Bible Query on Abraham
Christian Debater™ P.O. 144441 Austin, TX 78714. www.inerrancy.org
Q: Is the God of the Old Testament a different being, and an evil one, compared to the God of the New Testament?
A: This is one of the two or three teachings common to all branches of an ancient heresy called Gnosticism. Some of their arguments were because the New Testament repealed Old Testament dietary laws, the universe had a contrast between the visible and invisible, and the belief that since matter was all evil, only an evil god would create matter.
Outside of the Bible, as early as Clement of Rome (97 A.D. 1 Clement 4) Christians affirmed that the God of the Old Testament was good. He who is a friend of Abel and a friend of Abraham, is a friend of mine.
Theophilus (166-181 A.D.) was one of the earliest Christian writers who mentioned Creation and explicitly said "for nothing evil was made by god."(To Autolycus 2:16).
Tertullian effectively refuted this theory in his work Against Marcion in 207 A.D.. Here is an incomplete condensation of what he wrote.
a. Can you find a church of apostolic origin that denied the Creator? "But if the churches shall prove to have been corrupt from the beginning, where shall the pure ones be found?... Show us, then, one of your churches, tracing its descent from an apostle, and you will have gained the day."
b. Why would the good god rescue man, if he did not create him?
c. Why did the bad god prophecy the coming of Christ in the Old Testament? The New Testament refers to these as prophesying the good Christ.
d. If the bad god prophesied a bad Christ, why did the good god prevent the bad Christ from coming and send the good Christ in his place. The good god should have let the bad Christ come first, instead of misleading people to think the bad god prophesied the good Christ.
e. Why did Jesus quote from the Old Testament as authoritative?
f. Why did Marcion have to reject parts of Luke and other parts of the New Testament to support his view?
Q: In general, how could the first five books be by Moses, if people [allegedly] could not write back then?
A: In the mid-nineteenth century, many liberal so-called Christian teachers taught that the Bible came through centuries of oral tradition since people could not write in Moses' time. Since then, the first writing we have found was 1,800 years prior to Moses. 30,000 Sumerian tables have been found, including 4,000 in the city of Uruk, dated 3,000 B.C., and 20,000 tablets in the important city of Mari. 14,000-15,000 inscriptions on clay tablets have been uncovered in the city of Ebla, (2500-2200 B.C.), including one mentioning the name Abraham. By Moses' time, it is now believed that even the slaves could read and write. Of course, Moses was raised in the Egyptian court and had a thorough education (See Acts 7:22).
Even a common slave could learn from simply reading all the inscriptions on the walls of the various temples and tombs. One might say that for people who still cling to the oral tradition theory, they need to read the writing on the wall, too. For more discussion, see Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties p.51-54. For more on Ebla, see the National Geographic Magazine December 1978 p.731-759.
Q: For Muslims, what evidence is there from their Quran that the Bible was originally from God?
A: Muslims I have spoken with will freely acknowledge the Bible was originally given by God, but here are reasons, from their own Quran, why they should believe this. Two points: common prophets, and acceptance of the prophets' words.
1. The Quran mentions many prophets and godly people in common with the Bible.
These include: Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Job, Moses, David, Solomon, Elijah, Elishah, Jonah, John the Baptist, Jesus, and his apostles.
Sura 8:84-85 "We gave him [to Abraham] Isaac and Jacob, all (three) We guided; and before him we guided Noah and among his progeny David, Solomon, Job, Joseph, Moses, and Aaron; Thus do we reward those who do good; And Zakariya and John [the Baptist] and Jesus and Elias [Elijah] all in the ranks of the righteous."
Sura 32:23 "We did indeed aforetime give the book to Moses. Be not then in doubt of its reaching (thee): and We made it a guide to the children of Israel."
Sura 6:91 "No just estimate of Allah do they make when they say: 'Nothing doth Allah send down to man (by way of revelation)': say 'Who then sent down the book which Moses brought? - a light and guidance to man;..."
2. The Quran says Allah gave His words to these prophets
Sura 4:150-151 "Those who deny Allah and his messengers, and wish to separate between Allah and his messengers, Saying: 'We believe in some but reject others': and wish to take a course midway, (151) They are in truth unbelievers;..."
Sura 3:48 says, "And Allah will teach him [Jesus] the book and Wisdom, the Torah, and the Gospel.
Sura 29:46 shows you should believe in the Bible: "...'We believe in the revelation which has come down to us and in that which came down to you..."
Q: In Gen 11:27 and Gen 17:5, what is the etymology of the names "Abram" and "Abraham"?
According to the New Bible Dictionary (1962) p.5, the origin of the name is uncertain. It is a West Semitic name, and probably means "the father is exalted" or "exalted father". The name "Abraham" means, "father of multitudes" or "father of a multitude".
Q: In Gen 11:28, was Abram from the city of Ur, or was he from the town of Haran in Gen 24:4?
A: Abram was originally from Ur, but prior to coming to Canaan, Abram and his relatives first settled in the town of Haran in modern-day Syria. See When Critics Ask p.35 and Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties p.88-89 for more info.
Q: Why does Gen 11:28 mention Ur of the Chaldees, since Ur was a Sumerian city?
A: The Chaldeans and Sumerians of Iraq were assimilated in Moses' time, and Moses mentioned the land of modern-day Iraq as it was known in Moses' time.
Q: In Gen 12:1, 28:10-15; 32:22-32, why did God choose the Jews instead of the Chinese or someone else?
A: First of all, God has the right to choose whomever He wishes, but God did not yet choose a people, but rather one man, Abraham. Later the covenant and offspring were reckoned through Isaac in Genesis 17:21 and 21:12. Later Jacob was chosen in Genesis 26:23-24. Abraham was willing to leave his culture and city (Ur), which was probably the largest (100K to 180K pop.) and most civilized city on the earth at that time. Many people have some desire to do what is right, but fewer wealthy men would be willing to sacrifice their ties to their culture and religion to follow God above all, even to a place he did not know (Hebrews 11:8).
Today, Romans 10:12 and Galatians 3:24 teach there is no difference to God in Jews and non-Jews.
