Double Historical Contadictions

Shibolet

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Double Historical Contradictions

Reading the NT this week I came about the speech of Stephen just prior to his being executed. Now, I would like a Christian who seriously studies his or her NT to enlighten me on the understanding of Acts 7:16.

The text says that when Jacob died in Egypt, Joseph and his brothers transferred his body to be buried in Shechem in the Land of Canaan in a field which had been bought by Abraham.

Not according to the historical truth because Jacob was buried in the cave of Machpelah in Hebron and not in Shechem. (Gen. 50:13)

And with regards to who bought what, Jacob had bought the field in Shechem and Abraham had bought the one in Hebron.(Gen. 33:19; Joshua 24:32)

Suspecting that it could have been a mistake by the editor, I checked a more modern translation of the KJV and the mistake was there. I tried a Catholic version of the NAB and the mistake persisted. Three witnesses that proved no mistake from the editor. The ball was in the court of Luke the daily companion of Paul who wrote the book of Acts.

Well, to make things short, how was Luke wrong, by lack of awareness about Biblical History or by making up the case of Stephen who probably never happened?
 

Thomas

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Hi Shibolet —

Let me say first off that Wil has made a point – the Bible is not a 'history' as we expect histories today – let me also say however that I do not jump to the rather extreme (and logically flawed) conclusion that because some of it comprises ahistorical stories, all are stories and none of it fact.

That seems to do both the text and scholarship a great disservice.

Again, Luke has so often been proved right, where scholarship assumed him to be wrong. So assuming of Luke that it "probably never happened" is likewise to ignore the facts and the evidence.

+++

As ever, in looking at Scripture, Sitz im Leben is the order of the day.

What is highlighted in Acts 6-7 is a conflict between the Christians and certain elements of 'hardline' Jewish conservatism.

The church in Jerusalem was growing fast and Stephen seems to have played a significant role in its expansion. His detractors "were not able to withstand the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spake" (v10), and indeed that significant numbers of rabbis were becoming Christian might well have been due to his inspired preaching (he was elected to the first diaconate of the Church).

His enemies, unable to beat him by fair means, elected to try by foul, and raised false witness against him as they had done at the trial of Jesus (6:12-15).

Stephen's speech is replete with reference to the Hebrew Scriptures, and its content would be well known to those he addressed. Why did not they spot the 'contradiction', as it would have made their case against him?

When faced with apparent contradictions, it best to go back to the source materials, and informed scholarship and commentary.

"and Jacob went down into Egypt. And he died, himself and our fathers, and they were carried back to Shechem and laid in the tomb that Abraham had bought for a sum of silver from the sons of Hamor in Shechem" (Acts 7:15-16 RSV).

In this version, 'he' and 'himself and our fathers' are common subjects of the verb 'died'. In the Greek text, the verb is singular, and it agrees only with autos, 'himself'. The plural substantive 'fathers' is not the subject of that verb, but the plural is unspoken, but, logically, understood.

It follows that the plural verb metetéthasan, 'were carried', belongs to fathers, and not to Jacob. The two clauses, properly punctuated, and with the ellipsis supplied, then read:
"... and he died; and our fathers died, and were carried over into Shechem"

With this rendering and punctuation, which is certainly admissible, the contradiction disappears. If this had been the original English translation, there would never have been a contradiction.

As for the second 'contradiction', consider the facts as we know them:
Abraham bought a field and a cave in Hebron (Genesis 23:17);
Abraham bought a sepulchre in Shechem (Acts 7:16);
Jacob bought a parcel of ground or a field (Joshua 24:32) also in Shechem (Genesis 33:19).
It could be that Jacob merely bought the land whereupon the sepulchre of his grandfather stood. This explanation certainly is feasible.

We know that about 185 years separates Abraham and Jacob. Perhaps in that time frame, possession of the land passed to another, and rather than fight for it, Jacob simply bought the land back peaceably. Thus, the land would have been purchased twice, first by Abraham, and then almost two centuries later, by Jacob?

