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Answering The Atheist
March 6, 2005 / Volume 5, Issue 10

How many men did the chief of David's captains kill? Was it 800 (2 Samuel 23:8) or 300 (1 Chronicles 11:11)? Is there a contradiction?

It has been admitted on previous occasions that copyist errors and textual corruptions can and do at times occur. It seems this is the case with 2 Samuel 23:8.

Regarding 2 Samuel 23:8, 18th century Hebrew text expert, Benjamin Kennicott, wrote in his First Dissertation on the Hebrew Text:
"This one verse contains three great corruptions in the Hebrew text: 1. The proper name of the hero Jashobeam is turned into two common words, rendered, that sat in the seat. 2. The words he lifted up his spear, hu orer eth chanitho, are turned into two proper names wholly inadmissible here: hu Adino haetsni, he was Adino the Eznite; it being nearly as absurd to say that Jashobeam the Hachmonite was the same as Adino the Eznite, as that David the Bethlehemite was the same with Elijah the Tishbite. 3. The number eight hundred was probably at first three hundred, as in 1 Chronicles 11:11.'"

Lest the believer be discouraged or the unbeliever feel bolstered in his opposition to the accuracy of the Bible, it should be noted that occurrences such as this are few and far between. Also, the nature of the discrepancy regards material of very minor consequence.

To the questioner, the parallels of Samuel, Chronicles and Kings serve for one purpose, to find the few occasions wherein they differ. To the believer, the great consistency of these records should serve to boost our faith. A few occurrences of textual corruption on insignificant topics is reason for sobriety, but certainly not a reason to reject the whole of Scripture and the God who gave it.

This article is a response to Skeptic's Annotated Bible