#1. Was earth created from preexistent matter OR nothing? (Gen 1:1-10; Is 45:18 vs Heb 11:3)?

Hebrews 11:3 is often invoked as a proof text for the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo. While some may wish to debate this reading, since the verse can be read as an abstract statement about faith, literally, “not from that which is visible did the things that are seen come into being,” I shall nevertheless treat it as if it did proclaim this doctrine. For this allows us the occasion toRead More

#2. Does God create the skies and the earth, then plants, then animals, and then both male and female in his image OR does Yahweh first form man from the ground, then plants, then animals, and then lastly woman from man’s rib? (Gen 1:1-27 [P] vs Gen 2:4b-23 [J])
#3. Does God create the earth, the skies, and man on the same day OR not? (Gen 2:4b-7 [J] vs Gen 1:1-27 [P])
#4. Is earth initially created as fecund and fertile OR dry and barren? (Gen 1:9-10 [P] vs Gen 2:5 [J])
#5. Are both man and women created in the image of God OR is man formed from the ground, and women formed from man? (Gen 1:26-27 [P] vs Gen 2:7, 2:21-23 [J]; 1 Cor 11:9; 1 Tim 2:13)
#6. When is all the vegetation created: before the creation of the animals, and man and woman OR after the creation of man and before the creation of the animals and woman? (Gen 1:11-13, 1:29-30 [P] vs Gen 2:9-10 [J])
#7. Does God declare all vegetation and trees as food for the primordial pair OR does Yahweh command that one of the trees not be eaten from? (Gen 1:29-30 [P] vs Gen 2:17 [J])

The following entry is excerpted from Chapter 1, “Genesis’ Two Creation Accounts,” of  my Genesis 1 and the Creationism Debate: Being Honest to the Text, Its Author, and His Beliefs,  pp. 1-63. Ancient and modern readers alike have long recognized the differences between the seven-day creation account of Genesis 1:1-2:3 and the garden of Eden account of Genesis 2:4b-3:24. Even on stylistic grounds noticeable in an English translation, the first creationRead More

#2. Did God create the heavens and earth from the formless deep OR did Yahweh create them from the slaying of the primaeval sea monster Leviathan/Rahab? (Gen 1:1-8 vs Ps 74:13-17, 89:11-13; Job 26:12-13)

The two creation accounts that open the book of Genesis, the Priestly and Yahwist, are not the only creation stories found in the Bible. A much older mythic tale is preserved in passages from the Psalms, the book of Job, and the Prophets. In fact, there are remarkably few references in the Bible to the Priestly creation account (which perhaps attests to its late date of composition), while conversely, there areRead More

#3. Which god is the creator of the heavens and the earth: Yahweh OR El? (Gen 2:4b vs Gen 14:19)

Creation myths abound in just about every culture that has conceived of a national deity or deities. The ancient Near East is certainly no exception. A vast number of creation myths exist from ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Canaan.1 And many of these creation accounts display cross-fertilization of ideas and influences. This is especially true concerning the influence that both Canaan and ancient Mesopotamia exerted on Israelite culture and the emergence of itsRead More

#4. Is the origin of the Sabbath to be found in God’s rest on the 7th day OR the manner in which Yahweh gave rest to the Hebrews when they were slaves in Egypt? (Gen 2:2-3; Ex 20:8-11 vs Deut 5:12-15)

The origins of the Sabbath are obscure; there are no contemporary parallels in ancient Near Eastern practices. On the other hand, the Bible gives two contradictory accounts for its origin. Both Genesis 2:2-3 and Exodus 20:8-11 claim that its origin is because for six days Yahweh made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and everything that is in them, and he rested on the seventh day. On account of this, Yahweh blessed theRead More

#5. Is the river Gihon in Ethiopia OR the outskirts of Jerusalem? (Gen 2:13 vs 2 Chr 32:30)

