This article first appeared in the Ask Hank column of the Christian Research Journal, volume33, number03 (2010). For further information or to subscribe to the Christian Research Journal go to: http://www.equip.org
Continuing my examination of Bart Ehrman’s “problems with the Bible,”1 he is perplexed about the number of animals Noah took with him on the ark. As such, he poses the following question: “Does [Noah] take seven pairs of all the ‘clean’ animals, as Genesis 7:2 states, or just two pairs, as Genesis 7:9-10 indicates?”2 First, I would like to pose a different question. Does it seem reasonable to suppose that an author capable of writing a masterpiece such as the Book of Genesis would get confused within the span of several sentences, or is it more likely that Ehrman is straining at gnats and swallowing a camel? Furthermore, is Ehrman’s question legitimate, or has he created a problem out of whole cloth? The answer to this latter question is that Ehrman has created a fictional problem. Genesis 7:9-10 does not say that Noah is to take “just two pairs.” Finally, if Ehrman really wants his question answered, all he need do is ask one of his “conservative” students-or simply read the context. Several verses back, God says to Noah, “You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female” (6:19). And in Genesis 7:2-3 God adds the following instruction: “Take with you seven of every kind of clean animal, a male and its mate, and two of every kind of unclean animal, a male and its mate, and also seven of every kind of bird, male and female, to keep their various kinds alive throughout the earth.” Together these verses provide a sufficient answer.
What to Make of Ehrman’s All-Too-Convenient Cock-Crowing Conundrum? Another astonishingly easy-to-resolve “problem with the Bible” that perplexes Ehrman is the following: “In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus tells Peter that he will deny him three times ‘before the cock crows twice.’ In Matthew’s Gospel he tells him that it will be ‘before the cock crows.’ Well, which is it-before the cock crows once or twice?”3 First, as his more attentive students have likely discovered, Professor Ehrman is engaged in a cocky game of slight of mind. Truth is that Matthew does not tell us how many times the rooster crowed-he simply tells us that the rooster crowed.4 As such, Ehrman is knocking down a straw man. Furthermore, only an extreme literalist bent on undermining Scripture would attempt to make the passage in question walk on all fours. In recounting past events or telling stories we obviously don’t all highlight the same details. In the case at hand, Mark simply provides a bit more detail than does Matthew.5 Finally, Ehrman has set up a rigged game in which it is impossible for him to lose. Since Matthew and Mark do not provide identical testimonies, he cries “contradiction!” Conversely, if they had, he could conveniently charge them with collusion. In sharp contrast to Ehrman’s methodology, credible scholarship looks for a reliable core set of facts in order to validate a historical account. In this case, Matthew and Mark merely provide complementary perspectives.
Hank Hanegraaff is president of the Christian Research Institute and host of the Bible Answer Man broadcast heard daily throughout the United States and Canada. For a list of stations airing the Bible Answer Man, or to listen online, log on to Equip.org.
1 Bart D. Ehrman, Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (and Why We Don’t Know about Them) (New York: HarperOne, 2009), 6. I’ve addressed Ehrman’s criticisms of the Bible in recent installments of this column (see Christian Research Journal 32, 3; 32, 4; 32, 5; 33, 1; and 33, 2).
2 Ehrman, Jesus, Interrupted, 10.
3 Ibid., 7.
4 See Matt. 26:74.
5 See Mark 14:30, 72.