Is the Bible History? : LUSENET : A.M.E. Today Discussion : One Thread

"Also, a literalist interpretation of Scripture can lead to unavoidable paradoxes like one of my favorites - Who was Cain's wife? Where did Mrs. Cain come from if the "first family" in Genesis consisted only of Adam, Eve, Cain & Abel. Just something to chew on. QED" -- bill dickens

The above qoute is from an answer by our learned brother, Bill Dickens on another thread. I thought we should open a new thread so that we could indeed "chew on" this for a while. So: who was Cain's wife? Did the first family consist as indicated above?

Enjoy "chewing" on this.

-- Anonymous, February 11, 2004


OK, since PArson Paris has "called mem out", I'll kick things off. The Bible as "history" starts with the calling of Abram in Genesis Chapter 12. All events in Genesis prior to chapter 12 should be properly understood as spiritual allegories and myth. Now many will react to my use of myth as heresy and borderline blasphemy. But this reaction misses the important point that while myth is not designed to be accurate from an historical or archeological perspective on people, events and places, myth can still be an effective teaching tool on fundamental values and core human principles. This is why Western Literature requires any well-read person to know Greek and Roman Mythology because the metaphors, symbolism and ideas discussed in these works highlight the interaction between humanity and divine personalities.

The same principle holds for Genesis 1-11. Attempts to define the archeological and anthropological veracity of the first eleven chapters is nothng more than an intellectual exercise in apologetics not authentic science. The Bible is the truth, but everything in the Bible is not necessarily true. Genesis 4:16-17 discusses the interesting story about Cain, Mrs. Cain and the inhabitants of his newly adopted city. Yet all prior discussion about human creation only makes mention of the "First Family". We are led to believe that God's creative wonders occured in a linear and sequential manner beginning with Adam followed by Eve and concluding with their sons. Where did the inhabitants of the city come from since the writer of Genesis chooses not to focus on their "roots"?

The story of Noah and the Great Flood in Genesis chapters 6-8 begins by describing the sexual immorality caused by miscegeny between the sons of God marrying the daughters of men creating "giant-like" offspring. The writer beautifully describes these sordid relationships by casting God as expressing regret he ever made man and desiring to destroy the crown of his creation. Now, nowhere do we find any tangible evidence where Noah actually built the Ark. No country is mentioned by name nor is there any time period provided for date-checking. All we are left with are the detailed instructions for building the Ark, its zoological and human passengers and the non-stop rain and accomanying 5 month flood waters.

Finally, the story about the Tower of Babel in Cenesis Chapter 11:1-9 is rich in allegory but falls short in any effort at teaching linguistics. I'm no Noam Chomsky (noted MIT linguist and cultural critic) but the Genesis account for the diversity of languages doesn't pass the established test in anthropology. If there was no language barrier as implied by the author before the construction of the Tower, this would imply that people could move fluidly from one location to another without difficulty. But Genesis 10:5 emphasizes that the Diaspora of Gentiles was defined according to nations and their respective tongue. Respective tongue implies unique, different or special. Now when we look in Genesis 11:1 we have a slightly different version about language and communication where everyone speaks with the same tongue not the respective tongue as recorded earlier. So, what is true Genesis 10:5 or 11:1? The truth is language diversity occured among homo sapiens. How that occured (anthropological accuracy) is not the real concern for the writer of Genesis. Something I said earlier bears repeating, the Bible is the truth but everything in the Bible is not true. Let the criticisms begin :-) QED

-- Anonymous, February 11, 2004

Professor Dickens,

Your analysis is very interesting!!! I believe that the basic message of the Bible is true. However, when ancient Hebrew which was orignally written with four consonants and no vowels were translated, I believed that certain scribes took liberty in their recording of the ancient texts. For the most part, the literacy rate was probably very low amongst the ancient Hebrews. Furthermore, only the wealthy could buy scrolls or parchments to record what was written. Therefore, I am certain that human nature being what it is that some people took liberty in translating and recording ancient Hebrew.

Translation and interpetation are not one and the same. Interpretation of scriptures can cause some of the greates arguments and create many schools of thought in itself. Compare the King James version of the Bible to the New American Standard to the Life Application Bible. The Life Application Bible takes a great deal of liberty in its version of the scriptures compared to the New American Standard. Could a similar thing have happened with the recording of the Old Testament when the ancient Hebrews were taken into captivity in Babylon or when the Persians, Greeks, and Romans dominated them?

As a child, I was told that the Bible is the mind of God. I also learned during an ordination council cathechism for an individual who said he was called to preach that God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipotent. Therefore, how can you put omniscience in just 66 books that we call the Bible? I have just come to believe that although Genesis is the first book of the Bible and Revelation is the last book of the Bible, that the life story of every Christian who shows faith in God are the intervening books of the Bible. Now that's radical thinking!!!

I see no reason to worship anyone but God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit in the Bible. Although, the writers of the Bible were inspired by the Holy Spirit to write its book, I see no reason to put the Apostle Paul or Peter on a pedestal. In the second chapter of Galatians, Peter and Paul had an argument over whether keeping the Jewish laws would be essential for salvation for the gentiles. Paul and Barnabas had an argument in Acts because Paul was upset over the fact that John Mark didn't accompany them to a missionary trip to Pamphylia. Therefore, Paul and Silas went one direction and Mark and Barnabas went another. These disputes show that these individuals were just ordinary individuals who were empowered by the Holy Spirit. Any good that they did was possible only because of God and not of their own human efforts.



-- Anonymous, February 11, 2004

Dear Brothers in Christ,

A great conversation piece and I couldn't resist engaging. ;-).