This, too, appears to be a logical reconciliation of the facts.

+++

It rather boils down to what one is looking for in the 'contradictions'.

Whilst the 'solutions' offered above are valid (as are solutions to all 'the usual suspects' when it comes to assumed Biblical contradictions), I doubt it will do anything to assuage a skeptic.

On the other hand, skepticism alone is not enough to invalidate the text, but much like the journalist, the skeptic 'never lets the truth stand in the way of a good story'.

Why do I give credence to Luke's Stephen? Because the facts show there was a church, that it's growth was exponential, that there was conflict with Jews as well as Gentiles.

Acts 7 is a masterful response to the charges typically laid against Christ and His followers by the Jews. It's a text replete in the full sense of Scripture: truth, morality, spiritual insight, eschatalogical speculation ... in short, it's way too informed on too many levels, way too rich for me to get bogged down in superficial nit-picking over 'contradictions'.

In my experience, therein lies the road to enlightenment. Perhaps they're meant to be there, like easter eggs, or koans, waiting in the text for those with the eyes to see?
 

wil

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a figment of your imagination
Yes the bible has many critics... and there are those that believe it to be 100% literally true and accurate....all the way to those that feel it 100% false and misguided.

I see it as 100% valuable... as scripture, as meaningful to use in the understanding of life and its situations...

Historical, or hysterical... I am somewhere probably in the bottom quartile of historical usefulness... but I also surely do not know. (not a scholar, nor do I play one on tv)
 

Thomas

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I see it as 100% valuable... as scripture, as meaningful to use in the understanding of life and its situations...
That's the wisdom of the Book ... there's something there for everyone.
 

Shibolet

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The bible is not a history book....

think the garden, the flood, the big fish....all stories..not historical fact.

I am aware of it. Only the literalists see history in every story.
 

Shibolet

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Hi Shibolet —

Let me say first off that Wil has made a point – the Bible is not a 'history' as we expect histories today – let me also say however that I do not jump to the rather extreme (and logically flawed) conclusion that because some of it comprises ahistorical stories, all are stories and none of it fact.

You say above that "all are stories and NONE of it fact." Tell me something, do you believe that the Exodus was a historical fact or just a story? Almost 15 million Jews celebrate the Exodus from Egypt. They did a year ago, 10 years ago, 50 years ago, 500 years ago, 1,000 years ago, 2,000 years ago, 4,000 years ago... When did they start celebrating the Exodus from Egypt? Soon after the Exodus. Do you think they celebrate a myth that never took place? Do you think they are so stupid as one can be? Rhetoric.

Again, Luke has so often been proved right, where scholarship assumed him to be wrong. So assuming of Luke that it "probably never happened" is likewise to ignore the facts and the evidence.

Are you implying that Luke was right and the record in the Tanach a lie? At least think that he was reporting about an event in the history of Israel and not Greece. Luke was a Greek. What did he know?

What is highlighted in Acts 6-7 is a conflict between the Christians and certain elements of 'hardline' Jewish conservatism.

No, it is ignorance of a Biblical fact. The text is talking about history and not doctrine. He simply did not know enough to report about it.

The church in Jerusalem was growing fast and Stephen seems to have played a significant role in its expansion. His detractors "were not able to withstand the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spake" (v10), and indeed that significant numbers of rabbis were becoming Christian might well have been due to his inspired preaching (he was elected to the first diaconate of the Church).

Would you mind quoting about these Rabbis who were becoming Christians? I find hard to take people's word for it.

His enemies, unable to beat him by fair means, elected to try by foul, and raised false witness against him as they had done at the trial of Jesus (6:12-15).

This is an anti-Semitic lie. The opposite is true that the Pharisees tried to save Jesus twice first from the hands of Herod and later from being arrested by Pilate. Read Luke 13:31 and 19:37-40.

