*The Hebrew font didn’t come through. i will work on a fix. It may be easier to skim that section.

Playing With Cheaters

I will attempt to present a biblical discrepancy with an explanation as to how and why the discrepancy arose.  For a while now (as a Christian) I became uncomfortable with disingenuous harmonies that apologists posed. A mechanism that explains the methodology of a discrepancy is worth more than a possibility.  B.B Warfield intent on defending inerrancy claims that a discrepancy is resolved if a possible hypothesis could be given. He and others also suggest that even if a possibility cannot be given that does not undermine inerrancy. Such criteria, is like playing Tic-Tac-Toe alone, there is no way to lose.  At the outset the conclusion is already determined with question- begging resoluteness, that the bible cannot contain mistakes, from there any datum that doesn’t coincide to this theory is warped, remolded, and forced to fit into whatever shaped peg is needed. I deny this assumption, any old explanation will not do. It’s not enough to offer a possible explanation; the explanation must be plausible and explanatory, not weak assertion. Setting out methodology inductively is the only credible way to be sure that a solution is correct.  Here I will pose a double discrepancy and a hypothesis which I believe is stronger than the alternative explanation given, providing good psychological, political, scribal, and culturally relevant interpretive norms. My explanation will assume that Samuel and Chronicles are historical account bereft of divine influence. In other words I am approaching these two stories as I would approach any piece of ancient literature. And considering that the neither of the books claim that the author wrote under inspiration I am safe to eliminate that assumption.

I Cannot Tell a Lie

I’m going to begin by bumming an analogy from Thom Starks.  The story of George Washington chopping down the cherry tree is an excellent canvas on which to set the argument.  When President Washington’s father confronted him about cutting down the tree, the young president responded: “I cannot tell a lie, pa, you know I cannot tell a lie, I did it with muh little hatchet.” The pride of the father in his son’s honesty becomes the pride of the nation. As we know, this yarn is purely fiction, it is but one of many legendary anecdotes told about our first president, during his life and after his death.  The stories are grafted so neatly into his life that it is difficult to tell where legend ends and real life begins. None the less, the stories function as mythology for American citizens. We can be proud of the president because he embodied honesty, even from his youth. Who greater to lead a nation? Similarly David represented the hopes and dreams of Israel like George Washington did the American people.

The story of David and Goliath is recorded in 1 Samuel 17. The famous story presents the underdog victorious over a behemoth which he failed with a stone and sling. The tale embodies the strength of the underdog, the political yearning of a tribal people, and the hope for victory over Israelite enemies, over their gods through the strength of their own god. David will become a messianic figure in Israelite history, a legend, which epitomizes the righteous Israelite and the favor of god on his people. I will argue that this story is a fictional yarn like other legendary stories that are spun about great influential men, and that it most likely was added later after the composition of Samuel and Kings. The reason I take this view is because later in 2 Samuel 21:19 we are told that Elhanan killed Goliath. The chronicler observed the contradiction and amended the text to say that Elhanan killed the brother of Goliath (1 Chron 20:5).  Apologists claim 2 Samuel 21:19 is a scribal error that the chronicler corrected. Glen Archer gives the best explanation of this view:

 The sign of the direct object, which in Chronicles comes just before “Lahmi,” was ‘-t; the copyist mistook it for b-t or b-y-t (“Beth”) and thus got Bet hal-Lahmi (“the Bethlehemite”) out of it.He misread the word for “brother” (‘-h) as the sign of the direct object (‘-t) right before g-l-y-t (“Goliath”). Thus he made “Goliath” the object of “killed” (wayyak), instead of the “brother” of Goliath (as the Chronicles passage does). The copyist misplaced the word for “weavers” (‘-r-g-ym) so as to put it right after “Elhanan” as his patronymic (ben Y-‘-r-y’-r–g-ym, or ben ya ‘arey ‘ore -gim — “the son of the forests of weavers” — a most unlikely name for anyone’s father!). In Chronicles the ‘ore grim (“weavers”) comes right after menor (“a beam of “) — thus making perfectly good sense.[1]

As tantalizing, and possibly confusing, this explanation is, I feel that it falls short in explanatory force. I will now lay out my case.

Saul—Depressed and Hopelessly Confused

After Yhwh sends an evil spirit on Saul, Saul commands his servants to find someone who can soothe him with music. A servant recommends David the son of Jesse and Saul quickly dispatches for him. Jesse complies and sends David off to Saul, this keeps in tune with the narrative that already suggested that a king could take a son at will (1 Samuel 8:11) David falls in the favor of Saul and becomes his armor bearer. Further, David continued to play the harp and the lyre whenever Saul fell depressed. Thus, David and Saul are close. Saul knows who David and his father are. Having placed him as armor-bearer and musician places David in Saul’s inner sanctum (1 Samuel 16:14-22).  The subsequent chapter tells a different story.  The Israelites are camped for battle against the Philistines.  Among the warrior of Philistine towers a colossal warrior, Goliath. He challenges Israel’s stronger warrior to duel.[2] The news of battle is cast into the air and David gets wind of it and decided to investigate. The young shepherd takes up the challenge and defeats Goliath.