"The Bible is the truth, but everything in the Bible is not necessarily true." - Brother Dickens

Isn't this statement in and of itself a paradox? I've extracted a couple of prominent ideas found in Brother Dickens' post...

archeological and anthropological verasity authentic science intellectual exercise tangible evidence linguistics homo sapiens

What do all of these things have in common? They have their being only in the natural and express only temporal things. The suggestion that the absence of temporal evidence or proofs is synonymous with the absense of truth is - at a minimum contentious, and at its worse, well, heretical. 'Naturally,' it follows, that that which is believed in the absence of physcial or intellectual corroboration is necessarily myth. Together with the examples of the first family, the tower of babel, and the arc, let's add the tree of life, Moses' tablets, the Virgin birth, and bodily resurrection. These things too, being beyond the reach of temporal proofs, yet believed by the faithful, must, of necessity by this line of reasoning, be myth.

Herein lies the fallacy of the statement "The Bible is the truth, but everything in the Bible is not necessarily true." To the extent that something-anything in the Bible can be proven untrue, the whole is suspect. Reason will not permit Truth to be simultaneously untrue. Again I say, the absence of temporal evidence or proofs is not synonymous with the absense (or presence) of truth. Therefore I contend that the Bible is indeed historical as there is no evidence to the contrary.

-- Anonymous, February 11, 2004

We can't say some of the Bible is right and some is wrong. That leaves us room to fulfil in our lives that which we choose to believe is right.

I've heard people say, where the scripture is silent we should be silent. If this is biblical, please take me to it. I think God is pleased when we reason together concerning the scriptures. In my reasoning I will attempt to give my opinion.

When we look at the place of "Nod", initially I think of a geographical place. Nod meaning wondering says quite a bit about Cain's state of mind. East of Eden does imply a geographical change, but it could just mean east or outside of the garden of Eden.

We tend put things in the Bible in chronological order. We think Adam and Eve, and they had two sons. There is no age mentioned when Adam and Eve were tempted. We only know and believe they were, and after that, there were consequences. How many children did they have? Was Cain, the first borne, and Abel the second? We really do not know how long they did what they were put here to do, that being to be fruitful and multiply. We do know this "So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.....And Cain went out from the presence of the LORD, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden.

By the actions of one man Adam, came sin. When you are in sin you are absent from the presence of God. So with all of the being fruitful and multiplying, it is very possible that, just like today, some would choose to obey God and others will choose not to obey God. Those that choose not to obey, are out from the presence of the Lord.(East of Eden in the land of Nod) Hopefully you see where I am going.

My answer, Cain's wife was indeed a kinsman. Part of a family that lived out from the presence of God. I believe when we look at Cain's lineage, it only went to 6 generations.

The Bible is historical. Just this lesson alone teaches us that outside of God's presence is immanent ruin and destruction.

-- Anonymous, February 12, 2004

I am deeply appreciative to the three commentators who have "jumped right in" to add their contributions to this important topic. There is much to discuss so let's not delay.

Jazzman opines -

"I also learned during an ordination council cathechism for an individual who said he was called to preach that God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipotent. Therefore, how can you put omniscience in just 66 books that we call the Bible?"

In additions, Ron opines -

"Isn't this statement in and of itself a paradox?"

Finally, Carmen opines -

"The Bible is historical. Just this lesson alone teaches us that outside of God's presence is immanent ruin and destruction."

The Bible is a Book of Faith. The authors are interested in presenting a well-reasoned polemic for why it is in mankind's best interest to serve and worship God as opposed to alternative dieties. The authors of the Biblical text are not interested in approaching these issues like a Herodotus (father of history), Max Weber or even John Hope Franklin. Jazzman raises an important point about the need to understand the role of Hebrew when studying the Scriptures in order to avoid reaching premature conclusions.

If my highly valued AME Today comentators and readers don't object, I would like to address the above opinions by using a few familiar stories from the Old Testament. First, consider the story about Rahab found in the Book of Joshua. Now most of us know that Joshua dispatched two spies on a clandestine mission to collect "intelligence data" about the military vulnerability of Jericho. What is really interesting from both a military and theological perspective is that the spies made a stop and spent the night at the house of Rahab. Now mind you there must've been other homes to spend the night enroute to collecting sensitive data for the upcoming suprise attack, but Divine Providence directed these gentlemen to the home of a Madame, a house of sensual pleasure. A curious yet interesting venue indeed!!!

When she is later interrogated by Jericho officials regarding the two Hebrew strangers, Rahab responds by indicating she has no knowledge of their exact whereabouts. Now was Rahab telling "the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth" about her knowledge of the two Israelites or did she fail to disclose their exact location for fear it might be "bad for business"? I contend that Rahab made a calculated decision to not disclose full information because she was convinced that Israel was going to be militarily successful in conquering her homeland (much of it precipitated by the rude treament Jericho dispalyed towards Israel in the latter chapters of Exodus). Rahab's response to the authorities of Jericho about the spies was NOT true. Rahab indeed embellished the truth. She lied! She knew exactly where they were because she was an accomplice for the stowaways. Yet, the truth of the story is seen in a voluptous "business" woman recognizing that the God of Israel would exact justice and protect her own family as a reasonable condition for her volunatary cooperation.

In another familiar story in the OT we find arguably the greatest prophet (and my favorite), Elijah, pronouncing a three year drought throughout all of Samaria (IKings 17:1). No rain for three years is pretty severe for it will endanger human life, crop life, wild life, ecological and economic equilibrium. It is no surpise then why Ahab and Jezebel hated Elijah. But, was the moratorium on rain really three years? In the very next chapter (IKings 18:1-4) we read that God has lifted the moratorium on rain yet in verse 4 we read how the honorable Govenor Obadiah was able to live with other refugee prophets in a cave on get this - bread and water! Now if there is no rain in the land for three years prior to the meeting between Elijah and Obadiah how was he able to keep water supplies to feed himself and other refugees? Interesting. The only reasonable interpretation of these events is to conclude that a drought did occur but it is extremely unlikely that it occurred as long as three years since some people like Obadiah had access to water supplies. Again, my previous statement holds, the Bible is the truth but it should not be misused as a instrument measuring historical accuracy. I look forward to another round of discussion on this and related issues. QED

-- Anonymous, February 12, 2004

I don't understand your point with Rahab. Yes she was a harlot,yes she lied, and more importantly, yes she was saved along with everyone in her household. Why would they go into a harlot's house? That would be a convenient place for a stranger to go, for one. God's providence was at work, so I don't question much more. Rahab was the reason they came to her house. God will go to great extent to save one, who heart is ready to receive truth.

