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Theophilos78
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« on: December 27, 2010, 09:50:25 AM »

I have recently noticed that a number of websites are making comparisons between the story of the ancestors in Genesis and St. Stephen's discourse in Acts 7 to reach the conclusion that St. Stephen made blatant mistakes when he referred to the Torah.

In Acts, Stephen says: "And Joseph sent and called Jacob his father and all his relatives, seventy-five souls; and Jacob went down into Egypt. And he died, he and our fathers, and they were removed to Shechem and were laid in the tomb that Abraham had bought for a sum of silver from the sons of Hamor in Shechem" (Acts 7:14-16).

However, according to the data in Genesis:

*Jacob's family that came down to Egypt, inclusive of Joseph and his sons, numbered seventy persons, not seventy-five (Genesis 46:27, Exodus 1:5, Deuteronomy 10:22).

*Jacob was not buried in the city of Shechem, but in the cave of Machpelah, which is located in the city of Hebron (Genesis 23:19; 49:29-30; 50:13).

*Abraham did not buy a tomb in Shechem. He bought the cave of Machpelah, which he used as a burial place, and which, as previously stated, is located in the city of Hebron (Genesis 23:19).

*The cave of Machpelah was not bought from the sons of Hamor, but from Ephron the Hittite (Genesis 23:17-18, 50:13).

How should we deal with these claims? Should we conclude that the discrepancies reflect a copyist error? What is the Orthodox approach to this problem?  Huh
« Last Edit: December 27, 2010, 09:53:58 AM by Theophilos78 » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: December 27, 2010, 10:07:49 AM »

I don't know if that's the official stance of Orthodoxy, but I remember reading from an orthodox website that the enlightenment from the Holy Spirit does not necessarily provide accurate historical details, only accurate dogmas and accurate theology. That means that, even if Saint Stephen was wrong in his saying of the story, the religious moral behind it is true and correct and that is what stays. A Christian won't go to Hell, nor be criticized by the Judge if they confused the martyr stories of the Saints, but will be definitely held responsible if they willingly distorted the message of the Lord.
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« Reply #2 on: December 27, 2010, 10:13:21 AM »

I have recently noticed that a number of websites are making comparisons between the story of the ancestors in Genesis and St. Stephen's discourse in Acts 7 to reach the conclusion that St. Stephen made blatant mistakes when he referred to the Torah.

In Acts, Stephen says: "And Joseph sent and called Jacob his father and all his relatives, seventy-five souls; and Jacob went down into Egypt. And he died, he and our fathers, and they were removed to Shechem and were laid in the tomb that Abraham had bought for a sum of silver from the sons of Hamor in Shechem" (Acts 7:14-16).

However, according to the data in Genesis:

*Jacob's family that came down to Egypt, inclusive of Joseph and his sons, numbered seventy persons, not seventy-five (Genesis 46:27, Exodus 1:5, Deuteronomy 10:22).

*Jacob was not buried in the city of Shechem, but in the cave of Machpelah, which is located in the city of Hebron (Genesis 23:19; 49:29-30; 50:13).

*Abraham did not buy a tomb in Shechem. He bought the cave of Machpelah, which he used as a burial place, and which, as previously stated, is located in the city of Hebron (Genesis 23:19).

*The cave of Machpelah was not bought from the sons of Hamor, but from Ephron the Hittite (Genesis 23:17-18, 50:13).

How should we deal with these claims? Should we conclude that the discrepancies reflect a copyist error? What is the Orthodox approach to this problem?  Huh
We read the Bible.

"And Joseph's bones, which the Israelites had brought up from Egypt, were buried at Shechem in the tract of land that Jacob bought for a hundred pieces of silver from the sons of Hamor, the father of Shechem. This became the inheritance of Joseph's descendants." Joshua 24:32

The LXX in Gen. 46:27 says "seventy-five."