Stephen's speech is replete with reference to the Hebrew Scriptures, and its content would be well known to those he addressed. Why did not they spot the 'contradiction', as it would have made their case against him?

Stephen's speech is replete with Hellenistic ideas that started being preached by Paul about 20 years later when Paul started preaching his gospel. Therefore, Stephen probably never existed and that the case was only an anti-Jewish parable to enhance the church of Paul. Read the whole chapter 7 of Acts.

When faced with apparent contradictions, it best to go back to the source materials, and informed scholarship and commentary.

In that case, either Luke did not go to the source material or plagiarized from it wrongly. Probably he never consulted the Tanach.

"and Jacob went down into Egypt. And he died, himself and our fathers, and they were carried back to Shechem and laid in the tomb that Abraham had bought for a sum of silver from the sons of Hamor in Shechem" (Acts 7:15-16 RSV).

Wrong! They were buried in the Cave of Machpelah in Hebron and not in Shechem. And Abraham bought nothing in Shechem but in Hebron. Just as it is according to the thread. You might want to read it.

In this version, 'he' and 'himself and our fathers' are common subjects of the verb 'died'. In the Greek text, the verb is singular, and it agrees only with autos, 'himself'. The plural substantive 'fathers' is not the subject of that verb, but the plural is unspoken, but, logically, understood.

You are simply trying to insert your own preconceived notions into the text.

It follows that the plural verb metetéthasan, 'were carried', belongs to fathers, and not to Jacob. The two clauses, properly punctuated, and with the ellipsis supplied, then read: "... and he died; and our fathers died, and were carried over into Shechem."

Nice try but all the three of them were buried in Hebron, not in Shechem.

With this rendering and punctuation, which is certainly admissible, the contradiction disappears. If this had been the original English translation, there would never have been a contradiction.

Very disingenuous way to distort the text into what satisfies preconceived notions.

As for the second 'contradiction', consider the facts as we know them: Abraham bought a field and a cave in Hebron (Genesis 23:17);
Abraham bought a sepulchre in Shechem (Acts 7:16); Jacob bought a parcel of ground or a field (Joshua 24:32) also in Shechem (Genesis 33:19)
It could be that Jacob merely bought the land whereupon the sepulchre of his grandfather stood. This explanation certainly is feasible.

You are hypothesizing and, hypotheses are not a good way to teach the truth.

We know that about 185 years separates Abraham and Jacob. Perhaps in that time frame, possession of the land passed to another, and rather than fight for it, Jacob simply bought the land back peaceably. Thus, the land would have been purchased twice, first by Abraham, and then almost two centuries later, by Jacob?
Please, quote that Abraham bought any thing in Shechem. As far as I am concerned, he bought only the field with the Cave of Machpelah in Hebron.

It rather boils down to what one is looking for in the 'contradictions'.

The truth which is not in Acts 7:16.

Whilst the 'solutions' offered above are valid (as are solutions to all 'the usual suspects' when it comes to assumed Biblical contradictions), I doubt it will do anything to assuage a skeptic.

Those solutions you have presented above are Christian solutions to justify the lies of Luke and to satisfy those who walk by faith and not by sight aka understanding. Hence, Paul said that Christians must walk by faith and not understanding. (II Cor. 5:7)

On the other hand, skepticism alone is not enough to invalidate the text, but much like the journalist, the skeptic 'never lets the truth stand in the way of a good story'.

There is no truth in Acts 7:16.

Why do I give credence to Luke's Stephen? Because the facts show there was a church, that it's growth was exponential, that there was conflict with Jews as well as Gentiles.

There was no church before Paul started preaching his gospel. That's when Christians were called Christians for the first time. Read Acts 11:26. Based on this fact, Stephen did not happen as a fact but a parable to document the church of Paul.