Two of the four named rivers of the mythic Eden—the Tigris, Euphrates, Pishon, and Gihon—are well known. Pishon, however, cannot be identified and Gihon, whose name means “gusher,” is given two very different geographical locations in the Bible. On the one hand, Genesis 2:13 informs us that Gihon circles the land of Cush, which is Ethiopia (Gen 10:6). 2 Chronicles 32:30, however, informs us that it was a river spring nearRead More

#6. Does man return to the dust upon his death OR is he resurrected? (Gen 3:19; Eccl 3:20; Job 14:10, 12, etc. vs Dan 12:2; 1 Thess 4:15-17; 1 Cor 15:22, 15:51-52; Acts 24:15; Mk 9:1; Jn 5:28-29, 6:40; Rev 2:7)

The axiom of Genesis 3:19, “for dust you are and to dust you shall return,” and similar statements in the Hebrew Bible a human is in no way better off than an animal. Everything goes to the same place: everything comes from the dust, and everything returns to the dust (Eccl 3:20) a human being, he dies and dead he remains (Job 14:10) a human being, once laid to rest will neverRead More

# 7. Who is Adam’s first son: Cain or Seth? (Gen 4:1 vs Gen 5:3)

“When Adam had lived 130 years, he became the father of a son in his likeness, according to his image, and named him Seth. The days of Adam after he became the father of Seth were 800 years; and he had other sons and daughters” (Gen 5:3-4). The genealogical list in Genesis 5:3-32 continues in the same manner as presented above. That is in each successive generation the antediluvian patriarch—Seth, Enosh,Read More

#8. Who was the father of Lamech: Methushael OR Methuselah?
#9. Who was the father of Enoch: Cain OR Jared?
#10. How many antediluvian patriarchs were there: 8 OR 10?

Part of the Priestly redactor’s interpretive framework included the use of extensive genealogical lists, or records of generations, in Hebrew toledoth. These toledoth provide a structural unity and shape to the narrative arc of Genesis, and the Priestly redactor inserted them throughout the book of Genesis to transition from one story to the next, or from the end of one age or generation to the beginning of the next. Thus, theRead More

#11. When was the name Yahweh first invoked: in the earliest generations of man OR not till Moses at Sinai? (Gen 4:26, 12:8, 13:4, 15:7, etc. vs Ex 6:2-3)

This is a contradiction that you won’t find listed on your average, nor above average, contradictions in the Bible website; in fact, I doubt you’ll find it anywhere but here! It, like many of the ones to come, is only perceivable to those who have carefully studied the theologies of the various biblical authors. In fact, this is one in my long-list of favorites, because we start to see what the biblicalRead More

#12. Yahweh limits the maximum age of man at 120 years OR man still lives longer than 120 years? (Gen 6:3 vs Gen 9:29, 11:10-26, etc.)

“And Yahweh said: ‘My spirit won’t stay in man forever, since they’re also flesh; and their days shall be a 120 years’” (Gen 6:3). The author of this text, the Yahwist, has Yahweh utter these words on account of the growing corruption on the face of the earth—the intermingling of the sons of god(s) and the daughters of man (6:1-4). Furthermore, the J source holds true to its portrait of anRead More

#13. Does Yahweh regret and change his mind OR does he not? (Gen 6:6-7; Ex 32:13-14; 1 Sam 2:30-31, 15:35; Amos 7:3; Jon 3:10 vs Num 23:19; 1 Sam 15:29; Mal 3:6)

“And Yahweh regretted that he had made mankind on the earth and he was grieved to his heart” (Gen 6:6). We have already discussed the Yahwist’s anthropomorphic portrait of Yahweh [or if you’ve missed it see: Conflicting portraits of Israel’s deity], so there is nothing surprising in this characterization of the deity in this verse. The Hebrew word, nehem, in this passage describes a change of heart or mind, and isRead More

