International Standard Bible EncyclopediaBIBLICAL DISCREPANCIES
See DISCREPANCIES, BIBLICAL.
I. BIBLICAL THEOLOGY AS A SCIENCE
2. Relation to Dogmatics
3. Place and Method of Biblical Theology
4. Relation to Scientific Exegesis
II. HISTORY OF BIBLICAL THEOLOGY
1. Its Rise in Scientific Form
2. Patristic and Scholastic Periods
3. Biblical Efforts in 17th and 18th Centuries
4. Old Testament Theology in First Half of 19th Century
5. New Testament Theology in the 19th Century
6. Old Testament Theology in Second Half of 19th Century
7. Bearings of Criticism on Old Testament Theology
III. DIVISIONS OF BIBLICAL THEOLOGY
1. Divergent Views of Old Testament Divisions
2. Law and Prophecy
3. Primal Prophetism and Final Judaism
4. Place of Mosaism
5. Nature of Israel's Religious Development
I. Biblical Theology As a Science.
Biblical theology seems best defined as the doctrine of Biblical religion. As such it works up the material contained in the Old Testament and the New Testament as the product of exegetical study. This is the modern technical sense of the term, whereby it signifies a systematic representation of Biblical religion in its primitive form.
Biblical theology has sometimes been taken to signify not alone this science of the doctrinal declarations of the Scriptures, but the whole group of sciences Concerned with the interpretation and exposition of the Scriptures. In that wider view of Biblical theology, the term exegetical theology has been used to define and include the group of sciences already referred to. But the whole weight of preference seems, in our view, to belong to the narrower use of the term Biblical theology, as more strictly scientific.
2. Relation to Dogmatics:
This is not to confound the science of Biblical theology with that of dogmatics, for their characters are sharply distinguished. The science of dogmatics is a historico-philosophical one; that of Biblical theology is purely historic. Dogmatics declares what, for religious faith, must be regarded as truth; Biblical theology only discovers what the writers of the Old Testament and the New Testament adduce as truth. This latter merely ascertains the contents of the ideas put forward by the sacred writers, but is not concerned with their correctness or verification. It is the what of truth, in these documentary authorities, Biblical theology seeks to attain. The why, or with what right, it is so put forward as truth, belongs to the other science, that of dogmatics.
3. Place and Method of Biblical Theology:
Biblical theology is thus the more objective science; it has no need of dogmatics; dogmatics, on the other hand, cannot be without the aid of Biblical theology. The Biblical theologian should be a Christian philosopher, an exegete, and, above all, a historian. For it is in a manner purely historical that Biblical theology seeks to investigate the teaching, in whole, of each of the sacred writers. Each writing it studies in itself, in its relation to the others, and in its place in history taken as a whole. Its method is historical-genetic. The proper place of Biblical theology is at the head of historical theology, where it shines as a center of light. Its ideal as a science is to present a clear, complete and comprehensive survey of the Biblical teachings.
4. Relation to Scientific Exegesis:
In pursuance of this end, Biblical theology is served by scientific exegesis, whose results it presents in ordered form so as to exhibit the organic unity and completeness of Biblical religion. The importance of Biblical theology lies in the way it directs, corrects and fructifies all moral and dogmatic theology by bringing it to the original founts of truth. Its spirit is one of impartial historical inquiry.
II. History of Biblical Theology.
1. Its Rise in Scientific Form:
Biblical theology, in any truly scientific form, dates only from the 18th century. Offspring as it was of German rationalism, it has yet been found deserving of cultivation and scientific study by the most orthodox theology. Indeed, Pietism, too, urged its claims as Biblical dogma, over against the too scholastic dogma of orthodoxy.
2. Patristic and Scholastic Periods:
The Patristic theology, no doubt, was Biblical, and the Alexandrian School deserves special praise. The scholastic theology of the Middle Ages leaned on the Fathers rather than on the Bible. Biblical theology, in spirit, though not in form, found a revival at the Reformation. But this was early followed by a 17th century type of scholasticism, polemical and confessional.