Q: In Gen 12:1, is there any evidence, outside of the Bible, of the true God revealing Himself to anyone else in Abraham's time or before?
A: Yes. First two background facts from the Bible, and then the answer.
B1. In Genesis 14:18-20, Melchizedek was a king of Salem and a priest of the most high God, whom he called "El Elyon". However, we will not count Melchizedek as he is only mentioned in the Bible, and Melchizedek could have been a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ.
B2. In Genesis 24:50, Abram's relatives in Syria (among the Arameans) believed in the Lord.
A1. Ugaritic texts (from the culture that was in modern-day Syria and Lebanon, also mention, a personal God named "El", and used the phrase "El Elyon" for God most high, as Melchizedek did. Unfortunately, for the Ugaritic culture, syncretism was at work and they eventually only worshipped "El" as one god among many.
A2. In China prior to Buddhism coming just after Christ, and prior to Confucianism and Taoism a few hundred years before Christ, they worshipped a number of idols. However prior to that, they worshipped one Supreme God, whom they called "Shang-Di". The earliest written references to Shang-Di in China are dated at 2600 B.C., which are about 400-500 years prior to Abraham! Unfortunately, during the Zhou Dynasty, about 1000 B.C, they decided that nobody was good enough to worship Shang-di except the Emperor, and worship of Shang-di among the masses died out. A few centuries ago, Christians in China disagreed greatly about whether the Chinese Bible should always use the generic term for deity ("sheng"), or also use the ancient word "Shang-Di". The latter party prevailed, and Chinese Bibles use "Shang-Di" as well as "Sheng."
The Chinese Emperor worshipped Shang-Di by sacrificing a bull on a white marble altar during the"Border Sacrifice" which was recorded by confucius in the Shu Jing (Book of history), where se said Emperor Shun (2256-2205 B.C. practiced it. It stopped in 1911. Here is part of what was said during the sacrifice
"Of old in the beginning, there was the great chaos, without form and dark. The five elements [planets] had not begun to revolve, nor the sun and moon to shine. You, O Spiritual Sovereign, first divided the grosser parts from the purer. You made heaven. You made earth. You made man. All things with their reproducing power got their being." For more info on Shang-Di, see an article by Ethel Nelson in Creation ex Nihilo vol.20 no.3 June-August 1998 p.50-53. See also The Notions of the Chinese Concerning God and Spirits p.24-25 by James Legge (Hong Kong Register Office 1852), and God's Promise to the Chinese (Read Books, 1997).
Koreans have a similar ancient tradition of a Shang-Di, whom they call Hananim. A Korean Tan-gun tradition said that Hananim had a Son who desired to live among people. You can read more about Shang-Di, Hananim, and other early revelations that were apparently of the true God in the book Eternity in Their Hearts by Don Richardson. Regal Books. Revised 1984.
In Gen 12, could Abraham have written what the Mormons view as scripture, called The Book of Abraham?
A: No. First some background on the Mormon "Book of Abraham", and the importance of the fraud, and then proof that it is a fraud. This material was taken from previously written material on Mormonism.
The Mormon Book of Abraham is a part of the Mormon Scripture the Pearl of Great Price. It is the basis for the Mormon anti-black doctrine, that kept blacks from ever getting the Mormon priesthood. The anti-black doctrine was altered (by the Mormon god?) in 1978.
The Mormon Book of Abraham was written from ancient Egyptian scrolls Joseph Smith obtained in July 1835, which he stated contained the writings of Abraham and Joseph. He did not know ancient Egyptian, which few could read at that time. He proclaimed that God divinely inspired him to translate some of these scrolls into English, and this is how The Book of Abraham came to be.
These Egyptian scrolls were once thought lost and destroyed, but eleven of them were found in the Metropolitan Museum in New York and given to the Mormon church in 1868.
Importance of the fraud:
The Book of Mormon was said to be translated from the same language as the Book of Abraham. If Joseph Smith could not translate the one then he did not translate the other, and none of his scripture can be trusted. Moreover, if the scroll is a pagan scripture to an idol god Joseph Smith would be a Prophet, Seer, and revelator of his guide, the idol of the scroll.
Here is what Joseph Smith stated about translating: "A Translation of some ancient Records, that have fallen into our hands from the catacombs of Egypt. -- The writings of Abraham written by his own hand, upon papyrus." Pearl of Great Price p.29.
Proof of the Fraud:
There are three ways we know these are the Egyptian scrolls Joseph Smith tried to translate.
1. Three of the four handwritten original Book of Abraham manuscripts had the Egyptian Hieroglyphs in the margin. Of the eighty-odd Egyptian hieroglyphs on the scroll, 20, 13, and 10 hieroglyphs were written on manuscripts #1, #2, and #3 respectively. When there were gaps in the scroll 7, 6 and 6 restored hieroglyphs were added on the three manuscripts. From this we can be confident this Egyptian scroll was the one Joseph used.
2. Joseph invented a language of the Egyptian language. The bound, thirty-four page book, called the Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar, is still in the church's possession. This language book illustrates many of the Egyptian hieroglyphs of the scroll. A very similar English "translation" is in the Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar as in the Book of Abraham. Some view this as one of the more damaging facts against the inspiration Joseph claimed to have.
3. The pictures at the beginning of both the Egyptian scroll and Smith's Book of Abraham are the same. The only difference is a pencilled in spot on the Egyptian picture that was filled in on the Mormon picture. Not only are the pictures copied the same, but the captions in pictures #2 and #3 referring the Egyptian idols are also copied into the Mormon scripture.
The Actual Translation:
Smith thought he was translating these hieroglyphs. Read the actual translation by Dr. Klaus Baer on the next page. (Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought: Autumn 1968 p. 119-120.)
"Osiris shall be conveyed into the Great Pool of Khons --and likewise Osiris Hor, justified born to Tikhebyt, justified --after his arms have been placed on his heart and the Breathing Permit (which [Isis] made and has writing on its inside and outside) has been wrapped in royal linen and placed under his left arm near his heart; the rest of his mummy bandages should be wrapped over it. The man for whom this book has been copied will breathe forever as the bas of the gods do." (bas are souls.) On p.111 Dr. Baer stated, "Joseph Smith thought that his papyrus contained the Book of Abraham."
