Six items appear below:
1 Two Examples of the Fallacy of Biblical Inerrancy
2 The Bible Consistent 7 — Saul; Judas; and the Field of
3 The Deaths of Saul and Judas — A Reply to Anonymous
4 Deaths of Saul and Judas
5 The Deaths of Saul and Judas — A Final Reply
6 Compatibility and Historical Accuracy
Two Examples of the Fallacy of Biblical Inerrancy
(Investigator 175, 2017 July)
According to Christian fundamentalists, the Bible is an accurate
historical record in its entirety, and this veracity is, in their
opinion, due to the fact that Scripture was written under the guidance
In my opinion, this assumption is untenable because of the
contradictions that are found within this allegedly inspired book, and
I shall now proceed to demonstrate this fact (NOTE: all quotations are
from the Revised Standard Version).
The Death of Saul
• "Therefore Saul took
his own sword, and fell upon it. And when his armour-bearer saw that he
was dead, he also fell upon his sword." (1 Sam. 31:4-5)
• "So I [an Amalekite] stood beside him [Saul], and
slew him. (2 Sam.1:10)
• "The Philistines killed Saul on Gilboa. (2 Sam.
So, how did Saul die? By his own hand, by the hand of an Amalekite, or
did the Philistines kill him?
The Death of Judas
• "And throwing down
the pieces of silver in the temple, he [Judas] departed; and he went
and hanged himself." (Matt. 27:5)
• "Now this man [Judas] bought a field with the reward
of his wickedness; and falling headlong he burst open in the middle and
all his bowels gushed out." (Acts 1: 18)
So how did Judas die; from strangulation or disembowelment?
Moreover, how did he purchase a field with "the reward of his
wickedness" when he returned the pieces of silver?
Suppose that you were reading the biography of President Abraham
Lincoln (1861-1865), and on one page the author said that Lincoln
committed suicide, on another that he was killed by a crazed actor
then, further on, by a Sioux Indian.
Now, any work (whether it is fiction or non-fiction) that contains
contradictions can only be considered poor at best. That such errors
are found in a book whose authors are believed to have been guided in
their efforts by an infallible intelligence, casts considerable doubt
on the proposition that Scripture was
written with supernatural aid.
THE BIBLE CONSISTENT 7
SAUL; JUDAS; and the
FIELD OF BLOOD
(Investigator 176, 2017 September)
Kirk Straughen (Investigator 175) regards belief in the inerrancy of
the Bible untenable because of alleged contradictions in the Bible. He
gives as examples the deaths of King Saul and Judas Iscariot.
Saul died after being defeated in a battle by Philistines. But who
a) 1 Samuel 31:4 says, "So Saul took his own sword and fell upon it."
b) II Samuel 1 reports that an Amalekite mercenary who survived the
battle reached David and said to him:
"I happened to be on
Mount Gilboa; and there was Saul leaning on his spear, while the
chariots and the horsemen drew close to him.
When he looked behind him, he saw me, and called to me…
He said to me, 'Come, stand over me and kill me, for my convulsions
have seized me, and yet my life still lingers.'
So I stood over him, and killed him, for I knew that he
could not live after he had fallen…"
c) II Samuel 21:12 states, "the Philistines killed Saul on Gilboa."
Archer (1982) reconciles "a" and "b" as follows: "In the light of the
straightforward account in the previous chapter, we must conclude that
the Amalekite was lying to gain a cordial welcome from David."
Alternatively, when Saul "fell upon" his own sword he did not die
immediately but stood up and supported himself on his spear while
suffering "convulsions". The Amalekite then finished him off.
Point "c" "the Philistines killed Saul" attributes Saul's death to the
Philistines because they created the circumstances of his death by:
Their attack upon Israel (1 Samuel 31:1)
2. Philistine archers "badly wounded"
Saul. (I Samuel 31:3) which prevented any chance of Saul escaping
3. The Amalekite mercenary who
finished Saul off may have been on the Philistine, not the Israeli,
The standard answer to whether Judas hanged himself (Matthew 28:5) or
got disembowelled (Acts 1:18) is both.
Judas hanged himself and the rope or the branch of the tree broke, and
the fall perhaps onto a rock spilled his guts.