3. Biblical Efforts in 17th and 18th Centuries:
Even in that century, however, efforts of a more purely Biblical character were not wanting, as witness those of Schmidt, Witsius and Vitringa. But throughout the entire 18th century there were manifest endeavors to throw off the scholastic yoke and return to Biblical simplicity. Haymann (1708), Busching (1756), Zachariae (1772) and Storr (1793), are examples of the efforts referred to. But it was from the rationalistic side that the first vindication of Biblical theology as a science of independent rank was made. This merit belonged to Gabler (1787), who urged a purely historical treatment of the Bible, and was, later, shared by his colleague, G. L. Bauer, who issued a Biblical Theology of the New Testament (Ger) in four parts (1800-1802). More independent still was the standpoint assumed by C. F. Ammon in his Biblische Theologie (2nd edition, 1801-2). Ammon does not fail to apprehend the historical character of our science, saying that Biblical theology should deal only with the "materials, fundamental ideas, and results of Biblical teaching, without troubling itself about the connection of the same, or weaving them into an artificial system."
4. Old Testament Theology in First Half of 19th Century:
The influence of Schleiermacher was hardly a fortunate one, the Old Testament being sundered from the New Testament, and attention centered on the latter. Kayser (1813) and, still more, DeWette, who died in 1850, pursued the perfecting of our science, particularly in matters of method. Continuators of the work were Baumgarten-Crusius (1828), Cramer (1830) and Colln, whose work was posthumously presented by D. Schulz in 1836. It was in the second quarter of the 19th century that the Biblical theology of the Old Testament began to receive the full attention it deserved. It has been declared the merit of Hegel's philosophy to have taught men to see, in the various Biblical systems of doctrine, a complete development, and Hegel did, no doubt, exert a fertilizing influence on historical inquiry. But it must also be said that the Hegelian philosophy affected Biblical theology in a prejudicial manner, as may be seen in Vatke's a priori construction of history and doctrine in his work, Die bib. Theologie (1835), and in Bruno Bauer's Die Religion des AT (1838-39), which disputed but did not improve upon Vatke. Steudel (1840), Oehler (1845) and Havernick (1848) are worthy of particularly honorable mention in this Old Testament connection. In his Theology of the Old Testament (3rd edition, 1891; American edition, 1883) G. F. Oehler excellently maintained the close connection between the Old Testament and the New Testament, which Hengstenberg had already emphasized in 1829.
5. New Testament Theology in the 19th Century:
The Biblical theology of the New Testament was furthered by the memorable Neander. In 1832, he first issued his Planting and Training of the Christian Church, while his Life of Jesus first appeared in 1837. In this latter work, he summarized the doctrine of the Redeemer, while the former presented the doctrinal teaching of the apostolic writers in such wise as to show the different shades of thought peculiar to each of them, pointing out, at the same time, "how, notwithstanding all difference, there was an essential unity beneath, unless one is deceived by the form, and how the form in its diversity is easily explained." C. F. Schmid improved in some respects upon Neander's work in his excellent Biblical Theology of the New Testament, issued (1853) after his death by Weizsacker (new edition, 1864). In Schmid's work, the Biblical theology of the New Testament is presented with objectivity, clearness and penetrating sympathy.
Hahn's Theology of the New Testament (1854) came short of doing justice to the diverse types of doctrinal development in the New Testament. The work of G. V. Lechler on the apostolic and post-apostolic age, was, in its improved form of 1857, much more important. E. Reuss, in 1852, issued his valuable History of the Christian Theology of the Apostolic Age, a complete and critical work, but not sufficiently objective in its treatment. The Prelections on New Testament Theology of F. C. Baur, head of the Tubingen school, exemplify both the merits and the defects of the school. They are critical, independent and suggestive, but lacking in impartiality. They were published by his son after his death (1864). A new edition of these lectures on New Testament theology was issued by Pfleiderer in 1893.
