions of everything within the court indicate that it wasn't at all a huge place.
Furthermore, the Bible says in two places (1 Kings 8:64 and 2 Chron. 7:7) that Solomon
consecrated the middle court that was in front of the house of Yahweh, for an additional
sacrificial area, so only a limited part of the middle court was used for this purpose. The space
used for burning sacrifices in this part of the court necessarily had to have been limited,
because it had been constructed with "a course [row] of cedar beams" built into it (1 Kings
6:36), which would have burned if the entire court had been used as a sacrificial altar. To say
the least, then, it was unlikely that the "middle" of this court could have accommodated tons
of animal flesh being incinerated in homage to a tribal god. This, like the others mentioned
above, is just another example of biblical exaggeration.
In spinning the tales about the Egyptian plagues, the Exodus writer merely followed the
custom of his time and exaggerated freely, but in so doing he destroyed the believability of his
accounts of these alleged events. No one living at the time could possibly have known that
immediately after infestations of the magnitude claimed in the plague accounts, not a single
fly or locust remained in the entire country of Egypt, and if the final plague killed only those
who were the firstborn in their families, it would not have been the case that all of the houses
in Egypt, without exception, had someone dead in them. Even though extended families may
have remained together back then more than they do now, it stretches imagination beyond
reasonable credibility to think that there wasn't a house anywhere in Egypt at that time that
didn't have someone dead in it.
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Logistical Improbabilities in the
Wilderness-Wandering Tales
The Population Claims
by Farrell Till
The "tall tale" was a part of American folklore, which was expressed in the creation of
characters like Paul Bunyan, Pecos Bill, and Johnny Appleseed. Tall tales, however, were not
unique to American literature. They existed in earlier nations, including the ancient Hebrews,
who left the world a maze of such stories that were best represented by the unlikely tales that
were spun about their 40 years of wilderness wanderings after they had left Egypt. When
these tales are examined carefully, critical readers should have no difficulty seeing in them
elements that would tax the imagination of any rational person asked to believe their historical
accuracy.
The books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy relate various adventures and
misfortunes that the Israelites experienced after their exodus from Egypt. The logistics in
many of these wilderness-wandering tales are too improbable to believe and in some cases
even downright impossible. To see the absurdities in these tales, one has to understand first
the improbability of the size of the Israelite horde that the Bible claims left Egypt. The census
that Moses conducted the second year after the exodus (Num. 1:1) revealed that there were
603,550 men of military age (Num. 1:46). Military age began at 20, but there also seemed to
be a provision that these men had to be physically able to "go forth to war" (vs:3, 20, 22, 24,
26, etc.). We have no way of knowing how many physically or mentally disabled men there
would have been in this group, but we can reasonably assume that there were at least some. I
will return to this matter later, but for now I want to establish reasonable population figures
based on what the Bible directly claims. If there were 603,550 able-bodied men fit to "go
forth to war," we can reasonably assume that there was also an approximate number of ablebodied females in the same age group. This would add up to 1,207,100 who were at least 20
years old. If there were this many who were at least 20, we could reasonably think that there
were approximately that many who were 19 or younger. Hence, the population for these two
groups alone would have totaled 2,414,200.
If biblicists wish to argue for the historical accuracy of the Pentateuch, then they would have
to recognize that the 2.4 million population estimate for males and females in this age group is
probably too low, because the Bible gives reason to assume that there would have been more
females than males in this age group. Exodus 1:15-22 tells of a decree that pharaoh issued to
midwives ordering them to kill all Hebrew male babies that were born. The decree
specifically stated that if the child born was a "daughter," she should be kept alive (v:16). If
we assume that this decree had any effect at all on the Hebrew population, then there would
have necessarily been more females than males, so if there were over 600,000 male who were
20 and above, there would surely have been at least some imbalance of females in the Israelite
population. Surely, then, no one can reasonably challenge the 2.4 million figure for Israelites,
both male and female, who were 20 and above.
No upper age limit was stated for military service, but we can hardly imagine that Yahweh
would have drafted the old and infirm into the army of his chosen ones. That there were old
and infirm ones in the Israelite population was at least claimed in Exodus 10:9, where Moses
demanded of Pharaoh that the Israelites, young and old, be allowed to go serve Yahweh their
god. Deuteronomy 25:18 states that when the Israelites were in the wilderness, the Amalekites
"smote the hindmost" of the Israelites, "all that were feeble behind." It is reasonable to assume
that these "feeble" ones would have included at least some elderly people. As for the
physically and mentally handicapped, the Bible at least claims that there were such in the
Israelite population, because Leviticus 21:16-24 refers to dwarfs and people who were blind,
lame, hunchbacked, and afflicted with scurvy, and commanded Aaron not to permit them to
assist in any of the tabernacle ceremonies. In a population that had almost 2.5 million hale and
hardy ones, it certainly wouldn't be unreasonable to think that there were at least 85,800
disabled, and old and infirm people, so if we just add this conservative estimate to the
2,414,200, we would then have a round number of 2.5 million. If anyone should argue that the
85,800 figure is arbitrary, then keep in mind that nothing was allowed in the 2.4 estimate for
the imbalance of females that would have resulted from pharaoh's decree to kill male babies.
The tribe of Levi was not numbered in the military census: "But the Levites after the tribe of
their fathers were not numbered among them [of military age]" (Num. 1:47). So we have to
add a reasonable estimate of the Levite population to the 2.5 million in all of the other tribes.
In Numbers 3, we do have a census of Levites that was conducted for another purpose, and it
showed that there were 7,500 Gershonites (v:22), 8,600 Kohathites (v:28), and 6,200
Merarites (v:34). These numbers make a total of 22,300. As the verses just cited will show,
however, these were all males, so we could reasonably expect that there was an approximate
number of Levite females, so if we add 44,600 to the 2.5 million already counted, we then
have a total of 2,544,600.
Israelites were not the only ones in the wilderness wanderers, because we are told in Exodus
12:38 that when the Israelites left Egypt, they had with them "a mixed multitude," as well as
their flocks and herds, even "very much cattle." This mixed multitude was referred to
elsewhere in the wilderness stories. This "mixed multitude that was among them [the
Israelites]" participated in the near food riot that led Yahweh to blow quails all around the
encampment (Num. 11:4). This "mixed multitude" could not have been Israelites, because
after "Moses" related that the multitude "lusted exceedingly" for meat, he went on to say,
"And the children of Israel also wept again" (v:4). So whatever this "mixed multitude" was, it
has to be considered non-Israelite. We have no way of knowing what a "multitude" would be,
but it surely wasn't just a handful of "strangers," a term that was used in reference to them in
other passages. If all biblical claims about the head counts are taken at face value, we have to
conclude that there were between 2.5 and 3 million people in the horde that left Egypt with
their flocks and herds and "very much cattle."
With the population of the exodus horde established, I can now begin to show that the biblical
writers fabricated stories about the wilderness wanderings without taking into consideration
the population of the group they were writing about. Let's take the 40-year period of the
Israelite wanderings as a simple example. The Sinai peninsula is about 150 miles long from
north to south and about 120 miles across at its widest point. Since it is shaped like an
arrowhead, it is much narrower in other places. The exodus stories ask us to believe that about
3 million people wandered in this wilderness for a period of 40 years, but how likely is it that
3 million people could do that in a relatively confined area without finding their way out of
the wilderness?
Let's suppose that these 3 million traveled, say, 200 abreast, taking with them their tents,
herds, and other possessions as they marched along. How long would this line of humanity
have been? If they traveled this way, there would have been 15,000 rows, and if they had only
3 feet between the rows, they would have been strung out over a distance of almost 9 miles.
However, it is unreasonable to think that people traveling with their tents and herds could
have been compacted together with only 3 feet between the rows. So even if they had formed
a horde of people and animals 20 miles long and had traveled only 20 miles per day, far
enough for the people in the back to be out of the abandoned camp site before the front of the
column stopped to make camp again, their 41 different encampments (Num. 33:5-49) would
have moved them a minimum distance of 820 miles, which would have equaled about 7
transits across the Sinai peninsula. So they sometimes backtracked or traveled in circles, some
inerrantist will say. Well, if so, why didn't they stay in the same encampments on their second
or third trips through? Surely, there would have been some advantages in doing this, since the
terrain would have already been prepared as camp sites, but all 41 encampments had different
names, an indication that the writer(s) of Numbers thought that all of the locations were
different.
Rather than seeing this part of the exodus story as an accurate historical account, it is more
reasonable to think that the writer(s) resorted to excessive exaggeration (characteristic of
ancient literature) without stopping to consider logistic requirements of moving a population
of three million for 40 years through the settings of the wilderness wanderings. Inerrantists
reading this will say that there is no real problem here, but in due time, I will demonstrate that
there are just too many logistically impossible claims in the exodus stories for rational people
to believe that they are accurate historical accounts. Go to the next article in the series.
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About this capture
Logistical Improbabilities in the
Wilderness-Wandering Tales
The Size of the Hebrew Camps
by Farrell Till
In "The Population Claims," I noted that if we assume the accuracy of the census figures in
Numbers, we have to conclude that there were about three million people in the exodus group.
The books of Exodus and Numbers make several references to the Hebrew encampments
during their wilderness wanderings, but a multitude of three million people would raise
several questions about the logistic possibility of encampments that could accommodate this
many nomadic people. If each person in the Israelite horde had had only a six-foot by threefoot plot to sleep on at night, this would have been 18 square feet. (A standard-sized twin bed
provides 19.5 square feet of sleeping space.) Children would have used less space, of course,
but there were undoubtedly many whose size would have required more than 6' x 3', so 18
square feet per person would not be an unreasonable average.
Three million people sleeping at night would have occupied 54 million square feet or six
million square yards, even if there were no passage ways left open to accommodate passage
for those who heard nature calling in the night. An acre consists of 4,840 square yards, so
even if the Israelites had slept at night like sardines, they would have occupied 1,240 acres.
This would have been almost two square miles. The family farm that I grew up on in
Southeast Missouri had 120 acres, so the entire farm could have slept only a tenth of the
Israelites packed together as described above.
A sardinelike scenario, however, was hardly possible, because the Israelites slept in tents (Ex.