Conflating Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as one actor in the covenant is quite OT.
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« Reply #3 on: December 27, 2010, 10:30:39 AM »

What ialmisry said, but with the "piggyback": St. Stephen, along with the other NT figures who quoted the OT, almost always quoted the Greek Septuagint translation (abbrev. LXX) over and above the Hebrew Masoretic text (abbrev. MSS), which only dates to about 1,000 years ago but which has been corroborated somewhat by the Dead Sea Scrolls.

In other words, the OT of the apostles and the Christian Church is the Greek, not the Hebrew; the numbers are different probably because the LXX was working from a more ancient manuscript and put down the number 75.

This also, in effect, accounts for why Jews and Protestants have one Old Testament canon, and Catholics and Orthodox another; the books listed in the Septuagint include the books that Jews and Protestants reject as canonical.
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« Reply #4 on: December 27, 2010, 06:49:19 PM »

Thank you all for your brilliant answers.

Some biblical scholars ( I am almost sure they are Reformists) suggest that the differences between the data in Genesis and in St. Stephen's discourse are due to a simple copyist error. They claim that Stephen said Jacob, but a copyist turned it into Abraham.

However, I tend to agree with brother Isa that the appearance of the name Abraham in that verse (Jacob in the original text is replaced with Abraham in Stephen's speech) was deliberate and bound to the conflation of the two related biblical figures, Abraham with Jacob, since both had bought a place for burial. It is also probable that St. Stephen inserted the name Abraham into a biblical verse about Jacob because he wanted to use the name Abraham both at the beginning and end of his narrative of the events up until Moses' birth. Thus, in St. Stephen's speech the first period in Israel's history (that of the ancestors and of the promises) begins with Abraham and ends in the same way. This is why even the narrative of the period of the Exodus is linked by St. Stephen to the promises given to Father Abraham.
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« Reply #5 on: December 27, 2010, 07:37:44 PM »

And why is this of any importance? Smiley
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« Reply #6 on: December 27, 2010, 07:57:16 PM »

And why is this of any importance? Smiley
Why do you ask? Wink
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« Reply #7 on: December 27, 2010, 08:23:13 PM »

And why is this of any importance? Smiley
Why do you ask? Wink

Because I believe that "dissecting" the various Bible texts for consistency, accuracy etc. is a silly, utterly un-rewarding occupation. The Bible was written by numerous writers who came from very different tribes and cultures and even from completely different religious beliefs (e.g. Henotheistic vs. Monotheistic). To look for any accuracy or consistency in this huge compilation of utterly heterogenous texts is simply futile. And, worse, the attempts to "force" it into accuracy (factual accuracy) and/or consistency is not only futile but dishonest.

As I have stated before, and as I think at the moment, what makes me Orthodox is not Biblical texts by any stretch, but the majestic Orthodox Divine Liturgy, its aesthetic influence on my soul, its making me feeling that I am finely home. I would have it even if I never set my eyes on the Bible. Honest. Cross my heart. Smiley
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« Reply #8 on: December 28, 2010, 03:43:25 AM »


Because I believe that "dissecting" the various Bible texts for consistency, accuracy etc. is a silly, utterly un-rewarding occupation. The Bible was written by numerous writers who came from very different tribes and cultures and even from completely different religious beliefs (e.g. Henotheistic vs. Monotheistic). To look for any accuracy or consistency in this huge compilation of utterly heterogenous texts is simply futile. And, worse, the attempts to "force" it into accuracy (factual accuracy) and/or consistency is not only futile but dishonest.

Then I must ask you a question: what is your approach to the Evangelists' quoting heavily from the Old Testament? Why do you think they quoted prophecies and said that they were fulfilled by Christ?