Having first dealt with the teachings of Jesus, Baur then set out the materials of the New Testament theology in three periods, making Paul well-nigh the founder of Christianity. For him only four epistles of Paul were genuine products of the apostolic age, namely, Romans, the two Corinthians, Galatians, together with the Revelation. To the growth and history of the New Testament Baur applied the method of the Hegelian dialectic, and, though powerful and profound, displayed a lack of sane, well-balanced judgment. Yet so conservative a scholar as Weiss gave Baur the credit of having "first made it the problem of criticism to assign to each book of the New Testament its place in the history of the development of primitive Christianity, to determine the relations to which it owes its origin, the object at which it aims, and the views it represents." Among Baur's followers may be noted Pfleiderer, in his Paulinism (1873).
The Theology of the New Testament, by J. J. Van Oosterzee (English edition, 1870), is a serviceable book for students, and the New Testament Theology of A. Immer (1878), already famous for his hermeneutical studies, is noteworthy. Chief among subsequent cultivators of the Biblical theology of the New Testament must be reckoned B. Weiss, whose work in two volumes (English edition, 1882-83) constitutes a most critical and complete, thorough and accurate treatment of the subject in all its details: W. Beyschlag, whose New Testament Theology (English edition, in 2 volumes, 1895) is also valuable; H. Holtzmann, whose treatise on New Testament Theology (1897) dealt in a critical fashion with the doctrinal contents of the New Testament. Holtzmann's learning and ability are great, but his work is marred by naturalistic presuppositions. The French work on Theology of the New Testament, by J. Boron (2 volumes, 1893-94) is marked by great independence, skill and fairness. The Theology of the New Testament, by W. F. Adeney (1894), and the yet more recent, and very attractively written, work with the same title, by G. B. Stevens (1899), bring us pretty well up to the present state of our science in respect of the New Testament.
6. Old Testament Theology in Second Half of the 19th Century:
Coming back to the Biblical theology of the Old Testament in the second half of the 19th century, we find A. Klostermann's Investigations into the Old Testament Theology, which appeared in 1868. The Old Testament theology, no less than that of the New Testament, was set forth by that great scholar, H. Ewald, in four volumes (1871-75; English edition (first part), 1888). His interest in New Testament theology was due to his strong feeling that the New Testament is really the second part of the record of Israel's revelation. A. Kuenen dealt with the Religion of Israel in two volumes (English edition, 1874-75), writing nobly but with defective insight into, and comprehension of, the higher religious ideas of Israel. F. Hitzig's Prelections (1880) deal with theology of the Old Testament, as part of their contents. H. Schultz treated of the Old Testament Theology in two volumes (1st edition, 1869; 5th edition, 1896; English edition, 1892), in a careful, mainly just, and, by comparison, well-balanced handling of the development of its religious ideas.
We have not touched upon writers like Smend, for example, in his History of Old Testament Religion (1893), and J. Robertson, in his Early Religion of Israel (2nd edition, 1892), who treat of the Biblical theology of the Old Testament only in a way subsidiary to the consideration of the historico-critical problems. The Conception of Revelation in the Old Testament was dealt with by F. E. Konig in 1882 in a careful and comprehensive manner, and with regard to the order and relation of the documents, revelation in Israel being taken by him in a supranaturalistic sense. Significant also for the progress of Old Testament Biblical theology was The Theological and the Historical View of the Old Testament, by C. Siegfried (1890), who insisted on the development of the higher religion of Israel being studied from the elder prophets as starting-point, instead of the law.
Mention should be made of Biblical Study: Its Principles, Methods and History, by C. A. Briggs (1883; 4th edition, 1891); of the important Compendium of the Biblical Theology of the Old and the New Testament by K. Schlottmann (1889); of E. Riehm's valuable Old Testament Theology (1889); and of G. Dalman's Studies in Biblical Theology-the Divine name and its history-in 1889. Also, of the Old Testament Theology of A. Duff (1891); A. Dillmann's Handbook of Old Testament Theology, edited by Kittel (189:5); and of Marti's edition of the Theology of the Old Testament of A. Kayser (3rd edition, 1897).
