1 IBalbone Wi. paham
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PLEASE READ, REMEMI5ER AND RETURN.
REASONABLE SOLUTIONS OF PERPLEXING
THINGS IN SACKED SCRIPTURE.
REV. ROBERT TUCK, B.A. (LoxD.),
'THE MORE EXCELLENT WAY,' 'FIRST THREE KINGS OF ISRAEL,'
'A<;E OF THE GREAT PATRIARCHS.'
' ... In which are some thing-* hard to be 'inderstooJ.'
., ; ' ST. PETER,
NEW YORK :
THOMAS WHIT TAKER,
2 AND 3, BIBLE HOUSE.
IT has been the duty and privilege of the Editor of this ' Handbook '
for the last twenty years to study closely those portions of Holy
Scripture which are likely to be used as lessons, sermon-subjects, or
illustrations, by Sunday-school teachers and ministers. In the course
of study note has been taken of all passages which seemed to present
special difficulties. These have been treated, in various ways, in
Sunday-school and other magazines, and in books ; but it has been
thought advisable to deal with these difficulties in a more systematic
manner, and to put at the command of the intelligent reader and
especially of the reader who has not ready access to expensive Biblical
works a suggestive and reasonable explanation of every perplexity,
or at least of every class of perplexity.
In selecting the topics for treatment, it has been borne in mind
that all readers of the Sacred Word do not find difficulties in the
same things. Effort has been made to adapt the selection of topics
to all kinds of open and inquiring minds ; but it has always been
assumed that the inquirer is sincere and reverent, anxious to find a
satisfactory explanation, and not sceptically pleased by making
difficulties bigger than they are, and by refusing to recognise the
reasonableness of solutions that are offered.
The treatment of subjects is in no case elaborate or complete. A
suggestive style has been kept throughout. Explanations are offered
for careful consideration : they are intended to start thought, and not
to satisfy it. The purpose of the work will be fully accomplished if
the reader finds a more acceptable solution of any difficulty than it
provides. The work will be misused if it is made the basis of heated
and sectarian controversy. It has been prepared for the quiet and
thoughtful student, and makes no provision of weapons for the
Nothing is suggested that is unfamiliar to advanced students of
God's Word. But there has been much gain by the Bible Revision,
and Bible criticism, of recent years, which ought to become the
common knowledge of the people. This ' Handbook ' may aid in
making the advanced knowledge of the college the possession even
of the Sunday-school class. And the Sacred Book is best honoured
by the fullest and best knowledge of its contents, and of its original
Footnotes and references to learned authors have been avoided.
The books referred to, in the paragraphs, are for the most part such
as may be found in every good library ; and readers who desire to
study any subject further will easily discover the works that will give
them efficient help.
Quotations are made from other authors with a threefold object
in view : (i) To support the explanation that is suggested by due
authorities. (2) To suggest other explanations than that which
seems most acceptable to the writer of the paragraph. And (3) to
relieve the sense of freshness and strangeness which may be caused
by some of the solutions that are offered. There are many cases in
which the explanation will occasion surprise, and even resistance. In
such cases the support of some honoured and trusted name will
ensure that the suggestions made are, at least, calmly and candidly
May our readers find, in the study of this * Handbook/ what we
have found in the preparation of it, an ever-enlarging knowledge of,
and an ever-deepening reverence for, that Word which, * inspired of
God, is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for
instruction which is in righteousness : that the man of God may be
complete, furnished completely unto every good work.'
INTRODUCTION ...... i
INTRODUCTORY NOTES : . . . . ,11
1. ON MORAL DIFFICULTIES . . . .II
2. ON EASTERN CUSTOMS AND SENTIMENTS . . l8o
3. ON THE MIRACULOUS ELEMENT IN THE BIBLE . . 396
4. ON THE RELATIONS OF MIRACLE TO NATURE . . 402
5. ON DEFINITIONS OF MIRACLE .... 403
6. ON THE VALUE OF MIRACLES AS EVIDENCE . . 404
7. ON THE MIRACLES OF OUR LORD AND HIS APOSTLES
CONSIDERED AS EVIDENCES OF CHRISTIANITY . 505
8. ON THE MIRACLES OF OUR LORD CONSIDERED AS
ILLUSTRATIONS OF HIS MISSION . . . 508
9. ON THE MANIFESTATION OF MIRACULOUS POWER AT
SPECIAL TIMES . . . . . 509
DIFFICULTIES RELATING TO MORAL SENTIMENTS.