16:16; Num. 1:52; Deut. 1:27, 33; 5:30; etc.). Tents have to have space for guy ropes to
stabilize them, and certainly paths would have been necessary for the people to walk on as
they went about their routines and duties while they were camped. If we suppose that there
was an average of 10 persons per tent, there would have been 250,000 to 300,000 tents in the
encampments. If we allot the 18 square-foot sleeping space for each person, the tents would
have had to average 180 square feet in size. A 12- by 15-foot tent would have provided the
necessary 180 square feet for its 10 occupants. If we imagine that the guy ropes were pegged
into the ground only four feet from the borders of the tent, the space needed to pitch one tent
would have been 12 x 15 with 8 feet for guy ropes added to each dimension (4 additional feet
on each side) . The tent would have then occupied a plot of ground 20 feet by 23 feet or an
area of 460 square feet. With only a two-foot path on all sides of the tent to allow for
passageways to walk on, the plot of ground for just one tent would have measured about 22
feet by 25 feet or 550 square feet. (Since a pathway would have been shared by the tents
adjacent to it, only half of the two-foot pathways have been added to the plot dimensions of a
single tent. In other words, one foot at the front and one foot at the back would have provided
a two-foot pathway if the adjacent tent plots also contributed a linear foot for each pathway.)
With 250,000 tents in the camp, the tents alone would have required an area of 137,500,000
square feet or 15,277,777 square yards. There are 5,840 square yards in an acre, so the tents
would have occupied an area of 2,616 acres. There are 640 acres in a square mile, so the size
of the encampments would have been over 4 square miles.
Besides the people, the Israelites had their flocks and herds with them (Ex. 12:38). This verse
speaks about "much cattle," but even without this reference, we would have to conclude that
the flocks and herds were enormous because of the requirements of daily sacrifices that the
book of Leviticus describes in detail. These requirements will be discussed later, at which
time we will see that the animals in these herds would have been far more numerous than the
people These herds and flocks would have occupied even more territory than the people, so
it's hard to imagine that these encampments could have been smaller than 8 or 10 square
miles.
If we settle for a size of 9 square miles, the distance from one side of the camp to the other
would have been 3 miles (if it was laid out in a square), so when the Israelites broke camp
each time, they would have had to travel at least 3 miles in order for the people on the back
side of the camp to reach what had been the front side of the camp. We can hardly imagine
people taking down their tents and packing their belongings just to move no farther along than
a plot of ground that had been immediately adjacent to the previous camp, so if we assume
that the Israelites put only three miles between each encampment in their wanderings, they
would have covered a distance of 246 miles in setting up their 41 different camps. This would
have been a distance about twice as far as the width of the Sinai peninsula from Migdol (the
last encampment before leaving Egypt) and Ezion-geber at the north end of the Gulf of
Aqaba, where the Israelites camped just before Aaron died (Num. 33:36-39). So how were the
Israelites able to wander for 40 years in the Sinai wilderness without finding their way out by
sheer accident?
Inerrantists will argue that the Israelites sometimes backtracked and traveled in circles, but as
I will show later, such a scenario as this only adds to the difficulties of believing that three
million people with flocks and herds and "very much cattle" could have found in the
wilderness the resources necessary to sustain them and their herds for 40 years. It is far more
rational to believe that the exodus story is just another biblical myth filled with typically
biblical exaggerations. Go to the next article in the series.
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OCTNOVOCT
10 captures
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12 Nov 2006 10 Aug 2016 20052006 2008
About this capture
Logistical Improbabilities in the
Wilderness-Wandering Tales
The Size of the Hebrew Camps
by Farrell Till
In "The Population Claims," I noted that if we assume the accuracy of the census figures in
Numbers, we have to conclude that there were about three million people in the exodus group.
The books of Exodus and Numbers make several references to the Hebrew encampments
during their wilderness wanderings, but a multitude of three million people would raise
several questions about the logistic possibility of encampments that could accommodate this
many nomadic people. If each person in the Israelite horde had had only a six-foot by three-
foot plot to sleep on at night, this would have been 18 square feet. (A standard-sized twin bed
provides 19.5 square feet of sleeping space.) Children would have used less space, of course,
but there were undoubtedly many whose size would have required more than 6' x 3', so 18
square feet per person would not be an unreasonable average.
Three million people sleeping at night would have occupied 54 million square feet or six
million square yards, even if there were no passage ways left open to accommodate passage
for those who heard nature calling in the night. An acre consists of 4,840 square yards, so
even if the Israelites had slept at night like sardines, they would have occupied 1,240 acres.
This would have been almost two square miles. The family farm that I grew up on in
Southeast Missouri had 120 acres, so the entire farm could have slept only a tenth of the
Israelites packed together as described above.
A sardinelike scenario, however, was hardly possible, because the Israelites slept in tents (Ex.
16:16; Num. 1:52; Deut. 1:27, 33; 5:30; etc.). Tents have to have space for guy ropes to
stabilize them, and certainly paths would have been necessary for the people to walk on as
they went about their routines and duties while they were camped. If we suppose that there
was an average of 10 persons per tent, there would have been 250,000 to 300,000 tents in the
encampments. If we allot the 18 square-foot sleeping space for each person, the tents would
have had to average 180 square feet in size. A 12- by 15-foot tent would have provided the
necessary 180 square feet for its 10 occupants. If we imagine that the guy ropes were pegged
into the ground only four feet from the borders of the tent, the space needed to pitch one tent
would have been 12 x 15 with 8 feet for guy ropes added to each dimension (4 additional feet
on each side) . The tent would have then occupied a plot of ground 20 feet by 23 feet or an
area of 460 square feet. With only a two-foot path on all sides of the tent to allow for
passageways to walk on, the plot of ground for just one tent would have measured about 22
feet by 25 feet or 550 square feet. (Since a pathway would have been shared by the tents
adjacent to it, only half of the two-foot pathways have been added to the plot dimensions of a
single tent. In other words, one foot at the front and one foot at the back would have provided
a two-foot pathway if the adjacent tent plots also contributed a linear foot for each pathway.)
With 250,000 tents in the camp, the tents alone would have required an area of 137,500,000
square feet or 15,277,777 square yards. There are 5,840 square yards in an acre, so the tents
would have occupied an area of 2,616 acres. There are 640 acres in a square mile, so the size
of the encampments would have been over 4 square miles.
Besides the people, the Israelites had their flocks and herds with them (Ex. 12:38). This verse
speaks about "much cattle," but even without this reference, we would have to conclude that
the flocks and herds were enormous because of the requirements of daily sacrifices that the
book of Leviticus describes in detail. These requirements will be discussed later, at which
time we will see that the animals in these herds would have been far more numerous than the
people These herds and flocks would have occupied even more territory than the people, so
it's hard to imagine that these encampments could have been smaller than 8 or 10 square
miles.
If we settle for a size of 9 square miles, the distance from one side of the camp to the other
would have been 3 miles (if it was laid out in a square), so when the Israelites broke camp
each time, they would have had to travel at least 3 miles in order for the people on the back
side of the camp to reach what had been the front side of the camp. We can hardly imagine
people taking down their tents and packing their belongings just to move no farther along than
a plot of ground that had been immediately adjacent to the previous camp, so if we assume
that the Israelites put only three miles between each encampment in their wanderings, they
would have covered a distance of 246 miles in setting up their 41 different camps. This would
have been a distance about twice as far as the width of the Sinai peninsula from Migdol (the
last encampment before leaving Egypt) and Ezion-geber at the north end of the Gulf of
Aqaba, where the Israelites camped just before Aaron died (Num. 33:36-39). So how were the
Israelites able to wander for 40 years in the Sinai wilderness without finding their way out by
sheer accident?
Inerrantists will argue that the Israelites sometimes backtracked and traveled in circles, but as
I will show later, such a scenario as this only adds to the difficulties of believing that three
million people with flocks and herds and "very much cattle" could have found in the
wilderness the resources necessary to sustain them and their herds for 40 years. It is far more
rational to believe that the exodus story is just another biblical myth filled with typically
biblical exaggerations. Go to the next article in the series.
http://w w w .thesk
Go
OCTNOVOCT
10 captures
12
12 Nov 2006 27 Dec 2019 20052006 2008
About this capture
Logistical Improbabilities in the
Wilderness-Wandering Tales
Sacrifices in the Hebrew Camps
by Farrell Till
In "The Size of the Hebrew Camps," I showed that an encampment of 2.5 to 3 million people
would surely have required an area of at least 9 square miles and probably even more. Even
the layout of the camp was divinely commanded, and the tabernacle was the center of the
camp (Num. 2:2). The rest of Numbers 2 gave detailed instructions on where each tribe was to
pitch its tents. These instructions are too detailed to quote, but for now we want to notice that
the tabernacle was to be the center of the encampments. Sacrifices were offered on an altar
that was located at the door of the tabernacle (Lev. 1:5), the fire of which was kept
permanently burning (Lev. 6:12-13). Hence, the daily sacrifices were offered in the center of
the Israelite encampment.
The book of Leviticus is mainly a catalog of sacrifices that had to be offered on the tabernacle
altar. One of the more interesting ones was the purification sacrifice that a woman had to offer
after giving birth. For giving birth to a male, a woman was unclean for 40 days, but for giving
birth to a female, she was unclean for 80 days (Lev. 12:1-5). After this period, she was to
offer a year-old lamb for her purification and a pigeon or a turtledove (v:6). If she couldn't
afford this sacrifice, she could substitute two pigeons or two turtledoves (v:8). Who said that
Yahweh wasn't a considerate god? Why, look at the concern he showed for the poor.
Now let's imagine how many births would have happened in a population of three million
people. All of the adult Israelites who came out of Egypt were cursed to die in the wilderness
for heeding the report of the spies who came back from Canaan with reports of giants in the
land.
Numbers 14:26 And Yahweh spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying: 27 How long shall this
wicked congregation complain against me? I have heard the complaints of the Israelites,
which they complain against me. 28 Say to them, "As I live," says Yahweh, "I will do to you
the very things I heard you say: 29 your dead bodies shall fall in this very wilderness; and of
all your number, included in the census, from twenty years old and upward, who have
complained against me, 30 not one of you shall come into the land in which I swore to settle
you, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun. 31 But your little ones, who you
said would become booty, I will bring in, and they shall know the land that you have despised.
32 But as for you, your dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness. 33 And your children shall be
shepherds in the wilderness for forty years, and shall suffer for your faithlessness, until the
last of your dead bodies lies in the wilderness. 34 According to the number of the days in
which you spied out the land, forty days, for every day a year, you shall bear your iniquity,
forty years, and you shall know my displeasure."
Now if we imagine that about half of the three million Israelites at this time were adults, then
since census figures at the end of the 40 years of wandering (Numbers 26) indicated that
approximately the same number (3 million) went into Canaan, that would have required at
least 1.5 million births during those years, not even allowing for infant mortality rates or for
deaths of those who were children at the time of the adult rebellion at the report of the spies.