Of Theology of the Old Testament, by A. B. Davidson (1904), it may be said that it does full justice to the idea of a progressive development of doctrine in the Old Testament, and is certainly divergent from the view of those who, like Cheyne, treat the Old Testament writings as so many fragments, from which no theology can be extracted. Biblical Theology of the Old Testament, by B. Stade (1905), is the work of a distinguished representative of the modern critical views, already famous for his work on the history of Israel (1887). The Theology of the Old Testament by W. H. Bennett (1906) is a clear and useful compendium of the subject.
7. Bearings of Criticism on Old Testament Theology:
Recent works like The Problem of the Old Testament by James Orr (1905), Old Testament Critics by Thomas Whitelaw (1903), and Essays in Pentateuchal Criticism, by Harold M. Wiener (1909), deal with the critical questions, and do not concern us here, save to remark that they are not without bearing, in their results, upon theology of the Old Testament. Such results are, e.g. the insistences, in Orr's work, on the unity of the Old Testament, the higher than naturalistic view of Israel's religious development, the discriminate use of Divine names like Elohim and Yahweh, and so forth; and the express contention in Whitelaw's work, that the critical hypotheses are not such as can yield "a philosophically reasonable theology" (p. 346). Indeed, it must not be supposed that even works, like that of S. R. Driver, Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament (first issued in 1891), axe without resultant influence on Biblical theology.
So far from that, the truth is that there is probably no result of the readjustment of the history and literature of the Old Testament so important as its bearings on the Biblical theology of the Old Testament. For the order and the method of revelation are most surely involved in the order and relation of the books or documents, and the course of the history. The progress of the revelation ran parallel with the work of God in Nature and in the growth of human society. Hence, the reconstruction of the historical theology of the Old Testament will take much time and study, that the full value of the Old Testament may be brought out as that of an independent and permanent revelation, with characteristic truths of its own. Meantime, the reality of that revelation, and the teleological character of the Old Testament, have been brought out, in the most signal manner, by theological scholars like Dorner, Dillmann, Kittel, Kautsch, Schultz and others, who feel the inadequacy of natural development or "human reflection" to account for Old Testament th eology, and the immediacy of God's contact with man in Old Testament times to be alone sufficient to account for a revelation so weighty, organically connected, dynamically bound together, monotheistic and progressive.
III. Divisions of Biblical Theology.
1. Divergent Views of Old Testament Divisions:
The divisions of Old Testament theology are matters of grave difficulty. For the newer criticism has practically transformed that mode of representing the process of Israel's religious development, which had been customary or traditional. On this latter view, the Patriarchal Age was succeeded by the Mosaic Age, with its law-giving under Moses, followed, after an intercalated period of Judges and monarchy, by the splendid Age of Prophecy. Then there was the Exile preparing the way, after the Return, for the new theocracy, wherein the Law of Moses was sought with more persistent endeavor, though not without darkly legalistic result. Such were the historic bases for Old Testament theology, but the modifications proposed by the new criticism are sufficiently serious. These it will be necessary to indicate, without going beyond the scope of this article and attempting criticism of either the one view or the other. It is the more necessary to do so, that finality has not been reached by criticism. We are only concerned with the difference which these divergent views make for Old Testament Biblical theology, whose reconstruction is very far from perfected.
2. Law and Prophecy:
That they do mean serious difference has been indicated in the historical part of this article. Most obtrusive of these differences is the proposal to invert the order of law and prophecy, and speak rather of the Prophets and the Law. For the Law is, on the newer view, taken to belong to the post-prophetic period-in short, to the period of the return from the Exile, whereas, in the traditional scheme of the order of revelation, the Law was found in full force both at the Exodus and the Return, with a dead-letter period between. The garment of legalism, the newer criticism asserts, could not have suited the Israelite nation in its early and undeveloped stage, as it does after the teachings of the prophets and the discipline of the Exile. Against this, the older scheme prefers the objection that an external and legalistic system is made the outcome of the lofty spiritual teaching of the prophets; the letter appears super-imposed upon the spirit. Criticism, however, postulates for the ritual codes of the Pentateuch an influence parallel in time with that of prophetism.
