Let's do better

Simply framing a coherent sentence that provides a possible response to a problem is not enough. We can do better than that. I see a sad tendency (on both sides of the fence, but primarily on the Christian) to “toss out” any conceivable rejoinder to an issue, followed by a sense of satisfaction that the argument was rebutted, succeeded by surprise that the opponent didn’t “bite.”

Frankly, if the Bible is the sole divine revelation, from the sole source of Truth, I am disappointed that Christians would be willing to reduce the standard of its viability down to “any possibility” rather than what is more likely.

I get the chance to see this almost every day. One side of a question will present their evidence, and appear to have a strong position. And then we hear the rest of the story from the opposition, and learn that things are not as clear as originally stated.

But once in a while, it becomes evident that there is no defense to the accusation, and the attorney is simply “grasping at straws.” Claiming anything, saying everything, all in the hopes of somehow stumbling on enough words to convince the judge or jury that, if they talk enough, there must be something worthwhile said which warrants a defense.

Yet in this debate—should that be enough? Any possibility? We never accept that in real life, why would we accept it in what should be the most perfect example of truth available on earth?

Imagine coming home and seeing your son, baseball bat in hand, a broken window, and a ball rolling around the living room floor. An obvious portrayal of the previous moments comes quickly to mind.

Upon being accused, your son assures you that the neighborhood bully, in order to defame your son’s innocence, had just picked up the ball, and thrown it through the window. You barely missed him. Deciding to pursue the matter, you confront the accused’s parents. They assure you that their son had been doing homework at the time, and couldn’t possibly be guilty.

Upon presenting those facts to your son, he claims those parents were lying to protect their son.

On and on you go, and every rabbit trail, every fact dug up, your son has an explanation—a possibility—to interpret away his own guilt. Would you buy it? Would you confidently state, “There is no WAY my son hit that ball through a window, because of the potential that some tortured manufacture of facts could be contrived to demonstrate his innocence”?

Or would you confidently state that there is always the slim chance of his innocence, the far greater likelihood is that he discovered windows make poor outfielders.

The clearest example of this is in the debate on inerrancy. An inerrantist will hold to any possible resolution of any contradiction, as if this would satisfy inerrancy. Resolutions that are bent, twisted and contorted to fit that particular moment, and just as quickly discarded in the next discussion.

Honestly? No body except other inerrantists are buying it. We understand their natural bias to manufacture a resolution. We see it in action by claims of people doing unbelievable things, and allegations of recording history in an unlikely fashion. Inerrantists would never accept these claims in a newspaper, but accept it to keep their Bible error-free. We see the double standard. What is ridiculed in the Qur’an is revered in the Bible. A great example of this is David’s Census.

(To save bandwith, the three accounts of this event are at 2 Samuel 24:1-25, 1 Chronicles 21:1-28 and 1 Chronicles 27:24. Please read at your leisure)

Having read such, I have a few questions. The first few are multiple choice to make it easy. (“A”= 2 Sam., “B”= 1 Chron. 21 and “C”=1 Chron. 27)

1. When did God get angry?
A. Before the census
B. God never gets angry.
C. Because of the census

2. Who incited David to take the Census?
A. God
B. Satan
C. Nobody.

3. What human mandated the census?
A. David
B. David
C. Joab.

4. Who protested against the census?
A. Joab and his captains.
B. Joab.
C. Nobody, Joab just did the census.

5. What was wrong with taking a census?
A. Nothing, God mandated it in Numbers 26:2
B. Nothing, God required it for taxes in Exodus 30:12
C. Nothing, they just did one in the preceding 23 verses!

6. How long did it take to do the census?
A. Nine months, 20 days.
B. Not recorded
C. Didn’t complete the census

7. Who all was counted?
A. All tribes
B. All tribes except Levi and Benjamin
C. Didn’t complete the census.

8. What was the number of the census?
A. 1.3 Million
B. 1.57 Million (with LESS tribes counted!)
C. Number was deliberately not recorded.

9. What stopped the census?
A. Done counting
B. Done counting
C. Wrath of God, census not completed.

10. Who took the blame for doing the census?
A. David
B. David
C. Not recorded, but apparently Joab. (COULDN’T be David. 1 Kings 15:5)

11. What was the first threat of punishment of God?
A. 7 years of famine
B. 3 years of famine
C. No threat, it just came!