Smith translated thousands of English words from these hieroglyphs. Joseph said this was the writing of Abraham and the word of his god. Actually it was a variant of the Book of the Dead a pagan Egyptian magic book filled with heathen gods and goddesses, often buried with mummies.
Dr. Richard Parker of Brown University in a personal letter to Marvin Cowen dated Jan. 9 1968 said, "5. I have seen Joseph Smith's Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar. The interpretation of the signs purported to be Egyptian have no resemblance to the meaning ascribed to them by Egyptologists."
Fifty years ago Dr. A.B. Mercer said, "Any pupil of mine who would show such absolute ignorance of Egyptian as Smith does, could not possibly expect to get more than zero in an examination in Egyptology." (Improvement Era, vol. 16, p 615.) This is still true today.
Dr. John A. Wilson said, "...as far as I am concerned I see pieces of two or possibly three different papyri and every one of them looks like a traditional Book of the Dead." (letter Jan. 5, 1968.)
Details of the Pictures
Let's look next at the three pictures in the Book of Abraham and the accompanying captions from one of the scrolls and Times and Seasons volume 3.
The writing and pictures are typical Egyptian funeral scenes of Egyptian idols. Joseph taught these images represented Abraham and the Real God.
Hor Justified son of the holder of the same titles.
Grant that the soul of Osiris Sheshonk may live
I (Min) am a copulating bull without equal.
May this tomb never be desecrated.
O gods of . . ., gods of the Caverns, gods of the south, north, west, and east, grant well-being to Osiris Hor justified
Smith's god deceived him. Joseph Smith's translation is worthless. If you seek the Lord, dear Mormon I pray you leave the Mormon Church reject Joseph's hoax, and give your life to the Most High God through Jesus Christ His Son.
Q: In Gen 12:4, how could Abram be 75 years old when he left the town of Haran after Terah died? In Gen 11:26, since Terah was 70 when he had his three sons, Acts 7:4 says Abram left Haran after Terah died, and Terah died at 205 (Gen 11:32), then his three sons would be 135 years old.
In Genesis 11:26, this could mean that Terah was 70 when he started having children, and Abram was not born until Terah was at least 130. See Bible Difficulties and Seeming Contradictions p.136-137, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties p.378, When Critics Ask p.45-46, and 1001 Bible Questions Answered p.309-310 for more info.
Q: In Gen 12:10-20 and Gen 20:1-18 why did God condone Abram lying?
A: The Bible honestly recorded, but never approved Abram's lying because of His lack of faith in God's protection. Even great men of God still sin, and so we should not lose heart when we sin.
Only God is perfect. Our goal is to strive toward perfection, which we will attain only in Heaven. See the discussion on Genesis 19:30-36. See Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties p.89-90, When Critics Ask p.46, and Hard Sayings of the Bible p.118-120 for more info.
Q: In Gen 14:1-2, who are these kings?
A: This occurred around 2000 B.C., so it is not surprising we cannot find some of these rulers. However, Elam was a major power, having conquered Abram's city of Ur around 2004 B.C. Shinar is the word the both the Old Testament and Egyptians used for Babylonia. Chederlaomer sounds like kudur (Elamite for servant) and Lagamar (Elamite goddess). Cheder (=Kudur)was the first part of the name of many Elamite kings. Tidal seems related to the Hittite name Tudhaliya, and there were at least five later Hittite kings named Tudhaliya. Towns of Si-da-mu (Sodom) and I-ma-ar (Gomorrah) are mentioned in the Ebla tablets, written 2400-2250 B.C. We do not have a record of Arioch of Ellasar, but there is independent historical evidence of a king Ariochu of Larsa, a major Sumerian city. Also, History of Israel p.61 says that Arriyuk(ki) or Arriwuk(ki) is know in both Mari and Nuzi as a Hurrian name. See When Critics Ask p.46-47 and Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties p.90-91 for more info.
According to John Warwick Montgomery in Evidence for Faith (Probe Books 1991) p.157, people formerly identified Amraphel with Hammurabi, but this is incorrect. He also says that Arioch is preferred over Ariochu, because Arioch was a common name of that time. It was a Hurrian name, also a name of a king of Mari (about 1750 B.C.), and in the tablets at the city of Nuzi (1500 B.C.) Since it was a common name, any number of kings from any number of minor provinces unknown to the modern world.
In summary, these names are very strange; the names were generally never used, - except during this narrow time period. It is highly unlikely anyone would have gotten these names, unless they had accurate knowledge of history at this time.
Q: In Gen 14:14, how could Abram and his allies, only 318 men, defeat an alliance of 4 great kings?
A: Genesis 14:15 suggests this was not a pitched battle, but a quick night raid on an unprepared army.
Q: In Gen 14:18-19, how could Melchizedek, presumably a cursed Canaanite, be in a position to bless Abraham?
A: Melchizedek is a mysterious person in the Bible. Some think Melchizedek was pre-incarnate appearance of Christ. Others say Melchizedek was a godly man (perhaps Canaanite or perhaps not) who was simply a type of Christ. Even if Melchizedek was a Canaanite man, God is not restricted from teaching and sanctifying people of any nationality. See Hard Sayings of the Bible p.120-121 for more info.
Q: In Gen 15:12, was Abraham wrong not to cut the birds in half, as Rev. Moon teaches in the Divine Principle 5th ed. 1977 p.269,507?
A: No. Priests were never to cut birds in half in Leviticus 1:17 and 5:9.
Q: In Gen 15:16, how could the Israelites be enslaved for only four generations, if they were enslaved for 400 years in Gen 15:13?
A: In Genesis 15:13,16, Abraham, who would likely have understood a generation as 100 years, was told: 400 years, 4 generations. Moses for example, lived to 120.
Q: In Gen 15:16 did the Exodus occur in the fourth generation or the sixth, as 1 Chr 2:1-9 and Mt 1:3-4 imply?
A: Two points to consider
1. It all depends on how long you consider a generation. Abraham and Sarah had Isaac when they were 101 and 91. God was speaking to Abraham here.