So Elijah went to appear before Ahab. Meanwhile, the famine had become very severe in Samaria. 3So Ahab summoned Obadiah, who was in charge of the palace. (Now Obadiah was a devoted follower of the LORD. 4Once when Jezebel had tried to kill all the LORD's prophets, Obadiah had hidden one hundred of them in two caves. He had put fifty prophets in each cave and had supplied them with food and water.) 5Ahab said to Obadiah, "We must check every spring and valley to see if we can find enough grass to save at least some of my horses and mules." 6So they divided the land between them. Ahab went one way by himself, and Obadiah went another way by himself.

The key word in this is ONCE. This implies another time. And it was explaining more about Obadiah, in saying that once (other than present time)he had hid prophets.....

There is still no contradiction in the Word.

We have left the original question. Who was Cain's wife?

-- Anonymous, February 13, 2004

I haven't said this is a long time. Bill makes a compelling argument. But Carmen, come on now. "God's providence was at work, so I don't question much more. Rahab was the reason they came to her house. God will go to great extent to save one, who heart is ready to receive truth." So are we now saying that if a lie will lead to salvation then God's providence is at work. Of course not, but it is commonly held that lying is wrong even a sin. Yet God sanctified a lie.

I understand your point of view, God's providence, no further questions needed, but how do we answer those who are not as accepting of God's providence, when we proclaim that the Bible is all truth?

If anything it supports the point that the Bible is a book of faith and those who believe don't need to document it or justify it. For they are walking in their belief and not by sight.

-- Anonymous, February 13, 2004

"So are we now saying that if a lie will lead to salvation then God's providence is at work. Of course not, but it is commonly held that lying is wrong even a sin. Yet God sanctified a lie."

No way am I saying God will ever sanctify a lie. A liar will not tarry in his sight. We know that.

Consider this. Rahab risked her life telling that lie. She could have given them up, but what she did, made her to be a traiter, penalty of death.

There are stories about people who risk their lives, protecting Jews. God did not condone her lie, neither did he overlook it. But I am confident that His providence was a work. And I am confident he didn't need spies to search a land to destroy Jericho. But she had to come into his knowlege by some means.

I know she was a harlot, but she had faith in God. She had more faith in God's deliverance, than the Israelites had, and they were guided by a cloud by day and fire by night. Her words:

And she said unto the men, I know that the LORD hath given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you. For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red sea for you, when ye came out of Egypt; and what ye did unto the two kings of the Amorites, that were on the other side Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom ye utterly destroyed. And as soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you: for the LORD your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath.

So here she was faced with the only hope she had of being delivered. That was a precious comodity to her and no way was she going to let it get away. Her motives might have been purely deliverance from destruction, but she still believed God had to power to do it. And she referred to God as LORD.

The thread represented the blood of Jesus. So despite what she was, the covering saved her and all that was in her house. Sort of reminds you of the story about the killing of the first born in Egypt. "When I see the blood, I'll pass over you."

We all come to know God in different ways, but as the scripture says, no man comes to the Father unless the Spirit who sent Jesus draws them. Rahab was saved from physical destruction, but at some point afterward she accepted their God as her God.

"But Joshua had said unto the two men that had spied out the country, Go into the harlot's house, and bring out thence the woman, and all that she hath, as ye sware unto her.

And the young men that were spies went in, and brought out Rahab, and her father, and her mother, and her brethren, and all that she had; and they brought out all her kindred, and left them without the camp of Israel."

They left her without the camp of Israel, because she had to except their God and abide by His laws if she were to abide with them. She was still a stranger.

Numbers 15: 15-16 One ordinance shall be both for you of the congregation, and also for the stranger that sojourneth with you, an ordinance for ever in your generations: as ye are, so shall the stranger be before the LORD. One law and one manner shall be for you, and for the stranger that sojourneth with you

We know Rahab agreed with the terms for she is written in the Faith Hall of Fame; David was a descendent of Rahab, Jesus a descendent of David, and the rest is history.

-- Anonymous, February 13, 2004

I am sorry Pastor Gibson, I didn't answer your question. "how do we answer those who are not as accepting of God's providence, when we proclaim that the Bible is all truth? "

I agree with you last sentence, Because we do walk by faith and not by sight.

To answer your question, we must be ready to give answers to those that are curious about the hope in us. And we must give it with fear and trembling.

We still do it with the "foolishness of preaching." It will always be the Spirit that draws.

-- Anonymous, February 13, 2004

The Scriptures, both the Old and New Testaments, are verbally inspired of God and are the revelation of God to man, the infallible, authoritative rule of faith and conduct.


In Genesis 4:1,2, we read, "And Adam knew Eve his wife: and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the LORD. And she again bare his brother Abel." And in Genesis 5:3, we read, "And Adam lived a hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, after his image: and called his name Seth." In other words, we are told certain details about three sons born to Adam and Eve. It is recorded in Genesis 3:20, "And Adam called his wife's name Eve; because she was the mother of all living." Thus all human beings are descendants of the first woman, Eve. There were no other women—just one woman, Eve.

In I Corinthians 15:45, Paul tells us that "the first man Adam was made a living soul." In other words, Adam was the first man—there were no other men at the beginning. And in Acts 17:26, Paul states that the God who made the world "hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth." All human beings are related, because they are all descendants of the first man, Adam, and the first woman, Eve.

