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Who killed Goliath? Was it David or another guy named Elhanan? 2 Samuel 21:19 (NASB) (NIV) clearly states, “There was war with the Philistines again at Gob, and Elhanan the son of Jaare-oregim the Bethlehemite killed Goliath the Gittite, the shaft of whose spear was like a weaver’s beam”. There are NOT two Goliaths in the Bible. Being a “Gittite” means that you came from Gath of Philistia. Whoa! This is the same Goliath! According to the Scriptures, David killed Goliath; and then later, Elhanan killed the same Goliath! That is not possible, and this is not a trick. Who really killed Goliath? We’ll find out shortly.
James 4:5 asks, Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: “He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us”? James is obviously quoting a scripture. The problem is, there is no such scripture! I’m not kidding. No matter what translation you use, no matter how hard you look, no matter what commentary or concordance you search, there really is no such passage. Perhaps what is most stunning about this verse is that you cannot easily attribute this as being a “copyist’s error”. Commentaries use words like “perplexing”, “dumbfounding” and “extremely obscure” to describe the difficulty with this passage. There is no scripture that is even close.
Now, let me ask you a personal question: How do these situations make you feel or think when you read them? Examine your thoughts and reaction. Do you think that the way you respond to these puzzles in the Scripture could reveal something about you, or your view of God’s nature? The Bible is compared to a reflecting mirror. How do you react when the mirror “seems” to have cracks? As a believer, how do you deal with it?
I tend to enjoy these types of challenging Scriptures; But, you have to be careful how you approach challenges to your theology. You can approach it with either skepticism, denial, ignorance, despair, fear, or faith. The voice of skepticism will say, “These are blatant errors. The Bible is filled with lies and cannot be trusted.” The voice of denial will say, “There is nothing wrong. God would never allow one jot or tittle to be out of place. The same God who watched over the original manuscripts would obviously protect the integrity of the copies as well. If it was important to Him then, it is important to Him now. We simply cannot allow the Scriptures to appear as if they have a human element.” The voice of ignorance says, “Granny said the Bible doesn’t have any mistakes. That’s the way it is. If you think the Bible contains human mistakes, then you’re going to Hell.” The voice of despair says, “This is uncomfortable and makes my heart sink. I can’t look at things like this, it is too disturbing and takes away my peace.” The voice of fear says, “Oh no! If the Bible has mistakes, then what can we believe? What hope do we have? Everything I have ever believed is crumbling!”. The voice of faith says, “The Bible we have in our hands has textual variations and human mistakes. That doesn’t worry God or make Him cringe. Nothing takes Him by surprise and He allowed it to happen. It doesn’t affect essential truth, the themes of Scripture, or the message of the Gospel. The Holy Spirit was not afraid for the truth to be written and copied through the hands of faulty humans. He didn’t choose angels to write it down. He is not nearly as offended by our humanity as we are.” If you take a closer look at what appear to be “warts” in the Bible, you may find that they are really beauty marks. I have great hope that you will approach the following subject matter with faith towards God.
Lets look at a passage that really isn’t “warty” at all. Nevertheless, it is a key scripture that has acted like a pair of glasses to help me see things. (Thank you Matt Crider!) As you look at this passage, don’t forget what you just saw in James 4:5
Hebrews 2:6 says, But one has testified somewhere, saying, “What is man, that you remember him? Or the Son of Man, that you are concerned about him?” The writer of Hebrews is quoting a Psalm of David (Psalm 8:4-6). Yet, even under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the writer of Hebrews did not seem to remember who wrote it or what writing you could find it in. He says that “someone said this somewhere”. This is apparently NOT a copyist’s error. Can first-hand writers of the Holy Bible have “oops” moments? If the writer had mentally recalled that the quote originated with David, and that the quote was in the Psalms, I believe he would have said so. He could have easily said “the Scripture says”. Instead, the writer of Hebrews was vague on this point. What happened? I believe the actual writer of Hebrews had a Rick Perry moment. He had a lapse in memory while writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Is that possible? Some of you may be thinking, “How dare you suggest that the Scripture may contain a human lapse by an original author! The Holy Spirit would never forget such things!” The Holy Spirit didn’t forget anything…The writer apparently forgot. Allow me to ask: Is it possible to be used by God and still be really human? Does God use you? How should we respond to this human lapse found in Scripture?
Here’s how: I THANK GOD FOR THIS HEBREWS PASSAGE AND THE WAY IT IS WRITTEN! To me, this is a wonderful and refreshing reminder that the Holy Spirit uses human vessels that don’t always recall every detail. He didn’t find it necessary to correct the writer of Hebrews for this oversight. Some of us have been led to believe that the writers were simply secretaries of the Holy Spirit who dictated every word to them. Does being under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit mean that we stop being human? God likes our humanity so much that Jesus forever lives in a glorified, recognizable, human male body that still enjoys the human appetite for food. Yes, Jesus still has an appetite and enjoys that very human pleasure! If He didn’t have the propensity for an appetite, He wouldn’t have eaten with the disciples AFTER the Resurrection, would He? Jesus will forever live in a body that can still experience and enjoy the pleasure of human touch. He is not a ghost; He said, “touch me”. I truly believe that there will be actual hugs in heaven. Bottom line: God’s truth can shine through our error-prone, mistake-filled humanity. The same God who used fallen men to write the Scriptures is the same God who uses people like you and me right now! He likes us.