OLD TESTAMENT . . . . . 15
NEW TESTAMENT . . . . . -145
DIFFICULTIES RELATING TO EASTERN CUSTOMS AND
OLD TESTAMENT ...... 183
NEW TESTAMENT . . . . . -346
DIFFICULTIES RELATING TO THE MIRACULOUS.
OLD TESTAMENT . . . . . .407
NEW TESTAMENT . . , . . . 511
THE Roman Emperor, Diocletian, found it impossible to uproot
Christianity unless he could destroy the Christian books. His ex-
perience has been repeated in the succeeding generations, and
whenever unusual energy has been shown in attacks upon the
Christian system, the stress of battle has gathered round the great
This age is regarded as, in a special sense, a sceptical age ; but its
peculiarity seems rather to be that the distinction between those who
ittack, and those who defend, the Christian Faith is confused, and
Christianity is now too often wounded in the house of its friends.
The spirit of scepticism is spread far more widely, and its evil influ-
ence is more generally felt, than many of us have yet recognized.
Questioning, not in a simple and intelligent spirit of inquiry, but in a
self-confident spirit of doubting, is now too often treated as a sign of
nental vigour ; and instead of the open attacks on God's Word, on
he possibility of a book-revelation, and on the nature and claims of
nspiration, such as our fathers had to meet, the too-prevailing fashion
>f our times is, by assumptions of superior critical, scientific, and
listorical knowledge, and by a scarcely veiled satire, to show up the
;o-called untruthfulness and untrustworthiness of much that is con-
ained in God's Word. The pitched battle of former times is ex-
banged for a very trying guerilla warfare. We have not so much to
lefend the Bible as a whole as to wrestle for possession of the details
)f every book, and well-nigh every chapter.
ii INTR OD UCTION.
The air is full of objections to the contents of our Bible, exaggera-
tions of the difficulties which modern readers find in it, and mis-
representations of its meanings and teachings. These things are
freely heard in homes and society, in workshop, warehouse, and mill,
as well as in workmen's clubs and debating societies. They are
circulated in the literature provided for the working classes and the
young, as well as for those who lay claim to cultured intelligence.
Precisely what is needed, therefore, in our times is a fair, clear, and
reasonable reply to the various objections made against the teachings
of the Bible, and a satisfactory explanation of those difficulties which
a thoughtful reader finds in it.
For the great majority of Bible-students such calm and reasonable
explanations will prove of more practical value than any kind of
dogmatic assertions or arguments that defend Holy Scripture for the
sake of particular creeds, and lead into the heated spheres of religious
controversy. The removal of felt difficulties by the application ot
modern knowledge of Eastern customs and sentiments, by using
wisely the results of recent travels and researches in Bible lands, by
treating the Bible as a book composed under human conditions,
though with an all-controlling Divine inspiration, and by bringing
good common-sense and ' sweet reasonableness ' to bear upon the
actions of men who were placed in difficult circumstances, and lived
in ancient times, will materially aid in restoring and establishing the
general confidence in the Bible, as indeed the Word of the living
God, the Revelation of His will to men, the treasure-trust of every
age, and the all-sufficing rule of faith and of conduct, of religion and
of morals, for all humanity.
The Handbook of Biblical Difficulties is not intended to be an
elaborate and abstruse treatise, suited only for the learned few. It
is designed to meet the needs of the ever-enlarging classes that are
benefiting by the modern improved methods of education, and arc
culturing an inquiring disposition, which would know the ' why ' and
' wherefore ' of everything, even of things revealed.