2. Hypothetically, there would be no error even if the Bible had said it would have been 400 generations, if the same passage had defined a generation here as 1 year. In actuality, "four generations" in Genesis 15:16 is defined as being enslaved exactly "400 years" in Genesis 15:13.
See When Critics Ask p.47 and Haley p.416 for more info.
Q: In Gen 15:18, if God gave Abram's descendants all the land up to the Euphrates River, why did they not receive the land?
A: David and Solomon's kingdoms did extend to the Euphrates. Also, they may have the land in the future Millennium.
Q: In Gen 16:1, since Abraham and Sarai had no children, how could Abraham have more children after Isaac? (a Muslim asked this)
A: Genesis 16:1 shows it was Sarai, not Abraham, who was sterile. Abraham had more children, but Sarai did not. See When Critics Ask p.54 for more info.
Q: In Gen 16:1-4, did Abraham commit adultery with Hagar?
A: No, Ishmael was not the product of adultery. Polygamy was permitted in the Old Testament, and Sarah gave Hagar to Abraham as a concubine. So what Abraham did was "legal" compared to both God had revealed to Him and later Mosaic Law.
Furthermore this is not so unusual as it might seem to some modern readers. According to Hard Sayings of the Bible p.121-122, similar examples of a maidservant standing in for a barren wife are found in the laws of the Code of Hammurabi, the Nuzi Tablets, the Alalakh Tablets, and the Mari Tablets.
However, if something is both commonly practiced and "legal", that does not necessarily mean it pleases God. Genesis 16:4-5 shows that Sarah soon regretted her action.
Q: In Gen 16:1-8, since Hagar was a slave, was Abraham's sexual union with her forced rape, like Muslims are permitted by their religion to do? (See Bukhari Hadiths 3:113,432)
A: Genesis 16:4 says Hagar became Abram's wife, and she apparently did not object. In fact, Hagar was proud of her pregnancy and taunted Sarai. (Genesis 16:4,5) In the Old Testament, while marrying a captive was OK, nowhere was sex outside of marriage justified as anything but wicked immorality.
Q: In Gen 17:17 and Gen 18:12, did Abraham and Sarah laugh with disbelief, or did Sarah laugh with joy in Gen 21:6?
A: Both. They laughed with disbelief before Isaac was conceived, and Sarah laughed again with joy when Isaac was born.
Q: In Gen 17:17 and Gen 18:12-15, why did God rebuke Sarah for laughing and not Abraham?
A: Laughing in surprise the first time you learn of something is different from laughing in skepticism in subsequent times after you have already been told. See Hard Sayings of the Bible p.122-123 for more info.
Q: In Gen 18:2, since Abraham bowed before kings, does this support the Catholic and Orthodox practice of bowing before images?
A: No, veneration of images is unbiblical. However, regardless of a persons' belief about veneration of images, this verse cannot be used to support bowing to images. In contrast to images,
1. Abraham bowed to show respect to a real person.
2. Abraham was showing respect to a pagan king, there was no veneration or any kind of religious honor.
3. Abraham did not pray to these kings. He also did not pray to God through these kings, as Orthodox claim to pray through the images to God.
See When Cultists Ask p.28 for five additional reasons.
Q: In Gen 20 and Ex 23:31, how could the Philistines be in Israel in Abraham's time, about 2000 B.C.?
A: The earliest levels of Ashdod were occupied back in the 17th century (H.F. Vos, Archaeology in Bible Lands). Somebody lived in that fertile land back then, and there is no historical evidence which says it was not the Philistines. After the Egyptians defeated the Philistines in 1190 B.C., they came to Palestine in force, and makes sense they would retreat to where they already had towns. See Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties p.94-96, When Critics Ask p.50 for more info.
Q: In Gen 20:12, why did Abram marry his half-sister?
A: Incest was not expressly forbidden then. Also, Abram was not necessarily a believer when he married. See Bible Difficulties and Seeming Contradictions p.139-141 for more info.
Q: In Gen 21:14, was Abraham right to send Hagar away?
A: Normally, it would be wrong to send Hagar and her teenage boy away alone without protection and with little water, and this is why Sarah's request greatly distressed Abraham in Genesis 21:11. However, in this particular case, God told Abraham to go ahead, and that everything would be all right. God himself gave Hagar and Ishmael water (Genesis 12:17-19), and God was with Ishmael as he grew up (Genesis 21:20).
See Hard Sayings of the Bible p.123-124 for more info.
Q: In Gen 22:1 (KJV), how could God "tempt" Abraham, when James 1:13 says God does not tempt people?
A: The word "tempt" is only in the King James version, translated 400 years ago. Both modern translations and the Hebrew word here (nâcâh) mean "to test or prove". The difference between tempt and test is that God does not entice us to do evil, but God does allows us, like Abraham and Job, to have tests of our faith. See Bible Difficulties and Seeming Contradictions p.207-208, Now That's A Good Question p.475-476, and Hard Sayings of the Bible p.124-125 for more info.
Q: In Gen 22, why did God encourage human sacrifice with Abraham and Isaac?
A: 1. Abraham already showed that He loved God more than His people and culture, but God tested Abraham to see if He loved God more than his own dear son.
2. Even in this solitary case of God commanding human sacrifice, God stopped it from being carried out; no person died.
3. God the Father did not ask Abraham for anything that He did not do Himself, in sacrificing Jesus for us.
4. The Ten Commandments (do not murder, etc.) were not given until Moses at Mt. Sinai.
See The Complete Book of Bible Answers p.48-49, When Critics Ask p.51, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties p.96, Difficulties in the Bible 57-60, Hard Sayings of the Bible p.125-127, and Now That's A Good Question p.573.
Q: In Gen 22:1-18, could the boy who Abraham almost sacrificed be Ishmael, not Isaac, as Muslims claim?
A: No, for four reasons:
1. Genesis 22:2 says it was Isaac.
2. In Genesis 21:8-10, the day Isaac was weaned, Ishmael was sent away.
3. Genesis 22:16 call Isaac Abraham's "only son", since Ishmael was sent away to a different place.
4. Since Ishmael was 14 when Isaac was born, Ishmael had already grown up and married an Egyptian in Genesis 21:20, Abraham was tested "a long time" after this in Genesis 21:34, and a "boy" was on the altar in Genesis 22:12.