Since we could expect a high mortality rate under the conditions the Israelites lived in, it
would not be at all unreasonable to assume that at least 2 million births occurred during the
wilderness wanderings. If these births were evenly distributed over the 40 years, this would
mean that about 50 thousand births had occurred each year. This would have been an average
of 137 births per day, which would have required the offering of 137 lambs and 137 pigeons
or turtledoves per day. If 50% of the women had been too poor to afford a lamb, this would
have reduced the average number of lambs offered per day to about 69 but would have
increased the daily number of turtledoves or pigeons to about 206. Over a year's time, 25,185
lambs and 75,190 pigeons or turtledoves would have been killed in homage to the inscrutable
Yahweh. Over the 40-year period, there would have been 1,007,400 lambs incinerated to
Yahweh and 3,007,600 pigeons or turtledoves. I suppose that inerrantists would not see any
problem if I asked how the Israelites had been able to maintain such large flocks in a land
where they were constantly bellyaching about the lack of food and water. If I asked how the
Israelites had managed to obtain over 3 million pigeons and turtledoves for these sacrifices,
inerrantists would say that I am just manufacturing a problem, but if pigeons and turtledoves
were in such abundance in the wilderness, why did the Israelites need Yahweh to send a wind
to bring quails from the sea? Why didn't they just satisfy their appetite for meat by just
hunting pigeons and turtledoves? After all, when their wives needed pigeons and turtledoves
in order to obtain purification from childbirth, they didn't seem to have any trouble meeting
the requirement.
So let's consider another problem. Aaron and his sons Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar
were appointed to be priests (Num. 3:1-4), but this passage, along with Leviticus 10:1-2,
report that Yahweh killed Nadab and Abihu for using "strange fire" to offer incense, so this
left only three priests (Aaron, Eleazar, and ithamar) to officiate at sacrificial ceremonies. As
we noted above, 137 births per day would be just a conservative estimate for a horde of 3
million people, so this would have required 137 purification sacrifices per day. If we assume
that these were evenly divided among the three priests, each priest would have had to officiate
at about 45 purification sacrifices per day, but since they all had to be offered on the
tabernacle altar (v:6), it's hard to imagine how three sacrificial ceremonies could have been
conducted simultaneously. If we grant this concession, however, and suppose that each
purification sacrifice would have taken no longer than 5 minutes, about 4 hours of each day
the priests would have been occupied with only purification sacrifices, and if they worked in
consecutive shifts, the altar would have been tied up 12 hours of each day just for purification
sacrifices. This raises the question of when the priests found time to officiate at the many
other daily sacrifices that were required.
The sacrifice for an "unwitting sin" was another ceremony that the priests had to attend to.
(Leviticus 4:1-4 states that this sin required the sacrifice of a bullock, which was to be brought
before the door of the tabernacle and killed before Yahweh (as if killing it anywhere else
would not have been killing it before the omnipresent Yahweh). The blood of the bullock was
then sacrificed on the altar, along with the fat, kidneys, and liver, but the skin, all the flesh,
the head, the legs, the intestines, and their dung (vs:11-12), even the whole bullock, were to
be carried forth without the camp and burned where the ashes are poured out. (It's hard to
understand how the whole bullock could have been "carried forth without the camp" if its fat,
kidneys, liver, and blood were offered on the altar, but I suppose this is just another case of
Yahweh's ways being higher than our ways. If we were omniscient too, I'm sure we would see
no problem here.) Let's keep in mind that the tabernacle was in the center of the camp, so a
sacrifice for an unwitting sin required the priests to kill the bullock before the altar, sacrifice
its blood, fat, kidneys, and liver, and then carry the "whole" bullock out of the camp and burn
it. On our previous assumption that the camps were only an incredibly unlikely three square
miles in size, the priests would have had to carry these parts of the bullock a distance of about
1.5 miles. How many sacrifices like this per day could a staff of only 3 priests have
conducted? Not very many, I would think.
Inerrantists, of course, will think that this isn't any problem at all. That is probably because
they have never taken the time to analyze biblical scenarios and try to visualize what would
have been involved if they had actually happened. They just assume that if the Bible says it,
then it had to have happened. Go to the next article in the series.
http://w w w .thesk
Go
OCTNOVOCT
10 captures
12
12 Nov 2006 27 Dec 2019 20052006 2008
About this capture
Logistical Improbabilities in the
Wilderness-Wandering Tales
Sacrifices in the Hebrew Camps
by Farrell Till
In "The Size of the Hebrew Camps," I showed that an encampment of 2.5 to 3 million people
would surely have required an area of at least 9 square miles and probably even more. Even
the layout of the camp was divinely commanded, and the tabernacle was the center of the
camp (Num. 2:2). The rest of Numbers 2 gave detailed instructions on where each tribe was to
pitch its tents. These instructions are too detailed to quote, but for now we want to notice that
the tabernacle was to be the center of the encampments. Sacrifices were offered on an altar
that was located at the door of the tabernacle (Lev. 1:5), the fire of which was kept
permanently burning (Lev. 6:12-13). Hence, the daily sacrifices were offered in the center of
the Israelite encampment.
The book of Leviticus is mainly a catalog of sacrifices that had to be offered on the tabernacle
altar. One of the more interesting ones was the purification sacrifice that a woman had to offer
after giving birth. For giving birth to a male, a woman was unclean for 40 days, but for giving
birth to a female, she was unclean for 80 days (Lev. 12:1-5). After this period, she was to
offer a year-old lamb for her purification and a pigeon or a turtledove (v:6). If she couldn't
afford this sacrifice, she could substitute two pigeons or two turtledoves (v:8). Who said that
Yahweh wasn't a considerate god? Why, look at the concern he showed for the poor.
Now let's imagine how many births would have happened in a population of three million
people. All of the adult Israelites who came out of Egypt were cursed to die in the wilderness
for heeding the report of the spies who came back from Canaan with reports of giants in the
land.
Numbers 14:26 And Yahweh spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying: 27 How long shall this
wicked congregation complain against me? I have heard the complaints of the Israelites,
which they complain against me. 28 Say to them, "As I live," says Yahweh, "I will do to you
the very things I heard you say: 29 your dead bodies shall fall in this very wilderness; and of
all your number, included in the census, from twenty years old and upward, who have
complained against me, 30 not one of you shall come into the land in which I swore to settle
you, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun. 31 But your little ones, who you
said would become booty, I will bring in, and they shall know the land that you have despised.
32 But as for you, your dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness. 33 And your children shall be
shepherds in the wilderness for forty years, and shall suffer for your faithlessness, until the
last of your dead bodies lies in the wilderness. 34 According to the number of the days in
which you spied out the land, forty days, for every day a year, you shall bear your iniquity,
forty years, and you shall know my displeasure."
Now if we imagine that about half of the three million Israelites at this time were adults, then
since census figures at the end of the 40 years of wandering (Numbers 26) indicated that
approximately the same number (3 million) went into Canaan, that would have required at
least 1.5 million births during those years, not even allowing for infant mortality rates or for
deaths of those who were children at the time of the adult rebellion at the report of the spies.
Since we could expect a high mortality rate under the conditions the Israelites lived in, it
would not be at all unreasonable to assume that at least 2 million births occurred during the
wilderness wanderings. If these births were evenly distributed over the 40 years, this would
mean that about 50 thousand births had occurred each year. This would have been an average
of 137 births per day, which would have required the offering of 137 lambs and 137 pigeons
or turtledoves per day. If 50% of the women had been too poor to afford a lamb, this would
have reduced the average number of lambs offered per day to about 69 but would have
increased the daily number of turtledoves or pigeons to about 206. Over a year's time, 25,185
lambs and 75,190 pigeons or turtledoves would have been killed in homage to the inscrutable
Yahweh. Over the 40-year period, there would have been 1,007,400 lambs incinerated to
Yahweh and 3,007,600 pigeons or turtledoves. I suppose that inerrantists would not see any
problem if I asked how the Israelites had been able to maintain such large flocks in a land
where they were constantly bellyaching about the lack of food and water. If I asked how the
Israelites had managed to obtain over 3 million pigeons and turtledoves for these sacrifices,
inerrantists would say that I am just manufacturing a problem, but if pigeons and turtledoves
were in such abundance in the wilderness, why did the Israelites need Yahweh to send a wind
to bring quails from the sea? Why didn't they just satisfy their appetite for meat by just
hunting pigeons and turtledoves? After all, when their wives needed pigeons and turtledoves
in order to obtain purification from childbirth, they didn't seem to have any trouble meeting
the requirement.
So let's consider another problem. Aaron and his sons Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar
were appointed to be priests (Num. 3:1-4), but this passage, along with Leviticus 10:1-2,
report that Yahweh killed Nadab and Abihu for using "strange fire" to offer incense, so this
left only three priests (Aaron, Eleazar, and ithamar) to officiate at sacrificial ceremonies. As
we noted above, 137 births per day would be just a conservative estimate for a horde of 3
million people, so this would have required 137 purification sacrifices per day. If we assume
that these were evenly divided among the three priests, each priest would have had to officiate
at about 45 purification sacrifices per day, but since they all had to be offered on the
tabernacle altar (v:6), it's hard to imagine how three sacrificial ceremonies could have been
conducted simultaneously. If we grant this concession, however, and suppose that each
purification sacrifice would have taken no longer than 5 minutes, about 4 hours of each day
the priests would have been occupied with only purification sacrifices, and if they worked in
consecutive shifts, the altar would have been tied up 12 hours of each day just for purification
sacrifices. This raises the question of when the priests found time to officiate at the many
other daily sacrifices that were required.
The sacrifice for an "unwitting sin" was another ceremony that the priests had to attend to.
(Leviticus 4:1-4 states that this sin required the sacrifice of a bullock, which was to be brought
before the door of the tabernacle and killed before Yahweh (as if killing it anywhere else
would not have been killing it before the omnipresent Yahweh). The blood of the bullock was
then sacrificed on the altar, along with the fat, kidneys, and liver, but the skin, all the flesh,
the head, the legs, the intestines, and their dung (vs:11-12), even the whole bullock, were to
be carried forth without the camp and burned where the ashes are poured out. (It's hard to
understand how the whole bullock could have been "carried forth without the camp" if its fat,
kidneys, liver, and blood were offered on the altar, but I suppose this is just another case of
Yahweh's ways being higher than our ways. If we were omniscient too, I'm sure we would see
no problem here.) Let's keep in mind that the tabernacle was in the center of the camp, so a
sacrifice for an unwitting sin required the priests to kill the bullock before the altar, sacrifice
its blood, fat, kidneys, and liver, and then carry the "whole" bullock out of the camp and burn
it. On our previous assumption that the camps were only an incredibly unlikely three square
miles in size, the priests would have had to carry these parts of the bullock a distance of about
1.5 miles. How many sacrifices like this per day could a staff of only 3 priests have
conducted? Not very many, I would think.