Throughout the work hearty loyalty to the Inspiration of the
Scriptures will be maintained, and all subjects introduced for con
sideration will be treated with becoming reverence, and with a con
stant endeavour to find and set forth those higher moral and spiritual
teachings that may be in them. But it will be always kept in view
that, as God was pleased to use human minds for the presentation of
His truth and will, so He is now pleased to use human minds for the
understanding and unfolding of His will. Knowledge of life, of
men's motives, of politics local and national, of history, of human
character, and of Bible lands and times, will often suggest simple
and probable explanations that readily remove the difficulties of
which the foes of God's Word are disposed to make so much.
Anything like the manufacture of difficulties is carefully avoided ;
and only such are treated as are suggested in modern sceptical
literature, or naturally suggest themselves to thoughtful readers.
Some difficulties must of necessity be insoluble under our present
conditions of knowledge and of mental faculty ; but some of these
concern subjects which Biblical criticism and research will, by-and-by^
satisfactorily explain ; and others are matters of purely human specu-
lation, which we have forcibly associated with God's Word, but are
not, properly speaking, matters of present Divine Revelation ; and
these no ingenuity of man can successfully deal with. However
valuable and interesting men's thoughts on such matters may be,
they are separate and distinct from God's Revealed Word, which
must never be made responsible for men's arguments or theories on
purely speculative subjects.
Sometimes, in this work, a solution is suggested which only fairly
well meets the difficulty with which it deals ; but in such cases it should
be borne in mind that no assertion is made concerning the all-
sufficiency of such solutions. There are instances in which all that
can possibly be done is the lightening of the pressure of a difficulty
by showing that a reasonable explanation can be offered.
The divisions of the topics of necessity involves some measure of
repetition, as the same general principles must be applied to different
cases. But this will not be found a disadvantage in a book which,
in part, takes a cyclopaedic form.
Throughout the work a calm and dispassionate tone is preserved.
The object aimed at is instruction and suggestion, the direction of a
thoughtful and prayerful consideration to some of the hindrances
that stand in the way of a full confidence in, and free practical use
of, God's Holy Word, that Word which ' holy men of God spake as
they were moved by the Holy Ghost.'
THE VIEW OF THE INSPIRATION OF HOLY SCRIPTURE, ON
WHICH THE FOLLOWING EXPLANATION OF DIFFICULTIES
It is not possible within the limits of an introductory chapter to
attempt an essay or treatise on the general subject of Inspiration. It
will suffice for our purpose to record, as simply as possible, the points
of interest which have come plainly to view out of the varied contro-
versies of recent years, and to fix attention on such as have gained,
or are gaining, general acceptance.
The older view, more or less correctly known as the doctrine or
Verbal Inspiration, is thus stated by Dr. Knapp : * Inspiration is an
extraordinary Divine agency upon teachers while giving instruction,
whether oral or written, by which they were taught what and how
they should write or speak.' Those who thus defined inspiration
fully recognised that God operated on the minds of men in a variety
of different ways ; sometimes by audible words, sometimes by direct
inward suggestions, sometimes by the Urim and Thummim, and
sometimes by dreams and visions. God moved and guided His
servants to write things which they could not know by natural means,
or led them to write the history of events, which were wholly or
partly known to them by tradition, or by the testimony of their con-
temporaries, or by their own observation or experience. But the
variety in the form and manner of the Divine influence detracted
nothing from its certainty. The writers were preserved from error,
and influenced to write just so much, and in such a manner, as God
saw to be best.
Round this mode of representing the fact and truth of the Divine
Inspiration the controversies of recent generations have been waged,
with the result that now five distinct theories are presented, and
belief in any one of these five is regarded as compatible with
membership in the Orthodox Christian Church. Archdeacon Farrar
gives these theories in brief and sharply-defined terms.
1. The organic^ mechanical, or dictation theory. It holds that
every sentence, every word, nay, even every syllable, letter, and
vowel-point of Scripture had been divinely and supernaturally im-
parted ; that the authors of the various books, known and unknown,
had no share in their composition ; they were but the amanuenses
and instruments, ' not only the penmen, but the pens,' of the Holy
Spirit being not even the active recipients, but the mere passive
vehicles of that which, through them, but with no co-operation of
their own, was imparted to mankind. According to this theory, the
Bible is in every text absolutely supernatural, transcendently Divine.