3. Primal Prophetism and Final Judaism:
Besides the adjustments of prophecy and law just referred to, the critical views postulate a primal period in which the religion of the prophets, with their view of Israel's vocation, was inculcated; also, a final period of Judaism, intercalated between the Return and the Maccabees, in which are seen at work the Levitical law, and various anti-legal tendencies. It must be obvious that attempts to integrate the Old Testament theology amid the prevailing uncertainties of criticism must be far from easy or final, even if the need and importance be felt of keeping the religious interest before even the historical in Old Testament study. For the Old Testament writers, religion was primary, history secondary and incidental, we may well believe.
4. Place of Mosaism:
We must be content to know less of the remote beginnings and initial stages of Israel's religious development, for, as A. B. Davidson remarked, "in matters like this we never can get at the beginning." J. Robertson deems criticism wrong in not allowing "a sufficient starting-point for the development," by which he means that pure prophetic religion needs "a pure pre-prophetic religion" to explain its more than "germinal or elementary character." It may be noted, too, how much greater place and importance are attached to Mosaism or Moses by critics like Reuss, Schultz, Bredenkamp and Strack, than by Wellhausen, who yet allows a certain substratum of actual and historical fact.
5. Nature of Israel's Religious Development:
It may be observed, further, that no one is under any compulsion to account for such a transformation, as even Wellhausen allows, in the slow growth from very low beginnings of the idea of Yahweh up to pure and perfect monotheism-among a non-metaphysical people-by the simple supposition of naturalistic theory. Evolutionary the critical hypothesis of the religious development of Israel may be, but that development was clearly not so exclusively controlled by human elements or factors as to exclude the presence of supernatural energy or power of revelation. It had God within it-had, in Dorner's phrase, "teleology as its soul." Thus, as even Gunkel declares, "Israel is, and remains, the people of revelation." This is why Israel was able to make-despite all retrograde tendencies-rectilinear progress toward a predestined goal-the goal of being what Ewald styled a "purely immortal and spiritual Israel." Old Testament theology does not seem to have sufficiently realized that the Old Testament really presents us with theologies rather than a theology-with the progressive development of a religion rather than with theological ideas resting on one historic plane.
I. Old Testament Literature:
B. Stade, Biblische Theologie des A T, 1905; H. Schultz, A T Theologie, 5th edition, 1896; English edition, 1892; H. Ewald, Revelation: Its Nature and Record, English edition, 1884; G F. Oehler, Theology of the Old Testament, English edition, 1874; A. Kuenen, The Religion of Israel to the Fall of the Jewish State, English edition, 1875; E. Riehm, AT Theologie, 1889; S. R. Driver, An Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament, 1st edition, 1891, A. B. Davidson, Theology the Old Testament, 1904; J. Orr, The Problem of the Old Testament, 1905; A. Duff, Old Testament Theology, 1891; J. Robertson, Early Religion of Israel, 2nd edition, 1892; W. R. Smith, The Old Testament in the Jewish Church, new edition, 1892; W. H. Bennett; The Theology of the Old Testament, 1896; T. K. Cheyne, Founders of Old Testament Criticism, 1893; T. Whitelaw, Old Testament Critics, 1903; W. G. Jordan, Biblical Criticism and Modern Thought, 1909; H. M. Wiener, Essays in Pentateuchal Crit icism, 1909; E. C. Bissell, The Pentateuch: Its Origin and Structure, 1885; D. K. V. Orelli, The Old Testament Prophecy, Amer. edition, 1885, English edition, 1893; B. Duhm, Die Theologogie der Propheten, 1875; E. Richre, Messianic Prophecy, 2nd English edition, 1891; C. I. Bredenkamp, Gesetz und Propheten, 1881; W. R. Smith, The Prophets of Israel, 1882; D. K. Schlottmann, Kompendium der biblischen Theologie des A. u. N. Testaments, 1889; A. T. Kirkpatrick, The Divine Library of the Old Testament, 1891; J. Lindsay, The Significance of the Old Testament for Modern Theology, 1896; R. Kittel, Scientific Study of the Old Testament, English edition, 1910.