Inerrantists, of course, will think that this isn't any problem at all. That is probably because
they have never taken the time to analyze biblical scenarios and try to visualize what would
have been involved if they had actually happened. They just assume that if the Bible says it,
then it had to have happened. Go to the next article in the series.
http://w w w .thesk
Go
OCTNOVOCT
8 captures
12
12 Nov 2006 10 Aug 2016 20052006 2008
About this capture
Logistical Improbabilities in the
Wilderness-Wandering Tales
What About the Meal Offerings?
by Farrell Till
In "Sacrifices and the Size of the Hebrew Camps," we saw that it would have been logistically
impossible for just four priests to have officiated at all of the animal sacrifices that the
Levitical law required of the Israelites during their wilderness years. In addition to the many
bloody animal sacrifices decreed by the inscrutable Yahweh, the Israelites were required to
make "meal-offerings" to Yahweh, and these were just as rigidly regulated as the animal
sacrifices (Lev. 2:1-16; 6:14-21; 7:11-14), from all of which the priests were of course
authorized to take their share.
The size of these "meal-offerings" was not designated, but let's just suppose that the average
size was 4 ounces, which would seem like an embarrassingly small amount to offer to the
almighty Yahweh, who had delivered the Israelites from Egyptian bondage. I mean, how
ungrateful could one get? So if only one meal-offering per year, per person, were sacrificed in
the wilderness wanderings, 750,000 pounds of meal per year would have been required. This
would have equaled 375 tons of meal per year that went up in smoke while the Israelites were
in the wilderness. Over the entire 40-year stretch, 15,000 tons of meal would have been
sacrificed.
Now where could the Israelites have obtained in the wilderness the grain to make this much
meal for their sacrifices? The Sinai was a desert terrain, which hardly seems like the type of
land from which 375 tons of grain could have been harvested each year. Besides, there is not
even a hint in the wilderness stories that the Israelites ever engaged in agricultural activities
while they were wandering about.
Doesn't anybody besides me ever wonder about the logistical requirements that would have
been necessary to make the wilderness-wandering tales historically accurate? Go to the next
article in the series.
http://w w w .thesk
Go
OCTNOVOCT
12
10 captures
20052006 2008
12 Nov 2006 10 Aug 2016
About this capture
Logistical Improbabilities in the
Wilderness-Wandering Tales
Where Did They Get the Wood?
by Farrell Till
The fire on the altar at the door of the tabernacle was a permanent fire that never went
out: "And the fire upon the altar shall be kept burning thereon; it shall not go out, and the
priest shall burn wood on it every morning; and he shall lay the burnt-offering in order upon
it, and shall burn thereon the fat of the peace-offerings. Fire shall be kept burning upon the
altar continually; it shall not go out" (Lev. 6:12-13). Even if this statement were not in the
sacred word, we would have to conclude that the fire on the altar had to burn continuously,
because the daily sacrificial rituals, officiated by only three priests (four after Aaron's
grandson Phinehas was ordained), would have had to have burned continuously. Even then,
with three or four priests working nonstop, they could hardly have attended to all of the
sacrifices necessitated by 2.5 to 3 million people trying to heed Yahweh's holy commandment
to incinerate animals and birds and meal to him for their sins and other needs. Even if we
assume that only the previously estimated 1.5 million adults in the band of three million
refugees trekking to the promised land offered sacrifices and that each adult offered only an
average of one sacrifice per year (which certainly would not have satisfied Yahweh's
ordinances concerning sacrifices), the three (or four) priests would have had to officiate at
over 1,000 sacrifices per day. If we divide these evenly among the four priests, each one
would have had to officiate at 250 sacrifices per day, which would have averaged more but a
division of labor like this would not have been possible, since all sacrifices had to be made on
the altar at the door of the tabernacle. Perhaps we can imagine a scenario where one priest
made an offering, while a second one prepared another, which he would slap onto the altar as
soon as the first one had been duly incinerated, after which a third priest would thrown on a
third, etc. Even at this, each priest would have had to do 85 sacrifices per hour, if they had all
worked nonstop without eating or sleeping. That would amount to 1.4 sacrifices, per priest,
per minute, a scenario that would hardly have been possible, since the fire on the altar could
not have consumed animals as large as bullocks that rapidly. We must also remember that the
offal of the animals and the ashes left over from the sacrifice had to be carried by the priest
"out of the camp" and duly disposed of in accordance with Yahweh's other holy ordinances.
Since the tabernacle was always located in the center of the camp (already estimated at a
conservative size of 9 square miles), the disposal of offal and ashes would have required at
least a 1.5 trek, even if we visualize the chosen ones sleeping in their tents like sardines to
keep the size of the camp to just 9 square miles. Of course, if the encampments were made to
provide each person a little elbow room, the treks out of the camp would have been longer for
the priests (who were all loaded down with offal and ashes). And inerrantists try to tell us that
the Bible is a work of perfect harmony!
At any rate, we are told that the fire on the altar burned continuously. If that is so, we have to
wonder where all of the wood was obtained in the Sinai wilderness to keep it burning. Every
morning a priest had to put wood on the fire, but one would think that the years and years that
this fire burned would have depleted what wood may have grown naturally in the area. This
would be especially true, since we have to believe they the chosen ones wandered about in
circles. One would think that once a circle had been completed, the need for wood would have
been an especially acute problem for the priest who had to keep the fire burning on the altar.
We have to wonder too where the people obtained wood for their personal fires, which they
would have needed to cook and stay warm at night. With up to three million people in the
encampments, there was surely keen competition for wood. Despite this, we are asked to
believe that an altar fire was kept burning continuously and that somehow wood was always
available for the altar in a region that would surely have been stripped of wood in the forty
years of wandering about in circles.
I'm sure that there must be a simple explanation for this problem but that I have just
overlooked it. Perhaps some inerrantist reader could tell us what the explanation is. Go to
the next article in the series.
http://w w w .thesk
Go
OCTNOVOCT
8 captures
12
12 Nov 2006 10 Aug 2016 20052006 2008
About this capture
Logistical Improbabilities in the
Wilderness-Wandering Tales
Yahweh's Quails
by Farrell Till
In their wilderness wanderings, Yahweh's "chosen ones" bellyached about every little
hardship. When they tired of the manna from heaven that Yahweh so generously provided
them, they complained again: "If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we used to
eat in Egypt for nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; but
now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at" (Num.
11:5). If the people wanted meat to eat, why they didn't slaughter some of their enormous
flocks and herds from which they obtained their constant supply of animals to incinerate on
Yahweh's altar is anyone's guess, but people in biblical times didn't seem to react to situations
in logical, sensible ways. The "chosen ones" wanted meat, and so they complained to their
god Yahweh, who was so angry at them for their latest rebellion that he promised to send
them so much meat that it would come out their nostrils.
Numbers 11:16 So Yahweh said to Moses, "Gather for me seventy of the elders of Israel,
whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them; bring them to the tent of
meeting, and have them take their place there with you. 17 I will come down and talk with you
there; and I will take some of the spirit that is on you and put it on them; and they shall bear
the burden of the people along with you so that you will not bear it all by yourself. 18 And say
to the people: Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow, and you shall eat meat; for you have
wailed in the hearing of Yahweh, saying, 'If only we had meat to eat! Surely it was better for
us in Egypt.' Therefore Yahweh will give you meat, and you shall eat. 19 You shall eat not
only one day, or two days, or five days, or ten days, or twenty days, 20 but for a whole month-until it comes out of your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you--because you have rejected
Yahweh who is among you, and have wailed before him, saying, 'Why did we ever leave
Egypt?'"
Yahweh's statement confused even Moses, because he too reacted logically and assumed that
Yahweh meant for meat to be obtained from the flocks and herds: "And Moses said, 'The
people whom I am among are six hundred thousand men on foot; yet you have said, "I will
give them meat, that they may eat for a whole month."' Shall flocks and herds be slaughtered
for them, to provide enough for them?" (vs:21-22).
Yahweh never did things the sensible way, so according to this fanciful story, the promise was
fulfilled not with meat from the Israelites' flocks and herds but with quails that a wind blew to
the Israelite encampment.
And there went forth a wind from Yahweh and brought quails from the sea, and let them fall
by the camp, about a day's journey on this side and a day's journey on the other side, round
about the camp, and about two cubits above the face of the earth" (vs:31-32).
Biblicists read this passage and never stop to think about what would have been involved if
this event had actually happened. In the first place, there is the matter of how many quails
would have been in the area that the Bible claims was covered to a depth of two cubits. A
cubit was about 18 inches, so a depth of two cubits would have equaled a yard. Eerdmans
Bible Dictionary states that a day's journey was a distance of 20-25 miles and quotes Josephus
as a reference to support this figure (1987, p. 267). To give as much benefit of the doubt as
possible to the biblical story, I will use the lower estimate of 20 miles in my calculations to
show how absurd it is to believe that this event ever happened.
Now let's notice that the text quoted above stated that the quails fell to a depth of two cubits
(about one yard) for a day's journey (about 20 miles) on this side and the other, round about
the camp. Have biblicists never bothered to calculate how many quails would be in a threefoot layer that covered a 20-mile diameter? If this were a circle of quails for a distance of 20
miles on all sides of the camp, then an area of about 1250 square miles were covered with
quails to a depth of about three feet. Do biblicists have any idea how many billions of quails
this would have been? There are 46,656 cubic inches in a cubic yard. A quail is not a large
bird, so if one quail occupied an area 5 inches by 5 inches by 5 inches or 125 cubic inches
(which could easily contain any quail I have ever seen), there would have been 373 quails in
each cubic yard of the area covered as the Bible claims.
A cube that is a mile square and 3 feet deep would contain 3,097,600 cubic yards, so if one
cubic yard could contain 373 quails, every square mile of the area covered with quails would
have contained 1,155,404,800 quails. And there were 1250 square miles covered with three
feet of quails! We're talking about over 1.1 trillion quails. That would have averaged out to
more than 385,000 quails for every man, woman, child, and infant in the Israelite horde. In the
text quoted above, Yahweh said that the Hebrews would eat quails for a month, but for the
three million Israelites to have consumed over a trillion quails in a month, each person would
have had to eat 12,833 quails per day. No wonder Yahweh said that the Israelites would have
meat coming out of their nostrils.
This is what the biblical text says about the actual gathering of the quails: "And the people
rose up all that day and all the night, and all the next day, and gathered the quails" (v:32). To
have gathered all of them, each of the three million Israelites, working the entire 36 hours
implied in "all that day and all the night and all the next day," would have had to gather
10,698 quails per hour, which would have been 178 quails per minute that they would have
had to gather, with no time off for rest. The average, of course, would have been even higher
than this, because infants and young children would not have been able to help in the
gathering.