#14. Noah is commanded to gather 7 pairs of clean animals OR only 2 of each animal? (Gen 7:2 vs Gen 6:19-20, 7:8, 7:16)
#15. The flood lasts for 40 days and 40 nights OR 150 days? (Gen 7:4, 7:12, 8:6 vs Gen 7:24, 8:3)
#16. The flood starts 7 days after Noah enters the ark OR on the day Noah enters the ark? (Gen 7:7, 10 vs Gen 7:11-13)
#17. The flood is caused by rain OR the waters above and below the earth are unbound? (Gen 7:4, 7:12 vs Gen 7:11, 8:2)
#18. Noah lets out from the ark a series of doves (three) OR a raven once? (Gen 8:8-12 vs Gen 8:7)

Genesis’ flood narrative—or rather narratives—is the classic example used to illustrate how the Documentary Hypothesis works. There is little doubt that the narrative of Genesis 6:5-9:17 is a composite of two once separate flood stories. In other words, a later redactor has woven together two independent and different traditions of the flood narrative in an attempt to preserve them both. Yet unlike the two creation accounts where both traditions are preserved oneRead More

#19. Yahweh promises never to curse the ground again or Yahweh does curse the ground again? (Gen 8:21 vs Is 24:1-6; Zeph 1:3, 18)

And Yahweh said in his heart: “I will not curse the ground again on account of man; for the inclination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; and I will not strike all the living again.” (Gen 8:21) The ending of J’s flood narrative leaves us with a startling revelation—nothing was resolved by wiping out the human race with a flood! The reason given for the cataclysmic event in theRead More

#20. Who were Cush’s children: Seba, Havilah, Sabtah, Raamah, and Sabteca OR Nimrod also? (Gen 10:7 vs Gen 10:8)
#21. Who was the father of S(h)eba and Havilah: Cush OR Joktan? (Gen 10:7 vs Gen 10:26-29)

There are a number of inconsistencies in the genealogical list(s) of chapter 10, often referred to as the Table of Nations because the names are used eponymously by their authors to designate various geographies and/or ethnicities. These inconsistencies result from the fact that the Table of Nations incorporates material from both J and P. In other words, chapter 10 is a mishmash of JP material: P’s genealogy includes verses 1-7, 20, 22-23, andRead More

#22. Were Shem’s, Ham’s, and Japhet’s children dispersed throughout the earth each by their different language OR was all the earth one language and Yahweh ‘babbled’ their language at Babylon? (Gen 10:5, 10:20, 10:31-32 vs Gen 11:1-9)

The function of the Table of Nations in chapter 10 is not only to provide us with Noah’s sons’ offspring, but more so, and particularly for P, to account for the origins of the then known peoples and languages of the inhabitable world. Thus P’s explanation for the origin of the different languages that make up the peoples of the world is in stark opposition to J’s version which is rendered inRead More

#23. Is Lot Abraham’s nephew OR brother? (Gen 11:27 vs Gen 13:8)

By now, the reader should be well aware of the fact that discrepancies and contradictions existed in the Pentateuch’s various genealogies because many of them were doublets—similar genealogical lists from two once separate traditions that were brought together by a later editorial endeavor. We have already seen examples of this (#7-10, #20-21). It should come as little surprise then that in P’s genealogical list Lot is presented as the son of Abraham’s brother HaranRead More

#24. Is Abraham’s birthplace Ur of the Chaldeans OR Haran? (Gen 11:28, 11:31, 15:7 vs Gen 12:4-5, 28:10, 29:4)
#25. Does Abraham set off toward the land of Canaan by his father’s hand OR by commandment from Yahweh? (Gen 11:31 vs Gen 12:1)

Commentators have traditionally seen the Bible making two conflicting claims about Abraham’s birthplace. Genesis 11:28 states that Abraham’s father’s birthplace was “Ur of the Chaldeans” and 11:31 states that Abraham’s father, Terah, along with his extended family left “Ur of the Chaldeans to go to the land of Canaan.” Thus, according to this textual tradition Abraham’s birthplace is Ur of the Chaldeans. The narrative beginning in the next chapter, however, introducesRead More