Acts 7 is a masterful response to the charges typically laid against Christ and His followers by the Jews. It's a text replete in the full sense of Scripture: truth, morality, spiritual insight, eschatalogical speculation ... in short, it's way too informed on too many levels, way too rich for me to get bogged down in superficial nit-picking over 'contradictions'.

The truth is that you are on denial.

In my experience, therein lies the road to enlightenment. Perhaps they're meant to be there, like easter eggs, or koans, waiting in the text for those with the eyes to see?

Right! It was with eyes to see that I found the blunder committed by Luke to place the story of Stephen about 10 years prior to Paul's.
 

A Cup Of Tea

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You say above that "all are stories and NONE of it fact."

No he doesn't. If you have trouble understanding other people here you should ask. You have repeatedly misquoted people since you got here and I don't know if it's you language skill or you just get over excited but it's rather unproductive to argue with the shadows in your mind.

If you think Thomas is assuming everything in the Bible is fiction, then you've probably misinterpreted each and every sentence he has written to you.
 

Devils' Advocate

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In this so called Reality. Well, most of the time.
I do not jump to the rather extreme (and logically flawed) conclusion that because some of it comprises ahistorical stories, all are stories and none of it fact. Thomas.

That is not the problem for me. If some is accurate and some is not, how do you tell the one from the other? There do seem to be a lot of people who are rather arbitrary on how they make that choice!
 

wil

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Be it financial, political or theological there is a lot to weed thru... handy when an issue or topic less than three sides and couple dozen components. Everyone has their line that they choose which to believe, which to take with a grain of salt, which to find a valuable nugget of information one can use despite the story it came from being patently false.

If everyone didn't have a different line...who wrote all these articles and books over the past few thousand years.
 

mehdi I

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I do not jump to the rather extreme (and logically flawed) conclusion that because some of it comprises ahistorical stories, all are stories and none of it fact. Thomas.

That is not the problem for me. If some is accurate and some is not, how do you tell the one from the other? There do seem to be a lot of people who are rather arbitrary on how they make that choice!

Great post, I was going to point out the same thing. Thomas can you please address this issue?
 

wil

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I'm often accused of that... meh. It is an issue, some folks (not saying thomas) when presented with current data on the topic find that if they accept that, they are so committed to every fiber that the proverbial rug is pulled out from under them...or so they think...

When confronted with the same information and understanding, Bart Ehrman turned Atheist, Jack Spong, more connected... I feel more connected knowing that I don't have to accept things that are supernatural...knowing that science will most likely explain it all someday (sort of like the second coming, I don't expect or need to have that happen in 'my' day)
 

Thomas

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If some is accurate and some is not, how do you tell the one from the other?
Examine the evidence and the arguments.
The process is the same as in any other discipline, it's peer review.

It requires a broad range of reading, those who's position one might favour, and those who's position one doesn't. Then balance those against one's own convictions. Again, the same as any academic practice – it's not enough to state your argument, you have to state the contrary, and then make your point.

As for the 'contradictions', there are none that I know of that have not been reconciled by sound scholarship. Those who claim they exist are either unaware of the solutions, or not interested in them.
 

Thomas

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I feel more connected knowing that I don't have to accept things that are supernatural...
Connected to what?

... knowing that science will most likely explain it all someday
Really? Connected to what?

Is that not because you've adopted the rather fundamentalist position that anything science can't explain, can't be?

But more to the point, in the traditions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, it's asserted unequivocally and without doubt that God is not a material entity and not accessible to empirical determination.

In fact, I don't know of a God in any Religious Tradition that is accessible to that order of measurement (although, no doubt, there probably is one in America).

Actually, I think such a belief in science evidences 'blind faith'! :D
 

wil

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You are too funny. Gravity...science can't explain it, I accept it.

Asserted unequivically that without a doubt that G!d is not a material entity? Well the lions share of Jews, Christians and Muslims that I've run across believe in a giant old man sitting on a throne (in our image)... of course I am talking about Americans here...I don't know what goes on elsewhere...