Haley (1992) writes:
"Matthew does not
deny that Judas, after hanging himself, fell and burst asunder; Peter
does not assert that Judas did not hang himself previous to his fall.
Probably the circumstances were much as follows : Judas suspended
himself from a tree on the brink of the precipice overhanging the
valley of Hinnom, and the limb or the rope giving way, he fell, and was
mangled as described in Acts."
WHO PURCHASED THE FIELD?
Who bought the field with the 30 pieces of silver which the priests
paid Judas to betray Jesus? (Matthew 26:14-16)
When Judas, his
betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he repented and brought back
the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders.
He said, "I have sinned by betraying innocent blood."
But they said, "What is that to us? See to it yourself."
Throwing down the pieces of silver in the temple, he
departed; and he went and hanged himself.
But the chief priests, taking the pieces of silver,
said, "It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since they are
conferring together, they used them to buy the potter's field as
a place to bury foreigners.
For this reason that field has been called the Field of
Blood to this day. (27:3-8)
After Jesus' resurrrection Peter addressed 120 believers and said:
Now this man [Judas] acquired a
field with the reward of his wickedness; and falling headlong,
he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out.
This became known to all the residents of Jerusalem, so
that the field was called in their language Hakeldama, that is, Field
of Blood. (Acts 1:18-19)
Did the priests buy the potter's field or did Judas? The following
answers are all similar:
1. Haley (1992) refers to "the old law maxim … He who does a thing by
another, does it by himself…" And Acts 1:18 is using: "that figure of
speech by which we attribute to the man himself any act which he has
either directly or indirectly procured to be done." (p. 347)
2. The priests refused to accept the money back, but Judas by throwing
it down in the temple authorized the priests to decide what to do with
it. Their decision to buy the field was therefore Judas' decision by
3. We need to distinguish the words "purchase" and "acquire". Acts 1:18
in the NRSV Bible says "Now this man acquired
a field…" whereas the King James Bible says "Now this man purchased a field…"
Correct is "acquire". In Acts 1:18 the Greek word is ktaomai which occurs seven times in
the New Testament and means "acquire", "possess", or "obtain".
In Matthew 27:7 where the priests bought the field the Greek word is agorazo which occurs 31 times in
the New Testament and means to buy or purchase.
The priests "purchased" the field but Judas posthumously "acquired" it
because the priests had acted on his behalf. If the field was also the
field where Judas was buried then he also "acquired" it in that sense,
in which case Peter in Acts 1:18 is being ironic.
4. Edersheim (1993) writes:
It was not lawful to
take into the Temple-treasury, for the purchase of sacred things, money
that had been unlawfully gained. In such cases the Jewish Law provided
that the money was to be restored to the donor, and, if he insisted on
giving it, that he should be induced to spend it for something for the
public weal [benefit]… By a fiction of law the money was still
considered to be Judas', and to have been applied by him (Acts 1:18) in
the purchase of the well-known 'potter's field', for the charitable
purpose of burying in it strangers…
NAME OF THE FIELD
Why was the field called "Field of Blood"?
Acts 1:19 suggests that the field was named "Field of Blood" because
Judas killed himself there.
The reason given in Matthew 27:8 seems ambiguous. Either the field was
the "Field of Blood" because it was "a place to bury foreigners" or it
was the "Field of Blood" because of the series of events from Jesus'
betrayal, to Judas' hanging, to the use of the field as a burial place.
Acts 1:19 explains why the field was named "field of blood" soon after
Judas died. Matthew 27, in contrast, looks back to Judas' death decades
later as indicated by the phrase "to this day" — "For this reason that
field has been called the Field of Blood to this day."
Thus, the initial reason for
the name "Field of blood" was that Judas killed himself there. But as
decades passed another reason either was added to the first reason or
If 30 pieces of silver means
30 shekels then Jesus was
betrayed for the price of a slave. (Exodus 21:32) The work of the
prophet Zechariah was similarly valued at 30 shekels, which God scorned
as a pitiful amount. (Zechariah 11:12-13)
I therefore checked Wikipedia
for the price of land in the first century and whether thirty shekels
of silver would have covered it, but failed to find the answer.