As marriage in the Bible specifies one man for one woman for life, this means Christians have to be able to explain how Adam and Eve's sons could marry and have children to propagate the human race. Thus we need to be able to answer the question concerning Cain's wife. One can actually answer this question with just a little Bible knowledge. Genesis 5:4 tells us that Adam and Eve "begat sons and daughters." Josephus, the Jewish historian, states that "The number of Adam's children, as says the old tradition, was thirty-three sons and twenty-three daughters." The point, of course, is that Adam and Eve did have many children.

Therefore, brothers must have married sisters at the beginning. Remember that the law against close intermarriage was not given until the time of Moses—e.g. "none of you shall approach to any that is near of kin to him" (Leviticus 18:6).

Every person has two sets of genes, there being some 130,000 pairs that specify how a person is put together and functions. [Ed. note: this was an estimate from the number of different proteins. But after the Answers Book was published, the Human Genome Project discovered that there are only about 35,000 genes. This is an additional layer of complexity, since these genes must still somehow produce all the proteins.] Each person inherits one gene of each pair from each parent. Unfortunately, genes today contain many mistakes (because of sin and the Curse), and these mistakes show up in a variety of ways. For instance, some people let their hair grow over their ears to hide the fact that one ear is lower than the other -- or perhaps someone's nose is not quite in the middle of his or her face, or someone's jaw is a little out of shape -- and so on. Let's face it, the main reason we call each other normal is because of our common agreement to do so!

The more distantly related parents are, the more likely it is that they will have different mistakes in their genes. Children, inheriting one set of genes from each parent, are likely to end up with pairs of genes containing a maximum of one bad gene in each pair. The good gene tends to override the bad so that a deformity (a serious one, anyway) does not occur. Instead of having totally deformed ears, for instance, a person may only have crooked ones! (Overall, though, the human race is slowly degenerating as mistakes accumulate, generation after generation.) However, the more closely related two people are, the more likely it is that they will have similar mistakes in their genes, since these have been inherited from the same parents. Therefore, a brother and a sister are more likely to have similar mistakes in their genes. A child of a union between such siblings could inherit the same bad gene on the same gene pair from both, resulting in two bad copies of the gene and serious defects.

Adam and Eve did not have accumulated genetic mistakes. When the first two people were created, they were physically perfect. Everything God made was "very good" (Genesis 1:31), so their genes were perfect -- no mistakes! But, when sin entered the world (because of Adam -- Genesis 3:6, Romans 5:12), God cursed the world so that the perfect creation then began to degenerate, that is, suffer death and decay (Romans 8:22). Over thousands of years, this degeneration has produced all sorts of genetic mistakes in living things. Cain was in the first generation of children ever born. He (as well as his brothers and sisters) would have received virtually no imperfect genes from Adam or Eve, since the effects of sin and the Curse would have been minimal to start with (it takes time for these copying errors to accumulate). In that situation, brother and sister could have married with God's approval, without any potential to produce deformed offspring.

By the time of Moses (a few thousand years later), degenerative mistakes would have built up in the human race to such an extent that it was necessary for God to forbid brother-sister (and close relative) marriage (Leviticus 18-20). (Also, there were plenty of people on the earth by then, and there was no reason for close relations to marry.)

There was nothing wrong with brother and sister marriages, originally. If you think about it, that is the only way to populate the world, starting with only one pair. Notice that Abraham married his half sister with no condemnation from God, even though this was later forbidden.

Also, as Adam and Eve were created perfect, their genes would have been perfect. As the curse God placed upon creation started to operate only after they sinned, their descendants would not have had many mistakes in their genes. These mistakes (harmful mutations) add up only after a long period of time.

So brothers and sisters (Adam and Eve's children) could have married and not had the problems of deformities in their offspring as might well happen today, if such close relatives married and had children. This is because today humans have lots of mistakes—because of the curse—in their genes. This may cause problems when matching pairs are inherited from both parents, as is much more likely with close intermarriage.

Some people, though, say that there must have been people other than Adam and Eve, because Cain went to the land of Nod and found his wife. First of all, the Scriptures quoted above make it obvious that there was only one man and one woman from whom came all other human beings.

Secondly, the Scripture says that Cain went to the Land of Nod and "knew" (had sexual relations with) his wife. John Calvin, in his commentary on Genesis, and most other conservative expositors, make the point that Cain was married before he went to the land of Nod. Since men and women lived to be hundreds of years old in the primeval world, populations grew rapidly, and Cain had plenty of time to marry a sister (or possibly a niece), move to Nod, and build a city for his own descendants and others.

As a young, 20 year old college student, I am standing on the WORD OF GOD. It will never fail.

-- Anonymous, February 14, 2004

Brother Wilson opines -

"As a young, 20 year old college student, I am standing on the WORD OF GOD. It will never fail."

You're quite right the Bible will not fail, when we understand it as a Book of Faith decribing covenental responsibilities for believers. That's it, that's all. The Bible is NOT designed to teach history (although some people, places and events are historical), archaeology, anthropology or astronomy (warning:this is NOT the same as astrology).

Your attempt to rationalize the existience of Cain's wife demosnstrates the complexities of geneaologies from a literalist understanding of Scripture. Exegesis is a valuable tool and many of us would be wise to understand how it is used and start to make it a part of our routine Bible study activities.

Anomalies in the Bible exist and that fact is indisputable. It is better to acknowledge this among the family of believers as oppossed to being criticized by non-believers. Adam, Eve, Cain and Abel are described as the "First Family" and the author doesn't even allude to other offspring in his cursory summary of human creation. Cain's wife is provided no formal introduction (who were Cain's in-laws?) neither is she granted the courtesy of having a name. If Adam and Eve are the "father and mother of human creation" why would the author omit some kinship linkage to the people of Nod and the first couple?