#26. Did Abraham present Sarah as his sister to Pharaoh in Egypt OR to Abimelek in Gerar OR did Isaac present Rebekah as his sister to Abimelek in Gerar? (Gen 12:10-20 vs Gen 20:1-18 vs Gen 26:1-11)

These three accounts are actuality the same story presented three different times: both Genesis 12:10-20 and Genesis 26:1-11 come from the hand of the Yahwist, while Genesis 20:1-18 comes from the Elohist source, which we hear about for the first time here. It is the story of a patriarch who sojourns in a foreign land with his wife, and claims that she is not his wife in order to save himself from beingRead More

#27. Are Yahweh and El the same god OR different gods? (Gen 14:22, 17:1, 21:33; Ex 6:2-3; Ps 82:1 vs Deut 32:8-9; Ps 29:1, 89:6-8)

Recent archaeological, biblical, and extrabiblical research has led scholars working in the area of the origins of Israelite religion to assert rather boldly and confidently that the original god of Israel was in fact the Canaanite deity El.1 Just exactly how has this come about you ask? First, the name Israel is not a Yahwistic name. El is the name of the deity invoked in the name Israel, which translates: “May ElRead More

#28. Does Yahweh make a covenant with Abraham and bind it through a sacrifice OR does El Shaddai place his covenant between Abraham and himself and bind it through the observance of circumcision? (Gen 15:9-18 vs Gen 17:1-14)

The book of Genesis as it now stands contains two separate Abrahamic covenant passages: Genesis 15:1-18 and Genesis 17:1-14. When we examine these two passages closely we notice that each one has its own particular style, vocabulary, and theological emphasis. For example, the version in Genesis 15 consistently uses the name Yahweh when referring to the deity, is set as an informal dialogue between Abraham and Yahweh, the conversation is focused on the issueRead More

#29. Is the promise of the land of Canaan given unconditionally OR conditionally? (Gen 12:7, 13:15, 15:7, etc. vs Gen 17:1-14; Deut 4:1, 4:40, 5:29-30, etc.; Ezek 33:23-29)

In #28 we saw that the book of Genesis actually contains two once separate accounts of the Abrahamic covenant, and we noted their main differences and contradiction. In this post and the 2 that follow we will look at other contradictory expressions of the Abrahamic covenant between the writings of the Yahwist, Priestly source, the Deuteronomist, and lastly Paul. The promise of possessing the land of Canaan to Abraham and his descendants is aRead More

#30. Yahweh’s promise to give the land of Canaan as an eternal possession to Abraham and his seed is conditional to observing which covenant: the covenant of circumcision OR the Deuteronomic covenant stipulated in Deut 12-26? (Gen 17:1-14 vs Deut 4:1, 5:28-30, 6:1-2, 8:1, 28:15-63, 29:24-27, 30:17-18)

In contradictions #28 and #29 we learned that the version of the Abrahamic covenant now preserved in Genesis 17:1-14 was penned by the Priestly writer. In it Yahweh as El Shaddai promises to give Abraham and his seed “all the land of Canaan as an eternal possession,” and to become their god (17:8). In exchange for this Abraham and his seed must observe and keep the covenant: And you, you shallRead More

#31. Is the covenant of circumcision an eternal covenant OR not? (Gen 17:1-14 vs Gal 3-4; Rom 4:9-12)

At heart, this contradiction is between a text written by an elitist Aaronid priestly guild writing from their exilic condition in Babylon at the end of the 6th century BC, and which was a specific response to their historical crisis and to its historical audience AND a text written by fervent Jew “in Christ” writing in the 1st century AD to a Hellenistic audience on the fringes of the Roman empire. It too was shaped by itsRead More