The biblical text states that "he that gathered least gathered ten homers" (v:32). A homer was
a unit of dry measurement equal to 10 ephahs, and an ephah was thought to be a capacity
equal to about 5.8 gallons, although Josephus gave it a value of about 9.25 gallons. To give
biblicists the benefit of doubt, we will take the higher estimation of 9.25 gallons, which would
mean that those in the Israelite horde who gathered the least number of quails still had about
90 gallons of quails. Even that would be a lot of quails for a person to eat in a month. Since 90
gallons of quails would come nowhere close to the 385,000 average for each person, we must
conclude that the slacking off of some Israelites put an added burden on others, and so some
would have had to gather many more than 178 per minute during the 36-hour stretch. Besides
this, the quails would have had to be cleaned and preserved in some way; otherwise, the
stench of decaying flesh would have been unbearable. Even before the 36-hour gathering
period was over, in a desert climate the flesh of the quails would have already begun to decay
and smell, and surely a god who was so particular about disposal of human waste (as we
noted in an earlier posting) would not have tolerated rotting flesh around the camp of his
chosen ones. Deuteronomy 23:14 stated that the reason for the commandment that every
person take a trowel to the "designated area" to use in burying their excrement was to prevent
Yahweh, "who walked in the midst of [the] camp," from being so offended by any unclean
thing that he would "turn away from you [the Israelites]," so surely a deity this sensitive
would not have tolerated rotting quail flesh all around the camp. After all, this is the same
deity who, as noted in an earlier article, commanded priests to carry the offal and dung of
animal sacrifices "outside the camp" to be burned (Lev. 4:12; 16:27; 21:9, 11; Heb. 13:11).
Surely, he would have demanded no less of a clean-up of the quails, so let's hope that no
inerrantists try to weasel out of the problem this story poses by arguing that most of the quails
were just left on the ground to rot.
There are no discrepancies in the Bible? Well, if obvious exaggeration is not a discrepancy,
what is it? Go to the next article in the series.
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OCTNOVOCT
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12 Nov 2006 10 Aug 2016 20052006 2008
About this capture
Logistical Improbabilities in the
Wilderness-Wandering Tales
Another Problem with the Quails
by Farrell Till
In "Yahweh's Quails," we saw the logistical absurdities that would have been involved in the
biblical tale of quails that Yahweh caused to fall to a depth of three feet for 20 miles in all
directions around the Israelite camp. Besides the sheer logistics that would have been
involved in the gathering of these quails as claimed in the biblical text, this fanciful little tale
presents another problem for biblical inerrantists. According to the story, Yahweh clearly said
that he would give the complaining Israelites enough meat to last them a month, so much
meat, in fact, that it would come out at their nostrils and become loathsome to them.
Numbers 11:18 "Therefore Yahweh will give you meat, and you shall eat. 19 You shall eat
not only one day, or two days, or five days, or ten days, or twenty days, but for a whole
month--until it comes out of your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you--because you have
rejected Yahweh who is among you, and have wailed before him, saying, 'Why did we ever
leave Egypt?'"
So Yahweh's prediction was that these bellyaching Israelites would chew on quails for a
month until the meat came out their nostrils and became loathsome to them, but according to
Yahweh's inspired, inerrant word, this isn't what happened .
Numbers 11:32 So the people worked all that day and night and all the next day, gathering
the quails; the least anyone gathered was ten homers; and they spread them out for
themselves all around the camp. 33 But while the meat was still between their teeth, before it
was consumed, the anger of Yahweh was kindled against the people, and Yahweh struck the
people with a very great plague. 34 So that place was called Kibroth-hattaavah, because
there they buried the people who had the craving.
So one passage from Yahweh's inspired, inerrant word says that he told the people they would
eat so much meat (for at least a month) that it would become loathsome to them, but another
passage (just a few verses further along) says that the people never even had the opportunity
to eat the quails, because Yahweh struck the people with a "very great plague" while the meat
was still between their teeth, before it was consumed, and killed those who had had "the
craving."
But there are no discrepancies in the Bible, are there? Go to the next article in the series.
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OCTNOVOCT
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12 Nov 2006 10 Aug 2016 20052006 2008
About this capture
Logistical Improbabilities in the
Wilderness-Wandering Tales
At Least the Priests Had Meat
by Farrell Till
In "Yahweh's Quails," we looked at what Yahweh's "inspired" word said about a near food
riot when the people grew weary of manna and demanded meat to eat. After Moses had
cooled the petulant Yahweh's temper in this matter, Yahweh said that he would send them
meat to eat until it became loathsome to them and was coming out of their nostrils (Num.
11:19). This was done through a wind from the sea (of all places) that blew in quails that fell
for a depth of three feet all around the camp for a distance of a day's journey (20-25 miles).
The people didn't get to enjoy their meat, however, for before they could consume it, Yahweh
sent a plague to kill the rebellious ones. Then all was well again until Miriam and Aaron
complained about Moses' leadership (chapter 12) and the people trembled at the report of the
spies (chapters 13 and 14). It seems that there was just always something turning the chosen
ones against the god who went before them in a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night,
talked to them from the door of the tabernacle, brought them water from rocks, parted the Red
Sea, etc., etc., etc. Boy, talk about a lack of appreciation! These chosen ones had it. We have
to wonder why the inscrutable Yahweh selected such an ungrateful lot to be his chosen people
above all nations on the face of the earth (Deut. 7:6-7). Ah, well, God's ways are not to be
questioned, and in the sweet by and by, we will undoubtedly understand it all.
At any rate, the people bellyached at the lack of meat in their diet, but we could hardly
suppose that the priests had any complaints. This is because the priests were required to eat
many of the sacrifices after they had been offered: "And Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying,
Speak to Aaron and to his sons, saying, This is the law of the sin-offering. In the place where
the burnt-offering is killed shall the sin-offering be killed before Yahweh. It is most holy. The
priest that offers it for sin shall eat it. In the holy place shall it be eaten, in the court of the tent
of meeting" (Lev. 6:24-27). Of sacrifices boiled in earthen vessels, "every male among the
priests shall eat thereof; it is most holy" (v:29). Every male among the priests shall eat
thereof? Well, that would have been four at the most, Aaron and his two sons Eleazar and
Ithamar, and then later Eleazar's son Phinehas (Num. 25:10-13).
The same commandment applied to "trespass-offerings." The priest was to "burn them upon
the altar" (Lev. 7:5), and then "every male among the priests shall eat thereof; it shall be eaten
in a holy place. It is most holy" (v:6). Every male among the priests were to eat of it? Well,
there really wasn't much danger that some female priest might eat it, was there? Anyway, if
the people were to have meat coming out of their nostrils after the quail episode, with the
number of sacrifices that only four priests had to officiate at and dispose of, the priests
undoubtedly had meat coming out of every orifice. We have already seen that each priest
would have had to officiate at 45 birth-purification sacrifices each day in a population of 3
million that had remained stable over a period of 40 years. But this was only one of many
types of sacrifices. In the Hebrew sacrificial system a sin offering had to be offered each year
in remembrance of individual sins (Heb. 10:3). Yahweh was apparently considerate enough
not to hold children responsible for their conduct (Num. 14:31-33; Deut. 1:39), but if we
assume that about 50% of the wilderness population were adults who would have had to
sacrifice sin-offerings in order to comply with Yahweh's law, this would mean that about 1.5
million sin offerings were made each year, even if we allow only one such offering per year
per adult. Leviticus 4:1-12 indicates that such offerings were to be made whenever one sinned
"unwittingly," so as complicated as Yahweh's legal system was, this could have easily
necessitated several sin-offerings per year for most people. However, in deference to Hebrews
10:3 (cited above) and to give inerrantists every benefit of the doubt, we will assume that an
adult offered a sin-offering only once per year. These 1.5 million sin offerings per year would
have averaged 4,110 per day or 171 every hour of every day. If these were divided evenly
among the four priests, each priest would have officiated at 43 sacrifices per hour, if all four
of them worked around the clock throughout the year without even taking time to sleep. That
would have been quite a task even with an altar a piece for the priests, but, in fact, there was
only one altar in the tabernacle (where all offerings had to be made), so this altar would have
had to accommodate all 171 sacrifices per hour, that were being offered each hour of every
day.
How the priests could have managed this is inconceivable, especially since the sin-offering
was a bullock, whose offal had to be carried 1.5 miles BY the priests to be burned outside the
camp (Lev. 4:11-12). All this would have been in addition to the birth-purification sacrifices
already mentioned, which would have averaged about 45 per day, per priest, and the
"trespass-offerings" and meal offerings and burnt-offerings, etc., etc., etc. ad infinitum. The
situation is further complication by the fact that the priests were to eat the sin-offerings after
they were sacrificed (Lev. 6:24-26), so in addition to officiating at 171 sin-offerings every
hour of every day, killing the animal at the altar; separating the fat, kidneys, liver, and other
parts that were to be sacrificed on the altar; carrying the offal 1.5 miles to the outside of the
camp and burning it, the priests also had to eat the parts that were sacrificed on the altar.
Needless to say, weight problems must have plagued those poor priests, but perhaps the
excess weight was worked off by the exercise involved in wagging the offal of 43 bullocks
1.5 miles each hour of every day to burn it outside the camp.
Common sense tells us--with the exception of biblical inerrantists--that just four priests could
not have eaten all the meat that would have been offered by 1.5 million people offering the
sacrifices required of them in these passages. The book of Leviticus has all the earmarks of
having been written at a much later date by a priest or priests intent upon protecting their turf
and ensuring their livelihood with a continual supply of food that they would take from the
altar sacrifices. Unfortunately, these priests made the mistake of putting their sacrificial laws
into a setting that made them logistically nonsensical. Anyone who doubts that this book was
written by priests looking to ensure their livelihood should read Leviticus carefully (assuming
that the boredom can be endured) with a view to noticing how many times the author(s) took
care to point out what the priests' share should be of the sacrifices that were brought to the
altar. Only a very gullible person could believe that this book accurately portrayed how
sacrifices were offered by 3 million people in a desert wilderness and officiated over by just
three or four priests. Go to the next article in the series.