12. What is the name of the Jebusite where the angel stopped?
A. Araunah
B. Ornan
C. Umm…What Jebusite? They should all be killed on sight. Deut. 20:17

13. What did the Jebusite do when he saw the Angel of Death?
A. Doesn’t say the Jebusite saw the Angel.
B. Just kept working, just kept working…
C. Excuse me? Jebusite? Didn’t David award Joab his position because he fought and killed the Jebusites? 1 Chron. 11:6

14. What did David buy from the Jebusite?
A. The Threshing floor and the oxen.
B. “the place” (just the floor?)
C. Are you crazy? THERE IS NO @#%%@ JEBUSITE! David would have killed him!

15. How much did David pay the Jebusite?
A. 50 shekels of silver
B. 600 shekels of gold
C. I’m telling you-- There is no Jebusite!

The test you cannot fail—all answers and no answers are correct. REGARDLESS of what you circled, you get 100% right! Depending on which particular passage you read is which answer you will provide.

We are not done. For the Essay portion of our quiz-- In your apologetic, discuss the theological implications of God getting so angry He desires to kill 70,000 people, but His nature of Justice mandates someone has to sin first. Also discuss the punishment of David’s sin being 100,000-200,000 OTHER people have to die. Also discuss Satan’s limitation of “tempting” others unless God allows it. Or (in the alternative) discuss the ramifications of Satan and God working together to allow God to kill 70,000 people for David’s sin.

If, in your apologetic, you claim that God and Satan worked together, discuss other areas in which the two entities worked together, and why each of the authors failed to mention the involvement of the entity’s enemy.

If, in your apologetic, you claim David was prideful and wanted to do the census, please give other examples (with citations) as to David’s pride, and explain why 2 Samuel states God was angry first. You should also address why this sin was not listed in David’s transgressions in 1 Kings.

If, in your apologetic, you claim that David bought more than the house, explain your use of the Hebrew word for “place” and why that entails an entire mountain.

If, in your apologetic, you address the differing numbers of the census, please provide archeological verification that in 1000 B.C. there were more than 50,000 people in the land encompassing Canaan. You should also address the ability of a nation with a possible standing army of at least 1.3 Million, as compared to other nations at that time, and why this military strength is non-existent in archeological records.

You may need to discuss the concept of “rounding” especially in light of all of 1 Chron. 27.

I have raised David’s Census to inerrantists. To give an example of the possibilities proferred, in an attempt to maintain inerrancy:

Israel’s sin angered God enough for Him to release Satanic temptation on David.

A unique resolution of this predicament. Note the precipitating cause: God getting Angry. In every other situation (that I am aware) if God is angry at Israel he sent an army to invade, pestilence, famine, floods, a whole variety of items with which to punish them. Why go through the charade of releasing Satan to make David sin, so God can punish Israel? Quite an indirect route for what should have been a simple 1-2 step. Israel Sins, God sends punishment.

This also creates the conflict in David taking responsibility for the sin of the census.

Is Satan beholden to God, in that he cannot act without God allowing it? Why did Satan want David to sin? Again, remember the precipitating cause, God’s anger. We assume Satan is this no-good, mean, rotten entity that wants everyone to sin at every chance. We forget the painted picture of a clever entity. If God was prohibiting Satan from tempting David, then got Angry, and then allowed Satan to tempt David, is it not likely Satan would have wondered why? And perhaps declined. Let God do his own dirty work.

And again, why the charade? If God could incite David to sin by himself (as 2 Sam. states) and God desired it, why involve Satan at all? If David wanted to do it himself (for pride) why was God angry FIRST and why not let David just do it.

The only apologetic that seems to work is to have God and Satan BOTH desiring David to sin. And this makes God and Satan having a mutual goal. Can we identify other mutual goals of God/Satan?