Obadiah surviving a drought over a three year period and having a covert water supply is not only counter-intutitive but impossible from a biological point of view. Either there was water during this time or there was no water. Two diametrically opposite accounts are provided about how King Saul died (I Chronicles 10:1-5 & II Samuel 1:1-10). Either Saul died by killing himself (Chronicles account) or he died according to the version provided in II Samuel. Both versions CAN'T be right. One of the writers got this particular detail wrong.

But the anomalies are not just limited to the Old Testament. The New Testament also has it's share of inconsistencies. The Synoptic Gospel writers agree generally on broad themes during Jesus' Ministry but differ on some of the details. Consider the Lord's Prayer provided in Matt. Ch. 6 and Luke Ch. 11. Luke's version of the Lord's Prayer is much shorter. Why? Is Dr. Luke suggesting that his colleague Matt. was a tad bit too wordy? Or consider the familiar story about Jesus' Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem. Matthew's version (Ch. 21) of the events empahsizes that two animals were used by Jesus for His Great Entry- a colt and a donkey. The writer states specifically (v.6-7)that Jesus sat on "them" and embarked on his chauffered journey with the aid of these animals. Now Dr. Luke's version (Ch. 19) records Jesus' disciples commandeering not two animals but only one for his Triumphant Entry. Dr. Luke insists that Jesus sat on "it" (v. 35).

It is painfully obvious that our synoptic writers differ according to the details. Either Jesus requested use of two animals and rode on both or He requested use of only one animal. I can't imagine how our Lord rode both a donkey and a colt simultaneously so I lean towards Dr. Luke's version. St. Paul is not immune from editorial snafus as well. The Great Theologian teaches us in Galatians Ch. 6 to both bear the burdens of others and bear our own burden in a space of just three verses (v. 1-6). Well, which burden should I bear? How can I bear my own and not look selfish by not bearing the burdens of someone else? Many of us are quite familiar with the doctrine of justification. Yet it is clear that James (Ch. 2) has a different outlook (works-centric) on justification compared to the faith- centric thesis advanced by Paul (Romans 5:1).

I believe the presence of anomalies ironically help us in our faith journey. We should consider it Joy that there is so much to learn about the God who Saves and the God we Worship. God is a complex personality. As Isaiah states, "My ways are not your ways, neither are my thoughts your thoughts". Life is not easy. Nor is life defined by simplistic cookie-cutter solutions to our problems. Why then do we commonly believe that our spiritual odessy should be different? I suspect that part of our problem comes from an acceptance of that often-quoted church expression about "the way of salvation is so simple that a child can't err". I don't doubt the sincerity of this statement. I just think for many of us we tend to become too complacent and complacency results in an ineffective witness. QED

-- Anonymous, February 14, 2004

My answer to the original question will be made shortly in another post. However, in view of the digression, which has arisen here, I have chosen to address this issue first.

The story of Rahab, the harlot, is a classic example of how God deals with each of us, regardless to what others might think or do, how holy and righteous they might think we are, or the “names” by which we are sometimes called. It is a “happy ever after story” of what God can do; of how he receives us just as we are and uses us for His own divine purpose and will when we willing seek and submit to Him.

Matthew in his Gospel does an almost unthinkable thing by listing five women in Jesus’ direct bloodline. This is an obvious departure from the norm, especially when reckoning the genealogy of Jews and kings, both in the biblical as well as in later times.

The first woman mentioned in Mathew’s account of Jesus’ genealogy is Tamar whose sons were fathered by her own Father-in-law, because she tricked him into believing she was a prostitute. The second is Rahad, a liar and a traitor of the nation in which she lived, the former mistress of the “women of the night”, whose home was built on the wall of the City of Jericho. Yet, God, who created all things good, used not Rahab’s wickedness but the good that Rahab possessed to achieve His good and perfect will. Thus eternally changing the direction of Rahab’s life. Rehab was also Great-great Grandmother of David the King, from whom the earthly kingship of Our Lord descends.

Another woman whom Matthew does not mention by name is Bathsheba, who bore a son named Solomon, fathered by David the King. Matthew only states that she was another man’s wife, namely Uriah, whom the Bible describes as a loyal servant of David the King. David virtually had Uriah murdered when he observed Bathsheba bathing in the waters beneath his palace and therefore lusted after her.

Of the five women mentioned this leaves only two. The first of these two mentioned in Jesus’ Family Tree is Ruth. Ruth also has the distinction of being one of two women having a Book of the Bible named for her. The other is Esther the Queen. Esther, not even being the Jewish name she was given when she was born. Although she is not mentioned in the genealogy we are recalling here, she hid her Jewish identity to marry a Persian King. By worldly standards she was living a lie. In other words she was “passing” as the saying goes.

The Book of Esther never once mentions the name of God, but we see the hand of God in it from its beginning to its end. Having said all this, let us return to Matthew’s genealogy and take a closer look at Ruth.

Ruth was so virtuous and kind that a word in the English language was coined for her. The word is “ruthless”; meaning one is absent of all the goodness, virtues and qualities attributed to Ruth. Yet, according to the normal way in which biblical records are kept, there is still a major problem with Ruth. With all of her virtuous qualities and amicable ways Ruth was a Moabite, a gentile, not a Jew. In other words Ruth was not one of the “chosen people” of God. Yet a Book in the Hebrew Scriptures bears her name and she is listed in Matthew’s record of Jesus’ birth.

Of the five women this leaves only one whom the world would deem to be “righteous’ and favored of God. This is none other than Mary the Virgin most holy and pure, the Mother of Jesus the Christ, whom God chose to bear His Son. Yet even with Mary Matthew breaks biblical tradition once again by stating that Joseph was the husband of Mary instead of the other way around. Though Matthew does this to show the reader that Jesus was not Joseph’s son, this was a stark and deliberate contrast to the way things were formally done. In doing so Matthew was putting the proverbial cart before the horse and by “worldly” standard he is putting the woman before the man.

