#178. Only the pure are allowed to eat sacrificial meat OR both the pure and impure? (Lev 7:20-21 vs Deut 12:20-22)

The peace-offering is the sacrifice performed for the consumption of meat. But according to the Priestly writer’s strict ideology, any individual who has come into contact with an impurity (dead animal, corpse, bodily emission, illness, sexual taboos, or even has a tattoo, etc.) and is therefore impure himself, cannot eat of the sacrificial meat: “that person will be cut off from his people” (Lev 7:20). The Levitical scribes of Deuteronomy didRead More

#177. Who can eat Yahweh’s sacrificial offerings: only the Aaronid priests OR the Levites too? (Lev 6:9-11, 6:19-22, 10:12-15 vs Deut 18:1-2)

Since the Priestly literature only allows for descendants of Aaron to be priests (see #152, #153-154, #160-161), while the Deuteronomic corpus identifies the whole tribe of Levi as priests, there are obviously going to be other contradictory commandments between these two sources, which represent competing priestly schools. For example, Leviticus explicitly has Yahweh command that only Aaron and his sons, that is the descendants of Aaron, can eat the remaining portionsRead More

#176. An individual who lies must atone for his sin with a guilt-offering OR suffer the thing that he lied or schemed about? (Lev 5:20-26 vs Deut 19:16-19)

Concerning the punishment for lying or bringing a false testimony against your brethren, both the Priestly source and the Deuteronomic source offer two contradictory verdicts. In the Deuteronomic source (Deut 19:16-19) the individual that has lied or has bared false witness against his brethren is to suffer that which he lied about: “yo shall do to him as he schemed to do to his brother. So you shall burn away whatRead More

#175. An individual that has come into contact with an impure animal or human must purge his impurity through sacrifice OR banishment from the community? (Lev 5:2-6 vs Num 5:2-3, 31:19)

As we saw in #173, the Priestly legislation itself bears witness to some minor differences. This one in particular has to do with the stipulation regarding an individual that has come into contact with a corpse—that is, according to the Priestly ideology, an individual that has come into contact with an impurity. Since according to the Priestly theological worldview, the camp, wherein Yahweh dwelt among the people (#151), was conceived asRead More

#174. Sin can only be atoned through sacrifice OR not? (Lev 4-5; Num 15 vs Deut 4, 17, 23-24, 28; Gal 2-4; Rom 4-7)

There are significant differences, indeed contradictions, between the views and precepts of the Aaronid-led priestly guild who wrote the book of Leviticus and the Levite-led scribes who wrote the book of Deuteronomy. These are large sweeping theological differences that existed between ancient Israel’s rival priestly schools (see also #30, #151, #152, #153-154). The Priestly literature is centered around its most important cultic and theological institution: the Tabernacle. The sacrificial cult wasRead More

#173. If the people sin inadvertently is a bull offered up as a sin-offering OR is a goat offered up as a sin-offering and a bull as a burnt-offering? (Lev 4:13-21 vs Num 15:22-26)

Both of these passages, Leviticus 4 and Numbers 15, were penned by the Aaronid priestly guild. So they may reflect differences within the priesthood that would have naturally arisen over the centuries it existed. It might also be that Numbers 15 was a later amendment to the earlier instruction (torah) of Leviticus 4. Leviticus 4 details the sin or purification offering, and in order of descending urgency: the sin-offering to beRead More

#172. “All fat is Yahweh’s” OR not? (Lev 3:16b-17, 7:23-27 vs Deut 12:15-16, 12:21-25)

The contradictions in the book of Leviticus are minimal. This is largely because unlike the books of Genesis, Exodus, and Numbers, the book of Leviticus was composed by one priestly guild, the Aaronids. So it displays a natural unity, cohesion, and theological thrust. Indeed, we’ll encounter contradictions and inconsistencies within the Priestly source itself, but most of them will be between the Priestly writer and the Deuteronomist. The contradictions that theRead More

#171. Was the law of the Sabbath known before Sinai OR was it only given at Sinai? (Ex 16:23-30 vs Ex 23:12, 31:12-17, 35:1-3)

This entry looks to be our last contradiction for the book of Exodus. Like others, this one appears repeatedly in the scholarly literature. The particular textual peculiarity is: While Exodus 31:12-17 and 35:1-3 officially present Yahweh giving the commandment to observe the Sabbath for the first time in P (but in E, already at Ex 23:12), Exodus 16 not only speaks of the Sabbath but presumes that the people already knowRead More

#170. Does the action from Exodus 40 to Numbers 7 take place on one day OR not? (Ex 40:2-33; Lev 8; Num 7:1 vs Lev 9; Num 1:1)