There are three points of discrepancy which I wish to bring out: First, David is described originally as a “valiant man, a warrior, handsome” and that the “Lord was with him.”(cf 1 Samuel 16) Yet when Saul sees David he discourages him from the fight, calling him a “youth.” He does not view David as a warrior. This is a minor thing; the large problem is seen when the data is viewed accumulative and further still when we look at the discrepant accounts. Following David’s victory they take the head of Goliath and place it in Jerusalem. However, this appears to be an anachronism. David did not reign in Jerusalem until later see (2 Samuel 5:4-6). Until this time the Israelites and Jebusites remained together in the land (Judges 1:7, 8, 21). The practice of taking back spoil to headquarters only makes sense, in my judgment, if they had full control of the land.  Finally, after the victor Saul inquires as to David’s identity: “Abner, whose son is this man” Abner replied, “As surely as you live, Your Majesty, I don’t know.”The king said, “Find out whose son this young man is…whose son are you, young man?” (1 Samuel 17:55-58). This further disharmonizes the two scenes. In 1 Samuel 16, Saul is told that David is the son of Jesse; he even requests that Jesse allow him to remain in service. People were identified by their lineage. According to 1 Samuel 16, Saul favored David, made him an armor bearer, and enjoyed his music. In 1 Samuel 17, David can only be identified as some young man, because Saul has no idea who he is; he has never met him before.

The Philistine Who Was Picked On Because of His Name

This discrepancy will be important in understanding how the different versions of this story arose in 2 Samuel and 1 Chronicles; we will return to it later.  I will now present the contradictory explanation for the death of Goliath.  The two texts read as follows:

<ygra rwnmk wtynj Juw tylg ta ymjlj tyb <ygra yruy-/b /njla iyw <ytsvlp <u bwgb hmjlmh dwu-y–htw

And there was another battle at Gob with the Philistines. And Elhanah the son of Jair the weaver of Bethlehem killed Goliath—whose wooden spear was like the beam of a weaver

<ygra rwnmk wtynj Juw ytgh tylg yja ymjl ta rwuy-/b /njla iyw <ytsvlp <u hmjlmh dwu-yhtw

And there was another battle with the Philistines. And Elhanah the son of Jair killed the brother of Goliath the Gittite, –– staff was like the beam of a weaver.

The 1 Chronicle’s text is slightly shorter. The similarities between both texts strongly suggest that the scribe was working with the Samuel scroll. The texts are nearly identical accept for the chroniclers scribal alterations. (Samuel is the top and Chronicles is the bottom)

 

 

<ygra rwnmk wtynj Juw [tylg ta ymjlh tyb]] <ygra yruy-/b /njla iyw <ytsvlp <u bwgb hmjlmh dwu-yhtw

<ygra rwnmk wtynj Juw [ytgh tylg yja ymjl ta]   rwuy-/b /njla iyw <ytsvlp <u      hmjlmh dwu-yhtw

Playing With Cheaters

I will attempt to present a biblical discrepancy with an explanation as to how and why the discrepancy arose.  For a while now (as a Christian) I became uncomfortable with disingenuous harmonies that apologists posed. A mechanism that explains the methodology of a discrepancy is worth more than a possibility.  B.B Warfield intent on defending inerrancy claims that a discrepancy is resolved if a possible hypothesis could be given. He and others also suggest that even if a possibility cannot be given that does not undermine inerrancy. Such criteria, is like playing Tic-Tac-Toe alone, there is no way to lose.  At the outset the conclusion is already determined with question- begging resoluteness, that the bible cannot contain mistakes, from there any datum that doesn’t coincide to this theory is warped, remolded, and forced to fit into whatever shaped peg is needed. I deny this assumption, any old explanation will not do. It’s not enough to offer a possible explanation; the explanation must be plausible and explanatory, not weak assertion. Setting out methodology inductively is the only credible way to be sure that a solution is correct.  Here I will pose a double discrepancy and a hypothesis which I believe is stronger than the alternative explanation given, providing good psychological, political, scribal, and culturally relevant interpretive norms. My explanation will assume that Samuel and Chronicles are historical account bereft of divine influence. In other words I am approaching these two stories as I would approach any piece of ancient literature. And considering that the neither of the books claim that the author wrote under inspiration I am safe to eliminate that assumption.

