Answering The Atheist
August 28, 2005 / Volume 5, Issue 35
THE ATHEIST'S COMPLAINT:
How high was the chapiter? Jeremiah 52:22 says it was 5 cubits, but 2 Kings 25:17 says it was 3 cubits. Is there a contradiction?
First, so we all know what we are talking about, a "chapiter" is the top or cap on a column or pillar.
It has been suggested by Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Commentary that "There were two parts in the chapiter: the one lower and plain, of two cubits; the other, higher and curiously carved, of three cubits. The former is omitted in 2 Ki 25:17, as belonging to the shaft of the pillar; the latter alone is there mentioned. Here (Jer 52:22, wjs) the whole chapiter of five cubits is referred to."
I can neither confirm nor deny this, as I was not present to view the Temple built by Solomon. It is certainly a possibility.
It is more likely that a difference is the result of one writer using a Babylonian cubit, while the other uses the Hebrew cubit. The Hebrew cubit measured from the elbow to the tip of the hand. The Babylonian cubit measured from the elbow to the wrist. The writer of 2 Kings 25:17 reports the height of the chapiter in Hebrew cubits, while Jeremiah reports the height in Babylonian cubits.
A Hebrew cubit on my arm measures approximately 18 inches. A Babylonian cubit on my arm measures approximately 11 inches. Notice:
18 inches x 3 cubits = 54 inches
11 inches x 5 cubits = 55 inches
Three Hebrew cubits is equal to five Babylonian cubits.
There is no contradiction.
This article is a response to Skeptic's Annotated Bible