The Ring of Truth (Undesigned Scriptural Coincidences)

Proposition XXXI of the Christadelphian Statement of Faith states: That the Scriptures, composing the book currently known as the Bible, are the only source now extant of knowledge concerning God and His purposes, and that they were given wholly by the unerring inspiration of God in the writers, and that such errors as have since crept in are due to transcription or translation. Accordingly, we place complete reliance in the authenticity of the Bible with only the foregoing qualification relating to such errors of transcription or translation. Therefore, we unequivocally accept the Bible as being the inspired Word of God with our faith...the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1), securely anchored in this realization.

God has clearly spoken to the necessity of faith being an essential component of our efforts to both approach and please Him: But without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6). However strong our own faith may be in the Word of God - the Bible - we know there are individuals claiming to be Christians who do not realize the Bible's claim to be inspired: All scripture is given by inspiration (God-breathed, NIV) of God (2 Timothy 3:16).

Additionally, there are those who do not believe that the Bible is inspired, and thus, how can it be asserted that it is accurate? Unfortunately, we find that many churches have developed certain doctrines independent of the Bible which compromise or deny absolute scriptural declarations of its divine inspiration. Even more reprehensible is that many of these unscriptural doctrines are clearly based upon humanistic concepts at variance with the Word of God. One of the principal thrusts of alleged Christian scholarship has been to develop questionable evidence for dating the Bible later than it is generally ascribed to be, thereby undermining its claims to be authoritative.

This supposed Christian scholarship regarding a later dating of certain books of the Bible is especially relevant to the so-called higher criticism of the four Gospel accounts, and mainstream media tends to embrace such ideas and concepts by reporting these opinions that the Bible is not really trustworthy. However, reliable evidence exists that the Gospels were written before A.D. 70 rather than much later: (1) the oldest manuscript fragments of the Gospels are from the early first century and there are complete copies from the late first century; (2) the Gospels must either be read as not referencing the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 or, alluding to it as an event yet future; (3) excepting the crucifixion of Christ, there do not appear to be any recorded incidents of severe Roman persecution of Jews; and (4) passages such as John 5:2 indicating a normal state of affairs prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. We intend to present evidence in this article that plainly demonstrates that the Bible is trustworthy and truly the Word of God.

Repetitions and contradictions are quite common and even understandable for a collection of human documents, but this is not the case for a perfectly constructed revelation of Divine origin, reflecting the omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence of our Heavenly Father. Accordingly, we can rest assured that although there are indeed repetitions of certain accounts within the Bible, these are not true contradictions. Rather, we intend to show that certain repetitions of the same accounts provide strong evidence of authenticity by the presence of certain unimportant details disclosed in one or more of the accounts. Such revealed instances of these seemingly unimportant details further strengthen our conviction that there was no contrived collaboration between the various writers of the Bible. It is important to realize that the Bible is truly the Word of God written by several men as they were inspired by the Holy Spirit. However, they were mortal men and their viewpoints and styles of writing were shaped and influenced by their individual circumstances and manner of life. Therefore, their individual recollections of incidents and events were certainly depicted in a manner consistent with their own perspectives. Thus, we often find that so-called contradictions or inconsistencies merely reflect the individual characteristics of these men and thereby confirm the validity of their accounts.

J. J. Blunt published a book, Undesigned Coincidences, in 1847. In this work, Blunt presented an impressive argument for the veracity of the Bible based on comparing Bible accounts. He perceptibly illustrated that a characteristic implicit in any document which is accurate would be the inclusion of insignificant details noted by the writer but which are only incidental to the key message of the specific account being described, i.e., undesigned coincidences. These details are often quite noticeable and confirm validity and consistency occurring in parallel though incomplete accounts of the same incident or situation being addressed.

The presence of such undesigned coincidences provides compelling support that such accounts have a strong probability of accuracy. Such occurrences thereby strengthen the reliance that can be placed upon early transcriptions as correctly conveyed to the present day. The Bible abounds with too many examples of truly random instances of undesigned coincidences to allow for any contrived method of cooperation between the various writers of the books. Such independent occurrences of undesigned coincidences can truly impart a ring of truth in establishing the veracity of the Scriptures.

In the Gospel accounts of the feeding of the multitudes, we note that there were two distinct groups fed: (1) And they that had eaten were about five thousand men, beside women and children (Matthew 14:21), and (2) And they that did eat were four thousand men, beside women and children (Matthew 15:38). When the five thousand were being fed, Christ told them to sit down on the grass indicating that this would have been about the time of Passover; later in the year the grass would have been burnt by the sun and earlier in the year the grass would not have begun to grow. In the feeding of the four thousand there is no indication of grass and they were instructed to sit on the ground.

It is also noteworthy that the kind of baskets that were used in feeding the five thousand was different than those used in feeding the four thousand. There were different Greek words used for each type of basket in the two accounts. The Gospel accounts portray the two as being totally and consistently separate. These rather immaterial details, or undesigned coincidences, in these two accounts would probably have been lost or vaguely presented if they had been recorded from memory or repetition after a long period of time. However, if they were recorded at the time or shortly after they had transpired, coupled with the acknowledgement that the accounts were divinely inspired, the disclosure of such insignificant information in each of the accounts is much more plausible and provides credible evidence of their authenticity.

