Two Ages at Once

How could Ahaziah be both 22 years old and 42 years old when he started to reign?

Ahaziah was twenty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned one year in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Athaliah the granddaughter of Omri, king of Israel (2 Kings 8:26).

Ahaziah was forty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned one year in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Athaliah the granddaughter of Omri (2 Chronicles 22:2).

Was Ahaziah 22 or 42 years old when he became king of Judah? Ahaziah’s true age when he became king of Judah is easy to discern by further research. In 2 Kings 8:17, Ahaziah’s father Joram reigned for 8 years after beginning his reign at age 32. Joram was 40 when he died, showing that Ahaziah could not have been 42, but was instead 22 when he began his reign. So what does the 42 in 2 Chronicles 22:2 indicate?

There are two primary answers that Christian scholars have given. Either answer reveals there is no contradiction:

The 42 is in reference to the beginning of the kingly reign of which Ahaziah is a part.

This was a copyist error that changed the original 22 in 2 Chronicles 22:2 to 42.

Was 42 Years the Beginning of the Kingly Reign?

Leading Hebraist Dr. John Gill listed several responses to this alleged contradiction in the 1700s:

Some refer this to Jehoram, that he was forty two when Ahaziah began to reign, but he was but forty when he died. . . .

others to the age of Athaliah his mother, as if he was the son of one that was forty two, when he himself was but twenty two; but no instance is given of any such way of writing, nor any just reason for it. . . .

others make these forty two years reach to the twentieth of his son Joash, his age twenty two, his reign one, Athaliah six, and Joash thirteen. . . .

the one, that he was twenty two when he began to reign in his father’s lifetime, and forty two when he began to reign in his own right; but then he must reign twenty years with his father, whereas his father reigned but eight years: to make this clear they observe, as Kimchi and Abarbinel, from whom this solution is taken, that he reigned eight years very happily when his son was twenty two, and taken on the throne with him, after which he reigned twenty more ingloriously, and died, when his son was forty two; this has been greedily received by many, but without any proof. . . .

that these forty two years are not the date of the age of Ahaziah, but of the reign of the family of Omri king of Israel; so the Jewish chronology; but how impertinent must the use of such a date be in the account of the reign of a king of Judah? All that can be said is, his mother was of that family, which is a trifling reason for such an unusual method of reckoning.

Obviously, Dr. Gill was appealing for another view: that it was simply a copyist mistake. More recently, chronologist Dr. Floyd Jones expands on Gill’s fifth explanation in Chronology of the Old Testament in much more detail. This is a respectable position and is one of the two possibilities put forth by most scholars.

Dr. Jones makes the case that 42 should remain in 2 Chronicles 22:2. He points out that Ahaziah’s age was indeed 22 as 2 Kings 8:26 says. However, he interprets 2 Chronicles 22:2 as the beginning of the kingly reign of his family line (starting with Omri, then his son Ahab, and then Ahab’s daughter Athaliah who was Ahaziah’s wife).

Dr. Jones points out that the numbers given in the Hebrew text are not the numerals 42 and 22 but are written out as “two and forty” and “two and twenty,” which would seem to make a copyist mistake less likely. Hence, he reinterprets the verse instead of appealing to a copyist mistake.

He points out that the words was and old in 2 Chronicles 22:2 are not in the original Hebrew but were added to the English translation to make it smoother. Without them, it reads “a son of 42 years.” Dr. Jones states:

Thus the sense of Ahaziah’s being “a son of 42 years” in his reigning is seen to refer to his being a son of the dynasty of Omri which was in its 42nd year. Putting the two Scriptures together reveals that Ahaziah was 22 years old when he began to reign during the 42nd year of the dynasty of Omri, of which he is also an integral part.

Although this seems to answer this alleged contradiction, many are not entirely convinced. If 42 is to be interpreted as the beginning of the dynasty of Omri in 2 Chronicles, then why is 22 in 2 Kings 8 not also referring to the beginning of the dynasty of Omri? By this reasoning, this would mean the alleged contradiction could still exist. Another reason others are not entirely convinced is that other ancient texts have 22 in this verse, not 42. Let’s look at the possibility of a copyist mistake.

Was It a Copyist Mistake?

Many fail to realize that several ancient texts have 22 (or simply 20) instead of 42 as listed in the Masoretic Text (MT) in 2 Chronicles 22:2. The Syriac version (common to Eastern churches) and Arabic version each have 22. The Septuagint (LXX) has 20. In fact, the version used by the Antioch church in New Testament times was obtained by Archbishop Ussher at great cost and it had 22 (see first reference by Gill in this alleged contradiction). These early translations were obviously drawing from another Hebrew text, different from what we know today as the Masoretic or standard Hebrew text used for most translations in modern times.