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OCTNOVOCT
8 captures
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About this capture
Logistical Improbabilities in the
Wilderness-Wandering Tales
Getting the Whole Congregation Together
by Farrell Till
In the eight previous articles in this series, we have seen many logistical improbabilities--and
sometimes downright impossibilities--in the biblical tales of the 40-year wilderness
wanderings of the Israelites. Let's now imagine all 3 million Israelites standing together like
packed sardines instead of lying down in their 6' x 3' plot that was allotted when we calculated
what the minimum land area for an encampment would had to have been. Let's suppose that
all three million could stand together on a plot that allowed a 2-foot by 2-foot area for each
person. Where one person's four-square-foot plot ended, another one's would begin. Putting
everyone together this compactly, all three million could have stood on a land area of 12
million square feet. In yards, the area of this plot of standing room only would have been
1,333,333 square yards. That would equal 275 acres of ground. (Of course, one would not
have wanted to be in the very center of this mass of humanity when the mandatory trip out of
the camp with one's trowel [Deut. 23:12-13] became necessary.) Anyone who grew up on a
farm of any size should have an idea of how much land area this would be. The family farm
that I grew up on in Missouri was only 120 acres or less than half this size. There would be no
way that anyone could have stood in the middle of my family's farm and speak and be heard
everywhere on the farm.
Why is this important? We read in many places in the exodus stories that Moses would
sometimes call the entire congregation of Israel together to speak to them. The premise of
Deuteronomy, in fact, is that of a speech that Moses made to "all Israel" (1:1). On some
occasions, Moses would call the whole congregation together at the door of the tabernacle to
speak to them: "And Yahweh spoke to Moses saying... assemble all the congregation at the
door of the tabernacle, and Moses did as Yahweh commanded him, and the congregation was
assembled at the door of the tabernacle" (Lev. 6:1-5). Now the dimensions of the tabernacle
are recorded in Exodus 27:11-12, and its court at the front entry was only 50 cubits wide.
Even if we accept the long cubit as a standard, this would have made the breadth of the court
only 90 feet. So how could Moses have possibly assembled the entire congregation before the
court of the tabernacle? If the people had stood in rows 90 feet wide, each row would have
accommodated only 45 people, so 66,666 rows would have been necessary to get all of the
people in front of the tabernacle entry. The rows would then have extended back from the
entry to a distance of 25 miles. Needless to say, this would have made it impossible for Moses
to have spoken to the entire congregation. Even if we put 135 people in each row, so that the
rows would have extended 90 feet on each side beyond the width of the court, there would
have been 22,222 rows of people stretching back for a distance of 8.4 miles.
Inerrantists will argue that "all of the congregation" didn't mean all of the Israelites in the
exodus but only the adults. That hardly solves the problem, because if we cut the population
figures in half to accommodate this quibble, that would simply halve the scenarios presented
above, and no reasonable person can think that 1.5 million adults assembled on 137.5 acres of
land or in a column 4.2 miles long could hear a speech that Moses was delivering without a
public address system. Obviously, all of Moses speeches to "all Israel" or the "whole
congregation" are simply more exaggerations in the fanciful tale of Israel's trek from Egypt to
the promised land. Go to the next article in the series.
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12 Nov 2006 10 Aug 2016 20052006 2008
About this capture
Logistical Improbabilities in the
Wilderness-Wandering Tales
When Nature Called
by Farrell Till
We have seen some of the logistical problems that would have been involved in setting up
encampments for 2.5 to 3 million people and carrying out the sacrificial ceremonies that the
Levitical law required. Probably few inerrantists have ever considered a wilderness problem
that all densely populated areas must solve, and that is the problem of human-waste disposal.
The following passage made some stipulations in this regard that would have posed some
special hardships on the Israelites during their wilderness wanderings.
Deuteronomy 23:12 You shall have a designated area outside the camp to which you shall
go. 13 With your utensils you shall have a trowel; when you relieve yourself outside, you shall
dig a hole with it and then cover up your excrement. 14 Because Yahweh your God travels
along with your camp, to save you and to hand over your enemies to you, therefore your camp
must be holy, so that he may not see anything indecent among you and turn away from you.
This passage clearly indicates that latrines were not allowed inside the encampment, and so
when nature called, one was required to go outside of the 9-square-mile camp to attend to it.
He/she was to take along a "trowel" (paddle in some translations) to dig a hole in which to
bury the excrement. It is hard to imagine how large this "designated" area would have had to
have been to accommodate 2.5 million people digging their individual holes to attend to their
business. If each hole were only 6 inches by 6 inches, a "designated area" of 625,000 square
feet or 69,444 square yards would be needed to provide a hole for each person. Since there are
4,840 square yards in an acre, this "designated area" would have had to have been 14.35 acres
in size to accommodate each person's going "outside the camp" with his/her trowel just once
per day.
In Yahweh's inscrutable wisdom that led him to choose this method of waste disposal rather
than ordering the construction of pit latrines, special problems would have necessarily ensued.
In a time, for example, when there was no Imodium A-D, diarrhea would have seriously
complicated the problems. It's hard to imagine how 2.5 million people trekking throughout the
day to this "designated area" could have attended to their needs without at times uncovering
the holes that others had used. This must have caused many unpleasant moments. Yahweh
may, of course, have anticipated this problem and instructed Moses to make the designated
area much larger than 14.35 acres. Indeed, this would surely have been necessary, since the
14.35 acres would have provided for only one 6-inch by 6-inch hole per person per day. Since
the Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 years and since Numbers 33 listed only 41
encampments for them, they would have averaged spending almost a year at each camp site.
Unless a big chunk of land outside these camps was set aside as the "designated area," there
would have been a lot of unpleasant digging experiences.
Other than that is the problem that would have confronted those who felt nature calling during
the night. Those in the middle of the encampments would have had to trek at least 1.5 miles
just to reach the "designated area." Men with prostrate problems surely suffered from sleep
deprivation but would have otherwise been in good physical condition from the exercise they
got from walking back and forth to the "designated area." Inerrantists will no doubt poohpooh (pun intended) this posting, but I didn't put Deuteronomy 23:12-14 in the Bible; I have
merely critically analyzed what it says and found that it presents another problem of logistics
that biblicists need to explain if they expect rational people to believe that their Bible is the
inspired, inerrant word of an omniscient, omnipotent deity.
Some inerrantists will claim that this requirement concerning waste disposal applied only to
the Israelite army when it was engaged in campaigns against the enemy, because verses 9-11
say, "When you are encamped against your enemies you shall guard against any impropriety.
If one of you becomes unclean because of a nocturnal emission, then he shall go outside the
camp; he must not come within the camp. When evening comes, he shall wash himself with
water, and when the sun has set, he may come back into the camp."
This is more of a quibble than an argument, because when the entire 23rd chapter is read, it
should be apparent that the commandments it contains were intended to apply to all Israelites
and not just to the soldiers. I'm sure that even inerrantists would not argue, for example, that a
man with crushed testicles or an amputated penis (v:1) should be allowed into the assembly as
long as he wasn't a soldier. Did the commandment against sodomites (v:17) apply only to
soldiers? Could an Israelite lend money for interest as long as he wasn't a soldier (v:19)?
Leviticus 26:11-12 states that Yahweh had set his tabernacle among the Israelites and walked
among them. The tabernacle was set up in the center of the general encampment of the
Israelites (Num. 3), so if Yahweh walked among the Israelites where the tabernacle was, that
would have to mean that he walked in the general encampment of the Israelites. If he didn't
want to be repelled by the sight of excrement in an encampment of soldiers, why would he
feel any differently about encountering it in the general encampment? The statement
in Leviticus 26:11-12, by the way, is in a larger context that speaks of Yahweh's being with
the Israelites to drive their enemies out of the land. In other words the language here is very
similar to Deuteronomy 23:14, which speaks of Yahweh walking "in the midst of the camp."
At any rate, very little is solved by quibbling that the policy on waste disposal applied only to
soldiers and not to the Israelites in general, because the Israelite army numbered 600,000, so
if the calculations above are divided by four in order to limit this commandment just to the
army, the logistical problems would still exist. Can you imagine an army of 600,000 that did
not provide latrine facilities within its camp, but every soldier was required to trek without the
camp? Go to the last article in the series.
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OCTNOVOCT
12
9 captures
20052006 2008
12 Nov 2006 9 May 2017
About this capture
Logistical Improbabilities in the
Wilderness-Wandering Tales
The Water Problem
by Farrell Till
Nine previous articles in this series have discussed the logistical improbabilities and, at times,
impossibilities in the biblical tales of the Israelite wilderness wanderings in the Sinai region
over a 40-year period. As improbable as the logistics were in the other wilderness tales I have
examined, they dwarf in comparison to the problem of how three million Israelites and their
enormous flocks and herds were able to survive for 40 years in a region where water was
scarce. That water was scarce in the Sinai was recognized in the many texts that referred to
the water shortages that the Israelites encountered in their wilderness journeys. The first such
reference was made after the "chosen ones" had traveled three days into the wilderness.
Exodus 15:22 Then Moses ordered Israel to set out from the Red Sea, and they went into the
wilderness of Shur. They went three days in the wilderness and found no water. 23 When
they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter. That is
why it was called Marah. 24 And the people complained against Moses, saying, "What shall
we drink?" 25 He cried out to Yahweh; and Yahweh showed him a piece of wood; he threw it
into the water, and the water became sweet. There Yahweh made for them a statute and an
ordinance and there he put them to the test.
Other passages refer to water shortages that the Israelites afterwards encountered on their
journey, but for now let's look at some implications in the incident claimed in the passage just
quoted. If the Israelites journeyed three days and found no water until they came to Marah,
they must have either traveled three days in a desert region without water or else they carried
with them the water they needed. Studies that have been done in desert suvival show that it
would have been unlikely that they could have traveled for three days in a desert region
without water. The following quotation is from a survivalist website that discusses the number
of days that one could survive in the desert at different temperatures with different quantities
of drinking water available.
Without water you will last about 2 1/2 days at 48C (120F) if you spend the whole time
resting in the shade, though you could last as long as 12 days if the temperature stays below
21C (70F).
If you are forced to walk to safety the distance you cover will relate directly to water
available.
With none, a temperature of 48C (120F) walking only at night, resting all day, you could
cover 40km (25 miles).
Attempting to walk by day you would be lucky to complete 8km (5 miles) before collapse.
At the same temperature with about 2 litres (4 pt) of water you might cover 56km (35 miles)
and last 3 days.
The biblical text quoted above says that the Israelites journeyed three days, so they did not
spend those three days sitting in the shade. They were marching in a desert region, so unless
they were carrying water with them, they could have traveled only about five miles before
they would have collapsed. Quibbling that they may have traveled only at night would not
solve the problem of having to transport water with them, because the satistics above state
that one could last only two and a half days without water if he/she spent that time resting in
the shade. Hence, inerrantists, who claim that the wilderness wandering tales are historically
accurate, cannot escape the need to explain how the Israelites could have transported with
them enough water to provide them and their livestock with their daily requirements.
Studies conducted by the U. S. Army basically argree with the information in the survivalist
site. The section quoted below underscores the extent of the problem that biblical inerrantists
confront when they try to defend the biblical claim that three million Israelites and large
flocks and herds of livestock could have found adequate water in the Sinai region to survive
there for 40 years.