Further, this thread is not about the accuracy or infallibility of the Holy Scripture. We have an instance where St. Stephen refers to the biblical narratives of the Old Testament and summarizes them with several theological implications, but some of the data presented by him do not overlap with the data presented in those biblical narratives. We are simply trying to figure out the reason for his attribution of an act of purchase carried out by Jacob in the Book of Genesis to Abraham in his theological discourse.  Wink


As I have stated before, and as I think at the moment, what makes me Orthodox is not Biblical texts by any stretch, but the majestic Orthodox Divine Liturgy, its aesthetic influence on my soul, its making me feeling that I am finely home. I would have it even if I never set my eyes on the Bible. Honest. Cross my heart. Smiley

Who has said here that what makes one Orthodox is or must be the accuracy and infallibility of the Bible?
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« Reply #9 on: December 28, 2010, 04:15:21 AM »

And why is this of any importance? Smiley
Why do you ask? Wink

Because I believe that "dissecting" the various Bible texts for consistency, accuracy etc. is a silly, utterly un-rewarding occupation. The Bible was written by numerous writers who came from very different tribes and cultures and even from completely different religious beliefs (e.g. Henotheistic vs. Monotheistic). To look for any accuracy or consistency in this huge compilation of utterly heterogenous texts is simply futile. And, worse, the attempts to "force" it into accuracy (factual accuracy) and/or consistency is not only futile but dishonest.

As I have stated before, and as I think at the moment, what makes me Orthodox is not Biblical texts by any stretch, but the majestic Orthodox Divine Liturgy, its aesthetic influence on my soul, its making me feeling that I am finely home. I would have it even if I never set my eyes on the Bible. Honest. Cross my heart. Smiley

I second that notion. I firmly believe that if the original authors saw how many (well-intentioned) people today attempt to contort and twist the scriptures to come up with some kind of factual or historical congruity they would sigh and  Roll Eyes

It is unfortunate that the ancient traditions of 'midrash' has too often been forgotten and cast aside in favor of modern biblical exegesis...
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« Reply #10 on: December 28, 2010, 10:02:44 AM »



I second that notion. I firmly believe that if the original authors saw how many (well-intentioned) people today attempt to contort and twist the scriptures to come up with some kind of factual or historical congruity they would sigh and  Roll Eyes


I am almost sure they would prefer this attitude to that of a bunch of Christians who concede defeat quite easily either by saying that the sacred scripture is fallible and contains many mistakes or by ignoring such charges of errancy and doing nothing to defend the Bible.
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« Reply #11 on: December 28, 2010, 10:15:54 AM »


Because I believe that "dissecting" the various Bible texts for consistency, accuracy etc. is a silly, utterly un-rewarding occupation. The Bible was written by numerous writers who came from very different tribes and cultures and even from completely different religious beliefs (e.g. Henotheistic vs. Monotheistic). To look for any accuracy or consistency in this huge compilation of utterly heterogenous texts is simply futile. And, worse, the attempts to "force" it into accuracy (factual accuracy) and/or consistency is not only futile but dishonest.

Then I must ask you a question: what is your approach to the Evangelists' quoting heavily from the Old Testament? Why do you think they quoted prophecies and said that they were fulfilled by Christ?

Again, I am not interested in finding this out. For sure, each of the four Gospels was written by many authors. I don't think there is any more evidence to believe that the Gospel according to St. Matthew was written entirely by a man called Matthew than evidence that the tragedy called "Hamlet" was written by a man called Hamlet. Smiley How exactly were the Gospels written, what motivated those who were writing them - all that remains in the dark and should not, I believe, be used as a theological argument. The Church, by Her conciliar, collective intellect, decided that the four texts known as canonical Gospels contain some very important spiritual truths. That's the only thing I really KNOW.

Further, this thread is not about the accuracy or infallibility of the Holy Scripture. We have an instance where St. Stephen refers to the biblical narratives of the Old Testament and summarizes them with several theological implications, but some of the data presented by him do not overlap with the data presented in those biblical narratives. We are simply trying to figure out the reason for his attribution of an act of purchase carried out by Jacob in the Book of Genesis to Abraham in his theological discourse.  Wink

(...)

Who has said here that what makes one Orthodox is or must be the accuracy and infallibility of the Bible?