And it was in the 1st month, in the 2nd year, on the 1st of the month, the Tabernacle was set up. (Ex 40:17) This is the Priestly writer’s chronology: the cultic institution, around which its whole theology is based, is erected on the New Year’s day of the second year from the Exodus (see also #109-110). Yet, even within the Priestly source there seems to be some discrepancies concerning whatRead More

#169. Yahweh makes a covenant with Israel based on which Ten Commandments? (Ex 24:3-8 vs Ex 34:27)

Both Exodus 24:3-8 and Exodus 34:27 present Yahweh as making a covenant with the children of Israel based on “all of Yahweh’s words (Ex 24:4) and “based on these words” (Ex 34:27). Yet the words, or commandments, referred to in each of these passages, Ex 20:1-23:19 and Exodus 34:14-26 respectively, are not the same—despite the fact that the text claims that they are (Ex 34:1)! This contradiction is an extension ofRead More

#168. Is the festival of firstfruits the festival of Harvest OR of Weeks? (Ex 23:16 vs Ex 34:22)

There are several different festival calendars in the Bible, each penned by a different author: Exodus 23:24-19 (E), Exodus 34:18-23 (J), Deuteronomy 16:1-17 (D), and Leviticus 23 and Numbers 28-29 (P). We will look at these differences in greater detail later on. Here, I simply note that the spring festival of reaping the first barely crop is variously labeled as the festival of Harvest in the Elohist tradition and the festivalRead More

#167. Is Yahweh a god slow to anger OR a god whose anger flares often and erratically? (Ex 34:6; Num 14:18 vs Ex 4:14, 22:23, 32:10; Num 11:1, 11:10, 11:33, 12:9, 22:22, 25:3)

Exodus 34 is the Yahwist’s version of the Ten Commandments, which was treated in an earlier entry, along with the fact that Exodus 34:1 is a lie—Yahweh does not, as the text claims, write the same material on these new tablets of stone that were on the original tablets (#134-135)!  Today’s contradiction treats a different matter and fits in with the Conflicting portraits of Yahweh penned by the Bible’s different authors.Read More

#166. Is Joshua allowed to enter the Tent of Meeting OR are only Aaronid priests? (Ex 33:11 vs Num 1:51, 3:10, 3:38, 18:5-7)

This contradiction continues from the previous two (#164-165), where we saw that the views and perceptions concerning the Tent of Meeting differed radically depending on what source we were looking at, the Elohist or the Priestly source. Here too, the Elohist attaches no priestly, cultic, nor holy and sacred significance to the Tent of Meeting, at least not in the manner in which we find the Aaronid priestly writers doing inRead More

#164. Is the Tent of Meeting in the camp OR outside the camp? (Ex 25:8; Num 1:50-2:32 vs Ex 33:7-11)
#165. When is the Tent of Meeting constructed: on the New Year of the second year from the Exodus OR sometime before that? (Ex 40 vs Ex 33:7)

Et voilà! — More contradictions that resulted from the stitching together of the Elohist text of Exodus 32-33 and the Priestly literature of Exodus 25-31 & 33-40. Honestly, this is not magic. I did not contrive these contradictions. Rather, competing priestly guilds and scribal schools of ancient Israel did, with their different views and beliefs. Not my fault either that readers living centuries later, for reasons endemic to their own historicalRead More

#163. Do the people divest themselves of their jewelry OR not? (Ex 33:6 vs Ex 35:22)

Another contradiction created from the stitching together of the Priestly text of Exodus 35-40 and the Elohist text of Exodus 32-33 has to do with what happens to the people’s jewelry (see also #158). As a result of their sin in the Elohist’s Golden Calf story, Yahweh commands them to divest themselves of their jewelry and to leave it behind. “And the children of Israel divested their jewelry from mount Horeb”Read More

#162. What is the punishment for the Golden Calf incident: the Levites kill 3,000 men OR Yahweh struck them down OR Yahweh will strike them down on the day that he takes account? (Ex 32:27-28 vs Ex 32:35 vs Ex 32:34)

There are 3 different punishments stated for the sin of the Golden Calf, two of which are ambiguous in nature. The most explicit is that Moses and the Levites kill about 3,000 men: “kill each man his brother, each man his neighbor, and each man his relative.” The text goes a far way to explicitly present the Levites in the favorable role of expiating the sin. In other words, the LevitesRead More

#160. Does Aaron bring the great sin upon the people OR does he bear the people’s sin and atone for it? (Ex 32:21 vs Ex 28:38-41; Lev 4-5, 16:16, etc.)
#161. Does Yahweh vow to erase Aaron for his sin OR make him his exclusive anointed high priest? (Ex 32:33 vs Ex 28:38-41, 29:6-29, 40:12-16)

