Saturday, February 6, 2016

The Self-Harmony of the Bible - 4 (Part Nineteen)

When Did Jehoram Begin to Reign?
            2 Kings 8:16 (NWT) reports: “In the fifth year of Jehoram the son of Abab the king of Israel, while Jehoshaphat was king of Judah, Jehoram the son of King Jehoshaphat of Judah became king.” (Jehoram of Judah became king in the fifth year of Jehoram of Israel.) Yet, 2 Kings 1:17 (NWT) reports: “Jehoram became king in his place, in the second year of Jehoram the son of Jehoshaphat the king of Judah.” (Jehoram of Israel became king in the second year of Jehoram of Judah.) Let us examine the solutions presented and see if these can be harmonized.
            Benson suggests that Jehoram was made king twice; the first time being seven years before the second time. He says: “Jehoram was first made king or viceroy by his father, divers [several] year before this time [the fifth year of Jehoram of Israel], at the expedition to Ramoth-gildead, which dominion of his [Jehoram of Judah] ended at his father’s return.” And: “By comparing 2 Kings 3:1, and 2 Kings 8:16 [with 2 Kings 1:17], it will appear that there is a considerable difference in the reading of the dates . . . To reconcile, however, the above-mentioned passages, some have supposed that Jehoshaphat, in his seventeenth year, when he went to Ahab, and with him to Ramoth-gilead, appointed his son Jehoram as viceroy, and (in case of his death) his successor. In the second year from that time, when Jehoram was thus made vice-king in his father’s stead an absence, this Jehoram, Ahab’s son, began to reign. . .  which was about the twenty-fourth year of Jehoshaphat’s reign.” Then, the second time Jehoram of Judah was made king, was during this time that Jehoram of Israel was king of his nation.
            Does this stand up? Of course there is nothing in the scriptures that contradicts this outright. However, The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges notes (in connection to 2 Kings 1:17): “[T]here [is not] satisfactory evidence that a son was ever king along with his father.” This assertion, though, is not universally agreed with. Matthew Poole’s Commentary for 2 Kings 1:17 states: “[I]t was a usual practice among kings in former ages, to make their sons sometimes their viceroys and deputies in the administration of the kingdom; and sometimes formally kings in conjunction with themselves, and whilst they lived; whereof there are instances, both in profane [secular] history, among the Persians, Greeks, and Romans, and in sacred Scripture.”
            It would be fair to examine how such a divergent set of claims could be made; is there evidence of this practice or not? Such disharmony resolves around whether this practice was common among the Judeans and Samaritans, for it is certainly attested to in other cultures. (The fact that these cultures were often neighbors of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah should be taken to the credit of the harmonization thus far presented.)
            Matthew Poole cities David and Uzziah as examples of this practice in sacred Scripture.[1] 2 Chronicles 29:22 (NWT) does state: “for a second time they made Solomon the son of David king and anointed him before Jehovah as leader.” Further, 2 Chronicles 26:21 (NWT) relates: “King Uzziah remained a leper until the day of his death, and he kept staying in a separate house as a leper, for he had been excluded from the house of Jehovah. His son Jotham was in charge of the king’s house, judging the people of the land.”
            Some might object to Solomon’s case, since years did not elapse between the two appointments, but all that I use it to prove is that David and Solomon were both kings at the same time and Solomon was made king a second time. In regards to Jotham, we see that due to his father’s illness, he assumed active leadership of Judah. Nevertheless, his father did not cease to be king, nor was he alone one who rightly could be called king. Could such an arrangement not have been done with Jehoram of Judah seeing as if his father were to die in the campaign with Ahab, Judah would need a king without a risk of civil war?
            The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges does not think so, and notes at 2 Kings 8:16: “Jehoshaphat was a vigorous monarch and zealous for the service of Jehovah, and was not likely to take as coadjutor a prince so weak in character, and of such different religious feeling as Jehoram.” However, this counterclaim is not entirely waterproof, for Jehoshaphat made a marriage alliance with Ahab, which almost lead to the destruction of his own house! He himself was a zealous man to be sure, but this did not prevent him from making severe lapses in judgement. Also, this work assumes that Jehoram’s true character was evident, but this ignores that other kings started out fine, but ended up sinning badly. Also, it could be that Jehoram was the best of all of his sons. Therefore, I feel reasonably confident of this harmonization.
            But, what if the current manuscripts do contradict each other, and that this harmonization is incorrect because it is not necessary? Then, we suppose that the figures have suffered corruption and we do not really know when Jehoram became king. In that case, it is not a matter that is difficult to explain. The skeptic, of course, would like us to suffer cognitive dissonance, thinking that we do not know what about the Bible we can trust as being faithfully transmitted. However, let us not exaggerate the nature of such textual corruption in the best preserved text of antiquity, where it has been said that 95% of the Old Testament has been preserved and 99% of the New Testament. Nor, should we equate corruption in regard to numbers and names as the same as corruption in morals, commandment and doctrines, nor should we think that nothing can be gleaned for the historical accounts – rather they are beneficial in a great way. To naively assume that inerrancy requires perfect manuscripts today is just as much an error as assuming that one scribal error outweighs the evidence in favor of the self-harmony of the Bible.

[1] He also cities “to come close to the point” the example of Jehoshaphat and Jehoram. I will refrain from using this instance, which the skeptic sites as a contradiction, as proof for the harmonization. But, it is not possible to dismiss this case as an example of coregency just yet.

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