This is a most fitting beginning to the New Testament and should make us aware of the fact the God is truly no respecter of person, station or class. Like these women, ALL have come short of the glory of God, but God is able to use us in spite of it. In the site of God we are all the same whether Jew or Greek, Barbarian or Scythinan, male or female, bond or free. From Greenland's icy mountains, from India's coral strand, where Afric's sunny fountains roll down their golden sand, in the BLOOD of Jesus we are truly ONE.

So whenever we get the urge to point a finger at others accounting them not to be holy and righteous in the sight of God, when we decide to discuss whose father and whose mother is who, what one has done or has not done, we need to look at Mathew’ record of Jesus’ bloodline and see the hand of God at work in all of it.

This should not only remind us that when we point a finger at others, two fingers are pointing back at us; but it should also close our mouths and cause us to stop or chattering tongue while at the same time giving each of us great comfort, indeed.

Whatever others or we ourselves think of who we are and what we have or have not done, the final verdict rests with God. God alone determines who we are and who and what we shall become once we submit to His divine purpose and seek to do His holy will.

-- Anonymous, February 15, 2004


One thing about Rahab I failed to include. Only after I began to ventured beyond the boundaries of the USA, did much of the meaning of biblical text come alive to me. In Mexico City, I finally understood what it meant to have a large number of folk outside the Temple (Cathedral) begging for alms. In Versailles, I finally understood what it meant to walk the King’s Highway, to enter into his gates and then into his court. At Versailles and Buckingham I also finally knew what it meant to have many mansions in one house, not merely many rooms as some translations would have us believe.

So it was in Quebec City that I finally understood why God led the Israelite to Rahab’s house. Quebec City is the only North American City still enclosed within a wall. The city is secured not only by the wall’s height and breadth, but also by armed guards who walk upon the wall. At some point in the night the gate is bolted and locked leaving no way to enter the city and no way out. Due to the obvious security that the wall provides, not many houses are built along side the wall. The entrance of those, which are, face inside the city but overlook the wall from a second or third floor above.

Rahab being the astute businesswoman that she was, built her house along side the wall of Jericho. Thus when gate to the city was bolted and locked, she could entertain guests who lived both inside the city and out, simply by hoisting them up and down from the portion of the house overlooking the wall.

Just as God used the Magi (astrologers/stargazers) to tell the world of Jesus' birth, He used this situation for His own purpose and design. Thus, an Omnipotent, Omnipresent, Omniscient God sent the Israelite spies to Rhahab’s house. They went not for sensual pleasures as one might well expect, but because God had directed them there. God had foreseen the end result. By sending the spies to Rahab’s home, they would not only be able to escape the city by night when the gate to the ciry had been closed and locked, but they would be able to spare the life of Rahab as well, so that she might fulfill the purpose, which God had chosen for her, in God’s own plan for the Salvation of the entire world. This namely being the change of her own heart and her role which I have chronicled above in the lineage of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

-- Anonymous, February 16, 2004

Robert -

I enjoyed reading about your worldy travels & your analysis about Rahab! She was indeed a remarkable woman and truly deserving of her enty in the "Faith Hall of Fame" as described by the author of Hebrews. Her act of civil disobedience and willingness to provide "protective custody" to the Hebrew spies illustrates that she was more concerned about long-term security than short-term gain. Life is about choices and Rahab chose humble submission to Jehovah over fallout resulting from perjury. Oh, I had a meeting last Saturday with my District Lay Organization. I will be sending you a private email note about some of the Lay information discussed at the meeting. QED

-- Anonymous, February 16, 2004

Prof. Dickens, all due to respect, let me explain why the places you have mentioned show no contradiction. I won't go into the Adam and Eve part,or the drought because I have already explained how I interpret them.

I will begin with Saul's death. Thank you for providing the text so that I could read it for myself. I Chron 10-1-5, I use 4 and 5 to explain. I paste it so others can read it for themselves. 4 Then said Saul to his armourbearer, Draw thy sword, and thrust me through therewith; lest these uncircumcised come and abuse me. But his armourbearer would not; for he was sore afraid. So Saul took a sword, and fell upon it. 5 And when his armourbearer saw that Saul was dead, he fell likewise on the sword, and died.

II Samuel 1:1-10, I will use a few of the verses. 6 And the young man that told him said, As I happened by chance upon mount Gilboa, behold, Saul leaned upon his spear; and, lo, the chariots and horsemen followed hard after him

9 He said unto me again, Stand, I pray thee, upon me, and slay me: for anguish is come upon me, because my life is yet whole in me. 10 So I stood upon him, and slew him, because I was sure that he could not live after that he was fallen: and I took the crown that was upon his head, and the bracelet that was on his arm, and have brought them hither unto my lord.

It is not uncomon for a person to think one is dead already. I see no contradiction in these two scriptures. He fell on his sword (I Chron) and the Amalekite found him leaned on the sword (II Samuel) The Amalikite did what Saul's cupbearer could not do. He felt to kill him was preventing him from suffering.

First of all let me say neither Luke or Matthew give the Lord's Prayer, for it can be found in John 17. What they give is a model for prayer. They are two different people, targeting different audiences. They have the same model, with a few minor changes in the wording. To say this is contradictory is a strong statement.

In regards whether or not Jesus rode on one or two donkeys. First of all again the writers are two different people, explaining the main event which is the triumphant entry of Jesus. Subject matter is the same. Considering a mother/donkey and her colt being used. It wouldn't have been out of order to take the colt, along with it's mother. Of course Jesus can only ride on one. Here again, there is no contradiction of scripture.

In regards to Galations 6th chapter. We are called to bear one another's burdens. But we also have to give an account of our own actions. I can't see how you view Paul as contradicting himself.

Lets read that again. 1. Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. 2 Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.