PROOF OF THE BIBLE / THE BIBLE PROVED?
Most people who believe in "the inerrancy of the Bible" believe it as a
doctrine, an assumption, not provable, acceptable only on faith.
My approach is different. I check the Bible point by point including
its statements on biology, history, astronomy, zoology, botany,
medicine, ethics, psychology, genetics, geography and geology, besides
investigating the Bible for contradictions.
If a foundation of biblical statements that have been proved correct
can be established, and any seeming errors and contradictions answered,
it then becomes rational to infer that the original Scriptures were
Archer, G.L. Encyclopedia of Bible
Edersheim, A. 1993 The Life And
Times Of Jesus The Messiah: New Updated Edition, Hendrickson, 871
Haley, J.W. 1992 Alleged
Discrepancies of the Bible, Whitaker House, 349, 347
Straughen, K. Two Examples of the Fallacy of Biblical Inerrancy, Investigator 175, July 2017, 28-29
Wigram, G.V. The Englishman's Greek
Concordance of the New Testament, Ninth Edition, Samuel Bagster
& Sons, 9, 435
The Deaths of Saul and Judas — A Reply to Anonymous
(Investigator 177, 2017 November)
In Investigator 176, page 30
Anonymous proposes solutions to the discrepancies outlined in my
article in Investigator 175
concerning the deaths of Saul and Judas. I will now proceed to examine
his solutions in an attempt to determine their veracity.
The Death of Saul
Anonymous makes a number of claims in an attempt to account for the
discrepancies surrounding the death of Saul. One of his claims is that
the Amalekite lied to gain a cordial welcome.
Unfortunately, no sound evidence is given that the conversation took
place or that the Amalekite was deceptive in his account of events. The
claim must remain unproven due to its speculative nature and lack of
Another of his claims is that although Saul fell on his sword the wound
was not fatal, that he stood up and that the Amalekite administered the
coup de grace. However, before we can attempt to determine veracity of
this claim it will be helpful to consider how one might commit suicide
by falling on one's sword.
Assuming events are true Saul would likely have wanted a quick death,
and one way to achieve this would have been for him to place the tip of
the sword over his heart whilst holding it with both hands, and then
fall forward in such a manner that the pommel of the weapon struck the
earth resulting in the blade being driven into his heart by the weight
of his body.
Even if Saul botched the attempt and missed his heart he would
nonetheless have sustained a deeply penetrating and agonizing wound to
the chest or abdomen which would have bled profusely.
It seems unlikely that a person sustaining such an injury would be
capable of standing and leaning on their spear, especially when they
were having convulsions. In my opinion, though, this is beside the
point. 1 Sam. 31:4-5 makes it clear how Saul died:
He falls on his sword. His armour bearer sees he is dead and then kills
himself. The sequence of events flows swiftly and smoothly. There are
no discontinuities, no mention of any third party being involved.
The final claims I will examine are: that the Philistines killed Saul
indirectly by badly wounding him in battle and preventing his escape or
that the Amalekite was on the side of the Philistines. Be this as it
may the Philistines did not kill Saul. He either killed himself or he
was killed by an Amalekite, and even if the Amalekite was in the pay of
the Philistines (for which no evidence is given) this does not make him
Another problem with the explanations is that no sound reason is given
as to why the account of Saul's death is discontinuous — we get a bit
of the story here, another bit there and so on. If the authors of
scripture knew what happened then the narrative would run smoothly and
consistently in one unified sentence.
To paraphrase what could have been said, for example: "Saul fell on his
sword, but did not die from his wound. An Amalekite took pity on him
and slew him out of mercy, but it is the Philistines who were
ultimately responsible for his death because of their bellicose
The Death of Judas
In an attempt to reconcile discrepancies concerning the death of Judas
Anonymous proposes that he hung himself over a cliff, that the rope
broke and that he was disembowelled by a fall onto rocks.
