Answering The Atheist
October 3, 2004 / Volume 4, Issue 40
THE ATHEIST'S COMPLAINT:
How many of Zattu’s offspring returned from Babylon? Ezra 2:8 says 945, but Nehemiah 7:13 says 845. Is there a contradiction?
The degree to which Ezra’s and Nehemiah’s numbers disagree extends well beyond the sons of Zattu. Through the texts, a discrepancy can be found between the prophets on 18 occasions.
It has been admitted before, and certainly could be the case here, that transcriber’s errors are responsible for the lack of consistency. That being said, it seems that the number of differences between these texts would either reveal an extremely unskilled transcriber, or that some other reason accounts for the discrepancies.
It is more likely that the differences exist due to the fact that Nehemiah and Ezra wrote at different times. It is estimated that Ezra wrote in the late 6th century BC, while the book of Nehemiah has been dated close to 100 years later. With the passing of time, deaths and births can increase, decrease, or even out the growth of a family. Such would certainly account for the different totals given by the two prophets.
There is no contradiction.
This article is a response to Skeptic's Annotated Bible