The narrative tensions and deep-rooted theological contradictions created when the JE material of Exodus 32-34 is inserted between the Priestly literature of Exodus 25-31 and 35-40 is nowhere more apparent than in its portrait of Aaron. On the one hand, he is the cause of the people’s sin, having fabricated the Golden Calf (#157); and on the other hand, he is the exclusive anointed of Yahweh, consecrated and without sin, theRead More

#159. The Golden Calf OR the Golden Cherubs? (Ex 32:4 vs Ex 25:18-20, 37:7-9)

This is a continuation of yesterday’s (#158) and the previous day’s entry (#157). In the Priestly literature that now surrounds the Elohist’s Golden Calf story, Yahweh commands Moses to have the Israelites make two golden cherubs, of solid hammered gold. These cherubim moreover sit on top of the Ark’s atonement dais which resides in the inner most shrine of the Tabernacle, the Holy of Holies. And he made two cherubs ofRead More

#158. Is the people’s gold used for fabricating the Golden Calf OR for the construction of the Ark, Menorah, Tabernacle, and Altar of incense? (Ex 32:2-4, 32:23 vs Ex 25-26, 35:4-24)

Exodus 25-31 and 35-40 clearly stand as a unit. Not only do all of its chapters use the same vocabulary and expressions, but their content is also the same. Exodus 25-31 details instructions for the constructing of the Tent of Meeting and all its components: the Tabernacle, the ark, the table and menorah, the altar, the incense altar, and the garments for the high priest, Aaron. Exodus 35-40 passes over theRead More

#157. Is the festival associated with the Golden Calf a festival to Yahweh OR to other gods? (Ex 32:5 vs Ex 32:1, 32:4, 32:8)

The Golden Calf narrative is perhaps one of the most memorable tales from the pen of the Elohist. But the story is not as ancient as one might think. In fact, it most probably was put to pen some time in the 8th or 7th century BC. The specific contradiction presented here is not so much a contradiction between two textual traditions; rather, it is between some apparent inconsistencies in theRead More

#156. What is written on the stone tablets that are placed in the Ark: the instructions for building the Tabernacle OR the Ten Commandments? (Ex 31:18 vs Ex 24:12, 34:27-28)

In the Priestly tradition, what is engraved upon the stone tablets that are placed in the Ark would appear to be the instructions for building the Tabernacle and all its equipment, which Moses receives from Yahweh while on Sinai (Ex 25-31). And when he finished speaking with him in mount Sinai, he gave the two tablets of the Testimony to Moses, tablets of stone, written by the finger of God. (ExRead More

#155. Does Yahweh command sacrifices during the wilderness period OR not? (Ex 29:38-42; Lev 1-9, 16-17, 23; Num 7, 19:1-10, 28-29 vs Amos 5:25; Jer 7:22, etc.)

In the Priestly literature that we are now looking at, the cult, sacrifices, and maintaining strict ritual and ethical purity were the central concerns and elements of its belief system and worldview. As we’ve already discussed (#148-149, #151, #152) the Priestly writer’s legislation was largely concerned with safeguarding and/or restoring ritual purity and cleanliness, as well as ethical purity and cleanliness, i.e., being blameless or sinless. When an individual came intoRead More

#153. Who judges the people: the Aaronid priests OR the Levites OR the elders OR the prohets? (Ex 28:30; Lev 13; Num 5:16-28 vs Deut 17:8-13 vs Ex 18:13-26 vs 1 Sam 7:15, etc.)
#154. Who carries the Urim and the Thummim: the Aaronid high priest OR the Levites? (Ex 28:30 vs Deut 33:8-10)

As a composite text of competing ideologies and theologies, the Bible—the creation of a later generation of readers living centuries after these once individual texts were written (see What is the Bible?)—preserves multiple origin stories relating the establishment of its judiciary and who ministers judgment. Indeed, these competing texts do share one definable common feature: Yahweh is the ultimate Judge. It is he who judges. But what is variously represented inRead More

#152. Does Yahweh choose only the Aaronids as priests OR all the Levites? (Ex 28:1, 28:41, 29:1-9, 40:12-16; Lev 1-8; Num 3:1-9, 25:10-12 vs Deut 18:1-8)

“Bring Aaron, your brother, forward to you, and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel for him to function as a priest for me.” (Ex 28:1) The redacted text of the Pentateuch as it now stands bears witness to an internecine rivalry that existed within the tribe of Levi, that is within the priesthood itself. At least two priestly groups that we know of wrote texts aimed atRead More