I Cannot Tell a Lie

I’m going to begin by bumming an analogy from Thom Starks.  The story of George Washington chopping down the cherry tree is an excellent canvas on which to set the argument.  When President Washington’s father confronted him about cutting down the tree, the young president responded: “I cannot tell a lie, pa, you know I cannot tell a lie, I did it with muh little hatchet.” The pride of the father in his son’s honesty becomes the pride of the nation. As we know, this yarn is purely fiction, it is but one of many legendary anecdotes told about our first president, during his life and after his death.  The stories are grafted so neatly into his life that it is difficult to tell where legend ends and real life begins. None the less, the stories function as mythology for American citizens. We can be proud of the president because he embodied honesty, even from his youth. Who greater to lead a nation? Similarly David represented the hopes and dreams of Israel like George Washington did the American people.

The story of David and Goliath is recorded in 1 Samuel 17. The famous story presents the underdog victorious over a behemoth which he failed with a stone and sling. The tale embodies the strength of the underdog, the political yearning of a tribal people, and the hope for victory over Israelite enemies, over their gods through the strength of their own god. David will become a messianic figure in Israelite history, a legend, which epitomizes the righteous Israelite and the favor of god on his people. I will argue that this story is a fictional yarn like other legendary stories that are spun about great influential men, and that it most likely was added later after the composition of Samuel and Kings. The reason I take this view is because later in 2 Samuel 21:19 we are told that Elhanan killed Goliath. The chronicler observed the contradiction and amended the text to say that Elhanan killed the brother of Goliath (1 Chron 20:5).  Apologists claim 2 Samuel 21:19 is a scribal error that the chronicler corrected. Glen Archer gives the best explanation of this view:

 The sign of the direct object, which in Chronicles comes just before “Lahmi,” was ‘-t; the copyist mistook it for b-t or b-y-t (“Beth”) and thus got Bet hal-Lahmi (“the Bethlehemite”) out of it.He misread the word for “brother” (‘-h) as the sign of the direct object (‘-t) right before g-l-y-t (“Goliath”). Thus he made “Goliath” the object of “killed” (wayyak), instead of the “brother” of Goliath (as the Chronicles passage does). The copyist misplaced the word for “weavers” (‘-r-g-ym) so as to put it right after “Elhanan” as his patronymic (ben Y-‘-r-y’-r–g-ym, or ben ya ‘arey ‘ore -gim — “the son of the forests of weavers” — a most unlikely name for anyone’s father!). In Chronicles the ‘ore grim (“weavers”) comes right after menor (“a beam of “) — thus making perfectly good sense.[1]

As tantalizing, and possibly confusing, this explanation is, I feel that it falls short in explanatory force. I will now lay out my case.

Saul—Depressed and Hopelessly Confused

After Yhwh sends an evil spirit on Saul, Saul commands his servants to find someone who can soothe him with music. A servant recommends David the son of Jesse and Saul quickly dispatches for him. Jesse complies and sends David off to Saul, this keeps in tune with the narrative that already suggested that a king could take a son at will (1 Samuel 8:11) David falls in the favor of Saul and becomes his armor bearer. Further, David continued to play the harp and the lyre whenever Saul fell depressed. Thus, David and Saul are close. Saul knows who David and his father are. Having placed him as armor-bearer and musician places David in Saul’s inner sanctum (1 Samuel 16:14-22).  The subsequent chapter tells a different story.  The Israelites are camped for battle against the Philistines.  Among the warrior of Philistine towers a colossal warrior, Goliath. He challenges Israel’s stronger warrior to duel.[2] The news of battle is cast into the air and David gets wind of it and decided to investigate. The young shepherd takes up the challenge and defeats Goliath.

There are three points of discrepancy which I wish to bring out: First, David is described originally as a “valiant man, a warrior, handsome” and that the “Lord was with him.”(cf 1 Samuel 16) Yet when Saul sees David he discourages him from the fight, calling him a “youth.” He does not view David as a warrior. This is a minor thing; the large problem is seen when the data is viewed accumulative and further still when we look at the discrepant accounts. Following David’s victory they take the head of Goliath and place it in Jerusalem. However, this appears to be an anachronism. David did not reign in Jerusalem until later see (2 Samuel 5:4-6). Until this time the Israelites and Jebusites remained together in the land (Judges 1:7, 8, 21). The practice of taking back spoil to headquarters only makes sense, in my judgment, if they had full control of the land.  Finally, after the victor Saul inquires as to David’s identity: “Abner, whose son is this man” Abner replied, “As surely as you live, Your Majesty, I don’t know.”The king said, “Find out whose son this young man is…whose son are you, young man?” (1 Samuel 17:55-58). This further disharmonizes the two scenes. In 1 Samuel 16, Saul is told that David is the son of Jesse; he even requests that Jesse allow him to remain in service. People were identified by their lineage. According to 1 Samuel 16, Saul favored David, made him an armor bearer, and enjoyed his music. In 1 Samuel 17, David can only be identified as some young man, because Saul has no idea who he is; he has never met him before.