Obviously God incited David, but not directly. Satan was God’s instrument in this case. He has always used Satan this way. Satan is always pressuring/petitioning God for authorizations to both tempt and destroy mankind

Again, the problem that this was not Satan asking God to do it, but God wanting it done since he was angry. Further, the word used for incite, “cuwth” is the same word used when God did it in 2 Sam. As when Satan did it in 1 Chron. Most apologists say that God’s involvement was indirect, but Satan’s involvement was direct. The problem is that it is the same word. Are we re-defining the word because it warrants re-definition, or are we re-defining the word because we need to resolve a conflict? I go for the simpler explanation – cuwth means the same when it is used in the same situation with the same types of entities.

David delegated the task to Joab, so both were involved.

O.K., but why would the Author of 1 Chron. 27 leave out the important figure here, the King? ESPECIALLY in light of the fact that Joab protested the Census? Even more importantly, when (if it was the same author) 6 Chapters earlier he was more than happy to lay the blame on David and absolve Joab?

Where I do not buy this apologetic, is the claim that this is inspired Scripture. Between human authors, it seems feasible to have missed out important figures, like God, Satan and David. But if God had his hand in it, why are these most important facts missing?

And while we are on that, let’s talk about 2 Samuel missing Satan, and 1 Chronicles missing God in the story. Most apologists say that BOTH were involved, and this is not necessarily contradictory, as 2 Samuel just failed to mention Satan and 1 Chronicles failed to mention God. Can I say, “Huh?”

First (in explaining away “incite”) we have Satan chomping at the bit to get David to sin. But 2 Samuel fails to mention that important fact. Then we have God getting angry and “releasing” Satan. But 1 Chronicles 21 fails to mention that fact. So we say “incite” means two different things. (1 Chronicles 27 fails to mention EITHER of them!)

Now that we have demonstrated how diametrically opposed Satan and God are, we then claim that the authors failed to mention the involvement of these two enemies!

Facts that apologists feel are important to align the passages, the authors did not!

Look at this analogy. (I know it is not perfect. It is designed to point out that leaving out important details is unacceptable.)

Imagine this week you read in Newsweek that Pres. Bush ordered a sniper to kill Tony Blair. You then pick up Time which says Osama bin Laden ordered a sniper to kill Tony Blair. US News & World Report simply says a sniper killed Tony Blair. Would you look at those three reports and think, “Oh, these are complimentary. Clearly Bush had Osama in his control and then allowed bin Laden to hire a sniper”?

OR would you more likely determine that somebody screwed up in the News department in each of these magazines? I find it fascinating that apologists hold the inspired word of God to a lesser standard than they do to a Newspaper or a Magazine. What one would NEVER accept in a news agency, one GLADLY accepts in the Bible. I would think the word of God could be held to a greater standard and still sustain the test. Apparently not.

David’s sin was to disobey God’s voice speaking through his conscience.

Where does it state that God was speaking to David through his conscience? The point is that NOWHERE does it state that taking a census is wrong. Since census taking was not only performed before, but ORDERED by Mosaic Law (for taxes) if it is considered a grave sin in this situation, don’t you think it would be important to point out why? More on how grave of a sin later.

The number “7” (or the number “3”) is reputed to be a copyist error.

Oh, good. A copyist error. Then can anyone show me the copies that had a “3” rather than a “7?” What? There AREN’T ANY? Then how can I possibly say this is a “copyist” error? And which one (2 Sam. Or 1 Chron.) was the “copyist error?” I wonder if apologists ever get tired of trying to explain these situations for God.

Question: How many OTHER copyist errors are in the bible? Apparently there is at least one. (This one.) Since all the copies say “7,” than we can have other portions of the Bible that all the copies say the same thing, yet be a copyist error, right? Since we can’t tell? If this is a copyist error, and I claim that John 3:16 is a copyist error, how can you possibly argue against it?

There seems to have been two different numeric formats involved here, one of them rounding off numbers.

How can I tell the difference between a “rounding” and a copyist error, by the by? The rounding just does not fly. This was a CENSUS. This was not estimation. This was not a guess. This was not an approximation. Joab spent the most part of a year, going through all the land, and he comes back to his King with a “round” number?