OK, then I apologize for my intrusion.
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« Reply #12 on: December 28, 2010, 10:51:25 AM »


Because I believe that "dissecting" the various Bible texts for consistency, accuracy etc. is a silly, utterly un-rewarding occupation. The Bible was written by numerous writers who came from very different tribes and cultures and even from completely different religious beliefs (e.g. Henotheistic vs. Monotheistic). To look for any accuracy or consistency in this huge compilation of utterly heterogenous texts is simply futile. And, worse, the attempts to "force" it into accuracy (factual accuracy) and/or consistency is not only futile but dishonest.

Then I must ask you a question: what is your approach to the Evangelists' quoting heavily from the Old Testament? Why do you think they quoted prophecies and said that they were fulfilled by Christ?

Again, I am not interested in finding this out. For sure, each of the four Gospels was written by many authors. I don't think there is any more evidence to believe that the Gospel according to St. Matthew was written entirely by a man called Matthew than evidence that the tragedy called "Hamlet" was written by a man called Hamlet. Smiley How exactly were the Gospels written, what motivated those who were writing them - all that remains in the dark and should not, I believe, be used as a theological argument. The Church, by Her conciliar, collective intellect, decided that the four texts known as canonical Gospels contain some very important spiritual truths. That's the only thing I really KNOW.
ISTM, then, that you're saying that writings were chosen for inclusion in the NT solely for the truths they communicated, which doesn't strike me as an entirely accurate thing to say. As I understand it, apostolic authorship WAS considered important to whether a book got included in the NT or not. That doesn't mean that the work need to have been written by an apostle, since that clearly isn't the case with the Gospels of Mark and Luke, but that the author needs to have been either an apostle or one very closely connected with the apostles.
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« Reply #13 on: December 28, 2010, 11:07:29 AM »

ISTM, then, that you're saying that writings were chosen for inclusion in the NT solely for the truths they communicated, which doesn't strike me as an entirely accurate thing to say. As I understand it, apostolic authorship WAS considered important to whether a book got included in the NT or not. That doesn't mean that the work need to have been written by an apostle, since that clearly isn't the case with the Gospels of Mark and Luke, but that the author needs to have been either an apostle or one very closely connected with the apostles.

Furthermore, the overall trend in biblical commentary (as far as my admittedly limited reading in the genre goes; Chrysostom, Augustine, Theophylact, Cyril of Alexandria, Origen, Ambrose, Palamas), with the exception of Origen in his Philokalia, was to harmonize, and not to excuse, the discrepancies in biblical writings with one another, as presented in the text, in spite of their diverse authorships and textual development over time.  An idea of isolated, theological proverbs, divorced from the historical--or, perhaps better said, "literal"--sense, as being the purpose of the Scriptures, is pretty much only seen in Origen (and, as prolific a writer as the man was, we know what happened to his radical school of thought).  The rest of the commentators that I've read treat the narratives as faithfully as possible, erring on the side of textual integrity and harmony.  That doesn't mean that they dismiss the fact that there are discrepancies--the Diatessarion tried to make one gospel out of four, eliminating discrepancies, and was condemned by the Church--but as much as possible, we treat the historical narratives as an essential part of our biblical interpretation.

With regard to the OP, since most of the fathers worked with the Greek in both testaments, the problem in the OP wouldn't have surfaced.  Had it surfaced, though, you can be sure that some sort of apologetic explanation would have followed in several patristic commentaries.
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« Reply #14 on: December 28, 2010, 02:30:03 PM »



I second that notion. I firmly believe that if the original authors saw how many (well-intentioned) people today attempt to contort and twist the scriptures to come up with some kind of factual or historical congruity they would sigh and  Roll Eyes


I am almost sure they would prefer this attitude to that of a bunch of Christians who concede defeat quite easily either by saying that the sacred scripture is fallible and contains many mistakes or by ignoring such charges of errancy and doing nothing to defend the Bible.

You might be surprised...
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