Thursday, March 10, 2011

Biblical "Contradictions" - Saul-Prophet Parable Origin

Skeptics love to identify similar passages in the synoptic gospels and point out the differences in them. They then try to allege that these differences amount to contradictions. The problem for the skeptics is that these alleged contradictions are often easily harmonized.

However, in this case, I want to focus on a specific example of a situation that (if it appeared in the gospels) would be identified by skeptics as a contradiction. In this case, however, it is presented in the same book, in quite close succession.

What I am referring to is the question of the origin of the expression, "Is Saul also among the prophets?" When we open 1 Samuel we find two accounts, separated by only a few chapters.

Account 1 - Saul Upon Being Anointed

1 Samuel 10:1-13
Then Samuel took a vial of oil, and poured it upon his head, and kissed him, and said, "Is it not because the LORD hath anointed thee to be captain over his inheritance? When thou art departed from me to day, then thou shalt find two men by Rachel's sepulchre in the border of Benjamin at Zelzah; and they will say unto thee, 'The asses which thou wentest to seek are found: and, lo, thy father hath left the care of the asses, and sorroweth for you, saying, "What shall I do for my son?"' Then shalt thou go on forward from thence, and thou shalt come to the plain of Tabor, and there shall meet thee three men going up to God to Bethel, one carrying three kids, and another carrying three loaves of bread, and another carrying a bottle of wine: and they will salute thee, and give thee two loaves of bread; which thou shalt receive of their hands. After that thou shalt come to the hill of God, where is the garrison of the Philistines: and it shall come to pass, when thou art come thither to the city, that thou shalt meet a company of prophets coming down from the high place with a psaltery, and a tabret, and a pipe, and a harp, before them; and they shall prophesy: and the Spirit of the LORD will come upon thee, and thou shalt prophesy with them, and shalt be turned into another man. And let it be, when these signs are come unto thee, that thou do as occasion serve thee; for God is with thee. And thou shalt go down before me to Gilgal; and, behold, I will come down unto thee, to offer burnt offerings, and to sacrifice sacrifices of peace offerings: seven days shalt thou tarry, till I come to thee, and shew thee what thou shalt do."
And it was so, that when he had turned his back to go from Samuel, God gave him another heart: and all those signs came to pass that day. And when they came thither to the hill, behold, a company of prophets met him; and the Spirit of God came upon him, and he prophesied among them. And it came to pass, when all that knew him beforetime saw that, behold, he prophesied among the prophets, then the people said one to another, "What is this that is come unto the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?" And one of the same place answered and said, "But who is their father?" Therefore it became a proverb, "Is Saul also among the prophets?" And when he had made an end of prophesying, he came to the high place.
Account 2 - Saul On Attempting to Capture David

1 Samuel 19:18-24
So David fled, and escaped, and came to Samuel to Ramah, and told him all that Saul had done to him. And he and Samuel went and dwelt in Naioth. And it was told Saul, saying, "Behold, David is at Naioth in Ramah."
And Saul sent messengers to take David: and when they saw the company of the prophets prophesying, and Samuel standing as appointed over them, the Spirit of God was upon the messengers of Saul, and they also prophesied.
And when it was told Saul, he sent other messengers, and they prophesied likewise. And Saul sent messengers again the third time, and they prophesied also.
Then went he also to Ramah, and came to a great well that is in Sechu: and he asked and said, "Where are Samuel and David?"
And one said, "Behold, they be at Naioth in Ramah."
And he went thither to Naioth in Ramah: and the Spirit of God was upon him also, and he went on, and prophesied, until he came to Naioth in Ramah. And he stripped off his clothes also, and prophesied before Samuel in like manner, and lay down naked all that day and all that night. Wherefore they say, "Is Saul also among the prophets?"
Notice that there are some similarities between the events. Both events involve Saul unexpectedly prophesying. Both events lead to someone saying "Is Saul also among the prophets." Yet both accounts are in the same book. They are less than 10 chapters apart.

This isn't a case of two contradictory reports of a single historical event - it is two different surprising prophesyings that each lead to Saul and his prophetic gift being proverbial. If these were in two different gospels, we might be falsely accused of unfairly harmonizing the text. However, hopefully here it can be seen that such a harmonization is completely proper, indeed perfectly acceptable.


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