#32. 400 years of slavery in Egypt OR 430? (Gen 15:13 vs Ex 12:40)

The legendary time-span in which the Hebrews were slaves in Egypt is variously given. Genesis 15:13 states that it was 400 years, presented in the guise of prophecy from Yahweh’s own mouth. While in Exodus 12:40 the narrator states that it was 430 years. Not surprisingly, both of these passages belong to 2 different and once separate textual traditions which were later edited together. The account in Genesis is from theRead More

#33. One patriarchal covenant OR three? (Gen 15:18, 17:1-14, etc. vs Lev 26:42)

A theological staple in all the Pentateuch sources (Yahwist, Elohist, Deuteronomist, and Priestly) is the covenant promise of the land of Canaan to Abraham and his seed, variously given as an unconditional and conditional promise, as we have already seen in #29. Furthermore, this covenant, this one covenant, is then transferred to each successive patriarch and his offspring, i.e., to Isaac, to Jacob, and then finally to Joseph’s sons—all P texts (Gen 28:1-5, 35:9-12,Read More

#34. Is Hagar expelled because Sarah is vexed at Hagar OR at Ishmael? (Gen 16:4-6 vs Gen 21:8-10)
#35. Is Hagar expelled while pregnant OR after she has given birth? (Gen 16:4-6 vs Gen 21:8-10)
#36. Yahweh blesses Hagar as a reward for her suffering OR God blesses her on account of Abraham? (Gen 16:9-10 vs Gen 21:11-13)

In its present form, Genesis narrates the story of how Hagar is forced to depart on account of Sarah’s bitterness on two separate occasions: Genesis 16:1-14 and Genesis 21:8-21. Yet each account of Hagar’s forced expulsion gives two different reasons for why this happens, two different reasons for why Hagar’s offspring is blessed, two different etiologies for the name Ishmael (#37), and two different blessings for Ishmael (#38). Such differences bear witnessRead More

#37. What is the origin of Ishmael’s name: Yahweh has heard Hagar OR God has heard the boy? (Gen 16:11 vs Gen 21:17)

Many of the biblical scribes and/or the stories they wrote down display an avid interest in the etymologies of names. An etymology attempts to find the original meaning of a name by referencing what the root of that name means, or was thought to mean. There are many etymologies given in the Bible, from patriarchal names to place names. What we are interested in is where the biblical record gives us 2 different etymologies on the same name.Read More

#38. Is Ishmael’s blessing conveyed by an angel of Yahweh to Hagar OR by God to Abraham? (Gen 16:10 vs Gen 17:20)

In #34-37 we looked at the contradictions in the Hagar-Ishmael story that were created as a result of a later editorial process that stitched together two once separate versions of the story, the Yahwist and Elohist. But there appears to be yet another textual tradition now preserved in Genesis that also told of the blessing of Ishmael. In this version we are given further details about Ishmael’s blessing, Abraham’s role, emphasis on “the eternalRead More

#39. Who names Ishmael: Yahweh OR Abraham? (Gen 16:11 vs Gen 16:15)

This contradiction, which builds upon #38, was also formed as the result of an editorial process that stitched together the Yahwist and the Priestly sources. Simply put, the Yahwist tradition accredits Yahweh’s angel with the naming of Ishmael, playing of the etymology: “And you shall call his name Ishmael, for Yahweh has heard (shama‘) your suffering” (Gen 16:11). Yet consistent with his reinterpretive agenda, the Priestly writer does 2 things in rewriting this passage: 1) he eliminates anyRead More

#40. Concerning the promise of Isaac’s birth, is Abraham visited by a vision of Yahweh as El Shaddai OR by three men, one of whom is Yahweh? (Gen 17:15-22 vs Gen 18:1-15)