The Philistine Who Was Picked On Because of His Name

This discrepancy will be important in understanding how the different versions of this story arose in 2 Samuel and 1 Chronicles; we will return to it later.  I will now present the contradictory explanation for the death of Goliath.  The two texts read as follows:

<ygra rwnmk wtynj Juw tylg ta ymjlj tyb <ygra yruy-/b /njla iyw <ytsvlp <u bwgb hmjlmh dwu-y–htw

And there was another battle at Gob with the Philistines. And Elhanah the son of Jair the weaver of Bethlehem killed Goliath—whose wooden spear was like the beam of a weaver

<ygra rwnmk wtynj Juw ytgh tylg yja ymjl ta rwuy-/b /njla iyw <ytsvlp <u hmjlmh dwu-yhtw

And there was another battle with the Philistines. And Elhanah the son of Jair killed the brother of Goliath the Gittite, –– staff was like the beam of a weaver.

The 1 Chronicle’s text is slightly shorter. The similarities between both texts strongly suggest that the scribe was working with the Samuel scroll. The texts are nearly identical accept for the chroniclers scribal alterations. (Samuel is the top and Chronicles is the bottom)

 

 

<ygra rwnmk wtynj Juw [tylg ta ymjlh tyb]] <ygra yruy-/b /njla iyw <ytsvlp <u bwgb hmjlmh dwu-yhtw

<ygra rwnmk wtynj Juw [ytgh tylg yja ymjl ta]   rwuy-/b /njla iyw <ytsvlp <u      hmjlmh dwu-yhtw

The notable scribal alterations in Chronicles are: the deletion of bwgb (at Gob); the shortening of Elhanah’s father’s name rwuy The addition of the direct object marker ta; the removal of the first <ygra (weaver); the addition of  yja (brother) and the alteration of  ymjlj tyb (Bethlehemite) to a person name ymjl.  Beginning from right to left, the deletion of “at Gob” is a minor.  The second part of Elhanah’s name is shortened to Jair. The bracketed portion contains the more crucial divergences and we will spend our time there. The first word in the brackets on the top line is changed. The first word (house) is dropped. On the bottom is the insertion of the direct object marker (this tell you what the direct object of the verb is) which in the Samuel passage is placed before Goliath (the object of the verb kill).  The first letter of the second word on the top line (the article) is removed, and the bottom verse retains “lahmi” (my bread). 

Here is where the distortion becomes clearer.  The original Samuel passage classifies Elhanah as a Bethlemite (beth+lehem is house of bread), which is attest in Samuel and Chronicles—some believe that there are two different Elhanah’s.[3] The Chronicler (bottom line) removes the word house and makes lahmi (bread) into a personal name. But the problem thickens because Lahmi is a semitic name not a Philistine one, and it is never attested anywhere as a personal name; in the chronicler’s zeal to clear up a discrepancy he provided a Philistine with a unattested Jewish name. Continuing on, the third word on the top line, the direct object marker, becomes “brother.” This can be easily done.  Literally, with a jot and tittle difference, the direct object’s last letter is changed and the word becomes brother. Instead of Elhanan slaying Goliath we have him slaying Goliath’s brother. Let’s sum all this up. David did not kill Goliath, Elhanan did. The Chronicler altered the text and gave an incorrect Jewish name to a Philistine, a people of a different language. David got credit for a lesser known soldiers fight.  I would add that the chronicler may have made one founded correction. In 1 Samuel 21:19 the word weaver (oregim) is written twice, once after Elhanan’s name and once at the end of the verse. If this is true then this would be an example of dittography—it’s when you accidently write a letter twice.  Dittography is common in ancient literature, including the Bible and in modern literature. Claiming that the Samuel text was a corrupting due to the presence of a dittography is far too reaching; it’s an unnecessary conclusion.  But let’s not conclude just yet. There is a possibility that (oregim) should have been written twice. Jewish scholars believe that Elhanan probably was in a family of weavers—perhaps weaved curtains for the temple. If that is true then it would be semantic irony that a weaver killed a giant who had a weaver spear.

Fox Vs MSNBC

Why would the chronicler alter the text in this way? A good reason can be given if we look at the theme of Samuel and Chronicles. Samuel and Kings were written to exiled people. Basically they are sermons that explain the demise of the northern and southern tribes. Chronicles on the other hand is post exilic. It was written to give hope to Israel and to remind them that God still loves them as his people.  Along with these distinctive reasons for writing there appears to be propagandist homage, a royal apologia, to David in Chronicles. The Chronicler wrote about 500 years after David’s life, well enough time for legend to brew and ferment. As a modern analogy, think of how the same news is reported from MSNBC on one hand and Fox News on the other.  David is essentially Ronald Reagan to the Chronicler; here is why.  The Chronicler exaggerates David’s military campaign and down plays his political and personal sins. Where Samuel records that “there were 800,000 fighting men from Israel and 500,000 men from Judah.” Chronicles ups the number to “1,100,000 swordsmen and in Judah itself 470,000 swordsmen” (cf. 2 Samuel 24:9 to 1 Chronicles 21:5); (2) During the Syrian battle Samuel reads “David killed 700 of their charioteers and 40,000 foot soldiers.” Chronicles reads, “David killed 7,000 of their charioteers and 40,000 foot soldiers.” (cf. 2 Samuel 10:18 to 1 Chronicles 19:18.). The adultery of Bathsheba and the murderous plot to out Uriah is conspicuously absent from Chronicles. Even David’s census which originally said God moved him to number the people was altered to Satan. It’s not difficult to see polemicizing at play.