II. New Testament Literature:
W. Beyschlag, New Testament Theology, 2nd edition, 1896; English edition, 1895; H. Holtzmann, Lehrbuch der N T Theologie, 1897; B. Weiss, Lehrbuch der biblischen Theologie des New Testament, 7th edition, 1903; English edition, 1883; J. J. V. Oosterzee, Die Theologie des New Testament, 2nd edition, 1886; English edition, 1870; J. Boron, Theologie du Nouveau Testament, 1893-94; C. F. Schmid, Biblische Theologie des New Testament, new edition, 1864; G. B. Stevens, The Theology of the New Testament, 1899; F. C. Baur, Vorlesungen uber New Testament Theologie, 1864; W. F. Adeney, The Theology of the New Testament, 1894; A. C. McGiffert, A History of Christianity in the Apostolic Age, 1897; E. Reuss, History of Christian Theology in the Apostolic Age, English edition, 1872; H. H. Wendt, The Teaching of Jesus, English edition, 1892; A. B. Bruce, The Kingdom of God, 1890; J. Moorhouse, The Teaching of Christ, 1891; O. Pfleiderer, Der Paulinismus, 2nd edition, 1890; 2nd English edition, 1891; A. Sabatier, The Apostle Paul, English edition, 1891; G. B. Stevens, The Pauline Theology, 2nd edition, 1897; G. Matheson, The Spiritual Development of Paul, 1890; E. Riehm, Der Lehrbegriff des Hebraerbriefs, 1867; B. Weiss, Der petrinische Lehrbegriff, 1855; G. B. Stevens, The Johannine Theology, 1894; B. Weiss, Der johanneische Lehrbegriff in seinen Grundzugen untersucht, 1862.
By this term should be understood substantial disagreements in the statements of Biblical writers. Such disagreements might subsist between the, statements of different writers or between the several statements of a single writer. Contradictions of Biblical views from extra-Biblical sources as history, natural science, philosophy, do not fall within the scope of our subject.
2. Criticism versus Doctrine of Inerrancy:
Observant Bible readers in every age have noted, with various degrees of insight, that the Scriptures exhibit manifold interior differences and contrasts. Differences of literary form and method have ever seemed, except to those who maintained a mechanical theory of inspiration, wholly natural and fitting. Moreover, that there was progress in the Biblical revelation, especially that the New Testament of Jesus Christ signifies a vastly richer revelation of God than the Old Testament, has been universally recognized. In fulfilling the law and the prophets Christ put a marked distance between Himself and them, yet He certainly affirmed rather than denied them. The Christian church has ever held to the essential unity of the Divine library of the Holy Scriptures. Moreover, the evangelical churches have recognized the Bible as "the only and sufficient rule of both faith and practice." Indeed, in the generation following the Reformation, the strictest and most literal theory of inspiration and inerrancy found general acceptance. Over against such a body of presuppositions, criticism, some generations later, began to allege certain errors and discrepancies in the Bible. Of course the orthodox sought to repel all these claims; for they felt that the Bible, whatever the appearances might seem to indicate, must be free from error, else it could not be the word of God. So there came with criticism a long period of sturdy defense of the strictest doctrine of Biblical inerrancy. Criticism, however, kept on its way. It has forced the church to find a deeper and surer ground of confidence in the authority of the Bible as the witness to God's self-revelation to man. In our day the church has for the most part overcome the notion that the certainty of the saving grace of God in Christ stands or falls with the absolute inerrancy of each several statement contained in the Bible. Still there remains, and doubtless ever must remain, a need of a clear understanding of the issue involved in the allegation-along with other "human limitations"-of Biblical discrepancies.