So which text should be used in this instance? Before we assume the MT, let’s see what Jesus quoted from. Jesus quoted from the Old Testament about 64 times in the Gospels. More than half of His quotes agree with both the LXX and the MT. In 12 instances, Jesus’s quotes differ from both the LXX and the MT. In 7 instances, He sides with the LXX over the MT. And in another 12 instances, He agrees with the MT over the LXX. So if we make a case that other ancient texts such as the LXX should never be used instead of the MT, then Jesus would be in error as He clearly didn’t draw explicitly from what we know today as the MT.

Other ancient texts draw from Hebrew versions far earlier than the version of the MT that we have today (current extant copies date from A.D. 900 to 1000). For example, the Septuagint was translated from Hebrew about 200 to 250 years before Christ. Our earliest copy of the Septuagint is from the A.D. 300s. The Syriac version was probably done in the 1st century A.D. because of the rapid growth of the church in Antioch as recorded in the Book of Acts. It was surely completed by the 2nd century, which is commonly referenced.

The Arabic version was done much later, in the 10th century by Saadia Gaon in Babylonia. But this means it drew from a Hebrew text unique from the Masoretic to utilize 22 instead of 42 in 2 Chronicles 22:2. If this were a copyist mistake in the Masoretic text, then it happened prior to the Masoretes who worked from the 7th to 11th centuries A.D., because Jerome’s Latin Vulgate from A.D. 400 also has the number 42.

Regardless, all of these texts underwent some copyist mistakes, as they simply do not agree exactly with each other. This is why scholars such as Dr. Gill lean toward a copyist mistake. Consider what Dr. Gill says:

Indeed it is more to the honour of the sacred Scriptures to acknowledge here and there a mistake in the copiers, especially in the historical books, where there is sometimes a strange difference of names and numbers, than to give in to wild and distorted interpretations of them, in order to reconcile them, where there is no danger with respect to any article of faith or manners.

Other commentaries are also split on the subject. Had the 42 and 22 been written in number form prior to being spelled out, this discrepancy could easily creep in as mem (40) and caph (20) are very similar. We know for certain that as of about A.D. 900, the Masoretes have it spelled out (e.g., “two and forty” or “two and twenty”).

The point is that copies and translations are not inerrant (this is different from preservation). Recognizing this gives more credit to God’s originals and focuses less on the fallible copyists since. Also, it stresses the need to handle the copies and translations of the Word of God with great care and reverence. Had translations and copies been kept inerrant, which Scripture doesn’t reveal, then they should all be identical and yet they are not. God has preserved His Word in a variety of copies and has warned against changing His Word. For example, Revelation 22:18–19 reveals that a horrible fate awaits those who changed words when copying the Book of Revelation.

Regardless, either explanation (42 being the beginning of Ahaziah’s kingly family line or a copyist mistake) reduces this alleged discrepancy to nothing and neither harm the integrity of the original inerrant Bible manuscripts.

Postscript: A Note on Preservation

The Masoretic text is easily the best collection of Hebrew manuscripts of the Old Testament; however, we need to keep in mind that it, too, is a copy of a copy of a copy, etc. And copyists were never given the privilege of inerrancy, unlike the prophets or Apostles. Although the MT may be the best, we need to be careful about in-depth studies of words and phrases without consulting other ancient texts.

This brings us to the question of “preservation,” which is distinct from inerrancy. God reveals that He would preserve His Word (Psalm 12:6–7). Currently there are two views on how this preservation has taken place:

One preserved inerrant copy of a copy of a copy (etc.) has been passed down.

Preservation has occurred through the various copies that exist.

Throughout the history of the Church, the second view has been dominant. With English translations, for example, from Tyndale forward, each translator made use of textually criticized texts and often consulted variant texts when doing translations. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. The idea that one inerrant copy lineage has been passed along is a relatively new idea that, sadly, doesn’t take into account the past.

Early English translators relied heavily on the various Textus Receptus (TR) editions, published copies of the Greek New Testament, as well as a few other sources, whether English, Latin, or other. Dutch Catholic Erasmus in 1516 did textual criticism of a handful of variant copies (three primary copies and three others) of the Greek New Testament to arrive at this new text. He even used quotations by church fathers for comparison and back-translated excerpts of Revelation from the Latin Vulgate that did not appear in any versions of his Greek copies.

