The lawyer had recently published an exposé on the errors of modern Christianity and was regarded as a serious mathematician. Well, it didn’t take a math expert to see what he had stumbled onto at 1Kings 7:2-3.
Regarding one of King Solomon’s projects, the account reads: “He built also the house of the forest of Lebanon; the length thereof was an hundred cubits, and the breadth thereof fifty cubits, and the height thereof thirty cubits, upon four rows of cedar pillars, with cedar beams upon the pillars. And it was covered with cedar above upon the beams, that lay on forty five pillars, fifteen in a row.”
The attorney explained if there were four rows of pillars with 15 in a row, there should be 60 pillars, not 45. So, regardless of whose mistake it was, there was a error in the Bible, he asserted.
I must admit, I never noticed this detail before nor had I heard anyone else discuss those four rows of pillars, but the math was irrefutable. I didn’t have an answer. All I could say was I would look into the matter and see what I could find. The truth is, I was not going to sleep until I found a reasonable answer to this problem.
My research revealed a number of possibilities. For example, some believe the text applies to the chambers in three tiers, 15 chambers to a row, and it is possible that there may have been a greater number of pillars placed in the four rows. I had not thought of that.
Surely, those who lived in that era would have noticed such an obvious mistake unless there really was no error. Did they already understand the difference in the chambers and the pillars that the writer spoke of?
Others prefer the rendering in the Septuagint Version of the Scriptures which was the common Bible used in Jesus’ day. It refers to only “three” rows of pillars, but the Hebrew text says there were “four” rows. Then too, a number of translations alter the reading of the text so that the 45 refers to the beams instead of the pillars.
The point this attorney was making was this: Whether it was an error in translation or an error in math, there was an error in the Bible. His conclusion was that by having this “error,” the book could not have come from God.
My conclusion, however, was that his premise was in error. He assumed every time anyone translated the Bible they must be inspired by God. There is nothing in the Bible or elsewhere to suggest translators are inspired of God. In fact, the evidence suggest there would be a need to improve translations for greater accuracy as it was translated into other languages.
For instance, the New King James Version of Psalm 12:6-7 said, “The words of the LORD are pure words, like silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. You shall keep them, O LORD, You shall preserve them from this generation forever.”
Could likening God’s Word to a refining process suggest there would be improvements in future translations? I believe the original Word of God contains “pure words.” But haven’t translations over centuries of time seen a need for revised versions? Some translators even paraphrase the Bible, resulting in more errors in translations.
Did it change the message of the Bible? Would minuscule changes in the text suggest the Bible is not the inspired Word of God? You decide. In the case of this skeptical attorney in 1994, research revealed a plausible answer for the mathematical discrepancy. When I shared my findings he quieted down.
His next question was: Why wouldn’t God inspire all translators to write down exactly what He wants them to write? Why allow these errors? The first Scripture to come to mind was Daniel 12:8-10 where God indicated to Daniel that His Word would be better understood by some during the time of the end.
Since the Bible is primarily a book of faith — touching on historical and scientific facts — it seems to be written in a way to allow its readers to show their faith. The Bible speaks of miracles that defy explanations other than being the works of an Almighty God. Do we choose to believe these miracles or not?
The Bible gives certain details and leave others out. Oftentimes, cross-referencing Scriptures about the same incident will give more information and clarify a seeming discrepancy. If not, the reader can research the matter or ask others. This helps Christians fulfill 1Peter 3:15.
By adding study and faith into the equation, we may avoid an error in judgment.
*For a copy of The Little White Book of Light featuring more Wright Way columns, visit barnesandnoble.com, booksamillion.com and amazon.com.