3. Synopsis of the Argument:
Alleged discrepancies pertain
(1) to statements of specific, concrete facts, and
(2) to the utterance of principles and doctrines. Under the first head fall disagreements respecting numbers, dates, the form and order of historical events, records of spoken words, geography, natural history, etc. Under the second head fall disagreements respecting moral and religious truths, the "superhistorical" realities and values. Our inquiry resolves itself into three parts:
(1) to determine whether there be discrepancies, of either or both sorts, in the Bible;
(2) to obtain at least a general understanding of the conditions and causes that may have given rise to the discrepancies, real or apparent;
(3) to determine their significance for faith.
4. Alleged Discrepancies Pertaining to Facts:
As to the first point, it should be observed that apparent inconsistencies may not be real ones; as so often in the past, so again it may come about that the discovery of further data may resolve many an apparent contradiction. On the other hand, the affirmation a priori that there can be and are no real discrepancies in the Bible is not only an outrage upon the human understanding, but it stands also in contradiction to the spirit of freedom that is of faith. Besides, it should not be overlooked that the discoveries of modern historical and archaeological research, which have tended to confirm so many Biblical statements, seem just as surely to reveal error in others.
In any event we must bow to reality, and we may do this with fearless confidence in "the God of things as they are." But are there real discrepancies in the Bible? It is no part of the present plan to attempt the impossible and at all events useless task of exhibiting definite statistics of all the alleged discrepancies, or even of all the principal ones. Passing by the childish folly that would find a "discrepancy" in mere rhetorical antitheses, such as that in Proverbs 26:4, 5 ("Answer not a fool," and "Answer a fool according to his folly"), or instances of merely formal contrariety of expression, where the things intended are manifestly congruous (e.g. Matthew 12:30 Luke 11:23 contrasted with Mark 9:40 Luke 9:50: "He that is not with me is against me," "He that is not against us is for us"), it will serve our purpose to notice a few representative examples of real or apparent discrepancy.
The chronologies of Kings and Chronicles are inconsistent (compare CHRONOLOGY OF THE OLD TESTAMENT). The genealogies in Genesis 46 Numbers 26 1 Chronicles 2:7 show considerable variations. The two lists of exiles who returned with Zerubbabel (Ezra 2 Nehemiah 7:6) show many discrepancies, including a marked difference in the enumeration. The accounts of the creation in Genesis 1 and 2 (compare CREATION)-to take an example dependent upon the results of modern criticism-are mutually independent and in important particulars diverse. But the center of interest in our inquiry is the gospel history. Since Tatian and his Diatessaron in the 2nd century, the variations and contrasts in the Gospels have not only been noted and felt, but many have striven to "harmonize" them. After all, however, there remain some irreducible differences. The Gospels, generally speaking, do not give us ipsissima verba of Jesus; in reporting His discourses they show many variations. In so far as the essential meaning is the same in all, no one speaks of discrepancies; but where the variation clearly involves a difference of meaning (e.g. Matthew 12:39, 40 and Luke 11:29, 30), one may say that at least a technical discrepancy exists. In recording sayings or events the evangelists manifestly do not always observe the same chronological order; Luke, e.g. records in wholly different connections sayings which Matthew includes as parts of the Sermon on the Mount (e.g. the Lord's Prayer, Matthew 6:9; Luke 11:1-4; compare JESUS CHRIST; CHRONOLOGY OF THE NEW TESTAMENT). We have two distinct genealogies of Jesus (Matthew 1:1-16 Luke 3:23; compare GENEALOGY). We may even note that Pilate's superscription over the cross of Jesus is given in four distinct forms. Here, however, the discrepancy is not real except in the most technical sense, and is worth mentioning only to show that the evangelists' interest does not lie in a mere objective accuracy. That a perfect agreement as to the significance of an event exists where there are undeniable discrepancies in external details may be illustrated by the two accounts of the healing of the centurion's servant (Matthew 8:5 Luke 7:1). Of enormously greater interest are the various accounts of the appearances of the risen Christ. If a complete certainty as to the form and order of these events is necessary to faith, the case is not a happy one, for the harmonists have been unable to render a perfect account of these matters (compare JESUS CHRIST; RESURRECTION). Turning from the Gospels to apostolic history, we meet some real problems, e.g. how to relate Paul's autobiographical notes in Galatians 1 with the accounts in Acts.
