Fact checking the Bible (Part 3)

Bible verse used in the podcast

  • 1 Samuel 17:50 
  • 2 Samuel 21:19-20 
  • 1 Chronicles 20:5 
  • Gen 1:1-2, John 1:1-3 
  • Jude 1:6, 2 peter 2:4, Matthew 25:41, Revelation 12:9

Interesting resources

Through several examples, the concept of one, two or three pieces of evidence is a good study tool to use in many practical ways. But let’s talk about a more complicated issue we can use this trick for. We can use this trick to talk about theological and textural issues that might not be too straight forward all at once. 

Who killed Goliath?

One example is who killed Goliath? You might be thinking, everyone knows it’s David. And of course, the answer is yes. But we get into some trouble when we try to cross-reference this clear fact. For instance, we can find the story that we will know about:

4 And there came out from the camp of the Philistines a champion named Goliath of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. 5 He had a helmet of bronze on his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail, and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of bronze. 6 And he had bronze armor on his legs, and a javelin of bronze slung between his shoulders. … 49 And David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone and slung it and struck the Philistine on his forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the ground. 50 So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and struck the Philistine and killed him. There was no sword in the hand of David.

1 Samuel 17:4-6, 49-50 ESV

Clearly there is no doubt about this issue, David killed Goliath. But what happens when you cross-reference this issue? Can you look up other places that talk about Goliath? It turns out you can and when you do, in 2 Samuel, you find something that appears to be a contradiction:

19 And there was again war with the Philistines at Gob, and Elhanan the son of Jaare-oregim, the Bethlehemite, struck down Goliath the Gittite, the shaft of whose spear was like a weaver’s beam. 20 And there was again war at Gath, where there was a man of great stature, who had six fingers on each hand, and six toes on each foot, twenty-four in number, and he also was descended from the giants.

2 Samuel 21:19-20 ES

So was it David or was it Elhanan? This would seem like a clear contradiction if we only had these two verses. But we don’t just have these verses, we actually have another verse that sheds light on the issue. 

4 And after this there arose war with the Philistines at Gezer. Then Sibbecai the Hushathite struck down Sippai, who was one of the descendants of the giants, and the Philistines were subdued. 5 And there was again war with the Philistines, and Elhanan the son of Jair struck down Lahmi the brother of Goliath the Gittite, the shaft of whose spear was like a weaver’s beam.

1 Chronicles 20:4-5 ESV

From here we find that Goliath has a brother and we get some information about the spear he used. After some digging, some scholars have some insights into what happened. First, Hebrew is not quite like English where missing one letter completely changes grammatical structure and meaning. For the most part, you can understand something in English even if several words in a sentence are misspelled. In the Hebrew text, that is not so accurate. If you change a letter, that could change the meaning of the sentence. Upon inspection, what it seems is that a scribe mistook one letter when copying and that causes a change in the meaning of the sentence over time. You might be thinking, but I thought the scribes were so careful as to not change details? You are right, this story is one they would have been extremely familiar with but after years of copying, they decided to preserve the text rather than alter it after not being sure if this was originally inspired or not. 

This is a well-known issue and many Bible translators, including the King James, knew about this issue so not every English translation has this issue. The problem is, even though we know there could be a problem with the text, should we try to fix the mistake? Interestingly enough, if this issue was not in the text, we could talk about this issue with regards to Bible study techniques. As stated before, all because you have two pieces of evidence, you don’t necessarily know if they are truly the same or not unless you can look at other details to clarify. Having the third verse is necessary in order to resolve this issue. There is another item of interest when talking about this issue. There is something called Psalms 151 which is not considered to be inspired by most, but it does seem to talk about the story of David killing Goliath as part of a celebrator Psalm. Again pointing at the fact that historically David killing Goliath is consistent with the way we are interpreting things. Simple because the people of those days interpreted the text in that way.

Can we trust the creation narrative?

Here is another issue.  Can we trust the account of Genesis? I am not asking this from a scientific point of view but as a view of witnesses. Adam was not around during all of creation. Instead, he was created at the end. So all of this was done without his direct witness. So if we assume we only got the account orally passed down from Adam, how could we trust it? Well, it turns out we don’t need Adam’s testimony. We have three witnesses who were there in the beginning before Adam. We know the father, the son, and the holy spirit were all there in the beginning during creation:

1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

Genesis 1:1-2 ESV

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

John 1:1-3 ESV

What about sketchy theology?

Often we have this issue of filling in gaps about what we have explicitly stated in the Bible, and what we can infer about the text. Back when talking about David and Goliath we had to do that. We can take a step back from the text, look at what clues it says, and make judgments about things from these clues. So on some level, this method should not be discarded. There are a lot of others that we need to take a step back from the text and piece together. For instance the idea of the Trinity. There is no direct verse that uses the word trinity and much of what we know about how the trinity works come from different verses that you can string together to make a claim. Or if you looked back previously about what I said about solving this issue of who killed Goliath. 

One example has to do with Satan. It is clear that Satan feels, but what about Demons and all this other stuff that we see in the Bible?

9 And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world–he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.

Revelation 12:9 ESV

6 And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day–

Jude 1:6 ESV

4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment;

2 Peter 2:4 ESV

40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ 41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

Matthew 25:40-41 ESV

40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

Matthew 25:40 ESV

When looking at these verses, it is clear that Satan fell, but he was not alone. Some angels also fell with him. The question of why they fell and explanation would need to be explored another time. But it is clear that more than one place clearly indicates that something happened, not just the angels. But out of that you also find that Hell was not just for man. Hell has a greater purpose than just bad people who don’t believe in God’s plan of redemption through Jesus.

Now in my recording, I talk about the gap theory in the context of this idea of using three or more witnesses and cross-referencing the Bible. There was a lot I didn’t put into the recording and too much for even this post, so there will be another post (Fact checking the Bible Addendum) with more details just on the gap theory alone.

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