2. The dynamic or power theory. It holds that Holy Scripture
was not ' dictated by,' but ' committed to writing under the guidance
of,' the Holy Spirit. While recognising the Divine energy, it does
not annihilate the human co-operation. The truths are inspired by
the Holy Spirit, the words and phrases are the result of the writer's
own individuality; the material is of God, the form is of man.
According to this theory, the Bible is throughout human, as well as
3. The theory of Illumination, understanding that word to suggest
various degrees of inspiration. Some distinguish between the grace
)f superintendency, the grace of elevation, the grace of direction, and
:he grace of suggestion. According to this theory, the Bible is
Divine, but in different degrees.
4. The theory of essential, as distinguished from plenary inspira-
ion. It holds that the Bible contains the word of God, that it is the
ecord of a Divine revelation, and the authors were inspired by the
rloly Spirit ; but it confines this inspiration to matters of doctrine,
norality, and faith. The accidental allusions of Scripture, and its
)assing phrases, need not be treated as inspired. According to this
heory, the Bible is only Divine in matters of faith.
5. The theory of ordinary inspiration. It holds that the action of
he Holy Spirit, as exercised in the inspiration of Scripture, is not
f enerically distinct from the ordinary influence of that Holy Spirit
upon the heart and intellect of all Christian men, which all admit to
be analogous to it. Each book and passage of Scripture must be
tested by its inherent consistency with that which we learn of God's
will from His revelation of Himself, above all in the life of Christ.
According to this theory the Bible is inspired, but not always
(For fuller explanations of these theories, see articles in 'Bible
Educator,' vol. i., pp. 205, 206.)
From this statement of modern opinions it will be seen within
what wide limits orthodox thought may now range. In an eclectic
spirit the following work is based upon the measure of truth there
seems to be in all these theories, while jealously preserving the
central truth, that a special Divine fitness was given to the various
writers, and a special Divine guidance directed the gathering together,
and preserving, of these sacred books.
In relation to the particular -study of ' Biblical Difficulties,' certain
features of the Book have been set in prominence. Brief notice may
be taken of the following :
i. The individuality of the agents employed is plainly impressed
on their several works. The style of this man and that is evidently
retained in their compositions ; and when this fact is thought out, it
comes to view that the measure of knowledge of each writer, his very
modes of thinking, and the personal meaning he attaches to particular
words, are kept and used. A writer never loses his individuality by
becoming an inspired writer; and what he writes must, in part at
least, be judged by the application of ordinary literary rules and
standards. This point is kept in view, and many difficulties con-
nected with composition and language find their solution in the light
' The employment of the human mind as the agent, and of humar
language and writing as the instruments, necessarily involves r
measure of fallibility in the record of the revelation. It ought
indeed, to be distinctly borne in mind that there is no necessary, 01
even reasonable, connection between a man's being the subject of t
special Divine communication and his subsequent universal infalli
bility ; nor can we have the assurance of such infallibility unless w<
could insure, not only the presence of the Divine Spirit in the man,
but also the absence of everything else.'
2. Seeing that man is endowed with faculties by Nature, which
enable him to search out and know everything connected with
Nature necessary for his individual welfare, and for the welfare of the
race ; and seeing that such ' searching out ' is a necessary condition
of his intellectual and social development, it is unreasonable for him
to expect, and it would be injurious for him to receive, an infallible
revelation on matters of science, observation, philosophy, or history.
And the Bible never assumes that it bears any such character. Dr.
Angus says : i We must not expect to learn anything from Scripture,
except what it is, in a religious point of view, important for us to
know. Some seek the "dead among the living" (as Lord Bacon
phrased it), and look into the Bible for natural philosophy and
But it follows from this that the ancient books of our Scripture
contain the ethical, scientific, social, and governmental notions of the
ages in which they were severally written ; and that very much
recorded in the Bible must be seen in the light of ancient sentiments
and early limitations of knowledge. By the application of this prin-
ciple many Bible difficulties find satisfactory solution.