And how can we “round” these numbers to get to these two figures (1.3 Million vs 1.57 Million)? Look:

2 Sam. 1 Chron.
Israel – 800,000 1.1 Million
Judah – 470,000 500,000

I get how 1 Chron. Would round up 470,000 to 500,000. (Again, as to the why is questionable) But how can the same “rounding” author round 800,000 to 1.1 Million? That doesn’t make any sense MAYBE if he had rounded to 1 Million, I could see it (although that is a factor of 20%, which would be significant.) But no.

Further, one should address the capabilities of a nation in 1000 BC with a possible army of 1.3 Million men. To say they would be a world-power is underestimating the capabilities.

Worse, if you are claiming consistency with 1 Chron 27, then there were MORE than 1.57 (or 1.3, I can’t tell which) Million men in this possibly army.

They would have decimated any army that came against them. Yet there are NO archeological remnants of such a world-power. Odd.

The Jebusite had a name in each language. Conversion to Judaism was possible. That’s probably why this Jebusite had both a Hebrew name and a Jebusite name.

Bit of circular reasoning here. We know he converted to Judaism because he had two names. He had two names because he converted to Judaism. What other converts from condemned nations had two names?

First of all, God ordered the elimination (Joshua NIV uses the word “extermination”) of the Jebusites. David was FIGHTING the Jebusites. (And apparently not winning with a 1.57 Million army!) Deut. 20:17 does not allow the possibility of “conversion.”

Let’s talk about our Jebusite. Many apologists gloss over this name variation, as little import. But is it?

This Jebusite was allowed to live. This makes him singular, if not unique. He owned land near the principal city, good real estate. He was loyal to King David. As pointed out, he could see angels. He owned land worth 600 shekels of gold (according to the apologetic) which some apologists claim would be the size of a mountain. This was one significant Jebusite! In fact, Solomon’s temple was eventually built on his land (according to some apologists). We do know how significant Solomon’s temple was.

Yet they couldn’t get this guy’s Name straight?

Part of my problem with the apologetic of this entire passage, is what is important to resolve a contradiction in one verse is immediately disregarded and contradicted to resolve a contradiction in the next verse. How can this guy be so important, on one hand, yet get his name wrong on the next?

This verse is a copyist error. The next is NOT a copyist error, but a “rounding.”

Why, oh why do Christians (and I was as to blame) hold the bible to such a slight standard? A standard we would not accept in a third-grader’s homework?

The Bathsheba-Uriah ordeal was David’s only major sin. Why wasn’t the census a major sin? Because God was primarily angry at Israel, not at David, who sinned principally because Satan put extra pressure on him.

Again, if God was mad, why involve Satan-->David-->Joab?

Who said Uriah was David’s only major sin? (1 Kings only mentions Uriah, not Bathsheba.) In fact, if one measures sin by the punishment, this sin was far, far worse. The Third worst individual sin ever recorded. And somehow the author of 1 Kings missed it. Wonder how.

According to the punishment due on Uriah, there should have been 2 deaths (David and Bathsheba) at the most. According to the punishment on the Census, there should have been 100,000-200,000 deaths! While 1 Kings may have downplayed the census, it is truly bizarre to have missed it.

He paid 50 shekels of silver for the threshing floor and oxen, and then six hundred shekels of gold for the entire land.

Again, the facts that one author missed, but the other caught seem completely out of place. Imagine your spouse comes home and says that they bought a radio. Would you think it significant that they missed the fact the radio is in a new car?

As I stated, according to some, 600 shekels of gold would be the equivalent of buying a mountain! The very mountain of the Great Temple! 2 Sam. and 1 Chron. 27 Missed that? The purchase of the land for the Temple? The precipitating cause for where the Temple was to exist?

Now, I propose the following resolution for David’s Census:

There was a legend about a census during Kind David’s reign that resulted in a punishment on the people. At various times, and various places the legend modified, based upon who was telling it. Three different authors wrote it down. Being human, and hearing the legends from humans, they wrote different accounts.

Which is more likely? Human error on these accounts, or a tortured, twisted explanation that bends and turns according to the necessity of that exact clause at that exact moment, which, not surprisingly, happens to coincide with the bias of the person making the proposal.

If it weren’t in the Bible, every person would agree it was “human error” every time. That is why simply coughing out some words that would align one part of one clause of one story, while disregarding the more likely probability of human error is not persuasive.