Both Genesis 17:15-22 and Genesis 18:1-15 narrate the promise of Isaac’s birth, yet each one does so in drastically different manners. Let us first look at the version found in Genesis 18. 1And Yahweh appeared to him at the oaks of Mamre. And he was sitting at the tent entrance in the heat of the day, 2and he raised his eyes and saw, and here were three men standing over him… 8And he took curdsRead More

#41. What is the origin of Isaac’s name: Abraham laughed OR Sarah laughed? (Gen 17:17 vs Gen 18:12)

We have already seen a double etymology given for the name Ishmael (#37), and likewise we will encounter many others. Here 2 traditions attempt to provide an explanation for the origin of Isaac’s name, which is built on the verb shaq—“to play,” to rejoice over,” or “to laugh.” One tradition infers the reason for the child’s name by indicating that Sarah laughs when Yahweh—a stranger and a traveler to her—pronounces that she, who isRead More

#42. Is Ishmael 15-17 years old when Sarah expels him and his mother Hagar OR still a mere babe? (Gen 17:25 vs Gen 21: 8-17)

We have already seen on various occasions that the Priestly writer has a vested interest in genealogies, dates, and the ages of the patriarchs. But when this textual tradition with its dates and ages is redacted together with the JE text some interesting narrative tensions arise. For instance, P informs us that Ishmael “was 13 years old when he was circumcised at the flesh of his foreskin” (17:25)—that is “on that very day”Read More

#43. Is it lawful to marry your sister OR not? (Gen 20:12 vs Lev 18:11, 20:17)

Customs, beliefs, and worldviews change, and with them so too laws—no mystery here. But when we have a so-called “Book” that in actuality is a collection of the laws and narratives that reflected the customs, beliefs, and worldviews of a people (and peoples!) spanning approximately 1,000 years, contradictions are bound to occur. There should be no mystery here either. Thus, reflective of archaic customs shared throughout the ancient Near East, the older Yahwist and Elohist traditionsRead More

#44. Is Beersheba named on account of Abraham’s oath with Abimelek and his digging a well there OR Isaac’s treaty with Abimelek and his digging a well there? (Gen 21:30-32 vs Gen 26:32-33)

The subject matter of this story is the origin behind the naming of Beersheba, which was an important Judean stronghold near the Philistine border in the 9th through the 8th centuries BC. Like the stories explaining the origins of the name Ishmael (#37) and Isaac (#41), it too is an etiological tale. Its purpose was to answer the question of how Beersheba came to be possessed and named by the Israelites. Yet, the book of Genesis asRead More

#45. Was Abraham dead OR alive when Jacob and Esau were born? (Gen 25:7-8 vs Gen 25:21-26)

This contradiction, like the one we saw in #42, is more of a narrative inconsistency in the chronology of the story which was created when the later Priestly source was redacted into the early JE storyline. Genesis 25:7-11 displays features and vocabulary typical to the P source: a heightened concern for ages, dates, genealogies, and marriage, death, and settlement records.1 In this passage we are informed of Abraham’s death: Abraham lived 175 years and expired—a term uniqueRead More

#46. Is Jacob blessed by a bedridden, blind, and old Isaac over a ceremonial meal OR by a relatively still youthful Isaac whose eyes are good via the transference of the blessing made to Abraham by El Shaddai? (Gen 27:1-29, 27:41 vs Gen 28:1-5)
#47. Does Jacob’s blessing come by means of deceiving and tricking his father Isaac OR is it knowingly and consciously given to Jacob by his father Isaac? (Gen 27:1-29 vs Gen 28:1-5)

The book of Genesis, as it has come down to us, recounts the blessing of Jacob on two separate occasions: Genesis 27:1-29 and Genesis 28:1-5. They are in fact doublets, and at this point it should not be surprising to learn that they are each a part of two, once separate, textual traditions which were later grafted together, and as a result created these contradictions. In the first account (Gen 27:1-29),Read More