3 For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself 4 But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. 5 For every man shall bear his own burden

Verses two and three exhorts us to show our brotherly love to others who may be down. We bear their burdens through prayer and not being so hasty as to pass judgement.

Verses 3, 4 and 5 is our personal accountability. It gives the idea of keeping ourselves in check.

I see no contradiction there.

Paul in the book of Romans, and James do not contradict eaching other in regards to faith. Again two writers expressing the suject of having faith, differently.

There is no way we can say we have faith in Jesus Christ and have not works, or fruit to show for it.

When we confessed Jesus Christ as Lord, that was our first work of faith. Romans 5:1 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:

Prof. Dickens, I think you are very intellegent and think very intellectually. And there is nothing wrong with that. But when we are rightly dividing the Word of God, it's spiritual in nature. We are to be apologetics of the Word of God, not look for contradictions because we find differences in words, or miraculos things in which we cannot explain.

-- Anonymous, February 16, 2004

Much of the recent discussion on this board poses legitimate and valid questions, to say the least. These challenge our thinking and open our minds. Although we might debate these issues till Jesus comes again, it virtually amounts to “majoring in minors” and “splitting hairs”. Persons who have studied the Bible in the original languages that it was written and have spent years doing it are virtually powerless to come up with answer or consensus on many of the issues we have raised.

The Genesis story we are discussing here amounts to oral history at best. No one whom we know was present when it occurred. Neither was Moses or the writer who recorded it. This is not unlike Alex Haley’s writing of “Roots” Many of us who have spent time tracing our own family history or the history of our Local Church, can certainly appreciate the complexity of it. We might also remember that in Richard Allen’s autobiography there were names and events he could no longer accurate recall. So he wrote the Reverend M____ and Elder S______.

The same is true of two books recorded by Luke—The Gospel of Luke and Acts. This is apparent by the name the author uses, which is not Jewish but Greek. Theopolis, to whose these books are addressed, is also a Greek term meaning Believer in God. If the writer is the same Luke mentioned in Scriptures, he was a contemporary of Paul. Thus he had no eyewitness account of much of what he wrote and would have had to rely on both written and oral history for it.

Some biblical errors obviously exist. According the Bible scholars these even occur in the original text. Perhaps they are due to copying error, error in translation or the perhaps the difference in the number of years between one author and another who recorded the same event. The reasons these occur we simply DO NOT KNOW. Not even Bible scholar can agree on the reason these occur.

Let us look a few of them. Please bear in mind that the list is quite more extensive than I have listed here and they occur in the original manuscript. Let us begin with a story, which every young child knows, and compare the following texts. While I have listed specific chapter and verse, reading the entire story would help us see the differences.

I Samuel 17:50; II Samuel 21:19; I Chronicles 20:5.

Also compare these texts in the KJV, the NIV and the NASB and observe the differences, which occur. If you don’t have these versions you can find them online. Notice also that 1 and 2 Samuel relate a different version of a story, which appears to be the same.

In the KJV some words are italicizes. This is done to indicate that the translators recognized that an error appeared in the text, but they were not quite sure what to make of it. Sometimes they even attempted to make corrections in it as they did in 2 Samuel 21:19—the italics indicating the changes or editorial explanations, which they made. Some modern translation such as NIV and NASB left the text in tact as it appeared in the original manuscript. But this largely confounds the issue and magnifies it.

The most obvious questions are these: Who killed whom? Were all giants known as Goliath in that day? Are different battles being described or are the two versions of the same? The translators could not determine this so how can we?

Also compare the statistical differences of families in Ezra 2 and Nehemiah 7. Of 39 entries 17 do not agree. Since these books were written more that a century apart we do not know if this due to the normal death and birth of families, copyist errors, oral history or some of each. We are certain that other examples of copyist errors exist by comparing such passages as 2 Chronicles 36:9 and 2 Kings 24:8 How old was Jehoiachin when he became king? The general consensus is that he was 18 rather than 8.

The fact is that there are a lot more errors than one might expect, even in the original manuscript. To ignore their existence is naivety and like the proverbial ostrich hiding one’s head in the sand. Perhaps we are attempting to defend God, but this too is a lesson in futility. God is God alone all by Himself. He simply does not require or need our defense.

Why then, would God leave the Scriptures open to human error and frailty? The answer is we simply cannot tell and do not know. But perhaps the answer lies in this. From Genesis to Revelation, the central focus of the Bible does not rest in any of the passages I mentioned above, or in several others, which I did not list above. Beginning with the Garden of Eden and the Fall, the central focus of the entire Bible is found in John 3:16.

He is Alpha and Omega, The First and the Last. He is the Beginning and the End. While we stand here gazing into the heavens we need to recall, that this same Jesus will come again, and receive those whose lamps are lit and burning and are ready for Him.

-- Anonymous, February 16, 2004

Bro. Matthew,

I can really respect your post, and agree with what you have said. I feel I must let the board know, that I do believe there are errors in the Bible. It was written by mortals, and we are not infalible. When it comes to miracles, that are unexplanable in scientific terms, do we just say they are errors are untruths?

You are right, God doesn't need defending and I certainly am not the one to attempt at trying. I love God's Word, and yes there are some things about it that I will just believe. I'm not speaking of errors in dates and ages, and you pointed out so well. But there are some miraculous things that I will just have to accept. And it leads us all to Jesus Christ, and God's plan for salvation. And you worded it so beautifully.

I enjoyed the dialogue, and Prof. Dickens, I hope you know I meant no disrespect at all. I do regret saying not to look at the Bible intellectually, that was not fair. Accept my apologies. I said it openly to the board, so I must openly give an apology.

-- Anonymous, February 17, 2004

Ms Buchanan,

Considering what I posted above, in all fairness there is another side to it, which I must present. What we perceive as error might, in fact, not be error at all. It might simply be our own limited knowledge of it. Take for instance the wife of Cain.

