One Last Illustrative Problem for Inerrancy and its Literary-Critical Solution

Posted By on September 17, 2008

One more item to throw out for illustrative purposes. After this, I’m going back to inspiration and begin to produce my own statement (I’m calling it “The Bellingham Statement” since I work in Bellingham, WA). Posts will be much shorter, as my goal is to produce affirmations and denials and let you all work on the wording with me.

Broadly speaking, there are certain problems in the text that may have a literary solution. The one I’m picking here is yet again another very clear example that God himself isn’t producing the words of the text as the immediate agent of the text. If he was, he’d be awfully confused (or have a real short memory, or just want to play mind games with us as some sort of capricious, taunting deity).

We all know about the plagues in Exodus 7-12. If you need to, you can skim those chapters to get the number and order of the plagues. So how come the psalmist couldn’t get this right in Psalm 105?  In Psalm 105:23-36 we not only have plagues left out, but the order is quite wrong. What’s up with that? Is this an error? It would sure seem so — but there may be a literary explanation.  Here’s one attempt.

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4 Responses to “One Last Illustrative Problem for Inerrancy and its Literary-Critical Solution”

  1. ph1984 says:

    Hi Mike

    Not sure if this is directly related to the issue but what is your take on the following re the plagues?

    Ex 9:6 And the next day the LORD did this thing. All the livestock of the Egyptians died, but not one of the livestock of the people of Israel died.

    Ex 9:20 Then whoever feared the word of the LORD among the servants of Pharaoh hurried his slaves and his livestock into the houses,
    Ex 9:21 but whoever did not pay attention to the word of the LORD left his slaves and his livestock in the field.

    Are these Hebrew servants? Seems unlikely since they had slaves themselves and Moses is addressing the Pharaoh. If not there were still Egyptian livestock.

    Ex 12:29 At midnight the LORD struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of the livestock.

    I thought all the livestock were already dead?

    The Egyptians must have been incredibly annoyed by the end of the plagues. No one could drink for at least 7 days, all their animals were either inflicted/destroyed and they wouldn’t have much to eat. Makes you wonder how they pursued the Israelites, their horses would be stuffed!

    Regards Paul

  2. Mika says:

    Bible translations have 2 sides of being more correct.

    One side is that they should try to re-literal-translate the original sources. I guess that would be the Sumerian clay tablets, or some older Eqyptian hieroglyphs.

    The other side is that by learning the old languages, newer bible translation get also more correct.

    I don’t know why the NT repeats the same things more than once, maybe it is because the translators didn’t want to make a subjective judgement which of the tales were more correct, so they repeated each prophet’s tales although they talked about the same thing.

    Maybe one day we will have a unified bible, when we learn enough to say which of the tales are historically correct.

  3. MSH says:

    @ph1984: This is a good hermeneutical illustration for the fact that “all” in the Bible does not always mean “all” (as in exclusive, no exceptions). Like our conversation and writing today, “all” was used in colloquial and literary ways in the Bible. It’s only under the influence of extreme literalists that our brains have been trained to think in a contrary way.

  4. MSH says:

    @Mika: No translation at any time and under any translation philosophy is ever completely correct and exempt from “getting better.” This applies to the process of translation for any text, not just the Bible.

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