Also, while the Muslim Quran discusses this in Sura 37:99-111, no where in the entire Quran does it say whether it was Ishmael or Isaac. See When Critics Ask p.52 for more info.
Q: In Gen 22:2, how was Isaac Abram's "only son"?
A: While Ishmael was born first, he was sent away by this time, and Isaac was the only son Abram still had with him. Isaac was the only heir, and only son can also mean beloved son. Genesis 21:12 says, "though Isaac your offspring shall be reckoned". Abraham had other sons too, but they were born after this. While the culture of the time accepted taking concubines for procreation, inheritance and the right of the firstborn would go to sons of actual wives, not the sons of concubines. See Bible Difficulties and Seeming Contradictions p.141 for more info.
Q: In Gen 22:2, does the Holy Spirit ever lead people to disobey what has been revealed in the Bible?
A: No. Three points to consider in the answer.
1. Of course, God did not lead Abraham to do anything against revealed Scripture, since no Scripture was written down in Abraham's time.
2. Since scripture has been revealed, God does not tell anyone to do things contrary to His revealed commands. Even when the Holy Spirit also drove Jesus out into the wilderness, where Jesus was tempted by Satan, the Holy Spirit did not tempt Jesus or tell Jesus to do anything wrong.
3. God does not desire anyone to perform actions contrary to His desires. Even when God commanded Abraham to take Isaac as a sacrifice, God did not permit Abraham to carry through killing Isaac.
See Now That's A Good Question p.67-69 for more info.
Q: In Gen 22:12, when God said "Now I know that you fear God", did God not know what Abram would do?
A: Of course God knew, but the expression means that it was at this point in time that Abraham proved what he would do. See When Critics Ask p.52 for more info.
Q: In Gen 23:5, why did the Hittites consider Abraham a mighty prince among them?
A: Abraham was very great in wealth. Abraham also had apparently cultivated close relations with them and they counted him as not only a friend, but also one of their own.
Q: In Gen 25:6, how many wives and concubines did Abraham have?
A: While it does not really matter, we do not know the exact number. After Sarah died, Abrahm had Keturah as wives in Genesis 25:1. Hagar was one of his concubines, but Genesis 25:6 indicates that Abraham had more than one concubine. See Today's Handbook for Solving Bible Difficulties p.284 for more info.
Q: In Gen 25:8,17 and Gen 49:33, Abraham and Jacob were "gathered to his people", so how could there be life after death?
A: This is an expression meaning the person died, and it sounds much better than "kicked the bucket". See the previous question, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties p.98-99, and Hard Sayings of the Bible p.127-129 for more info.
Q: In Gen 26:3-5, Gen 12:1; Gen 17:1, 9-14; and Gen 22:16 did God bless Abraham because of Abraham's works?
A: For either Abraham or people in general, there are two distinct issues here: salvation and blessings.
Salvation: Abraham's works were not important, in the sense that they did not get him to Heaven. Abraham's works were very important in being the visible expression of his faith in God, and inseparable from his faith in God.
Blessings: Because of works, both Abraham and us often receive both blessings this life and rewards in the next.
God's covenant had both an invariant element and a conditional element. Leviticus 26:44-45 shows that even if God's people fail on the conditional element, the invariant element still stands. See Hard Sayings of the Bible p.129-130 for more info.
Q: In Gen 26:33, did Abraham or Isaac name Beersheba?
A: In Genesis 21:31, it was called Beersheba in Abraham's time because of the oath between Abraham and the Abimelech. Isaac certainly knew this from living in Beersheba with his father in Genesis 22:19. In order to remind Abimelech, who was probably the son of Abimelech in Abraham's time of the previous covenant, he named a new well a similar name, "Shibah". See When Critics Ask p.55-56 for more info.
Q: In Gen 33:18-19 and Josh 24:32, did Jacob purchase the land at Shechem, or did Abraham purchase it as Acts 7:15-16 and Gen 23:16-20 say?
A: There are two possible answers.
1. Jacob and Abraham bought it: Both Joshua 24:32 and Genesis 33:18-19 say Jacob, Abraham's grandson, was the person who purchased the land near Shechem. Regardless of whether Abraham came to witness the purchase of the land with the money he passed on to Isaac or not, one could say that the clan of Abraham purchased the land. Even today, a teenager, with his father's consent, can buy a car in his father's name.
2. Since Jacob purchased the land his sons were buried on, yet Jacob himself was buried at Mamre with Abraham, Stephen might have been accidentally combined these two separate events. Even if Stephen was mistaken, the Bible would still be inerrant. The Bible simply recorded, inerrantly, what Stephen said, mistake and all.
See Bible Difficulties and Seeming Contradictions p.142-145, 1001 Bible Questions Answered p.309, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties 379-381, and the discussion on Genesis 50:13 for more info.
Q: In Gen 50:13, was Jacob buried in the cave that Abraham bought near Mamre, or were some of the Patriarchs buried near Shechem as Acts 7:15-16 implies?
A: First three points related to the answer, and then two possible answers.
First, The two were distinct places, as the distance between Mamre and Shechem was roughly 45 miles (72 kilometers).
Prior to the Exodus, Genesis 50:13 says that Jacob was buried near Mamre. Genesis 50:24-26, says Joseph's body was embalmed and stored in a coffin in Egypt, with the anticipation that it would later be buried in the Promised Land.
After the Exodus, over 477 years later, Jacob's sons were buried near Shechem as Acts 7:15-16 says. Joshua 24:32 also adds that Joseph's bones were buried in the tract of land near Shechem.
Here are two separate answers.
1. "they": Acts 7:15 says "both he [Jacob] and our fathers died." (NIV) "They" in Acts 7:16 refers to the twelve sons of Jacob (our fathers) who were buried after the Exodus, and not Jacob, who was buried over 477 years earlier.
