1. How many men did the chief of David’s captains kill?

Posted: April 9, 2013 in Uncategorized

2sam 23:8 ≠ 1chron 11:11

2 Samuel 23:8 These are the names of David’s mighty men: Josheb-basshebeth, a Tahkemonite, was chief of the Three; he raised his spear against eight hundred men, whom he killed in one encounter.

1 Chronicles 11:11 this is the list of David’s mighty men: Jashobeam, a Hacmonite, was chief of the officers; he raised his spear against three hundred men, whom he killed in one encounter.

Why the difference between 800 and 300? It’s hard to tell. If you read the chapters these verses appear in it seems that the author of Chronicles is incorporating parts of 1 Samuel into his writing, but supplementing it with additional sources. That would explain the variations between these verses (Josheb-basshebeth/Jashobeam; a Tahkemonite/a Hacmonite; chief of the Three/chief of the officers.) So maybe the different sources estimated different numbers of dead. Or perhaps more likely, a scribe has wrongly transcribed one of the numbers. Maybe he thought 800 men was just too many for one man to possibly have killed at one time, assumed a previous scribe had made a mistake, and so modified it to read “300” to line up with the number that some of the other mighty men are said to have slain (2 Sam 23:18).

Thoughtful Evangelicals have always insisted that when we talk about the inerrancy of scripture we’re referring to the inerrancy of the original manuscripts (see Article X of The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy). We’re well aware that transmission errors can creep in to the text. Fortunately there are multiple manuscripts available that we can compare to weed out most of the copying mistakes, even if some minor ones still seem to make it through.

And whatever position you’re coming from—evangelical Christian or determined Atheist—it’s hard to argue that the difference between “800” and “300” in these verses is anything other than minor. Nothing of importance hangs on it.

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