Erasmus issued three editions of his Greek New Testament, the latter editions correcting earlier errors. His first edition was apparently rushed for competition with another family of texts that was used for the Polyglot Bible, and it became the dominant text used throughout Europe. Others, such as Stephanus, Beza, and the Elzevir brothers, further edited Erasmus’s TR for subsequent printings. So early translations such as Tyndale’s, the Geneva Bible, Luther’s Bible, and other New Testaments generally came from this text family because this was what was available. But even then, popular versions such as the King James New Testament differs from the TR nearly 170 times and over 60 times agreed with the Latin Vulgate over any Greek text, including the TR.[21]

Since the time of Erasmus, nearly 5,300 Greek texts and fragments have been found. So why remain confined to Erasmus’s small library that didn’t even have a complete version of Revelation in Greek? There have been many attempts to utilize these other texts instead of ignore them. Among the most popular was Westcott and Hort’s text. But as far as we know, no modern translation uses the Westcott and Hort text except the poorly translated New World Translation.

There has been further study and textual criticism to arrive at standard texts. Today, the latest editions are used when translating the Bible, whether Old Testament or New Testament. The Lord has preserved other texts besides the MT so that we’re able to compare various texts. Truly, He has preserved His Word.


A Righteous Lie?

Why was Rahab praised for lying in James 2:25 when lying is forbidden in the Ten Commandments?

The context of this is Joshua 2:1–16, when the Israelites were spying out the land that the Lord has promised them. Rahab gave refuge to the spies, hid them, and sent their pursuers off in another direction while directing the Israelites elsewhere. During her discourse with the pursuers, she lied about where the men were. The passage reads:

Now Joshua the son of Nun sent out two men from Acacia Grove to spy secretly, saying, “Go, view the land, especially Jericho.” So they went, and came to the house of a harlot named Rahab, and lodged there (Joshua 2:1).

After she hid the spies, she sent them off:

And she said to them, “Get to the mountain, lest the pursuers meet you. Hide there three days, until the pursuers have returned. Afterward you may go your way” (Joshua 2:16).

This was a different direction from where she sent the spies’ pursuers. This is where the relevant passage in James 2 becomes important:

Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? (James 2:25).

The first thing that needs to be pointed out is that nowhere in this verse is any inclination of Rahab being praised for lying about the spies. Also in Hebrews 11:31, Rahab’s faith was praised for receiving the spies in peace. But again, there was no praise for lying. Rahab was not righteous for lying but for her other deeds:

  • giving lodging to the spies
  • sending the spies in a safe direction

These were the things James considered her righteous for. So, God, who inspired James to write this, never said Rahab’s lie was just — only her other actions.

Lying is a breach of the Ninth Commandment and is never condoned by God, regardless of who does the lying or what the circumstances might be. There is no such thing as a “righteous lie.” Nonetheless, Rahab acted with integrity based on the limited understanding she had of the God of the Bible at the time. There is evidence here of a changed heart and a changed life. A former prostitute who was once a child of Canaan has become a daughter of Zion.

The most remarkable aspect of this whole story is that Rahab, a Gentile and a common harlot, marries into the family line of David the king, giving birth to Boaz, the husband of Ruth, and becomes showcased as a mother in Israel. What a picture of the incredible humility of our God, whereby the writer to the Hebrews reminds us, “He is not ashamed to call them brethren” (Hebrews 2:11).

As Easy as Pi

Does the Bible make a mistake in claiming that pi equals 3?

It has been alleged that the Bible is in error because it teaches that pi is equal to 3. Recall that pi is the ratio of circumference to diameter in a circle. And even most young students know that pi is not exactly equal to three. It is often approximated as 3.14, though the actual decimal expansion goes on forever: 3.141592653589793. . . . It is not difficult to measure the diameter and circumference of a circle to confirm that pi does indeed have this value. So is the Bible in error?

The relevant passage is 1 Kings 7:23, which states:

Now he made the sea of cast metal ten cubits from brim to brim, circular in form, and its height was five cubits, and thirty cubits in circumference (NASB).

This verse describes a cylindrical vessel built at the order of Solomon. First of all, notice that this passage does not say “exactly ten cubits” or “exactly thirty cubits.” The numbers have been rounded to the nearest integer (or possibly the nearest multiple of ten). Dividing the circumference (30 cubits) by the diameter (10 cubits), we infer that pi is approximately equal to three. But of course, pi is approximately equal to three, so the passage is quite correct.