Boiling in Fire?

This wouldn’t be the only instance of the Chronicler’s doing creative editing with texts. Take the Passover for instance. Exodus 12:8-9 says

That same night they are to eat the meat roasted [ts-l-y] over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast. Do not eat the meat raw or cooked [b-sh-l] in water but roast it over the fire—head, legs, inner parts.

Deuteronomy has, “b-sh-l (boil) it and eat it” (Deuteronomy 16:7.) What Exodus gives explicit prohibitions against, boiling the meat, Deuteronomy prescribes. The Chronicler seems to notice this discrepancy and handles it accordingly:

They boiled [b-sh-l] the Passover animals in the fire as prescribed, and boiled [b-sh-l] the holy offerings in pots, cauldrons and pans and served them quickly to all the people. (2 Chron 35:13)

Some scholars believe that the Chronicler is attempting to harmonize the two texts, by merging both decrees “roast meat in fire” and “boil meat in water,” we get “boil in fire and boil in water.” Whether or not meat can boiled in fire, makes no difference, his primary point seem to be that of merging desynchronous information.[4]   The typical response is that the autographs would’ve been harmonious and that errors crept in when scribes copied.  There are two problems with this response: (1) We do not have any autographs so that argument is baseless, and (2) An inerrant document is only useful if it remains inerrant, that would require preservation even in the copies. If neither jot nor tittle can be altered, and a single word cannot be added or taken away, then we effectively have a corrupted text, and even the “slightest” margin of era pulls the rug from beneath inerrancy. But as we shall see the David and Goliath story cannot be classified as marginal.

The Greeks in The Salty Sea

Now let’s turn to the manuscript evidence for the story.  The manuscripts used to translate the Bible are called the Masoretic text. It is a medieval manuscript which is almost two millennia removed from David. The Greek Old Testament is much older; it began in the 3rd century BCE and was finished in the first century.  Scholars prefer the MSS over the LXX. After the excavation of the Qumran scrolls scholars discovered the Dead Sea scrolls, which dated well over one thousand years before the Masoretic text. They found that the DSS agree with the reading of the LXX over the MSS reading when it differs—in truth, in many cases the DSS agrees with the LXX.  For example Jeremiah is 1/6th shorter in the LXX and it faithfully reflects the DSS. It’s likely that additional scribal information began to be included over the one thousand years it was being copied, or that there were different versions of Samuel circulating when the DSS and LXX were being used. For our purposes the LXX lacks 45% of the 1 Samuel 16-17 found in the Masoretic text: 12-31, 41, 48b, 50, and 55-58. We do not have portions the David and Goliath story of in the DSS, however, given how frequently the DSS confirms with the LXX we cannot discount that the LXX has the earlier more accurate reading. This is probable. As we noticed the David and Goliath epic feels intrusive: Saul does not know who David is at all (these text are absent from the LXX), and sections and paragraphs are missing from the LXX as well.  Also, both the DSS and LXX place Goliath at 6’9 even Josephus confirms this. The MSS has the glaring improbable 9’9. 

Legend and Doctrines Arise in the NT—Axes, Trees, and Stones

My criticism of David and Goliath’s place in the canon should not be alarming. In the NT there are stories that most agree are later additions.  In John 1, the text says that Jesus was the only begotten son of God. More reliable manuscripts say “the only begotten God.” The later reading either arose purposely, a scribe trying correct a difficult text or it arose accidently—scribes often used short hand, so the text could read monogenes QS  and the scribe may have accidently changed it to US (they look similar). John 7:53-8:11 a classic Christian story is best considered a late edition. Though disputed in some circles most scholars agree that Mark 16:9-20—an ending among other endings that we have—is not the correct ending. The text should end at verse 8 or the original ending is lost. 1 John 5:7-8 in the Textus Receptus has long been dispelled as a scribal corruption.  Stories and legends can and do develop even in the Biblical corpus. It’s most probable that 2 Samuel 21:19 reflects the original text. The discrepancy arose when the David and Goliath story was added; the Chronicler attempted to harmonize but ultimately distorted the text. This shows human influence at work.