In the Apocryphal Book "The Wisdom of Solomon" we read these words:

1:13 God did not make death, and he does not delight in the death of the living.

1:14 For he created all things so that they might exist; the generative forces of the world are wholesome, and there is no destructive poison in them, and the dominion of Hades is not on earth.

1:15 For righteousness is immortal.

2:23 For God created us for incorruption, and made us in the image of his own eternity,

2:24 but through the devil's envy death entered the world, and those who belong to his company experience it.

In the Garden of Eden, God created mankind to live on the earth eternally. The sentence of death came only after the Fall. Since Cain was a member of the First Family, the sentence of death was slow, not as quickly as it has progressed in our own time, with the repeated perversion and corruption of man. Adam lived 930 years and Methuselah 969.

The Bible does not tell us how long Cain lived after the Fall, nor what age he was when he found a wife. The fact that it occurs in the next sentence does not say that he did it immediately. Perhaps it was centuries later that this occurred. In all probability Cain found a wife long after the human population had grown extensively. Thus, the wife he chose was by that time beyond his immediate family and would not be consider among his kin.

Take also the passages I listed above. We do not know that Goliath was not synonymous with the term giant in that day. So that any giant who was slain might have been called Goliath regardless to when or where it occurred.

The statistical differences also might be due to our not being made aware of all the facts. Perhaps they are due to normal birth and death rates of the families involved or the description of a totally different event, which our limited knowledge makes us perceive as being the same.

So what we perceive as errors might not be errors at all. They might simply appear to us as errors based on our limited knowledge of the facts. Yet, our perception and facts might be absolutely wrong.

-- Anonymous, February 17, 2004

Brother Matthews writes "What we perceive as error might, in fact, not be error at all. It might simply be our own limited knowledge of it. "

Bob and Carmen, I enjoyed reading your entries. Perhaps we know in part and not the whole. There are the bye and bye questions.

-- Anonymous, February 17, 2004

Thank you Sister Mary, and I enjoyed the dialogue. Brother Matthews, as usual, you know how to word things, and bring it to an end. I totally received what you said.

-- Anonymous, February 18, 2004

Why should the discussion be terminated? I have been out of the loop the past few days but there are still some unanswered questions which warrant a response. First, let me express to Sis. Carmen I am not troubled or offended at your earlier suggestion concerning my proclivity to read the Bible from an "intellectual" view. Your apology is aprreciated but unnecessary (I've been called far worse :-) The reason being that the Holy Scriptures command me and all didligent readers of the sacred text to "rightly divide the Word of Truth". This is nothing more than exegesis in practice. I began this discussion by asserting that the "Bible is the truth but everything in the Bible is not necessarily true". This conclusion is particularly relevant for those readers who adopt a strict literal reading of the Bible. I offered a few examples from the OT and the NT to illustrate the existence of anomalies. I understand the need to provide counter-evidence which reconciles alleged anomalies but such efforts often produce more questions than satisfactory answers. The manner in which the Bible was compiled (cannonization) is important for all Christians to understand. Robert includes reference from an Apocryphal source to shed insight on one of my earlier anomalies. This is perfectly suitable for me but how many of us have taken time to read Apocryphal Literature. It nearly takes an act of Congress to get many of our members to read the 66 canonized Books of the Bible. Suggesting our members expand their reading horizon beyond the 66 "books" is hoping for a lot. It is true that our finite understanding of God will result in some things or events remaining a puzzle. But such puzzles are good for as Parson Coleman comments in a related thread the pursuit of truth requires scientific investigation (quote by George Washington Carver). Our great church songs encourage us to seek understanding in the "bye and bye". However, I am a teacher and seeker of truth and these activities require clarification for students today. QED

-- Anonymous, February 18, 2004

Prof. Dickens,

I am also a teacher of Sunday School. And I do understand how much it is necessary to relate to young people on an intellectual level. They are very bright, and you just can't expect them to take things from face value. But I believe the scripture that says the Bible was not written by private interpretation, but by men as they were led of the spirit.

The creation is a perfect example. I mentioned to my pastor we can't expect the young people to except the 6 day theory, when they are studying in astronomy and geology with physical evidence the earth is older than 6 thousand years.

The important information is that GOD CREATED. I don't know how long, I accept the scientific evidence, and believe God was the originator. We only understand the POWER of God in part also.

Think of the power it takes just to change us from what we use to be, to what we are today. Astronomy and geology are wonderful. It made me strongly believe more strongin the power of God. In our own finite minds, and with scientific data we can project how many years it would possibly take for abrasions to form on rocks to create and recreate, or how many years it would take, when we have evidence of a great ice age, and meltdowns; but when it all boils down all I can see is a powerful God. He can blow, and thousands of years of work can take place. He can speak, and the same thing. However the world began, I know God was the originator. If I teach anything other than God creating, what have I taught about God?

If I use intellect and science trying to explain to young people about a virgin birth, there's no way it can happen. But when I can testify of the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, it is not impossible to believe the power of the Almighty overshadowed a virgin, and the holy thing in her was the Son of God.

Prof. Dickens, where do we draw the line when teaching the Bible, seperating those things that make no since scientifically? How do we go about trying to explain 3 years of no rain? If we say it is not possible, how do we explaint what is possible with God. Do we attempt to prove a miracle?

Our faith supports an act that is unrealistic, and scientifically unsound. A man enduring a cross for so many hours, after already being beaten, dying (real death) and coming back to life, conversing and communing with disciples for about 40 more days, ascending up into the heavens, with a promise that he will come again in like manner.

When we start trying to prove and give reasonable explanations for things like, the impossibility to being without rain for 3 years; The 40 days and 40 nights flood, how do you suggest proving what our faith is based on?

If I am off track, feel free to tell me.

-- Anonymous, February 18, 2004

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