3. In the sphere of morals man is placed under two serious dis-
abilities. By his very constitution he is made dependent on God for
the distinctions between right and wrong ; and by his own attempt at
self-rule, and consequent experience of evil and its consequences, he
has blinded himself so that he confuses the distinctions which God
sets before him. In the sp ere, therefore, of morals and religion,
where man is especially weak, there is pressing need for an infallible
Divine revelation, which can guide with authority man's conduct and
It is reasonable, therefore, to expect moral and religious counsels
and truths at the heart of historical events, and of incidents associated
with individuals ; and a surface Bible difficulty is often removed when
we can see the higher moral and spiritual purpose for which the
events are recorded.
4. Remarks will be found elsewhere on the progressive character of
the Divine Revelation, and on the distinction between the truth and
the setting that truth may need for its adaptation to a particular
people, at a particular time.
5. It is only necessary further to call to mind that the Bible cannot
fail to retain the impressions made by the editing of its various con-
tents, and its translation from one language into another. Words in
different languages are not always precise equivalents, and effective
relief of difficulties in Bible expressions is often gained by consulting
the translation into another tongue.
Without more closely denning a theory of inspiration, in view of
the treatment pursued in this * Handbook of Biblical Difficulties,' it
may be said that a human element is recognised in the Bible, as we
have it ; that this human element is the main cause of the perplexities
which earnest and devout persons find in studying it ; that these
human errors may be discovered and corrected by human skill, and
with the aid of human knowledge ; that the removal of difficulties
will only make the pure revealed will of God shine out with fuller,
clearer rays ; and that a faithful effort to correct the human mistakes
in God's Word, and to relieve it of burdensome perplexities, can be
made consistently with a most reverent love for it as the one, only,
and all-sufficient revelation of God's will, of God, of man, of sal-
vation, of faith, and of duty, for the entire human race.
A. J. Scott suggestively writes : ' There is, then, anterior to Scrip-
ture, a manifold revelation of God. Of this, Scripture is a history
and an exposition. We have seen how it recounts and expands the
Divine manifestations in creation, in providence, in miracles, in
human conscience, in inspired thoughts, words, and works. We lose
the lesson of great part of the Bible if we regard it merely as an
inspired and authoritative announcement to us noiv ; not historically,
as recording, for our example, the condition of human spirits under
the power of Divine inspiration of old.'
And Isaac Taylor has the following fine passage on the Bible,
which is well worthy of being commended to the attention of our
readers : 'As a human work, as a collection of ancient treatises,
letters, and histories, composed by almost as many authors as there
are separate pieces, it is plainly liable to all the ordinary conditions
INTR OD UCT1ON. ix
of other ancient literature ; and not merely to the critical, but to the
logical conditions that belong to the products of the human mind ;
and, of course, when categorically interrogated for its evidence in
relation to certain abstract positions, derived, not from itself, but
from a variable theological science, will yield not a few apparent
contrarieties. This would be the case even were the Bible the work
of a single author. But the Bible claims no respect at all as an
authority in religion, unless it be received as, in the fullest sense, a
Divine work. As such it must have its peculiar conditions, and the
most important of these spring from the fact that the Scriptures
contain true information, explicit or implied, concerning more
systems than one, and more orders of causation than one. . . . The
harmony of the various portions will never come within the range of
the methods of human science ; for human science is drawn from
one system only, and is vague and imperfect, even in relation to that
An unconscious testimony to the uniqueness may we not say to
the Divine inspiration of the Bible is recorded by Reville, an
advocate of French Rationalism, in an essay in the c Revue des Deux
Mondes.' * One day the question was started in an assembly, What
book a man condemned to a life-long imprisonment, and to whom
but one would be allowed, had better choose to take into the cell
with him ? The company consisted of Catholics, Protestants, philo-
sophers, and even Materialists, but all agreed that his choice would
fall only on the Bible.' Surely a distinguished tribute to the Bible
a tribute not merely to its intellectual excellence, but also to its
HANDBOOK OF BIBLICAL DIFFICULTIES.
DIFFICULTIES RELATING TO MORAL SENTIMENTS.