Synopsis: The David and Goliath story was not originally in 1 Samuel 17. We do not have the original chapter 17. Elhanan was credited for killing Goliath, and later the David and Goliath story was inserted into the narrative. The Chronicler picked up on the discrepancy and altered the text to read Elhanan killed Goliath’s brother and the story grew as copies added more information or a longer reading (which also probably grew) won out and became the dominant text of the Masoretic scribes. Here we have actual discrepancies between Samuel 16 and 17, between Samuel 17 and 2 Samuel 21:19, and between 1 Chronicles 20:5.  The explanation for the Chronicler’s edition has been explained by his royal apologia and his tendency to rework texts that are discrepant. The external textual case gives good reasons as to why David and Goliath appears intrusive, and how the LXX and DSS more than likely carry the better text here.[5]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


[1] This is the view of most evangelical conservatives. Apologetics Press argue along the same lines

[2] Azzan Yadin, has observed that Goliath armor is typical to armor that Greeks war in the sixth century B.C not tenth century Middle Easterners and that a battle wher two warriors face of representative of their nation would have been characteristic of  Homeric epics but not the ancient near east. This further suggests a late legendary insertion.  Yadin also suggests that the phrase a איש הביניים, “man of the in-between” is burrowed from Greek phrase “man of the metaikhmion (μεταίχμιον). There are also noteworthy parallels between the Illiad and the David and Goliath story. Martin Litchfield West has pointed out that a story very similar to that of David and Goliath appears in the Iliad, where the young Nestor fights and conquers the giant Ereuthalion.[16] Each giant wields a distinctive weapon—an iron club in Ereuthalion’s case, a massive bronze spear in Goliath’s; each giant, clad in armor, comes out of the enemy’s massed array to challenge all the warriors in the opposing army; in each case the seasoned warriors are afraid, and the challenge is taken up by a stripling, the youngest in his family (Nestor is the twelfth son of Neleus, David the seventh or eighth son of Jesse). In each case an older and more experienced father figure (Nestor’s own father, David’s patron Saul) tells the boy that he is too young and inexperienced, but in each case the young hero receives divine aid and the giant is left sprawling on the ground. Nestor, fighting on foot, then takes the chariot of his enemy, while David, on foot, takes the sword of Goliath. The enemy army then flees, the victors pursue and slaughter them and return with their bodies, and the boy-hero is acclaimed by the people. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goliath#cite_note-16

[3] McCarter’s commentary on 2 Samuel suggests that “son of Jaare” is gentilic (a geographical identifier). Bethlehem and Kiriath-jearim were closely associated. Samuel and Chronicles tell us that he was a Bethelemite and his father’s personal name was Dodo (2 Samuel 23:24, 1 Chronicles 11:26), effectively, Elhanan is described as the son of a Jearite whose name was Dodo. 

[4] This is similar to how Byzantine scribes harmonize similar saying in the Synoptics to give them more fluidity.

[5] It’s not meaningful to talk about the “word of God” and leave it at that. Which word? The Greek OT, the DSS, the MSS or other Hebrew texts, the different New Testament family witnesses?  There are no original manuscripts of any of the Biblical writings, and some of the manuscripts that exist show large divergences; in my estimations, textual criticism isn’t much closer at restoring the original text—as there is no original autograph the task is impossible.

The notable scribal alterations in Chronicles are: the deletion of bwgb (at Gob); the shortening of Elhanah’s father’s name rwuy The addition of the direct object marker ta; the removal of the first <ygra (weaver); the addition of  yja (brother) and the alteration of  ymjlj tyb (Bethlehemite) to a person name ymjl.  Beginning from right to left, the deletion of “at Gob” is a minor.  The second part of Elhanah’s name is shortened to Jair. The bracketed portion contains the more crucial divergences and we will spend our time there. The first word in the brackets on the top line is changed. The first word (house) is dropped. On the bottom is the insertion of the direct object marker (this tell you what the direct object of the verb is) which in the Samuel passage is placed before Goliath (the object of the verb kill).  The first letter of the second word on the top line (the article) is removed, and the bottom verse retains “lahmi” (my bread). 

Here is where the distortion becomes clearer.  The original Samuel passage classifies Elhanah as a Bethlemite (beth+lehem is house of bread), which is attest in Samuel and Chronicles—some believe that there are two different Elhanah’s.[3] The Chronicler (bottom line) removes the word house and makes lahmi (bread) into a personal name. But the problem thickens because Lahmi is a semitic name not a Philistine one, and it is never attested anywhere as a personal name; in the chronicler’s zeal to clear up a discrepancy he provided a Philistine with a unattested Jewish name. Continuing on, the third word on the top line, the direct object marker, becomes “brother.” This can be easily done.  Literally, with a jot and tittle difference, the direct object’s last letter is changed and the word becomes brother. Instead of Elhanan slaying Goliath we have him slaying Goliath’s brother. Let’s sum all this up. David did not kill Goliath, Elhanan did. The Chronicler altered the text and gave an incorrect Jewish name to a Philistine, a people of a different language. David got credit for a lesser known soldiers fight.  I would add that the chronicler may have made one founded correction. In 1 Samuel 21:19 the word weaver (oregim) is written twice, once after Elhanan’s name and once at the end of the verse. If this is true then this would be an example of dittography—it’s when you accidently write a letter twice.  Dittography is common in ancient literature, including the Bible and in modern literature. Claiming that the Samuel text was a corrupting due to the presence of a dittography is far too reaching; it’s an unnecessary conclusion.  But let’s not conclude just yet. There is a possibility that (oregim) should have been written twice. Jewish scholars believe that Elhanan probably was in a family of weavers—perhaps weaved curtains for the temple. If that is true then it would be semantic irony that a weaver killed a giant who had a weaver spear.