At best, critics of the Bible could say that the Bible is imprecise here, but they cannot legitimately say that it is inaccurate or mistaken. Even scientists today will round off numbers at appropriate times. Remember that any decimal expression of pi must be rounded at some point anyway, since the expansion is infinite. There is no fallacy in rounding a number.

Second, we should consider the matter of significant figures. On a physics test, if a circle is said to have a diameter of 10 feet and the student is asked to compute the circumference, the correct answer is 30 feet — not 31 feet. The reason 31 feet is an incorrect answer is because it implies a precision that is unwarranted by the given information. The value 10 feet indicates that the diameter has been rounded. Perhaps it has been rounded up from the exact value of 9.5 feet, in which case the exact diameter would be 29.845 . . . feet — which rounds up to 30 feet.

Third, we should consider 1 Kings 7:26, which states that this cylindrical vessel “was a handbreadth thick.” Since the diameter is given from “brim to brim” (verse 23), the 10 cubits is referring to the outer diameter (which includes the handbreadth thickness of the rim). However, the circumference may well refer to the inner circle (as this is more representative of the pool of water inside the cylinder), which excludes the handbreadth. So even if we take the outer diameter to be exactly 10 cubits, the inner diameter would be smaller. A handbreadth is roughly 1/4 of a cubit; so, the inner diameter would be 10 cubits — (0.25 x 2) cubits = 9.50 cubits. This means the inner circumference would be 29.845 . . . cubits, which rounds up to 30 cubits (not 31 cubits).

In conclusion, the accusation that the Bible has made a mathematical mistake is totally without merit. The biblical answer is spot on, given the information presented and the precision of the numbers in question.

A Man of Many Wives

Does God condone polygamy?

And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart (1 Kings 11:3).

A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober–minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach (1 Timothy 3:2).

As we look at Scripture, it is clear that polygamous relationships are presented in the Bible. But does that mean that they are acceptable in God’s eyes? We also see instances of lying, murder, and rape in the Bible, but these are clearly not acceptable. Just because the events are described does not mean they are condoned. There is no passage in the Bible that condones polygamy.

Beginning in Genesis, it is clear that God intended marriage to be between one woman and one man. Genesis 2 records the creation of one woman for Adam, and in verse 24 we see that because of this “a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” If two makes one flesh, then three or more cannot also make one flesh. This is confirmed by Jesus in Matthew 19:3–9 as He is being questioned about divorce. Jesus quotes Genesis 2:24 as support for the idea of marriage being between one man and one woman “from the beginning.” God’s plan, from the beginning, was not for polygamous relationships.

As the Israelites were in the desert after the Exodus, God announces a prophecy through Moses. The Israelites will eventually call for a king to be set over them (Deuteronomy 17:14). Following that, God pronounces standards for the kings to come. In Deuteronomy 17:17 we see the command that the king shall not “multiply wives for himself, lest his heart turn away.” God clearly commands that the king should not practice polygamy. So why would He condone its practice for anyone else?

Many Jewish leaders and patriarchs, including kings, were recorded to have polygamous relationships. However, these relationships brought about judgment and hardship. David was punished for his relationship with Bathsheba; Abraham’s relationship with Hagar brought strife into the family; and other examples would also bear out this point. Some may argue that Jacob’s polygamous lifestyle was blessed by God, but just because God used a sinful relationship to fulfill His plan does not mean that that action was right. Likewise, Jesus’s lineage can be traced back to Bathsheba.

Polygamy was popular in many cultures, but that does not mean that it was right in God’s eyes. Divorce was also allowed because of the hardness of the hearts of the Israelites (Matthew 19:8), but it was not part of God’s “very good” creation. Jesus called the Jews of the day an “adulterous generation” who chose to live outside of God’s rules and instead, made their own. Just because the Jews (or any other peoples) tolerated polygamy does not mean that God condoned it.

Mixed Prophets

Did Matthew (27:9) falsely attribute a prophecy to Jeremiah that came from Zechariah (11:12–13)?

Many skeptics and liberal scholars have suggested that Matthew’s gospel contains an error:

Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the value of Him who was priced, whom they of the children of Israel priced, and gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord directed me” (Matthew 27:9–10).

The quotation about the 30 pieces of silver is highly reminiscent of Zechariah, and it is therefore assumed that Matthew made a mistake. If Matthew did make a mistake, then the concept of scriptural inerrancy is undermined.