My criticism of this explanation is essentially the same as I have for
the fragmentary account of Saul's death — the description is
inconsistent and contradictory. In order to reconcile the various
passages of scripture we have to assume without good evidence that
certain events occurred when the Bible makes no mention of them, such
as the noose breaking when Judas hung himself and that he did so over a
Anonymous quotes Haley's reasoning: in paraphrase that Matthew doesn't
deny that Judas was not disembowelled after hanging himself and that
this somehow lends credence to the idea that the rope broke and that he
was disembowelled as a result of the fall. But Matthew doesn't deny
that Judas had two left feet, either. Can we then say that this lends
credence to a claim that he had two left feet? Just because something
is not denied doesn't make it true or even likely.
The most probable explanation for the discrepancies, as with the case
of Saul, is that there were various oral traditions concerning the
death of Judas and that these were incorporated into the Bible.
Concerning who purchase the field: Anonymous suggests the solution lies
in applying the legal term Qui facit per alium facit per se (Latin for
"He who acts through another does the act himself"}, which hinges on
Haley's claim. The problem is that this legal term is specific to
European commercial law (1). To attempt to connect it to a different
age and culture may very well be a misapplication. In my opinion no
sound evidence is given supporting the assumption that this legal term
applies in this context. Therefore, the other reasoning extrapolated
from this conjecture is suspect due to it being based largely on
In summary the essential problem with the various attempts to reconcile
the discrepancies is that Occam's Razor (2) is not being applied. Too
many unproven and possibly unprovable assumptions need to be made in
order to resolve the difficulties.
We are expected to believe that when Saul fell on his sword he did not
die (as is clearly stated) but was badly wounded, but not so badly
wounded that he couldn't get up and lean on his spear even though he
was having convulsions; that the Amalekite lied to David or was in the
pay of the Philistines when we have no good evidence that was so; that
Judas hung himself over a cliff and the rope broke and so forth and so
In my opinion the discrepancies are exactly what they are —
contradictions that arose due to the fact that the various
authors had no clear idea of what actually happened if indeed it
happened at all. Anonymous' claim that the Bible is consistent remains
unproven due to lack of evidence that would enable the veracity of his
postulations to be demonstrated.
DEATHS OF SAUL AND JUDAS
(Investigator 178, 2018 January)
Mr Straughen claims the Bible contradicts itself regarding the deaths
of Saul and Judas. (Investigator 177) He seems to presume that death
always has a simple cause or follows from a single injury, whereas
reality is more complicated.
Death in the elderly
Consider elderly, frail patients who simultaneously suffer from
combinations of coronary artery disease, dementia, type 2 diabetes,
cancers, high blood pressure, chronic renal failure, elevated
cholesterol, gastro-oesophageal regurgitation syndrome, stroke, heart
failure, and chronic respiratory problems.
Professor Ken Hillman (2017) writes:
However, nowadays, most
hospitalised patients are old, with multiple age-related problems that
are not confined to one organ… (p. 204)
Many people in the developed world will now suffer a
slow dwindling of physical and cognitive function as they age. The end
is often the result of a relatively minor acute illness such as
pneumonia or a urinary tract infection that tests the patient's reserve
to its limit and results in death from a cause which would have been a
minor inconvenience in a younger person. (p. 161)
Death in battle
What is true of the frail and elderly — that death is not always due to
a single medical condition — would also be true in ancient warfare.
Countless fighters must have died from many wounds inflicted by
multiple opponents and different weapons.
That is reality and the Bible reflects that reality.
Regarding King Saul's death, Straughen says: "If the authors of
scripture knew what happened then the narrative would run smoothly and
consistently in one unified sentence."
The opposite is true. If every death mentioned in the Bible ran
"smoothly" like deaths in Hollywood movies it would not reflect the
ambiguity of reality. Some biblical descriptions of deaths give several
perspectives, and this strengthens the case for them being based on
Straughen thinks it's unlikely that Saul could have stood up and leaned
on his spear after falling on his sword.
That would depend on the damage done and the rate of blood loss from
the arrow and sword wounds. I've heard of recent people who survived
five or ten knife or bullet wounds. In one instance 40 knife wounds;
that victim phoned the police but died in the ambulance.
Saul died during an attack by Philistines:
The battle pressed hard
upon Saul; the archers found him, and he was badly wounded by them…
So Saul took his own sword and fell upon it. (I Samuel
The Philistines initiated the battle, Philistine arrows "badly wounded"
Saul and he "fell upon" his sword to avoid captured and mistreatment.