Fox Vs MSNBC

Why would the chronicler alter the text in this way? A good reason can be given if we look at the theme of Samuel and Chronicles. Samuel and Kings were written to exiled people. Basically they are sermons that explain the demise of the northern and southern tribes. Chronicles on the other hand is post exilic. It was written to give hope to Israel and to remind them that God still loves them as his people.  Along with these distinctive reasons for writing there appears to be propagandist homage, a royal apologia, to David in Chronicles. The Chronicler wrote about 500 years after David’s life, well enough time for legend to brew and ferment. As a modern analogy, think of how the same news is reported from MSNBC on one hand and Fox News on the other.  David is essentially Ronald Reagan to the Chronicler; here is why.  The Chronicler exaggerates David’s military campaign and down plays his political and personal sins. Where Samuel records that “there were 800,000 fighting men from Israel and 500,000 men from Judah.” Chronicles ups the number to “1,100,000 swordsmen and in Judah itself 470,000 swordsmen” (cf. 2 Samuel 24:9 to 1 Chronicles 21:5); (2) During the Syrian battle Samuel reads “David killed 700 of their charioteers and 40,000 foot soldiers.” Chronicles reads, “David killed 7,000 of their charioteers and 40,000 foot soldiers.” (cf. 2 Samuel 10:18 to 1 Chronicles 19:18.). The adultery of Bathsheba and the murderous plot to out Uriah is conspicuously absent from Chronicles. Even David’s census which originally said God moved him to number the people was altered to Satan. It’s not difficult to see polemicizing at play.

Boiling in Fire?

This wouldn’t be the only instance of the Chronicler’s doing creative editing with texts. Take the Passover for instance. Exodus 12:8-9 says

That same night they are to eat the meat roasted [ts-l-y] over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast. Do not eat the meat raw or cooked [b-sh-l] in water but roast it over the fire—head, legs, inner parts.

Deuteronomy has, “b-sh-l (boil) it and eat it” (Deuteronomy 16:7.) What Exodus gives explicit prohibitions against, boiling the meat, Deuteronomy prescribes. The Chronicler seems to notice this discrepancy and handles it accordingly:

They boiled [b-sh-l] the Passover animals in the fire as prescribed, and boiled [b-sh-l] the holy offerings in pots, cauldrons and pans and served them quickly to all the people. (2 Chron 35:13)

Some scholars believe that the Chronicler is attempting to harmonize the two texts, by merging both decrees “roast meat in fire” and “boil meat in water,” we get “boil in fire and boil in water.” Whether or not meat can boiled in fire, makes no difference, his primary point seem to be that of merging desynchronous information.[4]   The typical response is that the autographs would’ve been harmonious and that errors crept in when scribes copied.  There are two problems with this response: (1) We do not have any autographs so that argument is baseless, and (2) An inerrant document is only useful if it remains inerrant, that would require preservation even in the copies. If neither jot nor tittle can be altered, and a single word cannot be added or taken away, then we effectively have a corrupted text, and even the “slightest” margin of era pulls the rug from beneath inerrancy. But as we shall see the David and Goliath story cannot be classified as marginal.

The Greeks in The Salty Sea

Now let’s turn to the manuscript evidence for the story.  The manuscripts used to translate the Bible are called the Masoretic text. It is a medieval manuscript which is almost two millennia removed from David. The Greek Old Testament is much older; it began in the 3rd century BCE and was finished in the first century.  Scholars prefer the MSS over the LXX. After the excavation of the Qumran scrolls scholars discovered the Dead Sea scrolls, which dated well over one thousand years before the Masoretic text. They found that the DSS agree with the reading of the LXX over the MSS reading when it differs—in truth, in many cases the DSS agrees with the LXX.  For example Jeremiah is 1/6th shorter in the LXX and it faithfully reflects the DSS. It’s likely that additional scribal information began to be included over the one thousand years it was being copied, or that there were different versions of Samuel circulating when the DSS and LXX were being used. For our purposes the LXX lacks 45% of the 1 Samuel 16-17 found in the Masoretic text: 12-31, 41, 48b, 50, and 55-58. We do not have portions the David and Goliath story of in the DSS, however, given how frequently the DSS confirms with the LXX we cannot discount that the LXX has the earlier more accurate reading. This is probable. As we noticed the David and Goliath epic feels intrusive: Saul does not know who David is at all (these text are absent from the LXX), and sections and paragraphs are missing from the LXX as well.  Also, both the DSS and LXX place Goliath at 6’9 even Josephus confirms this. The MSS has the glaring improbable 9’9. 

