Tom: Thanks, Gary. You are listening to Search the Scriptures Daily, a program in which we encourage everyone who desires to know God’s truth to look to God’s Word for all that is essential for salvation and living one’s life in a way that is pleasing to Him.
For a number of weeks now we have been using Dave Hunt’s book In Defense of the Faith as a resource for questions that pertain to the Bible, and the questions are drawn from Dave’s experience in ministry over the years. Although we don’t cover every possible question, we hope the ones we have selected will be more than just interesting—rather they will be an encouragement to you in your own study of the Bible.
Dave, let’s go right to our question: “Christians try to explain away the contradictions in the narrative in the four gospels as resulting from four different witnesses, each presenting his own perspective on what happened. But that could not account for the variations in the words attributed to Jesus. Did He use the words that Matthew records? Or did he actually say what Mark writes or what Luke or John offer us? Words can’t be changed. If these writers really were eyewitnesses, why don’t their memories agree? And, if they were inspired by the same Holy Spirit, why the contradictions?”
Yeah, Dave, one of the things about your questions, ones that we’ve dealt with in the past, these people come on like gang busters and, like, they get everything lined up, but there are just so many holes in even the questions that they ask. But, let’s get to it.
Dave: Well, Tom they’re not just from my experience but, as I have mentioned, I have files of stuff in writing from the skeptics, and again, I don’t remember where this one came from, but I’d say it is a reasonable question, it’s a tough question. First of all, there aren’t any contradictions—number one. There are no contradictions. Number two: that there are seeming contradictions, and we’ve talked about that in the past, is good. It shows that they’re not in collusion. They didn’t all get together, you know; they didn’t copy one another—and they weren’t copying some “Q” document, or whatever, as the critics would say.
Tom: Dave, can I go back to the point that I was making, that sometimes when you’re in a discussion with somebody, and they’re pretty aggressive about it, they throw some things in there that they believe are true—and I’m not talking about the apparent contradictions; I mean misstatements: “Well, the Bible is this—Matthew records something that Luke didn’t record; they used different words . . . .” And my point is that sometimes we get intimidated by somebody who seems to have facts that are not true. So, what we want to do is—well, wait a minute, hold on here, time out! Let’s go back and take a look at the very things that you’re implying—more than implying—that you are stating.
Dave: Well, the fact that they use different words, as the questioner admits, is only normal, if we’re talking about different individuals. If you had four witnesses to the same accident, let’s say, they would describe it in different words—they’re describing the same thing. Now, if they all described it in the same—exactly the same words, then you would have good reason to believe there was some collusion here. I wouldn’t trust them.
Tom: What about if they are quoting Jesus?
Dave: Okay, well, we’re going to get to that.
Tom: Okay, that’s what I am excited about.
Dave: That’s part of what he’s saying here. Part of what he’s saying, but we have to deal with the whole thing.
Dave: If you have four witnesses and they seem to disagree with one another, but when you examine it you find out they are in agreement, in fact, you have a stronger case. So, first of all, that’s what we have—we have a stronger case here, okay? Now, secondly, they’re not just using their memory—whoever the questioner was mentions that in one respect, and then goes on, of course, to say, “Well, if they are inspired of the Holy Spirit . . .” They had to be inspired of the Holy Spirit; we have to settle that first of all. They wouldn’t dare just use their memory; there is too much detail—lengthy statements by Jesus. For example, in John’s gospel, especially, that we’re studying, chapter 17 is a prayer that Jesus prayed—word for word? Is that really what He prayed, or was John just kind of going by his memory? He certainly wasn’t taking notes and so forth.
So, we have to accept that the gospel account, if this is scripture—Matthew, Mark, Luke and John is scripture—Peter says . . . well, Paul writes, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God,” so that would include this. Peter writes, “Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” Then it is going to be accurate. This is all inspired of the Holy Spirit.
Okay, now, we come to—what about there are some variations in the words that Jesus speaks? Well, He could have talked about the same thing on different occasions, number one—that’s the most obvious. And He doesn’t always just repeat Himself word for word, that would be one possibility. They may have been in different settings and so forth. One gospel may be giving more of a summation—not giving every word, word for word, but, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit making some slight variations there to elaborate, to help better understand the meaning and so forth. But God, who writes the Bible . . . for example, you have things stated like in Jude—“Even as Enoch, the seventh from Adam, foretold, ‘Behold, he cometh, with ten thousands of his saints to execute judgment. . . .’ ” Well, wait a minute! There is nothing in the Old Testament that says that. “Oh, then, he must have copied this from the Book of Enoch or something.” No! The Holy Spirit certainly has the liberty to elaborate, to include in the New Testament further details that were not in the Old Testament, and that is not a contradiction.