2. Stephen's mistake: If Stephen had incorrectly "merged" these two events as one when he spoke, then Acts 7:15-16 is still inerrant. Acts 7:15-16 inerrantly records a trivial mistake that Stephen made. Nothing indicates Stephen had to be inerrant in all that He spoke. However, given Stephen's track record on other things in Acts 7, one might favor the first answer.
However, even if the second answer is the correct one, there is a lesson for us. When believers today are in the center of God's will, and speaking to others as God wants us to, God has not promised that all our words and doctrines are inerrant, either. But that is OK. God works in us despite our mistakes, and even through our mistakes to get out His truth.
Regardless of whether Stephen did not use modern precision with his pronouns or whether Stephen was mistaken on a small point of history, God's message is not whether Jacob was included in the "they" buried at Shechem or not. God's message is that God guided the Israelites in a Covenant relationship with Him, and God used the Israelites for thousands of years to set the background for the greatest event of all time, the coming of God's own Son, Jesus Christ.
See also the discussion on Genesis 33:18-19 and Bible Difficulties and Seeming Contradictions p.142-145 for more info, and 1001 Bible Questions Answered p.309 for more on the cave of Machpelah..
Q: In Gen 8, Counting the years in the genealogies, the flood would have ended 292 years before Abram, around 2440 B.C. How can this be if the primitive Chinese, Egyptian, Canaanite, and Sumerian civilizations started roughly 2500, 3000, 3000, and 3500 B.C. respectively? Genesis also mentions 31 Mideast cities and towns and six other nations by Abraham and Isaac's time. It is estimated that Ur, in Abram's time, had 100K-180K people. Archaeologists can date Mesopotamian sites back to 2500 B.C., even without using radiocarbon dating.
A: 1. Christians who are recent Creationists believe there were small gaps in the genealogies that make the date slightly older. Also, people had many children.
2. Old-earth Creationists and other Christians believe there are large gaps in the genealogies, since son can mean descendent and father can mean ancestor.
Q: Prior to Ex 6:3, why do 197 passages use the name "Yahweh", when Ex 6:3 says God did not reveal Himself by that name to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?
A: a) True facts, which are not a part of the answer.
a1. Since Moses wrote Genesis in his time, not Jacob's, Moses could use whatever name he wished. For example, people correctly write that Columbus discovered America, even though Columbus did not know the name "America." See When Critics Ask p.68-69 for more info. This alone explains all but 53 places, which are direct quotes or similar.
a2. Comparison of the Septuagint and Massoretic text shows scribes were somewhat free in changing names for God. Julius Wellhausen admitted this was the biggest weakness of his documentary hypothesis.
a3. God's name was known to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but God was not primarily known as Yahweh. God was revealing a meaning to Moses that God did not reveal to the three men.
b) The answer is within Exodus 6:3 itself.
b1. Exodus 6:3 does not say revealed "before Moses' time". It only says, "to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob".
(This eliminates 5 of the 53 passages.)
b2. Exodus does not say they were unaware of God's divine name. It only says "I appeared ... but by my name Yahweh I never made myself known to them." While God spoke or appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at least (8, 1, 6) 15 times, God never appeared to these men in a special way associated with His divine name as God appeared to Moses. In fact, when Jacob asked for a name after wrestling in Genesis 32:29, Jacob pointedly was not answered.
See also the next question and Haley p.421.
Q: If Ex 6:3, means God never personally revealed Himself as Yahweh to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, what about where God called Himself Yahweh in the following? Gen 15:7 "I am Yahweh who brought you out of Ur" Gen 18:14 "Is anything too hard for Yahweh?" Gen 28:13 "I am Yahweh, the God of your father..."
A: These are probably later scribal changes. In all three cases in the Greek Septuagint, the word God (theos) is used, not the Greek word for "I Am" in Exodus 3:14 (o W v), or the Greek word in Exodus 6:3 (Kurios). See also the previous.
Q: In Lev 1:17 and Lev 5:9, why can't the priest cut the bird in half?
A: Scripture only says that God wants it this way. In Genesis 15:10, Abraham was not supposed to cut the birds in two in his sacrifice either.
Q: In Dt 7:6, why did God choose the Israelites?
A: Part of the answer is given in Deuteronomy 7:7-9. It was not because they were a powerful or wonderful people. Rather it was because of God's love and choosing of Abraham, and then Isaac and Jacob. Many times people have good consequences because of what others before them have done. Will other people have good consequences because things you do?
Q: In Dt 21:15-16, if a father cannot give his inheritance to a younger son and slight the older son, why did Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob do that? Why did David make Solomon the next King, and not Adonijah?
A: As for Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the command in Deuteronomy 21:15-16 came after they had died. People are not responsible to keep a command God had not given yet.
As for David, the law applied to personal property, and a Kingdom is not personal property. (Though some Emperors and Kings in history might have thought so)
Q: In 1 Sam 1:2; Gen 16:2; 25:1; 29:23-24;28-29, 2 Sam 20:3, etc., why did God permit polygamy (many wives) for Abraham, Jacob, and David and others?
A: Five points to consider in the answer
1. Polygamy was never God's perfect will, as implied when He made Adam and Eve. He said the two (not many) shall become one flesh.
2. God permitted many things, such as divorce (Matthew 5:31-32; Mark 10:2-12), being that their hearts were hard.
3. Some things, such as polygamy and rash vows, God left for people to figure out were not good.
4. Even in Old Testament times, polygamy was not necessarily the norm. Hard Sayings of the Bible p.223 points out that there were only fifteen examples in the Old Testament until Solomon's time. There were only four or five after that time.
5. Ever since the time of Paul, and today, godly elders and deacons are not to have more than one wife (1 Tim 3:2,12; Titus 1:6).
Q: In 1 Ki 12:29, why did Jeroboam choose Bethel and Dan to place the golden calves?
A: There were probably two reasons.
Geographic: Bethel was in the southern part of the northern kingdom. Dan was in the far north. This would be more convenient for the people, and Jeroboam probably reasoned this would help hold the nation together.
Traditional: Today's Handbook for Solving Bible Difficulties p.270-271 points out that there had been a shrine at Dan for 300 years, longer than the Israelites had been in Jerusalem. Abraham himself had built an altar at Bethel. Thus, Jeroboam selected two places that had a longer tradition of Israelite religious worship than Jerusalem. For many, tradition is more important than obeying the true God.