#48. Is Jacob’s motive for leaving Beersheba fear of Esau’s revenge OR Isaac’s insistence that Jacob take a wife from Paddan-Aram? (Gen 27:41-45 vs Gen 28:1-5)
#49. Does Jacob go to Haran OR Paddan-Aram? (Gen 27:43, 28:10 vs Gen 28:2, 28:7)

Following what was said in #46-47, we now learn that the story of Jacob’s flight and the reason(s) why he leaves Beersheba are also variously given: to flee Esau’s wrath (Gen 27:41-45) and to find a suitable wife from among his own people (Gen 28:1-2). Additionally, the text also narrates Jacob’s departure twice and to two different locales: in Genesis 28:7 we are informed that he goes to Paddan-Aram, but then at Genesis 28:10 to Haran. Again,Read More

#50. Is it lawful to marry your wife’s sister OR not? (Gen 29:28 vs Lev 18:18)

And you shall not take a wife to her sister to rival, to expose her nudity along with her in her lifetime. (Lev 18:18) “To take a wife to rival her sister” and “to expose her nudity” along side her sister’s is the language of wedlock… and of course, sexual intercourse. As we saw in #43, here also this particular contradiction is one that highlights differences between the biblical writers’ cultural viewpointsRead More

#51. Is the origin of the name Rebeun “Yahweh has seen” or “he will love me”? (Gen 29:32 vs Gen 29:32)
#52. Is the origin of the name Issachar “for I have hired you” or “God has granted me my reward”? (Gen 30:16 vs Gen 30:18)
#53. Is the origin of the name Zebulun “my man will bring me presents” or “God has given me a precious gift”? (Gen 30:20 vs Gen 30:20)
#54. Is the origin of the name Joseph “may Yahweh add” OR “God has removed”? (Gen 30:24 vs Gen 30:23)

More fun with duplicate etymologies (see also: #37, #41, #44)! In the ancient word, people told (and created) stories about the origins of names and what those names meant. There are numerous stories of this sort told in the Bible’s various different textual traditions. Not surprisingly all of the names of the children of Jacob, the eponymous twelve tribes of ancient Israel, were given fanciful etymologies where the meaning of each nameRead More

#55. Does Jacob initiate the spotted-speckled sheep and goat deception OR does Laban? (Gen 30:31-33 vs Gen 31:7-8)
#56. Is it through Jacob’s own cunning tactics that spotted and speckled sheep and goats are engendered OR is this God’s doing? (Gen 30:31-43 vs Gen 31:7-13)

The text of Genesis 30-32 as it now stands is actually a compilation of two different tellings of the same story. These different versions (the Yahwist and the Elohist) have been carefully stitched together by later editors that they past undetected by the casual reader. Nevertheless, attentive readers and scholars have long noticed narrative inconsistencies, contradictions, and differences in style, theological emphasis, and the portrait of Jacob, which in the end have revealed twoRead More

#57. Is the mound of stones set up to ratify the covenant between Jacob and Laban called Gilead OR Mizpah? (Gen 31:48 vs Gen 31:49)

The book of Genesis preserves two different etiologies—origin stories—for the naming of the boundary marker set up to ratify the covenant-treaty made between Jacob (Israel) and Laban (Aram). Presumably they were originally from two different oral traditions that were both preserved at a later time. In one version, it was the mound of stones (gal), which served as the symbol of the covenant between, not only Jacob and Laban, but remembering that these names are eponymous,Read More

#58. Does the naming of Mahanaim derive from Jacob’s vision of the angels of God OR the division of Jacob’s entourage into two camps? (Gen 32:2-3 vs Gen 32:8-9)

Mahanaim is supposedly located along the Jabbok across from Penuel and there seems to have been a couple traditions associated with the origin of its name, which in Hebrew is a dual noun meaning “camps” or “two camps.” Apparently the Elohist tradition from the north accredits Jacob with its naming because, as with his vision in Bethel when he left the land of Canaan (Gen 28:11-22), so too here upon entry Jacob seesRead More