Part of the importance of this Hebrews passage is that it shows the humanity of the writer without compromising the truth that is being presented. This principle is very important to remember as you read further. Now, let’s look at some more “warty” passages.
Matthew 27:9 says, Then that which was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: “AND THEY TOOK THE THIRTY PIECES OF SILVER, THE PRICE OF THE ONE WHOSE PRICE HAD BEEN SET by the sons of Israel. Now the problem with this passage is that Jeremiah never said any such thing! He never wrote it or said it. On the contrary, it was the Prophet Zechariah who said it. You can find it in Zechariah 11:12. But you will not find it in any writings of Jeremiah. Like the writer we talked about earlier in Hebrews, someone made a human mistake. But it doesn’t destroy the overall truth…A prophet predicted that someone would betray Jesus for money.
Jesus said in John 7:38, “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” Once again, there is no such Scripture! There are some Scriptures that are vaguely alike, (Isaiah 58:11) but there is nothing that you could clearly point to and say, “That’s the one!” Some believe that Jesus may have been strictly referring to the statement “he who believes in me”, but most scholars say that is not likely. Perhaps the writer didn’t quote the words right. Whatever happened, the passage is still possessed with truth.
Did King Jehoshaphat remove the idol shrines? (2 Chron. 17:6) OR, did he allow them to stand? (1 Kings 22:43). Who knows? Someone made a human mistake. The bottom line is that in the end the kingdom of Judah sinned and fell. The Holy Spirit’s message prevails in spite of human writing mistakes.
How did King Ahaziah die? Did Jehu have him shot with an arrow near Ibleam, and then did Ahaziah escape to Megiddo and die there while on the run? (2 Kings 9:27) OR, was he captured, brought to Jehu, and then put to death and buried? (2 Chronicles 22:9). Regardless of which human account is right, Ahaziah died under the watch of Jehu. The Spirit’s truth is not compromised by man’s mistake.
What about the earlier problems?
So who killed Goliath? 1 Chron. 20:5 corrects everything by saying that Elhanan actually killed Goliath’s brother. Also, the KJV version of 2 Sam. 21:19 added “the brother of” in parentheses. Case closed, right? Not exactly. This now proves that 2 Sam. 21:19 contains a human mistake. Yet, it does not destroy the overall truth…Goliath is dead, Israel wins.
Concerning James 4:5 the sentence structure in Greek indicates that the writer thought that there was a Scripture that said these very words. Although there is no exact corresponding scripture, it is still a statement of truth that the entire Bible would support. His mistake didn’t thwart or bother the Holy Spirit.
Was Jehoiachin 8 yrs. old (2 Chron. 36:9), or 18 yrs. old (2Kings 24:8) when he started to reign? Did Gad tell David 3yrs. of famine (1 Chron. 21:11-12), or 7 yrs. (2 Sam. 24:13)? Moses said that 70 people went down to Egypt; Stephen said it was 75. I could go on and on. There are more examples of human mistakes contained in Scripture…And yet, the Scripture is perfect.
Knowing these mistakes, how can we say the Scripture is perfect? The Miami Dolphins football team suffered through numerous penalties, fumbles, interceptions, dropped passes, blown plays, and were scored upon by the opposing team several times. In spite of all this, the 1972 Miami Dolphins had a PERFECT season. They were perfect. They went 17-0 including the Super Bowl. Their reliability factor was 100%. They never lost a game. They were perfect. Although the Bible is filled with human mistakes, the Truth still stands. God is a redeemer, God hates sin, God loves you, Christ died and rose again, and the Apostles never backed off from this testimony even while under the penalty of death. They saw Him alive!!! This is 100% reliable. The Truth has never faltered.
The Protestant Reformer Martin Luther recognized the human mistakes contained in Scripture. Luther treated them with indifference because they did not touch the heart of the Gospel. He said, “The Holy Ghost has an eye only to the substance and is not bound by words. He also said, “Such points do not bother me particularly. These are questions that I am not going to try to settle. Some people are so hairsplitting and meticulous that they want to have everything absolutely precise. But if we have the right understanding of Scripture and hold to the true article of our faith that Jesus Christ, God’s Son, died and suffered for us, it won’t matter much if we cannot answer all the questions put to us.”
It amazes me the hoops that some apologist’s will jump through to avoid the appearance of the human element in the writing of the Scriptures. Most of the time I appreciate the work of biblical apologists. Yet, there are times when these commentaries make ridiculous speculations in the name of trying to preserve their theology of what they think the Bible should be. The Holy Spirit was not offended by the humanity of the writers. We should embrace the humanity of the Scriptures and not hide from it.
So why are so many afraid to recognize and embrace human mistakes in the Scriptures? What is really going on? Think about that.
For more on this subject, please read my post “Let’s Be Honest About Bible Errors”