Connected to what? Connected to all that is. I don't believe in the supernatural...nontheistic panentheist...if G!d exists at all...G!d is natural, not supernatural...

Gravity is natural....we just can't explain it yet... I have full FAITH we will someday, probably not in my lifetime...

Unlike the hundreds of generations that thought the world was gonna end in their lifetimes and that Jesus was gonna return in their lifetimes...

Hell we now know there isn't any dome of water above our heads that the stars sit in, and that our earth revolves around the sun and not the other way around... The writers of the bible did their best to explain what was natural and failed miserably...why the hell would I believe they got the supernatural right??

Again...HELLOO....bible number one spiritual book, I love the metaphor, allegory, parables, mythology, metaphysics, and inspiration it contains. I read it regularly, use it regularly, refer to it regularly.... just don't worship every jot and tittle!
 

Thomas

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You are too funny.
Oh, here we go again ...

... Well the lions share of Jews, Christians and Muslims that I've run across believe in a giant old man sitting on a throne (in our image)... of course I am talking about Americans here...I don't know what goes on elsewhere...
As I expected "Hey, Thomas, LOOK AT THEM. SEE HOW STUPID THEY ARE. So you see, I must be right!"

I think what you think we think exists largely in your head and is dictated by your prejudices.

That aside, it's not doctrine, so irrelevant. Why bring it up? Why is how awful the people you come into contact with proof of anything theologically, doctrinally or philosophically?

I'm bored with your pejorative representations of Catholics, and now Christians, Jews and Moslems.

If what you say is true, then it applies to you. You're American. I find your notion of God no less ridiculous.

Connected to what? Connected to all that is.
You think. I mean, you've decided what 'all there is' comprises. It's a patently self-serving statement.

It might surprise you to know that some peoples' 'all that is' has a far broader scope than your narrow outlook. And they make their case with far more reason, logic and rationality than you, and without finding it necessary to criticise others.

I don't believe in the supernatural...
I know you don't. But that doesn't constitute a proof.

if G!d exists at all...G!d is natural, not supernatural...
Your god, maybe, but that's not the God I'm talking about.

Gravity is natural....we just can't explain it yet...
Gravity is a natural phenomena. So irrelevant.

Unlike the hundreds of generations that thought the world was gonna end in their lifetimes and that Jesus was gonna return in their lifetimes...
More 'THEM' to point at. Bollocks.

Bored Wil. Bored with you and your self-opinionated 'see how awful they are' mode of argument.
 

wil

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We both know there is no proof for G!d....that is a given...

You say it is a given that the abrahamic see G!d as spirit not anthropormphic....

we also know that is untrue....3,000 versions of Christianity... wide variety.

YUP, them, them that sunk their life on the end of times coming this day or that, them that believe Jesus will return in their life...

I just ain't that arrogant Thomas...you can't make me.
 

Thomas

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You say it is a given that the abrahamic see G!d as spirit not anthropormphic....
we also know that is untrue....
Can you back that up with references to actual doctrine?

And please, slagging off your neighbours or you old scout troop or whoever else has incurred your displeasure does not constitute a relevant argument.

I could point the finger at those who think the Americans rigged the moon landings and shot the whole thing on a movie lot ... but that does not constitute a refutation of science, does it?

YUP, them ...
Wil ... please ... give it up.
 

wil

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Heck, no I can't back that up with doctrine. You said,
But more to the point, in the traditions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, it's asserted unequivocally and without doubt that God is not a material entity and not accessible to empirical determination.
I disagreed, as there are many who doubt this....it is not 'without a doubt'.

Yeah, there are moon landing crackpots, birther crackpots, climate change deniers... and yes they are both a disconcerting number in this country as well.

And no that does not discount science or facts....

But what we are speaking of here is belief...not facts. (Yes each and every religion and denomination has folks that believe their belief is a fact)
 
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