The Philistines orchestrated the situation and II Samuel 21:12
attributes responsibility with the words, "the Philistines killed
Saul…" A short comment such as this by being short has to omit details.
Straughen equates brevity with "contradiction" — but we can see what II
Samuel 21 means by consulting the longer narrative in I Samuel 31.
Regarding the Amalekite who claimed he killed Saul because the dying
Saul so ordered him (II Samuel I), we have the possibilities that the
Amalekite lied or that Saul survived falling on his sword. Unless I've
missed something it's not worth further argument.
Straughen's complaint that "no sound evidence is given" that the
conversation between the Amalekite and David took place, is not
relevant in the current discussion since we're examining Bible passages
for consistency not historicity. (Recall that in #175 p. 28 Mr
Straughen set out to demonstrate "contradictions".)
The Bible says Judas hanged himself but does not specifically state
that the hanging killed him. (Matthew 27:5) Peter says: "falling
headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out."
The two accounts are consistent if we make the plausible assumption
that the rope or branch to which it was tied broke. To prove the
statements by Matthew and Peter incompatible Straughen needs to
demonstrate that no one ever hangs himself or that ropes and branches
Haley (1992) states: "Matthew does not deny that Judas, after hanging
himself, fell and burst asunder; Peter does not assert that Judas did
not hang himself previous to his fall." Straughen responds, "Just
because something is not denied doesn't make it true or even likely."
Straughen's comment is correct but not relevant because we are not
discussing the historicity of Judas' death but whether the biblical
comments are consistent with each other. Haley's point is that for the
statements by Matthew and Peter to be contradictory, one of them has to
deny what the other stated — but neither does this. Of course, being
free of contradiction does not prove that something is true (since
statements can be consistent with each other yet still be false) but
it's a useful start.
Regarding whether the priests or Judas purchased the field with the 30
pieces of silver, Straughen queries whether a legal term specific to
European commercial law is applicable. However, I gave FOUR possible
explanations and Straughen can choose his preference.
Hillman, K. 2017 A Good Life To The
End, Allen & Unwin
Haley, J.W. 1992 Alleged
Discrepancies of the Bible, Whitaker House
The Deaths of Saul and Judas – A Final Reply
(Investigator 179, 2018 March)
In his attempt to resolve Biblical discrepancies in the portrayal of
the death of Saul and Judas (No. 178, pages 52-54) Anonymous suggests
that sound evidence is unnecessary to determine Biblical consistency —
in the conversation between the Amalekite and David, for example,
because it is consistency rather than historicity that is being
examined (page 53), and I am assuming his view extends to the other
examples of contradictions we have discussed.
However, I’m not convinced that the need for sound evidence can so
easily be set aside when it comes to determining if the Bible is
consistent or otherwise with regard to the aforementioned matters.
There are certainly inconsistencies in the accounts of the deaths of
Saul and Judas, and Anonymous has proposed a number of scenarios which
attempt to harmonize these inconsistencies. For example: that Judas
hanged himself and that the rope broke, which does resolve the
discrepancy upon a cursory examination.
However, in order for this and the other explanations to truly resolve
the discrepancies, so that the contradictions are simply apparent
rather than actual, what we need is sound evidence that the proposed
solutions are true. If the explanations are not supported by empirical
evidence then all claims of solution are unproven, and therefore the
discrepancies remain. This, in my opinion, is where the matter stands
at the moment.
Compatibility and Historical Accuracy
(Investigator 180, 2018 May)
Final reply to Mr Straughen regarding the deaths of Saul and Judas:
The fact that several observers have different recollections of the
same scene or day or event is not necessarily proof of contradiction or
error. One person might state "I observed Mr Straughen go shopping
today" and another might say "I visited Mr Straughen today and saw him
write for Investigator Magazine." The two observations are not
contradictory since Mr Straughen might have done both. Both claims are
compatible even if their historical accuracy cannot be confirmed.
To check for compatibility we check the grammar and wording and whether
what is described is physically possible. To check for historical
accuracy we want more — perhaps, in Mr Straughen's case to prove that
he went shopping, photos from security cameras would do it.