Legend and Doctrines Arise in the NT—Axes, Trees, and Stones

My criticism of David and Goliath’s place in the canon should not be alarming. In the NT there are stories that most agree are later additions.  In John 1, the text says that Jesus was the only begotten son of God. More reliable manuscripts say “the only begotten God.” The later reading either arose purposely, a scribe trying correct a difficult text or it arose accidently—scribes often used short hand, so the text could read monogenes QS  and the scribe may have accidently changed it to US (they look similar). John 7:53-8:11 a classic Christian story is best considered a late edition. Though disputed in some circles most scholars agree that Mark 16:9-20—an ending among other endings that we have—is not the correct ending. The text should end at verse 8 or the original ending is lost. 1 John 5:7-8 in the Textus Receptus has long been dispelled as a scribal corruption.  Stories and legends can and do develop even in the Biblical corpus. It’s most probable that 2 Samuel 21:19 reflects the original text. The discrepancy arose when the David and Goliath story was added; the Chronicler attempted to harmonize but ultimately distorted the text. This shows human influence at work.

Synopsis: The David and Goliath story was not originally in 1 Samuel 17. We do not have the original chapter 17. Elhanan was credited for killing Goliath, and later the David and Goliath story was inserted into the narrative. The Chronicler picked up on the discrepancy and altered the text to read Elhanan killed Goliath’s brother and the story grew as copies added more information or a longer reading (which also probably grew) won out and became the dominant text of the Masoretic scribes. Here we have actual discrepancies between Samuel 16 and 17, between Samuel 17 and 2 Samuel 21:19, and between 1 Chronicles 20:5.  The explanation for the Chronicler’s edition has been explained by his royal apologia and his tendency to rework texts that are discrepant. The external textual case gives good reasons as to why David and Goliath appears intrusive, and how the LXX and DSS more than likely carry the better text here.[5]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


[1] This is the view of most evangelical conservatives. Apologetics Press argue along the same lines

[2] Azzan Yadin, has observed that Goliath armor is typical to armor that Greeks war in the sixth century B.C not tenth century Middle Easterners and that a battle wher two warriors face of representative of their nation would have been characteristic of  Homeric epics but not the ancient near east. This further suggests a late legendary insertion.  Yadin also suggests that the phrase a איש הביניים, “man of the in-between” is burrowed from Greek phrase “man of the metaikhmion (μεταίχμιον). There are also noteworthy parallels between the Illiad and the David and Goliath story. Martin Litchfield West has pointed out that a story very similar to that of David and Goliath appears in the Iliad, where the young Nestor fights and conquers the giant Ereuthalion.[16] Each giant wields a distinctive weapon—an iron club in Ereuthalion’s case, a massive bronze spear in Goliath’s; each giant, clad in armor, comes out of the enemy’s massed array to challenge all the warriors in the opposing army; in each case the seasoned warriors are afraid, and the challenge is taken up by a stripling, the youngest in his family (Nestor is the twelfth son of Neleus, David the seventh or eighth son of Jesse). In each case an older and more experienced father figure (Nestor’s own father, David’s patron Saul) tells the boy that he is too young and inexperienced, but in each case the young hero receives divine aid and the giant is left sprawling on the ground. Nestor, fighting on foot, then takes the chariot of his enemy, while David, on foot, takes the sword of Goliath. The enemy army then flees, the victors pursue and slaughter them and return with their bodies, and the boy-hero is acclaimed by the people. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goliath#cite_note-16

[3] McCarter’s commentary on 2 Samuel suggests that “son of Jaare” is gentilic (a geographical identifier). Bethlehem and Kiriath-jearim were closely associated. Samuel and Chronicles tell us that he was a Bethelemite and his father’s personal name was Dodo (2 Samuel 23:24, 1 Chronicles 11:26), effectively, Elhanan is described as the son of a Jearite whose name was Dodo. 

[4] This is similar to how Byzantine scribes harmonize similar saying in the Synoptics to give them more fluidity.

[5] It’s not meaningful to talk about the “word of God” and leave it at that. Which word? The Greek OT, the DSS, the MSS or other Hebrew texts, the different New Testament family witnesses?  There are no original manuscripts of any of the Biblical writings, and some of the manuscripts that exist show large divergences; in my estimations, textual criticism isn’t much closer at restoring the original text—as there is no original autograph the task is impossible.

 

Sources

The Human Faces of God

Inspiration Incarnation

Hebrew Bible

LXX