The subject of man and water in the desert has generated considerable interest and confusion
since the early days of World War II when the U. S. Army was preparing to fight in North
Africa. At one time the U. S. Army thought it could condition men to do with less water by
progressively reducing their water supplies during training. They called it water discipline. It
caused hundreds of heat casualties. A key factor in desert survival is understanding the
relationship between physical activity, air temperature, and water consumption. The body
requires a certain amount of water for a certain level of activity at a certain temperature. For
example, a person performing hard work in the sun at 43 degrees C requires 19 liters of
water daily. Lack of the required amount of water causes a rapid decline in an individual's
ability to make decisions and to perform tasks efficiently.
Your body's normal temperature is 36.9 degrees C (98.6 degrees F). Your body gets rid of
excess heat (cools off) by sweating. The warmer your body becomes--whether caused by work,
exercise, or air temperature--the more you sweat. The more you sweat, the more moisture you
lose. Sweating is the principal cause of water loss. If a person stops sweating during periods
of high air temperature and heavy work or exercise, he will quickly develop heat stroke. This
is an emergency that requires immediate medical attention. Figure 13-2 shows daily water
requirements for various levels of work. Understanding how the air temperature and your
physical activity affect your water requirements allows you to take measures to get the most
from your water supply. These measures are-Find shade! Get out of the sun!
Place something between you and the hot ground.
Limit your movements!
Conserve your sweat. Wear your complete uniform to include T-shirt. Roll the sleeves
down, cover your head, and protect your neck with a scarf or similar item. These steps will
protect your body from hot-blowing winds and the direct rays of the sun. Your clothing will
absorb your sweat, keeping it against your skin so that you gain its full cooling effect. By
staying in the shade quietly, fully clothed, not talking, keeping your mouth closed, and
breathing through your nose, your water requirement for survival drops dramatically.
If water is scarce, do not eat. Food requires water for digestion; therefore, eating food will
use water that you need for cooling.
All research conducted on this subject shows that survival in the desert is inextricably
connected to the availability of water, so let's look now at the logistics that would have been
involved in a three-day journey of three million people with large flocks and herds of
livestock across a desert terrain. Logistics in biblical stories, of course, is something that
biblicists never think about, but those who do take the time to examine the wilderness tales in
terms of what would have been involved in doing everything claimed in the stories will have
no difficulty seeing that their historicity is extremely unlikely.
On the eve of their exodus from Egypt, the god of the Hebrews instituted the Passover and
ordered that month to be the first month of the Hebrew year (Ex. 12:2). This would have been
the month of Abib [Nisan], which would have overlapped March/April in the Gregorian
calendar presently used in western societies. The minimum temperatures for March and April
in the Sinai region range from 54 to 59 degress Fahrenheit and the maximum temperatures
from 73 to 82, so the three-day journey mentioned above would have occurred at a time when
the Israelites would have encountered temperatures that would have made water more critical
to their survival than if this three-day journey had happened in the winter. The U. S. Army
study of desert survival quoted above said that a person's water requirements would have been
19 liters [20 quarts approximately] per day in 43 degrees Centigrade or 108 degrees
Fahrenheit. Since the three-day journey under consideration would have occurred when the
temperature was well below 43C [108F], I will be generous and present a scenario in which
the Israelites used only one-fifth of the daily amount in the army study.
Let's suppose, then, that the Israelites consumed only one gallon per person per day during
this journey. That would mean that they consumed nine million gallons of water before they
came to Marah. A gallon of water weighs eight pounds, so if each person carried his
minimum daily requirement, he/she would have begun the journey burdened with 24 pounds
of water in addition to what else may have been necessary to carry. Those who think that this
would not have been an undue burden should take a backpack loaded with 24 pounds of
books or other objects and begin walking. When fatigue sits in, they can then imagine what it
would have been like to carry this load for an entire day or at least until it was lightened by
the person's gradual consumption of his first day's ration, which consumption would have
undoubtedly occurred during that day. The next day the journey would have begun with 16
pounds of water and so on until the entire amount were consumed on the third day. In a word,
this would have been a strenuous three-day trip if each person had also carried his minimum
daily requirement, but since many of the three million would have been children, some of the
adults would have had to begun the trip with even more than 24 pounds of water, and this
scenario doesn't even consider what the minimum daily water requirements would have been
for the large flocks and herds that the Israelites took with them (Ex. 12:38; Ex. 11:21-22).
To argue that each person carried his own water would be to ignore other factors involved in
the wilderness-wandering tales. If, for example, each adult started out carrying three gallons
of water, how did they transport other items that they would have needed to carry with them?
An informed inerrantist should know that, as these tales were spun in the Bible, the Israelites
had taken with them more than just the clothes on their backs. For one thing, they had a lot of
gold, silver, and brass with them, which they later contributed to overlay furniture in the
tabernacle (Ex. 25:1-3, 11, 17, 18, etc., etc., etc.) and to pay the taxes that were levied on each
male during the census (Ex. 30:12-16). The overlays on the furniture were made of "pure
gold" (Ex. 25:11), and the cherubim and mercyseat on the ark of the covenant were made of
gold (25:18-19). The candlestick was made of "pure gold" (25:31), etc. In addition to this, the
people had given gold to Aaron to make the golden calf (Ex. 32:2-3). The census tax brought
in 100 talents and 75 shekels of silver (Ex. 38:25-26); the gold that was used for the work in
the sanctuary was 29 talents and 730 shekels (v:24); 100 talents were used to make the
sockets for the veil in the tabernacle (v:27); 1,775 shekels were used to make the hooks
(v:28); 70 talents and 2,400 shekels of brass were used to make other accessories in the
tabernacle (v:29). This all amounts to a weight of 299 talents and 4905 shekels. A talent
equaled 75.6 pounds, so this means that the Israelites had to transport with them at least
22,604 pounds of precious metals. A shekel was .4 oz, so the 4,905 shekels would have
increased the weight of precious metals to about 22,726 pounds or over 11 tons of gold, silver,
and brass.
Who carried these metals? Divided among the adult population, this wouldn't have amounted
to any substantial burden, but it would have increased the load that the adults would have had
to carry in addition to their water supply.
Let's look at this problem in another way. To travel three days over desert terrain, three
million people would have needed a minimum of nine million gallons of water just for
themselves without any consideration of what their livestock would have needed. Nine
million gallons of water would weight 72 million pounds. That would have been 36,000 tons
of water. To transport this much water, without burdening themselves and increasing their
daily water requirements, these Israelites would have had to have had with them a fleet of
tanker wagons (which their hasty exodus from Egypt would not have allowed them time to
build). If we imagined that a tanker wagon could have carried 2,000 gallons of water and that
horses or some other beasts of burden could have pulled a wagon weighing 16,000 pounds
through a sandy desert terrain, the Israelites would have needed 4,500 such tanker wagons to
transport just the water that the people would have needed. Only a hopelessly naive inerrantist
would argue that this was how the Israelites supplied their daily water requirements.
Some inerrantists have tried to solve this problem by postulating that the Israelites had used
pack animals--horses or some such--to transport their water, but this scenario would present
another logistic nightmare. If one horse began the trip carrying 60 gallons or 480 pounds of
water, the Israelites would have needed a caravan of 150,000 horses, each ladened with 60
gallons of water as the three-day march began. The minimum daily requirement of water for a
horse, however, is 20-30 gallons per day in dry weather, so a horse that began the trip
carrying 60 gallons of water would have had enough only to provide that horse with its own
minimum daily requirement for the three-day march. There would have been none for the
people.
Diehard quibblers have tried to imagine the Israelites traveling with a caravan of camels that
transported their water (even though the exodus stories made no references at all to camels),
but this is hardly a solution to the problem. For the sake of argument, let's suppose that the
Israelites began their three-day march with a caravan of camels to carry their 9 million gallons
of water. They would have needed 180,000 camels if each camel carried 50 gallons of water,
which would have weighed 400 pounds. If we increased their load to 75 gallons (600 pounds),
the caravan would have been 120,000 camels long. Although camels have been known to go
up to 20 days without water, they should be given at least 20-40 liters [five to eight
gallons] every two days.
If they are deprived of water for a long period e.g. 10 days, they should be allowed to spend
up to 8 hours drinking water as it takes time to replenish all the body fluids.
In other words, camels are animals, so they need water. Whatever body weight they lose in
dehydration over periods of water deprivation eventually has to be made up or else they will
die like any other dehydrated animals. Over a three-day journey, a herd of 120,000 camels
may not have created any short-term additional water problems, but over a period of 40 years,
this many camels would have caused the Israelites many problems in their water management,
as the following study of Australian camels indicates.
The permanent nature of many desert soaks and gnamma holes is threatened by camels.
Trampling by camels may damage the vegetation of desert soaks, which could lead to the
greater exposure of the water surface, resulting in their drying up (Dragon Tree Soak, ANCA,
1996). Camels drink some gnamma holes dry (Gibson Desert Gnamma Holes, ANCA, 1996).
So even if the Israelites had transported a three-day supply of water with their unmentioned
camels, eventually these animals would have required large amounts of water along with the
other livestock that the Israelites had with them and would have apparently been destructive
to whatever water sources the Israelites came to along the way. We will see shortly what
problems would have been involved in supplying water for herds of cattle and sheep during
the 40-year Israelite trek through the Sinai. As just noted above, adding camels to their herds
would have only complicated their water problems.
Let's now consider the claim that the Israelites also had with them "very much cattle" (Ex.
12:37-38). How much would be "very much"? We don't know, but it certainly doesn't sound
as if the writer meant just a few head of cattle. According to one source, each cow or bull
would have needed 10 to 17 gallons of water per day, depending on heat conditions. Thus, if
the "very much cattle" of the Israelites had numbered only 10,000 head of cattle, they would
have needed 100,000 to 170,000 gallons of water per day or 300,000 to 510,000 gallons over
the three-day march.
Before inerrantists say that my estimate of the number of cattle the Israelites had is too high,
let him consider Numbers 31, which claims that the Israelites took 675,000 sheep, 12,000
oxen, and 71,000 asses as booty in their massacre of the Midianites (v:22-34). At the end of
their wilderness wanderings, the Reubenites and Gadites "had a very great multitude of cattle"
(Num. 32:1). In order to have had a great multitude of cattle at the end of their wanderings,
they would have had to have had sizable herds during their wilderness wanderings, and that is
certainly implied in the scripture cited above, which says that the Israelites left Egypt with
"very much cattle."