We have an account of the resurrection of Jesus Christ in John 20:1-8 which also provides us with more undesigned coincidences that convince us of the veracity of this account. Mary Magdalene had gone to the sepulchre where Christ had been buried but when his body was not there, she ran to Peter and the other disciple whom Jesus loved (John) to inform them of this development (John 20:1-2). Peter and John then ran to the sepulchre with John outrunning Peter which is not surprising since John was the youngest of all the apostles (John 20:3-4). Yet we find that when he arrived at the sepulchre, John looked in first and saw the linen clothes laying there which Christ had been wrapped in at his burial, but he did not enter the tomb. However, when the impetuous Peter came to the scene after John, he did not hesitate to enter the sepulchre where he observed the linen clothes lying and the napkin which had been around Christ's head not lying with the linen clothes, but rather wrapped together in a place by itself. We then find John going into the sepulchre to observe this sight, and he saw and believed (John 20:5-8).

These foregoing disclosures of (1) John arriving at the sepulchre before Peter and (2) that John was reluctant to enter it before Peter appear quite reasonable when we consider the ages of the two men and the personality of Peter. We are not surprised that Peter did not stop to stoop down and look into the tomb as John did but immediately went into it. Peter was perhaps hoping to meet again his crucified Master to the exclusion of any thing else which would be irrelevant compared to this wonderful hope and desire.

We do not intend to limit such occurrences of undesigned coincidences only to the foregoing accounts in the New Testament. There are also numerous accounts of these in the Old Testament scriptures. In the balance of this article, we intend to present three (3) separate accounts having a bearing upon two (2) different incidents in a defense of the veracity of the scriptures relating to some historical events of Yahweh's chosen race:

In the incident when Moses sent out spies to search the land of Canaan, all of the spies except Joshua and Caleb gave an evil report upon their return as recorded in Numbers 13:32-33; And they brought up an evil report of the land which they had searched unto the children of Israel, saying,...a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature. And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight. Here as testified by Moses, we note that the Anakims were exceptionally tall. Let us now observe that subsequent to this event: And at that time came Joshua, and cut off the Anakims from the mountains, from Hebron, from Debir, from Anab, and from all the mountains of Judah, and from all the mountains of Israel: Joshua destroyed them utterly with their cities. There was none of the Anakims left in the land of the children of Israel: only in Gaza, in Gath, and in Ashdod, there remained (Joshua 11:21-22).

If we were to confine our observations to just these two accounts in Numbers and Joshua, we might logically ask, what is so remarkable about these narratives? However, let us now consider a description of Goliath, David's adversary: ...And there went out a champion...of the Philistines, named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span (1 Samuel 17:4). We will now connect and present a remarkable set of undesigned coincidences relating to these scriptures. We note that Goliath was from Gath; one of the five Philistine city-states. Let us recall that these ...men of a great stature...the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants...were seen by the spies (Numbers 13:32-33) and were later destroyed by Joshua except for those that were left in Gaza, Gath, and Ashdod (Joshua 11:21-22). This amazing array of insignificant details which are incidental in each of the accounts noted certainly reinforce and validate the collective accuracy of these accounts and provide credible evidence of the home of and physical description of Goliath.

Another interesting incident illustrating a set of undesigned coincidences involves the betrayal of David by Ahithophel. This incident and the revolt of Absalom from King David are inseparably intertwined and present some of the natural consequences of David's sin with Bathsheba even though God had forgiven him of this great transgression. We read in 2 Samuel 15:12 that ...Absalom sent for Ahithophel the Gilonite, David's counselor, from his city, even from Giloh, while he offered sacrifices. And the conspiracy was strong; for the people increased continually with Absalom. Absalom was seeking the counsel of Ahithophel to support him in his rebellion against David because ...the counsel of Ahithophel, which he counselled in those days, was as if a man had enquired at the oracle of God: so was all the counsel of Ahithophel both with David and with Absalom (2 Samuel 16:23). In addition to this respect for Ahithophel, Absalom was aware of circumstances which would probably cause Ahithophel's support to be offered as shown in the following paragraph.

2 Samuel 11:3 informs us that ...Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite? We also note that in the genealogy of ...Eliam the son of Ahithophel the Gilonite, and, ...Uriah the Hittite ... is disclosed (2 Samuel 23: 34-39). Thus, we conclude that when David caused Uriah to be murdered, that Uriah was Ahithophel's grandson by marriage, and, in his sin with Bathsheba, David had besmirched Ahithophel's granddaughter. Again, do we not see that insignificant details brought out in these accounts, which are only incidental to the accounts, present realistic rationalization for Ahithophel's actions in his betrayal of David?

We firmly believe that such independent occurrences of undesigned coincidences as found in the scriptures can and indeed do truly impart the ring of truth to the Bible as the inspired Word of God. Such reinforcement and validation of the veracity of God's Word contributes to our faith being firmly anchored therein.

Robert Miller, Sherwood, AR

No Compromise

It has often been claimed by "unlearned and ignorant men" that there is no possibility of compromise in one's attitude toward the Bible. Either the Book is a revelation from God or it is the greatest imposture the world has ever known.

This harsh statement of the case is resented by many people who would greatly prefer to compromise in the matter. As a writer recently stated, "No one would dispute the supreme position of the Bible in literature if no claim had ever been made that it was a divine revelation." It would suit our convenience much better to regard the Scriptures as inspired only in the manner that all good books can be so described, leaving us at liberty to attach much or little importance to its messages accordingly to the manner in which they appealed to us. Islip Collyer, Vox Dei, p. 27