So, the same thing would be true if different gospel writers are giving us, maybe, a little elaboration. And then, of course, we give in the book one example of a statement that was made in the same location, it’s quite obvious. But Matthew adds something. Matthew adds, “Go ye and learn what that meaneth, ‘I will have mercy and not sacrifice.’” And so you could say, “Well, why don’t all the others say that?” Well, it’s interesting, the skeptics fault the Bible for repeating: “How come you’ve got four gospels and they are repeating one another?” Then [laughing], when it doesn’t repeat exactly—then they get upset about that, too! I think Matthew is simply adding. The others are not saying Jesus didn’t say that. They just do not include that. So there would be things that Christ had stated that were not included in every one of them, and I see no problem with that.
Tom: Dave, would difference in translations—would that affect some of this? For example, the originals were in Greek—we’re not reading them in Greek in our Bibles, so I rather doubt whether the skeptics, those concerned, are going to look to the Greek manuscripts.
Dave: Yeah, well, that’s a possibility. In other words, there are no exact word equivalents between Greek and English, let’s say, or Greek and Spanish, so the translators may be taking what Matthew says—maybe in the Greek it’s the same words. But when they come to Luke, they don’t remember exactly the words that they said back there, or they just give a slightly different expression—that is another possibility. But, Tom, any . . .
Tom: Certainly not to overthrow any doctrine, we’ve been through that in many programs.
Dave: Yeah. No, I think we can dispense with this whole idea. The skeptics can find nothing; they cannot pin down any errors, any contradictions, between the gospels, even in the quotations of Jesus.
Tom: Dave, our next question is one that really fascinates me, and I’m sure, many of our listeners. This questioner writes: “We are told that when Solomon was old he worshipped false gods and goddesses, tried to kill Jeroboam, whom God had chosen as his successor, and did other evils. How, then, could God have inspired him to write parts of the Bible? How could he have been ‘the wisest man who ever lived?’ And how could it be said of him that he ‘slept with his fathers,’ which presumably meant that he went to heaven?”
Dave, I know it’s so hard for many people—you know, sometimes I find myself falling into this—it’s as though we believe that God can only use perfect people, and that He could only use those who were such spiritual giants for His purposes. And when we find somebody like David sinning, certainly Solomon—and this is a major one we will deal with—but others, it’s hard for us to believe that the instruments of God could have any problems whatsoever.
Dave: Well, we know that they all did, and that in itself is one of the evidences that this is God’s Word. It’s not fabricated. If it were fabricated, you wouldn’t find the faults of Solomon. It would read like a fairy tale, you know, everybody was just perfect. But what these men did in disobedience, it’s there; it’s recorded for us—it’s recorded for our learning. Probably not every evil they did is recorded—that I don’t know. Maybe it is—I’m sure that David never sinned in that manner, you know, on any other occasion as he did with Bathsheba, and having her husband, Uriah the Hittite, abandoned in the front lines so that he would be killed and so forth.
Well, I think we have some tremendous lessons here in Solomon. He’s the wisest man that ever lived. Wise men . . . Job:32:9 is rather interesting with regard to Solomon. It says, “Great men are not always wise: [and then it goes on and says] neither do the aged understand judgment.” Hey, I am getting aged! Help me, Tom. And it says here—let’s read the scripture from I Kings 11: “It came to pass when Solomon was old that his wives turned away his heart after other gods.”
Tom: Dave, before you go on with that, I just want to establish something for our listeners, because we say, “Well, Solomon was wise,” and so on. Let’s hear it from the scriptures. This is God speaking—this is in I Kings 3:12, “Behold, I have done according to thy words: lo, I have given thee . . . [God speaking to Solomon] a wise and an understanding heart; so that there was none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee.” So, when we say outside of Jesus, this is the wisest man ever on the face of the earth, you’ve got God’s Word on it.
Dave: Well, Tom, wisdom, knowledge, understanding: these are all different and the fact that a person is very wise doesn’t mean that he can control his desires. You would think it would help, in other words, for someone to know that “alcohol is killing me,” you would think that would help them discontinue their drunkenness, but it may not. In other words, you don’t have to be too wise to know, or, the many people that smoke today, you know that it’s killing you. It’s putting smoke in your lungs; it’s destroying your arteries, your lungs, and so forth. So, you don’t have to be wise to know that, and yet, a person may thoroughly know that and continue it. The enjoyment of it, whatever that may be, means more to them in the short run than the long-term effect. I think the same is true of Solomon. So, this does not mitigate his wisdom.
Tom: But again, incredibly important to have the wisdom . . .
Tom: Proverbs, for example, over and over tells us to seek wisdom.