Q: In Isa 53:10, since it says "he shall see His seed", does that mean Jesus was married and had children, as some Mormons teach?
A: No. Seed means spiritual offspring here, not biological offspring. For example, all believers can consider Abraham their father. As a concrete example, Romans 4:16 and Galatians 3:7 both say that Abraham is the father of all who believe, and we can consider ourselves his seed. Jobn the Baptist in Matthew 3:9 and Luke 3:8 said that God could even raise up children of Abraham even from the stones.
Q: In Mal 2:15, what is the correct translation?
A: The NIV translates this as "Has not the Lord made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring...." But in the footnote it gives as an alternate "But the one who is our father did not do this, not as long as life remained in him. And what was he seeking? An offspring from God."
It refers to our father Abraham, according to An Exegetical Commentary : Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi by Eugene H. Merrill p.421.
The Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties p.305-306 mentions that this is a difficult passage to translate since Hebrew has no case endings; the KJV translators cannot be criticized too harshly for making a mistake here.
Q: Why does the genealogy of Luke go back to Adam, while the genealogy of Matthew only go back to Abraham?
A: Scripture does not say, but we have a guess. Luke's emphasis was on Jesus as the Son of man, while Matthew's emphasis was on Jesus the promised Jewish Messiah.
Q: In Mk 10:23-24, is it impossible for prosperous people to go to Jesus?
A: There is only one answer, but it has two parts.
No. People who have wealth can always come to God. Abraham was very wealthy, both by ancient standards and modern. However, wealthy people need to be willing at any time to give up for God. Whatever is most precious to them -like Abraham did with his son Isaac.
Yes: If your possessions or wealth possess you, and your love money more than God, you have to choose one or the other, and your eternal destiny depends on your choice.
Q: In Mk 12:24, why did Jesus tell the Sadducees they did not know the Scriptures nor the power of God?
A: Jesus was correct in both a general sense and a specific sense He could demonstrate to them.
General: They did not accept any of the Old Testament as Scripture except the first five books of the Law. They did not believe in afterlife or resurrection.
Specific: As Jesus showed, even what they did accept as Scripture (The Torah) they did not really believe, about God still being the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Q: In Heb 11:8, how did Abraham (=Abram) depart not knowing where he was going, when Gen 12:5 says Abram departed to go to the land of Canaan?
A: Abram was specifically not told he was going to Canaan when God called him in Gen 12:1. In hindsight, Genesis 12:5, written much later than Abraham, tells us that God had Abram leave to go to Canaan.
In our lives we can obey God without any idea what the result will be. While it can be uncertain to us at that time, looking back years later, we can see how things worked out so well in God's plan. See When Critics Ask p.522 for more info.
Q: In Acts 7:4, how was Abraham 75 years old when he left the town of Haran?
A: See the discussion on Genesis 12:4.
Q: In Rom 4:1, how was Abraham Paul's father as pertaining to the flesh?
A: The word for father was also used for ancestor, and since Paul was a Jew, Abraham was his ancestor.
Q: In Rom 4:8,22, if God did not impute sin to Abraham, was God fair to those He does impute sin?
A: Yes. Romans 4:23-24 says that imputing righteousness instead of sin to Abraham was not a solitary case. The same is true for us, if we believe on God. However, for those who trust in their own righteousness instead of God's, they will be judged on what they did and did not do. (Revelation 20:12; Matthew 25:32-46)
Q: In Rom 4:17,18, how was Abraham the father of many nations?
A: Abraham was the ancestor of the Israelites, Edomites, Midianites, but that is not the main intent of this verse. Rather, Abraham was the father of all who believe (Romans 4:11) both Jew and Gentiles from all nations.
Q: In Rom 10:14-15, can anyone go to Heaven if they never heard the Gospel?
A: -People have. As proof, Enoch, Abraham, Job, and the believers in the Old Testament followed what God revealed to them, but they did not hear what to them was the mystery of the New Testament Gospel. Remember, it is ultimately God who saves, not the Gospel, and not our response to the Gospel. See also the next question.
Q: In Gal 3:16 (and Acts 3:25) vs. Gen 12:7, etc, "seed" is a collective singular noun, (as is the word "people"), yet Paul says it could not refer to many.
A: The point here is that Paul is reminding the Jews that their scriptures (the Old Testament) taught that the promises made to Abraham's descendants would come through the Messiah, which both the Jews and Christians acknowledged as one person.
Q: In Eph 2:12-13, in Old Testament times, were all non-citizens of Israel doomed to Hell, with no chance to be saved?
A: No. Job, Abraham and Isaac were not Israelites, and they demonstrate that God can reveal Himself however He pleases. Even after the Law was given to Moses, Rahab and Ruth were non-Israelites who were still saved. However, all who are saved, even in Old Testament times, are saved through Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 10:4; 1 John 2:2; Hebrews 2:9; 1 Timothy 2:6) As long as a person rejects the real Jesus, Peter in Acts 2:37-40 shows they have no other possibility to be saved.
Q: In 1 Tim 6:9 and Jms 5:1-6, should Christians [not be adverse to / want / lustfully crave] getting rich?
A: Riches themselves are not evil, and Abraham, whom both Paul and James gave as an example of a godly man, was very wealthy. There are three points of caution, though.
1. The craving after wealth is both evil and a source of evil. We should be perfectly content to be a Christian of modest means. If a Christian is wealthy, and God changed the situation where he or she lost the wealth, they should be content in all circumstances (Philippians 4:12).
2. Every Christian who has wealth should be wary of the temptation of wanting to hold on to that wealth tightly, and valuing it as much as he or she values God and other people. By the way, compared to the average economic standard of the world, nearly every Christian in North America, Singapore, Japan, and most of Western Europe has wealth.
3. People who do not have wealth are not exempt from greed either. Sometimes people think they can only be happy, and they will be happy, if they are wealthy.
See Now That's a Good Question p.434-436 for more info.
Q: In Heb 7:1-11, what does this mean?
A: While the direct observations are straightforward, it is the relationship to the author's point that is interesting.
