The Bible often gives seemingly conflicting numbers when relating to the length of the reign of kings. Cynics pounce on such differences and declare the text to be in error, but such discrepancies are actually evidence of the amazing accuracy of the writers and the text we have.
There are numerous reasons why such numbers would differ. Different nations reckoned the “new year” as convening at different times, usually either in spring or fall. Some did not consider the “first” year of a reign to begin until the new year. Prior to that “first” year was a period called his “year of ascension.” Extreme discrepancies occur when one number includes a co-regency while another represents the king’s time as sole regent. In the Hebrew calendar, the religious year began in the seventh month of their calendar much like the U.S. Government’s fiscal year begins on October 1 of each year. The apparent discrepancies, when studied in detail, as did the much-maligned 17th century Archbishop James Ussher and his modern heirs, reveal the incredible accuracy of the Word of God. What else would we expect of that which was “God-breathed” (inspired)?
It is therefore frustrating to read commentaries or hear sermons refer to such differences as “copyist errors” or “corruptions of the text.” This begs the question: if such things as numbers are corrupted, what else might be? Are we standing on the theology of a passage that is a corruption or an error? Once such an assumption is made, nothing in the Word can be relied on as accurate or reliable. Some modern churchmen who claim to believe in the infallibility of the Bible will casually interpret Christ’s words in Matt.19:8 as saying divorce was Moses’ idea, and his personal addition to the law. If Moses corrupted God’s Word by adding Deuteronomy 24:1-4, we would again have to question what else Moses added.
Such presumptuous thinking was once limited to the “higher critics” who set themselves up as the judges of what was and what was not authoritative in Scripture. In doing this, they were claiming the ultimate authority.
The Bible is accurate and authoritative. We doubt it and cherry-pick another truth at our own peril. Adam and Eve also entertained the question “Yea, hath God said?” It did not work out well for them. Will we do better if we repeat their presumption?
The work of Chalcedon rests on the authority of God’s Word over every area of life and thought.