Dave: Solomon says, “Wisdom is the principle thing. Therefore, get wisdom, and with all thy getting, get understanding.” Now, Solomon really was wise, and he followed the wisdom that God had given him up to a point. But he had two problems, number one—it says, “He loved many strange women.” Women were his downfall, and, of course, he had access to all of these women and every time he saw a beautiful woman, he wanted her. So, he eventually had about a thousand wives. I mean, this is incredible!
Tom: Including concubines. What would be the purpose there? Certainly not procreation.
Dave: Even more. So, here is a man who was wise, but he couldn’t control his passions. And then, when he was older, when he became old, not only was the beauty and the sex overpowering to him, but now these women turned him away from the true God. And, as a favor to them—well, it says, “When Solomon was old, his wives turned away his heart after other gods, for Solomon went after Ashtoreth, the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom, the abomination of the Ammonites. Then did Solomon build a high place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab, and for Molech, the abomination of the children of Ammon. Likewise did he for his strange wives which burned incense of sacrifice unto their gods. And the Lord was angry with Solomon. Wherefore the Lord said unto Solomon, I will surely rend the kingdom from thee and will give it to thy servant.” And it came to pass—not in Solomon’s day but after his death.
Tom: But even so, Solomon knew this from the Lord—the Lord had spoken this to him, yet he tried to kill Jeroboam, who was the servant that God was referring to.
Dave: Right. Well, it’s a lesson for all of us, and Tom, we couldn’t even begin to count how many pastors or preachers, televangelists, and so forth today, have—their downfall has been women—have committed adultery, fornication, whatever, and it has destroyed their ministry, destroyed their lives, and you would say, “How could they do that? How could they throw that away?” And yet, it happens again and again.
So, I think it’s a lesson for women. Bathsheba—why was she displaying herself out there, right where King David could see her? She should have been a bit more modest and taken her bath somewhere else in a more private place. Was she actually hoping that David would see and would be attracted to her? I don’t know, but women have a power over men, and they need to dress modestly, not display themselves. And yet we find many women in the church today who glorify their beauty and, I think, place temptation in the face of men.
So, we can learn something on both sides, but it’s a lesson to all of us. If Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, outside of Christ, if his wisdom did not conquer his passions—it makes us think of Paul, you remember? He said, “So fight I, not as one that beateth the air; so run I, to obtain the prize.” And he says, “I keep my body and bring it under subjection, lest at having preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.” It doesn’t mean he has lost his salvation, but he could lose the blessing of God in the ministry that God has given him. So, it’s . . .
Tom: It brings us to another point in this question. What about the eternal destiny of Solomon?
Dave: Let me just finish one other point, Tom. So, it’s a lesson that Paul presents to all of us: “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” We are never in so much danger of falling as when we are so confident that we can’t fall, and we have to be aware of that—that we are trusting God to keep us at all times. Well, what about the eternal destiny of Solomon? Well, that’s a tough one.
Tom: Dave, it makes you think that, or be concerned: here’s a man used of God to write a large part of Ecclesiastes, a great number of the Proverbs. It’s hard to fathom that, you know, an individual like this is going to spend eternity in the lake of fire away from God.
Dave: Yeah, I don’t believe that he is. In other words, I believe that he is one of the redeemed. But it would bring us to what Jesus said in John:8:7, when they brought this woman taken in adultery, “Let him that is without sin among you, cast the first stone.” None of us can cast a stone at Solomon, although we haven’t had a thousand wives, you know, and we haven’t gone after strange gods and so forth. But I think that whoever would receive the merciful pardon of God can’t withhold God’s pardon from Solomon. Solomon is just a tremendous lesson to all of us. But, in the final analysis, that’s in God’s hands. The destiny of each of us is in God’s hands, and we have to rely on Genesis:18:25, “Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?”
And, as you said, I think the strongest reason we would have is that here’s a man who is inspired of God. He ruled Israel well in almost every respect except at this point. When he was older he went astray. Did he have Alzheimer’s? I don’t think so; we leave that in God’s hands. But if he was really one of the redeemed, which he must have been to write the scriptures that he did, then he is not lost, but he certainly lost a great reward that he otherwise could have had.
Tom: Yeah, Dave, I think you point out here, he’s not found in the heroes of the faith, Hebrews 11, and it may well be because of how he sinned, how he rebelled, but he is a tremendous, as we have been saying, a tremendous example for us, a deterrent really.
Dave: All the more tragic when you think of how God blessed him with the building of the temple and how the presence of God came in and so forth—how God manifested himself, how God spoke with him and guided him—all the more tragic is Solomon, the wisest man, but couldn’t control his passions, and what a lesson to each of us.