1. Abraham, giving a tithe of the spoils to Melchizedek, a non-Hebrew priest of the Most High God, proves it was possible to be a priest without being from the order of Aaron.
2. Furthermore, the fact that Abraham, ancestor of Levi, gave a tithe to Melchizedek demonstrates that Melchizedek's priesthood is greater than the Aaronic priesthood.
Q: In Heb 11:19 (KJV), how did Abraham receive Isaac "in figure"?
A: This King James Version expression means that Abraham, figuratively speaking, did receive Isaac back from the dead. See also the next question.
Q: In Heb 11:19, how did Abraham received Isaac back from the dead, figuratively?
A: Abram was about to kill Isaac as a sacrifice. However, God stopped him, and Isaac remained alive, as Genesis 22:1-18.
Q: In Jms 2:5-7, why does James make such stereotypes of the rich and poor?
A: James is not against all rich people, because we mentioned with great admiration Abraham (James 2:20-23), and Abraham was very wealthy, both by ancient standards and ours.
The point of this is that at that time, it was very hard to be both rich and honest. Many had to give and take bribes, and extort others to get their wealth and maintain it. Unfortunately, this is also the situation in some developing countries today.
Q: In Jms 2:14-25, how are we justified by works as well as by faith, and not by faith apart from works as Paul said in Eph 2:8-9?
A: A sound theology should not just be able to explain both these verses, a sound theology should require both these verses. Even Martin Luther, known for his stand on faith, said "It is impossible, indeed, to separate works from faith, just as it is impossible to separate heat and light from fire."
Three points about both Paul and James.
1. Both said nothing to minimize the role of faith as the means of God applying Christ's justification to us.
2. Both said nothing to minimize the role works in the daily life of a Christian.
3. Neither said that we can merit God's grace and mercy, either by all the works in the world or the greatest faith in the world.
4. Both show that works were an inseparable outward expression of faith. If people do not want to do good works for God, that is evidence they do not have faith and are not saved.
5. Just as God used different Gospels to accent different parts of Christ's character, God used Paul and James to accent different aspects of justification. Paul emphasized more that we cannot merit any part of our salvation, we can only call upon the Lord in faith. James emphasized more that true faith is not mere intellectual assent, but a life-trusting decision that is accompanied by works.
In summary, works have no role in meriting our salvation, but works have an essential role in expressing the faith through which we are saved.
Historically, outside of the Bible the first instance we can find this view is in the letter of Clement to the Corinthians, confidently dated 97/98 A.D.) Chapter 31 speaks of why Abraham was justified. Chapter 32 says, in part "And we, too, being called by His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves, nor by our own wisdom, or understanding, or godliness, or works which we have wrought in holiness of heart; but by that faith through which, from the beginning, Almighty God has justified all men;' to whom be glory for even and ever. Amen.
What shall we do, then, brethren? Shall we become slothful in well-doing, and cease from the practice of love? God forbid that any such course should be followed by us! ..." (Ante-Nicene Fathers Volume 1 (Roberts & Donaldson eds. 1994) p.13)
It is kind of neat to see that this theology, (of not saved by serving but saved to serve), was echoed and taught as Biblical truth by the early Christians even before the book of Revelation was written and the New Testament was completed. See Hard Sayings of the Bible p.696-699 and The Complete Book of Bible Answers p.188-189 for more info.
Q: In Jms 2:21, was Abraham saved by works, or justified by faith in Rom 4:1-4 and Rom 3:28?
A: To loosely paraphrase the quote from Martin Luther in the previous questions, just as you cannot separate heat from fire, you cannot separate works from faith.
James 2:21 only says that "Was not Abraham justified by works". Abraham's works demonstrated to the world, and all of Heaven and Hell, that Abraham was justified by God. However, it was still God who justified Abraham, not Abraham himself. See Bible Difficulties and Seeming Contradictions p.241-242 and When Critics Ask p.527-528 for more info.
Clement of Rome, writing to the Corinthians in 97 A.D., said about Abraham, "For what reason was our father Abraham Blessed? Was it not because he wrought righteousness and truth through faith?" (Ante-Nicene Fathers Volume 1 (Roberts & Donaldson eds. 1994) p.13) See The Complete Book of Bible Answers p.189-190 and When Cultists Ask p.289 for more info.
Q: In Jms 5:1-6, does God hate wealthy people?
A: No. Abraham was very wealthy, and James mentions him approvingly as a righteous man in God's eyes in James 2:20-23. God is not expressing hate here, but a strict warning toward those who love wealth. See Hard Sayings of the Bible p.701-704 for more info.
Q: In 1 Pet 3:21, in what sense does water baptism save us?
A: It is obvious that Peter was not using the second half of 1 Peter 3:21 to contradict the first half of 1 Peter 3:21. It is Jesus who saves us, not the water. Since water cannot take the place of Jesus rising for us, what did Peter mean? 1 Peter 3:21 itself gives us our answer in two parts.
A. From our perspective, water baptism has no value as a ceremonial washing. Rather, water baptism is of great value as "the pledge of a good conscience toward God."
B. From God's perspective, water baptism has no saving value. Rather, water baptism is of great value as your identification that "saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ." (See also Colossians 3:12).
In addition, here are four other key doctrines about water baptism.
1. All believers, without exception, are commanded to be baptized. (Acts 2:38)
2. The command to be baptized was never taken away. (See Matthew 28:19-20).
3. If a true believer dies before being baptized, God can still send them to be with Jesus. After all, all who have the Holy Spirit are sons of God. (Romans 8:10-11).
4. God can save people and give them the Holy Spirit prior to them being baptized (Acts 10:44-48).
Baptism is a type of circumcision, and as Romans 4:10-11, shows, Abraham's faith was counted as righteousness before he was circumcised, and that baptism was a seal of righteousness.
In summary, baptism is not the cause of a new life in Christ. It is a believer's pledge to God of a new life in Christ.
See also Hard Sayings of the Bible p.716-718 When Cultists Ask p.221-222 for more info on water baptism not being a condition of salvation.
For more info please contact Christian Debater™ P.O. Box 144441 Austin, TX 78714 www.BibleQuery.org