#59. Does Jacob split up his camp in order to save half of them from a vengeful Esau OR in order to placate Esau with an offering of livestock? (Gen 32:7-12 vs Gen 32:14-22)

The reconciliation story between Jacob and Esau is also variously told in Genesis 32, as we saw with the Jacob and Laban story (#55-56). In one version (J) Jacob’s return to the land of Canaan is presented under the ominous fear and threat that Esau will dispense his revenge and strike him (see #48-49 for the story). Compounded by the account of his messenger claiming that Esau is approaching him withRead More

#60. Does Esau settle in Seir before or after Jacob’s return? (Gen 32:4, 33:14, 33:16 vs Gen 36:6-8)

This is yet another example of a contradiction that occurs within the narrative chronology of the combined JEP storyline (the text as we now have it) when the later Priestly text, with its own narrative and theological details and agendas, was cut and pasted into the JE narrative (see also #32, #42, #45). All of the Pentateuch’s textual traditions (J, E, P, D) connect the eponymous father of Edom, that is Esau, with the region of Seir. GenesisRead More

#61. Is Shechem purchased by Jacob OR taken by the guile and violence of Simeon and Levi? (Gen 33:19 vs Gen 34:25-29)

There are two accounts in the book of Genesis detailing how the Israelites came to possess Shechem, which became the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel. Butchered or Bought? might have made for a more dramatic title to today’s contradiction. The southern Yahwist account is telling. It reveals how the southern storytellers viewed their northern brethren. For according to this version, the founding of Shechem was achieved through a deceptive, brutal, andRead More

#62. Is it at Penuel OR Bethel that El (Shaddai) changes Jacob’s name to Israel? (Gen 32:29 vs Gen 35:10)

The biblical stories of the patriarch Jacob preserve two accounts of his name change to Israel: Genesis 32:23-33 and Genesis 35:9-15. Unfortunately these two traditions do not agree on when and where this name change occurred, at Penuel before Jacob enters Canaan or at Bethel after he has entered Canaan. Both Penuel and Bethel were important northern towns and each one perhaps sought to traditionally align itself with stories about its founding patriarch Jacob.Read More

#63. Can a mortal see God face-to-face and live OR not? (Gen 16:13, 32:30; Ex 24:9-11, 33:11; Num 14:14; Deut 5:21, 34:10 vs Ex 33:20; John 1:18, 5:37; 1 Tim 6:16)

This is an oldie but a goodie as they say, and can be found on numerous other sites and throughout the literature. I will keep to my procedure of stressing that such contradictions are the result of an editorial process that brought together different textual traditions written over a period of 1,000 years, each expressing divergent and contradictory beliefs, worldviews, and theologies. In fact, contradictory traditions now preserved side-by-side in the Bible yieldRead More

#64. Does Jacob name Bethel before he leaves Canaan OR on his return? (Gen 28: 11-19 vs Gen 35:11-15)
#65. Does Jacob erect a stone-pillar altar to the god at Bethel before he leaves Canaan OR when he returns? (Gen 28:18 vs Gen 35:7, 35:14)

The book of Genesis gives 2 different stories about how and when Bethel was named, which was an important cultic center in northern Israel, until its destruction in 722 BC by the Assyrians. Stories about its founding were no doubt important and most likely played a prominent role in cultic festivals at Bethel. These stories were told from generation to generation with variations in narrative details and emphases until they were finally writtenRead More

#66. Where was Benjamin born: Bethlehem OR Paddan Aram? (Gen 35:16-19 vs Gen 35:23-26)

The book of Genesis gives 2 contradictory responses to the question where was Benjamin born: Bethlehem and Paddan Aram. And they traveled from Bethel, and there was still a span of land to come to Ephrath; and Rachel gave birth and she had a hard labor… And it came to pass as her soul was departing—for she died—that she called his name Ben-oni [i.e., son of my sorrow], but his father called him BenjaminRead More