The most significant error that the skeptics make is to approach this passage deliberately looking for an error. If we look at the passage, while assuming scriptural inerrancy, we can see that there are several rationalizations of the alleged problem that have been discussed over the years. In short they are:

  1. Said by Jeremiah but later written by Zechariah.
  2. Zechariah’s second name is Jeremiah, like “Simon Peter” for Peter.
  3. Copyist mistake, but the Syriac and Persian versions have no prophet listed and all the Greek versions do.
  4. This is quoting from an apocryphal work of Jeremiah, like Jude quoting from Enoch.
  5. The last four chapters of Zechariah were actually written by Jeremiah.
  6. Due to a different order of books in the Jewish canon, Jeremiah could be given proper credit for any of the minor prophets.
  7. This passage refers to both sections of Jeremiah and Zechariah, and only Jeremiah is mentioned.

The first five are less likely, with the last two being the more common explanations (6 and 7). Let’s take a closer look at them.

A Collection of Prophetic Books (6)

This possibility is that Matthew is using a well-established rabbinical formula of referring to a collection of books by the name of the first book in the collection. Jesus used a similar formula in Luke 24:44, where He referred to the Writings section of the Old Testament as Psalms — even though this could include the other writings, such as Proverbs.

In the Jewish Tanakh, the prophetic books were in a different order then the order of the Christian Bible — even though they are all there. The first listed book in the collection of the Prophets was Jeremiah, not Isaiah. Therefore, a citation of Jeremiah could conceivably cover an actual quotation from Zechariah.

The Context of Jeremiah (7)

This explanation involves the way that New Testament writers frequently allude to more than one Old Testament passage, providing an overall context. For the quote by Zechariah, there is a lot of foundational information that is necessary. First, Jeremiah 18 is the famous portion of the Old Testament that discusses God being the Potter and we the clay. And the Lord warns of a disaster to a nation that turns to evil. Israel had just rejected the Son of God, and the spiritual leaders just purchased His death for 30 pieces of silver. The message of the gospel then also went out to the Gentiles. And Israel, particularly Jerusalem, was soon left in ruin.

Also, Jeremiah 19:1–4 gives a more precise placement of the potter’s field, outside the Potsherd Gate of Jerusalem, and the catastrophe that will happen there. The verse mentions that Israel has forsaken God here, and mentions the blood of innocents there too — Christ’s even being the ultimate innocent blood.

Then, of course, Jeremiah 32:9–12 discusses the land and purchase agreements. Although the first quotation in Matthew 27:9–10 is somewhat similar to the passage in Zechariah, the second quotation — “and gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord directed me” — alludes to Jeremiah 32:6–9, which refers to the potter’s field.

So these three aspects are Jeremiah’s, and Zechariah seems to build on them. In that respect, it is not an error to refer to the prophet Jeremiah at the point.

Another Possible Explanation (8)

If we look carefully at these two verses in Matthew and Zechariah, though they have similarities, they simply do not match up:

Then I said to them, “If it is agreeable to you, give me my wages; and if not, refrain.” So they weighed out for my wages thirty pieces of silver. And the Lord said to me, “Throw it to the potter” — that princely price they set on me. So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the Lord for the potter (Zechariah 11:12–13).

Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the value of Him who was priced, whom they of the children of Israel priced, and gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord directed me” (Matthew 27:9–10).

One quote says that they “weighed out” the wages, the other says “and they took.” One says “throw it to the potter,” and this was already fulfilled in Matthew 27:5. One does not mention that it was for a potter’s field, and one does. One could find other differences, but this should suffice. The point it, this is not a quote from the Book of Zechariah.

One cannot say this quote was misattributed to Zechariah, since Zechariah said no such thing — his quote had a few similar aspects, but that is as far as it should go. So if Matthew, speaking with the Holy Spirit, quotes this and attributes it to Jeremiah, then it was indeed something Jeremiah said, and it was merely not recorded in his writings. Recall John speaking about Jesus:

And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amen (John 21:25).

So the answer could be as simple as this quote by Matthew is not by Zechariah but is merely an unrecorded quote by Jeremiah. Note also that Matthew does not say that the quotation was written by Jeremiah, but rather spoken (rheo) by Jeremiah. It is possible, therefore, that the Holy Spirit inspired Matthew to report a spoken prophecy of Jeremiah, just as Jude was inspired to include previously unwritten information about Michael in his book (Jude 9). After the spoken prophecy given to Jeremiah, the Holy Spirit could later have inspired a similar prophecy to Zechariah as part of his written account.

Regardless, there are eight possible explanations given for this, and these last three easily answer the alleged contradiction.