None of this gives us any exact numbers of cattle, but one would have to have his head in the
sand to think that the various references to Israelite cattle in the wilderness meant that they
had had only a few scattered herds. In "Sacrifices and the Size of the Hebrew
Camps" and "Where Did They Get the Wood?" I showed that just the purfication sacrifices
for women in a population of three million would have required 25,185 lambs per year and
that just one sin-offering per year for each of the 1.5 million adults would have required 1.5
million bullocks per year. In addition to these required sacrifices, there were "peaceofferings," "burnt-offerings," "trespass-offerings," and so on. In order to keep the ordinances
that commanded these sacrifices, the Israelites would have had to have had flocks and herds
that numbered into the millions; otherwise, the continuous sacrifices commanded in the
Levitical code would have killed off their herds long before their 40-year trek had ended. Just
celebrating the Passover would have required the killing of 100,000 males lambs, without
blemish, each year. This number is predicated on the unlikely assumption that the average
size of a group sharing a Passover lamb was 30 people.
Exodus 12:3 Tell the whole congregation of Israel that on the tenth of this month they are to
take a lamb for each family, a lamb for each household. 4 If a household is too small for a
whole lamb, it shall join its closest neighbor in obtaining one; the lamb shall be divided in
proportion to the number of people who eat of it. 5 5 Your lamb shall be without blemish, a
year-old male....
The gestation period in sheep is approximately 150 days or five months. Under carefully
controlled conditions, modern sheep farmers are able to average three lambs per year in their
ewes, but for the sake of argument, let's suppose that the Hebrew flocks were able to produce
two lambs per ewe each year, with no mortality rate. Only half of the lambs would have been
males, so in order to produce 100,000 males each year, the Hebrew flock would have had to
have had 100,000 females, each consistently averaging the production of two lambs per year.
Each ewe, not even considering the rams, would have needed a minimum of two gallons of
water per day, and in order to produce 100,000 males each year, the ewes would have also
produced 100,000 females each year. Just the ewes in the Hebrew herd would have need
400,000 gallons of water per day, and this doesn't even take into consideration how much
would have been needed to water the cattle, horses, and [hypothetical] camels. Also when the
male lambs were born, they would have needed water to sustain them to reach the one year of
age when they would be slaughtered to celebrate the Passover. We are easily talking about a
need for 600,000 gallons of water per day just for the sheep in the Hebrew flocks.
My point is that an enormous amount of water would have been required each day to maintain
the three million Hebrews and their flocks and herds. Inerrantists who think that this is just a
minor problem that can be brushed aside as of no consequence haven't taken the time to think
the problem through. Those who grew up in cities and towns where water was always
available by just turning a faucet may not see the enormousness of the water problem when
they read the wilderness-wandering tales, but those who come from rural areas should know
better. I am reminded of what a man said to me after I had completed my oral debate in Pekin,
Illinois, with Kent Hovind, who had tried to explain how Noah could have taken specimens of
all animals in the world aboard the ark and attended to their needs for a year with only seven
other people to help him. This man approached me while I was talking to others in the
audience and told me that he believed in God but did not believe that the story of the ark
could have happened. He explained that he owned a livestock farm and was therefore familiar
with the many problems involved in animal management. He told me that anyone who
believes the ark story is someone who has not had any experience in tending animals. The
subject of water access during the wilderness wanderings didn't come up in that debate, but I
am sure that this man would also know that access to water in the wilderness would have
posed an insurmountable problem to the survival of the Israelites and their large herds of
livestock.
To illustrate this, let's just examine the story of the bitter water at Marah after the Israelites
had journeyed three days into the wilderness. The biblical text doesn't say whether the water
source at Marah was a well or a lake or an oasis, so to give biblicists as much advantage as
possible, let's just assume that Marah was a lake 1,000 feet in diameter. A lake of this size in
that region was very improbable, but if Marah were a lake of that diameter, it would have had
a circumference of 3,140 feet. If we imagine that the Israelites took advantage of every
running foot of terrain around a lake this big and that each person standing on the bank would
have occupied an area only three feet wide, which would have allowed him/her enough room
to dip water from the lake and then turn aside to carry the waterbag away to allow the next
person behind him to dip his/her water, such a scenario would have allowed only 1,047 people
to be dipping water from the lake at one time. Now let's suppose that the people formed lines
directly behind the 1,047 people who were the first to reach the lake. Let's further suppose
that each person going to the lake for water had a 5-gallon waterbag to dip into the lake to
retrieve water that would be shared with four other people. This would mean that 1,047 lines,
each of which contained queues of 573 people, would have had to have formed in order for
just one gallon of water to be retrieved for all of the three million in the exodus horde. If each
person in the 1,047 lines took only one minute to fill his/her five-gallon bag and then move
aside to make way for the next person in line, it would have taken 9.5 hours for one gallon of
water for each Hebrew in the exodus to have been retrieved from a lake of this size. Then the
lines would have had to continue working on through the night in order to retrieve enough
water to provide the needs of their large herds of livestock, even if we assume that the animals
could have been kept back from stampeding into the lake to get water. In other words,
retrieving water for the needs of three million people and their livestock wouldn't have been
nearly as simple as the impression left by the biblical text that tells this tale.
Exodus 15:23 When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it
was bitter. That is why it was called Marah. 24 And the people complained against Moses,
saying, "What shall we drink?" 25 He cried out to Yahweh; and Yahweh showed him a piece
of wood; he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet. There Yahweh made for
them a statute and an ordinance and there he put them to the test.
A Bible believer who reads this would probably say to himself, "Hey, there was no water
problem; God saw that the people got what they needed," but the scenario presented above
shows that providing water for that many people would have been far more complicated than
just throwing a piece of wood into the water. The complicated logistics involved in drawing
water from limited sources for three million people and their large herds of lifestock would
have had to have been repeated over and over as the Israelites wandered through the Sinai for
40 years.
Two verses after the text quoted above, we read that the Israelites came next to a place called
Elim.
Exodus 15:27 Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs of water and seventy
palm trees; and they camped there by the water.
We know nothing about the size of these springs. Perhaps they were even wells, because the
word ‘ayin is so translated in some places, and the KJV says that Elim was a place that had
twelve wells of water. That these springs or wells couldn't have been very large is suggested
by the fact that only 70 palms were growing around these 12 springs or wells. That would
have been fewer than six trees per spring (well), so if they were pools or oases fed by springs,
they couldn't have been very big. Getting water from these springs (wells) would have
entailed all of the problems presented in the scenario above. There is just no way to make the
water problem in the wilderness-wandering tales go away.
Inerrantists, of course, will insist that there would have been no water problem, because
Yahweh miraculously provided them with water whenever they needed it, as claimed in the
following text.
Exodus 17:1 From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by
stages, as Yahweh commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the
people to drink. 2 The people quarreled with Moses, and said, "Give us water to drink."
Moses said to them, "Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test Yahweh?" 3 But the
people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said, "Why did
you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?" 4 So Moses
cried out to Yahweh, "What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me." 5
Yahweh said to Moses, "Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with
you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. 6 I will be standing
there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so
that the people may drink." Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7 He called the
place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled and tested Yahweh, saying, "Is
Yahweh among us or not?"
Inerrantists will simplistically read a passage like this and think that there was no water
problem, but they fail to keep in mind that the water that came from this "rock" would have
had to have been enough to provide the needs of three million people and their flocks and
herds as long as they were in the camp. As we saw above, serious logistical problems would
have been involved in drawing enough water from a single source to provide just the
minimum daily requirements for three million people, so we must wonder what the rate of
flow was from this rock. If 100 gallons per minute had gushed from the rock, this flow would
have taken 500 hours or 20.8 days for three million gallons to come out. Thousands would
have died of dehydration while waiting to get water, and even those who had been the first to
draw water would have died before getting another turn at the rock. If we assume that ten
times this much (1000 gallons per minute) had gushed out, it would have taken over two days
for each person to get a gallon of water. With a thousand-gallon per minute spring gushing
water that couldn't even meet the minimum daily requirement of the three million Hebrews,
their livestock would have perished by the thousands.
A similar incident was recorded in Numbers 20 to give the impression that whenever the
Israelites needed water, Yahweh was Johnny-on-the-spot to bring it forth from rocks.
Numbers 20:1 The Israelites, the whole congregation, came into the wilderness of Zin in the
first month, and the people stayed in Kadesh. Miriam died there, and was buried there. 2 Now
there was no water for the congregation; so they gathered together against Moses and
against Aaron. 3 The people quarreled with Moses and said, "Would that we had died when
our kindred died before Yahweh! 4 Why have you brought the assembly of Yahweh into this
wilderness for us and our livestock to die here? 5 Why have you brought us up out of Egypt,
to bring us to this wretched place? It is no place for grain, or figs, or vines, or pomegranates;
and there is no water to drink." 6 Then Moses and Aaron went away from the assembly to the
entrance of the tent of meeting; they fell on their faces, and the glory of the LORD appeared
to them. 7 Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying: 8 Take the staff, and assemble the congregation,
you and your brother Aaron, and command the rock before their eyes to yield its water. Thus
you shall bring water out of the rock for them; thus you shall provide drink for the
congregation and their livestock. 9 So Moses took the staff from before Yahweh, as he had
commanded him. 10 Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he
said to them, "Listen, you rebels, shall we bring water for you out of this rock?" 11 Then
Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock twice with his staff; water came out abundantly,
and the congregation and their livestock drank.
And the congregation (meaning all the people of Israel) and their livestock drank, but we
saw above that getting enough water anywhere to meet the needs of "the congregation" and
their livestock would not have been as simple as texts like these would have uncritical
readers believe. According to Numbers 33:5-49, the Israelites stopped at 41 different places in
their trek through the Sinai region, so there would have been at least 41 times during their
wilderness wanderings that the "chosen ones" would have confronted the problem of drawing
water from limited sources to meet their needs and the requirements of their livestock.
Whoever wrote these accounts of getting water from rocks or twelve "wells" or "springs" just
didn't take the time to calculate how big those springs and rock flows would have had to have
been in order for the Israelites to get even their minimum needs.
Return to page one of Farrell Till's index page.
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About this capture
Samson: The Hebrew Version of the Strong-Man Myth
by Farrell Till
Judges 15:15 claims that Samson killed a thousand Philistines with the jawbone of an ass, but
according to the mythology of other nations of biblical times, Hercules and other strong-man
heroes did similar feats, defeating entire armies and such like single-handedly. Now if
Samson had killed 20 or even 10 of a thousand men rushing to overwhelm him, that would
have been remarkable enough, but the entire thousand? That's just too incredible to believe.
His final feat, however, taxed common sense and credulity even more. After being tricked by
Delilah into revealing that his uncut hair was the secret of his strength, an unlikely aspect of
Samson' story that I will say more about later, she cut off his hair so that the Philistines could
overpower him. He was then blinded and t