Sunday, March 10, 2002

Theological Foray #5 Apologetics Part 2:Mathematical Blunders



These are examples provided to me from the same listserv, showing where math and the Bible don't always agree.

(1) I Chronicles 3:22 --> 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 = 6

(2) 1 Chronicles 25:3 --> 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 = 6

1 Chron. 25:3 says “Of Jeduthun, the sons of Jeduthun: [1]Gedaliah, [2]Zeri, [3]Jeshaiah, [4]Shimei, [5]Hashabiah, [6], Mattithiah....” QED.

(3) Joshua 15:33-36 --> 15 cities = 16 cities

(4) 1 Kings 7:23, 2 Chronicles 4:2 --> 2 * pi * 5 cubits = 30 cubits

In ancient times, pi was reckoned as 3.0. 2*3*6=30 cubits.

(5) 1 Chronicles 3:19-20 --> 7 males + 1 female = 5 persons

1 Chron 3:19-20 says “19...And the sons of Zerubbabel were Meshullam and Hananiah, and Shelomith was their sister; 20 and Hashubah, Ohel, Berechiah, Hasadiah, and Jushab-hesed, five.” The five clearly refers to the sons in verse 20, not to the entire family.

(6) Joshua 15:21-32 --> 29 cities = 36 cities

(7) 2 Chronicles 21:20, 22:1,2 --> Son is 2 years older than father!

Jehoram died at the age of forty, having ascended to the throne at age 32 and dying eight years later. His son Ahaziah became king at the age of 22, meaning that he would’ve been born when his father was 18, which is reasonable.

(8) Ezra 1:9-11 --> 1000 + 29 + 30 + 410 + 1000 = 5400

The Apocryphal (which doesn’t mean wrong, but simply not canon) book 1 Esdras lists the items slightly differently, and comes up with 5469 items. As was common practice at the time, the largest round number (5400) is given as the total.

(9) Joshua 19:2-6 --> 13 cities = 14 cities

(10) Ezra 2:3,64; Neh. 7:8,66 --> 42,360 = 29,818 = 31,089

The list in Nehemiah is later than that in Ezra, and is updated. Both passages list only the “sons” and “men of” in the figures of 29,818 and 31,089, while they list “the whole assembly,” presumably including women, as 42,360.



Examples 1, 3, 6, and 9 do appear to be errors, most likely from translation. In each case, a list is simply miscounted. It is also possible that portions of the list got lost, and the Dead Sea Scrolls may be able to help fill in the gap. In none of these cases are things of theological significance missing. If grammatical and spelling errors were enough to conclude that something was wrong, then I shouldn’t have paid any attention to my Physics or Zoology professors last semester. Only when things directly contradict each other should this be brought up. There is a legal principle that “the law takes no notice of small things,” and a similar scientific principle called the Five-percent Rule.


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