5. Alleged Discrepancies Pertaining to Doctrine:
The discrepancies thus far noted pertain to historical matters, and not one of them involves the contradiction of a fact in which faith is interested. But are there also real or apparent discrepancies in matters of doctrine? Many scholars maintain, for instance, that the ideal of the prophets and that of the priestly class stand in a relative (not absolute) opposition to each other (compare, e.g. Isaiah 1:11 Micah 6:8 with the ritualism of Leviticus and Dt). Or, to turn to the New Testament, some would assert-among them Luther-that James stands in opposition to Paul in respect to faith and works (compare James 2:17 in contrast with Galatians 2:16 and many other passages in Paul). But particular interest attaches to the problem of Christ's attitude toward the Old Testament law. His "but I say unto you" (Matthew 5:22 and passim) has been interpreted by many as a distinct contradiction of the Old Testament. Another question of acute interest is the agreement of the Johannine picture of Jesus with that of the Synoptists.
It can scarcely require proof that some of these alleged discrepancies are not such at all. For example, Jesus' attitude toward the Old Testament was one of profound reverence and affirmation. He was perfectly conscious that the Old Testament law represented a stage in the Divine education of mankind. His "but I say unto you" was not a denying of the degree of advancement represented by the Old Testament law, but a carrying out of the principle of the law to its full expression (compare LAW; FULFIL). Of course, the Divine education of Israel did not mean the mere inculcation of the truth in a fallow and hitherto unoccupied soil. There was much superstition and error to be overcome. If then one should insist that the errors, which revelation was destined to overcome, still manifest themselves here and there in the Old Testament, it may be replied that at all events the one grand tendency of Divine revelation is unmistakably clear. An idea is not "Scriptural" simply by virtue of its having been incidentally expressed by a Biblical writer, but because it essentially and inseparably belongs to the organic whole of the Biblical testimony. In the case of James versus Paul the antithesis is one of emphasis, not of contradiction of a first principle. And as for the variations in the gospel history, these do not deserve to be called real discrepancies so long as the Gospels unite in giving one harmonious picture and testimony concerning the personal life and the work and teaching of Jesus. Even from this point of view, John, though so much more theological, preaches the same Christ as the Synoptists.
6. Causes of Discrepancies:
As to the conditions under which discrepancies may arise, it may suffice, first, to call attention to the general law that God in revealing Himself to men and in moving men by His Spirit to speak or write, never lifts them out of the normal relations of human intelligence, so far as matters of history or science are concerned. It is their witness to Himself and His will which is the result of revelation and inspiration. Their references to history and Nature are not therefore in any sense super-human; accordingly they have no direct authority for faith (compare REVELATION; INSPIRATION). On this basis the divergences of human traditions or documents as exhibited in different genealogies, chronologies and the like are natural in the best sense and wholly fitting. As for the rest, errors of copyists have played a part.
7. Their Significance for Faith:
Faith, however, has no interest in explaining away the human limitations in God's chosen witnesses. It is God's way to place the heavenly "treasure in earthen vessels" (2 Corinthians 4:7). It seems that God has purposely led the church to see, through the necessity of recognizing the human limitations of the Bible, just where her faith is grounded. God has made Himself known through His Son. The Scriptures of the New Testament, and of the Old Testament in preparation for Him, give us a clear and sufficient testimony to the Christ of God. The clearness and persuasive power of that testimony make all questions of verbal and other formal agreement essentially irrelevant. The certainty that God has spoken unto us in His Son and that we have this knowledge through the Scripture testimony lifts us above all anxious concern for the possible errors of the witnesses in matters evidently nonessential.
Besides the literature noted under REVELATION and INSPIRATION, see J. W. Haley, An Examination of the Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible, Andover, 1873; M. S. Terry, Biblical Hermeneutics, New York, 1883; Kahler, Zur Bibelf rage, Leipzig, 1907.
J. R. Van Pelt
See CRITICISM OF THE BIBLE.
Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary
) Pertaining to, or derived from, the Bible; as, biblical learning; biblical authority.